Making Warm-Ups Meaningful

I want to be more deliberate with my warm-ups this year. I think warm-ups have three possible purposes:

  1. Elicit student thinking (see what they already know, activate prior knowledge)
  2. Practice retrieval (spiral review, spaced practice)
  3. Give feedback (review homework, circle back to prior work)

I’m going to dispense with #3 for the purpose of this post. My goal is to plan for warm-ups that address #1 and #2, which allows me to look at their homework and give feedback after the warm-up.

Some Options
Well there’s plenty to choose from. Here is what I am considering:

My Goals
In terms of driving student learning, I want to either elicit student thinking or practice retrieval. I want to do fewer warm-ups that have the broad goal of “problem solving” but aren’t attached to content that is connected to the course. We can do that problem solving with the math we’re learning — that’s why we’re learning it.

I’m a little torn over whether I want to pick a subset of these to stick with on a weekly rotation, or try to match my warm-ups to what my goals are for that specific day. I would love to be more flexible — I want to provide students with a wide variety of activities, and I have that variety here. But I also want consistent routines, where students can start the warm-up independently and allow me an opportunity to check homework and check in with any student who needs it.

A Possible Approach
I’m teaching Algebra-II and Pre-Calculus this semester. I think the warm-ups that best support the content we’ll be working on are Visual Patterns, Match My Desmos, Which One Doesn’t Belong, and Error Analysis. I also like these because students can start them on their own, and do some quality independent thinking to start class before we discuss. I’ll also be using My Favorite No to go over homework (separate from the warm-up). The warm-ups I’m torn about are Table Debates and Talking Points. I love these structures and want them to be a part of my class, but it will also be tougher to set this up without some direction from me at the start of class — the others can all pretty much run themselves to start. These discussion activities may have to live somewhere else in my daily class structure.

I’m still unsure whether I want to bring in a wide variety of warm-ups. I love all of these structures — but as much as I love them, students need consistency, especially as we won’t be lingering for too long on these each day.

Are there other great warm-up strategies that I’m missing? What structures can make this part of class more meaningful?

3 thoughts on “Making Warm-Ups Meaningful

  1. Elissa

    If you teach and model the structure for Talking Points at the beginning of the year, I think students could get started with it independently. I used it this year every “Talking Points Tuesday” and I typed up six statements, four sets to a page, and cut them apart and had one for each student lying near their desks at the start of the day.

    The way I like to stay consistent is to have each day of the week be a specific type of warm-up. They know the structure and what to expect but I can always change the content whenever I need to.

    Reply
  2. Leah Briggs

    I completely agree with this and I do the same thing as Elissa. A few years ago, I decided to rethink my warm-ups beyond just review or prerequisite skills and developed theme days for warm-ups based on each class I taught. For example, in Geometry I focused two days on fraction skills and did a “Make One Monday” and “Fraction Friday” so that they could work on this skill they are typically very weak in. I think this year I want to incorporate more of the resources you listed above and spend some time the first two weeks teaching the process.

    Reply

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