Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Warm-up


Alan Paul Price
University of Wisconsin - Washington County
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 8, 2008


These are questions of many types I assign on reading. They are due before class begins.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



All courses. This is not a content-based assignment.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Nothing. They can be used from the second (even the first) lecture to the last.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is an ongoing exercise due before every class except when there is an exam.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The content goals depend on the lecture for that day.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The warm-up only asks that they try to understand what they read and describe or explain it in their own terms. In truth, I tell the students that I am giving them credit for being able to take notes from their reading.

Other skills goals for this activity

Depending on the questions that you ask, it's possible that you simply have them list, describe, explain, or you could have them synthesize and predict. The questions and answers could also demand interpreting or creating simple graphics.

Description of the activity/assignment

Warm-ups are questions I assign on the reading. Students read the text, do the questions, and turn one copy of the answers at the beginning of every class. They also keep one copy. The questions range from very objective to extremely subjective, but I generally keep them more concrete and less speculative. In class, we will go over the answers at the point in the lecture they best apply. They make corrections (if needed) as we discuss the questions in class. At that point, I'm also very explicit about what a good answer entails and we even discuss how I might ask this on an exam. As the exam comes up, they know what questions are most important, because we've covered them in the warm-ups. If there was information that I could not cover in a warm-up but could only provide in lecture, I will point that out. In brief, Warm-ups help to accomplish the following things:
  1. They help get students to read before class,
  2. They provide another source of points based on rewarding them for what they should already be doing,
  3. They are the main source of exam questions,
  4. They indicate to students what is most important to learn,
  5. They provide students a format for assembling information and practicing answers for questions that will be on the exam, and
  6. They help break my lecture into shorter segments interspersed with student interaction and feedback.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Grading Warm-ups: For the most part I make almost no comments on the Warm-ups. In fact, I do not care if the answers are right. I only care that they tried to answer the question given the information from the text. Instead, we discuss the best answers to the question during class. At that point, I change from a (more or less) socratic method and then I tell them to take out their questions and discuss the results with their neighbors. After a minute or two I ask people what they said and I start building the anser on the board based on the answers from several randomly selected students. Then I make certain I give a final summary and point out what's important, what I expect, and I often ask them in what format the question will show up on the exam. That's when students should make corrections, additions and changes to their copy.

In the end, the only marks I might put on a paper are:
check+ 2.5 points for doing such a complete, exhaustive well-illustrated answer (125%)
check 2 points because they did what they were supposed to do (100%)
check- 1.5 points because you're answer is lacking 1 of three things (75%)
det Your paper has too little detail
out Your paper is not in outline form
ref Your paper has no reference(s)

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials