Warm Ups: Tapping Into The Whole Student And Creating Community

  • Elizabeth Paul George Mason University
  • Mary Richardson George Mason University


Location: JC Room D

International students feel anxiety about language proficiency, academic performance, and cultural identity. They benefit from opportunities to showcase their strengths in a variety of ways. Likewise, domestic students thrive in learning environments that tap into inner resources, build confidence, and let them feel valued within a course community. Because of time, class size, and curriculum constraints, instructors may feel that warm ups are not practical or helpful in their classes. However, we propose that strategically used warm up activities facilitate curriculum and course outcomes on many levels. For international students in particular, warm ups reduce anxieties of being in a new culture and using a second language. They also foster intimacy in the studentsâ relationship with the host culture. More importantly, for all students, they provide opportunities to reduce psychological barriers that affect learning. They enable students to share individual interests and build skills in a low-risk playful environment. Finally, they invite the student to participate as a whole person, which optimizes course work and student performance. The facilitators of this workshop will engage participants in a few of the warm ups they have used with undergraduate and graduate international and domestic students. They can be implemented in a range of courses, from general education classes to those with specialized content and skill development. They can also be adapted for small and large classroom sizes, as well as lecture hall or lab environments. Such warm ups include pair-, small-group- and whole-class-activities that promote communication and critical thinking skills while fostering community. Warm ups designed specifically for international students and using discussion topics related to U.S. culture and the process of acculturation will be shared. Following the experiential portion of the workshop, the facilitators will lead participants in a discussion of their experiences, questions, ideas, and concerns regarding the use of warm ups. Participants will generate and share ideas for warm ups to use in their own courses.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Paul, George Mason University

Elizabeth Paul is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. She earned an MFA in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts; an MA in English at the University of Virginia; and a BA at The Evergreen State College. In her fifteen years as an educator, Ms. Paul has taught courses in ESOL, writing, research, literature, and interdisciplinary first-year experience programs. She has worked with undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students from all over the world. Before coming to George Mason University, she taught at English Now! in Bethesda, Maryland; Principia College in Elsah, Illinois; and The Prairie State College in Chicago, Illinois. In 2016, Finishing Line Press published Ms. Paulâs chapbook Reading Girl, an ekphrastic exploration of paintings by Henri Matisse. Her poems, essays, and collaborative work have appeared in numerous publications. Her critical thesis âSeeing in Embracesâ explores the interplay of text and image in Eduardo Galeanoâs The Book of Embraces. Ms. Paul served as a Peace Corps education volunteer in Kyrgyzstan and has advanced Russian language skills.


Mary Richardson, George Mason University

Mary Richardson has taught English as a foreign language classes for over two decades in the United States and abroad. She is currently an instructor and course coordinator in the Graduate Pathway at INTO Mason, where she works with international graduate students from a range of disciplines and participates in curriculum design. She started her teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, and through the years, she has lived and taught in Taiwan, Czech Republic, and Japan.

10:30am-11:10am Mini-Workshops, Panels, & Roundtables