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USING WARM UP ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE THE STUDENTS’ SPEAKING SKILLS AN ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT AT DONG NAI TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY

VIETNAM ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
GRADUATE ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES

Lê Thị Hồng Tuyến

USING WARM-UP ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE
THE STUDENTS’ SPEAKING SKILLS: AN
ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT AT DONG
NAI TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY

MA THESIS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE

HANOI, 2019


VIETNAM ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
GRADUATE ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES

Lê Thị Hồng Tuyến

USING WARM-UP ACTIVITIES TO IMPROVE

THE STUDENTS’ SPEAKING SKILLS: AN
ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT AT DONG
NAI TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY

Field: English Language
Code: 8220201
Supervisor: Bùi Thị Thục Quyên, Ph.D.

HANOI, 2019


DECLARATION BY AUTHOR
I hereby declare that this thesis is my own work and effort and that has
not been submitted anywhere for any award. I certify that the thesis “Using
Warm-up Activities to Improve the Students’ Speaking Skills: An Action
Research Project at Dong Nai Technology University” is the result of my
own study and that it has not been submitted to any other university or
institution wholly or partially.
Author’s Signature

Lê Thị Hồng Tuyến

Approve by
SUPERVISOR

Dr. Bùi Thị Thục Quyên
Date: ……………………

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am grateful to many people for their thoughtful help given to me in
doing this study.
Firstly, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Bui Thi Thuc Quyen for her insightful comments and suggestions on
various parts of this thesis.
My thanks also go to all my lecturers from the Foreign Languages
Department – Graduate Academy of Social Sciences for their useful and
interesting lectures to finish the study.


I am most thankful to my colleague – Ms. Pham Thi Kim Tuoi and the
students at Dong Nai Technology University for their support in data
collection.
Finally, my special thanks go to my family, for their love and support
throughout this project. Without their encouragement I could not have
completed this thesis.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

DECLARATION BY AUTHOR ...........................................................
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT .....................................................................
ABSTRACT ...........................................................................................
LIST OF FIFGURES .............................................................................
LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS........................................................
LIST OF ABBREVIATION USED IN THE THESIS ..........................
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION .......................................................
1.1 Rationale ...........................................................................................
1.2

Aims of the study .......................................................................

1.3

Research questions .....................................................................

1.4

Scope of the study ......................................................................

1.5

Significance of the study .............................................................

1.6

Research methods .......................................................................

1.7

Structure of the study ..................................................................

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ...........................................
2.1

Nature of language skills and oral communication .....................

2.1.1

Nature of language skill ......................................

2.1.2

Oral communication ............................................

2.2

Speaking skills ...........................................................................

2.2.1

Concepts of speaking ..........................................

2.2.2

The importance of speaking ...............................

2.2.3

Characteristics of speaking skills .......................

2.2.4

Speaking problems .............................................

2.3

Warm – up activities ..................................................................

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2.3.1

Definitions of warm – up activities .................

2.3.2

Principles of warm – up activities ...................

2.3.3

The advantages of warm – up activities ..........

2.3.3.1 Warm – up activities help create a good rapport ........................
2.3.3.2 Warm – up activities help motivate students .............................
2.3.3.3 Warm – up activities help attract attention .................................
2.3.4
2.4

The disadvantages of warm-up activities ........

Previous studies ......................................................................

2.5 Summary ..........................................................................................
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY ......................................................
3.1

Research design ........................................................................

3.1.1

Definitions of Action Research .......................

3.1.2

Action research procedures .............................

3.2

The context of the study ..........................................................

3.2.1

The teacher ......................................................

3.2.2

Participants ......................................................

3.2.3

The course book ..............................................

3.3

Procedures of the current study ...............................................

3.5

Data collection instruments .....................................................

3.5.1

The pre – test and post – test ...........................

3.5.2

The questionnaire ............................................

3.5.3

Class observation ............................................

3.6 Summary ..........................................................................................
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS ..............................
4.1

Research question 1: Students’ thoughts about English speak

4.1.1

The difficulty level of English speaking .........

4.1.2

Students’ difficulties in English speaking lesso

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4.2 Research question 2: students’ attitudes toward using warm – up
activities in English speaking lessons....................................................................... 35
4.2.1 How much students liked warm – up activities in general.................35
4.2.2 The effectiveness of warm – up activities in speaking lessons........36
4.2.3 Students’ difficulties when participating in warm – up activities 37
4.2.4 Suggestions from students to improve warm –up activities..............38
4.2.5 Warm – up activities in speaking lessons preferred by students .. 39
4.3 Research question 3: revised warm – up activities and their effects
on students............................................................................................................................... 40
4.3.1 Word jumble race..................................................................................................... 41
4.3.1.1 Data from Questionnaire 2.............................................................................. 41
4.3.1.2 Data from the observation sheets................................................................ 43
4.3.2 Remembering pictures.......................................................................................... 45
4.3.2.1 Data from Questionnaire 2.............................................................................. 45
4.3.2.2 Data from the observation sheets................................................................ 47
4.3.3 Mimic............................................................................................................................. 49
4.3.3.1 Data from the Questionnaire 2...................................................................... 49
4.3.3.2 Data from the observation sheets................................................................ 51
4.3.4 Words of mouth......................................................................................................... 53
4.3.4.1 Data from Questionnaire 2.............................................................................. 53
4.3.4.2 Data from observation sheets........................................................................ 55
4.4 The results from the pre – test and post – test............................................... 56
4.4.1 Data from the pre – test........................................................................................ 58
4.4.2 Data from the post – test...................................................................................... 59
4.5 Discussion........................................................................................................................ 60
4.6 Summary.......................................................................................................................... 62
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION................................................................................. 63

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5.1 Recapitulation................................................................................................................ 63
5.1.1 Students’ difficulties when taking part in English speaking
lessons........................................................................................................................................ 63
5.1.2 Students’ attitudes toward the use of warm – up activities in
English speaking lessons.................................................................................................. 63
5.1.3 The effects of revised warm – up activities on students in English
speaking lessons................................................................................................................... 64
5.2 Concluding remarks.................................................................................................... 65
5.3 Implication....................................................................................................................... 65
5.4 Limitations and suggestions for further studies........................................... 66
5.4.1 Limitations.................................................................................................................. 66
5.4.2 Suggestions for further studies......................................................................... 67
REFERENCES................................................................................................................... 68
Appendix 1a: Survey questionnaire 1 (English version)................................. I
Appendix 1b: Survey questionnaire 1 (Vietnamese version)........................ IV
Appendix 2a: Survey questionnaire 2 (English version)................................. VII
Appendix 2b: Survey questionnaire 2 (Vietnamese version)........................ VII
Appendix 3: Observation sheet..................................................................................... X
Appendix 4: Pre – test....................................................................................................... XI
Appendix 5: Post – test..................................................................................................... XIII
Appendix 6: Rubrics of the pre – test........................................................................ XV
Appendix 7: Rubrics of the post – test....................................................................... XVI

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ABSTRACT
For some recent years, English has played more and more important part
in Vietnam, and it has been taught in many levels of Vietnamese schools as a
compulsory subject. So far, there have been remarkable changes in the way of
teaching and learning English speaking. However, students’ speaking skills
are still far from satisfaction. How to improve students’ performance in
speaking has been a big question for every English teacher. It is also the
question that has inspired the researcher to investigate the use of warm – up
activities to improve her students’ speaking skills. In attempt to fulfill this
thesis, there were two classes which attended in this research. Class A studied
English speaking skills with warm – up activities but class B studied without
warm – up activities. The final results were very surprising. Warm – up
activities basically have had a very little effect on students’ speaking skills.
From the final results, some suggestions have been drawn out to help use
warm – up activities more effectively. It is hoped that this thesis will be found
of value to those who have great interest in using warm – up activities in
speaking lessons.

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: Principles of warm – up activities
Figure 2: Kemmis and McTaggart’s action research spiral
Figure 3: Elliot’s action research model
Figure 4: O’Leary’s cycles of research

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LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS

Chart 1: The effectiveness of WAS in speaking lessons
Table 1: Students’ thoughts about the difficulty level of English
Speaking
Table 2: Students’ difficulties in English speaking lessons
Table 3: How students feel about WAS
Table 4: Students’ difficulties when joining WAS in speaking
Lessons
Table 5: What the teacher should do to improve WAS
Table 6: WAS in speaking lessons preferred by students
Table 7: The effectiveness of Word jumble race
Table 8: Strengths and weaknesses of Word jumble race
Table 9: Students’ participation level in speaking lesson with
Word jumble race
Table 10: Word jumble race
Table 11: The effectiveness of Remembering pictures
Table 12: Strengths and weaknesses of Remembering pictures
Table 13: Students’ participation level in speaking lesson with
Remembering pictures

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Table 14: Remembering pictures
Table 15: The effectiveness of Mimic
Table 16: Strengths and weaknesses of Mimic
Table 17: Students’ participation level in speaking lesson with
Mimic
Table 18: Mimic
Table 19: The effectiveness of Words of mouth
Table 20: Strengths and weaknesses of Words of mouth
Table 21: Students’ participation level in speaking lesson with
Words of mouth
Table 22: Words of mouth
Table 23: The results of class A
Table 24: The results of class B
Table 25: The results from the pre – test
Table 26: The results from the post – test

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE THESIS

AR: Action Research
CLT: Communicative Language Teaching
DNTU: Dong Nai Technology University
WAS: Warm – up Activities

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CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Rationale
In Vietnam, English has been considered one of the most necessary
subjects for students in all levels of educational system. Nevertheless, how to
teach English in general and speaking skill effectively in particular is still
controversial. Moreover, speaking skill is believed the most essential skill
because it is the most effective tool to carry out a conversation.
Thanks to the CLT, many changes have been made in classroom’s
atmosphere to help learners involve actively and positively during the class
time. Hence, WAS are also highly recommended in English speaking classes
because they stimulate students to engage and speak in English (Lassche,
2005; Hadfield, 2000; Robertson & Acklam, 2000).
In fact, at DNTU, although teachers have created several WAS before
each lesson, their students still find it difficult to start talking in English
during class time. Honestly, the researcher is also in the same situation. The
WAS which are carried out in the author’s classrooms seem to be useless. The
students are not willing to participate in those activities or even after joining
the warming up, they show no interest in new speaking lessons. Therefore,
how to encourage students to speak English and feel free to participate in
speaking activities is the worry of many teachers including the author.
Facing such a problem, the author wants to know the reasons behind her
students’ unwillingness of participation in WAS and find out the possible
solutions. Based on students’ perception of WAS, the author will redesign

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some activities, then, apply them in to her speaking classes to observe the
result.
Keeping those intentions in mind, the author has conducted a research
entitled “Using Warm-up Activities to Improve the Students’ Speaking
Skills: an Action Research Project at Dong Nai Technology University” to
enhance the efficiency of using WAS and increase students’ involvement in
speaking classes.
1.2 Aims of the study
The thesis has been done with the hope that it can contribute to the
improvement in teaching English in general and in teaching speaking skills in
particular. The thesis aims:
-To discover the students’ perception of English speaking.
-

To find out the students’ attitude toward WAS in English speaking

lessons.
-To investigate the effectiveness of redesigned WAS on students’
speaking skills.
1.3 Research questions
This study is implemented to find answers to the following research
questions:




What do students think of English speaking?

What are students’ attitudes toward warm – up activities in
English speaking lessons?



How do revised warm – up activities support students in
improving English speaking skills?
1.4 Scope of the study

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The study was carried in the third term of the school year 2018 – 2019
with the participation of 43 non – English majored freshmen at DNTU in
Dong Nai. This group of students had learned an English course with the
researcher; however, they had very bad speaking skills with unknown reasons.
The WAS in this study were chosen and revised according to the students’
opinions.
1.5 Significance of the study
Once this study has been completed, it is expected that it will help the
teacher discover the problems behind her students’ failed performances in
speaking lessons. Then, basing on students’ opinion, the teacher can create
more suitable WAS to make her speaking lessons more attractive and
engaging. This means learners will also feel more appealed to the speaking
lessons right at the beginning and be able to enhance their speaking skills.
1.6 Research methods
The study based mainly on the pre – test, post – test, survey
questionnaires, observations. Two sets of questionnaires were designed and
delivered to students at the beginning of the course and after each speaking
lesson. The observation forms were filled during two cycles. The pre – test
was done at the beginning of the course and the post – test was in the end of
the course. The collected data was analyzed both quantitatively and
qualitatively.
1.7 Structure of the study
The study consists of five chapters:
Chapter 1 – Introduction: The first chapter gives reasons for choosing the
thesis, scope and aims of the study as well as the research method and the
structure of the study.
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Chapter 2 – Literature Review: This chapter focuses on an overview of
nature of language skills and oral communication, speaking skill, Action
Research as well as previous studies on using WAS to improve or develop
students’ speaking skills.
Chapter 3 - Methodology: This chapter reports the context settings,
research hypothesis, participants, instruments and the procedure of
conducting Action Research for the study.
Chapter 4- Findings and Discussion: This part deals with the data
analysis from the Action Research results to make the foundation for the
activities recommended in Chapter 5.
Chapter 5 – Conclusion: This chapter summarizes the study and suggests
some practical tips for teachers to stimulate students’ speaking skills when
using warm – up activities. Limitations of the study and suggestions for
further study are also included in this chapter.

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CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Nature of language skills and oral communication
2.1.1 Nature of language skills
It is known that language skills involve four inter – related skills:
listening, speaking, reading and writing. Speaking and writing involve
production part of user, which is why they are called productive skills.
Listening and reading are receptive skills. In fact, learning a foreign language
is practicing the four language skills. Therefore, in order to master a foreign
language, learners must have an adequate mastery of all the four skills
mentioned above.
2.1.2 Oral communication
Communication between human is a complex process. One of the
communication forms is oral communication which is realized by using oral
skills. According to Ricky W. Griffin, “Oral communication takes place in
face – to – face conversations, group discussions, telephone calls and other
circumstances in which spoken word is used to express the meaning.” Thanks
to oral communication, humans can express and understand each other.
Likewise, it is through oral communication students can express themselves,
acquire new concepts, exchange ideas and experience the joy of using
language to build their own new knowledge.

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2.2 Speaking skills
2.2.1 Concepts of speaking
There are various definitions of the word “speaking” which are suggested
by many language researchers all over the world. Brown (1994) and Burns &
Joyce (1997) define that speaking is an interactive process of constructing
meaning that involves producing, receiving and processing information. It
means that speaking does not include only saying but understanding and
replying to the other speaker in a conversation.
Bygate (1987) defined speaking as the production of auditory signals to
produce different verbal responses in listeners. It is regarded as combining
sounds systematically to form meaningful sentences. Florez (1999), Howarth
(2001), and Abd El Fattah Torky (2006) defined speaking as a two – way
process including a true communication of opinions, information, or
emotions. This view regards the spoken texts as the collaboration between two
or more persons in the shared time and the shared context.
In conclusion, speaking is an interactive process between speakers and
listeners. Both speakers and listeners must cooperate, exchange and
understand each other’s opinions in the same context and period of time.
2.2.2 The importance of speaking
Children normally learn to speak before they know how to read and
write. In one of her studies, Rivers (1981) researched the use of language
outside the classroom situation and found that speaking is used twice as much
as reading and writing combined. In anyway, human beings take more time to
interact with language orally rather than writing it. Speaking is the most

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significant skill because it is one of the needed abilities to carry out a
conversation.
Moreover, the importance of speaking is indicated with the combination
of other language skills. Speaking helps students enhance their grammar
knowledge, enrich their vocabulary and then perfect their writing skill.
Learners can express their own feelings and ideas, tell stories, make requests,
discuss and show a variety of language functions. Outside the classroom, in
addition, speaking also plays a crucial role. Baker and Westrup (2003) said
that learners who speak English very well can have greater chance for better
education, finding good jobs, and getting promotion.
In addition, previous researchers show that students cannot learn a
language without having chances for repetition. The opportunities to produce
the language in meaningful oral tasks provide the practice which is really
essential to internalizing the language. Asher (2003) supported the idea that
very soon after teachers model the language, learners like to imitate what have
been said. Krashen (1988) examined the relation between listening and
speaking skills. He found that when students speak, their speaking shows that
they have acquired the language.
Speaking is crucial to support students’ ability to apply the language
when they learn English. Speaking skill has played an important role in the
success of human beings because it always happens in daily life
communication. Speaking is an interactive activity and it occurs under the real
time constraints. Speaking skill enables individuals to produce sentences for
the real communication, in other words they actually like to communicate in
language to get specific objectives (McDonough & Shaw, 1993).

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To summarize, speaking is a complicated skill. To achieve it successfully,
a speaker must master so many subskills such as grammar, vocabulary,
pronunciation, fluency or even listening skill. However hard it is, speaking is
still the integral part of human life. People speak every day to express their
ideas and transform the information. So, it is very important for students to
learn speaking.
2.2.3 Characteristics of speaking skills
According to Mazouzi (2013), learners’ activities should be designed to
achieve the balance between fluency and accuracy. Both fluency and accuracy
are important elements of communicative approach.
Fluency is the first characteristic of speaking performance. According to
Hughes (2002), fluency is the learners’ ability to speak in understandable way
so as not to break down communication because listeners may lose their
interest. Hedge (2000) also expressed that fluency is the ability to answer
coherently by connecting the words and phrases, pronouncing the sounds
clearly, and using stress and intonation.
Accuracy is the second characteristic of speaking performance. When
learning a foreign language, students should be accurate. Therefore, teachers
should emphasize accuracy in their teaching process. Learners should pay
attention to the exactness and the completeness of language form when
speaking such as focusing on grammatical structures, vocabulary, and
pronunciation (Mazouzi, 2013).
According to Thornbury (2005), learners’ correct use of grammatical
structures requires the length and complexity of the utterances and the well –
structured clauses. If students want to gain accuracy in terms of vocabulary,

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they have to select suitable words in the suitable contexts. Sometimes, they
use similar words or expressions in different contexts that do not mean similar
things. So, learners should have the ability to use words and expressions
exactly.
Thornbury (2005) also said that pronunciation is the lowest level of
knowledge that learners typically pay attention to. In order to speak English
accurately, learners should master phonological rules and they should be
aware of the various sounds and their pronunciations. Besides, the stress,
intonation, and pitch are also important for learners. All of these elements
help learners speak the English language easily and effectively.
It can be drawn out that fluency and accuracy are two main
characteristics of speaking, and each of them has the key role in speaking.
Therefore, when teaching English speaking, the teacher should consider
which factor students need to focus on in order to choose the most suitable
activities.
2.2.4 Speaking problems
When students speak, they sometimes have some problems which
prevent them from expressing their own ideas. According to Tuan and Mai
(2015), the students’ problems related to speaking skill are inhibition, lack of
topical knowledge, low or uneven participation and mother-tongue use.
Inhibition is the first problem that students encounter in class. Littlewood
(2007) expressed that a language classroom can also create inhibitions and
apprehension for the students. Because speaking requires some real – time
exposure to the audience, students sometimes feel inhibited about trying to
say a foreign language in front of their classmates. They are worried about

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making mistakes, being criticized, losing face or feeling shy of their friends’
attention towards themselves.
The second problem is that learners always complain that they cannot
think of anything to say. They do not have any reason to express themselves
except the guilty feeling that they should be speaking. Rivers (1968) showed
that learners often say nothing because their teachers have chosen a topic that
is not suitable for them or they do not have enough knowledge about it. The
above idea is supported by Baker and Westrup (2003) who said that it is very
difficult for learners to tell something in a foreign language because they have
little opinions about what to say, which vocabulary to apply, or how to use
grammar correctly.
The third problem in the speaking class is that the participation is very
low. According to Tuan and Mai (2015), with a large number of students in
the class, each student will have limited time to speak. If one student talks,
others have to listen to him/her. Moreover, in a mixed – ability class, some
students will dominate the whole class while others talk very little or not at
all.
The last problem related to the speaking ability is that when some
learners share the same mother – tongue, they try to use it in the speaking
class because it is very easy for them (Tuan & Mai, 2015). Especially when
the teacher asks their students to discuss in groups, it is difficult to keep the
whole class to the target language.
In summary, when learning a new language, students cannot avoid facing
troubles and difficulties. Each student has his own problems which are
different from the others’. Some may have problems with the ideas but some
may not be confident enough to speak in the public. As a result, this is also a
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challenge for the teacher when she organizes the activities for students. How
to help students overcome their problems and get improved is always the first
consideration when the teacher chooses an activity in speaking lessons. This is
also the reason why the researcher wants to carry out this study.
2.3 Warm – up activities
2.3.1 Definitions of warm – up activities
There are a lot of definitions of WAS. According to Robertson & Acklam
(2000), “warm up is a short activity for the beginning of lesson (p.30).” Kay
(1995) claimed that warm ups are different types of activities which help the
students begin to think in English, review previously introduced materials and
become interested in the lesson (as cited in Valandia, 2008, p.11). Lassche
(2005) defined that for language learning lesson a warm
– up stage is the “initial orientation” (p. 83).
Therefore, WAS are short activities which are used to facilitate, engage
and appeal students from the beginning of language classes. They are short,
simple and interesting enough to motivate students to learn a foreign language
better.
2.3.2 Principles of warm – up activities
In one of his researches, Velandia (2008) pointed out some principles to
make up a warm – up activity. He emphasizes that the right time when a warm
– up activity should be carried out is at the starting point of the class. It will
make the students pay more attention to the lesson. That activity should be
interesting enough for students to be engaged at the beginning of the lesson.
Also, it must be short because it is considered a preparation stage for other
stages of a lesson. That warm – up activity must be connected to the

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lesson topic; therefore, students can take part in different activities more
easily to develop their language skill in other stages (p. 13). The following
diagram which shows some of the principles of warm – up activity is taken
from Velandia (2008, p. 13).

Figure 1: Principles of warm – up activities
In another research of Robertson and Acklam (2000), they also described
the main features of a warm – up activity. They include that a warm – up
activity needs to be interesting to motivate the students. Because a warm – up
activity is a short activity, it is not the main part of the lesson. Moreover, it
can be used to give students an opportunity to recall the previous knowledge.
However, Robertson and Acklam (2000) had disagreed with Velandia (2008)
that a warm – up activity must be related to the lesson topic. They mention

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