Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fun Warmup Activities to Increase Student Engagement for Remote Classes

Nov. 19, 2020 Workshop for Center for Teaching and Learning

Presented by the Performance for Community Engagement class

and Beth Osnes,

Support from Amanda McAndrew with ASSETT and the Center for Teaching and Learning


Workshop Objectives:

-increase student engagement and generate class community for a video conference class

-increase in-class conversation

-build confidence and skills for instructors who want to use activities for student engagement


Suggestions for Facilitators:

-request that students unmute during activities

-request that students turn on their screen

-be confident and comfortable as the facilitator to put them at ease, even if you have to fake it till you make it!

-be encouraging and keep it fun

-your students will appreciate your effort!


*Note: For many of these activities, you would have everyone in the class get a turn. In the interest of time, we will just have a few students getting a turn in order to save time to share more activities.

**After each activity, whoever is facilitating ask for one person to share what a benefit of that activity might be for student engagement. All other responses, please put in the chat to share.


Set the Intention of the Day with a Reading-Breathing Meditation: Beth

Select a piece of writing that eloquently elucidates your intention for your class. Invite your students to close their eyes, place their feet on the ground, sit upright, ask them to feel their heads floating above them like a helium balloon so they feel a pleasant stretch through their spine, relax their stomach muscles and focus on breathing in through their nose and exhaling through their mouths as they listen to this short reading.

Example: from Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, page 4

“Reason is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experience. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason: rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment. The same neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive and move around also create our conceptual systems and modes of reason. Thus, to understand reason we must understand the details of our visual system, our motor system, and the general mechanisms of neural binding. In summary, reason is not, in any way, a transcendent feature of the universe or of disembodied mind. Instead, it is shaped crucially by the peculiarities of our human bodies, by the remarkable details of the neural structures of our brains, and by the specifics of our everyday functioning in the world.

Reason is not purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative.

Reason is not dispassionate, but emotionally engaged.”

Pause for a moment to allow time for that reading to sink in. Invite your students to finish that breath and then slowly open their eyes.


Name Shuffle presented by Maddie, James, and Xaalan

Introduction, icebreaker game to learn the names of individuals.

As group size increases, time will increase.

Inspired by the song “Cupid Shuffle”.

Someone volunteers to start off.

Each person in group will have a turn to go and do their thing…

Basic Template of Movement: To the Right x4, To the Left x4, Move of Choice x4 (example Now jump, x4), and “My name is (blank), I pass it to (next person of choosing).”

Everyone is invited to do the movements to the right, to the left, and then as suggested by the person who is “it.”


Alternate Name Game: presented by Maddie

One at a time, have a student say their name while doing a physical action that expresses how they are felling at that moment. After they do that, everyone repeats both their name and their gesture. That person passes it to the next person.


Brief Student/Instructor Testimonials on The Need for Activities for Student Engagement:





Introduce the Community Performance Toolbox—show on screen

Link to Community Performance Toolbox:

Buffs Create through Arts & Sciences Support for Education Through Technology (ASSETT), publishes student work, lasting toolbox for students


Box Breathing: presented by Beth

Ask everyone to point with either arm to the lower left. Inhale for 4 counts as they trace a box shape upwards, hold the breath while the finger crosses the top of the box for 4 counts, exhale down the other side of the box on 4 counts, hold for 4 counts as you go back along the bottom of the box. Repeat

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood. That makes it an exceptional treatment for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)panic disorderpost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. From


Additional Self-Regulating Exercises: presented by Haley, Nicky, and Xuejing

Back to your Senses: Ask everyone to stand and just begin moving their bodies, swinging their arms, rolling their head, twisting the torso… then ask them to keep moving while they all audibly name three things they see. Next, ask everyone to name three things they hear. Next, ask everyone to name three things they feel.

Body Pats:  Invite everyone to either stand or sit and pat their bodies with their hands, starting at the head and trying to pat all over down to the feet.


Shake it out: presented by Hanna

Shake your entire body while standing, at least 30 seconds, can ask them to circle in one direction, then in the other direction, can ask them to add an open “ahhhh” sound while shaking.

Shaking is the natural way to release tension and return the body to its normal homeostasis. It is a primal impulse to a stressful situation. Animals naturally shake to release tension.


Stretches: presented by Nicky

Suggest various body stretches that can be done while seated—such as twist to look behind you one direction, the other, let head drop to side over shoulder, other shoulder…(whatever stretches you like!)


Add On presented by Anisha and DJ

Follow the leader through movement and dance. After a minute or two of the first person leading, have that person pass on the “lead” to someone else. Then the next person has a turn, and everyone follows that person’s movements and dance. This passing of the “lead” keeps going as long as you like or until everyone who want a turn leading has done so.

Participants- 5-30 people


I Move Because…  presented by Chelsea Hackett

Screen off, turn on your screen if what is said is true for you, example, “I move because I like cats better than dogs.” After seeing who has their screen off or on. Then ask everyone to go back to screens off. Facilitator names another, such as “I move because I speak more than one language,” in the same way. Then ask students to give examples of why they move.


Nod, rock, rain falling down: presented by Beth

start with teacher calling each one of the three movement possibilities, then let the students call it out, then have students lead it non-verbally.


What Are You Doing? Presented by Griffin, Kyle, and Sarah (to demonstrate, please go in the following order, Griffin, Kyle, Sarah, and then ask for two volunteers from our guests and do that many)

Establish the order of participants based on alphabetical order by first name.

The first participant begins any action (ex. brushing teeth). The more full-bodied the more fun the game will be!

Participant number two (next in alphabetical order) asks “What Are You Doing?”

First Participant replies “I am (ex. putting on my armor)….” anything other than what they are actually doing.

Second Participant beings pantomiming the action that person just stated they were doing (in the case of this example, putting on armor).

Third Participant asks “What are you doing?” and on it goes.

Ex: Annie pantomimes climbing a rope.

Barry asks “What are you doing?”.

Annie says “I’m sculpting Michelangelo’s David”.

Barry then begins pantomiming sculpting Michelangelo’s David.

Clarice asks Barry, “What are you doing?” (and on it goes!)

Tips for Activity Success:

  • Keep the actions community-friendly. If you don’t want to see your grandma do it, don’t suggest it.
  • If participants are having trouble coming up with actions , the facilitator may suggest themes (sports, things you do everyday, fixing something…), course relevant topics, or match their action with the first letter of their first name, etc.
  • Facilitators should ensure that all willing participants engage in the activity.
  • Activity may be cycled through as many times as desired.


Machine— by Beth

add a sound and a gesture—everyone join one by one to create an interrelated machine, let go of that one, let’s start again and have our machine express some theme we are focusing on in this class— democracy, horror genre, mental well-being, what else? After doing each, ask the participants what they noticed or how it helped them understand the theme in a new or more nuanced way

*published benefits of this exercise: embodying concepts is beneficial for learners. Abrahamson, D. “Embodied Spatial Articulation: A Gesture Perspective on Student Negotiation between Kinesthetic Schemas and Epistemic Forms in Learning Mathematics.” Proceedings of the 26th Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, vol. 2, Preney, 2004, pp. 791–97.


Tips for Facilitation: (start this by 3:20)

-use the expertise in the room—if a student or TA want to take the lead, encourage it

-relate the activity to the class content when possible

-reflect on the activity when appropriate to acknowledge embodied and diverse ways of knowing

-share proven benefits of these exercises with students when available, and ask them to identify benefits as well

-integrate these activities into your class culture preemptively, don’t wait till you need them—can be more awkward to introduce this later in semester

-make it part of your class culture to be active from the beginning

-keep surprise on your side, which holds attention

-consider the size of your class when you chose activities, ues breakout rooms when appropriate

-don’t be afraid of repeating activities, there are continued benefits from repeating and deepening the experiences

-practice leading an activity before class if possible, even if just to your goldfish!

-be warned, if you start doing this, your students may grow to expect activities and look forward to them!!

-invite students to lead activities of their own creation, or create a sign-up list for leading activities


Closing: presented by Sarah

Everyone think of one word that expresses what you will take form this workshop—ask everyone to put their word in the chat, facilitator ask if a few people want to create a statue with their body of what they meant by their word, once they do, ask everyone else to make that same statue


Thanks to Center for Teaching and Learning and ASSETT, especially Amanda McAndrew, and to all of you for participating! —The End.


Extra Activities in Case There is More Time:


We are Nature Let’s decide on hand motions and sounds to create on a computer video screen all of their different environments:

Ocean waves

Snake slithering

Geese honking

Earth Quaking

Forrest burning

Baby bird hatching

Spiders web weaving

Puppies playing

Prairie dog burrowing


Yes, let’s:

One person suggests a “yes, let’s.” Ex. “Let’s run away from that charging Tyrannosaurus Rex.” Everyone says, “Yes, let’s!” and they all do just that. Another person suggests another, “Let’s not wake up the babies.” Everyone says, “Yes, let’s!” and they all do just that. Another person suggests another, “Let’s warm ourselves by this lovely fire.” And so on.


Counting to Ten— don’t speak over each other, if 2 people do, have to start over


One thing I would like you to know about my name is…:

Put everyone into breakout rooms and ask them to share with their partner one thing they would like their partner to know about their name. Only give them 5 minutes—each person gets 2 minutes to present, they get a minute to reflect on what they shared.




Description of the Advertisement for this Event:

Fun Warmup Activities to Increase Student Engagement for Remote Classes

If you would like to increase student engagement in your online classes, join this workshop to learn simple, brief, and fun activities on Zoom. This workshop is for instructors of any subject and any class size. During the workshop you will be able to experience doing these activities and then will gain tips for facilitating these yourself for your own class. These activities promote student bonding within an online platform and energize the onscreen experience. They can be a great opening activity or a refreshing brain break to reboot the class energy mid-way through a class.

Beth Osnes, Associate Professor in the Theater Department, and Nii Armah Soweh, Senior Instructor in the Dance Department, have created the Community Performance Toolbox, a repository of performance-based games, activities and exercises that is open access. In this workshop, students from Beth’s Performance for Community Engagement class will train instructors on activities that they have designed for Zoom classes.

Dial-In Information

Please note, you will need to be logged into Zoom with CU credentials to access this workshop.

 Thursday, November 19 at 2:30pm to 3:30pm


For Students of Performance for Community Engagement—

Suggested Wording for Adding this Workshop to Your Resume or CV:

-Co-facilitated of workshop entitled Fun Warmup Activities to Increase Student Engagement for Remote Classes sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning through the University of Colorado (CU), online workshop for CU instructors to learn activities to increase student engagement in online classes, November 19, 2020.

-Co-author of entry on the Community Performance Toolbox, an online toolbox including performance-based warmups, activities, and games for engaging with communities on a wide variety of issues,, name of entry:_______________(could provide a brief description), 2020.



Contact Beth Osnes at fi you are interested in having this workshop facilitated for your community.