Like many of my coworkers and probably many of you, I enjoy exercise and outdoor recreation in a minorly competitive "weekend warrior" sort of way. A lesson that I keep having to relearn is that proper warm ups and cool downs are important, both for avoiding injuries and also for basic mental preparation for what's to come. You don't jump right into the activity. And when it's done, you don't cease it abruptly. You have transitions -- however brief they might be. I've been thinking about what a Philosophy class analogue to a warm up or a cool down might be.
There are already ways that I signal that the class period is starting (and that side conversations, texting, etc. need to cease) -- such as closing the door, welcoming everyone, and posing a Question of the Day. The closest things to warmups and cooldowns that come to mind are that I sometimes have students spend 2 - 3 minutes at the beginning of class doing some sort of guided writing (e.g., "Write down three questions you have about today's readings") or, ditto, at the end of class (e.g., "Write down one question that today's discussion has raised for you", or "Write down something you'd like us to discuss in more depth next time"). It's not always clear to me whether the classes in which I do that, feature deeper engagement, by more students, than the ones in which I don't, though I think it has other benefits.
Are there other, better ways of warming up a class before getting into the hard work of the rest of the class period? Does it need to happen in the first place?