Teacher Tuesday returns after taking a six week summer break. So it’s back to school for me and back to sharing some teacher tidbits each Tuesday.
As a student I always got excited when that back to school feeling started to creep up and I’m still the same now. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my six week break but six weeks is a long time to have no structure or daily routine. I’m definitely glad to be getting back in the classroom!
As I am gearing up for the first day back at school tomorrow (who starts on a Wednesday? I supose it eases us back in with a nice 3 day week) I thought I would share some of the things I have done in the past in those first introductory lessons. These are perfect little ice breakers to introduce yourself to the class and break down any awkwardness or shyness.
Introducing the teacher
A nice simple activity to create some mystery and introduce yourself. I do this with every brand new ESL class I have, and I execute it in the same way. Once all the class are seated and settled down, I don’t speak (this seems to add a level of mystery and excitement…) I turn to the board and I mark out _ _ _ _ _ on the board. I don’t even introduce the fact that I’m playing hangman. I like to leave it to the class to figure it out as it gives me a chance to observe how they work, who takes charge etc. Usually they will recognise the game format and will start suggesting letters. For the odd class who didn’t get it, I would write “My name is…” above the lines, and then they would cotton on.
The great thing about this for me is as I have quite an unusual name, they are guessing right up until the end. Actually, even when all five letters are up there, they are still guessing how to pronounce my name, which always ends up being pronounced Kylieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee for the rest of the school year.
All About Me
Students love to hear all about your life, especially in the ESL environment as your life is seen as glamorous and exotic. The good thing about working abroad is I feel like I can give more personal information about my family and home, than I could if I was in my home country.
Another activity I do in every first lesson is I show a slideshow of pictures all about me, my family, my home etc. If there isn’t a projector I have taken my iPad and walked around with it. Again, I try to not talk very much, and try to elicit as much language from the students as I can. This is really helpful to guage the level of previous knowledge and what topics they have covered.
They love seeing photographs of my family home, my car, the town I come from (especially a picture of it after a snowfall). Most of the time when I show them a picture of the Union Jack (Great Britain’s flag) they have no idea what country I come from, but if I show St. George’s Cross (England’s flag) all the boys start shouting out ROONEY or GERRARD and suddenly they are all too aware of what country I come from! And then the ubiquitous question that seemingly all Thai students can ask regardless of their English language level; “Football team?” – always have a football team, don’t disappoint them! I usually ask who they support and lo and behold, that’s my team too! So far I have supported Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea… I don’t even watch football!
Getting to know the students
The Sun Always Shines On
For this to work, students need to be able to speak some English, and the teacher will need to tailor the game accordingly.
Clear a large space in the room and make a circle of chairs (one less than the amount of students) and a chair in the centre of the circle. I usually start with myself in the centre of the circle to demonstrate.
Everyone sits on a chair. The person in the middle says “The sun always shines on…” and then something about them that they may have in common with other people e.g “…people with long hair.” All people with long hair have to get out of their chair and change places with someone else who has stood up. Meanwhile the person in the middle tries to take the place of someone standing, leaving someone different in the middle, and the game continues.
This game is great for finding out about students and for them to find out about each other. And they get to run across the room and fight over chairs, which is always fun.
This game is excellent when the students are new to each other. You need to prepare some grids with questions in them and space for signatures – here’s an example of one I have used before;
Students need to walk around the classroom asking each other the questions. When they encounter a student who answers ‘yes’ to a question, they ask the student their name and write it in the space of the box containing that question. I always say that students can only use one person once.
Prizes can be given for getting a line, or you can wait for someone to fill all of their boxes. Get students to shout BINGO when they have filled all their boxes.
What I like to do then is call up all of the students whose names are in the boxes on the sheet, asking them the question and getting them to prove it if they can.
Some more useful links
A nice round up of first lesson activities from Education World.
Over 200 back to school activities and worksheets on Busy Teacher.
Articles, lesson plans and activities for the first day over at TEFLtastic blog.
Check out wilderdom.com for hundreds of ice breakers and warm ups – this website was my go-to when I was a youth worker.
Hopefully these activities have inspired you to make your first lessons fun and memorable. If you have any first lesson tips or tricks, leave them in the comments below!
This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea. If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.