The summer holidays are drawing to an end and the first day of the new school year is looming. If you´re anything like me, you´ve already got your planning cap on and you´re thinking ´What on Earth am I going to do in the first class?`
Don´t worry, there´s no need to panic! Here´s a list of things that I believe are important to take into consideration and some suggestions that I hope will help.
Explain the rules. ´Raise your hand when you want to speak, say please and thank you, always listen to the teacher when he or she is speaking´. It´s important to make the classroom rules very clear (I actually have mine framed on the wall next to the whiteboard) so that you have something to refer to when students are being mischievous.
Good class structure is integral to a peaceful and productive learning environment and there´s no time like the present to start deciding which students work well with each other, help each other, and complement each other´s strengths and weakness, and which students don´t work together quite as well, maybe conflict with each other, and trigger each other´s bad behavioural habits. Monitor the students’ interactions closely and start to consider a potential seating plan, if needed, that creates a trouble-free environment.
Integration of New Students
It´s a new year, so chances are you´ve got some new students and they may well be nervous. Make them feel at home. Partner them up with a student that you know will be welcoming. Make sure everyone learns each other’s names and that the new students are treated with kindness. Try some ´get to know you` speaking activities so that the new students can familiarize themselves with their classmates and start practicing their English right from the get go.
Communication and Teamwork
This, for me, is the key to success. Get the students working in teams, communicating with each other with the aim of completing a task or reaching a goal, and their confidence in speaking and listening will grow. Autonomy is a beautiful thing and my aim is always to have students listen to my instructions and then work together to solve the problem at hand with as little further input from myself as possible. This gives them the tools they need to continue using and learning the language outside of the classroom.
Reading, Listening and Speaking
Obviously, writing is important as well but maybe a little heavy for the first class. Reading, listening and speaking, however, should be part of the curriculum from day one. Try to incorporate all three aspects of language in fun and engaging activities.
We´re not programming robots. Listen and repeat is boring and, for the most part, not very useful. Ask them questions that get them thinking. Don´t ask them if they had a good summer. Ask them what they liked most about their summer and why?!
The optimum level of fun that´s required will obviously vary depending on the age but you´re never too old to have some fun and if learning is made fun, surprise, surprise, you learn. The more enjoyable the class, the more engaged the students will be. It´s the first day back after months of playing with their friends, so let´s cut them some slack. Play games, make sure they realise that learning can be fun and the idea of coming to classes might even become something they look forward to.
Stimulate the body to stimulate the mind. Don´t have them sitting in their chairs staring at the whiteboard. Get them up and moving about. Moving around the classroom keeps things exciting and energetic which helps them engage and soak up all that knowledge that we want to fill their heads with.
I´m a huge fan of competition in the classroom. If I tell my students to please quietly complete exercise 7, I´m met with unenthusiastic compliance. However, if I ask them to complete exercise 7 in pairs and explain to them that each pair gets a point per correct answer, I get the polar opposite reaction. All of a sudden exercise 7 doesn´t look like a boring exercise in a book anymore.
Review and Refresh
What are the chances that they´ve remembered everything from the previous school year? Zero. So why not start with a review? Revisit some of the topics that you did with them before the holidays and make it fun. Vocabulary memory games and grammar quizzes are a great way to kick off the school year and revive those parts of the brain that have sat dormant throughout the summer months.
I know it´s a lot to think about but the good news is that I have the answer to almost everything above in one convenient package. If you haven´t already done so, please check out ESL Escape Room by hitting The Game tab above. For a very reasonable price you´ll have access to a game that has been years in the making. Whether you´re teaching elementary or intermediate, using books by Oxford, Cambridge, Pearson, or any other publisher, have 1 student or 100, this game will be a game changer for your classroom.
With minimal prep time you´ll have a game that you can customize to last 10 minutes or 2 hours, to cover any vocabulary set or grammar structure that suits you, and to be played in teams of any sizes.
And the best thing? It is the answer to almost every point that I mentioned above.
But I´ve said enough. Go and have a look at the sample pages, have a quick read of the description and decide for yourself.
Thanks for reading!
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