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Warm them up, PLEASE

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“Here is the coursebook. Open it to unit 1. Read the title”

Can there be a more discouraging start to a new class? I, unwisely, did that 12 years ago when I started teaching! Now, that I am wiser, hopefully, I wish to share with you 3 simple ideas to start a new class that require zero preparation.

Funnily enough, I was a trainee when those ideas were implemented by the trainers, and therefore, can vow for their effectiveness.

Activity 1:

Nothing is more interesting to a student than knowing more about the mystery person who stands before the class announcing himself as its teacher!

My life in numbers

Write down 3 numbers that represent something in your life and get students to guess what this number means to you. Try to make it as interesting as possible.

One training session, the trainer wrote 39 and had us guess all sorts of things, and it turned out to be her shoe size!

Activity 2:

A hard cover book can be intimidating to a new students who is just about to start a new level. One way to personalize it is to let students explore it.

A walk through the book

Give each student a stack of sticky book markers with different colours. Tell students to place a red sticky bookmarker at a part of the book that they think is interesting to learn. A yellow one for a part they are curious or unsure about. A blue one for a part that can be challenging.

Perhaps have students write an entry journal about their expectations for each part they stuck a bookmark to. Whether it lived up to their expectations or not.

Activity 3

A picture can carry a message delivered by a thousand words. This activity is highly adaptable.

The view outside my window

Show the student a picture that you have taken to the view outside your window or even inside your house. This is entirely up to you. Tell students something special about this view and if you are from the same country, you can get them to guess where this is. Ask students to do the same. Either to shoot a picture and share it, especially if you are doing this online and do not forget to enable multiple users sharing screen if using Zoom programme. Student can choose one object in their room and share a picture of it. They should talk for a minute of the significance of this item in their lives.

As a general rule of thumb, most teachers feel guilty if they wasted a session when they are not teaching their curriculum. It is, however, not a waste to spend time getting to know your learners, learning about their preferences and analysing their needs.

Although I only mentioned some getting to know you activities, it is pivotal that the students feel that their teacher invested time in understanding their personalities and is tailoring the lessons based on their needs, which he got to know at their first encounter. Recognizing individuality and establishing ground rules right from the start should be a priority if the teacher wants to gain his/ her students trust and respect.

It seeems to me that first classes should be spent in:

  • Getting to know learners
  • Understanding their needs
  • Analyzing their strength and suggestion action points
  • Setting ground rules
  • Managing expectations 

How do you spend your first class?