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Sample starters full of joy

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Every teacher needs some new ideas to make their lessons more enjoyable and particularly on these days when it is becoming more difficult to increase the participation of teaching in remote teaching.
 

Written by Ozguozturk

Below are some ideas on how to start your lesson in an enjoyable way, to enhance the appeal of your lessons, and to keep the energy up.

I still remember my first year of teaching. We prepared it all by hand; the lesson plans, materials by using colourful construction papers, puppets etc. Nowadays, however, it is easier to prepare a lesson and produce various kinds of materials for different subjects with the use of technology in our classrooms.  Nevertheless, learners, no matter how we try, may be bored with the lessons. When this is the case, we need to look for other ways to draw the students' attention.

A good starter is indeed one of the best ways to have a good lesson. With a happy face and a warm welcome, we simply open up the class. But then, the heart of the matter is the first activity we do. In our very first activity, we should inspire our students, helping to hold their attention. Then the rest of the lesson is so close to being one of the unforgettable ones if the starter is good. Now, let’s look at some activity ideas to be stars of your lessons.

Give me an aim, give me a goal!

This activity may work best when you teach your very first lesson after some ice-breaker games or as included in them. I ask the students what their aim is to learn English and what their goal they want to achieve at the end of the term is. Some of my students answer these questions by saying that English is a compulsory subject. Well, this is a very honest answer, and they are right. But, it should be more than that. The aims can be getting a good job, or making international friends. The goals can be a better level of speaking English, or becoming more accurate in grammar. You really should see how imaginative they can be. That’s why I make this activity as a competition and even as a challenge. By voting the replies, we choose the most creative aim and goal. As it would be hard to describe a goal or an aim for young learners, you can do this activity with the young adults and adult learners.

Exergame!

Exergaming is defined as technology-driven physical activities, such as video game play, that requires participants to be physically active or exercise in order to play the game. On these Corona days, all the students need more exercise rather than sitting in front of a computer all day long. The only exercise they do is using their thumbs to approve of something or not, and fingers to type. This is not good. Neither for their bodies, nor for their minds. They need to stand up, they need to move, though they are at home. We have zillions of things to do at home. 5 minutes long activities like that works, believe me. Yoga, workout, going down and climbing up the stairs if you have, taking the dishes or the cups back to the kitchen, running in the backyard if you live in a garden house and so on. Students can be at any age. It works best with young learners and primary level students but you can do this enjoyable activity with the teenagers, as well. I prepared a mix of random exercises and some other games for secondary level students, but you can create your own using some basic imperatives like classroom vocabulary such as sit down, open your books or close the window etc. for young learners or primary school students. They tell me a number from 1 to 10 and spin the wheel. They say the number to decide how many times they will do the activity that comes out on the wheel.

https://wordwall.net/resource/10026513

Writing Bee

You know the classic spelling bee activity, and I am sure that most of you have arranged the contest at least once in your teaching life. But here, I suggest you a different version of it. Let your students guess how the latest vocabulary should be written. It's exactly the same as spelling bee to practice this activity, except instead of spelling the letters of the words, they're going to write the letters. Instead of spelling the letters out loud, the students write the words they hear. You can practice it by making them listen to an audio file, or the teacher can read the words aloud. For your students to use the board for writing, it's easier to do this in your face-to-face classes. Yet, you can even practice it online as well. If you use an audio file for the words or from a website maybe, you should share the sound of your computer to ensure that the words can be heard by the students. The students can use the chatbox function of the online meeting program you use to write the word as a text message. Or, you can use the application for a board that fits the best online. I recommend Jamboard. It is a Google-developed interactive whiteboard system. Using the mouse to move the pen, students can write their words, or they can use their keyboard, too. The only thing a teacher should do is to let them use the screen. This is my method of doing the activity. You can use it like this, or you can modify it with the words from the previous lesson to revise these items. It will work either way and it will work with any level of students. 

Karaoke

One of the best starters is songs, of course. But, instead of filling the gaps activity, you can do lots of different things with songs. To me, karaoke is the best of all. Maybe not every student wants to sing in front of their class. Just to inspire them to sing, you can start by yourself, although you may not have a nice voice. Or, just start with those who volunteered. The song may be about the subject you are going to teach or about a subject you have taught before. But it would be better if you choose from their Spotify list. Are there some shy ones? Then, use it in distance teaching and let them sing when their camera is off. Primary students love songs and singing. However, it can be difficult to imply this with teenagers as they may feel shy due to their age. Nevertheless, it's worth giving a try.

And the Oscar goes to...

We all understand that the days of lockdown will make learning bleak and seem endless. With some odd things that are not connected to the day's topic, I love to find ways to keep these days alive. To begin the lesson, I appoint three students for each lesson to nominate their album, book, series, film or game of choice. One subject for one day and one candidate for each lesson. We listen to it if it's an album. We need to at least see the cover if it's a novel. They're voting for the best, then. This may be by raising their hands or using web2.0 tools like Menti.com. This kind of activity will best work with the teenagers as they are interested in following and commenting on these topics.

Blow your mind time

As most people like to learn about interesting or fun facts about various things, this would be a less risky activity to practice in the class. To be frank, however, the lesson must be prepared in advance. To find an interesting or fun fact about the subject, you can give the subject and allocate one of the students or three at most, with volunteers first suggested. They've got one minute to explain what they've found. What's more exciting about this practice? It does not have to be about the subject of the next class. They should choose a random subject to talk about. It is recommended that you use a starter with the same theme in your lesson. You can do this activity with any level of students and maybe on Fridays with a name "Factful Friday!" You may use it while teaching animal vocabulary or the present simple tense. Did you know that rats laugh when tickled?

Namaste!

We learned some great approaches to teaching English as a second language from a very experienced professor in my ELT school years. Of all the approaches, I have never forgotten Suggestopedia, which is a form of language teaching originated by a psychologist in the 1970s. The name combines the terms “suggestion” and “pedagogy”, the main idea being that accelerated learning can take place when accompanied by de-suggestion of psychological barriers and positive suggestion. In the century in which we live, I believe this word refers to mindfulness in the classroom. Wouldn't it be wonderful having a mindful start into the new week? So I really like and enjoy beginning my lessons with some yoga-like mindfulness exercises. I call them "Mindful Monday" My students think that the class makes them feel relieved and full-motivated. This five-minute task is a very transformative one. It works well with all levels of learners. It's easy to do it online, but we, as English teachers who are acknowledged as the world's most innovative teachers, can easily find a way to do it in face-to-face classes. I encourage you to take a look at this video for young learners from Cosmic Kids Yoga and give it a try.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhYtcadR9nw

Define it with an emoji   

"A picture is worth a thousand words" We live in the 21st century. The capabilities of the students have changed, the needs have changed and the topics they are interested in have changed. Are you aware of what else has changed? The way they communicate has changed. In the far past, to communicate, ancient people used visual language. They drew pictures on the walls of the cave, and used smoke. They then developed another visual language that has sound symbols, ideographic symbols. Alphabets were created and then letters were developed. Handwriting was invented and it was preceded by typing. Computers arrived not long ago and many types of writing were developed. Finally, thanks to social media, we have experienced a new way of writing: emoji. Young people, including very young ones, prefer to use emojis rather than words to explain their feelings. Why not use them in the classroom, then? With emojis, I ask them to explain something by using emojis, and we try to guess it. It may be the name of their favourite film, a very new vocabulary, or whether they like the lesson as a reaction to me. With young learners we can use these emojis for giving an opinion about their likes and dislikes. Smiling faces or thumbs up for likes etc. Or we can use them in writing a text message. You choose a word and write it using an emoji. For example: for "See you" we can use the emoji of two eyes for the word "see". In class, there are many innovative ways to use emojis. For an inspiration, visit this site: 

https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/emojis-english-language-classroom

Unofficial events day

Getting tired of celebrating the cliché special days every year? I agree that Valentine’s Day, Halloween Day etc are fun to celebrate. We have some unusual special days to celebrate, though. I searched the internet and found several non-official days but enjoyable to celebrate. For example; today is January 29th, and it is Fun At Work Day! Wouldn’t it be awesome to celebrate this day with a few fun activities about the topic of the day? Or let’s look at February 26th. It’s Tell A Fairy Tale Day. What a nice day to teach English with fairy tales!  You can find many of them from the list here: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/ and create lots of great activities using them in your classes. Couldn't find one for your liking? Create yours, then. You can make it up. For example; if it's Thursday, let it be "Thoughtful Thursday '' Organize an event about helping people, talk about helping people, choose a celebrity who helps poor people and you can make an online talk with them. Many other ideas will find you when you think about it. This kind of activity will best work with teenagers and adults, but it can be more enjoyable with young learners since they have imaginative minds without limits.

Transformed Circles

A reading circle is a classroom instructional strategy that groups small, heterogeneous groups of students together and connects all aspects of literacy (Anderson & Corbett, 2008). How about giving it a try to transform familiar reading circle activity into speaking, listening and writing circles? We will use the reading circle techniques to implement them in other three skills. There will be “discussion leader”, “summarizer”, “word master", “passage person”, “culture collector” and “connector”. Not only will they fulfil their duties through extensive reading, but they will do it by using some videos from YouTube for listening skill; they will re-write a text for writing skill; they will paraphrase a speech by someone popular for speaking skill, as well. They can do this by using certain web2.0 tools such as Vocaroo or V-blogs for speaking; Jamboard or blogs like Kidblog where they can work collaboratively for writing; they can choose a Ted talk or audio books given by the online library of  British Council to work on listening skill, and they can use online library e-books from the British Council for reading skills. To be honest, because it is a very new idea, I haven’t tried it with my students, yet. I will write down my experience later on in the comments. I think they can work together in the breakout rooms while online teaching and they can present their work by sharing their screens under the guidance of the teacher. For the face-to-face classes, we can arrange a special day for the activity or easily can be done in any class time. It is worth a shot!

Idioms

As they are identified on the British Council website, idioms are expressions whose meanings are different from the words that make them. Understanding an idiom requires some other knowledge than knowing the words used. Idioms normally cannot be modified or the words within them changed. And they are very entertaining topics to teach. But, often, they can demand more effort. In particular, English second language learners find it difficult to learn because they have very different meanings from the words' actual meanings. So, as we do with many things, we should also alter our way of teaching them. At this point we may consider enhancing our students’ digital skills. Experts state that visual materials provide better learning and constant learning is improved by adding some humour to the lessons. Why not combine them? Using meme generators is a great way to get learners to play with both content and language, as David Petrie notes in his blog. Sites such as “imgflip” give you the most popular photos of memes and the ability to caption them as you wish. You can encourage them to create their memes about something about the day’s topic, and also memes can be used as a great assignment for the students. 

These are some inspired ideas from different sources and my love of creativity for the sake of a little adaptation. You are free to be inspired and change them in such a way that you need to apply in your classroom. 

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