It can be hard to have a good first lesson of a new course because:
- You don’t put the effort into it because of some mental note that this lesson is not that important as “it’s only the first lesson”
- But you don’t want to use the coursebook so there is even more reliance on the teacher to create something engaging and worthwhile
- You already know all the students so don’t think about doing the typical GTKY and Name activities
First lessons are probably one of those classes that many teachers overlook. Probably much more could be created and fostered in terms of rapport and creating the right environment for learning amongst students and teacher.
I am guilty of all the things above from time to time and also of rehashing the same first lesson ideas over and over. It is pretty embarrassing when you open up an activity to the class then 10 minutes later someone sheepishly taps you on the leg / shoulder (depending on how big they are) to tell you we already did this 3 months ago, or that they did this with a cover teacher already.
So I had a thought about first lessons of a new course with a group of students who you already know. It was for young learners (though could be used with low level adults too perhaps).
Classroom Language Floor Writing, Translation and Poster Making
Group students into 4 groups and have each group draw a big circle on the floor and sit down inside it.
Circle 1 = things students want / need to say / ask in class [English]
Circle 2 = things students want / need to say / ask in class [L1]
Circle 3 = things teachers want / need to say / ask in class [English]
Circle 4 = things teachers want / need to say / ask in class [L1]
Put some music on, give each group a couple of markers and have them write things in their circle. After 2 minutes or so, have each group move round to the next circle and continue writing. Carry on until all groups have had a chance to write in each circle.
Tell the students that they are now going to try to translate the L1 phrases into English. Students should find this engaging and I found that even usually more quiet students were more active in group participation than usual. So split the class into two groups and assign them an L1 circle and have them translate using a different colour marker. Switch the cirlces after some time and have them check and edit.
While they are doing this, you can upgrade their language from the English circles – correcting, improving and adding more complexity.
When all is done and dusted, checked and students have looked at all the writing on the floor, they can make classroom posters to promote the use and memorization of these phrases.
Put a pile of coloured paper on the floor, with crayons, markers and scissors. Tell students about the posters and give them time now to each make one or two posters using the language from the floor.
I forgot to take photos yesterday while my students were doing this one but I’ll get some of the posters.
If you don’t know the students L1 and you don’t have someone in the classroom to help you with the translations… then maybe you can’t do this activity! Sorry!
If you do, then it’s a nice alternative to yet another tic-tac-toe / pointed star GTKY lesson – especially if the class has already got to know each other in a previous first lesson.