The first day in an English as a Second Language classroom sets the tone for the entire term. If students feel comfortable with each other and with you, their teacher, they are more likely to feel safe trying their new language skills out loud and to build confidence in themselves. Introductions on the first day of class can help calm any nervous jitters, lighten the mood and encourage students to become better friends and study partners.
Give students a sheet of paper on which you have printed several phrases, such as “travel a lot,” “throw trash on the ground,” “like to watch TV,” or “snore” under the heading “People Who . .” Have students write endings to each phrase. For example, a student might complete the phrase “People who throw trash on the ground” with “should go to jail.” This will open up a fun and lively discussion. Pre-teach vocabulary for agreeing and disagreeing with people’s opinions, and set ground rules for the discussion so everyone’s contribution is considered valid.
Memorizing names is hard to do, but it can be fun, too. Ask your class to stand in a circle. Have each person in the circle introduce himself. Each person should try to introduce the people who spoke before. The goal is to get everyone to say the names of everyone in the circle. The students who get a name wrong are out. Another circle activity is “throwing the ball.” Just as in the previous activity, have students introduce themselves in a circle. Then give one student a small, soft ball to throw to someone else. The student throwing the ball has to say the name of the person before he throws it. He is out if he says the wrong name or cannot think of the name.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two Truths and a Lie is always a classroom favorite, and this activity is best for students with advanced or intermediate English skills. Students write two facts about themselves on paper and one lie. Each sentence must sound as if it is true, though. So a sentence that says “I like to spend time with my horse that talks” is not going to work. Students listen to each set of facts and lie, and decide as a group which are true and which are false.
Have students create life timelines with five or six events. Hang each timeline up, and assign it a number. Students go around the room, looking at the timelines and interviewing each other with open-ended (Where did you get married?) or yes/no questions (Did you once live in Taiwan?) to find out who belongs with which timeline. Students cannot, however, ask another student her number. After a predetermined number of minutes, or when everyone thinks they know which timeline belongs to each person, ask students which timelines are theirs. Another interview activity is to prepare a sheet that asks questions such as, “Who can sing well?” or “Who can say ‘thank you’ in Swahili?” Have students interview each other to find out which students in the class can do each item listed on the sheet.
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