Many instructors hesitate to jump right into coursework and assigning homework on the first day of classes. At the same time, they do not wish to merely hand out textbooks or explain the syllabus and then dismiss students after only a few minutes. Fortunately, English teachers could use a variety of activities suited to their subject matter to fill the first class period with fun and interaction.
Use a prompt to get students to take your class seriously from the beginning and also as a way to gauge their level of competency as writers. As pointed out in an article on the Amity Foundation website, “If you are teaching a writing course or a course in which writing is one component, it is difficult to make plans until you have some idea of how advanced students writing skills already are, so one good use of the first day in class is to get a short sample of students' writing.”
Some prompts to consider are: What was the best part of summer—or winter—vacation for you? Who has been your favorite or most inspiring teacher and why? What is your favorite hobby and why? You could also include a passage from a book, some verses of poetry, or a quotation, and ask students to write down their responses and reactions. Collect students’ responses after twenty minutes or so.
Use a name game activity as a way to introduce classmates to one another and also as a way to get to know a little bit about your new students. It is also a great way to get students comfortable speaking before the class and it might be particularly useful if your course involves writing and giving speeches. Begin with yourself. State your name and share something interesting about yourself, such as a favorite hobby or a funny story. Your students should follow your example, with the added rule that they must name everyone who shared before them. The last person to share will have the task of naming everyone in the classroom. Since students tend to get stuck on the pressure of coming up with something “interesting” about themselves, offer some ideas on the chalkboard such as their dream jobs, family pets, or favorite vacation.
Find a memorable quote or passage to excerpt from each writer that will be studied in your class. If there are more than ten writers, consider only choosing the ones that students will be required to read first. Make worksheets that feature the writers’ quotations on one part of the page and the names of the writers on another part of the page. Pair students or put them into small groups to complete the worksheets by matching the writers to their quotations. Go from group to group monitoring students’ work and getting to know the students. Help your students get to know someone else in the class by requiring that each worksheet, when turned in, must have the name of each students’ partner and that partners’ favorite hobby, band and book written on the back.
- Photo Credit notebook image by Victor M. from Fotolia.com pen ballpooint image by Pali A from Fotolia.com
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