It is usually easy to think of meaningful and achievable activities and lesson plans for your 'old' students. You know where they are and where you want them to be. You know their strengths and their weaknesses, what works with them and what doesn't. But, what about the new ones? In order to help them thrive, you have to get to know them first. I don't mean just to establish the level of their language competence. You also need to know their interests, how they acquire L2, how they learn in general, what motivates them... In other words, you need to know the ground where you will lay the foundations and build on.
Here are some ideas I have picked up on seminars, sometimes modified and tried out in my classroom. They won’t provide answers to all of the questions mentioned above. They will, however, help you get to know each other a little, gain trust, and establish a pleasant learning environment. Happy teaching!
a) Biographical deductions – let your students find out something about you. They will be less reluctant to open up to you and their peers.
Write on board some words and numbers (your age, children’s names, favourite number, favourite band/song, your birth place etc.) Tell the students that they are all related to you and that they should ask you yes/no questions in order to find out the connection. Encourage them to ask as many questions as they can think of and try to engage all of them.
This activity helps to break the ice and to create a good relationship with your students. Besides it is a good diagnostic tool – you can check your students’ oral fluency and grammatical accuracy (question forms).
Ask them to do a list of their own and ask each other questions in pairs.
b) Sentence star – let them say something about themselves
Ask your students to draw a five-point star and finish the following sentences:
I am... I can...
I have never... I will always...
c) Five things about me – another sentence starter; a variation with a more specific opening
1. At the weekends I...
2. My favourite part of the day is...
3. When I was little...
4. I listen to music when...
5. I couldn't live without...
When they have completed the sentences, ask them to move around the class and try to find someone who has similar ideas.
d) Predicting similarities – a nice activity for students to get to know each other
Ask your students to complete the sentences about their partner and themselves.
1. We are both __________________.
2. We both have ________________.
3. We both like _________________.
4. When we were younger we both enjoyed _________________.
5. Next year both of us will probably ________________.
Then ask them to compare their sentences and see how similar they are.
Have you got any back-to-school activities you would like to share?
Please, do! :)