New teachers, understandably, want to know 'What should I do in my first class?'.
Here's some simple advice that will ensure you walk in confident your lesson is going to work. Your students will have a great time. They'll leave happy, looking forward to your next class.
The secret is having activities ready to go that get students talking to other students.
(The big mistake is to go in and talk, hoping you can engage students with interesting and funny things you say. Sadly that has about a 1% chance of working partly because your students just won't understand you!)
So walk in, smile, and say 'Hello, I'm (Jemma), and I'm from (England)'. That's it. Straight to the activities! The class will suddenly be buzzing, and you'll look on and and think - 'Wow!'
1. Start with a simple warmer.
Plan an activity that has lots of interaction, but is really easy to instruct Here's one:
- Instruct: 'Stand up!'
- Students stand up.
- Divide students into pairs.
- Instruct: 'Introduce yourself. Then tell your partner one thing about yourself'. Give an example.
- Students talk in pairs.
- Say: 'Now let's work in groups of four'.
- Join pairs together to make groups of four.
- Instruct: 'Now introduce your partner'. Check your instruction: 'So you going to talk about yourself?' (No.) 'Am you going to talk about your friend? (Yes.)
- Students talk in groups of four.
- Finally, gather the whole class together.
- Say: 'Tell us about someone you just met'. Don't urge students to speak, or single out individuals. You can even look away to take the pressure off them. They will talk, they just need time!
2. Follow with a questionnaire.
Use a questionnaire, again to get students talking, and also to find out about your students' needs and interests.
Name Why learning English? Good at … Need to work on …
- Tell students you want to know why they're learning English.
- Show students the questionnaire (on a projector or the board).
- Elicit what to say and write. 'What do I write here? 'What question will I ask here?'
- Students mingle and complete the questionnaire.
- Again finish with a brief whole-class discussion. Reassure them you're going to use the information to give them what they need.
3. Introduce the topic for the week
Imagine the topic in the coursebook or the syllabus is 'food'. Introduce the topic in a memorable way, and get students talking about it. (The approach will work for any topic, of course.)
- Show some visuals of food, or, better still, some real food. Ask students what they are. Ask: 'So what topic are we discussing today?' (Food.)
- Divide students into groups. Ask students to discuss what sort of food they like and don't like - and why. (The students should be talking, not you!)
- Students discuss in groups.
- Bring the whole class together.
- Ask: 'Tell us something interesting you heard'. Elicit some responses.
- Move on to a mingling activity like 'find someone who':
Find someone who …
• has eaten something unusual __________
• has cooked something exotic __________
• has tried food from ten different countries __________
• has eaten something by mistake __________
or a 'pyramid discussion' this is where students discuss something in small groups, then larger groups, then the whole class. Tell students at each stage they have to reach agreement. A ranking activity works well:
WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU?
Number 1-6 for best (1) to worst (6).
___ red wine
___ boiled egg
4. Round off the class
Come together as a whole class again. Ask students for any feedback from the activity challenge them a bit more, for example to justify why they ranked items in a certain order, and what disagreements they had.
Now is the time to say what your plans and expectations for the class are. Also thank them for their hard work and interesting ideas.
Incidentally it's a good idea to have music playing when students enter. It not only relaxes them, but it immediately gives the impression your lessons are 'different'. It shows you care how they feel, and that you're in control of the environment.
I guarantee this approach getting students to talk works with a new class every time.
All the best for a great first lesson!