First class – what can you do?

Attention all the ESL teachers in Spain! You’ve got less than a month of holidays left. Time to mentally prepare for the first day and introduction classes. Do you know what you’re going to do this year?

I’ve said it a million times before, I will say it again – I do NOT like the very first classes. In fact the first two weeks, even though they’re incredibly exciting, they are equally as awkward and painful. I always look for the perfect activity and so far nothing!

A few weeks back I posted a picture onto my Instagram profile with sparks notes of my Introduce your classmates lesson plan for adults.

I was so happy to see that some of my fellow ESL teachers shared their ideas and opinions with me. Teaching with Tracey, Paranthropus and Calum – English Teacher inspired me to create a list of first class activities.

1. Two truths and a lie

Oh what’s that? Snoring? A very controversial and unpopular opinion warning: I hate this activity. Let me tell you why. During my first years of teaching ESL it was my safety blanket. I had it all figured out, the best two truths and one lie about me. However, the more you do it, the more you realise that if you’d done it many times before, the chances of your students doing this activity in the past are high too. Last year I did this activity one time with a group of B2 students who told me that they play this game EVERY YEAR. Keep this activity for other occasions. I actually used it with a group of A2 adults to revise Past Simple and it was a success!

2. Three things in common

On the first day of my CELTA course, our tutors divided us into 3 groups of 3 and asked us to find 3 things we’ve got in common. I think that it is a good icebreaker for higher level students as it really encourages them to get back into the swing of things and at the same time gives them opportunity to get to know each other without you around. Keep in mind that the things in common have to be very specific, e.g. the same birth months, the same number of siblings, the same hobbies…the sky is the limit.

3. Love, like, dislike or hate

While I was doing my research I found 5 introduction activities at Oxford Seminars by Robin Granham. You’ll notice that many of the activities are the same as before but we aren’t reinventing the wheel. I loved his Four Corners activity because it can be adapted to all the levels! All you need to do is label four corners of your classroom with love, like, dislike, hate and mention different things or actions.

For young learners, you can let them run around the classroom as they show their preferences. You can model your language and ask them about different food, subjects, free time activities, etc. Older students can get a set of labeled signs (as seen below) that they can use to answer your preference questions. With lower levels you can practice verbs of likes and dislikes, as well as Present Simple form. With higher levels you can ask more complex questions and then ask for explanations.

Feel free to download the cards and for durability laminate them. You can also glue them onto sticks to make little signs. It’s a gimmick that makes sure everyone is engaged and answering.

4. Riddle me this

This activity was found in Busy Teacher’s Top 300 Ice-Breakers, Warmers and Fillers a book by Busy Teacher. It’s a fun way to start the class and ask your students to work together. You start by drawing objects starting with the first letters of your name. You can see my example below!

What’s my name?

You can divide students to work in groups to solve this riddle. You can prepare more riddles like this so students have to guess some more facts about you. Once everyone knows your name, it’s their turn to create their own name art.

5. Find someone who…

A classic game with a fun twist to it that I found in 300 MORE Warmers, Fillers and Ice-breakers by Busy Teacher. A teacher provides random criteria, for example Find someone with the same colour toothbrush as you or Find someone with the same pet as you. The list goes on, you can come up with questions that can reveal your students’ personalities and preferences, or you can go with something more random. At the end you can ask students to report on what they learnt about their colleagues.

6. What’s my secret?

An activity that I found on Fluentu that I will definitely use this year with my bigger groups who already know each other from last year! Students write their secrets or less known facts on a piece of paper, for example I love reading anime. Students draw secrets at random and don’t reveal them to anyone! They walk around and ask indirect questions about the secret. The game continues until everyone finds out whose secret they’ve got.

7. Form a line

Another great activity that I actually found really fascinating and I’ll definitely use in some of my medium-sized groups are Blobs and Lines written by Erin Walton at EF. In this activity students need to form a line based on criteria given by a teacher. You can ask them to put themselves in alphabetical order of their names, their birthdays, tallest to shortest. You can also ask them to form “blobs” based on their favourite food, colour of clothing, or birthday month. I think it’s a great activity as your students will be moving around while communicating as a group with you being on the side!

Well, these are my ideas for first day ice-breakers! I think this year I will give 2 truths and a lie a break from my annual introduction activities and will focus on the other activities.

What is your go to first class activity?