News & Events
The first day of school
- 30 August, 2016
- Posted by: Uptown English
- Category: english
The first day of school is a crucial experience for teachers and students. The initial interactions which take place between a student and their teacher can form the foundation of the students’ opinions and feelings towards their teacher which inevitably moulds future behaviour and attitude the student displays for the rest of the year. Now as most teachers know, there is no way to guarantee a class goes absolutely perfectly. We can however, follow certain tried and tested guidelines to ensure the class runs as smoothly as can be.
- Be early.
It’s important that you are in the classroom when the students arrive. It’s very possible you will have students who know each other well, and if they are left in the classroom to interact alone before the teacher arrives they may already have switched into a socialising frame of mind, where they want to chat and relax and are consequently less inclined to concentrate or pay attention to instructions.
The teacher being in the classroom first can drastically decrease the possibility of this happening as students tend to be respectful and even nervous around a new teacher, meaning that even if a friend walks through the door their interactions will be more subdued due to the teacher’s presence, resulting in a calmer atmosphere leading up to the beginning of the lesson rather than one in which the teacher must ask for quiet before introductions have even been made.
- Welcome students warmly.
When students start to filter in it’s important to greet them warmly. As I said above, we want a calm atmosphere in the classroom before the lesson starts, but certainly not one where the student is intimidated by having been ignored upon entering the classroom, and subsequently waiting in an awkward silence for the lesson to begin!
- Focus on learning names as quickly as possible.
Teachers have a lot to think about on the first day of class, particularly less experienced teachers. They are constantly mentally checking their lesson plan, trying to stay on top of any classroom management issues, monitoring the students’ levels, confidence and many other things as well as running the class and interacting with the students regularly. It is often therefore, particularly with larger groups, difficult to remember all of the students’ names in the first few days of class, however the importance of doing so cannot be understated.
Knowing the students names early creates an aura of control for the teacher. Reversely, a teacher who asks the same student what their name is 3 or 4 times during the first lesson (which can easily happen if the teacher is not familiar with names from the country where they are teaching) it can give the impression that the teacher is flustered or out of their depth. This unfairly perceived weakness could be taken advantage of if there are any learners in the group looking for an opportunity to test the teacher or act out and is therefore better avoided whenever possible.
- Be friendly but do not compromise your authority.
I once knew a teacher who told me “I never smile before Christmas”, which I thought was extreme! The idea of holding back a level of familiarity with the students is valid however. It’s important to seem friendly and approachable in order to help build rapport with your students, but if you allow the class to become out of control during the first few lessons by trying to be “the cool teacher”, it can be very difficult to get that control back later. Maintain a friendly demeanour without deviating from your chosen rules and consequence system.
- Have everything you need for the class organised and set up beforehand, no turning your back to find files on the computer!
Organisation in the classroom is pivotal. Students looking for an opportunity to switch off or grab their friend’s attention will do so when the teacher’s focus is elsewhere. It is therefore very important to try and ensure that your attention is rarely anywhere but on your students. If you are using a PowerPoint in your lesson, have it open before the class starts. If there is a handout, have it easily to hand. Everything that you need during the class should be ready to go before the lesson starts. This gives the teacher the “aura of control” I mentioned earlier and makes the students subconsciously see their teacher as organised and competent.
- Get to know you activities.
All first day lessons should include some form of level and age appropriate get to know you activities. These could be anything from:
- 2 truths 1 lie:Students think of 3 sentences about themselves, one of which is false, and shares them with the class. The other students try to identify the false information, serving as an ice breaker and a way for students to choose some interesting information to share about themselves.
- Chair swap game:One student stands in front of the other seated students and says something about themselves, e.g. “I have been to the U.K”. If what the standing student says is also true for the seated students, they must stand up and try to sit down in another chair. The student who said the sentence also seeks a chair, meaning a new student will be left standing. This game is usually very popular due to the competitive aspect of not wanting to be left without a chair!
Or one of many other get to know you games. These games can last completely different amounts of time depending on the group, more students or less, higher or lower level etc. For this reason, I would recommend having 5 or 6 games ready to go on the first day of class and as many as necessary to fill the time planned for the get to know you activities, rather than being left in a situation where the games lasted half the time you expected resulting in you having to think of additional tasks or games during the lesson. Any games which aren’t used on the first day can always be used as ice breakers in future classes after all.
- Establish class rules which coincide with school rules.
This can be particularly valuable with teen and pre-teen classes. Establishing rules lets the students know exactly what is expected of them. Asking for their suggestions can be extremely useful, as they will normally give you the rules required, and can include some fun rules for them such as using songs and games in the classroom. This can even be made into a bigger activity by writing the rules, decorations and signing them to serve as “classroom contracts” to go on the wall and be referred to for the rest of the course.
- With younger students, try to establish a routine straight away
With primary age and infant students, establishing a routine helps the students understand what is expected in each class. Routines provide younger learners with comfort, they like knowing what is coming up in the class and can even become agitated when changes are made. Routines to include classroom staples such as circle time, turns being the teacher’s helper, start of the class song and end of the class games can help the teacher with classroom management and make the teacher appear well organised and in control of the class. Homemade clocks which indicate which part of the class is coming up can be a fun and visual way to reinforce this routine.
- Try to start the coursebook
“Get to know you” activities and “classroom contracts” should not fill out the entire first lesson with your new students. It’s important that the content of the course is touched upon on the first day so the students leave with a sense of having learned and worked, to understand that this is what will take place in every class in the future rather than just games and more leisurely activities.
Opening the books for the first time can be an exciting activity as well however. Why not try a booksearch with the students so they can learn how to locate different things in their textbooks, such as the list of irregular verbs, the contents, the grammar explanations pages etc.
- Build a rapport – try to get to know the students and let them get to know you!
It’s important to try and build a rapport with students as early as you can. If the class is playing a get to know you game, participate! Don’t be shy to interact with students and demonstrate your personality. Teaching should be enjoyable whenever possible, interact with your students, get to know each other and have fun J.