## Six Activities for First Lessons

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- Written by Chris Cotter

The first day of a course sets the expectations and atmosphere for future lessons. For example, a fun, engaging atmosphere where students work together sets up a collaborative environment in which students must take an active, participatory role.

The full first lesson shouldn't be all games, of course. The teacher will likely want to introduce the materials and goals for the course, and also quietly begin assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the students.

What follows are six activities that work with most levels of students, from beginner to advanced. The set up and instructions require minimal explanation, something which is important given the first day; students may not have used English for months or longer, and may be less able to handle complex, multistep instructions. Each activity comes from Better Language Teaching, albeit with some small changes here to suit first lessons.

**Four Boxes:** This activity allows for a great deal of creativity. Students first take a sheet of paper from their notebooks and divide the sheet into four equal boxes. They fold the paper once horizontally and once vertically.

The teacher selects a topic for the first box, such as "favorite food" or "family," and he/she says this topic aloud. The teacher allots a few minutes for students to complete a picture for the first box. This process continues for the second, third, and fourth boxes, each of which has a new topic.

Students get into pairs and present each box one by one in English. Additional information should be added, and students in the pairs should ask additional questions. The teacher moves from group to group, asks questions, and/or provides help when needed.

**Intros:** The teacher writes two questions on the board for self-introductions, such as "What is your favorite movie?" and "What are your hobbies?" More difficult questions may be given to higher-level students, but self-introductions and speaking are the main purposes here.

Students line up in two rows (row A and row B). Students from row A face students from row B, and this forms each student's initial partner. Students take turns asking and answering the questions in pairs. Follow-up questions are a must, and students continue speaking until the teacher says, "Stop."

One row of students now shifts to the left. Each student faces a different person, and thus are new partners formed. The students ask and answer the questions again until the teacher says, "Stop!"

This continues until students have met several classmates.

**Magic Wand:** Students work in pairs or groups of three for this activity. The teacher explains that students have found a magic wand which will grant three wishes. However, the wishes are limited to a specific area. For example, they are only able to affect school, work, family, etc. Note: The teacher must choose the topic before the start of the lesson.

Students discuss for roughly five minutes what changes they would like to make. For example, in the realm of work, they might want to wish changes for themselves, their coworkers, the structure of the company, and so on.

Finally, students break from the groups and find a new partner to form pairs. Each student presents his ideas with the reasons for further discussions.

#### ...the first day of a course sets the expectations and atmosphere for future lessons.

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**Sit Down!:** This activity works well with lower-level students, because the language required doesn't prove especially challenging. It is a chaotic, high energy activity, which sets the tone for the upcoming lessons.

Desks are arranged in circle, with enough chairs for all students save one. The teacher selects one student to stand in the middle of the circle for the first round, and all other students sit in a chair.

The student in the middle asks a closed question, such as "Do you have a pet?" Or "Did you eat breakfast this morning?" All students who answer "yes" must stand and quickly change seats. The student who asked the question similarly rushes to sit down.

There will be one student who couldn't sit down. He/She stands in the center of the circle and asks a closed question. Play continues until the teacher stops the activity.

**Six Sentences:** The teacher provides the following question at the start of the class: "How would you describe yourself in six sentences?" Students are given about five minutes to write six sentences, which allows for rich, interesting answers with some degree of brevity.

Students get into pairs and exchange the information. This may be done either orally or by quietly reading the other's six sentences. Each partner asks one follow-up question about any of the information they most want to learn more.

**Teacher Speculation:** The teacher arranges students into small groups, which will maximize talk time among the students. The students next speculate in English about the teacher, making notes about possible likes, dislikes, age, etc. Students should strive for accurate guesses, as each correct answer earns a point for the team. Allot five minutes.

The teacher next divides the board into columns, one column for each team. Students then come to the board and write the information in their column. And finally, the teacher goes through all the answers, providing additional information when appropriate or desired. The team with the most points wins.