The first day of term can sometimes seem like a big waste of time. I have often heard parents complain that lessons don’t start until the second week, never mind the first day of term! So, here are some tips for a great first day of school.
On the first day of term, teachers are often tempted to ask everyone their name. It is important to integrate new pupils, and it’s easy enough with a small group. However, it can be rather dull and unproductive with a large class because no one will remember the names anyway! That said, it helps a group bond when each person introduces themselves. So, by all means, do this typical first day of term activity, but please don’t let it take more than five minutes. I say this because as a child at school, I used to feel cheated by lessons where we didn’t learn anything. On the first day or school or term, it seemed as though the teacher was copping out of doing any actual work!
How to learn student's names on the first day of term
I have students stand up and do a twirl to infuse energy into this sometimes sedate activity. Then they say their name and something they like, such as a hobby, favourite food, or place. While this is going on, I note beside each name a salient feature of that student, such as ‘big teeth Tom,’ ‘pretty Susanna,’ or ‘big Will.’ That helps me learn all the names of my students fast!
Make an impact right away
Why not do something fun for the students right away. To start, here is a game for the first lesson of the term or year.
Do a big revision quiz in teams.
1. Make three or four teams.
2. Ask Team A a question (or have the best student in the class take that role).
3. Allow five seconds for the reply to earn two points if the answer is correct. If there is no reply, then on your signal, the floor is open to teams B, C, and D to jump in with the answer and earn one (not two) points.
4. Then it’s Team B’s turn and so on.
Easy quiz questions
For the questions, use a mixture of:
– Naming vocabulary items – such as clothing the children are wearing, items in the classroom or their pencil cases, and use vocabulary flashcards.
– Questions like “What’s your name?” “Do you have a dog?”
– Actions like “touch a pen, show me a book, touch the wall, touch something blue.”
– Naming a vocabulary flashcard
– Putting a word into a sentence in a specific tense
– For higher levels, tailor the questions accordingly.
Activities like this one need no prep (just taking in vocab pictures), and you can use it repeatedly for revision throughout the year.
It’s also fun to use packaging for a quiz, as in Jeopardy or Who wants to be a millionaire, or Blow your house down. All those games are in my book 176 English Language Games for Children, with tips on how to make the lesson work, even with big classes.