6 things to consider when planning your first classes

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Planning your first classes

In a new series of blog posts, we are sharing the results of a recent survey. We asked our blog readers their tips, advice and ideas on areas such as planning classes, first day activities, classroom management and assessment. We will share their tips with you over the next month.

You are nervous, yet excited. You want to appear cool and fun, but still be taken seriously. Most of all, you are keen to make a good first impression.

With all that in mind – planning your first classes of the year can be a daunting experience.

So we decided to ask for some advice from our blog readers to share with you all.  

We asked them:

What are the most important things to consider when planning your first class of the school year?

And this is what we learned…

1. Set clear aims

Anna from Poland who teaches young learners, teenagers and adults said:

“Be clear about the aims and requirements of the course and learn about your students’ needs, attitudes and experience with the language.”  

Tips to achieve this

Whether you are teaching young learners, teenagers or adults it’s important you discuss the aims and objectives of the course from day one. To do this you’ll need to find out more about your students’ needs. Why are they learning English? Do they want to prepare for an official exam? What activities do they enjoy? What things do they need to improve the most?

The way you do this will depend on the age of your learners. For example, with adults and teens, you could get them to interview each other and write a report about what they found out. With younger children – you might want to make a survey which they complete by using smiley faces.

2. Find out students’ interests

Maira, who teaches young learners and adults in Brazil, told us:

“Prepare activities that will allow you to get to know who your students are so that you can prepare lessons which will cater to their interests.”

Tips to achieve this

Although you should find out your students needs and why they are learning English – to help make your classes relevant and engaging – you should also discover what things they enjoy doing outside of class.

To do this get students to write mini-bios you can stick around the classroom. Or have them prepare presentations where they share with the rest of the class something they are passionate about. Using coursebooks? As a class, go through the contents page and vote on which topics students find most interesting and start with those.

3. Break the ice

Elena teaches young learners in Venezuela. Her advice is to:

“Do funny ice-breaking activities to integrate all members of the class.”

Tips to achieve this

You want your first class to be fun so that students are motivated, and associate learning English with something they can enjoy. Ice-breakers can also be a good way to get to know each other and find out about your students’ current level of English.

Activities where students have to ask each other questions work well.

Here are five ice-breakers which you can use in your first class.

4. Provide a comfortable environment

Juliana is an elementary school teacher in Brazil. She said:

“I think that welcoming new students and making them comfortable in that new environment is essential to a great school year.”

Tips to achieve this

Young learners and teenagers tend to be shy at the start of a course – especially if they don’t know each other. Develop rapport and break down boundaries by including some team building activities in your first class. Your aim is to have all the students feeling more comfortable with each other before the end of the lesson so that there are no awkward silences in future lessons.

Here are five team building activities you can use to build rapport.

5. Manage expectations

Diana teaches secondary school students in Romania and thinks you should:

“Set classroom rules, and create motivation and expectations for the students.”

Tips to achieve this

Managing expectations is an essential part of a teachers job. Make sure in the first class you are clear about what you expect from your students but also what they can expect from you.

Have students brainstorm the rules for the class and then make a big poster or ‘class contract’ which all students have to sign. Display the poster on the wall so you can always refer to it if someone misbehaves.

Try to keep the rules as positive as possible. Instead of writing: ‘don’t speak your first language’, write: ‘Try to always speak English and ask if you don’t know a word’. If you are feeling really brave you can even get your students to come up with a list of rules for you which you can display on the wall next to theirs.

Worried about classroom management? Read these eight first lesson problems and solutions for primary classes.

6. Make it challenging

Dan, a teacher and teacher trainer from Spain recommends that you:

“Challenge your learners, making sure they leave the class feeling like they’ve learned something new.”

Tips to achieve this

It’s great making your first lesson fun – but there’s nothing more motivating than leaving a new class and feeling like you’ve made a good decision and you are going to learn lots (and you aren’t wasting your time or money). This is especially important for adult learners. So, as well as getting to know each other and finding out their needs, teach them something new. This could be 10 new pieces of vocabulary, how to structure a letter or report, or a list of resources which they can use at home to practice their English.

Need some more ideas? Check out our top five tips for putting challenge at the heart of the classroom.

We hope your first lessons go well. Let us know what you did in the comments!

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