Getting Ready for First Lessons

back to school. color pencils

I don’t know about you, but I still feel nervous at the start of a new term, or any time I have a new class. I thought it would get easier with experience but with almost a decade of teaching experience, it hasn’t. I tell myself that if I feel a bit anxious, then how must some of the students feel? As someone who suffers from anxiety on occasion, reading up on adrenaline and the flight or fight response has helped me understand how the body works and calmed me down. First and foremost, being well prepared for the first lesson/day/week helps make everything run smoother.

In the first week, things can and probably will be somewhat chaotic. Have you ever worked in a school in which you only got your timetable on the first morning of a new term? I have, and it’s not much fun for a planner like me to have approximately 10 seconds to get to a lesson of an unknown number of students, lesson type or level.

Hopefully your school is more organised than that!

Here are a few ideas for first lessons, as well as things teachers can do beforehand to get organised.

• If you’re lucky enough to know the coursebook you’re going to be using in a class, get to know it. If you don’t actually have the book, but know the name, search for the publisher’s website: many of them give previews or at least let you look at the contents page.

• If your coursebook has a software component, get to know it. You don’t want to look like a fool in front of your class by pressing the wrong button, or getting stuck on a blank page.

• Create a Padlet for each coursebook you’re going to use. You can invite your colleagues to collaborate with you. Padlet is like an unlimited digital notice board, where you can save notes, photos, videos and links. I use it as a brainstorm for modules – adding interesting (and especially localised★) images, videos and links – clearly marking the module or lesson number. If you spend a bit of time doing this now, it’ll make your life a lot easier later in the term when you’re snowed under with work.

Here are a few examples of coursebook Padlets that I’ve used:
On Screen 1
Prime Time 4

You can also invite your students to participate – I’d suggest writing the unit/lesson topics on the whiteboard and asking them to sign up for a subject they are interested in. They are then responsible for finding an image/short film/new story related to the topic and introducing the topic later in the term. Great for making your lessons more student centred (and as a bonus, also giving yourself less planning).

★ A note on localising: A very important point if you want to make your lessons more motivating and engaging. The vast majority of coursebooks are written to appeal to a global market. This may mean that celebrities or events referred to have little meaning or relevance to your learners. You could complain about that and plough through the pages regardless, or you could take the opportunity to find a local connection. You don’t have to read about Justin Beiber just because it’s there on the page. Do some work to find examples from the city/country you’re in, or at the very least, ask your students to tell you some.

Another nice activity for the first week is a coursebook treasure hunt. This requires some preparation from the teacher – or share the work amongst the teachers of that particular grade. Here’s a quick example:

You could also try getting your students to create one (this could be done at the end of a term ready for the new students of the next term). There are lots of online countdowns – here’s one

Getting to know the teacher

As well as getting to know each other, the students want to get to know their teacher. A few activity ideas:

• One truth, two lies.
• Give the answers, they find the questions.
• Create a Who wants to be a Millionaire style quiz about you. Use the template here:
Quiz Show Powerpoint Templates


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