The following was taken from a discussion on TESL-L

 

I believe everyone has had the dread of starting a new class as a new teacher. It is your first lesson  you will be teaching and you have given ample time what and how to teach it. You enter the room and see twenty odd students all looking at you hopefully or curiously. You may instantly find yourself lost and not knowing how to start.

 

Are you directly going to start what you have planned?

 

OR are you going to introduce yourself? If so in L2 or if you happen to be L1 speaker  in that language?

 

What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach? You have most probably seen in textbooks that the verb TO BE is usually the starter. If so what is it to be?  " this is a chair" or "I am Mr. Brown."

 

Are we going to give a translation of the statements in L1 too. There will be other problems as well. I have seen and heard young teachers who have problems about where to stand while giving the lesson, Or wondering whether to write the sentence on the blackboard or not. Or should what he/she is going to teach what is on the textbook?

 

I am certain there will be other situations that teachers will come across not thought of before. Discussion of these will be beneficial.

 

Huseyin Irkad

Famagusta- Cyprus

 

Huseyin Irkad asks for discussion about first lessons:

 

<<Are you directly going to start what you have planned? OR are you going to introduce yourself?>>

 

I always PLAN an "introduction" lesson for the first class.  I assume many teachers do that.  There are several activities or even games you can do, depending on the level of the students.

 

1.  You can model an introduction, introducing yourself and offering the type of information you might expect the students to give about themselves, then have

them take turns. (Name, nationality, job, family...)

 

2.  You can pair them off and have them interview each other, then introduce each other to the class.  This promotes a little more interaction right away.

 

3.  You can go around the room and do a memory game (they need to be in a circle

or semi-circle for this).  You start:  "I am Marilyn from the United States ." (Then you show them once how to do it before they go around.)  The next person says, "Hello, Marilyn from the U.S.   I'm Zofia from Poland ."  The third person says, "Hello, Marilyn from the U.S. and Zofia from Poland .  I'm Takashi from Japan ."  and so forth.

 

NOTE:  If they are complete beginners, you'd better just stick to name and country, no games.  If they all speak the same L1 and you speak it too, then you might want to do some introductions in that language just to create a comfortable classroom environment.

 

A variation of this memory game - for advanced groups - (thanks, Mrs. Santelli) is to have each student think of an adjective that starts with the same letter as their name, i.e., Marvelous Marilyn (though I like the country or town of origin better).

 

<<What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach? You have most probably seen in textbooks that the verb TO BE is usually the starter. If so what is it to be?  " this is a chair" or "I am Mr. Brown.">>

 

Better start with "I am Mr. Brown."  Introductions are necessary if the class is to be a cohesive community.  Then try to think what information would be the most useful to them.  It would depend a lot on the group, I think  If you don't need to plan your syllabus in advance, then you can be flexible and see what they need, what they are interested in.

 

Marilyn Cahill

County College of Morris , Randolph , NJ / USA

 

Huseyin Irkad wrote:

 

>I have seen and heard young teachers who have problems about where to >stand while giving the lesson... .I am certain there will be other situations that teachers will come across not thought of before. Discussion of these will be beneficial.

 

In the best of all possible worlds, the brand new or old veteran teacher will NOT stand in front of her/his students with the teacher's text at the ready; rather, stand in the doorway, greeting each of the students with natural comments such as: "Hi!  I am Jane/John T. Doe, your new teacher for this quarter/semester/period.   Come in and be seated."

 

It should be prohibited that teachers stand behind their lecterns or in front of the chalkboard for the first five minutes in the first class, or any other class for that matter.  In fact, in the best of all possible worlds, the teacher would circulate freely making small talk with everyone and slowly arrive at the chalkboard or the lectern to open the text. This 'quality time' is worth much more than the rest of class time because it is the only time that the teacher and student deal with each other on a basis of equality --no commands, no orders, no complying with a program or some exercise, AND especially no correction of errors (which shuts down spontaneity).

 

Robert M. Chandler-Burns

College of Medicine , Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon

Monterrey , MEXICO

 

Huseyin Irkad asks  <<Are you directly going to start what you have planned? OR

are you going to introduce yourself?>>

 

I forgot to mention another activity that I've done on the first day of a teens (age 12-16) writing class, to help students introduce themselves and also get them writing.

 

As preparation, I cut out SELECTED ads from the personals ("tall, physically fit SWM, 38, seeking fun-loving, marriage-minded redhead for dinners and walks in the woods," etc.) and made a collage of them, which I copied, one sheet for each student.  I had them read them, as well as the little titles on them.  We analyzed different aspects of them - how the headings/titles summarized the content, how objective the self-descriptions were, what impression each ad created in the mind of the reader, etc.

 

Then I had them write their own "ad" -- just a self-description in that format, but instead of what they were seeking in a "mate or date," they had to write what they were seeking from the class.

 

After the writing, they could either read the "ad" to the class or just give an oral self-description.  Either way (and I told them this in advance) they had to turn in their "ad" to me.

 

You could put the ads in their writing folders, or copy them for your reference and return them, or just keep them.

 

Marilyn Cahill

County College of Morris , Randolph , NJ / USA

 

Huseyin Irkad worries about the first lesson:

> Are you directly going to start what you have planned?

> Or are you going to introduce yourself?

> What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach?

        There are two slightly different questions here. The first is how to start a first lesson with a new group, whatever level, a question that somewhat occupies my mind this morning, as in two hours I am teaching my first class of the academic year to a group of new students. Their level, however, is over 580 on TOEFL, which makes them quite different from the second situation, which it seems to me is more what Huseyin has in mind: how to teach the first lesson to a group of beginners.

        With my class later this morning, (100 minutes) I shall do mostly introductory activities, getting them to know and feel comfortable with each other, establishing English as the medium for class communication, increasing awareness of the course objectives and so on. The input of new language will be very small, but it will be

clear to the students that this will not remain so. I think it is crucial in the first lesson to build rapport, establish class routines (many of my students will not be familiar with the cooperative nature of the communicative classroom, and will expect to listen passively to me or to work alone) and introduce the rationale of the course. No course should ever be packed so full that you need to plunge into a major grammar session within five minutes of the first lesson starting. This settling-in time is crucial for building the good atmosphere and routines that will ensure that subsequent lessons run smoothly.

        With low level classes or beginners, there is a much greater temptation to whack into grammar as soon as possible, not least because the students can't understand what the teacher says in English, and if you're all repeating a verb form, everyone feels gainfully employed. Even here, however, I try to ensure that as much as possible of the lesson involves students getting to know each other and me Even if this involves teaching set phrases like 'What's your name?' and 'Where do you live?', it still allows me to get students focused on the other members of the class as people they will interact with and have to talk to in English, and permits the setting of English as the language, and the spoken form as taking initial priority.

        In short, my answer in both situations would be the same. The first lesson is far too important to be wasted on grammar.

 

John Harbord, CEU, Hungary

 

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