The first day, week, and month of school can be challenging for both students and teachers. Some schools might only have a change of classes once a year, while others may have a new mix of students each month. What are some ways to make students of any age and level feel at ease in your classroom?
Students will feel more comfortable when they know each other's names. But going around the class introducing themselves one by one can be uncomfortable and tedious. Here are some popular ways of mixing it up:
- Have students introduce themselves to a partner, and then have each student introduce their partner to the class. This method helps take the pressure/spotlight off the speaker.
- Get students to make their own name tags that will be on display on their desk/table for the first month. Make it more interesting by having them draw an image under their name that represents them, which they can explain to a small group or the whole class.
- Have students introduce themselves to the class, but instead of the usual spiel, have students say their name and say one thing such as an embarrassing moment, their biggest dream for the future, their happiest memory, the most interesting place they've visited, etc.
- For lower-level students, role-play an example introduction in English, and try a lesson on making introductions. Students can then introduce themselves to a partner following a template.
2. Getting to Know You
Icebreaker activities, especially ones that get your students talking and laughing, can really help everyone feel comfortable as they get to know you and each other. During the icebreaker activity, make sure you get involved, too! Here are a few of my faves:
3. Pairing Them Up
Getting to know one other person in the class a bit better helps everyone feel at ease. Shyer students often have an easier time talking to one person rather than the whole group. Pair students up for icebreaker activities, introductions, and textbook activities. Or start a class off with a five-minute discussion—try having them talk about these alternatives to What I Did on My Summer Vacation.
4. Outlining the Curriculum
Students may be apprehensive when they don't know what they will be doing in your class every day. By clearly outlining the curriculum and your expectations during the first week of classes, you will be letting your learners know what a typical day/week/month/year with you looks like, which should make them feel more comfortable. It's also a good idea to go over major dates for tests and presentations. Don't forget to include dates for some fun activities, such as field trips or dress-up days, that students can look forward to. If you don’t follow a school’s curriculum and need some ideas, try ESL Library’s suggested teaching order. Teachers might also find these resources handy:
5. Setting Class Goals
Goal-setting can be very motivating at the beginning of a new school year. Language-learning goals are something all students have in common, so they are easy to discuss. Setting goals also gets students to realize what they want to focus on during the year. For teachers, goal-setting can be a gold mine! Goal-setting helps you figure out what your students want from your class. It might give you some good ideas for lessons, and it will help you tailor the syllabus to meet their specific needs. It will also help you with student evaluations when you can point out that they’ve accomplished their goals or need to do more work in certain areas in order to do so. Try these resources:
- 6 Ways to Set Goals with Students
- 10+ Tips & Resources for Motivating Language Learners to Set & Achieve Goals
If you have any other ideas for making students feel comfortable in class, please share them in the comments section below!
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