Monday, 4 October 2010

First Day

On our in-house day (INSET) we had a session on what to do on the first day of class as there had been problems in the past with students complaining that the first day was rather a waste of time as there was so much about admin. The rumour was also that students who had studied with us for a few years skipped the first day as they had heard it all before.

It was quite interesting to discuss in small groups what we did ourselves and to hear what people in other groups do. The clear conclusions are:
  1. Make sure students get to know each other (making sure they speak to new people)
  2. Split admin over the first two or three classes (toilets, breaks and fire exits only on Day 1)
  3. Make sure students go away having learnt something new
I, personally, would add that it is a good idea to introduce the students to some of the techniques you are going to use from the very first day and to set up whatever out-of-class channels of communication you are going to use, too.

We discussed loads of ways to make sure students get to know each other, but I think I shall use again what I have used so many times before.

I introduce myself and give them my home email address. I show them a name 'toblerone' with my name on and give them the materials to make their own with their name on both sides. Later on I take photographs of each table of students with their labels in front of them, which get uploaded to Edmodo. (Picture with permission from students)

But first, students work in pairs sitting around a table (4 or 6 students on each) and have three minutes to ask their neighbour as many questions as possible without taking notes of their answers. My mobile controls the time and I go around with a clipboard taking notes of problems to give feedback about. Then there are another 3 minutes for the activity to be done with the answerer asking questions.

At the end of the second 3-minute period of students speaking and me taking notes, I scan the A4 page of notes and put it up on the IWB to go through. In my notes I usually only write correct sentences and hope that I will remember what the student said wrong. I encourage students to take notes selectively about things that they think they can learn from and tell them that I will be sending them the complete list later.

The next stage is each student telling the student on the other side everything they can remember about the person they interviewed before. I remind them if necessary about third person -s and tell them that no one can remember everything and suggest that when they finish they can say something like "and that's all I can remember". I monitor errors with my clipboard again and then go through the corrected version on the IWB.

Admin is the next priority and I like the idea of getting 'old hands' to tell the new students about a list of points projected on the IWB.

Before the break in the middle of our two-and-a-half-hour classes, I like to tell the students what book they should go and buy in the break and also try to 'sell' the book to them. This is pretty easy for me as I really like the book, but I think it is important to be positive about the course book however you feel about it: or don't use it, which is not an option where I work!

I have got a powerpoint prepared to help me sell the course books (which reminds me that I must find out if the price has changed again this year.)

After the break I like to actually start using the course book. Many of the students manage to buy it in the break on the first day, but I tell them they must bring it to the second class without fail.

We have iPacks, which are the IWB software for the two books I use:
  1. New English File Pre-Intermediate
  2. New English File Intermediate
This makes it very easy to use the book on the first day even if the students haven't all managed to buy it. It is also great to show them a third way in which we will be using the IWB.

I also like to do something that I really felt worked well last year. It's something I had used a lot some years ago, but had stopped using because of lack of space. The idea is that half the class goes out of the class and does something while the other half watch a video. They rehearse retelling the story of the video to each other and then the students outside come in and hear all about the video. Ideally, this should be done vice versa with a second video, but I never seem to have time to do that on the same day so I have do it on Day 2. During the rehearsals I and circulating to help them. Error monitoring can be done during the second retelling.

Finally, I introduce my students to Edmodo, by showing them what it looks like - it reminds them of Facebook and this year I will also show them their Facebook page. There is a handout for them to make it easy to join the group and there will be a message waiting for them welcoming them to the group and providing a link to the Facebook page.

For homework, they will have a test and the answers to the test and instructions to tell me what their score was in the test and as it is a diagnostic test to let me know which questions they got wrong.

If there is a weekend before the next class I will also give them a writing task to do. The typical composition introducing yourself to the teacher with a model to base it on.

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