The First Day of ESL/EFL Class
The first day of ESL/EFL class is one of the most important days for teachers and students. It sets the tone for the rest of the course or semester. Good first impressions are vital for establishing a rapport. You need to make sure you connect with your students. You and the students will both feel excited and a little anxious, so having a well-prepared first lesson helps create a positive learning environment for everyone. Here are a few steps to help you and the students get the most out of the first class.
When you introduce yourself to the class, you are starting to build a relationship between you and the students. The students will be interested to know who you are and what you are like. You should introduce yourself and give some background information about who you are. Students can then relate to you and it shows you are a human being after all. This is also an opportunity to establish your own credibility. Tell the class about your teaching experience and knowledge of ESL/EFL. This will give the students confidence in your teaching ability. There are many ways you can introduce yourself. Turning your introduction into a game the students can participate in is an excellent way to introduce yourself. The Who am I game is not only great for introducing yourself, but you can also gain an insight into your students' level of English. Teacher's Question Time is another entertaining way to introduce yourself to the class. This game provides the students with a chance to write and respond to a variety of questions.
Get your students involved
Your ESL/EFL students need to understand that they will be active participants in your class. Asking them to introduce themselves, ask you a question, talk about their expectations for the course, or introduce a partner are all good activities for the first class. Try to keep all the activities you do in the first lesson light and fun. Starting off with book work or a boring grammar lesson will kill the classroom dynamics. Have a look at our Introductions and Giving Personal Information section for some fun activities to use in the first lesson.
Play a game
There is nothing better to make students feel relaxed than playing a fun ESL/EFL game that everyone can be a part of. This makes the students feel energized and improves their confidence. Playing a game also helps to break down any barriers between you and the students. Some great games to play in the first class can be found on our First Day Introduction Games page.
Go through any class rules
A set of rules for the class is not a bad thing. Students need to understand what you consider acceptable behaviour. However, don't have too many rules and whatever rules you have make sure you stick to them. Students will normally test the rules to see how you react and what they can and cannot get away with. Stick to your guns and don't bend the rules, or you will lose credibility. Additionally, you will want to go through any other expectations you have for the class, such as homework or in-class behaviour.
Phones are an annoyance in the ESL/EFL classroom and affect teaching and learning. A good idea to stop phones ringing or students using them is to introduce a very small fine for offenders. This turns an annoyance into something that is quite amusing and financially beneficial. You can donate the money you receive to a worthy charity. You will certainly have fewer problems with students using phones in the class.
It is a good idea for a teacher to start using the students' names as soon as possible. Depending on the country you are in, you may wish to use first names or nicknames. On the first day, you may wish to have name cards for the students, or you could draw up a floor plan with the students' names on. Learning a lot of names takes time and don't be ashamed if you forget a student's name. Be direct, apologise, and ask for their name. The more you use names in the class, the quicker you will remember. For young learners, you can play The Name Game. Students often feel good when you know who they are, and it helps build relations between you and the students.
Introduce the course and its importance
The students will want to know the basics of the course syllabus and the objectives. This helps the students clarify what they have to do. This also helps prepare them to learn and achieve their objectives for the course. Many ESL/EFL students won't have any idea about the content of the course. You will need to explain the significance of the course and how learning English will help them in their real lives. In this way, they will invest their time and energy into studying with you. Try not to criticize the textbook if you don't like it. Instead, show enthusiasm for the content. If you show interest in what you are teaching, this will rub off on the students. Also, at this point, you may wish to go through any other administrative information, e.g. office hours, breaks, exams, grading, lateness, etc.
Other things to remember:
Arrive early to class and welcome your students. Arriving to class early is not only professional, but it provides the students with a model of how to behave. You cannot condone lateness or tardy behaviour if you do the same yourself. Also, arriving early helps you get set up. You can deal with any issues that arise like getting the projector to work. You certainly don't want to be dealing with problems like these with a class full of students looking at you.
Depending on your own teaching style, set a tone for the class as early as possible, e.g. relaxed, humorous, serious, formal, etc.
Make sure you set aside a time for the students to ask questions about the class or course. Shy students may wish to come and speak to you at the end of class. Give these students time and try to answer all their questions.
Furthermore, cover how you plan to teach. For example, if you want the class to work in small groups or pairs, try to incorporate an activity that covers that on the first day.
A lot of effort and time goes into planning the first day of class. However, the results are worth it. An engaging and fun first lesson will put your students at ease and help create a productive learning environment for the rest of the course. Good luck.