Sunday, 18 September 2016

50 Activities for the First Day of School - A Review

The first day of school is always stressful for me. I believe this is true for most teachers. During the school year, we try to adapt to our students' needs and expectations and to fine-tune our teaching to help each individual student make progress. We find out about their hobbies and interests and try to provide materials that will keep them motivated. We lack all this vital information about them on the first day. We don't even know their names. In return, they know nothing about us.

So, we use icebreakers. Icebreakers serve multiple purposes - they can help you learn their names or assess their English in an informal way. They also relax the students and create that group spirit which is so important.

It is that time of the year again and warm-up activites are very important during these first few weeks of school, which is why I was really happy when Walton Burnes asked me to review his new book, 50 Activities for the First Day of School.

The book is divided into three sections: Getting to Know Them, Assessing and Evaluating and Setting the Tone. The first section is devoted to activities aimed at helping the teacher learn more about the students and helping the students learn more about each other and the teacher. The first few activities help with learning the names, such as Name Chain and Memory Chain for example. I like Going on a Picnic, which combines name learning with a nice vocabulary revision. Like most other activities in the book, this one can be modified to suit your current teaching needs and I believe it can be used later on in the course too, with the accent on vocabulary recycling, rather than on learning the names. There are activites which help the learners find out more about their teacher, such as Ask the Teacher or the more unusual Tell Me about Me. There are some activities which promise to be madly fun, such as Snowball Fight or Snowball Texting, those that focus on their hobbies and areas of interest, such as Expert Game, old classics like Desert Island Choices and Simon Says. I love Walton's version of Time Capsule, which focuses a lot on the language.

Assessing and Evaluating, as its name says, is there to help you assess their English in an informal way. Label the Classroom is a simple activity that is great for learning or recycling vocabulary. Classroom Scavenger Hunt requires a little more preparation on the side of the teacher, but is very much worth it.  You will again meet some old friends here, such as Sentence Auction Assessment, or Needs Association Survey, but they will always come with a new idea for using them. There are a lot of suggestions for how these activities can be modified to suit each teacher's individual situation. Complete the Sentence and Goal Setting are also very useful and adaptable.

The final section is Setting the Tone. It is there to set and negotiate classroom rules, give advice on how to learn and introduce them to the book and the syllabus. My favourite is the Rule-Breaking Role Play, which will definitely generate a lot of laughter in the classroom. Two other activities I recomment are Study Habit Myths and Syllabus Scavenger Hunt, which are both interactive and fun, while at the same time they introduce the students to the course and teach them how to study.

I give this book five stars. I feel privileged for the opportunity to review it on my blog. The book is inexpensive and affordable. You can buy it in paperback or as an ebook. Go to this page if you would like to buy it or just take a closer look at it. On the book page you will also find some sample activities, advice for the first day of school, as well as a collection of resources and a great Pinterest board to follow.

And if you try some of the activities from the book, please feel free to write about how it went in the Comments area. 


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