Most of us are about to start teaching groups of students (Ss) who will be working together for 9 months. Before we start thinking about goals for them it might be a good idea to get to know them better. They also need to socialise among themselves so that they feel part of the group.
Circle and ball. All age groups and levels
Ss stand up in a circle. Throw the ball to one of them and say your name. Get the student (S) to throw the ball to a different S and say his/her name. Once they’ve all said their names do some more rounds with age, family, hobbies, school, work, last holiday etc depending on their level.
Get the Ss to come up with the best outcome possible. Eg, I’ve got 2 sisters better than 2 sisters.
Get them to share one ability: I can…. Take notes and after the activity ask get them to talk a bit more about their ability. Eg, Juan, you said you can play the piano. How often do you play? Etc This is good for their self-esteem, especially on day one.
Get them to share a “secret”, something not many people know. Eg, I have a cooking blog.
Get the Ss to write some sentences about their partners and themselves. Eg, I’ve got just 1 brother but Ana has got 2 brothers and 1 sister. Pedro and Sofía haven’t got any brothers or sisters. Do a demo on the board.
Walk around while they´re writing and help as necessary. Then they can read them out loud.
2. Draw your life. Young Learners
Give each S a blank piece of paper. Ask them simple questions and get them to draw pictures. Eg, What’s your favourite food? What's in your school bag? What’s your favourite animal? Have you got a pet? Draw your pet. Etc Ss draw pictures. As above, include one thing they can do well.
Once they’ve finished ask them to take turns to come to the front of the class and tell the Ss about their pictures. They can point and say one word or a short sentence if they have the level. Ej, “Cat” or “black cat” or “I have a cat” or “I have a black cat”. They will need some help from you!
Get them to include one thing they are scared of.
Get them to colour in the pictures. While they are doing it walk around and ask them some questions.Eg, What colour is your dog? Is it a boy or a girl? What’s his name?
You can do this activity with older kids, teenagers and adults. Ask them more challenging questions and get them to draw their answer. Eg, What did you do last summer? What’s your favourite restaurant? It can be fun but time consuming. Give them a time limit for each picture: 1 minute? Then, they can show their pictures to their partner and they can talk more about themselves by extending their answers. Eg, I went to Ibiza in the summer….. There I got up at 9 everyday, I had a nice breakfast by the pool ….
3. Draw and speak: all age groups and levels
Draw yourself on the board and describe yourself at the same time. Eg, I’m 1.79 m tall. I´ve got short black curly hair. I usually wear dark trousers and a shirt or a polo-shirt… In my case, the Ss will laugh because of my lack of drawing skills. This is exactly what I want!
Once you´ve drawn yourself write some information around your picture on the board and get the Ss to guess what it is. Eg, you can write: London, 34, strawberries, brown, cake and ice cream, play the piano… Ss guess the connection between these pieces of information and you by asking you questions: Were you born in London? No, I wasn’t. Is London your favourite city? No, it isn’t. Do your parents live in London? Yes, they do! Give them some clues if necessary.
Once they know you a little bit, get them to draw themselves and write some information around their picture. Get them to ask each other questions in pairs or 3s. Once they’ve found out what the information was they can tell the class. Eg, This is Rodrigo. He’s 15 and he has been to 7 different countries.
They can also write a short paragraph about themselves and their partners.
You can do this activity with VYLs without writing anything, just get them to draw themselves and describe themselves.
4. True or false: teens and adults (A2+)
Write 3 statements about yourself in your notebook, one being false and 2 being true. Use language that the Ss will understand. Tell the class you are going to tell about yourself. 2 pieces of information are true and 1 false. They need to guess which one if false. They can ask you questions but you can lie! This is the only time you can lie!
For example, if these are your statements:
I’ve been teaching for 5 years.
I play rugby almost every week.
My sister works for The Rolling Stones
Ss can ask questions like these:
How many players play in a rugby team?
What are the rules of rugby?
How long is a rugby match?
What does your sister do?
How did she get that job?
Accept questions that are grammatically correct only! If they make a mistake they can reformulate the question or their partners can help them.
For each correct question, they get a point.
Once they have guessed which of your sentences is false, get them to write 3 statements about themselves, one being false and 2 true. In small groups they take turns to ask questions.
5. Census: older teens and adults (B1+)
Ask Ss questions about the population in their town. Eg, What’s the population of Mairena? How many people do you think live in houses and how many in flats? 50%? 60%? How many cars does each family own? Where do most people go on holidays in the summer? Obviously, there will be some debate which is great!
Tell them that we are going to do the census for the class. In pairs they need to write 7-10 questions to ask the other Ss. The questions should cover a range of topics if possible: family, school, work, hobbies, income, TV sets, mobile phones, pets etc Walk around while they are writing and help them with the questions if necessary.
Once they have the questions get them to ask the other Ss and write their answers. Ss write a report using the answers. You can give them examples, in a class of 10 Ss: 6 students in this class have a pet which is 60%. Only one student has a cat, the others have dogs. It seems that most students have more than 1 TV set in their home. Most people have 3 TV sets.
To collect the answers it might be easier to use a table:
Do you live in a house or a flat?
How many TV sets are there in your house?
Where does your family go in the summer?
How do you celebrate New Year's Eve?
How many mobile phones are there in your house?
Where do you do your weekly shopping?
Where do you eat when you eat out?
Do you have any pets?
How many people smoke in your house?