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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First Day of ESL Class: What to Expect for Teachers and Students

It’s the first day of your first ESL class. Maybe you’re an experienced teacher or this is your first time teaching. Maybe you’re a new student or a returning one. Whichever category you fall under, the first day still remains a nervous, exciting, or curious experience. Depending on the ESL program, how the first day is conducted will vary. Sometimes the location will play a role in how you, the teacher or student will respond.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say the ESL classroom is inside a public school. The school houses elementary school aged children. The room is filled with posters of the alphabet, numbers, and students’ work. There’s a large attendance poster of students’ names in Ms. so and so’s class. There is another poster of students’ names with stickers of gold stars next to them. The gold stars represent students’ accomplishments for the week. The chalkboard is messy, half of it is erased while the other is filled with written notes. There are broken pieces of chalk on the floor. The desks are small but big enough for an adult to sit in. The desk is attached to the chair. Each desk/chair are arranged in rows. There are a few loose leaf papers on the floor. The teacher’s desk is in front of the classroom. On it are books, paper, and pencils scattered around. There is no chalk available. 

You, the ESL Student

You find a desk and sit down. You watch your classmates do the same. You look around the room. Everything is written in English. Everything looks like something meant for children. You don’t know how to feel about this. As everyone is seated, the teacher is putting his or her things onto the teacher’s desk. She is taking out a binder, a notebook, and a textbook. There’s a folder too. She looks up at the class and smiles. You notice her pick up the broken pieces of chalk from the floor, and holds them in hand as she erases the board.

You, the ESL Teacher

As you are erasing the board, you feel nervous and anticipate starting your new class. You aren't sure what you’re going to say, but you know you have to say something. You write, “Good morning” and “My name is…” on the board. Underneath that you write, “What is your name?” You take a deep breath and turn around. You notice there are 25 students, all seated and looking at you. You smile and say, “Good morning. My name is…”

Introductions: ESL Teacher

It is very important to introduce yourself. Here are some things you should and should NOT do:

·         Smile J
·         State your name slowly and clearly. You want to make sure the students can understand how you pronounce your name. You may do this several times as you practice getting to know your students (this also depends on the English level of the class)
·         Welcome your students (Example: “Welcome to Level 2 class”).
·         Give eye contact
·         Talk a little about yourself. For lower level classes, you want to keep this brief and use visuals (example: pictures) to talk about yourself. For intermediate or advanced classes, you may not have to use visuals but keep it brief.
·         What to talk about? Where you’re from? (I am from the United States); your education background (example: I went to college and have a degree in English); Where you live (I live in_____ (city) or (state). NEVER give your address!); your favorite color etc.
·         Discuss classroom rules and/or curriculum (if there is one)

Tip: Distribute assigned textbooks if applicable. If there are no textbooks, have handouts available to start your first lesson.

Should NOT
·         Look mean or uninterested
·         Talk fast or too low
·         Don’t welcome your students
·         Never give eye contact
·         Tell your life story/share personal details; students don’t want to hear too many details about your life

**Depending on your ESL program, you may want to check student attendance to make sure everyone is present. Instruct them to raise their hand or say, “here,” when their name is called. Model this for lower level classes. If there is no attendance sheet provided, have students write their name on a blank sheet of paper.

Tip: What I like to do is say, “Welcome __________, nice to meet you” after the student responds.
After this, you can do a “Get to know your students” activity.

Introductions: ESL Student

·         Smile and take a deep breath
·         Be open to the process. Try your best.
·         Listen to the teacher’s instructions
·         Participate in the class activities

Should NOT
·         Be rude or show bad behavior
·         Unwillingness to try
·         Don’t listen to teacher’s instruction
·         Don’t follow the classroom rules

Teacher models introduction activity with a student:
A.   Hi, what is your name?
B.   My name is ____, and you?
A.   My name is ____. Nice to meet you.
B.   Nice to meet you too.

Teacher may write this on the board for students to read as they practice, OR teacher may give handout with this question for students to practice with each other.
This can work for all English levels.

For advanced classes, teacher may give handout of 3 questions:
(You can choose what questions you want students to ask or include more than 3, it’s up to the teacher)

What is your name?
Where are you from?
What is your favorite color?

Students will ask their partner, OR walk around the classroom, ask their classmates these questions, and write down the answers. When done, students will share something about their classmate. Example: “This is Mary. She is from China. Her favorite color is red.”

Model- to show/demonstrate an activity for students

My advice

For both the ESL teacher and student, the first day of class is always a new, challenging, or nervous experience. Remember it’s just the FIRST day. Mistakes or unexpected things may happen, but if you remain calm and go with the flow, your first day can be a success. Remember to smile. It not only helps break the ice, but prevents you from feeling anxious. For the teacher, smiling helps students to feel welcome. After all, it is the universal language.

Good luck! J

For more ideas and tips, check out my latest YouTube video 

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