Back to School: Easy, No Prep Activities for Your First Week

Back to School Lesson Plans
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Back to School!

Easy, No Prep Activities for Your First Week

Even experienced teacher’s get first day of school jitters when starting a new gig. Not only do you have to meet a dozen or more new colleagues (in your second language!), you also have to introduce yourself to hundreds (or a thousands +) of new students… who may or may not understand anything you’re saying.

There’s the usual balancing act of being friendly but not too soft, firm but not too hard, and in general setting up the atmosphere and relationship you want to have in the classroom.

Many Language Assistants and ESL teachers may tell you to rock the standard “About Me” presentation, but I’m a serious proponent of cutting out the tired old PowerPoints 😴 and switching toward more interactive activities so that students get up, thinking and speaking, even despite limited language skills.

Here are my favorite tried and true first week of school activities for everyone from the 18-year-olds down to the little pre-school kiddos.

1. Guess Who Said It

Guess Who Said It
Designed by Freepik

Best for: 12 – 18 years (In Spain, this is 1º ESO – 2º bachillerato)

Objective:  Vocabulary related to personal information, hobbies, likes & dislikes

You Need: Scratch paper, a timer and a chalkboard/whiteboard for keeping score

Get Set Up

  1. In small groups, give students 3 minutes to brainstorm questions they would ask when they are getting to know someone new (minimum 5 questions).
  2. Ask 2 or 3 volunteers to come up to the front of the classroom. If there’s another teacher in the classroom with you, get them involved too!
  3. Explain that they are going to ask their questions, the people at the front are going to answer them on the sly, and the rest of the class has to guess whose answer is whose. The concept might be confusing at first, but they will once you get started so don’t waste too much time explaining. Jump on in!

Get Started

  1. Select a group to ask a question.
  2. The 3-4 people up front secretly jot down their answers on a scratch paper and the teacher writes all answers on the board, mixing up the order (see picture above).
  3. The remaining groups have to guess which person said which answer, ie: “I think Maria likes listening to reggaeton, Javier likes listening to trap, Ana like listening to pop and the teacher likes listening to rock & reggae.”
  4. Groups get a point for each correct answer. You can continue soliciting responses & giving points until someone gets all answers correct, using deductive reasoning to find out who said what.
  5. After every one or two questions, bring up different students to answer with you.

Why It Works

  1. Relevant Vocabulary: The first unit of most language books practices asking and answering questions about personal information.
  2. Building Confidence: Most students at this age have practiced this vocabulary for many years. I like to start every course off “easy” by activating prior knowledge and building confidence, otherwise they’ll learn early on to tune you right out.
  3. Engaging: This game represents my preferred teaching style – having fun while still focusing on content, correcting structures as needed and engaging students through a points system and interest in their classmates.

2. Two Truths & a Lie

Best for: 15 – 18 years (In Spain, 3º ESO -2º bachillerato)

 

Objectiv:  Vocabulary related to holidays, hobbies and summer activities

You Need: Scratch paper, a timer and a chalkboard/whiteboard for keeping score

Get Set Up

Start off with a personal example, IE:

  1. During summer vacation, I went surfing in Morocco.
  2. During summer vacation, I ate lots of sushi in Japan.
  3. During summer vacation, I began learning to play the Ukulele.

Two of the statements are true, and one is lie. The class has to guess which is the lie, and can ask you questions to try to trip you up. “What songs can you play on the ukulele?” “How long was the flight to Japan?”

Get Started

Once they’ve guessed your lies and understand the concept, give them about 3 minutes to jot down their own 3 phrases. Make sure they don’t show their friends and encourage them to use 3 different verbs, as opposed to “I went…, I went…, I went…”

One at a time, have them come to the front, read their 3 sentences and have the class guess which is the lie.

Why It Works

  1. Relevant Vocabulary: They’ve just come back from summer holidays, so the information is fresh in their minds. They likely studied summer vocabulary in the last unit prior to holidays.
  2. Past Tense Refresh: A fun refresh of the simple past tense.
  3. Building Confidence:  Activating prior knowledge with an easy verb tense and easy vocabulary.
  4. Engaging: This game is fun while still focusing on content and structure, and engaging students through a points system and interest in their classmates. Besides, what teen doesn’t like to lie to their teacher?

3. Ask Me Anything 

Ask Me Anything
Designed by Freepik

Best for: 8 – 12 years (In Spain, this is 3rd to 6th of primary)

Objective: Practicing asking & answering questions related to personal information, hobbies, likes & dislikes

You Need: A chalkboard/whiteboard

Get Set Up

Write several pieces of information about yourself on the board, such as your name, favorite animal, favorite sports, instruments you play, etc.

Get Started

  1. Students must form correct questions for the informations you’ve have given, IE “What is your favorite color?” Each group that asks a question gets a point.
  2. You model the correct response – “My favorite color is green. What’s your favorite color?” and select several volunteers to also answer using the full response (not just “Green.”)
  3. Once you’ve gone through all of these responses, invite student to ask you whatever questions they like, and allow several students to answer the questions as well.

Why It Works

  1. Relevant Vocabulary: The first unit of most language books practices asking and answering questions about personal information.
  2. Building Confidence: Even low level students should know these basic question & answer structures. Starting off with vocabulary they know will help them build confidence and feel comfortable with you.
  3. Showing Off: Little dudes love talking about themselves and showing off what they know, so they’ll be eager to tell you about their favorites.

4. Show Off For Me

Back to School
Designed by Freepik

Best for: 4 – 7 years (In Spain, this is the two higher levels of infantíl and 1st  to 2nd of primary)

Objective: Find out what your students know by allowing them to show off for you. Focus on basic vocabulary such as colors, numbers, days of the week, etc.

You Need: A chalkboard is helpful, but not necessary.

How to play: Kids at this age often understand more than they can say, so build confidence by focusing on basic vocabulary that they already know. At this level, kids aim to please and want to participate, so there’s nothing wrong with letting everyone tell you their favorites. Focus on:

  • Days of the week (ask them if they know a song about the days of the week).
  • Favorite animals (let them mime their favorite animal and the other students have to guess).
  • Favorite colors (and point to something of that color in the classroom).
  • Body parts (have them point to parts of the body).
  • Family (brothers, sisters, pets, etc).
  • Alphabet & numbers (ABC’s, counting to 10, etc.)
  • Sing the ABC song

Why It Works

Keeping it simple helps to build their confidence and makes them feel proud of what they know. Exaggerate your pronunciation and body movements to help them understand and big smiles help shy students feel confident.

Best of Luck!

Will you get bored? Absolutely. Will it feel like a Tinder date from hell answering and asking the most boring questions imaginable, over and over? At times. But you have to start somewhere, and coming in with an interactive game as opposed to a boring  PowerPoint will definitely be in your favor!

If you’re planning ahead for the autumn, don’t forget to check out some of these relevant posts:

🎃 Halloween Fun in the ESL Classroom
💀 Day of the Dead Lesson Plans & Activities
🦃 T.G.I.Thanksgiving in the ESL Classroom
🥁 Celebrating Native American History Month

And if you’re interested in teaching English in Spain, check out my Ultimate Guide to the BEDA Language Assistant Program.

✌️💙, Erica

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© Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com, 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hey girl, I used the guess who game three times so far this week and it worked great, thank you so much this was a lifesaver!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      That is so great to hear!! It’s always a big hit with mine too 😉 What age groups did you use it with?

      Like

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