Number one for English language teachers

General: the first lesson of the year

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Even if the teacher and class have all worked together before, it is still useful to have activities to welcome everyone back and mark the start of the new year.


Although many books suggest ideas for Getting to know you activities with completely new classes, many students at school have already worked together for years and know each other all too well. The new teacher may be the only one who needs to learn names. And, even if the teacher and class have all worked together before, there may still be a need for some activities to welcome everyone back and mark the start of the new year.

Fibbing to the teacher

When a teacher is new to a class that already know each other, try this game. In groups of 5 or 6, the students should carefully prepare to introduce members of their group to the teacher.

  1. Everyone should introduce another person (not themselves).

  2. They should say names and something about their interests, home area, personality etc. All the information must be true except for one person in each group – for whom every single thing must be untrue.

  3. Allow plenty of time for careful preparation, after which the teacher should listen to all a group’s introductions (while learning useful names etc) and decide which is the untrue one.

  4. Warn all students that they must be careful not to give away the fib by laughing, sniggering etc.

The virtual party

  1. Arrange an imaginary “welcome back” party. Ask everyone to stand in one part of the room.

  2. Designate another section of the room as the party room and show them where the front door is.

  3. Appoint a host / hostess or two and brief them on how to welcome guests. Be a host yourself too.

  4. Then encourage students to “arrive” at the party one by one, or in small groups, (ringing the imaginary door bell) and once there, mingle, chatting in English, catching up on news.

  5. Serve imaginary drinks and snacks.

  6. Students initially tend to react to this simulation with some suspicion (feeling it is a bit silly to hold imaginary drinks etc) but it usually takes off very well once they get into it.

Setting year goals

It is all too easy to simply launch into teaching from a new coursebook assuming that the class is automatically with you. However it is worth taking time to make sure that students are really clear about why they are learning and about what they want to get out of it. A simple way to do this is to ask them to make brief notes in answer to questions you ask. Make sure you allow enough thinking time. Students can then meet up in pairs or threes and compare thoughts. Possible questions: "Why do you think English will be useful to you in the future?", "What is the most important area you want to improve on this year?", "What types of activities do you enjoy most in English classes?", "What advice would you give to your English teacher?", "What do you want to be able to do by the end of the year that you can’t do now?"


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