September 9, 2012

More Ideas for the Beginning of the School Year

Here are more ideas and resources from language teachers for the beginning of the school year:

I love many of the ideas that Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@muscuentos) has posted on her blog about the first days of school:

I think that the most important thing is to "Keep Moving Forward!", as they say in Meet the Robinsons. The great thing about learning a language is that you will inevitably recycle old stuff while you learn new stuff. I think that the best thing to do is find something new to teach that allows repetition of previously covered topics. For example, Spanish 1 students should know how to talk about different places that they go. Well, why not teach them the word "went" on the first day of school, and ask where they "went" last summer? It doesn't matter that they don't know the full preterite conjugation of "to go"; all they need is the word "I went". In the discussion, you can put up the forms of "you went" and "s/he went" on the board, too, but focus on the students learning "I went". After they say where they went, ask them to describe it (they can do this in the present tense, since the place still exists out there and someone is enjoying it while we are locked up in our classrooms, boohoo). "You went to THE BEACH?" "What is the beach like?" (There are lots of people swimming, lots of water, lifeguards yelling, etc.). You review all sorts of old vocabulary and small grammar points (adjective agreement, verb conjugations, blah blah blah), but you are still moving forward and the kids don't get bored because it is personalized and they are learning new, compelling information.

Here is the link to my collection of posts on the first days of school.

Bex, M. Re: [FLTEACH] First couple of weeks. FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 18 Aug 2012).

I hate it when someone gives me a paper and then reads it to me… for the past few years, I’ve been having the kids read my expectations and then write 2 questions on the content, for a quiz….

Then, I use Think-Pair-Share (the Think is them writing the questions….then they meet with a partner – Pair – and each one asks his/her questions that the other answers, and they decide which of the four questions asked was the best….and then put them in two-pair groups to do the same: ask and answer and decide on the best question….Share….and then each 4-student group asks their question to the whole class.

It takes it right out of my hands, practices them getting into groups quickly and quietly, and they seem to have a good understanding of my expectations.

Blaz, D. [mflresources] RE: 1st lessons. MFLResources listserv (, 28 Aug 2012).

I am all for minimalizing first day stuff.

I have my attendance list before the first class. I write the name of each student on a post-it note, and put these on the desks in alphabetical order. As students enter, I ask them to sit down where they find their name. I ask them to write their classification, address and email address under their name on the note. Thus I have them seated where I will know their name on the first day, I have checked the roll and I know who is present, and I have gathered vital information. At the end of the class, of course, I simply walk by and pick up the notes,

In a Latin I class, I don't say too much about Latin in general; I go directly to my first day map lesson. You can find this on my website under Teaching Materials.

This lesson gets them actively involved with the language at once.

For advanced classes, I give them a simple passage in Latin and have them read it aloud in Latin and English and identify key sentence parts. This gives both them and me an idea of what they remember and don't remember.

Rose Williams. Re: [Latinteach] First day of class. Latinteach listserv (, 28 Aug 2012).

Tune in next week for more ideas.

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