August 18, 2012

Beginning of the School Year Ideas, Part 1

If you haven’t already started the new school year with your students, it’s just around the corner. Language teachers on blogs and listservs have been busy sharing beginning-of-school ideas with each other. Here are some of them:

“Getting to know you” activities are common at the beginning of the year. Read Megan Johnston’s description of what she does on her second day of beginning classes at and a questionnaire she gives her students at

Sandy Merz uses unusual seat assignment tasks to learn about her students and to set a tone for cooperative communication. Although not intended specifically for language classrooms, these activities would be good for anyone other than beginners, and several of the tasks (especially ordering by height) would be good for beginners, too:

An FLTEACH listserv user suggests the following:
Something I am considering is putting up a bulletin board divided up for each level I teach and putting the outline of a tool box on it. After each major grammar concept I teach, I will write the name on a paper cutout of a tool, such as a screwdriver or hammer or wrench, and staple that to the toolbox for that class. That way the students can visually see the tools they are learning to use within the language. A simple example would be for a Spanish 1 class, after they have learned how to work with regular -ar verbs, give them a quiz using off-the-wall regular -ar verbs they have never seen before and see if they know how to use the "tool". This would not by any means be the focus of my teaching, but rather one of the tools I use in my teaching.

Meyer, C. Re: [FLTEACH] start of the year activities/ homework policies. FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 24 May 2012).

Bryce Hedstrom suggests the following on the MoreTPRS listserv:

I start off focusing on the kids and getting to know them. Ben Slavic's "Circling with Balls" idea is a good way to draw in the athletes and he gives a good step by step explanation of it in his book "TPRS in a Year.”

If you are not sports-oriented you can accomplish the same thing by chatting with the kids in simple TL and teach them language as you learn about your students. Focus on one to two students a day. Ask/Teach in the TL:

Ask: What is your name?
Encourage TL use: My name is...
"Report" back to class: Class, her name is.... !

Continue with this Ask/Encourage simple use and answers/Report cycle for more and more questions.

What grade are you in?
How old are you?
What town do you live in? (This works at my school, it may not work in all schools)
What do you like to do?

Write limited amounts of vocabulary on the board or on a poster as you go. Review the information about previously interviewed students each day as you go. Test students on their knowledge of one another in the TL almost daily to build camaraderie and to raise the level of concern just an eensy bit. This is an easy "A" for most kids if they have been in class.

Look for commonalities and future story fodder as you go.

Just ramp up the level of language for your level two students.

Bryce Hedstrom. Re: [moretprs] Starting the school year - Help for a new TPRSer. MoreTPRS listserv (, 6 Aug 2012).

Visit Mr. Hedstrom’s website at for more ideas and resources.

Ben Slavic’s Circling with Balls activity is described on his website:

Tune in next week for more ideas and resources for beginning the school year.

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