First Classes

school_desks1.jpgThe first time you meet a class is a good opportunity to get them to talk, get to know them, and have fun (while putting off starting the book for one more day).

I’ve found it’s important to get to know students’ names correctly from the start. The times I didn’t learn, or regularly confused two students, I continued doing it the whole term. Ask them if you are saying their names correctly. Every time I said the name of one of my Korean students, half the class would giggle. I had to ask about five times before they told me that the way I said it sounded like the Korean word for trash. Some students took on English nicknames, and more power to them, but I then had problems connecting real names on paperwork with faces. I’d see the name of a student I’d apparently been working with for a month and have no idea who it was.

Aside from the fact that getting students to introduce themselves or a partner gives them speaking practice, it’s just useful and normal for you and the students to learn a few basics about each other because you will be working together. If you ask them to introduce themselves, be prepared to tell them something about yourself as well. I started my very first class with an activity suggested by a colleague – students brainstormed questions for me and got points for both correct grammar and “interestingness”. As you can imagine, this led to a wide variety of questions. “Are you married?” from a student of the opposite gender is an amusing given…I also got “Do you believe in God?” and “Have you ever been to a taping of the Oprah show in Chicago?”. I’m not sure I would do this same activity again, but it sure made for a unique start to the class.

Finally, make sure to tell people the more boring basics of the course: the book, the syllabus, how they’ll be graded. If there is a test, tell them right away: they might not even care, but they sure won’t like it if you surprise them at the end of the two-month course.