First Day Lesson (1)

There are many ways to conduct the first lesson with a new group including a needs analysis and self-introductions. This is just one idea.

  1. Cut A4 paper into 4 and give each learner 4 cut pieces of paper.
  2. Ask them to write one word on each paper. It should be a thing/object that is important to them.
  3. Collect the slips of paper and redistribute them to others.
  4. Ask the learners to write a few questions about the object. For example, LABRADOR: Do you have a labrador? Is it male or female? How old… etc.
  5. Have the learners mingle and find the person who wrote the word. They should ask their questions (and follow-up questions).
  6. When everyone has found the person who wrote all the words they have, they can sit back down. Then report back by asking: What was the most interesting thing you learned about Maria/Marco etc.

This is a good activity to practice speaking and getting to know each other. Of course the trainer should also include 4 slips of paper!

Alternative: instead of just things, the learners can use dates or places or verbs or a mix!

1-1: This exercise can work for 1-1 lessons, but just have the learner write 4 words and you interview them about those words. Then have the learner interview you about your 4 words.

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One Before You Go

This simple activity is hugely popular with all my learners.

  1. At the end of the lesson (1-2 minutes before it ends) announce: Please tell me one new word you learned and then you can leave.
  2. The first person to raise their hand and say a new word can leave.
  3. If the group is small enough and if you have time, I sometimes ask them for the translation or an example definition as well.
  4. The person who gave the word can now leave (and the rest remain until they can give a word).

As they realize they can not leave until they say a new word for them. I do this very often and they get quite good at it.

1-1: For 1-1 I usually ask for 3 words instead.

One-Minute Monologues

This activity is good for B1-C2 levels and I usually use it at the beginning of a class or when we start a new topic. For example, if the next topic in the book is “advertising”, I might use this as a warm-up.

  1. Choose a topic or topics. Write/type them on cards and distribute them to pairs of students.
  2. Explain that when you say go, one person in each pair will turn over a card (e.g. “favorite TV ad”, “bad advertising”, “famous actors in ads” etc.) and speak for 1 full minute on the topic. Stress that it is important that they speak without pauses. They must say something, anything at all to keep speaking. Many may find it challenging the first time (so try it with a very general topic the first time like: dogs, pizza, summer).
  3. Start your timer and when it ends, have them switch and repeat.
  4. Have a feedback round. Ask: What did you speak about? How did you feel? Was it easy or difficult, why?

This exercise helps learners get over their need to express themselves in 100% correct English and focuses on them just speaking and getting an idea across.

1-1: This exercise can be used as described above with the trainer participating.

Lists from Cards

This activity is good for any level.

  1. Divide the class into groups/pairs. If the class is small or if the learners are strong enough, each learner can work alone, but the dynamics are better if they can work in pairs or groups of 3.
  2. Give each group a deck of cards (or photocopies of a deck) and a handout with a list of categories (alternatively, write the categories on the board). The categories should be a review of recently learned items such as: environment, finance, animals, foods etc. There should be 11 categories.
  3. The first person turns over the first card in the deck. They then choose the corresponding number on the worksheet/board. For example, if a learner turns over a 3, they check the list and see that category 3 is (for example) “clothing”. They then need to list 3 items of clothing in English. Team members can challenge them to define a word and the person must defend it. Should the player not be able to list the items, or doesn’t know the word in English, or can not defend a word, they receive a mark (I usually play “horse” meaning if they fail once they earn an “h”, the next time an “o” etc. The first person to collect all the letters of “horse” is out of the game).
  4. Continuing playing as above.
  5. Face cards= skip a turn. The Ace is 1.

Variation: for higher levels you could additionally have the player create sample sentences for the words in their list and their team mates decide if they will accept the sentences based on use of the word and grammar.

1-1: This can work for 1-1 but only if the trainer lists their words inĀ  the learner’s L1 to keep it fair.

Hot Seat

Many teachers know and use this activity. I only use it occasionally with the right group. If you have a group with learners who don’t like to be in the hot seat/have all the attention on them, then try a different activity.

  1. Divide the class into two (or more) groups. All learners should be facing the board.
  2. Put one seat for each team and place it with its back to the board. These are the “hot seats”.
  3. One member from each team comes to the front and sits in the chairs with their back to the board.
  4. The trainer has a list of review vocabulary and writes one of these words clearly and in large print on the board so the class can see the word, but not the person in the hot seat.
  5. The team describes the word in whatever means possible to their teammate in the hot seat. The first person to guess the word, wins a point for their team.
  6. Then, change learners in the hot seats and repeat with a new word.

1-1: This activity is not possible for 1-1 lessons. For an similar alternative see the activity here called PASSWORD.

Vocabulary in a Box

This can be used for all levels.

  1. Choose a box (I use empty tea boxes) and create dividers for it so that you have three compartments. Then cut pieces of paper or card stock to fit the box.
  2. Keep a stack of the cards ready when new words come up in class and write one word per card. If you have a group, you can assign one learner to do this every lesson.
  3. Put the newest words in the front compartment (which I usually make bigger than the other two compartments).
  4. Use the cards to quiz the learners at the end/beginning of the lessons. If everyone knows a word, move it to the middle compartment. You can quiz the middle compartment words when it gets full and if the learners remember the words, move to the last compartment. Repeat with the last compartment and then throw the words away now that the learners really know the word.
  5. Use the cards to play a myriad of games (see VOCABULARY in this blog).

For 1-1: Use as described above.

Variation: For lower levels, put the English on one side of the card and the L1 on the other.

Guess who I am

This one is a very simple exercise perfect for A1-A2 level learners.

  1. After you have introduced and practiced the verb “be” and some other basic verbs, tell the learners they are going to describe a famous person. They should use simple sentences like: I am a man. I come from Austria. I have big arms. I live in California. I am a movie star. I am a politician. (answer: Arnold Schwartzenegger)
  2. As the learners are writing their clues, circle and help when needed.
  3. Then in small groups (or as a whole class) have the learners read their clues one by one. I usually have them read the most vague clues first. The others should guess who the person is.

There is no “winner” but this is a great confidence boaster and they usually enjoy this exercise.

1-1: Do the exercise as above. You can also have the learner write 2 or 3 descriptions as home practice (and you do the same).