A colleague asked me recently if I have any tasks or games that I use when I am starting a new school or with a class I don’t know. As it happens, I do!
In 2002 I went the UK to teach and travel for a year. My first contract was a 10 week stint at a school in Leeds that was already on special measures. So I was facing a school that was considered disadvantaged with plenty of disengaged students, in a country with a curriculum I was not yet familiar with.
Day 1 lesson 1 I faced a group of 30 year 10 students who completely ignored everything I had to say and simply continued with their own activities. (Although at least they hadn’t started throwing things at me … yet!)
I was teaching English and I needed to get them writing and, more importantly, to begin to establish a relationship with them so they cared enough to listen to me. Thinking on my feet I began simply to write activities on the board … students would either join in or not … that was their choice … I responded to those who chose to join me.
From that moment of panic this activity was born. I have refined it over time and have used it many times. I reveal tasks one at a time so as not to scare the students … as the teacher you can add or delete tasks as you want to.
Over the course of the tasks (about a week of lessons) I can begin to see how students react to a variety of different tasks, to see where their strengths and weaknesses are in terms of English skills / thinking skills / communication skills, how well they work as individuals and in pairs … and … begin to have conversations about TV shows, films, books, real-life experiences that build foundations for that important student-teacher relationship.
By the end of the exercise students have usually surprised themselves with the amount they have written and I give them a chance to redraft and craft a cohesive story to submit as their first assessment task.
What activities do you use to get to know your students?