As the fall semester is getting close to winding down, it’s time to start thinking about curriculum for spring. It’s important that my new classes start off on the right foot, so I usually spend a significant part of the first couple of weeks doing community building activities and talking about strategies that can help my students be more successful throughout the semester. I want them to feel comfortable and ready to fully participate in class. I created this “Getting Started” unit to use the first couple of weeks. It comes in handy because not all students have their book the first week. The unit has everything you’ll need to get an intermediate-level class ready for the semester. Just print a copy for each student and you’re ready to go.
The unit has icebreakers and community building activities. It also has activities that address students’ affective needs. It also has a couple of assignments and readings.
I wrote an introduction/educational autobiography that talks about my path to becoming a teacher. After reading mine, students will also complete their own and turn it in. This is a way for me to get to know more about them and also potentially learn some obstacles and fears they bring with them related to education. If you decide to use this content, you may want to write your own to make it more personal, though you’re welcome to keep mine as an example instead.
Another thing included in this unit is a short summary of Carol Dweck’s article “Brainology.” It highlights the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Reading the article starts the discussion about the students’ perceptions of their ability to learn English. There are some followup activities that work with fixed and growth mindsets that help get students ready to approach the semester with an “I can” attitude as opposed to an “I can’t” attitude.
The activities in this unit don’t have to be done in the order they’re presented. In fact, the very last handout is a diagnostic test I do on the first day. The unit does, however, provide instructors with ample activities and handouts to use in the first few days of class.
The unit was created in Google Docs. It’s formatted to print nicely double sided. That’s why you’ll see a couple blank pages throughout the document. You can edit it by click “make a copy” under the file tab. Each activity has explanations on the document, but I also left extra explanation via comments on the right side. Feel free to comment if you have any questions about anything contained within the unit.
What things do you do in the first few weeks of class to create a positive classroom environment? Let us know in the comment box below.