Stephen Krashen once wrote “Motivational and attitudinal considerations are prior to linguistic considerations. If the affective filter is ‘up’, no matter how beautifully the input is sequenced, no matter how meaningful and communicative the exercise is intended to be, little or no acquisition will take place.” As August approaches, and with it the start of school, it’s a great time to look at ways we can lower the affective filter in our language classrooms and create a positive rapport and interconnection where learning can thrive. Check out these five first day community building activities to get your class off on the right foot.
Find Someone Who Bingo
I’ve used this activity for a number of semesters. It’s a great way to get everyone up and out of their seats to learn about each other. Go over the example dialogue with the class to prepare for the activity. Point out that the speaker had to ask another question after receiving a no answer. Tell students to talk to as many people as possible and ask them questions. When someone answers yes to a question, tell them to write the person’s name in the box. This activity will promote name learning and make your class a hum of activity.
In a way, this activity is similar to the “Two Truths and a Lie” game that is so commonly cited as a great first-day activity, which of course it is. However, this particular activity is drawing based, which is great for visual learners. The idea is that each student will take their film strip and draw three different scenes. 1. Something they like to do, 2. Something they don’t like to do, and 3. Something they want to do. After they have drawn the scenes to their own personal documentary about themselves, they will go around the room narrating the things they’re doing in each clip and then asking their classmates to guess which scene is which.
This is a great activity for learners at the lower levels. The handout gives them a space to write the responses to the questions they will later be asked by their classmates. Go over each of the questions as a class. Model your answers on the board as an example, and then give the class time to finish their answers. Next, ask everyone to interview five classmates and write down their answers. To follow up, you could ask for volunteers to share what they learned about someone they interviewed.
Things in Common
This is one of my go to activities to help create a sense of connection and camaraderie in class. It helps everyone discover the things that connect them. This activity works well with intermediate and advances students who feel comfortable having conversations in English . Count students into groups of 4-5. Ask them to find five things (not relating to school or work) that all of them have in common along with one thing that is unique to each person. Once all of the groups have finished, debrief as a class by asking each group to share out their lists. This way other groups will note things they have in common with everyone in the class.
I got the idea for this handout from the training I’ve done in Reading Apprenticeship, which is a very useful new approach to the teaching of reading. This activity helps to create a classroom experience where the students feel like valued and participatory members from the very beginning. Once the norms of the classroom have been created, they can be a great resource to point to if things get out of hand later. I’ve often pointed to them to remind students of the type of learning environment they decided that they wanted to have. The handout guides students through a discussion phase and then a brainstorming phase where groups write down their ideas. At the end, you can write down the norms the groups call out to keep them around for the duration of the course. You could put them on a poster on the wall or type them and add them to the class’s Canvas or Blackboard site.
I hope you have found something useful for your first day of class. Please follow TESOLPlanner to see when more free resources are published.