ESL First Day of School Activities

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The first day of school for many ESL students can be frightening especially if attending a new school. On their first day, you can provide group activities that teach them about you as a teacher, that allow them to share their experiences and that help them get acquainted with the backgrounds of all their classmates. Incorporating engaging first-day activities will help your ESL students open up and enjoy school and make their transition to having a new teacher and being in a new classroom easier.

1 What's the Question?

To encourage your ESL students to get comfortable asking questions, write a list of facts about yourself on the board, including your age, family status, hometown, favorite color, movie and foods or anything else you wish to share with your new ESL students. Give your class a couple of minutes to read over the list and come up with a questions that would fit one of your answers. Encourage group participation and sharing of ideas. When they get a question correct, write it on the board next to the answer. If they do not know how to word the question correctly, help them out. Have your students find someone they do not know well and ask them these questions. Afterward, your students can share how well those questions worked for them for learning about someone.

2 In the Middle

Prepare some basic questions about common topics ahead of time. Some suggested questions include, “Do you have a sister?" "Have you flown in an airplane before?" and "Do you collect anything?” Have your students sit in a large circle. Move the desks if necessary to make room. Call out one questions and every ESL student that can answer positively to the question should stand and move to the middle of the circle. Ask a couple of students to share something about the topic. If discussing sisters, they can tell how old she is. If discussing airplanes, they can share where they flew. Have all the students return to the spots sitting down and ask the next question. Try to have enough variety so that everyone gets a chance to go to the center of the circle, and rotate who you ask to share so that everyone gets a turn at answering your questions.

3 Around the World

For the first day of class with a diversified group of ESL students, allow students a chance to share their heritage and background. Fix a large world map on the wall with a pin stuck in the location you're presently in. Share your background and your heritage with your students. If you're afraid your students might be too shy to share theirs, prepare a list of countries, flags and languages that fit your student's backgrounds ahead of time. Allow your ESL students to come one at a time to the front and share what they can in English about their home country and any languages they can speak. Be sensitive to any special cultural needs of your ESL students so they understand that U.S. citizens come from all over the world. On your world map, place a pin for each location where a student visited or still has family.

Rebecca Bagwell is an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught in China and the United States. While overseas she started writing articles in 2006 for bilingual trade journals. Now, she lives in the South where she homeschools and writes freelance articles encouraging creative approaches to education.