getting ready for my first class

It’s going to be a false start as we have Jewish holidays next week. But inside,  have to feel ready, like I did something, you know. 

Anyways, I have first of all prepared a linoit board for my two classes that the kids can post their names and photographs of themselves online (and I can start to memorize them, too). This is their one and only homework so I hope they do it.

Meantime I’ve been getting ready with my classjump page for the students so the first lesson is uploaded plus the linoit link.


That’s enough tech preparation for the time being!


a picture speaks a thousand words…..

Pictures are a great springboard for talking tasks, as I mentioned before – here are some more ideas from the NY Times teaching blog

What Did You Think of ‘What’s Going On in This Picture’?

Three of the photos we've used for our Monday Ali Jarekji/Reuters; Neal Boenzi/The New York Times; Andrew Biraj/ReutersThree of the photos we’ve used for our Monday “What’s Going On in This Picture?” feature.  See all »

Last October we introduced a new feature in which, each Monday morning this school year, we posted a New York Times photograph without a caption, then invited students to answer three deceptively simple questions about it:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

As student answers poured in to the blog each week — this shows someone learning a back-flip; I think he’s in the military because of his camouflage shirt; The background makes it look like a movie set — our collaborators for the feature, Visual Thinking Strategies, acted as live moderators, linking thoughts and posting further questions intended to help them go deeper and see more. Most weeks that created a lively debate in our comments section, as students of all ages, backgrounds and places pushed each other to find detail and defend interpretations.


Then, 24 hours later, we published the back story for each week’s photo at the bottom of the post. There you could find the original Times caption, links to related Times reporting, and, often, an interview with the photographer about the moment he or she took the picture.

That way students could discover that, for example, our first image, which they speculated was of everything from a war zone to a zombie attack, actually depicted a child jumping on waste products at a tannery in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2012 — in the same area where, a year and a half later, Rana Plaza would collapse in what is now widely thought to be the deadliest disaster in garment industry history.

This process, teachers have told us, was an easy way to raise student curiosity about news and cultures around the world, as well as an opportunity for students to practice some of the skills the Common Core demands.

By looking closely at an image, forming their own interpretations and sharing their ideas, students practiced skills such as making an argument, finding and citing evidence, analyzing various accounts of a subject told in different mediums, making strategic use of digital media and participating in collaborative discussions.

According to Jennifer Bradley, a science teacher at Bentonville High Schoolin Arkansas, her students–both native English speakers and English-language learners– loved participating in the online discussions every week. She told us how the practice of finding details to defend their interpretations of each photo improved their academic skills in general, and their science skills in particular:

After practicing with “What’s Going On in This Picture?’ weekly, I started to see my students get much better at using evidence in their writing. For example, in their lab reports, they started to be much more detailed and to explain the context clues that led them to a conclusion.

Other teachers told us that the feature helped their struggling readers and E.L.L. students, especially because the V.T.S. moderators act as “teachers” on the blog, gently pushing those learners to say more. Laurence Brown in New York, who teaches special education at Northport High School on Long Island, writes:

I have had much success using the pictures put up on the Learning Network blog. They tend to evoke strong emotional responses from my students. I teach two resource rooms and use these for prediction, as well as creating a thesis statement and using evidence to back up the statement. Our favorite of the year was the fellow who was submerged in the side of the road. I heard all kinds possibilities as to what that picture was, from a thief hiding to pipe repairing.

If you used the feature this year, we invite you to post your thoughts below. Which photos were especially compelling? How did your students react to the feature in general? What could we do better next year?

If you didn’t use it, we hope you’ll consider trying when the feature resumes in September. Even if your class can’t participate in the online conversations on Mondays, the photos remain online without their captions, so you can reproduce the exercise at any time.

We leave you with some comments from the fifth graders in Sean Federbusch’s class in Santa Barbara, Calif.:

  • I liked doing this because it was fun and mysterious. This Monday our teacher said that it was our last “What’s Happening in This Picture.” I was so mad because the pictures were so funny and awesome.
  • We have been doing “What’s Happening” for about two months now and think it has been very productive on our skill of predicting what things support our claim.
  • It was fun because we had crazy thoughts.
  • We have used the pictures that you have picked to help my class to get better at predicting and make observations. Most of the time they are really funny. Keep up the good work.

  • The one I liked was when the guy was in the middle of the road fixing the pipes. I though he stole something and went through a passage way. Well, I was wrong. I learned that you do not always have to be right.
  • I liked doing it because we had to support our evidence, like “I predict the man is dying because of his hands’ motion.”

Lesson Planning 101: 6 Easy Steps for Effective Lesson Planning

A great review on effective lesson planning from the busy teacher site

Yes, I know my lessons need to be planned and timed a little more effectively. So it’s worthwhile for me to take these words to heart.


Lesson Planning 101: 6 Easy Steps for Effective Lesson Planning


Lesson Planning 101: 6 Easy Steps for Effective Lesson Planning

Planning lessons for my ESL class has not always been an easy one.

Although formal training provided me with the basic tools of teaching, I have found that understanding the needs of my students ahead of mine is the most important aspect to take into consideration whenplanning any lesson. Every class is different! As teachers it is vital for us to identify the type of learners we have (i.e. visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) before planning a lesson as it makes work a little easier.Visual learners prefer using images, pictures, colours, and maps to organize information and communicate with others, while auditory learners are able to learn better by hearing information and kinesthetic learners study best when they are moving, or doing physical activities or working with their hands. Try to pick a topic that will appeal to everyone in class (teacher included) and one with which you are able to be flexible. Even if your lesson topics come a textbook and the text dictates a certain theme try to personalize the lesson as much as possible so that you hold the students attention for the entire lesson. Assuming your class is 45 minutes long, you will need to have enough prepared to fill that time without becoming repetitive or redundant. You will also want to make sure that your lesson covers the four basic learning skills, i.e. reading, writing, listening and speaking as these are important when teaching a second language. The following six steps have been a real treasure in my box of teaching tools. You may encounter a few problems during your execution; however, proper classroom management should iron out those issues. Executing this lesson planning strategy in my classroom as brought amazing results. I hope that you and your students will have the same level of success and mine.

Apply These 6 Stages in Your Successful Lesson Planning

  1. 1

    Lead-in (3 minutes)

    This is where you will introduce your topic to the class. Audio-visual aids such as a music video are an excellent lead-in tool. The lead-in should be 5 minutes or less as it is just a warm-up. For example: the famous nursery rhyme “Old McDonald had a farm”, could be a fun lead-in for a lesson on animals. Your objective here is to lay the foundation for your lesson. You don’t want it to be too long as it should not overshadow your lesson.

    After listening to the song/watching the video you can ask the students to make a prediction on what topic the lesson would be based on for the day, it gives them a little thrill when they make the correct predication.

  2. 2

    Elicitation (5 minutes)

    Elicitation is basically ‘extracting’ information. At this step, you want to test the students’ current knowledge on the topic. A good way to elicit information from the students is to show them a prop, flashcards or a PowerPoint presentation. Each image or prop will get the students talking and more engaged in your lesson. For example, in a lesson on animals you will show the class images of different animals and get the students to identify the animals. You can take it a step further with higher level students and try to get them to name the offspring. Another fun idea is to play sounds of different animals and have the class identify the creature from just the sound; this would be an excellent way to practicing listening. Your aim here is just to test the students’ knowledge on the topic.

    NB: Using funny looking images creates a lighter atmosphere in the classroom as it draws the student in and builds greater engagement.

  3. 3

    Presentation (7 minutes)

    In this step you will be presenting the main topic. So, if you chose the theme of animals you should have a ‘focus area’ such as animal homes. During your presentation you will talk about this topic. PowerPoint presentations; Flashcards or Charts are great for this stage of your lesson. Using your students’ current knowledge on the theme will be useful at this stage of the lesson. At this point of the lesson it would be appropriate to introduce the class to new vocabulary and key phrases.The objective of this step should be for the students to learn the appropriate use of key terms and phrases and how to use them in the proper context. It will also broaden their current knowledge on the topic.

  4. 4

    Controlled Practice (10 minutes)

    After presenting your lesson and teaching new vocabulary, you would want the students to put into practice everything they have studied. The best way to test their knowledge on the day’s lesson is through a worksheet. Another great tool is doing a role-play in which the students can act out different social situations while using the key phrases and vocabulary taught for the day. Most often your topic will dictate the type of activity most suited for the lesson. The activities done at this stage should be able to help sharpen the four basic language learning skills. Try to get all the students involved and assist them where necessary.

  5. 5

    Freer Practice (15 minutes)

    Once again you will be testing the students’ knowledge on the lesson just taught; however, with this step you can be more flexible. Games are great for this as it creates a “freer” learning environment. It’s both entertaining and educational. With this step you can do more than one activity depending on your time. Encourage peer teaching, that is, get the students to help each other.

  6. 6

    Review and Follow up (5 minutes)

    Towards the end of the lesson it’s good to do a quick review to tie up the lesson and at the same time check of the students’ was able to grasp all the concepts taught. It’s a good idea to go over the new vocabulary and key phrases taught. Review could also be done in the form of a short worksheet like a word-search which they can complete in class or something longer if you wish to give the students homework for the day.

    Note: The times indicated here are just for reference purposes.

Minecraft Addiction Article – great for collocations


I was just chatting with someone about this whole Minecraft business, as my friend has a son who plays it 24/7 and I came across an article

which looked like wonderful material for all sorts of language learning. It’s also very on-topic for teens, especially teenage boys and could be a springboard to all sorts of interesting classroom dialogue.

If you want to, check out my reading comprehension worksheet .

In the meantime, feedback, ideas?

reblogging 7 Activities For Engaging Students This School Year

7 Activities For Engaging Students This School Year

Here’s a nice blog with some great ideas as to how to engage students using the latest and the greatest in technology.

I myself become very hyped about how technology can really make learning dynamic but I am very limited by the fact that the school where I teach has no smartboard and no laptops/i-pads. I can use the multi-media room but it has to be booked in advance (and fought over with other teachers). It’s also not set up for learning (ie. only chairs, no desks)

I did buy my own mini-projector but now my loudspeakers are kaputt and I will not be financed by the school to buy new ones!

I’m considering actively encouraging them to use their smartphones in the classroom (but there are downsides to them, too).

Any ideas, comments for teachers who are limited in resources but not in ideas would be appreciated.

I claim no authorship – just reposting some great ideas from the Busy Teacher site

Break the Back-to-School Ice! 10 Fun Icebreakers for the Beginning of the Year


Break the Back-to-School Ice! 10 Fun Icebreakers for the Beginning of the Year

Everyone loves a good icebreaker—it’s a great way to get to know other people and help people feel relaxed in stressful situations, such as the first day of a new school year.

Here are a few icebreakers and some variations to theicebreakers to try during the first week of school to build a good sense of community in your classroom that will last throughout the year!

Try These 10 Awesome Ideas to Kick off Your School Year

  1. 1

    Name Chain Games

    By far and away the best way to learn and retain student names is to do a name chain game to start off the class. You can vary the specifics to fit the needs of your particular class, but my class usually goes like this: the first student says 1) his or her name, 2) his or her home country, 3) one interesting fact about himself or herself, and 4) his or her favorite English word. The next student must then repeat all of the information about himself or herself and then say the name and favorite English word of the preceding student. The third student introduces himself or herself and then says the names and favorite English words of the preceding two students, and so on until the last student. For a challenge, tell the last student not to write anything down! As the teacher, you can also go last instead and impress the class with your knowledge of their names while simultaneously making the last student feel better. Make sure you quiz your students throughout the week to see if they can remember everyone’s names and favorite words. I’ve also made a practice vocabulary quiz using each of their favorite English words before which is a great way to transition them into your testing style.

    Variation: Instead of having students say their favorite English word, have them choose a word that starts with the same letter as their name, a favorite city, favorite food, etc… the options are endless!

  2. 2

    New Year’s Resolutions

    Your students may familiar with this popular tradition in January, but a new school year should bring about new resolutions for students and teachers alike. Have students partner up with each other and discuss what goals they have for themselves for the school year. Encourage them to be specific with the things they would like to accomplish and what they want to be different. Make sure that you as the teacher make some resolutions too!

    Variation: While students are talking together, have them create a poster of their resolutions. Display the posters around the room to help students remember their goals throughout the term.

  3. 3

    Name That Person

    Another great activity to get to your students to know each other a little better is a guessing game. Pass out small pieces of paper or notecards to each student and tell them to write down two facts about themselves on the card without writing their name on them. Collect the cards in a basket and mix them up before redistributing them to the students. Students take turn reading out the facts from the note card and the other students guess which person wrote the card.

    Variation: Instead of writing them down on notecards, have them discuss their facts with a partner. After groups have had some time to discuss, come back together as a whole class. The partners will take turns sharing facts and the rest of the class has to guess which partner the fact is about! Give a point to the partners who guess the facts correctly and a point to the partners who are able to fool the class.

  4. 4

    Would You Rather….

    Line students up in two lines with each line facing each other. Tell them to come up with creative “Would you rather…” questions to ask their partners, such as “Would you rather eat pizza for the rest of your life or chocolate?”; “Would you rather be a ballerina or a florist?” etc… Give them a few examples to prompt them and see what kinds of creative questions they come up with. This will help to pique their creativity and get to know their new classmates. After a short time, have one of the lines move down so students will get to meet everyone in the other line.

    Variation: In a large circle as a whole class, have Student A pose a would you rather question for Student B to answer. To make things even more interesting, have Student B answer for a different student. For example, Student A might ask “Student B, do you think student C would rather have a crocodile or a zebra for a pet?” The students will then guess for their classmate; be sure to have Student C answer to see who close Student B was!

  5. 5

    Find Objects to Tescribe Me ….

    A classic get to know you activity is to have students go through their backpacks, folders, pockets, etc… and find 3 or 4 things that they feel describe them very well. Students then need to describe their objects and why they chose them as their defining objects. Put students into pairs to share their objects or share as a whole class so that way everyone can hear about their new classmates!

    Variation: Send students around the building with cameras (phones work nicely these days) and take a picture of something in the building that they think defines them or could describe them.

  6. 6

    Word Association

    A great speaking activity that helps to loosen up nervous students on the first day is a word association game. One student says a word (choose a category like travel if you wish to narrow things down) and the next person must say a word associated with that word; the next student says a word associated with that word, and so on. If another student challenges the association, the student must justify how those words are related. Make it a competition to see who can get the most points if you want to add a little friendly rivalry in the mix.

    Variation: To make things more challenging or adapt this activity for a higher level class, put extra restrictions such as the word you say must begin with the last letter of the word the previous student said. For example, if Student A says “Japan,” Student B might say “ninja.”

  7. 7

    Who Am I?

    A great way to mix students up to arrange them into groups or just get them speaking to one another is to put nametags on the back of the students of famous people, teachers, movie characters etc… Make sure that these people will be well known by all of your students. Students must walk around with their nametag on their back that they cannot see and ask questions to their classmates about who they are.

    Variation: If you wait a few days and do this activity on the 2nd or 3rd day of class, you can put a classmates’ name on their back and their peers will have to know that classmate well enough to describe him or her to the student. This is a great way to review names!

  8. 8

    Picture Story-Telling

    To get some of the more creative students included, give each student a blank piece of paper. Tell them to draw a picture of an event that happened to them recently, for example, a vacation they took, or a graduation ceremony etc… There can be no words on the paper. Put the students into pairs and have the partners guess what went the event was based on just looking at the picture.

    Variation: Before putting students into pairs, collect the students’ pictures and randomly redistribute them to different students. The students will then have to describe to the class what is going on in the picture. When they finish, ask the artist of the picture to say how close that student was and to narrate what actually happened in their life event.

  9. 9

    I’m Cool Because…

    If students are getting sluggish and you need them to move around the first day, do this activity. Have all of the students seated in a circle and you as a teacher stand in the middle. To start off the activity, you will say “I’m cool because…” and then finish that sentence with something that’s true about you, for example, you’re wearing blue jeans, you speak 3 languages, etc… Then, every student who shares that fact in common with you must stand up and find a new seat. You also will need to find a seat meaning that one student will be stranded in the middle. This game is great for finding commonalities and getting in some good laughs!

    Variation: Play “I have never….” instead. When students are in the middle, have them call out things they’ve never done and have the students move who have done those activities.

  10. 10

    3 Common, 1 Unique

    This activity is good for small groups. Randomly group students into three or four and give them a time limit to discover three things that all members of the group have in common and one thing that is unique for all of them. When the time is up, have each group report to the class. Then, change up the groups and have them do it again with their new class members. If it starts to get too easy, start ruling out common answers like “We’re all from different countries” or “We all breathe oxygen.”

    Variation: Try this with the whole class after doing it in small groups. If they’ve been good listeners, they should be able to recall many things that all students had in common. It may take awhile, but there are surely at least 3 things the whole class has in common!

The first day of school can be stressful for everyone, but these icebreakers will help you and your students get to know each other in a fun, interactive way to help build the classroom environment all year long!

What are your favorite first day activities?

abepiusc46 points


Alisha is an EFL teacher currently working with international students who want to study at universities in the United States. She has taught EFL in several countries, and she earned her MA in Linguistics and her BS in English education. A certified teacher trainer, she enjoys collaborating with other teachers to solve issues that arise in the classroom. She loves working with her students and considers herself a lifelong learner of cultures.

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