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November 14, 2005

Encouraging English Course Students to Talk

ESL Student writing name.gif

"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names" ~ John F. Kennedy

Ever wonder what to do on the first day of class? Nervous about remembering new students' names? Well, the first day of class is the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of these apprehensions.

In the last newsletter (here), I offered one of the first-day-of-class lessons I like to use in the ESL classroom.

The "name game," of course, is a near-perfect icebreaking gimmick that will (1.) Give students the opportunity to learn a little bit about you and be a little more comfortable with your presence, (2.) Allow you the opportunity to both learn their names and quickly assess their abilities in English. With that in mind, this activity can be adjusted for difficulty according to the class level you are assigned.

I usually play the name game with a "twist." After writing my own name on the board and then introducing myself as their teacher, if they are college age or younger, I ask each of them (in turn) to tell me their hobby. If they are older students, I ask of their profession. Then I ask them to introduce me and themselves to the rest of the class. If their name is Marek and they like to fish then they are dubbed "Marek the fisherman," for example. Then the next student must introduce me, "Marek the fisherman" and him/herself to the rest of the class with a funny moniker as well. I usually have to help them with this, but it's not time-consuming enough to disrupt the class. Each student continues to introduce him/herself plus all the neighboring students that preceded him or her in the game.

If a student begins to forget some of the information, the class will often find it fun to help out but remember to ask them to speak only in English if possible. When you've arrived at the last remaining student, the process can be reversed with new data added such as which month their birthday falls (you can be creative and choose your own "category"). So, now the last student is introducing herself, for example, as "Kasia the hiker whose birthday is in May" with the next student introducing Kasia and him/herself. This process continues until it comes back to the teacher. You will usually find that you have used up all of the allowed class time by then, although you can see how easy it would be to keep adding categories to continue if necessary.

When this activity is finished, a few things are almost certain: you will know a lot more about your students than you ever expected to know on the first day and they too will feel much more relaxed about their classmates, you and your friendly, personalized teaching style. For the next few classes, try this tip: just for fun, keep using their new handles. For example, "Pawel the windsurfer, please read the next passage aloud," and so forth. Afterwards, you'll find that stepping into class will be more like speaking with new friends.

For more advice on student "mind-control" (that's said tongue-in-cheek), refer to a post by the same name on the eclexys blog of Nordsellar (who sometimes comments on ESL-Lesson-Plan) here.

Until next time (my name is),

Lee Hobbs
ESL Instruct, Editor-in-Chief

Posted by lhobbs at November 14, 2005 04:20 AM

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