Getting to Know You
On the first day, a ball can be your best friend. A small ball that is easy to throw and catch (or a cute stuffed animal for children) will allow you and your students to interact in a way that doesn't put pressure on anyone. Simply form a circle or get your students facing each other in the best way possible for your class size and room. Simple gestures and phrases are surprisingly effective when it comes to conveying meaning, and your students will soon learn what your hand gestures mean and connect them to the action phrase. For example, lifting both hands, palm up, while saying "stand up" will quickly get your students out of their seats and ready for your activity.
Starting with the ball in your hands, start with a simple introduction. "Hello, my name is _____." is always a good way to start. Look for a student who seems alert and eager to participate and toss the ball to him or her. Prompt the student, if necessary, to say hello and introduce himself. He then passes the ball to another student, and before you know it, you are learning the names of your students and they are becoming more comfortable with you, each other, and the English language. Repetition is the key, so running through the class a few times will help students remember not only each other's names but also the key English words and phrases.
If your students are not beginners, you can modify this activity to make it a bit more challenging. This will allow you to gauge the level at which they are communicating. Asking more open-ended questions, such as "What is your favorite food?" or "What do you do in your free time?" will let you hear the range of vocabulary and grammatical structures the students have learned previously.