6 tips for planning your first English classes

Pearson Languages
A teacher leaning on a table where students are working on various activities

You are nervous, yet excited. You want to appear relaxed and fun, but still be taken seriously. Most of all, you are keen to make an excellent first impression.

With all that in mind - planning your first English classes of the year can be a daunting experience.

Here are six things to consider when planning your first classes:

1. Set clear aims

Whether you are teaching young learners, teenagers or adults, it’s important you discuss the aims and objectives of the course from day one. You’ll need to learn more about your students' needs to do this. Why are they learning English? Do they want to prepare for an official exam? What activities do they enjoy? What things do they need to improve the most?

The way you do this will depend on the age of your learners. For example, with adults and teens, you could get them to interview each other and write a report about what they found out. With younger children, do a survey they can complete using smiley faces.

2. Find out students’ interests

Although you should understand your students' needs and why they want to learn English - to help make your classes relevant and engaging - you should also discover what they enjoy doing outside of class.

To do this, get students to write mini bios you can stick around the classroom. Or have them prepare presentations where they share something they are passionate about with the rest of the class - using coursebooks. As a class, go through the contents page, vote on which topics students find most interesting, and start with those.

3. Break the ice

You want your first class to be fun so that students are motivated, and associate English language learning with something they can enjoy. Ice-breakers can also be an excellent way to get to know each other and learn about your students' current level of English.

Activities where students have to ask each other questions work well.

4. Provide a comfortable environment

Young learners and teenagers tend to be shy at the start of a course - especially if they don’t know each other. Develop a rapport and break down boundaries by including team-building activities in your first class. Your aim is to have all the students feeling more comfortable with each other before the end of the lesson so that there are no awkward silences in future lessons.

5. Manage expectations

Managing expectations is an essential part of a teacher's job. Make sure in the first class you are clear about what you expect from your students and what they can expect from you.

Have students brainstorm the rules for the class and then make a big poster or ‘class contract’ which all students have to sign. Display the poster on the wall so you can always refer to it if someone misbehaves.

Try to keep the rules as positive as possible. Instead of writing: 'Don’t speak your first language', write: 'Try to always speak English and ask if you don’t know a word'. If you are feeling really brave, you can even get your students to devise a list of rules for you which you can display on the wall next to theirs.

6. Make it challenging

It’s great making your first lesson fun - but there’s nothing more motivating than leaving a new class and feeling like you’ve made a good decision and you are going to learn lots (and you aren’t wasting your time or money). This is especially important for adult learners.

So, as well as getting to know each other and finding out their needs, teach them something new. This could be 10 new pieces of vocabulary, how to structure a letter or report, or a list of resources they can use at home to practice their English.

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