TEFL.net : TEFL Articles : Teaching : Your First Day with a New Class

Find your dream job 🤣 teaching English!

Your First Day with a New Class

Is this new teacher any good? – The students wonder. Are they going to like me? – You ask yourself. What do you do first day with a new class? Clearly this will depend on their level and whether they already know each other or not. However, we each have our preferred activities and here is something I frequently use with classes from Intermediate level upwards – first day questionnaires. Four different sets of questions are used to ensure a variety of different answers result and to prevent the listeners from getting bored with what they hear during the reporting back stage.

While listening to the reports, I make notes in two columns, on a sheet of paper or an OHT, of the effective language used and also of the problems that reveal themselves. At the end of the lesson, so as not to interrupt the flow during the productive stage, I then go through these together with the class as a whole. First of all, I focus on the effective language that was produced to provide the learners with positive “strokes”, and then point out the errors, asking them to self-correct if possible and to explain why the utterances were problematic. Obviously this has to be done selectively, just focussing on those points you consider to be the most important to deal with, taking the students’ needs and level into account, so as not to undermine their self-confidence in their ability to get their messages across. The last thing you want to do is to inhibit the learners from practising their English, which is why it is important not to overdo the error correction. The aim is to promote fluency, but not at the expense of accuracy.

What I particularly like about this lesson is that first of all it is relatively easy to set up, secondly that it provides for plenty of STT, and thirdly that the feedback stage is an opportunity for you to show the class that you know your stuff (through your grammar explanations). In this way you can gain the learners’ respect right from the start, an essential prerequisite to ensuring their cooperation and a successful working relationship for the duration of the course.

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (SET A): Work in pairs. Choose five questions from the list below to ask your partner. Your partner will then do the same and ask you five questions. Both of you should make a note of the answers you get as you will then be asked to tell the rest of the class the most interesting things you found out about each other:

  • What’s the most beautiful landmark in your hometown and what’s the ugliest?
  • What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
  • What’s the best way of overcoming depression?
  • If you could be invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
  • When was the last time you broke the law?
  • When and where were you happiest?
  • When did you last lose something valuable and what was it?
  • What last made you cry?
  • If your house was on fire, which three things would you try to rescue first?
  • What is your pet hate?

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (SET B): Work in pairs. Choose five questions from the list below to ask your partner. Your partner will then do the same and ask you five questions. Both of you should make a note of the answers you get as you will then be asked to tell the rest of the class the most interesting things you found out about each other:

  • Where is home for you?
  • And what would you advise a tourist visiting your home town to see or do?
  • What animal would you most like to be?
  • If you could be Mayor for the day, what would you like to do?
  • What are your guilty pleasures?
  • What would you like written on your tombstone?
  • If you could live anywhere you wanted to, where would you chose and why?
  • What makes you laugh?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What cause, if any, would you be prepared to die for?

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (SET C): Work in pairs. Choose five questions from the list below to ask your partner. Your partner will then do the same and ask you five questions. Both of you should make a note of the answers you get as you will then be asked to tell the rest of the class the most interesting things you found out about each other:

  • What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
  • What is your greatest regret?
  • What are you reading at present?
  • When and where were you happiest?
  • Who are your favourite musicians?
  • Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  • If you could buy anything you wanted, what would you chose?
  • Where would you love to go on holiday and why?
  • Which living person do you most despise?

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (SET D): Work in pairs. Choose five questions from the list below to ask your partner. Your partner will then do the same and ask you five questions. Both of you should make a note of the answers you get as you will then be asked to tell the rest of the class the most interesting things you found out about each other:

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • Which living person do you most admire and why?
  • Which trait do you most deplore in yourself?
  • On what occasions do you lie?
  • What objects do you always carry with you?
  • Who are your favourite writers?
  • Which talent would you most like to have?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • What is your greatest extravagance?

The two sets of questions that follow can be used the same way but were produced for a class of Business English students:

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (Set i): Choose three of the following questions to ask the person sitting next to you. Make a note of their answers so you can report back your findings to the rest of the class:

  • Tell me about a city or a country you have visited in connection with your job.
  • What are three of the most important things you do in your job?
  • What’s the biggest challenge your company or institution faces in the future?
  • What are the three most essential qualities of a person who does your job well?
  • Tell me about a book or an article that you have read which has really influenced you in your work.
  • Tell me about a personal achievement connected with your work that you are particularly proud of.
  • What job would you like to have if you didn’t have your present job?

FIRST DAY QUESTIONNAIRE (Set ii): Choose three of the following questions to ask the person sitting next to you. Make a note of their answers so you can report back your findings to the rest of the class:

  • Tell me three things that would irritate you in a colleague.
  • What are you most looking forward to in your job in the weeks or months ahead?
  • Tell me about a personal achievement in your job that you are particularly proud of?
  • Tell me about someone you really admire in your field, or someone you really admire because of the work they have done.
  • What’s the most challenging or difficult aspect of your job?
  • Tell me about three ambitions you have.
  • What job would you like to have if you didn’t have your present job?
Written by Michael Berman for TEFL.net June 2009
Michael Berman BA, MPhil, PhD, works as a teacher and a writer. Publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom and The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, and The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Shamanic Journeys through Daghestan and Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus are both due to be published in paperback by O-Books in 2009. A long-awaited resource book for teachers on storytelling, In a Faraway Land, will be coming out in 2010. Michael has been involved in teaching and teacher training for over thirty years, has given presentations at Conferences in more than twenty countries, and hopes to have the opportunity to visit many more yet. For more information please visit Thestoryteller.org.uk.

2 Comments

  • cipriana says:

    Great advice, thanks a lot!

  • Guzi says:

    Thanks, it was very useful

Leave a comment




TEFL.net : TEFL Articles : Teaching : Your First Day with a New Class