I remember reading last Summer about ideas of activities to do for the first day of classes. It seems both so long ago, and also not that alien. Here I am only about a week out from the 1st day again. I think I might have moved a little too slowly during the 1st week of school last year, using a ton of activities introducing the language and culture, and not getting into the book too much.
I say that because, looking back, especially for some of the younger students, they started misbehaving, and it might have given them the impression that it was going to be an easy or ‘blow-off’ class. I can see some teacher’s argument for not getting into the book on the 1st day, but I think I will this year (maybe have an exploring activity to help them get to know the book), and I’ll intersperse fun supplemental activities with book ones.
Luckily it’s a new book this year, and the book is great. The Discovering French series has a whole introductory section with reasons to speak French, an introduction to French geography and facts, other French-speaking countries, and a list of names (including some of North African or African origin).
I did an activity where I had a worksheet with different areas such as dining, movies, art, danse, etc., and students had to come up with French words they already knew. It worked pretty well, but some students were writing a ton of words down (like transportation, situation, which, yes, are from the French, but not exactly what I was looking for).
Here are my tips:
1) Parlez en francais. Teacher needs to model speaking in French, and get students speaking. In French 1, it can be as simple as greetings and name (Bonjour, je m’appelle, comment t’appelles-tu?). In upper levels, it can be 1 activity you like to do and 1 you do not (or food, or whatever).
2) Break the ice. Do some icebreakers, getting to know you, have students choose French names, whatever it takes to lessen anxiety and promote a friendly, interactive classroom. Just be careful to mix in enough educational, structured learning, with the fun stuff.
3) Establish rules. This is something I did, but not with enough of a system. I’m still trying to figure that out (I guess discipline is something that comes easier with every year of teaching?), but I know I will have a more clearly laid out set of rules and the consequences that go with misbehavior- as well as rewards for good behavior.
4) Find a good pace for each class. Some classes may not be interested in icebreakers at first. So if you try them and don’t have good results, get right into the book and assignments. Incorporating some fun things into the 1st week is nice so they aren’t overwhelmed. I think I’ll probably go over my syllabus on the 1st day. Actually I think I handed it out last year at the end of the 1st day for them to read as homework.
5) Take care of business items. Do hand out a syllabus at some point in the beginning. Create a seating chart (I think it’s always good to start with one, to get to know names, and to have order right from the start). There is other information you need to find out, and rules, and books and things. See how much you can do in a fun manner, or in the form of an activity (like having a worksheet to get-to-know the textbook).
I think it’s most important to do some activities to help students feel comfortable, and to get to know one another, before jumping into heavy grammar. There are lots of good vocabulary and other little language things to do before starting the book (classroom commands, numbers).
Here is a great link I found for tips:
About.com 1st day teaching french new and returning French students – it has great ideas for a level 1 classroom, and for upper level French students
1st days of school activities – this site has some great ideas. I really like the policy and rule question and answer match because it’s interactive, goes over the rules, and gives you an idea of which students might be more shy.
There are a lot of great ideas out there. I remember finding some very helpful ideas, and I hope my thoughts help teachers new and old alike. Nothing too fancy here, but it’s definitely important to think about the 1st day of school. It’s an important day- think first impressions.
What type of tone do you want to set for the year?