October is here and most of us teachers have completed our get-to-know activities. However, if our classes happen to be a continuous intake LINC or ESL setting, it may mean having to repeat these activities more than once. In addition, in some classrooms, we might even have students who have remained with us. In other classroom settings, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – for example – students might be advancing seven weeks at a time. However, no matter what classroom setting we are in, it is important that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. One way to do this is by spending time with get-to-know activities. These activities do not need to be the same every time. We might not necessarily want to plan for the usual “Hi, my name is ____________,and I am from _____________, and my first language is ___________________,” drill, drill, drill, and stop there. For example, the well-known table name cards activity could be modified according to students’ language level:
- Cardstock or any heavy-weighted paper (different colours would be nice) folded in three to create table name cards
- Colour markers
Start by writing your first name on the first card; then show the card with your name to your students, while saying your name aloud. You could then write your full name on the board, read it aloud, and point to your first name to let your students see that you’ve used your first name (you could also circle your first name or write it in a different colour). The idea is to demonstrate the activity (we are teaching many skills here, including pragmatic and cultural competence). Once you’ve introduced yourself, model the activity a few times with one student at a time; then try it as a group activity. Just make sure to have extra name cards just in case. Students who have completed this activity in September could also take the lead.
Literacy and Basic Skills:
For this group, you need to prepare before class by typing in big print students’ names on individual strips of paper. Once in class, introduce yourself as per the beginner group, but instead of students writing their names (which they might not all be able to do at first), give each one his/her strip of paper as you do roll calling. Go the extra mile and draw cursive lines on the label so that students can trace their names. You might even decide that it is best to do this activity on worksheets before moving on to writing on the cards. Include students who have previously completed this activity – ask them to work with the new students.
Add an extra task to make the activity more challenging. Students could write an adjective that describes them at the back and share it, or they could write a short description of themselves first; then, shuffle the cards for students to guess who the person is. Include yourself in this activity (without students knowing, which adds to the trivia). For continuous intake classrooms, this is the perfect opportunity to incorporate a weekly monitor system – let each student be a welcome monitor once for the term.
There are many get-to-know activities we can use. Overall, no matter which activity we choose, the objective is to break the ice, set the mood, and make our classroom a community where everyone feels welcome and ready to share and learn – whether it is at the beginning of term or as students join our classrooms throughout the term.
Share your favourite get-to-know activities with the TESL community in the comments section.
*flickr image by Susan Sermoneta. Retrieved August 18, 2014 https://www.flickr.com/photos/en321/5119704/in/photostream/