Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy World Teachers' Day!

World Teachers' Day is held annually on October the 5th. This year, the British Council Tunisia is organising the Teaching English Webquest Competition. You can check the British Council website for more details.
Good luck!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Go Ahead Teacher! Students are Eager!

By Anissa Ben Abdallah Ayari*

I won’t believe any teacher who would say, “I’m still on holiday”. School is ahead and our holidays are already over. Obviously we’re still home but mentally, we’re there, in class.
Worried! Anxious! Yes, we might be so. Excited! Impatient! True, we should be so. Busy! “Swamped”! Definitely, we have to be so. It’s all about the very “First Hour” of the school year “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Teachers, indeed, should give it attention, consideration, but above all, a careful preparation.
Because it has a vital and decisive role in the long run, teachers have to get ready with an attractive and a gripping first hour session. In order to keep your students “in” from the very start, keep in mind dear colleagues that you SHOULD:
  • Catch their attention
  • Surprise them
  • Involve them all whether they are high-achievers or not.
  • Show interest in what they are saying no matter how trivial it may be.
  • Give them the opportunity to reach you:
“The Authority of those who teach is always an obstacle in front of those who want to learn”
  • Be  kind to them.
  • Ask them but let them ask you
  • Let them answer your questions but answer theirs in return
  • Mingle with them
  • Smile
  • Make them feel that you’ll team up together to achieve success.
By experience, I’ve come to realize that by the end of such a session, students will step out the classroom feeling confident, safe, secure and READY to start a new year with all its “ups and downs”.
Unfortunately, this is not enough. Is it? Students need to “wake up” after a long sleepy holiday. They need to think, to refresh their memories, to speak because they’ve got a lot to talk about, to move, to discover their new “corner” for that new year, to interact to know each other.
In fact, practically speaking, teachers have to cater for all these needs and provide learners with the suitable activities selected and set beforehand. But the questions here are: How should I select the activities? What should be the basis on which I’ll prepare my First lesson of the year?
Teachers, indeed, have to consider 3 points to come out with” a perfect activity” to assure “a perfect start”:

  1. The School type (Primary, Prep or Sec. School...) which will determine the level and the age group your students belong to.
  2. The School place. It’ll help you best choose the topics that might interest the local students. A topic of interest in an area might be a kind of never-heard-of thing in another one.
  3. The “Ice” that may stand between the students themselves or the students and their teachers. Regardless of the fact that you’re an “old” teacher or not, you’re always a “new’ one on the first day to school. Whether they were in the same class the previous year or not, students are always “new comers” on that very day.
Actually Ice Breaker Activities are what teachers need to answer the above questions and to be well-equipped for the first hour of a new school year.

What is an Ice Breaker?: (n-count): It is something that someone says or does in order to make it easier for people have never met to talk together.

Why use them in class as first hour activities? Educators agree and emphasize the fact that Ice Breakers are worth using as effective and efficient starts for a new challenging school year for their multiple and various benefits.

I have done the tour of a multiple number of websites where I have found a multitude and a huge variety of Ice Breakers. Here is a compilation of the most used ones in EFL classes.

1-GET-TO-KNOW Each Other Interview:

It is a very good activity mainly for shy students who will find themselves in front of interviewers asking them very simple questions about: name, age…. Students will move around and interview each other to gather information that they’ll display later for the rest of the classmates. To make it easier for the students, the teacher may distribute The Interview worksheets. Here are some links that you can visit to download them for free:

2-Two Truths and A Lie:

Students are asked to write 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves. After introducing the 3 facts to the rest of the classmates and the teacher? It’s then up to them to identify the “Lie” . Funny, motivating and engaging all the students and even the teacher. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.

3-Dates and Events activity:

On a piece of paper students are asked to write 5 numbers. These should correspond to events in the learner/teacher life. It may be the number of brothers and sisters….. The teacher then asked the students to move around and ask each other questions (Yes/NO or WH questions) in order to find out the corresponding answers for the given dates or numbers. The teacher should start and model the activity so that it won’t be difficult for them to deal with it. They’ll be glad to share some personal things with classmates and teacher. It’s one of the activities that would bring the teacher closer to the students.

4-Find Someone Who:

It’s a game-like activity. Teachers give their students sheets of paper containing lists of various accomplishments, skills, success and any other kind of information. Then, they are asked to travel around the class looking for people who may fulfill the spots in their sheets. Very practical and effective to let students give interesting fact about one other.

5-A Two- Minute Mixer:

It is a good activity to enhance the students’ speaking skills. Students are allowed to mingle in the class and have a 2-minute chat with one another. No need to prepare things for this activity. Just let them do it spontaneously and it’ll work.

6-If you had A Magic Wand:

Let your students go beyond the class for this first session. What would they do if they had a magic wand? It is an activity to open their minds, tell you and the others about their dreams, energizes the whole group and triggers the learners’ curiosity to know more about their teacher or their classmates.

7-Three Words:

I’ve already talked above about surprising the students on that very first session. This is a perfect activity to impress your learners. Just ask them to write down 3 words that best describe them. Words may not come easily. So let them speak, ask each other, listen to each other. They’ll also ask you. You’ll be there, won’t you? Students will never forget these “magic “3 words and they’ll never forget each other’s 3 words till the end of the year.


I hope what I have collected will be of great help to all. I have also learnt a lot from it. To finish, I would like to add just one thing. Don’t forget to be early on that day. Actually you have to talk about discipline. It is very important to set some rules from the start. Finally, thank them for their attention and attendance. Getting through a lot of events in the beginning of a school year, students need to feel appreciated and welcomed back.
I wish a successful school year to all students, teachers, inspectors and everyone who is involved in the teaching field. Special thanks and wishes for my inspector and teacher Mr. Rachid Najar for his encouragement, help and support.

Useful links:

*Anissa Ben Abdallah Ayari is  a very active EFL teacher in Sidi Rzig Mongi Slim (Prep School). She's been teaching for 12 years now. When not teaching, Anissa is sharing links and tips with other EFL teachers from all over the world and sending posts to The Tunisian English Teaching Forum's group on Facebook and other teaching groups online. She is particularly interested in sharing ideas on how to genuinely and creatively motivate students.


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