First Day? No Problem!

The first day of an ESL/ESOL/EFL/ELL/ENL class can be intimidating for both teacher and student. However, it can be a LOT of fun. (I promise). Here are some of my favorite go to first-day activities: 


This is my FAVORITE. If time and resources allow, this activity is a quick way to do three very important things: 

1. Get your students talking and moving on day one. 

2. Get your students talking to EACH OTHER and hopefully feeling comfortable.

3. You get to know your students as LEARNERS, and have fun chatting and listening to your students. 

Students walk around adding answers to questions on posters & then chat about it with small groups. I personally love questions like, “A good student …”, “Something I’m good at is …”, “I like learning by …” (partner work, listening, talking, moving, pictures, quietly, alone). These types of questions allow you to understand a bit about your students as students. I always throw in a “fun” question like, “What’s your favorite food”. If students are from various backgrounds, this is a great way to get students sharing about their cultures. 

Get the full instructions and sample questions FREE on this website in RESOURCES or on TPT

Toilet-Paper Roll

If you have intermediate or higher students that already know how to write on their own, this is a great and FUNNY activity. 

As students walk in the door, I greet them, hold out a toilet paper roll, and ask them to take some. I do not tell them how much or how little. They can take as much as they want. The catch: when they sit down, they must write something about themselves on EACH piece of toilet paper they took. If students took one, they can simply write their name or one fact. Many students will have taken many pieces. I usually have them share with partners or groups, and then share one or two answers with the class (especially their name). 

Beginning Students / Low Language Level Conversations: 

The simplest way to start day one with low learners or zero learners (students new to English) is with a very basic introduction conversation. As the teacher, it’s very important to not use extra teacher talk on day one. It’s confusing and overwhelming for students. 

On the whiteboard: write a very simple conversation. 

A: Hello, I am __________. I am from ______________. 

B: Hello, __________. I am ___________. I am from ____________. 

A: Nice to meet you!

B: Nice to meet you!

As the teacher, model the conversation a few times before asking students to do the same. If possible, ask one student to model the conversation with you. 

Have students practice the conversation with a partner. I usually gauge the class and see how comfortable they are with moving around to other students. Once finished, I like to complete the conversation with each student around the room. Yes, this takes time. But remember that these students are learning English for their first time and this simple conversation is enough for one day. It’s also important to feel like you’ve learned their names, know where they’re from, and students can learn other student’s names/countries. 

If you know your students come from various countries or cities, I like to have a map on the projector for students to look at. Sometimes, country names are different. This allows students to understand more about each other. 

Usually, I like to try to say all student names by memory by the end of class. Depending on the size, you could ask other students to try as well.  

One tip: be careful with how much language you throw at students the first day! The “simplest” sentences contain a lot of grammar: 

Happy back-to-school or first-day-of-school! Don’t worry too much about having that perfect lesson. The most important thing is to smile, greet your students, and make them feel comfortable. 

Happy teaching! 

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