First Days of the New School Year

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
Perhaps the most profound words in this document occur right at the end of the first letter. Pete Brooks contends:  ďThe first weeks of the first year of foreign language learning can make or break a program.Ē  Iím not sure I know any FL teachers who would seriously dispute that.
A. Language Beginners
B. Can You Top This First Day? (Along with the FLTeach advice to aid survival.)
C. Second Year Students (and up).
D. Advanced Levels.
E. Generic Get Acquainted (With or without target language, itís up to your situation.)
F. Miscellaneous Tips For Getting the Year Started.
G. Resources.

A. Language Beginners

94/07 From-> "Frank B. \"Pete\" Brooks" <>
Subject: Jeffrey Turner/ First Day of School

I should think that there are many ways one could begin the school year
in beginning French and Spanish. I, for one, feel that Total Physical
Response activity is captivating. Learners quickly learn that they can
understand the language and follow directions. Of course, the directions
could be very novel things in addition to stand up, sit down, turn to
the left, turn to the right. Also, using simple maps to teach such
things as the cardinal directions could be incorporated as well.

Allow the learners to experience the language as much as possible in
ways that are not threatening. Coercing the students to repeat after you
may only serve to intimidate them.

Best of luck! The first weeks of the first year of foreign language
learning can make or break a program. It is arguably the most important
and influential time, the most critical time in a young learner's

Pete Brooks


94/07 From-> Zev bar-Lev
Subject: First Days

the first step, as mentioned, consists of several lessons (each lesson
in c.20 minutes at college/adult level, but e.g. a whole class at 8th
grade level or so) of asking for things, with "hello, goodbye, yes, no,
please, thanks" (and also the minimum needed articles, e.g. "the, a,
some") added one at a time along the way. all foods etc. given are
masculine (in french & spanish), for reasons to be mentioned.

the second step is "who is going" with "qui/quien" and "va" and several
masculine person nouns, followed by filling out this simple second
sentence- pattern with more masc. animates (including a couple of
animals) and intransitive verbs in 3p. sing.

masculines only are used to allow free combination of vocabulary without
grammatical error. thus, students speak grammatically, without having to
calculate gender etc. the selection provided has the psychological ease
of a pidgin or "telegraphic" speech of children, but NONE OF THEIR

this doesn't mean that students have an easy time speaking: they must
still overcome various "demons" like bashfulness, desire to be passive,
etc. but at least extracting out this simple selection that allows such
powerful initial speaking allows students and teacher to focus on
speaking itself, without the distraction of grammatical detail until
later. at this first stage, the focus can be on confidence, length, and
even creativity.

i have found that after as little as 15 hours, students can speak
confidently and creatively with a 100+ word generic vocabulary, and ARE
AT THAT POINT, absorbing grammatical categories into their speaking
abilities with little hesitation.

Zev bar-Lev

Subject: Re:  First Days

I like Zev's approach, giving some confidence and fluency first and then
moving on to grammatical challenges. It would be interesting to see a
controlled study of whether this hypothesis is right, that after gaining
some ease, students are ready for the grammatical categories.

I'd like this hypothesis to be right. It makes sense to start with the
intent of language -- communication -- and proceed from there to the
details, but I'm wondering how we might test it, and what a good test
would be. I can envision starting one class with substitution drills and
another with Zev's approach, and after 15 hours starting the drill class
on communicative exercises and the talking class on grammar.

After another 15 hours, what would constitute success? Fluent, errorless
speaking is an obvious winner, but which is second best -- halting
perfection or errorful fluency? To test Zev's idea (ready for grammar),
I think we'd have to look for a better grammar performance from the
talking class than from the drill class. That would be the toughest of
the targets, but would speak volumes about human learning.

Cindy H-G


95/09 From -> Beverly Maass <>
Subject: Spanish pronuncation idea

On the first or second day of a first Spanish year class I do an
activity that I call "Vowel Songs". First I teach the students the
sounds of the Spanish vowels--that the vowels say their own names: AH,
EH, EE, OH and OO (a, e, i, o, u). Then the students have to form groups
of 3 to 6 persons, decide on a song and put the sounds of the vowels to
music. They can choose any song, nursery rhyme with a tune or current
rock and roll tune, but they must sing 4 lines of the song using only
the 5 vowels sounds instead of the actual words of the tune. The sounds
can be in any order but all of them must be used. I always demonstrate
with "Row row row your boat".
My tune goes like this: ah, ah, ah, eh, ee and so on. Some of the
students like to write down the sounds look at as they sing. That is OK.
All of the students quickly learn the sounds of the 5 vowels which is
the key to good Spanish pronunciation.

Beverly Maass


95/09 From -> "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez (Cindy H-G)" <LHART@VMS1.GMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Spanish pronuncation idea

Beverly Maas has students create songs for the vowel sounds. When I was
a bilingual teacher (1st grade, so beginning reading) way back when, we
had a song, but I only remember some of the words.

A A A Mi gatito mal esta
Yo no se' si sanara' o si no se morira'
En el dia de la A A A

E E E Me gusta mucho el cafe'
Yo no se si tomare' o si no lo dejare'
En el dia de la E E E

I I I ... (?)

O O O ... (?)

U U U Una nin~a del Peru'
... se vistio' de Andaluz ...
En el dia de la U U U

We sang this song in preparation for the cartilla fonetica -- The
standard beginning reading "Mi mama me mima..." etc. certainly makes use
of the WYSIWYG feature of Spanish. If anyone could help me fill out the
song, it could be fun to "Go back to the beginning" the way real
Spanish-speaking children do. Alguien me puede ayudar?

Cindy H-G


96/04 From-> Susan George <>
Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans

>I am taking a graduate Foreign Language Methods Class. My project is
>writing detailed lesson plans for the first day and the first week of the
>semester as a future foreign language methods instructor. My students
>will be future foreign language teachers. I would appreciate any
>suggestions, ideas, advice you might have.
>Thanks. G. Sarroub

as a high school teacher, my 1st day, we do TPR: walk, stand, jump; and
include some classroom etiquette: open books, raise hand, etc. in my
master's methods class, we did the same thing, but in languages that
few, if any, of us knew: japanese, thai, former-yugoslavian. maybe you
have someone on campus who could teach you or come in and help. its good
for language teachers to remember what it feels like to be a beginner.

Susan George


96/06 From-> Randy Henley <>
Subject: Re: New Comers to teaching

Dear New Comers,

IHMO the first week of school is normally short, if you start either
before or after Labor Day.

I spend the first week teaching the Spanish sound system by reading
"cartillas". "Cartillas" in this sense refers to readers. The ones I use
are similar to "My First Dictionary" from Golden Books. A page per
letter, for example, A has a very large "A" and various words that begin
with A like, avion, ardilla, aranna, arco etc. I repeat the vowels many
times and run through the consonants a couple times overlapping from day
to day.

I also use an Amsco book called Spanish is Fun. I used it when teaching
6th grade. It goes from cognates, definite and indefinite articles
through more complex verb forms. Vocabulary themes like school, family,
places, prepositions, time, days and dates, numbers and the like. It is
also available in French. I like it because it is simple and allows the
students to be quite successful while learning very important basic

In my school, at least, not everyone is there for the first two weeks. I
prefer to start slowly; building speed as the students acquire
knowledge, vocabulary and proficiency they can build on.

Demographic information about where the language is spoken by how many
people and instructions and demonstrations on how to learn Fl are also
good activities.

The first two weeks is also a good time to establish and reinforce
classroom policies and procedures. If you do not have your policies and
procedures on paper yet, I would start there. You might also ask the
group for samples of theirs. Setting the tone for your room during this
time period is very important.

Randy Henley


97/08 From-> Deborah Blaz <>
Subject: Re: first week upper level activities

One thing I do is to organize them into Jigsaw groups, and give each a
grammar topic to review. They review as a group, then plan how they will
teach this, draw up a practice activity and a practice quiz PLUS three
test questions to submit to me. Then they jigsaw into groups with one
from each expert group, and take turns teaching each other the material.
This is particularly suited to advanced groups because THEY know what
they have forgotten and need to practice, versus when YOU review and
pretty much cover it all since you don't know where they are weak.
Students also listen better to each other, and actually enjoy the
review, rather than it being a dreary necessity. We spend half a block a
day for a week or so; during "my" half we begin a new grammar unit, a
new conversation unit, memorize a poem, learn a song, or whatever !!

Deborah Blaz


97/08 From-> Kathleen Turner <>
Subject: Re: New teacher and first days--help!

It is harder with the French I's... I pass out a list of French names
(longer than what is usually provided in a French I text). We look at
it, compare the French names to their English equivalents, if possible.
Then I have them pronounce all of the names to give them an idea of what
French sounds like. They then choose a name which will become their
identity in French class for the rest of the year (I never call students
by their American names). They learn how to introduce themselves. Then
they do the "picnic game" with the names. First kid: My name is Jacques.
Second kid: His name is Jacques, my name is Philippe. Etc. I teach the
basic greetings and then have them all get up, shake each other's hand,
introduce themselves to each other. Then I pick on a few kids to do a
quick skit in front of the class.

I also have the French I's brainstorm about the reasons to study another
language. (They could write the reasons on pieces of paper and post them
on the walls of the room). I also ask why they chose French in
particular (esp. since so many kids are choosing Spanish!). Then in
groups I have them try to come up with a list of as many places as
possible where French is spoken. The groups compare answers, I help
round out the lists, and then we locate the places on a big map of the
world. (I have always stopped at this point, but I was just thinking
that you could assign one country to each student, and he/she would be
responsible for finding out some pertinent info about it to share with
the class. I know that this would have to be in English at this level,
but I think that familiarizing them with geography is important!).

Kathleen Turner


97/08 From-> Dana Thacker <>
Subject: Re: first week/80minute block/HELP


80 minutes is great! You can do about 3 activities in a class, or you
can go more in depth with simple ones. ... I suggest interactive group
activities. ... Some the students can make themselves .... My favorite
is for each group of 4 to make a set of 'cards' for the card game,
"Memory".. Each person in the group makes 4 pairs of cards.. For level I,
I ask them to write a question on one card, and the answer on another
card.. If each person in the group does this, there is a set of 32
'cards'...Then they can play the game....

You will adjust...
Dana Thacker


97/08 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: New teacher and first days--help!

One problem that you face, if your situation is anything like ours, is
that there will be about a week of "drop and add". Kids will leave, and
new ones will come in. If you do some things during this first week that
they have to know to do the second week's work, kids coming in at that
time will be unable to do it, and you'll just have to start over again.
I think that this is a good time to do something which is worthwhile,
but not critical in a sequential sense.

Today was our first full day with the kids. I always start the first
year kids with a lesson over the Roman Empire and draw a map to show how
Latin spread across Iberia, Gaule, Dalmatia, etc. Then I put up some
cognates in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Latin (I don't know any
Rumanian) to show the relationships which exist between the "children"
of Latin. I explain how Latin evolved differently, due at least in part
to the different native languages spoken by the residents of the areas
that the Romans conquered, and I explain that the modern languages are
the evolution of the Latin spoken by the soldiers, not the senators back
in Rome. Contrasts such as "equus" vs "cavallus" and so forth help make
the point. I compare it to the spread of English in VietNam during the
60's and 70's, showing how the local people pick up the language of the
powerful and the rich to do business with them, (restaurants, bars,
hotels, etc.) Another good comparison is "Hogan's Heroes", the TV show
which is still rerun in syndication from time to time. I point out that
Col. Klenck, "Frenchie", all of them speak English, but it sounds
different because of the native language.

Then we start a general discussion of what language is (words,
"particles", sequence--word order, ) and how you can't just take
word-for-word translations from the dictionary and produce a good
sentence which natives are comfortable with. (I give it to you-- vs I to
you it give--in Spanish). I try to get them to see that patterns are as
important as the words themselves (The dog bit John vs John bit the
dog----same words but different meaning). Without knowing the pattern,
you can have the right words, but the meaning is confused.
I was knocked out of my socks today when my middle son, 15 years old,
who is now in my first year class as a freshman, said to me that it was
actually a lot more interesting that he thought that it would be. Thank
you God!

I'll start the sequenced stuff next week when I'm pretty sure that
everyone is there who is going to be there. Also, I'd wait till then to
pass out books, workbooks, etc. so that you don't have to chase around
getting them back from someone who drops after 3 days. I know that this
sounds like "filling time", but with the drop and add thing, I think
that this is one time that it makes sense, and you can do things that
won't be critical to sequence, but are still good learning activities,
background, etc. and worthwhile.

Richard Lee


97/08 From-> Susan Shelby <>
Subject: Re: FrI/first week/80minute block/HELP

I have 75 minute classes (French I also) and this is what I'm planning
for the first two days (rough draft in my head at this point!):

Day one: BOMBARD THEM WITH FRENCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Teach Bonjour, comment t'appelles-tu? je m'appelle, ca va and a few
answers Have them choose French names. Create mini dialogues.

Okay. Now to English so they don't cry. I'm going to ask them why they
have chosen a foreign language and what they expect to get from knowing
a foreign language? Then... introduce the 5 C's of Foreign Language

 Culture, Communication, Contributions, Communities, and Connections

We'll brainstorm how these relate to foreign language learning. Go over
course syllabus.

Day two:
Review all the French material
Review the 5 c's:
Divide the class into 5 groups and assign each group one of the c's.
Tell them that they are presenting to the board of education about the
importance of foreign language learning. They will present the 5 c's.
They need to create a poster which includes:
Their c term with a correct and complete definition 3 examples of how it
relates to foreign language learning (French, specifically)
3 visuals to represent their c term

I've never done this before...............we'll see how it goes.

Susan Shelby


97/08 From-> Susan Shelby <>
Subject: level one intro :)

I just finished the first week with my students (7th and 8th grade) and
am feeling better about this year than I have ever felt before! I teach
French I...they take the first half of it in 7th grade and the second
half in 8th grade. The classes meet every other day for 75 minutes. I
absolutely blew them away (and myself, too) by speaking at least 60
minutes of pure French to them on the very first day! And this was to
the very beginning students!

They were a little lost at times, but they kept with me and picked up
many new vocabulary words. As a matter of fact, after the second day of
almost total French, I asked them to give me some words that I didn't
"teach" them (for example, I taught them things like hello, how are you,
I'm fine, what's your name, etc), and they came up with about 50 words
that they knew: Parlez means speak.. ecoutez means listen...etc. Of
course, they didn't know how to spell them, but I didn't care! I know
most of you are probably going "whoopdy doo for you Susan" but I feel
really really incredible about this experience. They were hanging on
every word and didn't have any time for misbehaving!

A good strategy I used with my 8th graders was this: I had my students
come in the room saying "I don't remember a thing from last year!" and
of course I just kept talking in French. I put a simple paragraph up on
the overhead...about 15 sentences. It was a biographical paragraph about
a girl...her name, age, where she lived, adjectives that described her,
her family, what she likes, etc. I gave them one minute to read the

Then, all in French, I asked them to give me one word from the
paragraph. They gave me words like "blonde, aime, au foot, mon, prefere"
etc. After they gave me all the words they could remember (they got a
list of about 30, and I let them give me words like "un" and "le" also.)
I told them (all in French) that they had to choose a word from the list
and use it in a complete sentence to tell something from the paragraph.
For example, the paragraph read, "Je m'appelle Micheline et j'habite a
Quebec." They picked the word "appelle" and had to change it to "Elle
s'appelle Micheline." That's all...or the more advance students tried to
pick three or four words to use together. It went really well.

Susan Shelby


97/10 From-> Nona Brady <n9520042@HONEYDEW.CC.WWU.EDU>
Subject: Re: How do I teach Spanish exploratory

Buenos Dias!

And that is how I begin lesson one of exploratory Spanish. I conduct the
entire exploration in Spanish and it is usually three or four classes
before students figure out that I do know English, too.

I greet the class in Spanish and help them respond correctly to my
greeting. We repeat the greeting three or four times before we move into
the first lesson.

Most of my first class gets taken up with students choosing Spanish
names, but the first lesson is greetings.

I begin with three pictures representing Buenos Dias, Buenas tardes and
Buenas noches. I show the pictures and say the appropriate greeting
several times (until the class choruses the correct greeting after me).
Next, I put the pictures up in different parts of the room and ask the
students to point to Buenas tardes, buenas noches, buenos dias. They do
this several times until they have about 90% accuracy.

Then I hold up a picture (or go stand next to it) and ask, Es este
Buenos dias? They answer as a group with si or no. This exercise
continues until we have 90-95% accuracy.

If there is still time left in the hour, I have students stand and tell
them to walk to one or another of the pictures. When I have the whole
class up, I walk around and greet each group. They respond (sometimes
without prompting!) to me and I tell them to sit down again.

I am teaching an exploratory with elementary school children (after
school) twice a week now. I use a lot of TPR, group responses and
pointing. No one is forced to speak before they are ready. All of them
understand a lot of spanish, even if they cannot produce it.

I think the All Spanish approach is really important in the exploratory.
Even if they can't use it, they can see its validity.

Nona Brady

B. Can You Top This First Day? (Along with the FLTeach advice to aid survival.)

97/08 From-> Megan Horn <>
Subject: First day

Ok, imagine this. I'm a student teacher with a fabulous co-operative
teacher. Tomorrow is our first day with the students. My co-op calls me
and tells me he has to miss tomorrow because of a vital doctorís
appointment (emergency). The sub will not speak Spanish. He wants me to
teach all day. We didn't really have anything set up. He teaches Spanish
1-4. I need some uncomplicated games to do the first day of class. With
mostly the intro levels because I'm already going to do the activity
with the 3 momentos in a bag with the 3 and 4 students (that I found on
the list-thanks!). I'm so nervous I feel like throwing up. Please help.

Talk about learning fast and on your feet! I'll be reading this tomorrow
around 5 am, so if you read this before then and have any ideas, let me
know. Thanks a lot and thanks to the powers that be for this list!!!

Megan Horn


97/08 From-> Kathryn Mary Bartholomew <>
Subject: Re: First day


You can do this, and do this well. You have been learning, you are
committed to this vocation (which is vastly rewarding), the students
will be (momentarily) more self-conscious than you. It may or may not
help you to know that most of us, who have been teaching for years,
still have anxiety dreams just before the beginning of school. The trick
is to use the butterflies in your stomach to help you fly.

Your students will need to get to know each other after the summer. The
list has had great ideas about having people write down one thing they
don't mind sharing with others, then having them pull them out of a hat,
find a match, or whatever. Check the archives.

Often, though, kids will really want to know who you are, and why you
have chosen this career. Some may be looking for a match with their own
inclinations. Once you have established the fact that most everything
will happen in Spanish, and that you are *more than ready* to handle any
challenge, a Q&A session, in Spanish as much as possible, could be good.

Kathryn Mary Bartholomew


97/08 From-> "P.C. McCann" <>
Subject: Re: First day

OK, Megan. Here is one of my favorite activities. Great because it can
be customized to any class...

You, the artist and teacher, create a stick figure drawing including any
objects, people or activities that are within the knowledge base of the
class. Make it into a real scene, but with simple design.

Xerox enough for the class.

At the beginning of the activity, select a "victim" and send him/her to
the board, facing the board. Distribute the drawings to the rest of the
class, asking them to keep it hidden from the vcitim. Go around the room
in order or randomly, asking each student to give one instruction in the
target language that will help the victim re-create the drawing (on the
board) that the victim cannot see himself. Students may correct errors
if the drawer has misplaced or misunderstood an instruction. Make sure
each student speaks at least once, and that clues are only verbal and in
the target language. No hand gestures or English allowed!

You will have to decide whether to allow dictionaries, or whether to
give hints yourself. You may also want to do things like set a
frame(outline) on the board, and review words like corner, middle,
background, directional prepositions( in front, etc.) Since our school
tries to maintain total immersion, this has worked well as a method of
reinforcing practical vocabulary. I love to use it as a 15 min activity
at the end of an extended block. The kids become pretty engaged...and
I'm no longer the center of attention.

The nice part is that you can control the content of the picture. You
can reinforce old vocab, introduce new vocab, or just have fun.

Hope you have time to do the drawing at 5AM. Enjoy! PCM

P.C. McCann


97/08 From-> Megan Horn <>
Subject: All by myself

Thanks to all who sent me wonderful ideas for my first day as teacher!
It went very well. The students were all great (except for one and I
think he's just like that) and the day went off without a hitch. I felt
like a real teacher! Unfortunately, my co-op just found out that now he
isn't allowed to work for the next three days. So I'm on my own (with
substitute). More ideas would be helpful!!! I have to teach commands to
one class and was thinking of doing TPR. Does this work for a whole 43
minute period? I was thinking of verbally teaching commands (TPR) and
then writing on the board the conjugations and reviewing. Any
suggestions (once again, before 5 am)? Well, thank you all so much for
the support, the ideas and the rest.

Megan Horn

C. Second Year Students (and up).

95/09 From -> Carla Gilmore <>
Subject: Beginning of the year activity

Came across what I think is a good activity to get kids quickly
reacquainted with the target language after several months of an English
only summer. Seems to work for all languages so I will post it for all
and hope some of you might find it useful. I intend to use if in my
Spanish 2 classes the first day as part of my lesson (the other being
devoted to the usual paper work).

The teacher first divides the students into groups of 4-- their level of
proficiency is not important at this point since every one will be
rusty. The students are given a piece of paper with two concentric
circles (an inner and outer circle) drawn on the page. The teacher then
explains that he/she wants the students to discover 6 topics of interest
(determined by the teacher and depending on the level of the class)
which they all share in common. Examples might be where they went, who
they say, what they expect to learn in the class, favorite likes,
dislikes etc.) These are written in the inner circle. (All students must
agree that they all went to the same place, or hope to learn the same
thing, like the same thing etc).

Then, each student must make a statement about something which they feel
is unique to themselves. (example. I went to Costa Rica.) No one else
went to Costa Rica so I can write this down in the outer circle under my
name.. Someone else might say they went to Mexico. However, if someone
else in the group went to Mexico, they can not write this under their
name. Each person must state and then write down something unique until
each student has 6 things which are unique to him/her. The next day,
after the still interminable paper work, the students may report out to
the class the experiences which they shared in common as well as the one
most interesting thing each discovered about another.

Obviously I haven't used this yet but it seemed great for an initial
lesson--the kids will be reviewing, getting to know each other,
speaking, etc. My reward is a class of kids speaking the target language
( or trying to) while I get through the usual beginning hassles we all
experience. Also, I plan to pick up the papers for a grade--focusing on
the verbs they chose to use--vocabulary--etc. and since this is a group
effort, they will be able to use each other for accuracy. Hope it works!
The other nice thing is that they will have some immediate feedback
since I will only have 8-9 papers to grade per class rather than the 35
per class if I had given them the traditional "What did you do this
summer essay" type of question.

Carla Gilmore


95/09 From -> Laura Kimoto    <>
Subject: Re: First day of classes 102

Edwin asked about an icebreaker / review language activity that can be
used on the first day of a language 102 class. Well, I usually make it a
point that all students get to know their classmates. You could set-up a
short interview to be done in pairs. As a pre-activity, have students
generate questions and answer formats that they can use. When students
do the activity, give them a time limit, tell them that they must report
back to everyone (either as a short intro of their new partner or in
writing, if you prefer, to be handed in the next class)--this makes them
accountable. Then, specify that they pair up with someone they've never
spoken to before.

If you and your students prefer a whole class activity, something like
"Find Someone..." might be good. You need to make a grid of perhaps 16
squares on a piece of paper, then fill it in with descriptions such as
"Someone who likes X kind of music," "someone who has been to X
country," etc. (You can adjust the descriptions to match the structures
that your students (should) know). Make copies and have students go
around the classroom asking appropriate questions to find someone who
fits that description and getting the other person's name. Don't forget
to go over those structures in your pre-activity. Students can also
review communicative strategies such as "Could you repeat that?" "How do
you spell that?" etc.

Laura Kimoto


95/09 From -> Craig Nickisch <>
Subject: Re: First day of classes

>an idea for an FL activity to do with students who already know some
>language (in a 102 class or beyond) on the first day of classes? I'm looking
>for something to help them break the ice as well as start to use the language
>again that many of them have forgotten over the summer?

Great. 'Got an idea - see below.

>Did you do anything that worked this fall?

That's a loaded question... :)

You might try this: Have every student select a friend (hunka beefcake?,
sweet young thang?) :) Then take as much time as you find appropriate
for them [in the target language, of course] to find out all they can
about their friend - and on the next attendance(s), you ask for some
(all, if you have the time) of them to introduce that friend to the
class. They might even be found meeting between classes, getting their
introductions prepared.

A side benefit - you learn about the students, too. Herzlichst,
Craig Nickisch


96/04 From-> Sandy McAnallen <>
Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans

There are lots of ways to teach foreign language. To hold interest,
though, one must keep it interesting and FUN. I have found games to be
the best bet to hold interest. At least one lesson should include a
review of an introduced vocabulary. The following procedure has been
quite successful in my Spanish classes.

Using 3X5 cards write each vocabulary word one for English and one for
Spanish. (have these laminated for future use) Apply a small magnet to
the back of each card (these magnets can be purchased in rolls from any
craft shop) and you can cut off pieces as large or small as you need)

Pass out these cards to all students so each has at least one if not

One by one call up the students to the front of the room to translate
the cards to Spanish or English (depending on the card they have) Help
them at this time with pronunciation. Include class participation by
having all class repeat pronunciation of Spanish word. The student will
then place them on the board (or other magnetic surface)

When all of the cards have been applied to the board (or other magnetic
surface) call two students up to the board in a contest to find the word
that you say (If you call out "lapmz", they must find "pencil") The
student who finds the correct translation first and takes it off the
board is the winner, keeps the card and faces a new opponent. Play this
until the end of a given time period. The winner is the student in
possession of the most cards.

Sandy McAnallen


96/08 From-> Kathy Wickline <>
Subject: Opening exercises

As September is just around the corner, I'm trying to come up with some
new opening exercises that take ten to fifteen minutes. Although I teach
German, I have given all the examples in English hoping others can

Here are some of my favorites:

1. TPR using the grammar or vocabulary that we're currently studying.

2. Sentence Scramble-Two teams with every team member having at least
one card.  Both teams have the same cards. I call out a sentence in
English and the students race to assemble the sentence.

3. Rating exercises: The numbers 1-10 are placed on the floor in a row
with space in between the numbers. I read a statement and the students
place themselves in between the numbers according to their feelings. If
they are advanced, I ask why they feel that way.

4. Cartoons that students read and translate. Then I try to relate them
to their lives or the chapters.

5. Win, Lose, or Draw in pairs. Within the pairs students are given
either list A or list B with about ten words. I call off a number and
the student A draws while student B guesses. Then the roles reverse. By
playing in pairs, the wait time between words is less.

6. Signature search. I call off ten words and the students write how
they feel about each topic. For example, I say "pizza" and the student
writes "I like pizza with cheese." Then they ask other students in the
room how they feel about the topic: "Do you like pizza with cheese?"
When they find someone who agrees with them, the person signs their
papers. Ten different names must be on the sheet.

Kathy Wickline


96/08 From-> James May <>
Subject: Re: Opening exercises

An activity you can do on the first or second day with a class that does
not know you well (but obviously not with a first-year class) is to give
students ten questions about yourself with possible multiple-choice
answers in the target language. For example, 1. I was born in.... + four
possible answers, one of which is correct

The students will of course not know the correct answer but they can
guess since they won't be graded. The teacher can then tell the students
the correct answers. This a good activity for getting to know the
teacher, and most students will find this type of exercise interesting.

James May


97/08 From-> Dana Thacker <>
Subject: Re: First day

A quick game... ¡HOLA!.....
Each student says a number...(uno, dos...) If the number is 3, has a
three in it, (i.e. 13) or is divisible by 3..the student should
say..._¡HOLA!..(1st student.. uno, 2nd student.. dos, 3rd
student...¡HOLA!..4th student cinco..) Try to see how high the class can
go.. This game is good in those last 3 minutes before the bell rings....I
hope you still have your wits about you by that time, but if you do, you
can send them out with some numbers on their minds.....

Dana Thacker

D. Advanced Levels.

95/09 From -> Jody A Krupski <>
Subject: Re: First day of classes

I have a couple of ideas that I use to begin the school year. The first
one you will need to save until next year if it appeals to you. The last
day of the school year I give my level 3 students my home address and an
envelope. I tell them that they need to write me a letter, in French,
telling my about what they have done so far and what they are planning
for the remainder of the summer. I usually tell them to mail the letter
by July 4, but the only real requirement is that the letter reach my
home before the first day of school.

If I am planning a summer trip to France I tell them to get the letter
to me before the departure date and I will send them a postcard from
Paris. Anyway, when I have received all of the letters I write questions
such as; Who went to Colorado with their grandparents? When did Laura
and her family go to Disney World? Who said they had a fantastic summer?
etc. I tape the letters all over the walls of my classroom, run off a
copy of the questions to match the letters and let them discover what
has been going on for all of us over the summer months. I usually limit
answers to names, or phrases - this is a vocabulary builder, not a
grammar review.

The questions are written in French and I do not correct any grammar
errors on the letters I receive. They walk around the room and read
their classmates letters and write down answers - so spread out the
letters. I tell the students when I give them the assignment that this
is their first grade for the next year and they will receive an "A"
simply if they do it. I also answer every letter in French and sometimes
give them a message of something I want them to bring or do for first
day of school in the letter. We have enjoyed this activity and it
generates a lot of discussion .

I have had level 3 or 2 students fill out a "carte d'identite" the first
day of class. Again the emphasis is on vocabulary review and not on
grammar - so most answers are lists of words or phrases. After filling
out their own ID card information they hand the card to a classmate who
then introduces them to the class. Surprisingly enough they do a great
job of putting their thoughts into complete sentences naturally. I do
not have them write any of the introduction down, they just ad lib while
looking at the paper. Some of the questions are: name, age, height,
weight, date of birth, place of birth, best qualities, faults, favorite
activities, least favorite activities, physical characteristics,
nationality etc.

Jody A Krupski


95/09 From -> Madeline Bishop <>
Subject: First week of classes

Here's an activity for the first homework assignment, the first day of
class in a 4th year level (could work for 3rd, too.) It will result in a
bulletin board game for the rest of your students:

Give each 4th year student three pieces of blank paper. Tell them to
label the papers June, July and August. At home, they are to illustrate
each paper to show an event or activity they enjoyed during that month.
On the back of each paper they write a descriptive sentence (in the
past, remind them.) Students can used photos (most desired) or a drawing
or a magazine picture to illustrate the event or activity.

On the second day of class, each student stands in front of the class
with his/her pictures, but it is the other students of the class who try
to guess from the picture what the picture-presenter did that month.
(Since the whole class is contributing, no one feel less self-concious
about speaking "rusty" language after a summer vacation.)

When every student has presented, have each one choose a picture they
really like and hand it in. These will be the bulletin board pictures.
Before you put them up, type out the descriptive phrases from the back
of the pictures as the written half of a matching "test". Create a
bulletin board "On s'amuse en été" (or something more creative) and
install the pictures, each labeled with a different letter. On Friday,
pass out the "test" (game) to the other classes and see how long it
takes for them to match up the pictures to the sentences.

You can also use this activity after Christmas or spring break. : - )

Madeline Bishop


95/09 From -> Connie Vargas <>
Subject: Re: First day of classes

Jody Krupski wrote about students writing to her over the summer and she
would send them postcard from Paris. I wrote to a different student each
(different) day during the summer I spent in Merida. They brought the
post cards, read them and had to reconstruct my summer vacation. Of
course what I wrote about was pictured on each card so that added the
visual dimension. It was great fun.

Connie Vargas


97/08 From->  Cherice Montgomery   <>
Subject: First week upper level activities

Hola! I'm sure that you've all heard the saying, "Don't undertake vast
projects with half-vast ideas." Well, I have and now I need some help! I
will be teaching levels III, IV, and V for the first time this year. I
have some basic plans for the year as a whole, but while creating them,
I neglected to think about the first few weeks of school!

Now that crunch time is approaching, I realize that I don't feel that I
really know how to BEGIN the year with advanced students. Can anyone
help by giving me some examples of the things that they do with their
upper levels during the first two or three weeks of school? I would also
appreciate an outline of where you go from there (or at least what unit
you start with after those initial weeks). Although I know that you all
are very busy right now, ANY suggestions would be appreciated!
(Fortunately, I won't have students until after Labor Day, so I still
have some time to prepare). If this has already been discussed and I
missed it--please point me to the appropriate topic in the archives.

Cherice Montgomery


97/08 From-> George Watson
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities


At levels III and V, I take the first two days to1) go over my room
management plan (which is required of all teachers at my school) and 2)
do an icebreaker activity to get the students speaking the target
language. I use a grid with 25 cues in English such as "attended a rock
concert". Students must circulate and ask their peers about their summer
vacation: ?Asitiste a un concierto de rock?" If a peer answers
affirmatively, he/she must sign that block. When a student has acquired
a signature from everyone in the class, including myself, they must turn
in their sheet to me and sit down. I then ask individual students about
what they did, using the info provided me on the sheets. For example:
Juan, ?como fue el concierto de Arrowsmith? ?Con quien fuiste? ?Que
canciones toco la banda? ?Cual fue tu favorita?, etc. Starting with the
third day, I go right into the lesson. Spanish III: Review chapter in
Spanish for Mastery, 3, Spanish V H: el drama "Esta noche es la vispera"
and Spanish VAP: la novela "Nada menos que todo un hombre". Before the
Spanish V students actually read at home, I would do a brainstorming
activity on the title or one of the themes of the work, etc. I do think
it is important to delve right into the curriculum which your dept. has
established; i.e., that you don't delay the learning of new material.
Otherwise, students get the message that this is going to be an easy
course which does not require a lot of work.

George Watson


97/08 From->
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities

In my Spanish IV classes I begin the year with review, only the kids
teach the review topics. I find out how many will be in the class and
come up with that many topics. We review present tense, preterit,
imperfect, future, ser vs. estar, personal a, anything they covered in
levels I, II, III. They are required to explain it like it's never been
taught before and provide a handout with at least 20 sentences. We do
about 3 presentations a day and the handouts are required homework.
Their handout is due the day before their presentation so I can correct
it, type it up, and run it off. They are given a grade for their handout
based on accuracy and a different grade for their presentation. They
must use the blackboard and give at least 3 sentences for translation to
be corrected in class using their topic. Why should I stand up and
reteach everything? Plus I have used many of their handouts in levels I
& II when I'm just introducing the material. We begin classes the Tues.
after labor day. Their presentations begin the following week Tuesday.
For the first 5 days of class we do interviews, dialogs, etc. just to
get to know one another.

Susan Weirich


97/08 From-> Mary E Young <>
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities

Well, Cherice, if nobody every got any "half-vast" [;-) ;-) ;-) ] ideas
there would be very few vast projects, I think.

This class could probably benefit from lots of oral mixing and
teambuilding activities. That will help kids begin to feel comfortable
talking in front of each other, even though they may feel awkward at
first around higher (or lower) level students.

There are lots of such activities. These take less than one class
period. One takes 2 days:

1. List questions for them to ask each other and get signatures. Limit
the number of times a person can sign another person's page.  ex. Find
someone who has not seen Lost World.
Find someone who traveled more than 300 miles from here. Find someone
wearing more than 5 colors. These can of course be geared to your and
your students' tastes.

2. Same thing in a 5x5 grid. You can give prizes for various
configurations (full, left-diagonal, vertical, checkerboard, etc.)

3. (This takes a lot of preparation) Cut out pictures of various
recognizable places in the world/your area. You will need 1 per person
or 1 per dyad. Glue them to 5x8 index cards. On the back, in the L2,
write a brief postcard "Having a great time..." message that gives a
clue or two to what is in the picture. Put them in a logical order and
add a plausible date to the message. (July 1 in Barcelona, July 2 in
Madrid, July 3 in Gibraltar...). Pass them out and tell the kids that
you received these postcards from (whoever signed them--same person for
all) but there is a problem. She has lost her itinerary and is trying to
finish her travel diary, and she forgot where she was on which days.
Help her reconstruct her itinerary.
They will figure out what place is represented in the picture, mingle
with others to find out the correct order of the cards, then line up in
chronological order. The feedback is for them to identify where she was
on their date and orally trace her itinerary.
You could get feedback by asking questions, or you could have them
report out to the class and follow up with a quiz using those questions.

On what date was she in Madrid?
In what city did she find La Sagrada Familia? Where did she celebrate
July 4?

4. You can organize them into role-play/activity teams by using the
family identity game that has been described here earlier. For advanced
students you could let them come up with the identities (names,
professions, personality quirks, situational problems etc.) Your
preliminary grouping could be as simple as preparing 4 cards that say
the same group configuration:

Form a group of 2 boys and 2 girls [4 of these] Form a group of 3 girls
and 1 boy [4 of these] (etc.)

Scramble them to hand them out. Color code the cards, for male and
female so you hand out that first set above to 2 boys and 2 girls!

5. I like African Introductions. The tradition is that it is considered
bad manners to talk about yourself and your accomplishments in this
"society," but the group wants to know about you. You will be given the
name of someone in the group. Your job is to find out all you can about
that person and present him to the rest of us. The trouble is, you can't
ask him directly. You must get your information by talking to other
people who know him.This could be good for cross-class mixing. The "bad
manners" could be asking someone to his face about his life. I'm not
clear on this and maybe someone out there knows. In any case, you can
choose the one you prefer, and make it an imaginary society. (I don't
know if this is a culturally correct bit of information or something
invented for this activity.)

6. An easy no-prep mixer is to hand out 3x5 cards or slips of paper.
Decide on 4 or 5 questions they could answer that would reveal something
about themselves, such as,

If I could live anywhere in the world it would be... The person I would
most like to meet and spend a day with is... My idea of a really fun
Saturday is to... If you call me at home I will probably be busy
[doing...] 15 years from now you will find me ...(profession, place,

On the board write the questions in a configuration with one question in
each corner. Direct them to write their name in large letters in the
middle of the 3x5 card, then write the answers to the questions in the
same corner of their card as the corner on the board where the question
is written.
Turn them loose to find out about each other. An interesting follow-up
(based on Louis Mangione's forced choice activity, which is based on the
"corners" activity) might be to call out a question and have them
organize themselves into groups of similar answers. When they are in
groups have them justify their grouping decision by identifying the
criterion they have in common.
You could extend this categorization/grouping into a role play--have
them enact whatever it is they have on the card.

7. "Corners" can be used in lower levels, too. Give 4 parts of a topic
(winter, spring, summer, fall; [preferred activities] sports, music,
computers, shopping; [film preferences] comedies, science fiction/space,
romance, action, etc.) Identify each corner of the room as representing
each of the 4 parts of a topic. Call out the parts and have them get up
and go to the appropriate corner and stand there. For an advanced class,
once they are there you can have them prepare some pantomime with dialog
appropriate to the category, and the others can guess what is going on.

ex. Say, Paul, how are the slopes?
They're great! I'm going back up right now. Is the snow good?
Yes, it's a deep powder.

The others would guess: "It's winter," "They are skiing" or "They're at
a ski resort"... You can put whatever requirements on this you prefer.

8. People Hunt. Prepare a list of information questions that help you
get to know the respondent:

What did you do this summer that you are really proud of? What is your
favorite ice cream flavor?
Where do you like to go with your family? ...with your friends?
What do you think is the most important thing you can do in life? etc.

Number the questions and post them on large paper (or run them off).
Have students write their answers, their name at the top, and hand them
in. That night (or while they are doing another activity in class
without you) compile the information as follows:
Go through the papers and circle the unique answers (if everybody says
they like Disneyland, and one says the Grand Canyon, circle the Grand
Canyon...) Make sure you have something circled on each student's paper.
Take a copy of the questions and write the response and the name of the
person after each question (so your page has a class member's name after
each question, along with their response.)
Then go through and prepare a set of questions like this: Who climbed
Mt. McKinley?_________________ (proud of) Who likes Cherries Garcia by
Ben & Jerry? _______________ (ice cream)
Who likes to go with the family to Banff? __________________ Who likes
to go to the waterslide with friends? ______________ Who thinks it's
important to work with handicapped adults? _________

Put them into teams of 3 - 6. Assign one to be a spy, one to be the
spokesman, and one to record. Give each team one copy of the "Who
-questions" list (or have these numbered and posted). Their job is to
figure out which of their classmates is the answer to each question.
They will know the ones where they are the answers, and they can guess
at many others. If they are stuck, the spy can get up and go to another
group. She can only ask a yes-no question. Their spokesman will answer
(only yes or no), and she can take the information back to her group.
You can limit the number of questions asked per visit to another team,
if you like, or you can encourage them to speak, depending on what you
You'll be busy making sure they are in the L2.

At the end of the time, check the answers together. Have the person
stand and answer questions from the class about the item, if the class
is small enough and you have time. Or, allow time for them to write (on
a slip of paper) questions they would like to ask that person. These
could be collected and become a writing assignment--highly

9. Hand out some of those L2 children's books you've been collecting and
have groups of 3 (+) read the book and prepare a skit to present to the

10. Have kids form groups based on movies they have seen -- or TV shows.
You could have them list their movies and you could form the groups, if
you prefer. Once in groups have them prepare a scene from the movie to
act out. Have the rest of the class try to figure out what movie it is
from. They could discuss in their groups and write the answer on a slip
of paper, quiz-style. One quiz paper per group so it will require some
negotiating. Do not record this quiz score in the gradebook, but use it
for some prize or privilege for the group. Or for team points, if you
are doing that.

11. Deferred Instruction. Form groups of 3 or 4. Send one from each
group out of the room. Tell a story to those in the room. Bring back the
"outstanding" group members. The group must retell the story to the one
who was out. (You can use an egg-timer or bell and have them trade
speakers every 30 seconds or so.) Then give a quiz to be taken only by
the person who was out of the room. The team gets the score earned by
the test taker. Again, use the points for something other than the

12. To Tell the Truth (50's gameshow). Have each person write down
something unusual that has happened to them or that they have done.
Collect them. Go through them and pick one. Have that person and two
others step outside with you for a minute. Have the person who did it
brief everyone on what happened. Bring them back in. Introduce the event
by saying, "One of these people [did whatever it says]" Then each person
introduces himself by name and says, "I, Stu Dent, [did whatever it
says]" and "I, Sally Smith, [did whatever it says]" (You get the
Then the class asks questions, taking turns, of the three people. They
will try to determine which one really did it, and which are lying.
At the end, ask "Raise your hand if you think Stu (did whatever it
says]?" Count the votes for each person. If the class guessed who was
telling the truth, the class gets a point. If the players stumped the
class, the players get a point.

That's a dozen, and I'm wearing out. There are certainly more...not to
mention short extended role-plays, group projects such as
newspapers/magazines, questionnaires, surveys, interviews, etc.

Mary E Young


97/08 From-> Stephanie Campbell <>
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities

Something fun to do the first day of an upper level language class
(staying in the target language at all times) is to welcome the students
to period whatever, and to art class (or any other subject in which you
could teach a lesson).

Act VERY surprised to see that ALL of their counselors have erroneously
indicated that this is supposed to be a Spanish/French etc. class, and
INSIST (in the target language) that this is an ART class (or science,
or cooking, or whatever). Then proceed to teach a lesson in that

Stephanie Campbell


97/08 From-> Shari Kaulig
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities

I believe someone on this list offered this idea last summer. My level
4-AP students enjoyed it so much that I am repeating it with this year's
group.  Thanks to whomever originated this!

Each student is assigned to bring 3 items of personal significance to
class in a plain paper bag. Most of mine brought jewelry, photos, ticket
stubs, or other small items. This was assigned on day 1 and was the
activity for day 2 of class. We push the desks back and sit on the floor
in a large circle.

Each student in turn shares items with the class and explains in the
target language why they are significant. At the end, I give a short,
ungraded quiz. Who brought the photo of a dog? Why was Julie's ring
important to her? What did John bring?, etc.

My students tell me that, although we do oral activities all year, they
never really get to know each other. This breaks the ice right at the
beginning and really lowers that affective level.
Many of them are very nervous about attempting their first AP class, and
it helped me learn names very quickly as well!

Shari Kaulig


97/08 From-> Monica Dahlberg <>
Subject: Re: First week upper level activities

>Each student is assigned to bring 3 items of personal significance to class
>in a plain paper bag. Most of mine brought jewelry, photos, ticket stubs, or
>other small items. This was assigned on day 1 and was the activity for day
>2 of class. We push the desks back and sit on the floor in a large circle.
>Each student in turn shares items with the class and explains in the target
>language why they are significant.

I have done an activity similar to this called "My life in a bag". My
second and third level French classes have both done it, and they really
like getting to see all the personal stuff that people bring in. Of
course I start by showing them my "life in a bag", which they get a big
kick out of.

Monica Dahlberg


97/08 From-> Kathleen Turner <>
Subject: Re: New teacher and first days--help!

I am a 4th year French teacher. During the opening days of school I have
my 3rd and 4th year students interview me about my summer, to get them
to review question words and the past tense (and they learn a little bit
about me). Then I pair them up (randomly) and have them interview each
other about their summer vacations. Finally, they have to write a
composition about what the other person did.

Last year I xeroxed a couple of pages of advertisements from a French
magazine (or newspaper?). There were tvs, radios, coffee makers, vacuum
cleaners etc. with their prices. On a separate piece of paper I wrote
down a list of short clues and questions - ex. Marie really likes to
keep her room clean. What could she buy? And then the students would
find a product that she could buy and tell how much it costs. The
students could do this either orally or in writing... This gets them
thinking about the language again, practicing/reviewing their big
numbers, and looking at realia.

Kathleen Turner


97/09 From-> "Jean C. Williams" <>
Subject: Re: First week activities/Upper level activities

1. My House of Windows. The students, on poster board, create windows
that represent how they are. It is important that they realize you are
not looking for what they are, rather who they are. They can then
present their house to the class orally, write it up for you, write it
up and post it with the visual so others can walk around and read it, do
the same as the latter but distribute it to students and have students
walk around and find the poster that goes with the write up. You will
find lots about the students. For example, a student of mine did one
with her windows in a straw hut. She said that she did a straw hut
because she appeared more fragile than she is. She had a window with
clocks where she said that she is a punctual person and that time is

She said there is never enough time to do all that is needed. Her window
that reflected a green relaxing park represented her naturalism, her
freedom, her connection with the outside. There were other windows. I
require the students have at least 6 or 7 windows. Another student had
windows in a brick wall with some bricks missing. the missing bricks
represent that he is not yet complete, there is still learning and
development to take place. The wall ran out with sometimes pieces of
windows showing, because no one including himself never sees everything
or every potential. One window had a shade pulled down with the shape of
the person showing because of he is a mysterious person. The eyes
peeking through the venetian blinds represented his sense of curiosity.
He had about ten other windows. There was another student who had two
pieces board together with all windows closed with shutters and a cut
out door that was closed but could be opened. It represented the
outside. She didn't let many people get to know her but once she did
(flip the front poster board over) they saw who she really was. These
are just a couple to give you an idea.

2. The Road of My life. The students made posters that represented their
life, practicing/reviewing past, present and future tenses. They had to
have a step for every year in their age plus two additional. If they
didn't remember or know anything about their life when they were three
they could double up else where. The extra two were for the future. The
maps were interesting. Some strait. Some windy, some with detours and
side roads. The written copy could not be used in the presentation to
the class. They could only rely on the visual images they had used to
illustrate the map. Some were elaborately drawn, some used photographs,
other pictures from the magazine, some stick figures, some mixed media.
They could read because i wanted to see their speaking and presentation
skills not their reading. I wanted to see them function in the lanquage.
I didn't want a reading grade although I have had them practice reading
the descriptions while in lab.

Jean Carolyn


97/11 From-> dan <>
Subject: Re: First day activities

>What are some fun activities that a foreign language teacher can plan for
>the first day of school? My area of study is Italian Secondary Education
>but all responses are welcomed.

I, too, was perplexed by the same question until I read an interesting
article in The Russian Language Journal, "Uchim russkomy legko i veselo"
by Irena Nemchonok (lecturer in Russian) and Victor Peppard (assistant
professor of Russian). The authors suggested that an appropriate
"starting point" would be a lesson totally devoted to the target
culture, incorporating elements of geography and history. By giving
special attention to cities, historical events and figures (composers,
authors, poets, artists, etc.) that are familiar to the students, the
authors believe you will be able to gain the students attention and
spark their interest. Realia such as maps, pictures, recordings, etc.,
will be invaluable in helping you accomplish this task.

Daniel Simpson

E. Generic Get Acquainted (With or without target language, itís up to your situation.)

96/04 From-> Karen Nerpouni <>
Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans

Whether it's the first day of my French classes or the opening of a
workshop I'm giving for teachers, one of my favorite activities is a
human bingo. It helps me learn about who is in my class. For my high
school students, I put expressions in each box such as : has two
sisters, was born in New York, loves to ski, speaks a language other
than French or English... Students circulate and ask each other the
questions in the target language. Do you have two sisters? etc. If the
person responds in the affirmative, his/her name can be written in the
box. Even when someone calls bingo, I have them continue until I call
time and the person with the most boxes filled is also a winner. I then
ask about who they found in each category. This activity helps me learn
about my students' interest and also has them review basic expressions
in French.

For adults, I gear the boxes to the theme of my workshop. It helps me
learn who my audience is. Of course, we do it in English. They might
have to find someone who uses scoring rubrics or has students keep
portfolios or teaches at the junior high level. When I go over the
answers with the whole group, I get a good sense of what knowledge the
participants bring to the session. You might be able to use some
variation of this with your methods class. Good luck!

Karen Nerpouni


96/08 From-> Rebecca Block <>
Subject: creative activities for opening days

Reading all the postings this summer has kept me thinking about
September probably more than I care too! Anyway, I'm trying to think of
some creative activities for the opening days of school. In the past I
have had students interview each other in pairs and present that person
to the rest of the class.

Sometimes I just go around the room and each person has to introduce
him/herself and say something about what he/she likes to do, his/her
interests, summer vacation experiences, etc. I would like to have an
activity planned that involves speaking and one in which kids get up and
move around the room. Any ideas? What does everyone else do?

Normally, I hand out books and get right to work immediately. The level
of my classes are intermediate to advanced high school. Also, I'm amazed
at how many are singing/dancing/doing the Macarena. I love the song, but
I don't see myself dancing in front of my students. Maybe I can practice
this month.

Rebecca Block


96/08 From-> "Matinga E. Ragatz" <>
Subject: Re: creative activities for opening days

Here are some corny yet effective 1st week ideas:


student 1 faces the class and tell his name (first name) and one
outrageous (or normal) thing he likes (sushi, basketball, running,
egging houses, etc)eg. "My name is Andrew and I like girls". Student 2
faces the class and tells her name and one outrageous thing she likes
and then introduces student 1; eg. "my name is Terry and I like
sushi...That (pointing at student 1) is Andrew and he likes girls..".
Student 3 introduces himself and his likes and then introduces student 1
and 2. eg. "My name is Marty and I like hockey...That is Terry and she
likes sushi..and that is Andrew and he likes girls" etc, etc.. Students
love this one!! They get to know everyone's first name to start with and
it is a good ice breaker because the students come up with real
outrageous stuff. Students are allowed to help each other a bit to
lessen the pressure but pay close attention because they will want you
to do it too.

Make a date:
(activity for week 2 or 3 or when roster is pretty much complete) Xerox
copies of a clock on regular size paper (one per student). Make sure
that the clock takes up the whole page and that there is room to write
names under every number.
Give students the clocks and tell them that they have 60 seconds to go
around the classroom making "dates" with other students for every hour.

Student 1: "are you free at 3:00?"
Student 2: "no, but I am free at 8:00. Are you free at 8:00? Student 1:
"yes I am".. Cool what's you name?

Then student 1 writes the name of student 2 under the 8:00 on his clock
and student 2 writes the name of student 1 on her 8:00 slot and then
they both move on.

(this can be done later, again, but in the target language)

-Students must have a date with a different person every hour (therefore
12 dates)
-No repeats
-Extra credit points (be generous...this first time around) for students
who complete their clock.
-After the 60 seconds are over, assist students who have not completed
their clocks (or give them a bit more time) -Make sure that every
student understands the game before you start

Have students save their clocks!!! This is really cool because at
anytime you need them to get in pairs, you can say.. "get together with
your 5:00 date.." assuring that with every time on the clock, students
will take turns working with a different student etc.

P.S: You may want to stand on a chair or something because it gets
pretty rowdy!!

Matinga E. Ragatz


96/08 From-> "Richard E. Daugherty" <>
Subject: Re: creative activities for opening days

One activity that has been fun for me and the kids (and helps us get to
know one another quicker) is what I call the "Me Bag" activity. each
person, myself included, places 3 things that have some significance to
the individual inside a bag and brings it to class. We then sit in a
circle, introduce ourselves and explain the items in our bags as we show
them one by one. The items are then returned to the bag at the
completion of the circle. A second (or third) round is then made in
which each person has to name one other person, state something in
his/her bag, and tell why it is there. If correct, then the item is
removed from the bag again and placed on the desk in front of the
student. Students like this and I do too. I generally "grade" this by
noting participation in my book. This then transfers to a "floating
hundred" which the student can use at any time--to replace a low quiz
score, to replace a forgotten homework assignment, etc. I generally find
that students are very protective of this grade and try to avoid having
to use it up. For me this gets everything off to a pleasant, meaningful,
positive start. Feedback?

Richard E. Daugherty


96/08 From-> "Patricia A. Kessler"  <>
Subject: Creative Ideas for Beginning of School

One idea I like to use for the early days of classes is to create a grid
(number of spaces up to you) in which you write in the TL things such
as: plays tennis, saw "Independence Day" this summer, traveled to a
foreign country, plays in the school band, has three brothers and
sisters, etc. with enough different items to fill the grid. The grids
are copied and handed out to the students who are given a set amount of
time to go around the room trying to find someone who fits the
description in one of the grids. They then find out that person's name
and write it in the grid. I tell them they can only use each person one
time in a square. After the set amount of time is up students should
have most of the squares completed. You can use this as a springboard
for conversation about the different items, plus students now know a
little about each other and may find someone in class with similar

Another item similar to the clock date listed recently is to create a
page from a "datebook" calendar with enough spaces for each person in
the class. Students go around the room in the same manner, making dates,
but when they are finished they have a separate date with each class
member. When you want to put students into pairs you now have enough
different combinations so that somewhere along the way every student has
the opportunity to work with every other student in the class. It is a
good idea to have a master schedule of your own so that when students
"forget" their datebook forms you have at your fingertips the names of
all pairs for each time.
 Patricia A. Kessler


96/08 From-> Sue Alice Shay <>
Subject: icebreaker

I'm forwarding this ice-breaker idea from an English teacher friend of

No matter what the age, do this icebreak, 2nd or 3rd day, doesn't

Directions: Pass out recycled paper, or whatever ever. "Write a secret
about yourself, something most people don't know about you, but that you
wouldn't mind people knowing. (Give examples: I have 5 Dobermans; I am a
belly dancer; I play conga drums, I have new white shoes, etc.) After
all are ready, say, "Now fold this into your best flying airplane." When
all are ready (they love doing the planes) move half the kids to one
side of the room, the other half to the other side. At a signal, all
must fly their planes, pick up a plane, fly it; i.e. keep the planes in
the air for several minutes. YOU DO IT ,TOO, Very important you
participate in this.

"Stop. Now pick up ONE airplane and seek until you find who wrote it.
Learn their name and sit down. This year's variation that worked very
well. they ask the person how they spent most of their time this summer,
highpoint of their summer, and the best movie they saw this summer. Then
I called the names in alphabetical order, the person introduced their
"find" and told what they'd learned. ALL WERE ATTENTIVE AND VERY
INTERESTED. Several day's later I had them sharing some homework essays
and they had to read theirs then call on the person they'd introduced
the first day. Very good as it reinforced learning a new person's name
and identity. Total buy-in.

Sue Alice Shay

F. Miscellaneous Tips For Getting the Year Started.

97/08 From-> Julianne Baird <>
Subject: Tips to start the school year

Another school year is soon approaching. What are some of your tips to
help manage the paper load, give you more time, have better classroom
control etc.?

Here are a few that I would recommend:

1) write out the students' names on little pieces of Stick-It Notes.
Arrange the names on a piece of paper and put the paper in a plastic
sheet protector. You have a seating chart usable for the entire year.
When you need to move a few students or the entire class, simply
reposition the Stick-It Notes. You'll only have to write out the names
once per year

2) I used the method above until I installed a publishing program on my
computer at school. I draw my desks and basic seating arrangement with
squares. I then add text squares to each "desk." I type the students'
names in each text frame. When I need to change seats, I simply move the
text frame. It is quick to print and substitutes appreciate being able
to read the students' names.

I sometimes use half an index card with the students' names to call on
people for different exercises. However, I noticed that once a student
answered, he or she shut down knowing that it was unlikely to be called
on again. I changed that by making 2 cards for each student. It is
possible for 1 student to be called on twice in one exercise. It keeps
them more focused.

For all those papers I am supposed to keep and do something with, I keep
a tickle file (It tickles my memory). I have a thin portable plastic
filing case with file folders labeled for each month and also 1 through
31. At the beginning of the school year when I get a list of field trip
participants for Oktober, I put the list in the Oktober folder. Anything
papers that need to be dealt with in the current month, are placed not
in the month folder, but in the date folder, i.e. a report due August
26, is placed in folder #26. At the end of each month, I open up the
next month's folder and arrange the papers according to their due date.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it is not and it has helped me
tremendously. I *appear* very organized.

On my desk I have 2 paper baskets. Instead of an IN and OUT basket. I
have a TODAY and THIS WEEK basket. When a paper comes in that doesn't
fit my tickle file, I place it in one of the two baskets. Before I leave
I try to take care of everything in the TODAY basket. By the end of the
week, I try to take care of everything in my THIS WEEK basket.

I'd like to hear other teachers' ideas. FL teachers seem to have a lot
more paperwork and organizational needs than teachers in other
disciplines. How do you handle everything.


P.S. I'm off to the Storytelling workshop in Lake Tahoe. I'll be back
Monday after a long restful weekend! :-)


97/08 From-> Beth Damascus  <>
Subject: Becoming a fl student again - long

Julianne Baird just listed some ideas for beginning the school year a
bit less frantically. I'd like to add my two cents, but with a different
twist. I'd like to share a little about my experience in Spain - in
particular - my experience in the two week class that I took. The
"students" in this class were all fl teachers of Spanish, like myself.
We were studying Catalan - a language with some similarities to Spanish
and some similarities to French!  Well, the most important thing that I
learned during those two weeks (or should I say - the most important
thing that I RE-LEARNED ) was how it feels to be a student in a foreign
language class during the first days of class! WHAT AN EYEOPENER!!!!
They say that teachers make the worst students - well we weren't the
worst students - just probably the most hyper and the most anxious! I
won't go into all the details of the class, but here are some things
that I became acutely aware of during my experience.

1) Students need to feel COMFORTABLE in order to learn a fl. A certain
amount of frustration is natural, but when the frustration reaches a
certain level, the tendency is to shut down... then nothing gets
through, even the simplest concepts. (There were times when my
frustration level was so intense that I thought I was mentally
deficient! I didn't remember having such a hard time learning Spanish in
high school - was it just old age kicking in during my two weeks in

2) Students need LOTS of THINK and LISTENING time before they're able to
produce verbally. They need to hear the same word, phrase, etc. over and
over MANY times before they "learn" it. Songs help ALOT! Get students
singing, or humming, or mentally following the melody and words in their
head, and suddently things begin to click. Paired oral practice, with
the teacher taking the time to listen carefully to each student and help
with pronunciation, makes a difference.

3) Give students opportunities to shine in the areas in which they are
the most comfortable - it will boost their confidence. Have the students
TALK about their strong points, their frustrations, their study habits,
their anxieties. LISTEN to them and make adjustments as necessary. This
doesn't mean that the students "take control" of the class... in our
class, we were a bit frustrated because we weren't given as much time to
speak, practice oral conversations, etc as we had anticipated. We let
the professor know that our reading comprehension wasn't a problem, but
if we had to produce something by ourselves without reference to the
written text, we would be lost. She made an adjustment on our final...
we were given a written article (with lots of dates, names of places,
trivia stuff) to read the night before. The day of the final, we were
able to have the article out in front of us in order to answer questions
about it's content. (This was NOT the complete final - there WERE other
parts!). By making this one adjustment, many of us felt more confident
taking the final, and it helped us to relax.

4) Some homework can be turned into "games". Every day part of our
homework was a little "contest" to see who could produce the "most" of
something. The directions (for example) for one night's "contest" were:
make a list of words in castellano that begin with "LL" and the
equivalent in catalan that begins with "CL". The next day in class, the
person with the longest list received some little prize... a poster, a
book, an article in catalan, etc., etc. Personally, I enjoyed this part
of the homework. Another assignment was to find names of businesses in
catalan (not proper names). I plan to incorporate this into my classes
this year. (i.e. For the first or second day of class for level I
students - make a list cities in the U.S. with Spanish names and the
English equivalents of the names) Any suggestions for assignments? I
don't think I'll be able to do it every night (I'll go broke getting
"prizes") - but hopefully two or three times a week.

5) Give the students some slack once in awhile. Know that there are
students who truly ARE studying and working their hardest, but are
struggling - give them the benefit of the doubt. This question came up
in regards to written work... When DO we ignore spelling errors
(translate: not "take off points" for them). There's a fine line between
making students accountable for their spelling and grammar, and the
issue of comprehension - we have to decide what to focus on at different
points in time. If the message can be understood, do we always need to
grade spelling and grammar? ( I have a difficult time with this myself -
I tend to be a perfectionist... this class was a very humbling
experience for me!)

6) Remember that some students feel very intimidated by others in the
class who have had previous background in the language. There were
teachers in my class who teach both French and Spanish... to me they had
an advantage because Catalan looks and sounds a lot like French. I found
myself in the same position, and saying the same things, that some of MY
students say.... again, I was put into my students shoes - what an
experience! Fact of the matter is - those who teach French were
struggling just as much as I was - but in MY MIND it was "easier" for

7) Step back once in awhile. Take yourself out of the role as teacher.
Put yourself into the role of one of your students. Try to feel what
they are feeling... it will make a big difference! LISTEN to your
students - filter through the whiners and sympathize with those who have
legitimate "complaints". I've found this to be the most valuable lesson
I learned while taking the course. We DID learn a lot of Catalan, but we
also learned, I believe, how to be better language teachers!

Beth Damascus

G. Resources.

Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans for college FL Methods Class

>I am taking a graduate Foreign Language Methods Class. My project is
>writing detailed lesson plans for the first day and the first week of the semester
>as a future foreign language methods instructor. My students will be future
>foreign language teachers. I would appreciate any suggestions, ideas, advice
>you might have. Thanks.

Another suggestion for your first day/week of the FL methods course is
to ascertain the level of SLA knowledge your charges have and get them
thinking about formulating their own philosophy of FL teaching and
learning. It is often surprising/amazing/disturbing what those who are
about to become our FL colleagues hold as FL truths, what myths they buy
into, etc. One way to get an idea of their beliefs is to use the BALLI,
a survey designed by Elaine Horwitz in the 1980s--I think it is in the
MLJ around 1985 or so. Lightbown and Spada also have a much shorter
survey/list of myths in their 1993 book _How Languages Are Learned_.
Both of these instruments yield quite interesting results and generate
good discussion--a good point of departure for those aiming to become FL

Jean W. LeLoup


96/04 From-> "Linda J. Emanuel" <>
Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week Lesson Plans

As a Day One activity in my FL Methods class, I have had students
reflect on their own experience as learners and identify the techniques,
approaches, etc. that they recall as being most effective or that their
"best" teachers used.

Very often, the things they recall after years have elapsed are those
that involved active learning, hands-on, etc...As you note their ideas
on the board, transparency, etc...that pattern emerges and it serves as
an excellent intro to a proficiency-based methods course. You can often
refer to it as the semester goes on as well.

Barbara Wing has written some excellent things on the subject of the FL
Methods course, e.g.,

"Practicing What We Preach: Process and Proficiency in the Foreign
Language Methodology Course," Northeast Conference Newsletter 36 (1994?)

"The Pedagogical Imperative in Foreign Language Teacher Education," in
Developing Language Teachers for a Changing World, Ed. G. Guntermann, in
the ACTFL Foreign Language Education Series from National Textbook
Company, Lincolnwood, IL. (pages 159-86)

Linda J. Emanuel


Subject: Re: 1st Day/1st Week lesson plans for college FL Methods Class

>I read your response regarding the interesting survey from How Languages are
>learned. Can you tell me who publishes the book and is it by Lightbown y Spada?
>I wasn't sure of the first author's spelling. Thanks!

The book is published by Oxford University Press, and the first author
is Patsy Lightbown (NOT lightbrown as is sometimes thought). Nina Spada
is the other author.

Jean W. LeLoup


96/06 From-> Mary Ann Dellinger <>
Subject: Re: First day smilers

Harry Wong's "First Days of School".

Mary Ann Dellinger


96/08--> From: Mary Young   <>
Subject: First Days

In _The First Days of School_ Harry Wong recommends teaching class
routines and laying them out step by step for the kids--routines for
entering the classroom, passing in papers, class rules, exiting the
classroom, etc. You make a poster and handouts of the procedures, teach
them to the kids, model them, and rehearse them. When a kids messes up
you have him/her stop, go back and do it over correctly. I always expect
14 year-olds to be able to do that on their own, but there are always a
few who are not and who make it miserable for the rest.

He has lots of good class management ideas that are good for new
teachers and experienced teachers. He may have saved my 6th period
French I class. I've got everything very structured now and it seems to
help a lot. (It's $29.95, available in school supply stores or Harry K.
Wong Publications, 1030 W. Maude Ave., Ste. 507, Sunnyvale, CA 94086.)

Barbara Snyder says to change the students' work mode every 5 minutes:
you give instructions and model an activity (5 min), they DO the
activity (5 minutes, no more), get feedback on the activity (up to 5
min), then on to another type of activity--maybe writing or reading this
time, etc. She offers lots of good activity ideas in her workshop, and
she's very inspiring.

But the thing that helps me the most is to make sure I've had enough
*sleep* and exercise so I can deal with their energy level by that time
of day.

Mary Young

Our contributors are:

Mary Young
Jean Williams
Kathy Wickline
Susan Weirich
George Watson
Connie Vargas
Kathleen Turner
Dana Thacker
Daniel Simpson
Susan Shelby
Sue Alice Shay
Matinga Ragatz
Karen Nerpouni
Craig Nickisch
Cherice Montgomery
P.C. McMann
Sandy McAnallen
James May
Beverly Maass
Zev bar-Lev
Jean LeLoup
Richard Lee
Jody Krupski
Laura Kimoto
Patricia Kessler
Shari Kaulig
Megan Horn
Randy Henley
Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez
Carla Gilmore
Susan George
Linda Emanuel
Mary Ann Dellinger
Richard E. Daugherty
Beth Damascus
Monica Dahlberg
Stephanie Campbell
Pete Brooks
Nona Brady
Rebecca Block
Deborah Blaz
Madeline Bishop
Kathryn Bartholomew
Julianne Baird


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