Back To School: Great Ideas for Activities to Kick off the School Year

Back To School
Great Ideas for Activities to Kick off the School Year

Claudia Pesce
by Claudia Pesce 24,225 views |

Anxious to get back to class?

Well, your students are probably anxious too. Since most don’t know you or their fellow classmates, you’ve probably got some great icebreakers and first day activities in store for them. If not, check out some of our latest Back to School worksheets. But the best way to eliminate all of this anxiety is to prepare some awesome activities for the entire first week of class to serve as a transition into the real work ahead. Also, bear in mind that in the first week you should take the time to get to know your students and their learning styles, but also review any essential grammar, structures, and vocabulary before you start teaching new things.

Vocabulary review – A game of Jeopardy

If you’ve never played a game of Jeopardy with your ESL students, you have no idea what you’re missing! It’s an incredibly flexible game, adaptable to any content, whether it is grammar or vocabulary that you wish to review or practice. In this case, we’ll see an example of how to create a game of Jeopardy to review basic vocabulary.

Setup:
Divide the chalkboard or whiteboard into 5 columns with 6 rows. On the first row choose a category for each column, for example: Fruits, Vegetables, Animals, Clothes, Colors; for the remaining rows give each box a certain number of points. It should look like this:

Fruits

Vegetables

Animals

Clothes

Colors

10 pts

10 pts

10 pts

10 pts

10 pts

20 pts

20 pts

20 pts

20 pts

20 pts

30 pts

30 pts

30 pts

30 pts

30 pts

40 pts

40 pts

40 pts

40 pts

40 pts

50 pts

50 pts

50 pts

50 pts

50 pts

Prepare 5 questions for each category. You may choose to do so in the Jeopardy format: I am red and I grow on trees. Answer: What is an apple? Or you may simply show them a flashcard and the student is required to name the item. As mentioned earlier this game is very flexible and may be adapted to all types of questions and answers.

Rules:
Students are divided into teams. Each team chooses a category and number of points they’d like to play for. If their answer is correct they get the number of points they are playing for, but if they are wrong the points are subtracted. So, the higher the points, the higher the stakes.

You may also choose to have the game in PowerPoint format, or on a piece of poster board, which you can laminate and reuse as many times as you want simply by sticking the names of different categories in the first row.

Grammar Review - Songs

Songs are a great, fun way to review specific verb tenses or structures, and something you can do with students of any age or level. Here are some wonderful worksheets that are ready to use:

“We are the champions” by Queen - students review the present perfect tense
“Have you ever” by Brandy – another great song for present perfect review
“Hey, Jude” by The Beatles – to review imperatives
“Lucky” by Britney Spears – to review the simple present tense

There are countless songs you may use to review structures, grammar, or vocabulary. Classic exercises are gap-filling, but you may also use them to spark a discussion or speaking activity. If you don’t have any of the songs in an audio file, you can easily find the videos on YouTube.

Speaking activities - What can you say about me?

Ask students to bring 5 or 6 things to class, including: a piece of identification (if possible, passport or driver's license); a family photo; a favorite book or magazine; a toy or collectible, etc... Bring some items of yours as well. Each student displays his or her items on the teacher's desk, and fellow classmates say whatever they can about the person's family, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc...

Guess who I am?

Put an assortment of celebrity pics in a bag or just their names; make sure that they are celebrities they all know. Each student draws one name or picture and the others have to ask questions to guess who it is. Questions must be yes or no, and the goal would be to review simple present questions: Do you live in the US? Do you sing? Do you dance? Etc...

Writing activities - Future predictions

To review simple future with will, future continuous, or any type of future tense, ask students to make some predictions for the end of the school year or course: By the time school ends, I will be taller. I will speak English better. I will have lots of great friends. Etc. Collect their writings and save till the last day of class. Students read their predictions and say whether they came true or not.

Board game - Conditionals

Make your own board game, laminate with contact paper, and use every time you wish to review a particular grammar point. On a large piece of poster board, draw a snaking path; divide the path into rectangular boxes; mark some special ones as “Go forward 2 steps” or “Move back two steps”. Once you have finished decorating, apply some contact paper over it. All you have to do is design a set of cards for each thing you want to review. Here's a suggestion to practice conditionals:

Make a set of cards that begin with the “if” clause: If I had a million dollars…; If I were a famous star…; If I lived in a foreign country...; etc. Students have to complete the sentence correctly to be able to roll the dice and advance in the game.

If you have any ideas for the first week of school, post them in the comments below. We'd love to hear them!

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