Back to School Tips

This is one of my most popular posts, so I like to repost it every August as we get ready for back to school time. Of course, this tips here are applicable to any classroom, not just school. I collected most of these ideas as I was working on my book 50 Activities for the First Day of School. I always love learning from others, so please do feel free to add your own advice, tips, tricks or first day hacks in the comments! Back to School with Style Write your name and your students’ names down. Fast-paced activities […]

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How to Pronounce Your Students’ Names

You’ll never be able to pronounce my name,” the student from Uzbekistan said. Little did she know I had lived in Kazakhstan for several years and the two languages are very similar. Nor was her name really all that difficult, just long. “Is it Zulfizar Abduraimova (not her real name)?”I pronounced her name fairly well, I think. She was floored. It was a small thing, pronouncing a student’s name correctly. It had extra impact because you don’t see a lot of Uzbek students in the US and it’s not a popular destination for Americans, either. Of all the English […]

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What Do They Know About You?

Why do I recommend a Get-to-Know-the-Teacher activity on the first day of class? I remember the first time I was grilled by a new class. I was teaching middle-schoolers in a public school in Kazakhstan and many of them had never seen an American before. I started the class off with a little orientation speech about class expectations and so on. A hand went up. I called on the student who asked, “What’s your favorite NBA team?” I said I wasn’t a big basketball fan, and the class exploded. “I thought you were American. All Americans love basketball.” “We watch […]

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First Day of Class Tips

I usually update this post in August to get ready for the back to school season. But that first day of class after winter break feels a lot like the first day of school sometimes. And it’s a great time to think about building community again and reminding students how to be in a classroom. Plus sometimes we really have forgotten their names over the break. So here’s some general tips and tricks for getting through that first day. Please feel free to add your own advice, tips, tricks or first day hacks in the comments! Write your name […]

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Icebreakers on the Second Day, Teaching Today

I just want to pass along this great point about icebreakers from the book Voices of Experience: How Teachers Manage Student-Centered ESL Classes by Janet Giannotti: It should also be noted that some teachers do not use an icebreaker in the first class. Some icebreakers may seem like games, and we don’t want our students to think they enrolled in our class to play games. Instead many teachers use the first class for diagnostic testing and save an icebreaker for the second day. Interestingly, I also got a similar piece of feedback from a well-known author who kindly gave […]

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build rapport with students

Can We Measure Rapport?

We all know we’re supposed to build rapport with our students. But what are the concrete steps we can take to do that? What exactly do we mean by rapport? Is it something we can measure concretely? As it happens, the answer is yes This article, The Importance of Establishing Rapport with Your Students, aims to demonstrate how rapport benefits learning. However to do that, the authors had to measure behaviors that build classroom community. In other words, they had to break  down rapport into specific behaviors. As a teacher,  you can use their scale backwards to build classroom community with […]

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Classroom Community Builders and Ice-Breakers

On this page, we’re collecting some great resources for icebreakers and rapport, particularly useful back to school activities and articles to build community and get your students and classroom ready to work hard, show respect, and learn well. This includes research on the importance of building rapport. But, we’ll also share quick classroom tips and tricks. We’ve even got some great icebreaker or warm up activities here. Keep coming back as we update this page regularly. Got a link you want to share? Send it in. Classroom Tips for Building Rapport It’s Not Them, It’s You: Why Students Don’t Pay Attention And How To […]

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