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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I Don’t Know an Interesting Fact About Myself

A while back, I did a workshop for teachers from the former Soviet Union and as a very quick icebreaker, I just asked everyone to say one interesting fact about themselves. The first teacher said, “My name is Elena and my interesting fact is that I am from Karaganda, Kazakhstan.” After that, the second teacher got up, said her name and told us where she was from. And so it continued. One teacher tried to say something fun about himself. I believe he said he liked going riding. However, the crowd quickly corrected him: “We’re saying where we are […]

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Creating a Classroom Community Builder

Here’s a nice article with a good set of questions for choosing and implementing classroom community builders or other icebreakers. I’m a big proponent of using these kinds of getting to know you activities. But I know you should definitely do them mindfully. This article is a great guide to choosing and using an icebreaker thoughtfully. Or if you’re like me, you love to create my own activities. In that case, this article is a great guide to creating a classroom community builder of your own. Questions to Consider Among the things to consider when creating a classroom community […]

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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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Ways to Make Me Laugh

Humor can be a powerful tool in the classroom. As I’ve written elsewhere before,  Humor plays a large role in my teaching. I use jokes to lighten the mood and make learning fun. I use self-deprecating humor so that students feel comfortable challenging me and so that they understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I use humorous stories to establish rapport. And I make silly skits and demonstrations of words or grammar points so that students will remember them. But humor is also different from culture to culture and from person to person. And while they […]

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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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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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