Bonus Round – More Activities for the First Day of Class

Let's make this a colorful and resourceful ESL Carnival! (Photo by Striking Photography - CC License)

The next ESL Blog Carnival will be hosted by Eva Buyuksimkesyan (@evab2001 on Twitter) in her wonderful blog  “A Journey in TEFL“, and it will have as a theme Warmers and Fillers for the First Day of Class, since most teachers are starting a new academic term/year soon.

I shared some activities I did on my first classes for the term that I have just started on a recent post (“A Post About Firsts“), but there are so many other activities I have used over the many years I’ve been teaching, I decided I should share some of those in another post. 🙂 So here we are!

1) The Profile:

You start this activity by asking the students what does the word profile mean. They may come up with many definitions or just one of them.  If they don’t come up with both, the teacher can elicit or explain – it depends a lot on the students’ language level. I find 2 of them essential for this activity.

The first essential definitions is:  “An outline of something (especially a human face as seen from one side)”. The second is: “Biographical sketch” , or information about a person, to give an idea of the person’s personality and life.

After the 2 definitions have been shared, the teacher explains they will do their profiles – in more than one way. The teacher should then proceed to model what students will be expected to do. Get a big piece of blank paper (I usually use A3-sized white paper), stick it to a wall and give a volunteer student a marker. The teacher should place her face on the paper sideways and ask the student with the marker to use it to outline the teacher’s profile on the paper. The profiles always look funny!

Give each student a big piece of paper and a colored marker and have them pair up and outline each other’s profiles. When you have all the papers with profiles (including the teacher’s!) stuck to the walls around the classroom, tell students they should write questions on everybody else’s papers, around the outlined profile. These questions can be just short ones (such as School? or Hobbies?) or complete questions – it’s up to the teacher to decide. Personally I like the short ones, because it gives more space for the student to elaborate on the topic/question). I usually play some background music at this point too, to set a cheerful, happy vibe. The students then go around the classroom, writing questions on all the papers but their own.

After all the profile papers have been filled with questions, the teacher should once again serve as a model, take her own paper down and use it to talk about herself by answering the questions written in it. The, ask the students to take their papers down and introduce themselves.

I find this activity to be fun and allow students to ask whatever they would like to know about the teacher and their classmates. It also works for both groups of students who haven’t studied together before and groups who have been together for some time – they can ask things they don’t know about each other. As a follow-up the teacher can ask students to use the profile paper as basis for a written bio.

2) Getting to Know Each Other With Candy:

Colored candy in exchange for bits and pieces about the students! (Photo by Oh_Savannah - CC license)

Before the class starts, the teacher should have a bowl of candy somewhere of easy access to the students. It’s important that the candy come in different colors – at least 4. I usually use M&Ms for this, leaving a stack of plastic cups (the ones normally used for coffee) next to the bowl and a spoon in the bowl. As the students starts coming into the classroom, the teacher tells them to treat themselves to the bowl, but to wait before they eat – the students should take as much candy as they want, but should wait for the teacher’s permission before eating them.

After everybody has taken some candy and sat down, the teacher should then put up a poster with the color/information equivalence. Each color of candy (or each type of candy) corresponds to one type of information. For instance, the equivalence can be something like:

  • Green: Something about my educational background
  • Red: Something about my family
  • Blue: Something about my likes and dislikes
  • Yellow: Something about my objectives & future plans

 Then the students should take turns and say something about themselves for each piece of candy they have taken, according to the color they have. There is a variation of this activity using a roll of toilet paper, where students take as much as they want and they have to give one piece of information about themselves for each piece of toilet paper they have.

3) Fill in The (Funny) Blanks

Before the lesson, the teacher should prepare a poster (or word document if a projector is available) with a little bio about her. But the text should be funny – important, key information should be substituted by crazy things. Here’s an example:

My name is Cecilia, and I am 104 years old. I have 2 bunnies: Gabriela is 10 and Felipe is 6. I have been teaching juggling for 35 years. In my free time I like jumping off airplanes and jumping around on one foot. I don’t like eating books but I love eating butterflies. (…)

Then ask students to get together with another student (or pair them up if you prefer) and tell them they should discuss and decide which bits from the bio are not true and come up with what they think are the correct words to substitute them with.

After a few minutes the teacher asks students to share what they think and gradually give them the correct information about herself.

These are some of the first day activities I have used – and still do. I hope you enjoyed them! And as usual I’d love to hear any feedback if you use them or adapt them.

Wishing everyone great first classes and a wonderful new term! 🙂

30 comments on “Bonus Round – More Activities for the First Day of Class

  1. Hey Ceci, thank you for great ideas (once again)!
    I’ve used the ‘Getting to know each other with Candy’ and students love it. I’ve never used the Profile activity. It’s great for breaking the ice and letting students use language they know to make/answer questions. I like the fact that it can be easily adapted to different levels.
    I really liked the Fill in the (funny) blanks one. Great to get to know each other and make students predict the answers.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Edu!

      Yeah…. I guess you cna say I have a knack for funny, informal activities, that take away the formality of the classroom from the very first class. It’s important for my students they understand I am their teacher, but they should feel at ease with me, they feel comfortable. Besides, this kind of activity helps break the ice more easily – I think. I also like showing the students there are many moments where things will be serious and focused, but that we can learn a lot with fun activities, sometimes even better than more serious, traditional ones. By having fun they lower their defense walls and learning is easier – and hopefully more lasting 😉
      Thanks for the feedback!


  2. ah… you’re bribing ’em with candy ! And a fine job it is. Liked the profile idea too. I always started off the semester w/ new students with an activity where they had to find a person who “had ridden a horse” “doesn’t eat meat” “has never been to McDonald’s” a list of 15 silly ones like this, and then there were always ton of giggles. Ice-breakers !

    • Candy is cheaper than pens or pencils with “I’ve got the best teacher in the world” engraved 😛 I’ve also taken students to the kitchen (we have a kitchen-classroom) for the occasional cookie or brownie baking – when they’re nice to me…

      Like you, I like setting the funny, informal tone on the first day of class. Why doesn’t that surprise me when I think of you teaching???
      Cheers B!

    • seburnt says:

      Did anyone find people who’d done them? 😉

  3. Delightful!
    I know that I ahve said it before, but AM I glad that your blog has a search feature! So many useful ideas!
    Thank you!

    • Hahaha!!!! Thanks Naomi… best feeling after a long day of teaching is knowing taking the time to share ideas pays off by getting great feedback like yours.
      Thank YOU! X

  4. Thanks for the creative ideas, it’s one thing that there can never be too many of.

  5. seburnt says:

    Haha. Some funny ideas here with great basis for team building and getting to know each other, Ceci. I like the purposeful use of candy, though not a huge fan of bringing in treats to the class at all, since I don’t want to set up any unrealistic expectations like that. If I were modifying it somehow, I’d likely have different colours of construction paper, use the same activity as you, but maybe have colours somehow also determine the amount of language they need to use as a reward instead. But to each their own. =)

    • I have thought about that Ty, but using colored pieces of paper somehow doesn’t strike me as something that would have the same effect. At least my students would take one or two pieces of paper, whilst when using M&Ms it’s almost certain they will take at least 5 or 6. And I want them to speak as much as possible – obviously.

      But like you, I don’t make it a habit, and my students know they can’t expect candy, because it’s very rare for me to bring. Once in a while, after a competition I’ll get a teen asking: “Where’s the prize?” as to which my response is always “Teacher’s Love!!!!!!!!!!!!!” followed by a hug 🙂

      I like your idea of the different equivalence though… what do you mean bythem determining the amount of language?? You mean establishing the function? Specific vocabulary?

      Despite our different teaching realities (you – college level, me- teens mostly) I like the idea, and could probably use the change with my more fluent students. 🙂

      • seburnt says:

        What I meant by that was either type of lexicon they needed to use, the word classes or families, the complexity of grammar or even something as simple as the number of words to use.

      • That’s what I had imagined… It also makes the difference between our students more evident 😛 It would be harder for me to use some of that. And since it’s the first class I prefer to let them produce more freely.

  6. Thanks for sharing. As usual I have sent the link to the teachers I work with.

  7. […] Bonus Round – More Activities for the First Day of Class The next ESL Blog Carnival will be hosted by Eva Buyuksimkesyan (@evab2001 on Twitter) in her wonderful blog  "A Journey in TEFL", and it will have as a theme Warmers and Fillers for the First Day… Source: […]

  8. […] Post about firsts –First Impressions and first activities on the first day of the semester and Bonus Round- More Activities for the First day of Class are just fantastic with loads of […]

  9. Looking forward to trying out some of these ideas on the first day back 🙂

  10. […] Never fear though – my PLN came to our rescue! Thanks to Cecilia Coelho‘s excellent ideas for the first day of school we had an easily planned complete lesson. We chose to do the ‘profile’ activity as Flo […]

  11. […] Bonus round. More activities for the first day of class […]

  12. Patricia Taboureau says:

    I love the profile idea, which would be fun for my adult classes too, but would have to use coloured crayons or something else (balloons?) instead of candy in the second item. A lot of parents here wouldn’t like the idea of their children eating candy in lessons, and some children have food intolerances (gluten, for example) or may be diabetic, so we are not supposed to give them treats in class.

    • Hi Patricia!

      Yes, more people have made the same comment 😉 A friend from the PLN suggested using stickers 🙂 We have to think of something they would like to have… And I used the profile with my adults too!
      Let me know if / when you use any and how it works! Good luck!


  13. Dara says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous ideas Cecilia! I’ve used the candy activity slightly different by getting the students just to pick up candies, the higher the number of candies the higher the amount of information they have to share. So if for example the student picks up 3 candies, s/he would have to share 3 pieces of information about him/ her. This way you can use the activity later in the year and not only at the beginning of the course, getting them to share information their classmates don’t know yet. In any case, I believe occassional sweet elements are always welcome in the classroom!

    Love the “Fill in the funny blanks” activity!! I’ll try it and l’ll let you know how it went!!


    • Thank YOU for the feedback Dara :-)! The way you use it is also interesting, and yes, we can adapt this activity to use at any time of the year/term. We just have to be careful not to use it twice in the same semester, because then the students will be aware of the implication that getting too many pieces of candy will have and they may hold back 😉

      We have to find new ways of doing it!!! Have a great semester!

  14. […] Bonus Round – More Activities for the First Day of Class […]

  15. […] at 9am. Never fear though – my PLN came to our rescue! Thanks to Cecilia Coelho‘s excellent ideas for the first day of school we had an easily planned complete lesson. We chose to do the ‘profile’ activity as Flo was […]

  16. Anna says:

    Hey Cecilia

    Loved these ideas! I pinched two and three. Instead of smarties we used halal jellybeans but it worked well – in fact all the ESL teachers used this as their getting to know you activity this year so thanks for sharing! We also slightly adapted the third activity – we created posters with true and false statements about ourselves. The learners chose which they thought were true – then created their own posters.

    Great first class fun!Thank you 🙂

    • That’s so great to hear Anna!!!! There’s nothing better than reading new adaptations and positive feedback like that. You made my day. Thanks! 🙂

      P.S. I have also done the posters with true/false activities. Then I got bored and did a PowerPoint with my true/false statements (and images)…

  17. […] VIEW SOURCE & MORE IDEAS FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS Rate this:Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

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