Getting back into the groove after a long summer break can be difficult for teachers as well as students. Sometimes a few easy and fun lessons are necessary before plowing back into our English textbooks. I like to use the first couple of lessons to talk about the places everyone went and things they did (in English, of course), taking the opportunity to teach “Where did you go?” and “I went to…” along with some other simple past verbs like “ate”, “saw”, and “played”.
This generally works quite well for older students, but can be a bit too much for the first and second graders. Thinking about simple yet useful things to do with my little kids, it occurred to me that I have never taught shapes! A glaring oversight on my part, yet easily corrected with a set of simple Shape Flashcards!
An excellent way to start your English lesson is with the simple task of asking “How are you?”. Not only is it an easy icebreaker, it helps to emphasize that “English Time Starts Now”.
I like to run through these flashcards once or twice, and then have the students ask each other “How are you?”. It can be done as a janken (rock paper scissors) game or as a “Chain Reaction” where one student is asked “How are you?” and must then reply and ask the student immediately behind or in front of them. This continues in order until everyone has asked and responded. Be sure to include the teacher as well!
“How are you?” is also one of the first things I teach the new first grade students. It is a good way to introduce your method of using flashcards and offers many possibilities for simple, interactive and fun classroom activities.
Needless to say, by the time “How are you?” shows up in the Hi Friends 1 textbook, students are generally very good at asking and responding. To add an element of interest and challenge, I use this worksheet in conjunction with these flashcards for a fun writing activity.
Sports. Kids like to play sports and like to talk about sports. Sports vocabulary can be used in a variety of ways in the ESL/EFL classroom. In particular sports vocabulary lends itself very well to teaching “I like…” and “I can…” expressions (as well as “I don’t like…” and “I can’t…” ;-)).
It just so happens that “I like…” is the subject of Hi Friends 1 Unit 4, while “I can…” is the subject of Hi Friends 2 Unit 3. While these expressions can be used to discuss a variety of things, using sports can help get the ball rolling. This set of flashcards doesn’t cover all the bases, but presents a broad enough range to encourage further discussion.
I’ve opted to use “soccer” because in Japan (where I teach) and in the US (where I’m from) that’s the term we use. I’ve also intentionally left out American Football because very few places outside the US have an interest in the game, plus it’s just a mouthful to say. If your favorite sport is missing, leave a comment and if there’s enough interest I’ll make up a flashcard for it!
When teaching “I like…” foods and fruit are also great conversation starters. Animals work well also. Mix it up and have fun!
Update: Had a bit of a think and decided to make up a football card as well. No reason not to!
Hi Friends 1 starts out with the same sort of international greetings topic that Eigo Note did. When teaching international greetings, I like to use the big world map and flashcards of the flags of the countries mentioned. I’ve been using the flashcards from Mark’s English School in Nagano Prefecture.