If you’ve had time to look at recent posts on this blog, you’ll have noticed a series of “first lesson” ideas and activities…  after all,  it’s September, we’ve all got “back-to-school-itis”!

Stepping back from the plethora of great teaching ideas to fill the class time, today our guest blogger, Dave Tucker, looks at some broader learning and teaching goals that we might want to think about before we start planning!

First Lesson Aims

I love first lessons. I tend to approach first lessons with new groups feeling uniformly nervous but excited. I come out of first lessons feeling variously elated, charged up, determined, sometimes shocked, but never despondent. A whole school year ahead to make the most of the medley of characteristics and quirks the students have, in the same nervous mindset as me, laid bare in the first moment of meeting! Lots of activities have in mind exactly this opening and sharing: “getting to know you” is the general term applied to these jolly bare-alls, but different ages, levels and group-types have different aims and needs.

Rather than focus on actual activities which are two a penny and available from anyone who has been through at least one year of this sort of thing, I instead choose to list here the possible aims for my first lessons and encourage people to sculpt accordingly. Not all the below can be achieved in the first lesson, of course, but I would suggest that most of them should make part of your aims in the first several lessons. Otherwise the rest of the school year could well be missing something that would help preserve that glorious sense of nervous excitement and stop it from so easily shading into despondency…

Possible aims for first lessons

  1. Achievement / challenge – students should leave feeling they have learnt something and extended themselves right at the outset
  2. Get to know each other & the teacher – fosters a sharing, supportive atmosphere in the classroom
  3. Get to know the course/book/exam format – gives objective and direction for the course
  4. Establish ground rules (conduct, homework, English, hands up) – removes need for later harrying, lets everyone know where they stand
  5. Set patterns for future lessons (signals, speaking positions, greetings, etc.) – why waste the first lesson? Get into it now and make your life easier!
  6. Establish a positive atmosphere – we want them to enjoy their learning from the outset – we want shy or reluctant students to want  to come back for more!
  7. Provide something for learners of all styles – cater for everyone at the beginning, get new students used to new styles
  8. Analyse learning styles – get students to start making the most of their own strong learning channels
  9. Use the discipline system – let students see that it’s not just for show, that rewards and  consequences do actually work!
  10. Give rationale for course & methods – students like to know why they’re doing what they’re doing: sometimes the reason for movement or guided discovery isn’t as obvious as we might believe
  11. Needs analysis – help students realise that you are willing to be flexible enough to cater for their needs from the beginning

Have fun! Above all, have fun.

Dave Tucker has been in ELT for 24 years: as a teacher with a particular focus on Young Learners, as a teacher trainer on Young Learner development courses and also as Director of Studies of International House Coimbra (Portugal) for 15 years. He is the author of three Teacher’s Editions for the Primary Macmillan Series Take Shape.


Acknowledgement:  Teflgeek has simply copied Dave’s author biography from his profile page on the Macmillan website.  This does not represent an endorsement of Teflgeek by Macmillan or vice versa.