How should I approach my first day in an ESL classroom?

Regardless of what TESOL course you took or how well you think you did, stepping into your own classroom for the first time is something that most of us find uncomfortable. Being nervous on your first day is perfectly natural but there are a few things you can do to make things that little bit easier. Follow our tips below and your first day in your new teaching job should hopefully be one to remember and not one to forget.

Be punctual

Punctuality is important in most jobs but for a teacher it is absolutely crucial. Teachers in any type of role should always arrive early to class to ensure that everything is in place for the lesson. On your first day you need to be clear about where you are teaching, who you are teaching, and what you are teaching, well in advance of the actual start time. If you arrive in plenty of time you will be much better equipped to deal with whatever your first lesson has in store.

Be prepared

Thorough preparation is another crucial factor for teachers on any given day, but particularly on the first day in a new job. The most important thing here is to have a full lesson plan worked out in advance so you have something to follow no matter how well or badly the lesson is going. Your lesson plan doesn’t have to look pretty, it can be written on scraps of paper or post-it notes, or written in detail on a laminated sheet. As long as you know what you need to do and at what stage you need to do it you should be fine. Before the lesson you should also make sure you have prepared all the equipment and materials you need to complete the lesson.

Also read: Where can I get free ESL lesson plans?

Play games

Teaching English as a foreign language often involves playing games as a fun way to reinforce the language learned in the lesson and they can be a real benefit in your first ever lesson. Games can be used to get the students warmed up at the start of the lesson, as an activity involving the lesson point of the day, or to fill in a few spare minutes at the end. A simple online search will reveal dozens of websites packed with great game ideas and you will soon build up a long list of options that can be used whenever you see fit. Common games that are used in ESL lessons include hangman, Pictionary, and Wordle.

Get to know each other

Establishing a good rapport with your students is vital if you want things to go smoothly in the long term. It is also important that the students get to know one another so they are comfortable speaking English in front of each other. To get the ball rolling you could show pictures of your life outside the classroom and allow the students to fire questions at you. You could also set up an activity where the students interview each other which should allow them to get more comfortable and allow you to find out more about individual members of the group.

Also read: Do TESOL teachers need a second language?

Learn their names

It is a well known fact that students respond better in class when the teacher uses their individual names. It is a surefire way of increasing the rapport in the class and will also encourage students to get involved and to ask for help when they are struggling. Obviously, this will be a tough challenge if you have a large group on your first day, but making the effort right from the start will always go down well with your students. Another thing to consider is to complete a needs analysis during the first class as this will allow you to build a clear picture of what they know, what they need to learn, and how they like to learn it.

Be confident

Confidence plays a big role in being a teacher, particularly on your first day, as you need to speak in front of a large group of strangers who may or may not understand much of what you are saying. If you are highly stressed out and anxious your students will pick up on it and the whole lesson could start to unravel. If you start to feel particularly flustered, take a breath and remind yourself that you are a qualified ESL teacher who has all the skills needed to get through your first lesson. However, just remember not to actually tell the class that it is your first lesson as that information could do more harm than good.

Also read: Can I teach English abroad without any teaching experience?

The good news is that once you get through your very first ESL lesson it will only get easier. Your knowledge, skills and confidence will increase every time you enter the classroom and before you know it you will wonder why you were so concerned about that first lesson at all!