Sunday, July 27, 2014

10 First Day of School Ideas for the MFL Classroom

It's closing in on 2 months since I wrote my last post and now it's closing in on the beginning of school.  The opening day of school for me is less than a month away and thoughts of planning for a new group of students are more frequent. In particular, my thoughts are on the first day of school.  

The list below has some ideas I used in the past, some I found on Pinterest, and from blogs.  A few are ready to go as listed, and others will need changed depending on which level it is used.  The goal is to provide comprehensible input in the target language, even on, or better said, especially on, the first day of school!

Reminder: If the activity requires output in the target language, I suggest to dismiss it for beginning levels, or tweak it and/or provide the scaffolding needed to make it level appropriate.   

1.  Summer photos.
Last year before school started, I emailed my Spanish 4 students and asked them to send me a photo of something they did during the summer.  I put the photos in a powerpoint and our discussion was based on the photos.  It helped the students, and me, to learn about their classmates. This year I may create a Google presentation and share it with the students which will allow them to add their pictures on the presentation. (Work smarter, not harder, right?)

2. A Story!
I used this activity in the past for the first day of class (semester class that started in January) with students that had no exposure to the past tense before.  They had 70 minutes of comprehensible input of the past tense and left class feeling confident that learning does happen when the language is delivered in storytelling format.

3. Schools around the world.
Why not spend the first day of school talking about what your school has in common with other schools around the world?  Click here for a powerpoint of photos of schools around the world, or here is another option. The photos will help to keep the questions and discussion comprehensible.

4. Mafalda: Primer día de escuela
Dive right in and start the school year with a MovieTalk activity. Click HERE for the 45 second video about Mafalda's first day of school.  When I use this video I'll ask them about walking to school with their parents (more like did their parent drive them to school) and if the floors in the hallway were filled with charcos (puddles) from all the students crying. HaHa - this should be a fun discussion!

5. Personal word Clouds.
This isn't suitable for beginners, but is another type of get-to-know-your- classmates activity that is suitable for levels 2 or higher.  Choose your favorite word cloud site and fill it with words that describe you, activities you like, or places you have been.  After the students see the teacher's model word cloud, give them the assignment to make their own, but not to include their name.  (My suggestion is not to have the students make this in class, but rather give students 1-2 days to complete the activity.)  

After the students have submitted their word cloud, you can choose several (2-3) to show to the class each day.  Students will guess which of their classmates made the word cloud and then continue the discussion about the student.  This will provide you with more than a week of student-centered topics to set the foundation of a student-centered classroom.

6. Student picture collages.
If you haven't added the Pic Collage app to your devices yet, then wait no longer! The app is user-friendly and I continue to find more classroom uses for it. 

This activity is similar to the Personal Word Clouds listed above, but instead of words, students will make a photo collage. Students can use photos from the app or their own photos, as long as it doesn't include people in the photos that will give away who made the collage.  These collages can be printed out to put around the room, or put on a powerpoint or Google presentation. Lead the discussion around the pic collages and the students' interests.

    (If you want to keep it uniform, set guidelines such as: include x no. of photos, 1 should be of an activity, 1 of your favorite food, etc.)

7. The TOP 10 List.
I did this activity several times in the past with my upper level classes.  I give them large sheets of paper and tell them to make a TOP 10 LIST of reasons to learn Spanish.  I encourage them to use their imagination and make them funny, and they have never failed to disappoint me.  

Below are more ideas that I found on Pinterest:

8. M&M game!
Most students are going to be excited about getting chocolate candies on the first day of school, or from my experience, getting chocolate on ANY school day is memorable for them.

The blog post found HERE, explains the M&M game.  It's not a beginning level activity for a second language class because it requires output, but higher levels will enjoy it.  

9. The Name Game 
The teachers from the Creative Language Class blog describe how to use the Name Game on the first day, even with level 1 students. 

10.  Memorias de un verano maravilloso
A Pinterest find. Click HERE for a free download that students can sketch or write their answers.  

Also check out:

- Show what you know (from the Creative Language Class) 

- What does this make you think about? (from Martina Bex)

- Cognate Practice (from the Creative Language Class) 
- Todo Sobre de Mí (from Carolina Gómez)

- Getting to know you grid (from Methods and Materials for WL Teachers)

Do you have a favorite activity for your first day of class or are you planning something new that you would like to share?  I'm sure there are other great ideas that I overlooked.


  1. Love it! Some of my old favorites in here, but I'll have to try schools around the world and the top 10 list this year! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thinks for the ideas. I look forward to reading the entire article.

  3. Thank you Cynthia for your wonderful ideas!!! I have adapted your idea of the schools of the world and the PicCollage for my first day of school lesson. Here is a link to my presentation.


  4. So many great ideas that I want to try. Thanks for sharing them! In an upper level class you could combine the #7 Top 10 list with this article about why students don't keep studying a language:

    Also, a really simple (almost no prep!!) activity I've done on the first day is 'connections' as I say true statements about myself so students get to know me a little and then if it's also true for them they need to stand up and say in the target language 'me too! / me neither' and then I ask a few questions (PQA) to those standing. After we PQA that statement they sit down and I share another true statement about myself. I usually include just random statements in the target language that I've thought up ahead of time or on the spot: I attended a wedding this summer, I don't have any sisters, I don't like dogs, I love sports, I went camping this summer, I've lived in another city/country etc.

    It's a great way to make connections with students and offer them lots of CI. I also love it b/c it can be just for a few minutes if needed or quite an extended activity. After a while you can ask for volunteers to make a statement and see who has a connection to 'Andrew' or even have them break up into small groups and/or pairs to continue. Often on the first day, our classes are unequal b/c we have an assembly in the morning so classes are shorter in the a.m. but then in longer afternoon classes we can spend more time on this

    1. That's a great activity! I'll have to try it this year.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

    2. Great ideas for connections! I'm going to use it tomorrow :)

  5. Me fascinan todas las ideas. Gracias por compartirlas.

  6. Me fascinan todas las ideas. Gracias por compartirlas.

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