More than a month remains until my classroom will be filled with students, but I am already creating plans for those first few days (not on paper yet, but certainly have ideas in my head that I'll eventually transfer to paper).
One activity that I will do with my students in the first week that is a get-to-know each other type of activity, but not the usual such as "find someone that..." fill in the type bingo grid. This activity is more student and class friendly in that all the students are reacting to what the teacher says and simultaneously learning about their classmates.
It's called Step Forward, Step Backward (or as I used to call it Forward/Backward). It can be used at the beginning of the school year, after a new semester, after a weekend or special event at school, before a holiday when the students find it harder to sit still, or anytime you want to provide input and build class community. The small prep work done by the teacher is contrasted by the high engagement level by the students. Step Forward, Step Backward is an activity that can be done with any level of language students as long as the teacher carefully chooses the vocabulary to keep it comprehensible for students' language abilities. This activity can also work as a Brain Break.
Overview: Students listen to a statement read by the teacher and step forward or step backward according to the directions. The teacher uses PQA (personalized questions and answers) to connect to the students and to provide additional comprehensible input.
1. The teacher writes several statements in the target language.
2. The teacher assigns the number of steps that students will take forward or backward if the statement is true about them.
1. There are several ways to set up the activity depending on your room space. I have a desk-less classroom so students only need to push their chairs out of the way to do the activity. If you have desks in your classroom, it may be easier to go to the cafeteria or to an area in your school that has a lot of space, or...take the students outside. Another option if you have a lot of room in your class is for students to form a circle facing inward.
2. Students line up, shoulder to shoulder, facing the front of the room.
3. The teacher reads a statement and the students move forward or backward as instructed by the teacher.
Here are a few examples: (remember, it should be the target language)
a. Statements about pets:
- If you have a cat, take one step forward.
- If you have two or more cats, take an additional step forward.
- If you have a dog, take one step backward.
- If your dog is white, take one step backward.
- If you don't have any pets, take two steps forward.
- If you have a turtle, snake, or hamster as a pet, take 3 steps forward.
b. Statements about food:
- If you like pizza take one step forward.
- If you like broccoli, take two steps forward.
- If you like Chinese food better than Mexican food, take one step forwards.
- If you eat cereal for breakfast one or more days each week take one step
c. Statements about sports:
- If you play soccer...
- If you like to run...
- If you play golf more often than you swim...
- If you like to watch sports more than you like to play sports...
d. Statements about restaurants:
- If you prefer Burger King over McDonald's...
- If you have eaten at In-and-Out in the last 2 years...
- If you work at a restaurant...
e. Statements about school:
- If you have biology before this class...
- If you don't have physical education this semester...
- If you have an art class this year...
- If you are a senior, step...
- If you have a quiz or test today...
f. Statements about clothes:
- If you are wearing sneakers today...
- If you are wearing the color red today...
- If you are not wearing socks today...
- If you wore a hat this morning before school...
- If you work at a clothing store...
As you become more acquainted with the students throughout the school year, you can make the statements more interesting by writing statements that relate to your specific students and school culture.
After each statement, the teacher has an opportunity to expand on the information that was revealed by the students' movements. As students move in response to the statements, they immediately see what they have in common with their classmates and interesting information about their classmates that they did not know.
- Every statement tells students to step forward.
- All the statements tell the students to step forward, BUT roll a dice and if it lands on 4, then every 4 questions the students will step backward if the statement is true for them. If it is a 3, every 3rd question the students step backward if the statement is true for them.
- Say the statement and ask the students to raise their hand if it is true for them. Then flip a coin to determine if the students step forward one step or if the students step backward one step.
- and other variations that will keep the activity new
There doesn't have to be a "winner", but if your students will like that variation, go for it, and adjust the directions accordingly.
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