One thing that many people have been pondering is the all-important first lesson. How do we set the tone for the year ahead correctly? In the summer space, it is something we can agonise over for a while, wanting to perfect that first encounter but I recommend keeping it simple and cracking right on.
Seating plans – I think this is a must. Nothing gets across the fact the pupils are entering your space by you determining where pupils sit. Try to avoid alphabetical boy girl boy girl as you can bet your bottom dollar most teachers will use this strategy. Also explain to pupils the seats they find themselves in are temporary and changeable once you get to know the class better. In fact, Shirley Clarke advocates switching the seating plan up termly to allow pupils to experience a range of talk partners.
Admin – not to be avoided in that first lesson but it means lesson 2 can start full throttle into the topic you are going to be teaching. Hand out books, folders, booklets etc and make sure they are all named properly.
Once this is done, thinking about the tone you want to set is important.
I avoid going through my expectations. Actions speak louder than words and pupils will learn my expectations as we go. Being firm but fair (and smiling when appropriate) will set you up well. Pupils will also get to know your routines which lie at the heart of good behaviour management. For example, I start every lesson with silent reading so I will instruct my pupils in that first lesson that they will need a silent reading book. I also green pen a lot so I tell them they need to bring a green pen. Instead of rules and regulations just set your stool out with your pupils.
As an English teacher one of the most important things we can do is foster a love of reading. So, in fact, my first lesson begins with sharing our summer reading. I will share with my pupils my reading and talk through it – what I read, types of reading, what I enjoyed, what I struggled with.
Then, in normal circumstances we would do book speed dating (not the name I share with the pupils) where I line pupils up in two rows facing each other and they are given 30 seconds to share a book they read over the summer that they particularly enjoyed. (If they did not read a book, I ask them to choose their favourite book ever). After completing several book speed dating rounds, we share our recommendations. I love this task because it is noisy, energetic and a lot of fun and also really quickly tells me who my readers are and who my yet to be converted to reading are.
I then follow this by giving out the Reading journal 2021-2022 and the challenge 40 books task. All the time promoting the joy and pleasure of reading. I may get them to do the interests and reading attitudes survey in that lesson or I might save it for the first library lesson. Click on the link for a copy of the reading journal.
Finally, I introduce the course to them. I try to as enthusiastically and passionately share the journeys they are going to go on with regard to our literary texts and get them really excited about our reading for the year. I will also introduce the conceptual question for the term and we will have an initial discussion.
I then leave the lesson by outlining what is coming up the next time we meet. Getting them excited and enthusiastic is key for me!
So simple, straightforward and focused on core business. I’d love to know how you run your first lessons.