English Class at Camp : Your First Lesson

The first day of class with a new group of kids can be a little nerve-wracking, even for experienced English teachers. However, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that the kids enjoy the lesson and use English. I consider that you've done a pretty good job if, by the end of your first class, you 

  • know  their names, 
  • got to know each camper a little, and 
  • have a good idea of each student's level of English.

Keep things simple and try not to cover too much. Pick some fun but simple games and write your lesson plan down and bring it with you. Even after five years of teaching English, I bring my lesson plan with me in case I forget the next step of the lesson. It also allows me to keep track of how long I plan to spend on each part of the lesson.

Learning kids' names

When leading English classes, it is important to learn the names of the kids early on. You might not learn all of them the first day, but knowing your students' names makes interacting with them in class easier.

Ball throw name game

This is a tried and tested opener for learning everyone’s name and is probably one of the first things you learned if you did a TEFL course.

Have everyone stand in a circle. Hold a small ball and throw it. As you throw it say your first name. The kid who catches it throws it to another kid and says his first name. Keep moving the ball around the circle until everyone has participated several times. For the second round, the thrower must say the person's name that he or she is throwing to.  Keep moving the ball around the circle with the kids trying to remember each person's name (and yours too).

Paper Airplane name game

This fun writing icebreaker works well with kids that are at least at a pre-intermediate level. To start, each camper writes three to five facts about himself on a piece of paper. Then all campers put their creativity to work by folding that paper into a paper airplane. On your count, all campers throw their paper planes toward the middle of the room. Each camper picks up a plane that has landed near him. Kids take turns reading the facts written on the plane, and trying to guess whose it was. Let the class help if individuals get stuck. 

  • You can also play a variant called 'snowball' where instead of a paper airplane, they scruch up the paper into a ball and throw them around the room.

Last Kid Standing name game

Have the kids stand in a circle. You are the sheriff in the middle. If you point at a kid and say 'BANG' that kid must duck down, while the kids on either side of him/her must point at one another and shout 'BANG'. The quickest to shout 'BANG' gets to stay standing up while the other kid sits down. Once they have understood the game play a few rounds. Next, instruct the kids that instead of shouting 'BANG' they must shout the other kids name. The camper who shouts first stays standing, while the other must sit down. Continue until only two are left. They last two play paper, rock, scissors to determine the last kid standing.

Getting to know each other 

The first day of class it is important to introduce yourself and to learn about the kids in your class. The kids generally are really interested in learning about you and want to know more about you. It is also a nice way to see what you and the kids have in common.

Info sheet Icebreaker

Before class, prepare what I call an info sheet. This is a sheet that features a table with two columns (use our templates in the ESL materials, or create your own). Fill out the left-hand column requesting basic information, for example, name, age, favorite color, foods, etc. For higher levels, write complete sentences and make the questions more interesting for teens. Once you have the info sheet, complete yours entirely, as you'll be the example!

  • You'll start by showing the kids your sheet. Introduce one of the points of information like ‘My favourite food is pizza’ and ask one of the kids ‘What is your favorite food ?’  Go around the room and ask one or two more of the kids their favorite food. 
  • Now, write that question on the whiteboard.  You'll write all the questions on the whiteboard as you go.
  • Once you have gone through each question in this manner, tell them they are going to fill in their own info sheet. 
  • When they've finished, put the kids in pairs. They should ask one another the question from the whiteboard and respond with the answer they have written on their sheet. 
  • When all pairs have finished, go around the classroom and ask each camper to tell you a bit more about his partner. 

What next ?

Consider reading more about how to structure a basic English class.

Best of luck in your first lesson!