Good Morning, Sunshine: 12 Fantastic Ways to Start Your ESL Class

Good Morning, Sunshine: 12 Fantastic Ways to Start Your ESL Class

Let’s start at the very beginning.

A very good place to start.

It’s true for more than just classic musicals. Where else would your ESL class start but at the beginning? Whether a bell rings or you just call your students to attention, how you start your class can have a big impact on the rest of the day.

If you haven’t yet figured out what works best for you or if you are looking to change things up a bit, here are twelve different ways you can start class today.

Try These 12 Techniques for Beginning a Lesson:

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    Discussion is one of the most versatile activities for ESL classes. It gets students speaking and listening and can introduce a new topic or grammatical structure. Try having students gather in groups of two or three and give them a discussion question related to what you plan to teach. It will help get them ready for what comes next.

  2. 2

    Total Physical Response

    If you are more of the jump right in type, try a short session of Total Physical Response to start class. Don’t worry about translating what you say or whether your students will understand. Simply go into English only mode and give your students directions on how to move. Use any vocabulary you think is necessary. The most important thing is that your students have a physical response to what you are teaching them in English.

  3. 3


    Games are great! Everybody loves a game, and there are tons to choose from when you are looking to practice or review some aspect of the English language. They can be as simple and no prep as Simon Says or as complicated as making your own board game. Use games to get your students interested in class and remember what they learned yesterday.

  4. 4

    Discovery Grammar Method

    If you like to start class off with a real challenge, try giving your students a worksheet – with the answers already in place! You can introduce a new grammar concept this way. By giving students the answers before you teach them the grammatical construction, you will give your class a chance to figure the rule out on their own before you tell it to them. Your logical/mathematical learners will love this type of instruction, and it’s a great preview for whatever grammar lesson you are going to give later in the class period.

  5. 5

    Small Talk

    Don’t minimize the value of chatting with your students as they enter class. Letting them chat with you and each other gives them practice with the all too elusive skill of small talk. They will learn what topics are appropriate for chatting with friends and acquaintances and may even encounter some unfamiliar language in the process.

  6. 6

    Explain the Plan for the Day

    Some people like to have a plan. When they are students in your class, they are at the mercy of what you have scheduled for the day, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel completely out of control. Try starting your class by reviewing the schedule for the day and letting your students know the objectives of your activities. You don’t have to go into too much detail about your lesson plans, but just knowing what comes next and what you hope they get out of it may be enough to set these students at ease.

  7. 7

    Warm Up or Ice Breaker

    Whether your students are starting their first day of class or they have been learning together for many months, it’s fun to start class with a warm up exercise or an ice breaker. It is always a pleasure to get to know our peers more, and it seems like everyone has more interesting secrets to learn if you just take the time to ask. Plus, warm up activities are good for just that – warming up to English before you tackle greater challenges. Take a look here for some great ideas for icebreakers and warmups that you can use to start your class today.

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    Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Ok, that’s probably not as important as what your students learned in class yesterday, but they do have something in common. They can both be easy to forget. Taking a few minutes to review what you did last class, especially if you had to stop in the middle of an activity, can be a great help to your students. It will get their brains back in gear for language learning, and it might also bring up some questions that didn’t come up the day before – questions that your students may not have even known they had yesterday.

  9. 9

    Checking Homework

    Did you give your students homework yesterday? You may want to start your class period by reviewing it. Like doing a quick review at the beginning of class, going over homework can bring up some questions or difficulties that students didn’t even know they had when you presented your lesson the day before. Plus, if you’re anything like me, it’s good to get homework review out of the way before getting caught up in whatever great things you have planned for today. Reviewing homework in class also gives students a chance to help each other out in so doing cementing the concepts in their own minds.

  10. q


    Was the last time you did a whole class brainstorm when you introduced the last vocabulary unit in class? If so, why not try starting your day with a different kind of brainstorm. It serves as a nice warm up, and your students might also encounter some unfamiliar language in the process. Even if they don’t, it’s a nice way to get students thinking in English and lubricating those brain muscles for the challenges you have set out for the day. Choose any topic you like. It doesn’t have to relate to what you’re planning on teaching today, but bonus points for you and your students if it does.

  11. w

    Show a Picture

    Pictures are great sources of inspiration, and you can find a picture of just about anything online. Try projecting a picture on your front board and having students talk about what is happing there, describe the scene, or use it as a writing prompt for class. Pictures are so versatile and can be so creative.

  12. e

    Correct Sentences with Errors

    Having one or two error filled sentences on the board when your students get to class is another good way to start. I like to have student copy the sentence as I have written it into a designated section of their notebooks and then write the corrected sentence beneath it. The advantages to starting class this way is that latecomers have a few extra minutes to arrive and get settled and, even more important, students develop an eye for finding mistakes in their own writing. You can also use this class start to introduce new grammar or review areas students are making mistakes.

I hope this has given you some new ideas on how to start class.

Whether it’s a lively game or independent seat work, getting students in the right mind frame for English use is important. You might find one strategy and stick to using that every day or you might like to change things up. What matters is that you find something that works for you and for your students to set them up for daily success.

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