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❶I would like for you to share this info about Aspergers with the TN department of Education. How should I assess my ESL students?

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See my advice to students on the effective use of dictionaries. The most important advice is: Read more on the the theory of comprehensible input. Professor Krashen, who developed this theory and who in my opinion has the most coherent and convincing account of language learning, has postulated that language is acquired, both in the language and the mainstream classroom, when the student is motivated by the task, feels low or zero anxiety, and has had his or her self-esteem protected or enhanced.

If such conditions prevail, then there is no filter or barrier preventing the natural acquisition of language - provided that the input is comprehensible, interesting and relevant.

For some ESL students direct eye contact with a teacher is considered disrespectful and could be construed as a challenge to the teacher's authority. This is the reason that Asian students in particular may avoid looking the teacher in the eye, especially when being reprimanded. Another ESL student behaviour that is sometimes misinterpreted is the brusqueness of their language; for example: It is a luxury of native or proficient speakers of English to express their feelings and requests politely, since politeness is usually conveyed in grammatically complex language: Would you mind shutting the window?

A very useful way of determining the difficulty of a task is to refer to the model propounded by Professor J. ESL teachers are also very happy to advise on the likely difficulty of an assignment for any particular student or groups of students.

My advice sheet Helping ESL students understand what they read contains suggestions on how to assess the difficulty to ESL students of written language. This is an essential question and there are many answers. For example, take a look at the list of suggestions made by the ESL students themselves in response to the question, and check out the list of guidelines for mainstream teachers. It is vital to ensure that ESL students can make sense of what you say in class.

For this reason it is helpful if you are aware of the ways in which you can improve their chances of understanding what they hear. See the advice sheet Helping ESL students understand what you say for detailed suggestions on this topic. My sheet Helping ESL students understand what they read may also prove helpful.

These two documents emphasize the importance of activating background knowledge before having students read or listen to complex text. You may also wish to read the suggestions below on cooperative groupings , which are very important for maximizing the ESL student's chance of producing language in the class.

You can help further by explicitly teaching the study skills necessary in your subject. If you use a course book, you could show students how it is organized, where to find the glossary, how to make effective use of the table of contents, chapter headings, graphics and captions etc. Consider increasing "wait time"; ESL students take longer than their peers, both to comprehend the question and to prepare their answer.

They generally benefit from a classroom where students are called on to reply to questions rather than allowed to shout out answers. They also feel more comfortable when lessons follow established routines; for example, they are expected to copy the homework from the board at the start of each lesson; the teacher always briefly previews what they will be doing that lesson; or the teacher spends the last 5 minutes of the lesson with quick-fire review questions on what was taught in that lesson.

Alert students to cognates and other helpful mother-tongue equivalents. Asking a proficient student for the translation into Japanese or Korean of an important word you have been explaining often helps a shyer, less proficient ESL student with what she had been struggling to understand.

Hearing different languages in the classroom sends an important message to students. Another way that you can help ESL students is to provide a model of what you are expecting them to do. This is especially useful when the task is to produce an extended piece of writing - but it is also of value when the assignment is a poster or oral presentation.

You could prepare your own "perfect" answer or you could keep pieces of work done on the same assignment by students in other classes or previous years. It is often helpful to discuss poorer pieces of work and have students analyse why these don't meet the requirements.

How about asking the students themselves how you could make it easier for them in your lessons? ESL students need to have grade-appropriate cognitive challenges.

Making things easier for ESL students in the mainstream classroom means making accommodations that help them to do the tasks that the native speakers are expected to do. It emphatically does not mean watering down the cognitive difficulty of those tasks, however well-meaning this might be. I have produced a graphic to illustrate how a task can be made achievable by ESL students without reducing its cognitive demands - namely, by expressing the task in comprehensible language and by providing appropriate assistance.

Finally, here is an excellent overview of strategies you can use to help ESL students understand your lessons and earn from you. Assume that you have followed the advice given in the answer to the previous question, and have done what you reasonably can to help ESL students understand the new information, skills and concepts that you have been teaching them.

You now want to set a major piece of homework to deepen or assess this understanding. What final steps can you take to optimize your students' chances of doing a good job in this homework? In response to this question it is helpful for teachers to know the advice given to ESL students who wish to do good homework, namely to follow the UDS method and ensure that they: U nderstand exactly what they have to do D o exactly what they have to do S how that they have done exactly what they had to do.

Teachers can assist students in heeding this advice by allowing sufficient time during the class or after it for students to ask for elucidation of the task. Of course, it is helpful to students if the task is written on the board, or on a sheet that is given to them. Students should be encouraged to take notes in their own language as the teacher is explaining what to do.

Same-nationality students who have better English can be asked to explain the work to their less proficient peers, using their shared mother tongue. It is also helpful to show the students the criteria by which the task will be assessed. Giving students model answers or allowing them to analyse the shortcomings of less than perfect work done, for example, by students in the previous year's class will also help them to understand exactly what they have to do and the form in which it should be done.

Students appreciate being told the minimum length requirements, and they certainly need to be clear on due dates. ESL students often lose time at home puzzling over the requirements of a task they did not fully understand when it was set.

ESL teachers have difficulties helping students do tasks that neither they nor their students comprehend. To avoid this wasted time and frustration, mainstream teachers are well-advised to do what they can to ensure that the students know exactly what is expected of them. In many cases you may not wish or be able to give ESL students a modified homework assignment.

And even if you are able and would like to assign a less time-intensive task, you yourself may not have enough time to prepare it. However, it is important to note that ESL students often need to spend two or three times as long to complete a task as it takes the native speakers in the same class.

Some students at FIS regularly stay up beyond midnight to get all their homework done and rarely have the time to recharge their batteries. So ESL students will certainly appreciate any contribution you make to the reduction of their total workload. There are various ways that you can do this. Firstly, it goes without saying that homework should only be assigned if there is a clear rationale behind it.

But even if the homework fulfils a particular learning purpose, you may find it possible to allow ESL students to skip it on occasion or to do it when their homework schedule is currently not so full.

Secondly, you may find be able to reduce the scope of the task; for example, by decreasing the word count of a piece of writing, the minimum length of a science presentation, or the number of questions expected to be done in a mathematics homework.

Thirdly, you could replace a long, linguistically-demanding reading homework text with a shorter, less complex one on the same subject. There are various online resources that provide versions of the same content with varying length and linguistic complexity. Finally, you could determine how long it would be likely to take the average native-speaker in your class to complete the assignment and tell the ESL students to work on the assignment for that length of time, then stop.

ESL teachers at FIS are very flexible about allowing extra time in ESL lessons for students to complete other subject work that they had no time to finish at home, or to start the work in class and therefore need to spend less time on it later that evening. If you feel that any given homework assignment is likely to be demanding and thus time-consuming, or if you are not sure if it will be, you are recommended to contact the students' ESL teacher.

He or she will be able to advise on the demands of the task, and will be happy to suggest - and in most cases to prepare - a modified task. It is clear that ESL students need to spend longer on homework than native-speakers, and may occasionally need to stay up very late to complete it. But it is important that this does not happen regularly.

Any excessive time spent doing homework eats into the time when they should be relaxing, pursuing their hobbies, or just reading for pleasure. Students who are tired and stressed because of homework demands and lack of opportunities to "switch off" will not be fresh and productive in the classroom, and may well become sick.

It is notable how often mainstream teachers comment that the students in the class who generally need the most help, namely the ESL students, are the ones least likely to ask for it. There are various reasons why this is the case. Firstly, the ESL students may simply not feel that their proficiency in English is good enough for them to ask the right questions or understand the teacher's answers. Furthermore, ESL students may feel embarrassed to show their lack of understanding in front of the rest of the class; better to say nothing than have the other students think that you are slow or stupid.

ESL students who were proud of their achievements in their previous home-country school may feel it demeaning to now be so reliant on the teacher, and prefer to keep face rather than expose their helplessness.

It is possible, finally, that some ESL students believe that by asking many questions or frequently asking for help, they somehow convey the the idea that the teacher has not done a good enough job in teaching them.

The advice to the teacher with ESL students in the class is to structure lessons so that there is some time when students are working individually or in small groups. This allows the student to ask questions or for help without being exposed to the attention and possible derision of the full class. It also allows the teacher to approach students suspected of struggling and discreetly offer help. The English Journal The best way that parents can help at home is to discuss with their child, in their own language, the work in progress.

There is more detailed advice on this on the parents' pages of this website. It would be useful to refer parents to these pages when you call them or meet them to talk about their child's progress. Additionally, you could reinforce the constant message we ESL teachers give students and parents about the importance of extensive reading in English - particularly of non-fiction texts. As Cummins points out:. Towards a Critical Balance , Cummins, J.

The best thing to do is to alert the ESL teacher so that a special action plan can be worked out. You may also wish to tell the parents what they can do to help. See my answer to the previous question. Before suggesting private tuition, it is recommended that you contact the ESL teacher.

See the newsletter article about private tuition if you want to read the advice we give to ESL parents when they ask if this is necessary for their child. If a student does poorly in one of your tests, it is helpful to analyse with her the possible reasons.

These could be any of the following or a combination of them:. Obviously, a child who doesn't work hard through the term, or who lacks good test-preparation and test-taking strategies, will struggle to do well in tests, and these issues should be addressed by the teacher. The other reasons listed above, however, are more to do with language ability, and you may wish to adopt a flexible response in order to help the ESL student show what she has learned and understood.

For example, you may wish to prepare an ESL version of the test. Alternatively, you could make sure you are on hand during the test to explain what the questions mean. Or you could allow the student to write part of an answer in her own language and then explain it to you or have it translated after the test. ESL students usually need more time than their native-speaking peers to complete the test. It takes the pressure off them a little if they know they will have the chance to continue into break or finish off in the ESL lesson.

Of course, it is very important that the language of the test questions and tasks is unambiguous, so the student can quickly understand what she has to do. Plagiarism is quite common among ESL students and can have many causes. Please contact the child's ESL teacher if the problem persists despite implementing some of the advice on how to deal with it. It is helpful if you know a little about the ESL students' backgrounds and interests, since this will enable you to make connections to their personal lives.

At the ESL placement interview the ESL teacher finds out this information and then sends it out to all concerned by e-mail. Little things can be important, such as spelling the child's name correctly and learning how to pronounce it with some accuracy. It is also helpful in class to seat ESL students with native-speakers who are sympathetic and encouraging. You can also devise group activities in which the ESL student's contribution is essential to the successful completion of the task.

On a more general level, it is useful if the culture and history of the student can be incorporated into lessons.

The ESL department has a very useful set of materials of the different countries of the world, called Culturegrams. There is also another set in the school library. Cummins has an excellent explanation of the importance of integrating ESL students' cultures and background experiences into your lessons, thereby validating their personalities and identities:. Cummins J Negotiating Identities: Two simple examples of including the non-native speaker's culture and previous educational experience:.

An excellent way of integrating ESL students into your class is via cooperative activities. Researchers have found that language learning takes place most effectively when learners are engaged in interesting tasks that allow plenty of meaningful interaction with sympathetic native speakers.

However, it is not enough to just put the ESL student with 2 or 3 others and hope for the best. If this happens, there is a danger that the ESL student will take on a peripheral role - or have it forced on her. Therefore, it is most beneficial if the group activity is so structured that the outcome is dependent on the contributions of ALL the group members.

As an example, consider the topic of pollution. First each member of each group chooses or is allocated a sub-topic. Those having the same sub-topic, say river pollution, meet together to discuss and research that sub-topic. The students then return to their original groups where they report on what they learned in the sub-topic groups. Group members then discuss how to include this information in their final report or presentation. Using this method, the contribution of each group member is critical to the final outcome.

To provide extra support to ESL students, you could arrange it so that they are given an easier sub-topic or task, or that the sub-topic group they go to contains a same nationality peer. In summary, it can be said that pair or group work is important for ESL students because it gives them the chance to express their ideas and opinions or ask questions of the teacher or other group members on a smaller stage than in front of the whole class.

It also gives the teacher a much better chance to offer individual and unobtrusive help. There is a more extensive discussion in the following article, which also contains a wealth of other useful information: I have a copy of this book in my room if you would like to borrow it. In my room I have a comprehensive set of materials called Culturegrams.

These contain information about every country in the world on topics such as: There is a further set of these materials in the library. Else Hamayan has devised an interesting graphic that makes it clear there is more to culture difference than the obvious elements of music, food and dress. It is rarely productive to try and cajole a reluctant beginner into answering questions in class.

There is a well-attested silent period that some ESL students go through in which they are not prepared to volunteer any spoken information. In most cases however these students are learning and will emerge from their silent cocoon some time later with a surprising ability to express themselves orally.

The issue is more complicated for silent students who are in their second or subsequent years at the school. They may in fact desire the opportunity to participate orally, but do not yet have the language processing skills to quickly understand the question and formulate their answer in English. They are disadvantaged therefore in classes with rapid teacher-student interchanges, particularly where the students are not called on but allowed to respond at will.

If teachers allow sufficient processing time, then ESL students may feel comfortable in raising their hand to answer. But in general this should be done only if it is believed that the student will have a correct answer, and not if he or she is generally shy or lacking in confidence.

So, there is not one rule that fits all students. Shy students will feel very stressed in class if they believe that the teacher may call on them at any time. Conversely, some students may feel the teacher has no confidence in them if they are never called on. There is a detailed answer to this question elsewhere on this site. In short, assessments, both formative and summative, will often need modifying in order to make them fair and reliable ways for ESL students to demonstrate knowledge and skills in your subject.

Other accommodations, such as allowing extra time to complete the assessment, may be necessary. Students whose English proficiency is as yet limited may need different assessments altogether than the rest of the class.

ESL teachers can advise on the language demands of a given task, and suggest modifications and accommodations to make it a fairer and more accessible way for ESL students to demonstrate content knowledge and skills. This is a complex issue, and closely related to the previous question: How should I assess my ESL students?

In general, students who have reached a certain level of English proficiency at FIS this means students in ESL2, Advanced or Transitional classes should be assessed and graded according to the same criteria as the other students in the class. This may mean that for some students their grades are low at first, but nevertheless it is important that ESL students, together with their parents and their ESL teacher get accurate feedback on the standards they are reaching in their mainstream classes.

Such a grading policy also helps the ESL teacher to determine at the end of the year if the student is in need of further support in the following year. It can be difficult to recommend that a child continues in ESL if his grades in the other subjects have been artificially inflated.

Within the above guidelines, however, it is still possible to treat ESL students in a way that is appropriate to their particular status and needs.

Sympathetic is a useful term to describe this special treatment of ESL students in terms of grading and assessment. It means for example that students are given credit for demonstrating understanding even if their ability to express their understanding in clear and accurate English is limited.

It means that they are not graded down for grammar and spelling mistakes unless these are an integral and clearly stated part of the assignment. It means further that students have the chance to give an oral explanation of answers that they were not able to write down very clearly. It also means that they may be allowed the chance to redo homework or retake tests.

It need not, since many of the strategies which are good for ESL students are good for the others, too. This is a situation where the internal grouping of students takes on greater importance. It is generally helpful if ESL students can be paired or grouped with others from a different language background, although it can be useful if beginners can also have the chance to be helped in their own language.

In general, the advice is to teach to the native speakers in the class so that the cognitive demand on students is not compromised. There is an interesting discussion of the dangers of reducing the cognitive level in the classroom in Vol. Embarrassment and hygiene in the classroom Mackay, R.

The ESL department holds a copy of this article if you wish to read it. You may also wish to read my answer to parents who ask a similar question.

Much of the work that is set in the mainstream whether to do in class or at home takes the ESL students much longer to accomplish than the native-English speakers. Of course, mainstream teachers are aware of this and may attempt to adapt the tasks that the ESL students have to do. This concern for ESL students is admirable, but it carries with it two dangers. The first danger is that the cognitive demands of the task may be reduced, or that the task may be replaced by different, simpler task.

ESL students can certainly be helped by making the language of tasks easier to understand, but they have the same cognitive abilities as the other students and should be required to use them in the completion of the same assignments. The second danger is that the teacher ends up spending so long on regular adaptation of materials for ESL students that he or she does not have the time or energy to devote to preparing engaging and instructive lessons for the class as a whole.

A solution to the dilemma of ensuring that ESL students are cognitively challenged but do not end up working twice or three times as long on an assignment as a native-speaker is to reduce the amount of work they have to do.

For example, instead of requiring them to do 20 word problems in mathematics unit, permit them to do Consider a mainstream English assignment as a further example - book review.

Instead of requiring a word report, allow the less proficient ESL students to write words. Do not, on the other hand, permit them to write only about plot and not about theme or mood, since this reduces the cognitive challenge of the task. The ESL department is very happy to advise on the modification of materials to make them linguistically more accessible to ESL students.

How the liaison takes place is a matter for each subject teacher to determine in consultation with the ESL teacher. Some prefer to have a brief regular meeting to discuss work in progress and students of concern; while other find it easier to keep in contact by e-mail. See the sheet of general information about how ESL teachers can help , containing a list of times that they are free to discuss with you or visit one of your classes.

The decision about the initial placement of a student is made after the student has been interviewed by an ESL teacher who assesses the linguistic competence of the student in the major language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The reading test generally consists of a short story taken from the appropriate grade level literature anthology. The student's educational and language background is also taken into account.

Subsequent placement depends on the student's progress in English as assessed against the ESL objectives. Placement changes can take place at any time, although they are generally not considered desirable in the last two months of the school year. A majority of changes take place between one school year and the next. The placement decision does not only depend on the child's linguistic proficiency, as measured against ESL course objectives, but on such factors as the child's nationality, motivation and ability to work independently.

An essential part of the decision-making process is the continuing discussion with the child's subject teachers about her progress in those subjects, including the level and quality of her participation in all of the class activities, her results in tests, the quality of her homework etc. The child's longer-term academic plans are often also taken into consideration after discussions with the parents. Some of the indicators of a learning disability that are exhibited by an English native speaker are also shown by ESL students in the first stage of their English language development.

These indicators include difficulty in following oral instructions, poor eye tracking when reading, inconsistent spelling, limited attention span, avoidance of eye contact, etc.

The crucial difference is that the problems experienced by the learning-disabled native speaker are for the most part permanent, whereas ESL students display such behaviours for a temporary period only. One good way to begin is to set up a summer America Reads Challenge: Encourage your members or staff to volunteer as tutors. Provide transportation for children and tutors. Offer your organization's building as a safe site in which the program can take place.

Work with preschool children. Organize a program in which members volunteer to read to children in these programs each week. Offer a small prize related to literacy, such as a reference book or a bookstore gift certificate.

Cooperate with other community organizations and school staff on reading activities for students. Rarely can one organization or individual "do it all.

Ask for and offer help to improve and expand your reading activities. Contact other reading programs and school staff for guidance. Assign and train Work-Study students as reading tutors. Increase the percentage of Work-Study slots that are reserved for reading tutoring. The Secretary of Education has waived the matching requirement for students serving as reading tutors to preschool and elementary schoolchildren.

This percent federal funding of Federal Work- Study reading tutors facilitates the participation of postsecondary institutions in the America Reads Challenge. Provide space for local reading programs.

Open classrooms or lecture halls to literacy programs on weekends and other times when they are not in use.

Encourage students to volunteer as assistants. Sponsor an on-campus summer reading program for elementary school children. Invite professors and qualified students to teach sessions.

Contact the community library and local reading programs to encourage their participation. Make campus computer resources available to local families and their children. Open campus computer clusters to the public during off-times. Offer free orientation sessions for people who have never used the Internet before. Provide a list of educational sites related to reading. Establish a lending library in the workplace so that employees can take books and other reading materials home to their children.

Contact the local library to obtain suggested children's book lists. Ask employees to donate books and books on tape that their children have outgrown. Develop a program to bring children to your work site for tutoring. Bringing children to the work site for tutoring gives them a safe place to go after school hours, helps improve their schoolwork, and makes mentoring and tutoring convenient for employees. Provide support for training reading tutors both in schools and in the workplace.

Contact your local school district's special education department for assistance on how to address and support the training of tutors for students with special needs. Establish a national program for employees to tutor, mentor, and allow children to shadow model employees. Encourage each affiliate, franchise, or company branch to get involved with its local schools by tutoring or mentoring students. Allow students to shadow workers for a day to understand how the skills they learn in school will someday be used in the workplace.

Provide books, videos, consultants, and other resources to schools. Contact your local school's administrators to determine which resources are most needed. Rebuild or refurbish school libraries so that they become the center of the school's literacy activities.

Help to guarantee that schools have the most modern teaching materials, computers, books, and videos. Highlight successful reading programs. Cover stories about literacy events sponsored by schools, libraries, AmeriCorps projects, and communities and successful participants in them. Feature individual success stories and "unsung tutoring heroes.

Start a Community Volunteer Alert Program. Publicize a weekly listing of volunteer programs in need of tutors. Provide contact names and numbers. Support local literacy programs by donating advertising space. Produce a community public service announcement in support of reading. Publicize recommended reading lists for books that families can read with children of different ages.

Trending Icebreakers Volume 5: It's time to make a fresh start. You've done some summer reading on classroom management, and you're eager to try out some new ideas. You've learned from past mistakes, and you look forward this year to avoiding those mistakes.

Most fun of all, the opening days of school are an opportunity to get to know a whole new group of kids! What will you do during those first few days of school? What activities might you do to help you get to know your new students? What activities will help students get to know you and one another? For the last three years, Education World has presented a new group of getting-to-know-you ideas -- or icebreakers -- for those first days of school. Here are 19 ideas -- ideas tried and tested by Education World readers -- to help develop classroom camaraderie during the opening days of school.

Opening-Day Letter Still looking for more ideas? Don't forget our archive of more than icebreaker activities. Write a letter to your students. In that letter, introduce yourself to students. Tell them about your hopes for the new school year and some of the fun things you'll be doing in class. In addition, tell students a few personal things about yourself; for example, your likes and dislikes, what you did over the summer, and your hobbies.

Ask questions throughout the letter. You might ask what students like most about school, what they did during the summer, what their goals for the new school year are, or what they are really good at.

In your letter, be sure to model the correct parts of a friendly letter! On the first day of school, display your letter on an overhead projector. Then pass each student a sheet of nice stationery. Have the students write return letters to you. In this letter, they will need to answer some of your questions and tell you about themselves. This is a great way to get to know each other in a personal way! Mail the letter to students before school starts, and enclose a sheet of stationery for kids to write you back.

Each piece should have a matching piece of the same length. There should be enough pieces so that each student will have one. Then give each student one piece of string, and challenge each student to find the other student who has a string of the same length.

After students find their matches, they can take turns introducing themselves to one another. You can provide a list of questions to help students "break the ice," or students can come up with their own. You might extend the activity by having each student introduce his or her partner to the class.

Give each student a slip of paper with the name of an animal on it. Then give students instructions for the activity: They must locate the other members of their animal group by imitating that animal's sound only.

No talking is allowed. The students might hesitate initially, but that hesitation soon gives way to a cacophony of sound as the kids moo, snort, and giggle their way into groups. The end result is that students have found their way into their homerooms or advisory groups for the school year, and the initial barriers to good teamwork have already been broken. Hold a large ball of yarn. Start by telling the students something about yourself. Then roll the ball of yarn to a student without letting go of the end of the yarn.

The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself. Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn. Soon students have created a giant web.

After everyone has spoken, you and all the students stand up, continuing to hold the yarn. Start a discussion of how this activity relates to the idea of teamwork -- for example, the students need to work together and not let others down. To drive home your point about teamwork, have one student drop his or her strand of yarn; that will demonstrate to students how the web weakens if the class isn't working together. Questions might include the following: What is your name? Where were you born?

How many brothers or sisters do you have? What are their names? Do you have any pets? Tell students to write those questions on a piece of paper and to add to that paper five more questions they could ask someone they don't know.

Pair students, and have each student interview his or her partner and record the responses. Then have each student use the interview responses to write a "dictionary definition" of his or her partner to include in a Student Dictionary.

You might model this activity by creating a sample dictionary definition about yourself. Born in Riverside, California. No brothers or sisters. Have students bring in small pictures of themselves to paste next to their entries in the Student Dictionary. Bind the definitions into a book, and display it at back-to-school night.

Ask each student to write a brief description of his or her physical characteristics on one index card and his or her name on the other. Physical characteristics usually do not include clothing, but if you teach the primary grades, you might allow students to include clothing in their descriptions. Put all the physical characteristic index cards in a shoe box, mix them up, and distribute one card to each student, making sure that no student gets his or her own card.

Give students ten minutes to search for the person who fits the description on the card they hold. There is no talking during this activity, but students can walk around the room. At the end of the activity, tell students to write on the card the name of the student who best matches the description. Then have students share their results. How many students guessed correctly? Patricia McHugh, John W. Set up a circle of chairs with one less chair than the number of students in the class.

Play music as the students circle around the chairs. When the music stops, the students must sit in a seat. Unlike the traditional game, the person without a seat is not out. Instead, someone must make room for that person. Then remove another seat and start the music again. The kids end up on one another's laps and sharing chairs! You can play this game outside, and you can end it whenever you wish. Afterward, stress the teamwork and cooperation the game took, and how students needed to accept one another to be successful.

Reinforce that idea by repeating this game throughout the year. Danielle Weston, Willard School, Sanford, Maine Hands-On Activity Have students begin this activity by listing at least 25 words that describe them and the things they like. No sentences allowed, just words! Then ask each student to use a dark pen to trace the pattern of his or her hand with the fingers spread apart. Provide another sheet of paper that the student can place on top of the tracing.

Because the tracing was done with a dark pen, the outline should be visible on the sheet below. Direct students to use the outlines as guides and to write their words around it. Provide students a variety of different colored pencils or markers to use as they write. Then invite students to share their work with the class.

They might cut out the hand outlines and mount them on construction paper so you can display the hands for open house. Challenge each parent to identify his or her child's hand. Then provide each student with five different-colored paper strips. Have each student write a different talent on separate paper strips, then create a mini paper chain with the strips by linking the five talents together. As students complete their mini chains, use extra strips of paper to link the mini chains together to create one long class chain.

Have students stand and hold the growing chain as you link the pieces together. Once the entire chain is constructed and linked, lead a discussion about what the chain demonstrates -- for example, all the students have talents; all the students have things they do well; together, the students have many talents; if they work together, classmates can accomplish anything; the class is stronger when students work together than when individual students work on their own.

Hang the chain in the room as a constant reminder to students of the talents they possess and the benefits of teamwork. Your school librarian might have a discard pile you can draw from.

Invite students to search through the magazines for pictures, words, or anything else that might be used to describe them. Then use an overhead projector or another source of bright light to create a silhouette of each student's profile; have each student sit in front of the light source as you or another student traces the outline of the silhouette on a sheet of by inch paper taped to the wall.

Have students cut out their silhouettes, then fill them with a collage of pictures and words that express their identity. Then give each student an opportunity to share his or her silhouette with the group and talk about why he or she chose some of the elements in the collage.

Post the silhouettes to create a sense of "our homeroom. You can use such cards to gather other information too, such as school schedule, why the student signed up for the class, whether the student has a part-time job, and whether he or she has access to the Internet at home.

As a final bit of information, ask the student to write a headline that best describes him or her! This headline might be a quote, a familiar expression, or anything else. When students finish filling out the cards, give a little quiz.

Then read aloud the headlines one at a time. Ask students to write the name of the person they think each headline best describes.

Who got the highest score? It seems as if parents are contacted only if there is a problem with students. At the end of each grading period, use the home address information to send a postcard to a handful of parents to inform them about how well their child is doing. This might take a little time, but it is greatly appreciated! Pop Quiz Ahead of time, write a series of getting-to-know-you questions on slips of paper -- one question to a slip. You can repeat some of the questions.

Then fold up the slips, and tuck each slip inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons. Give each student a balloon, and let students take turns popping their balloons and answering the questions inside. Contributor Unknown Fact or Fib? This is a good activity for determining your students' note-taking abilities. Tell students that you are going to share some information about yourself. They'll learn about some of your background, hobbies, and interests from the second oral "biography" that you will present.

Suggest that students take notes; as you speak, they should record what they think are the most important facts you share. When you finish your presentation, tell students that you are going to tell five things about yourself. Four of your statements should tell things that are true and that were part of your presentation; one of the five statements is a total fib. This activity is most fun if some of the true facts are some of the most surprising things about you and if the "fib" sounds like something that could very well be true.

Guide Your Child—Don’t Try to Control Him

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