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Brilliant back-to-school ideas for your overseas classroom

Back-to-school season is upon us and we know new overseas teachers are scouring the web for first-week inspiration. What can you do differently this year to make your classroom the best it can be? Which practices will best suit the students in your new country? How do you make a unique and memorable first impression on your new students? To save you time, I’ve put together some ideas that teachers can use in their classrooms around the world to shake things up this school year.

Meet & greet at the door

Meet and greet your new students as they enter your classroom. Shaking your students’ hands is a great technique to learn their names and remind them that teachers are human beings too. This idea is probably best suited for older students. Meeting and greeting may also serve as a way to take attendance during the first week of class. If you are teaching overseas, be sure to familiarize yourself with cultural practices in your new country as well as the rules and regulations at your school to make sure this is acceptable.

Play word-based games

Playing games with your students on the first day and throughout the first week of class is always an awesome ice-breaker and a fantastic way to have fun. Incorporating English – either spoken or written – into ESL classroom games can help students sharpen their vocabulary, comprehension, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation skills. As a teacher, this will be helpful to let you know how developed your students’ English abilities are and what skills they might need to work on throughout the year.

Board Race is a popular game for the ESL classroom. Here’s a YouTube video to help you incorporate it into your first week activities:

Lessons rarely go exactly as planned, so it’s a good idea to keep a handful of games in your back pocket. You want to avoid lulls and to keep your students engaged – having extra games prepared to fill time if necessary is a great way to do just that.

Decorate your classroom with your new students

A vibrant classroom always helps provide a welcoming and fun environment for students. And a well-executed theme throughout your teaching space can help you share your personality, hobbies, and interests with your students. In an overseas classroom, try taking your decorating to the next level by getting your students to help you design the space you’ll share.

Your classroom could take on a theme based on the country you’re teaching in, serving as an opportunity for the teacher and students alike to learn and share what they know about where they live.  

If you want to get to decorating on the very first day of school, you’ll need to make sure you have decorations prepared in advance. It’s also a good idea to check with your supervisor before decorating your space; you don’t want to break any cultural or institutional rules. This idea is probably best suited to elementary and middle-school aged students.

Don’t forget the parents

Introduce yourself to the parents of the students you will be working with this year. Sometime within your first week or two, make an effort to communicate with the parents, whether it’s by sending a note home, circulating an email, or chatting with them at the end of the school day. Inform them of your goals, events, and contact information. It is inevitable that you will be answering parents throughout the year – you’ll thank yourself for setting up a friendly and professional communication avenue early on.

Add a couple of these ideas to your toolbox and make this the best back-to-school season yet. Do you have any awesome ideas you’ve used in your classroom? Share them with us in the comments below.   

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