Getting to Know a New Class

Getting to know a new class is always hard with all those names to learn, but usually a class teacher has time on their side. Time to carry out various “getting-to-know-you” activities with a class they will be seeing every day. When your main role is as a PPA teacher you have only a couple of hours to learn the names of 30 children that you won’t see again for another week, so you need one activity that will fix those names firmly in your mind.

My way is to tell a story in French. This immediately holds the attention of the children: in many primary schools languages are not taught and so for children this is a real novelty; in some schools languages are taught, but even so children are likely to have learned only words and phrases, and so the idea of a whole story in a foreign language is still a novelty.
Before I begin I promise the children that they will understand the story, and with the help of props and plenty of actions, I tell the story of a hat that was so small it got stuck on my head. The format of the story is the same as The Enormous Turnip, and I call the children out one by one to help me pull the hat off. Those who have been called out love swaying backwards and forwards as they try to pull the hat off. Those who are still waiting enjoy joining in with “We pulled…and we pulled….and we pulled….but the hat still wouldn’t come off.”

Each time I call another child up, I list the names of the ones already in line. By the time I get to the end of the story I have repeated the names so many times I know I won’t forget them.

The children always enjoy the activity so much that for the rest of the year whenever they see me they ask “Are we going to do French today?” and “Will you tell us that story again?” If you want to give it a try, you’ll find the transcript for the story on my website, – just click on the link at look at the free resources page.

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9 Responses to Getting to Know a New Class

  1. I am not a teacher but I think you have a winner! What an excellent method to remember the children’s names AND introduce them to foreign languages at the same time. My first introduction to a foreign language (French) was all too formal and somewhat forced….so, to put it mildly, I didn’t enjoy it very much. You have obviously found a way to make languages fun which is how it should be; you leave them (the children) wanting more and this, I think, is the key to success. Good luck with your new term and the coming school year! Thank you for sharing.

    • sjbwriting says:

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. I always try to make language teaching as fun as I can. Of course sometimes there have to be serious bits, but I alwats aim to make sure the children enjoy learning. French is my biggest passion, so I really hope it shows when I teach.

      Thank you so much for your kind comments.

      • You are very welcome; credit where credit is due! Language teaching should be fun despite the necessary serious bits. As I mentioned, I had to learn French as part of the mandatory school curriculum, I knew the obligatory exam was coming at the end of term and that I had to pass it … pressure, pressure and more pressure. I passed the exam but I didn’t enjoy the learning, except a week in Brittany meant for us to live the language. I found German much more enjoyable because I chose it as an optional subject. Similarly, learning Italian has been a pleasure because, amongst other things, I chose to learn it. You are teaching the children to enjoy languages and that is a very good thing; they think they are just having fun but the teacher knows otherwise. All I can say is I wish I had had you to teach me French!

  2. Mayumi-H says:

    Great idea, Sally-Jayne! I love the “trick” of repeating the names of the students in line. We learn not only language by repetition. 😉
    I will have to pass on the story idea to my ESL teacher friends, too!

  3. I’m not a teacher either but used to help out at an after school club before uni and I remember going home after my first day and writing down all the children ‘s names and something about them to help me recall them the next day. This sounds like a great exercise and such good fun for the children! I learned French for the first time at 8 and my favourite lessons were always the interactive ‘real life’ story based ones. Thanks for sharing!

    • sjbwriting says:

      Learning names is so important isn’t it? I think anyone who works with a lot of children needs all the help they can get remembering names – especially as every year you get a new set to learn.

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