How to start a lesson

I have been teaching English for about 12 years. Talking about my experience, there has never been anything more important than to be prepared for the very beginning of the lesson. Teachers and instructors which I had a chance to know and to work with, never underestimated this part of the lesson and tried to make it more interesting, more effective and more fruitful. But it depends, of course. Let me speak about my experience and the ways I always start my lessons. My ideas are in no way related to any textbook and also it does not matter which level you teach, because these ideas are quite adaptable to any level.

  1. Greetings. For so much time so far I have been using simple ‘How are you?’ to begin the lesson. Can you guess, what I could hear? When I heard “There’s nothing to boast of” I was delighted, but usually I could hear only “I’m fine”. I found a way of drilling asking and answering the first questions in the classroom. I prepared a set of cards for students, the first was called “How To Greet” and the second was “How To Respond”. I put these two piles of cards in front of the students and asked them to practice each word with a partner. Then I usually regroupped my students and they could try to use as many word expressions as possible and to respond as well.
  2. News. On Mondays I usually have classes in the very morning. Sometimes it is difficult for my students to begin speaking English straight away after entering the classroom. So every week I ask my students to prepare a couple of news they read or watched on TV the day before and to be ready to share with their partners. It usually takes them 3-5 minutes, and that is enough for the quick start and after this activity I am pretty sure they are willing to speak and read English.
  3. Quotation. It is a nice idea to start a lesson with a quotation. It can be related to the topic in the textbook you are currently teaching, or if your students are of a stronger level, you can provide them with a quotation related to politics or current situation in the world. The thing is that you do not reveal the whole phrase to students at the very beginning. I usually use a projector or a board to write a quotation with gaps and I usually write words to fill in the gaps randomly to allow students to think for a while, and in doing so, they will read a quotation they were supposed to guess. As a follow-up activity students are free to discuss it in pairs or in groups.

Currently I am still on the look-out for ideas and activities to start a lesson. Please, share yours in comments!

Pajamas Library



Modern students do not like to read. They are too busy liking photos in Facebook and instagramming. Some of them don’t read at all, not in their mother language, not in English. At least in my teaching practice I encountered such students, to tell the truth. But every teacher knows and realizes that reading is one of the most important parts of the language from the point of view of knowing new vocabulary, new ways of saying different things and express new ideas. How to make students read more?

This idea seems to me very amazing for using it with your students. I have recently heard one story about Israeli children, living in Tel-Aviv having so called Pajamas Library Program at schools. What is the essence of the program? Government-paid, this program turns out to be the most popular among pupils and their children. How to make children read more books? The same questions I am always asking when I am giving classes to adults. I guess, this idea was created for such teachers as me to help them to encourage students to read more. Now I would like to tell you how it works.

  1. The first thing you should decide as a teacher is what book you are going to read with students. My tip is to read classical English literature: short stories, humor stories by famous authors. Sometimes there are books for students with exercises, or you can create exercises yourself. In my English classroom I usually use “Select Readings”. It is a series of books meant for different levels. They are stuffed with lots of practice: pre-reading and post-reading tasks, ideas for communication, written tasks (essays, letters, presentations, etc.) and more tasks created for development of English skills. As soon as you personally choose the book, move on to the next step.
  2. You tell your students about a special program called “Pajamas Library”, and now you are going to realize this program in your classroom.
  3. Make sure your students understand ideas of this program. It depends on your specific needs and purposes of your group. If they do not read at all, except what is provided for them in the regular textbook, I would recommend to start reading once a week. If you have classes twice a week, in the framework of this program you should spend the whole lesson discussing the short story you have chosen.
  4. Imagine, tomorrow you are having a regular class. You give your students a story and tell them to read it just before going to bed the day before the class. That’s Pajamas Library! Also tell your students you are going to discuss their story the next day.
  5. During the lesson you come with materials and exercises and you do them together.
  6. Make sure your students give you feedback about the story and about the program itself. It can be conducted in a written form, you can make it with the help of using post-it notes, you can simply ask them to share in pairs and write down their ideas and suggestions.

It is supposed that during the lesson your students have a nice opportunity to talk, to discuss, to find new ideas and skills for writing essays, for instance. What’s next? After you are given a feedback from students, you continue suggest new stories for students and conduct such lessons, and ask for a feedback each time. Try at least 5 classes in the framework of the program. After that you can analyze and reflect on the program and decide whether to continue realizing it or not. I would be very happy if you write your ideas and suggestion in comments.

Hope to hear from you soon!