Back-to-School Activities for the World Languages Classroom

Do you want to spice up a little your old "what did you do this summer?" activity for the first day of class? Or do you prefer to avoid it altogether? Here are some ideas that I am going to use in my classes.

What happened in the world this summer? Headlines activity

For this activity, students will create a collage of headlines with the most important news from the 2017 summer. On the board or on a classroom wall, tape a sign saying: "In the summer of 2017..." Students will then create news headlines in groups and tape then under the sign.

To create the headlines, students work in groups of 2 or 3 to brainstorm what they thought were the most relevant national or world events of the summer. You can also make it about local news or, if you have younger students who may not pay attention to world news, then change the question to "What did celebrities do this summer?", or have fun and make them write "fake" news headlines.

Limit the time they spend deciding on the most relevant events, and limit the types of news they can search for depending on your context. Sports and entertainment are usually safe, but politics may be a no-go topic for the very first day of class; it's your call. After brainstorming, have students write two or three headlines to post on the classroom collage. Have them write shorter headlines with longer sub-headlines, just as in real newspapers, and have them use different fonts for each as well. Show them examples from the internet.

Depending on the level of the course, a little review of the past tenses might be needed before doing this activity.

As a follow up, ask students to write a 1-minute paper or record a 1-minute speech with Extempore saying what they learned from this activity. They could talk about the news they hadn't heard about before or list the words from the activity that were new for them.

What does summer for a 7th grader look like? Collage activity

I teach college students, but I used to teach middle-schoolers and I understand that the world news activity may not be as attractive to them. A more appealing alternative for a 7th or 8th grader would be something that is all about them.

Have students brainstorm in small groups for activities that someone their age would typically do in the summer. Model the activity for them by listing summer activities that are typical for a 7th grade teacher. If you worry that some of your students may come up with things like "sailing in the Bahamas", which may not be typical for most of their peers, then have a conversation about what typical means in your context. If you want to avoid that kind of conversation the first day of class (although, personally, I would not avoid it because the first day is the best time to set up your expectations about these kinds of things), then change the question to something like "What does summer for a pet look like?"or "What does summer for a superhero look like?"

Again, limit the brainstorming time and ask students to focus on two or three of the activities they talked about. Have them draw pictures of those activities and include captions in the target language.

As a follow up, have students compare the activities in the final collage with the activities they listed during their brainstorming session. How similar or different are they?

This is just one of many speaking activities you can offer. If you are looking for more, we have generated an eBook with 29 speaking activities you can download for FREE. Just click the image below to get started

Good luck, Buena suerte, Bonne change, Viel Glück with the first week!!