Articles for Teachers: Introductions
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© Ali Shenassa. Permission is granted to individual teachers to make copies of the article below for classroom teaching.
How can you make engaging introductions for your ESL lessons?
By Ali Shenassa
Think of yourself as a light bulb. If you exude energy, your students will become energized. If you seem bored or aren't truly present, you become a hollow shell that deflates your students' excitement and natural curiosity. Think of your brain like the control panel of a computer. Go into your control panel and turn the knob of energy all the way up!
Brainstorming about the topic on the board is a great way to elicit information from students and ensure they're invested in the lesson. Start by asking the group as a whole to contribute ideas, but make sure you also call on individual students so everyone's had a chance to take part in the process.
Images have a strong impact on the human brain and are powerful stimuli. Pictures, postcards, board drawings, video clips, and other visuals which are connected to your topic are all effective ways to create an exciting introduction that will color the rest of your lesson.
Show your students how the topic of your lesson is relevant to their lives. Motivate your students by connecting your topic to their dreams, fears, careers, hobbies, and personal views. For example, if you are teaching a reading lesson on "Ghosts," one way to personalize the topic is to ask your students: " Do you believe in ghosts?" or "Has anyone in this classroom ever seen a ghost?" I've had some very interesting responses and discussions following these questions.
Another way to generate interest is to tell the class a personal story connected to your topic. For example, if your topic is a speaking lesson about favorite travel destinations, you could tell your students about your own travels and which of your travels excited you the most. But be careful not to get carried away by your own story. Keep it short. Remember that your students will learn much more by having the opportunity to use language than by watching you use language.
This is a trick you can use to create a sense of curiosity and excitement before your lesson. Students naturally want to see if they're right in their prediction about the topic and focus on what's coming next. For example, before a reading lesson using poetry you could write some vocabulary from the poem on the board and ask students if they can guess what the title of the poem is.
Make sure that your introduction has the "protein" your students crave. In the final stage of your introduction, use the momentum and excitement you've created in the earlier stages to lead your students to focus on the objective of your lesson. Use the board if appropriate to elicit information and review what they already know and build on that by introducing any new vocabulary and grammatical structures needed for the tasks of your activities.