50 Activities for the First Day of School


50 Activities for the First Day of School by Walton Burns

My book is officially for sale!

50 Activities for the First Day of School is a collection of activities teachers can use on the first day of school or anytime they need an icebreaker or team building activity. While aimed at the English language classroom, the book is useful to any teacher who wants to start the school year out right!

This book features

  • Classic icebreakers and name games
  • Fun ways to start teaching on the first day
  • New innovative activities to build rapport
  • Practical ideas to set the rules from day one
  • Engaging ways to introduce the course right away
  • Effective methods of assessing your students’ language level

You can also find more information on the book and great first day of school resources at The First Day of School webpage.

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How to Use Videos in Class


We all know that students can learn a lot from video. Watching video, your students are listening and following a plot. They are getting visual clues from the video. Videos are often fun and engaging, so students want to pay attention. Finally, videos raise a lot of great topics or themes. But without a plan, a film-based lesson can turn into kids just watching a movie!

So here’s a basic framework for how to use videos in class. It does require breaking the video into shorter sections. I recommend watching the video before class to get an idea of how it logically breaks down into sections. Note the times when each section begins and ends. You’ll also want to prepare questions students can answer during each section.

  1. Put students in pairs or small groups
  2. Play the video bit by bit. Have students watch, try to answer questions related to that section.
  3. Have them check their answers with another pair.
  4. If the whole class is completely lost, replay that section.
  5. Discuss the questions and any other questions students have to make sure they are following the video.
  6. Have students predict what will happen next.
  7. For the next section of the video, repeat steps 2-6.
  8. When the video is over, review the video as a whole. Discuss questions about the general theme or objective of the video.
  9. Move on to talking about how the video relates to something personal. This is a good time to do a writing or task where students apply something from the video to their lives.

I’d love to hear how using this framework goes for your film-based lessons. Let me know in the comments.

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TpT Sale and Giftcard Giveaway


If you haven’t entered my giftcard giveaway yet, quick! Comment on this post with your favorite Back to School resource on Teachers Pay Teachers. You’ve got until 8:30pm EST Sunday, August 21st.

Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting a big first week of school sale. But it’s only for one day: tomorrow, Monday the 22nd. Everything on the site will be 10% off if you use the promo code OneDay when you check out. On top of that, I’m automatically taking 20% off of everything in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store , including all of my back to school resources. You don’t need a promo code to get that extra 20%. Together both sales come out to a total of 28% off everything in my store.

50 Activities for the First Day of School by Walton Burns worldmapThis is a great time to pick up my Flag World Map that I use for one of my all time favorite go-to icebreakers. As an ESL teacher, I always want my students to know where all their classmates come from. And the getting-to-know-you exercise I describe on the product page never fails to get students curious about their fellow students and the world.  Plus having a map in class is never a bad thing.

You can also learn about Single Point Grading Rubrics and why they will be your best friend this year. Instead of having to create giant rubrics with 5 or 6 columns of grades that your students will never read, save time. These rubrics require only one column. Focus students on success rather than failure! Tell them what you want them to do, rather than describing all the ways they can do wrong, or all the superhuman things they may never accomplish.

And pick up my new book at the lowest price possible. 50 Activities for the First Day of School is my collection of icebreakers, warmers, getting-to-know-you activities and other fun and engaging activities that take care of first day of school business. Learn their names, build a trusting classroom community, set the tone and expectations for the year, and assess your students’ learning goals and needs. There’s an activity for everyone here. And remember that rapport-building doesn’t stop on the first day or the first week. These activities can be used year-round to keep your classroom a friendly, safe, respectful community dedicated to learning. I don’t have the ebook up on TpT yet, so you can pick that up at Amazon . You can also buy it direct from Alphabet Publishing or almost anywhere else you get books.

But wait. There’s more…..

$10 Giftcard giveaway on Sunday night!sale_1200_628

The good people at Teachers Pay Teachers have  sent me a $10 gift card to help promote this sale. And I want to spread the love around to all the great teacher-sellers on the site. I also want to make sure the winner has the chance to use it during the sale.

So in order to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a link to the best Back to School resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.

It might be something you plan to buy.

It might be a resource you already bought and love.

It can be something you want to promote.

It doesn’t have to be one of mine :)

I just want to see as many great back to school resources shine as possible.

I’ll pick one of the names with a qualified comment using http://www.randomresult.com/ at 8:30PM EST on Sunday, August 21st.

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I’ve been interviewed


I had a lot of fun answering Jennifer Lebedev’s questions for this interview on her blog: Making Discoveries: An ESL Story. I particularly enjoyed recalling that vocational school I worked at for a semester in Astana, Kazakhstan. As if teaching total beginners wasn’t a challenge enough, and the -30 Astana winters weren’t a hostile enough environment, there were the joys of the outhouse and the barebones classroom.

I do wonder what happened to those future hairdressers, cooks, and fashion designers of Kazakhstan. I wonder if any of them use English now at all. I wonder what they think of me and my class. Maybe, some day when we visit Kazakhstan again, we’ll run into someone a former student. Or I can drop by. Funnily enough even though we got lost for 2 hours trying to find the school the first time we went out there, I remember the road so well now. I’m sure I drive there without getting lost once.

I won’t spoil the interview anymore than I have, but if you want to find out how I became a teacher, my advice for designing lesson plans, or my favorite icebreaker, go check out the interview. And be sure to browse around Jennifer’s site for other great articles and interviews!

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Fiction in Action: Spellbound


This is just a quick note to share this great reading comprehension textbook  Fiction in Action: Spellbound . I love the idea of using genre fiction to get students interested in learning. I have ABAX Publishing’s brillant textbook by Adam Gray and Marcos Benevides that uses mystery writing (I’m a bit of a fan of mysteries, if you hadn’t noticed from this blog!)

The mystery stories really suck the students in. And mysteries are a great way to teach reading for detail, evaluating information, synthesizing information from different sources, and other critical reading skills. Longer mystery stories are also great examples of universal literary devices such as foreshadowing, twists, misdirection, conflict, building tension, and catharsis.

This one goes on the list of books I wish I had written!

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Visualize Your Goals: 30 Goals Cycle 7


For various reasons, I’m digging through a lot of communities and bloggers I used to follow with dedication. That led me back to the 30 Goals Challenge, which I really enjoyed. It’s a great way to be inspired as a teacher, writer, and a blogger. So here’s my entry for Goal 1 of Cycle 7 Visualize Your Goals
My two goals are in the center and they’re quite broad, but I suspect quite straightforward: To make a living and to be happy. I should point out that making a living for me is about more than just making money or eating and sleeping. It’s about being productive, which is something that’s important to me.

I’ve then illustrated three branches or kinds of activities that make me happy and help me make a living.

On the bottom left, there’s networking and reaching out to other teachers, including talking (I don’t know why those faces look so scary), social media, and a shout out to 30 Goals and communities like it.

On top, there’s the bulk of my work: writing and promoting my writing. Of course, there’s a wonderful overlap where I reach out to communities to help market my book and get swept back into those communities again and improve my teaching. That’s the best kind of professional development cycle!

Finally, there’s the part of my life that is sheer fun. I think it’s important to map fun and plan for it as you would work. So there’s family time with my son and my hobbies, like playing guitar, reading, and  working in the garden. That sprawling thing is meant to be a tomato plant but it kind of looks like green river now, which is fine.

What are your goals? What do they look like? How will you get there?

Grammarians Are Just Making it Up Aren’t They?


I was using the wonderful children’s dictionary, Kids.Wordsmyth.net for a project recently. While looking up “throughout”, I found a curious entry which highlighted something that’s bothered me for a while. What’s the difference between a preposition and an adverb?

OK, I know the difference, but it does seem as if some words are classified as both, when the difference in their usage or meaning is pretty minor.

Here’s what the dictionary says about throughout as a preposition:

definition: in, to, or during every part of.

The lights were on throughout the town.

The party lasted throughout the night.

And as an adverb:

in, during, or including every part.

The old house is still solid throughout.

from the start to the finish; during the whole time.

They remained friends throughout.
The only difference appears to be functional. Prepositions take objects so they’ve classified examples with objects as prepositions. If I added, “the war” to the end of the sentence They remained friends throughout would that make it a preposition instead of an adverb?
Perhaps readers who are greater fans of linguistics than I will step in and explain.

Source: throughout | Free On-Line English Dictionary | Thesaurus | Children’s, Intermediate Dictionary | Wordsmyth