Teaching is hardly on the list on day 1 of a course.
From my first ever student in 2008 to my first student of 2019, I’ve never ‘taught’ them on Day 1.
Instead, for me, Day 1 is about the following:
Not being a stranger:
Exchanging names, educational and professional information is no big deal.
A little over two minutes is all it takes.
But the goal is never simply to break the ice.
The goal is to go from being a complete stranger to an approachable guide.
I spend a great deal of time on Day 1 asking questions that:
- Tell me about the students’ goals and dreams:
“What would you want to do with your German skills?”
“What career (or designation) would you like to pursue long-term?”
- Show that I care:
“Would it give you a clearer picture if I told you a bit about the different standard levels of learning German?”
“There could be multiple career options for you with German – would you like to hear about a few?”
“Your typical day must be busy – how many hours can you feasibly spend with the language apart from our sessions?”
“Do you have any other related questions about the course/ the language/ anything else?
Observing & Adapting:
I like to know the temperament, attitude, comfort level and general outlook of my students from Day 1. I like to observe:
- How well they can communicate
- Whether they sound confident or unsure
- Whether my words are re-assuring or intimidating to them
- Whether I’m taking it too fast/ too slow
- Whether they are forthcoming with questions
- Whether their bigger priority is learning thoroughly or simply getting that certification
Making Private Notes
I take down a lot of notes – on paper. Notes about the student, their topics of interest, their goals, their challenges – and other interesting points I come across while talking to them that might help me later.
Here are some of the things I note down on Day 1, strictly for myself:
- German-learning goals of the student
- Career goals of the student
- Topics of interest
- Educational background
- Ability to hold a conversation
- General temperament
- Attention span
- Other observations
These aren’t ‘exercises’ or ‘tasks.’ (None of those on Day 1.)
No, they are puzzles, designed to make the student realize that even without knowing too many words, a lot of language can be understood simply through context.
These puzzles are incredibly heartening for a student who is completely new to the language, and your course is off to a powerful start.
A few of my favorite techniques to do this are:
Word-Picture Puzzle: Match the most suitable picture for a given German word. These are super-easy words. Most of them have English-sounding syllables, which helps the student guess the right answer.
What’s this about?: Silently read a short German paragraph (2 -3 sentences) and tell me what you think it is about. Again, the language is super-simple, filled with words that sound similar in English, or a picture to give them more context.
Komposita: If Mittag = afternoon and Essen = food, then what’s Mittagessen? (They’ll figure it out, and they’ll be thrilled when they do!)