At the beginning of most classes I’ve seen in Japan, there is a class greeting, where students and teachers say “Good morning/Good afternoon!” and students sometimes answer a few questions.
In my case, the boilerplate questions are:
1) How’s the weather today?
2) What’s the date today?
3) What’s the day today?
4) What time is it now?
Although genuine in their attempt to reinforce some common questions students may encounter in daily life, it’s easy to imagine how they get boring beyond belief. That’s why I decide to mix them up a bit.
The way I do this is by using this greeting time to my advantage. I am typically given free-reign during this time to go down the litanty. Since it is the beginning of class and I have the students’ attention, I found it is a good time to introduce some new phrases.
The two phrases I’m working on in my classes are:
1) “Long time no see!” and
2) “Nice to see you!”
Considering how frequently Japanese people use the phrase “hisashiburi” (the Japanese equivalent of the first phrase), it is shocking many students will never learn how to say this in English if they stick by the New Horizon textbook (other textbooks may vary, though). Since I visit each class about 1 time a week (meaning one week passese before I see a class) I consider it appropriate to use this phrase and have the students echo it back to me during the class greeting.
A variation on this phrase is “Nice to see you!”. After I have “Long time no see” down pact with a class, I’ll move on to this next phrase. The idea came from my myriad experiences running into students downtown on my free days. I found myself always wanting to say “Nice to see you!”. But since students didn’t learn it in schools, they heard “See you!” and waved goodbye — a very funny misunderstanding, indeed. So I use this phrase with the students to help them learn the distinction between, “Nice to see you”, “Nice to meet you” and “See you!”
Other ways to mix up the class greeting are to throw in simple yes no questions. For example, if I ask, “How’s the weather” and it is sunny, I will ask a follow up like, “Do you like the sun?” or “Are you happy it’s sunny?”
On Mondays, I will ask classes if they enjoyed their weekend. I’ve found that “Did you enjoy *fill in event here*” is always a good question to ask students.
On Fridays, I’ll ask 3rd grade classes what they will do during the weekend.
Of course, the flexibility one may have in tweeking this morning or afternoon ritual will depend on the level of the class and their general mood toward English on that day. That’s why I’ve found that consistancy and enthusiasm are key during this exercise.