Circling with balls
This is an activity that can be used both with beginners and more advanced students with change of content. With beginners, students are given a large index card, or half-sheet of cardstock and asked to print their names large across the top. Then, on one side, they are to draw a picture of something they love to do OR that they would love to learn to do. (This is why this activity is called “circling with balls”. Originally, they were asked to draw a picture of what kind of sports they liked to play. This becomes obviously exclusive, so it was expanded.) On the other side, they are to draw a picture of a pet they have OR a pet they would like to have some day. In both situations, they are invited to draw about some personal reality or something imaginary–both realms of which you want to always be open in the classroom. Then, for as many days as it takes, you begin class by passing out the cards (helps you learn new students’ names) and you choose 2-4 to talk about. You look over their shoulders and begin asking them about and circling back to the class what you see. E.g. Marce, tu habes canem? (ita). Estne canis magus an parvus? (magnus). Then, you turn and circle that information to the class about Marcus and his dog. This can go on as long or short as you need before you go to the next person. With the next person, you might just ask if they have a dog, too. Obviously they don’t. You see a goldfish on their card, but it makes the transition. You do this, daily, until you have talked about everyone’s pet and everyone’s favorite activity. By the time it takes you to do that (two weeks?) they will know habere, ludere, canis, feles, piscis, equus, pedifolis, tenisia, and any number of other nouns and adjectives needed to talk about these things. It will be fun. THey will be unconscious of how much they are learning (which is the only way it happens), and they and you will get to know each other a little bit. BTW, you can use a soft-textured ball and toss it to the first person who, when you are finished, tosses it to someone else in the room not yet heard from.
We learned this approach from Ben Slavic and highly recommend his site.