absolute beginners

 In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms

An ESL teacher for absolute beginners with an emotional intelligence approach will hopefully find this ice-breaker useful when preparing in-class activities for their newly grouped students.

What to do in English language with pupils who have not studied English before. How to begin and where if you are not happy with the line «Unit One, page one, exercise one».

My suggestion is to pick up some vocabulary activity that is easy and anyone can just enjoy by very simply Listening and Repeating.

After the typical Introductions when everyone knows each other’s name you can ask your group to sit in fours to the count of «One, Two, Three, Four». All «one’s» will sit together, all «two’s» and so on.

Then play the three songs that follow and experience, like explained in the article  «Emotional responses to music» how in fact «music can really induce emotions» and in this first session «get people together» as well.

My choice of songs are:

A million dreams


Back to black


Each group of four, listens to the three songs and tries to determine what is the common factor in all of them. The answer is: they all are colour-related songs. The first one sung by the artist Pink, the second one displaying an array of colours of the rainbow, the third one named Black. Allow time for them to give opinions on which one they liked best and why. What is their choice of music when they are in the car or at home, etc. Let them talk as much as they like considering it is their first day at school.

When you think it appropriate project the Vocabulary Sheet for Colours and hand out coloured pieces of paper at random. Ask the students to Listen and Repeat to the correct pronunciation of The colours of the rainbow. Try to remember how to pronounce their coloured piece of paper. Then write on their piece of paper their name, number and colour. Like this: Peter – two – blue. Finally tell the other students in their group what their name is, which number they were given, and what colour is their piece of paper like this «My name is Peter. I am number Two. I am blue». At the end of the lesson they can pin up their papers on the noticeboard as a memento of their first day at school.


IF YOU HAVE TIME: you can hand out shaped pieces of colour as an add-on piece of vocabulary: my name is Peter, my number is two, I am a blue triangle.


colours, numbers and the alphabet 


FOR LONGER SESSIONS: you may like to play this song to introduce The Alphabet. It makes it all nice and lively to spread out letters like these at random (or perhaps ask for a volunteer to hand the letters out to their classmates as they are getting in), and repeat The Alphabet sounds by having each student call out loud their letters. The effect is very dynamic when you hear the voices of the students from different spots in the classroom like a ping pong ball bouncing from one to another.

You can close up this first session by picking up some colours of your choice to be spelt slowly and quietly as it is their first time.  Ask the students to get up as they hear their sound. Then get all together somewhere visible where the rest of their classmates can see the whole word that has come up with each of the letters.

Note that this activity can be used to learn and practice numbers and figures as well!



La vida, sin prisa












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