In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms

This activity serves different purposes. Here is a «First day at school» proposal. The same dynamics have been used in my class to revise and check banks of vocabulary and it works very well too. Always an opportunity to liven up tired students or to open up and interact with a different classmate. The shyest don’t like it much at first, the most energetic love it. Try out and let me know!

First day at school

If you want to begin a new course in an unexpected manner keep reading. This was a fun activity for me as a participant in a teachers training course and I thought my students would love it so this year so I used it myself as an ice-breaker. I had my large group dance around musical chairs. My not-so-large group responded to names of fruits which worked well too.

OPTION A: With a large group of students you can simply follow the traditional game. Everybody sits in a circle. Then explain you are going to play some music and when the music stops everyone is to find an empty chair to sit on as quickly as possible. The person left without a chair will give two or three pieces of information about themselves. At random. For instance, «My name is Peter, I hate coffee and my favourite music group is Queen» or «Hi! I am Sophie, my daughter lives in London and my cat’s name is Arlo». Before you play the music remember to always remove one chair! Repeat the sequence over and over again until only one student is left to introduce himself. I can assure you this person will be remembered for the rest of the course!!

As the activity develops you will find that students already group themselves according to their likes and dislikes, position in the family, or favourite sports for example. «Musical chairs» is very easily followed up by get-to-know-each-other discussions. The activity works well with latest hits that students can recognise. Some even sing along.







OPTION B: Everybody sits in a circle. Depending on how many students you have name three or four fruits (for example, apple, orange, grapefruit). Students then choose which fruit they want to be for the exercise. If you have 15 students then you will have five oranges, five apples, and five grapefruits in the classroom. For larger groups just add more fruits!

When everybody has picked up a name, remove one chair and explain the procedure to your group. The instructions are the following: the activity begins with everybody walking nicely around the chairs until the teacher calls out the name of a fruit, for example, Apple. When the word «apple» is heard all the students will need to find a chair to sit on as quickly as possible. The student who stands up will give some information about themselves like «I go to the cinema every week and my favourite actor is Rami Malek».

During the second round the student who has introduced herself will then name another fruit, for example, grapefruit. All «the grapefruits» will start walking around the chairs nicely and slowly until the music stops and the grapefruits go and try to sit, except one! This person then will say something about herself, for example, «I am single and I play paddle twice a week» and give the name of another fruit, for example, orange. Then all «the oranges» will start walking around the chairs until the music stops. And so on and so forth.

The students who have had a chance to introduce themselves will remain seated within the circle during the rest of the exercise.


mistakes are great opportunities to learn


I like to give students a pice of paper before beginning the activity. On the paper the word SHAME is written. They are asked to throw that piece of paper in the bin outside the room before entering the classroom. Then, during lessons throughout the year, every time they feel embarrassed to speak in public or repeat an «awkward» sound I ask them to please remember «no-shame in class» as mistakes are great opportunities to learn.


La vida, sin prisa

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