You’ve got mail

 In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms

This is one of the most beautiful Emotional Intelligence practices I have experienced. As a student myself I followed the lecturer’s instructions to «open up the envelope at home if you feel so» and it is indeed an exciting as well as loving exercise to take every piece of paper out and read the notes from your classmates. You can try this out with family or friends for more personal circles at special celebrations, for instance, and if you choose to get it adapted to your classroom you will surely find a topic or task where it fits well. Thanksgiving and Birthdays, or Collocations for a more linguistic objective are two good examples. My own choice was to bring the activity as group dynamics for the annual students’ representatives Elections as described below.



Based on Olivia Recondo’s emotional mailboxes


Hand out empty envelopes for your students to write their names. Ask them to be imaginative and creative as their envelope will be staying on the wall all week for everyone to see. The students will sit in a circle for a few minutes and will be offered crayons, stickers or any useful material you can provide. When they have created their master piece tell them to look at their work for one last time and pass their envelopes to the student on their right who may continue the work. At this point the students will have experienced all kinds of emotions that can be discussed when collecting envelopes.

Some minutes later ask the students to give back their envelopes to their classmate sitting to the left. Again they will have different sensations when receiving their original envelope that can also be discussed when the time comes.

The final step on this first stage is for them to hang up all their envelopes somewhere visible on the wall or a noticeboard all nicely lined up. Leave the envelopes with their names opened and ready to receive messages. This activity works really well in silence and with background music, allowing the students to enjoy watching each other pin up their envelopes and admiring the final result on the wall. Before you go on, they can share what they experienced during the practice.

To finish, tell them the envelopes will be staying for one whole week during when they are invited to put in «letters» for their classmates [pieces of paper with words or messages]. The content of the letters must be related to these four categories:

  • gratitude
  • forgiveness
  • congratulations
  • love and kindness


One week later ask the students to go and collect their envelopes where classmates have been leaving messages all week and read the messages they have received. The activity can be closed up in a group interaction practice to listen to those willing to share their messages, or their thoughts, feelings and emotions throughout the practice.



The group dynamics can be put into practice as soon as the Students’ Representative elections are announced in autumn. All you need is to explain to your group that the envelopes will stay for 15 days or so and will be filled up with good reasons why they believe one person should represent their group at the biannual students representatives meeting. Their messages will finish the sentence «I believe you could be a good representative for our group» which can be displayed at the top of the envelopes setting.


You could be a good representative for our group because …


To make a decision they will be quietly paying full attention to their classmates attitudes and behaviours for a fortnight. Here are some of the messages collected in my groups:

… because you are kind and well-spoken

… because you talk with confidence

… because you were a good representative last year

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