Selfies – a cool start-of-the-school-year activity

I really love this activity and my students seem to love it as much as I do!!

The classroom collection of these student selfies make for a great bulletin board display!!

Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Using  templates ( there are so many of them on Pinterest, eg ) , students draw their selfie (self portrait) onto a smart phone template handout. They then select from the variety of text message (writing prompts) and answer questions for back to school, Halloween, New Year’s or end of the year. This year, I have  decided to ask them to choose from alternative back-to-school  text message  topics:

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  • What I DIDN’T DO this summer
  • A unique person I met this summer
  • My most memorable moment of the summer
  • One thing I learned this summer
  • The person I spent the most time with this summer
  • The best meal I ate this summer
  • Something educational I did this summer
  • Something I bought this summer
  • Something I made this summer

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Idea:To start with, you can use  a Power Point presentation with examples of “famous selfies” using artists like Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Through this fun slide show students will get to see a modern twist on self-portraits as they commonly call them selfies.

Use this lesson to assess your students fine motor skills, drawing skills, creativity and overall willingness to put effort into their work. You can tell a lot about a child by their artwork–especialy their self portraits (err, I mean selfies). Most of all have some fun and let your students show off their creativity to you, practicing their English, at the same time!

This lesson is not a formal drawing lesson, however it could easily be combined with one.

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Back to school:Me in a bag and a…portrait!



My bag this year

It’s finally  time to start building the classroom community. As I write my lesson plans, I include getting-to-know-you activities. These activities provide opportunities for the students to interact positively with one another. The children are eager to make new friends, learn about the classroom environment, and become part of a school family. After all, the classroom will become a home away from home for the next ten months.


Few of the items in my bag


I know that there are many people who already do this activity but I hope that someone will find this helpful for the beginning of the year!

Yes, this is my night buddy!! We always sleep together!

Yes, this is my night buddy!! We always sleep together!

I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc .I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me !I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am  always surprised of how many kids  actually, bring one!  It is fun to see how excited the kids get when they discover that a classmate has something in common with them.


During the next lesson, students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it!

During the next lesson, students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it!

Note: The Me in a bag  idea is adapted from a classroom banner example. The professional book is from a Scholastic book club order. I do not think it is available from the online store at this time. You could include a simple note to families requesting three or four small objects for each child to share.


Students spend some time trying to guess about each item in my bag…


Well, when it is my kids’ turn to let their classmates guess about the items in their bags, they share so many personal stories, too! A precious moment was  yesterday ,when a girl showed the class an old DVD…and finally revealed that it was her late grandmother’s birthday present when she was much younger!

What is my favourite sport? I am going to tell you why, as soon as you make the right guess!

What is my favourite sport? I am going to tell you why, as soon as you make the right guess!


They used to watch it together, laugh and share unforgetable moments ! Then , she broke down in tears!! ” I really miss my grandma, miss” she said! I gave her a hug and thanked her for sharing such a precious moment with the rest of the class!

Guess about my talents!

Guess about my talents!




After the portraits are ready, they are handed to the kids who use the frames to write words which talk about them.

I have students draw and color their partner’s portrait on the first day of school. These portraits make perfect keepsakes to pull out at the end of the year. Students are later , asked to brainstorm descriptive phrases and adjectives to write on the frame of their portrait , which talk about their special interests personality and talents! They are also free to comment on their partner’s portrait. Finally, all portraits are displayed in class. Rapport matters!


Their partner, can’t see his/her portrait until it’s done!They may comment on it later…

Rapport activity: make your partner's portrait the way you see him/her , add adjectives which you think describe their character and personality !

Rapport activity: make your partner’s portrait the way you see him/her , add adjectives which you think describe their character and personality !

Rapport matters!

Rapport matters!






Real FUN games -part a

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to young children can be a stressful, pulsating nightmare of runny noses, drool and hysterical crying (and then there are the kids).

So it’s important to have a repertoire of simple, easy -to-play games up your sleeve for those days when your usual teaching ideas and practices , don’t work.

The games and activities  below are FUN, old time favourites for me!

The fashion show

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To practise the order of adjectives, the students become …models !!

They take turns and walk like fashion models on the catwalk!

The other students use opinion, colour, material etc adjectives, to describe what the model is wearing and make comments on his/her clothes!

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Example: She’s wearing a cute, pink, woollen sweater! It suits her!

He is wearing  smart, dark blue,denim jeans! They match his t-shirt!

Chain drawings

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Each player has a sheet of paper and begins by drawing the head of a person as far as the neck.

All the players, fold the top of the sheet over to hide the head , leaving just the neck showing. They then, passes  his  sheet on to the next person who draws the body including the arms but not the hands!The paper is folded again with just the waist and wrists left  showing and the papers are passed on..This time the player draws the legs down to the knee and the hands. Finally, the player draws the lower legs and feet!

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The papers are passed on for the last time and the players unfold their pictures for everyone to enjoy!

We compare and contrast out pictures, we describe them in detail  and have loads of laugh!



Story circle

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Each player writes the opening line of a story at the top of his sheet of paper. I give them instructions about what to write each time.

First they have to write ” the name and surname of a man we all know, and some characteristics of him” He  can be a famous athlete an  artist or even a teacher or a classmate!

All the players, fold the top of the sheet over to hide what’s written and pass their sheet on to the next person.

The second sentence is about ” a woman we all know and some characteristics of her”

They fold again and pass it on.

The third sentence is about ” where they first met and how”

The fourth one is  about ”  HIS first words to her ”

The fifth sentence , about” HER  reply or reaction ”

The next one about ” what happened next”

On the last round each player must write a sentence to end the story! The final sentence is about  ” what happened in the end”…was it a happy ending or not?

It’s pure fun when we read our stories aloud!

It’s also a way for me to spot weaknesses in their writing…To  find out what grammatical/vocabulary  mistakes students are making in general! I usually ask them to do this activity during the first week at school, especially with a new class..!

The writing half hour



Once a month, I introduce a writing half hour when students -6th graders- aren’t allowed to talk and can communicate only in writing!

I explain that:

for the next 30 minutes, students can communicate with everyone in the classroom and communicate about anything but, are not allowed to talk, only write.The things that they write will not be individually corrected!

The purpose of this activity is to give students confidence and practice in writing.

I answer any questions that students may have .

I carry around paper myself and write notes and questions to my students!

It is a good chance to ask individual questions that they might not feel safe talking about at other times!

“Hi, Maria. I noticed that you look a bit tired today.Are you feeling o.k?”

” Paul, you looked confused when we studied the simple past last week. Do you need more help with this?’




Don’t be surprised if students are a little bewildered at first.

In later weeks, I give them tasks to perform during the half hour.For example, I ask the girls to find out if boys in class enjoy a particular sport/activity   more than them!

At the end of each activity, I collect all the papers and find out what grammatical mistakes students are making in general.But, I make sure I don’t tell an individual student what mistakes he or she has made , as this may inhibit, his desire to communicate.

It can make a welcome break in noisy classes!

To be continued….