First Classes: Start Full Color, Full Contact


Recently I watched an inspiring interview with  entrepreneur Pam Slim at The Good Life Project site. In fact, if you want to pick incredible people´s brains about topics ranging from design to entrepreneurship, that´s exactly where you should land. At the end of her interview, Pam Slim mentioned that, for her, to live a good life was to live it full color and full contact.

456094473If we consider the beginning of the year for many educators around the globe at this time of the year, that´s maybe the wisest piece of advice one can offer. We have to start creating this empathetic, exciting environment in which everyone feels embraced. We have to be fully involved in the teaching/learning process, which is exactly the full contact part. Some teachers are just so detached from what they are doing, that things seem dull, even harder than they could be. Life in the classroom requires endurance, but if we take this motto of full color and full contact and have a more practical approach to it, then life in the classroom trenches will be much more enjoyable, fun and productive.

Here are some practical icebreaker ideas using technology – my area of interest and passion –  to connect with your students from day one:

If your students have smartphones, ask them to use one of their apps (it could free apps like skitch or picollage)  to create a page with the trending topics in their lives (just like we have the trending topics in Twitter and other social media); they can then check the trending topics of the class and vote for the 5 trending topics on that day. If you want to extend the activity, they can compare their trending topics to the ones in Twitter (there, they can even check the trending topics in different countries). If possible, ask them to email you their trending topics page.
Full color, full contact tip: Use the trending topics info to create a bond with your students. Ask them about things in their lists you don´t know about and use the information you gather throughout your school term to give examples, to create stories with things from their lives. 

Another very simple activity with a positive impact in class.
3-2-1 photo activity. Ask students to choose 3 photos from their photo library of interesting places they´ve been to lately, 2 photos of special people and 1 photo of a significant object in their lives (you can adapt to a totally different 3-2-1). Again, if your learners have a cellphone, this activity can be done on the very first day of class with you, the teacher, modeling it first with your own photos and giving students the opportunity to ask you questions. What if some of your students don´t have cellphones? Ask the ones who have to select their images and the ones who don´t to draw or write.
Full color, full contact tip: visual input  and stories about the photos create empathy within the group and that´s when you can start to have your learners hooked to your English classes.
(This 3-2-1 activity is an adaptation of Nicky Hockly´s 3-2-1 profiles).

Do you have any other idea for icebreakers having our full color full contact motto in mind?

Carla Arena

Carla Arena is a social entrepreneur, educator by choice. She left a promising career in the public service to become an English teacher and got the chance to take roles she could have never imagined, such as site content manager at the Binational Center she worked for, Casa Thomas Jefferson. There, she was also the Supervisor of Educational Technology, and more recently Coordinator of Innovation and Technologies. Carla is a Google Innovator and educational technology consultant. Currently she innovates in her own business, AMPLIFICA (

  • Hugo
    Posted at 13:25h, 30 janeiro Responder

    Thanks Carla for the great tips on incorporating mobile technology in the classroom. I have been writing about, and discussing these incredible opportunities over the last few months, and it is great to read that you’re looking at the opportunities from the same perspective. Congratulations on your blog here, and I will surely follow your postings. Parabems!

    • Carla Arena
      Carla Arena
      Posted at 14:18h, 30 janeiro Responder

      Hugo, great to have you around. And, yes, mlearning has been on my radar for the past 2 years in a more consistent way, so I hope we share some ideas of best practices to keep helping educators to use mobile devices wisely.

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