Teaching about FEELINGS: Social-Emotional Learning and the COVID-19 Crisis

In spite of some critics who downplayed the importance of social and emotional learning and the value of belonging, to me it is clear and has been for some time: When  kids spend their daytime hours in safe, supportive schools where teachers work every day to build strong relationships with every student, they are simply better, more engaged learners.

Teaching during the lockdown was indeed about the technology—the mechanics of how to teach remotely. 

But it was mainly about how we were going to hold our students’ hearts. 

It was about connecting everybody and making them feel safe and secure ,before we got to the academics.

This virus had definitely stolen our students’ school experience for the rest of the year and we were not sure what would come next. Our students,  missed their friends and their teachers, the feeling of being together and connected.

So we had to work on relationship skills and how to talk to each other the right way. It was back then, more important than ever .

I hope, we all agree that ,as teachers , we are leaders, guides, facilitators, and mentors.

 We encourage students when they struggle, and inspire them to set and reach for their goals. We are role models, leading by example and giving direction when necessary.

In the very first days of the lockdown, my initial  thought was not to rush to teach them Grammar and Language skills but to have my students express themselves!

 Because, I know that when we can share our sensations, thoughts, and feelings, we feel a sense of relief, safety, and calm, and sharing our feelings and learning about them is one of the most powerful ways to regulate our nervous systems during stressful periods of time.

Many of my students reported feeling isolated, depressed, and overwhelmed!

 The lack of a support system had definitely been the hardest part about not physically attending school.

What I had in mind before I decided to launch “Our FEELINGS project” on e-me was Growth Mindset.

Last year, I was introduced to Growth Mindset by Jennifer Schmidt of The Cogent Construct  based in Spain.

Jennifer, had partnered with Pilgrim’s based in the UK to offer a new and innovative online teacher coaching  / mentorship program and I was asked to contribute to it!  

About Growth Mindset

This is a term introduced by Prof Carol Dweck and a concept that many schools are now introducing as a way to support a positive learning mindset. Those with a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) believe they can improve with hard work and perseverance and that their intelligence isn’t fixed. They display better self-esteem and increased resilience. The journal encourages a growth mindset through checklist prompts and use of daily quotes to remind children about the importance of not giving up when faced with challenges.

During the lockdown, we were all developing empathy

Empathy is the act of meeting someone in their pain and helping them feel like they’re not alone.

In order to inspire my students to take that journey, me as a teacher could not pretend that human feelings were something to which I was immune.I had to feel with students, which required both an acknowledgment that my own feelings existed and a desire to understand the feelings of my students. If I could create a fertile space for empathy to grow, I could also provide the opportunity for meaningful connections with my students.

I also used some writing opportunities for my students to get their thoughts, feelings, fears, and questions down in a creative format of their choice.

I gave them an option to share with the e-class.This did not only allow them to share out their feelings but also gave me a place to check on them and follow up when I saw any of them expressing sadness, fear, etc.

Most importantly , I was honest and as understanding as possible to let students know we were all in that together and would likely all need a little grace.

Αfter the first shock, I decided to focus my teaching on supporting my students emotionally.

Actually, the very first idea which I used in our synchronous meetings, during the lockdown, belonged to our inspiring colleague Effie Kyrikakis.

It was all about sharing our wishes  and sharing positive messages within our families and the local community and about committing small acts of kindness.

The message to my students was:You can always fly with your imagination! Spread your positivity! #PlanesofHope 

The main idea was that, each adult in their lives -teacher or parent- focuses on helping them bolster their strengths, discover their affinities, and realize their personal visions for the future.

Afterall, each teacher should be  a role model of calm reflection within their school.

To me,it is crucial that we should avoid exhibiting our own frustrations, especially in emergencies.

As a result, my students became more likely to think of setbacks as temporary. They recognized that by using more effective personal strategies ,they could overcome obstacles and turn setbacks into triumphs. 

During those challenging times,I thought  that ,rather than jumping in to fix the problem when my students were bored  or unmotivated to do online work ,I should let them feel their feelings as they faced those challenges. The key was to listen to and encourage them so that they felt  comfortable taking control.

My motto: Let’s let our students discover their own ways to cope. This is phenomenal emotional growth and skill-building for the future.

Consequently, it was highly important that I should encourage my students to talk about their feelings but also express gratitude.

Therefore,I decided to incorporate another inspiring idea into our asynchronous meetings during the lockdown, which belonged to my amazing colleague Theodora Bogiou.

It was about sharing and spreading positive messages, during the lockdown, within the local communities.

Practising gratitude this way,not only helped my students to see the goodness in their lives but also realise that it could come from a number of sources, even inside their homes .

It proved to be highly beneficial for the kids, to enhance our practical optimism through focusing on gratitude, small acts of kindness, emotional mindfulness, brain exercise, and positive surroundings, especially in those difficult times of self-isolation.

THE  #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

We hang some messages on a tree in our backyards and balconies.

The first messages was on a red heart♥️ and they started by saying I love…

The second message was on green leaves 🍃and they started by saying I’m grateful for..

The third message was on suns☀️ and it was a message to somebody they loved, like advice or a love message. It started by saying My message to you is…

All in all, I managed to promote emotional growth by encouraging my children to talk about their feelings, helping them identify those feelings and validating them. 

dav

In addition to practical steps to prevent illness (like washing hands and keeping a safe distance from others in the grocery store), I wanted to stress to my students that there were many other areas of pandemic life that they could control: how they spent their time at home, what they did to manage tough emotions, which self-care tools they utilized to reduce stress, etc. Me and my students discussed those coping methods and even made a list of them together.

Consequently, the next idea for our webex online meeting, came from Effie  Kyriakakis’ #re-bloom project

They actually wrote  about their  inner strengths ,on their artwork, on paper flower petals and shared them with the class both synchronously and asynchronously.

We also talked about resilience! Talking about resilience and the positive things that can come out of a crisis was not an attempt to paint a happy picture of those times, but to create real, measurable factors that can be gained by coming through a difficult time.

I thought that I should first demonstrate how I face challenges and frustration head-on and use different coping tactics like talking to loved ones, making art or playing music, which I later asked my students to try ,at home.

 I often give my students’ brain and body a positive workout, in the school classroom . I decided to do the same,during the lockdown.

Why?

-I believed that finding ways of calming the body could help some children, too – for example, using breathing or meditation techniques. Many of my students told me that being very active and ‘keeping busy’ stopped negative feelings and reduced stress levels to them.

 – For almost everyone, physical movement and exercise are very important. Scheduling time for that ,especially during the lockdown, helped my students to make sure they remembered to do it. I decided to ask them to do that, at the beginning of each synchronous class meeting.

 – I also encouraged them to find an activity which they enjoyed that was completely separate from any homework tasks  – it was cooking, art, a new sport indoors, catching up with friends on a regular video call, etc.

 – My suggestion to them about doing things for others had also been found to help my students manage their own stress. i.e. helping around the house.

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

I personally believe that we have come into this life to make a positive impact on the world. Our inherent nature is at odds with growth—we tend to want to stay in our comfort zones.

If we always seek comfort first, we miss the purpose for which we came into this world. 

My students and I came to understand that challenges are opportunities for growth. It is through life’s challenges that we find its greatest gifts, but we need to know how to look for them, and, more importantly, appreciate them. 

Few weeks later, I decided it was time to talk to them about true and authentic confidence and courage.

We discussed that that’s how we survive when our confidence takes a hit, and how we can actually enhance our self-assurance when we struggle.

 Believe it or not, even my youngest learners, got the message! 

STORYTELLING and facing our covid19 fears 

1.LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and covid19

I decided to use a well-known fairytale , to talk to my youngest students about the pandemic: Little Red Riding Hood.

Why? Well, because of its symbols.

 There are many versions of the story of Little Red Riding Hood but in many of the stories there are some common symbols.

A sweet innocent girl: Little Red Riding Hood (aka:my students) is unaware of the danger ahead. The wolf ( aka: covid19) easily convinces her to linger and give him time to reach grandmother’s house. She is also unaware of the wolf’s devious nature.

Her cap or hooded cloak suggests family protection.

 It was given to her as a gift from her wise grandmother connecting the two. (Innocent becomes wise through painful experiences.)

 The grandmother represents the wise, aged woman, the experienced one who is sick and needs our help and care. The grandmother represents the elderly and other vulnerable members, in our family.

There are three generations represented in the story. Red Riding Hood represents the first generation, her mother represents the second generation and the grandmother represents the elderly.

The wolf is the Coronavirus, the danger ,outside . He tricks the innocent Red Riding Hood just as anyone can deceive us if we are not aware of the dangers.

The forest is where the life away from home is.There are many distractions along the way and sometimes this allows our covid19 to get the better of us.

If not for the huntsman, who represents the doctors, all would be lost. The huntsman is keen and alert, always on the lookout for the virus. He rescues both of them from the belly of the wolf. They are unharmed.

Happy ending: The wolf is killed and the huntsman takes the pelt. Grandmother and Red Riding Hood eat and are merry. 

The message to the kids : Whenever we overcome the danger and bring awareness to our behaviors there is a time of lightness and joy. 

Our family, represented by the mother, is there to advise and support us!

2.THE WIZARD OF OZ and covid19

I decided to use another well-known story which had already been introduced to my kids, before the lockdown and during our English Drama Lab meetings,  to talk to my oldest students about the pandemic: The Wizard of Oz

I thought, it would be a great idea to keep working on it, remotely, too, during the lockdown, in order to teach the kids about how to cope with life hardships and enhance their confidence and boost their courage!

WHAT DOES THE WIZARD OF OZ HAVE TO DO WITH CONFIDENCE and covid19?

If you think about it, each of the characters in The Wizard of Oz are searching for a different aspect of confidence.

Lion fluctuates between fearful and overly aggressive behaviour, because he lacks the confidence to face his fears.

Scarecrow is very intelligent, but lacks belief in himself, or self-confidence.

Tin Man searches for the confidence to know that expressing his unique feelings and sensitive side is okay.

Dorothy searches for the ability to follow her own heart and to learn how to stand up for what she believes is right with authority figures like the Wicked Witch and the Wizard himself.

All of the characters find their confidence along the journey, and they become more alive and more themselves as they do.

As for courage, what we all learned was that, like the Cowardly Lion, we could already be far more courageous, more valiant, more heroic than we imagine. All we need may be a little encouragement and affirmation of the considerable inner power we each already possess in order to rise courageously to the challenge of this current existential crisis, and those we will inevitably face in the future. 

Certainly, we all had, all those lockdown days, to search for and summon up such inner personal and collective courage, in order to cope constructively with the cataclysmic and chronic covid19 crisis. 

To sum up,this is what we actually focused on, both synchronously and asynchronously:

It is what Lion learned…

the ability to face your fears and try new things.

ΑΝΤΙΜΕΤΩΠΙΖΩ ΤΟΥΣ ΦΟΒΟΥΣ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Scarecrow learned…

the ability to believe in yourself and be comfortable with your own abilities and strengths.

ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ ΣΤΟΝ ΕΑΥΤΟ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Tin Man learned…

the ability to express your feelings and thoughts, your true self, and not be afraid of how others see you.

ΕΙΜΑΙ Ο ΕΑΥΤΟΣ ΜΟΥ  ΚΑΙ ΔΕΝ ΕΠΗΡΕΑΖΟΜΑΙ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΠΩΣ ΜΕ ΒΛΕΠΟΥΝ ΟΙ ΑΛΛΟΙ!

It is what Dorothy learned…

the power to stand up for what you believe is right.

ΥΠΕΡΑΣΠΙΖΟΜΑΙ ΤΟ ΔΙΚΑΙΟ!

My  students were learning to be courageous, instead of disappointed or depressed, when their boundaries were crossed.

They were learning that their words can make an impact on others and when they see that they are effective, they learn that they are capable of dealing with problems themselves which boosts self-confidence.

CONCLUSION

 Much like developing the skills and knowledge that we need to advance as a teacher, becoming more optimistic , especially in emergencies, entails deliberate effort.

And as with maintaining other competencies, sustaining a positive outlook may require a practical maintenance routine of being mindful about the good things in life, in us, in our work, and in our students

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT

Over the last few months, the pandemic has created many challenges for teachers, students, and parents as they transitioned into home-based learning.

It is true that, in the age of Covid-19 ,as an educator ,especially in a State Greek  Primary School,you have two options: to do… nothing and to let the situation overwhelm you or to continue working hard during the day and worrying at night. Concentrating on research on creative, experiential and student-centered teaching that you have been doing for so many years, BUT, when the system around you is collapsing  this doesn’t seem so easy to do. You don’t have much room left, you want to keep in touch with others. You dedicate yourself, SOUL AND BODY, to doing your homework, keeping in touch with your students, feeling alive, moving forward into life.

 During the lockdown,on any given day, in schools across the World, many students exchanged warm greetings with a smiling teacher, then perhaps moved on to a morning check-in, followed by a quick mindfulness exercise to start the day grounded and mentally focused. Surrounded by peers they’d known for months, or perhaps even years—and a teacher they saw regularly—kids felt connected.

In spite of some critics who downplayed the importance of social and emotional learning and the value of belonging, to me it is clear and has been for some time: When  students spend their daytime hours in safe, supportive schools where their teachers work every day to build strong relationships with every student, they are simply better, more engaged learners.

I personally believe that, yes, it is mainly about the technology—the mechanics of how to teach remotely. But it’s also about how we are going to hold our students’ hearts!

Food for thought ,by Dimitris Primalis:

“School ditches  tablets”. Catchy titles like this one, banishing technology from the classroom, seem to be out of date after school closure and the need of thousands of teachers and educators to keep education alive in the midst of a pandemic. Whether you are a tech-enthusiast or you were forced to use technology, this crisis has brought to the surface the potential of learning technology, which has been tried and tested under extreme conditions.

To me, the good news is that , as teachers, we have overcome our greatest fears and biases against using technology so now we can make the most of it to facilitate learning, during the lockdown !

My own  first shock concerned online classes & COVID-19: 

How will the pandemic affect me as a teacher and my teaching?

Is it a threat or an opportunity for the human teachers to flourish as an effective teacher?

I have always thought that, teachers are leaders, guides, facilitators, and mentors. We encourage students when they struggle, and inspire them to set and reach for their goals. We ARE role models, leading by example and giving direction when necessary.

A computer can give information, but a teacher can lend a hand, or an ear, and discern what’s necessary for a student to succeed, and to want to succeed.

So yes, technology is going to play a critical role in the future of education. But not as big a role as that of a teacher.

My next step was to create our online, asynchronous learning classes!

The creation of those classes was mainly aimed at maintaining the contact of our students with the English language course and allowed me to quickly carry out my work, communicate between different computers and exchange data, sharing useful links.

That service allowed me to organize, present, store, and retrieve the material, which students are asked to use without time constraints, as is usually the case in the classroom. Our e-classroom platform was basically designed to enhance the educational process as it takes place in the classroom  and operation in a secure environment and I admit that I was really excited about learning how to use it properly .

Overall, the benefits of the #e-me platform we have been using all these months, are many. It was relatively easy to use, allowed the use of useful educational material, promoted communication and interaction between teachers and learners and served the needs of maintaining contact with the lessons and repetition.

The ‘key’ to the success of such a platform, however, lies in the frequency of visits of the students  to the platform! I personally, found it really challenging to be able convince my students to visit it ,as often as possible, during the lockdown!

Of course, parents and teachers, we were invited to dedicate some time and accompany the children’s first steps in that new environment, to suggest that they regularly connected with the electronic classes of the courses they attended and gradually helped them to become independent in their use.

My initial thought was to find the way to encourage my students to express their thoughts and feelings, while staying at home.

Obviously, when we can share our sensations, thoughts, and feelings, we feel a sense of relief, safety, and calm, and I believe that sharing our feelings and learning about them is one of the most powerful ways to regulate our nervous systems during stressful periods of time.

Many of my own students reported feeling isolated, depressed, and overwhelmed. The lack of a support system had definitely been the hardest part about not physically attending school.

I decided to launch the “FEELINGS project” on e-me inspired by Growth Mindset.

Last year, I was introduced to Growth Mindset by Jennifer Schmidt of The Cogent Construct  based in Spain.

Jennifer, had partnered with Pilgrim’s based in the UK to offer a new and innovative online teacher coaching  / mentorship program and I was asked to contribute to it!  

About growth mindset

This is a term introduced by Prof Carol Dweck and a concept that many schools are now introducing as a way to support a positive learning mindset. Those with a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) believe they can improve with hard work and perseverance and that their intelligence isn’t fixed. They display better self-esteem and increased resilience. The journal encourages a growth mindset through checklist prompts and use of daily quotes to remind children about the importance of not giving up when faced with challenges.

I realised that during the lockdown , we were all developing empathy

Empathy is the act of meeting someone in their pain and helping them feel like they’re not alone.

In order to inspire students to take that journey, we as teachers should not pretend that human feelings were something to which we were immune.

Therefore, I had to feel with students, which required both an acknowledgment that my own feelings existed and a desire to understand the feelings of my students. If I could create a fertile space for empathy to grow, I could also provide the opportunity for meaningful connections with my students.

I also used some writing opportunities for my students to get their thoughts, feelings, fears, and questions down in a creative format. I gave them an option to share with their e-class.This did not only allow them to share out their feelings but also gave me a place to check on them and follow up when I saw any of them expressing sadness, fear, etc.

Most importantly , I was honest and as understanding as possible to let students know we were all in that together and would likely all need a little grace.

After the first shock, I decided to FOCUS my teaching ON SUPPORTING MY STUDENTS EMOTIONALLY.

The very first inspiring idea which I used in our webex meetings during the lockdown, belonged to my dear colleague and friend Effie Kyrikakis.

It was mainly about sharing our wishes  and sharing positive messages within our families and the local community and about committing small acts of kindness.

The message to my students was:You can always fly with your imagination! Spread your positivity! #PlanesofHope 

Th idea was that each adult in their lives -teacher or parent- focuses on helping them bolster their strengths, discover their affinities, and realize their personal visions for the future.

I always have to remind myself that, especially under the circumstances, each teacher should be a role model of calm reflection within their class. We should avoid exhibiting our own frustrations, especially in emergencies.

Within those two months in lockdown ,they became more likely to think of setbacks as temporary. They recognized that by using more effective personal strategies ,they could overcome obstacles and turn setbacks into triumphs. 

Rather than jumping in to fix the problem when my students were bored  or unmotivated to do online work, during self-isoalation,I let them feel their feelings as they faced those challenges. The key was to listen to and encourage them so that they felt  comfortable taking control.

In a nutshell

Let’s let our students discover their own ways to cope. This is phenomenal emotional growth and skill-building for the future.

To me, it was highly important that I should encourage my students to talk about their feelings but express gratitude, too.

To be able to do so, I decided to incorporate another inspiring idea to our webex  online meetings during the lockdown, which belonged to our amazing colleague Theodora Bogiou.

It was mainly about sharing and spreading positive messages, in the local communities.

Practising gratitude not only helped my students to see the goodness in their lives but also to realise that it can come from a number of sources, even inside their homes .

All in all, it was highly important to enhance our practical optimism, through focusing on gratitude, small acts of kindness, emotional mindfulness, brain exercise, and positive surroundings, especially in those difficult times of self-isolation.

THE MAIN #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

We hang some messages on a tree in our backyards and balconies.

The first messages was on a red heart♥️ and they started by saying I love…

The second message was on green leaves 🍃and they started by saying I’m grateful for..

The third message was on suns☀️ and it was a message to somebody they loved, like advice or a love message. It started by saying My message to you is…

To sum up, thanks to Theodora Bogiou‘s idea, I managed to promote emotional growth by encouraging my children to talk about their feelings, helping them identify those feelings and validating them. That kind of communication  also fostered a stronger class connection.

In addition to practical steps to prevent illness (like washing hands and keeping a safe distance from others in the grocery store), I wanted to stress to my students that there were many other areas of pandemic life that they could control: how they spent their time at home, what they did to manage tough emotions, which self-care tools they utilized to reduce stress, etc. Me and my students discussed those coping methods and even made a list of them together.

Consequently, the next idea for our webex online meeting, came from Effie  Kyriakakis’ #re-bloom project

They actually wrote  about their  inner strengths ,on their artwork, on flower petals and shared them with the class both synchronously and asynchronously.

We also talked about resilience! Talking about resilience and the positive things that can come out of a crisis was not an attempt to paint a happy picture of those times, but to create real, measurable factors that can be gained by coming through a difficult time.

I believe that teachers  can demonstrate how they face challenges and frustration head-on and use different coping tactics like meditation, talking to loved ones, making art or playing music, and actually, that is exactly what I did!

 I often give my students’ brain and body a positive workout, in the school classroom . I decided to do the same , during the lockdown.

Why?

-I believe that finding ways of calming the body can help some children, too – for example, using breathing or meditation techniques. Many of my students told me that being very active and ‘keeping busy’ stopped negative feelings and reduced stress levels to them.

Routines that foster connection are a core part of classroom life, and finding ways for students to experience these at home ,too went a long way toward easing my students’ transition to home-based learning.

 -For almost everyone, physical movement and exercise are very important. Scheduling time for that ,especially during the lockdown, helped my students to make sure they remembered to do it. I decided to ask them to use physical movement, at the beginning of each online class meeting.

 – I also encouraged them to find an activity which they enjoyed that was completely separate from any homework tasks  – it was cooking, art, a new sport indoors, catching up with friends on a regular video call, etc.

 -My suggestion to them about doing things for others had also been found to help my students manage their own stress. ie helping around the house.

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

We came to understand that challenges were opportunities for growth. Because, it is through life’s challenges that we find its greatest gifts, but we need to know how to look for them, and, more importantly, appreciate them. 

A few weeks later, I decided to teach them about true and authentic confidence.

 I taught them that, that’s how we survive when our confidence takes a hit, and how we can actually enhance our self-assurance when we struggle.

 Believe it or not, even my youngest learners, got the message!

The following closing ideas come from my dear friend and colleague Dimitris Primalis in his recent article ,in  ELT NEWS.

I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I am sharing part of his post, here! 

*Dimitris Primalis, is a frontline teacher and teacher trainer, currently working in Doukas Schools, Athens.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on what we have done so far with our (online) classes that we can keep doing in the post Covid19 era. We:

 -Flipped the classroom

We assigned time consuming activities such as watching video or reading at home

-Differentiated learning

You were given the opportunity to send easier tasks to weaker students and more challenging ones to stronger learners, who are usually utterly bored in class, when we assigned  revision tasks asynchronously (offline). We also had the chance to give personalized feedback in a discreet way through emails .

-Introduced gamification

We introduced web 2.0 tools that promote gamification like Kahoot in class .

-Used material outside the coursebook

In the first two weeks of lockdown, when everybody hoped that this would not last for a long time, we  assigned revision exercises and then we became more resourceful.

-Promoted learner autonomy

Having guided them to the resources mentioned above, we have guided them to become more autonomous as learners. This time parents were more open to using the internet and less worried about the potential dangers.

-Applied formative assessment

We have discovered numerous new tools that allow our students to share reflective writing.

-More benefits

Because of the pandemic, more and more students realize that education should not be taken for granted. The majority missed their teachers and classmates, their routine which offers security .

-Beware of oversimplifications

I know that some teachers mistake the emergency online lessons during  Covid19 for online education. Building a raft to survive a shipwreck cannot be compared to an ocean liner. 

-A lesson taught for educators

 I firmly believe that learning technology is a medium that can boost learning and student engagement.

Summarising my own thoughts

-We learn everywhere and always, we learn by all means.

– The desire to change or improve the learning process is paramount in the use of technology.

– Teachers need to learn and evolve constantly.

– In the years 2020, technophobia holds up well in Greek school reality.

– We use technology as a tool for exploration and learning.

– The issue is not more or less technology, but its effective use.

– We choose those digital tools that enhance students’ engagement and interest.

– It’s not technology. It’s what you do with it.

– It takes effort and time.

-Technology is not what makes it possible. It’s what makes learning easy.

– Pay attention to the developments in learning, not to the developments in technology.

– The cutting-edge technology in a school is the good teacher.

CONCLUSION

 Much like developing the skills and knowledge that we need to advance as a teacher, becoming more optimistic , especially in emergencies, entails deliberate effort!

And as with maintaining other competencies, sustaining a positive outlook may require a practical maintenance routine of being mindful about the good things in life, in us, in our work, and in our students

*THE BLOG POST TITLE has been inspired by this site:

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Teaching outside the BOX

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I’ve always loved all kinds of boxes! I love using and reusing them and teaching my students about how to do the same, using their imagination and creativity! There are great ways to use cardboard boxes in the ESL classroom and here are just a few, to get the idea.

Why Work With Cardboard?

It is SUPREME.

  1. It is (in most cases) free.
  2. It appeals to the environmentally-conscious, pro-recycling parts of our human nature.
  3. It is disposable – toss it back into the recycling bin when you’re done teaching/playing.

Cardboard Box Houses

 

 

Why not make this easy cardboard house, with your class,too? You can watch online videos ,follow the simple step-by-step instructions and help your students decorate their houses. With the help of some small dolls,furniture or action figures, have them act out scenes from a course book story or a tale you’ve read them, for role plays with a twist! You can even teach Grammar , ie the prepositions of place, by having the students move the pieces of toy furniture around the rooms or teach/revise vocabulary, ie colours, parts of the house etc

Dioramas to Die for!

m5

Dioramas are perfect for capturing a scene from a story – and cardboard boxes are the ideal material for our class diorama. Simply cut out a rectangle from one of the sides of the box, like a window. Then have your class assist you in recreating a scene from a story or book you’ve read.And don’t forget holiday dioramas: from the first Thanksgiving to a spooky graveyard filled with monsters for Halloween, the possibilities are endless!

Landscapes 

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Want to practice asking for and giving directions? How about using a miniature landscape instead of an old, boring, flat map or picture ? Use small cardboard boxes of different sizes, like small cereal or cookie boxes. Have your students create a landscape out of each.The students can make the landscape as detailed as they want .Use action figures to move around and ask for directions. In this last school year’s photo, my creative students created a four Seasons landscape and used it while reciting a poem they had written, about the four Seasons!

Boxed Words

games11

Set up a Vocabulary Box ,in a corner of the room! Each time a student asks about a word he or she does not understand, go through the following steps:

Write-or have the students write- the word at the top of an index card, the definition (for your older students) or a drawing ( for your younger learners) below that and finally, an example of the word used in a sentence, if you wish.

Put the card in the Vocabulary Box.

jan27

 

At the end of the week/month (or school year) depending on the number of words accumulated, you can open the box and see how many of the words they still remember, how many they’ve forgotten or not used at all since that day in class, by playing fun vocabulary  games. The day I took this photo, we played a Treasure Hunt Game, using the words in the box.

Mail Box

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Have each of your students write a letter to a classmate or you,the teacher. I always do so, at the beginning and the end of each school year . They get so excited when they receive their reply letters! Then, you can be the postman/woman and deliver them or have another student act as postman/woman. I also use the mailbox for homework assignments or special occasions such as  Christmas, where students get the chance to write to Santa. Watch this tutorial to make an alternative mailbox to mine, in the photos.

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Dolls, Robots and other crafts

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For a fun class role play activity, first have your students create an action figure or any other craft of their choice, out of a cardboard box .When they’re all done, students take turns acting out different role plays, using them! An the end of each school year, you can organise yearly “Art Exhibitions” with all the students’ crafts! Art exhibitions ,offer students a chance to display their work for parents, siblings and classmates.

 

Puppet Theatre

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A cardboard box can easily be turned into a fun puppet theater, for all our class ELT puppet , finger puppet or even shadow theatre plays.

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Here are the instructions about how to make your own shadow puppet theatre.

Class Theatre Hats 

 

I create class theatre props and crowns/hats from cardboard, throughout the school year. The last time I did so, was for the needs of our end-of-the-school-year adaptation of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” .

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Not only are these hats adorable, but very sturdy. After they are constructed you can let the children decorate them with stickers and/or paint.

Playing with a Dice

 

I love using Dice Games to practice vocabulary, in my class! I made  my first class dice , a couple of years ago and have been using all the activities in this post, since then .

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My students love the Dice Games and ask for them, all the time! 

Mystery box

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This is an awesome guessing activity! The “Mystery Box” is a type of prediction game that you can create with simple items that you have in class.

Find a box, such as a shoe box, or any other kind of container which kids can’t see through, such as a cookie tin. Introduce the empty box or tin and discuss how the mystery box game will be played. Outside of the children’s view, place an item inside the box or tin. Ask the children to predict what is inside. If you want, you can let the children hold the box, to see how heavy it is or if it makes any noise bouncing around the box or tin.

Give the children one clue as to what is inside the box. For instance, if you have a teddy bear inside, you can say, “It’s soft.” After the first clue is given, ask the children to guess what might be inside. Repeat the process by giving a second clue, such as, “It’s brown” and then ask the children to guess again.

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They have to guess, by using different modals such as “it must be..”, ” it can’t be..”, “it may be..” etc

All the students who guess right, are given special stickers! If only one student guesses right , she/he is given the item in the mystery box, to take home , as a present.

After showing the kids how to play the game, I ask the children to bring their own  mystery boxes from home, the next day, with an item inside the box for their classmates  to guess what it is.

Our etwinning “CUbeS

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Last school year, we used boxes in our etwinning European project, with huge success!

What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  decided to do was that, students produced a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students  gathered information about their own country and life and mailed it to their partner schools, in Cubes-boxes .Their partners, were responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

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My students felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner schools in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to fill their CUbeS with content.

The Activity Box -for early finishers

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For my early finishers, especially when writing tests, I use a special box!

A box, filled with activities and items of my choice, such as books, magazines, board games, toys, postcards, etc The box also contains small sets of task cards.

100_1818The box can be placed on an easily accessible shelf in the classroom or on the teacher’s desk.When students’ regular classwork/test  is complete, they can take one item at a time, either to their seat so as not to distract other students who are working, and get a quiet moment to relax. They use the materials in the box to practice their English, too. And instead of being just “busy,” students are engaged in creative, complex tasks.Kinesthetic learners, spatial learners, and logical learners ,all love exploring the different possibilities for the box materials as they try to spend their time ,the fun way!

Even better? The prep and management on the teacher’s part is minimal! 

The story telling box

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Using a magic box when we do story telling with our very young learners, is so much fun! I ,personally, love it!

A good example of how to do so, can be found in this Blog post, written by my friend Margarita Kosior. 

Margarita ,is an amazing educator from Thessaloniki! I truly admire her work with storytelling !

I am so grateful that she accepted my invitation, to share one of her stories, in my Blog, a couple of years ago! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!

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The routine, is opening the Magic Box which hides different treasures every time, usually flashcards or realia which appear later in the story.

In case of “Henry Hippo”, she created head bands with the four protagonists in advance and she placed them in the Magic Box. With the use of a magic star and on the sound of the magic words, the Magic Box opens.

Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one headband/item is taken out.

 IDENTITY BOX

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I have used the ‘Identity Box’ activity since I was introduced to it, at Pilgrims ,by my amazing “Teaching Difficult Learners” course teacher trainers Mike Shreeve and Phil Dexter , two years ago. It is  a way to introduce my students to each other (and to me!). I assign it as homework, on the first day and give students 2-3 days to complete it. Alternatively, students could do the project in school and bring in old newspapers and magazines ,in order to decorate their boxes. 

Supplies needed:

Scissors

Glue

Pictures (personal, magazine, etc)

Shoe Box (or box of any kind)

On the outside of the box, all students decorate with images of how they feel others see them OR how they see themselves.

On the inside of the box, older students, decorate with images of how they feel on the inside, what best describes their  identity.

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 Sharing the boxes on the last day of the first week of school is a fun way to conclude this exciting week. 

I have also included an optional “All about me on a Box” writing activity extension.

*For those of you interested in reading about the original idea ,which actually doesn’t have anything to do with children, please, have a look here.

CONCLUSION

When it comes to fun ESL activities, why not think outside the box, or rather in this case inside it?

Why not capitalize on our innate fascination with boxes and the opportunities they hold?

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Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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Our school the 21st State Primary School of Larissa, within the framework of innovative projects, participated in a Forensics Tournament in English, at the premises of “Ekpedeftiria Mpakogianni” school , in Larissa, in May 2019.

The Tournament, was filled with debating, acting, oral interpretations, impromptus, and a lot of excitement.

During the tournament, our School’s Forensics team presented their skills in the event:

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

To be able to take part in the Tournament, our students learned and practiced the art and skills of competitive forensics .The preparation, lasted about two months.  First, they participated in the research and presentation of the material for oral interpretation of literature. 

The first week, included a close study of public speaking and oral interpretation, and little information about debate.   

All six students in our team,were required to participate in a forensics tournament preparation class, held outside the regularly scheduled class time. Our team met twice a week, for one hour each time. 

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Peer Feedback 

My students benefited from peer feedback in that they were able to teach others about the tournament  rules and provided feedback that they would consider relevant. In seeing that their peer feedback was relevant, students were more engaged and invested in working to complete the task successfully. Peer feedback also gave my students an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to listen to each other. It is often easier for us to understand concepts from people who are similar in age as we are.

Our selections

Our selections were from a short story, and four novels.Our selections  incorporated a mix of monologues, dialogues and narrative . Our emphasis was placed on the prose aspect of the performance and not the dramatic qualities of the performance. 

The objective

In general, the objective of a Forensics Lab and Tournament is to enable the participating students to work together and to exchange views on issues of concern to their age, and even, more general social issues and to tell beautiful stories. Also to cultivate their critical thinking, help them to become familiar within the conditions of healthy and democratic dialogue and ultimately, help them to improve their language proficiency in English. During the tournament,both teachers and parents had the opportunity to enjoy the result of the effort of all students ,which was in a high level.

One, will be surprised to find out that a Forensics Tournament, is primarily a question of listening skills.Active listening is what feeds the brain with the necessary information to manage all issues and make all kinds of decisions.At second reading, the the students’ engagement with all areas of concern to human activity and their analysis, empowers them with critical thinking skills which-in these difficult times – are the most important skills for survival.

Finally, the ability of young people to express themselves comprehensively and with clarity, on the issues that concern them, will be valuable, both in their intimate relationships and in the professional arena, in their adult life ,too.

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

In the early 1970’s, teachers of English from Anatolia College, Athens College (now known as the Hellenic American Educational Foundation), and Pinewood International Schools united to form the Forensics Society to give students from different schools the opportunity to meet to have discussions, make speeches and generally improve their speaking skills in English. 

Within a very short period thereafter, this ‘society’ grew to include another four schools: the American Community Schools (ACS), the Cairo American College, Campion School, and Pierce College (now PIERCE – The American College of Greece). Since that time, an additional nine schools have joined. These schools included the American School of Kuwait, Ekpedeftiki Anagenissi, Byron College, Costeas-Geitonas School, Geitonas School, Mantoulides Schools, The Moraitis School, St. Catherine’s British School, and St. Lawrence College. 

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There were two tournaments a year: The fall tournament was held in Athens and the spring tournament was held in Thessaloniki. In some tournaments there were up to sixteen schools participating in the various events. Students originally participated in Debate, Comic and Dramatic Oral Interpretation, Comic and Dramatic Duet Acting, Impromptu Speaking, Original Oratory, and Extemporaneous Speaking. Eventually, however, Extemporaneous Speaking was dropped from the competition due to the ‘controversial’ nature of the current events at the time, and Group Discussion was added. In the 1980s, because of the increase in the number of contestants and the demands on both students and advisors, it was unanimously decided by the coaches of the schools that the tournaments be limited to one annually, alternating between Athens and Thessaloniki each year. The tournament came to be called the Panhellenic Forensics Tournament. The number of contestants in any given tournament has approached 400 in the past few years.

In 2004, another change took place: The society became an official association and is now known as the Panhellenic Forensics Association. The Executive Board of the Association meets regularly and all schools participating in the tournament are members of the Association.

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

Oral Interpretation is the process by which words are pulled from the page and given dimension in a reader’s voice and body. Practitioners of oral interpretation bring stories to life, serving as a vehicle for the messages of the text. Some scholars argue that readers should unlock the meanings intended by the author (the vehicle should be empty) while others believe the meanings of texts inevitably transform as they filter through a reader’s voice, body, experiences, and culture (the vehicle is full of your stuff). Both ends of this dialectic are true: 1) readers should aim to honor the integrity of a text, using logic, analysis and research to investigate the concreteness and completeness literary text, and 2) readers should embrace the creative and artistic ways they effect how texts are understood, adapted, embodied, and delivered to an audience.

The importance of Reading Rewards

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In order to stimulate learning and to motivate reading books , lots of teachers use rewards for students.

Research confirms that student motivation is a key factor in successful reading. However, in order to effectively support reading motivation in the classroom, it is helpful to consider the research on reading motivation and engagement.

Academic achievements are important to recognize. Recognizing the achievements that they have made in each area with curricular awards is a great way to foster confidence and promote good study habits.

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

We all know that, some kids are just into it from the beginning and others need a bit of encouragement.  To me, if  we have a reluctant reader on our hands, special reading rewards are a fun and colourful way to make the idea of reading more engaging.

They are a way to track their progress. When they see how much they are achieving-  as the bookworm reaches its full length- our students will ,hopefully, become more motivated to sit down with a good book. Before we know it, they’ll be hooked on reading (well that’s the plan anyway).

It could be that the real value of reading-related rewards is that both the desired behavior (reading) and the reward (small gifts etc ) define a classroom culture that supports and nurtures the intrinsic motivation to read.

A few reading motivation ideas

Honoring books for self-selection, sharing the excitement of read-alouds, building a balanced book collection, making their passions public  and providing rewards that demonstrate the value of reading are just a few simple but transformative suggestions that can nurture the love of reading in our classrooms!

Our English library

Our school library is actually, a book case filled with books which have been categorised according to student level. This means that a student at an intermediate level will be able to select from a -limited, so far- range of books (novels) very clearly for his/her level without having to wade through books and reading the back cover or the first couple of pages to see if the book is going to be written in language that is too easy or too difficult for them.

In addition, it means students are able to read English books without having to pay for them. This may be especially important for students who are on a budget, or those who don’t really like reading and would be less motivated to read if they had to go out and find a book in English and then pay for it.

It also means, with a more restricted number of options available to choose from because they are divided into levels, students may end up choosing something to read they would not normally choose, even in their own language. And who knows, it might be the start of a whole new interest for a student.

In our English class, our bookworms , receive their rewards ,three times a year: at the end of each semester and at the end of the school year! Their names are published on the school site.

The rewards, usually consist of items like: bookmarks, educational toys, office supplies, balloons, lollipops etc

But, we should be careful: our students shouldn’t get addicted to rewards. They have to work because of an intrinsic motivation. As students achieve success in your class, they can learn to be motivated by their own achievements.

I really look forward to seeing a bigger number of my students take advantage of the school English library to improve their English language skills in any way possible, next school year!

Our English class record holders

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The idea

Last year, we got motivated by the Guinness Book of Records, while teaching the Comparisons so ,we decided to look for our own class record holders and award them, accordingly!

This incredible “class record holders idea”, brought English to life in a fun, yet impactful way. 

Through engaging my English language learners in an exploration of class records, helped me support their growth in vocabulary, oral conversation, and written expression. Students had a chance to complete their  world record scavenger hunt, working in groups and creating their own awards.

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The procedure

First, I made a few copies of the Guinness Book of World Records available to my students to peruse.

 I asked them what their impressions were.

Talking about world records is an opportune time, to review comparisons, of course .

I gave my students a chance to practice, using superlative adjectives, by making superlative statements about the students in our class using the list of adjectives I had already generated. Again, I gave them a chance to share with the class.

After my students had had some time to become familiar with the book and Grammar points, I  asked them why they thought those people were able to set those records. Was it because of a special skill? Was it luck? Were any of the records simple trickery? Was it effort and hard work? On the board, I wrote the words talent, skill, trick , effort and luck. Students discussed in small groups which of these five qualities was most important. Then, I had each group present to the class what they had agreed was most important or where their opinions differed.

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As a final activity , I had my students each choose one other student, who held a class record .

 Then, I had my students partner and role-play an interview that they had written in pairs, in front of the class – one student asking the questions as the class reporter and another pretending to be the record holder and answering the questions.

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 Conclusion

 Whether you have a class full of future record holders or not, your students are sure to find the information presented in the Guinness Book of World Records fascinating, especially if they have never actually looked inside its pages.

While our students are imagining their record placements, they will be practicing their language skills and becoming better students of English without even knowing it.

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“CUbeS: CUlture and Smiles in a Cube” An inspiring etwinning project 2018-19

My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!

Well….

eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform.

Through participating in eTwinning, your school will be able to:

  • enrich learning and motivation of pupils (aged between 3 and 19) and staff
  • access high quality professional development and ready-made resources
  • raise standards across the whole school community
  • gain recognition for your commitment through eTwinning awards and the International School Award.
  • Search for an Erasmus+  partner to carry out projects with and apply for mobility funding.

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There are, also,  special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!

Quality labels

1.National quality label

A National Quality Label is awarded to teachers with excellent eTwinning projects and indicate that the project has reached a certain level of quality in their country.

2. European quality label

The European Quality Label is a second mark of success and indicates that the project has reached a certain European standard.

3. eTwinning School label

In order to recognise the eTwinning work done at school level, there is now, a new label  available – the eTwinning School Label.

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The concept of recognition for work done in eTwinning has been in existence since the start with Quality Labels being available to teachers for their projects both at national and European level. However, these labels are applied only to the work of individual teachers in projects. In order to recognise the work done at school level, a new label is now available to apply for – the eTwinning School Label.

The principle behind this new label is that eTwinning wants to recognise and appraise the involvement, commitment, dedication not only of scattered eTwinners, but of teams of teachers and school leaders within the same school.

The concept of attaining the status of an eTwinning School is that of a developmental journey with components that can be objectively assessed. It is not a competition, but rather a progression from one level to the next.

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A summary of our project, this year

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Our project celebrates culture and happiness.

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What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  propose is that, students produce a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students  gather information about their own country and life and send it to their partner schools, which are responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

Students :

– Consider the definition of culture, and reflect on what this means to them

– Share relevant information about their lives with their European partners

– Create”Culture and Smiles in a Box” presentations

– Reflect on what they have learned about the other country and the differences and similarities between the two cultures

– Write reflective essays on what they have learned

 Objectives

1) To help pupils to identify, explore, and become aware of European values.

2) To raise pupils’ awareness of what makes them happy and share this happiness with their peers in Europe.

3) To assist pupils to identify European linguistic diversity and become aware of the importance of learning European languages.

4) To develop pupils’ insight into the similarities and differences among nations.

Our project in detail

This  #eTwForCulture project ,lasted the whole school year 2018-19. 

There were tasks to be completed to share SMILES in many ways such as passing a ‘messages and our CULTURE in a box’ from one country to the other.

This is a project on happiness; it is about helping students find happiness and sharing it with others. It focused on ourselves, well-being, friendships and relationships. Children have truly enjoyed communicating and participating in a variety of tasks and realising that they have many things in common with their e-pals. Pupils have learnt about the culture of their e-pals / friends (tangible and intangible). It was definitely a project celebrating internationalism and individualism.

Depending on the activity, children had the opportunity to work independently, with talk partners both in class- in 2s, in small mixed ability groups or in whole class situations and on twinspace, using ICT for research or to communicate and present their ideas in different ways.

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Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity

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The overall aim was to realize that, happiness comes from within us but can be spread and shared with others!

Children reflected on themselves as individuals, identifying positive things about themselves, valuing their abilities, qualities, strengths and achievements as well as their mistakes, sharing and comparing them with their European peers, at the same time!

Children recognized that their culture  affected themselves but also others; they thought of ways to make others smile, by means of intercultural projects !

Children considered their own and their partners’ feelings (empathy) and thought of appropriate strategies to cope with uncomfortable feelings as well as skills for solving problems and different ways of behaving to different types of intercultural relationships.

Children also focused on intercultural relationships and they explored the value of these relationships as well as their feelings within the context of important relationships, including family and friends of a different cultural background.

Children made each other smile through their dialogue, written work and through technology!

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 All in all:

Children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner schools in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to fill their CUbeS with content.

The learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds

Our  project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Happiness in learning, became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

 Our work  provided in the shared learning environment were a meaningful pathway, towards understanding  the concept of feelings.

The true revelation has been that  people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values, cultures and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation. 

Curricular integration 

The work was mostly linked with the English, MFL, Topic and Computing objectives. To help partner schools to fulfill their statutory responsibility to support their cultural development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life. To use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.

 The theme was chosen deliberately to ensure that the project and its work was as cross-curricular as possible. The areas of ,EFL,  social studies, expressive arts, citizenship,and basic IT , have all been integrated into the sharing of our common project activities .

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

This fitted well into the Curriculum and all the pupils benefited. 

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We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had etwinning school  days, when our students presented their etwinning projects to the rest of the school.

A second focus was citizenship. By exchanging information about each other’s towns, lives  and heritage, the pupils learned a great deal about each other’s environment, way of life and culture. Our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! 

I  made sure that, ALL my 95  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  etwinning project.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

We used a variety of ways to communicate with each other and as a group: the teacher bulletin in twinspace, a messenger group,  email. Communication was regular and effective.

The tasks were mostly set by the coordinating schools in the United Kingdom and Greece  but we were open to suggestions and ideas of the fellow teachers. The activities and work produced was shared in pages of twinspace by all schools and the work process was communicated using the journal. I coordinated the work but also set responsibilities and supported teachers in using a variety of ICT tools so that they successfully participate in the project.

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From the beginning, there was a strong plan on twinspace Pages, which gave the teachers guidelines, responsibilities and timescale for each element of the project. 

Students were encouraged to interact with their partners,and share their  work on twinspace,both from the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

Our students were able to share their feedback on our Twinspace “DiscussionsForums Threads” , on a regular basis . The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. 

Collaboration between partner schools.  

In collaboration ,we all decided on the range of topics that we would cover and the optimum time for posting/sending/receiving the correspondence items. 

We tried together  to do some pre-matching of pupils and classes , based on their known interests. 

By all means we  ‘recycled’ language that pupils have previously learnt in their English class . 

We created a teachers’  e-mail exchange, too and a frequent collaboration on the Teachers’ bulletin.

We created  our 6 CUbeS threads on Forums , which we often updated with the help of our students.

Teachers and children participated and collaborated in monthly activities  such as: they uploaded posts in padlets, liked and commented on other posts, worked together to produce web presentations to introduce the schools , towns and countries ( taking-drawing pictures, writing the scripts and deciding on the school areas/town sights/country favourite places to present) and to share customs and traditions on collaborative web tools, they participated in a drawing logo competition and explained their reasons  in a forum, expressed what they have learnt in forums, shared playtime games and healthy recipes, made, posted and received cards, little gifts and beautiful origami crafts , which made them smile, shared well being strategies. They have enjoyed their twinspace membership, participated in all the activities, emailed their e-pals and expressed their views in forums – and they even suggested their own questions to be added in the forums – and joined in live chats, supervised by teachers! Children have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the project and have majorly contributed to its success.

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Use of technology

Children had the opportunity to use ICT to communicate and present findings in a variety of ways.

All children had Twinspace membership and emailed their epals; however, before using the email feature, we had lessons and discussions on the appropriate use of email, what information to include to be safe and respect each other while considering cultural differences. Children expressed their views in forums ,supervised by teachers!

The project linked with aims / objectives of the ICT / computing curriculum. Pupils were taught to select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design content that would accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information. They created work for a specific audience making sure that the content would be interesting but at the same time reliable. Children were also taught how to use technology safely.

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Specifically: I had small  groups of my students,to use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce our videos and also had them  create a Quiz on pages. We also used Movie Maker to make short videos, Padlet to work on collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback. We also used other collaborative web tools such as:  GoConqr for our mindmaps, Google Tool Builder for our virtual travel guides ,Thinglink for our interactive photos , Artsteps and Classtools.net for our 3D exhibitions,Canva and Linoit for our posters, Issuu for our Cookbooks.

 Through eTwinning,my  pupils learned to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way. 

They wrote comments in the forums, chatted with real people, did interactive exercises, took and uploaded digital photos and videos, searched for information, etc. And all this took place in the pedagogical context of studying English communication.

Results, impact and documentation

This project, enthused and motivated the children. Children fully enjoyed and participated in the project. It enabled the pupils to use new technologies, to learn about the culture of their European friends (tangible and intangible) and experience through their communication how English is not only a school subject but an indispensable means of communication. Most importantly it extended their cultural awareness and knowledge, it enabled them to learn about, respect and celebrate similarities and differences among them, celebrate individualism and internationalism through fun activities and tasks. Children were HAPPY, shared and received HAPPINESS AND SMILES!

Here’s the link to : OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOK

Children need to understand the diverse world they live in, respect values, different languages and faiths by working together and this is achieved through enhancing pupils understanding of their place in a culturally diverse society and by giving them opportunities to experience such diversity.

Our project, helped us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and feelings , enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”.

MIND MAP

All in all, we achieved   : 

  • to promote group activities  for tolerance and cultural understanding; 
  • to strengthen my students’ intercultural competences in order to be ready for responsible understanding of Europe’s identity and common values;
  • to develop the European dimension through arts education (origami crafts etc) and creativity with the aim to promote multiculturalism and tolerance between students; 
  • To develop “Out-of-the-box” activities that would encourage mutual support, team building and group cohesion ; 
  • Encourage personalized learning approaches by acquiring new artistic and pedagogical skills with the aim of developing new ideas and creativity of the students involved in the project.

 

 

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Balloon tennis- a fun word game

This fun game, comes from Olha Madulus’s Blog!

When Olha, first mentioned the game on her facebook page , I told her that I loved the idea and asked her if I could try it in my class! She agreed and  was kind enough, to promise me to write a blog post about the game, as soon as possible!

I adapted the game ,a bit, to suit my classes ,but the main idea worked really well with my students , therefore, it is highly recommended to any other colleague, wishing to give it a try, too.

I have to thank Olha, again, for her generosity ! She is one of the most inspiring Teacher Trainers I know!

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This game is suitable for all ages and levels
·       Blow up one balloon
·       Divide your class into two teams (once the students have got used to the game, you can organise them into smaller groups of 2 teams each, each group needs a balloon – but consider the space you have available. You could use the playground for this).

 

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·       e.g. with younger learners explain that they have to remember vocabulary for food

 

·       One team starts with a member hitting the balloon across to the opposition team and at the same time shouting (so all can hear) one word for an example of food e.g. chocolate

 

·       Next a member of the opposition team has to hit the balloon back shouting a different food word

 

·       If no one can think of a new word or repeats a word – that team loses the point (this encourages the learners to listen carefully)

 

·       If the balloon drops to the floor – the receiving team loses the point

 

·       You can score the game like tennis

 

·       You can change the lexical set whenever necessary

 

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·       With older learners you can review a topic prior to a writing task e.g. the advantages and disadvantages of the internet

 

·       Nominate which team should shout advantages and which disadvantages

 

·       Play as above

 

This game has a number of advantages

 

·       It is kinaesthetic and can energise the class

 

·       It’s a team game and promotes a sense of community

 

·       The focus is on the balloon and shyer students feel relaxed and more likely to participate

 

·       You can change/play with the rules to suit your class and any language you want to practise

 

·       The balloon is quite slow and easier to keep in the air than a ball
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Teaching with…trash?

 

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Are you constantly looking for creative projects for your students?

Do you want activities that ignite their imaginations?

Make things with recyclables. I always do so, mainly with my 3rd graders !

When they use items found in their recycling bin or around the house/school to create toys and treasures kids love, it inspires them to tap into their creativity and use what’s available.

It’s good for the environment and also helps develop your child’s imagination and creativity.

It teaches kids that once something has been used for its initial purpose, it doesn’t mean that we have to throw it away.

Have a conversation about the recycling process with your kids. Share how different things are made and then broken down after you throw them away, and how it’s better for the environment when you reuse and re-purpose certain materials.

“Go recycle” guessing game

For my favorite activity,using recycled trash, you will need:

  • Items from the recycling bin: Milk cartons,egg cartons, cereal boxes, food packaging, toilet rolls, scrap paper, etc.
  • Craft supplies: glue, tape, scissors, wire, craft knife
  • Craft materials: feathers, googly eyes, glitter, buttons, ribbon, paint, markers, etc.—whatever you have around the house or school.

Preparation:

1. Find or create an interesting bag to use as the bag of mysteries/a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.
2. Collect a selection of objects to be placed in the mystery bag/under a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.
a. Can be based on a theme
• For example: Things you find in a kitchen/you can recycle.

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Implementation:

Students try to identify the objects as they touch each one.

Cover them lightly with a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.

Let children feel object  and try to guess what it is. Obviously,  as children explore, they increase tactile awareness, vocabulary, memory and communication skills!

As they reached in and felt the items, we talked about what they felt. First I asked them to describe what they felt, and then I asked leading questions, such as: was it hard or soft?  big or small? what color?

With some things, they guessed right away, and with others we talked through more questions.

The first time I tried this activity, I gathered up several items that could be recycled,  a scarf, and a bandana. I covered their eyes with the bandana, and they reached under the scarf, felt the objects , and guessed what each object was.

Two more IDEAS:

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1.Guess the Summer item

In the beginning of the school year, you can  select items that remind them of summer:

  • seashells and rocks from the beach
  • corn
  • beach toys
  • popsicle sticks
  • sunglasses

Same, with any other Season or Special Day.

2. Making toys from junk

When looking to inspire your kids’ creativity, search no further than your recycling bin. Glass, plastic, and cardboard are all incredibly versatile crafting supplies with an infinite number of uses.

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I asked my 3rd graders to make their own toys using recycled items they can find at home. I showed them the first Doll’s House my daughter made when she was their age, using old boxes! They loved it and got inspired !

The main idea behind all the crafts my students made- which you can see here below- is that you can make toys from junk. It will cost nothing and often teach kids some basics of engineering and practice their English at the same time, in order to present their toy to the class.

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Origami crafts and ELT games

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This school year, we decided to use ORIGAMI crafts, in our ” CUbeS: CUlture and Smiles in a CUbe”  etwinning project ! Origami, is such a creative form of Art!
Why is Origami good for our students?
Generally, Origami is good for our students, as it develops eye hand coordination, sequencing skills, spatial skills, memory, but also patience and attention skills.  Origami allows students to develop fine motor skills and mental concentration. All of this combined stimulates the brain – especially when BOTH hands are being used at the same time.
Add to these, the social aspects of Origami – learning about other cultures, working together, teaching each other and taking pride in your work –simply PERFECT for our etwinning project, this year!
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Young children will surprise us in the ability they show creating basic folds – start on origami patterns such as Fortune Tellers , Windmills and Paper Boats are a classic example of childhood origami projects! And you can quickly progress from there.
Oh.. and what childhood does NOT include a Paper Plane? Origami right there! I love this Origami Paper Plane video by this 7yr old. 
It is fantastic for cooperative learning – children learn to work together and support each other. It breaks down age barriers – a younger child may be able to help and older one. It is also a great way to learn about other cultures and communities. So the key aspects of Origami benefiting well being and social skills are:
  • Patience
  • Cooperative learning/ Working in together
  • Sense of achievement
  • Learning about other cultures
  • Community building (especially if working on an origami school project)
  • Sense of achievement & joy in the finished product
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A. The Origami Paper Airplane “You” game
This fun writing icebreaker or brainstorming activity, works well with all students.
To start, the students write three to five facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Remember to ask them to write their full name on one of the wings. Then they put their creativity to work by folding that paper into a paper airplane.
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On your count, everyone flies their planes toward the middle of the room. Then students pick up a plane that landed near them.
Students take turns reading the facts written on the plane and add one new fact about the person whose paper plane they have in their hands. Let the class help if individuals get stuck.
Repeat the procedure as many times as you wish
A class discussion may follow.
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Extra: another Paper Plane Game idea
Level: Any Level
Draw a target (with points – like a dart board) on the whiteboard or use a cardboard box in the middle of the room. Then, students make paper airplanes and launch them after they answer your question in the form of a sentence-in our case, about their etwinning partners.
I recommend formulating questions that lead to 1 or 2 types of answers. This allows for better memorization. For example, use CAN/WILL questions and write the beginning part of the answer on the board “I /My etwinning partner can/will…”.  I recommend giving a prize to make the target points mean something, thus peaking their interest
B.The Origami CHATTERBOX game
Chatterboxes (or fortune tellers or cootie catchers) are one of those classic toys that epitomise childhood…I remember lots of laughter playing with them with my cousins on summer holidays. This suggested game is a bit of a twist on the traditional chatterbox, perfect for our etwinning project, whilst also having a giggle.
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To make:
  • You will need a square of paper. Ours was the width of an A4 page – 21 centimetres.
  • Fold your chatterbox according to the instructions found here (or you could google up a Youtube video).
To play:
  1. Ask one student to read and choose a colour, from the outside of the chatterbox. Spell out its name as you open and close the chatterbox.
  2. Ask the student  to read and choose a number, on the inside of the chatterbox (you should only be able to see four choices). Spell out the chosen number, as you open and close the chatterbox.
  3. Ask your student to choose a number from the choices on the inside of the chatterbox that are open on the last letter spelt. Open the flap corresponding flap and read the name of one favourite sight, there.
  4. As far as our etwinning project is concerned: this is the sight, which that the student should visit on the relevant twinspace PAGE,to read and learn more about- and later write about what he/she has learned and his/her impressions, on the relevant twinspace FORUMS thread!
  5. Swap over and have fun letting your students be in charge this time, working in pairs…you might just have a hard time getting it back off them though!
 C. The Origami Paper Boat Game
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This is a game where you practice words that have to do with any topic – in our case, words that have to do with the second “CUbeS’ Page about our Country-  and your memory!
Hand one paper boat to each student. Give them some time to read all the info on it.
Start like this: say to the first student “a boat comes loaded”. The student answers “with what” and you say “with sunny islands”. Then the student continues to say to the next one in the class “a boat comes loaded”…he/she answer “with what”…the student says “with sunny islands and the Acropolis” for example. And then it continues like that “forever”.
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The students have to remember what words have been said and they have to come up with a new word/phrase having to do with the topic.
If anyone fails to remember all the words that have been said or if he/she can´t come up with a new word, they are out of the game. The winner is the one that can continue “forever” without failing. (It can be a looong day!)
When I played it with my class (Greeks 12 year olds) they didn´t want to stop so they continued the game even after the lesson was finished and I had left the room!!
Have fun learning about Greece-or any other topic- with this origami paper boat game!
D. The Origami windmill  “Call My Bluff / Two Truths and A Lie” game
Call My Bluff is a fun game which is perfect at the start of term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game but, it can also work in our etwinning “CUbeS” project .
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The game is excellent for practicing speaking skills, though make sure you save a time for after the game to comment on any mistakes students may have made during the game. (I generally like to reserve this for after the game, so you don’t disrupt their fluency by correcting them as they speak).
With older groups you can have some real fun and you might be surprised what you’ll learn about any given topic, when playing this particular EFL game.
How to play:
First, hand your students a paper windmill each. Allow some time to play with it and read all the info written on it.

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  • Write 3 statements about any given topic – or about the Greek school in our case- two of which should be lies and one which should be true.
  • Allow your students to ask you questions about each statement and then guess which one is the truth. You might want to practice your poker face before starting this game!
  • If they guess correctly then they win.
  • Extension: Give students time to write their own two truths and one lie.
  • Pair them up and have them play again, this time with their list, with their new partner. If you want to really extend the game and give students even more time to practice their speaking/listening skills, rotate partners every five minutes.
  • Bring the whole class back together and have students announce one new thing they learned about the given topic- or about the Greek school, in our case- as a recap.
E1. Easter Bunny-Flower corner bookmark craft
1.The bunny bookmark design, really is a very easy one:
Step 1: Begin my making your very basic Origami Corner Bookmark. There are step by step photos and worded instructions for you on this Origami Bookmark post – you can print these off too!
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Step 2: using any paper cut offs – cut out two large bunny ears. Add a little pink and glue to inside of your basic origami bookmark.
Step 3: add facial details.
That is it… you have made an adorable Paper Bunny Bookmark using printer paper!
Here’s a video link to help you create your own origami paper bunny corner bookmarks.
https://www.redtedart.com/easy-paper-bunny-bookmark/?jwsource=cl
2.You could also try to make the Flower corner bookmark.
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  1. Begin by making your basic Origami Bookmark in green – like leaves or the grass.
  2. Once you have your green bookmark base, it is time  to make your flowers.
  3. Decide on your colour combination of your flower bookmark, as well as the types of petals you would like. We made two different ones – the blue flower and the white daisy bookmark.
  4. For the blue flower bookmark, you will need 5 blue petals – oval shaped and one yellow one.
  5. For the daisy bookmark, I cut out 12 long thin white petals and one yellow oval for the centre of the daisy.
  6. Glue all your petals onto your bookmark, but take care not to stick them onto the lower part of your bookmark.
  7. Add your centre. Decorate with with your pens and rosy cheeks.
  8. Finally, you can make a little red ladybird or bee and as it as a cute detail.
Here’s the video link to help you create your own bookmarks.
https://youtu.be/jnzVYG09RYA
E2.-The origami Easter paper corner Board Race
First, hand each student one corner bookmark and give them enough time to read all the Easter customs and traditions vocabulary written on them.
Later, have them play the game below, in teams.
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There isn’t an EFL teacher I know who doesn’t use this game in the classroom. Board Race is a fun game that is used for revising vocabulary.
It is a great way of testing what your students already know about the subject you’re about to teach- in our case: a great way to teach/revise Easter vocabulary and learn more about Easter traditions in our  etwinning partners’ countries.
How to play:
First, watch this helpful video of real teachers using this game in the classroom by BridgeTEFL:
Here’s a step by step explanation:
  • Split the class into two teams and give each team a colored marker.
  • If you have a very large class, it may be better to split the students into teams of 3 or 4.
  • Draw a line down the middle of the board and write a topic- ie Easter in Greece- at the top.
  • The students must then write as many words as you require related to the topic in the form of a relay race.
  • Each team wins one point for each correct word. Any words that are unreadable or misspelled are not counted.
F1. Origami mini books craft
Here’s a picture which will help you make your own origami mini book.
And here’s a short video tutorial.
F2. The Origami Mini Book HANGMAN game
This classic game is a favorite for all students. It works no matter how many students are in the class.
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How to play:
As usual, hand each student one mini book-In our case, it’s a Greek Recipe mini Book .
Ask the students, to read them.
Then, play have them play this game.
In case you’ve never played, here’s a quick rundown.
  • Think of a -Greek recipe- word/name and write the number of letters on the board using dashes to show many letters there are.
  • Ask students to suggest a letter. If it appears in the word, write it in all of the correct spaces. If the letter does not appear in the word, write it off to the side and begin drawing the image of a hanging man.
  • Continue until the students guess the word correctly (they win) or you complete the diagram (you win).
  • They win an extra point, if they can tell you anything about that recipe, in correct English.

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