Experiencing flipped classroom and blended learning

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What is the flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom is just one of the latest e-learning models which has made its way into classrooms around the world. The pedagogical model sets out to reverse the role of teaching with homework, whereby students would typically digest new educational content outside of their classroom. Teachers would then use their classroom sessions to allow students to apply the information learned, through a series of practical assignments.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning, on the other hand, involves both online learning as well as in a brick-and-mortar location. In a blended learning classroom, both online and traditional teaching methods are utilized to provide a more effective learning experience for the students. Teachers would typically employ online learning components such as educational videos, games, online learning material and podcasts.”

What is a flipped classroom approach?

The Flipped Classroom is a blended learning model in which traditional ideas about classroom activities and homework are reversed, or “flipped.” In this model, instructors have students interact with new material for homework first.

Flipped classroom

Like many educators, I leapt into the world of virtual learning last spring due to COVID-19 school closures. While some teachers have spent years immersed in the world of technologyI was adjusting to sitting behind a screen and figuring out how to best translate the benefits of in-person learning to the virtual world and how to use technology-supported instruction to enhance student learning.

However, as we shifted to distance learning last spring, we had to take the best of blended learning and adjust it to exist in a completely virtual world.

As we transitioned to remote learning, we worked to capture the benefits of “traditional” in-person learning through live, virtual smaller-group classes. I found that this was ideal for our quieter students (who loved using the chat feature to share ideas) and also allowed teachers to connect with students in even deeper, more authentic ways despite the distance.

The flipped-classroom model, whether virtual or in person, has been a gift for many of my students, most notably those with learning differences or more introverted kids. I have realised that the flipped model places a greater emphasis on the student putting in more of their own intellectual effort, leading to greater retention of the material and a significant increase in confidence.

Blended learning also incorporates online learning tools, whether it is in class or at home, that can offer more personalized learning experiences for students. Furthermore, blended learning can incorporate gamification to keep students engaged and motivated.

I firmly believe that, as educators ,we will have to continue to examine and evaluate how to maximize teacher-student interactions as well as online learning tools to support instruction and student development. While this year is sure to bring more challenges, it is equally likely that there will be incredible growth and development along the way.

Why flipped classrooms work for distance learning

Distance learning provides the ideal opportunity for trying out the flipped classroom, as students are doing so much learning from home anyway. It will build on and improve our relationship with our students, as the teacher-student dynamic shifts from a less instructional model to a more collaborative one. And this can help with motivation, too. When our class time is all about practical application of ideas, supporting student understanding and peer-to-peer collaboration, it makes for a more dynamic and engaging online class.

Blended Learning

I have long been interested in ‘Blended Learning’ . It remains a ‘buzz’ term in language teaching, although it means different things to different people. 

Generation Z – that is young people born between 1995 and the mid-2000s – has grown up with the internet, Google, and social networking. A world without the web and related technology is almost unimaginable for them; it brings them freedom, autonomy and their online identities are an important part of their lives.

Blended learning creates opportunities for students to engage with English outside of the classroom, through games and practice that they can access on mobile devices or computers at home or on the go.

Why blend?

There are many reasons for transitioning to blended learning.

One common reason is to combine the well-known positives of classroom teaching with the advantages of online learning, considered to be studying at the students’ own pace, at a place of their choice; and differentiation – using the online platform as a way of delivering personalized, individual learning-when possible.

Time is another reason. There is simply not enough time for language learners to cover everything within the constraints of the class timetable. Indeed, some language areas are best suited to self-study, such as extensive reading and practising difficult phonemes.

We can incorporate digital technology into our classroom lessons along with traditional methods of instruction. I have realized that switching between computer-based or gamified learning and face-to-face instruction keeps my students engaged in their learning and strengthen lessons.

Possible challenges

-The students who enjoy the class may not contribute to the knowledge building occurring in the online environment, while those who enjoy working online may dislike the time restrictions etc

-Learners ( and some parents…) may not see the link between their lessons and online work. They sometimes perceive the online components to be of lesser value and fail to do the online work.

– Technical problems can prove de-motivating.

A FEW FINAL NOTES

A.

Which online platforms/tools are MY most favourite and can be used for blended learning?

Quizizz: A game-based learning tool that can be used for instruction, both in and out of class, or for students to create their own games as more authentic practice. Quizizz has thousands of games available in the library and recently added a student log-in that enables students to track their progress and gives them access to prior games played so they can always go back and review. Having this available to students makes it more personalized because students can get extra practice whenever they need it.

Kahoot!: An engaging and popular game-based site that provides opportunities for students to take control of their learning and us ,educators to track student development. 

Challenges with Kahoot have become quite popular, among teachers and students. Teachers can “challenge” students to participate in a game as a way to practice the content or review for an assessment. Students can even challenge each other by sharing games and codes, which makes it good for peer collaboration and building social-emotional learning skills.

Padlet is an Internet-based application that can be used like a virtual pinboard, making it ideal for collaborating and sharing ideas and resources.  While there are numerous online tools that can be used for similar purposes, I think that Padlet is ideal for anyone considering blended learning.

B.

Digital learning web tools I have tried, and I recommend

Click here, to read an older blog post about them

Learning ,by acting and doing! #Experiential learning.

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Ι assume,all teachers recognize that children learn best through direct experience ,simply by providing them abundant opportunities for experiential learning—experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

To me, the way we learn is the way we approach life in general. It is also the way we solve problems, make decisions, and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout our life. 

“There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”
— David A. Kolb

At the core of my classes, self-directed play and exploration of materials allow for cooperative social interaction and support my students’ construction of knowledge about the world around them and this is crucial!

SOME THEORY

THE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE

According to research, learners retain 75% of what they do compared to 5% of what they hear or 10% of what they read (study). In a world where there are many distractions amongst the learning environment (think cell phones and other forms of technology), experiential learning keeps students engaged and attentive to the learning goal .

David Kolb’s work on the experiential learning cycle is among the most influential approaches to learning I have read about.

The experiential learning cycle is a four-step learning process: Experience – Reflect – Think – Act.

While verb drills and memorisation may have their places in language acquisition, taking a more interactive approach can offer students a wide range of important benefits when learning English.

All in all, by practicing their language skills through fun activities like cooking, photography, arts and crafts, music, drama, and sports, students can develop their skills much more quickly than they would through less active teaching methods.

“Learning by doing” can also boost students’ motivation and desire to learn, help them develop practical language skills that can be applied in their daily lives, and boost their confidence in their own English language abilities.

When students are learning a new language, it’s important not only to equip them with the basic grammar and vocabulary they’ll need to progress, but also to spark their interest and keep them motivated.

Therefore, learning English through fun activities makes second language acquisition an engaging, joyful, and interactive experience, building students’ motivation and ensuring they’re always looking forward to their next English lesson.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

There are many benefits to experiential learning.For example, students are able to receive a deeper understanding of the content being taught. Experiential learning also increases engagement and participation. 

By incorporating experiential learning into our curricular learning, we can result in a real mindset change, through learning skills such as leadership, empathy, collaboration, and communication through meaningful opportunities to practice.

If these benefits have not convinced you on this teaching and learning method, below there are a few experiential learning activities that have worked in my classes and  you can use in your class to help solidify the use of more hands-on activities in your classroom.

A growth mindset embraces learning by doing.

In my experience, students respond better when being engaged in practical activities, rather than reading from textbooks.

So, getting the children involved in practical activities that teach them English, among other subjects, is a highly effective way of engaging them in their learning.

Gone are the days when I was a student and where we were seated in rows and listened, for what seemed like hours, to the teacher on a particular topic.  It was as if the students were considered empty vessels to fill up. There was no time for trial and error for us to ‘play’ with various concepts or to learn a particular concept further. 

Course material would be taught in a predetermined way . With little ‘play’, one approach to learning and a fixed way of looking at the learning process, this could only lead to a very limited mindset to what each individual student could achieve.

Contrary to this view and at the heart of what makes the growth mindset( please, click on the link to read all about it in an older blog post of mine) so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

 

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Experiential Learning Activities to try ,that have worked in my class

Scavenger Hunt

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Scavenger hunts are great experiential learning activities that get students moving and thinking. These hunts often involve having students solve riddles and clues, and students must work together to get to the next stop. Make the hunt lead to a reveal of the class field trip, incentive party, or as a study guide before the next test. The options are limitless and sure to excite our learners!

Put on a Play

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What better way for our students to work on their cooperation, leadership, and creativity skills than by practicing and presenting a play. Maybe our students have just learned a new topic.. Use a pre-found script (a simple Google search is sure to provide many), or have older students create their own. You can also use the course book dialogues or a picture book as a starting point for a play. Theater is a great hands-on experience, and my students do love showing off their acting skills!

Engineering and ELT?

Giving students the opportunity to build is appealing for so many. These sorts of experiential learning activities can be used as part of the curriculum, for brain breaks, for projects or as fun school-wide competitions. You can have students use straws and other recyclable materials to build practically anything related to any topic! The competitive atmosphere of these sorts of building competitions creates excitement and fosters class unity.

Games students play

Games or gamification of courses can be a way of keeping students engaged and motivated while achieving the learning goals in a way that is fun and low risk. Points ,stickers or badges can be awarded for satisfactory participation or completion of the game or goals in the game. Allowing repeat play of games also enables students to see failure as  indication that more work is needed to master the skill or knowledge at hand.

As educators, we can incorporate gaming elements (gamification) into other components of our course, include gaming activities or even structure the entire course like a game!

Games or gaming elements can be designed to be competitive or non-competitive. A competitive element, such as an individual-based or team-based point system, can facilitate friendly competition to make activities or the course fun and active. Games can also be non-competitive and have students work towards achievements and badges in class that signify proficiency with a learning outcome or goal. I have tried both, I can recommend both.

Ask students to bring in their own realia

If you want to get to know students better you can ask them to bring in several items from home that they feel represent them. If you’re teaching online, students can hold objects up to their camera instead. Have them present these items to the class and explain why they chose each object. For a variation of this activity, have classmates guess how the objects represent their fellow students. Students love to share things about themselves and are usually excited about activities that involve getting to talk about their own lives.

 Incorporate realia into a writing prompt

To make writing assignments come to life, I often bring in random objects and place them at the front of the classroom. I have students write a short story (usually with a prompt) incorporating all or a certain number of the objects. This activity gets students to think outside of the box and reflect on how we use the vocabulary they’ve learned in everyday life. It’s a great one for both the physical and virtual classroom as well, as you can simply hold the objects up to the screen if you’re teaching online.

Memory

I in a virtual classroom, quickly pass objects by the screen, one after the other. See if students can recall which objects they saw and whether they can name them in the correct order. If you’re in a physical classroom, you can set the items out on a desk and hide each object under a cloth ,in a box or in a paper bag. Then, lift the bag/cloth/box for a few seconds to reveal the object. You could also play “Memory” with hand-made vocabulary cards or use any items available such as cups, maps, toys, to help students boost their memory .

To me, if you’re wondering how to teach/revise vocabulary, this is a great activity, as you can choose items from a specific theme/category (ABC,food, sports, objects that are different shapes or colors, etc.).

 What is it?

I suggest that you fill a bag/box with realia and have students take turns trying to guess what one of the objects is by putting their hand in the bag/box and feeling it. They can use vocabulary to describe the object to their classmates as they guess. This game can be adapted to the virtual classroom by hiding an object in a bag or under a cloth. Students can have a look at the shape and listen to you describe the object (e.g., it’s heavy, it’s round, etc.) while they try to guess what it is.

CONCLUSION

We all know that,every child learns in a way that is unique to themselves. Experiential learning activities help to take all students’ learning styles and make the activity suitable for a diverse group of learners. The benefits make experiential teaching worth a try. So do a scavenger hunt, put on a play, plant some seeds, rot an apple, or build a tower. Students are sure to walk away with powerful and memorable learning experiences.

Here is a link to visit and find out a lot more about experiential learning activities and useful tables such as this one, below.

Traditional learning activities

Experiential learning activities

Teacher-centered/focused Student-centered/focused
Learning outcomes are prescribed to a fixed rubric or scoring system Learning outcomes are flexible and open
Aim to explain knowledge and/or skills by transferring information Aim to develop knowledge and skills through experience
Fixed structure, high degree of facilitation Flexible structure, minimal facilitation

Teaching about life values:”The Letter “- Coca Cola Christmas Commercial 2020

It all started during the second covid19 quarantine,in December 2020.

It was then, when I decided to teach my students about what matters in life the most: our presence!

To do so, I decided to share one of my favourite 2020 Christmas commercials: “THE LETTER “.

It can be watched in one of my most favourite teaching apps: THE LITERACY SHED.

Why?

Last December ,with a 2nd countrywide lockdown in place, each and every citizen had been quarantined within the four walls of their home, since mid-November. As teachers, it had become not only our duty but also our responsibility towards to our students to follow it diligently, as it is a much-needed step to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Spending most of their time indoors had increased the time my students spent with our family members. Ever since, this has reinstated the fact that it is only your family which is beside you through thick and thin. You have got once in a lifetime opportunity to spend so many days altogether with your family, and it is better to not waste them.

The most essential of all, being in a lockdown has made us realize the importance of the freedom we all had and the importance of the most precious gift of all, a gift that money can’t buy: family!

After all, there’s no point in suffering through a global crisis if we don’t learn something from it. “No challenge, no change,” 

What I actually taught my students ,during our December webex lessons, was the importance of being present!

Actually, we had already started working on Acts of Kindness to our nearest and dearest, long before December, using this inspiring “Random Acts of Kindness Calendar”!

Being Present

This is the summary of the main ideas we talked about ,during our online lessons.

“Want to know one Christmas gift that everyone will really love this year? Having your full, devoted attention at all your holiday gatherings.

This Christmas season, put in the extra effort and do your best to be fully present when around your family and friends. I promise you it will be much more enjoyable for everyone (including yourself).

Give the gift of your sincere, undivided attention. Listen, really listen, without thinking about how you’ll respond; listen with the intention to understand, because people need to be heard: sometimes that’s all they need.

Your sincere presence, your authenticity, is one of the best gifts you can give; your offering is to be with your nearest and dearest.

Let others know how grateful you are for their presence in your life. Say, “thank you” and “I appreciate you” and “I love you.” It’s one of the greatest gifts.”

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

THE LESSON PLAN STEPS

I decided to use one of my favourite wordcloud web tools in order to have all my students to share their ideas about which gifts ” only you can give” !

Sharing my screen and my most favourite virtual whiteboard app, I presented them with the topic I wanted them to brainstorm about: Christmas gift ideas for kids.

The next step was to have them work in groups, using the webex breakout rooms feature, to discuss their ideas.

They had to share all those ideas with the whole class, afterwards.

Finally, I shared my own idea about which are the three best gifts we can give to others!

Time: People always say time is money, but it doesn’t have to be. Time is one of the biggest and inexpensive gifts you can give yourself and others. Giving yourself the gift of free time can truly help your perspective in life.

Love: The gift of love, shouldn’t really need much explanation. Unfortunately, many celebrated Christmas and New Year’s without their loved ones this year. We should never forget to tell those people we do care about, that we love them, tomorrow is never promised.

Attention:There’s no doubt, Christmas will always be associated with presents; however,we should never underestimate the importance of spending a little extra time with someone, loving others. Giving, is better than receiving. Some of the best gifts we can give, can’t be wrapped as they come from the heart.

IN A NUTSHELL
Watch the film on YouTube hereWatch the film on Vimeo here

The story

One Dad, planning on working away for Christmas, takes his daughter’s letter for Santa with him to post.  Unfortunately, he misses the ‘post boat’ and a series of mishaps means that he ultimately ends up delivering the letter to The North Pole himself. 

He receives a lift home and is surprised by the contents of the letter when he gets there. 

Few more teaching ideas you can also use, especially with older students

  • Discuss and share ideas for some gifts ‘only you can give’ this Christmas. 
  • Write diary entries in role of the girl. 
  • Create an inner monologue for the father. 
  • Describe the epic journey and the sights he sees on his travels. 
  • Recount the journey in the first person. 

Outcomes

  • Narrative retelling
  • Informal letter -if you wish. I asked them to write their letters to Santa, asking for …GIFTS THEY CAN ONLY GIVE!

Teaching GRAMMAR, while virtually traveling the world: a fun teaching and learning experience, during the covid19 quarantine.

Our senses allow us to enjoy our food, the sound of music, the beauty of a sunny day, the softness of a child’s hair – in short, our lives! With the aid of the Internet, I realised that I can teach my students about the special gift of the senses and how they work, even during the lockdown!!

How it all started

It was during the second covid19 quarantine 2020, when I had to teach remotely, both synchronously and asynchronously ,when I just happened to have accidentally stumbled upon two great hidden internet apps ,that teachers and students definitely have to check out- not to mention everybody experiencing a lockdown.

Presentation of the two apps

Window Swap is an application born of people like us, who were trapped in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had to find a way out (in technology) so as not to lose their sanity.To me, it’s the perfect app so you can travel without moving;)

We go to window-swap.com, and click to see pictures or videos uploaded by other inmates, like us, from around the world! What you see is not live, they are shots uploaded by users, since the page was created, last spring.

Window Swap is the brainchild of Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, a couple living in Singapore who were quarantined there. They locked themselves in a house, and when they got bored of the view from their own window, they thought of seeing something else. And they started building a site to travel to other worlds, through windows !

Like Drive & Listen, an app that lets you travel to different parts of the world listening to local radio stations, Window Swap fills that gap by giving you a sneak peak in the window of a complete stranger, into a complete unknown country.

It has shots of places you may have dreamed of visiting, such as Australia, Chile, Japan. And invalid sites, from other worlds, like Albany in the USA. A meadow, with its pond, its labrados and everything, from a terrace that, logically, you will never see in your life, but now that you see it, you like it!

At the same time, a Facebook page was created, “View from my window”, for everyone to share the view from their windows, until travel restrictions end, wherever they are. Until today, dozens of posts are uploaded every day and descriptions, reactions, comments, etc. play from everywhere!

Without further ado, I decided to let it be comforting for my students,as well!

I loved the main idea: exactly in the phase that you are, that you do not fit in the place, that you are tired of seeing the same walls and the same view, whatever it is,a complete stranger, in Scotland, India, Canada is sharing the same view with you.

The second app, the Drive and Listen app was created during the quarantine,last Spring.

All you need is a desktop. You open the app and scroll to choose which city you want to drive. Tel Aviv; Mumbai; Havana;

Play! Suddenly you are in the exotic, long-suffering capital of Cuba, driving a ’55 Plymouth and listening to Toto’s “Africa”. You can change station and catch another frequency! Either you let it see where it will take you or if you want, you change city.

You can also choose how fast you want your vehicle to move, even if you want to hear the noise of the street, like a window opening or closing, the wind, the rain, people talking etc

Of course the shots you see from the streets are not live broadcasts, they are videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and have been connected to the app. But radio is real-time! And most of the shots are from car dashcams, so it’s like living in that moment and being at the wheel or in the driver’s seat, as you prefer.

It’s basically like a game. Tired of hearing the same things? You have a list of 50 cities around the world to choose from, where you want to travel. What should our friends in Moscow be hearing now? What are they chatting about, in Los Angeles? What do you get from a radio show in Buenos Aires other than the name Diegito?

And if you want a real break, from all and sundry,the list also includes a small town in Switzerland, the enchanting Lauterbrunnen, with about 2,000 inhabitants, in the canton of Bern -a very nice destination if you want to take the mountains, as soon as the border opens and get rid of COVID-19!

The creator of the app is Erkam Seker, a student from Istanbul who is studying in Munich – Computing, what else? When travel restrictions began in Germany, he began building this app on the Heroku platform, mainly because he felt nostalgic for his own city, that is, for personal use. As we started doing puzzles,renovations (or the rearrangement of furniture in the space, ok) to kill time and forget about the lockdown restrictions, this young man wrote code!

When he saw how relaxing it was for him to fool around with pictures from the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, he continued, hoping to give courage and inspiration to travelers who could not travel or to expatriates who could not return home! He started to connect his app with city streets, and at some point the Thessaloniki, GR radio stations went up ,last Spring …

You want music when you read, when you work, when you cook, and of course when you drive. But especially in the car, you have the feeling that you can enjoy music in a different way. So much so, that if your favorite song is playing, you will wait for it to end even if you have parked – yes, you are not alone: ​​7 out of 10 drivers will not get out of the car until one of their favorite songs is finished.

Just like the creators of these apps, when I saw how relaxing it was for me to fool around with pictures from open windows or the driver’s seat and change radio stations around the world, I decided to introduce the apps to my students and use them in my online lessons, hoping to give courage and inspiration to the ones who could not travel or leave their homes!

Here’s the padlet wall I created for my students to help them share their window or street descriptions, after they have used the two apps.

AN EXAMPLE

MIAMI, USA –

AARON AND JESSICA’S WINDOW

The rain sounds loud

The grass smells nice

The sky looks cloudy

The garden looks beautiful.

The food in the barbeque tastes delicious.

Teaching the Verbs of Senses, online

A summary

 Start by writing the five senses across the top of your virtual white board (hearing, touch, smell, sight, taste) and ask your students to explain what each one is. 

Now that they know the vocabulary for the senses themselves, list under each one ADJECTIVES that relate to that sense.

Ask your students to volunteer adjectives that they already know to go with the verbs. For example, under smell you might write nice, yummy, disgusting or other related words. Under sight, your students might volunteer the words beautiful, stunning, interesting, tiny.

Write down whatever words your students offer, and then add some more of your own.

Finally, ask your students to describe what they can see, hear,smell,touch, taste ,in the places they “visit” while you are using those two apps ,by sharing your screen. To me, this is the perfect speaking activity!

The teaching steps, in detail

1.The five senses (5 mins)
• Introduce the five senses
• Put students in groups in webex breakout rooms (WebEx breakout rooms is a video conferencing features that allows the host to separate larger video meetings and webinars into several smaller groups of a set number of participants.) and ask them to match the body parts with the correct sense
• Check the answers as a whole class

2.Adjectives matching (10 mins)
• This task introduces students to adjectives which can be used to talk about the five senses
• Ask them to read the words in the diagram and decide what sense
each adjective can be used with. There may be more than one possible answer.
• When they have finished ask them to write one more adjective for each sense in the chat box, or have them use the webex annotate feature.
• Check answers as a whole class and drill the words if necessary.
Differentiation
Stronger students can write more than one adjective for each sense

3. Listening (5 mins)
• In this task, students watch the video and tick the senses they hear in their notebooks or write them in the chat.
• Tell the students to check their answers in breakout rooms , first, if you wish.
• Check the answers.

4.Discussion (5-10 mins)
• In this activity, students have the chance to use some of the vocabulary they have learnt ,in a
discussion about their own senses.
• Put students in pairs or small groups-in breakout rooms- and ask them to discuss the questions.
• Monitor and provide content-based feedback if students require it.
• Share brief whole class feedback of interesting answers.

5.Writing (5-10 mins)

Now is the time for the students to write their descriptions . I ask my students to do this as homework.

Encourage them to use as much detail as possible . They can use the word “object” whenever they need to refer to what they are describing in their writing. Also, challenge them to use some of the vocabulary that you listed on the virtual board earlier. They should try to use variety in their word choice as well as give thorough descriptions, if possible. For young learners, a paragraph such as the one in the example above, is more than enough.

TEACHING Comparisons USING VIRTUAL TOURS

WE LOVE VIRTUAL TOURS, DON’T WE? GRAMMAR VIA TRAVELING SOUNDS LIKE FUN!

When I first run into this amazing app, I thought “Here’s a new virtual adventure for my students“!

THE TASK

First, I decided to ask them to visit a few amazing museums and special places, VIRTUALLY!

Then, I asked the students to write which museum or special place they liked visiting the most and why, using COMPARISONS.

ie My favourite museum is the LOUVRE Museum. The Louvre is not only one of the world’s largest art museums, but it’s also one of Paris’s most iconic historic monuments.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BRITISH MUSEUM VIRTUAL TOUR.

CLICK HERE FOR THE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

FOR THE DALI THEATRE MUSEUM in Catalonia, Spain, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM, IN ATHENS, CLICK HERE.

FOR A TOUR AROUND THE WHITE HOUSE IN WASHINGTON DC, CLICK HERE.

TO VISIT THE EIFFEL TOWER IN PARIS, FRANCE, CLICK HERE.

TO BE ABLE TO VISIT AUSTRALIA AND WALK AROUND THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE GLOBE THEATRE, IN LONDON, CLICK HERE. Everyone, no matter where they are in the world, can now walk around Shakespeare’s Globe!

FOR THE LIST OF ALL THE MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS IN THE WORLD YOU CAN VISIT VIRTUALLY, CLICK HERE!

FORMING ADVERBS and COMPARISON OF ADVERBS

Another amazing web app which helped us virtually travel the World during the lockdown, while practicing our Grammar,is an app to fall in love with!

My favorite Facebook page “Geography is very cool” has shared an incredible site created, in fact, by a Greek, “Fly & listen”.

George Bakiris is a DJ and radio producer and was inspired to make something that will take us on a journey while listening to great music.

"Fly & listen" is exactly that you "fly" over a country of your choice, watching the sights through drone videos while you can select local radio stations.

All you have to do is select the country you want to enjoy on the right and then the radio station you want to listen to.
So you fly over Paris, Rome or Athens and listen to local music!

After my 6th graders had finished working on Comparisons in class, I asked them to visit our asynchronous class , click on the suggested link, travel virtually all over the world and then share their impressions and thoughts, using their Grammar on Comparisons-adjectives and Adverbs, in the classroom.

Here are some examples

The desert in Sudan Africais notasbig asthe desert in Egypt
The drivers in New York, USA drive more quickly than the drivers in London, UK.
Actually, I think they drive the most quickly of all.
I saw a few kids in London, UK dancing on rollerblades happily.
I’ve heard that people in Japan work harder than people in Mexico .
I think that, the lorry driver I saw in France, Europe drive  more carefully than the taxi driver I saw in Afghanistan ,Asia.
The drone flies faster than most birds. Airplanes fly the fastest of all.

I also asked them to complete sentences using adjectives, in exercises like the ones below:

Complete the sentences with the comparative form of the adjectives in brackets.
Begin with the first words given:
a. The Amazon River / the Mississippi River. (long)
The Amazon river _________________________________________________________________ .
b. India / Saudi Arabia (populated)
India ______________________________________________________________________________ .
c. New York / Los Angeles (large)
New York _________________________________________________________________________ .
d. Canada / Antarctica (cold)
Antarctica ________________________________________________________________________ .
e. Mount Everest / Mount Kilimanjaro (high)
Mount Everest ____________________________________________________________________ .
f. The Lake Baikal / Caspian Sea (deep)
Lake Baikal ____________________

Complete with the superlative of the adjectives. Did you know that?
a. Asia is the ___________ continent in the world? (large) (44,579,000 sq km)
b. Africa is the continent with the _________________ counties? (many) (53)
c. The Pacific Ocean is the _____________ ocean on Earth? (deep) (10,924 m)
d. The Vatican is the ____________ country in the world? (small) (0.44 sq km)
e. Luxembourg is the __________ country in the world? (rich) (GNP $45,360)
f. Mozambique is the _____________ country in the world? (poor) (GNP $80)
g. The Nile is the _______________________ river on Earth? (long) (6,825 km)

They were also asked to refer to the cities they had managed to visit virtually ,by sharing with the rest of the class sentences, like these ones:

In …………… city:
There are (wide) streets in the world.
Buses and cars are
(fast) in the world.
Shops in this town are___________ (interesting) in the world.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

STAY TUNED FOR FRESH INSPIRATIO,N COMING FROM MY MOST FAVORITE QUARANTINE WEB TOOL OF ALL:

http://radio.garden/

Explore live radio by rotating the globe.

All in all

OBSERVATION IS KEY TO PRODUCING STRONG WRITING AND SPEAKING.

IF OUR STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO OBSERVE THE WORLD AROUND THEM THEY WILL BE ABLE TO BETTER ELABORATE THEIR WRITING AND SPEAK ,EFFORTESSLY. IF THEY CAN BETTER ELABORATE THEIR WRITING AND SPEAK EFFORTESSLY , THEY WILL KEEP OUR ATTENTION AND MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE WANT TO READ MORE.

HanDS: Democratic Schools-an etwinning project 2019/20

When this pandemic began, teachers all over the World were given little notice to shift very quickly to distance learning or e-learning, sometimes with no training. In many cases, we had 48 hours or a weekend to reinvent lessons for an already planned curriculum, learn new technologies, find non-technology solutions to student learning, and figure out how to keep students engaged. But all us etwinning teachers ,also had to balance home and work and how to do our life’s work from afar while simultaneously caring for students, grieving losses, and so many more challenges and obstacles!

For all those -mainly non-European -teachers who keep asking me about what etwinning is about: eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe.

I personally realised that there was only ONE thing that was still there for both me and my students, during the lockdown: etwinning!

eTwinning offers a platform for staff (teachers, head teachers, librarians, etc.), working in a school in one of the European countries involved, to communicate, collaborate, develop projects, share and, in short, feel and be part of the most exciting learning community in Europe. eTwinning is co-funded by the Erasmus+, the European programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport.

eTwinning promotes school collaboration in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by providing support, tools and services for schools. eTwinning also offers opportunities for free and continuing online Professional Development for educators.

Launched in 2005 as the main action of the European Commission’s eLearning Programme, eTwinning is co-funded by the Erasmus+, the European programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, since 2014.

Its Central Support Service is operated by European Schoolnet, an international partnership of 34 European Ministries of Education developing learning for schools, teachers and pupils across Europe. eTwinning is further supported at national level by 38 National Support Services.

TwinSpace

The place where eTwinning magic really happens is the TwinSpace; a safe platform visible only to the teachers participating in a project. Students can also be invited in the TwinSpace to meet and collaborate with peers from their partner schools.

One of the most important elements of eTwinning is collaboration among teachers, students, schools, parents, and local authorities. In eTwinning teachers work together and organise activities for their students. They have an active role, interact, investigate, make decisions, respect each other and learn 21st century skills. eTwinning projects involve the contribution of each member of the team. Take inspiration and explore these awarded projects.

Finally, in eTwinning, our work is important and deserves to be shared and recognised locally, nationally and Europe-wide. eTwinning recognises the work carried out by teachers, students, and schools through National and European Quality Labels, eTwinning Awards, eTwinning Schools and the eTwinning Portfolio.

One of our school  inspiring etwinning projects, this year, was a project about DEMOCRATIC VALUES.

About the project

This #eTw4Democracy project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools, sharing and enhancing democratic values, at the same time.
Our schools are microcosms of the communities in which they exist. They are the perfect environment for students not only to learn about civics and democratic values, but also to experience democracy in all aspects of school life cultivating the way the students become citizens. In a democratic school students and teachers should participate equally in the shaping of school life, thus realising their right to have a say on matters that affect them. The activities in this project aim to support students in promoting democratic values within their school communities ensuring that students understand their rights and responsibilities and have strategies for building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all.

AIMS

The overall aim is to share school democratic values, with others! Children will recognize that their actions affect themselves but also others.
Our “HanDS” project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls, too. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls and teach about Democracy, at the same time. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner schools. Therefore, citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.
All in all,our aims are:
To prepare students for their future role as citizens
To provide students with opportunities for learning in a democratic environment
To promote active participation and responsibility in the school environment
To improve students’ communication, collaboration, decision- making and problem- solving skills

WORK PROCESS

The tasks, will be set by all partner schools; the activities and work produced will be shared on twinspace by the schools, on a monthly basis and the work process will be communicated using the journal, on a weekly basis. Depending on the activity, pupils will have the opportunity to work independently or with talk partners and will have membership / access to twinspace to share and see the other school’s work and join in forums. Children will also have the opportunity to work in mixed ability groups in each school or in teams of pupils in different schools, sharing responsibilities. They will also have to work in teams, to think of ideas about collaborative projects and about the hand-print crafts, to fill the parcels that will be sent to the other schools, on different topics. Those parcels will have themes, such as:school life in the past, school life at present ,a day in a democratic school etc
The project, works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and parcel exchanges, by post.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Children will learn about civics and democratic values, but also experience democracy in all aspects of school life,through their dialogue, written work and the parcels that they will send and receive! Children will also practice writing and communicating in English and children in all countries will familiarize themselves with aspects of each other’s school life, promoting democratic values within their school communities.


Our project, helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and values , enhance democracy in the school environment and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding others”.The process is always constantly about learning to learn collaboratively, building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all.
The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and participate equally in the shaping of school life .

Adapting our Halloween teaching, to follow COVID19 protocols, in our flipped classroom

 Schools ,all over the World, have made many changes to keep students and teachers safe during the school year, and class Halloween celebrations have seen changes too.

All teachers, have to follow social distancing and other COVID protocols, every day.

Halloween was very different , in my classes,this year,as well.

With social distancing in place , many of the games and activities we love doing at Halloween were simply not possible this year.

As such, it has been quite difficult for me as a teacher ,to come up with fun Halloween games to do while safely social distancing.

Keep Your Distance

Ηere’s my list of fun social distancing Halloween games and activities that our students can safely do while keeping their distance from others. They worked in my class. I do hope, they will work in yours, as well.

What is it about Halloween that I love so much ? It’s its  FUN element, I guess!

Therefore, I decided to try and bring some Halloween spirit to my class this weird year.

I attempted to teach my students Halloween themed lessons, and to  elicit some  excitement from them, following the protocols. I feel that we, at least, paid Halloween  a pretty good tribute, against all odds.

A few of my favourite non-contact Halloween active games and activities

The first day I started thinking about how to teach about Halloween safely, for both my students and me, I ran into this highly inspiring English Teacher’s video, on Facebook! I decided to give it a try and see if it worked with my very young learners ! Guess what: it did!! We just loved it!

Highly recommended to all English Teachers! And, please, follow this amazing teacher! She is one of a kind, trust me!

Make A Spooky Puppet Theatre

If you’re looking for a spooky activity to do with your students this 🎃Halloween🎃Here’s an idea…Make your own Mini Puppet Theatre (out of a cereal box) and sing-along with 6 monster stick puppets. Watch the video to know more!

https://www.facebook.com/KidsEnglishTheatre/videos/2756291474687434

Another great game I ran into and decided to use in my classes ,both synchronously and asynchronously, is this one, below. I found even more social distancing teaching ideas for Halloween party games to try with my classes, in this amazing site.

Draw A Monster Game

That was a great game to play at Halloween while social distancing. In that game, the kids drew a monster.

To play, I asked each student to grab a piece of paper and something to draw with and then played the video. In the video, the students read a description of a monster. After reading the description, they tried to draw what they thought the monster looked like based on that description.

Once students finished their drawing, I/they played the video to see what the monster looked like.

My students, really loved this kind of activity, especially when their monster drawings looked very similar to the monster in the video. I asked them to work on this video at home, using our asynchronous e-me hive platform but you can follow the same steps, in a school class.

This activity can be easily done at Halloween while social distancing as the students can stay in their seats while they draw their monster, and do not need to be close to or share resources with others.

Halloween Bingo

Halloween Bingo

This next social distancing Halloween game is a Halloween themed BINGO game.

To play, the students were asked to create a Halloween vocabulary Bingo card, in their notebooks, using any 9 Halloween vocabualry words/pictures they wished.

Next, I called out one of the Halloween words, in our vocabulary list, for example ‘ghost’. Then, the students should check their bingo card. If the ghost word/picture is on their card, then they had to cross that Halloween word/picture out.

Then, I called out another Halloween word and again students should check if that word was in their card and if it was, they should cross it out, again. The first student who crossed out all their Halloween words/pictures, was the winner.

Halloween Costume Fashion Show

This social distancing Halloween activity idea is a great way to let kids strut their stuff and show off their fun and scary Halloween costumes.

I always set up an area to be your ‘Halloween catwalk’ and then invite students one by one to walk down the catwalk and show off their great Halloween costumes.

This year, I did that with my 4th graders ,after I had sent them a Halloween vocabulary quizlet and these two relevant songs/videos, in our asynchronous class, first!

I also asked them to visit this , as well as that Thinglink walls , before they decided about what to dress up ,in our school classroom.

To make it feel even more like a fashion show, I snapped some pictures of them in their costumes and shared them with the students’ parents, in our asynchronous class!

Halloween Word Search

Halloween Word search

I am sure that we all have used word search worksheets ,to get our kids familiar with some Halloween vocabulary. But this online Halloween activity also has the added benefit of being perfectly safe to do while keeping a safe distance from others.

Click to download this Halloween word search or see all our Halloween worksheets.

Another cool web tool , which I personally used to create my own word search activities was Liveworksheets. A free teaching web tool, you will love!

Halloween Charades Game

With a little preparation, this classic party game can be turned into a safe social distancing Halloween game.

If you’re not familiar with charades, in this game one person would choose a card -or to make sure this Halloween game can be played while safely social distancing,the teacher shows him/her a card- and then try to act out what is on the card without using any words or sounds.

To make it into a Halloween game, I simply used cards with Halloween related things on them. For example,I wrote/drew Halloween words (ghost, witch, broomstick, etc), Halloween songs (The Monster Mash, etc) or Halloween Movies (Night of The Living Dead, etc). It’s diffrent ,for each different age/level we teach.

I ensured the student acting out the word and the students guessing the word were all at a safe distance.


HALLOWEEN QUIZZES

Usually, these quizzes would be played in pairs or small teams, but seen as that is not possible while social distancing, these quizzes can be played individually, both at home asynchronously ,or in class, using a projector and working in teams.

You can download this pre-made Top Five Quiz with ten questions.

I personally create my own quizzes, such as this one, on a favourite web tool which is similar to Kahoot, called Quizziz.

Students, love it!

Hot Seat

I thought that, this classic classroom game could be easily adapted so my students could play while social distancing.

This time, I decided to use my Halloween flashcards, to play this game.

I asked one student to come to front of the class and stand / sit at a safe distance from other students. Then standing behind the student I showed the rest of the class a flashcard.

Next, the students tried to describe the word on the flashcard without saying the word, and the student at the front of the class should guess what it was. Super fun!

We played apple bobbing and dangling donuts

  1. Apple bobbing – I gave each student their own apple in their own bowl of water, or asked them to hold their own apple tied onto a string and challenged them to take a bite without touching it.I made it a race and gave the winner a prize. 
  2. Dangling donuts – Each student held their own donut tied onto a string. They took it in turns to dangle a donut for each other. The challenge was to eat it with no hands, as fast as possible.

Detail 1: there was spooky music playing ,in the background!

Detail 2: My students ,had to watch a couple of videos similar to this one, in our asynchronous class, when at home, before they attended our school class.

Let’s decorate our classroom

You can check out these Halloween craft activities and decoration ideas or print and colour these free Halloween posters to add a spooky message for passers-by.

In our asynchronous “e-me hive“, my students had the chance to watch several videos, such as this one, or this one, follow the directions there and make their favourite crafts and decorations to bring back to class, the following day.

I decided to ask my amazing 4th graders to watch a video with instructions about how to make paper ghosts using their footprints, at home, and make them ,either themselves or with their parents’ help. Then, they were asked to write about them and decorate their classroom bulletin board with them, after they had presented them in class, of course! Cute!

Let’s make spooky food

What better time to indulge in some jaw-droppingly tasty sweets, than Halloween time?

First, I posted a few delicious Halloween treats ideas, to our asynchronous class and asked my students to watch and prepare their favourite treats, bring them to school and share them, in our Halloween party ! Yummy!

A pumpkin carving contest

I suggest that you treat everyone in the class to their very own pumpkin and see who can come up with the best design. Ι have come to the conclusion that a safe way to get little kids involved is to post a video with instructions in an asynchronous teaching platform and tell them to ask their parents to do the cutting for them, first. Then let them scoop out the insides with a spoon. This how to carve a pumpkin beginners’ guide is a great place to start. This is where we started, in our school classroom.

Another nice video, which I posted in our asynchronous hive, to help my older students curve their pumpkins at home, was this one. For my younger learners, I used this video.

I hope, you will like them as much as we did!

Have a ‘scary’ movie night, at home-or a scary movie…. day, at school

At first, I told them that, during Halloween nights, the people who celebrate it take some tasty Halloween treats and wear their Halloween costumes or  some cool Halloween PJs like these glow-in-the-dark skeleton ones.

Then, I asked them to watch the short film extracts ,which I had created, using one of my most favourite web teaching tools: edpuzzle, asynchronously, together with their families.

Here’s one example of such film extract ,which my youngest students, liked a lot: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial .

I even offered them a choice of several other Halloween themed movies, to watch at home, using Quizlet.

Family Halloween movies

Make a spooky music playlist

From Michael Jackson’s Thriller to the Ghostbusters theme tune, I decided to have lots of class fun compiling a spooky playlist to listen to, together with my students. I thought it was safe, to post the lyrics to our asynchronous class first and later,with the use of a projector, have a Halloween karaoke competition, in the school classroom ! It was so much fun! Although, it didn’t last long ,since our teaching hours last only about 40 minutes ! My students were given the opportunity to sing the songs again and again, at home, too, thanks, to our asynchronous class platform posts.

For my very young learners, I did the very same thing , using their favourite Halloween songs, such as this one , this one or even this one!

We all danced and sang happily- in safe distances, of course!

Story Reports

You don’t have to read a book on the page to write a story report. This Halloween, instead of having my students listen to an audiobook or story, I decided to have my wicked witch puppet, Amelia present herself to the class!

It was an active listening activity, using puppetry! I asked them to keep notes, while listening.

Then I had them write a story report based on what they heard, or give a summary of the story to our asynchronous class, in a padlet presentation.

Happy Halloween teaching!

Me, behind the mask!

It all started with…. a mask, the day the schools reopened, after the lockdown!

You see, in the beginning of the school year, I always give my class helpers, a simple badge that can be laminated or put in a badge holder so that children can take it in turns to be a classroom helper. A great resource that the children love and show great pride in being picked as a classroom helper.

But, this is a different school year! Therefore, my helpers had to wear helpers’ masks, instead of …badges!

And this is when I ran into this article and this video, got inspired and instantly decided to create a new project for my students, titled :

“ME, Behind My Mask”.

The project ,in a nutshell

When my students came back to school ,in September,they were asked to mask-up. We always seem to start out school year with a selfie and a class photo, so I was bummed when I thought of the idea of my students drawing themselves with their best facial feature hidden…I was really puzzled, till the moment I read the article, mentioned above, where the idea of this surprise drawing came from.

We simply used paper, permanent marker, coloring markers and crayons.

First, I posted the video and simple instructions ,in our asynchronous class platform and I asked the students to create their Me-behind-the-mask selfies, at home and bring them back to class !

That was a typical example of flipped classroom, of course.

FLIPPED CLASSROOM ,IS HERE TO STAY

Thanks to a handful of educators who care more about their students and their success than keeping the school’s general status quo, the flipped classroom model is no longer a theory, and keeps spreading across more and more educational institutions.

What does a flipped classroom look like? Well, physically, the same as a normal classroom.

But instead of paying attention to lectures while in class and applying the new knowledge in their homework after school, students will watch or listen to the lectures at home, before the class starts, and use the time in the classroom to do their homework. Instead of telling students what to learn, how to learn, when to learn and how to prove that they learned, teachers support them in becoming self-directed learners. I personally, love this!

In our case, my students could submit assessments using online tools, I could send assessments to students via our e-me asynchronous platform. Other online assessment tools, we used included Google FormsKahoot, and Quizlet.

Additionally, your students could be encouraged to submit video recordings of themselves using applications like Flipgrid. Sadly, our parents were reluctant to allow me use any video recordings.

Last, but not least, I made sure that I provided timely, specific, and instructionally focused feedback.

All in all, no one is excited about wearing a mask but…it’s for our safety! And the best thing we can do for our students is to put a positive spin on it, right?

The project, step-by-step

The first thing I decided to do was to teach them the adjectives they would use on their selfies, in order to be able to describe themselves.

I used one of my most favourite online tools: Quizlet.

I used Quizlet to introduce them to adjectives to describe CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY , asynchronously.

I also used youtube videos, such as this one, to teach them about the vocabulary they would need, to describe their APPEARANCE.

Additionaly, I used more youtube videos, such as this , to help them learn how to describe their personalities, asynchronously.

On top of that, I used another of my favourite online tools : edpuzzle. A great tool to create amazing video lessons ,in a minute! Edpuzzle is the missing piece for remote learning! We can also track students’ progress with Edpuzzle’s hassle-free analytics as we flip our classroom!

“The ABC’s of YOU” is probably, my most favourite Alphabet kids song, of all! Please, visit to see for yourselves.

The next step, was to ask them to write a paragraph ,presenting themselves to their classmates. After they had done so in their notebooks , I decided to create a PADLET WALL to have them share their paragraphs, in our asynchronous e-me hive, as well.

My amazing students’ self-portraits BEHIND THE MASK, have been displayed, in a book creator tool, for sometime now! My students, were regularly encouraged to visit it , from home, as well.

Finally, I decided to add all the links we had used both synchronously and asynchronously, in one presentation tool ,which I truly love: Microsoft SWAY ! Highly recommended!

Games we played

To be able to practice all the new words and put theory into practice in class, we have tried several games, in the school classroom.

The games listed below may require some modification to meet the social distancing restrictions but should give any big class a great starting point for coming up with fun games to play.

1.​Name Game

Every member of the class chooses an adjective that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name. They put that adjective in front of their first name, and they have their new name. So for example: Joyful Jill. For an added challenge, you can see if people can remember everyone’s names throughout the conversation. 

2.Guess who

The Guess Who ESL game is a fun way to practise describing people adjectives with young students, in-class or as a warmer. I encouraged my students to use the adjectives which describe personality more than the ones which describe appearance.

Specifically, it’s great for question formation and practising the different auxiliary verbs that may be used (e.g. Is she old? Does she have brown hair? Is she wearing glasses?).

A similar game for large kids classes (that doesn’t require any special resources) is Classroom Guess Who.

3.Two Truths and a Lie

This is a fun, classic game that allows students to share some little known facts about themselves while trying to stump their classmates too. Each student will write down two true statements and one lie about themselves. In my class, they were asked to include personality and appearance adjectives in all their statements.

We let them know that they can put these statements in any order as the goal is for the class to try to figure out which one is the lie. Although this can be done without writing it down, I have found that with elementary-aged students it is very beneficial to give students thinking time first. Otherwise, you end up with students who try to think when it is their turn and it makes the truths and lie very obvious.

After everyone is done writing down their sentences, then I go around the room having students read their 3 statements. The class will then vote on which they think is the lie. After the vote, the student will reveal the lie and can explain the truths if there is time.

 4. Quiz Time

As soon as they mastered the target vocabulary, I made my first pop quiz of the year ,about the class. At the end of the first week, I created a pop quiz asking questions about what they learned. My students loved being the stars of the questions!

You can make it a paper and pencil quiz or use an app like Kahoot, Quizziz or Google Forms to make a digital pop quiz. This is a great way to introduce a new type of digital activity that you will use during the year too!

 5. 20 Questions

Play a game of 20 questions (or use the number that is the same as the number of students you have so that each person can ask 1 question). Choose 1 person to pick a secret word(personality adjectives, in our case ) and have them write it down or tell the teacher. Then challenge the class to work together to figure out what the person is. This will require students to listen to each other’s questions, the answers and think about related follow-up questions that might help to narrow down the secret word.

After everyone has asked a question, then let each student take one guess.

6. Bucket List

Each student, comes up with 5 top adjectives from their selfie, on their bucket list. Then they share and see what they have in common, with other class members. They could even take those similarities and use them to connect in the real world .

7.​Pictionary​

Students , brought their selfie ” Me, behind the mask” in class.

Then, they had to describe that picture while the rest have to draw it.

When time was up, or when the person describing decided to stop, they showed their pictures to the rest of the class and the describer chose the winner.

8. True or False?

A great way to reinforce what has just been taught.

Instead of the traditional pop-quiz to see how much the kids retained from the personality adjectives list, I tried something a bit different…

I asked the students to find paper and instructed them to make a collection of scrunched up paper balls. I put two pictures on two different classroom walls , one with a true sign, one with a false one.

I asked a series of true/false questions, using as many personality and appearance adjectives as possible, about different students. If the kids thought it was true, they ditched a paper ball at the true sign, and false if they thought it was false.

While this can be quite messy ,it can be a light hearted way to review what has been learnt.

My conclusions

a.When we reinforce self-esteem and resilience in our students, we equip them with critical skills they need to succeed socially and academically. 

When we communicate genuine, realistic appreciation and encouragement to our students, it’s a powerful way to nurture self-esteem and resilience. 

b.I have to admit, that for kindergarten and primary teachers, teaching younger children while masked ,also presents challenges — specifically related to students’ social-emotional learning.

Non-verbal cues carry up to 55 per cent of the emotional content of messages. Without those cues, a lot of important information is missed.

c.Furthermore, the mouth and eyes are even more important than other facial features when interpreting expression. In contrast to adults who get most non-verbal social information from speakers’ eyes, young children pay most attention to speakers’ mouths. This elevates the challenge of clearly communicating emotions to children while wearing a mask.

d.What is more, vocal strain is a significant occupational hazard in teaching, and the increased volume necessary to be understood when wearing a mask may contribute to this risk.

I really hope, the project idea presented here can enhance the learning experiences of young students in the new world of COVID-19 aware classrooms.

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!

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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

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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.

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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” .

DSCN9470

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

mosa15mystery

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?

SMILES