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!

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” .

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

Playing with a Dice

 

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

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

Mystery box

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our etwinning “CUbeS

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

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

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

The Activity Box -for early finishers

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

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

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

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

The story telling box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 IDENTITY BOX

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

Supplies needed:

Scissors

Glue

Pictures (personal, magazine, etc)

Shoe Box (or box of any kind)

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

SMILES

Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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

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

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

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

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

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

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

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Peer Feedback 

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

Our selections

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

The objective

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

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

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

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

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

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

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

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

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

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

The importance of Reading Rewards

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

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

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

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

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

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

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

A few reading motivation ideas

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

Our English library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our English class record holders

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The idea

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

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

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

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The procedure

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

 I asked them what their impressions were.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Conclusion

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

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

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