Teaching online ideas and tools: An educational response to Covid-19 pandemic-a guest blog post, by Maria Polychrou

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My blog has always been open to English teachers who wish to share their inspiring work with the educational community! This time, I have decided to ask our colleague Maria Polychrou to share her creative ideas, in a guest blog post and she has kindly agreed to write about her covid19 teaching experience.

During the pandemic, many educators-including Maria Polychrou and me- have looked to their professional learning networks on social media for encouragement through virtual book clubsTwitter chats, Facebook groups, or wellness challenges.

I firmly believe that, in the weeks and months ahead, we must all consider: What can we do for others?  How can we fully embrace the ethics of care?  At the core of this principle is educational altruism, or selfless concern for other educators, students, and their families.

Mainly because digital practices are so portable, teachers can easily share resources with colleagues within the same school and across schools, countries, and even continents. We seem to have entered a new reality in which collaboration is no longer a luxury; instead, it is a lifeline that allows for teachers to learn about new digital tools, to integrate new teaching activities (both high-tech and low-tech), and to share responsibility for creating online or take-home resources.

I’ve always spoken about the importance of collaboration among teachers. To me, there’s no better time like the present, to come together and help each other navigate these challenging times. Now is the time to focus on the human impact technology has on teachers’ and students’ lives, and collectively recognize the critical role technology plays in human connections, creative educational pursuits, and education, in general.

The best part about the benefits of teacher collaboration is that they can be a reality—as they are in so many learning communities around the world.

I am consistently amazed at the tireless and heroic work of fellow teachers at every level of education, especially under the circumstances! Frankly, I see many teachers who deserve a standing ovation every day for their high-quality work.

Maria Polychrou, is definitely, one of them!

Teaching is by far one of the more noble and influential professions on the planet. English teachers, in particular, can and do make a difference every day in the lives of children and families.

We all agree that no teacher gets up in the morning and says, ‘I think I will just be mediocre today.’ Teachers want to do a good job, and given the proper environment and encouragement, they will. The strongest motivators are not monetary rewards or benefits. Teachers want to be appreciated for what they do. And when their colleagues give recognition and appreciation on their behalf, teachers do their best.

Enjoy reading Maria’s article! I bet, you will find it inspiring and useful!

These are just a few tools and ideas that can help ensure continuous learning during this Coronavirus pandemic.
But, as we all already know, no technology will be able to replace our expertise, our enthusiasm, and our human approach to education!

Feel free to comment and share your experiences!

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Hello!! I’m Maria Polychrou and I am an English teacher and an oral examiner in Tesol Examinations in Thessaloniki! My educational background (M.A. in Theatre Studies and Ph.D. in Theatre, Intercultural Education and Teaching English as a Second language) and my involvement in many Erasmus programs, both in Greece and abroad, dealing with diversity and intercultural awareness through the use of theatre and drama,  can reveal my passion for theatre. That’s why I have been trying to use, promote, and explore educational programs based on theatre and drama techniques in English Teaching. Puppetry, Forum Theatre, Image Theatre are some of the resources of my inspiration in class.

 These resources of inspiration are what I have been trying to share with my colleagues in my presentations in different seminars and conferences over the past few years.

It was during such a conference that I met Ms. Aphrodite Gkiouris. It was the 27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference in Thessaloniki last February when we first talked face to face in the backyard of the American College.

And this is something I will never forget! Her bright smile and her positive attitude made me feel at ease right away and very soon I admired her blooming character and I realized that she is an active and creative teacher who celebrates interaction among her students and her colleagues! “Sharing is caring” is her motto and I can guarantee you she is the first to share and embrace every new tip, method, and idea in English Teaching!

Thank you Ms. Gkiouris for hosting my article! It was such an honor for me really!!!!

Online teaching sessions                                                                                              Part 1

Wow!! It’s been quarantine time and a whole new era has dawned on teaching. Distance learning was the only way to keep in touch with our students and the whole educational community, both teachers and learners, reserve a Medal of Honor for their relentless efforts. Hats off to those educators who didn’t give up but educated themselves on distance learning and new online teaching tools day and night confronting the obstacles!!

In this article, educators, especially colleagues in kindergarten and primary schools, can find a list of resources and ideas for your online lessons. When you click on the hyperlinks you can access the resources I have used and shared with my students online.

Keeping in mind what my students and I loved doing during our face to face lessons was what has really helped me with online lessons. It has been one of my priorities to make them feel or at least remind them of the connection we have in our classes and the feelings we share. The best way to do it was through storytelling and puppetry. Puppetry online???? Oh yes!! 100% success!!

I resorted to reading books like “A very hungry caterpillar” by Eric Carle and tried to bring these stories alive on their computer screen. Using theatre hats, finger puppets, hand puppets, stick puppets, and shadow theatre, I tried my best to make this brand new online teaching adventure familiar with our live -in-class lessons. And that was when I gained my students’ trust back again. This boosted their attention, their willingness for cooperation, and their pure enthusiasm for English lessons!       

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A great educational tool is Eric Carle’s books through which you can teach vocabulary units such as nutrition, numbers, animals, or talk about bullying, greediness, appearance, acceptance, or nature units such as the circle of life. We read the “Mixed up Chameleon”  and we talked about acceptance and equality!! We talked about how we should appreciate our own capabilities and strengths!! Moreover, you can use “ A very hungry caterpillar” to teach basic food-related vocabulary, numbers, or the days of the week. However, you can expand your teaching and talk about the circle of life of a butterfly and have your students observe their own balcony and their own plants. Moreover, you can talk about healthy eating habits and nutrition and have them look for fruits and vegetables in their own fridge. Such hands-on activities can make your lessons invaluable and the learning experience unforgettable.

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In addition, you can read “ A Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle. Through reading this book you can talk about different kinds of animals or teach time but also you can talk about bullying, empathy, and feelings. It is a great book that can help you bond with your students even more. You can help them talk about their feelings and make them realize that whatever they feel is right. Especially during this quarantine time under the COVID -19 threat, kids can easily sense their parent’s fear or they themselves may feel threatened by this “unseen” enemy. It is good for them and you as well- to share all these feelings the same way you did (hopefully) in your classes! I used my ladybug puppets and students felt even more free to talk about themselves!

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What I also try to do during our online sessions is to have my students active and moving around. It’s so hard for a 4/5-year-old kid to stand still in front of a computer and that is why I try to combine my online reading aloud stories or puppetry shows with kinesthetic songs! Therefore when we read “ From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle, I had my students imitate animals voices and movements. We played “ Simon says” and we listened to songs like “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA48wTGbU7A&t=103s

I dressed up as a native American Indian (Oh yes!!) and we talked about seasons and weather. 

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We even made a magic spell to make the rain go away and of course, we revised family members vocabulary and we listened to the song “Rain, rain go away” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFrKYjrIDs8

When we want to practice the alphabet, I have my students’ parents provide their kids with trays filled with salt and we try to shape our letters with our fingers on the salty surface! I have tried as much as possible to have them make regular activities similar to those in class so as to make them feel that they participate in a “regular” teaching routine!! Then I ask them to look around their houses and try to find things whose name starts with specific letters!! We play the “ I spy “ game as well!. You can use these ideas when teaching colors and shapes as well! Kindergarten kids really loooove looking around and showing parts of their houses to the rest!!

What I also try to do is to combine my teaching with art! That’s why, when I wanted to teach my students the shapes, I introduced Kandisnky!!! What a fun and creative way is to identify shapes through famous paintings!!! You can click on the link to download resources!!)  Afterwards, you can have your students listen to “Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and tell them to create a piece of art in Kandinsky style while being inspired by the music!! You will be surprised !!

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When you click on the links, you can find many pdf files available which include vocabulary activities, board games, printable games. All these files can be a great tool used autonomously or you can combine them with the following online teaching tools!

Enjoy!!! This period was highly beneficial and educational to all of us!! Never give up!! Be the change you want to see!!!!

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Online teaching tools                                                                                             Part 2

I have made a collection of online tools which I found really useful for my online lessons both for young and older students!! Enjoy and set your inspiration free!!

  1. https://padlet.com/

Padlet is great for sharing digital content and improving the engagement of the students. Teachers can create special brainstorm sessions where they invite students to discuss some topics.

Eric Carle’s book review sessions are another great lesson idea. Create a session dedicated to his book and invite the students to share their reviews and comment on the ideas of others.

 

  1. https://socrative.com

Socrative gives an efficient way to monitor and evaluate learning that saves time for educators while delivering  fun and engaging interactions for learners. You can launch a quiz, receive exit tickets (T/F questions, multiple-choice questions) or ask a quick question for instant student feedback.

 

  1. https://www.wolframalpha.com/

Enter a topic or choose from a wide range of knowledge fields! A great tool for teachers and students!!!

 

  1. https://trello.com/

Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way. Think of Trello as a virtual “idea board.” In Trello, you can create as many boards as you want with lists and cards. The boards can then be discussed, collaborated upon, and manipulated to create a visual workflow student can check in with each other using discussions on a particular card. They can attach pictures and files, and then assemble all cards into one final project.

 

  1. http://www.scribblar.com/

It is an online collaboration platform that is perfect for students because it provides many incentives for teamwork as well as great technology to engage in creative work.

 

  1. https://www.edmodo.com/

Edmodo is an educational tool that connects teachers and students and is assimilated into a social network. In this one, teachers can create online collaborative groups, administer and provide educational materials, measure student performance, and communicate with parents, among other functions

  1. https://projeqt.com

Projeqt is a tool that allows you to create multimedia presentations, with dynamic slides in which you can embed interactive maps, links, online quizzes, Twitter timelines, and videos,

 

  1. https://www.thinglink.com/

Thinglink allows educators to create interactive images with music, sounds, texts, and photographs.

 

  1. https://edpuzzle.com/

You can introduce students to self-paced learning with interactive video lessons. It’s easy to add your own voice narration and questions!

 

  1. https://storybird.com/

Storybird aims to promote writing and reading skills in students through storytelling. In this tool, teachers can create interactive and artistic books online.

 

  1. https://animoto.com/

Animoto is a digital tool that allows you to create high-quality videos.

 

  1. https://www.ck12.org/student/

You can have your own students explore many fields like chemistry, maths, English. You can even find content for your own lessons through books and educational material which can be modified and contain videos, audios, and interactive exercises.

 

  1. https://kahoot.it/

Kahoot! is an educational platform that is based on games and questions. Through this tool, teachers can create questionnaires, discussions, or surveys that complement academic lessons.

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  1. https://www.liveworksheets.com/

Liveworksheets transforms your traditional printable worksheets into self-correcting interactive exercises that the students can do online and send to the teacher.

 

  1. https://wordwall.net/

You can make custom activities for your classroom such as quizzes, matchups, word games, crosswords, labeled diagrams, random wheels. It’s great really!

 

  1. https://www.storyjumper.com/

It’s a great way to create, narrate, and publish your students’ books. You can have them create their own characters, plot, or add their own voice!!

 

  1. https://web.creaza.com/en/help/create-a-cartoon 

Your class can create your own cartoon!

 

  1. https://www.mindomo.com/

Mindomo lets you create mind maps and presentations with text, links, images, video, and audio. Combine content from the web with Mindomo’s built-in library and your own uploaded files. It is also possible to collaborate in real-time.

 

  1. AudioEditor allows you to create exciting podcasts and audio mixes. The tool contains hundreds of audio clips, music as well as sound effects. These can be combined with audio recordings and your own uploaded audio files.

 

  1. https://www.mysimpleshow.com/

Use mysimpleshow in the classroom with your students or contribute to open educational resources. Introduce, summarize, and explain topics worth sharing. All you need to do is upload a script and your animated video is created.

 

  1. https://quizizz.com/

A very popular tool among teachers who want to create their own quizzes!

 

  1. https://codekingdoms.com/

Learn how to make your own Minecraft mods with the power of code!

 

  1. https://www.kwizzbit.com/ for quizzes 

 

  1. https://synap.ac/ for quizzes

 

  1. https://testmoz.com/#features for tests creating

 

  1. https://www.vocabtest.com/ for tests creating

 

  1. http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry/poetry_engine.htm

Poetry Idea Engine. Wow!!!!!

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  1. https://freerice.com/categories/english-vocabulary

This unique tool is great for building vocabulary. For every correct answer you choose, 10 grains of rice are raised to help end world hunger through the World Food Programme. While your students play this vocabulary game, they learn while donating food to people in need.

 

  1. https://coggle.it/

A mind-mapping tool designed to understand student thinking.

 

  1. https://dotstorming.com/

A whiteboard app that allows digital sticky notes to be posted and voted on. This tool is best for generating class discussion and brainstorming on different topics and questions.

 

  1. http://www.triventy.com/

A free quiz game platform that allows teachers to create quizzes students take in real-time. These live quizzes provide teachers with real-time data on student understanding of classroom concepts. Students need individual devices to respond to quiz questions.

 

  1. https://www.polleverywhere.com/

Use Poll Everywhere activities to take attendance, give quizzes, and gauge understanding.

 

  1. https://www.pixton.com/

Free comic storyboard!! Excellent!!

 

  1. https://www.naiku.net/

Teachers can easily and quickly create quizzes that students can answer using their mobile devices. Great for checking for understanding before and after a lesson.

 

  1. https://www.gosoapbox.com/ and Confusion barometer https://www.gosoapbox.com/tour/confusion-barometer

The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with the material, or need the teacher to slow down with the click of a button. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during the class. Teachers can monitor the confusion barometer, and if they see a spike in confusion, will know that their students are having trouble with a concept, or that something wasn’t clearly explained.

 

  1. https://lightsailed.com/

An e-reading program that helps teachers support independent reading in students. You can monitor progress and give assessment and feedback in real-time.

 

  1. https://goformative.com/

You can upload any pdf/document/google doc, click to add places for your students to respond, edit any question details and you’re done.

You can also embed content from other websites and try our interactive question types like Show Your Work (drawing), Drag and Drop, Audio Recording, Graphing, or Essay! Create an assignment and get live results from students. Present them with real-time feedback in an instant, too.

 

  1. https://www.focusboosterapp.com/

For those who feel tedious working remotely or alone, it’s a great tool to help themselves beat distractions, procrastinate less, and stay focused. A great Pomodoro timer!

 

  1. https://www.brainpop.com/

animated curricular content (animated lessons, videos, assessments, games, etc.)

 

  1. https://www.twiddla.com/

This is a great tool for those teachers who want to prepare K-12 students for writing college papers because it involves a lot of writing assignments.

 

  1. https://vocaroo.com/

A free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need for software. You can easily embed the recording into slide shows, presentations, or websites. Great for collaborative group work and presentations.

 

  1. Piktochart (https://piktochart.com/)

It uses blocks—dividing up the page into sections that you can build your infographics with by cloning, moving, or deleting what sections you wish.

 

  1. Youtube channels like
  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMRZ0-ci4ifGBF1bJvrcDRQ

A channel with a large number of interactive simulations of experiments in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, used together with the platform https://phet.colorado.edu/. Depending on the subject, it can be used for all school ages.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium

A very interesting channel with a lot of unusual experiments, puzzles, songs that are used as reminders for various scientific concepts (for example, Atomic Bonding). It could be best used for upper primary school grades and secondary school.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos

channel with scientific phenomena presented in a very funny way. It covers a variety of topics, from historical facts to astrophysics problems. Intended for secondary school students, but if adapted and more thoroughly analyzed, it can also be used for upper primary school grades.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDEducation/videos

 A large collection of animated stories about various phenomena – scientific, social, and artistic. Animated stories can be used with the platform TEDed, which provides the opportunity for interactive collaboration between teachers and students, with quizzes, reflections, and reference materials that can be further used.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Creativity in Teaching English is a channel with reading aloud stories using puppets!!

  1. Kindergaarden channels!!
  1. https://www.coolkindergarten.com/

has both language arts and math games for kindergarten plus a small selection of read-aloud and math videos.

  1. https://www.starfall.com/h/

is a classic beginning learner website. Use both the alphabet and learn to read page for the maximum benefit and a couple of the kindergarten math activities are good too.

  1. https://www.readbrightly.com/topics/brightly-storytime/
  2. https://www.freckle.com/ is a differentiation platform with built-in activities for ELA, math, social studies, and science.
  3. https://www.education.com/games/kindergarten/ for free online games 
  4. https://www.neok12.com/ is a collection of free online educational videos, lessons, quizzes, puzzles, and games.

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I hope you found this post useful and interesting!!!

Keep creating!!! Teaching is creativity!! Start promoting theatre and puppets in your lessons!!

Polychrou Maria

Mail: mariapoly87@hotmail.com

Youtube channel: Creativity in Teaching English 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Blog: http://creativityinteaching.blogspot.com/

“10 ways to use puppets in the ELT classroom”-reposting my favourite Oxford UP article

Today, I am reposting Kathryn Harpers article on the OUP link below, which I have found highly interesting! Hope, you will find it as motivating, as I have.

I have actually used, almost all of the suggested activities below, in class, all these years…!

For those of you following my blog, it’s obvious that, I  love using Puppets, in my classes!

Actually, I believe that, Puppets change the entire classroom, by creating more possibilities for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity. They give students a (sometimes silly) voice and put them in the role of creator. They can also be a co-teacher, a physical avatar, a learning partner, and even facilitate learning by subverting the ego.

Puppets are a great way to encourage and motivate your pre-primary learners when learning a new language.

Here, Kathryn Harper, gives her top ten tips for using a puppet in the classroom.

1) Greetings and routines: “Hello. How are you?”

Establishing predictable routines is extremely important in the pre-primary classroom to help with classroom management. With routines, children quickly get to understand what’s expected of them, giving them the confidence to learn and achieve more.

A great way to use the class puppet is for routines. The puppet can greet and say goodbye to the children when they come in or leave the class, and elicit information from them, for example, “How are you today?”

The children will be comfortable and interested in replying to the puppet, and even the shyest child will want to interact with it in this way.

By using the puppet regularly for specific activities such as ‘Reading time’ or ‘Goodbye time’, you can move from one activity to the next seamlessly, keeping your students motivated and engaged.

2) Creating affective conditions

One of the pre-conditions for learning is for children to feel comfortable, secure, and in a nurturing environment. The presence of a class puppet can help reinforce this ‘safe’, affectionate space.

Here’s how to create this space using your puppet:

  • Puppets, particularly a soft one, can give cuddles to the children. This creates an instant warm reaction with the children.
  • Children can express affection towards the puppet by stroking it, patting its head etc. This contact can be extremely important in breaking down barriers, relaxing the children, and enabling physical expression.
  • The puppet can comfort children if they are sad, for example, they can sit with the puppet. The puppet keeps children comforted and includes them in the class.
  • The puppet can be emotional when you can’t, for example, show anger or cry. This is a great way for children to learn about different emotions.

3) Using humour to animate the classroom

As a teacher, you know that getting and keeping the attention of a class full of little ones can be a challenge when it’s just you up at the front of the class. Having a class puppet can suddenly make everything more interesting for your students, and is a great way to animate your class.  Used in the right doses, the puppet can keep the attention of your students in many ways:

  • By doing funny or unusual things.
  • By showing reactions or emotions that might not be acceptable.
  • By creating a focus to an otherwise boring event.
  • By interacting with you.

4) Being allowed to get things wrong

Learning from mistakes and helping children see the good side of getting things wrong is key for their development. The puppet can be a huge confidence booster to your students, by showing them that it’s perfectly normal to get things wrong. It can do this by:

  • Showing the children that it doesn’t understand everything – and that’s alright!
  • Making fun of itself when it doesn’t understand –taking the pressure off children to get things perfect first time.
  • Letting the children play at being the teacher.

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

5) Modelling activities

When it comes to new activities and role plays, puppets can make the best partners. The puppet can attempt the role play and make a few mistakes. This shows students that it’s fine if they don’t get things right first time. Eventually, the puppet will complete the role play correctly and provide the perfect model for the children.

6) Acting out

One of the most effective and involving activities for children is acting out stories or situations. Of course the children could be the actors themselves, but if they use puppets, it liberates them and gives them greater creative licence. In particular, shy children can come alive using puppets as it takes the focus off them. What’s more, children with lower linguistic levels can be just as engaged with puppets because they can react visually through actions when they don’t have words.

7) Helping create stories or storytelling

Following on from number six, the next step is for children to create their own stories or follow on from an existing one. For this, you will need more than one puppet but you can easily get kids to bring in some of their cuddly toys, or make your own! When children tell their own stories, you really know they are engaged, their brains are working, and they have something to say.

This is a great activity to get the whole class participating. It can be very casual and short, or more involved and set up with props depending on your class size, the confidence of your students, or the learning outcomes you have set.

8) Being a target for activities

Activities are a lot more fun when a puppet is playing along. For example, if you are working on furniture vocabulary, you could play games such as ‘Where’s the puppet?’ – “He’s on the chair!” Or for classroom objects, you could play ‘What’s in the puppet’s bag?’ You can play games in which you pass the puppet around the class until someone says a particular word, and you could even play ‘Puppet says’ (instead of ‘Simon says’). The variations are endless. Have fun including the puppet in class games, and see your students’ participation soar!

9) The puppet as a a ‘prize’

The puppet is a tool for helping students learn how to behave in class, and as such, it can be used as a reward or a prize to incentivise good behaviour or hard work. Some ways you could use the puppet as a reward include:

  • holding the puppet for the rest of the class
  • leading the class in a song as ‘the puppet’
  • saying ‘Goodbye’ to everyone as ‘the puppet’

Children will be proud to take responsibility for the puppet during the class, and know they must look after it carefully.

10) Making puppets and creating a persona

Making puppets can become a great cross-curricular activity in itself and develop students’ fine motor skills. Get the children to create puppets reflecting characters from their English coursebook or their favourite stories, reflecting themselves or their chosen imaginary characters. By investing with the actual making of these puppets, role play or storytelling will become a lot more personal to the students.

Puppet making can be very simple or more complex.  You can make puppets out of socks or paper bags. Finger puppets can be made out of felt, wool, paper or other materials, or even stick puppets made from lollypop sticks. There a lots of other ways to make great puppets so have fun getting crafty with your students! Looking for some templates to help you get started? Here are some finger puppets featuring some of the much loved characters from OUP’s Show and Tell series!


Kathryn Harper has a background in ELT teaching in both France and Canada. She worked in publishing for 10 years as a grammar and reference editor (OUP), developing-world schools and ELT publisher (OUP and Macmillan), and ELT publisher for Latin America (Macmillan). She has written educational materials for the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, and is one of the authors of the pre-primary course Show and Tell (OUP).

Here’s the OUP link:

https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2018/06/08/10-ways-use-puppets-elt/

 

 

“Hippo and friends”-a guest blog post by Margarita Kosior

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Margarita Kosior 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, on my Blog! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!

Enjoy!

MARGARITA’S POST:

Every storyteller has their own style. Some use music to convey the mood and the emotions, some use puppets, others rely mainly on their own voice, gestures and mimicry. I want my storytelling sessions to stimulate all the senses and engage all types of learners; a song for musical learners, a game for the kinesthetic type, flashcards for visual learners and so it goes. My storytelling session can start with sounds, involve arts and crafts, and end with baking bread. Variety is one of the main ingredients and each session needs plenty of it.

With a touch of imagination, any story, a classic or a reader, can turn into a fascinating journey.

Each one of my storytelling sessions has a variety of goals including improving linguistic competence, artistic and creative expression, involving participants in group tasks, but also allowing time for personal reflection. All these contribute to increased levels of self-confidence of young learners as English language users.

One of the stories I often use in my storytelling sessions is Henry Hippo by Jenny Dooley and Virginia Evans (Express Publishing).

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Together with Henry Hippo and his friends I have visited libraries and schools, I have travelled to other cities and even countries and wherever we went, Henry was a great success.

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Storytelling with Margarita at Sztuklandia, Lublin, Poland

Photo credits: Kinga Łaszcz

As a guest of the English Teachers’ Association of Larissa, Greece, I had the pleasure to entertain groups of children between the ages of 4 and 9 at a local library and a bookstore.

Storytelling with Margarita at the Central Library of Larissa, Greece

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Photo credits: Vassiliki Mandalou

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Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

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Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

The storyline is engaging and fun. Henry Hippo gets stuck in mud. Peter Panda, Millie Monkey and Zara Zebra take turns and try to pull him out; in vain. Finally, Zara Zebra has a brilliant idea. The three animals pull together and manage to get Henry out of the mud. A joint effort brings results and the four friends understand that they are more successful if they work hand in hand.

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Before the students arrive, I set the scene for the story. I use a long piece of blue fabric for the river, a piece of brown fabric for the mud and a piece of yellow fabric for the sun.

Every storytelling session starts with a “Hello” song (it can be any “hello” song, the choice of the instructor). It is good to develop routines. They make the learners feel more comfortable and more self-confident right from the start.

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

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

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

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Photo by Margarita Kosior

Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one head band is taken out.m-henryHenry Hippo

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Peter Panda

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Millie Monkey

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Zara Zebra

After ample repetition, the participants know the names of the protagonists and are ready for the story. But the truth is that, especially in case of Henry Hippo, the students participate throughout the story. They take turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I am reading the lines out. Depending on the age and level of the student, I ask them to repeat either complete sentences, phrases or single words. At turning points in the story (right after Henry Hippo asks for help), I ask the students to anticipate in what way each animal is going to try to help Henry Hippo. This practice creates suspense and builds the atmosphere of anticipation. Curiosity plays an important role in preschoolers’ lives. Young children ask many “why” questions and all the “why’s” have a purpose of getting to the bottom of things.

If the time is enough, I encourage my students to make their own sequel to the story by adding more jungle animals willing to help Henry Hippo get out of mud.

No good storytelling session goes without a song or a chant. I like simple songs; simple enough for the little ones to learn it in five minutes and sing it so loud that people up on the next floor and out in the street can hear them A good song or chant is a good way of revising target vocabulary. The repetitive rhyme and rhythm make it possible for even the youngest learners to join in.

My follow-up activities usually include arts and crafts projects. For Henry Hippo, I would recommend making a hippo magnet.

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Photos by Margarita Kosior

I finish my storytelling sessions with a simple goodbye song, easy for even the youngest participants to join in and sing along.

Storytelling provides plenty of benefits to (very) young learners and there is plenty of research to prove it.

The benefits can be divided into three groups: mental, social, and educational. In terms of mental benefits, storytelling boosts thinking capacity; it is an activity for the brain. It provides opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas as a group. Also, through enjoyable experiences while listening to a story, children will develop their individual reading tastes.

Stories from different cultures help children develop an awareness of the similarities between ourselves and others as well as highlight differences, which can then be explored and discussed in the classroom. Thus, children develop empathy and concern for others in order to understand the concept of social equality and justice. This will motivate them to become active citizens and take on social action in the future. Storytelling also conveys important values: bravery, respect, tolerance, teamwork, patience, generosity, fair play, forgiveness, peace, and other values which, when cultivated systematically, will make your students better people.

Also, through active participation in a storytelling session children internalize the language in a natural way within the scope of the thematic units discussed in class. Analyzing questions, retrieving details and associations triggered by the story, and deciding on answers – all these engage children in active learning.

Overall, storytelling has been shown to build intrinsic motivation and self-esteem.

Personally, I know one thing for sure: an engaging storytelling session creates magic, cultivates a love of reading at an early age and adds variety to your lesson. And these make it worth the effort!

 

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MY COMMENT:

Well, I tried this amazing story telling activity with two different classes of 1st graders, in a small state school with basic facilities, in a timy  classroom and… it really worked!! My kids just loved both the story and Hippo!

This school year, our class mascot is actually a… Hippo hand puppet  therefore,I just told them that Hippo would like to share one of his adventures in a London park, with them!

They ALL wanted to take part in the story!

Our special friends!

Our special headbands!

I followed Margarita’s suggestions and I had them participate throughout the story. They took turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I was reading the lines out.

They actually found it really easy to remember specific lines and expressions!

Even today , a month later, they use them in class and.. surprise me!

They say:” Oh, dear!” when I tell them  there’s not enough time for a second game or ” What’s the matter?” when I look sad or angry..They also say ” Help” ,”Pull”, ” Hip-hip Hooray” and so many more, in unpredictable moments during our lessons!

Here are some photos from my class…..

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Thanks, Margarita for your creative work and all the inspiration on storytelling!Keep amazing us!

 

 

A guest blog post by Vicky Loras-” Oh, Canada….in Larissa”

Oh, Canada…in Larissa!

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Discovering Canada with the amazing kids in Aphrodite Gkiouris‘ classes in primary school

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How I Got There
Two weeks ago, I went to Larissa, a city in Greece, in order to do two workshops after being kindly invited by the amazing English Teachers Association of Larissa.
The next day, I was very fortunate to be able to visit the 30th Primary School of Larissa, where my good friend Aphrodite Gkiouris works as an English teacher. I was excited to be there, as it had been quite a few years since I had been in a primary classroom in a state school.

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The Visit
Aphrodite and I had decided that I take part in teaching four classes, one Grade 4 class, two Grade 5s and a Grade 6. I was going into the classroom as an unknown guest – the kids did not know where I was from, just the fact that I was also a teacher, Miss Aphrodite’s friend from another country who had come to visit them.
The days before the big day, the kids had worked so hard with their teacher, coming up with terrific questions to ask, in order to figure out where I was from. Not only that, they had prepared questions to ask after they had discovered where I was from!

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I went in class, and Aphrodite introduced me – I then proceeded to tell the kids that the country I come from is very very coooooold! We played around with opposites like hot – cold, near – far away, big – small.
Some of the questions the kids asked were:
What language do the people speak there?
Are there forests/parks in your city?
Is it in Europe? Which continent?

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After they had found it – and they were really quick! – Aphrodite and I pulled out a huge flag I had brought along and we hung it on a clothesline with pegs (Aphro has EVERYTHING in her classroom!) and then the kids asked questions like:
What time do the kids go to school there and what time do they finish?
What sports do the children play there?
Which animals live there?
Why does the flag have a leaf on it?
Why is it so cold there?

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A Beautiful Collaboration Between the Teacher and the Children
Apart from my part, Aphrodite and her class proceeded to demonstrate some of the chants they have learned with her, which gave such a beautiful, close and open-to-learning atmosphere! I was so excited; I could not stop applauding them! And I got the biggest hugs ever in the end which I will carry in my heart forever.

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It goes to show that if the teacher is motivated and tries everything for her students, it is absolutely infectious, since children are already open to great ideas and love learning! I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to visit Aphrodite and her children and I would like to say:
THANK YOU ALL EVER SO MUCH! EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IS SO SPECIAL!

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(Aphrodite is now writing) What a huge honour to host Vicky Loras in my classroom! My kids, loved her ! I have decided to post,only her  photos ,  but…since she has decided to send me her  photos of me teaching, in order  to be  included in her  post as well, I’ll add them here below, too!

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I always invite guest speakers in my classroom! It is a priceless experience ,for both the students and me!

A guest speaker conveys current, realistic information and a perspective on a subject that is not available from textbooks.Thank you Vicky again, for this opportunity!