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

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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.

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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 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?

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Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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

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

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

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

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

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

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

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Peer Feedback 

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

Our selections

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

The objective

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

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

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

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

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

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

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

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

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

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

The importance of Reading Rewards

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

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

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

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

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

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

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

A few reading motivation ideas

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

Our English library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our English class record holders

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The idea

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

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

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

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The procedure

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

 I asked them what their impressions were.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Conclusion

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

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

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Our Magic Box Treasure hunt

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Research Says: The benefits of using games in the classroom are various. they “range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more cooperative group dynamics.” Games also lower the affective filter and encourage “creative and spontaneous use of language,” promote “communicative competence.” What’s more—games are fun.

Treasure hunts (aka scavenger hunts) can be arranged in a variety of ways, and so they are suitable for any level.

Here’s one of the things I do, with my junior classes  :

I bring a “Magic Box ” in class and ask my students to fill it in, with …”magic things”!

They make their own word cards, with their favorite “magic items ” on . They are asked to draw items, based on vocabulary studied.

I hide these  vocabulary cards around the room and use verbal, visual or audio clues, to direct the students to where the cards are. (They can only keep the card if they can name the item, or pronounce/spell what’s on the card correctly). I generally only let one student loose at a time to prevent scrapping !…

I love working on Treasure hunt games, with my junior classes, the most.

Of course, as the students progress we can make the treasure hunt (clues etc.) more difficult.

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General intrsutions

How to Play

  1. Students are divided into groups.
  2. Each group has a list of items/cards to find.
  3. The rules are explained: Students are to find as many items as they can within an allotted time period. They can find the items in any order, but the team must stay together.
  4. Inform players of the area of the hunt.
  5. When the time limit is up, the teams meet at the designated spot.
  6. Each group responds with their card item spelling/definition/ etc.
  7. If they do it right, the team is awarded one point.
  8. The team with the most points wins.

How to Make It

  1. First, prepare the list or cards of items to find
  2. Make sure the items can be “found” in the area that you have the scavenger hunt.
  3. Select items based on vocabulary studied.

Variations

  1. Students can each submit a card/item to be found.
  2. With older students, you can use clues, with a certain part of speech (e.g., adjective or adverb).
  3. The game concludes after so many cards are found instead of being limited by a certain time frame.

 

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The benefits of using drama, in the EFL- YL class

William Shakespeare claimed that

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

We all realize that,teaching in the primary classroom, is very different from teaching teens or adults, because of the amount of energy children have! Knowing how to channel this energy, will help us achieve balanced lessons without children becoming over-excited on the one hand or bored on the other.

One tool to manage this is, Drama/acting out.

As an English teacher, I have often been amazed at how effective drama is to capture the attention of the students in the EFL classroom.   We cannot only teach grammar and phonetics with drama ,but also it has the power to transform the student-actors ,as well as the audience.  Therefore, we shouldn’t underestimate this powerful teaching tool, to reach our students.

I personally love the use of masks and puppets, in my YL classes!
Puppets or masks can really bring alive a dialogue, role-play or story.

My suggestions?

Make simple masks out of paper plates for main characters. Bring in realia and props for children to use for acting out e.g. some real money and a bag for shopping. Have a dressing up box of simple props such as hats, glasses etc. Puppets or finger puppets can be used to liven up even the most boring dialogue, especially when accompanied by funny voices!

 

In my classes, puppetry works like this: using various odds and ends (paper, glue, cotton, wool etc), each child makes a simple puppet and describes its character to the rest of the class. When several puppets have been described in this way, the children work together in groups to produce a scene using the characters. They could alternatively make puppets of characters in their (course book) -one word-and enact dialogues from the book. (Hand puppets can be made using old socks, stick puppets with ice-cream  sticks.)

 

Generally taking, I firmly believe that, we need to use drama more in the schools.   The language can be used in context and makes it come to life.  Drama has the potential of making the learning experience fun for the students and even memorable because it is interactive and visual.

The personal nature of improvisation, provides many outlets for self-expression. We all know that, children need to play as an important developmental process.

What is more, drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning.

The play acting can help to relieve the tension of learning in a second language.

The shyness and fear of using English, very often blocks learning. When the students are having fun, they tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language.

Role-playing is a powerful tool,too.  It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students.  These aspects alone make role-playing beneficial because the students are learning from each other.   Apart from the obvious development of communication skills, it encourages leadership, team work, compromise, authentic listening skills .

The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued.  In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination.

We need imagination to make a better world. In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, we first need to imagine and dream it.  I always emphasize my students that fact!

I also tell them that, in life, we are all playing many roles, therefore, we are wearing many masks.Older students,easily  understand this.

Few tested methods for incorporating Drama in the EFL class , summarised

Act out the Dialogue

One of the easiest ways to incorporate drama in the classroom is to have students act out the dialogue from their textbooks. Simply pair them up, have them choose roles, then work together to act out the dialogue, figuring out for themselves the “blocking,” or stage movements.

Perform Reader’s Theater

Another good beginning exercise is to do Reader’s Theater. Hand out copies of a short or one-act play, have students choose roles, and then read the play from their seats without acting it out. However, do encourage them to read dramatically, modeling as necessary.It’s an alternative and fun way of practicing reading aloud, as well!

Act out the Story

This is particularly effective with “short-shorts”: brief, one-scene stories with limited characters.

Write the Dialogue for a Scene

Watch a brief clip of a cartoon movie without the sound on. Have older students write a simple dialogue for it and act it out.

Act out and Put Words to an Emotion

Give students an emotion, such as “anger” or “fear”. Have students, either singly or in groups, first act out that emotion then put words to the emotion.

Give “Voice” to an Inanimate Object

 

What would a stapler say if it could talk? Or an apple? Have students write monologues with inanimate objects as the character. Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy might also be termed a monologue, for example.

After writing them, students can read the monologues aloud.

Create a Character

Have students develop a character, writing a one-page profile on the character’s background, appearance, personality, etc. Have them introduce the character to the class, explaining what interests them about their character.

Write a Monologue

Using the character they’ve already developed, have students write a monologue for that character then perform it.

Mime 

Have students act out short scenes without dialogue. The rest of the class then supplies the dialogue, developing the “script.”

In role playing, the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

Improvise

Put students in groups of two or three, and assign the characters and the situation to the groups.Students create the dialogue and movement themselves.

With careful planning, use of drama enhances our English classroom curriculum and adds fun in our teaching!

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

“The Wizard of Oz”:School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

” Alice in Wonderland”:School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

” Interviewing….Barbie”: ‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’seducation.
When they dress up as a princess,they become a princess.

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skits or other drama activities to present their projects in class.  Here,….. Hurem, Sultan Suleiman’s wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines…..

Note:Ideas, first found and later tried out in class, on  https://busyteacher.org 

Team work ,matters!

The ability to work together with others as part of a team is not simply a skill needed at school, it is a vital skill used in all areas of life. For me, school is, an excellent time to cultivate the teamwork skills, children will then draw from, throughout their life.

 

For a team to work together effectively, it takes all members of the team to respect each other’s abilities and opinions. Teamwork is a highly social activity and involves much interaction and exchanging of ideas and actions. We all understand that, being part of a team enables a child to move from more intrapersonal (individual) ways of thinking to interpersonal (communicating with others). It will help students in all areas of their learning, and help them to feel part of a community, too.

The biggest problem in my country’s educational system is that, teamwork is not encouraged at schools- at least, not as much as it should be….

Working as part of a team will strengthen students’ social and emotional skills, help develop their communication skills, and can improve confidence.

Team games, are also important…From experience, the best way to teach children English is to not only get them physically involved within the lesson, but also to create the illusion that they are simply playing games. And rather than focus on individual development, it is also a very good idea to promote class interaction as far as possible.

Even very young learners can become independent in their learning and guided early on they will be more likely to grow into autonomous and successful language learners.

Creative use of language makes communication possible even when students may not know the perfect grammar for what they are trying to say.Nothing is more true to life than that.

When students work in groups, they have to work together to accomplish a goal. Even when the use of grammar is weak in these collaborations, communication happens, and that will give your students an advantage, when they have to face communication in the English speaking world.

Encouragement in class,is crucial ! One way encouragement comes, is when lower level students see the accomplishments of higher level students.Less accomplished students will become better speakers just by talking to others more advanced than them, without help and without pressure….When they work in groups, I see that students help each other learn.

One of the most important things for me, as far as group work is concerned, is speaking!

Putting our students in groups, gets them speaking up and practicing the language that they are trying to learn. And, speaking, is not top priority in the Greek language class…. not even in the private Greek Language schools-“Frodisteria”…

Students who are kinesthetic learners, will benefit greatly from learning through games and group work,too. Students of varying English levels can work together to support each other, make decisions together and learning from one another. Games and group work can involve all of the aspects of language—listening, speaking, reading and writing.

 

In our class, children experience teamwork in many different forms. They may be asked to work in pairs, small groups, or larger groups on a variety of different things. They may be asked to work in teams for physical activities such as ball games or running games or more formal activities such as projects. Children also often form their own team activities during their play time.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato

I am sharing an interesting post about the benefits of Team Building, here

 

Benefits of Team Building

1.  Getting to know each other better
2.  Bonding
3.  Building team spirit
4.  Encouraging tolerance and understanding
5.  Creating a sense of belonging and connectivity
6.  Creating a climate of cooperation and collaborative problem-solving
7.  Improving motivation
8.  Improving communication within the group
9.  Team development – Building a community with a common purpose
10. Developing trust, care, compassion, kindness and creating empathy (Trusting each other AND yourselves)
11. Building self-esteem

12. Creating an understanding and awareness of individual differences, personality strengths and  weaknesses
13. Breaking down barriers
14. Creativity – Doing things differently! Out of the box!!
15. Higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.And all the time … Having a huge amount of FUN

Interactive Grammar Notebooks-part c

As I had already written in my first  and second posts on Interactive Grammar Notebooks, last year was my first year to use interactive notebooks.  Before school began, I found myself  with the desire PLUS precious  direction, from my  amazing Greek colleague, Papadeli Sophia !

I have to thank her again so much, for all the inspiration and support!

Overall, they were a success- Experimenting on them during this first school year with few students, among whom was my daughter, was great fun!…I’m sure, we’ll do much better this  year ,with all my afternoon classes, at school!

This  notebook is built, by adding each grammar skill or concept as an insert gradually throughout the year as they are introduced to new material. By the end of year, they  have a complete notebook they can use as a reference and I can use as an assessment tool or portfolio piece.This is simple and can be done with any grammar curriculum we are using.

First, I used a common notebook,  school glue, scissors and markers/colored pencils. Since we are fully stocked on school supplies, I did not need to make any new purchases.

Then, ideally, we should reserve the first 1-2 pages for the table of contents. I admit that, I didn’t do that, this first year…Going forward, we add a new page for each skill.

The next step is to find some ideas or even printables and foldables for the Grammar notebooks …I asked Sophia Papadeli to help me get started and I also visited Pinterest and used my imagination and creativity, of course!

Here are just  few new pages for you to have a look at, get inspired and hopefully, start your own Grammar Notebooks, this school year!

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE/MOVEMENT/TIME

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

BE GOING TO

 

 

BE GOING TO for making predictions based on evedence

BE GOING TO -plans

WILL

PAST PROGRESSIVE

 

ARTICLES

RELATIVES

COUNTABLE-UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

REPORTED SPEECH

EXPRESS FUTURE PLANS, USING THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

SOME/ANY- EXPRESSING QUANTITY

MODALS ( A guessing game, using pictures)