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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Your Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make A Spooky Puppet Theatre

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

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

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

Draw A Monster Game

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween Bingo

Halloween Bingo

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

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

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

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

Halloween Costume Fashion Show

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween Word Search

Halloween Word search

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

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

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

Halloween Charades Game

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

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

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

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


HALLOWEEN QUIZZES

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

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

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

Students, love it!

Hot Seat

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

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

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

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

We played apple bobbing and dangling donuts

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

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

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

Let’s decorate our classroom

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

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

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

Let’s make spooky food

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

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

A pumpkin carving contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Halloween movies

Make a spooky music playlist

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

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

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

Story Reports

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

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

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

Happy Halloween teaching!

Me, behind the mask!

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

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

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

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

“ME, Behind My Mask”.

The project ,in a nutshell

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

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

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

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

FLIPPED CLASSROOM ,IS HERE TO STAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The project, step-by-step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games we played

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

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

1.​Name Game

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

2.Guess who

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

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

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

3.Two Truths and a Lie

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

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

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

 4. Quiz Time

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

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

 5. 20 Questions

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

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

6. Bucket List

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

7.​Pictionary​

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

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

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

8. True or False?

A great way to reinforce what has just been taught.

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

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

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

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

My conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT

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

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

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

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

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

Food for thought ,by Dimitris Primalis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About growth mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MAIN #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 -Flipped the classroom

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

-Differentiated learning

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

-Introduced gamification

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

-Used material outside the coursebook

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

-Promoted learner autonomy

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

-Applied formative assessment

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

-More benefits

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

-Beware of oversimplifications

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

-A lesson taught for educators

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

Summarising my own thoughts

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

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

– Teachers need to learn and evolve constantly.

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

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

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

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

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

– It takes effort and time.

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

“Out Tree of Wishes” 2019-20 etwinning project

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

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

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

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

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

TwinSpace

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

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

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

One of our school  inspiring etwinning projects, this year, was a project about… wishing trees!
In “Our Tree of Wishes”project, teachers and students of about…200 European Schools,worked together ! What an unforgetable experience ,for all partners !
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Our “Our Tree of Wishes” project, in a nutshell

Students 7 to 15 created a collaborative Tree of Wishes.
We  decorated a real or drawn tree using wishes cards written by our students.
They wrote  their wishes ,for a festivity of their choice and hanged the cards on the tree. Then each school prepared a wishes card,to be shared with all partners. The cards from the other countries were printed and they decorated our collaborative Tree of Wishes. Finally we held a ” Best Tree of Wishes Contest”.

Our pedagogical objectives

– The students  improve their language skills

– They learn to express their feelings and wishes

– They develop positive thoughts and create positive wishes and send them to Europe and the world

-They develop their creativity 

– They get to know other cultures and broaden their horizons

– They create collaborative Wishing Trees 

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Our project detailed plan

AUGUST

1) We wrote our addresses on the page “Our e-mail addresses” and joined the Whatsapp group of the project .

2) We added a marker for our school on the page ” Our schools on the map” 

3) We wrote a brief presentation of ourselves in the project FORUM.

4) On the page ” Organizing the project together” we added our name, school address, number and age of our students.

5) We uploaded our students’ posters, introducing the project to the school community  and the Twinboard, in the  Pages.

6) We added our expectations ,as teachers, at the beginning of the project, in the page “Survey on the project”.

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SEPTEMBER

1) We presented the project and the TwinSpace, to our students. We also informed them about the netiquette of the project and the e-safety rules by playing the “kahoot” game.

We uploaded photos and/or videos of our students playing the ķahoot game and learning about the e-safety rules, to the sub-page “We learn e-safety in the classroom”.

We invited our pupils, as members of the TwinSpace.

2) Students introduced themselves, in the page “Students introduce themselves”, through a video, a text, or avatars.

3) We joined the project Logo contest: we uploaded our logo suggestions on “Tricider”.

4) We selected 4-5 drawings, which our students had drawn, for the logo contest. We uploaded those drawings to anArt Gallery, made with “emaze”. 

5) All teachers joined the Facebook group of the project https://www.facebook.com/groups/415721049072509/

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OCTOBER

We presented our countries, to our project partners.We created trasnational groups ,to do so .

We created a “Thinglink” account for the project.

When our work was ready,we logged into “Thinglink” and uploaded it to the right country link.

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NOVEMBER – DECEMBER 

Our students wrote their wishing cards and a wishing letter, and shared them with all project partners.

In particular:

1) Each student wrote a simple wishing card in his/her own language. We helped the students translate the cards ,into English. Students , added a drawing to their cards.

We made a video /slideshow, to present our wishing cards.

We uploaded the video on Youtube or Vimeo first. Then ,we posted the link to the Youtube video, in the twinspace.

2) Students wrote a wishing letter, in English for the project partners, helped by their teacher.

The letter was uploaded ,as a pdf file ,to “Materials”, in the TwinSpace. Then we visited the subpage “Our letters to our partners”,and we uploaded our students’ letters.

3) We  printed our students’ wishing cards and all the letters from our partners.We decorated our Trees of Wishes, with them. 

4) Finally, we  took a photo of our own Tree of Wishes and we posted it, in the  twinspace Pages.

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 JANUARY

1) We posted all the photos of our beautiful “Trees of Wishes” ,in a collaborative e-book,made with “Book Creator”.

The Book was uploaded to the page “Best Tree of Wishes Contest”. We used the numbers on the pages of the Book, in order to vote for our favourite trees.

2) We posted  the wishing letters , written by all  partners, in a collaborative e-book made with “Flipsnack”, divided into three volumes: the books were uploaded to an interactive image created with “Genially”.

3) Our students wrote their wishes for all our partners, in the Forum “Our wishes for the New Year”.

4) We completed a survey, in the page ” A survey on the project “

5) Teachers created a common Domino Game using New Year words and pictures, as a nice Holiday gift ,for all student-partners .

6)  Project Evaluation

 We filled in three easy and quick forms: one for the teachers, one for the students and one for the parents. 

7) We applied for the etwinning Quality Label.

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Our own school wishing tree idea,in brief

” Our Tree of Wishes “, our inspiring etwinning project wishing tree ,is a Greek olive tree decorated with origami paper boats !
The idea behind it: during the Festive Season, all around Greece ,you will find Christmas boats (karavakia) decorated with lights and ornaments, which are very traditional and symbolic.
The Karavaki symbolises sailing towards the new life!
According to the Greek Christmas traditions, especially in the islands, kids prepare their own boats with paper and chips of wood, and on Christmas Eve, they use these little boats to collect the treats they receive, when singing the carols (kalanda) from house to house.
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All our project links

Our intro school video: Making our wishing boats and decorating our wishing Tree

“Our Tree of Wishes” etwinning project online meeting

Our final school video ,about our project

“Our Tree of Wishes” etwinning project summary

Our Wishing Trees Art Gallery

Our project interactive map

Our Book of Trees

Our Book of Letters

The TwinSpace Netiquette of the project Our Tree of Wishes

A kahoot game for our students to play and check how much you really know about Internet safety and netiquette (good behaviour on the Internet)

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A list, of all the web tools we used

https://docs.google.com/ : collaborative project plan

https://www.photocollage.com/

https://biteable.com/: project presentation and project netiquette 

https://www.kizoa.com/

answergarden 

mentimeter.com (survey on the expectations from the project) 

renderforest.com

pixiz.com

pizap.com

padlet

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thinglink

vimeo for videos 

vocaroo.com 

powtoon.com

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emaze: art gallery

kahoot :  e-safety and project netiquette

Google presentation: survey on the project 

Scrap coloring

Canva (for posters)

Pic.collage

Snapchat

Screencast-o-matic: tutorials

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Google Maps: interactive map

Pixlr:Online Photo Editor

LearningApps: games

Break Your Own News: creation of posters for breaking news

Logo Maker and MsPainting (for logo – painting/drawing)

https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1adcc321c083

http://www.glitterfy.com/

http://www.postermywall.com/

Blogger: project blog

Book Creator: collaborative ebook

Story Jumper: fairy tale on the tree of wishes

Educandy: instructive games

Flipsnack:  books of letters

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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.

Balloon tennis- a fun word game

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

·       You can score the game like tennis

 

·       You can change the lexical set whenever necessary

 

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

 

·       Nominate which team should shout advantages and which disadvantages

 

·       Play as above

 

This game has a number of advantages

 

·       It is kinaesthetic and can energise the class

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Are you constantly looking for creative projects for your students?

Do you want activities that ignite their imaginations?

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

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

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

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

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

“Go recycle” guessing game

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

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

Preparation:

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

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Implementation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two more IDEAS:

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1.Guess the Summer item

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

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

Same, with any other Season or Special Day.

2. Making toys from junk

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

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

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

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Origami crafts and ELT games

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

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

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Our Magic Box Treasure hunt

jan6

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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