Teaching about FEELINGS: Social-Emotional Learning and the COVID-19 Crisis

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

Teaching during the lockdown was indeed about the technology—the mechanics of how to teach remotely. 

But it was mainly about how we were going to hold our students’ hearts. 

It was about connecting everybody and making them feel safe and secure ,before we got to the academics.

This virus had definitely stolen our students’ school experience for the rest of the year and we were not sure what would come next. Our students,  missed their friends and their teachers, the feeling of being together and connected.

So we had to work on relationship skills and how to talk to each other the right way. It was back then, more important than ever .

I hope, we all agree that ,as teachers , we are leaders, guides, facilitators, and mentors.

 We encourage students when they struggle, and inspire them to set and reach for their goals. We are role models, leading by example and giving direction when necessary.

In the very first days of the lockdown, my initial  thought was not to rush to teach them Grammar and Language skills but to have my students express themselves!

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

Many of my students reported feeling isolated, depressed, and overwhelmed!

 The lack of a support system had definitely been the hardest part about not physically attending school.

What I had in mind before I decided to launch “Our FEELINGS project” on e-me was Growth Mindset.

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

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

About Growth Mindset

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

During the lockdown, we were all developing empathy

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

In order to inspire my students to take that journey, me as a teacher could not pretend that human feelings were something to which I was immune.I had to feel with students, which required both an acknowledgment that my own feelings existed and a desire to understand the feelings of my students. If I could create a fertile space for empathy to grow, I could also provide the opportunity for meaningful connections with my students.

I also used some writing opportunities for my students to get their thoughts, feelings, fears, and questions down in a creative format of their choice.

I gave them an option to share with the e-class.This did not only allow them to share out their feelings but also gave me a place to check on them and follow up when I saw any of them expressing sadness, fear, etc.

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

Αfter the first shock, I decided to focus my teaching on supporting my students emotionally.

Actually, the very first idea which I used in our synchronous meetings, during the lockdown, belonged to our inspiring colleague Effie Kyrikakis.

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

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

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

Afterall, each teacher should be  a role model of calm reflection within their school.

To me,it is crucial that we should avoid exhibiting our own frustrations, especially in emergencies.

As a result, my students became more likely to think of setbacks as temporary. They recognized that by using more effective personal strategies ,they could overcome obstacles and turn setbacks into triumphs. 

During those challenging times,I thought  that ,rather than jumping in to fix the problem when my students were bored  or unmotivated to do online work ,I should let them feel their feelings as they faced those challenges. The key was to listen to and encourage them so that they felt  comfortable taking control.

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

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

Therefore,I decided to incorporate another inspiring idea into our asynchronous meetings during the lockdown, which belonged to my amazing colleague Theodora Bogiou.

It was about sharing and spreading positive messages, during the lockdown, within the local communities.

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

It proved to be highly beneficial for the kids, to enhance our practical optimism through focusing on gratitude, small acts of kindness, emotional mindfulness, brain exercise, and positive surroundings, especially in those difficult times of self-isolation.

THE  #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

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

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

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

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

All in all, I managed to promote emotional growth by encouraging my children to talk about their feelings, helping them identify those feelings and validating them. 

dav

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

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

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

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

I thought that I should first demonstrate how I face challenges and frustration head-on and use different coping tactics like talking to loved ones, making art or playing music, which I later asked my students to try ,at home.

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

I personally believe that we have come into this life to make a positive impact on the world. Our inherent nature is at odds with growth—we tend to want to stay in our comfort zones.

If we always seek comfort first, we miss the purpose for which we came into this world. 

My students and I came to understand that challenges are opportunities for growth. It is through life’s challenges that we find its greatest gifts, but we need to know how to look for them, and, more importantly, appreciate them. 

Few weeks later, I decided it was time to talk to them about true and authentic confidence and courage.

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

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

STORYTELLING and facing our covid19 fears 

1.LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and covid19

I decided to use a well-known fairytale , to talk to my youngest students about the pandemic: Little Red Riding Hood.

Why? Well, because of its symbols.

 There are many versions of the story of Little Red Riding Hood but in many of the stories there are some common symbols.

A sweet innocent girl: Little Red Riding Hood (aka:my students) is unaware of the danger ahead. The wolf ( aka: covid19) easily convinces her to linger and give him time to reach grandmother’s house. She is also unaware of the wolf’s devious nature.

Her cap or hooded cloak suggests family protection.

 It was given to her as a gift from her wise grandmother connecting the two. (Innocent becomes wise through painful experiences.)

 The grandmother represents the wise, aged woman, the experienced one who is sick and needs our help and care. The grandmother represents the elderly and other vulnerable members, in our family.

There are three generations represented in the story. Red Riding Hood represents the first generation, her mother represents the second generation and the grandmother represents the elderly.

The wolf is the Coronavirus, the danger ,outside . He tricks the innocent Red Riding Hood just as anyone can deceive us if we are not aware of the dangers.

The forest is where the life away from home is.There are many distractions along the way and sometimes this allows our covid19 to get the better of us.

If not for the huntsman, who represents the doctors, all would be lost. The huntsman is keen and alert, always on the lookout for the virus. He rescues both of them from the belly of the wolf. They are unharmed.

Happy ending: The wolf is killed and the huntsman takes the pelt. Grandmother and Red Riding Hood eat and are merry. 

The message to the kids : Whenever we overcome the danger and bring awareness to our behaviors there is a time of lightness and joy. 

Our family, represented by the mother, is there to advise and support us!

2.THE WIZARD OF OZ and covid19

I decided to use another well-known story which had already been introduced to my kids, before the lockdown and during our English Drama Lab meetings,  to talk to my oldest students about the pandemic: The Wizard of Oz

I thought, it would be a great idea to keep working on it, remotely, too, during the lockdown, in order to teach the kids about how to cope with life hardships and enhance their confidence and boost their courage!

WHAT DOES THE WIZARD OF OZ HAVE TO DO WITH CONFIDENCE and covid19?

If you think about it, each of the characters in The Wizard of Oz are searching for a different aspect of confidence.

Lion fluctuates between fearful and overly aggressive behaviour, because he lacks the confidence to face his fears.

Scarecrow is very intelligent, but lacks belief in himself, or self-confidence.

Tin Man searches for the confidence to know that expressing his unique feelings and sensitive side is okay.

Dorothy searches for the ability to follow her own heart and to learn how to stand up for what she believes is right with authority figures like the Wicked Witch and the Wizard himself.

All of the characters find their confidence along the journey, and they become more alive and more themselves as they do.

As for courage, what we all learned was that, like the Cowardly Lion, we could already be far more courageous, more valiant, more heroic than we imagine. All we need may be a little encouragement and affirmation of the considerable inner power we each already possess in order to rise courageously to the challenge of this current existential crisis, and those we will inevitably face in the future. 

Certainly, we all had, all those lockdown days, to search for and summon up such inner personal and collective courage, in order to cope constructively with the cataclysmic and chronic covid19 crisis. 

To sum up,this is what we actually focused on, both synchronously and asynchronously:

It is what Lion learned…

the ability to face your fears and try new things.

ΑΝΤΙΜΕΤΩΠΙΖΩ ΤΟΥΣ ΦΟΒΟΥΣ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Scarecrow learned…

the ability to believe in yourself and be comfortable with your own abilities and strengths.

ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ ΣΤΟΝ ΕΑΥΤΟ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Tin Man learned…

the ability to express your feelings and thoughts, your true self, and not be afraid of how others see you.

ΕΙΜΑΙ Ο ΕΑΥΤΟΣ ΜΟΥ  ΚΑΙ ΔΕΝ ΕΠΗΡΕΑΖΟΜΑΙ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΠΩΣ ΜΕ ΒΛΕΠΟΥΝ ΟΙ ΑΛΛΟΙ!

It is what Dorothy learned…

the power to stand up for what you believe is right.

ΥΠΕΡΑΣΠΙΖΟΜΑΙ ΤΟ ΔΙΚΑΙΟ!

My  students were learning to be courageous, instead of disappointed or depressed, when their boundaries were crossed.

They were learning that their words can make an impact on others and when they see that they are effective, they learn that they are capable of dealing with problems themselves which boosts self-confidence.

CONCLUSION

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

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

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT

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

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

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

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

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

Food for thought ,by Dimitris Primalis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About growth mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MAIN #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 -Flipped the classroom

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

-Differentiated learning

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

-Introduced gamification

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

-Used material outside the coursebook

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

-Promoted learner autonomy

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

-Applied formative assessment

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

-More benefits

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

-Beware of oversimplifications

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

-A lesson taught for educators

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

Summarising my own thoughts

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

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

– Teachers need to learn and evolve constantly.

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

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

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

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

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

– It takes effort and time.

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

Creating an English virtual classroom and an English virtual library: a successful example of scaling up teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

Schools and Universities in Greece have been closed since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic as part of the government’s measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The Ministry of Education promptly responded to this emergency developing and gradually implementing distance learning, offering students the opportunity to keep in touch with the educational process. Without intending to replace face to face learning the Ministry has activating digital platforms and tools offered for free by ICT providers, addressed to the secondary and primary school students, as well as to Greek Universities.

Concerning the asynchronous learning, students and teachers can use the existing digital tools and platforms already offered by the Ministry of Education such as the Interactive School Books, the Digital Educational Material (“Fotodentro”) and the Advanced Electronic Scenarios (“Aesop”) organized by educational level, course etc.

To me, the school community in Greece has embraced this effort showing remarkable engagement to the demanding project of e-learning under these exceptional circumstances.

What is more, the synchronous, real-time teaching suggested by the Ministry is supported:

  • through Webex services; to address inequalities, the Ministry has ensured access through landlines and through mobile phones free of charge following a deal with the three mobile phone providers
  • through the School Network’s sch.gr platform, which uses Big Blue Button open software and can operate on smartphones and tablets.

My main thought,when schools closed due to the pandemic and after having attened innumerable webinars during the lockdown, was to create an English virtual classroom, for all my students! Why?

A virtual classroom enables students to access their teacher and their homework resources ,anywhere and anytime, so long as they both have a reliable internet connection.

I also did my very best to create an English virtual library.

You see, I am not allowed to lend my students any of the 500 English readers and magazines in our school library, under the circumstances! Therefore, I had to think quick and come up with a solution!

Whether or not we are planning for a physical or a virtual school experience in September, it is clear that we need to translate our practice. We need strategies for personalizing and enriching the remote learning experience. And it is clear that the library must be the center of that experience.

Currently, one very popular strategy is the creation of classroom scenes using Google Slides populated with their flexible Bitmojis.

I started playing around with this fairly easy and recently very popular strategy of building a library scene in Slides. With success!

I strongly believe that,at this moment in time, having a rich digital presence is no longer optional, for us teachers . It is essential to translate practice in order to communicate with our students and to support and inspire learning. It is also tangible evidence of our practice, especially in unstable times.

I thought quite a bit about how important this virtual presence was to me over the course of 25 years. 

Generally speaking, in many ways, an online classroom simply mirrors the physical classroom.

To me, a virtual classroom should include the following features, important for teachers.

-Interactive online whiteboard

-Library of learning materials

-Teacher tools and controls

In a physical classroom, you can look around and find textbooks, games, exercises, templates, worksheets, multimedia resources (print, video, audio).

A professional teacher needs these in their virtual classroom too. The teacher needs to be able to upload their digital learning materials to the cloud and save them for future classes.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Steps

STEP 1: OPEN A BLANK GOOGLE SLIDE OR POWERPOINT

STEP 2: COLLECT YOUR IMAGES

STEP 3: CREATE YOUR SCENΕ

The steps, in detail

1.I read all about the procedure, in detail, here.

Think… what makes a room a classroom? The whiteboard.

2.The tutorials, I watched.

3. The final product!

My first virtual classroom

( Disabled link ,for security reasons)

My first virtual library

(Click on the link)

Note: To create the book review worksheet, I used the liveworksheets app.

I really wish I knew who started this trend so I could thank that person profusely since this is one of the most brilliant ideas I have come across in a very long time. 

Highly recommended to you all!

“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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tree map

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?

SMILES

Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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

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

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

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

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

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

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

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Peer Feedback 

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

Our selections

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

The objective

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

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

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

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

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

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

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

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

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

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

The importance of Reading Rewards

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

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

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

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

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

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

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

A few reading motivation ideas

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

Our English library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our English class record holders

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The idea

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

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

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

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The procedure

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

 I asked them what their impressions were.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Conclusion

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

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

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Fostering a growth mindset: my online mentoring experience

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Some time, ago, I received this email from Jim Wright, Principal,  Pilgrims:

“We want to offer an online mentoring service for teachers so they can get one to one online mentoring for any problems / difficulties they are facing in the classroom. I’m doing this with a great trainer in Spain names Jennifer Schmidt…”

I got so excited about helping Pilgrims ,which I love so much , and therefore, I  didn’t have to think twice about helping with the project piloting ,representing ETAL ( English Teachers Association of Larissa)

Here’s the project, summarized.

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Cultivating Creative Learning

“How can I  MAKE my students to do things? “ There is no miracle or magic potion that can make this happen. However, we  can help students in developing their brains, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, perspective, creativity, self-efficacy,  behavior, and outlook in life.

When we focus on building a growth mindset and helping students  develop as independent learners with positive self-efficacy, we create a strong foundation in students in their development as PEOPLE. We can then begin cultivating life-long learners and productive members of society. 

Jennifer Schmidt of The Cogent Construct  based in Spain has partnered with Jim Wright of Pilgrim’s based in the UK to offer a new and innovative online teacher coaching  / mentorship program. In keeping with the philosophy of both entities, the coaching will be based on providing teachers with the necessary tools to be as CREATIVE as possible.

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About growth mindset, in a nutshell: Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).

Jennifer, made clear that we were in the stages of gathering information on what teachers really need and that our coaching would be based on the “Art” of Teaching. 

However, we needed to combine this with the real issues teachers were facing, since some things are  in our control and others are not.

Jennifer, wanted to focus on the solvable problems and provide teachers with new ways of approaching teaching. 

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Jennifer, emphasised that: “ I know the typical issues (in many… but not all cases): time, parents, standardized tests, lack of support, too much content, etc etc. We want to focus on things that teachers can actually use by taking real issues from the classroom and attempting to improve situations through CREATIVE techniques. Much of what we will do in the coaching sessions will be based on the roots of how people LEARN and THINK…including the teacher.

We would like to focus on things within their control. What do the teachers feel very confident in and what do they feel they are lacking in their teaching skills and knowledge of how students learn.”

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This information would be useful to discuss, in our Skype calls.

First of all, we were sent a list of videos to watch, to help us get the main idea of our Skype sessions.

Video on growth mindsets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_contUWn_TJTrnU

Video on differentiating instructions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcgMIril5bM

Article on learning menus

https://shakeuplearning.com/blog/interactive-learning-menus-choice-boards-using-google-docs/

Video on growth mindset and effective praise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yct0VLJG4M8

THE PILOT in brief 

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 The new Pilgrims product, is about offering one to one training and teacher coaching/ mentorship via Skype. 

Jennifer, as a professor of Learning Theory and Teaching Methodology ,is constantly asked :”How can I MAKE my students do xxx?”

“These questions, are related to mindsets. Do we believe we have been born with limited intelligence and skills or do we see these as things that can grow? This is known as growth mindset”, answered Jennifer.

The pilot wasn’t actually a course.

Our training / coaching was based in growth mindset with many other “learning” techniques included. The idea was that, the training would be done in stages and would be personalized for each teacher. The training / coaching was one to one. 

Jennifer, ran the pilot in May 2019, with 6 teachers, from Greece,Portugal and Slovakia. I was one of the three Greek teachers.

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We ,actually , piloted the introductory level. It was 6 sessions ,of one hour each. 

The sessions were related to gaining an understanding of the 8 main areas of growth mindset. In addition, we  were asked to take on new tasks over the 6 sessions in order to apply growth mindset to ourselves, because, as research has shown, knowing the components has nothing to do with putting them into practice. We, then, discussed how to apply the areas of growth mindset to our classrooms. We created goals and doable action plans.

The three phases of the project

The introductory phase, is generally meant to ease the students into a new mindset.

The next phase will be the practitioner phase.

The third phase will be the master phase.

The best format for Jennifer would be to offer group ” live” sessions ,face to face first and then, offer the one to one coaching online.

Once our ETAL Association board had chosen 3 of its members, to take part in this intensive piloting, we contacted Jennifer who then, sent us more videos to watch .

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Here is a quick video to review fixed and growth mindsets. You will see two characters: Jay and Ann.

We are not trying to make all kids like Ann. However, we are trying to help them be a bit less like Jay. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWn_TJTrnU

She also attached a few charts and images related to effective effort. 

Learning Menu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcgMIril5bM

Choice boards and more: https://www.smore.com/z12ay-tic-tac-toe-choice-boards-menus

http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/nagc_choice_menus.pdf

Carol Tomlinson

http://www.ssgt.nsw.edu.au/documents/3_content_pro_etal.pdf

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In our first Skype session, I decided  that I would put effort into doing less teachers talk  / explanations and more work on differentiating instruction.  

I looked for instructions about how to manage this, while at the same time , help my most shy students to  project their voice ,during the lessons, and here’s my most favourite idea about voice projection:

“The next time someone tells you to “project” or to “speak up,” remember that projecting your voice is much more than just making it louder.

  1. You project your voice by allowing it to shine with your personality, and having confidence that you have something unique to say.
  2. You project your voice with passion for your message by setting a clear intention.
  3. And you project your voice by developing a resonant sound that is supported with your whole body through air and energyWhen you do these three things, you will be heard.”

The main idea is that, all kids have potential and we have to start giving them effective strategies to help them with their goals.We are there to help them, not to feed their negativity. Once they have the strategies and put them into play, we should never forget to praise them.

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In the next two sessions, we talked about mistakes and the power of “YET”!

Mistakes, are opportunities to learn! All teachers,should remind our students that, we want them to be the best they can be and that our brains, learn from mistakes!

“We can learn from error!  It’s the brain making new connections, it’s the brain growing” said Jennifer.

We have to teach our students strategies on how to handle the mistake. It’s not just  about persistence-it’s also about strategies to make it work!

In my class,I used the “ Exit tickets” reflection strategy to help my kids reflect on their learning.

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I told my students that we have to celebrate our mistakes-not blame others, not make excuses, not avoid our responsibilities- in order to be able to grow!

Jennifer told us about the kinds of mistakes we make and asked us to give our students a series of challenges to help them build their self-confidence and prove to them that they can do things!  What a transformational experience, for our students! 

We may have all noticed that,students with a fixed mindset are more likely to believe they can fail and that by doing so their abilities will be questioned. Just the act of hitting obstacles would prove to them that they aren’t capable of overcoming them. Students with a growth mindset, on the other hand, don’t really see failure as on option – obstacles are just perceived as opportunities to improve and learn, and by being faced with them and, generally something new, we get smarter.

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Jennifer, illustrated that, this difference further with an interesting remark about language and how we use it to rate success. She mentioned, how saying “not yet” to students instead of saying they failed a class/a test is a much better way to show them that even if they have difficulties overcoming something now, the time will come when they will succeed if they continue tackling the obstacle from different angles. The use of “yet” shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome. This also tells children that they aren’t being taught to learn simply for grades, but for their future and it encourages them to dream big and think about what they want to do with their lives, instead of focusing only on what they are currently achieving in school.

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Video for kids

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoWLgWCcpWo

A little girl happy about her mistake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=123&v=-FBbx8R4gXU

Carol Dweck on Mistakes

https://www.kidsinthehouse.com/teenager/education/learning-styles/value-making-mistakes

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Also,here are two videos about Marva Collins, whom we talked about in 2nd session. 

Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8b1Behi9FM

Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpAlOY0K14c

Last,but not least, here is a great video, on the power of YET. This video has had over 40 million views!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLeUvZvuvAs&list=PLU_DKLEHvBtFe14PcaYhC1T-oBL4SVfSM  

By the way, I also found this “Digital Menu” link, quite interesting and worth sharing! 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fb3sk6qOntQBqacRgBJ7L0tbu-jF4cSYRwPJr5hl0sM/edit?usp=sharing

In our next session, we discussed the benefit of giving students challenges. 

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Jennifer , asked me to find a fun physical challenge I could give the students were I knew they were going to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process in order to complete the challenge. 

The challenge procedure

First,I discussed with them the following: the types of mistakes, how to handle mistakes, not blaming or making excuses, and reflection after the challenge.

Then, I gave my students a “Talent vs Effort “challenge , which I found highly motivating!

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I asked the kids, if they had been taking performance lessons of any kind, such as acting, singing, dancing, gymnastics or playing a musical instrument, then we were  all set with an excellent stage act. 

If they hadn’t been taking lessons but had their heart set on singing, dancing or acting, they should also go for it. During their performances in class we talked about not getting mad if their feedback wasn’t  completely positive. “Use any criticism you receive to improve your act” , I said. Then, I asked volunteer classmates to actually, try the challenge, under their classmates’ instructions, to see for themselves how demanding it was and therefore,respect their classmates’  hard work and effort. Their talented classmates, actually, taught them strategies to help them do the challenges! I decided to write this quote,on the board: “ It’s not a competition, it’s a challenge”.

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We also worked on the techniques to help them gain control when they make mistakes ie laughing, humour, let’s start over…

Finally, we reflected on what didn’t work and of course, we used praise, after each challenge!

Our motto was : “ We never give up! We help each other transfer”! 

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The outcome was that, they quickly, recognized that, while the realization of our own dreams requires that we put forth great effort. That effort must be more than simply investing  in ourselves – our talents and abilities.

Also, the fact that, to make a worthwhile contribution, we must also sow into the lives of others as well as the environment and the society in which we live. 

In the following Skype session, we discussed another area of Growth Mindset: Difficulties and Obstacles / How to handle problems.

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It happens to all of us, we are working away, in a groove and out of the blue, we are hit with an obstacle. Something comes into our life experience that knocks us off course and shakes us to the core. What do we do? Fall apart, or overcome the obstacle in our way with everything we’ve got? The answer is clear, and can be tackled easily if we are practicing a “Growth Mindset.” Something, worth teaching our students ,too.

We also talked about the power of project-based learning ( PBL) . It can reveal children’s hidden talents and hidden genius, both to their teachers and even to the children themselves. They connect students to their communities and help them envision the many ways they can contribute to the world and have an impact on real people.

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 I was going to teach my students these skills through skill transfer. In order to do so,I had them come up with strategies to deal with a problem and then share their findings with others….and also try to use these strategies themselves. 

The problem

I decided to ask my students to think about this problem:  “How they can improve their English skills, during their Summer holidays” . After they had looked for possible solutions to it, they had to create group posters, with the suggested  solutions on.

My question

“ What language skill  do you most struggle with? What are some effective ways you have found of improving that skill? Let us know, on your posters.”

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The procedure

First, I told my kids what  PBL is about and that memorising facts has nothing to do with real life learning. On the contrary, PBL has.Then ,we looked into info about how to improve our English skills, on the internet, together and used the KWL chart to gather information. They were free to add their own suggestions on their group posters, of course. 

Finally, the kids created their lists of strategies and their beautiful posters: “ This is how we can improve our English, this Summer”

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Here’s a relevant video to watch.

Problem Based Learning (not just for kids)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGoJIQYGpYk

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In our last session, session 6, we discussed feedback. 

Jennifer, asked me some quick questions at the end of the session to give her feedback to help make the pilot training / coaching even better.

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In that session, we also, talked about the fact that, the feedback teachers give students,can influence their mindsets in surprising ways. For example, while praise for intelligence, such as “You’re so smart!” is considered by some to be motivating, research demonstrates that it can actually have a negative impact on student motivation and achievement.

Studies have shown that, praise for intelligence actually leads to less persistence, less enjoyment, and worse performance than praise for effort. When students are praised for having high ability, they come to attribute their success to a fixed (and unchangeable) quality of themselves, while students praised for effort believe that their performance is  subject to improvement.

Here’s an interesting video on feedback , for you, to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=157&v=QaxS1LCp9pU

Conclusion and my FUTURE PLANS

Here’s my idea about the future implementation of “growth mindsets” in my class.

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This year, Greek NBA basketball player Giannis Antetokounbo,  took the next step in his larger than life rise to NBA superstardom by winning the 2018-19 NBA Most Valuable Player award. Against all obstacles and odds!

Right on par, he isn’t satisfied with winning the MVP award. He wants more. He had a warning to the rest of the league during his acceptance speech on the Award Ceremony  night, “This is just the beginning. My goal is to win a championship. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.” If there’s anything we know about the Greek Freak, it’s that when he sets his mind on something he usually gets it.

Here’s Giannis’ EMOTIONAL SPEECH – Most Valuable Player Award – 2019 NBA Awards

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcBHO4aoYIE&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxvA3ZEsrU8&feature=youtu.be

When I watched that video, I thought: “Let`s teach our students about Giannis! What an inspiring role model for them”!

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Giannis, is a great example for my students to teach them the results of growth mindset.

Over the years, we all have to join the example of Giannis Adetokounmpo,  in our schools! To teach our children how they can succeed and realize their dreams , by exploiting their talents, with faith, perseverance, hard work and morals!  Yes, Giannis, is the bright example, in the dark years we live in. He proves that “ When there is a will, there is a way” ! On the way to growth, the essentials are: a loving family, supportive teachers and people who will believe in you,  courage and perhaps a little audacity, great faith in yourself and your strengths , definitely, ethos and respect ! 

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Thank you Pilgrims, Jim Wright and Jennifer Schmidt ,for the opportunity you have  offered us!

pilgrims photo
As for me, stay tuned, for next school year’s projects that will wrap up growth mindset with providing steps on how to help students engage with influencers and how to measure and track results.

“CUbeS: CUlture and Smiles in a Cube” An inspiring etwinning project 2018-19

My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!

Well….

eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows you to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform.

Through participating in eTwinning, your school will be able to:

  • enrich learning and motivation of pupils (aged between 3 and 19) and staff
  • access high quality professional development and ready-made resources
  • raise standards across the whole school community
  • gain recognition for your commitment through eTwinning awards and the International School Award.
  • Search for an Erasmus+  partner to carry out projects with and apply for mobility funding.

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There are, also,  special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!

Quality labels

1.National quality label

A National Quality Label is awarded to teachers with excellent eTwinning projects and indicate that the project has reached a certain level of quality in their country.

2. European quality label

The European Quality Label is a second mark of success and indicates that the project has reached a certain European standard.

3. eTwinning School label

In order to recognise the eTwinning work done at school level, there is now, a new label  available – the eTwinning School Label.

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The concept of recognition for work done in eTwinning has been in existence since the start with Quality Labels being available to teachers for their projects both at national and European level. However, these labels are applied only to the work of individual teachers in projects. In order to recognise the work done at school level, a new label is now available to apply for – the eTwinning School Label.

The principle behind this new label is that eTwinning wants to recognise and appraise the involvement, commitment, dedication not only of scattered eTwinners, but of teams of teachers and school leaders within the same school.

The concept of attaining the status of an eTwinning School is that of a developmental journey with components that can be objectively assessed. It is not a competition, but rather a progression from one level to the next.

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A summary of our project, this year

twinspace page

Our project celebrates culture and happiness.

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What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  propose is that, students produce 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  gather information about their own country and life and send it to their partner schools, which are responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

Students :

– Consider the definition of culture, and reflect on what this means to them

– Share relevant information about their lives with their European partners

– Create”Culture and Smiles in a Box” presentations

– Reflect on what they have learned about the other country and the differences and similarities between the two cultures

– Write reflective essays on what they have learned

 Objectives

1) To help pupils to identify, explore, and become aware of European values.

2) To raise pupils’ awareness of what makes them happy and share this happiness with their peers in Europe.

3) To assist pupils to identify European linguistic diversity and become aware of the importance of learning European languages.

4) To develop pupils’ insight into the similarities and differences among nations.

Our project in detail

This  #eTwForCulture project ,lasted the whole school year 2018-19. 

There were tasks to be completed to share SMILES in many ways such as passing a ‘messages and our CULTURE in a box’ from one country to the other.

This is a project on happiness; it is about helping students find happiness and sharing it with others. It focused on ourselves, well-being, friendships and relationships. Children have truly enjoyed communicating and participating in a variety of tasks and realising that they have many things in common with their e-pals. Pupils have learnt about the culture of their e-pals / friends (tangible and intangible). It was definitely a project celebrating internationalism and individualism.

Depending on the activity, children had the opportunity to work independently, with talk partners both in class- in 2s, in small mixed ability groups or in whole class situations and on twinspace, using ICT for research or to communicate and present their ideas in different ways.

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Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity

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The overall aim was to realize that, happiness comes from within us but can be spread and shared with others!

Children reflected on themselves as individuals, identifying positive things about themselves, valuing their abilities, qualities, strengths and achievements as well as their mistakes, sharing and comparing them with their European peers, at the same time!

Children recognized that their culture  affected themselves but also others; they thought of ways to make others smile, by means of intercultural projects !

Children considered their own and their partners’ feelings (empathy) and thought of appropriate strategies to cope with uncomfortable feelings as well as skills for solving problems and different ways of behaving to different types of intercultural relationships.

Children also focused on intercultural relationships and they explored the value of these relationships as well as their feelings within the context of important relationships, including family and friends of a different cultural background.

Children made each other smile through their dialogue, written work and through technology!

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 All in all:

Children 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 learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds

Our  project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Happiness in learning, became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

 Our work  provided in the shared learning environment were a meaningful pathway, towards understanding  the concept of feelings.

The true revelation has been that  people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values, cultures and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation. 

Curricular integration 

The work was mostly linked with the English, MFL, Topic and Computing objectives. To help partner schools to fulfill their statutory responsibility to support their cultural development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life. To use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.

 The theme was chosen deliberately to ensure that the project and its work was as cross-curricular as possible. The areas of ,EFL,  social studies, expressive arts, citizenship,and basic IT , have all been integrated into the sharing of our common project activities .

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

This fitted well into the Curriculum and all the pupils benefited. 

OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOKf12

We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had etwinning school  days, when our students presented their etwinning projects to the rest of the school.

A second focus was citizenship. By exchanging information about each other’s towns, lives  and heritage, the pupils learned a great deal about each other’s environment, way of life and culture. Our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! 

I  made sure that, ALL my 95  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  etwinning project.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

We used a variety of ways to communicate with each other and as a group: the teacher bulletin in twinspace, a messenger group,  email. Communication was regular and effective.

The tasks were mostly set by the coordinating schools in the United Kingdom and Greece  but we were open to suggestions and ideas of the fellow teachers. The activities and work produced was shared in pages of twinspace by all schools and the work process was communicated using the journal. I coordinated the work but also set responsibilities and supported teachers in using a variety of ICT tools so that they successfully participate in the project.

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From the beginning, there was a strong plan on twinspace Pages, which gave the teachers guidelines, responsibilities and timescale for each element of the project. 

Students were encouraged to interact with their partners,and share their  work on twinspace,both from the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

Our students were able to share their feedback on our Twinspace “DiscussionsForums Threads” , on a regular basis . The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. 

Collaboration between partner schools.  

In collaboration ,we all decided on the range of topics that we would cover and the optimum time for posting/sending/receiving the correspondence items. 

We tried together  to do some pre-matching of pupils and classes , based on their known interests. 

By all means we  ‘recycled’ language that pupils have previously learnt in their English class . 

We created a teachers’  e-mail exchange, too and a frequent collaboration on the Teachers’ bulletin.

We created  our 6 CUbeS threads on Forums , which we often updated with the help of our students.

Teachers and children participated and collaborated in monthly activities  such as: they uploaded posts in padlets, liked and commented on other posts, worked together to produce web presentations to introduce the schools , towns and countries ( taking-drawing pictures, writing the scripts and deciding on the school areas/town sights/country favourite places to present) and to share customs and traditions on collaborative web tools, they participated in a drawing logo competition and explained their reasons  in a forum, expressed what they have learnt in forums, shared playtime games and healthy recipes, made, posted and received cards, little gifts and beautiful origami crafts , which made them smile, shared well being strategies. They have enjoyed their twinspace membership, participated in all the activities, emailed their e-pals and expressed their views in forums – and they even suggested their own questions to be added in the forums – and joined in live chats, supervised by teachers! Children have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the project and have majorly contributed to its success.

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Use of technology

Children had the opportunity to use ICT to communicate and present findings in a variety of ways.

All children had Twinspace membership and emailed their epals; however, before using the email feature, we had lessons and discussions on the appropriate use of email, what information to include to be safe and respect each other while considering cultural differences. Children expressed their views in forums ,supervised by teachers!

The project linked with aims / objectives of the ICT / computing curriculum. Pupils were taught to select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design content that would accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information. They created work for a specific audience making sure that the content would be interesting but at the same time reliable. Children were also taught how to use technology safely.

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Specifically: I had small  groups of my students,to use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce our videos and also had them  create a Quiz on pages. We also used Movie Maker to make short videos, Padlet to work on collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback. We also used other collaborative web tools such as:  GoConqr for our mindmaps, Google Tool Builder for our virtual travel guides ,Thinglink for our interactive photos , Artsteps and Classtools.net for our 3D exhibitions,Canva and Linoit for our posters, Issuu for our Cookbooks.

 Through eTwinning,my  pupils learned to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way. 

They wrote comments in the forums, chatted with real people, did interactive exercises, took and uploaded digital photos and videos, searched for information, etc. And all this took place in the pedagogical context of studying English communication.

Results, impact and documentation

This project, enthused and motivated the children. Children fully enjoyed and participated in the project. It enabled the pupils to use new technologies, to learn about the culture of their European friends (tangible and intangible) and experience through their communication how English is not only a school subject but an indispensable means of communication. Most importantly it extended their cultural awareness and knowledge, it enabled them to learn about, respect and celebrate similarities and differences among them, celebrate individualism and internationalism through fun activities and tasks. Children were HAPPY, shared and received HAPPINESS AND SMILES!

Here’s the link to : OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOK

Children need to understand the diverse world they live in, respect values, different languages and faiths by working together and this is achieved through enhancing pupils understanding of their place in a culturally diverse society and by giving them opportunities to experience such diversity.

Our project, helped us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and feelings , enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”.

MIND MAP

All in all, we achieved   : 

  • to promote group activities  for tolerance and cultural understanding; 
  • to strengthen my students’ intercultural competences in order to be ready for responsible understanding of Europe’s identity and common values;
  • to develop the European dimension through arts education (origami crafts etc) and creativity with the aim to promote multiculturalism and tolerance between students; 
  • To develop “Out-of-the-box” activities that would encourage mutual support, team building and group cohesion ; 
  • Encourage personalized learning approaches by acquiring new artistic and pedagogical skills with the aim of developing new ideas and creativity of the students involved in the project.

 

 

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