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

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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!

Seat arrangement -the fun way….

DSCN0094As a teacher, creating seating charts is always something difficult.  Seating charts are one of those things where there is no way to make everybody happy. In the past, whenever I created a seating chart I felt  like I was putting together a giant puzzle with too many pieces.

Therefore, a few years ago, I decided to change that, and make the monthly seat arrangement , more fun and meaningful….
The purpose of a seating chart is to group and move students so that they are in the best learning orchestration possible for that instructional time period.

What usually happens in most classes is that, students often don’t see the purpose behind their seats or read more into their assigned seat than is there.  It is important for students to understand that sometimes their seat won’t be the seat they would choose, but it will be a seat that they will be productive in and that his or her seat assignment will change again and again over the course of the school year.

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Of course, students need to be able to communicate with the teacher about their needs, when it comes to a seating chart, as well as listen to the teacher about the reasoning behind those seats. This is an important skill for students to develop as it will help them in future endeavors and realistically, seating charts are a part of their school experience the whole way through.

I personally ,assign seats and switch them every month, and rotate project  groups as well – anything to get students interacting with others outside their own social groups. Anyone with special needs is accommodated as well. It works great!

I tell them right from the beginning that I am going to move their seats around, and that they will work in teams, and that they will work with everyone at some point, and it’s going to be SUPER FAB. Then there’s some grumbling, but at least they know what to expect.

My primary reason is to ensure that the students have a chance to work with all of their peers, actually. I want to try to avoid cliques and make everyone feel welcome.

I also am a big fan of cooperative learning in general .

Also, there is good reason to randomize the groups again and again. This helps students experience different levels of group success – with most groups becoming more successful due to each student’s experiences.

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Activities for  my older students

Sharing here, some ideas I have found on  http://www.edweek.org/  , and have tried successfully!..

Each activity takes 10 to 15 minutes but there is some preparation. Before beginning, I label the tables and chairs in an orderly way and post the seating challenge prominently.Here are the ideas….

1: Greet each student at the door and make sure he or she is in the right classroom. Next, before he or she has a chance to sit down, direct the student to follow the posted instructions: “Sit in birthday order so that the person with the birthday closest to January 1 sits in Seat 1. The year you were born doesn’t matter. Don’t skip seats. When everyone is seated, the student in Seat 5 will raise his or her hand and report that the class is ready to begin.”

Observe the interactions: Look for organizers, active and passive participants, refusers and disrupters. Be mindful that some students would rather be invisible and that the activity is probably something they haven’t experienced before.

If anyone asks you what to do, redirect him or her to classmates and the posted instructions. Encourage students and remind them that you don’t know the answer.

When Seat 5 reports in, do a couple of spot checks, show them where your birthday lies (just for fun!), and begin your lesson. By the end of this activity, every student will have interacted with other students and many will have reported to the whole class in a safe, nonthreatening way. (Ok, Seat 5 is under some pressure.)

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 2: Ask the students to follow these instructions: “Line up in alphabetical order by the name you like to be called. Then sit with an equal number of students at Tables 1-4. Remaining students sit at Table 5. When all are seated, the last student raises his or her hand and reports that the class is ready.”

Adjusting to have equal numbers at each table produces a lot of interaction and some tension. Watch closely how students with different ideas negotiate. Don’t intervene with the answer, but mediate if necessary. Have students quickly report out their names. Treat alphabetizing mistakes kindly, of course.

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 3 is different. Meet each student at the door with a paper that says, “Read this card completely. Do not enter the room until you understand the instructions. You may talk about the instructions before you enter the room. When you understand the instructions, give the card back to your teacher, enter the room, and begin.” Here’s what the card says:

1) Complete this challenge in complete silence: Remain silent for the entire activity. Do not talk or whisper after you enter the room.

2) In the room, line up in order by height.

3) Then take your seats with the shortest person in Seat 1.

4) Do not skip seats.

5) When the class is seated, the student in Seat 12 raises his or her hand, and when called on reports that the class is ready.

Post the instructions in the room as well. Although the task is easy, the silent rule adds some stress, so observe which defense mechanisms students display. Note who is comfortable reading the cards and who avoids the task.

On activities 4 and 5 students sort themselves into groups and sub-groups that may be lopsided. The instructions demand more judgment and decision-making from the students.

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 4:  The instructions read: “Sort yourselves into two groups: sneaker wearers and non-sneaker wearers. Next, each group forms two subgroups: students with curly hair and those with straight hair. You have curly or straight hair if you think you do. Each sub-group finds enough chairs and sits in order from the person with the shortest hair to the person with the longest hair.”

A tree diagram showing the groups may help. Watch how they negotiate and decide where to sit.

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 5: The instructions read: “Form two groups—students who prefer to spend free time indoors and those who prefer to spend it outdoors. You may like both but choose just one. Within those groups, define your own subgroups based on the last thing you did when you spent free time the way you wanted to. Find a place to sit together and talk about your free time activity.”

Some extra fun activities I have tried with my very young learners are:

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I hand out coloured pieces of paper to each student as they enter the room. They then arrange themselves in groups according to the colours.

I hand out cards with half a word or sentence written on them and students look for their..other half to  change a seat with…

I hand out simple question cards to half the class and the answer cards to the other half. Students, walk around the classroom asking and answering questions , to find their match and change seats with them.

I also, whisper to each student’s ear a word or a number and ask him/her to remember it for a while. I make sure that, I whisper the same word to two different students. Then , I ask them to walk around the classroom and look for their partner…The student, with the same word. This is either the person they have to sit next to or the person they exchange seats with.

A favourite activity is, to have the class listen to some dance music and ask them to walk around until it stops…When it stops, they have to sit down in the nearest chair they find….It’s similar to the Musical Chairs game!

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I also, hand out papers with animal names on them. The students mill around making that animal noise or action until they find the “animals ” in their group. I used this when we were studying Animal Farm when we needed groups. Lots of fun and very funny. Most kids loved it.

These ideas do not necessarily involve a lot of cooperation by the students to arrange themselves but then I am forever telling kids that groups or partners are not a life time commitment. They last for about a month or even a bit longer, depending on the assignment or reason. Kids are generally pretty happy as they know this will change. The line of “this is not a life time commitment” must work well as I have heard students repeat it to each other and all seems to work well.

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All group arrangements take time but it is time well spent as we all have to learn to work with others. A class that learns to cooperate early in the year will learn and share more over the course of the year than one that is always fighting groups.

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Whole brain teaching activities that rock !

I first came across Whole Brain Teaching, on line, reading about it and watching videos on Youtube! Later, I decided to apply it in my classes  and ever since, it has proved to be  a valuable teaching tool in my class!

Whole brain teaching is a new “radical” idea to some, however it is nothing more than tried and true teaching practices, combined into a new approach.  Whole brain teaching combines direct instruction,  sharing and immediate feedback to become a new style of teaching.  Whole brain teaching surmounts to several  steps that a teacher incorporates into their everyday classroom.   I believe that because this method can be adapted to any age level, any group of students in any place, this practice may be one of the best, best practices.

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Here today, I’d like to share with you my most favourite WBT teaching practices, that have proved to be valuable in my class and are highly recommended to all teachers!

Step 1: Class-Yes
The teacher of a whole brain classroom (WBC) uses this attention getter before beginning every class.  The teacher begins class by saying “class” any way he/she likes, and in turn the class is responsible for mimicking the teachers voice by responding yes.  Therefore, if the teacher says, “class, class, class, classy class!” The class must respond: “yes, yes, yes, yessy, yes!”  My students LOVE this attention getter! They always respond to it and I never need to raise my voice anymore in class!

Step 2: Teach-OK
I use this teaching practice, mainly when I teach grammar…..It always works miracles!! You should all try it and see for yourselves! This is the informative part of the lesson.  Before beginning the teacher must divide the class into two groups, 1’s and 2’s the teacher in each pair will rotate each time.  Then the teacher begins to teach small sections of information, while incorporating gestures, songs, movements and chants.  When the teacher has finished a small portion of information he/she says to the class “Teach” and the class responds “OK!”  In turn the students turn to teach each other, mimicking the “lesson” taught by the teacher.  During this time the teacher observes the students’ comprehension, if the teacher is not convinced the students understand the lesson, repeat this process.Otherwise, move to “class-yes” and begin another short lesson.

WBT Teach.

WBT Teach.

Step 3: Hands and Eyes
This step is used at any point during the lesson when you want students to pay “extra attention” to what you are saying/doing.  To begin this process the teacher says, “Hands and Eyes!,” and the students respond by mimicking the words and movements of the teacher. Perfect!!

Step 4 :Mirror
I personally  use Mirror, mainly when I teach grammar rules!Similar to “Hands and Eyes,” mirror allows the teacher to gain control of the classroom as well as have students mimic the motions and speech of the teacher.  This is the main part of the lesson where teachers are expected to contribute their own “silliness” and movements into the lesson.  Teachers will incorporate their own gestures, songs or chants in this portion of the lesson and the students are expected to “mirror” the teacher after the teacher says “Teach” and the class responds “OK.”

WBT  mirror

WBT mirror

Step 5: Switch!
This step is to be used with the “Teach-OK” step, while students are teaching it is imperative that the same student not teacher every time. Therefore, in order to get every student involved in the lesson, the teacher will direct the students to “Switch!,” the students will respond by saying “switch” and the “teacher” of the group will rotate.

 I admit that the idea of combining classroom management and active teaching/learning has me very intrigued.  I feel that beginning this practice in any classroom would be very easy.  The students would hopefully be very willing to try the techniques since the teaching centers somewhat around an overarching game. 

  Here, I should also  remind you of the classroom rules I wrote about in another post a few months ago….https://aphrogranger.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/class-rules/

 Classroom Rules

Before beginning the actual “informative” part of each lesson, the teacher goes over the five classroom rules with the entire class. This is to ensure that everyone understands the rules, but it will also help the teacher in the end, if a student is not following rules.  The rules and gestures are as follow:

  • 1-Follow directions quickly! (Make your hand shoot forward like a fish)
  • 2-Raise your hand for permission to speak (raise hand, bring down to head and make a talking motion).
  • 3-Raise your hand to leave your seat (raise hand, make a walking motion with fingers).
  • 4-Make smart choices! (tap one finger to your temple as you say each word).
  • 5-Keep your dear teacher happy! (hold up each thumb and dex finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

To know more about Whole Brain Teaching, you could visit   http://www.wholebrainteaching.com

Brain gym-WBT  warming up: the lion's roar

Brain gym-WBT warming up: the lion’s roar

Easter in our english class

Funny Easter eggs

Funny Easter eggs

In our Easter lessons, which last about a week before schools close,  my students are introduced to some common Easter vocabulary, make  Easter cards and  Easter crafts and, of course, play lots of fun games.

Our students  know full well that any games we play in class will be somehow related to an ESL component, that there will be some focus on grammar or new vocabulary. Because they know that in an ESL classroom, we rarely play games just for fun…. Want to surprise your class? AND give them opportunities to learn? Try these Easter games, and you’ll have your students eagerly lining up to play. And learn!

Many  of the activities below, where found either on a Burlington Easter Activities leaflet which was sent to  most schools a few years ago or on the  ESL kidStuff  site which has even more activities than the ones that I have personally used in my class and have REALLY worked!! This site therefore, is highly recommended!

One other  site where you can find lots of craft ideas that have really worked in my class is:  http://www.kidssoup.com/index.html  I should also not forget to recommend my most favourite site of all: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/easter

Activity Village has a huge selection of Easter activities for you to enjoy with your kids, including colouring pages, printables, jokes, crafts and puzzles!

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Easter Games & Activities

Bunny hoping

Bunny hoping

Bunny Hopping Exercises: have Ss hop to your commands (like an Easter Bunny): Hop slowly, hop quickly, big hops, small hops, turn around hops, hop on left / right foot, hop forward / backwards / sideways, close your eyes and hop, flap your arms and hop, etc.  This is a great activity to do after making ‘Bunny Ears’ . (TP: V: hop, slowly, quickly, big, small, turn around, left, right, backward, forwards, sideways, flap, close. F: giving instructions to play a game using adverbs and prepositions of direction).

Bunny hoping

Bunny hoping

Easter Bunny HopConduct a relay race for two or three teams.Each player must cover a certain distance while jumping with a plastic egg between his/her knees.

Easter bunny hop

Easter bunny hop

Chocolate Egg Bowling: roll a ball across the classroom. Ss take turns to roll their eggs to get closest to the ball. (TP: V: roll, closest. F: giving instructions to play a game).

Duck Walk Race: have the kids line up at the Start Line, squat down and grasp their ankles with each hand from behind. On GO, they waddle to a designated Finish Line. They can’t let go of their ankles or they are disqualified. The first child over the Finish Line wins a prize. (TP: None).

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Easter Egg Blow: use real hollow egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out) or plastic eggs. Use a straw to blow the eggs across the classroom. First person across, is the winner!

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Easter egg blow

Easter Egg Decoration: use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Use colored felt pens, glue and glitter, stickers and anything else to decorate the eggs. You can use these eggs in the ‘Easter Egg Blow’ game. (TP: None).

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Easter Egg Emotions: use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Use felt pens to draw faces in different emotions (happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc). (TP: V: various emotions vocab. F: using adjectives to describe emotions).

Easter egg emotions

Easter egg emotions

Easter Egg Faces: review face vocab (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, eyebrows, cheeks, chin, etc.). Use real egg shells (before class get some eggs, puncture a hole at both ends and blow out the insides of the egg, then wash out). Do as a listening activity – T says “draw a nose” and children draw a nose, and so on. Also good for adjectives – “Draw a long nose”, “draw big eyes”, etc. (TP: V: various face vocab. F: giving instructister Egg Hunt: hide small chocolate eggs around your classroom / school / the park and send your Ss off to find them. Teach them expressions like “I’ve found one!”, “Where are the eggs?”, etc. (TP: V: I’ve found one!, Where are the eggs?).

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Easter egg faces

Fair-For-All Easter Egg Hunt: this stops some kids getting all the eggs and other getting none. Simply, write each Ss names on some eggs. The Ss will have to recognize their own names. (TP: F: recognizing your written name).

Egg & Spoon Races: it’s up to you whether you use real, uncooked eggs! Teams relay race with eggs on spoons across the classroom. (TP: None).

Spoon races

Spoon races

Nosey Easter Egg Roll: Ss roll the eggs using only their noses. The first one over the finish line wins. (TP: None).

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Hot Cross buns game: First, I talk to them about Hot Cross buns….I give my older students the recipe which in case they use at home to make some hot cross buns for their classmates to taste in our next lesson, they are awarded stickers!! I hand my younger students a picture with 10 hot cross buns hidden and I ask them to work in teams and find them. Later, they read five sentences and decide if each sentence is true or false.

Hot cross bun

Hot cross bun

Finally, pupils learn a traditional chant about hot cross buns and play the following game: I ask a volunteer to leave the classroom for a minute. I hide a hot cross bun flashcard in the classroom. I invite the students back in the classroom and ask ” Where is the hot cross bun”? The pupil must look for the hidden flashcard.

Looking for the hidden hot cross bun

Looking for the hidden hot cross bun

The rest of the class can help the student by calling out ” hot cross bun” softly when he or she is far from the hidden flashcard or loudly as he or she comes closer to it!When the student finds the flashcard he/she says a sentence about its location eg ” There is a hot cross bun under the book”.

The Hot Cross Bun game

The Hot Cross Bun game

The Easter Egg game: This is a board game.Pupils play in pairs.The object of the game is to be the first player colouring three Easter eggs. Unfortunately, I have a copy of that Burlington  worksheet at school but, I can’t find it online anywhere . You could ask Burlington books to send it to you, too, I assume…

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You could easily make your own worksheet with three Easter eggs on the top and three on the bottom of it each  divided into three sections , by drawing  lines. Then, ask the students to roll the die, and when they land on a colour,  colour the indicated section of an egg. The winner is the pupil who completes colouring his/her three eggs first.

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Easter Bingo: I ask the pupils to make Bingo cards using the Easter vocabulary I have taught them in class beforehand, using flashcards .

The winner of course, is the first pupil to mark all the pictures on his/her card and call out “Bingo”!

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An easter egg hunt variation for older students: turn the egg hunt into a scavenger hunt. For this idea, the entire game must be thoroughly planned out from beginning to end. Inside each plastic egg, place handwritten clues. The kids can divide into teams. Each team is given the same clue to start. When one clue is figured out, it will lead them to another egg with another clue inside. The team that finds the prize first, splits it. 

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Inside each plastic egg, I place handwritten clues

Easter egg hunt

Easter egg hunt

Easter egg hunt: " It's here..!"

Easter egg hunt

Displaying students’ work

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Our english bulletin board outside the teachers’ office!! So much to share!

If  I ask my students “Why do we display work in our classroom?” answers might include: “So we can see what each other is doing.” “So we can show work that we’re proud of.” “So we can learn more about a topic.” “So that we have interesting things on the walls.” As their teacher, I might  add that displays also help students reflect on their work, learn from each other’s work, and make the classroom beautiful.

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Colourful students projects, displayed!

I personaly, provide each class with a space on the wall of our english classroom, that belongs to them! I hang a  colourful background paper and label it with the class  name.  At the risk of being institutionalized, I will admit that I have used actual levels and tape measures to perfect them .I also like hanging students’ work  from a clothesline.

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I provide each class with a space on the wall of our english classroom, that belongs to them

I have several   “ bulletin boards”  both in my classroom and outside it, in the corridors,   now. Full of photos -to share our work in the class with other students, classes or parents- pen pals letters, photos and projects, news from our class, forthcoming events announcements, invitations to our english shows and so many more!

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Pen pals letters, photos and projects outside our classroom door!

I make sure that my classroom displays consist mostly of work students have done themselves (along with a few essential informational pieces such as class rules, anchor charts, and reminders about classroom routines).

It’s not only walls that  can be used as display surfaces!  In my classroom there are more places, such as:  the door, the ceiling ( mobiles), tables, boxes ,shelves, string washing lines -as I have already mentioned-  the corridors and sometimes the…floor or the windows! I should also mention “another school”,  since our projects are sent abroad and therefore displayed in another classroom! Additionaly, part of my students’ work is published  in the school handmade magazine and this is very motivating indeed!

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In my classroom there are more places than just the walls, such as: the door, the ceiling ( mobiles), tables, boxes ,shelves, string washing lines or the corridors …

 I suggest  that, we should- together with our students – develop criteria for choosing work to display.

These criteria might include:

  • The work shows our best efforts, not just perfect work.
  • The work shows growth or improvement. (This may include displaying early drafts with later drafts.)
  • We feel proud of the work.
  • The work is important to us.

I firmly believe that, effective displays celebrate each piece of work and radiate with a sense of student pride. They highlight the individual pieces of work rather than the surrounding decoration.

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All the classes photos are always displayed on the door!

My list of qualities that make a display effective:

Displays should be simple.

Displays should show what is most important in the work.

Decorations should fit with the piece of work and show it off.

Displays should include a label with the name of the student, the title of the work, and perhaps something about the work.

Displays should be neat.

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I also like hanging students’ work from a clothesline.

Tips about displays:

Displays should have a meaningful connection to the curriculum. They should be effective tools for teaching and learning. This is particularly important when the holiday season approaches. Although there’s nothing wrong with seasonal displays, the material on display should go beyond simply marking a holiday. Instead the information should connect with, emerge from, and expand students’ knowledge about topics being studied.

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The class rules are displayed behind the teacher’s desk, visible to the whole class!

Create displays that honor effort and not just perfectly mastered work.Displays should make every child feel valued regardless of his or her academic or artistic abilities. I avoid using grades, stickers, or marks on children’s work that will be displayed.

Keep displays fresh, useful, and uncluttered. Make sure that the children’s work is changed often enough to keep the displays relevant to the curriculum and keep them from getting “stale.” With limited space it is better to regularly rotate the children’s work than to crowd and clutter the area. I manage to do so,  by having my students  exchange their  projects with their  pen pals  abroad!

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The corridors are perfect for displaying photos from our end- of -the- year musicals and shows!

 Displaying student work is very important for motivation in a student-centered classroom.

Displaying student work sends several important messages to students, staff, and visitors:

  • As teachers, we value what students do.
  • This is the students’ classroom as much as the teacher’s.
  • In this classroom, students share their work and learning with one another.

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Make sure that the children’s work is changed often enough to keep the displays relevant to the curriculum and keep them from getting “stale.

Students will naturally look at their own work more frequently than they’ll look at commercial pieces. It is their work, after all. Seeing their own work on display not only boosts students’ sense of belonging and significance in the room, but also helps them learn from their classmates and see a greater purpose behind their work. All of these things can help lead to greater academic engagement and deep, meaningful learning.

Class Letter Box

Writing , is really important in my classes! Writing for a purpose and addressing real people, writing for a reason, has always been crucial in my teaching!

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In my classroom, there is always a letter box, where,  students ,during the week, can drop a letter to me or their classmates. They are asked to write in english only, and everybody who receives a letter should reply ! We open the letter box and deliver mail, every last lesson of the week !

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They look  so much forward to it!

I always make sure, I have a glance at each letter before I hand it to the recipient, just to make sure it’s written in english and/or doesn’t contain any …bad language or insulting comments!

The letter box is what  I also use the very first day in class,to drop my students my first letter , writing about how excited I am to be with them , my expectations, hopes, wishes and comments!

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The students, are asked to reply , writing about  their goals , asking  me about anything they want to know, or just share their feelings! They are told that, every letter will be answered and no letter will be read in public- of course..! I want them to be free to share anything that troubles or excites  them!

It’s surprising that, most of them, feel the need to share even personal stuff, fears, anxieties and  even ask for advice about problems and concerns they might face!

My reply letters are  short, encouraging and really positively inspired!

They are always so excited when the post box opens!

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This is where they find their foreign pen friends  letters, too! The one above, comes from Taiwan !

They  even use the letter box , to drop the special  note they are asked to  complete at the end of each lesson , on a volunteer basis,about what they have  learned, a question they still have or something that is still not clear to them after the lesson and needs to be explained  ..

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This is great feedback for me! I always answer  all  notes  I receive!

Build your students'self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Build your students’self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Oh, Class!….Oh, Yes…!

I have to admit, I have become a http://www.wholebrainteaching.com addict! I find it REALLY effective in my classes! It has helped me with class management issues more that I have ever expected! One of the first steps a teacher can take , even before the introduction of the 5 class rules, is the attention getter ” Class! Yes!”

I can share the way I have been using it in my class,

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

How many times have you started class, called for your class to get quiet, only to have a few kids comply, and several others continue chatting, apparently oblivious to your request? You ask for their attention again, a bit louder. At this point you can feel your blood pressure rising, right? After all by this time they should know how to follow procedures. They have certainly been trained in procedures similar to yours for years by the time they get to you … well, depending on what age your students are.

Then why don’t they listen? Why don’t you already have their attention? You have teaching to do. They doggedly hang onto the conversations they are in, even as your voice rises …

Now you are headed into a bad mood and the darned class is only just beginning. To top it off, some of your lovely moppets are acting as though giving you their attention is a gigantic imposition. Now both you and your students are in a hostile mood, and no one has learned anything yet.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you would like to change, then read on.

The technique to consistently catch the attention of your class is simple. It is so simple, and effective that I kicked myself for not having thought of it myself years ago, and have lamented many times since the instructional time I lost for not having known this.

To get my classes’ attention I simply say ‘Class!’ and then they reply ‘Yes!’. Next is the catch, the hook that makes this fun, and gets them invested in it in a way that has them looking at me and grinning rather than continuing their conversations.

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When I say ‘Class!’ and they say ‘Yes!’ they have to say it the way I said it. If I say ‘Classity-class-class!’ they have to say ‘Yessity-yes-yes!’. If I say it loudly, they have to respond loudly. If I whisper, they respond in a whisper. They have to match my tone and intensity.

Simple, hunh? It is amazing how effective this approach is. I used to be the teacher I described above. With middle schoolers in particular it was almost impossible to get their attention. Too often, I would find myself frustrated by my students’ behavior.

Whole Brain Teaching uses a very simple and effective approach to overcome this resistance. Whole Brain Teaching injects fun back into the classroom for both you and your class.

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Why is the Class-Yes, in terms of brain structure, so effective?  The neo-cortex, the part of your brain behind your forehead, controls, among other things, decision making.  Think of the neo-cortex as an executive, organizing other brain areas for complex tasks.  When the teacher says, “Class!” and students respond “Yes!,” you have, in effect focused your students’ neo-cortices on what you’re going to say next.  In other words, their brain’s executives are ready to take directions from your brain’s executive.  That’s wonderful!  Your neo-cortex is the CEO of all your kids’ neo-cortices.  We call that, Teaching Heaven.

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Class rules

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I spend about three weeks at the beginning of each school year, to work on the basics with all my classes: these incude, warming up-getting to know you activities, class rules , goals setting, life skills!

I’ll be able to write here about each one of them , soon….

Today, I could talk a bit about class rules and what I have found to be working in my classes! Well, I’ve tried class contracts and long discussions about which rules both the teacher and the students should follow during the school year!

First, the kids brainstorm classroom rules .My class rule is a pledge!  ” I will do nothing to interfere with the learning, safety, or respect of myself or others”.We also talk about the 3 P’s: BE PROMPT- BE PREPARED-BE POLITE! My students brainstorm all the rules they can think of and we categorize them into these three!

But, I’ve also tried to work with WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING RULES which my students just love!

The following are five classroom rules that will make your life amazingly easier. One of them is nuclear power in your hands!

If rules are only posted on your board they are not really a part of your class. You must have the rules running around in your students’ heads for them to be effective. It will also help you quiet extra talking in the class. Look for that as you read.

Teach them as follows:

Rule One: Follow directions quickly! (the gesture: make your hand shoot forward like a fish)

Rule Two: Raise your hand for permission to speak (the gesture: raise your hand, then pull it down next to your head and make a talking motion. This rule will be the most commonly violated. See below for how you stop this without criticism or negativity.)

Rule Three: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. (the gesture: raise your and, and then make a little walking figure with your index and middle finger.)

Rule Four: Make smart choices! (the gesture: tap one finger to your temple as you say each word.

Rule Five: Keep your dear teacher happy! (the gesture: hold up each thumb and index finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

In elementary school, rehearse the rules first thing in the morning, after lunch and after each recess. When you call out the rule number, your students respond with the rule itself and the correct gesture. Make the rehearsals as entertaining as possible; use a variety of voices (happy, robot, froggy) and tempos, fast, slow, super fast. For additional fun, ask of your liveliest students to lead the rules rehearsal.

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Rule Two will be the most commonly violated, duh. You do not have to call anyone down; you do not have to mention names. If you are addressing the class and some kids are talking, you stop, hold up two fingers and loudly say “RULE TWO!”

Every kid in your class should repeat rule two energetically with gestures. This signals the violators to stop talking … without you needing to scold them.

Rule Five is nuclear power. Think about it- keep your dear teacher happy. THERE IS NO LOOPHOLE! No student can convince you that they are making you happy. You are the world’s greatest authority on what makes you happy. If they try to convince you they are making you happy, immediately inform them that does not make you happy.

If a student complains that they don’t know how to make you happy, tell them that following the first four rules will be just dandy.

Rule Five has no loophole.

If parents ask why their child should worry about making you happy, respond that you have the responsibility to teach their child and every other child in that class. The happier you are, the better you can do your job.

Now, let’s think briefly, about how these five classroom rules relate to brain structure.  The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling.  When you teach the rules with the Whole Brain signs, your students’ brains are maximally operative.  They see the signs, hear the rules, say the rules and make the gestures.  If you are upbeat and entertaining in your presentation, and of course you are!, your students will also have the lovely feeling of having fun.  Also note that for all five modes of brain learning to take place for your students, you have to engage in all five modes yourself.  Whole Brain Teaching is as great for the instructor’s brain as the students’!

I have recently added this attention poster below, to help me with class management and it proved to be REALLY useful! My kids just ADORED it! I have been using this every single day, when I need to have their attention and it really WORKS!!

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