The flipped classroom is just one of the latest e-learning models which has made its way into classrooms around the world. The pedagogical model sets out to reverse the role of teaching with homework, whereby students would typically digest new educational content outside of their classroom. Teachers would then use their classroom sessions to allow students to apply the information learned, through a series of practical assignments.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning, on the other hand, involves both online learning as well as in a brick-and-mortar location. In a blended learning classroom, both online and traditional teaching methods are utilized to provide a more effective learning experience for the students. Teachers would typically employ online learning components such as educational videos, games, online learning material and podcasts.”
What is a flipped classroom approach?
The Flipped Classroom is a blended learning model in which traditional ideas about classroom activities and homework are reversed, or “flipped.” In this model, instructors have students interact with new material for homework first.
Like many educators, I leapt into the world of virtual learning last spring due to COVID-19 school closures. While some teachers have spent years immersed in the world of technologyI was adjusting to sitting behind a screen and figuring out how to best translate the benefits of in-person learning to the virtual world and how to use technology-supported instruction to enhance student learning.
However, as we shifted to distance learning last spring, we had to take the best of blended learning and adjust it to exist in a completely virtual world.
As we transitioned to remote learning, we worked to capture the benefits of “traditional” in-person learning through live, virtual smaller-group classes. I found that this was ideal for our quieter students (who loved using the chat feature to share ideas) and also allowed teachers to connect with students in even deeper, more authentic ways despite the distance.
The flipped-classroom model, whether virtual or in person, has been a gift for many of my students, most notably those with learning differences or more introverted kids. I have realised that the flipped model places a greater emphasis on the student putting in more of their own intellectual effort, leading to greater retention of the material and a significant increase in confidence.
Blended learning also incorporates online learning tools, whether it is in class or at home, that can offer more personalized learning experiences for students. Furthermore, blended learning can incorporate gamification to keep students engaged and motivated.
I firmly believe that, as educators ,we will have to continue to examine and evaluate how to maximize teacher-student interactions as well as online learning tools to support instruction and student development. While this year is sure to bring more challenges, it is equally likely that there will be incredible growth and development along the way.
Why flipped classrooms work for distance learning
Distance learning provides the ideal opportunity for trying out the flipped classroom, as students are doing so much learning from home anyway. It will build on and improve our relationship with our students, as the teacher-student dynamic shifts from a less instructional model to a more collaborative one. And this can help with motivation, too. When our class time is all about practical application of ideas, supporting student understanding and peer-to-peer collaboration, it makes for a more dynamic and engaging online class.
I have long been interested in ‘Blended Learning’ . It remains a ‘buzz’ term in language teaching, although it means different things to different people.
Generation Z – that is young people born between 1995 and the mid-2000s – has grown up with the internet, Google, and social networking. A world without the web and related technology is almost unimaginable for them; it brings them freedom, autonomy and their online identities are an important part of their lives.
Blended learning creates opportunities for students to engage with English outside of the classroom, through games and practice that they can access on mobile devices or computers at home or on the go.
There are many reasons for transitioning to blended learning.
One common reason is to combine the well-known positives of classroom teaching with the advantages of online learning, considered to be studying at the students’ own pace, at a place of their choice; and differentiation – using the online platform as a way of delivering personalized, individual learning-when possible.
Time is another reason. There is simply not enough time for language learners to cover everything within the constraints of the class timetable. Indeed, some language areas are best suited to self-study, such as extensive reading and practising difficult phonemes.
We can incorporate digital technology into our classroom lessons along with traditional methods of instruction. I have realized that switching between computer-based or gamifiedlearningand face-to-face instruction keeps my students engaged in their learning and strengthen lessons.
-The students who enjoy the class may not contribute to the knowledge building occurring in the online environment, while those who enjoy working online may dislike the time restrictions etc
-Learners ( and some parents…) may not see the link between their lessons and online work. They sometimes perceive the online components to be of lesser value and fail to do the online work.
– Technical problems can prove de-motivating.
A FEW FINAL NOTES
Which online platforms/tools are MY most favourite and can be used for blended learning?
Quizizz: A game-based learning tool that can be used for instruction, both in and out of class, or for students to create their own games as more authentic practice. Quizizz has thousands of games available in the library and recently added a student log-in that enables students to track their progress and gives them access to prior games played so they can always go back and review. Having this available to students makes it more personalized because students can get extra practice whenever they need it.
Kahoot!: An engaging and popular game-based site that provides opportunities for students to take control of their learning and us ,educators to track student development.
Challenges with Kahoot have become quite popular, among teachers and students. Teachers can “challenge” students to participate in a game as a way to practice the content or review for an assessment. Students can even challenge each other by sharing games and codes, which makes it good for peer collaboration and building social-emotional learning skills.
Padlet is an Internet-based application that can be used like a virtual pinboard, making it ideal for collaborating and sharing ideas and resources. While there are numerous online tools that can be used for similar purposes, I think that Padlet is ideal for anyone considering blended learning.
Digital learning web tools I have tried, and I recommend
Ι assume,all teachers recognize that children learn best through direct experience ,simply by providing them abundant opportunities for experiential learning—experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.
To me, the way we learn is the way we approach life in general. It is also the way we solve problems, make decisions, and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout our life.
“There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.” — David A. Kolb
At the core of my classes, self-directed play and exploration of materials allow for cooperative social interaction and support my students’ construction of knowledge about the world around them and this is crucial!
THE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE
According to research, learners retain 75% of what they do compared to 5% of what they hear or 10% of what they read (study). In a world where there are many distractions amongst the learning environment (think cell phones and other forms of technology), experiential learning keeps students engaged and attentive to the learning goal .
David Kolb’s work on the experiential learning cycle is among the most influential approaches to learning I have read about.
The experiential learning cycle is a four-step learning process: Experience – Reflect – Think – Act.
While verb drills and memorisation may have their places in language acquisition, taking a more interactive approach can offer students a wide range of important benefits when learning English.
All in all, by practicing their language skills through fun activities like cooking, photography, arts and crafts, music, drama, and sports, students can develop their skills much more quickly than they would through less active teaching methods.
“Learning by doing” can also boost students’ motivation and desire to learn, help them develop practical language skills that can be applied in their daily lives, and boost their confidence in their own English language abilities.
When students are learning a new language, it’s important not only to equip them with the basic grammar and vocabulary they’ll need to progress, but also to spark their interest and keep them motivated.
Therefore, learning English through fun activities makes second language acquisition an engaging, joyful, and interactive experience, building students’ motivation and ensuring they’re always looking forward to their next English lesson.
Benefits of Experiential Learning
There are many benefits to experiential learning.For example, students are able to receive a deeper understanding of the content being taught. Experiential learning also increases engagement and participation.
By incorporating experiential learning into our curricular learning, we can result in a real mindset change, through learning skills such as leadership, empathy, collaboration, and communication through meaningful opportunities to practice.
If these benefits have not convinced you on this teaching and learning method, below there are a few experiential learning activities that have worked in my classes and you can use in your class to help solidify the use of more hands-on activities in your classroom.
A growth mindset embraces learning by doing.
In my experience, students respond better when being engaged in practical activities, rather than reading from textbooks.
So, getting the children involved in practical activities that teach them English, among other subjects, is a highly effective way of engaging them in their learning.
Gone are the days when I was a student and where we were seated in rows and listened, for what seemed like hours, to the teacher on a particular topic. It was as if the students were considered empty vessels to fill up. There was no time for trial and error for us to ‘play’ with various concepts or to learn a particular concept further.
Course material would be taught in a predetermined way . With little ‘play’, one approach to learning and a fixed way of looking at the learning process, this could only lead to a very limited mindset to what each individual student could achieve.
Contrary to this view and at the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” ( please, click on the link to read all about it in an older blog post of mine) so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.
Experiential Learning Activities to try ,that have worked in my class
Scavenger hunts are great experiential learning activities that get students moving and thinking. These hunts often involve having students solve riddles and clues, and students must work together to get to the next stop. Make the hunt lead to a reveal of the class field trip, incentive party, or as a study guide before the next test. The options are limitless and sure to excite our learners!
Put on a Play
What better way for our students to work on their cooperation, leadership, and creativity skills than by practicing and presenting a play. Maybe our students have just learned a new topic.. Use a pre-found script (a simple Google search is sure to provide many), or have older students create their own. You can also use the course book dialogues or a picture book as a starting point for a play. Theater is a great hands-on experience, and my students do love showing off their acting skills!
Engineering and ELT?
Giving students the opportunity to build is appealing for so many. These sorts of experiential learning activities can be used as part of the curriculum, for brain breaks, for projects or as fun school-wide competitions. You can have students use straws and other recyclable materials to build practically anything related to any topic! The competitive atmosphere of these sorts of building competitions creates excitement and fosters class unity.
Games students play
Games or gamification of courses can be a way of keeping students engaged and motivated while achieving the learning goals in a way that is fun and low risk. Points ,stickers or badges can be awarded for satisfactory participation or completion of the game or goals in the game. Allowing repeat play of games also enables students to see failure as indication that more work is needed to master the skill or knowledge at hand.
As educators, we can incorporate gaming elements (gamification) into other components of our course, include gaming activities or even structure the entire course like a game!
Games or gaming elements can be designed to be competitive or non-competitive. A competitive element, such as an individual-based or team-based point system, can facilitate friendly competition to make activities or the course fun and active. Games can also be non-competitive and have students work towards achievements and badges in class that signify proficiency with a learning outcome or goal. I have tried both, I can recommend both.
Ask students to bring in their own realia
If you want to get to know students better you can ask them to bring in several items from home that they feel represent them. If you’re teaching online, students can hold objects up to their camera instead. Have them present these items to the class and explain why they chose each object. For a variation of this activity, have classmates guess how the objects represent their fellow students. Students love to share things about themselves and are usually excited about activities that involve getting to talk about their own lives.
Incorporate realia into a writing prompt
To make writing assignments come to life, I often bring in random objects and place them at the front of the classroom. I have students write a short story (usually with a prompt) incorporating all or a certain number of the objects. This activity gets students to think outside of the box and reflect on how we use the vocabulary they’ve learned in everyday life. It’s a great one for both the physical and virtual classroom as well, as you can simply hold the objects up to the screen if you’re teaching online.
I in a virtual classroom, quickly pass objects by the screen, one after the other. See if students can recall which objects they saw and whether they can name them in the correct order. If you’re in a physical classroom, you can set the items out on a desk and hide each object under a cloth ,in a box or in a paper bag. Then, lift the bag/cloth/box for a few seconds to reveal the object. You could also play “Memory” with hand-made vocabulary cards or use any items available such as cups, maps, toys, to help students boost their memory .
To me, if you’re wondering how to teach/revise vocabulary, this is a great activity, as you can choose items from a specific theme/category (ABC,food, sports, objects that are different shapes or colors, etc.).
What is it?
I suggest that you fill a bag/box with realia and have students take turns trying to guess what one of the objects is by putting their hand in the bag/box and feeling it. They can use vocabulary to describe the object to their classmates as they guess. This game can be adapted to the virtual classroom by hiding an object in a bag or under a cloth. Students can have a look at the shape and listen to you describe the object (e.g., it’s heavy, it’s round, etc.) while they try to guess what it is.
We all know that,every child learns in a way that is unique to themselves. Experiential learning activities help to take all students’ learning styles and make the activity suitable for a diverse group of learners. The benefits make experiential teaching worth a try. So do a scavenger hunt, put on a play, plant some seeds, rot an apple, or build a tower. Students are sure to walk away with powerful and memorable learning experiences.
Here is a link to visit and find out a lot more about experiential learning activities and useful tables such as this one, below.
Traditional learning activities
Experiential learning activities
Learning outcomes are prescribed to a fixed rubric or scoring system
Learning outcomes are flexible and open
Aim to explain knowledge and/or skills by transferring information
Aim to develop knowledge and skills through experience
Last December ,with a 2nd countrywide lockdown in place, each and every citizen had been quarantined within the four walls of their home, since mid-November. As teachers, it had become not only our duty but also our responsibility towards to our students to follow it diligently, as it is a much-needed step to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Spending most of their time indoors had increased the time my students spent with our family members. Ever since, this has reinstated the fact that it is only your family which is beside you through thick and thin. You have got once in a lifetime opportunity to spend so many days altogether with your family, and it is better to not waste them.
The most essential of all, being in a lockdown has made us realize the importance of the freedom we all had and the importance of the most precious gift of all, a gift that money can’t buy: family!
After all, there’s no point in suffering through a global crisis if we don’t learn something from it. “No challenge, no change,”
What I actually taught my students ,during our December webex lessons, was the importance of being present!
This is the summary of the main ideas we talked about ,during our online lessons.
“Want to know one Christmas gift that everyone will really love this year? Having your full, devoted attention at all your holiday gatherings.
This Christmas season, put in the extra effort and do your best to be fully present when around your family and friends. I promise you it will be much more enjoyable for everyone (including yourself).
Give the gift of your sincere, undivided attention. Listen, really listen, without thinking about how you’ll respond; listen with the intention to understand, because people need to be heard: sometimes that’s all they need.
Your sincere presence, your authenticity, is one of the best gifts you can give; your offering is to be with your nearest and dearest.
Let others know how grateful you are for their presence in your life. Say, “thank you” and “I appreciate you” and “I love you.” It’s one of the greatest gifts.”
“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi
THE LESSON PLAN STEPS
I decided to use one of my favourite wordcloud web tools in order to have all my students to share their ideas about which gifts ” only you can give” !
Sharing my screen and my most favourite virtual whiteboard app, I presented them with the topic I wanted them to brainstorm about: Christmas gift ideas for kids.
The next step was to have them work in groups, using the webex breakout rooms feature, to discuss their ideas.
They had to share all those ideas with the whole class, afterwards.
Finally, I shared my own idea about which are the three best gifts we can give to others!
Time: People always say time is money, but it doesn’t have to be. Time is one of the biggest and inexpensive gifts you can give yourself and others. Giving yourself the gift of free time can truly help your perspective in life.
Love: The gift of love, shouldn’t really need much explanation. Unfortunately, many celebrated Christmas and New Year’s without their loved ones this year. We should never forget to tell those people we do care about, that we love them, tomorrow is never promised.
Attention:There’s no doubt, Christmas will always be associated with presents; however,we should never underestimate the importance of spending a little extra time with someone, loving others. Giving, is better than receiving. Some of the best gifts we can give, can’t be wrapped as they come from the heart.
One Dad, planning on working away for Christmas, takes his daughter’s letter for Santa with him to post. Unfortunately, he misses the ‘post boat’ and a series of mishaps means that he ultimately ends up delivering the letter to The North Pole himself.
He receives a lift home and is surprised by the contents of the letter when he gets there.
Few more teaching ideas you can also use, especially with older students
Discuss and share ideas for some gifts ‘only you can give’ this Christmas.
Write diary entries in role of the girl.
Create an inner monologue for the father.
Describe the epic journey and the sights he sees on his travels.
Recount the journey in the first person.
Informal letter -if you wish. I asked them to write their letters to Santa, asking for …GIFTS THEY CAN ONLY GIVE!
When this pandemic began, teachers all over the World were given little notice to shift very quickly to distance learning or e-learning, sometimes with no training. In many cases, we had 48 hours or a weekend to reinvent lessons for an already planned curriculum, learn new technologies, find non-technology solutions to student learning, and figure out how to keep students engaged. But all us etwinning teachers ,also had to balance home and work and how to do our life’s work from afar while simultaneously caring for students, grieving losses, and so many more challenges and obstacles!
For all those -mainly non-European -teachers who keep asking me about what etwinning is about: eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe.
I personally realised that there was only ONE thing that was still there for both me and my students, during the lockdown: etwinning!
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.
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 DEMOCRATIC VALUES.
About the project
This #eTw4Democracy project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools, sharing and enhancing democratic values, at the same time. Our schools are microcosms of the communities in which they exist. They are the perfect environment for students not only to learn about civics and democratic values, but also to experience democracy in all aspects of school life cultivating the way the students become citizens. In a democratic school students and teachers should participate equally in the shaping of school life, thus realising their right to have a say on matters that affect them. The activities in this project aim to support students in promoting democratic values within their school communities ensuring that students understand their rights and responsibilities and have strategies for building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all.
The overall aim is to share school democratic values, with others! Children will recognize that their actions affect themselves but also others. Our “HanDS” project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls, too. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls and teach about Democracy, at the same time. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner schools. Therefore, citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum. All in all,our aims are: To prepare students for their future role as citizens To provide students with opportunities for learning in a democratic environment To promote active participation and responsibility in the school environment To improve students’ communication, collaboration, decision- making and problem- solving skills
The tasks, will be set by all partner schools; the activities and work produced will be shared on twinspace by the schools, on a monthly basis and the work process will be communicated using the journal, on a weekly basis. Depending on the activity, pupils will have the opportunity to work independently or with talk partners and will have membership / access to twinspace to share and see the other school’s work and join in forums. Children will also have the opportunity to work in mixed ability groups in each school or in teams of pupils in different schools, sharing responsibilities. They will also have to work in teams, to think of ideas about collaborative projects and about the hand-print crafts, to fill the parcels that will be sent to the other schools, on different topics. Those parcels will have themes, such as:school life in the past, school life at present ,a day in a democratic school etc The project, works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and parcel exchanges, by post.
Children will learn about civics and democratic values, but also experience democracy in all aspects of school life,through their dialogue, written work and the parcels that they will send and receive! Children will also practice writing and communicating in English and children in all countries will familiarize themselves with aspects of each other’s school life, promoting democratic values within their school communities.
Our project, helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and values , enhance democracy in the school environment and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding others”.The process is always constantly about learning to learn collaboratively, building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all. The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and participate equally in the shaping of school life .
Schools ,all over the World, have made many changes to keep students and teachers safe during the school year, and class Halloween celebrations have seen changes too.
All teachers, have to follow social distancing and other COVID protocols, every day.
Halloween was very different , in my classes,this year,as well.
With social distancing in place , many of the games and activities we love doing at Halloween were simply not possible this year.
As such, it has been quite difficult for me as a teacher ,to come up with fun Halloween games to do while safely social distancing.
Keep Your Distance
Ηere’s my list of fun social distancing Halloween games and activities that our students can safely do while keeping their distance from others. They worked in my class. I do hope, they will work in yours, as well.
What is it about Halloween that I love so much ? It’s its FUN element, I guess!
Therefore, I decided to try and bring some Halloween spirit to my class this weird year.
I attempted to teach my students Halloween themed lessons, and to elicit some excitement from them, following the protocols. I feel that we, at least, paid Halloween a pretty good tribute, against all odds.
A few of my favourite non-contact Halloween active gamesand activities
The first day I started thinking about how to teach about Halloween safely, for both my students and me, I ran into this highly inspiring English Teacher’s video, on Facebook! I decided to give it a try and see if it worked with my very young learners ! Guess what: it did!! We just loved it!
If you’re looking for a spooky activity to do with your students this HalloweenHere’s an idea…Make your own Mini Puppet Theatre (out of a cereal box) and sing-along with 6 monster stick puppets. Watch the video to know more!
Another great game I ran into and decided to use in my classes ,both synchronously and asynchronously, is this one, below. I found even more social distancing teaching ideas for Halloween party games to try with my classes, in this amazing site.
Draw A Monster Game
That was a great game to play at Halloween while social distancing. In that game, the kids drew a monster.
To play, I asked each student to grab a piece of paper and something to draw with and then played the video. In the video, the students read a description of a monster. After reading the description, they tried to draw what they thought the monster looked like based on that description.
Once students finished their drawing, I/they played the video to see what the monster looked like.
My students, really loved this kind of activity, especially when their monster drawings looked very similar to the monster in the video. I asked them to work on this video at home, using our asynchronous e-me hive platform but you can follow the same steps, in a school class.
This activity can be easily done at Halloween while social distancing as the students can stay in their seats while they draw their monster, and do not need to be close to or share resources with others.
This next social distancing Halloween game is a Halloween themed BINGO game.
To play, the students were asked to create a Halloween vocabulary Bingo card, in their notebooks, using any 9 Halloween vocabualry words/pictures they wished.
Next, I called out one of the Halloween words, in our vocabulary list, for example ‘ghost’. Then, the students should check their bingo card. If the ghost word/picture is on their card, then they had to cross that Halloween word/picture out.
Then, I called out another Halloween word and again students should check if that word was in their card and if it was, they should cross it out, again. The first student who crossed out all their Halloween words/pictures, was the winner.
Halloween Costume Fashion Show
This social distancing Halloween activity idea is a great way to let kids strut their stuff and show off their fun and scary Halloween costumes.
I always set up an area to be your ‘Halloween catwalk’ and then invite students one by one to walk down the catwalk and show off their great Halloween costumes.
This year, I did that with my 4th graders ,after I had sent them a Halloween vocabulary quizlet and thesetwo relevant songs/videos, in our asynchronous class, first!
I also asked them to visit this , as well as that Thinglink walls , before they decided about what to dress up ,in our school classroom.
To make it feel even more like a fashion show, I snapped some pictures of them in their costumes and shared them with the students’ parents, in our asynchronous class!
Halloween Word Search
I am sure that we all have used word search worksheets ,to get our kids familiar with some Halloween vocabulary. But this online Halloween activity also has the added benefit of being perfectly safe to do while keeping a safe distance from others.
Another cool web tool , which I personally used to create my own word search activities was Liveworksheets. A free teaching web tool, you will love!
Halloween Charades Game
With a little preparation, this classic party game can be turned into a safe social distancing Halloween game.
If you’re not familiar with charades, in this game one person would choose a card -or to make sure this Halloween game can be played while safely social distancing,the teacher shows him/her a card- and then try to act out what is on the card without using any words or sounds.
To make it into a Halloween game, I simply used cards with Halloween related things on them. For example,I wrote/drew Halloween words (ghost, witch, broomstick, etc), Halloween songs (The Monster Mash, etc) or Halloween Movies (Night of The Living Dead, etc). It’s diffrent ,for each different age/level we teach.
I ensured the student acting out the word and the students guessing the word were all at a safe distance.
Usually, these quizzes would be played in pairs or small teams, but seen as that is not possible while social distancing, these quizzes can be played individually, both at home asynchronously ,or in class, using a projector and working in teams.
I personally create my own quizzes, such as this one, on a favourite web tool which is similar to Kahoot, called Quizziz.
Students, love it!
I thought that, this classic classroom game could be easily adapted so my students could play while social distancing.
This time, I decided to use my Halloween flashcards, to play this game.
I asked one student to come to front of the class and stand / sit at a safe distance from other students. Then standing behind the student I showed the rest of the class a flashcard.
Next, the students tried to describe the word on the flashcard without saying the word, and the student at the front of the class should guess what it was. Super fun!
We played apple bobbing and dangling donuts
Apple bobbing – I gave each student their own apple in their own bowl of water, or asked them to hold their own apple tied onto a string and challenged them to take a bite without touching it.I made it a race and gave the winner a prize.
Dangling donuts – Each student held their own donut tied onto a string. They took it in turns to dangle a donut for each other. The challenge was to eat it with no hands, as fast as possible.
Detail 1: there was spooky music playing ,in the background!
Detail 2: My students ,had to watch a couple of videos similar to this one, in our asynchronous class, when at home, before they attended our school class.
In our asynchronous “e-me hive“, my students had the chance to watch several videos, such as this one, or this one, follow the directions there and make their favourite crafts and decorations to bring back to class, the following day.
I decided to ask my amazing 4th graders to watch a video with instructions about how to make paper ghosts using their footprints, at home, and make them ,either themselves or with their parents’ help. Then, they were asked to write about them and decorate their classroom bulletin board with them, after they had presented them in class, of course! Cute!
Let’s make spooky food
What better time to indulge in some jaw-droppingly tasty sweets, than Halloween time?
First, I posted a few delicious Halloween treats ideas, to our asynchronous class and asked my students to watch and prepare their favourite treats, bring them to school and share them, in our Halloween party ! Yummy!
A pumpkin carving contest
I suggest that you treat everyone in the class to their very own pumpkin and see who can come up with the best design. Ι have come to the conclusion that a safe way to get little kids involved is to post a video with instructions in an asynchronous teaching platform and tell them to ask their parents to do the cutting for them, first. Then let them scoop out the insides with a spoon. This how to carve a pumpkin beginners’ guide is a great place to start. This is where we started, in our school classroom.
Another nice video, which I posted in our asynchronous hive, to help my older students curve their pumpkins at home, was this one. For my younger learners, I used this video.
I hope, you will like them as much as we did!
Have a ‘scary’ movie night, at home-or a scary movie…. day, at school
At first, I told them that, during Halloween nights, the people who celebrate it take some tasty Halloween treats and wear their Halloween costumes or some cool Halloween PJs like these glow-in-the-dark skeleton ones.
Then, I asked them to watch the short film extracts ,which I had created, using one of my most favourite web teaching tools: edpuzzle, asynchronously, together with their families.
I even offered them a choice of several other Halloween themed movies, to watch at home, using Quizlet.
Make a spooky music playlist
From Michael Jackson’s Thriller to the Ghostbusters theme tune, I decided to have lots of class fun compiling a spooky playlist to listen to, together with my students. I thought it was safe, to post the lyrics to our asynchronous class first and later,with the use of a projector, have a Halloween karaoke competition, in the school classroom ! It was so much fun! Although, it didn’t last long ,since our teaching hours last only about 40 minutes ! My students were given the opportunity to sing the songs again and again, at home, too, thanks, to our asynchronous class platform posts.
For my very young learners, I did the very same thing , using their favourite Halloween songs, such as this one , this one or even this one!
We all danced and sang happily- in safe distances, of course!
You don’t have to read a book on the page to write a story report. This Halloween, instead of having my students listen to an audiobook or story, I decided to have my wicked witch puppet, Amelia present herself to the class!
It was an active listening activity, using puppetry! I asked them to keep notes, while listening.
Then I had them write a story report based on what they heard, or give a summary of the story to our asynchronous class, in a padlet presentation.
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 manyschools 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.
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.
-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 Wizardof 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.
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
Research Says: The benefits of using games in the classroom are various. they “range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more cooperative group dynamics.” Games also lower the affective filter and encourage “creative and spontaneous use of language,” promote “communicative competence.” What’s more—games are fun.
Treasure hunts (aka scavenger hunts) can be arranged in a variety of ways, and so they are suitable for any level.
Here’s one of the things I do, with my junior classes :
I bring a “Magic Box ” in class and ask my students to fill it in, with …”magic things”!
They make their own word cards, with their favorite “magic items ” on . They are asked to draw items, based on vocabulary studied.
I hide these vocabulary cards around the room and use verbal, visual or audio clues, to direct the students to where the cards are. (They can only keep the card if they can name the item, or pronounce/spell what’s on the card correctly). I generally only let one student loose at a time to prevent scrapping !…
I love working on Treasure hunt games, with my junior classes, the most.
Of course, as the students progress we can make the treasure hunt (clues etc.) more difficult.
How to Play
Students are divided into groups.
Each group has a list of items/cards to find.
The rules are explained: Students are to find as many items as they can within an allotted time period. They can find the items in any order, but the team must stay together.
Inform players of the area of the hunt.
When the time limit is up, the teams meet at the designated spot.
Each group responds with their card item spelling/definition/ etc.
If they do it right, the team is awarded one point.
The team with the most points wins.
How to Make It
First, prepare the list or cards of items to find
Make sure the items can be “found” in the area that you have the scavenger hunt.
Select items based on vocabulary studied.
Students can each submit a card/item to be found.
With older students, you can use clues, with a certain part of speech (e.g., adjective or adverb).
The game concludes after so many cards are found instead of being limited by a certain time frame.
Each June, my students and me, get to celebrate all of the learning, hard work, and progress that we have made with end of the year activities, in class.
After a long school year, creating and planning activities for an end of the year celebration is the last thing on my mind. There are always end-of-year assessments, data entry, deadlines, assemblies, and the usual chaos that stands at the forefront, but I still want to do some special activities with my classes. I have tried several awesome activities that work, all these years! I save time by providing end-of-year activities for my students that are ready to decorate! Sharing here, some exciting ideas that double as great keepsakes:
Most of these ideas, which I have tested in class, with huge success, come from this site.
BALLOON TOSS: GOALS FOR THE FUTURE
I give each of my older students, a slip of paper and invite him or her to write one goal for the future.
I have students slip the notes inside balloons and then inflate them. Later, I have them toss balloons (like graduation caps), keeping one to pop and share its (anonymously) written message aloud –with the rest of the class.
(Actually, work the last part out in a way that the majority of the group likes—read one message, several messages, or all or no messages)
My 6th graders, simply love this activity! Alternatively, you could try the…
“Fortune Cookie” Balloon Toss
I have a brainstorming session with students about the adventures of summer and all of the good things that might happen. I have every student write one positive “fortune” on a pre-cut slip of paper such as “You will go on a marvelous adventure,” “You will achieve your goals,” “You will make a new friend,” etc. Each student will put his or her slip into a balloon, inflate it and tie it off. We make a large circle and play a song. I have students toss balloons around until the music stops. Each student should end up with one balloon. Using whatever means they like (sitting on it, using a sharp pencil, hair clip, etc.), students pop their balloons and read their fortunes. I go around the circle and have each student share his or her fortune aloud.
THANKS FOR THE COMPLIMENT
(A nice way to end the school year! Especially with older students or the ones who graduate) Need: Paper, markers, tape
1. Everyone gets a piece of paper taped to their back. (Make sure their name is at the top of the paper.)
2. Each person is given a marker.
3. Each person in the group must walk around the room and write a compliment or positive remark about that person on their back….. NO PEEKING!
4. When everyone has written something positive on each others back, they return to their seat and read what was written.
5. With a smaller group, everyone exchanges papers without looking at their own. Each participant can take a turn at reading aloud from person’s list they have.
This is a great self-esteem booster for kids! If some children still don’t know each other very well…they can write such things as: You have a great smile; You’re hair always looks nice; Great blue eyes; etc.
At the end of the year I have each younger student make an autograph book. They pass around their books and get everyone’s signatures and special notes ,for a summer keepsake.
IDEA: TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS DURING THE YEAR and put together a slide show.
I do it, every single year! Both parents and students, appreciate it!
‘Indoor or Outdoor FIELD DAY’ ideas
All children love playground games and some movement is crucial, when it comes to young learners. I usually, pre-teach the instructions and basic English games vocabulary in class, before we move out to play.
Potato Sack Races (using old pillow cases or sacks purchased from Oriental Trading or similar supplier)
Shoe Mix-Up: Have children take off their shoes and mix up the whole pile; have them race to put the shoes back on.
Tug of War: Using a huge rope have Kids vs. Kids and then play with Kids vs. Adults (They’ll like that one!)
Sock Throw: Put a tennis ball into a long sock and have kids throw it to see who can throw it the furthest!
How about the games played in ‘Summer Olympic Games’ such as:SOFTBALL, FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, HANDBALL, HOCKEY, TENNIS OR VOLLEYBALL? They’re all Summer Olympic Games!!!
A LETTER TO PARENTS AT THE END OF THE YEAR…
This letter below, is just one example. It’s a tradition for me, to write a letter to all parents, both at the beginning and at the end of each school year! I include all our goals and achievements. It works well, so far.
I give you back your child ~ the same child you confidently entrusted to my care last fall. I give him/her back pounds heavier, inches taller, months wiser, more responsible, and more mature then he was then.
Although he would have attained his growth in spite of me, it has been my pleasure and privilege to watch his personality unfold day by day and marvel at this splendid miracle of development.
Ten years from now if we met on the street, we’ll feel the bond of understanding once more, this bond we feel today.
We have lived, laughed, played, studied, learned, and enriched our lives together this year. I wish it could go on indefinitely, but give him/back I must. Take care of him, (or her) for he (she) is precious. I’ll always be interested in your child and his destiny, wherever he goes, whatever he does, whoever he becomes.
This school year, I made up some fun and unique awards for my older students. Together with the students in class, we found something unique about EACH CHILD and recognized them for that unique quality.I created the awards myself on a PC but you can also download a template from the internet.
A suggestion I have found here and we loved, in class:
We made up awards to match candy bars (I personally, adapted the names a bit…Had to match candy bars, we can buy in Greece ). Here are the names, in the original post :
ALMOND JOY AWARD: For the person who is always happy
BIT-O-HONEY AWARD: For someone very sweet
BUTTERFINGER AWARD: For the person who broke the most things
DOVE AWARD: For the program/class peacemaker
GUMMY BEARS AWARD: For a very lovable child, who is always laughing
JOLLY RANCHER AWARD: For the person always telling jokes
KIT KAT AWARD: For the student always at the teacher’s side
LAFFY TAFFY AWARD: For someone with a sweet disposition
LIFESAVERS AWARD: For the person, who is always helping someone in need
MILKY WAY AWARD: For the group daydreamer
MR. GOODBAR AWARD: For the student who exhibits the good qualities of friendship
NESTLE CRUNCH AWARD: An alternative to pencil chewing
NUTRAGEOUS AWARD: For an outstanding personality
NUTRAGEOUS AWARD: for the wild and crazy person in class
SKOR AWARD: For athletes in the class
SNICKERS AWARD: For having an outstanding sense of humor
SWEET TARTS AWARD: For a sweet girl/boy
SYMPHONY AWARD: For anyone musical
TEDDY GRAHAMS AWARD: For the most huggable
THREE MUSKETEERS AWARD: For the one always with the group
WHOPPERS AWARD: For the best storytelling
ZERO MATH AWARD: For outstanding performance in Math
I have each student write out one memorable moment from the school year on a slip of paper. I collect all the slips in a bag, hat, etc. I divide kids into teams and have them come up one team at a time, choose a slip and act out the memory for the group. No need to keep score—the goal is just to relive all the happy memories from the year and…use their English , of course…
Alternatively, I have them write their “End of School Year Reflections”-my own favourite end-of-school-year read!
“I Remember When …” Mural
This is a great activity when we have a few extra minutes to fill or when kids need a short brain break. I always use it ,on the very last day in class. I decorate the top of a long piece of butcher paper with the words “I Remember When …” -older students – or ” I want to say goodbye to…” -younger students- in large print. I allow students to write and draw favorite memories from the school year until all the space is filled. We display our banner proudly in our classroom or out in the hall for others to enjoy.
Puppets are a great way to encourage and motivate your pre-primary learners when learning a new language.
Here, Kathryn Harper, gives her top ten tips for using a puppet in the classroom.
1) Greetings and routines: “Hello. How are you?”
Establishing predictable routines is extremely important in the pre-primary classroom to help with classroom management. With routines, children quickly get to understand what’s expected of them, giving them the confidence to learn and achieve more.
A great way to use the class puppet is for routines. The puppet can greet and say goodbye to the children when they come in or leave the class, and elicit information from them, for example, “How are you today?”
The children will be comfortable and interested in replying to the puppet, and even the shyest child will want to interact with it in this way.
By using the puppet regularly for specific activities such as ‘Reading time’ or ‘Goodbye time’, you can move from one activity to the next seamlessly, keeping your students motivated and engaged.
2) Creating affective conditions
One of the pre-conditions for learning is for children to feel comfortable, secure, and in a nurturing environment. The presence of a class puppet can help reinforce this ‘safe’, affectionate space.
Here’s how to create this space using your puppet:
Puppets, particularly a soft one, can give cuddles to the children. This creates an instant warm reaction with the children.
Children can express affection towards the puppet by stroking it, patting its head etc. This contact can be extremely important in breaking down barriers, relaxing the children, and enabling physical expression.
The puppet can comfort children if they are sad, for example, they can sit with the puppet. The puppet keeps children comforted and includes them in the class.
The puppet can be emotional when you can’t, for example, show anger or cry. This is a great way for children to learn about different emotions.
3) Using humour to animate the classroom
As a teacher, you know that getting and keeping the attention of a class full of little ones can be a challenge when it’s just you up at the front of the class. Having a class puppet can suddenly make everything more interesting for your students, and is a great way to animate your class. Used in the right doses, the puppet can keep the attention of your students in many ways:
By doing funny or unusual things.
By showing reactions or emotions that might not be acceptable.
By creating a focus to an otherwise boring event.
By interacting with you.
4) Being allowed to get things wrong
Learning from mistakes and helping children see the good side of getting things wrong is key for their development. The puppet can be a huge confidence booster to your students, by showing them that it’s perfectly normal to get things wrong. It can do this by:
Showing the children that it doesn’t understand everything – and that’s alright!
Making fun of itself when it doesn’t understand –taking the pressure off children to get things perfect first time.
Letting the children play at being the teacher.
Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!
5) Modelling activities
When it comes to new activities and role plays, puppets can make the best partners. The puppet can attempt the role play and make a few mistakes. This shows students that it’s fine if they don’t get things right first time. Eventually, the puppet will complete the role play correctly and provide the perfect model for the children.
6) Acting out
One of the most effective and involving activities for children is acting out stories or situations. Of course the children could be the actors themselves, but if they use puppets, it liberates them and gives them greater creative licence. In particular, shy children can come alive using puppets as it takes the focus off them. What’s more, children with lower linguistic levels can be just as engaged with puppets because they can react visually through actions when they don’t have words.
7) Helping create stories or storytelling
Following on from number six, the next step is for children to create their own stories or follow on from an existing one. For this, you will need more than one puppet but you can easily get kids to bring in some of their cuddly toys, or make your own! When children tell their own stories, you really know they are engaged, their brains are working, and they have something to say.
This is a great activity to get the whole class participating. It can be very casual and short, or more involved and set up with props depending on your class size, the confidence of your students, or the learning outcomes you have set.
8) Being a target for activities
Activities are a lot more fun when a puppet is playing along. For example, if you are working on furniture vocabulary, you could play games such as ‘Where’s the puppet?’ – “He’s on the chair!” Or for classroom objects, you could play ‘What’s in the puppet’s bag?’ You can play games in which you pass the puppet around the class until someone says a particular word, and you could even play ‘Puppet says’ (instead of ‘Simon says’). The variations are endless. Have fun including the puppet in class games, and see your students’ participation soar!
9) The puppet as a a ‘prize’
The puppet is a tool for helping students learn how to behave in class, and as such, it can be used as a reward or a prize to incentivise good behaviour or hard work. Some ways you could use the puppet as a reward include:
holding the puppet for the rest of the class
leading the class in a song as ‘the puppet’
saying ‘Goodbye’ to everyone as ‘the puppet’
Children will be proud to take responsibility for the puppet during the class, and know they must look after it carefully.
10) Making puppets and creating a persona
Making puppets can become a great cross-curricular activity in itself and develop students’ fine motor skills. Get the children to create puppets reflecting characters from their English coursebook or their favourite stories, reflecting themselves or their chosen imaginary characters. By investing with the actual making of these puppets, role play or storytelling will become a lot more personal to the students.
Puppet making can be very simple or more complex. You can make puppets out of socks or paper bags. Finger puppets can be made out of felt, wool, paper or other materials, or even stick puppets made from lollypop sticks. There a lots of other ways to make great puppets so have fun getting crafty with your students! Looking for some templates to help you get started? Here are some finger puppets featuring some of the much loved characters from OUP’s Show and Tell series!
Kathryn Harper has a background in ELT teaching in both France and Canada. She worked in publishing for 10 years as a grammar and reference editor (OUP), developing-world schools and ELT publisher (OUP and Macmillan), and ELT publisher for Latin America (Macmillan). She has written educational materials for the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, and is one of the authors of the pre-primary course Show and Tell (OUP).
My non European colleagues, often ask me what eTwinning is all about!
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.
There are, also, special quality labels, for students, teachers and schools!
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.
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.
About our project, this year
PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists
Our Flat Puppet Tourist Project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools. Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest . Partners have to add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year in the host country .
Partners should also, upload photos,and/or videos, of their puppet tourist’s adventures on twinspace. Additionally, they exchange letters, postcards and souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s visits and experiences, by post .
All in all, children exchange ideas, photographs, questions and culture with students abroad, focusing on literacy and citizenship.
Our Puppet Tourist project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class we connect with is in another local school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.
Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” ,whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest , Partners have and add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year as well as their Summer, in the host country and have written about their Summer adventures in their Summer diaries .
Partners should also, upload photos/videos , of their puppet tourist adventures . Additionally, they exchange postcards and little souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s experiences, by post . The final product of the project ,could be a collaboratively written puppet play or short film script .
The project works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and letter and parcel exchanges, by post.
eTwinning helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures, enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”. So, regardless of the subject matter or the tools we use, the process is always constantly about learning to learn responsibly, actively and collaboratively. The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and have a great deal of fun working collaboratively on the many different projects.
Reading the personal responses of their European partners, may give students a greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview. The project can also bring the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students will be able to “travel” abroad, as flat puppets and experience life in a different country and class for a whole school year sharing and comparing our ways of life and making new friends.