Teaching online ideas and tools: An educational response to Covid-19 pandemic-a guest blog post, by Maria Polychrou

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My blog has always been open to English teachers who wish to share their inspiring work with the educational community! This time, I have decided to ask our colleague Maria Polychrou to share her creative ideas, in a guest blog post and she has kindly agreed to write about her covid19 teaching experience.

During the pandemic, many educators-including Maria Polychrou and me- have looked to their professional learning networks on social media for encouragement through virtual book clubsTwitter chats, Facebook groups, or wellness challenges.

I firmly believe that, in the weeks and months ahead, we must all consider: What can we do for others?  How can we fully embrace the ethics of care?  At the core of this principle is educational altruism, or selfless concern for other educators, students, and their families.

Mainly because digital practices are so portable, teachers can easily share resources with colleagues within the same school and across schools, countries, and even continents. We seem to have entered a new reality in which collaboration is no longer a luxury; instead, it is a lifeline that allows for teachers to learn about new digital tools, to integrate new teaching activities (both high-tech and low-tech), and to share responsibility for creating online or take-home resources.

I’ve always spoken about the importance of collaboration among teachers. To me, there’s no better time like the present, to come together and help each other navigate these challenging times. Now is the time to focus on the human impact technology has on teachers’ and students’ lives, and collectively recognize the critical role technology plays in human connections, creative educational pursuits, and education, in general.

The best part about the benefits of teacher collaboration is that they can be a reality—as they are in so many learning communities around the world.

I am consistently amazed at the tireless and heroic work of fellow teachers at every level of education, especially under the circumstances! Frankly, I see many teachers who deserve a standing ovation every day for their high-quality work.

Maria Polychrou, is definitely, one of them!

Teaching is by far one of the more noble and influential professions on the planet. English teachers, in particular, can and do make a difference every day in the lives of children and families.

We all agree that no teacher gets up in the morning and says, ‘I think I will just be mediocre today.’ Teachers want to do a good job, and given the proper environment and encouragement, they will. The strongest motivators are not monetary rewards or benefits. Teachers want to be appreciated for what they do. And when their colleagues give recognition and appreciation on their behalf, teachers do their best.

Enjoy reading Maria’s article! I bet, you will find it inspiring and useful!

These are just a few tools and ideas that can help ensure continuous learning during this Coronavirus pandemic.
But, as we all already know, no technology will be able to replace our expertise, our enthusiasm, and our human approach to education!

Feel free to comment and share your experiences!

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Hello!! I’m Maria Polychrou and I am an English teacher and an oral examiner in Tesol Examinations in Thessaloniki! My educational background (M.A. in Theatre Studies and Ph.D. in Theatre, Intercultural Education and Teaching English as a Second language) and my involvement in many Erasmus programs, both in Greece and abroad, dealing with diversity and intercultural awareness through the use of theatre and drama,  can reveal my passion for theatre. That’s why I have been trying to use, promote, and explore educational programs based on theatre and drama techniques in English Teaching. Puppetry, Forum Theatre, Image Theatre are some of the resources of my inspiration in class.

 These resources of inspiration are what I have been trying to share with my colleagues in my presentations in different seminars and conferences over the past few years.

It was during such a conference that I met Ms. Aphrodite Gkiouris. It was the 27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference in Thessaloniki last February when we first talked face to face in the backyard of the American College.

And this is something I will never forget! Her bright smile and her positive attitude made me feel at ease right away and very soon I admired her blooming character and I realized that she is an active and creative teacher who celebrates interaction among her students and her colleagues! “Sharing is caring” is her motto and I can guarantee you she is the first to share and embrace every new tip, method, and idea in English Teaching!

Thank you Ms. Gkiouris for hosting my article! It was such an honor for me really!!!!

Online teaching sessions                                                                                              Part 1

Wow!! It’s been quarantine time and a whole new era has dawned on teaching. Distance learning was the only way to keep in touch with our students and the whole educational community, both teachers and learners, reserve a Medal of Honor for their relentless efforts. Hats off to those educators who didn’t give up but educated themselves on distance learning and new online teaching tools day and night confronting the obstacles!!

In this article, educators, especially colleagues in kindergarten and primary schools, can find a list of resources and ideas for your online lessons. When you click on the hyperlinks you can access the resources I have used and shared with my students online.

Keeping in mind what my students and I loved doing during our face to face lessons was what has really helped me with online lessons. It has been one of my priorities to make them feel or at least remind them of the connection we have in our classes and the feelings we share. The best way to do it was through storytelling and puppetry. Puppetry online???? Oh yes!! 100% success!!

I resorted to reading books like “A very hungry caterpillar” by Eric Carle and tried to bring these stories alive on their computer screen. Using theatre hats, finger puppets, hand puppets, stick puppets, and shadow theatre, I tried my best to make this brand new online teaching adventure familiar with our live -in-class lessons. And that was when I gained my students’ trust back again. This boosted their attention, their willingness for cooperation, and their pure enthusiasm for English lessons!       

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A great educational tool is Eric Carle’s books through which you can teach vocabulary units such as nutrition, numbers, animals, or talk about bullying, greediness, appearance, acceptance, or nature units such as the circle of life. We read the “Mixed up Chameleon”  and we talked about acceptance and equality!! We talked about how we should appreciate our own capabilities and strengths!! Moreover, you can use “ A very hungry caterpillar” to teach basic food-related vocabulary, numbers, or the days of the week. However, you can expand your teaching and talk about the circle of life of a butterfly and have your students observe their own balcony and their own plants. Moreover, you can talk about healthy eating habits and nutrition and have them look for fruits and vegetables in their own fridge. Such hands-on activities can make your lessons invaluable and the learning experience unforgettable.

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In addition, you can read “ A Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle. Through reading this book you can talk about different kinds of animals or teach time but also you can talk about bullying, empathy, and feelings. It is a great book that can help you bond with your students even more. You can help them talk about their feelings and make them realize that whatever they feel is right. Especially during this quarantine time under the COVID -19 threat, kids can easily sense their parent’s fear or they themselves may feel threatened by this “unseen” enemy. It is good for them and you as well- to share all these feelings the same way you did (hopefully) in your classes! I used my ladybug puppets and students felt even more free to talk about themselves!

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What I also try to do during our online sessions is to have my students active and moving around. It’s so hard for a 4/5-year-old kid to stand still in front of a computer and that is why I try to combine my online reading aloud stories or puppetry shows with kinesthetic songs! Therefore when we read “ From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle, I had my students imitate animals voices and movements. We played “ Simon says” and we listened to songs like “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA48wTGbU7A&t=103s

I dressed up as a native American Indian (Oh yes!!) and we talked about seasons and weather. 

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We even made a magic spell to make the rain go away and of course, we revised family members vocabulary and we listened to the song “Rain, rain go away” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFrKYjrIDs8

When we want to practice the alphabet, I have my students’ parents provide their kids with trays filled with salt and we try to shape our letters with our fingers on the salty surface! I have tried as much as possible to have them make regular activities similar to those in class so as to make them feel that they participate in a “regular” teaching routine!! Then I ask them to look around their houses and try to find things whose name starts with specific letters!! We play the “ I spy “ game as well!. You can use these ideas when teaching colors and shapes as well! Kindergarten kids really loooove looking around and showing parts of their houses to the rest!!

What I also try to do is to combine my teaching with art! That’s why, when I wanted to teach my students the shapes, I introduced Kandisnky!!! What a fun and creative way is to identify shapes through famous paintings!!! You can click on the link to download resources!!)  Afterwards, you can have your students listen to “Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and tell them to create a piece of art in Kandinsky style while being inspired by the music!! You will be surprised !!

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When you click on the links, you can find many pdf files available which include vocabulary activities, board games, printable games. All these files can be a great tool used autonomously or you can combine them with the following online teaching tools!

Enjoy!!! This period was highly beneficial and educational to all of us!! Never give up!! Be the change you want to see!!!!

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Online teaching tools                                                                                             Part 2

I have made a collection of online tools which I found really useful for my online lessons both for young and older students!! Enjoy and set your inspiration free!!

  1. https://padlet.com/

Padlet is great for sharing digital content and improving the engagement of the students. Teachers can create special brainstorm sessions where they invite students to discuss some topics.

Eric Carle’s book review sessions are another great lesson idea. Create a session dedicated to his book and invite the students to share their reviews and comment on the ideas of others.

 

  1. https://socrative.com

Socrative gives an efficient way to monitor and evaluate learning that saves time for educators while delivering  fun and engaging interactions for learners. You can launch a quiz, receive exit tickets (T/F questions, multiple-choice questions) or ask a quick question for instant student feedback.

 

  1. https://www.wolframalpha.com/

Enter a topic or choose from a wide range of knowledge fields! A great tool for teachers and students!!!

 

  1. https://trello.com/

Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way. Think of Trello as a virtual “idea board.” In Trello, you can create as many boards as you want with lists and cards. The boards can then be discussed, collaborated upon, and manipulated to create a visual workflow student can check in with each other using discussions on a particular card. They can attach pictures and files, and then assemble all cards into one final project.

 

  1. http://www.scribblar.com/

It is an online collaboration platform that is perfect for students because it provides many incentives for teamwork as well as great technology to engage in creative work.

 

  1. https://www.edmodo.com/

Edmodo is an educational tool that connects teachers and students and is assimilated into a social network. In this one, teachers can create online collaborative groups, administer and provide educational materials, measure student performance, and communicate with parents, among other functions

  1. https://projeqt.com

Projeqt is a tool that allows you to create multimedia presentations, with dynamic slides in which you can embed interactive maps, links, online quizzes, Twitter timelines, and videos,

 

  1. https://www.thinglink.com/

Thinglink allows educators to create interactive images with music, sounds, texts, and photographs.

 

  1. https://edpuzzle.com/

You can introduce students to self-paced learning with interactive video lessons. It’s easy to add your own voice narration and questions!

 

  1. https://storybird.com/

Storybird aims to promote writing and reading skills in students through storytelling. In this tool, teachers can create interactive and artistic books online.

 

  1. https://animoto.com/

Animoto is a digital tool that allows you to create high-quality videos.

 

  1. https://www.ck12.org/student/

You can have your own students explore many fields like chemistry, maths, English. You can even find content for your own lessons through books and educational material which can be modified and contain videos, audios, and interactive exercises.

 

  1. https://kahoot.it/

Kahoot! is an educational platform that is based on games and questions. Through this tool, teachers can create questionnaires, discussions, or surveys that complement academic lessons.

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  1. https://www.liveworksheets.com/

Liveworksheets transforms your traditional printable worksheets into self-correcting interactive exercises that the students can do online and send to the teacher.

 

  1. https://wordwall.net/

You can make custom activities for your classroom such as quizzes, matchups, word games, crosswords, labeled diagrams, random wheels. It’s great really!

 

  1. https://www.storyjumper.com/

It’s a great way to create, narrate, and publish your students’ books. You can have them create their own characters, plot, or add their own voice!!

 

  1. https://web.creaza.com/en/help/create-a-cartoon 

Your class can create your own cartoon!

 

  1. https://www.mindomo.com/

Mindomo lets you create mind maps and presentations with text, links, images, video, and audio. Combine content from the web with Mindomo’s built-in library and your own uploaded files. It is also possible to collaborate in real-time.

 

  1. AudioEditor allows you to create exciting podcasts and audio mixes. The tool contains hundreds of audio clips, music as well as sound effects. These can be combined with audio recordings and your own uploaded audio files.

 

  1. https://www.mysimpleshow.com/

Use mysimpleshow in the classroom with your students or contribute to open educational resources. Introduce, summarize, and explain topics worth sharing. All you need to do is upload a script and your animated video is created.

 

  1. https://quizizz.com/

A very popular tool among teachers who want to create their own quizzes!

 

  1. https://codekingdoms.com/

Learn how to make your own Minecraft mods with the power of code!

 

  1. https://www.kwizzbit.com/ for quizzes 

 

  1. https://synap.ac/ for quizzes

 

  1. https://testmoz.com/#features for tests creating

 

  1. https://www.vocabtest.com/ for tests creating

 

  1. http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry/poetry_engine.htm

Poetry Idea Engine. Wow!!!!!

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  1. https://freerice.com/categories/english-vocabulary

This unique tool is great for building vocabulary. For every correct answer you choose, 10 grains of rice are raised to help end world hunger through the World Food Programme. While your students play this vocabulary game, they learn while donating food to people in need.

 

  1. https://coggle.it/

A mind-mapping tool designed to understand student thinking.

 

  1. https://dotstorming.com/

A whiteboard app that allows digital sticky notes to be posted and voted on. This tool is best for generating class discussion and brainstorming on different topics and questions.

 

  1. http://www.triventy.com/

A free quiz game platform that allows teachers to create quizzes students take in real-time. These live quizzes provide teachers with real-time data on student understanding of classroom concepts. Students need individual devices to respond to quiz questions.

 

  1. https://www.polleverywhere.com/

Use Poll Everywhere activities to take attendance, give quizzes, and gauge understanding.

 

  1. https://www.pixton.com/

Free comic storyboard!! Excellent!!

 

  1. https://www.naiku.net/

Teachers can easily and quickly create quizzes that students can answer using their mobile devices. Great for checking for understanding before and after a lesson.

 

  1. https://www.gosoapbox.com/ and Confusion barometer https://www.gosoapbox.com/tour/confusion-barometer

The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with the material, or need the teacher to slow down with the click of a button. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during the class. Teachers can monitor the confusion barometer, and if they see a spike in confusion, will know that their students are having trouble with a concept, or that something wasn’t clearly explained.

 

  1. https://lightsailed.com/

An e-reading program that helps teachers support independent reading in students. You can monitor progress and give assessment and feedback in real-time.

 

  1. https://goformative.com/

You can upload any pdf/document/google doc, click to add places for your students to respond, edit any question details and you’re done.

You can also embed content from other websites and try our interactive question types like Show Your Work (drawing), Drag and Drop, Audio Recording, Graphing, or Essay! Create an assignment and get live results from students. Present them with real-time feedback in an instant, too.

 

  1. https://www.focusboosterapp.com/

For those who feel tedious working remotely or alone, it’s a great tool to help themselves beat distractions, procrastinate less, and stay focused. A great Pomodoro timer!

 

  1. https://www.brainpop.com/

animated curricular content (animated lessons, videos, assessments, games, etc.)

 

  1. https://www.twiddla.com/

This is a great tool for those teachers who want to prepare K-12 students for writing college papers because it involves a lot of writing assignments.

 

  1. https://vocaroo.com/

A free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need for software. You can easily embed the recording into slide shows, presentations, or websites. Great for collaborative group work and presentations.

 

  1. Piktochart (https://piktochart.com/)

It uses blocks—dividing up the page into sections that you can build your infographics with by cloning, moving, or deleting what sections you wish.

 

  1. Youtube channels like
  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMRZ0-ci4ifGBF1bJvrcDRQ

A channel with a large number of interactive simulations of experiments in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, used together with the platform https://phet.colorado.edu/. Depending on the subject, it can be used for all school ages.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium

A very interesting channel with a lot of unusual experiments, puzzles, songs that are used as reminders for various scientific concepts (for example, Atomic Bonding). It could be best used for upper primary school grades and secondary school.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos

channel with scientific phenomena presented in a very funny way. It covers a variety of topics, from historical facts to astrophysics problems. Intended for secondary school students, but if adapted and more thoroughly analyzed, it can also be used for upper primary school grades.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDEducation/videos

 A large collection of animated stories about various phenomena – scientific, social, and artistic. Animated stories can be used with the platform TEDed, which provides the opportunity for interactive collaboration between teachers and students, with quizzes, reflections, and reference materials that can be further used.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Creativity in Teaching English is a channel with reading aloud stories using puppets!!

  1. Kindergaarden channels!!
  1. https://www.coolkindergarten.com/

has both language arts and math games for kindergarten plus a small selection of read-aloud and math videos.

  1. https://www.starfall.com/h/

is a classic beginning learner website. Use both the alphabet and learn to read page for the maximum benefit and a couple of the kindergarten math activities are good too.

  1. https://www.readbrightly.com/topics/brightly-storytime/
  2. https://www.freckle.com/ is a differentiation platform with built-in activities for ELA, math, social studies, and science.
  3. https://www.education.com/games/kindergarten/ for free online games 
  4. https://www.neok12.com/ is a collection of free online educational videos, lessons, quizzes, puzzles, and games.

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I hope you found this post useful and interesting!!!

Keep creating!!! Teaching is creativity!! Start promoting theatre and puppets in your lessons!!

Polychrou Maria

Mail: mariapoly87@hotmail.com

Youtube channel: Creativity in Teaching English 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Blog: http://creativityinteaching.blogspot.com/

Teaching outside the BOX

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I’ve always loved all kinds of boxes! I love using and reusing them and teaching my students about how to do the same, using their imagination and creativity! There are great ways to use cardboard boxes in the ESL classroom and here are just a few, to get the idea.

Why Work With Cardboard?

It is SUPREME.

  1. It is (in most cases) free.
  2. It appeals to the environmentally-conscious, pro-recycling parts of our human nature.
  3. It is disposable – toss it back into the recycling bin when you’re done teaching/playing.

Cardboard Box Houses

 

 

Why not make this easy cardboard house, with your class,too? You can watch online videos ,follow the simple step-by-step instructions and help your students decorate their houses. With the help of some small dolls,furniture or action figures, have them act out scenes from a course book story or a tale you’ve read them, for role plays with a twist! You can even teach Grammar , ie the prepositions of place, by having the students move the pieces of toy furniture around the rooms or teach/revise vocabulary, ie colours, parts of the house etc

Dioramas to Die for!

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Dioramas are perfect for capturing a scene from a story – and cardboard boxes are the ideal material for our class diorama. Simply cut out a rectangle from one of the sides of the box, like a window. Then have your class assist you in recreating a scene from a story or book you’ve read.And don’t forget holiday dioramas: from the first Thanksgiving to a spooky graveyard filled with monsters for Halloween, the possibilities are endless!

Landscapes 

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Want to practice asking for and giving directions? How about using a miniature landscape instead of an old, boring, flat map or picture ? Use small cardboard boxes of different sizes, like small cereal or cookie boxes. Have your students create a landscape out of each.The students can make the landscape as detailed as they want .Use action figures to move around and ask for directions. In this last school year’s photo, my creative students created a four Seasons landscape and used it while reciting a poem they had written, about the four Seasons!

Boxed Words

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Set up a Vocabulary Box ,in a corner of the room! Each time a student asks about a word he or she does not understand, go through the following steps:

Write-or have the students write- the word at the top of an index card, the definition (for your older students) or a drawing ( for your younger learners) below that and finally, an example of the word used in a sentence, if you wish.

Put the card in the Vocabulary Box.

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At the end of the week/month (or school year) depending on the number of words accumulated, you can open the box and see how many of the words they still remember, how many they’ve forgotten or not used at all since that day in class, by playing fun vocabulary  games. The day I took this photo, we played a Treasure Hunt Game, using the words in the box.

Mail Box

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Have each of your students write a letter to a classmate or you,the teacher. I always do so, at the beginning and the end of each school year . They get so excited when they receive their reply letters! Then, you can be the postman/woman and deliver them or have another student act as postman/woman. I also use the mailbox for homework assignments or special occasions such as  Christmas, where students get the chance to write to Santa. Watch this tutorial to make an alternative mailbox to mine, in the photos.

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Dolls, Robots and other crafts

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For a fun class role play activity, first have your students create an action figure or any other craft of their choice, out of a cardboard box .When they’re all done, students take turns acting out different role plays, using them! An the end of each school year, you can organise yearly “Art Exhibitions” with all the students’ crafts! Art exhibitions ,offer students a chance to display their work for parents, siblings and classmates.

 

Puppet Theatre

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A cardboard box can easily be turned into a fun puppet theater, for all our class ELT puppet , finger puppet or even shadow theatre plays.

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Here are the instructions about how to make your own shadow puppet theatre.

Class Theatre Hats 

 

I create class theatre props and crowns/hats from cardboard, throughout the school year. The last time I did so, was for the needs of our end-of-the-school-year adaptation of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” .

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Not only are these hats adorable, but very sturdy. After they are constructed you can let the children decorate them with stickers and/or paint.

Playing with a Dice

 

I love using Dice Games to practice vocabulary, in my class! I made  my first class dice , a couple of years ago and have been using all the activities in this post, since then .

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My students love the Dice Games and ask for them, all the time! 

Mystery box

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This is an awesome guessing activity! The “Mystery Box” is a type of prediction game that you can create with simple items that you have in class.

Find a box, such as a shoe box, or any other kind of container which kids can’t see through, such as a cookie tin. Introduce the empty box or tin and discuss how the mystery box game will be played. Outside of the children’s view, place an item inside the box or tin. Ask the children to predict what is inside. If you want, you can let the children hold the box, to see how heavy it is or if it makes any noise bouncing around the box or tin.

Give the children one clue as to what is inside the box. For instance, if you have a teddy bear inside, you can say, “It’s soft.” After the first clue is given, ask the children to guess what might be inside. Repeat the process by giving a second clue, such as, “It’s brown” and then ask the children to guess again.

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They have to guess, by using different modals such as “it must be..”, ” it can’t be..”, “it may be..” etc

All the students who guess right, are given special stickers! If only one student guesses right , she/he is given the item in the mystery box, to take home , as a present.

After showing the kids how to play the game, I ask the children to bring their own  mystery boxes from home, the next day, with an item inside the box for their classmates  to guess what it is.

Our etwinning “CUbeS

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Last school year, we used boxes in our etwinning European project, with huge success!

What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  decided to do was that, students produced a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students  gathered information about their own country and life and mailed it to their partner schools, in Cubes-boxes .Their partners, were responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

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My students felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner schools in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to fill their CUbeS with content.

The Activity Box -for early finishers

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For my early finishers, especially when writing tests, I use a special box!

A box, filled with activities and items of my choice, such as books, magazines, board games, toys, postcards, etc The box also contains small sets of task cards.

100_1818The box can be placed on an easily accessible shelf in the classroom or on the teacher’s desk.When students’ regular classwork/test  is complete, they can take one item at a time, either to their seat so as not to distract other students who are working, and get a quiet moment to relax. They use the materials in the box to practice their English, too. And instead of being just “busy,” students are engaged in creative, complex tasks.Kinesthetic learners, spatial learners, and logical learners ,all love exploring the different possibilities for the box materials as they try to spend their time ,the fun way!

Even better? The prep and management on the teacher’s part is minimal! 

The story telling box

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Using a magic box when we do story telling with our very young learners, is so much fun! I ,personally, love it!

A good example of how to do so, can be found in this Blog post, written by my friend Margarita Kosior. 

Margarita ,is an amazing educator from Thessaloniki! I truly admire her work with storytelling !

I am so grateful that she accepted my invitation, to share one of her stories, in my Blog, a couple of years ago! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!

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The routine, is opening the Magic Box which hides different treasures every time, usually flashcards or realia which appear later in the story.

In case of “Henry Hippo”, she created head bands with the four protagonists in advance and she placed them in the Magic Box. With the use of a magic star and on the sound of the magic words, the Magic Box opens.

Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one headband/item is taken out.

 IDENTITY BOX

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I have used the ‘Identity Box’ activity since I was introduced to it, at Pilgrims ,by my amazing “Teaching Difficult Learners” course teacher trainers Mike Shreeve and Phil Dexter , two years ago. It is  a way to introduce my students to each other (and to me!). I assign it as homework, on the first day and give students 2-3 days to complete it. Alternatively, students could do the project in school and bring in old newspapers and magazines ,in order to decorate their boxes. 

Supplies needed:

Scissors

Glue

Pictures (personal, magazine, etc)

Shoe Box (or box of any kind)

On the outside of the box, all students decorate with images of how they feel others see them OR how they see themselves.

On the inside of the box, older students, decorate with images of how they feel on the inside, what best describes their  identity.

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 Sharing the boxes on the last day of the first week of school is a fun way to conclude this exciting week. 

I have also included an optional “All about me on a Box” writing activity extension.

*For those of you interested in reading about the original idea ,which actually doesn’t have anything to do with children, please, have a look here.

CONCLUSION

When it comes to fun ESL activities, why not think outside the box, or rather in this case inside it?

Why not capitalize on our innate fascination with boxes and the opportunities they hold?

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End of the School Year fun ideas, for YL

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.

AUTOGRAPH BOOK

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.

1.  Of course we can show this as PART OF A YEAR-END SCHOOL EVENT—but it would also be a wonderful “WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION to the new children we will have the next school year.
2.  We could use it to show children and families some of the things we do-how they’re done–and what to expect!

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.

Dear Parents,
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.

Program/Class AWARDS

 

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
    accidentally
  • 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

etc

End-of-Year Charades

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.

 

 

 

“10 ways to use puppets in the ELT classroom”-reposting my favourite Oxford UP article

Today, I am reposting Kathryn Harpers article on the OUP link below, which I have found highly interesting! Hope, you will find it as motivating, as I have.

I have actually used, almost all of the suggested activities below, in class, all these years…!

For those of you following my blog, it’s obvious that, I  love using Puppets, in my classes!

Actually, I believe that, Puppets change the entire classroom, by creating more possibilities for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity. They give students a (sometimes silly) voice and put them in the role of creator. They can also be a co-teacher, a physical avatar, a learning partner, and even facilitate learning by subverting the ego.

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).

Here’s the OUP link:

https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2018/06/08/10-ways-use-puppets-elt/

 

 

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

William Shakespeare claimed that

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

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

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

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

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

My suggestions?

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act out the Dialogue

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

Perform Reader’s Theater

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

Act out the Story

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

Write the Dialogue for a Scene

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

Act out and Put Words to an Emotion

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

Give “Voice” to an Inanimate Object

 

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

After writing them, students can read the monologues aloud.

Create a Character

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

Write a Monologue

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

Mime 

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

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

Improvise

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

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

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

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

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

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

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

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

ABC with bottle caps games and a… Beanstalk !

Have your little ones just mastered the alphabet? Then it is time for a revision! And what could be a better way to revise than by playing a game? After searching online, I found this incredible idea: The ABC Beanstalk on this amazing blog! I tried it and it really worked! Why don’t you give it a try, too?

https://rockinteachermaterials.wordpress.com

I found this idea a great one,  since it can also be used as an in-class project which can later decorate the wall of your classroom! Let’s take it step by step.

Firstly, make sure that your students are familiar with the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Prepare the beanstalk and bring it to the class, but make sure that you haven’t glued the leaves. Give the leaves to your students and ask them to put them in alphabetical order. Then, you can glue the leaves all together.

Now that the beanstalk is ready, it’s time for a board game! Give each student a game piece and ask them to place them at the bottom of the beanstalk. Explain that they have to roll the dice and move forward the number they roll. Once they land on a leaf, they have to say/spell a word starting with that letter.  If not, then they have to move one leaf back. The students who reaches the cloud first is the winner. Make sure you reward the winners! You can give him or her a big sticker. I often play this game in teams and not in pairs, using a big beanstalk poster on the wall. In this case, I award them one point, if they get the word right and a second point , if they manage to spell it right, too.

This is a fun and engaging way to revise the alphabet that your students will certainly love!

Bottle caps games

a)HOW TO PLAY the “Bottle Caps ALPHABET” memory GAME

(1) Make sure that all the caps are messed up so that they aren’t in order.

(2)  Turn all of the caps over so you cannot see the letters anymore.

(3) Place them in neat rows.

(4) A player turns over 2 caps.

….. If there is a match, they put those caps in their own pile and then gets to take another turn.

….. If there is NOT a match, the player then turns the caps back over ( in the same spot that they found them) .   The next player then gets to take a turn.

(5) The game is over when all of the matches are found. The player with the most caps wins the game.

b) The “Bottle caps ALPHABET” word game

(1) Make sure that all the caps are messed up so that they aren’t in order, on the floor.

(2) Divide the class in two teams

(3) Invite two students, representing the two teams,to come where the caps are

(4) Give them one word and ask them to try and write using the bottle caps, as fast as possible!

(5) The fastest student, wins a point for his/her team

(6) The game is over when all of the students have had their turn. The team with the most points, wins the game.

My Pilgrims experience!

The reason I decided to apply for a Comenius grant to be able to go to Pilgrims and attend a professional development course, back in 2011, was the same reason most  teachers go to Pilgrims for: new ideas, to be refreshed and to experience the unique Pilgrims difference, which focuses on our continuous personal and professional development.

Its international environment, ensures you practice and refresh your own English at all times, and also make new friendships, that last a lifetime!  

Six years later, in 2017, I came back to Pilgrims, on a scholarship! The “Bonnie Tsai scholarship” which I am very proud of !  Bonnie, was the Pilgrims Teacher Trainer who changed my teaching, for ever!

Actually, words cannot express how grateful  I am to have been chosen as the scholarship recipient. My professional development has always been of upmost importance to me, and to be rewarded in this way is very humbling. That scholarship was an absolute answer to my prayers, as life does not always go as we plan. I will forever be thankful for this gift, and I cannot thank Pilgrims enough for that.

To learn more about the Bonnie Tsai scholarship, please, visit here.

Back to 2011….What colleagues who had been there before, had assured me of before I arrived there for the first time was that, the Pilgrims Humanistic approach was the key element, which made all the difference.

The Pilgrims Humanistic Approach, in brief:

  • Effective teaching & learning engages the whole person – mind, body and heart
  • The learner is the central person in the act of learning
  • Creativity, involvement and enjoyment are the essential elements for lifelong learning

“Pilgrims, does not teach a method, but teaches people”.

“Wow”! I thought, back then….

After a really long journey from my hometown in central Greece, to Canterbury, which lasted about 15 hours (!!) and suffering from sciatica and terrible pain, I arrived on Kent University campus ,where a lovely young student had been waiting for me, to help me carry my suitcase to my bedroom and help me “with anything else I might need”!

“Thank you Lizzie” I thought….I had no idea that she would have remembered my request to have an assistant waiting for me upon my arrival, to help me with my heavy suitcase ,upstairs!

Lizzie Wojtkowska-Wright is the Business Manager for Pilgrims Teacher Training who ensures all the details of our course with them are managed effortlessly. Lizzie and her team are there to answer all our questions before and during our course, so we can focus on enjoying every minute of it!

I stayed in a basic student bedroom in the college with a private shower and toilet. Including  bed and breakfast.Awesome! My bedroom window had a beautiful view over the little forest surrounding the campus and a couple of little squirrels and bunnies, were the first creatures I could see, every single morning , when I woke up and drew the curtains…

I had some rest and later, I went for a walk around the campus….

Such a beautiful place! Ideal for studying! A paradise!

Residential, teaching and administrative buildings are surrounded by green open spaces, fields and woods. I was within walking distance of all the excellent facilities the university had on offer including a Theatre and Cinema, a Library, a Campus Shop and bookshop, a pharmacy, an off-licence, banks and cashpoints, bistros, bars, cafés, bus stops and launderette.

I later found out, that the University of Kent is less than 20 minutes walk from Canterbury city centre.

One of the best ways to explore was on foot, allowing me to truly admire the historical architecture and exciting atmosphere of Canterbury. I often explored Canterbury and discovered for myself  the beauty of its best known attractions and best kept secrets, history and culture .

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, shopping, country walks, the seaside, or eating out – Canterbury and its surroundings has it all! For example, a short bus drive away lies the quintessential seaside town of Whitstable, featuring beautiful beaches, cafes, art galleries…I will never forget the day I first visited it, with my friends Marta and Jose from Spain and Emma from Holland! We had a blast! I was lucky to visit it again this year, together with my good friend Tulay from Turkey ! Jim and Lizzie, were our hosts and both made us feel very welcome, in their picturesque hometown!

To me, Pilgrims Teacher Training courses empower you to be a highly effective, motivated and inspired teacher. Pilgrims, is its people…

Jim Wright, is the heart and soul of Pilgrims!

Jim is an amazing person, who has been my facebook friend all these years and whom I truly admire and respect.He is a positive thinker, with a great sense of humour!

He is the Principal of Pilgrims Teacher Training in Canterbury and is responsible for the overall management, vision and continued growth of Pilgrims. He is really passionate about creating an environment where inspiration, transformation and feeling good about ourselves are possibilities for all staff and participants.

I saw Jim again, this year and realised that he is such an inspiration himself!

He is a man who understands that greater happiness lies in helping others, not helping himself. Jim is a gentleman: polite, respectful, considerate and attentive to all the trainees’ needs, at Pilgrims! Having integrity, is another very important characteristic of him!

His most important characteristic though, is his positive attitude, which may be difficult to find today,since we live in such a negative society. With his positive attitude, people want to be around him and  share the fun. He seems happy with his life and the world around him and he wants to look out for others and to help them. 

He is one of the Pilgrims smiling faces and always brightening up people’s days.

But, the best part about the Pilgrims experience for me, was the training courses I attended !

By having read their brochure, before I applied, I knew that I would get

  • 22.5 hours per week Training Course
  • Up to 10 additional hours of Afternoon and Evening Activities
  • Work in multinational groups
  • Free Seminars, Workshops and Activities to choose from at 16:00 or 20:00 on 3 or 4 days per week.

These workshops usually include : Idioms Update• Fun with Poetry• Songs and Music• Yoga• Storytelling• Teaching Through Art• NLP• Relaxation Techniques• Using Metaphor •Multiple Intelligences• Shakespeare• Joke Telling• Lexical Approach• British Life & Culture• Folk Dancing• Drama Workshop• Grammar Around You• Tai’ Chi• Alphabet Games• Teaching Pronunciation• The Creative Use of Texts• Salsa Dancing• Celtic Evening

I had my best time in those afternoon classes, where I shared unforgettable fun moments with my international colleagues! Concerning this year,I will never forget the afternoon dancing classes fun!

My most favourite afternoon trainers, back in 2011,were Adrian Underhill who taught me pronunciation through his beautiful music and  Peter Dyer , who utilised his drama experience with his teaching methodology.

Adrian, helped me fix the wrong way I used to pronounce ‘“G” sounds…..Adrian also, taught me how to incorporate his Pron Chart layout into my teaching, first just to help myself, and gradually reveal it to my learners as they became ready for it.

It was the best introduction to the phonemic chart I could ever have had.

He gave me a huge boost of confidence as I realised it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and using the chart as Adrian does was incredibly engaging.

One thing that stood out for me was that he advised us not to wait to use the chart in class until we were ready, but to dive in and go on a journey with the learners.

His  chart is now an integral part of my lessons.

Peter’s classes were aimed at any teacher with a relatively good level of English and they were all about making us feel more relaxed about the way we communicate, to be more responsible about how we fit in with the world both professionally and privately. He used to tell us that, “As teachers, we are actors. Even the  first entrance to a classroom is terribly, terribly important. We need to be aware of our appearance, gestures but voice as well.”

I admire Peter’s work and I have been his fan, all these years! So happy, I managed to attend his afternoon classes again, this year!

In 2011,I decided to attend  Bonnie Tsai’s NLP course which has practically changed the way I have been teaching since then and has deeply influenced me as a person!

For me, Neuro Linguistic Programming was something very new and certainly challenging. I chose it because somewhere deep inside I wanted a change. There was something in my teaching or my approach to teaching that seemed to be missing or out of tune. I was looking for answers that were deep inside of me waiting to be uncovered.

NLP enabled me to explore deeply learning styles and teaching styles.

What I remember the most about that course though, is  the joyful period of giving and receiving little sincere messages of thanks and gratitude, called metaphorically, “FISH.”

I am thankful to Bonnie! I will always be…

In her lifetime, Bonnie inspired many people, like myself, with her natural desire to learn and understand the magic of it. When I heard of her premature death, I prayed to thank her for inspiring me and opening me to change…

Bonnie transformed people’s lives. She became  my mentor and  inspiration !

With her help, I learned to see the teaching process through the student’s perspective and also saw that students have different ways of learning and we have to adapt our methods to the students, not the other way round. She showed me that teaching was not only a profession but an art, and the teacher is an artist that interacts with his/her students in a creative way.

The most vivid memory though was the day, she had us walk outside the classroom , in pairs, one behind the other, freely moving around, dancing or hopping, jumping or running, following our partner’s movement and trying to “walk in his/her shoes” in order to achieve rapport! Rapport is important. We need rapport to influence others, to teach and learn, to achieve difficult tasks in groups and even to mate….

That special day, Bonnie asked ME to be her walking partner! I still remember the feeling…She was walking in front of me, and I had to walk in the same way, avoiding obstacles on the way and forgetting about my own sciatica pain for a while!….Bonnie taught me rapport and humanity.

I still remember the day, Stefania Ballotto, an amazing Teacher Trainer, and Bonnie’s close friend, visited our class to teach us about Brain Gym!

Stefania’s lesson was so inspiring ! The very next day, Bonnie asked me to demonstrate few of those Brain Gym activities! Somehow,that turned out to be the most hilarious lesson, ever..!  Bonnie, thanked me in the end, for…” all that fun”!

As for Stefania Ballotto … I ‘m looking for adjectives to describe this outstanding teacher trainer!

She is so inspiring, caring, dedicated and committed! She is a devoted teacher passionate about her work !

She’s just….Supercalifragilisticexpialidoci ous!! She inspired me, the very first time I saw her teach!

All in all, what I got from the Pilgrims Course was more confidence and now I really believe in myself.

And I also made and kept great friends : inspiring and inspired educators with most of whom we have already  created strong partnerships! They have become members of my precious PLN and we are always there for each other  to help and support.

Pilgrims is a family…..I was so very happy to see Hanna Kryszewska again after so many years, in Thessaloniki, where she was one of last year’s Tesol M.T.N.Greece Convention presenters!

Hanna is a Pilgrims trainer and editor of HLT Magazine, which has been my ELT Bible, all these years! She is such a friendly person and an inspiring educator!

She is also a teacher who believes in a humanistic approach to education ,like me…. Her Tesol MTNGreece Convention workshop, was actually about that approach!

Next time I manage to visit Pilgrims, I do hope to attend one of her classes !

When I told her that it was almost impossible for me to be able to visit Pilgrim’s again because of  the financial crisis in my country and the difficulties in funding opportunities, she rushed to suggest several alternative ways to help me achieve my goal ….

Amazing educators have promoted the Pilgrims Humanistic approach idea ,all these years, among whom:

Hanna Kryszewska, Paul Davis, Adrian Tennant, Magda Zamorska, Mike Shreeve, Daniel Martin, Linda Yael, Peter Dyer, Tim Bowen, Stephania Balloto, Aleksandra Zaparucha, Judit Feher, Isil Boy, Beyza Yilmaz, Julie Wallis and lots more outstanding professionals.

This year, I had the chance to meet a few of these outstanding people ,again: the always smiling Magda Zamorska,Mike Shreeve ( who was one of my two amazing teacher trainers in the “Teaching Difficult Learners” course-the other one was Phil Dexter ),Linda Yael (whose mother comes from Greece..Isn’t that cool? ), Judit Feher(who was Bonnie’s close friend), Julie Wallis ( so very helpful and always there for us all),Marina Marinova (who visited our course class and shared her personal story ,which inspired all of us so much),Mojca Belak ( I noticed that she’s a great dancer, among other things),and Amadeu Marin ( so energetic and fun to be with- like most Spanish people that I know)…..

And of course, for me ,as well as for most teachers that I know,“Pilgrims” calls the incredible Mario Rinvolucri to mind! I first met him in Athens, in one of Tesol Greece Conventions, a few years ago ! Actually , the first time I decided to go to Pilgrims , was because I wanted to see him again!

Mario started teaching English in my country ,Greece in the mid-1960s when there was nothing around called ‘methodology’.

I had been a regular reader of many of his articles in different publications as well as his  “Creative Writing” , before I meet him in person!

The book that deeply influenced my own teaching was “ Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Drama Activities for EFL Students,CUP” .

Actually, I have used most of his books in my career, among which : Humanising Your Coursebook , Dictation: New Methods, New Possibilities , The Confidence Book: Building Trust in the Language Classroom , Using the mother Tongue, Once upon a time and so many more!

Mario, worked for Pilgrims since 1974, a period of 34 years or nearly half a career.

In 1999 , he became the founding editor of Humanising Language Teaching (HLT), my ELT Bible!

Pilgrims, is everything a traditional teacher training center isn’t.

In every moment Pilgrims Teacher Trainers are people that live values that attract positive attention throughout the world.

“Pilgrims is a company we love to work with and for” as they say…

They are so vibrant that new ideas and innovations arise one after another  through co-operation and creative energy.

They stand for the possibility of personal and professional transformation through their own continually transforming leadership, inspiration and coaching.

Conclusion:

People in Pilgrims, believe in a humanistic approach to language acquisition and to personal growth.

They have an overwhelming passion to develop the confidence of all our learners and guide them with support and enthusiasm to achieve their goals.

Pilgrims is a worldwide community of passionate people. Join them! I have!

P.S To know more about Pilgrims and how to apply for a course, you can visit its site. Dare to live the Pilgrims experience!

 

“PuppETs-European Travelers”: an amazing ETwinning project!

This old time classic pen pals project, gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language and helped the students experience education in a different country through European citizenship ,using Arts and crafts and a new tool: twinspace!

The project lasted  a school year and we had to complete many individual items . We had to create common projects about: ourselves, our school, our country , our town ,our favourite sports and hobbies, our customs and special traditions, our most favourite place in our countries , our daily routine and habits and also ,create our pen pals as PUPPETS , reading their appearance descriptions and looking at their self-portraits ! We lived in another country, as our school and country ambassadors, and experienced life in another class, far away from home, for one school year! Puppet-students, wrote on their twinspace diaries about their adventures and collaboratively wrote and put on stage, a puppet play about their experience! Our projects and letters were both sent to our friends by snail mail and uploaded on twinspace, to share and compare, in a different class.

Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity 

This was a new and innovative partnership for my school; It was the first time the students participated in such an innovative ETwinning project.

Both, group work and independent research was used  by pupils.

The innovation and creativity of the project is based on the following factors:

1.The willingness of the teachers involved to communicate easily – via phone, email, sms

2.All partner  schools being inclusive of each other, working as one unit on each common project

3.That the children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner school in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to create their puppet pals and write/stage their puppet plays.

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

5.The student-Puppet-Ambassadors, created by and for the students ,served as a  meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our friends.

6.Our student-Puppets project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. It gave our students a chance, to see a world outside of their walls.Students,  became fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

7.Our ETwinning project, encouraged cooperation between teachers and unified learning. It also offered us the chance to collaborate with the local Puppet Theatre and museum,which was highly beneficial for all of us.

The scope of learning widened from English skills to several other subjects. The idea of being   partners in a European project, encouraged the pupils to find out more about different European countries, their nature, art, food and ways  of living. In the context of European partnerships,our work  provided in the shared learning environment were not only learning material, but were a meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our partners.

  1. In this sense, the true revelation has been that apart from climate and language, people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation.

Curricular integration 

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

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

This fitted well into the Curriculum and all my  pupils  benefited.  Our  project involved MFL, language, social studies, expressive arts and basic technology.

We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had “Puppet Theatre” days, when our student-puppet-guests, presented their projects about their country and way of life, to us! It was exciting to lend them our voices and have them “talk” to us-we could also ask them questions! We later,uploaded all the photos  on our Twinspace “Puppet Diaries”, where everyone could make comments or just read, share and compare ideas, thoughts and feelings.Finally, we were invited to take part in a local Puppet Theatre Festival, where we had the chance to present our play to the local community!

A second focus was citizenship. By exchanging information about each other’s towns, lives  and heritage, the pupils  learned a great deal about each other’s environment, way of life and culture. As far as my school is concerned, I made sure that almost all our project activities were connected  to each of our English coursebook units. Luckily, our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in our Etwinning project!

I  made sure that, ALL my 85  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  Etwinning project, a fact  that  proved to be a real challenge!

Finally, our student-puppet-guests, are going to spend their Summer holidays  in our partner countries, write a Summer Diary entry about their Summer adventures and come back home in Autumn, to share it with us.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

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

What we practically did  ,was  that, we sent our pen friends all our group projects, on a topic we had already worked on in class and we asked them to reply ,by sending us the same topic based project! The projects we sent, were  in the form of posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, PP presentations, albums , videos, etc….In class, we talked about the similarities and differences of cultures and ways of life !

The students’ very first project was their self-portraits and appearance descriptions, which were used to help their  pals create their puppet-selves!

Arts and craft played an important role in n our project work !

If the kids felt  the need to personalize their work  even more, they were  free to include little gifts having to do with themselves or the project topic, … I always printed  lots of pictures and displayed  them on our school  notice boards.Students were also encouraged to interact on  twinspace ,both at the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students were able to live abroad, as 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.

The most important tool of the project , was our Twinspace Forums Puppet Diaries: by visiting the Puppet Diaries on a regular basis,  the children via their puppets, became ambassadors of our school and country! The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. They were also encouraged to interact on twinspace Discussion Forums, where they had to answer simple questions about themselves and our projects, as well as to read and make comments on their partners’ replies.

Collaboration between partner schools. 

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

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

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

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

We all had to make our partner’s Puppet-Self! In other words, create a puppet-pal ,with similar characteristics with our pen pal, to host in our class and country,for the whole school year!

Our puppets, would travel, play and learn, with their pen pals, in another country and class,experiencing a different way of life.

We created  our Puppet-Ambassadors Diaries on Forums , which we often updated, with the help of our puppets.

We uploaded   videos about our area ,as well as videos about our schools and puppet plays.

We also agreed on the letters and projects which would be implemented by our pupils and agreed on  wall display of correspondence received from partner schools .

We made  questionnaires, and quizzes about our common projects to see how much we had learned, about each other.

We finally, decided to have our students host our guest Puppets during the summer and write on the Puppets’ Summer Diaries which would later be sent , along with the puppets, back home!

We all agreed that, all  students’  final products -our projects,  would be achieved through group work ! No group  project was sent abroad, before it was presented in class ,with the help of our student-puppet-friends and was later displayed on the classroom walls and ,finally, uploaded on Twinspace Pages.

Use of technology 

Some of the partner schools ,had not  used most of the  web tools we had to use for this project,  before .

I had small  groups of my students, use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce a school video  to be posted on Twinspace for other schools to view and had them to create  a Quiz about our town. We also used Kizoa to make short videos, padlet to work on our Puppet play script, collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback.

I have consulted and collaborated with partner teachers using Skype and a webcam. Outcomes and project work were saved on Twinspace ,allowing uploaded materials and presentations to be compared and contrasted easily across all partner  countries.My students, were asked to interact with their pen friends on twinspace ,using their home computers, too !   Video-conferencing, using new webcams, were all new experiences for us .Our project brought a new and exciting dimension to our work.

Actually, the ability to use ICT is becoming more and more vital in today’s modern information society. However, ICT skills are still acquired mainly outside public educational institutes, in my country.

Actually, communicating with real people from other countries appeared to motivate the learners in a very special way, also in the use of basic ICT tools, mainly with our ICT teacher’s guidance.

Through ETwinning pupils learn to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way.

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

Results, impact and documentation

The pupils were inspired and motivated. They had a great deal of fun working collaboratively .

Students had an opportunity to develop a sense of pride and respect toward other traditions. Our Puppet-Ambassadors, made Europe a more real concept, especially for those students who have never traveled abroad.

The organisation and commitment of the students has been very impressive.

The children showed a great interest in exploring another country and its way of life, as well as demonstrating increased motivation in learning a foreign language. They were always eager to participate, found information themselves, drew pictures, made posters, presented the project to other classes and last, but not least, create their own puppets and write their own Puppet play!

The group  work of my students was collected, and ultimately, shared with our partners. Writing and illustrating personal responses gave students the opportunity to boost their art and creative writing skills. Reading the personal responses of their European  partners, gave students greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview.

The project also brought the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. Through these activities the children also became ambassadors for the school and country .

The pupils  learnt from each other and strengthened  their communication skills.

All in all, we achieved   :

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interactive Grammar Notebooks-part c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE/MOVEMENT/TIME

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

BE GOING TO

 

 

BE GOING TO for making predictions based on evedence

BE GOING TO -plans

WILL

PAST PROGRESSIVE

 

ARTICLES

RELATIVES

COUNTABLE-UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

REPORTED SPEECH

EXPRESS FUTURE PLANS, USING THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

SOME/ANY- EXPRESSING QUANTITY

MODALS ( A guessing game, using pictures)

 

EASTER Hopscotch

I can assure you that,   students remember and correctly spell about the same number of EASTER  words after learning with HOPSCOTCH, as they do after a teacher-centered lesson.

Importantly however, they enjoy playing this  game very much and they report better attitudes towards studying English after learning vocabulary with HOPSCOTCH and games in general, compared to traditional teaching.

All that is required for this fun game is a few Easter sight words  and sidewalk chalk or masking tape.

On rainy days, consider using masking tape on a floor and write each Easter word on a piece of tape or index card – just make sure kids do not slip on the index card while playing the game.

You can also use the “portable” Hopscotch, like the one in the photo below…You can carry it with you to a different classroom each time, in case you don’t have your own classroom!

 

  1. You can play with Easter pictures to help aid recognition or practice new words.
  1. Add numbers to aid in number recognition and  practice plurals. eg ” Seven eggs”
  2. Add colors to help with color recognition, too.” Seven red eggs”
  3. Play with spelling words.  Have child read word, then look away and practice orally spelling the word.

  1. With older students, play with vocabulary words –child tells you definition of word they land on.
  1. Play with English words and mother tongue .For example, write an Easter word like “Church” and child has to tell me word in mother tongue..
  1. Spell hopscotch:Give each student an Easter word to spell as she jumps through the boxes. If she spells the word wrong, she must repeat that word on her next turn. The first person to get through the entire board wins a point for her team.

      8.Word hopscotch:Method: – Draw a simple hopscotch outline on the floor with chalk , use tape or use the “Portable” version of it.

– Children take turns to hop (walk or jump) from square to square – On each square they say an Easter word that they know. These may be words in general, or words    associated with a particular Easter topic or theme, eg Spring, Food, Traditions etc. – When they run out of words they must ‘give up’ .

Variation: – Teacher puts pictures /flashcards of familiar Easter objects on each square -Children must name the objects as they hop onto the square…… More difficult:  -Children must say something about the object in the picture.