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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Growth Mindset

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

During the lockdown, we were all developing empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE  #I_love_ME_project  IDEA, IN BRIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

STORYTELLING and facing our covid19 fears 

1.LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and covid19

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

Why? Well, because of its symbols.

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

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

Her cap or hooded cloak suggests family protection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.THE WIZARD OF OZ and covid19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is what Lion learned…

the ability to face your fears and try new things.

ΑΝΤΙΜΕΤΩΠΙΖΩ ΤΟΥΣ ΦΟΒΟΥΣ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Scarecrow learned…

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

ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ ΣΤΟΝ ΕΑΥΤΟ ΜΟΥ!

It is what Tin Man learned…

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

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

It is what Dorothy learned…

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

ΥΠΕΡΑΣΠΙΖΟΜΑΙ ΤΟ ΔΙΚΑΙΟ!

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Interactive online whiteboard

-Library of learning materials

-Teacher tools and controls

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

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

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Steps

STEP 1: OPEN A BLANK GOOGLE SLIDE OR POWERPOINT

STEP 2: COLLECT YOUR IMAGES

STEP 3: CREATE YOUR SCENΕ

The steps, in detail

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

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

2.The tutorials, I watched.

3. The final product!

My first virtual classroom

( Disabled link ,for security reasons)

My first virtual library

(Click on the link)

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

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

Highly recommended to you all!

Digital learning web tools I have tried :a successful example of scaling up teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

When this pandemic began, teachers all over the World were given little notice to shift very quickly to distance learning or e-learning, sometimes with no training. In many cases, we had 48 hours or a weekend to reinvent lessons for an already planned curriculum, learn new technologies, find non-technology solutions to student learning, and figure out how to keep students engaged. But all us teachers ,also had to balance home and work and how to do our life’s work from afar while simultaneously caring for students, grieving losses, and so many more challenges and obstacles!

It has not been easy, for any teacher I know. This new approach or today’s certainty is a significant journey!

During the lock-down, countless hours behind a computer screen, reorganizing lessons had me and many of my fellow English teachers repeatedly saying, “I’d rather be in my school.” But reality dictated differently.

What is more, during the pandemic, many educators-including me- have looked to their professional learning networks on social media for encouragement through virtual book clubs, Twitter chats, Facebook groups, or wellness challenges.

To me, this crisis may have a silver lining for the implementation of digital transformation. It has forced the use of digital media tools to even teachers who had never done so before. 

 I have realised that, as English  teachers learn to implement these tools, students can also learn to use them to increase learning effectiveness and enhance their engagement. The fast learning curve is a struggle but the hard work will pay dividends developing and gaining new skills. The positive benefit out of all this is that we are going to add excellent value to our pedagogical practices. Or, I should say for English teachers,in particular, add to our repertoire of teaching tools now and for the future!

It is true that the education sector responded to quarantine with a sudden shift to online learning.

But, I have to admit that inequalities are exacerbated when it comes to access to technology and to digital devices. Many of our llearners suffer a form of digital inequality whereby they lack the connections and devices to learn remotely. In fact, this outbreak widens the gap between those able to access digital learning opportunities and those who are shut out. Access is not equal, and we see inequality growing.

And yet, even though the immediate focus is now on technology and tools, the most compelling quality is still human compassion!

Below, I am sharing a list of some of the online tools I have personally tried during the lock-down with success, for different teaching and learning purposes.

 I firmly believe that we should always take advantage of the opportunities for creative solutions.We should not let a lack of familiarity with the tools or approaches be a barrier to trying something new – I had  the confidence to try them out, with the precious help of my PLN!

 The target has been to keep my classes talking, sharing and collaborating, even during the pandemic!

Digital learning management systems

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/

https://watch.vooks.com/ Βooks( free for only a month)

https://en.islcollective.com/ for Grammar Videos and worksheets

https://youtube.com/kids/

https://wordwall.net/play/ for Grammar Videos and worksheets

https://bubbl.us/ Mind maps online

https://en.linoit.com/ sticky and canvas tool

https://info.flipgrid.com/ video sharing for educators and students

http://roadtogrammar.com/ teacher resources/games about everything

http://koalatext.com/public/ online games etc

https://create.kahoot.it/ Learning games and more

https://quizlet.com/ Grammar/vocabulary games and more. Create a study set for any subject you’re teaching

https://www.gonoodle.com/ GoNoodle gets kids moving so they can be their best

https://www.mentimeter.com/app online polls

https://www.grammarly.com/ writing assistant 

https://www.liveworksheets.com/  transforms your traditional printable worksheets into self-correcting interactive exercises that the students can do online and send to the teacher.

https://vimeo.com/ All the Tools You Need to Upload, Host, and Share Video

https://edpuzzle.com/ interactive video lessons for your students you can integrate right into your LMS. Track students’ progress with hassle-free analytics 

https://classroomscreen.com/ Create multiple screens and navigate from one screen to another. placeholder image.

https://www.canva.com/ Create beautiful designs with your team. Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print business cards, logos, presentations ETC

https://www.pixton.com/ comic and storyboard creator

https://www.quizalize.com/  fun quizzes in the classroom or remotely

https://eslvideo.com/Free quizzes, lessons and online conversation classes for English language learners.

https://draw.chat/  a free, anonymous, online drawing board

https://storybird.com/ artful storytelling and a unique language arts tool. 

http://online.anyflip.com/ book creator

https://www.educandy.com/ With Educandy, you can create interactive learning games in minutes. All you need is to enter the vocabulary or questions and answers and Educandy turns your content into cool interactive activities.

https://answergarden.ch/ AnswerGarden is a new minimalistic feedback tool. Use it for real time audience participation, online brainstorming and classroom feedback.

https://www.google.com/intl/el_gr/forms/about/ Google Forms is a tool that allows collecting information from users via a personalized survey or quiz. The information is then collected and automatically connected to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is populated with the survey and quiz responses.

https://socrative.com/ fun, on-the-fly assessments .An efficient way to monitor and evaluate learning that saves time for educators while delivering fun and engaging interactions for learners.

https://sites.google.com/new Google Sites is an amazingly simple tool to allow Teachers AND Students to create in class.  Projects, Portfolios, Lab Reports, anything can be turned into a Website and with the ease of New Google Sites it’s too easy and powerful to keep ignoring. 

 This tutorial will walk you through the basics of creating a Google Site and at the end I show you an example of a student e-Portfolio (link below to the same sample).

https://www.edmodo.com/  is a tool for educators to send messages, share class materials, and make learning accessible for students anywhere

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

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

Well….

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

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

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

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

Quality labels

1.National quality label

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

2. European quality label

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

3. eTwinning School label

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

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

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

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

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A summary of our project, this year

twinspace page

Our project celebrates culture and happiness.

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What the four partners ( Greece, UK, France and Poland)  propose is that, students produce a presentation or “Culture and Smiles in a Box” on their partner country in groups, both in class and on twinspace Forums. To be able to do this, students  gather information about their own country and life and send it to their partner schools, which are responsible for producing the presentation on their partner country’s cultural assets on twinspace Forums .

Students :

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

– Share relevant information about their lives with their European partners

– Create”Culture and Smiles in a Box” presentations

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

– Write reflective essays on what they have learned

 Objectives

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

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

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

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

Our project in detail

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

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

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

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

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Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity

word cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 All in all:

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

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

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

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

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

Curricular integration 

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

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

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

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

OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOKf12

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

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

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

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration between partner schools.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Use of technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results, impact and documentation

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

Here’s the link to : OUR EUROPEAN COOKBOOK

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

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

MIND MAP

All in all, we achieved   : 

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

 

 

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Balloon tennis- a fun word game

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

·       You can score the game like tennis

 

·       You can change the lexical set whenever necessary

 

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

 

·       Nominate which team should shout advantages and which disadvantages

 

·       Play as above

 

This game has a number of advantages

 

·       It is kinaesthetic and can energise the class

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

·       The balloon is quite slow and easier to keep in the air than a ball
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Our Magic Box Treasure hunt

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Research Says: The benefits of using games in the classroom are various. they “range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more cooperative group dynamics.” Games also lower the affective filter and encourage “creative and spontaneous use of language,” promote “communicative competence.” What’s more—games are fun.

Treasure hunts (aka scavenger hunts) can be arranged in a variety of ways, and so they are suitable for any level.

Here’s one of the things I do, with my junior classes  :

I bring a “Magic Box ” in class and ask my students to fill it in, with …”magic things”!

They make their own word cards, with their favorite “magic items ” on . They are asked to draw items, based on vocabulary studied.

I hide these  vocabulary cards around the room and use verbal, visual or audio clues, to direct the students to where the cards are. (They can only keep the card if they can name the item, or pronounce/spell what’s on the card correctly). I generally only let one student loose at a time to prevent scrapping !…

I love working on Treasure hunt games, with my junior classes, the most.

Of course, as the students progress we can make the treasure hunt (clues etc.) more difficult.

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General intrsutions

How to Play

  1. Students are divided into groups.
  2. Each group has a list of items/cards to find.
  3. The rules are explained: Students are to find as many items as they can within an allotted time period. They can find the items in any order, but the team must stay together.
  4. Inform players of the area of the hunt.
  5. When the time limit is up, the teams meet at the designated spot.
  6. Each group responds with their card item spelling/definition/ etc.
  7. If they do it right, the team is awarded one point.
  8. The team with the most points wins.

How to Make It

  1. First, prepare the list or cards of items to find
  2. Make sure the items can be “found” in the area that you have the scavenger hunt.
  3. Select items based on vocabulary studied.

Variations

  1. Students can each submit a card/item to be found.
  2. With older students, you can use clues, with a certain part of speech (e.g., adjective or adverb).
  3. The game concludes after so many cards are found instead of being limited by a certain time frame.

 

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Creative ways of revising vocabulary

 

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class....TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country....it was lots of fun!

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class….TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country….it was lots of fun!

Some old-time-classic  vocabulary games, I love.

They say that, to stimulate long-term memory ideally, words would be reviewed 5-10 minutes after class, 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, and finally six months later.

Unless these new language items are noticed and understood on multiple occasions, they will likely fade from memory and be forgotten.

Over the past decade, I’ve put together a variety of sure-fire and engaging vocabulary recycling activities drawn from a number of sources: resource books, teachers, trainers, and some of which are of my own invention. You could also give them a try….

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Divide the class into teams A and B. One member from each team plays at a time. The teacher scribbles a word on the board and gives the team one minute to get their teammate to say the item. If the hot-seated player manages to say the word, the teacher quickly writes another item on the board and so on until the minute is up. The team scores a point for every item they manage to say within one minute.

Taboo!

Taboo!

Memory challenge

Put the students into pairs or small groups. Give them a time limit (e.g. 3 minutes) and ask them to write down as many words, phrases, and/or expressions as they can from the last lesson on topic X. The pair or group that can remember the most items wins.

Variation a: To add a spelling accuracy component, teams can also earn an extra point for each correctly spelt item.

Variation b: I love it when I use music to help them brainstorm vocabulary in this game! An example is when we  revise the Season’s vocabulary and I eg have them listen to Vivaldi ” Four Seasons” while writing….

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Brainstorming!...

Brainstorming!…

 

Pictionary

Divide the class into Teams A and B. Team A sits in a group on one side of the classroom, Team B sits on the other side. One member from each team goes to the board. The teacher flashes them a word, phrase, or expression written on a piece of paper. The students have one minute to get their respective team to say the item only by drawing pictorial clues on the board. Written words, verbal clues, or gestures are forbidden. The first team to say the word scores a point.

Variation: With younger students, I draw the word in three steps: First, I draw 2-3 lines. If they get the word right, they get 3 points for their team. secondly, I draw half of the word pictorial clues. If they now get it right, they get 2 points . Finally, I draw all the pictorial clues and in case they manage to get the word right, I award them 1 point or no points at all, if they aren’t able to figure it out!

Pictionary

Pictionary

Bingo

I love playing Bingo revision games with kids! There are many variations..this one, is one of my favourite ones.

The teacher writes up 20 words, phrases and/or expressions on the board. Each student chooses any 9 of the items from the board and writes them down. The teacher then selects one of the items at random (bits of paper from a hat, for example) and offers a brief definition or synonym of the item but does not say the word itself. If a student thinks they have the word the teacher described, they tick it. When a student ticks all of their words, they shout BINGO!! The first student to shout BINGO wins the round. Additional rounds can be played with different sets of words.

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Scrabbled letters

Write up eight words with their letters shuffled (e.g. eicscen for science) on the board. When the teacher says ‘go’, the students, individually or in pairs, endeavor to untangle the words as quickly as they can. The first student or pair, to do so wins. The teacher can then quickly run through each of the scrambled letter groups on the board, eliciting information about each word or concept. Tip: Don’t make them too difficult.

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Categories ( Aka The alphabet game)

Divide the class into 3 or 4 teams and assign a secretary for each group. On one side of the board, write down six categories related to the current topic or syllabus of your course (e.g. countries, sports, jobs, movies, furniture, verbs, things that are round). To start the game, the teacher randomly selects a letter of the alphabet and scribbles it onto the board. Each team must then work together to quickly find a word for each of the six categories that starts with the chosen letter. The first team to complete all six categories shouts “stop!” The class then stops writing, and a member of the team goes to the board to fill in the categories. The teacher then checks each word with the class and also elicits what other teams had for each category. If the quickest team has filled in each category correctly, they earn one point for their team. The teacher then chooses a different letter and another round is played. The first team to score X number of points wins.

The Alphabet game.

The Alphabet game.Working in teams.

Vocabulary fun activities 

The Dolls’ House.

To help them revise the house rooms and furniture as well as the prepositions of place, I have them decide how to decorate a dolls’ house . They are asked to place the pieces of furniture anywhere in the house they wish, and tell the class about each change they make to the previous furniture arrangements. eg ” The sofa is in the kitchen now, next to the fridge”

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This is a handmade dolls’ house, that I made with my daughter at home , some years ago reusing some old supermarket boxes…

Feelings

Instead of asking them to write a boring dictation on  the adjectives that describe feelings, I ask them to find photos that show different feelings and moods and bring them to class.They  use them to play several guessing games with their classmates, in teams!

 

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Seasons poetry

When I want them to revise all the Seasons Vocabulary, I have them write their own poems using it, and recite them  in class where we hold a poetry competition and finally vote for our favourite poems! I often have them work in pairs: one of them is the poet while the other one is the artist who reads the poetry and creates his/her work of art, being inspired by it! The artist, has to talk to the class about his picture, using as much of the target vocabulary as possible.

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My special talents

When I want them to revise the sports and free time activities, instead of giving them a test, I have them stand up and show the class what they are good at, or what their special talent is. They are free to even teach the class about their special abilities . Such a good activity to enhance self-esteem , too!

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I am good at tae-kwon-do!

 

 

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Practicing both vocabulary and CAN/CAN’T for ability.

The Apple tree

This is basically a scoring game, and can be used in various different ways.I mainly play it to test new words and  spelling !

1. Put the kids in groups (6 is usually good as there are usually 6 rows of desks), but keep them seated at their desks.

2. Draw pictures of trees on the board, one tree for each group. Each tree has 9 “rungs” (add more or less depending on the amount of time you wish to play), and some apples  at the top. (see the picture above) This takes about 1 minute if you’re quick!

4. During the game you play some music (something fast and dancey). When the music plays the kids pass a ball around (no throwing!!).

5. You stop the music.

6. You then ask the person holding the ball a question (“What’s this? How are you? What’s your name? etc.) My variation is spelling new words!

7. If the student gets it right then their team’s animal climbs one rung up the tree!

8. Repeat from step 4 until one team reaches the top – and the apples!

This is good for a review session, or even for practicing new vocab. 9 rungs lasts about 20 minutes. After the first few tries I then ask questions that are worth 2 “rungs”, or even ask the kids if they want an easy question for 1 point or a tricky one for 2 points!!

 

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The apple tree board game-revising nationalities

The weather forecast

Instead of asking the kids to write boring weather reports, I ask them to predict about next week’s weather and report to the class on….our class TV! They talk about their predictions using their  weather map and we can  even adjust the…volume holding imaginary remote controls !It’s loads of fun!

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My favourite sports board game

To revise the sports vocabulary, I usually have them play a vocabulary board game, in pairs! They have to say the name of the sport in the picture they land on , to be able to move on to the next level. I ask older students to use the sport word in a sentence instead.

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This is the book page with the new words.

Dancers and poets

When I want my students to revise new words, especially adjectives, I usually ask them to work in pairs. One of them is the poet, the other one is the dancer. The poet, writes a poem using as much  of the target vocabulary as possible. The dancer is dancing while the poet is reciting his poem …according to the verse content, trying to express his/her feelings listening to it!It can become, hilarious! Students, love both to watch and participate in  these …performances in which, improvisation rules !!

 

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My friend is….

I love working with adjectives! To revise them, one of the things I do is to ask my students to write their names on a sheet of paper, then put all  those sheets  up on the classroom walls and finally ask the students to  walk around the classroom and write adjectives next to each name which they think characterize their friends! I always ask them to focus on the positive characteristics of their classmates! It’s a nice way to boost self-esteem too….We later, collect the sheets of paper and comment on them. Fun!

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School objects hidden

Instead of giving my 3rd graders boring dictation on school objects, I prefer playing fun vocabulary games with them. One old-time-classic game  is the following : I hide different school objects under a piece of cloth and have them touch the object without looking to guess what they are ! They work in teams and for each correct guess they make , they get one point for their team!

 

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Look, taste, smell….

To practice grammar, I also play games..

One example is the way I ask them to practice and revise the Sense Verbs . I ask a student to…take off his/her shoe and ask another student to….. smell it and tell us how it…smells! ! It’s hilarious…! Then I ask a student to keep  his/her mouth wide open and ask the student sitting next to him/her to say how it looks!! I might also ask them to smell his/her breath and comment on it!! Sounds disgusting , ha? But, the children love it! I might also ask a male student to kiss a girl’s hand a tell us the taste or smell of it…! Touch her hair and produce sentences like: ” It feels soft”!The list of the fun things I ask them to do is endless! They just don’t want us to stop! The more I ask them to do, the more they practice using the Sense Verbs !

 

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Learning grammar, the fun way!

 

Another example is, the activity we do to practice the  Order of Adjectives ,when the students become …models !!

They take turns and walk like fashion models on the catwalk!

The other students use opinion, colour, material etc adjectives, to describe what the model is wearing and make comments on his/her clothes!

Example: She’s wearing a cute, pink, woolen sweater! It suits her!

He is wearing  smart, dark blue,denim jeans! They match his t-shirt!

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A top model, in our English class!

The cute Monsters Posters

To have my students practice the words that describe  People and Physical Characteristics I ask them to use them to describe an imaginary creature on a poster!

They have to think about the following before they create their monster:

  • What colour is he?
  • What colour arms and legs does he have?
  • What does he look like? (Tell us about his eyes, his ears and his mouth.)
  • What can he do?

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Then, they write up a profile for their monster including his/her appearance, personality, traits, skills/powers, monster friends, enemies, hobbies and where it lives – or if they are a bad guy monster you can replace the hobbies bit with ‘Strategy’ and put ‘Weakness’ at the bottom and write down what their weaknesses are.

Finally, I ask them to draw their monster!

The only limit is their imagination….

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Drama activities to have them speak 

I rarely have my students read the text or dialogues from our book aloud…I prefer to have them act the story out in groups- from a very early age.

Sketses promote active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. In addition most children are excited by the prospect of performing in front of others as a chance to be the center of attention.  So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are a winning combination.

Children love being part of something.  Preparing an ESL skit together is a bonding experience for the group.  All children are involved, from the shyest to the most outspoken and all contribute to the final outcome. Children want to belong and being part of a play allows that to happen.

You don’t have time NOT to use ESL plays.  Drama is not an addition to my 26 units, but a method of teaching them more effectively.  It does not matter if you can’t act – the children will be doing the acting and they are the experts!

The conversational use of language in an ESL play script promotes fluency. While learning a play, children listen to and repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The teacher’s own enthusiasm also goes a long way towards motivating a child. Anyone who has taught a classroom of children knows how quickly they pick up and reflect your moods. If you think your English lesson is boring, so will they!

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The plays DO GET THEM TO SPEAK. And this is a very rewarding experience for us, teachers, to hear them SPEAK, not just use the target vocabulary.

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Teaching and revising vocabulary has become easier for me  through all these fun activities ,as for the children every single new word they are learning is now more meaningful as it is connected with their real life experiences in class .

Building self-esteem and rapport on day one -part 2

Self-esteem matters! We’ve long known that when students feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to become better achievers in the classroom.

Rapport , on the other hand, provides the base from which learning can take place. The rapport between a teacher and their students as well as among the students,  plays a very important role in determining if the class will be successful and enjoyable. Students are often very hesitant to speak out in class for a variety of reasons. Questions go unasked and unanswered… students remain silent because they are afraid to lose their self- esteem by being put down in front of their classmates and peers.

“It is important for students not only to realize their own uniqueness but also feel accepted by their peers” (Reasoner, 1992, p. 46).

“Studies indicate that children who lack attention or feedback are apt to have poorer self- concepts than those who receive either positive or negative feedback on a regular basis” (Reasoner, 1992, pp. 4-5).

Task 1

Back to school

WELCOME  STUDENTS WITH POSITIVE THINKING POSTERS AND DISPLAYS

 

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Our classroom door: a great way of boosting self esteem and positive attitudes in any classroom – and it livens up a dull door!

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“Be” bulletin board – great way to encourage the character traits we wish to see in our students!I think this is really what we should be able to do: teach kids that don’t really know how to treat others what we expect from them.

 

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This is a great board and does mirror my philosophy. I love my students and believe in them, but I will push them to give me their all, too.

Task 2

A PICTURE OF ME THROUGH MY PARTNER’S EYES

I ask my students to work in pairs, facing each other. They are asked to draw their partner’s portrait ,the way THEY  see him/her. As soon as they finish, they show each other their drawings and both  comment on them, describing their partner’s  facial or body characteristics in the picture   at the same time. During the next step, I ask them to exchange pictures and start writing words that describe  their personalities, around the picture frame. I usually brainstorm relevant  vocabulary before this activity, or use my “BE” bulletin board. (see photo  above) Finally, I ask their partners to ADD 2-3 more words  , from their own point of view. All pictures are displayed on the class bulletin board.

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Rapport activity: make your partner’s portrait the way you see him/her , add adjectives which you think describe their character and personality !

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Students work in pairs for this activity. They don’t show their partner their drawing until it’s done.

Task 3

HAPPY TUNNEL

I ask the children to stand facing each other in two lines and raise their arms high,with the tips of their fingers touching, to make the Happy Tunnel! I choose a child to go through the happy tunnel.I ask the class to think of a positive thing to say to the child who is going to go through the tunnel, eg I like you/You’re great/You’re nice/You’re good at…

The Happy Tunnel: I repeat the activity once or twice over several lessons, in order for everyone to have a turn.

The Happy Tunnel: I repeat the activity once or twice over several lessons, in order for everyone to have a turn.

I ask the child to walk slowly through the tunnel. The rest of the class whisper or say their sentences.The child then comes out of the tunnel with a big smile!! If time is not enough for everyone to have a turn  , I repeat the activity once or twice over several lessons.

This special activity ,which I just love, makes students feel good about themselves. It also helps them to realize how easy it is to make other people feel good too, thereby creating a positive atmosphere for learning. We  should brainstorm positive adjectives to describe people, before this activity.

 

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Happiness is on the way!….

 

More  adjectives  students could  use to describe the… protagonists: “positive, quick, friendly, unique, good- humoured, sweet, intelligent, peaceful, kind, enthusiastic, funny, witty, brave, calm, responsible, polite, angelic.”

In my class, his moment resulted to be a very special one. Some students expressed how moved they felt and they thanked  their friends for what they have shared.

This activity helped to honour their uniqueness, it focused on their good qualities contributing to develop a positive self- image.

Task 4

TEACHER AND STUDENTS WRITE TO EACH OTHER

I usually do this activity as soon as we come  back to school. But, it’s nice to keep this letters exchange going  , both between the teacher and the students and among the students, throughout the school year! In my classroom, there is a letter box we use to do so…We open it ,every Friday, to read our  mail!!

I give children the opportunity to tell me a few  things they like about themselves.  I prompt them to state things they can do well, things they feel good about. I am always  surprised at how many children suffering with low self-esteem have difficulty with this task – I usually ,need to provide prompts.

I always make sure that, in my reply letter I help  them build  self-esteem through praise and affirmations.

 

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Get to know your students by having them write you a letter.

Build your students'self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Build your students’self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Task 5

ME IN A BAG

I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc .I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me !I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am  always surprised of how many kids  actually, bring one!  It is fun to see how excited the kids get when they discover that a classmate has something in common with them. They are so proud to talk about their special talents and interests, in front of their classmates! When it is my kids’ turn to let their classmates guess about the items in their bags, they share so many personal stories, too!  This activity, definitely boosts their self-esteem!

 

During the next lesson, students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it!

Me in a bag activity, day 2: Students bring their own bags and let their classmates guess about the items in it which have to about their special talents and interests or their life in general!

 

Task 6

A BALL OF YARN

I bring a ball of yarn in class. Then, I ask the students to say their name and an interesting fact about themselves. Holding the end, they toss the ball to another student. That student will say their name and an intersting fact or what makes them unique! By the time everyone has spoken , there will be a large web of yarn which reminds the students of the bond we share with each other!

 

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I am special because….

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This web, could be displayed on the bulletin board with thump tacks, later!

 

I’d say that, these activities have been of utmost important in helping each student feel unique in front of his/her classmates and to develop group bonds. Students were able to understand what the other was feeling.

Quoting White (1997), “For a short time the academic curriculum is set aside and affective education, i.e. education of the emotions, is dealt with in a structured way.” “When harmony reigns, learning flourishes”.

Self-esteem is needed life-long and we need to remember the important role we play to enhance or damage a child’s self-esteem.

This is the book you can find the "Happy Tunnel" activity, among many more really interesting ones! Highly recommended!

This is the book you can find the “Happy Tunnel” activity, among many more really interesting ones! Highly recommended!