Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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

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

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

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

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

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

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

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Peer Feedback 

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

Our selections

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

The objective

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

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

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

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

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

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

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

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

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

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

The importance of Reading Rewards

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

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

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

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

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

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

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

A few reading motivation ideas

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

Our English library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hippo and friends”-a guest blog post by Margarita Kosior

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Margarita Kosior 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, on my Blog! Actually, she has been my inspiration to try similar activities with my junior classes and I wholeheartedly thank her, for that!

Enjoy!

MARGARITA’S POST:

Every storyteller has their own style. Some use music to convey the mood and the emotions, some use puppets, others rely mainly on their own voice, gestures and mimicry. I want my storytelling sessions to stimulate all the senses and engage all types of learners; a song for musical learners, a game for the kinesthetic type, flashcards for visual learners and so it goes. My storytelling session can start with sounds, involve arts and crafts, and end with baking bread. Variety is one of the main ingredients and each session needs plenty of it.

With a touch of imagination, any story, a classic or a reader, can turn into a fascinating journey.

Each one of my storytelling sessions has a variety of goals including improving linguistic competence, artistic and creative expression, involving participants in group tasks, but also allowing time for personal reflection. All these contribute to increased levels of self-confidence of young learners as English language users.

One of the stories I often use in my storytelling sessions is Henry Hippo by Jenny Dooley and Virginia Evans (Express Publishing).

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Together with Henry Hippo and his friends I have visited libraries and schools, I have travelled to other cities and even countries and wherever we went, Henry was a great success.

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Storytelling with Margarita at Sztuklandia, Lublin, Poland

Photo credits: Kinga Łaszcz

As a guest of the English Teachers’ Association of Larissa, Greece, I had the pleasure to entertain groups of children between the ages of 4 and 9 at a local library and a bookstore.

Storytelling with Margarita at the Central Library of Larissa, Greece

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Photo credits: Vassiliki Mandalou

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Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

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Storytelling with Margarita at Bookstore “Παιδεία”, Larissa, Greece

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

The storyline is engaging and fun. Henry Hippo gets stuck in mud. Peter Panda, Millie Monkey and Zara Zebra take turns and try to pull him out; in vain. Finally, Zara Zebra has a brilliant idea. The three animals pull together and manage to get Henry out of the mud. A joint effort brings results and the four friends understand that they are more successful if they work hand in hand.

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

Before the students arrive, I set the scene for the story. I use a long piece of blue fabric for the river, a piece of brown fabric for the mud and a piece of yellow fabric for the sun.

Every storytelling session starts with a “Hello” song (it can be any “hello” song, the choice of the instructor). It is good to develop routines. They make the learners feel more comfortable and more self-confident right from the start.

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

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

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

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Photo by Margarita Kosior

Every time the group shout: “Magic Box, open!”, one head band is taken out.m-henryHenry Hippo

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Peter Panda

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Millie Monkey

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Zara Zebra

After ample repetition, the participants know the names of the protagonists and are ready for the story. But the truth is that, especially in case of Henry Hippo, the students participate throughout the story. They take turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I am reading the lines out. Depending on the age and level of the student, I ask them to repeat either complete sentences, phrases or single words. At turning points in the story (right after Henry Hippo asks for help), I ask the students to anticipate in what way each animal is going to try to help Henry Hippo. This practice creates suspense and builds the atmosphere of anticipation. Curiosity plays an important role in preschoolers’ lives. Young children ask many “why” questions and all the “why’s” have a purpose of getting to the bottom of things.

If the time is enough, I encourage my students to make their own sequel to the story by adding more jungle animals willing to help Henry Hippo get out of mud.

No good storytelling session goes without a song or a chant. I like simple songs; simple enough for the little ones to learn it in five minutes and sing it so loud that people up on the next floor and out in the street can hear them A good song or chant is a good way of revising target vocabulary. The repetitive rhyme and rhythm make it possible for even the youngest learners to join in.

My follow-up activities usually include arts and crafts projects. For Henry Hippo, I would recommend making a hippo magnet.

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Photos by Margarita Kosior

I finish my storytelling sessions with a simple goodbye song, easy for even the youngest participants to join in and sing along.

Storytelling provides plenty of benefits to (very) young learners and there is plenty of research to prove it.

The benefits can be divided into three groups: mental, social, and educational. In terms of mental benefits, storytelling boosts thinking capacity; it is an activity for the brain. It provides opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas as a group. Also, through enjoyable experiences while listening to a story, children will develop their individual reading tastes.

Stories from different cultures help children develop an awareness of the similarities between ourselves and others as well as highlight differences, which can then be explored and discussed in the classroom. Thus, children develop empathy and concern for others in order to understand the concept of social equality and justice. This will motivate them to become active citizens and take on social action in the future. Storytelling also conveys important values: bravery, respect, tolerance, teamwork, patience, generosity, fair play, forgiveness, peace, and other values which, when cultivated systematically, will make your students better people.

Also, through active participation in a storytelling session children internalize the language in a natural way within the scope of the thematic units discussed in class. Analyzing questions, retrieving details and associations triggered by the story, and deciding on answers – all these engage children in active learning.

Overall, storytelling has been shown to build intrinsic motivation and self-esteem.

Personally, I know one thing for sure: an engaging storytelling session creates magic, cultivates a love of reading at an early age and adds variety to your lesson. And these make it worth the effort!

 

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MY COMMENT:

Well, I tried this amazing story telling activity with two different classes of 1st graders, in a small state school with basic facilities, in a timy  classroom and… it really worked!! My kids just loved both the story and Hippo!

This school year, our class mascot is actually a… Hippo hand puppet  therefore,I just told them that Hippo would like to share one of his adventures in a London park, with them!

They ALL wanted to take part in the story!

Our special friends!

Our special headbands!

I followed Margarita’s suggestions and I had them participate throughout the story. They took turns to wear the headbands, repeat the lines and play out the content of the story as I was reading the lines out.

They actually found it really easy to remember specific lines and expressions!

Even today , a month later, they use them in class and.. surprise me!

They say:” Oh, dear!” when I tell them  there’s not enough time for a second game or ” What’s the matter?” when I look sad or angry..They also say ” Help” ,”Pull”, ” Hip-hip Hooray” and so many more, in unpredictable moments during our lessons!

Here are some photos from my class…..

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Thanks, Margarita for your creative work and all the inspiration on storytelling!Keep amazing us!

 

 

The snowball throw Alphabet game and.. a Letter Monster!

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Students love sports and any game that gives them the opportunity to throw or kick a ball at something is a win! This game, which I have come across on Pinterest, is a great way to bring winter fun indoors . Plus, it gives the students  a chance to burn off their energy when stuck inside. It reinforces letter/word recognition and letter sounds while also developing gross motor skills like coordination. It is so simple and easy to set up too!

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Materials 

Package of ping pong balls (affiliate) –You can also make a sticky tape ball or a simple paper ball.

ABC or vocabulary flashcards

Tape

or

A marker or other writing utensil

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Once I have all the flashcards taped to the wall,or letters/words written on the board, I explain the game to the kids.

They work in two teams. I tell them that they have to throw snowballs at the letters/words – pretend snowballs! They need to hold on to a snowball and wait for me to call out a letter.. Afterward, they have to locate the letter on the wall and throw the snowball at it.

Then, they tell me what sound that letter makes or what words start with that letter or the name of the letter in the Alphabet…. If they are right, they win a point for their team.

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I use the same game for word recognition, before we finish the Alphabet. If you wish to do the same after you have finished teaching  the Alphabet and some basic vocabulary, you can ask the players to spell the word they hit, or you can spell a word for the players to spot and hit! The teacher could also, call a word in the student’s mother tongue . The players find and throw the snowball at the corresponding English word on the board, to win a point for their team.

If younger  students don’t know the letter sounds yet, you can just call out a letter and they can throw a snowball at it once they find it on the wall. For a faster paced game, you can call out a letter sound and the players throw a snowball at the corresponding letter.

This is tons of fun! We have done most of the game variations above and my little ones enjoyed them all. Some of the letters were high up on the board, so he had the extra challenge of trying to hit those letters with the  ball.

I love it when my students are happy! Games, make them happy, for sure! I am sure, your students will enjoy this play-based literacy activity, too !

 

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A nice ABC variation that my students love, has to do with a….Monster!!

I was inspired to create this last year reading an interesting  blog post and I thought I’d share it if anyone would like to use it. I just print a copy for each team . Then I laminate it and tape it onto a fly swatter with the middle part cut out. It can work as a letter monster, a word monster, or even a number monster. I also found a cute little rhyme to go with it.

Here’s the template.

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This strategy is a fun way for students to get engaged. It teaches reading in a fun way. It helps students look at all the letters in a word one by one. This strategy also teaches blending. The students look at one letter at a time and blend them together to make a word. This strategy can be applied to all areas across the curriculum. Students will be assessed by using the letter monster swatter.

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Our school english bookcase/library

DSCN0241“The best way to improve your knowledge of a
foreign language is to go and live among its speakers.
The next best way is to read extensively in it”
(Nuttall, 168).

Setting up and running a school library is one of the most satisfying jobs a teacher can perform. As a teacher-librarian
you will be able to develop children’s love of books and encourage them to read. This in turn will improve their literacy
skills, which they will enjoy, remember and share long after their school days are over. You can also show students how
to find out information from the books in the library, and this too is a skill for life. People need information to educate
themselves and develop their true potential, and for this they need literacy skills and access to books. The library
provides access to books; it is a place where information is shared.
Setting up a library is also a great challenge. It can be hard work, so it is recommended that you work closely with
many other people at your school. In this way the library will belong to everyone at the school and can be made to
benefit many generations of students.

Our English bookcase notebook where all the books are listed!

Our English bookcase notebook where all the books are listed!

The biggest change has been in the children’s confidence and willingness to read, which they have carried back into the classroom. During lessons, particularly guided reading, the children who actively borrow from our library, have been more enthusiastic about taking part and, more importantly, their comprehension of what they are reading has improved measurably too. Their growing confidence and increased exposure to language, grammar and punctuation has also lead to a significant improvement in their written work too

Unfortunately, in my school, I found NO english readers or magazines when I started teaching  there! I decided to set up and run an…english…bookcase myself, by donating my own books to the school first and then by asking parents, students, friends, publishing houses and my PLN to offer us as many books as possible!

The list of books, is always somewhere visible in our classroom, for every student willing to borrow a book, to be able to chose the title which interests him/her the most!

The list of books, is always somewhere visible in our classroom, for every student willing to borrow a book, to be able to chose the title which interests him/her the most!

Today, 7 years later,  our small ” library” has about 400 english books and I am really very proud of that! Children are encouraged to borrow books regularly, on a voluntary basis! At the end of each term, the three most frequent readers in each class, are awarded complimentary bookmarks in front of their classmates!

“We learn to read by reading”
(Nuttall 168)

What is important too, is that I place a piece of paper inside each book , for the students to write a  short book review on, and share it  with the rest of the class! Students who bring this review back , are awarded  a sticker for their english stickers collection!

At the end of each term, the three most frequent readers in each class, are awarded complimentary bookmarks in front of their classmates!

At the end of each term, the three most frequent readers in each class, are awarded complimentary bookmarks in front of their classmates!

The readers  who read  the most titles are given a special award,too at the end of each term  . The competition brings challenge to reading and it is associated more with fun than learning and we therefore do not consider it harmful.

I sometimes, hand them a different  handout ,where they are asked to write a different ending to the book story and maybe draw a picture which has to do with it!

The most basic activity is the  book report, in which students are asked about their
personal experiences of what they read e.g. whether they found the material enjoyable or
interesting and why, whether they liked some characters from the book or what did
reading make them think of. They can also be asked whether the reading was easy or
difficult for them.

Most teachers who are asked to set up and run a library are not trained librarians – and neither am I…

Our small " library", has about 400 english books and I am really very proud of that! Children are encouraged to borrow books regularly, on a voluntary basis..

Our small ” library”, has about 400 english books and I am really very proud of that! Children are encouraged to borrow books regularly, on a voluntary basis..

The steps,one has to follow to set it up in the first place,  are  the ones below!

• select books for the  library
• make a written record of the  school’s books, pamphlets and other library stock such as newspapers, magazines,
audio tapes and videos.

• divide the library stock into subject areas

• choose the best method of letting students borrow library books.

• repair damaged books.

The most basic activity is the book report, in which students are asked about their personal experiences of what they read.

What is important too, is that I place a piece of paper inside each book , for the students to write a short book review on, and share it with the rest of the class! Students who bring this review back , are awarded a sticker for their english stickers collection!

“We want our students to be able to read better: fast and with full
understanding. To do this they need to read more. And there seem to
be two ways of getting them to read more: requiring them to do so
and tempting them to do so”
(Nuttall, 168)

The major problem in order  to get that  started, was…financial!Every school year,  I do everything mentioned below, to be able to finance my library:

I sometimes, hand them a different handout ,where they are asked to write a different ending to the book story and maybe draw a picture which has to do with it!

I sometimes, hand them a different handout ,where they are asked to write a different ending to the book story and maybe draw a picture which has to do with it!

a)I ask my  headmaster to allocate some money for the program. I am  prepared to present budget and the organization of the programme (lending
books, time devoted to ER etc.)
b) I  ask each student to contribute money for one book. This is a good start
but more titles have to be added later therefore, I usually ask my students at the beginning of each year to offer at least one second-hand english book to our library!
c) I  also appeal to local donors (individuals, firms, organizations)
d)I gain money from grants – school bazaars
e)I  contribute books from my personal library or ask my
colleagues to lend books

“Libraries should be the beating heart of the school, not mausoleums for dusty books.”
Stephanie Harvey

Extensive reading (ER) is obviously  crucial  when it comes to EFL but….why don’t teachers use ER more often?

A good question. When I ask such a question to fellow  teachers worldwide, the answers come  down to these:

a) Insufficient time.

b) Too costly.

c) Reading materials not available.

d) ER not linked to the syllabus and the examination.

e) Lack of understanding of ER and its benefits.

f) Downward pressure on teachers to conform to syllabi and textbooks.

g) Resistance from teachers, who find it impossible to stop teaching and to allow learning to take place.

Everything depends on how teachers feel about extensive reading. Unless the teachers are of the view that extensive reading is beneficial in promoting English language development among their students, they are not likely to exert their efforts to make the program a success.

I am not saying here that, ALL my students are eager to read extensively! What I am saying is that, I give them the CHANCE to take up this reading habit! I motivate them, I award them for their efforts, I offer them a free choice of books!

 

School Readers, in essence and origin, are an attempt to make it possible for children to learn something without teachers, or without competent teachers; and they tend to create the conditions they presuppose. Thus, if I were a teacher teaching some subject by means of a School Reader, I should be under a constant temptation to say,‘Get out your reading books’; and the end of it would be that the children would know only the book and not the subject.” Fr. Drinkwater

The biggest change has been in the children's confidence and willingness to read, which they have carried back into the classroom.

The biggest change has been in the children’s confidence and willingness to read, which they have carried back into the classroom.

I am passionate about getting children excited about books when they’re as young as possible, at a time when books and stories seem magical to them and their imaginations are expanding and they are forming language skills. I am staggered when people don’t see how important that is.

A Christmas Quotes tree ( and 2 more ideas)

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Well, it was my idea a couple of years ago, to have my 6th graders decorate a DIFFERENT Christmas tree , practicing their english at the same time!

I  therefore, made two Christmas Trees ( one, for each of my  classes) using card and put them up on the classroom walls!

I browsed the net and came up with hundreds of famous people’s quotes about Christmas . Later, I  prepared  handouts with them on, and asked my students to go home, read them all, decide about their favourite ones and justify their choices in class during our next  lesson!

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A class discussion followed about what’s really important in life, what Christmas is or should be about, about  life priorities, life values, family, consumerism….and many more topics!

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They just loved it  !

I ask them  to do about the same, every year…..I always provide them with the templates where they write their favourite quotes. I ask them to decorate them and make them look unique  before  we all together , decorate our Christmas trees with them!I’d like to share a couple of my favourite quotes with you all….

” I stopped believing in Santa when I was six.Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph!” Shirley Temple

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under the christmas tree” Roy L. Smith

“At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year” Thomas Tusser

“Christmas ….is  a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart” Freya Stark

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Another idea, I used a few years ago for some time was a Students Photos Christmas tree, outside our classroom: I stick all the students  photos on paper ornaments and asked them to write their wishes or New Year Resolutions on them, before I put them up on our Christmas tree…

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Last year, I decided to use a smaller Christmas tree in the classroom decorated with flags from all the different countries my students or  members of their families come from!  Our International Class Christmas Tree!

I plan to do this again, some year soon…brings the class together!

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