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. 

dav

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

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT

Over the last few months, the pandemic has created many challenges for teachers, students, and parents as they transitioned into home-based learning.

It is true that, in the age of Covid-19 ,as an educator ,especially in a State Greek  Primary School,you have two options: to do… nothing and to let the situation overwhelm you or to continue working hard during the day and worrying at night. Concentrating on research on creative, experiential and student-centered teaching that you have been doing for so many years, BUT, when the system around you is collapsing  this doesn’t seem so easy to do. You don’t have much room left, you want to keep in touch with others. You dedicate yourself, SOUL AND BODY, to doing your homework, keeping in touch with your students, feeling alive, moving forward into life.

 During the lockdown,on any given day, in schools across the World, many students exchanged warm greetings with a smiling teacher, then perhaps moved on to a morning check-in, followed by a quick mindfulness exercise to start the day grounded and mentally focused. Surrounded by peers they’d known for months, or perhaps even years—and a teacher they saw regularly—kids felt connected.

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  students spend their daytime hours in safe, supportive schools where their teachers work every day to build strong relationships with every student, they are simply better, more engaged learners.

I personally believe that, yes, it is mainly about the technology—the mechanics of how to teach remotely. But it’s also about how we are going to hold our students’ hearts!

Food for thought ,by Dimitris Primalis:

“School ditches  tablets”. Catchy titles like this one, banishing technology from the classroom, seem to be out of date after school closure and the need of thousands of teachers and educators to keep education alive in the midst of a pandemic. Whether you are a tech-enthusiast or you were forced to use technology, this crisis has brought to the surface the potential of learning technology, which has been tried and tested under extreme conditions.

To me, the good news is that , as teachers, we have overcome our greatest fears and biases against using technology so now we can make the most of it to facilitate learning, during the lockdown !

My own  first shock concerned online classes & COVID-19: 

How will the pandemic affect me as a teacher and my teaching?

Is it a threat or an opportunity for the human teachers to flourish as an effective teacher?

I have always thought that, teachers 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.

A computer can give information, but a teacher can lend a hand, or an ear, and discern what’s necessary for a student to succeed, and to want to succeed.

So yes, technology is going to play a critical role in the future of education. But not as big a role as that of a teacher.

My next step was to create our online, asynchronous learning classes!

The creation of those classes was mainly aimed at maintaining the contact of our students with the English language course and allowed me to quickly carry out my work, communicate between different computers and exchange data, sharing useful links.

That service allowed me to organize, present, store, and retrieve the material, which students are asked to use without time constraints, as is usually the case in the classroom. Our e-classroom platform was basically designed to enhance the educational process as it takes place in the classroom  and operation in a secure environment and I admit that I was really excited about learning how to use it properly .

Overall, the benefits of the #e-me platform we have been using all these months, are many. It was relatively easy to use, allowed the use of useful educational material, promoted communication and interaction between teachers and learners and served the needs of maintaining contact with the lessons and repetition.

The ‘key’ to the success of such a platform, however, lies in the frequency of visits of the students  to the platform! I personally, found it really challenging to be able convince my students to visit it ,as often as possible, during the lockdown!

Of course, parents and teachers, we were invited to dedicate some time and accompany the children’s first steps in that new environment, to suggest that they regularly connected with the electronic classes of the courses they attended and gradually helped them to become independent in their use.

My initial thought was to find the way to encourage my students to express their thoughts and feelings, while staying at home.

Obviously, when we can share our sensations, thoughts, and feelings, we feel a sense of relief, safety, and calm, and I believe that 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 own students reported feeling isolated, depressed, and overwhelmed. The lack of a support system had definitely been the hardest part about not physically attending school.

I decided to launch the “FEELINGS project” on e-me inspired by 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.

I realised that 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 students to take that journey, we as teachers should not pretend that human feelings were something to which we were immune.

Therefore, 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. I gave them an option to share with their 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.

After the first shock, I decided to FOCUS my teaching ON SUPPORTING MY STUDENTS EMOTIONALLY.

The very first inspiring idea which I used in our webex meetings during the lockdown, belonged to my dear colleague and friend Effie Kyrikakis.

It was mainly 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 

Th 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.

I always have to remind myself that, especially under the circumstances, each teacher should be a role model of calm reflection within their class. We should avoid exhibiting our own frustrations, especially in emergencies.

Within those two months in lockdown ,they 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. 

Rather than jumping in to fix the problem when my students were bored  or unmotivated to do online work, during self-isoalation,I 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.

In a nutshell

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

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

To be able to do so, I decided to incorporate another inspiring idea to our webex  online meetings during the lockdown, which belonged to our amazing colleague Theodora Bogiou.

It was mainly about sharing and spreading positive messages, in the local communities.

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

All in all, it was highly important 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 MAIN #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…

To sum up, thanks to Theodora Bogiou‘s idea, I managed to promote emotional growth by encouraging my children to talk about their feelings, helping them identify those feelings and validating them. That kind of communication  also fostered a stronger class connection.

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 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 believe that teachers  can demonstrate how they face challenges and frustration head-on and use different coping tactics like meditation, talking to loved ones, making art or playing music, and actually, that is exactly what I did!

 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 believe that finding ways of calming the body can 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.

Routines that foster connection are a core part of classroom life, and finding ways for students to experience these at home ,too went a long way toward easing my students’ transition to home-based learning.

 -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 use physical movement, at the beginning of each online 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. ie helping around the house.

Being mindful of our emotional state, matters.

We came to understand that challenges were opportunities for growth. Because, 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. 

A few weeks later, I decided to teach them about true and authentic confidence.

 I taught them 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!

The following closing ideas come from my dear friend and colleague Dimitris Primalis in his recent article ,in  ELT NEWS.

I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I am sharing part of his post, here! 

*Dimitris Primalis, is a frontline teacher and teacher trainer, currently working in Doukas Schools, Athens.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on what we have done so far with our (online) classes that we can keep doing in the post Covid19 era. We:

 -Flipped the classroom

We assigned time consuming activities such as watching video or reading at home

-Differentiated learning

You were given the opportunity to send easier tasks to weaker students and more challenging ones to stronger learners, who are usually utterly bored in class, when we assigned  revision tasks asynchronously (offline). We also had the chance to give personalized feedback in a discreet way through emails .

-Introduced gamification

We introduced web 2.0 tools that promote gamification like Kahoot in class .

-Used material outside the coursebook

In the first two weeks of lockdown, when everybody hoped that this would not last for a long time, we  assigned revision exercises and then we became more resourceful.

-Promoted learner autonomy

Having guided them to the resources mentioned above, we have guided them to become more autonomous as learners. This time parents were more open to using the internet and less worried about the potential dangers.

-Applied formative assessment

We have discovered numerous new tools that allow our students to share reflective writing.

-More benefits

Because of the pandemic, more and more students realize that education should not be taken for granted. The majority missed their teachers and classmates, their routine which offers security .

-Beware of oversimplifications

I know that some teachers mistake the emergency online lessons during  Covid19 for online education. Building a raft to survive a shipwreck cannot be compared to an ocean liner. 

-A lesson taught for educators

 I firmly believe that learning technology is a medium that can boost learning and student engagement.

Summarising my own thoughts

-We learn everywhere and always, we learn by all means.

– The desire to change or improve the learning process is paramount in the use of technology.

– Teachers need to learn and evolve constantly.

– In the years 2020, technophobia holds up well in Greek school reality.

– We use technology as a tool for exploration and learning.

– The issue is not more or less technology, but its effective use.

– We choose those digital tools that enhance students’ engagement and interest.

– It’s not technology. It’s what you do with it.

– It takes effort and time.

-Technology is not what makes it possible. It’s what makes learning easy.

– Pay attention to the developments in learning, not to the developments in technology.

– The cutting-edge technology in a school is the good teacher.

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

*THE BLOG POST TITLE has been inspired by this site:

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises.

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

End of the year remembrance kit

I came across this cool idea, on Pinterest, few months ago! Loved it!

This year, I decided to use it with a bunch of special older students of mine, to see if they like it ,too…

Next school year, I am definitely going to offer  these bags, to my 6th graders, on their last day in class!

This isn’t too difficult or expensive to do! The photos will help you, with the steps you will have to take and what to put inside.

Here is something to remind you of  Grade 1 (or________)…

Some seeds to remind you how much you’ve grown-
A lollipop to remind you of how sweet you are-
A book mark to remind you to always love books-
Money to remind you of how much you’re worth – (Play money)
…All in a cup/bag filled with love and a kiss.

Put all items in a paper cup/bag –wrap it up with cellophane and/or tie with raffia, yarn, or ribbon.

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

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

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

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

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

Puppets are a great way to encourage and motivate your pre-primary learners when learning a new language.

Here, Kathryn Harper, gives her top ten tips for using a puppet in the classroom.

1) Greetings and routines: “Hello. How are you?”

Establishing predictable routines is extremely important in the pre-primary classroom to help with classroom management. With routines, children quickly get to understand what’s expected of them, giving them the confidence to learn and achieve more.

A great way to use the class puppet is for routines. The puppet can greet and say goodbye to the children when they come in or leave the class, and elicit information from them, for example, “How are you today?”

The children will be comfortable and interested in replying to the puppet, and even the shyest child will want to interact with it in this way.

By using the puppet regularly for specific activities such as ‘Reading time’ or ‘Goodbye time’, you can move from one activity to the next seamlessly, keeping your students motivated and engaged.

2) Creating affective conditions

One of the pre-conditions for learning is for children to feel comfortable, secure, and in a nurturing environment. The presence of a class puppet can help reinforce this ‘safe’, affectionate space.

Here’s how to create this space using your puppet:

  • Puppets, particularly a soft one, can give cuddles to the children. This creates an instant warm reaction with the children.
  • Children can express affection towards the puppet by stroking it, patting its head etc. This contact can be extremely important in breaking down barriers, relaxing the children, and enabling physical expression.
  • The puppet can comfort children if they are sad, for example, they can sit with the puppet. The puppet keeps children comforted and includes them in the class.
  • The puppet can be emotional when you can’t, for example, show anger or cry. This is a great way for children to learn about different emotions.

3) Using humour to animate the classroom

As a teacher, you know that getting and keeping the attention of a class full of little ones can be a challenge when it’s just you up at the front of the class. Having a class puppet can suddenly make everything more interesting for your students, and is a great way to animate your class.  Used in the right doses, the puppet can keep the attention of your students in many ways:

  • By doing funny or unusual things.
  • By showing reactions or emotions that might not be acceptable.
  • By creating a focus to an otherwise boring event.
  • By interacting with you.

4) Being allowed to get things wrong

Learning from mistakes and helping children see the good side of getting things wrong is key for their development. The puppet can be a huge confidence booster to your students, by showing them that it’s perfectly normal to get things wrong. It can do this by:

  • Showing the children that it doesn’t understand everything – and that’s alright!
  • Making fun of itself when it doesn’t understand –taking the pressure off children to get things perfect first time.
  • Letting the children play at being the teacher.

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

5) Modelling activities

When it comes to new activities and role plays, puppets can make the best partners. The puppet can attempt the role play and make a few mistakes. This shows students that it’s fine if they don’t get things right first time. Eventually, the puppet will complete the role play correctly and provide the perfect model for the children.

6) Acting out

One of the most effective and involving activities for children is acting out stories or situations. Of course the children could be the actors themselves, but if they use puppets, it liberates them and gives them greater creative licence. In particular, shy children can come alive using puppets as it takes the focus off them. What’s more, children with lower linguistic levels can be just as engaged with puppets because they can react visually through actions when they don’t have words.

7) Helping create stories or storytelling

Following on from number six, the next step is for children to create their own stories or follow on from an existing one. For this, you will need more than one puppet but you can easily get kids to bring in some of their cuddly toys, or make your own! When children tell their own stories, you really know they are engaged, their brains are working, and they have something to say.

This is a great activity to get the whole class participating. It can be very casual and short, or more involved and set up with props depending on your class size, the confidence of your students, or the learning outcomes you have set.

8) Being a target for activities

Activities are a lot more fun when a puppet is playing along. For example, if you are working on furniture vocabulary, you could play games such as ‘Where’s the puppet?’ – “He’s on the chair!” Or for classroom objects, you could play ‘What’s in the puppet’s bag?’ You can play games in which you pass the puppet around the class until someone says a particular word, and you could even play ‘Puppet says’ (instead of ‘Simon says’). The variations are endless. Have fun including the puppet in class games, and see your students’ participation soar!

9) The puppet as a a ‘prize’

The puppet is a tool for helping students learn how to behave in class, and as such, it can be used as a reward or a prize to incentivise good behaviour or hard work. Some ways you could use the puppet as a reward include:

  • holding the puppet for the rest of the class
  • leading the class in a song as ‘the puppet’
  • saying ‘Goodbye’ to everyone as ‘the puppet’

Children will be proud to take responsibility for the puppet during the class, and know they must look after it carefully.

10) Making puppets and creating a persona

Making puppets can become a great cross-curricular activity in itself and develop students’ fine motor skills. Get the children to create puppets reflecting characters from their English coursebook or their favourite stories, reflecting themselves or their chosen imaginary characters. By investing with the actual making of these puppets, role play or storytelling will become a lot more personal to the students.

Puppet making can be very simple or more complex.  You can make puppets out of socks or paper bags. Finger puppets can be made out of felt, wool, paper or other materials, or even stick puppets made from lollypop sticks. There a lots of other ways to make great puppets so have fun getting crafty with your students! Looking for some templates to help you get started? Here are some finger puppets featuring some of the much loved characters from OUP’s Show and Tell series!


Kathryn Harper has a background in ELT teaching in both France and Canada. She worked in publishing for 10 years as a grammar and reference editor (OUP), developing-world schools and ELT publisher (OUP and Macmillan), and ELT publisher for Latin America (Macmillan). She has written educational materials for the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, and is one of the authors of the pre-primary course Show and Tell (OUP).

Here’s the OUP link:

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

 

 

“PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists”: an inspiring eTwinning project

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.

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.

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

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

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

About our project, this year

PuppeTs: Puppet Tourists

Our Flat Puppet Tourist Project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools. Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest . Partners have to add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year in the host country .
Partners should also, upload photos,and/or videos, of their puppet tourist’s adventures on twinspace. Additionally, they exchange letters, postcards and souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s visits and experiences, by post .
All in all, children exchange ideas, photographs, questions and culture with students abroad, focusing on literacy and citizenship.

AIMS

Our Puppet Tourist project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class we connect with is in another local school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

WORK PROCESS

Students begin by creating paper “Flat tourists ” ,whom they sent to our partner schools and ask their pals there to keep a journal for a few months ,on twinspace Forums, documenting the places and activities in which their Flat Tourist is involved. Each country’s Flat Tourist who is mailed to our partners has to be treated as a visiting guest , Partners have and add to their journal, and return them back home,after they have spent a whole school year as well as their Summer, in the host country and have written about their Summer adventures in their Summer diaries .
Partners should also, upload photos/videos , of their puppet tourist adventures . Additionally, they exchange postcards and little souvenirs, from their Flat Tourist’s experiences, by post . The final product of the project ,could be a collaboratively written puppet play or short film script .
The project works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and letter and parcel exchanges, by post.

EXPECTED RESULTS

eTwinning helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures, enhance tolerance and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding”. So, regardless of the subject matter or the tools we use, the process is always constantly about learning to learn responsibly, actively and collaboratively. The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and have a great deal of fun working collaboratively on the many different projects.
Reading the personal responses of their European partners, may give students a greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview. The project can also bring the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students will be able to “travel” abroad, as flat puppets and experience life in a different country and class for a whole school year sharing and comparing our ways of life and making new friends.

 

State schools in Greece: can ELT teachers, actually, make a difference?

 

 

The basics

The Greek education system has been criticized over the years by Greek people for various issues, like difficulty levels of the exams during Panhellenic Examinations, number of teaching hours in schools etc.”

I personally, teach Primary.

In Greece, Primary schools are called “Dimotiko” (demotic, meaning municipal), a carryover term from a time when such schools were run by local communities. The name remains although it has been obsolete for decades. In the first two years pupils are not officially graded, and parents obtain feedback about their performance via oral communications with teachers. Grading begins in Year 3, and written exams are introduced in Year 5. Graduating from one year to the next is automatic, and pupils with deficient performance are given remedial tutoring. Years are called “classes”, from first to sixth.

Enrollment to the next tier of compulsory education, the Gymnasium, is automatic.”

 

My experience and few facts

I have been working  in a State/Public School, for more than 20 years . I have also worked in Private Schools, Private Language Institutions/Schools, Technological Educational Institutes (T.E.I.), Vocational education and training Schools.

Generally talking, there can be heard and seen lots of facts that show people’s disappointment by the Greek Education System.

Many people claim that Greek schools’ role does little to help them make use of their abilities in life.

In Greece, students often have lodged complaints about the teaching and grading system of their teachers.

More than 90% of Greek schools are public and over 90% of all pupils in Greece attend a public institution. The Greek Constitution grants free public education to all citizens, including immigrants who live in Greece permanently. All students are provided with free textbooks and free transport if they live far from the school.

 

Public education is certainly advantageous from a financial point of view, but may lack the necessary technical infrastructure and organization present in private schools.

Another important issue which is causing disturbance in many Greek families is the existence of paid private classes named frontistiria (φροντιστήρια) whose attendance by the Greek students has become a necessity in order for them to be able to achieve high grades and succeed in their exams. This is a phenomenon noticed especially as the student approaches the 3rd grade of upper high school because of the high difficulty of the Panhellenic Examinations. It has been an object of criticism due to the high fees that most Greek families are called to pay, thus deviating from the concept of a free and accessible education for everyone.

On the other hand, a system that is deprived of resources (school libraries, computer labs, modern buildings, adequate play spaces, etc) can only depend so much on the creative potential of the teachers. A lot of articles have been written on the starving students, lack of books, heating, electricity, copy paper, etc.

The system is starved. What do we expect the teachers to do with just a basal in their hands?

ELT in Greek Primary Schools and the English Teacher

Many years ago, the introduction of foreign language instruction in the early state primary
education was expected to limit or even replace private language tuition. Far from such
expectations, however, the number of private language institutes in Greece more than
tripled ,during the last decades, as private language tuition seems to have become
the norm rather than the exception.

The data of the Ministry of Education show that currently there are more than 7,350 language schools in the
country. The fact is that state schools provide fewer contact hours and less intensive courses
than private language institutes… this may be one of the reasons why parents tend to believe
that foreign languages are better learned at private language institutes.

 

Teachers of English in Greece are expected to be highly proficient in the language they teach
and quite well versed in current teaching methodologies. However, university courses in
methodology seem to place more emphasis on raising student teachers’ awareness of
different methods and approaches to language teaching rather than providing an
educational background of pedagogical principles .
Contrary to what might be expected, the introduction of English language teaching in
primary education has had very little influence on the programme of studies of the relevant
university departments! Consequently, even today, the pedagogical education of English
language teachers seems to be quite limited.

According to  my dear Greek colleague Vivi Hamilou, on her  blog post :
“Can we really expose Greek EFL learners in public primary schools to experiential learning (learning by doing and making meaning from having a direct, personal experience)? I couldn’t really answer that by saying just a ‘yes’, or ‘no’. We work in public schools with outdated and or inadequate facilities, we only have 3 45-minute sessions with our learners per week at best, transporting learners to the appropriate place for experiential learning to place costs a lot … I could go on forever, but would I only be making excuses?”
 
  Unfortunately, the constant changes in the Greek education
system and political instability have affected TEYL in the country.
Language teachers in Greece, whether in the private or public sector, are not offered pre- or
in-service training, which is vital for the development of any educator. The
present situation results in new language teachers beginning their career
confused and lost. Because of their lack of self-confidence language educators
resort to teacher-centred approaches which they imitate from their own
experience as students as will be discussed (Giannikas, 2013a).
Language teachers in state schools carry the stereotype of the
demotivated educator with limited will of professional development due to the
security they feel once commencing a career in the public sector. During
interviews, however, state school teachers made it a point to emphasize the
extent to which they take pride in their work. Those who have been in the
profession longer claim that they have grown exhausted of the constant
criticism they endure, since they feel they are not the ones to blame. They
believe to be neglected lacking basic facilities and an updated course-book.
They have not received training and are currently struggling with various
teaching approaches suggested by the Ministry of Education. The fact that
teachers have had no guidance to make any new adjustments to their practice,
has increased their hesitation in introducing their own teaching material,
changing teaching approaches or even applying a different seating layout
(Giannikas, 2013b).
Greek Primary Schools -Can we make a difference?
On the other hand, I work in Primary and I know first hand that, many English Teachers in Greece, use all the above as excuses ….
And I personally, hate excuses!

 I strongly believe, we should never complain, in life, in general  !

I never do!

After all, my  motto is….”when there is a will, there is a way” !

Even if things are not ideal, we teachers can do our best, with what we have.

For me, the key word, when it comes to teaching YL is CREATIVITY- Not school resources and Ministry policies!

Creativity makes a huge difference. Creativity is vital for any classroom to be successful. Creativity can make the difference in our ELT even under the most difficult circumstances! Especially, in State Schools.

Although formal training will help you develop as a teacher, it’s important to connect with others in our field. Inspiration can come from the big-name speakers and writers, but just as often, it comes from teachers like you and me.

It’s never been easier to find inspiring teachers to follow on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere. We can follow and read their blogs, we can join a Teachers Association and attend  talks and workshops, live or online.

You can start a teaching journal or a blog. I have!

The act of blogging and describing your teaching ideas generates conversations with other teachers, and those conversations stimulate more ideas!

Learning about other things is important too. Creative teachers bring more to class than just a knowledge of teaching.

A sure-fire way to burn out as a teacher is, to stick to the same ideas and techniques without trying something new. This approach is bound to demotivate your students at some point too.

According to my favourite High School teacher, Vasilis Siouzoulis, our role as English Teachers, regardless the circumstances and the objections , is to inspire , to groom conscientious, focused, purposeful students who will combine efforts with already laid brass tracks to build a great world.

Being a teacher means being there, giving everything I can, making sure I am as knowledgeable as I can be about my content and about my students’ lives; it means sacrifice for the sake of helping kids in need and it means caring about students unconditionally. I am not a teacher for me–We are  teachers for our students. When teaching becomes about us, I think , we will know, it is time to stop teaching.  Being a teacher is exciting, enjoyable, and REWARDING! There’s nothing more rewarding for a teacher than to see how happy , engaged and enthusiastic her  students become when they work on something that makes sense and connects the class with the world! It’s priceless! Believe me! It’s worth any effort!It brings the class together, it helps the teacher connect with the students more and the students connect with their peers all over the globe by means of an international code of communication: English!
My  most favourite quote, comes from Albert Einstein:

If the longing for the goal is powerfully alive within us, then we shall not lack the strength to find the means for reaching the goals!

Interactive Grammar Notebooks-part c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE/MOVEMENT/TIME

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

BE GOING TO

 

 

BE GOING TO for making predictions based on evedence

BE GOING TO -plans

WILL

PAST PROGRESSIVE

 

ARTICLES

RELATIVES

COUNTABLE-UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

REPORTED SPEECH

EXPRESS FUTURE PLANS, USING THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

SOME/ANY- EXPRESSING QUANTITY

MODALS ( A guessing game, using pictures)

 

Hippo and 1st graders! The importance of a mascot in class

Class mascots can be “friends” that help the students on their learning journey.

Our own ,1st graders class mascot, is our cute Hippo!!

Hippo, plays various roles in our classroom. He sits and watches over our class to make sure they are doing the right thing or plays and sings with us  ! He is the reason, my little ones want to learn English- to be able to communicate with him, without my…help!

Having a class mascot adds a little fun and humour to the classroom, too. We often laugh about what Hippo has been up to on the weekend, and his ability to fall asleep at any moment, is an ongoing lesson!

The students have helped to develop Hippo’s personality and interests.

If you have never  used a class mascot before, here’s  how to get started:

Choose a particular stuffed animal or toy as your class mascot and have children decide upon a name for their new friend. Then brainstorm with children some background information about the mascot. Some ideas might be:

  • Where and when it was born
  • All about its family
  • What its personality is like
  • How it got its distinctive features
  • Its best friends
  • What it likes to do
  • Where it has already traveled

The children can not only learn from the mascot, but can also  teach the mascot what they have learned .

The mascot can award stickers or small rewards to students who have  positive behavior for the week! Maybe the mascot could bring in his/her favorite book  for a read aloud. I have done this with the book “Hippo and friends” and have shared my experience in this blog post!

Use your imagination and think of how to integrate the puppet into your daily routines and teaching. There are so many possibilities!

I find the mascot to be an endearing member of the class. The students love Hippo like a friend.  They respond to Hippo as a teacher and seem to really listen to what he has to say.

The way  students really respond to our mascot, is just fantastic – I wonder at what age that enthusiasm and imagination starts to fade….

I often have other mascots coming to visit us for a couple of weeks… Princess Elizabeth, Hippo’s cousin from London has become the kids’ favourite!

They have even  learned how to bow to Her Royal Highness ! When they heard that she is not married..yet and she’s still looking for her Prince, they started suggesting  their.. brothers, uncles or cousins, for her future husband!! That was hilarious!

There are also some of Hippo’s friends : Mr Owl, Mr Elephant , Miss Duck etc

Kids are looking forward to Hippo’s visit in our class ! They miss him so much!

They talk about him at home! They bring him their own animal friends, to help him  make new friends and feel less lonely  ! They ask him questions about his hometown and country! They want to know more about his family, back home! By the way, his family is a… pink Elephant family-Hippo is…. adopted !- but, they don’t seem to find that weird ,at all ! !

Young learners get attached to mascots very quickly, especially if you bring it to every class and let the students touch, hug and talk to it. My students love offering our puppet water and got very concerned when Hippo got ill and had to go to hospital! Or had to wear glasses ! They also feel the need to give him a hug , each time he misses his mother, who lives in London!

It’s true that, class mascots can quickly give your room a sense of character and responsibility. They’re also a lot of fun! Whether it’s a live rat, a guinea pig, or a plastic potato with a silly grin, your mascot can become an incredibly rich part of the students’ year.

I can’t wait to see what fun we’ll have with Hippo and his friends  ,next!