Displaying students’ work

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Our english bulletin board outside the teachers’ office!! So much to share!

If  I ask my students “Why do we display work in our classroom?” answers might include: “So we can see what each other is doing.” “So we can show work that we’re proud of.” “So we can learn more about a topic.” “So that we have interesting things on the walls.” As their teacher, I might  add that displays also help students reflect on their work, learn from each other’s work, and make the classroom beautiful.

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Colourful students projects, displayed!

I personaly, provide each class with a space on the wall of our english classroom, that belongs to them! I hang a  colourful background paper and label it with the class  name.  At the risk of being institutionalized, I will admit that I have used actual levels and tape measures to perfect them .I also like hanging students’ work  from a clothesline.

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I provide each class with a space on the wall of our english classroom, that belongs to them

I have several   “ bulletin boards”  both in my classroom and outside it, in the corridors,   now. Full of photos -to share our work in the class with other students, classes or parents- pen pals letters, photos and projects, news from our class, forthcoming events announcements, invitations to our english shows and so many more!

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Pen pals letters, photos and projects outside our classroom door!

I make sure that my classroom displays consist mostly of work students have done themselves (along with a few essential informational pieces such as class rules, anchor charts, and reminders about classroom routines).

It’s not only walls that  can be used as display surfaces!  In my classroom there are more places, such as:  the door, the ceiling ( mobiles), tables, boxes ,shelves, string washing lines -as I have already mentioned-  the corridors and sometimes the…floor or the windows! I should also mention “another school”,  since our projects are sent abroad and therefore displayed in another classroom! Additionaly, part of my students’ work is published  in the school handmade magazine and this is very motivating indeed!

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In my classroom there are more places than just the walls, such as: the door, the ceiling ( mobiles), tables, boxes ,shelves, string washing lines or the corridors …

 I suggest  that, we should- together with our students – develop criteria for choosing work to display.

These criteria might include:

  • The work shows our best efforts, not just perfect work.
  • The work shows growth or improvement. (This may include displaying early drafts with later drafts.)
  • We feel proud of the work.
  • The work is important to us.

I firmly believe that, effective displays celebrate each piece of work and radiate with a sense of student pride. They highlight the individual pieces of work rather than the surrounding decoration.

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All the classes photos are always displayed on the door!

My list of qualities that make a display effective:

Displays should be simple.

Displays should show what is most important in the work.

Decorations should fit with the piece of work and show it off.

Displays should include a label with the name of the student, the title of the work, and perhaps something about the work.

Displays should be neat.

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I also like hanging students’ work from a clothesline.

Tips about displays:

Displays should have a meaningful connection to the curriculum. They should be effective tools for teaching and learning. This is particularly important when the holiday season approaches. Although there’s nothing wrong with seasonal displays, the material on display should go beyond simply marking a holiday. Instead the information should connect with, emerge from, and expand students’ knowledge about topics being studied.

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The class rules are displayed behind the teacher’s desk, visible to the whole class!

Create displays that honor effort and not just perfectly mastered work.Displays should make every child feel valued regardless of his or her academic or artistic abilities. I avoid using grades, stickers, or marks on children’s work that will be displayed.

Keep displays fresh, useful, and uncluttered. Make sure that the children’s work is changed often enough to keep the displays relevant to the curriculum and keep them from getting “stale.” With limited space it is better to regularly rotate the children’s work than to crowd and clutter the area. I manage to do so,  by having my students  exchange their  projects with their  pen pals  abroad!

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The corridors are perfect for displaying photos from our end- of -the- year musicals and shows!

 Displaying student work is very important for motivation in a student-centered classroom.

Displaying student work sends several important messages to students, staff, and visitors:

  • As teachers, we value what students do.
  • This is the students’ classroom as much as the teacher’s.
  • In this classroom, students share their work and learning with one another.
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Make sure that the children’s work is changed often enough to keep the displays relevant to the curriculum and keep them from getting “stale.

Students will naturally look at their own work more frequently than they’ll look at commercial pieces. It is their work, after all. Seeing their own work on display not only boosts students’ sense of belonging and significance in the room, but also helps them learn from their classmates and see a greater purpose behind their work. All of these things can help lead to greater academic engagement and deep, meaningful learning.

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Native speakers, in our english class…

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Michelle Gerber, is an amazing artist and writer from South Africa! I was honoured to have her in my class!

Connecting kids to the Reason for learning is such an important part of creating and maintaining motivation.  And while the reason for learning another language is to speak with people, many students might pass through an entire year of class without ever speaking with a native speaker of that language.

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She talked to my 4th graders about the jungle and taught them how to draw jungle animals using shapes!

Getting native speakers into the classroom then is one way that I believe we can help students connect with the motivation boosting Purpose for learning language.

There are two challenges in this of course.  The first is finding native speakers with time to come to your class. The second is knowing what to do with them.  I will leave the first problem to you to solve.  Be creative.  Be bold in asking. You can find native speakers pretty much anywhere to help you out with this once in a while.

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She read her beautiful book to my 5th graders and talked about bullying and friendship!

The second is a bit more challenging.  What you don’t want to do is put it on the native speaker to prepare something.  That’s your job as teacher, not theirs.  You could of course have them come and share about a topic – which is a great idea.  Prep your kids the week before by getting them into the topic, preparing questions, listening to recordings of others speaking on the topic and writing about the topic themselves.  I think that would be a great class period and a lot of fun and something you could do regularlyDSCN5035

This, can not only give your students a ton of input in the course of one class period, but also begin to connect them to native speakers.  And it is the connection that will be a big part of creating the motivation that will begin to build in your students a love for the language and the people who speak it.

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She talked with all my classes about her country

 Bringing a guest speaker into our class is an opportunity we should seek out. Our students will be exposed to a different style of spoken English, and they might also learn content that will benefit their educations. Just bringing a guest in and letting him or her speak, however, is not always enough.

Here are some of my  tips to make sure your students are getting the full benefit of the guest speaker experience:

Prepare Your Students on the Topic

All students will benefit from some preparation as to the subject matter your guest will discuss. However, the level to which you should prepare your students will vary greatly depending on the language level of your class.mosaic michelle 5

Prepare Your Students on the Speaker

It is also a good idea to give your students some advanced information about who will be speaking to them.

Prepare Your Students on Behavior

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My students had lots of questions to ask!

For example, they should listen quietly to the guest speaker. They can ask questions, but it is most polite to wait until the end of the presentation to do so. They should make eye contact with the speaker, and it is appropriate to take notes while the presenter is speaking.

Prepare the Speaker on Language Level

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They were highly enganged during all the activities!

Not all speakers are familiar with speakers of English as a second language. In fact, it will probably benefit your class more if your guest speaker is not an ESL teacher. With this in mind, it is not a bad idea to prepare her as to the language level of your students before she comes to class to speak.

Have Your Students Prepare Questions

Thinking of questions for a guest speaker can be very challenging to most ESL students, especially if you ask them to do it on the spot. Therefore, it is beneficial to have your students write some follow-up questions for your speaker before the day he is scheduled to come to class.

Engage Your Students

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My 6th graders had the chance to interview her about her life and homeland!

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Before you even invite a guest speaker, think about what kind of speaker from whom your students would most benefit.

Encourage your speaker to engage your students as she speaks, and select those guest speakers who you think will be able to do this for your class. The lower the language level of your class the more important this engagement is. To help your speaker, make sure you have everything she will need for the presentation including a projector or television if necessary. Make sure you talk with your speaker ahead of time to see what she will need so you are not scrambling when she shows up at your classroom door.

Who to Invite

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Make the most of any connections you can between your curriculum and your guest speaker to benefit your students.

Try to bring in speakers of different ages with different ethnic and geographical backgrounds. It is also helpful if the speaker is not a teacher of English since his or her speech patterns will be more realistic even if more challenging for your students.

Debrief Your Students

Debriefing is important both for making sure your students understood today’s presentation as well as preparing them for future presentations. After your speaker has left and your class has asked their questions, ask your students how they felt about the experience.

It is always important, to thank your guest with a little present made by the whole class!

It is always important, to thank your guest with a little present made by the whole class!

 

The “Ten second object” and the ” Essence machines”

I'll let you guess about this one...what do you think the object is??

I’ll let you guess about this one…what do you think the object is??

This is a very popular drama game and a useful technique which can be developed easily towards improvisation or physical theatre. It’s also highly accessible and great fun!

Divide everyone into small groups (4-6). Call out the name of an object and all the groups have to make the shape of that object out of their own bodies, joining together in different ways while you count down slowly from ten to zero. Usually every group will find a different way of forming the object. Examples could be: a car, a fried breakfast, a clock, a washing machine, a fire.

In the photos below, you can view only FEW of the objects the students were asked to make the shape of…

A tree

A tree

The Star shining

The Star shining

A hot-air balloon

A hot-air balloon

An airplane

An airplane

Full moon

Full moon

A desk and chair

A desk and chair

Books on a bookshelf

Books on a bookshelf

An umbrella

An umbrella

I often combine this drama activity with one other old-time favourite…the Essence machines!

This activity provides a useful technique for generating physical and aural ideas around a theme. Explain that the group is going to create a “machine” out of themselves. Name a topic and give the participants a few moments to think of a repeating sound and action linked to that theme. For example, if the theme was “shopping” a participant could mime taking money out of a purse to give to a shopkeeper, whilst saying “I’ll have two of those, please.”

As soon as someone has an idea, ask them to step into the centre of a circle to begin their repeating sound and movement. Ask if somebody else can think of a suitable way to add in their own idea. Gradually, more and more people join in the activity. Some may be linked to existing parts of the “machine”, whilst others may be separate. To continue the example above, someone could join the action by becoming the shopkeeper and saying “Shall I wrap them for you?”, whilst somebody else could be a cleaner in the shopping mall.

Essence machines: at the gym

Essence machines: at the gym

A bus

A bus

A fireplace

A fireplace

Another version of the airplane

Another version of the airplane

A river

A river

Another version of the Sun!

Another version of the Sun!

A new vesrion of a tree

A new vesrion of a tree

A vase full of flowers

A vase full of flowers

A bike!!

A bike!!

 

Learning english the RIGHT way, can be so much FUN!

Learning english the RIGHT way, can be so much FUN!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Our School Bazaar

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Our Christmas Bazaar every year,  marks  the end of an action-packed week!

 

The school  is transformed into a fall festival on the two days our Bazaar lasts!
Little Kids, Big Kids, Parents, Teachers, Neighbors, and Grandparents –all welcome!
I tell my kids to grab their friends and plan to shop ’til you drop and have some good old-fashioned school fun!

With roots going back thousands of years, the sprawling bazaars of South Asia and the Middle East are icons of flourishing commerce.

Our  own school Christmas bazaar ,has already become  a favorite tradition. Through planning, we  make it more fun than shopping at the mall.

It all began about 3 years ago, when the financial crisis in Greece started….

I had to find a way to sponsor my english class pen pals projects with more than 5 countries abroad  and a way to be able to expand our english library, books collection!

My motto is: ” If there is a will, there is a way”!

I wanted to teach my students that, in any  time of crisis, they should not remain passive but take action instead!!

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Therefore, I decided to host a second -hand books and toys Bazaar in our English classroom!

I wrote a letter to the parents explaining everything and focusing on the benefits of teaching our students to Reuse and Share , especially in this   time of crisis!

The only thing I actually did was, to offer them my “magic” stickers – which work wonders…- for every book , or toy they offered for the bazaar, as a way to thank them for their contribution to it!( Stickers are indeed ,  a great motivation for kids, in all cases ) !

Every year, the books that are not  finally sold, are offered to  our  school Greek Library, for all  students to be able to read and the toys, are  donated to  local charity communities !

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You can have a look at how much fun a  School Bazaar can be for students, at the photos below!

Students, feel responsible for it, feel proud for  the outcome, learn how to collaborate, set goals, acheive, and work as volunteers!

Their hidden talents , and special skills are revealed, too!

It’s a precious, unforgettable experience for them!

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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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Advent adventure

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Every year, about a  month before Christmas holidays, I put up  different advent calendars for  different level classes ,in our classroom….

I am writing about my most favourite ones so far, below….

THE ENVELOPES ADVENT BANNER

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I need:

24 small envelopes

24 wooden christmas or clothes pegs ( which  can be decorated with paint and glitter)

Ribbon

24 pieces of card or postcards

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Instructions:

To decorate the envelopes, I use christmas stickers but, another nice idea is to ask the students to draw on them or paint them, beforehand…

With a pen, I write the numbers 1-24 on the envelopes

To fill in the advent calendar I either use printable capital letters or decorate  24 postcards with the letters myself  , as follows:

Envelope 1- W, envel.2- E, env.3-W, env.4- I, env.5 -S, env.6-H……etc

When done,  we have the sentence: WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS

I usually pop something else into the envelopes.I often put pictures with Christmas vocabulary for my little ones, or christmas jokes for the older students.

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To use the advent banner:

Each day, I take down and open that day’s envelope and peg up the card instead. By Christmas Eve ,the banner will read WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS

I usually decorate a further 7 envelopes adding the numbers 25-31.I make 7 cards .One decorated with a star, 5 with each of the words AND,A,HAPPY,NEW,YEAR, and the seventh with the date of the New Year! I peg these envelopes  at the end of the advent banner and reveal the cards inside in  class, the very last day, before schools close for Christmas…

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THE CUPS ADVENT CALENDAR

Clips: I use mini clothespins or Christmas pegs, binder clips, paper clips etc…

1. Affix number sto the cups

2. Attach to the ribbon

3. Fill cups with messages, christmas jokes, loot etc..

4. Show to kiddies and have fun time each morning checking out the new surprise!

You can use anything to fill in the cups…

It can be a little treat, it can be a note about an activity we’ll do that day. e.g. paint an ornament for the tree, watch a holiday movie, sing a christmas song but, here below, I am sharing with you some Game-surprises, I have used for our advent cups this year:

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A. Santa says (similar to Simon Says)

It’s a fun game to play with young students

B.Pass the ornament game

We  need a straw for each child. we use ornaments cut-out of tissue paper  or real ones.

Pass the ornaments down the line , teammate to teammate, by inhaling and exhaling on the straw to hang on or release the ornament. no hands1

C.Pin the nose on Frosty or Rudolph

Blindfold the player, spin’em around and let them try to stick the nose where it’s supposed to go. Give a sticker for the player who gets the closest.

D. Christmas Scramble

Choose a Christmas word such as : Christmas, Candy, Cane, Santa Claus, Reindeer…Write the letters of the word on individual index cards. Do this two times, making two sets. Put each set in a paper bag. Two teams.Give each team a bag. The first team to decipher what the word in the bag is wins.

E.Snowball dance

Better for 5th or 6th graders or high school children.

All the girls stand on one side, the boys on the other.One girl and one boy are chosen to dance in christmas music for a minute while the rest of the class  are singing along. Then, a signal is given and the girl and the boy choose new partners. This continues until everyone is dancing.Great to teach Christmas songs, too!

F. Tongue Twisters

Say each phrase three times as fast as you can. A christmas sticker for everyone who tries.

Santa sings shining star songs

Sally skis super slow

Tip-top tiny tot toys

Sally’s striped stocking’s stuffed slightly

Santa’s super souped sleigh swiftly slides sideways

One of the teams, working on our Advent Cup ,surprise Christmas Games!

One of the teams, working on our Advent Cup ,surprise Christmas Games!

Candy cane cookies keep kids coming etc

G. Book exchange

Inexpensive gift wrap for each child

A christmas book

Children set in a circle,  holding a wrapped book. A Room Mother reads A Christmas story. I prefer the Gingerbread Man story.

Every time the word “ran” is spoken they pass the book to the person on their right. Continue doing until the story is over. Whoever has the book on their lap at the end of the story is theirs to keep and open.

Many activities can follow this amazing story telling game! Draw the story, retell the story, change the story ending, write the story summary etc, according to the class level!

H. Word Find

Take a Christmas related word such as: Christmas, Candy cane, etc and find as many smaller words from it as posiible , working in teams, before the time runs out. Example: Christmas-sit, is, his,miss,rat,this,math,rim…

The team with the longest list of words, win christmas stickers.

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I. Christmas twenty questions

The teacher says ” I am thinking of something…” The children try to quess what it is by asking no more than 20 questions ,that can be answered “Yes”  “No”or “I don’t know”.The student who guesses correctly is next up.

Example: Frosty

I am thinking of someone who wears a hat. He loves snow.He’ll melt if it’s too warm outside

Clues should be age appropriate for the children playing

More ganes ideas you could also find on

http://holidays.kaboose.com/xmas-party.html

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ENJOY!!THE COUNTDOWN ARTISTIC ADVENT CALENDAR

The simplest advent I have ever used in my class , is the one in the photo above! Simlpe but yet, artistic and fun! Children just love it!

We count down together as a class -revising the numbers, at the same time – before I change the numbers each day!

Stay tuned…more advent ideas that work in my english class, tomorrow…

Class Letter Box

Writing , is really important in my classes! Writing for a purpose and addressing real people, writing for a reason, has always been crucial in my teaching!

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In my classroom, there is always a letter box, where,  students ,during the week, can drop a letter to me or their classmates. They are asked to write in english only, and everybody who receives a letter should reply ! We open the letter box and deliver mail, every last lesson of the week !

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They look  so much forward to it!

I always make sure, I have a glance at each letter before I hand it to the recipient, just to make sure it’s written in english and/or doesn’t contain any …bad language or insulting comments!

The letter box is what  I also use the very first day in class,to drop my students my first letter , writing about how excited I am to be with them , my expectations, hopes, wishes and comments!

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The students, are asked to reply , writing about  their goals , asking  me about anything they want to know, or just share their feelings! They are told that, every letter will be answered and no letter will be read in public- of course..! I want them to be free to share anything that troubles or excites  them!

It’s surprising that, most of them, feel the need to share even personal stuff, fears, anxieties and  even ask for advice about problems and concerns they might face!

My reply letters are  short, encouraging and really positively inspired!

They are always so excited when the post box opens!

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This is where they find their foreign pen friends  letters, too! The one above, comes from Taiwan !

They  even use the letter box , to drop the special  note they are asked to  complete at the end of each lesson , on a volunteer basis,about what they have  learned, a question they still have or something that is still not clear to them after the lesson and needs to be explained  ..

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This is great feedback for me! I always answer  all  notes  I receive!

Build your students'self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Build your students’self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Goal setting and Life Skills for kids

mos14ls4I spend about a week every September to teach my students LIFE SKILLS and GOAL setting!

I strongly believe that, our gift is to teach our children how to take more responsibility for their education.It is essential that we give them the tools they need to succeed today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives!How can we get kids to “own” their education?

If we show them how to set and acheive goals and how to use these principles in the classroom ,we will give them important life skills tools that they will use for a lifetime!

I teach my 6th graders  the life skills below and then, a discussion follows….

1.No vision= no direction. I have them write down what they want to accomplish during the school year. I ask them to start their sentences with ” I want to…” or ” I will…”.  I sometimes, have the kids write a letter to themselves  about what they think they will be doing during the school year, what their expectations are, who their closest friends would be,  how I can best help them during the year, etc…Later, I ask them to put all these letters  in a TIME CAPSULE which is actually a Pringles  can, and reopen it in June…one week before school closes and talk about how many of our goals have been accomplished ! We also talk about why, we have failed to accomplish the rest of them.

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2.Don’t find a fault=Find a solution!

3.Show them how these 6 words can hold them back from being successful:no, can’t, won’t, never, maybe, if.

4.Coach the students that: to Earn more they will have to Learn more, Think more, and Do more!

5.Stress the  ” I’ll make it happen” words: yes, I can, I will.

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6.Demonstrate to them the power of eliminating Excuses!

7.Show them tangibles examples of how to set and acheive goals.Give them examples for how to use Goal setting in the classroom.

8.Help them to develop a habit to ask themselves each day:” Did I give my best effort to today’s activities”?

9.Demonstrate the importance of helping others.

10.FOCUS: Vision+Goals+Attitude+Action

It’s simply unbelievable, how my students appreciate this kind of teaching! They feel grateful and I know, because of the letters they write me from time to time…we have a letters box in the classroom which I am writing to you about, in a future post!

 

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Class rules

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I spend about three weeks at the beginning of each school year, to work on the basics with all my classes: these incude, warming up-getting to know you activities, class rules , goals setting, life skills!

I’ll be able to write here about each one of them , soon….

Today, I could talk a bit about class rules and what I have found to be working in my classes! Well, I’ve tried class contracts and long discussions about which rules both the teacher and the students should follow during the school year!

First, the kids brainstorm classroom rules .My class rule is a pledge!  ” I will do nothing to interfere with the learning, safety, or respect of myself or others”.We also talk about the 3 P’s: BE PROMPT- BE PREPARED-BE POLITE! My students brainstorm all the rules they can think of and we categorize them into these three!

But, I’ve also tried to work with WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING RULES which my students just love!

The following are five classroom rules that will make your life amazingly easier. One of them is nuclear power in your hands!

If rules are only posted on your board they are not really a part of your class. You must have the rules running around in your students’ heads for them to be effective. It will also help you quiet extra talking in the class. Look for that as you read.

Teach them as follows:

Rule One: Follow directions quickly! (the gesture: make your hand shoot forward like a fish)

Rule Two: Raise your hand for permission to speak (the gesture: raise your hand, then pull it down next to your head and make a talking motion. This rule will be the most commonly violated. See below for how you stop this without criticism or negativity.)

Rule Three: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. (the gesture: raise your and, and then make a little walking figure with your index and middle finger.)

Rule Four: Make smart choices! (the gesture: tap one finger to your temple as you say each word.

Rule Five: Keep your dear teacher happy! (the gesture: hold up each thumb and index finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

In elementary school, rehearse the rules first thing in the morning, after lunch and after each recess. When you call out the rule number, your students respond with the rule itself and the correct gesture. Make the rehearsals as entertaining as possible; use a variety of voices (happy, robot, froggy) and tempos, fast, slow, super fast. For additional fun, ask of your liveliest students to lead the rules rehearsal.

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Rule Two will be the most commonly violated, duh. You do not have to call anyone down; you do not have to mention names. If you are addressing the class and some kids are talking, you stop, hold up two fingers and loudly say “RULE TWO!”

Every kid in your class should repeat rule two energetically with gestures. This signals the violators to stop talking … without you needing to scold them.

Rule Five is nuclear power. Think about it- keep your dear teacher happy. THERE IS NO LOOPHOLE! No student can convince you that they are making you happy. You are the world’s greatest authority on what makes you happy. If they try to convince you they are making you happy, immediately inform them that does not make you happy.

If a student complains that they don’t know how to make you happy, tell them that following the first four rules will be just dandy.

Rule Five has no loophole.

If parents ask why their child should worry about making you happy, respond that you have the responsibility to teach their child and every other child in that class. The happier you are, the better you can do your job.

Now, let’s think briefly, about how these five classroom rules relate to brain structure.  The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling.  When you teach the rules with the Whole Brain signs, your students’ brains are maximally operative.  They see the signs, hear the rules, say the rules and make the gestures.  If you are upbeat and entertaining in your presentation, and of course you are!, your students will also have the lovely feeling of having fun.  Also note that for all five modes of brain learning to take place for your students, you have to engage in all five modes yourself.  Whole Brain Teaching is as great for the instructor’s brain as the students’!

I have recently added this attention poster below, to help me with class management and it proved to be REALLY useful! My kids just ADORED it! I have been using this every single day, when I need to have their attention and it really WORKS!!

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