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

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Margarita Kosior is an amazing educator from Thessaloniki! I truly admire her work on storytelling !

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

Enjoy!

MARGARITA’S POST:

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

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

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

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

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

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

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Storytelling with Margarita at Sztuklandia, Lublin, Poland

Photo credits: Kinga Łaszcz

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

Storytelling with Margarita at the Central Library of Larissa, Greece

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Photo credits: Vassiliki Mandalou

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

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

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

Photo credits: Aphro Gkiouris

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

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

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

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

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

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Photo credits: Magdalena Baca

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

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Photo by Margarita Kosior

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

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Peter Panda

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Millie Monkey

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Zara Zebra

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Margarita Kosior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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MY COMMENT:

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

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

They ALL wanted to take part in the story!

Our special friends!

Our special headbands!

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

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

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

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

Here are some photos from my class…..

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

 

 

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A guest blog post by Vicky Loras-” Oh, Canada….in Larissa”

Oh, Canada…in Larissa!

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Discovering Canada with the amazing kids in Aphrodite Gkiouris‘ classes in primary school

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How I Got There
Two weeks ago, I went to Larissa, a city in Greece, in order to do two workshops after being kindly invited by the amazing English Teachers Association of Larissa.
The next day, I was very fortunate to be able to visit the 30th Primary School of Larissa, where my good friend Aphrodite Gkiouris works as an English teacher. I was excited to be there, as it had been quite a few years since I had been in a primary classroom in a state school.

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The Visit
Aphrodite and I had decided that I take part in teaching four classes, one Grade 4 class, two Grade 5s and a Grade 6. I was going into the classroom as an unknown guest – the kids did not know where I was from, just the fact that I was also a teacher, Miss Aphrodite’s friend from another country who had come to visit them.
The days before the big day, the kids had worked so hard with their teacher, coming up with terrific questions to ask, in order to figure out where I was from. Not only that, they had prepared questions to ask after they had discovered where I was from!

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I went in class, and Aphrodite introduced me – I then proceeded to tell the kids that the country I come from is very very coooooold! We played around with opposites like hot – cold, near – far away, big – small.
Some of the questions the kids asked were:
What language do the people speak there?
Are there forests/parks in your city?
Is it in Europe? Which continent?

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After they had found it – and they were really quick! – Aphrodite and I pulled out a huge flag I had brought along and we hung it on a clothesline with pegs (Aphro has EVERYTHING in her classroom!) and then the kids asked questions like:
What time do the kids go to school there and what time do they finish?
What sports do the children play there?
Which animals live there?
Why does the flag have a leaf on it?
Why is it so cold there?

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A Beautiful Collaboration Between the Teacher and the Children
Apart from my part, Aphrodite and her class proceeded to demonstrate some of the chants they have learned with her, which gave such a beautiful, close and open-to-learning atmosphere! I was so excited; I could not stop applauding them! And I got the biggest hugs ever in the end which I will carry in my heart forever.

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It goes to show that if the teacher is motivated and tries everything for her students, it is absolutely infectious, since children are already open to great ideas and love learning! I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to visit Aphrodite and her children and I would like to say:
THANK YOU ALL EVER SO MUCH! EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IS SO SPECIAL!

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(Aphrodite is now writing) What a huge honour to host Vicky Loras in my classroom! My kids, loved her ! I have decided to post,only her  photos ,  but…since she has decided to send me her  photos of me teaching, in order  to be  included in her  post as well, I’ll add them here below, too!

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I always invite guest speakers in my classroom! It is a priceless experience ,for both the students and me!

A guest speaker conveys current, realistic information and a perspective on a subject that is not available from textbooks.Thank you Vicky again, for this opportunity!