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!

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Guest speakers , in our ELT class!

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Bringing a guest speaker into our class is an opportunity I always seek out !

My students are exposed to a different style of spoken English, and they  also learn content  that will benefit them in their education, in general !

To make sure that my studenrs get full benefit , I don’t just bring a guest in and let him/her speak, though…. I usually guide him/her  and help them with ideas about what they can do with each one of my classes

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I always prepare my students on the topic first! That is, after presenting my  students with information about the speaker and the topic which she  will discuss, I  have each student write three to five follow up questions for our  guest. For example, before Vicky Loras visited my class last week, I asked my students to think about what they would like to know about both her and  her country . Thinking of questions for a guest speaker can be very challenging to most ESL students, especially if we  ask them to do it on the spot  .When Vicky finished talking to my students, I encouraged them to ask the questions they had written  earlier in the week, as well as the ones they wrote down as she was speaking.

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I also make sure that, I prepare my students on the speaker, too! The more I  can prepare the  students on what they will hear and experience, the less anxiety they will suffer. I encourage my students to do their best to understand our  guest speaker and to let it go when they do not.

Behavior matters! I communicate with my  students ahead of time what behavior is expected when listening to a guest speaker. I tell them that, they should listen quietly. They can ask questions, but it is most polite to wait until the end  to do so.

I have to admit that, my students were really well behaved when Vicky  arrived! I am really proud of them!

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Also, I , always prepare my guest speakers as to the language level of my  students before they coms to class to speak. Vicky for example, was well aware of the different levels of my classes before she stepped into each one  of them.

To help my  speakers, I  make  sure I  have everything they would  need for the presentation including a projector and our laptop!

Vicky was amazing at encouraging my students!  The lower the language level of the  class the more important this engagement is and Vicky was superb at this!

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After Vicky had  left and my  clasess had asked their questions, I asked my students how they felt about the experience! They were just thrilled! They loved Vicky, they came to know so much about Canada, too! Few students told me that they had struggles understanding the speaker but, I told them it was  perfectly normal for their level and age. Working with my  students before she came  and then again after she left made  this  good experience for my  students even better.

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I usually try to bring in speakers of different ages with different ethnic and geographical backgrounds. It is also helpful if the speaker is a native speaker of English ,since his or her speech patterns are more realistic even if more challenging for my  students.

I have been thinking about how my class can benefit  even more, by developing an ongoing relationship with our speakers. In Vicky’s case, it would be great if she could either visit again one day or, arrange a Skype meeting with our  classes! How cool would that be?

Our present to Vicky, was an issue of our handmade English magazine!

Our present to Vicky, was an issue of our handmade English magazine!

Thank you Vicky Loras, for the opportunity to share a lesson with you ! I am looking forward to reading your comments about your visit in  our classroom, in a future guest blog post!

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