My Pilgrims experience!

The reason I decided to apply for a Comenius grant to be able to go to Pilgrims and attend a professional development course, back in 2011, was the same reason most  teachers go to Pilgrims for: new ideas, to be refreshed and to experience the unique Pilgrims difference, which focuses on our continuous personal and professional development.

Its international environment, ensures you practice and refresh your own English at all times, and also make new friendships, that last a lifetime!  

Six years later, in 2017, I came back to Pilgrims, on a scholarship! The “Bonnie Tsai scholarship” which I am very proud of !  Bonnie, was the Pilgrims Teacher Trainer who changed my teaching, for ever!

Actually, words cannot express how grateful  I am to have been chosen as the scholarship recipient. My professional development has always been of upmost importance to me, and to be rewarded in this way is very humbling. That scholarship was an absolute answer to my prayers, as life does not always go as we plan. I will forever be thankful for this gift, and I cannot thank Pilgrims enough for that.

To learn more about the Bonnie Tsai scholarship, please, visit here.

Back to 2011….What colleagues who had been there before, had assured me of before I arrived there for the first time was that, the Pilgrims Humanistic approach was the key element, which made all the difference.

The Pilgrims Humanistic Approach, in brief:

  • Effective teaching & learning engages the whole person – mind, body and heart
  • The learner is the central person in the act of learning
  • Creativity, involvement and enjoyment are the essential elements for lifelong learning

“Pilgrims, does not teach a method, but teaches people”.

“Wow”! I thought, back then….

After a really long journey from my hometown in central Greece, to Canterbury, which lasted about 15 hours (!!) and suffering from sciatica and terrible pain, I arrived on Kent University campus ,where a lovely young student had been waiting for me, to help me carry my suitcase to my bedroom and help me “with anything else I might need”!

“Thank you Lizzie” I thought….I had no idea that she would have remembered my request to have an assistant waiting for me upon my arrival, to help me with my heavy suitcase ,upstairs!

Lizzie Wojtkowska-Wright is the Business Manager for Pilgrims Teacher Training who ensures all the details of our course with them are managed effortlessly. Lizzie and her team are there to answer all our questions before and during our course, so we can focus on enjoying every minute of it!

I stayed in a basic student bedroom in the college with a private shower and toilet. Including  bed and breakfast.Awesome! My bedroom window had a beautiful view over the little forest surrounding the campus and a couple of little squirrels and bunnies, were the first creatures I could see, every single morning , when I woke up and drew the curtains…

I had some rest and later, I went for a walk around the campus….

Such a beautiful place! Ideal for studying! A paradise!

Residential, teaching and administrative buildings are surrounded by green open spaces, fields and woods. I was within walking distance of all the excellent facilities the university had on offer including a Theatre and Cinema, a Library, a Campus Shop and bookshop, a pharmacy, an off-licence, banks and cashpoints, bistros, bars, cafés, bus stops and launderette.

I later found out, that the University of Kent is less than 20 minutes walk from Canterbury city centre.

One of the best ways to explore was on foot, allowing me to truly admire the historical architecture and exciting atmosphere of Canterbury. I often explored Canterbury and discovered for myself  the beauty of its best known attractions and best kept secrets, history and culture .

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, shopping, country walks, the seaside, or eating out – Canterbury and its surroundings has it all! For example, a short bus drive away lies the quintessential seaside town of Whitstable, featuring beautiful beaches, cafes, art galleries…I will never forget the day I first visited it, with my friends Marta and Jose from Spain and Emma from Holland! We had a blast! I was lucky to visit it again this year, together with my good friend Tulay from Turkey ! Jim and Lizzie, were our hosts and both made us feel very welcome, in their picturesque hometown!

To me, Pilgrims Teacher Training courses empower you to be a highly effective, motivated and inspired teacher. Pilgrims, is its people…

Jim Wright, is the heart and soul of Pilgrims!

Jim is an amazing person, who has been my facebook friend all these years and whom I truly admire and respect.He is a positive thinker, with a great sense of humour!

He is the Principal of Pilgrims Teacher Training in Canterbury and is responsible for the overall management, vision and continued growth of Pilgrims. He is really passionate about creating an environment where inspiration, transformation and feeling good about ourselves are possibilities for all staff and participants.

I saw Jim again, this year and realised that he is such an inspiration himself!

He is a man who understands that greater happiness lies in helping others, not helping himself. Jim is a gentleman: polite, respectful, considerate and attentive to all the trainees’ needs, at Pilgrims! Having integrity, is another very important characteristic of him!

His most important characteristic though, is his positive attitude, which may be difficult to find today,since we live in such a negative society. With his positive attitude, people want to be around him and  share the fun. He seems happy with his life and the world around him and he wants to look out for others and to help them. 

He is one of the Pilgrims smiling faces and always brightening up people’s days.

But, the best part about the Pilgrims experience for me, was the training courses I attended !

By having read their brochure, before I applied, I knew that I would get

  • 22.5 hours per week Training Course
  • Up to 10 additional hours of Afternoon and Evening Activities
  • Work in multinational groups
  • Free Seminars, Workshops and Activities to choose from at 16:00 or 20:00 on 3 or 4 days per week.

These workshops usually include : Idioms Update• Fun with Poetry• Songs and Music• Yoga• Storytelling• Teaching Through Art• NLP• Relaxation Techniques• Using Metaphor •Multiple Intelligences• Shakespeare• Joke Telling• Lexical Approach• British Life & Culture• Folk Dancing• Drama Workshop• Grammar Around You• Tai’ Chi• Alphabet Games• Teaching Pronunciation• The Creative Use of Texts• Salsa Dancing• Celtic Evening

I had my best time in those afternoon classes, where I shared unforgettable fun moments with my international colleagues! Concerning this year,I will never forget the afternoon dancing classes fun!

My most favourite afternoon trainers, back in 2011,were Adrian Underhill who taught me pronunciation through his beautiful music and  Peter Dyer , who utilised his drama experience with his teaching methodology.

Adrian, helped me fix the wrong way I used to pronounce ‘“G” sounds…..Adrian also, taught me how to incorporate his Pron Chart layout into my teaching, first just to help myself, and gradually reveal it to my learners as they became ready for it.

It was the best introduction to the phonemic chart I could ever have had.

He gave me a huge boost of confidence as I realised it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and using the chart as Adrian does was incredibly engaging.

One thing that stood out for me was that he advised us not to wait to use the chart in class until we were ready, but to dive in and go on a journey with the learners.

His  chart is now an integral part of my lessons.

Peter’s classes were aimed at any teacher with a relatively good level of English and they were all about making us feel more relaxed about the way we communicate, to be more responsible about how we fit in with the world both professionally and privately. He used to tell us that, “As teachers, we are actors. Even the  first entrance to a classroom is terribly, terribly important. We need to be aware of our appearance, gestures but voice as well.”

I admire Peter’s work and I have been his fan, all these years! So happy, I managed to attend his afternoon classes again, this year!

In 2011,I decided to attend  Bonnie Tsai’s NLP course which has practically changed the way I have been teaching since then and has deeply influenced me as a person!

For me, Neuro Linguistic Programming was something very new and certainly challenging. I chose it because somewhere deep inside I wanted a change. There was something in my teaching or my approach to teaching that seemed to be missing or out of tune. I was looking for answers that were deep inside of me waiting to be uncovered.

NLP enabled me to explore deeply learning styles and teaching styles.

What I remember the most about that course though, is  the joyful period of giving and receiving little sincere messages of thanks and gratitude, called metaphorically, “FISH.”

I am thankful to Bonnie! I will always be…

In her lifetime, Bonnie inspired many people, like myself, with her natural desire to learn and understand the magic of it. When I heard of her premature death, I prayed to thank her for inspiring me and opening me to change…

Bonnie transformed people’s lives. She became  my mentor and  inspiration !

With her help, I learned to see the teaching process through the student’s perspective and also saw that students have different ways of learning and we have to adapt our methods to the students, not the other way round. She showed me that teaching was not only a profession but an art, and the teacher is an artist that interacts with his/her students in a creative way.

The most vivid memory though was the day, she had us walk outside the classroom , in pairs, one behind the other, freely moving around, dancing or hopping, jumping or running, following our partner’s movement and trying to “walk in his/her shoes” in order to achieve rapport! Rapport is important. We need rapport to influence others, to teach and learn, to achieve difficult tasks in groups and even to mate….

That special day, Bonnie asked ME to be her walking partner! I still remember the feeling…She was walking in front of me, and I had to walk in the same way, avoiding obstacles on the way and forgetting about my own sciatica pain for a while!….Bonnie taught me rapport and humanity.

I still remember the day, Stefania Ballotto, an amazing Teacher Trainer, and Bonnie’s close friend, visited our class to teach us about Brain Gym!

Stefania’s lesson was so inspiring ! The very next day, Bonnie asked me to demonstrate few of those Brain Gym activities! Somehow,that turned out to be the most hilarious lesson, ever..!  Bonnie, thanked me in the end, for…” all that fun”!

As for Stefania Ballotto … I ‘m looking for adjectives to describe this outstanding teacher trainer!

She is so inspiring, caring, dedicated and committed! She is a devoted teacher passionate about her work !

She’s just….Supercalifragilisticexpialidoci ous!! She inspired me, the very first time I saw her teach!

All in all, what I got from the Pilgrims Course was more confidence and now I really believe in myself.

And I also made and kept great friends : inspiring and inspired educators with most of whom we have already  created strong partnerships! They have become members of my precious PLN and we are always there for each other  to help and support.

Pilgrims is a family…..I was so very happy to see Hanna Kryszewska again after so many years, in Thessaloniki, where she was one of last year’s Tesol M.T.N.Greece Convention presenters!

Hanna is a Pilgrims trainer and editor of HLT Magazine, which has been my ELT Bible, all these years! She is such a friendly person and an inspiring educator!

She is also a teacher who believes in a humanistic approach to education ,like me…. Her Tesol MTNGreece Convention workshop, was actually about that approach!

Next time I manage to visit Pilgrims, I do hope to attend one of her classes !

When I told her that it was almost impossible for me to be able to visit Pilgrim’s again because of  the financial crisis in my country and the difficulties in funding opportunities, she rushed to suggest several alternative ways to help me achieve my goal ….

Amazing educators have promoted the Pilgrims Humanistic approach idea ,all these years, among whom:

Hanna Kryszewska, Paul Davis, Adrian Tennant, Magda Zamorska, Mike Shreeve, Daniel Martin, Linda Yael, Peter Dyer, Tim Bowen, Stephania Balloto, Aleksandra Zaparucha, Judit Feher, Isil Boy, Beyza Yilmaz, Julie Wallis and lots more outstanding professionals.

This year, I had the chance to meet a few of these outstanding people ,again: the always smiling Magda Zamorska,Mike Shreeve ( who was one of my two amazing teacher trainers in the “Teaching Difficult Learners” course-the other one was Phil Dexter ),Linda Yael (whose mother comes from Greece..Isn’t that cool? ), Judit Feher(who was Bonnie’s close friend), Julie Wallis ( so very helpful and always there for us all),Marina Marinova (who visited our course class and shared her personal story ,which inspired all of us so much),Mojca Belak ( I noticed that she’s a great dancer, among other things),and Amadeu Marin ( so energetic and fun to be with- like most Spanish people that I know)…..

And of course, for me ,as well as for most teachers that I know,“Pilgrims” calls the incredible Mario Rinvolucri to mind! I first met him in Athens, in one of Tesol Greece Conventions, a few years ago ! Actually , the first time I decided to go to Pilgrims , was because I wanted to see him again!

Mario started teaching English in my country ,Greece in the mid-1960s when there was nothing around called ‘methodology’.

I had been a regular reader of many of his articles in different publications as well as his  “Creative Writing” , before I meet him in person!

The book that deeply influenced my own teaching was “ Grammar Games: Cognitive, Affective and Drama Activities for EFL Students,CUP” .

Actually, I have used most of his books in my career, among which : Humanising Your Coursebook , Dictation: New Methods, New Possibilities , The Confidence Book: Building Trust in the Language Classroom , Using the mother Tongue, Once upon a time and so many more!

Mario, worked for Pilgrims since 1974, a period of 34 years or nearly half a career.

In 1999 , he became the founding editor of Humanising Language Teaching (HLT), my ELT Bible!

Pilgrims, is everything a traditional teacher training center isn’t.

In every moment Pilgrims Teacher Trainers are people that live values that attract positive attention throughout the world.

“Pilgrims is a company we love to work with and for” as they say…

They are so vibrant that new ideas and innovations arise one after another  through co-operation and creative energy.

They stand for the possibility of personal and professional transformation through their own continually transforming leadership, inspiration and coaching.


People in Pilgrims, believe in a humanistic approach to language acquisition and to personal growth.

They have an overwhelming passion to develop the confidence of all our learners and guide them with support and enthusiasm to achieve their goals.

Pilgrims is a worldwide community of passionate people. Join them! I have!

P.S To know more about Pilgrims and how to apply for a course, you can visit its site. Dare to live the Pilgrims experience!


First time presenting at a Tesol convention-feelings and some tips…


My first time as a presenter at a Tesol convention

My first time as a presenter at a Tesol convention

After years of active membership in both Tesol Greece and Tesol Macedonia-Thrace-Northern Greece, I finally decided to deliver a presentation ,in this year’s Tesol MTN Greece annual convention in March!

As I planned  my  session, I thought  about programs I had attended that had worked well and followed those examples. Similarly, if I recalled a session that I had  attended in the past that was not successful, I learnt from those mistakes!

Tesol conventions: networking is precious!

Tesol conventions: networking is precious!

I had in mind that ,when speeches and presentations are poorly organized, the impact of the message is reduced and the audience is less likely to accept the speaker or the speaker’s ideas.

Truth is, TESOL wants speakers  to do well. I knew, I would have all the support I would need..!

Of course, I must admit  I  was a bit nervous, before the big day! It’s normal to get nervous about public speaking, I guess…

I made sure that I used my notes to help me  remember what I wanted to say. (I actually, used my notes more  than I should have ….)

I also rehearsed a LOT!

Meeting old friends and making new ones! With a bunch of amazing Tesolers and speakers!

Meeting old friends and making new ones! With a bunch of amazing Tesolers and speakers!

Last but not least, I made sure that I read  the TESOL list of best practices to help me  create a successful session. I am sharing this  list here ….

 In your opening remarks, introduce yourself and mention the name and the purpose of the session.

 Attendees expect your presentation to reflect the description used to promote your session. Please ensure that it does.

 Stand up when presenting, even if you are part of a panel discussion.

 Always use your microphone, and repeat all questions from attendees.

 Engage session attendees as active learners rather than passive listeners.

 Provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to ask questions, interact with each other, and apply the concepts you are presenting.

 Provide resources and handout materials in advance of your session.

 Be energetic and enthusiastic! Attendees will feed off your energy, which will make the learning experience more useful and rewarding.

 Comply with all program-related deadlines provided by TESOL, including but not limited to deadlines for handouts, A/V orders, etc.

 Agree to notify TESOL immediately in event that an emergency should prevent you from meeting your obligation to present.

With a star speaker whom I admire: Ken Wilson.

With a star speaker whom I admire: Ken Wilson.

Know Your Audience

Who attends the TESOL convention? The attendees are primarily from higher education and elementary education, and they represent all job functions in the field. Consultants and exhibitors also attend.

What do attendees expect?

All attendees value openness and diversity of thinking as they tackle real issues in the classroom. They want substance and knowledge they can immediately put in to practice. All are looking for new ways to solve their current challenges and for ways to push their students, programs, and institutions toward better outcomes.

What your attendees will remember

 What they actually did in your session, not what they saw or heard

 Exercises that demonstrated your point

 Stories and examples that painted a mental picture

 Particularly powerful metaphors that can serve as reminders

 Small group discussion of key points

 Interaction with peers

What your attendees won’t remember

 Your incredible statistics, even though such facts will build your credibility

 Most of your jokes, although giving them a few laughs will make them more receptive to your information and thinking

 How eloquent you were, although your clarity of thought will help them comprehend what you are trying to say

My presentation topic and...crazy me!

My presentation topic and happy me!

Quick Tips:Things to Consider


 Smile, relax, and have fun—the audience will feel it

 Use an ice-breaker to get your audience interacting and engaged from the beginning

 Be energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate

 Use appropriate humor or other ways to engage your audience

 Know your topic well enough so that you do not have to read it from your slides

 Define any acronyms that your audience may not know

 Move around—don’t trap yourself behind a laptop

 Allow the audience to ask questions

 Try to add stories, anecdotes, testimonials, or demonstrations that emphasize your point

 Repeat questions asked by the audience so that everyone will hear

 Stay on track and within your allotted time

 Close your presentation by summarizing your key points

 Provide tools and information that audience can implement

 Remember that the audience is very interested in what you have to say and they want you to do well!

Me, presenting with confidence...

Me, presenting with confidence…


 Read your presentation from your slides or your notes

 Use acronyms that that audience might not know

 Look over your shoulder at the presentation screen (PowerPoint)

 Use slides that contain nothing but text

 Engage in distracting conversations with other presenters while someone else is talking

 Answer questions without repeating questions first

 Use conversation fillers like “umm,” “you know,” and “like”

 Speak so quickly that your audience has trouble understanding you

At the end of my presentation, with a bunch of dear friends and colleagues!

At the end of my presentation, with a bunch of dear friends and colleagues!

If your question now is, whether I managed to follow all those quidelines during my presentation, my  answer will be ” not really”!…

But, this is not what really mattered! The important thing was, that I finally did it!! I accepted the challege and decided to share my teaching  practices and class experience ,in public! I am no expert, I am just an ordinary teacher, who sometimes  does…..extraordinary things in class!

And because my motto is ” Sharing is caring”, I had to dare , share and inspire other teachers the same way, I have been inspired by amazing educators out there ,throughout me teaching career ! Tesol has been my major source of inspiration all these years!

I am a proud Tesoler and so happy to be able to offer something back!

Thank you Tesol Mac.Thr. N. Greece for the opportunity to share and show how much I do care!

After all, SHARING IS CARING! Dare to share!

Our “European Day of Languages”class activities- Promoting cultural and linguistic diversity


Traveling the World, speaking English!

Traveling the World, speaking English!

We live in a world that becomes more interconnected every day. Language is a large part of this interconnection because it is the primary means for communication. We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. I believe that, we can raise children to celebrate and value diversity and to be proud of themselves and their family traditions.

The European Day of Languages has been celebrated every year since 2001 on 26 September, as an initiative of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans represented in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states are encouraged to learn more languages, at any age, in and out of school. Being convinced that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent, the Council of Europe promotes plurilingualism in the whole of Europe.

The European Day of Languages celebrates plurilingualism and encourages the 800 million Europeans in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to learn more languages.



For the day, a range of events is organised across Europe: activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences.

Modern foreign language education aims to develop multilingualism and intercultural awareness. In this theoretical framework, the foreign language can be used as a bridge among the students’ languages and serve as a tool to develop translinguistic competence.

This year, I decided to adopt and use in class, many of the activities, Lilika Couri had suggested in her “Tesol Greece 2012 Convention” workshop!

Traveling the World, using our imagination and..English!

Traveling the World, using our imagination and..English!

Actually, Lilika talked about the facts that, language is culture, FL broadens our horizons, and that ,WE teachers are the humanists who aknowledge the presence of foreign nationals in  our classrooms!

Lilika believes that ” we are the Stars of our microcosms” and therefore, we can make the difference!

Today’s classroom is more diverse than ever before. My classes consist of students coming from several different countries : most of them are Greeks but, I also teach childern whose parents come from Albania , Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Hungary, the U.K ,even… India!



1. “My music”

I ask all my students, who come from a different country ,to bring a CD with music  from their country ,which they wish to share with the rest of the class!

I ask the class to jot down words  which come to their mind and have to do with that specific country, while listening to the music! (This is where stereotypes usually arise .) Later, I ask them what they were thinking or what images came to their mind while listening, and a discussion follows!

The child who has brought us the CD, has a chance to comment on what has been said and add anything else he/she wishes to.

Finally, I say ” I’d like to thank…..who brought us this beautiful music.”

2. “Stamps: I am from…where are you from”?

I am from....

I am from….

This is an ideal activity for very young learners. I ask my students, to bring a stamp-or a postcard or even a flag- from the country they come from or any European country.

First, we practice ” I am from…where are you from”?

Later, children, holding their stamps, flags or postcards say in a chain “-I am from..Greece. Where are you from? -I am from ..Albania” etc

3. “All I know about…”

All I know about....

All I know about….

This is a good activity for older students. I personally used it with my 5th graders

I ask both Greek students and foreign students to do public speaking in front of their classmates  and share  3-4 facts about their country. These  can include, customs, traditions, a fairytale, historical facts, food, music, national costumes, sports, famous people, carols ..anything they wish to share!

4. “The postcard of my choice”-an oral project

Alexander's mother is from Hungary. he decided to bring postcards from that country !

Alexander’s mother is from Hungary. he decided to bring postcards from that country !

This is a suitable activity for advanced classes…I used it with my 6th graders and it really worked!

Students are asked to bring postcards from their countries.

They tell their classmates why they have selected those specific postcards .What they say about their country, how  they  make them feel…

Lilika Couri, suggests that we ask our students to write the answers and send them to the teacher using “myBrainShark“.

5.”If I were a bird” song

My daughter, decided to travel to.....Hawai!!

My daughter, decided to travel to…..Hawai!!

I always finish our class activities, celebrating the “European Day of languages” with a special song.

Since the Tesol Greece 2012 Convention, I have used this  song several times , on different occassions, with success! Lilika taught us how to sing it back then and I  loved it, at once ! Here are the lyrics:

If I were a bird,

I would fly high.

If I were a bird,

I would reach the sky.

If I were a boat,

I would have sails.

If I were a boat,

I would ride the waves.

But, I am a child,

A lonely child.

I don’t have a boat,

I can’t reach the sky.

If I hold your hand

And you hold mine,

I can make a boat,

I can reach the sky.

If I hold your hand,

And you hold mine,

We can make a world

With hope and smiles!

6. “Traveling the World with English”


I used this awesome drawing activity, with my afternoon classes! They hardly know the alphabet! They have been learning english for less than a month ..I am not their morning school english teacher!  I decided to have them try to dream about where around the world they would like to be traveling- speaking ENGLISH of course!! That drawing activity, was first tried with a bunch of special kids, by members of our local “English Teachers Association” board, during the “European Day of Languages” week ,  with huge success!

First,  ask a volunteer  student  to be a “tourist” who wishes to travel the World! Hand him a rucksack, a map, sunglasses, a camera, and ask the class to tell you what else might be missing…brainstorm words…..if they don’t finally  come up with the answer, tell them that it is  ENGLISH , which is an international language, spoken all over the World!



You may wish to write the word “English” on card and add  it in the tourist’s backpack ! Hand the rest of the class different cards ,which have  some clues on them having to do with  imaginary identities eg Name, Age,  Country. eg Ben, 9, Canada

Use a Globe and tell the class that the tourist is traveling the world , speaking english and making new friends.  Then ask the class to walk around the room, and introduce  themselves to the tourist and each other , asking and answering questions!


Later, spin the Globe and ask them to imagine, where the tourist might  be,  at the moment . Ask them to think about the place , the food, the sights, the people . I tell them that,  now it’s their turn to draw pictures from his   journey around the world, using their imagination .

When they finish, you can have  students talk about their  drawings , in front of the class.

Finally,  use clothes pins and hang the pictures somewhere in the classroom ,for everyone to admire!


7. Few extra activities

I had found most of these few extra activities I have used in my classes, in a very interesting book called “500 activities for the primary classroom” ( Macmillan) . I had  to slightly change some of them, in order to suit the theme of the “European Day of Languages”.

The activities included, “Where is Ben” -using a soft toy- , “Fruit salad”- using the names of countries instead of fruit-, ” Duck-duck Goose”-with my 1st or 2nd graders, practising “hello”-“goodbye” or other greetings.

But, my most favourite one was

7. “Living Bingo”

Prepare  two sets of cards: one set with the english words and one with the Greek words. I used only names of countries for this activity but, you could also use nationalities.

Have students make four groups of 4 or more people each .

Hand out the english words to the groups of students and ask each group to stand in one of the classroom corners, holding their cards.

Then , call out the greek words. The person with the english word , gets to sit down.

The first team with all the members sitting, is the winner!

I used a handmade camera to talk to my students about my travels around Europe, speaking English-of course!

I used a handmade camera to talk to my students about my travels around Europe, speaking English-of course!






Working on feelings

mosaic feel last5

I have always wanted to work on feelings with my youngest students , in a more creative way!

It was last year, the day I attended  Maria Papadimitriou ‘s inspiring  talk, in one of  our local English Teachers’ Association seminar days, when I finally  decided ,to  do so!  Maria, is a passionate state primary school English teacher, working in a village school , in  central Greece.

Feeling angry: miming games

Maria, presented her teachings tips and ideas in detail  and gave us examples about  how to work on feelings with the students,  successfully!

I  decided to try most of her suggestions with my afternoon classes and found out that they really worked !! This is why I am here today, to share them with all of you, too! Because,they worked!!

Day 1

Step 1: Students learn and sing any  feelings song-s . The songs I used with my students, can be found in:

Happy-immitation games
Happy-miming games

Lesson Plan

What we need: a puppet,a  soft ball,a  CD player,paper plates,straws, a stappler, feelings flashcards, a “feelings” dice or spinner, a feelings check- in board or a  poster

Language  :happy, sad, hungry, thirsty, tired,angry,scared, how are you feeling, today?, Are you…? , Yes, I am, No, I am not

Lesson 1

Warm up-5 min

The puppet role plays a small dialogue and presents the feelings vocabulary to the students!

mosaic feelings new puppet
Our puppet!

Task 1

The feelings check-in board

The puppet asks each student, how he/she is feeling.Then, the puppet calls out students’ names it gives each of them a clothes pin with their name on and asks them to tag it on the picture which is their feeling at the moment, on the feelings check-in board or poster.

The feelings poster

Task 2- 10 min

Students listen to “Hello, how are you” song or any other similar one .The song I used with my students, can be found here:

Task 3

Students  make different feelings puppets using  paper plates and straws.

mosaic feel last4

End of the lesson-5 min

The puppet asks students “How are you feeling NOW”? Students, spot the changes in their mood.

The students, imitate their  feeling and then , change the position of the clothes pin on the feelings poster, if their feelings have changed ! They may use, more than one clothes pins.

Students, raise their paper plate masks to identify their feelings .

Day 2

Lesson 2

Warm-up -2 min

The teacher uses flashcards, to revise happy, sad, tired, hungry, thirsty and to add angry, scared, hot, cold!

Task 1-10 min

A soft ball game

The teacher, throws the ball to students  and asks: ” How are you feeling, today”?Students, reply.


Task 2- 10 min

The teacher uses a feelings dice or spinner ( I used the beautiful spinner , my partner and friend in Taiwan Annie Tsai had sent me ) and asks the students  to play a miming game . Students mime the feeling on the dice/spinner and their classmates try to guess.

A gift spinner- which I finally used in my class to teach feelings- Annie Tsai, had sent it to my students as a present!
A spinner- which I finally used in my class to teach feelings- Annie Tsai, had sent it to my students as a present!

Task 3-10 min

Story reading: ” Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf”

As students listen to the story, they are asked to raise their paper plate masks to indentify their feelings in each different stage.

mosaic feel lastsos

End of the lesson- 10 min

Students play the ” How are you feeling Mr Wolf” playground  game.

Each time the players ask Mr Wolf this question, he answers with a feeling word. All the players , have to immitate his feeling!

Finally, the Wolf says, ” I am Hungry”! When he does, all students rush away and run all over the playground, trying not to get caught by the Wolf! Whoever gets caught first, becomes the Wolf in the new round.

How are you feeling Mr Wolf?
How are you feeling Mr Wolf?

Useful sites to visit ( Emotions museum of Childhood in Athens)

Students, immitate Mr Wolf's feelings!
Students, imitate Mr Wolf’s feelings!

TESOL conventions and me


I always get to extend my professional learning network via adding to it more like-minded teachers and educators.

 I am a proud TESOLER!

I decided to  join Julia Alivertis  in one of the conventions in Athens a few years ago  and have  been attending most Tesol conventions since then… Since the concept of attending conventions  was introduced to me, I have attended at least one convention  a year. To me, it is like any other occasion that comes annually, like birthdays and anniversaries. I look forward to it because it is also one way I can travel!

I believe that, Tesol Conventions , are a great way for teachers to get to meet other educators and exchange their expertise and learn from each other.Personally speaking, each such event  I attend I come out of it with a bunch of new ideas to try out or to investigate further. I also always get to extend my professional learning network via adding to it more like-minded teachers and educators.

I return to these conferences primarily because of their multi-disciplinary nature, their strong support of learner-centered education and their focus on student engagement.  I believe that attending the Tesol Professional development  events , improves my teaching by increasing my awareness of the power of engagement within the school teaching environment. I can also happily attest to an increasing confidence from having acquired new skills and the ease in implementing changes. I have noticed an increased joy in my teaching and a greater willingness and ability to make changes to my courses and teaching strategies. This greater enthusiasm has transformed the classroom environment in a most positive way as well as encouraged a greater collegiality and appreciation of the contributions of both my colleagues and my students.


With my favourite university years friends !

More random thoughts about Tesol conventions I have attended so far:

I like that there are so many people from so many places, lots of variety of backgrounds. I like the content and feel there are always  many offerings I want to hear. I like that they “practice what they preach” in terms of utilizing active learning techniques even for the plenary

I enjoy seeing how many people are  passionate about improving their teaching and bringing back ideas to their colleagues. This conferences rejuvenate my excitement to re-vamp my syllabus every year and apply some of what I learn at the conference as well as share with others what I learn.

I like that I meet a lot of people who share my passion for teaching and learning and who are  not shy about responding in workshops or starting conversations. I like that workshops are teaching-focused and not discipline specific. I enjoy every session I attend,  because of the wonderful spirit of the participants, all eager to learn and share their wisdom

It is nice to take specifically dedicated time to reflect on teaching practices and to talk with like-minded colleagues. Some sessions provid new and interesting ideas…


I like that I meet a lot of people who share my passion for teaching and learning and who are not shy about responding in workshops or starting conversations

I come back with so many great ideas about how to be a better teacher. Also, I find out that I am doing some things pretty good already which is  good for my self-doubting soul.

 Love the enthusiasm. Love the common theme of wanting to be better teachers. We love what we do, all of us, wish to get better at it and learn from each other

Also, the networking opportunities and the practicality of most presentations.

I love the practice-based content. I’m rather sick of coventions  that are all theory and no practice.


I like that there are so many people from so many places, lots of variety of backgrounds.

I love the the feeling of belonging to a group that shares the same  passion, the knowledge we get from presentations, and interacting with our peers and experts in the field. What good it will do depends on how you view the experience. Sometimes we go to a presentation, and it was not what we thought it was going to be. It is hit-or-miss, really. However, if you look at it from a different angle, you still may be able to extract something from the experience. It opens minds and it opens doors.

I have found that, Tesol events  do have an effect on your teaching philosophy and practices, without your being aware of it: how open-minded you are to changes, how much of a team player you are, how much you want to improve and offer your students a variety of activities, and so on.

Once you get your “conference mode” turned on, you want to attend as much as you can if time and money permit. The next thing you want to do is to present. Get in the game! It may take  me a while before I finally get  the courage to present.

The important thing is to keep learning, to know what’s hot and what’s not! One really easy way to do this is to attend professional development events and become a member of a professional organization such as Tesol!


The conventions parties are unforgetable!! Meeting with colleagues, outside the classrooms is awesome!

Brain Gym

brain gym 3I came to know Brain Gym, 3 years ago when I was at Pilgrim’s  Canterbury, UK.!

Bonnie Tsai , our Teacher Trainer, was my mentor!Since then, I have been using brain gym activities in my classes regularly with huge success!

One of my favourite Bonnie's posts on Brain Gym!

One of my favourite Bonnie’s posts on Brain Gym!

I would like to share some of them here ,for you to be able to use them in your class too and maybe, decide to attend Bonnie’s NLP class at Pilgrim’s one day and know more about it!

The purpose of brain gym is to wake up students who are tired, sleepy or just plain bored.It does this, through simple little exercises to build up lagging energy.

Students need some sensory stimulation to move into an english class mood or as a little filler at any point in the lesson when you feel the energy level going down…

You may however find yourself ,with some students who need to be calmed down , on a Friday afternoon, before a holiday, or even before an importnat test!

Here are some activities that can be used to wake up tired learners or to relax them according to their needs.

Here are some examples:

Unfolding ears

Unfolding ears

Unfolding ears

Ask students to gently unfold the lobes of their ears and give them a gentle massage.Before listening activities, the students’ ears are awake and ready to listen.It should take around one minute!

Lazy 8sbrain gym 8

Ask students to make the figure 8 on its side with their hand.They should make a large 8 and it is very important that they follow the movement with their eyes!

They do the same movement with each hand first…then ask them to make the same movement with both their hands.Lazy 8s take around 2 minutes to do and are very useful before reading activities.

They help students to develop peripheral vision and at the same time create neuron connections between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain.

Stamping feet and lion’s roar

Lion's roar, will wake up even the tiredest student!

Lion’s roar, will wake up even the tiredest student!

We all have times of the day when our energy levels go down..

At the beginning of the lesson, ask students to stand up and stamp their feet as fast as they can!

Follow this by asking them to bend their knees slightly and make a face like a ferocious lion!

This will wake up even the tiredest student!

Crazy brain gym

Ask students to rub their stomach in a circular, clockwise motion, with their left hand, while massaging the top of their head in an antiwise motion with their right hand at the same time.

They should then, tap their right foot and imagine they are eating a delicious ice cream while watching a monkey riding a bike!

Finally, they should sing “Happy Birthday”!

This activity, besides being a lot of fun, requires the students to use all of their senses.


Picking fruit

There are no...fruits on that tree but, our imagination helps us see the tree covered with them !

There are no…fruits on that tree but, our imagination helps us see the tree covered with them !

Ask students to stand up.Ask them to imagine, they are standing in a fruit orchard. Above them are lovely fruit trees full of ripe fruit.

Tell them to reach up and pick one fruit from the top of the trees.Go through all the senses: smell it, touch it, listen for  any sounds from inside, taste it. Then ask each student to describe the fruit.

For younger learners, you ask them to draw their fruit and then go around showing their drawings to each other.

Crystal Vase

Each student picks the vase up and does an action with it

Each student picks the vase up and does an action with it

Ask the students to stand in a circle if possible.

Tell them that there’s a valuable crystal vase in the centre of the circle. Each student picks the vase  up  and does an action with it before handing it onto the next student.Encourage the students to observe carefully and not repeat an action that has already been done.

Ask older students to recall all the different actions they saw.Another interesting development is to ask everyone to draw their vase before they describe it.It is amazing how differently everyone perceives the vase!

Hook ups 

Cross your left ankle over your right. Extend your arms crossing
your left wrist over your right. Bring your palms together and
interlace your fingers. Bring your hands up toward your chin. Sit
quietly for a minute with your eyes closed while you breathe deeply

brain gym 5

Relaxes the central nervous system. Connects the electrical circuitry
of the body. Crosses the center mid-line to activate both left and
right hemispheres of the brain. Helps us become emotionally
centered and grounded.

Box of nice things

Again ask students to stand in a circle and imagine an empty box in the middle.

Each student, puts something in it.

Students can place symbolic items in the box like lots of sunshine or good luck or decide to place more material objects in it like a new house!

Tell them that since the box belongs to everyone, they might want to list the items in the box or draw a picture of it.This is a lovely way to end a class or do before a holiday.

The basketball game

An imaginary game of basketball

An imaginary game of basketball

Put on some music with a strong rythmic beat . Get the group involved, in an imaginary game of basketball in which they throw the ball to each other, shoot and dribble the ball.Do this for about two minutes and then, get to work.

Passionate tennis champions!

Passionate tennis champions!

My own variation of this activity is the ” Passianate Tennis champions ” inspired by one of Ken Wilson’s presenations ! The students are asked to hit the tennis ball as passionately as possible with their rackets!


Bonnie, suggests that ,the music is either Mozart or Bach

Bonnie, suggests that ,the music is either Mozart or Bach

Music is an effective way of creating a learning environment.

Why is this? Music can create a desired atmosphere for telling a story.It can also be used to build up a sense of anticipation.

Music can focus concenration and increase attention.

In this way, soft music can be used as a background to activities such as creative writing or even group work.It is useful before a test to release tension and can also be used to enhance imagination! I love music in my class!

In the photo, the students were asked to draw a picture of what they had been thinking about while they were listening to Mozart 40th Symphony, during the "relaxation" activity in the end...we used the follwing exercises: unfolding ears, lazy 8s,stabbing feet and lion's roar, crazy brain gym,picking fuit, crystal vase, box of nice things, the basketball game ( plus, my variation: the tennis game) , relaxation!

In the photo, the students were asked to draw a picture of what they had been thinking about while they were listening to Mozart 40th Symphony, during the “relaxation” activity in the end…


Bonnie, suggests that it is either Mozart or Bach.I play music in my class even when my students are coming or leaving! And classical music, sofltly in the background, during tests!

Benefits of brain gym for learning:brain gym 4

* Academic skills – for example, reading, writing, spelling and maths
* Memory, concentration and focus
* Physical co-ordination and balance
* Communication skills and language development
* Self-development and personal stress management
* The achievement of goals – both professional and personal

 Brain Gym Resources

Web sites: for Brain Gym classes, instructors, one-on-one consultants, and
general information about Brain Gym. for Brain Gym books, posters, music, and other resources.

Take a look at Sharon Gerber’s Brain Gym video on YouTube She’s got everybody
doing Brain Gym: little kids, big kids, adults, even “sophisticated” college kids. What an
inspiration. And the music’s terrific.


Paul Dennison, Brain Gym and Me. Ventura, CA, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc. 2006. Brain
Gym’s founder discusses his own learning challenges, how Brain Gym came about, and
some specific Brain Gym movements.

Paul Dennison and Gail Dennison, Brain Gym®, Teacher’s Edition, revised,
Ventura, CA, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc. 1994. Shows how to do Brain Gym
movements and what they’re for. Basic Brain Gym book although a bit hard to learn Brain
Gym from a book.

Carla Hannaford, Smart Moves: Why Learning is not All in Your Head, 2nd ed.
Great Ocean, 2005. The science and physiology behind Brain Gym. Despite it’s theoretical
focus, it’s easy to read. Highly recommended.

Jerry Teplitz, Paul Dennison, and Gail Dennison, Brain Gym for Business. Ventura,
CA, Edu-Kinsesthetics, Inc. 1997. Although it’s for adults, the book is easy to
“translate” for children. It’s alphabetical and has an index, very useful.

Isabel Cohen and Marcelle Goldsmith, Hands-on: How to Use Brain Gym in the
Classroom. Edu-Kinesthetics, 2002. Practical “how to” although knowing some Brain
Gym already makes the book easier to use. Wonderful variations on the movements and
fun photographs of kids in South Africa doing Brain gym.

Sharon Promislow, Making the Brain Body Connection, Rev. Ed. Enhanced
Learning and Integration, 2005. Although not specifically a B

Larisa english teachers association first ,new school year, seminar day !

GRATEFUL AND THANKFUL, that I finally made it and even with the help of strong medication, got back on my feet again and got out of the house, for the first time after a whole week!! Had to join the local english teachers association new seminar, downtown! We had the chance to welcome amazing, inspiring speakers and meet with the local network of colleagues…at least, the ones who still care to make the difference in teaching and lifelong learning! Because, SHARING IS CARING!!Thanks Maria Sachpazian, Despina Vardaki, Katerina Kyriakidou, Paraskevi Belogia, and Anna Varna, for your contribution to another successful event!! Thanks to the board members and especially Marianna Tycherou, Kalliopi Perri, Haroula Karathanassi, and Ap Kara, for their hard work! Till next time, guys….ImageImageImage