Our first time, in a Forensics Tournament

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Our school the 21st State Primary School of Larissa, within the framework of innovative projects, participated in a Forensics Tournament in English, at the premises of “Ekpedeftiria Mpakogianni” school , in Larissa, in May 2019.

The Tournament, was filled with debating, acting, oral interpretations, impromptus, and a lot of excitement.

During the tournament, our School’s Forensics team presented their skills in the event:

  • Oral Interpretation of Literature

To be able to take part in the Tournament, our students learned and practiced the art and skills of competitive forensics .The preparation, lasted about two months.  First, they participated in the research and presentation of the material for oral interpretation of literature. 

The first week, included a close study of public speaking and oral interpretation, and little information about debate.   

All six students in our team,were required to participate in a forensics tournament preparation class, held outside the regularly scheduled class time. Our team met twice a week, for one hour each time. 

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Peer Feedback 

My students benefited from peer feedback in that they were able to teach others about the tournament  rules and provided feedback that they would consider relevant. In seeing that their peer feedback was relevant, students were more engaged and invested in working to complete the task successfully. Peer feedback also gave my students an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to listen to each other. It is often easier for us to understand concepts from people who are similar in age as we are.

Our selections

Our selections were from a short story, and four novels.Our selections  incorporated a mix of monologues, dialogues and narrative . Our emphasis was placed on the prose aspect of the performance and not the dramatic qualities of the performance. 

The objective

In general, the objective of a Forensics Lab and Tournament is to enable the participating students to work together and to exchange views on issues of concern to their age, and even, more general social issues and to tell beautiful stories. Also to cultivate their critical thinking, help them to become familiar within the conditions of healthy and democratic dialogue and ultimately, help them to improve their language proficiency in English. During the tournament,both teachers and parents had the opportunity to enjoy the result of the effort of all students ,which was in a high level.

One, will be surprised to find out that a Forensics Tournament, is primarily a question of listening skills.Active listening is what feeds the brain with the necessary information to manage all issues and make all kinds of decisions.At second reading, the the students’ engagement with all areas of concern to human activity and their analysis, empowers them with critical thinking skills which-in these difficult times – are the most important skills for survival.

Finally, the ability of young people to express themselves comprehensively and with clarity, on the issues that concern them, will be valuable, both in their intimate relationships and in the professional arena, in their adult life ,too.

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Useful  Info

HISTORY OF FORENSICS

In the early 1970’s, teachers of English from Anatolia College, Athens College (now known as the Hellenic American Educational Foundation), and Pinewood International Schools united to form the Forensics Society to give students from different schools the opportunity to meet to have discussions, make speeches and generally improve their speaking skills in English. 

Within a very short period thereafter, this ‘society’ grew to include another four schools: the American Community Schools (ACS), the Cairo American College, Campion School, and Pierce College (now PIERCE – The American College of Greece). Since that time, an additional nine schools have joined. These schools included the American School of Kuwait, Ekpedeftiki Anagenissi, Byron College, Costeas-Geitonas School, Geitonas School, Mantoulides Schools, The Moraitis School, St. Catherine’s British School, and St. Lawrence College. 

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There were two tournaments a year: The fall tournament was held in Athens and the spring tournament was held in Thessaloniki. In some tournaments there were up to sixteen schools participating in the various events. Students originally participated in Debate, Comic and Dramatic Oral Interpretation, Comic and Dramatic Duet Acting, Impromptu Speaking, Original Oratory, and Extemporaneous Speaking. Eventually, however, Extemporaneous Speaking was dropped from the competition due to the ‘controversial’ nature of the current events at the time, and Group Discussion was added. In the 1980s, because of the increase in the number of contestants and the demands on both students and advisors, it was unanimously decided by the coaches of the schools that the tournaments be limited to one annually, alternating between Athens and Thessaloniki each year. The tournament came to be called the Panhellenic Forensics Tournament. The number of contestants in any given tournament has approached 400 in the past few years.

In 2004, another change took place: The society became an official association and is now known as the Panhellenic Forensics Association. The Executive Board of the Association meets regularly and all schools participating in the tournament are members of the Association.

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Learning the Basics of Oral Interpretation

Oral Interpretation is the process by which words are pulled from the page and given dimension in a reader’s voice and body. Practitioners of oral interpretation bring stories to life, serving as a vehicle for the messages of the text. Some scholars argue that readers should unlock the meanings intended by the author (the vehicle should be empty) while others believe the meanings of texts inevitably transform as they filter through a reader’s voice, body, experiences, and culture (the vehicle is full of your stuff). Both ends of this dialectic are true: 1) readers should aim to honor the integrity of a text, using logic, analysis and research to investigate the concreteness and completeness literary text, and 2) readers should embrace the creative and artistic ways they effect how texts are understood, adapted, embodied, and delivered to an audience.

Balloon tennis- a fun word game

This fun game, comes from Olha Madulus’s Blog!

When Olha, first mentioned the game on her facebook page , I told her that I loved the idea and asked her if I could try it in my class! She agreed and  was kind enough, to promise me to write a blog post about the game, as soon as possible!

I adapted the game ,a bit, to suit my classes ,but the main idea worked really well with my students , therefore, it is highly recommended to any other colleague, wishing to give it a try, too.

I have to thank Olha, again, for her generosity ! She is one of the most inspiring Teacher Trainers I know!

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This game is suitable for all ages and levels
·       Blow up one balloon
·       Divide your class into two teams (once the students have got used to the game, you can organise them into smaller groups of 2 teams each, each group needs a balloon – but consider the space you have available. You could use the playground for this).

 

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·       e.g. with younger learners explain that they have to remember vocabulary for food

 

·       One team starts with a member hitting the balloon across to the opposition team and at the same time shouting (so all can hear) one word for an example of food e.g. chocolate

 

·       Next a member of the opposition team has to hit the balloon back shouting a different food word

 

·       If no one can think of a new word or repeats a word – that team loses the point (this encourages the learners to listen carefully)

 

·       If the balloon drops to the floor – the receiving team loses the point

 

·       You can score the game like tennis

 

·       You can change the lexical set whenever necessary

 

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·       With older learners you can review a topic prior to a writing task e.g. the advantages and disadvantages of the internet

 

·       Nominate which team should shout advantages and which disadvantages

 

·       Play as above

 

This game has a number of advantages

 

·       It is kinaesthetic and can energise the class

 

·       It’s a team game and promotes a sense of community

 

·       The focus is on the balloon and shyer students feel relaxed and more likely to participate

 

·       You can change/play with the rules to suit your class and any language you want to practise

 

·       The balloon is quite slow and easier to keep in the air than a ball
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Teaching with…trash?

 

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Are you constantly looking for creative projects for your students?

Do you want activities that ignite their imaginations?

Make things with recyclables. I always do so, mainly with my 3rd graders !

When they use items found in their recycling bin or around the house/school to create toys and treasures kids love, it inspires them to tap into their creativity and use what’s available.

It’s good for the environment and also helps develop your child’s imagination and creativity.

It teaches kids that once something has been used for its initial purpose, it doesn’t mean that we have to throw it away.

Have a conversation about the recycling process with your kids. Share how different things are made and then broken down after you throw them away, and how it’s better for the environment when you reuse and re-purpose certain materials.

“Go recycle” guessing game

For my favorite activity,using recycled trash, you will need:

  • Items from the recycling bin: Milk cartons,egg cartons, cereal boxes, food packaging, toilet rolls, scrap paper, etc.
  • Craft supplies: glue, tape, scissors, wire, craft knife
  • Craft materials: feathers, googly eyes, glitter, buttons, ribbon, paint, markers, etc.—whatever you have around the house or school.

Preparation:

1. Find or create an interesting bag to use as the bag of mysteries/a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.
2. Collect a selection of objects to be placed in the mystery bag/under a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.
a. Can be based on a theme
• For example: Things you find in a kitchen/you can recycle.

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Implementation:

Students try to identify the objects as they touch each one.

Cover them lightly with a large scarf ,a small, lightweight blanket or any piece of cloth available.

Let children feel object  and try to guess what it is. Obviously,  as children explore, they increase tactile awareness, vocabulary, memory and communication skills!

As they reached in and felt the items, we talked about what they felt. First I asked them to describe what they felt, and then I asked leading questions, such as: was it hard or soft?  big or small? what color?

With some things, they guessed right away, and with others we talked through more questions.

The first time I tried this activity, I gathered up several items that could be recycled,  a scarf, and a bandana. I covered their eyes with the bandana, and they reached under the scarf, felt the objects , and guessed what each object was.

Two more IDEAS:

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1.Guess the Summer item

In the beginning of the school year, you can  select items that remind them of summer:

  • seashells and rocks from the beach
  • corn
  • beach toys
  • popsicle sticks
  • sunglasses

Same, with any other Season or Special Day.

2. Making toys from junk

When looking to inspire your kids’ creativity, search no further than your recycling bin. Glass, plastic, and cardboard are all incredibly versatile crafting supplies with an infinite number of uses.

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I asked my 3rd graders to make their own toys using recycled items they can find at home. I showed them the first Doll’s House my daughter made when she was their age, using old boxes! They loved it and got inspired !

The main idea behind all the crafts my students made- which you can see here below- is that you can make toys from junk. It will cost nothing and often teach kids some basics of engineering and practice their English at the same time, in order to present their toy to the class.

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Cardboard Box Houses

 

I love using Arts and Crafts, in my teaching!

Using arts And Crafts, can be an great way to facilitate language learning with young learners.

For mixed age and level classes arts and crafts activities can supplement a course book which isn’t always appropriate for all students.

 Cardboard Box Houses 

My most favourite craft, is making  cardboard dollhouses, which is a great way to recycle old boxes and create a new toy, which we can use later, in class!

Dollhouses provide hours of fun and can be configured in any number of ways. I find that, using cardboard is a fun way to construct a place to use in class in order to teach and practice ie colours, rooms, furniture, prepositions, adjectives and so much more…

Are our students  even remotely interested in all the above ? Not really!They want to play with the item ie box, turning out to learn, so many new things!

When  in Primary school, my daughter, Alexiana, created her own recycled doll house out of recycled items from around our home. Large cardboard box for the house, cereal boxes as dividers for the rooms, lids, wrapping paper for wallpaper, bows, glitter glue and paint, plastic applesauce containers for a table, medicine box for a bed and cotton balls for pillows and many other cool ideas.

That doll house, has been used in my lessons, all these years! When I showed it to my 3rd graders, for the first time,they wanted to make one ,too!

Inspiration, is contagious!

Children are visually inclined people. They love things that they can see and touch. This is why we have to use educational materials that they can see and touch with their own hands.

To teach or revise vocabulary, here are questions you can ask the children.

1. Where do you sleep?

2. Where do you take a bath?

3. Where do you eat?

4. What room will you use when you want to sleep?

5. What room will you use when you have guests?

6. Do you have a play room at home?

7. Where do you play with your brothers and sisters?

Then you can ask questions about the different colours they see.

Time to teach the main parts of the house.

1. Post

2. Wall

3. Stairs

4. Ceiling

5. Floor

6. Door

7. Window

Furniture and numbers

1)armchair
2)bed
3)bedsidetable
4)bookcase
5)chair
6)clock
7)coffeetable
8)cooker
9)curtain
10) cushion
11) desk
12) dishwasher
13) fireplace
14) fridge
15) lamp
16) microwave
17) picture
18) rug
19) shower
20) sofa
21) telephone
22) television
23) toilet
24) wardrobe
25) washing machine

Students are asked to describe what they see

ie There are four chairs in the yellow kitchen

Time to work on  prepositions of place, some more. To do so, you could try the following activity.

Upside down home

After describing what they see in the dolls house ,you can divide the class into two teams. One team leaves the room. During their absence, the other team moves five different objects/pieces of furniture around. For example, they may place a cushion on the floor, remove a remote control, change something on a team member, or overturn something. When the other team returns, they must find the five differences and talk about which item is where.

Here are two links to help you make them -or have your students make their own dolls house…

https://www.redtedart.com/how-to-make-a-cardboard-dolls-house/

https://inhabitat.com/inhabitots/20-diy-dollhouses-that-are-eco-friendly-affordable-and-super-easy-for-any-p

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Conclusion
As I hope I have demonstrated in this post, arts and craft, definitely have a place in the language classroom and can be used in many different ways. They are a great resource for discussions as well as practising a variety of language. Activities incorporating art /craft are motivating for students, provide an often welcome change of pace and can stimulate and develop creative and critical thinking skills.

Whether these activities work for you or not, just the fun of making crafts together will improve the tone of your classroom, and the engagement of your students. Guaranteed!

Enjoy!

The benefits of using drama, in the EFL- YL class

William Shakespeare claimed that

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

We all realize that,teaching in the primary classroom, is very different from teaching teens or adults, because of the amount of energy children have! Knowing how to channel this energy, will help us achieve balanced lessons without children becoming over-excited on the one hand or bored on the other.

One tool to manage this is, Drama/acting out.

As an English teacher, I have often been amazed at how effective drama is to capture the attention of the students in the EFL classroom.   We cannot only teach grammar and phonetics with drama ,but also it has the power to transform the student-actors ,as well as the audience.  Therefore, we shouldn’t underestimate this powerful teaching tool, to reach our students.

I personally love the use of masks and puppets, in my YL classes!
Puppets or masks can really bring alive a dialogue, role-play or story.

My suggestions?

Make simple masks out of paper plates for main characters. Bring in realia and props for children to use for acting out e.g. some real money and a bag for shopping. Have a dressing up box of simple props such as hats, glasses etc. Puppets or finger puppets can be used to liven up even the most boring dialogue, especially when accompanied by funny voices!

 

In my classes, puppetry works like this: using various odds and ends (paper, glue, cotton, wool etc), each child makes a simple puppet and describes its character to the rest of the class. When several puppets have been described in this way, the children work together in groups to produce a scene using the characters. They could alternatively make puppets of characters in their (course book) -one word-and enact dialogues from the book. (Hand puppets can be made using old socks, stick puppets with ice-cream  sticks.)

 

Generally taking, I firmly believe that, we need to use drama more in the schools.   The language can be used in context and makes it come to life.  Drama has the potential of making the learning experience fun for the students and even memorable because it is interactive and visual.

The personal nature of improvisation, provides many outlets for self-expression. We all know that, children need to play as an important developmental process.

What is more, drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning.

The play acting can help to relieve the tension of learning in a second language.

The shyness and fear of using English, very often blocks learning. When the students are having fun, they tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language.

Role-playing is a powerful tool,too.  It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students.  These aspects alone make role-playing beneficial because the students are learning from each other.   Apart from the obvious development of communication skills, it encourages leadership, team work, compromise, authentic listening skills .

The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued.  In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination.

We need imagination to make a better world. In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, we first need to imagine and dream it.  I always emphasize my students that fact!

I also tell them that, in life, we are all playing many roles, therefore, we are wearing many masks.Older students,easily  understand this.

Few tested methods for incorporating Drama in the EFL class , summarised

Act out the Dialogue

One of the easiest ways to incorporate drama in the classroom is to have students act out the dialogue from their textbooks. Simply pair them up, have them choose roles, then work together to act out the dialogue, figuring out for themselves the “blocking,” or stage movements.

Perform Reader’s Theater

Another good beginning exercise is to do Reader’s Theater. Hand out copies of a short or one-act play, have students choose roles, and then read the play from their seats without acting it out. However, do encourage them to read dramatically, modeling as necessary.It’s an alternative and fun way of practicing reading aloud, as well!

Act out the Story

This is particularly effective with “short-shorts”: brief, one-scene stories with limited characters.

Write the Dialogue for a Scene

Watch a brief clip of a cartoon movie without the sound on. Have older students write a simple dialogue for it and act it out.

Act out and Put Words to an Emotion

Give students an emotion, such as “anger” or “fear”. Have students, either singly or in groups, first act out that emotion then put words to the emotion.

Give “Voice” to an Inanimate Object

 

What would a stapler say if it could talk? Or an apple? Have students write monologues with inanimate objects as the character. Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy might also be termed a monologue, for example.

After writing them, students can read the monologues aloud.

Create a Character

Have students develop a character, writing a one-page profile on the character’s background, appearance, personality, etc. Have them introduce the character to the class, explaining what interests them about their character.

Write a Monologue

Using the character they’ve already developed, have students write a monologue for that character then perform it.

Mime 

Have students act out short scenes without dialogue. The rest of the class then supplies the dialogue, developing the “script.”

In role playing, the participants are assigned roles which they act out in a given scenario.

Improvise

Put students in groups of two or three, and assign the characters and the situation to the groups.Students create the dialogue and movement themselves.

With careful planning, use of drama enhances our English classroom curriculum and adds fun in our teaching!

Drama encourages adaptability, fluency, and communicative competence .

“The Wizard of Oz”:School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

” Alice in Wonderland”:School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

” Interviewing….Barbie”: ‘Pretend games’ are a central part of a child’seducation.
When they dress up as a princess,they become a princess.

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skits or other drama activities to present their projects in class.  Here,….. Hurem, Sultan Suleiman’s wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines…..

Note:Ideas, first found and later tried out in class, on  https://busyteacher.org 

“PuppETs-European Travelers”: an amazing ETwinning project!

This old time classic pen pals project, gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language and helped the students experience education in a different country through European citizenship ,using Arts and crafts and a new tool: twinspace!

The project lasted  a school year and we had to complete many individual items . We had to create common projects about: ourselves, our school, our country , our town ,our favourite sports and hobbies, our customs and special traditions, our most favourite place in our countries , our daily routine and habits and also ,create our pen pals as PUPPETS , reading their appearance descriptions and looking at their self-portraits ! We lived in another country, as our school and country ambassadors, and experienced life in another class, far away from home, for one school year! Puppet-students, wrote on their twinspace diaries about their adventures and collaboratively wrote and put on stage, a puppet play about their experience! Our projects and letters were both sent to our friends by snail mail and uploaded on twinspace, to share and compare, in a different class.

Pedagogical Innovation and Creativity 

This was a new and innovative partnership for my school; It was the first time the students participated in such an innovative ETwinning project.

Both, group work and independent research was used  by pupils.

The innovation and creativity of the project is based on the following factors:

1.The willingness of the teachers involved to communicate easily – via phone, email, sms

2.All partner  schools being inclusive of each other, working as one unit on each common project

3.That the children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner school in mind and dare to share and compare.They also used their imagination and creativity as well as their artistic skills, in order to create their puppet pals and write/stage their puppet plays.

4.That the learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds

5.The student-Puppet-Ambassadors, created by and for the students ,served as a  meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our friends.

6.Our student-Puppets project, provided the opportunity to break down classroom walls. It gave our students a chance, to see a world outside of their walls.Students,  became fully aware of the other European partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship became a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.

7.Our ETwinning project, encouraged cooperation between teachers and unified learning. It also offered us the chance to collaborate with the local Puppet Theatre and museum,which was highly beneficial for all of us.

The scope of learning widened from English skills to several other subjects. The idea of being   partners in a European project, encouraged the pupils to find out more about different European countries, their nature, art, food and ways  of living. In the context of European partnerships,our work  provided in the shared learning environment were not only learning material, but were a meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our partners.

  1. In this sense, the true revelation has been that apart from climate and language, people in Europe are essentially very similar with shared values and interests. Surely, this  helped us to overcome our prejudices and made us more open to intercultural cooperation.

Curricular integration 

The theme was chosen deliberately to ensure that the project and its work was as cross-curricular as possible. The areas of ,EFL,  social studies, expressive arts, citizenship,and basic IT , have all been integrated into the sharing of  our common  project activities .

The main focus was to improve the learning of English.

This fitted well into the Curriculum and all my  pupils  benefited.  Our  project involved MFL, language, social studies, expressive arts and basic technology.

We held a European Day of Languages to get the rest of the school know our European friends better. We also had “Puppet Theatre” days, when our student-puppet-guests, presented their projects about their country and way of life, to us! It was exciting to lend them our voices and have them “talk” to us-we could also ask them questions! We later,uploaded all the photos  on our Twinspace “Puppet Diaries”, where everyone could make comments or just read, share and compare ideas, thoughts and feelings.Finally, we were invited to take part in a local Puppet Theatre Festival, where we had the chance to present our play to the local community!

A second focus was citizenship. By exchanging information about each other’s towns, lives  and heritage, the pupils  learned a great deal about each other’s environment, way of life and culture. As far as my school is concerned, I made sure that almost all our project activities were connected  to each of our English coursebook units. Luckily, our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in our Etwinning project!

I  made sure that, ALL my 85  students, in different age and  language level, took part in our  Etwinning project, a fact  that  proved to be a real challenge!

Finally, our student-puppet-guests, are going to spend their Summer holidays  in our partner countries, write a Summer Diary entry about their Summer adventures and come back home in Autumn, to share it with us.

Communication and exchange between partner schools 

From the beginning, there was a strong plan which gave the teachers guidelines, responsibilities and timescale for each element of the project.

What we practically did  ,was  that, we sent our pen friends all our group projects, on a topic we had already worked on in class and we asked them to reply ,by sending us the same topic based project! The projects we sent, were  in the form of posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, PP presentations, albums , videos, etc….In class, we talked about the similarities and differences of cultures and ways of life !

The students’ very first project was their self-portraits and appearance descriptions, which were used to help their  pals create their puppet-selves!

Arts and craft played an important role in n our project work !

If the kids felt  the need to personalize their work  even more, they were  free to include little gifts having to do with themselves or the project topic, … I always printed  lots of pictures and displayed  them on our school  notice boards.Students were also encouraged to interact on  twinspace ,both at the school ICT lab and from home. This all gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language.

In these difficult times of financial crisis , our students were able to live abroad, as puppets and experience life in a different country and class for a whole school year ,sharing and comparing our ways of life and making new friends.

The most important tool of the project , was our Twinspace Forums Puppet Diaries: by visiting the Puppet Diaries on a regular basis,  the children via their puppets, became ambassadors of our school and country! The pupils shared information and experiences, and thus learned from each other and strengthened their communication skills. They were also encouraged to interact on twinspace Discussion Forums, where they had to answer simple questions about themselves and our projects, as well as to read and make comments on their partners’ replies.

Collaboration between partner schools. 

In collaboration the teachers in all countries, decided on the range of topics that we would cover and the optimum time for sending/receiving the correspondence items.

We tried together  to do some pre-matching of pupils and classes , based on their known interests.

By all means we  ‘recycled’ language that pupils have previously learnt in their English class .

We created a teachers’  e-mail exchange, too and a frequent collaboration on the Teachers’ bulletin.

We all had to make our partner’s Puppet-Self! In other words, create a puppet-pal ,with similar characteristics with our pen pal, to host in our class and country,for the whole school year!

Our puppets, would travel, play and learn, with their pen pals, in another country and class,experiencing a different way of life.

We created  our Puppet-Ambassadors Diaries on Forums , which we often updated, with the help of our puppets.

We uploaded   videos about our area ,as well as videos about our schools and puppet plays.

We also agreed on the letters and projects which would be implemented by our pupils and agreed on  wall display of correspondence received from partner schools .

We made  questionnaires, and quizzes about our common projects to see how much we had learned, about each other.

We finally, decided to have our students host our guest Puppets during the summer and write on the Puppets’ Summer Diaries which would later be sent , along with the puppets, back home!

We all agreed that, all  students’  final products -our projects,  would be achieved through group work ! No group  project was sent abroad, before it was presented in class ,with the help of our student-puppet-friends and was later displayed on the classroom walls and ,finally, uploaded on Twinspace Pages.

Use of technology 

Some of the partner schools ,had not  used most of the  web tools we had to use for this project,  before .

I had small  groups of my students, use Photoshop to enhance and crop photos and then put them into Movie Maker to produce a school video  to be posted on Twinspace for other schools to view and had them to create  a Quiz about our town. We also used Kizoa to make short videos, padlet to work on our Puppet play script, collaboratively, and a Word Cloud Generator,for feedback.

I have consulted and collaborated with partner teachers using Skype and a webcam. Outcomes and project work were saved on Twinspace ,allowing uploaded materials and presentations to be compared and contrasted easily across all partner  countries.My students, were asked to interact with their pen friends on twinspace ,using their home computers, too !   Video-conferencing, using new webcams, were all new experiences for us .Our project brought a new and exciting dimension to our work.

Actually, the ability to use ICT is becoming more and more vital in today’s modern information society. However, ICT skills are still acquired mainly outside public educational institutes, in my country.

Actually, communicating with real people from other countries appeared to motivate the learners in a very special way, also in the use of basic ICT tools, mainly with our ICT teacher’s guidance.

Through ETwinning pupils learn to use ICT tools in a pedagogically meaningful way.

They wrote letters in the forums, chatted, did interactive exercises, took and uploaded digital photos and videos, searched for information, etc. And all this took place in the pedagogical context of studying English communication

Results, impact and documentation

The pupils were inspired and motivated. They had a great deal of fun working collaboratively .

Students had an opportunity to develop a sense of pride and respect toward other traditions. Our Puppet-Ambassadors, made Europe a more real concept, especially for those students who have never traveled abroad.

The organisation and commitment of the students has been very impressive.

The children showed a great interest in exploring another country and its way of life, as well as demonstrating increased motivation in learning a foreign language. They were always eager to participate, found information themselves, drew pictures, made posters, presented the project to other classes and last, but not least, create their own puppets and write their own Puppet play!

The group  work of my students was collected, and ultimately, shared with our partners. Writing and illustrating personal responses gave students the opportunity to boost their art and creative writing skills. Reading the personal responses of their European  partners, gave students greater insight into their partners’ context and worldview.

The project also brought the class together, as the pupils were working as a team. Through these activities the children also became ambassadors for the school and country .

The pupils  learnt from each other and strengthened  their communication skills.

All in all, we achieved   :

  • to promote group activities  for tolerance and cultural understanding;
  • to strengthen my students’ intercultural competences in order to be ready for responsible understanding of Europe’s identity and common values;
  • to develop the European dimension through arts education (puppets) and creativity with the aim to promote multiculturalism and tolerance between students;
  • To develop “Out-of-the-box” activities that would encourage mutual support, team building and group cohesion ;
  • Encourage personalized learning approaches by acquiring new artistic and pedagogical skills with the aim of developing new ideas and creativity of the students involved in the project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTER Hopscotch

I can assure you that,   students remember and correctly spell about the same number of EASTER  words after learning with HOPSCOTCH, as they do after a teacher-centered lesson.

Importantly however, they enjoy playing this  game very much and they report better attitudes towards studying English after learning vocabulary with HOPSCOTCH and games in general, compared to traditional teaching.

All that is required for this fun game is a few Easter sight words  and sidewalk chalk or masking tape.

On rainy days, consider using masking tape on a floor and write each Easter word on a piece of tape or index card – just make sure kids do not slip on the index card while playing the game.

You can also use the “portable” Hopscotch, like the one in the photo below…You can carry it with you to a different classroom each time, in case you don’t have your own classroom!

 

  1. You can play with Easter pictures to help aid recognition or practice new words.
  1. Add numbers to aid in number recognition and  practice plurals. eg ” Seven eggs”
  2. Add colors to help with color recognition, too.” Seven red eggs”
  3. Play with spelling words.  Have child read word, then look away and practice orally spelling the word.

  1. With older students, play with vocabulary words –child tells you definition of word they land on.
  1. Play with English words and mother tongue .For example, write an Easter word like “Church” and child has to tell me word in mother tongue..
  1. Spell hopscotch:Give each student an Easter word to spell as she jumps through the boxes. If she spells the word wrong, she must repeat that word on her next turn. The first person to get through the entire board wins a point for her team.

      8.Word hopscotch:Method: – Draw a simple hopscotch outline on the floor with chalk , use tape or use the “Portable” version of it.

– Children take turns to hop (walk or jump) from square to square – On each square they say an Easter word that they know. These may be words in general, or words    associated with a particular Easter topic or theme, eg Spring, Food, Traditions etc. – When they run out of words they must ‘give up’ .

Variation: – Teacher puts pictures /flashcards of familiar Easter objects on each square -Children must name the objects as they hop onto the square…… More difficult:  -Children must say something about the object in the picture.

“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 with 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!

 

 

Back-to-school fluency enhancing activities

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Fluency refers to how well a learner communicates meaning rather than how many mistakes they make in grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. Fluency is often compared with accuracy, which is concerned with the type, amount and seriousness of mistakes made.

I personally, don’t believe that  fluency is a goal worth striving towards only with students who are at a fairly advanced level. I firmly believe  that the learning of a language is about communication, and I  feel that fluency should be the main goal in our teaching and that it should be practiced right from the start.

More traditional teachers may tend to give accuracy greater importance;In my classes, I tend towards fluency.

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Of course, we learn a language for communication, so I think that if a student is fluent but not accurate, it is still important to check whether the mistakes or errors can not block communication. Otherwise we need to correct any mistake that can be an obstacle to communication. I just want to stress out that being fluent without being accurate is not the issue we should focus on if communication is taking place effectively.

Let’s be honest: in terms of preparation for the world outside the classroom, fluency is sometimes even more important than accuracy.

Why I am more interested in fluency than accuracy in the early stages of language acquisition? Because,  I think back to my own elementary school days… I disliked teachers who singled out students for correction. I think correcting speech is counter-productive to learning. I think some students are initially going to have a difficult time learning English due to not comprehending what is being said and also due to vocalizing new words. So, if I correct everything said, students might feel that English is too difficult. They may perhaps tune out and/or become embarrassed and may develop a negative attitude to English.

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The most important thing for me has been to recall the wonderful teachers I have had in the past with a view to modeling them as much as possible in my own classrooms. And I have found reflecting on the outcome of my lessons brought me closer to the ideal. This I found was a positive way for me to improve my teaching and create an ever more joyful atmosphere for the learning of English as a foreign language for my young students.

Actually, I have realized that, it’s usually easier to become more accurate in a language!  Fluency is harder to master, so that’s what we should focus on at first, even  in the beginning of the school year! Especially, then!

An example I can give, comes from a close friend of mine, who loves learning languages. This is what she has told me…:”A long time ago when I learned French in a “Frontisterio” (  private Language Institutions in Greece) , the language teachers believed that the most important thing was grammar. So I learned French grammar very well—even to this day I am proficient. But I can hardly speak a sentence of French because no one cared about my fluency—only my accuracy.”

All in all, quite an important factor in education towards  cooperation, is the teacher’s attitude. If she favors a cooperative style of teaching generally and does not shy away from the greater workload connected with group work or projects, if she uses activities to increase fluency, then the conditions for learning to cooperate and develop fluency,  are good. The atmosphere within a class  can largely be determined by the teacher, who – quite often without being aware of it – sets the tone by choosing certain teaching methodology and practices.

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Activities that help to develop fluency focus on communication- for example discussions, speaking games, presentations…..

Here are just few ideas for icebreaker and fluency activities, suitable for a wide rage of students, which have worked in my classes.

a) Start with a ball of yarn.Say your name and an interesting fact about yourself.Then, holding an end, toss the ball to a student.The student will say his/her name and an interesting fact , then holding on to part of the yarn,toss the ball to another student.By the time everyone has spoken, there will be a large web of yarn that can be displayed on the bulletin board with thumb tacks, if you want!

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(This activity is excellent as a review tool, too.Each student says something about the subject, , then tosses the yarn)

b) Split the students in pairs. Each pair will have 30 seconds to find 5 things they have in common.At the end of the 30 seconds, put two pairs together and give the four a minute or so to find something all four students have in common.

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Finally, each group can present the list of things they have in common.(You can use this activity, to form student groups, too)

c)Pass around, a bag of M&Ms.Tell the students to take as many as they want.Once all the students have M&Ms, tell them that for each M&M, they took, they have to say/write one thing about themselves. For instance, if a student took 10 M&Ms , they would have to say/write 10 things about themselves, different for each color.

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Examples:

Green: something about school

Red: something about my family

Blue: something about my hobbies

Yellow: something about my future plans

Brown: something about my friends

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(Variation-use a roll of toilet paper, instead of M&Ms)

 

d)Me in a bag, has been one of my most favorite activities, for many years now…

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I put a few items that represent me in a large paper sack.I put a paintbrush because I love drawing, my favorite book , my favorite CD, a cookbook etc

The students, guess the significance of each item as I pull it out of the bag.This discussion helps the kids to know me as a person.

Each student then, has a turn to bring in his/her own ” Me in a Bag”, giving everyone in the class the chance to shine!

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e)Another fluency activity that I love, is “My timeline” or ” My numbers”.

I start the lesson by drawing a line on the board and and write important dates of my life on it.

Students ask me questions about my life to get them as answers.

For homework, students draw their own timelines.and they talk in pairs about them. I walk around listening…

Brainstorming!

Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

f) Music mingle , is also one of my favorite fluency activities.

Move with the music, stop when it stops, grab a partner and talk about a happy memory ( or anything else, eg holidays, favorites etc) until music starts again….

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g)True or False activities ,have always been my favorite ones!

I write 4 facts about myself and read them to my students. 3 facts are true but 1 is false.

Students take my little true-false test.Then, I survey students to learn the results. We go back over each question to see what they  thought about each statement.

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That gives a chance to tell them a little about me.

Then, on a sheet of paper, students write 3 interesting facts about themselves that are true and 1 that is false. A class discussion starts.

h)Open questions session: Sometimes, just a simple opportunity to ask questions, can benefit our class. When I have a few minutes, I open the floor for my older students to ask me questions.,They can be about anything! They just love it!

Learning a foreign language is not just a matter of memorizing a different set of names for the things around us… it is also an educational experience.

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Whatever the activity, think through the language they will need to complete it and include some kind of post-activity focus on form slot. Variety is important as anything can become dull if it’s done too often and is thus predictable. Vary the task, the seating arrangements, group size and materials used.

Good luck!

9 All about me: this is another favourite project of mine! We spend at least two lessons on it.First , I start by asking them to play the guessing game "Me in a bag": I take out of a bag several objects which have to do with my life and interests and ask the class to guess how they are related to me! I ask them to do the same during our next lesson for themselves and challenge their classmates to guess about them! Finally, they are assigned to write everything they consider important about themselves on this paper figure which is displayed on the classroom walls!

ABC and word games, on Halloween!

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Lately, we have been enjoying lots of fun Alphabet activities. Apples, leaves and pumpkins all lend themselves perfectly to letter learning activities, so we are embracing that and having tons of fun!
Here are my favorite ways to practice letter identification, uppercase and lowercase letter matching, letter sounds , word recognition and more!
Halloween Cup hunt 
  1. Write the letter of the Alphabet on the white sticker or directly onto the cups.
  2. Model how to play in whole group or small group setting.
  3. Have the children close their eyes.
  4. Place the eyeball/Halloween treat under one of the cups.
  5. Chant, “Eye Spy, I Spy.”
  6. Children open their eyes.
  7. Call on students one at a time to guess which cup is hiding the eyeball.
  8. Students read letter of the cup where they think the eyeball/treat  is.
  9. Students lift the cup to see if they are right
  10. Game continues until the eyeball/treat is found.
  11. Repeat game again.
  12. They can keep  the treat, only if they manage to say a word which starts with it as soon as they find it!

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All in all…These cups take up less room and work great for letters, words, and numbers too. The students  can:

  • Say the letter.
  • Say the sound.
  • Name something that begins with the letter.
  • Put the cups in ABC order first.
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The Pumpkin letter memory game

Alphabet Memory Game on…pumpkin templates!

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  1. Put the pumpkin  picture cards aside. Mix up all of the uppercase and lowercase cards.
  2. Place them face down on the table or floor in a grid-like pattern.
  3. Have a student choose two pumpkin cards anywhere on the grid.
  4. Are the letters a match? Big A with little a? If so, that student  gets to remove those cards from play and keep them for his/her team . He also gets to go again!
  5. If they don’t match, turn them back over, and the next person/team  goes. Even if the cards don’t match, encourage your students  to remember where those cards are in case they need to find them again!
  6. Keep playing until all of the cards have been matched. The team with the most matches wins the game.

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Game 2: Letter Sounds Memory Game with Halloween vocabulary!

This game is played the same way except you use one set of alphabet cards and the Halloween picture cards. Try to make a match by finding the picture’s beginning letter!

Set a timer for a few minutes and see how many matches he can get.

 

 

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 The Alphabet Monster
 I spread the letters/pictures  on a desk and tell my students  that the monster was VERY hungry and only eats letters/pictures … BUT that he can only eat them if you say the letter’s/picture’s name first.  They quickly pick out the letters that they already know and feed them to the monster saying each letter name as she put them in.  To make the game fun and playful, I make sounds for the monster … like, “Ohhhh, I’m so hungry!” and gobbling noises after they put a letter in the box.  This receives lots of giggles and silly smiles!
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Although we are using the box for alphabet identification, he can EASILY be changed into a number or color monster!

Variation:

A nice Halloween ABC variation that my students love, has to do with a….Monster!!

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I was inspired to create this last year reading an interesting  blog post and I thought I’d share it if anyone would like to use it. I just print a copy for each team . Then I laminate it and tape it onto a fly swatter with the middle part cut out. It can work as a letter monster, a word monster, or even a number monster. I also found a cute little rhyme to go with it.

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Halloween words- Ladders to the MOON!

This is a simple game.  First, I use tape to create the ladder or just draw it on the board .  Then, I write down high Halloween words or put up flash cards with letters and sounds .  The goal is to move all the way up the ladder.  If you get the word/letter/sound  right, you advance to the next rung.  If you get it wrong, you fall all the way back to the bottom.  Of course, it can work for kids on all levels and subjects.  It can be used for vocabulary, reading, ….math facts – the possibilities are endless.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN IN CLASS!!

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