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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European Day of Languages fun activities,in a… Library!

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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.

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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.

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This year, I’ve  decided to write, about  the activities our local “English Language Teachers Association” created, for the European Day of languages event, which was held in the local Public Library, on 26th September 2016!

Also, I  used most of those activities in my class, the very next day, with huge success!

Here we go…..

BRAINSTORMING TIME !!

Children aged 8-12 , had the chance to know a lot about the different languages spoken, not only in Europe but, all over the World, by watching several videos, singing and taking part in a discussion .

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They shared their experiences concerning their mother tongue and all the foreign languages they had been exposed to.

GAMES TIME !!

Later, they worked in teams and played a Quiz game. They answered questions about different Languages, testing their knowledge and having fun ! A bomb timer was used ,to add more excitement to the game!

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In the next game, a representative from each team , had to wear a special hat, with the name of a language written on it. His/her fellow players, had to help him/her  guess the name of that Language, using miming, key words, descriptions, movement and more…That was fun!!

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“BOOK TREASURE HUNT”!!

Then, it was time for our Book Treasure Hunt, in the Library!

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The teams, had to move around the room, and  look for  12 books, well hidden in the shelves, with titles written in many different Languages! There was a musical background during the Treasure Hunt and a time limit…..3 Songs ,with lyrics in 3 different European languages!

GIFTS!!

All the kids, were rewarded with the  “European Day of Languages” bracelet and special stickers !

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ARTS AND CRAFT!!

The next activity, enhanced the kids’ artistic expression!

The children had to create the Multilingualism Tree , full of cute Owls, speaking many different Languages.

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“Hello” IN ALL LANGUAGES!!

The final activity ,was to write  “Hello” in as many Languages as possible, on special mouth-masks!

And , of course, they greeted each other in all those Languages, holding their mouth-masks!

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I used most of these activities in my class, the very next day! My students loved them and had so much fun! Here are some photos…

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With my older students, we also played a favourite game I have written about, in a previous post: The multilingual game”  !

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With my very young learners, we played several circle games practicing “Hello” and “Goodbye” or “Goodmorning” and ” Goodnight” . But, the most fun thing we did, was to have our mascot Hippo, talk to us about his hometown London! We made beautiful drawings of Hippo’s most favourite places in London! We even asked Hippo lots of questions about his life there and learned so many things about life in a different country, in Europe ! It was a fun-fun day!

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And don’t forget: WE ALL SMILE IN THE SAME LANGUAGE!

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The snowball throw Alphabet game and.. a Letter Monster!

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Students love sports and any game that gives them the opportunity to throw or kick a ball at something is a win! This game, which I have come across on Pinterest, is a great way to bring winter fun indoors . Plus, it gives the students  a chance to burn off their energy when stuck inside. It reinforces letter/word recognition and letter sounds while also developing gross motor skills like coordination. It is so simple and easy to set up too!

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Materials 

Package of ping pong balls (affiliate) –You can also make a sticky tape ball or a simple paper ball.

ABC or vocabulary flashcards

Tape

or

A marker or other writing utensil

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Once I have all the flashcards taped to the wall,or letters/words written on the board, I explain the game to the kids.

They work in two teams. I tell them that they have to throw snowballs at the letters/words – pretend snowballs! They need to hold on to a snowball and wait for me to call out a letter.. Afterward, they have to locate the letter on the wall and throw the snowball at it.

Then, they tell me what sound that letter makes or what words start with that letter or the name of the letter in the Alphabet…. If they are right, they win a point for their team.

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I use the same game for word recognition, before we finish the Alphabet. If you wish to do the same after you have finished teaching  the Alphabet and some basic vocabulary, you can ask the players to spell the word they hit, or you can spell a word for the players to spot and hit! The teacher could also, call a word in the student’s mother tongue . The players find and throw the snowball at the corresponding English word on the board, to win a point for their team.

If younger  students don’t know the letter sounds yet, you can just call out a letter and they can throw a snowball at it once they find it on the wall. For a faster paced game, you can call out a letter sound and the players throw a snowball at the corresponding letter.

This is tons of fun! We have done most of the game variations above and my little ones enjoyed them all. Some of the letters were high up on the board, so he had the extra challenge of trying to hit those letters with the  ball.

I love it when my students are happy! Games, make them happy, for sure! I am sure, your students will enjoy this play-based literacy activity, too !

 

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

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.

Here’s the template.

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This strategy is a fun way for students to get engaged. It teaches reading in a fun way. It helps students look at all the letters in a word one by one. This strategy also teaches blending. The students look at one letter at a time and blend them together to make a word. This strategy can be applied to all areas across the curriculum. Students will be assessed by using the letter monster swatter.

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Interactive Grammar Notebooks -part b

 

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As I had already written in my first post on Interactive Grammar Notebooks, last year, was my first year to use interactive notebooks.  Before school began, I found myself  with the desire PLUS precious  direction, from my  amazing Greek colleague, Papadeli Sophia !

I have to thank her again so much, for all the inspiration and support!

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Overall, they were a success- Experimenting on them during this first school year with few students, among whom was my daughter, was great fun!…I’m sure, we’ll do much better this  year ,with all my afternoon classes, at school!

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This  notebook is built, by adding each grammar skill or concept as an insert gradually throughout the year as they are introduced to new material. By the end of year, they  have a complete notebook they can use as a reference and I can use as an assessment tool or portfolio piece.This is simple and can be done with any grammar curriculum we are using.

First, I used a common notebook,  school glue, scissors and markers/colored pencils. Since we are fully stocked on school supplies, I did not need to make any new purchases.

Then, ideally, we should reserve the first 1-2 pages for the table of contents. I admit that, I didn’t do that, this first year…Going forward, we add a new page for each skill.

The next step is to find some ideas or even printables and foldables for the Grammar notebooks …I asked Sophia Papadeli to help me get started and I also visited Pinterest and used my imagination and creativity, of course!

Here are just  few new pages for you to have a look at, get inspired and hopefully, start your own Grammar Notebooks, this school year!

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Stay tuned for a new post soon, full of  fresh inspiration!

Good luck with your own Fun Grammar Notebooks!

Here are some new pages in our notebooks! Hope, you’ll find them useful!

 

BE GOING TO

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LIKE/LOVE/HATE- WANT TO

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PAST PERFECT

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MUST/MUSTN’T

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FUNCTIONS OF MODAL VERBS-a

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SHALL I ?/MAY I ?-HAVE TO

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MUSTN’T/CAN’T/NEEDN’T(NEED)/DON’T NEED TO/DIDN’T NEED TO

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THERE WAS/WASN’T-THERE WERE/WEREN’T

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HAD/DIDN’T HAVE-COULD/COULDN’T

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MUST/MUSTN’T/CAN (OBLIGATION,PROHIBITION,PERMISSION)

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SIMPLE PAST ( IRREGULAR VERBS)

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QUESTION TAGS

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WILL for predictions ( a fortune teller game)

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FUNCTIONS OF MODAL VERBS-b

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QUESTION WORDS

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ENJOY! Grammar, can be FUN!

 

Pronunciation: Teaching with Adrian Underhill’s phonemic chart

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The reason I decided to apply for a Comenius  grant to be able to go to Pilgrims to 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.

But, the best part about the Pilgrims experience for me, was the training courses I attended and especially the free Seminars, Workshops and Activities to choose from at 16:00 or 20:00 on 3 or 4 days per week.

I had my best time , in those afternoon classes…and I shared unforgettable fun moments with my international colleagues, in them!

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

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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 realized 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.

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Several times so far, I have  taught pronunciation skills to my students using  Adrian Underhill`s chart ~which I was given at Pilgrims, some time ago and have  followed his suggestions about how to teach pronunciation in a fun and playful way! My students just love it!! They always ask for more  !One of them , once said… ” I had no idea miss that, learning the phonemes can be such great fun!!”

Adrian, read my relevant facebook post, and my fb friends’ comments and questions about my work on phonemes, three weeks ago and replied with this message:

“Good to hear you out there. In response to your comments I’ve just posted a list of Pronunciation Teacher Training Videos and Resources on my pronunciation blog at adrianunderhill.com I hope you’ll find what you need there, but let me know if not. If you search online you’ll also find other videos not mentioned below. The resources include articles, online pron charts, classroom wall pron charts, the app, and the book.Good wishes to all in your pron work!”

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 So, here you are……..Feel free to join the fun!

Thanks, Adrian! Keep inspiring us!

Pronunciation Teacher Training Videos and Resources – available for use with Adrian Underhill’s Sound Foundations approach

Videos

1.. Series of 39 3-Minute teacher training videos This deals with each of the sounds in turn, a guide to the pron chart and how to use it, how to exploit the physicality of pronunciation, lots of teaching tips. Available to view free of charge here

2.. My talk on Proprioception in learning new sounds, words and connected speech is available on Youtube here   Filmed at the British Council, London, in February 2015

3.. One Hour Sound Foundations teacher training video, plus various shorter extracts, is available to view here. Filmed at Oxford University

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Other resources

On this new Macmillan One Stop English page you can find the following:

– Videos, various shorter and longer Sound Foundations Videos

– Articles Recent articles on pronunciation teaching

– The Charts British and American English Interactive phonemic charts, with sounds and optional sample words. Classroom charts are also obtainable free from Macmillan ELT. Ask your local representative.

– The App Sounds: The Pronunciation App

– The Book Sound Foundations: Learning and Teaching Pronunciation

Go here for all the above resources

And of course check out this blog – you’re here now!  www.adrianunderhill.com To date there are 80 posts containing usable insights into pronunciation, how it works, how to turn pronunciation problems into good teaching, the physicality of pronunciation, and lots of practical lesson ideas.

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The Phonetic English Joke Book

Jeremy Taylor has put together The Phonetic English Joke Book which offers 100 jokes in phonetic script followed by a ‘translation’ in normal spelling on the following page. Jeremy says it is not intended as a high level academic study but as a user and learner-friendly ebook . It will appeal to people with an interest in learning phonetic script so that they can understand word pronunciations and use dictionaries to enhance their knowledge and memory.

Some of the advantages of  The Phonetic English Joke Book that I can see are

  1. Each piece is joke length, ie short.
  2. The reader is motivated to get to the end, ie to the punch line
  3. Users acquire a facility with phonetic script through use and personal application rather than through ‘being taught’
  4. The normal text is on the next page so if you get stuck or you’ve had enough you just jump to that
Knowing the phoneme symbols for the sounds of English

Although this is not essential for learners, it is a great advantage. Why? Because it offers a way of identifying and fixing sounds, enabling learners to make lots of day to day discoveries like these: “Oh, the sound in that word is the same as in that word” and “Ah, that’s the funny sound I haven’t got, and it’s the same one in those other three words…” and “Using these symbols I find that I ‘know’ more of them that I thought” and “Ok, now I can see which are the sounds I am unsure of” and “Now I can see what’s going on, and I find it is not so mysterious! I am in control (nearly) and I feel more confident!” and “When I learn a new word I can check the dictionary and find how to say it, and this helps me remember it too…”

All the profits from sale of this ebook go to support the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres. 

For more info on The Phonetic English Joke Book and for purchase  go here The book is obtainable from Amazon and Smashwords and can be downloaded as a PDF, a mobi (for Kindle) or EPUB (for general ebook readers)

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Happy phonemic chuckles….!

 

It is all about making real connections with our students…..

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There is a strong possibility that I’ll have to change school, next school year!

The school I am currently working in, is a small state school, with basic facilities, located  in a ,rather small, Greek town…

I admit that, I have faced many challenges  there, so far…

For example, I had to fund  my eTwinning and other projects , myself..!

Unfortunately, my headmasters were reluctant  to support my work, both financially and practically !

Therefore, I had to organize school Christmas Bazaars,in our English class, to earn some money, both for my class projects and the school needs in digital equipment, every year !

In the long run,  those Bazaars have been proven surprisingly  beneficial, for  my students! As beneficial, as our European projects and our end-of-the-school-year musicals and shows !

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So many great memories…!

Every single day, brought us all closer… Every precious day of learning together!

I have realized that,although professional development programs often speak to differentiated instruction, classroom management, technological growth, curriculum development, and standards creation, in the long haul, what fires an educator’s inner motor is to see that he or she has made a difference in a child’s life.

Connecting with students is satisfying and warms the heart.

After all,connecting with students is the reason most teachers teach, isn’t it?

MY suggested ways to make these teacher-student connection work?

Well…….After all these years of teaching experience, here’s my list.

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Don’t be “boring.”
This is foundational, I think…. Much disconnection starts here. And, weak communication is one root of “boring.”

 Capture their  attention.
As human beings, we are more attentive to that which is novel. One reason that some teachers-me included-  prefer to work with younger elementary students is that the world is still fresh to them.

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Making connections, in class…

 Motivate.

We all know that, if it is somewhat inconsistent with prior attitudes, it stimulates. If it stretches us too much, it will demotivate—we shut down. That is why a (sensitively) demanding  a teacher with high expectations, often gets good results.

Be caring

Where appropriate, the loving concern of a caring teacher, can strongly impact the resilience of a kid struggling to grow up.

Respect.
This one is not negotiable !No respect, equals no connection. Period. The kids say, “Respect us and let us respect you.” Connection will not happen if there is no perception of respect.

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Do things together. Share common interests and concrete experiences.

 Create memories.

Memory matters. We should develop and encourage warm and positive memories of school time in our class!

 Spend time just chilling.
Listen. Be there for our students .The gift of time is an unparalleled treasure.

 Become a warm memory.
We may think that we don’t matter that much. We do. We cannot get out of the way. WE are the way. They are watching.

Last but not least: 

Be passionate

It can be a lot of hard work, and there can be moments when we just don’t necessarily have the energy.

I think that, rather than let ourselves get discouraged, we should try to think of it as a passion.

I also think that, if we have a fiery passion for what we’re teaching, it won’t be nearly as difficult to actually teach it !

Passion is something that most people have, but we don’t often channel it to whatever we are trying to do.

So……Let’s  Channel our passion!

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HERE’S MY FAREWELL VIDEO….THE HARD WORK ,OF AN AMAZING SCHOOL YEAR, IN PICTURES!

Dedicated to those beloved students! I  miss them already….

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Off to knew challenges=new opportunities , next school year! Off to new adventures!

 

Project work in our English class

 

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Well, I have been teaching  through projects , since the beginning of my career as an English teacher,  in Greece! Even  when I had to work in a different school ,every single year or I had to work in 3 different schools on the same day, either by walking long distances carrying my heavy bag, or some years later, by driving to a different village school, during each break!!

When I started working on pen pals projects- via snail mail , nobody thought I was doing anything exceptional: only my students! Most headmasters used to refer to my extra working hours on those projects as ” useless, worthless and a waste of time”!

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A few years later, we were able to start working on collaborative projects , with our ETwinning partners!  A precious experience , for all of us! An opportunity, I am really thankful for! What an adventure for my students!

It has been HARD work all these years, but highly rewarding, at the same time-for both me and my students !

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Arts and craft, play an important role in all our projects!

Few thoughts

I have come to the conclusion that, one way to get children doing what they like while still learning is through projects.  Children enjoy using their imagination – making up characters, stories; being creative – making things, drawing, colouring, cutting and gluing, using multimedia; finding out about interesting stuff; sharing, chatting, working together; talking about themselves, their friends and family, their interests; making choices, deciding for themselves, trying new things out; showing off!

I love it when my students become creative through project work! Their talents and interests, are revealed! Creativity is enhanced, too!

I love it when my students become creative through project work! Their talents and interests, are revealed! Creativity is enhanced, too!

What is a project?

In the primary school classroom, a project is usually the work leading to the production of a poster, letter, birthday card, booklet, magazine, play, sketch, puppet show, radio recording, video etc. It may be the work of one pupil, but more frequently is the collaborative work of a number of pupils working together in class.

One key element of all projects is the ‘theme’ – the basic idea. Whether the pupils are working individually or in groups they are all concerned with the same basic theme. This theme should be open enough to encourage creativity and provide a focus, but not so open as to confuse your pupils.

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

Some projects come in the form of a magazine or a booklet

The characteristic of a project is that the learning comes from the ‘process’ – the work which leads to the result rather than the results itself. Most frequently the pupils will use a wide range of language, a variety of language skills and often knowledge which may have come from different parts of the curriculum.

Because the pupils are combining so many different skills and areas of knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to say exactly what the pupils are learning.

A flock of doves! Getting to know other children, by means of English!!

A flock of doves! Getting to know other children, by means of English!!

In any project they may be learning many different things at any one time:

• How to work with other people. • How to share work. • How to delegate work. • How to appreciate the work of others. • How to work alone. • How to take responsibility for a task.

Project-based learning prepares students for the real world.

Another english notice board in class.Here, we pin our class projects! Students are proud to show their parents and friends their work!

Another English notice board, in our classroom.We pin our class projects, on it ! Students are proud to show their work, to their parents and friends!

These are all social skills, but they may also be learning practical skills such as how to use scissors, to design a neat page, to speak clearly or how to operate a piece of simple machinery.

I do not ‘control’ every stage of the process in a project. I  suggest the original idea, assist in the planning process, and may provide advice or guidance in the actual work, but the project is essentially the work of the children – encouraging children to interact and develop independently of the teachers direct interference.

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Why I personally believe in project work…

It is all said in this article on EDUTOPIA:

“The old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare students to survive in today’s world. Solving highly complex problems requires that students have both fundamental skills (reading, writing, and math) and 21st century skills (teamwork, problem solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing, utilizing high tech tools). With this combination of skills, students become directors and managers of their learning process, guided and mentored by a skilled teacher.

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These 21st century skills include

  • personal and social responsibility
  • planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
  • strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • visualizing and decision making
  • knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task.

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PBL is not just a way of learning; it’s a way of working together. If students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, they will form the basis for the way they will work with others in their adult lives.”

“One of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life. It’s an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort.”-EDUCATION RESEARCHER SYLVIA CHARD

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What kind of end products can the children produce?

There are lots of ideas. Here are just a few I have used in my class.

a wall display e.g. posters or collages. Children all contribute a part to making a whole class end product.

a report or presentation e.g. on a survey conducted by the children, or research conducted via the Internet.

an invention  (depending on the target vocabulary)

a booklet or guide e.g. to their town or to an imaginary place

a model e.g. of an imaginary island

a photo story or video e.g. of a story made up by the children, or about a subject  researched by them

a magazine or newspaper

an event e.g. a show/pantomime, a fashion show, a party, an art exhibition –

the possibilities are endless.

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BUT

According to Scholastic, one of the biggest barriers to broad implementation of project-based learning, is fear. Some teachers and administrators are reluctant to scrap a teaching style they know to start over, especially when it means stepping into a new role as a facilitator rather than an expert in the classroom.

As Jane Krauss, coauthor of Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, put it, “It’s hard to teach in a way we were never taught.”

Unfortunately, it’s the same with some parents, too: hard to accept as effective teaching ,a way of teaching they were never taught!

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In my school, I always make sure that,  almost all our project activities are 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  project themes ! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in my teaching with projects!

Some project ideas, for you to get started, can be found here….

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In good projects children benefit from the ‘process’ of preparing them, and they become a stimulus for better speaking and writing. They are also a record of individual work for display in class or at home. Children have a strong emotional investment in the best projects. They are personally interested in the topic and proud of what they have achieved.

 

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Apart from all the obstacles , there is  nothing more rewarding for a teacher than see how happy , engaged and enthusiastic her  students become when they work on something that makes sense and connects the class with the world! It’s priceless! Believe me! It’s worth any effort! It brings the class together, it helps the teacher connect with the students more and the students connect with their peers all over the globe ,by means of an international code of communication: English!

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All in all, PBL taps ones imagination, conception, subject knowledge, application of subject and generalized knowledge, creativity, dexterity, planning, doing, and completing, and when the project is completed, one will have learned much one will never forget!

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Because, ART matters!

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As an elementary school English teacher I’m always looking for new ideas for my students.  Pinterest, is always helpful for new ideas as well as sparking my own creativity!

Last school year, I was asked to teach Art to 1st and 2nd graders, for one hour a week…

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“What a challenge” I thought. By the way, in my school, there is no Art teacher!!! No ICT teacher! No Drama teacher! I love all these three subjects and have done my best to incorporate them in my English teaching , all these years! For my students sake…

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I have always believed that, using arts and crafts in the classroom can be an excellent way to facilitate language learning with young learners.

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Why I use arts and crafts in my English class?

  • I get students to work on projects in groups with a mixture of levels. For example, if students are creating a poster, then those with a lower level work on designing a ‘tag’ while higher levels write an accompanying text about the topic.

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  • Arts and crafts can be a great way to include cross-curricular activities in the English language classroom. Students can incorporate drama skills using masks they have made for role plays, for example.

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  • I find that teamwork, class cohesion and sharing are promoted if students have to work together to complete an art project.

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  • You can appeal to the competitive urge in many students by getting them to produce art work for competition, e.g., design a Christmas card or school magazine cover. I find that brightening up a classroom with students’ work is also great!

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  • Kinaesthetic learners who learn best by moving around and Visual / Spatial learners, who love making things will find arts and crafts activities motivating.

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  • I find arts and crafts useful for recycling language. You can use a wall display to revise vocabulary as a warmer.

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(This must be the topic of a future post, I guess…)

But, that case was different…Those young learners, had never been my students, before! They would start learning English in the 3rd grade! Therefore, my job was to be their…Art teacher, for about one school year- not their English teacher! How challenging was that! I am not an  Art teacher, but I can do Art in my English class, so….I thought, “Why not”?

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Things to keep in mind, before you start :

With very young learners, a teacher has to be patient…I sometimes break a project down into sections, over a number of classes.

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I have all materials ready before I begin. Students may lose interest while the teacher spends a few minutes searching for extra scissors! If the children need to bring in materials from home I always  ask them do so a couple of classes in advance and keep them somewhere safe.

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I usually go stage by stage and wait until everyone has completed a stage before moving on to the next one. Very young learners who finish first can help others so that they stay on task and don’t get bored.

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I have to make sure to leave plenty of time at the end of the session for tidying up and encourage monitors to make sure everything is put back in the right place.

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I always have an extra task for early finishers or ask them to work on the details or even help others with their work!

A crucial thing for me is, to ask them to learn to REUSE  ,when it comes to Craft work! Most of the crafts we did , were made by reusing things we could find in the recycling bins!

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It’s useful to show students an example of the end product. They will then have a clear idea of what they are going to make. I’ve learnt from experience that you should try the activity yourself first.
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You can use your imagination and creativity to come up with the right Art projects to work on but, in my case, Pinterest was my precious source of ideas! Highly recommended to all of you, as well…..
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One of the many projects we worked on, last school year was the “Pinwheels for Peace” project. Very proud of that!
Kids were often really proud of what they had made and liked to take things home to show their family. I had part of their work displayed on their classroom walls, of course. And I made sure that, they would keep all their work in a special Art folder , which they could take  home, in the end of the school year!

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What I  personally love about the Arts ,the most….

Well, the arts are a wonderful arena for fostering creativity, an important skill to have in a rapidly changing world, for our kids.

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Also,through the arts, children learn how to work together to achieve great things. As they work together, they learn to understand differences and diversity. They learn how teamwork contributes to great performance. By teaching students how to live and work together, the arts contribute to making schools safer and more peaceful learning environments.

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 One final thought…..
“When you think about the purposes of education, there are three,” Horne says. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.”
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Interactive Grammar Notebooks -part a

Last year, was my first year to use interactive notebooks.  Before school began, I found myself  with the desire PLUS precious  direction, from my  amazing Greek colleague, Papadeli Sophia !

I have to thank her so much, for all the inspiration and support!

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Overall, they were a success- Experimenting on them during this first school year with few students, among whom was my daughter, was great fun!…I’m sure, we’ll do much better next  year ,with all my afternoon classes, at school!

As a girl-mom, I had to create some rationale for me to deal with the pain of teaching my “I-can’t-stand-grammar ” daughter. Yes, the pain is heartbreaking and real! Realizing this, I’ve come to the conclusion that my daughter and niece whom I both teach English at home, needed short, but potent grammar lessons where they’re able to explain, defend, and apply the skills.

I decided to use interactive notebooks to cater to and shape their learning experience a bit more.

Their  Interactive notebook,  helped keep their learning organized by having all concepts in the same place and in an sequence they could naturally follow.

This  notebook is built, by adding each grammar skill or concept as an insert gradually throughout the year as they are introduced to new material. By the end of year, they  have a complete notebook they can use as a reference and I can use as an assessment tool or portfolio piece.This is simple and can be done with any grammar curriculum we are using.

First, I used a common notebook,  school glue, scissors and markers/colored pencils. Since we are fully stocked on school supplies, I did not need to make any new purchases.

Then, ideally, we should reserve the first 1-2 pages for the table of contents. I admit that, I didn’t do that, this first year…Going forward, we add a new page for each skill.

The next step is to find some ideas or even printables and foldables for the Grammar notebooks …I asked Sophia Papadeli to help me get started and I also visited Pinterest and used my imagination and creativity, of course!

Here are just  few pages for you to have a look at, get inspired and hopefully, start your own Grammar Notebooks, next school year!

PAST SIMPLE
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WILL

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REFLEXIVE/EMPHATIC PRONOUNS

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PRESENT PERFECT

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ORDER OF ADVERBS

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ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

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COMPARISON OF ADJECTIVES/ADVERBS

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PLURALS

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ARTICLES (A/AN)

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IRREGULAR PLURALS

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TO BE

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PERSONAL PRONOUNS

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THIS/THAT/THESE/THOSE

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THERE IS/ARE

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POSSESSIVES

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TOO/ENOUGH

 

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TYPES OF COMPARISON

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TOO MUCH/MANY

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ORDINAL NUMBERS

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IMPERATIVE

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HAVE/HAS GOT

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PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

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BE GOING TO

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PRESENT CONTINUOUS

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FUTURE CONTINUOUS

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PRESENT SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

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PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

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THE -ING FORM

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USED TO

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POSSESSIVES

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BOTH/NEITHER/NONE/ALL

 

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ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

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PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

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WORD ORDER

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BE GOING TO-hopscotch

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HOW MUCH/MANY

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SOME/ANY

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LIKE

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WORD ORDER-QUESTIONS

 

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PAST SIMPLE-IRREGULAR VERBS

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PRESENT CONTINUOUS

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PLURALS

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PRESENT PERFECT

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PRESENT CONTINOUS

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FORMATION OF ADVERBS

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ORDER OF ADJECTIVES

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ORDER OF ADVERBS

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PAST SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

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Whether our  child or students, need the added application, more hands-on grammar, or just a splash of fun, interactive notebooks have the ability to enhance and advance their language arts skills. My daughter , still not all that intrigued about grammar, has found a way to accept it more with her notebook!

 

 

Our ETwinning “Puppets” project: promoting peace and understanding!

 

I’ve always loved working with puppets, in our  English class!

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I strongly believe that, puppets play an important part in various aspects of a child’s development. The puppet provides the child with a kind of cover or disguise to hide behind: a timid child finds the courage to speak, to express his/her own emotions and to open his/her secrets to the puppet and through it to the audience. Thus the puppet helps the child to communicate much more spontaneously, avoiding stressed relations, especially with adults. The puppet is an authority selected by the child himself.

Through my experience in working with puppets, I believe in the magical power of the puppet in all kinds of communication with children, enlightening their talents and different forms of their creativity.

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In our ETwinning project,this year, we decided to work with FLAT puppets, because, they were easy and cheap to travel in an envelope!

I also thought  that, flat puppets would be important in improving visual sensitivity and orientation in space , especially for my younger students (a translation of a drawing into movement in relation to another animated form).

The use of our ETwinning puppets, actually  resulted in a considerable contribution to a more humane and less stressed teaching environment and the socialization process, with our European peers. Moreover, puppets aroused my students’ imagination and creativity – the best dowry to a child for further development.

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Promoting Peace and understanding among kids living in different countries and experiencing different cultural backgrounds ,was also one of my main targets, this year!

Actually, promoting peace was a large part of Dr. Montessori’s career – one of her most famous quotes is “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education.” She thought it was extremely important in her day; today it may be more important than ever…in both Europe and the World!

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To me, Peace doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. That would be an idealized world in which none of us live. Rather, it’s learning how to deal with conflict in a way that doesn’t put the rights, wants, or needs of one person over the other. It’s learning conflict resolution skills that stress respect for the individual and the group, in our class  and in today’s World.

Let me share some facts…:The European continent is culturally, economically and linguistically very varied and a survey carried out by the Council of Europe revealed an important diversity in the provision for the arts in schools throughout Europe.

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In the same study, it was found that arts education provision in these countries, in many cases, also shows an inconsistency with national policy statements. They strongly emphasize the importance of a cultural dimension in education and encourage artistic and aesthetic development in young people, while in reality the status of and provision for arts education appear less prominent. Moreover,  the emphasis on academic and technical education has a tendency to place the arts in the periphery of the curricula encouraging polarities between the arts and the sciences .

It was after I had read those facts when I thought..:Puppetry, is one such form of Art. I should use it to achieve my teaching goals in a fun and meaningful way.

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Peace education can vary by age; older Primary School children will naturally be able to get into the history of peace, understanding others  and conflict by studying different countries and cultures. In our project case, they could participate at a higher level by researching and writing about their lives, different cultures,sharing and comparing with their their European friends with the help of  their Puppets.

During our Puppets project, we emphasized respect for the diversity of traditions and customs found around the world and in our European house!

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Through the creation of several stories for the puppets theatre in class, students developed their artistic potential as a tool to explore the idea of tolerance and understanding of others.

After all, puppetry has been found to be an excellent tool for the teaching of multiculturalism to children.

First, I had to teach my young students, basic techniques used in creating live puppet theatre to be later able to  use puppetry to incorporate multiculturalism into practice.

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A few months later, as my little ones grew in understanding the feelings and needs of themselves and their European peers, their compassionate nature blossomed,too.

More, about this project:

The main goals of the project were  :
• 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.

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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 a new tool: twinspace! The project lasted for about 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 ,exchange OURSELVES as… PUPPETS ! We “traveled” to 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. 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.

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This was a new and innovative partnership for my  school; It was the first time that we had participated in such an innovative an 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:

  • All partner  schools being inclusive of each other, working as one unit on each common project
  • That the children felt able to be creative with their audience in the partner school in mind and dare to share and compare
  • That the learning from the project was so significant that it will not be lost from children’s minds
  • The Puppet-Ambassadors, created by and for the students ,served as a  meaningful pathway towards understanding and learning more about our partners.

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Before we started, the concept of Europe was not understood by most of the children, but now they are fully aware of the other  European  partner countries and their ways of life. Citizenship has become a practical rather than theoretical part of the curriculum.

 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.

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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.

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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!

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I teach English to  ALL classes in my school! I therefore  made sure that, ALL my 135 students, in all ages and  language levels, took part in our  ETwinning project, something that  proved to be a real challenge!

All in all, a  puppet can be their friend or their classmate, their ETwinning  friend in our case… but at the same time is the child who moves the puppet. This is going to be the key thing while practicing another language and, if we use them correctly, they are one of the best resources that teachers can find and use in their foreign language classes.Not only to teach English but most importantly, LIFE AND SOCIAL SKILLS!

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