I am sure, many of you will be surprised to know that, our Greek State school 3rd graders’ English books, have been…black and white for some years now, mainly, due to financial reasons!!
To start with, here’s some basic information for you…..Within the context of the Project entitled “New Foreign Language Education Policy in Schools: English for Young Learners” (EYL), English has been introduced as a compulsory subject in primary school from the first grade in 20% of the primary state schools of the country. In other words, the first foreign language has been introduced at age 6-7 and the programme has been piloted. In the rest of the state schools, foreign language learning starts in the third grade, i.e. at age 8-9. This innovation is one of the components of an enriched school curriculum introduced by the Greek Ministry of Education in 2010-11, on an experimental basis, in 800 of the largest state schools in the country. Thanks to this project therefore, which was expanded in 2011-12 to include 161 more schools operating as enriched-curriculum “all-day” schools, 40% of the first and second grade pupils in Greece are now starting foreign language learning from an early age.
Both our books, the Magic Book pilot edition and Magic Book 2, have been prepared by two faculty members of the School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The authors,Marina Matthaioudaki and Thomai Alexiou have supervised,edited and contributed to the writing of these books. The rest of the authoring team consists of teacher practitioners with a rich teaching experience at state primary schools. This cooperation between academics and practitioners allowed the team to base their teaching choices and suggestions on theoretical models and on research results in the field of early foreign language learning.The
- They use an eclectic approach (a combination of different approaches, of language learning methodologies and of various techniques) that will motivate and engage learners (e.g. Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response etc.).
- They select activities that are conducive to the broader pedagogical aims (development of co-operation skills, development of learning strategies etc.).
- They select fun activities and creative tasks that allow learners to approach and process the new language in different ways.
I enjoyed using them at first, even in their black and white edition ! But then, one day a couple of years ago, I realised that colour, which was missing, has the ability to make an impact on mood, and colours appeal to all children because of the way they make them feel. Colours evoke happy or pleasant emotions. It was then, when I decided to do something about it… And I came up with the idea of a… class competition : the ” most beautiful english course book” competition! That way, I would appeal to the competitive urge in many students by getting them to produce art work for the competition.
Since that day, at the beginning of each school year, I tell my 3rd graders that, if they wish to take part in our class competition, they have to make sure that they colour every bit of their english coursebook and make it look as attractive as possible till the end of the school year!
By the end of the school year , we follow the steps below:
- Evaluate and reflect upon the candidate books
- Develop criteria for our special Class Book Award category
- Nominate books that we feel are worthy of our Class Book Award status
- Have a look at books recommended by students
- Vote to determine which books will receive our Class Book Award
I always make sure that a brief discussion ,about what would make a book worthy of a nomination, is held in class!
At first, many students support their best friend’s candidate book but, later after we have discussed in groups and in class about certain criteria , they usually, change their mind…
I later , pass out the final ballots and have students place their votes, I allow students to vote for two books!
Book Award Ceremony
Once we have tallied the votes from the ballots, it is time to hold a Book Award ceremony. I try to make this as exciting and authentic as possible. I use a podium for presenters to stand behind when announcing the winners, and I use a fake microphone when I am “hosting” the ceremony. There are little presents for all the participants and special presents, among which a…cup , for the three best books!
I also, take lots of photos and put them up on our english class notice board! They feel so proud!
I have started this art project, simply to engage my third graders ! I also want them, both to personalize their own books and to express themselves through their artistic talents! I believe that , students must take ownership of their own education, starting with their own coursebook! My students love this art project, because it’s fun and provides them with authentic self-expression: The freedom of choice, thought, and feeling.
Generally talking , we as teachers , need to be creative and make our lessons personal to our students in all different ways. We should give them ownership of all aspects of their learning and I know we will see a difference, especially when they feel we believe in them and in their talents !