Fun ball games, in the ELT class

I love trying  activities, which I find online or hear about in Seminars and Conventions, in my classes, to see how they work! These amazing ball games ,which I read about here, few months ago, really worked !! So, I had to share!

By the way, busyteacher.org, is by far, my most  favourite site!

 With a database of 17,246 free printable worksheets and lesson plans for teaching English. BusyTeacher will save you hours in preparation time.

Highly recommended to all!

Sometimes, low tech is better! Even the most financially lacking classrooms or schools can provide fun, creative activities for their students!

So, here are some great activities for our English class that will only require a ball

  1. Spelling Ball –This game is as simple as ABC. Have your students stand in a big circle. Say a word and toss the ball to one of your students. Student says the first letter of the word and tosses the ball to a classmate, who has to say the second letter, and then tosses the ball to another. Students who make a mistake must sit down and play starts again with the teacher. The last student standing is the winner!

  1. Shoot for Points-Set up a trash can, bin, or any container that will serve as your “basket”. Students line up. Choose a topic or grammar point, for example Past Simple. Ask each student a question: Where did you go last weekend? If student uses the verb in simple past correctly, they may shoot for points: 10 points if they score; 5 if they miss, but answered the question correctly.

  1. Choose Your Victim-This is a great way to make a Q &A session more “active”. Students stand in a circle. Give them a grammar point to practice through questions, for example, tell them to ask questions with “ever” so they practice Present Perfect. First student asks a question with “ever” (Have you ever been to London?) and tosses the ball to a classmate who must answer correctly to stay in the game and earn the right to ask a question. Those who make a mistake must leave the circle. 

  1. Freeze!-This game is ideal for little ones! Practice vocabulary with flashcards. First, teach students the meaning of “Freeze!” as stop. Students sit in a wide circle with a set of flashcards in the center. Students pass the ball around the circle. Tell them they can’t hold the ball for more than a second. Cover your eyes while they do this and say, “Freeze!” The student who has the ball must stop and take a flashcard from the pile. Depending on your students’ ages and level, ask them to either say the word or use it in a sentence.

  1. It’s a bomb!-This is a great way for students to introduce themselves and learn their classmates’ names in a first lesson. Also a fun way to practice or review possessive pronouns! Have students sit in a circle. Give one of them the ball, and say, “It’s a bomb! The timer is ticking (use an egg timer!)” Tell them they have to say their name, pass the ball, and say their classmate’s name: My name is Juan. Your name is Maria. The student who has the “bomb” when the timer goes off, leaves the circle. Have students re-arrange themselves in the circle so they’re sitting next to different students, and start again.* I have also used this game to revise vocabulary! It works great with spelling tasks.

  1. Description Dodgeball-Use a very light, soft ball for this game, as students will be trying to hit each other! Have students line up on one side of the classroom (if you can play this in the schoolyard, better!) One student stands in the front next to you holding the ball. Describe one of the students in your class: This student is the tallest in the class. The student you are describing has to run to avoid being hit by the student with the ball. If the student is hit, he/she becomes the next thrower. You may also have students wear tags with names of cities, animals, or places for you to describe.I have used the same game to revise parts of the body. The teacher or a student, describes one of the students standing in the circle and the student with the ball, tosses it to the student with that characteristic. He must then spell /translate/define etc a word to stay in the game. eg ” He has blue eyes-She is has long brown hair…”

  1. Basketball Dare-Practice giving commands. Set up a “basket” far enough away for it to be a challenge, but not impossible for students to score. Students line up and shoot for the basket. If students score, they get to give you a command you must follow: “Walk like a monkey”, “Say something in Chinese”, “Stand on one foot for 30 seconds”, etc… Make sure you establish some ground rules, for example, students can’t give you commands that involve shouting, leaving the classroom, etc…

Enjoy! I am sure your students will just love them!

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My Pilgrims experience!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pilgrims Humanistic Approach, in brief:

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

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

“Wow”! I thought, back then….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Wright, is the heart and soul of Pilgrims!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His  chart is now an integral part of my lessons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am thankful to Bonnie! I will always be…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

 

Interactive Grammar Notebooks-part c

As I had already written in my first  and second posts 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!

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!

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!

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE/MOVEMENT/TIME

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

BE GOING TO

 

 

BE GOING TO for making predictions based on evedence

BE GOING TO -plans

WILL

PAST PROGRESSIVE

 

ARTICLES

RELATIVES

COUNTABLE-UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

REPORTED SPEECH

EXPRESS FUTURE PLANS, USING THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

SOME/ANY- EXPRESSING QUANTITY

MODALS ( A guessing game, using pictures)

 

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 1st graders! The importance of a mascot in class

Class mascots can be “friends” that help the students on their learning journey.

Our own ,1st graders class mascot, is our cute Hippo!!

Hippo, plays various roles in our classroom. He sits and watches over our class to make sure they are doing the right thing or plays and sings with us  ! He is the reason, my little ones want to learn English- to be able to communicate with him, without my…help!

Having a class mascot adds a little fun and humour to the classroom, too. We often laugh about what Hippo has been up to on the weekend, and his ability to fall asleep at any moment, is an ongoing lesson!

The students have helped to develop Hippo’s personality and interests.

If you have never  used a class mascot before, here’s  how to get started:

Choose a particular stuffed animal or toy as your class mascot and have children decide upon a name for their new friend. Then brainstorm with children some background information about the mascot. Some ideas might be:

  • Where and when it was born
  • All about its family
  • What its personality is like
  • How it got its distinctive features
  • Its best friends
  • What it likes to do
  • Where it has already traveled

The children can not only learn from the mascot, but can also  teach the mascot what they have learned .

The mascot can award stickers or small rewards to students who have  positive behavior for the week! Maybe the mascot could bring in his/her favorite book  for a read aloud. I have done this with the book “Hippo and friends” and have shared my experience in this blog post!

Use your imagination and think of how to integrate the puppet into your daily routines and teaching. There are so many possibilities!

I find the mascot to be an endearing member of the class. The students love Hippo like a friend.  They respond to Hippo as a teacher and seem to really listen to what he has to say.

The way  students really respond to our mascot, is just fantastic – I wonder at what age that enthusiasm and imagination starts to fade….

I often have other mascots coming to visit us for a couple of weeks… Princess Elizabeth, Hippo’s cousin from London has become the kids’ favourite!

They have even  learned how to bow to Her Royal Highness ! When they heard that she is not married..yet and she’s still looking for her Prince, they started suggesting  their.. brothers, uncles or cousins, for her future husband!! That was hilarious!

There are also some of Hippo’s friends : Mr Owl, Mr Elephant , Miss Duck etc

Kids are looking forward to Hippo’s visit in our class ! They miss him so much!

They talk about him at home! They bring him their own animal friends, to help him  make new friends and feel less lonely  ! They ask him questions about his hometown and country! They want to know more about his family, back home! By the way, his family is a… pink Elephant family-Hippo is…. adopted !- but, they don’t seem to find that weird ,at all ! !

Young learners get attached to mascots very quickly, especially if you bring it to every class and let the students touch, hug and talk to it. My students love offering our puppet water and got very concerned when Hippo got ill and had to go to hospital! Or had to wear glasses ! They also feel the need to give him a hug , each time he misses his mother, who lives in London!

It’s true that, class mascots can quickly give your room a sense of character and responsibility. They’re also a lot of fun! Whether it’s a live rat, a guinea pig, or a plastic potato with a silly grin, your mascot can become an incredibly rich part of the students’ year.

I can’t wait to see what fun we’ll have with Hippo and his friends  ,next!

Christmas fun in class- and few post-holiday class activities

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I have been the class Christmas lessons  planner for many-many years. We have games, crafts, fun language activities, and an absolute blast with my students. I also always have printable games on hand, just in case I need to fill some time. Usually, though, we end up with way more fun than there is time for.

This year, I used most of the activities I have already written about, in older posts, and added few new ones…

In this post,I just wish to share some pictures, which prove how much fun we had, while learning new things about Christmas and practicing our English , at the same time!

For more details about most of them, please, feel free to read my earlier relevant blog posts, here , here or here.

This year, we made beautiful 3D crafts with my little ones, learning the Christmas vocabulary a, at the same time.

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We played lots of fun games, with all classes!

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We sang Christmas songs!

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We even sang old-time-classic songs  such as “The rainbow song”, using Christmas ornaments!!

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We made Advent calendars!

 

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We decorated our special Christmas trees!

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We wrote Santa letters and met one of his best friends!

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Here  are some cool post-holiday classroom activities I have come across online and I have decided to use in my class next week!

I hope, they’ll work!

POST-HOLIDAY CLASS ACTIVITIES

We  should try to avoid diving right into the schoolwork after break. Instead, I think we should make the adjustment a little bit easier by welcoming students back with fun activities that incorporate what they did over their holiday vacations.

Let’s get our students back on track and motivated to learn once again.

Create a Holiday Memory Book

Have students capture their best holiday moments in a memory book. Students will have more than enough to share, and a memory book is a great way to do that. Ask students to draw or bring in a picture of their favorite holiday outing or gift. Then ask students to write a few sentences about it. Once students have completed their memory book page, have them share it with the class or bind them all together to make a class book.

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 Make New Year Resolutions

Returning from holiday break is the perfect time to teach students how to reflect upon the past year and to make positive changes for the new year. Tell students that the new year means a fresh start and they can make promises to themselves that are positive and realistic. As a class, brainstorm a few resolutions together. Give them the following prompts to get started.

  • In 2015 I want to learn …
  • In 2015 I want to get better at …
  • My goal(s) for 2017 are …

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Have a Show and Tell

As soon as students enter the classroom after winter break, they inundate you (and each other) with stories about what every student received from Santa, or all of the fun places that they went while on break. What’s a better way to share all of their experiences and new toys then to bring something in for a little old show and tell? For a different spin on the traditional activity, try having students guess who brought what item in.

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Creative Writing Prompts

A creative and calm activity to get your energetic students back into the grind is to have them write about what they did and received over break. Students can get the opportunity to discuss their adventures in a fun writing piece. For instance, ask students to write about the best gift they gave and what made it so special, or describe their family’s holiday traditions in detail. Here are a few more creative writing prompts.

  • What are you most grateful for this holiday season?
  • What was your favorite holiday food that you had over break?
  • Who was the person you spent the most time with and why? What did you do with them?
  • Write about a place that you went over the Christmas break.
  • Write about something you did with your family over Christmas break.

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Play a Fun Game

Welcome your students back to school with a few fun games! Try to avoid piling on the schoolwork right away and instead try playing a few fun games to ease students back into the routine. Review games are a great choice for easing students back in. Try games like the “Hot Seat” where one student faces away from the board and chooses three people to give them clues about what is written on the board behind them. Another fun game is “Ping Pong,” where students are divided into teams of two and the team that gets the answer correct gets to throw a ping pong ball into a one of three cups to get a prize for their team. Prizes are things like a homework free pass or lunch in the classroom.

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Host a Party?

Before you must get back to all the school chaos and your crazy school day routine, kick off the first day or two back to school with a party! Invite the classroom next to yours over for some cookies and hot chocolate. Allow students to share their holiday break stories over a warm cup of cocoa! Students will love the ease and flow of a relaxing day back to school.

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Christmas break was a time for rest and relaxation, so it’s important to remember to ease students back into the school routine slowly and carefully. This will ensure that everyone will be motivated and ready to learn in no time.

ABC fun games

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Learning the English alphabet is  the very first step to learning the language and achieving fluency. And for our beginning students just learning how to use the English alphabet, here are some fun games I have tried, so far,to help teach and review the ABC in  class.

Most of them I have found online and adapted for my classes.

I have been inspired to use several of them in ELT seminars and teacher development courses I have attended….

I have also included, few games  I have come up with, while improvising in class…

I am also uploading some photos, taken in class this school year, of games that have worked and have been  much fun!

Well, here it goes!

 

CUP HUNT

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  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 a 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 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!

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.

LETTER MONSTER SWATTER

I was inspired to create this the other day and I thought I’d share it if anyone would like to use it. I just printed 2 copies (one for each team ), then cut out the different pieces and glued them together. Then I laminated it and taped 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

 

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LETTER PLATES and CLOTHES PIN LETTER MATCH

I have to thank my friend Andrianni Tsarkou for reminding me of this idea , during her EEPEK workshop , last November in Larissa.

I used a large paper plate and a medium size for this one.  The first I simply took a marker and wrote the letters around it and the second I used my cool “Jumpo ” stickers (needed the bigger plate for the size). Then I took my clothes pins and wrote the letters on those too. I put them in a bowl next to the plate and there you go!

Kids match clothes pins with lowercase letters to uppercase letters on this  paper plate.

You can also combine these two ideas ,like I did in the photos, below..

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WRITING WITH BOTTLE CAPS

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Make a  set of “alphabet” caps to help students learn the letters. Write a letter of the alphabet on each cap . Make two or three caps for common letters such as A, E, I, O, U, C, D, H, L, N, R, S, T.

You can give the students words in capital letters  to write them in small letters, and vice versa. They work in teams. The team which writes the word faster, wins!

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More ideas:

  • Using the alphabet caps, help students to spell out their names. Are there other words they might be able to spell out with the caps, such as “mom”, “dad”, “dog”, or “ball”?
  • Place all your alphabet caps in a bag and shake them up. Ask  a student to draw one cap out of the bag and read the letter out loud. Then she/he  has to think of something that starts with that letter. Allow for phonetic spellings, for example if she/he says “phone” for the letter “f”.

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Even more ideas, I have come across are:

Write letters or chunks on them and make words.

Colored circle stickers are perfect size for bottle caps.

Write words/numbers before you try to stick them on. Its hard to write once they’ve been stuck to the cap –

Write words (person, place, things, actions) on each color and pull out to use as a writing prompt –

Write letters and make a scrabble game –

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Write high frequency words and have kids create sentences (color code by parts of speech –

Elkonin Technique for hearing sounds of a given word. Pull down caps as each sound is heard –

Compound Word Matching Game –

Write words on caps and put them in ABC order –

Write sight words on lids and try to stack them in towers up as you read more and more words –

Game pieces for sight word tic tac toe

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ABC MINI BOOKS

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For this you need: white paper & old magazines or simply ask your students to draw their own pictures.  Each week we choose a new letter to work on. Write the upper and lower case letter on a piece of white paper, then go through old magazines with your Ss to find pictures that begin with that letter (or just draw their own pictures). Let them cut them out and glue them on the paper, which helps them improve their cutting skills too!  The Ss love to look at it over and over.

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For instructions about how to make a mini book, read here

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THE HAMMMER GAME

I found these hammers at JUMBO, after we had finished with our ABC and basic vocabulary.

I could have made some cards with words on them but, I finally decided to write those words on the board and play there, instead.But, it worked out fine, that way, too!

I called out a word and who ever hit it first with the hammer got  to keep it for their team.

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THE SNOWBALL THROW ABC GAME

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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.

TOUCH AND KNOW

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Blindfolds and oversized cardboard letters or magnetic letters ( I have bought them from JUMBO) help our juniors get a feel for the alphabet in this tactile game. Prepare several letter cutouts ( or use the magnetic ones, like I did) and place them in a  box. In turn, have each child wear a blindfold as he draws a letter from the box, feels its shape, and identifies the letter by touch.We play this game in teams and it’s great fun!

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ABC RELAY RACE

Have two students, one from each team, stand next to their team alphabet line, on the board . Explain to them that they have to run and write the corresponding small/capital letter , next to each one of the letters in their line .You can even work with letter sounds or ask them to write a word that starts with each letter they see. There are numerous variations of this game… The first team to finish, wins.

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This is such a fun game! My students loved it!

Practice letter recognition and letter sounds with a fun game that gets kids moving.

A fun variation, can be watched here

And for more ideas, you can read this …

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THE SNAIL BOARD GAME

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Well, if I am not mistaken, the original idea belongs to Papadeli Sophia but, I have seen several variations of it, online, so far!

I ask them to say/spell a word that starts with each letter.

An fun ABC board game, played in pairs.

 

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DRAW IT, MIME IT OR SPELL IT

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We play this game, with new words or vocabulary I wish them to revise.

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Get students into groups of three or four and ask them to sit around a table. Put a set of picture cards face down on each table. Distribute the cards evenly among the group. Tell them their cards are secret! They must not show them or talk about them. Students now think of  how they can draw it, spell or mime it. Give them time, but not too much. Students take turns in , miming, spelling or drawing, while the others in the group guess. The student with the fastest correct answer gets the card with the word. The winner is the person with the most correct answers.

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THE ABC SONG PASS-THE-BALL GAME

To help my students remember the ABC song, I have them sing it several times, of course. This is a fun way to do so!

Children develop listening skills, and practice their ABC as they pass the ball around the circle in this cooperative musical ABC game. I tell the children that when they hear a “new” letter , then the ball is passed to the next student.

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The last student holding the ball when the song finishes, is the winner and gets special stickers!

They just can’t get enough of this game! We get to sing the ABC song again and again….

If there is doubt as to who is holding the ball, for example half way through a changeover, then tell them to play “paper, scissors, rock”.

Insist that they only pass the ball, not throw it!!

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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!

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!

 

Mardi Gras: fun class games

 

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Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is a celebration full of feasting and merriment just before Lent is ushered in for the 40 days of “self denial” leading up to Easter. Mardi Gras is the time to march in parades, eat treats, sing and dance, and generally celebrate good times.

This is a great opportunity to have a fabulous party for our students in the English class, too!

Here are some game ideas, I use in my class…..

We play classic children’s games with a Mardi Gras twist, such as musical chairs.

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Instructions:

I set up chairs in a tight circle, with the seats facing outward. We should have one less chair than you have children participating. I place a Mardi Gras mask underneath each chair. I play some Latin  music. When the music starts, the kids must walk around the chairs. When the music stops, they must quickly find a seat and put the masks to their faces. The child who doesn’t have a seat is out. I take away another chair for the next round. The game continues in the same manner until only two kids are battling over one chair.

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For a version of “Simon Says,” have the kids play “Mardi Gras King or Queen Says.”

Instructions:

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The leader might say, “Mardi Gras Queen says march in place,” and the kids must follow. However, if the leader gives a command and doesn’t say “Mardi Gras Queen says,” the kids are not to follow the command. Anyone who does is out.

Scavenger Hunt Games

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I sometimes, scatter the Mardi Gras bead or Pasta (!)  necklaces my students have made at home, following written instructions, all over the classroom area for the kids to find and put around their necks. The person with the most necklaces , wins.

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I also, hide a special Mardi Gras necklace, which an American friend who had been in New Orleans, sent me some years ago…. The child who finds that necklace ,earns a special prize.

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This year, we had  a scavenger hunt with carnival masks and other party stuff. I put them all in a…treasure  box. I gave  the kids a clue each time ,as to the location of the next clue card. I put the children in pairs to figure the clues to find the Treasure Box. The winners are the first children to bring back all the clue cards, in order.

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Contests

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I ask the  students, to come to the lesson  dressed  in their best or most creative Mardi Gras gear. The outfits can be anything with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold,  or not….For example, some of my students, this year have decided to improvise and wear their own clothes, upside down!!. Students, vote for the best costume. They cannot vote for themselves. The most fun thing is, that I have the students  do a …Catwalk Mardi Gras Best Costume competition! We have to describe what students who take part  are wearing , before we vote! Great order of adjectives, practice!

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For a mask contest, I give each of my younger students, an undecorated paper Mardi Gras mask. The children must decorate their masks using any art and craft items you have on hand such as glitter, paint, feathers and stickers. Each child will get to stand up and present her mask to the group. The children then vote — by secret ballot — for their favorite mask.

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With my very young learners, we played ” Carnival dictation ” on the board.

Instructions:

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1.I draw about 6-8 masks on the one side of the board and the same number of Masks on the other.

2.Assign the kids to either Carnival King or Carnival Queen  teams

3.I ask a player from each team in turns, to come to the board and write a word they are given, on one of their team Masks.

4.   If they are correct they move to the next ,mask  towards the finish.

5.If one student is not correct, their team miss a turn. If both players are not correct, the next two players proceed!

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We also did an “Orange dance” with Carnival music! A dance which requires  collaboration between the partners and is so much fun!!

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Finally, we love playing “ Mardi Gras whispers“!

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Similar to ” Chinese Whispers” , but this time, we use Mardi Gras and Carnival vocabulary! It’s a fun way to revise new words! I always ask the last person in the row, to come and WRITE the word on the board! This way, we practice spelling, too! They get a point for their team if they get it right!

We love Mardi Gras in class! What about you?…..

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