Team work ,matters!

The ability to work together with others as part of a team is not simply a skill needed at school, it is a vital skill used in all areas of life. For me, school is, an excellent time to cultivate the teamwork skills, children will then draw from, throughout their life.

 

For a team to work together effectively, it takes all members of the team to respect each other’s abilities and opinions. Teamwork is a highly social activity and involves much interaction and exchanging of ideas and actions. We all understand that, being part of a team enables a child to move from more intrapersonal (individual) ways of thinking to interpersonal (communicating with others). It will help students in all areas of their learning, and help them to feel part of a community, too.

The biggest problem in my country’s educational system is that, teamwork is not encouraged at schools- at least, not as much as it should be….

Working as part of a team will strengthen students’ social and emotional skills, help develop their communication skills, and can improve confidence.

Team games, are also important…From experience, the best way to teach children English is to not only get them physically involved within the lesson, but also to create the illusion that they are simply playing games. And rather than focus on individual development, it is also a very good idea to promote class interaction as far as possible.

Even very young learners can become independent in their learning and guided early on they will be more likely to grow into autonomous and successful language learners.

Creative use of language makes communication possible even when students may not know the perfect grammar for what they are trying to say.Nothing is more true to life than that.

When students work in groups, they have to work together to accomplish a goal. Even when the use of grammar is weak in these collaborations, communication happens, and that will give your students an advantage, when they have to face communication in the English speaking world.

Encouragement in class,is crucial ! One way encouragement comes, is when lower level students see the accomplishments of higher level students.Less accomplished students will become better speakers just by talking to others more advanced than them, without help and without pressure….When they work in groups, I see that students help each other learn.

One of the most important things for me, as far as group work is concerned, is speaking!

Putting our students in groups, gets them speaking up and practicing the language that they are trying to learn. And, speaking, is not top priority in the Greek language class…. not even in the private Greek Language schools-“Frodisteria”…

Students who are kinesthetic learners, will benefit greatly from learning through games and group work,too. Students of varying English levels can work together to support each other, make decisions together and learning from one another. Games and group work can involve all of the aspects of language—listening, speaking, reading and writing.

 

In our class, children experience teamwork in many different forms. They may be asked to work in pairs, small groups, or larger groups on a variety of different things. They may be asked to work in teams for physical activities such as ball games or running games or more formal activities such as projects. Children also often form their own team activities during their play time.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato

I am sharing an interesting post about the benefits of Team Building, here

 

Benefits of Team Building

1.  Getting to know each other better
2.  Bonding
3.  Building team spirit
4.  Encouraging tolerance and understanding
5.  Creating a sense of belonging and connectivity
6.  Creating a climate of cooperation and collaborative problem-solving
7.  Improving motivation
8.  Improving communication within the group
9.  Team development – Building a community with a common purpose
10. Developing trust, care, compassion, kindness and creating empathy (Trusting each other AND yourselves)
11. Building self-esteem

12. Creating an understanding and awareness of individual differences, personality strengths and  weaknesses
13. Breaking down barriers
14. Creativity – Doing things differently! Out of the box!!
15. Higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.And all the time … Having a huge amount of FUN

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!

A recipe book project

 

Our Greek Recipe Book cover page

Our Greek Recipe Book cover page

This amazing project, was one of the projects we did in collaboration with our French partners last school year, on etwinning.  ( http://desktop.etwinning.net/index.cfm )

The project background

Students research the recipes of typical food dishes in their countries as well as the origin of the ingredients and recipes

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Teacher Goals

  • To promote cultural development/respect among the students
  • To tie in the Social Studies curriculum
  • To promote appreciation of the students ethnic backgrounds
  • To have a cultural celebration

Students Goals

  • To appreciate their own background
  • To learn other cultural backgrounds .To learn the historic perspective of their cultures
  • To develop a Cultural Recipe Book
One of the recipes- handwritten

One of the recipes- handwritten

Class motivation

It was very easy for me to motivate my students for this project. I told them that I would like to have them  create a class Cultural Recipe Book in order  to be sent to France.At the end of the project our partners  would have a  greek food celebration or a picnic. Unfortunately, our school closed early and we didn’t have the chance to do the same!

Most of the recipes were handwritten because, we don't have a computer lab at school!!

Most of the recipes were handwritten because, we don’t have a computer lab at school!!

Background knowledge

  • Students used family members at home as primary resources of information.
  • Students were asked to browse the internet for information.

Preparation

First,  I introduced the project. I needed to know if that  class ( 6th graders)  would be willing to cooperate with me. They were excited and ready to start working.

A parent letter was generated and sent home informing them that their child is participating in this class project. The letter asked for their support with student online help, recipe ingredients  etc.

recipes new3

Greek Easter Cookies

I also asked volunteers to create our Recipe Book Cover page and had a competition in class for the best cover! Students, had to vote for their favourite Recipe Book Cover.

Students were  responsible for gathering information on their own time.

After they had received their partners’ recipe book some time later,  a discussion followed in class about the  culturally similarity we share. Although they or their family is from different countries  we all have something in common.

On of the candidate Book Covers

On of the candidate Book Covers

 

How to we tie it into curriculum standards?

This project ties in with the English Language Standards. Students are reading, writing, listening and speaking for information. Understanding, writing ,  and social interaction are also involved.

This project lends itself  into the Social Studies curriculum, geographical and historic aspects, too.

How do we get students interested in the topic?

I  think this project is self motivating.  When it comes to talking about yourself and where you are from and then combining it with peoples all time favorite-food, it just works! The students are naturally interested and enthused about the project.

recipes new2

The lack of Tech at school , is not a problem at all for my students since, when there is a will , there is a way!

Basic skills before starting the project

The students need to know how to access the internet. (Most of them  do know how.)
The students  need to know how to write-up a recipe including the ingredients and step-by-step directions.( I have to teach them basic vocabulary and expressions )

How are the students organized

The students work and present information individually. Everyone is equally responsible for collecting and gathering their information. As long as the students participate in this assignment, I accept what they hand in.

recipes new3

The final stage

I  asked   the students to creatively and attractively create their own recipe page for the book. (I  binded all of the pages together once each one had handed in his/her page.)  I finally, uploaded all their work on twinspace using http://issuu.com/

Students in both countries, commented and discussed each other’s work. Both me and my partner teacher Carolyn, wanted  students to share what they’ve learned about each other’s culture.

Our class “Cultural Recipe Book” is  kept on display in our english class bookcase, as well!

recipes new4

Three of the candidate Covers on display…

The most beautiful english coursebook award!

The winner's Cup!

The winner’s Cup!

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.

Having a look at the candidate books in groups...

Having a look at the candidate books in groups…

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

Magic Book pilot edition is also generating Magic Book 1, ( 3rd graders book)  which will be ready for publication in full colour ,hopefully, this year!
mosaic 3rd grade book awards4

Τhis is what one of the book pages looks like, after the student’s artistic touch!

I just love our state books!  Their methodological aims really  appeal to me!

  • 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.

Alexiana,  was among the winners!

Alexiana, was among the winners!

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
Happy owners of really beutiful coursebooks!

Happy owners of really beutiful coursebooks!

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 !

There are little presents for all the students who dare to participate and special presents among which a…cup , for the three best books!

The “fun factor”

the fun factor poster!“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou.

mosaic feelings 4

Do we make our students (although this could be applied to anyone in our  life) feel:

  • Inspired?
  • Motivated?
  • Supported?
  • Welcome?
  • Empowered?
  • Valued?
  • Loved?
  • Responsible?
  • Positive?
  • Happy?
School Bazaar fun!

School Bazaar fun!

As teachers ,we are not selected or trained to be comedians or entertainers. However, we know that a positive climate for learning, and enjoyment, is correlated with retention of information and putting knowledge to work in everyday situations (including tests).

 “Humor builds a learning relationship through the joyful confluence of head and heart. Humor reduces stress and tension in the classroom, improves retention of information, and promotes creative understanding.

Drama activities are fun!

Drama activities are fun!

But most of all, it brings a sense of pleasure and appreciation and creates a common, positive emotional experience that the students share with each other and the teacher.” ( Ed Dunkelblau)

Beyond the fun factor, humor can be an effective way to engage students and activate learning.

I use humor to defuse tension.

To do gentle discipline.

Games fun!

Games fun!

 

I  also play lots of  language games to engage my students in fun activities!

bloghFUN2

 

l engage students. We  need to use differintiated learning styles to appeal to the kinesthetic,visual, and audio learners.The lesson plan should involve at least three to four activities,and are moi (motivating and interesting). Tap into students talents, and challenge them to use critical thinking.Some students I found lack certain skills in using critical thinking, and it is good to help them thinking critically.Have students make things,dress for certain occasions, sing, play trivia games,create rap songs, and poems.Debates are great.

bloghFUN4

One more thing to consider:  if we can’t show enthusiasm for what we are teaching how can we expect our students to be anything but bored.

Students love to have fun, if you ask a student what they like the most about school I would say that 90% of the time the response you will get is that they like recess  and PE. Why do you think that is the reason, it is because they have fun. So after observing that after many years of teaching I realized that I need to make learning fun so that my students will want to learn. If learning is not fun many of the students will shut down and not try.

I know when you think of fun you think of totally uncontrolled behaviour and that all you do is party. That is wrong, when I talk about making learning fun I am talking about using creative, fun activities when you teach a certain subject to grab the student’s attention.

Do not be afraid to try creative ideas to make learning fun. So many teachers do not know how to teach outside the box of the curriculum. Well, fellow teachers the curriculum is boring and I suggest that you use it as a guide but do not be married to it. Step outside the box and be creative and have fun teaching the subject area to your students. Students need to see an energetic teacher that loves what she does and knows how to make the subject exciting for her students.

mosaic will 3

I do want to suggest however,  that when you do fun activities with your class you need to set boundaries for the students on behavior.

 Some more food for thought now… One more reason I like using games to teach language is the fact that , it is extremely important for us to realize, as teachers, that we would not be able to stay seated and remain quiet for an extended period of time.  Think how many times we are in conferences and we will often talk to our table mates because of boredom.  Isn’t that what many of our students are doing.  I am trying to figure out a way to get my students up and moving them around more in the classroom.  I know that this may make my classroom a bit more noisy but if it they are more engaged and therefore learning more it is going to be better for them and therefore better for me in the long run.
mosaic feelings last
 We should engage our  students.  That does not mean being  up and folding, cutting, and pasting.  That means do something that they relate to.  Show them how what they are learning applies to real life situations.  Consider where they come from and what their exposure level is.  Do not assume anything!  Bottom line….meet them where they are at and take them farther!

 Children learn best when they are doing hands-on-activities that are fun and interesting. They will remember the concept when it is shown in a creative way.

  I have found that having a positive relationship with my students, being interested in them as people, sharing a sense of humour and fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect means that we can ‘tough out’ some of the topics which are less interesting. I always strive to be enthusiastic and passionate about my subject, but I tell my classes that our priority is education not entertainment.
mosaic feelings new4
Also, our classroom seating arrangements plays a role, since we would like everyone to be involved. Group work seemed more effective to me, once instructions and objectives are cleared,students’ tend to work and interact much better than individually,teachers must be constantly be engaged with the class. “Notify your face “when students are bored! Ask yourself, “Am I passionate about what I’m doing”?
mosaic voice4 sos

Our students, should be learning that learning is fun from a very early age…. Growing older, they should be learning that expanding one’s horizons is fun, that learning you were wrong about something is not so painful, and that taking an educational risk is worth doing. They should be learning that school is a good place to do these things. The children of today dread going back to school in September, dread exams, dread receiving their grades, and are generally fearful. No wonder school is stressful. But there is no reason children cannot have intellectual fun, cannot be excited by ideas, and cannot be challenged to acquire new knowledge. Natural learning is a basically enjoyable thing to do. Two-year-olds love to learn. Many adults love to learn. Only school-age children associate learning with fear of failure. We must get the fear of failure out of the school system. Cramming for an exam or trying to please a teacher ought not to be the goal of those seeking an education. If we fail to understand this in a profound way, there will be no helping our schools or our children.

mosaic skets sheakspeare

 

Fun means engagement, doing and learning what has meaning and purpose, and it means being challenged. Embracing this belief should have a profound effect on what and how we teach.

Our english- handwritten-magazine.

Need more than a month to collect all students' work

Need more than a month to collect all students’ work

Each issue of our handwritten magazine, for more than 10 years now,  offers new treasures for my students : stories, poems, book reviews, and artwork in a variety of styles and genres…….A great motivator for reading and writing…

One of our magazine covers...the picture was found in our old english books!our magazine is always sent to our pen pals abroad, as well!

One of our magazine covers…the picture was found in our old english books!our magazine is always sent to our pen pals abroad, as well!

It’s  is actually a motivator, for all language  skills!

In many ways a student magazine is the ideal project for language learning. There is a clearly-defined end product while there is also plenty of room for choice regarding content. The students can focus on individual interests such as sport, computers, the Environment, music, etc. – with obvious motivational benefits – while at the same time working within a clear structure to a common aim. The ‘four skills’ of reading, writing, listening and speaking are integrated naturally. For example in order to produce an article on music a student might:

a) Read articles in a music magazine to get ideas (reading)

b) Listen to songs and write down the lyrics (listening / writing)

c) Write survey questions and interview other students about their musical tastes / talents (writing / speaking / listening)

Contents vary...I give the students lots of ideas before they start writing.

Contents vary…I give the students lots of ideas before they start writing.

A great motivator for reading and writing...

A great motivator for reading and writing…

Benefits

It provides integrated skills practice

It provides integrated skills practice

Within the overall school context a magazine is useful in providing a focus for written work: students know that a particularly ‘good’ piece of writing might go into the magazine. This potential for communication with a real audience provides motivation and encourages attention to style and accuracy. Students have a chance to practice a variety of text types – articles, reviews, letters, crosswords, cartoons, graphs and tables. Decisions about content provide a forum for discussion and negotiation. Finally, in common with all project work, learner autonomy and co-operation are fostered as students try out different roles and learn to get on with their peers. To sum up, a student magazine:

  • provides integrated skills practice
  • allows students to contribute each according to their ability and interests
  • provides a focus for written work
  • encourages attention to style and accuracy
  • provides a discussion and negotiation forum
  • encourages learner autonomy, co-operation and motivation

    Drawbacks

It allows students to contribute each according to their ability and interests

It allows students to contribute each according to their ability and interests

  • With so many benefits it is a wonder that EFL classes do anything else! However there are disadvantages. First, the very fact that students are able to concentrate upon individual areas of interest means they might neglect other areas. For example, a student with artistic talent may spend some time illustrating the magazine, but not practicing much English. Motivated students may end up doing all the work while less motivated students do very little.
Handwritten comics: imagination is very important.

Handwritten comics: imagination is very important.

  • Because of the high cost, I have many times thought about   running  our magazine as a mini business some day in the future,  with students working out costs and selling it on the course .. the better the magazine, the more students would buy it; the fewer the pages, the higher the profit. For the time being, I have been… sponsoring our class magazine, myself using money earned from our school Bazaar! I distribute it to students -writers only, free of charge of course, to take it home…I also, keep a couple of copies in our school English bookcase and I make sure that I send a copy to our pen pals abroad, too!
For the time being, I have been... sponsoring our class magazine, myself using money earned from our school Bazaar!

For the time being, I have been… sponsoring our class magazine, myself using money earned from our school Bazaar!

  • Conclusion                                                                                  
  •   As a general comment, based on my experience so far, school  magazines are useful in many ways. They have a great educative value. They encourage the students to think and write. So they develop their writing skills and talent. They also develop their power of thinking and strengthen their imagination. In this way the general knowledge of the students increases and they acquire the habit of reading and writing. School  magazines also teach the students the value of co-operation and encourage healthy competition. They are a source of self-help and self-confidence for students. Students find real joy when they see their names published in the school  magazines, respectively. Besides, school magazines are interesting for the ex-students of the school. They read articles and their memory of the past days becomes fresh again. These magazines are a means of bringing the ex-students and all the members of the school in touch with one another.                                                                                                   .  P.S 
  • Our bookcase is also,  full of many english magazines which  are free  for students to borrow,such as the Scholastic ELT readers- http://maryglasgowplus.com/book_lists/4204. which I find fascinating!
  • Having read the amazing English newspaper  by Vivi Hamilou’s students, lately, at the Primary School of Pteleos , Greece ( http://blogs.sch.gr/vivihamilou/2011/04/17/english-school-newspaper-%E2%80%93-issue-3-%E2%80%93-primary-school-of-pteleos/ ) which   who has been involved in an eTwinning project that includes exchanging English school newspapers with other European Primary Schools, I have been thinking about taking a similar step with our magazine in the near future, too!