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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More, about this project:

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

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This old time classic pen pals project, gave a real purpose and meaning to learning a foreign language and helped the students experience education in a different country through European citizenship ,using a new tool: twinspace! The project lasted for about a school year and we had to complete many individual items . We had to create common projects about: ourselves, our school, our country , our town ,our favourite sports and hobbies, our customs and special traditions, our most favourite place in our countries , our daily routine and habits and also ,exchange OURSELVES as… PUPPETS ! We “traveled” to another country as our school and country ambassadors, and experienced life in another class, far away from home, for one school year! Puppet-students, wrote on their twinspace diaries about their adventures. Our projects and letters were both sent to our friends by snail mail and uploaded on twinspace, to share and compare in a different class.

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This was a new and innovative partnership for my  school; It was the first time that we had participated in such an innovative an ETwinning project.Both group work and independent research was used  by pupils.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The children showed a great interest in exploring another country and its way of life, as well as demonstrating increased motivation in learning a foreign language. They were always eager to participate, found information themselves, drew pictures, made posters, presented the project to other classes.

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As far as my school is concerned, I made sure that almost all our project activities were connected  to each of our English coursebook units. Luckily, our coursebooks , are based on both cross curricular and cross cultural topics quite relevant to our Etwinning project theme! Also, they are based on both creative  project work and group  collaboration which  was  highly helpful in our ETwinning project!

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

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

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An amazing school year, in review !

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It was such  a wonderful school year!

I worked really hard with a bunch of amazing students! Among many other wonderful things we did , we took part in four European projects!

The British Council ” Life Skills” project, the “Teachers4Europe – Our European House” project and two awesome etwinning projects : ” PupPETs- Pen Pals ETwinned” and “Our European school newspaper” , together with more that 10 schools in Europe , as well as  Surinam, USA and  Taiwan!

I am really proud of both myself and my students! It has been a demanding school year! There was no financial support from school, therefore, I had to use money from our Christmas Bazaar to run our  projects!

Greece has been in a terrible debt crisis and everybody around me seemed to be  pessimistic about everything… Almost, depressed!

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I also had to fight the negativity among my colleagues and received  little  support from most of the parents ,who seemed to wonder ” when I actually teach” and  whether  my teaching methods have  anything to do with the way THEY had learned english at school!!  I made it my personal mission to fight off that negativity and go to work every day with nothing but positive thoughts.

I also had to work long hours every day, both at school and at home! I had to work on my laptop very late at night, when my  kids were in bed! I sometimes went to sleep later than 1 am ! It was exchausting!!

I am used to hard work since I was 20 when I got my first part time job as a “Frodisterio” teacher! But, I have to admit that, the last school year was one of the most productive years in my career ,so far!

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It’s almost mid-July, and I am still at home trying to get tasks done , such as work on  my blog posts ( too busy to find the  time to write on my blog during the last few months), put my notes together and create a Prezi presentation for next year’s Tesol conventions and local professional development seminars, in which I am willing to take part as a speaker, find some  time for my three children and my family in general  ,now that I am supposed to be more relaxed and “carefree”, and finally, find some free (?) time for me to  do…nothing else  but read my favourite detective stories,by the sea!! Truth is, it’s rather impossible to do this last thing in my summer-to-do list, mainly because I can’t afford to go on holidays , due to the terrible Greek debt crisis which has affected us all! But, I still believe that I might finally make it to have  some well deserved rest , in order to recharge my batteries and go back to class, with renewed enthusiasm, in September!…

My advice to younger colleagues is this:

Have fun but have fun with purpose. Be intentional about everything. Make memories. These are hard times but they are sweet times.

Live it. Be it. Be noble. We’re in an important profession. Teach on till the last day. Let’s rock!

 

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Here’s the link to this school year’s  photo review! Enjoy!

 

Working with Flat Puppet-Ambassadors

Maria, our flat puppet-ambassador in Spain

Maria, our flat puppet-ambassador in Spain

We have been working on a new etwinning project this year, called ” PupPETs- Pen Pals E-Twinned” , for which we had to create three  flat puppets ,  one for each  of our three European partners on the project. The puppets had to be flat and light to be enclosed in our parcels and be sent abroad! My students came up with several ideas but, when I inroduced them to the Flat Stanley idea, we all thought that… that was it!! That would be  the best idea for our etwinning project, too!

Athina, our flat puppet-ambassador in France!

Athina, our flat puppet-ambassador in France!

Athina's message to our pen pals, inside...

Athina’s message to our pen pals, inside…

In case you’ve never heard the story, Flat Stanley had a bulletin board fall on him.  He wasn’t hurt at all, but ended up quite flat.  Luckily for us, he was flat enough to put himself in an envelope and send himself anywhere he wants!

Children can make their own Flat Stanley, and send him to various places around the globe.  I’ve seen pictures of Flat Stanley near a variety of landmarks and with a variety of famous people.  In fact, I’ve even seen Flat Stanley with the US President and on the top of Eiffel Tower!

Ifegenia, our flat puppet-ambassador in Poland.

Ifegenia, our flat puppet-ambassador in Poland.

Our flat etwinned puppets , is indeed a great project.

First, we made a flat puppet in class, representing our country and later, sent it to our pen pals abroad along with our first  letters.

Students ,write little messages on their flat puppets.

Students ,write little messages on their flat puppets.

We chose names for them ,before we  sent them out. They are due back at school,  by June 1st, so we have  started sharing stories on twinspace , on our twinspace platform ” PupPETs-Pen Pals ETwinned”.
It has been  a great project, so far …. We’ve  got  pictures and notes from our puppet- ambassadors abroad, from a variety of places. They have  been fishing in a river in Poland,  playing in a school yeard in Spain, touring France , even exploring new European  towns !  We haven’t seen all the responses yet, as the project is still on  and I suspect there are a few more coming in.  (Rumor has it our flat puppets are have been having such fun that they are  running late for our June 1st deadline!)

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

Orangito, the Spanish flat puppet in our class!

I’ll be sure to post pictures of our project and twinspace  when all the Flat puppets adventures have been revealed.  (I seriously can’t wait to see the rest, there were some FAT packages!)

 Being the reflective person that I am, I’ve been wondering how I can make the project better for next year.
A student, telling  Orangito   about our hometown!

A student, reading Orangito some project work about our hometown!

I have been thinking about our next etwinning flat puppet-ambassadors project, already: I am going to ask my kids to create their OWN flat puppet each, with their face photo attached on its head and send it to their pen pal to keep till the end of the school year!

Students like to think that the flat puppets are..alive! They even  take them to their desks, to help them with group work!!

Students like to think that the flat puppets are..alive! They even take them to their desks, to help them with group work!!

 

Then, pen pals will have the chance to host their flat friends both in class and at home, take photos of their adventures in a new country, and both  upload them on twinspace  and send them to their pen friends by snail mail inside each class parcel. It will be loads of fun, I guess! Especially because, my students will be able to “travel” abroad , have adventures in a new country where it’s impossible for them to travel , especially under the financial circumstances in Greece!

Bolek, Lolek and Pingu, the 3 puppets from Poland, taking part in our Carnival games!

Bolek, Lolek and Pingu, the 3 puppets from Poland, taking part in our Carnival games!

Be sure to visit this website to learn more about what you can do with Flat Stanley!  You can even download your own Flat Stanley from it !

My 6th graders, talk to Orangito about our country!

My 6th graders, talk to Orangito about our country!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Three of the candidate Covers on display…

Some thoughts about our first school Skype meeting ever….

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4 different teachers ,in 4 different schools and countries with a total of more than 350 students , took part in our Skype meeting!

Skype gives students and teachers the ability to connect with the outside world without leaving the classroom, allowing them to meet face-to-face with the subjects of their learning or with students from other cultures. Simply connecting with another classroom provides an educational experience !

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Our Olympic sports project, on the…other side!

“This has to be one of the most powerful experiences for students as Skype enables students to connect, collaborate, and communicate with other students across the globe,” writes education expert Angela Maiers. “It creates an opportunity for students to learn from each other, to have authentic audiences for their work, and to meet others who can further their learning.”

 

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So happy to be able to see our pen pals abroad for the first time!

My most favourite moments during our Skype meetings with 4 partner schools  in Europe: 1.When we greeted our french pen pals in french, and they replied in…greek!! 2. When we sang to all our pen friends beautiful greek songs by the famous greek music composer Mikis Theodorakis – lyrics by George Seferis, one of the most important greek poets and a Nobel laureate! 3. Every time, we all danced or sang together to the same music!

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Pen friends , interviewed each other asking all different kinds of questions!!

4. When we saw our letters and projects, on the…other side, in our pen pals’  hands!! And we showed them theirs… 5. The fact that, we had the chance, in each new meeting ,to share a lesson with another class – about 100 students each time TOGETHER !! PRECIOUS! By the way, it is now that I realise, how important our new laptop has been for my school! A school , with practically no prior access to the internet for its students(!!) , until this school year, thanks to our school bazaar money!

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We sang traditional greek songs to our friends!

Another favourite moment during the two days Skype meeting with 4 different teachers ,in 4 different schools and countries with a total of more than 350 students involved (!!!) : when one of our pen pals in Poland, asked to talk to her friend in Greece but, she soon realised that…her pen pal had gone to Germany with her family to settle and find jobs due to the terrible greek financial crisis!! It was a sad moment for me because , I hate it when my students HAVE to live abroad, leaving friends and family behind, bacause of unemployment!….This country, deserves better!

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Marta, our partner teacher in Burgos , Spain.

 

So, what would be advantages of using skype in class with students:
– use English in real time
– culture sharing
– engagament in the learning process
– self confidence – enthusiasm
– introduction of webtools-not really in my school, where there is not a computers lab.
– understand timezones (correlation with other subjects)

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Our pen pals in Poland, dancing to our greek music!

Are there any disadvantages, well YES:
– difference in timezones
– problems with technology

But, if there is a will there is a way, right?

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Singing all together!

 

My Interview to the amazing ,Vicky Loras

My Interview to the amazing ,Vicky Loras

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Vicky and me, a year ago…….first meeting in Athens.

Being a teacher means being there, giving everything I can, making sure I am as knowledgeable as I can be about my content and about my students’ lives; it means sacrifice for the sake of helping kids in need and it means caring about students unconditionally. I am not a teacher for me–I am a teacher for my students. When teaching becomes about me, I assure you, I will know it is time to stop teaching.  Being a teacher is exciting, enjoyable, and REWARDING!!!! I get no greater thrill than seeing my students achieve. I am constantly in awe of my students and their abilities.
Being a teacher is NEVER about counting down the last days of the year, but rather, to rue them, because I will lose yet another class to the high schools.
I am JUST  an ordinary teacher Vicky ! I just happen to love my job.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my work in a small Greek classroom with the world!

Back to school activity ideas that work…

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Every…veteran teacher has his/her favourite first-days-of-school activities.Here are a few of mine.They work….

My favourite activities, aren’t particularly unique or creative.They are intended mainly for fun.Let’s jump right into a few of them…every now and then, I’ll  be adding  more activities to  this list so, you’d better stay tuned!

ME IN A BAG: I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc.I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me!I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am  always surprised of how many kids  actually, bring one!

Sometimes, it helps if we send a letter to parents about it, like this one…..

“Dear Families,

Your child is bringing home a “Me Bag” today. Please choose 4 or 5 items with your child that will help the class become better acquainted with him/her. Tomorrow your child will share the contents of the bag and the class will develop a “Me Chart” for your child. This will be used in our reading and writing programme.

Our charts will be based on the following sentence frames to help our emergent readers and writers.

I am ______________.

I have _____________.

I can ______________.

I like ______________.

My favourite _______________ is ________________.

As an example I shared my own “Me Bag” with the class. I included a special apple (I am a teacher), a picture of my family (I have 3 children), a piece of fabric (I can sew), a book (I like to read), a camp hat (my favourite vacation is camping).

Thanks for your help with this project.

Sincerely “

 

ANOTHER TIME CAPSULE IDEA: For this activity, I use a Pringles can.

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1) I have the kids write a letter to themselves about how they feel being in the 6th grade, what they think they will be doing during the year, what their expectations for the year are, who their “best” friends will be, what they would like me to do during the year, ( how I can best help them) what the most important thing they wish to learn during the year is and anything else that comes to their mind.

I ask my younger learners to write sentences starting with ” I can” , “I will”!

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2) I put them in a ziplock bag and put them in the Pringles can to be opened the last week of school and reread by the students.

They really enjoy this, particularly knowing that they will be able to open the ” time capsule” at the end of the year!

They tend to forget about the “time capsule” during the school year though, and it’s always a big surprise for them in June, when it’s brought to class!It’s a great  lesson , too: they are  reminded  that, goals setting is important!

FILL IN THE FUNNY BLANKS

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During the first week, I give them a handout with a paragraph about ME! They work in groups to figure out, which facts on that sheet are not right and are asked to write the correct version of that paragraph about me mainly, by guessing…

” My name is Cecilia and I am 104 years old!

I have three bunnies: Gabriella is 6, Felipe is 16 and Rex is 17.

I have been teaching juggling for 20 years! In my free time, I like jumping off airplanes and jumping around in one foot!

I don’t like eating books but, I love eating butterflies!”

As homework, they are asked to write a similar paragraph about themselves for their classmates to guess. They work in groups first, sharing their paragraphs and then share with the class! So much fun!!

MY NUMBERS

I start the first lesson, by drawing a line on the board where I write important dates in my life  plus important numbers in my life eg, 1994, September 3rd, 19, 3, 20 etc….Students have to ask me questions about my life to guess.If the answer to a question they ask is one of the numbers on the board, I cross that number out….

eg -How many children have you got, miss?

-Three-3!

Students then, draw their own timeline and talk in pairs about it. I move around listening. Later, they share what they’ve learned about their partner with the class.

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ALL ABOUT ME

Hand out an 8.5″ =14″ piece of paper ( let the kids choose a colour)

Ask them to write their name in large colourful letters ( fancy, bubble, etc..) in the middle of the page.

When finished, I explain that, they are going to stand up, use tape and put their paper on any wall around the classroom,  facing out…

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They have to quietly walk around and write positive adjectives or simple sentences or phrases ( it depends on the level ) which refer to the person whose name is written on each piece of paper! I do insist though, that they ONLY refer to their classmates’ positive characteristics , talents, attitudes, etc…I tell them that everybody has something we like, something which makes him/her unique and really special!

This takes about 15 minutes. Then the children sit down.Then, I go around the room and introduce each child to the class and ask : ” Who can tell me something interesting about this person?”

Students are surprised to see how many nice things their classmates have noticed and mentioned! The shy and the introvert ones, feel really happy!

Finally, students are asked to collect the paper after the exercise and as homework, they are asked to write a short paragraph about themselves  , incuding most  of the adjectives or phrases on their piece of paper. I also ask them to add , at least ,one more positive characteristic or talent/skill they think they have and nobody has noticed yet! Great activity for boosting self-esteem!

GROUP PHOTOS

For the first day of school, I always ask my students to stand in groups of 3-4 somewhere in the classroom, holding their name cards in front of them.

I photograph each group and later, I take a class photo, too.

I make copies of the pictures right away, to start to memorise students names and faces at home that evening.

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Our english class photo album in our pen pals' hands!

Our english class photo album in our pen pals’ hands!

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First Day in class poster

 

I also, use these photos , in different projects throughout the school year and  on a big poster or ready-made bulletin board  with all my classes photos on it.

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I put it  on the door and I choose a different theme each year….last year  it was: “Fist day at school”, this year I have decided to put the photos on a boat, with a  ” Welcome aboard” theme !

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I also use the photos on projects we send to our partners abroad! My most favourite one  is ” My class photo album” ,where each student, introduces him/her self on a different album page under his/her cartoon figure with  his/her photo attached on it!

TWO WELCOME BACK SONGS

English teachers,  may become Art teachers, Music teachers, Geography teachers, PE teachers, Math teachers, Social studies teachers, Drama  teachers  and so many more…. during the  school year!

I love singing with my students in class! Music plays an important role in my teaching, too!

For instance, there is always welcome to class music, before the lesson starts. Music, when they work in groups ,on any activity. Classical music when they write tests! Musical …countdowns,  in games!Music, in skitses and school shows!

In the beginning of the school year, two of my favourite songs are:

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Welcome to our classroom (Sung to: Sing a song of sixpence)

Welcome to our classroom

come in and sit right down

we are all together

take a look around.

Here, inside our classroom

there’s lots to see and do

I am happy being here

and making friends with you.

The summer’s over ( Sung to :You are my sunshine)

The summer’s over-no more vacation

But, I have had a lot of fun

And I am happy, and I’m excited

’cause now at last the school year has begun!

MY MUSIC

My desert island discs:

Which music or songs would you take with you? Why? Choose your number 1 melody. Hum the song.If there are words to the song, which ones mean something to you? Why?

Variation: I give them a prompt sentence eg ” During my holidays this year, I…” or ” When I was on the desert island, I….”. While listening to some music I have chosen , they write whatever comes into their mind! With younger students, I do some braistorming and put key words on the board before they start writing!

MUSIC MINGLE

Move with the music, stop, grab a partner and talk about a happy summer memory!

A CLASSROOM SURVEY

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 This is one of my students most favourite activities because, they stand up and move around the classroom freely!….

I give them a handout with the following on it:

Go around the room and ask your classmates about the items below.Ask each question, until you receive  a positive answer. Have the first student who answers “Yes” to this  question,  sign his/her name next to the item corresponding to it  and move on to the next item…You may sit down when you are done with all your items/questions.

Find someone who….

Has a brother

Has a sister

Has a dog

Has a cat

Plays soccer

Likes Harry Potter

Has been out of the country

Has red hair

Has blue eyes

Has brown eyes

Likes spinach

Loves pizza

Can swim

Takes dance lessons

Speaks two languages

Can recite a poem

Is a new student

Loves Math

Loves reading

For  homework, I ask them to write ( In S. Present, 3rd person singular) about  5  of the most interested things they have found out about their classmates, doing this activity and share them with the class during our next lesson.

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PROFILES

I ask my students to draw their friend’s profile on a piece  of paper . They should look funny!

Later, the students are asked to put their  profiles  on the walls .  All the students walk around the classroom and write questions one everybody else’s paper around the profile. These,  should be short e.g. School?, Hobbies? Dislikes? Favourites? etc I always play background music during that…

Then, students take their papers down and introduce themselves using the questions. Can be set as homework, too!

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SMARTIES

Firts day in class, I bring my students lots of Smarties to treat!

I ask them to take as much as they want but not eat ,yet!

Each colour of candy, corresponds to a different type of information.eg Green : Something about my school

Red: Something about my family

Blue: something about my likes/dislikes/hobbies

Yellow: something about my future plans

Students are THEN asked to write as many sentences per colour as the number of different coloured candies they have got! Tricky!!

Variation: A Roll of ….toilet paper! (” You can have as much as you need”) Ha,ha…

FIVE THINGS WE HAVE IN COMMON

I  split the students into pairs.Each pair will have 30 seconds to find five things they have in common/five things they have in common concerning their summer holidays.

At the end of the 30 seconds, I put pairs together and and give the foursome a minute to find something all four students have in common.Finally, each group, can present the list of things they have in common!( You can use this activity to form student groups, too)

MY SUMMER  HOLIDAYS  OBJECTS

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 First, I bring a sack with 3-5 objects which are related to my summer holdays! I bring  them out of the sack one at a time  and ask my students to make guesses about  how they are related to my summer vacations!

For homework, I ask my students to bring to class, three objects which remind them of their  own holidays ( leaves, pebbles, sea shells, stones , wood etc) and we repeat the procedure.

A class discussion follows!

I AM SPECIAL

This is a great activity to display for the beginning of year, or any other time that I would like to focus on unique qualities of individual students.it’s a fun activity, that allows you to introduce and/or practice quotation marks with students.I have a class set of a basic person shape.Students then decorate and cut out the shape.Students write their own sentences explaining why they are special.Here is an example: Maria said : ” I am special because , I can sing beautifully” They write their sentences either on the shape or on a piece of paper that resembles speech bubble!

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MY FAVOURITES

We need a piece of paper divided into four sections , one for toys one for food one for person and one for animal. Also, colouring pens and pencils.

You can see the template below.

I ask the children to draw one in each section. When they have finished , sit all the children in a circle with all the pictures in the centre. Can you quess whose is which?

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A variation is to play a game: a volunteer comes to the board holding his paper in a way that nobody can see what’s in it. He tells the class three true favourites on his paper and one lie. The class try to quess what which one is not true! The first to quess right, is the next one to come to the board!

MY BEAR

This is a game that shows children that they are unique but, also allows them to see things that they have in common. It works best with students aged 8-9.I first hand them the printout of the bear you can see below.Then , I ask them to listen to my questions and colour in their bears in answer to the questions.

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You can make up your own questions. I have a list of mine.

An example is: ” Do you have any sisters or brothers? If you have a sisiter, colour the bear’s tummy red. If you have a brother, colour it blue. If you have both, colour the bear’s tummy purple”!It is best to keep questions down to two or three answers.When They are finished, I ask the kids to look at one another’s bears.Can they spot similarities or differences between them?

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Some more questions might be: Do you like summer or winter best Do you have any pets?  Do you prefer to read a book or play computer games? What’s your favourite desert? Ice-cream or cake?

CLASSROOM TREASURE HUNT

I give my students a handout with some directions on it which are asked to follow. They work in teams . The first team to finish the activity, wins!

Wow! You are in a new classroom this year! You can go on a treasure hunt with your team! On the lines below, describe what you have found in your new classroom….

1. Find something made of wood

2. Find something shorter than you

3. Find something made of metal

4.Find something that is yellow

5.Find something that has wheels

6. Find something that locks

7. Find a word on the word wall

8. Find something made of plastic

9.Find something taller than you

10. Find something that starts with the ‘N’ sound

11. Find something that has corners

12. Find something that hangs

13. Find a book that has three words in the title

14.Find something that has legs

It’s one of my students’ most favourite group game! I never forget to reward them with stickers when we finish! The winners , get big, ‘scratch n’ sniff’ TREND stickers.

To be continued….stay tuned!

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PROJECTS in my english class

 

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One of the three notice boards in and outside our english classroom: news and photos of our partners abroad.

One of the three notice boards in and outside our english classroom: news and photos of our partners abroad.

My School! To be sent to our friends abroad! We send our partners , several group projects such as this one, in each parcel!

My School! To be sent to our friends abroad! We send our partners , several group projects such as this one, in each parcel!

This project was based on a Pablo Picasso's painting! This was my students inspiration to write a poem on PEACE!

This project was based on a Pablo Picasso’s painting! This was my students inspiration to write a poem on PEACE!

Two different projects from our partners in Taiwan: All about me and My country! Amazing work!

Two different projects from our partners in Taiwan: All about me and My country! Amazing work!

Detail of one group project sent to our friends abroad: My country!

Detail of one group project sent to our friends abroad: My country!

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Well, I have been working on projects since the beginning of my career as an english teacher. When I had to  to travel all around Greece to work! Even when I had to change the school I worked in every single year or I had to work in 3 different schools in  the same day!I had to walk  long distances carrying my heavy bag and  some years later, had to drive  to a different village school  during the…. break!!

Another awesome project from Taiwan: My life in headlines! Project work, goes like this: we send our partners a project on a topic we have both decided on. They reply , by sending us the same topic project ! How fascinating for our students to share and compare!

Another awesome project from Taiwan: My life in headlines! Project work, goes like this: we send our partners a project on a topic we have both decided on. They reply , by sending us the same topic project ! How fascinating for our students to share and compare!

Amazing  artwork!!

Amazing artwork!!

When I started working on pen pals projects , nobody thought I was doing anything exceptional, but my students! Most headmasters used to refer to my extra working hours on those projects as ” useless, worthless and a waste of time”! I used to beg for money to buy stamps and had to carry those parcels to the local post office on foot!

Our exotic partners in Tunisia! A project on customs, traditions and everyday life !

Our exotic partners in Tunisia! A project on customs, traditions and everyday life !

When I asked one of the headteachers in a Karditsa area village school, to support me financially for  our -handmade- class magazine ( which was photocopied and distributed to students)  he just refused ! He even said: “What’s the use of this? You don’t get any extra money for  all these extra hours you spend putting this  magazine together…that’s silly! You are a….κοροιδο”- as we say in greek!

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

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

Two pages of the 5th graders project: Our class english magazine! Handmade....no computers at school!!

Two pages of the 5th graders project: Our class english magazine! Handmade….no computers at school!!

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!

Many years have passed since  then…but, nothing much has changed! I mean, I  keep working on  several projects with my classes, we continue exchanging our projects with more than 6  schools all over the globe every school year, I still do my best to have  at least one -handmade – magazine made  each school year , but still….. I work in schools with no computers or other facilities, I work extra hours ……earning…  nothing but my students love,  have had no chance to take part in a Comenius partnership yet (due to several reasons which have NOTHING  to do with my willing  to do so)

I have been struggling to raise money to run my projects, either by asking- begging for support  the parents associations and  the several publishing houses out there ( which, at least, have donated some  books to our english library) or by organising  school bazaars, just to be able to keep a small ammount of the money earned, for our english class needs ! It has been HARD work all these years, have to admit that!!

A very clever idea suggested by our partners in Taiwan: A self portrait plus info about each student, written at the back! My students loved it!

A very clever idea suggested by our partners in Taiwan: A self portrait plus info about each student, written at the back! My students loved it!

I will be able , to share all the details about how I work on projects in a future post….for the time being, I am uploading some photos with  just a PART of our recent project work!

It's just amazing for my students, to see their project work in another classroom, so far away from home! Due to the fact that, we have no computers at school, I always print lots of pictures and display them on our notice boards, for all the students to be able to see...

It’s just amazing for my students, to see their project work in another classroom, so far away from home! Due to the fact that, we have no computers at school, I always print lots of pictures and display them on our notice boards, for all the students to be able to see…

My town. We sent our partners in Hungary , similar info about our hometown plus a DVD!

My town. We sent our partners in Hungary , similar info about our hometown plus a DVD!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

All projects are put up on each class projects notice board until a new project , takes their place and they are sent to our partners abroad!

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

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

Snail mailed projects , are more fascinating for students than emailed ones cause, it's real stuff! You can touch them, hold them, smell them, take them home, display them on the classroom walls, share them with your friends, attach little presents to them!

Snail mailed projects , are more fascinating for students than emailed ones cause, it’s real stuff! You can touch them, hold them, smell them, take them home, display them on the classroom walls, share them with your friends, attach little presents to them!

Unfortunately, there is no Arts teacher in my school! I am the only one who can help my kids with the artistic part of the projects,too!

Unfortunately, there is no Arts teacher in my school! I am the only one who can help my kids with the artistic part of the projects,too!

Kids are so very proud to presend our country to our foreign friends! The projects are always presented in class before they are sent abroad! It's team work therefore, the teams decide how they wish to present their project....it can be a poster presentation, a class board game, a teams game, a quiz, a skit and so many more! I ask them to use their imagination , when it comes to presenting their projects in front of the audience!

Kids are so very proud to presend our country to our foreign friends! The projects are always presented in class before they are sent abroad! It’s team work therefore, the teams decide how they wish to present their project….it can be a poster presentation, a class board game, a teams game, a quiz, a skit and so many more! I ask them to use their imagination , when it comes to presenting their projects in front of the audience!

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An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

 

 

In this project, students worked in pairs. One had to be the poet, the other one had to be the painter! They both had decided what they wished their presentation to be about first. Then, the painter worked on the picture while the poet, had to come up with a poem to go with it! Later, in class, they were asked to describe their painting, and recite the poem! That was fun!

In this project, students worked in pairs. One had to be the poet, the other one had to be the painter! They both had decided what they wished their presentation to be about first. Then, the painter worked on the picture while the poet, had to come up with a poem to go with it! Later, in class, they were asked to describe their painting, and recite the poem! That was fun!

" Hercules is strong and he's never wrong..." Poetic inspiration through project work!

” Hercules is strong and he’s never wrong…” Poetic inspiration through project work!

My favourite hero-3rd graders....they presented their heroes in class, with real confidence, telling us what they can or can't do!

My favourite hero-3rd graders….they presented their heroes in class, with real confidence, telling us what they can or can’t do!

A 4th graders project: a tourist travel brochure, about their most favourite place in Greece! I found this old shoe box, the perfect container for these brochures! You can pick one and read...

A 4th graders project: a tourist travel brochure, about their most favourite place in Greece! I found this old shoe box, the perfect container for these brochures! You can pick one and read…

Handmade props which we use in skitses, during our lessons or projects ! Our bookcase is full of them!

Handmade props which we use in skitses, during our lessons or projects ! Our bookcase is full of them!

The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages...For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi " Four seasons" and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were....At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed .....

The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages…For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi ” Four seasons” and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were….At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed …..

An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

An amazing project : Painters and poets! Great fun during the presentations!

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4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class....TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country....it was lots of fun!

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class….TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country….it was lots of fun!

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The same project idea, can be adapted to different levels and ages…For this one,my 4rd graders first listened to Vivaldi ” Four seasons” and were asked to brainstorm vocabulary which had to do with each season. Then , we talked about the topic in class, and they were asked to decide ,which their two most favourite seasons were….At home, they had to work on their posters and think and write reasons why they like their chosen seasons! During the next lesson, a poster presentation and whole class discussion followed …..

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

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

One of my favourite projects: I am special because.....-self esteem is important

One of my favourite projects: I am special because…..-self esteem is important

Another favourite project:lapbooks!

Another favourite project:lapbooks!

When there is a will, there is a way! This is a project called "Our english newspaper". A thematic project with our partners in Taiwan. We have no computers in school therefore, I had to come up with this idea in order to present my students work looking like a newpaper!

When there is a will, there is a way! This is a project called “Our english newspaper”. A thematic project with our partners in Taiwan. We have no computers in school therefore, I had to come up with this idea in order to present my students work looking like a newpaper!

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

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

A classroom theatre project for my 6th graders : Midsummer night's dream by William Shakespeare- an adaptation! Drama, plays a very important role on projects presentation!

A classroom theatre project for my 6th graders : Midsummer night’s dream by William Shakespeare- an adaptation! Drama, plays a very important role on projects presentation!

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Improvisation is encouraged in all skitses and projects presentations ! I ask my students to use their imagination as often as possible!! In this skit, the reporter has decided to interview,,,,Virgin Mary about her son's Jesus childhood! Hilarious!!!

Improvisation is encouraged in all skitses and projects presentations ! I ask my students to use their imagination as often as possible!! In this skit, the reporter has decided to interview,,,,Virgin Mary about her son’s Jesus childhood! Hilarious!!!

Interviewing ...the Minnions!!

Interviewing …the Minnions!!

Interviewing ...an alien!!

Interviewing …an alien!!

A 4th graders project: The Olympic Games in ancient Greece- The Olympic Games today! Teams were asked to decide about which of the two options, they would like to present! They were proud to tell our friends abroad that, Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games!

A 4th graders project: The Olympic Games in ancient Greece- The Olympic Games today! Teams were asked to decide about which of the two options, they would like to present! They were proud to tell our friends abroad that, Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games!

Project presentations are more interesting for all ,when drama activities are involved! kids, really have lots of fun!

Project presentations are more interesting for all ,when drama activities are involved! kids, really have lots of fun!

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!

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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!

"All about me" in a bag.

“All about me” in a bag.

Each class, has its own projects corner in our english classroom! It is very important for the teams, to see their work displayed in the classroom before it is sent abroad! They feel proud! They show it to their friends and parents!

Each class, has its own projects corner in our english classroom! It is very important for the teams, to see their work displayed in the classroom before it is sent abroad! They feel proud! They show it to their friends and parents!

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I always give instructions , ideas and advice about how the team members can work on the project , in class...It is crucial to learn how to work out a task working together with others! The team members are free to choose what they want to do for the project individually and have to be able talk about it, during the class presentation! They have a whole week to put it together! Most of them, work on the details, during the breaks, too.

I always give instructions , ideas and advice about how the team members can work on the project , in class…It is crucial to learn how to work out a task working together with others! The team members are free to choose what they want to do for the project individually and have to be able talk about it, during the class presentation! They have a whole week to put it together! Most of them, work on the details, during the breaks, too.

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skitses or other drama activities to present their projects in class. That's always on a volunteer basis but, MOST of my kids are eager to take part in them!! Here,..... Hurem, Sultan Suleiman's wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines.....

I always encourage my students to use short plays, skitses or other drama activities to present their projects in class. That’s always on a volunteer basis but, MOST of my kids are eager to take part in them!! Here,….. Hurem, Sultan Suleiman’s wife is being interviewed about her life in the harem !! Improvisation works miracles! Kids, decide about their costumes and they write their own lines…..

A project about racism:  It's unbelievable, what amazing work our students can bring in class, once inspired!! Especially the talented, gifted, creative students!...

A project about racism: It’s unbelievable, what amazing work our students can bring in class, once inspired!! Especially the talented, gifted, creative students!…

The topic of this project was " My country Greece". Many teams prefered to present their work, by playing a board game with the whole class -instead of making a poster! This one is, a questions and multiple choice answers, board game! I motivate my students to use their imagination and creativity when they presend their projects!

The topic of this project was ” My country Greece”. Many teams prefered to present their work, by playing a board game with the whole class -instead of making a poster! This one is, a questions and multiple choice answers, board game! I motivate my students to use their imagination and creativity when they presend their projects!

It is very important, to have all those projects displayed in the classroom , for all the students to be able to see, before they are sent to our friends abroad! I have a different " projects corner" for each class, inside our classroom! It's so inspiring for students, to see other teams projects! It also makes the classroom more colorful and beautiful! The kids, feel proud to show them to friends or parents on the school "Open to parents Day", too....

It is very important, to have all those projects displayed in the classroom , for all the students to be able to see, before they are sent to our friends abroad! I have a different ” projects corner” for each class, inside our classroom! It’s so inspiring for students, to see other teams projects! It also makes the classroom more colorful and beautiful! The kids, feel proud to show them to friends or parents on the school “Open to parents Day”, too….

 

a simply amazing language exchange project we did together with our partners in Taiwan: we taught them greek and they taught them their language! We loved the challenge!

a simply amazing language exchange project we did together with our partners in Taiwan: we taught them greek and they taught them their language! We loved the challenge!

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This is a project we did together with our partners in France: a recipe book! Sharing local recipes was fun!

This is a project we did together with our partners in France: a recipe book! Sharing local recipes was fun!

our english class photo album is a project we aften do and send to our partners abroad!

our english class photo album is a project we aften do and send to our partners abroad!

 

I have to add that, there’s nothing more rewarding for a teacher than to see how happy , engaged and enthusiastic her  students become when they work on something that makes sense and connects the class with the world! It’s priceless! Believe me! It’s worth any effort!It brings the class together, it helps the teacher connect with the students more and the students connect with their peers all over the globe by means of an international code of communication: english! Last but not least: I always send a letter to parents at the beginning of the school year, informing them about the way we work  on projects in class.

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Class Letter Box

Writing , is really important in my classes! Writing for a purpose and addressing real people, writing for a reason, has always been crucial in my teaching!

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In my classroom, there is always a letter box, where,  students ,during the week, can drop a letter to me or their classmates. They are asked to write in english only, and everybody who receives a letter should reply ! We open the letter box and deliver mail, every last lesson of the week !

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They look  so much forward to it!

I always make sure, I have a glance at each letter before I hand it to the recipient, just to make sure it’s written in english and/or doesn’t contain any …bad language or insulting comments!

The letter box is what  I also use the very first day in class,to drop my students my first letter , writing about how excited I am to be with them , my expectations, hopes, wishes and comments!

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The students, are asked to reply , writing about  their goals , asking  me about anything they want to know, or just share their feelings! They are told that, every letter will be answered and no letter will be read in public- of course..! I want them to be free to share anything that troubles or excites  them!

It’s surprising that, most of them, feel the need to share even personal stuff, fears, anxieties and  even ask for advice about problems and concerns they might face!

My reply letters are  short, encouraging and really positively inspired!

They are always so excited when the post box opens!

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This is where they find their foreign pen friends  letters, too! The one above, comes from Taiwan !

They  even use the letter box , to drop the special  note they are asked to  complete at the end of each lesson , on a volunteer basis,about what they have  learned, a question they still have or something that is still not clear to them after the lesson and needs to be explained  ..

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This is great feedback for me! I always answer  all  notes  I receive!

Build your students'self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Build your students’self-esteem through praise and affirmations

Pen pals

Here's a third graders' introductory letter to our partners in Taiwan: Our Doves of Peace!

Here’s a third graders’ introductory letter to our partners in Taiwan: Our Doves of Peace!

It has been more than 20 years now that I make sure ,  all my students have pen friends! I have practically collaborated with schools and colleagues all over the world!!

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The only continent we haven’t had a partner from yet, is Australia! ….One of the main reasons, I have been working with snail mail is of course….THE LACK of Tech in my school!! Believe it or not, there is only ONE PC in our school inside the headmaster’s office…

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The second reason though, is the fact that, …old-fashioned letter and projects exchanges , have  always seemed fascinating to me!

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I had my first pen friend , when I was 10!! We have been friends since then!! Her name is Julie Barbee! She lives in North Carolina with her wonderful family! She has become a primary school teacher and we  had our students exchange letters some years ago, too!!

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When she got married, I sent her a card and a present , when I gave birth to my babies, she cared to send me a little present , we exchange Christmas cards every year and we have become  friends on Facebook ,too!!

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I wanted my students to have the same experience and I managed to do so, even when I used to work in remote villages, I didn’t have a car and had to carry the parcels to the post office, on foot!

Today, it’s not just letters…it’s PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

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Parcels, ready to be sent…

 

What we practically do is that, we send our pen friends all our group projects, on a topic we have already worked on in class and we ask them to reply by sending us the same topic based project! The first topic with my 4th graders this year is going to be “My country” and we are sending it to their new friends in Brasil!The projects we send, can be in the form of posters, flyers, magazines, newspapers, albums etc….Arts and craft work is really important on our project work ! The kids feel the need to personilize them even more and they ask the permission to include little gifts having to do with themselves or the project topic, too….I put all our partners projects and photos up  on our classroom walls! They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is….

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Part  of the work which has been sent to us so far, has been simply amazing and some of the colleagues I have collaborated with are just awesome! An example is Annie Tsai from Taiwan who is a very talented teacher and  a member of my PLN! I feel really blessed to be working with her…!

I wish I had Skype, too…I might be able to bring my own laptop and have a Skype session this year in class…I might also , take part in an etwinning.com project ! ( note: a year later, 2014 and our etwinning project ” Pen Pals etwinned” has been the most precious experience my students have had so far and I am thankful for that!)

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To be honest with you, I have been thinking about the fact that, for almost 20 years, I have been actually…..etwinning but not OFFICIALLY with countries all over the GLOBE!

Excitement is the key word here…As they enter the room, I wave the big envelope in the air. They know what it is, and the room comes alive !They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents. Their pen pal letters have arrived!

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There is nothing like a letter. No form of technology-based communication produces the excitement on my students’ faces like the arrival of a letter from their pen pal.

A Skype meeting, is the best way to get to know our pen pals better!

A Skype meeting, is the best way to get to know our pen pals better!

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls. Whether the class you connect with is in another greek school or another country, it serves the same purpose. It gives your students a chance to see a world outside of their walls. My classes have connected with other classes as close as Turkey and Italy  and as far away as Taiwan!

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My students know that not only is someone actually going to read their letter, but also respond to it. This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose. As the year progresses, there is always a vast improvement in their writing.

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I always require my students to begin with a first letter of introduction. They write at least two paragraphs, one talking about themselves, and the other asking any questions they may have for their pen pal.

It’s always a good idea to read the letters that are sent to your students. My students are made aware of the type of conversations they are allowed to have, and I always read their letters. They do not write their last name and may not disclose personal information.

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls.

Pen pal letters provide the opportunity to break down classroom walls.

They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is....

They are so proud to show everybody at school, who their new pen pal is….

Today, it's not just letters...it's PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

Today, it’s not just letters…it’s PROJECTS exchange! And we enjoy it all the same!

Excitement is the key word here.

Excitement is the key word here.

They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents.

They can barely wait until I open the envelope and pass out the contents.

This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose

This encourages students to write with meaning, to write with a sense of purpose

Pen pal letters may be a thing of the past to many people, but they will continue to be a part of my classroom’s future!

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

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

Meet IRENE- PEACE in greek-...our handmade puppet ! She travelled all the way from Greece to Taiwan to help our pen friends know us better and help us find out more about them!

Meet IRENE- PEACE in greek-…our handmade puppet ! She travelled all the way from Greece to Taiwan to help our pen friends know us better and help us find out more about them!