State schools in Greece: can ELT teachers, actually, make a difference?

 

 

The basics

The Greek education system has been criticized over the years by Greek people for various issues, like difficulty levels of the exams during Panhellenic Examinations, number of teaching hours in schools etc.”

I personally, teach Primary.

In Greece, Primary schools are called “Dimotiko” (demotic, meaning municipal), a carryover term from a time when such schools were run by local communities. The name remains although it has been obsolete for decades. In the first two years pupils are not officially graded, and parents obtain feedback about their performance via oral communications with teachers. Grading begins in Year 3, and written exams are introduced in Year 5. Graduating from one year to the next is automatic, and pupils with deficient performance are given remedial tutoring. Years are called “classes”, from first to sixth.

Enrollment to the next tier of compulsory education, the Gymnasium, is automatic.”

 

My experience and few facts

I have been working  in a State/Public School, for more than 20 years . I have also worked in Private Schools, Private Language Institutions/Schools, Technological Educational Institutes (T.E.I.), Vocational education and training Schools.

Generally talking, there can be heard and seen lots of facts that show people’s disappointment by the Greek Education System.

Many people claim that Greek schools’ role does little to help them make use of their abilities in life.

In Greece, students often have lodged complaints about the teaching and grading system of their teachers.

More than 90% of Greek schools are public and over 90% of all pupils in Greece attend a public institution. The Greek Constitution grants free public education to all citizens, including immigrants who live in Greece permanently. All students are provided with free textbooks and free transport if they live far from the school.

 

Public education is certainly advantageous from a financial point of view, but may lack the necessary technical infrastructure and organization present in private schools.

Another important issue which is causing disturbance in many Greek families is the existence of paid private classes named frontistiria (φροντιστήρια) whose attendance by the Greek students has become a necessity in order for them to be able to achieve high grades and succeed in their exams. This is a phenomenon noticed especially as the student approaches the 3rd grade of upper high school because of the high difficulty of the Panhellenic Examinations. It has been an object of criticism due to the high fees that most Greek families are called to pay, thus deviating from the concept of a free and accessible education for everyone.

On the other hand, a system that is deprived of resources (school libraries, computer labs, modern buildings, adequate play spaces, etc) can only depend so much on the creative potential of the teachers. A lot of articles have been written on the starving students, lack of books, heating, electricity, copy paper, etc.

The system is starved. What do we expect the teachers to do with just a basal in their hands?

ELT in Greek Primary Schools and the English Teacher

Many years ago, the introduction of foreign language instruction in the early state primary
education was expected to limit or even replace private language tuition. Far from such
expectations, however, the number of private language institutes in Greece more than
tripled ,during the last decades, as private language tuition seems to have become
the norm rather than the exception.

The data of the Ministry of Education show that currently there are more than 7,350 language schools in the
country. The fact is that state schools provide fewer contact hours and less intensive courses
than private language institutes… this may be one of the reasons why parents tend to believe
that foreign languages are better learned at private language institutes.

 

Teachers of English in Greece are expected to be highly proficient in the language they teach
and quite well versed in current teaching methodologies. However, university courses in
methodology seem to place more emphasis on raising student teachers’ awareness of
different methods and approaches to language teaching rather than providing an
educational background of pedagogical principles .
Contrary to what might be expected, the introduction of English language teaching in
primary education has had very little influence on the programme of studies of the relevant
university departments! Consequently, even today, the pedagogical education of English
language teachers seems to be quite limited.

According to  my dear Greek colleague Vivi Hamilou, on her  blog post :
“Can we really expose Greek EFL learners in public primary schools to experiential learning (learning by doing and making meaning from having a direct, personal experience)? I couldn’t really answer that by saying just a ‘yes’, or ‘no’. We work in public schools with outdated and or inadequate facilities, we only have 3 45-minute sessions with our learners per week at best, transporting learners to the appropriate place for experiential learning to place costs a lot … I could go on forever, but would I only be making excuses?”
 
  Unfortunately, the constant changes in the Greek education
system and political instability have affected TEYL in the country.
Language teachers in Greece, whether in the private or public sector, are not offered pre- or
in-service training, which is vital for the development of any educator. The
present situation results in new language teachers beginning their career
confused and lost. Because of their lack of self-confidence language educators
resort to teacher-centred approaches which they imitate from their own
experience as students as will be discussed (Giannikas, 2013a).
Language teachers in state schools carry the stereotype of the
demotivated educator with limited will of professional development due to the
security they feel once commencing a career in the public sector. During
interviews, however, state school teachers made it a point to emphasize the
extent to which they take pride in their work. Those who have been in the
profession longer claim that they have grown exhausted of the constant
criticism they endure, since they feel they are not the ones to blame. They
believe to be neglected lacking basic facilities and an updated course-book.
They have not received training and are currently struggling with various
teaching approaches suggested by the Ministry of Education. The fact that
teachers have had no guidance to make any new adjustments to their practice,
has increased their hesitation in introducing their own teaching material,
changing teaching approaches or even applying a different seating layout
(Giannikas, 2013b).
Greek Primary Schools -Can we make a difference?
On the other hand, I work in Primary and I know first hand that, many English Teachers in Greece, use all the above as excuses ….
And I personally, hate excuses!

 I strongly believe, we should never complain, in life, in general  !

I never do!

After all, my  motto is….”when there is a will, there is a way” !

Even if things are not ideal, we teachers can do our best, with what we have.

For me, the key word, when it comes to teaching YL is CREATIVITY- Not school resources and Ministry policies!

Creativity makes a huge difference. Creativity is vital for any classroom to be successful. Creativity can make the difference in our ELT even under the most difficult circumstances! Especially, in State Schools.

Although formal training will help you develop as a teacher, it’s important to connect with others in our field. Inspiration can come from the big-name speakers and writers, but just as often, it comes from teachers like you and me.

It’s never been easier to find inspiring teachers to follow on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere. We can follow and read their blogs, we can join a Teachers Association and attend  talks and workshops, live or online.

You can start a teaching journal or a blog. I have!

The act of blogging and describing your teaching ideas generates conversations with other teachers, and those conversations stimulate more ideas!

Learning about other things is important too. Creative teachers bring more to class than just a knowledge of teaching.

A sure-fire way to burn out as a teacher is, to stick to the same ideas and techniques without trying something new. This approach is bound to demotivate your students at some point too.

According to my favourite High School teacher, Vasilis Siouzoulis, our role as English Teachers, regardless the circumstances and the objections , is to inspire , to groom conscientious, focused, purposeful students who will combine efforts with already laid brass tracks to build a great world.

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–We are  teachers for our students. When teaching becomes about us, I think , we will know, it is time to stop teaching.  Being a teacher is exciting, enjoyable, and REWARDING! 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!
My  most favourite quote, comes from Albert Einstein:

If the longing for the goal is powerfully alive within us, then we shall not lack the strength to find the means for reaching the goals!

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Interactive Grammar Notebooks-part c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE/MOVEMENT/TIME

PREPOSITIONS OF TIME

PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

BE GOING TO

 

 

BE GOING TO for making predictions based on evedence

BE GOING TO -plans

WILL

PAST PROGRESSIVE

 

ARTICLES

RELATIVES

COUNTABLE-UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS

REPORTED SPEECH

EXPRESS FUTURE PLANS, USING THE PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

SOME/ANY- EXPRESSING QUANTITY

MODALS ( A guessing game, using pictures)

 

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!

Interactive Grammar Notebooks -part a

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

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

DSCN5791

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAST SIMPLE
DSCN9954

DSCN9598 - Copy

DSCN9599 - Copy

WILL

DSCN4936

DSCN4937

DSCN4938

 

REFLEXIVE/EMPHATIC PRONOUNS

DSCN5479

PRESENT PERFECT

DSCN9462

ORDER OF ADVERBS

DSCN9950

ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

DSCN9951

DSCN0068

DSCN0216

COMPARISON OF ADJECTIVES/ADVERBS

DSCN0225

DSCN0226

DSCN0228

DSCN0230

DSCN0236

DSCN0237

DSCN0244

DSCN0245

PLURALS

DSCN0337

ARTICLES (A/AN)

DSCN0338

IRREGULAR PLURALS

DSCN0339

TO BE

DSCN0340

PERSONAL PRONOUNS

DSCN0341

THIS/THAT/THESE/THOSE

DSCN0342

DSCN0344

THERE IS/ARE

DSCN0345

DSCN0371

DSCN0372

POSSESSIVES

DSCN0373

TOO/ENOUGH

 

DSCN0423

TYPES OF COMPARISON

DSCN0426

DSCN0417

TOO MUCH/MANY

DSCN0428

DSCN0433

ORDINAL NUMBERS

DSCN0472

IMPERATIVE

DSCN0511

DSCN0515

HAVE/HAS GOT

DSCN0516

DSCN0517

DSCN0518

DSCN0520

PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

DSCN4783

DSCN4785

BE GOING TO

DSCN4939

DSCN4940

PRESENT CONTINUOUS

DSCN5001

FUTURE CONTINUOUS

DSCN5002

PRESENT SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

DSCN5025

DSCN5030

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

DSCN5037

DSCN5042

THE -ING FORM

DSCN5285

DSCN5733

USED TO

DSCN5434

POSSESSIVES

DSCN5477

DSCN5478

BOTH/NEITHER/NONE/ALL

 

DSCN5793

ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

DSCN5794

PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE

DSCN5993

DSCN5995

DSCN9460

WORD ORDER

DSCN9473

DSCN9477

DSCN9479

BE GOING TO-hopscotch

DSCN9483

HOW MUCH/MANY

DSCN9588

DSCN9592

SOME/ANY

DSCN9593

DSCN9594

LIKE

DSCN9595

DSCN9596

WORD ORDER-QUESTIONS

 

DSCN9643

DSCN9644

PAST SIMPLE-IRREGULAR VERBS

DSCN9655

PRESENT CONTINUOUS

DSCN9658

PLURALS

DSCN9765

DSCN9766

PRESENT PERFECT

DSCN9867

DSCN9868

PRESENT CONTINOUS

DSCN9870

DSCN9872

 

FORMATION OF ADVERBS

DSCN9874

ORDER OF ADJECTIVES

DSCN9876

DSCN9877

ORDER OF ADVERBS

DSCN9948

DSCN9949

PAST SIMPLE/CONTINUOUS

DSCN9950

DSCN9951

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

 

 

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.

Whole brain teaching activities that rock !

I first came across Whole Brain Teaching, on line, reading about it and watching videos on Youtube! Later, I decided to apply it in my classes  and ever since, it has proved to be  a valuable teaching tool in my class!

Whole brain teaching is a new “radical” idea to some, however it is nothing more than tried and true teaching practices, combined into a new approach.  Whole brain teaching combines direct instruction,  sharing and immediate feedback to become a new style of teaching.  Whole brain teaching surmounts to several  steps that a teacher incorporates into their everyday classroom.   I believe that because this method can be adapted to any age level, any group of students in any place, this practice may be one of the best, best practices.

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Here today, I’d like to share with you my most favourite WBT teaching practices, that have proved to be valuable in my class and are highly recommended to all teachers!

Step 1: Class-Yes
The teacher of a whole brain classroom (WBC) uses this attention getter before beginning every class.  The teacher begins class by saying “class” any way he/she likes, and in turn the class is responsible for mimicking the teachers voice by responding yes.  Therefore, if the teacher says, “class, class, class, classy class!” The class must respond: “yes, yes, yes, yessy, yes!”  My students LOVE this attention getter! They always respond to it and I never need to raise my voice anymore in class!

Step 2: Teach-OK
I use this teaching practice, mainly when I teach grammar…..It always works miracles!! You should all try it and see for yourselves! This is the informative part of the lesson.  Before beginning the teacher must divide the class into two groups, 1’s and 2’s the teacher in each pair will rotate each time.  Then the teacher begins to teach small sections of information, while incorporating gestures, songs, movements and chants.  When the teacher has finished a small portion of information he/she says to the class “Teach” and the class responds “OK!”  In turn the students turn to teach each other, mimicking the “lesson” taught by the teacher.  During this time the teacher observes the students’ comprehension, if the teacher is not convinced the students understand the lesson, repeat this process.Otherwise, move to “class-yes” and begin another short lesson.

WBT Teach.

WBT Teach.

Step 3: Hands and Eyes
This step is used at any point during the lesson when you want students to pay “extra attention” to what you are saying/doing.  To begin this process the teacher says, “Hands and Eyes!,” and the students respond by mimicking the words and movements of the teacher. Perfect!!

Step 4 :Mirror
I personally  use Mirror, mainly when I teach grammar rules!Similar to “Hands and Eyes,” mirror allows the teacher to gain control of the classroom as well as have students mimic the motions and speech of the teacher.  This is the main part of the lesson where teachers are expected to contribute their own “silliness” and movements into the lesson.  Teachers will incorporate their own gestures, songs or chants in this portion of the lesson and the students are expected to “mirror” the teacher after the teacher says “Teach” and the class responds “OK.”

WBT  mirror

WBT mirror

Step 5: Switch!
This step is to be used with the “Teach-OK” step, while students are teaching it is imperative that the same student not teacher every time. Therefore, in order to get every student involved in the lesson, the teacher will direct the students to “Switch!,” the students will respond by saying “switch” and the “teacher” of the group will rotate.

 I admit that the idea of combining classroom management and active teaching/learning has me very intrigued.  I feel that beginning this practice in any classroom would be very easy.  The students would hopefully be very willing to try the techniques since the teaching centers somewhat around an overarching game. 

  Here, I should also  remind you of the classroom rules I wrote about in another post a few months ago….https://aphrogranger.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/class-rules/

 Classroom Rules

Before beginning the actual “informative” part of each lesson, the teacher goes over the five classroom rules with the entire class. This is to ensure that everyone understands the rules, but it will also help the teacher in the end, if a student is not following rules.  The rules and gestures are as follow:

  • 1-Follow directions quickly! (Make your hand shoot forward like a fish)
  • 2-Raise your hand for permission to speak (raise hand, bring down to head and make a talking motion).
  • 3-Raise your hand to leave your seat (raise hand, make a walking motion with fingers).
  • 4-Make smart choices! (tap one finger to your temple as you say each word).
  • 5-Keep your dear teacher happy! (hold up each thumb and dex finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

To know more about Whole Brain Teaching, you could visit   http://www.wholebrainteaching.com

Brain gym-WBT  warming up: the lion's roar

Brain gym-WBT warming up: the lion’s roar

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!

Class rules

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I spend about three weeks at the beginning of each school year, to work on the basics with all my classes: these incude, warming up-getting to know you activities, class rules , goals setting, life skills!

I’ll be able to write here about each one of them , soon….

Today, I could talk a bit about class rules and what I have found to be working in my classes! Well, I’ve tried class contracts and long discussions about which rules both the teacher and the students should follow during the school year!

First, the kids brainstorm classroom rules .My class rule is a pledge!  ” I will do nothing to interfere with the learning, safety, or respect of myself or others”.We also talk about the 3 P’s: BE PROMPT- BE PREPARED-BE POLITE! My students brainstorm all the rules they can think of and we categorize them into these three!

But, I’ve also tried to work with WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING RULES which my students just love!

The following are five classroom rules that will make your life amazingly easier. One of them is nuclear power in your hands!

If rules are only posted on your board they are not really a part of your class. You must have the rules running around in your students’ heads for them to be effective. It will also help you quiet extra talking in the class. Look for that as you read.

Teach them as follows:

Rule One: Follow directions quickly! (the gesture: make your hand shoot forward like a fish)

Rule Two: Raise your hand for permission to speak (the gesture: raise your hand, then pull it down next to your head and make a talking motion. This rule will be the most commonly violated. See below for how you stop this without criticism or negativity.)

Rule Three: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. (the gesture: raise your and, and then make a little walking figure with your index and middle finger.)

Rule Four: Make smart choices! (the gesture: tap one finger to your temple as you say each word.

Rule Five: Keep your dear teacher happy! (the gesture: hold up each thumb and index finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

In elementary school, rehearse the rules first thing in the morning, after lunch and after each recess. When you call out the rule number, your students respond with the rule itself and the correct gesture. Make the rehearsals as entertaining as possible; use a variety of voices (happy, robot, froggy) and tempos, fast, slow, super fast. For additional fun, ask of your liveliest students to lead the rules rehearsal.

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Rule Two will be the most commonly violated, duh. You do not have to call anyone down; you do not have to mention names. If you are addressing the class and some kids are talking, you stop, hold up two fingers and loudly say “RULE TWO!”

Every kid in your class should repeat rule two energetically with gestures. This signals the violators to stop talking … without you needing to scold them.

Rule Five is nuclear power. Think about it- keep your dear teacher happy. THERE IS NO LOOPHOLE! No student can convince you that they are making you happy. You are the world’s greatest authority on what makes you happy. If they try to convince you they are making you happy, immediately inform them that does not make you happy.

If a student complains that they don’t know how to make you happy, tell them that following the first four rules will be just dandy.

Rule Five has no loophole.

If parents ask why their child should worry about making you happy, respond that you have the responsibility to teach their child and every other child in that class. The happier you are, the better you can do your job.

Now, let’s think briefly, about how these five classroom rules relate to brain structure.  The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling.  When you teach the rules with the Whole Brain signs, your students’ brains are maximally operative.  They see the signs, hear the rules, say the rules and make the gestures.  If you are upbeat and entertaining in your presentation, and of course you are!, your students will also have the lovely feeling of having fun.  Also note that for all five modes of brain learning to take place for your students, you have to engage in all five modes yourself.  Whole Brain Teaching is as great for the instructor’s brain as the students’!

I have recently added this attention poster below, to help me with class management and it proved to be REALLY useful! My kids just ADORED it! I have been using this every single day, when I need to have their attention and it really WORKS!!

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