Learn Outside the Classroom #30GoalsEDU

For a change, let’s talk of something that we have done, not something that we plan to do 🙂

This is us:

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I have talked and blogged about our learning adventures together several times. Nick has been the student every teacher needs to have in their class and life. The student who from day one had made clear that ‘books don’t work’, that ‘school is classmates and not teachers’ and that ‘if it isn’t fun, I’m not doing it’. The ultimate challenge learner. Naturally, we took learning outside, to the place where everything happens at once and you can only cope if you’re up for it. The place where books are digital, compact and highly visual, where writing starts from single words and hashtags, where language comes forward because we need it to do so. For Nick, photography is his love and dancing is his breath, so that was what we worked on.

Our first step was to become tourists in our Athens (something I regularly do during my staycations, but this was the first time in student company). We role-played; we hopped on and off buses, we chatted with everyone, we explored what we knew and what we could discover. Each step was a photo, and each photo became a story. Language practice; effortlessly, because we needed to communicate our knowledge and feelings.

Dance came next. What does that have to do with language learning? How can it help you prepare for an exam? According to Nick, if you enjoy it, it will work. And judging by the experience and results, I have to agree. From dancing at home, then in the street, to a dance school and music videos, our learning took shape from within. I’m not much of a dancer, but Nick’s enthusiasm got me moving. His Tumblr posts are a must to many, including myself. He touches you because he loves what he does.

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Only two days ago we got his results; a High Pass on his C2 Certificate. An achievement owed to him doing what he wanted to do, have fun. We haven’t danced to celebrate it yet, but we will 🙂 And make sure someone can capture the moment!

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Give Yourself (and each other) a Pep Talk #30GoalsEDU

I have taken the liberty of adding three words to this goal for several reasons, mainly the following:
1. Negative feelings can storm within us, sometimes for a reason and other times without one.
2. I’ve always felt that negativity should find its way out from us, to be put in words, on paper, on screens, be released into the wild cyclones of our lives.
3. A single word can give life to your inner self pursuits, make them real; and remold your perspective.
4. It’s unique to be able to fight negativity all by yourself.

We are social creatures. No breakthrough or revelation there. Our presence, however, very often plays a part that we are either unaware of or not prepared to embrace. Our words play the same part, since they are born to us; even the clichĂ©s, as it is us who choose to use them. As teachers, we are often overwhelmed by responsibility, towards our students, towards education, towards ourselves. And I have caught myself time and again drawing strength from the learners trusted in my hands. I have often found the way to see forests instead of single trees (talk about clichĂ©s!) because of honest eyes and smiles. I don’t pursue it, but I flourish in its light. Can we make negativity go away? WE can. It’s plural, you see, it cannot go wrong. Giving yourself a pep talk every day works, it’s true. A little note that reminds you of what is still good around you, of what you know you are good at. Imagine, though, for a moment getting little notes that remind you of what still has worth wherever you are, which part of you makes others tilt their head and smile as they picture you.

Start by making sure you see what means the world to you each day. My pep set of memories, reminders and presents:

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There are so many more ways to have this happen to us and involve others. I go with projects and creative explorations. In the offline, non-tech world, creating a board for class notes is easy and makes a huge difference in building relations among our students and ourselves.

Get some cork sheets, small envelopes and index cards (or some cutouts from used paper, any small white surface works here). Ask students to help you create this ‘feel good’ board. Pin the envelopes on the cork, you can personalize them by getting students to write their classmates’ names (which works as a getting to know each other activity too), or leave them blank as I normally do. It could be a personal good word or a universal one, you choose. Tell students they can add a small note in any empty envelope each day to make one of their classmates or their teacher feel happier, empowered and put a smile on their face.
Set this board somewhere so it is visible from any part of your class. Make it part of your and their daily routine. And experience bonds forming and language emerging. It looks like this:

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We have evolved into digital creatures too 🙂 Technology makes our lives faster and spectacular. Whether it is because you and students prefer web tools as a means of expression or perhaps you teach online, make technology work for you.
Create a padlet for students to share their daily or weekly good thoughts.
Ask them to Storybird the week and share with each other and you what they enjoyed.
Set up a social page so they can add the good thoughts they wish to share. A private Facebook or Google +  group works brilliantly.

There is significant learning taking place within all these activities. Not just language learning, but the learning that happens in small, big and bigger clusters of students and teachers. The one that teaches, or reminds, us of why social intelligence is not separate but intertwined with our knowledge.