Special Together #KindnessHunt

Every school year begins with the same project for my younger learners: a lively language hunt, which is then held every two weeks around the area they live in, as learners form groups and head off to discoveries together.

It takes some time of course to organize, so I usually get in touch with local stores, schools and the -amazing- people who are to take part around August. During September, I put my creative shoes on and try to come up with different routes around the areas, various generic clues to be filled in accordingly when lessons start and progress and, by the end of the month, everything is ready for my little hunters.
It’s always a great opportunity for them to practise what we learn together, only outside our safe circle this time, and a wonderful way to involve their parents in the learning process.

Usually those language hunts stop somewhere before Christmas break and recommence in the new year; it has always seemed to me necessary to pause them during that time, thinking that students would have already been ‘overworked’ and tired.

Things evolved differently this year, however. My kids were thrilled with the hunts and even before November properly came, they were asking where they would be “hunting” for Christmas. I felt that, having already prepared in my head our seasonal project ideas, somehow we would have exhausted the theme, and wondered if we should do more; probably a combination of worry for the students and also myself (still feel I’ve been in need of a long, quiet break for some time now).
Then on one fine morning, I woke to a Facebook notification (to which I have not reacted yet, sustaining in my love-hate relationship with social media) that my dear friend Josette had added me to a group; do you know that moment, the very moment, when everything falls into place? When the puzzle forms into the whole picture – that moment.

The “People Being Nice” group set me off on a path of ideas and, eventually, I settled on organizing a Kindness Hunt for my young ones. In spite of my initial worries that it would not work for a million different reasons, particularly being organised on such short notice, this hunt was ready to welcome my enthusiastic, active learners this week, leading all the way to Christmas day.
In fact, everyone who usually gets involved was eager to participate and each invited more; colleagues, friends, family, the neighbours. Kindness to the power of n.

I’ve been following my young hunters around to be part of their sharing and receiving of kindness and will update this post later on with those magnificent gifts.

You can use or share the clues I prepared for this special hunt from here. They’re specific to the areas here in Athens of course, but feel free to adjust them or get inspiration to create your own.

To close for now, I want to immensely thank each and every wonderful person who helped make this possible and real:

-My kids and their families for their persistence, enthusiasm and love.

-The awesome fellow educators in the local schools – Marianna, Nikoletta, Evi, Antonis, Stavros, Sofia, Liana and Agapi you all make this world a great place to be in!

-The happy kiosk owners and their families, Michalis, Joanna and Giorgos.

-Emilia, Stathis, Giorgos, Anthi and Marina, the effortlessly smiling bank clerks.

-Our superb local café owners and staff, Foteini, Litsa, Andrianna, Sofoklis, Rallou, Jenny, Katia, Michalis and Giannis.

-Amalia, Kostas, Giorgos, Sevasti, Maria, Anna and Nikos, the persistently cheerful store owners.

-The tireless train station security guards, Kostas and Vasilis and their families.

-Father Ioannis of our local church and his family.

-Every random passerby who got caught up in our hunt and helped spread the kindness!

-Josette, for unwittingly igniting this and for being who she is.

I couldn’t help it here but think of Jan Morris’s answer during an interview I watched recently (and I’m almost sure I remember it correctly):
“What is your secret to a long, happy life?”
“Kindness. Be kind.”

Happy holidays and keep spreading the good out there!

 

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:

DSC_0313

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!

Drawing my teacher – or how students see us

What happens when you pick up a pencil? A whole world seems to be waiting just behind the tip, ready to unfold on that small (or not so small sometimes) piece of paper. And what if it’s a coloured pencil you’re holding? And what if you’re already set on a particular purpose? Too many questions perhaps, for such a small paragraph. Yet, they were circling around inside my head and I had to let them flow out somehow. A picture goes a long way into showing how your students feel about the lesson and their teacher, what catches their eye and what interests them the most. Afterwards, it’s up to the teacher to decide if changes are necessary and how to test if they have been effective. The simplest but most meaningful project I’ve ever put together.


 

The very first time I got a drawing of myself from a student, happily accepting the portrait came automatically.  I didn’t stop to think whether there was any specific reason of her offering that piece of work, nor did it cross my mind to try and deduce anything from what I was holding: a rough pencil sketch with a huge yellow smile, stretching across my face. I’ve kept that drawing because it brought up, straight from my stomach I think or maybe from my heart, a flowering bouquet of joy and pride, bound together by laughter. We used to laugh a lot together, it was our mark on an interesting lesson.

MyTeacher -by Lily

”Drawing my Teacher” is a project unlike others I do with young learners. I’m more interested in them feeling and showing their feelings than speaking or writing. It’s more than enough for me that the instructions are given in English and that students are able to understand them. Instructions? No, more like explanations or invitations to learn creatively.

This year, five students aged 9 and 10 took part in this two-stage project; both stages involved the scattering of pencils, the distribution of blank sheets and the request to draw their teacher, only stage one took place at the beginning of the course while stage two towards its end.

I’m not going to explain their drawings. They really speak louder than any words. What matters is that those five students showed me the way to get closer to them and help them learn.

 

 Penelope, 9

Antigone, 10

Despina, 10

Irene, 9

Jim, 9

You can also view the second stage on SlideShare.
Feedback and further ideas are welcome, as always!

Student Challenge – Video Introductions

Inspired by 30 Goals Challenge for Educators and the first goal of Cycle 5, I asked students from various parts of Athens, to create their own presentations to introduce themselves to each other . I thought, be proactive , create tutorials and FAQs for them , anticipate their worries – as it turned out , the only one in need of tutorials and soothing words was … me .

A proud and somewhat painful moment in teaching is the realisation my students don’t really need my help ; I’ve had several of those moments since the beginning of this challenge ! ( Come to think of it , I should have written PROUD …)

Here are the videos :

DJ_Cose

 

 

Μικροφωνημένου

 

Kostask

 

NancyK

 

MariaS

 

 

 

 

Not another Valentine’s Project – #E-encouraging them & myself to #e-read

#E-reading #E-books (@ChristinaC)

#E-reading #E-books (@ChristinaC)

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of e-reading. It’s always been something I had to do or I got used to doing in order to keep up with today’s record-breaking speed of everything! I’m not really into Valentine’s day celebrations either…
So where is this post going?
Well, it’s come to my attention that I might have got it wrong altogether. You see, reading is like an exclusive invitation to me. VIBs only (”B” for bookworm). I choose, I read, I ponder, I enjoy.  So I  decided to test it (and myself). Would it be possible to enjoy literature by reading online and could this be done collectively?
Valentine’s day seemed like the perfect opportunity. I was struggling to find interesting activities and as it’s always my goal to integrate technology effectively in my courses I decided to get creative.

VP - E-reading

I set this project up for my advanced level group (20-25 year-olds) because we focus on general knowledge and use of English and we’ve got unlimited time to work on projects like this. We’ve also had to be flexible with class hours and locations, as all students have full-time jobs, and a lot of work is done and exchanged online.

Here’s the outline:

  • Share this quick LoveQuote Quiz with the group to get them thinking and ask them to submit their responses within the day.
  • Share results and correct answers and allow some time for discussion and exchange of thoughts (we do this on my Facebook page).
  • Share quick Poll to decide on the next step: How would you like to do this project?
  • Announce results and either set up a social reading group or provide links to the e-book of choice.

The group decided to e-read Shakespeare’s ”A lover’s complaint”, first individually and then collectively, so I sent them its link from Project Gutenberg, which they sent to their Google Drives. They had a week to e-read and keep notes on what they found interesting and would like to discuss with the group.
I then created a group on ReadUps and sent them an invitation, so we could e-read together and exchange thoughts, questions and ideas within this narrative poem.

It’s actually been going really well and I should say it’s kind of put me in my place:  e-reading can be very interesting and it’s a lot more fun when done in company. Not only have we discovered another way of learning, but we’ve also been remarkably productive in practising our digital skills.

The next step will be to try and fully accomplish M Jesús García San Martín‘s incredible goal for the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators by creating a collective presentation of our group as e-readers!

Some extra notes:

LoveQuoteQuiz Answers:
”Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.” Rabindranath Tagore
”Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.” H.L. Menchen
”Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” Khalil Gibran
”Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” William Shakespeare

E-book links:
”Chitra, A play in one act”,  Rabindranath Tagore
”The madman: his parables and poems”, Khalil Gibran
”A lover’s complaint” , William Shakespeare

Preparing for the journey & Challenging Students

The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators has embarked on a journey around the world and even though I boarded on a bit later than I wanted to it was so great to work on my introduction!

At first it seemed too much of a challenge; there were so many things I could have put together, so many tools I could use and as always I wasn’t entirely sure whether anyone would be interested in it. But if the 30 goals community has taught me anything, that is the power of sharing and getting feedback.

After working around several digital tools (bless you Shelly Sanchez Terrell!), I decided to go with PowToon. I love its cartoon-like, uplifting vibes and learning my way around it has sparked an alarmingly large number of activities I could do with students.

First of all, I thought of extending the 3-2-1 Intro goal and ask my  students on Edmodo (a group preparing for ECCE, where students are from different parts of town) to create their own presentation using PowToon. I think it’ll be a nice break from the norm and will help them get to know each other in a fun and creative way (I also secretly hope we’ll finally get over the ”My name is {…}, I’m {…} years old and I live in {…}!).
Here’s my plan:

”And you are…?”
1. Send students links of my 3-2-1 Intro and the PowToon website.
2.  Set deadlines: Students will have a week to prepare their intro and share it with the group.
3. Explain the task: ”Introduce yourself to the group. Tell us some interesting things about yourself, using pictures and your favourite music and include something we don’t know about you!”.
4. Guide students through PowToon on our group’s timeline when necessary.

Another activity I have in mind is for two 1-to-1 students preparing for FCE, to help them practise Part 2 of the Speaking Task from a different angle. As they’ll have one minute to talk on their own comparing, describing and giving opinions for this part of the exam, I think creating a video with a time-limit can do wonders.
This plan is for discussing holidays:

” 1 minute to go”
1. Send each student a prompt with two pictures

2. Ask them to create a 1 minute PowToon describing their dream holiday.
3. Ask them to share their video with the other student, along with a short paragraph describing what is seen in their presentation.
4.Get students to comment on each other’s presentation.

I’ll update the post with the results soon!

Image Credits: All-free-download

English #Outdoors Vol.2

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

 Some of my favourite classic word games with a bit of a twist for extra fun:

-‘Word Chain’
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 3+

A nice game to practise vocabulary.
Decide on the order of players. The first player continues after the last.
The first player says a word, for example ”dog”.
The next player has to say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word- in this case ”g”. If the second player says ”grass”, the third player will have to say a word that begins with ”s” and so on.
Any word can be used and in any form; nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc.
If a word is repeated, the player who said it misses one round. Players are allowed three mistakes, after which they leave the game.
-As the game could take up a lot of time, it’s a good idea to decide when it should end, by setting a score board and awarding points for each word used correctly. I usually set the winning score at 20 points for young learners and 50 points for intermediate ones.
*Fun trivia: Words beginning with ”y” have proved quite challenging!

-”Sentence Surprise”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 4+

A fun game to review structure and vocabulary.
Divide players in four groups, the ”Who?”, the ”What”, the ”Where” and the ”How”. Give each group a paper and a pencil and ask them to write relevant words one under the other. When they finish, a representative from each group has to come forward and stand in the correct position in order to form a sentence. Prepare for a lot of laughter, as sentences are usually something like ”An iguana hops quietly under the bed”! Do the same for all the words the players have come up with.
If you have more time on your hands, try playing more rounds and mixing up the groups so all players have been in all groups at least once.

-”Opposites”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 2+

A quick game to build and review vocabulary.
One player says a word that has an opposite, for example ”day”.
The other players have to reply with its opposite, in this case ”night”. The first player to find the correct answer continues with a new word.
If, at any moment during the game, a player says a word that hasn’t got an opposite, e.g. ”pencil”, the first of the other players to realise it begins a new round.

**The ”Opposites” game is from a wonderful book I discovered about nine years ago, ”El gran libro de los juegos” (1998, Parramon Ediciones S.A.) which is full of amazing games and activities – not sure if there is an English version, though.