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!

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Guessing #games and the perception of #language

Sharing is key to education and I like to incorporate all kinds of things during teaching. As I think one of the greatest tools we’ve got is ourselves, I usually try to engage my students in activities with a personal touch.
I’ve used guessing games as  a quick fix (to accommodate 5-10 minutes at the end of a lesson), a prologue to open speaking lessons, even full lessons at times.
The results are always so rewarding! These activities help us come closer as a class and give us the opportunity to share and learn at the same time. They’re also a great way to showcase our work and progress, either individually or as a group.

linguaguess

I often use my homelands for reference; it’s a great reminder of how rich the Greek culture, both ancient and modern, is and how many things it provides us with so we can take our learning to the next level. The following activity can be used in many different ways and contexts. I’ve used it to get students to practise phonemes, improve their speaking & writing and work on digital skills. Here’s an example of a half-hour activity for intermediate+ level students which I do before Easter break, aiming at practicing pronunciation, using English and cultural exchange:

1. Bring up the following presentation on the screen: LinguaGuess#1 (a very simple presentation – I’ve now made it public on Google docs)
2. Elicit answers from the students and write the most popular on the board (alternatively, students can take notes and compare with classmates).
3. Discuss answers and ask students to pronounce the given word. Ask them to use the word in a sentence of their own.
4.Time for real answers! Take the students through the whole presentation, explaining vocabulary & context when necessary.

Follow-up activities:
– create a similar presentation of your own, using a word you find interesting or you think not many people would know its meaning.
– create a presentation of how you and your family celebrate Easter.
– find interesting Easter trivia from a place (village, city, country) of your choice and share them with the class.

#My Notes
The presentation above is about the word ”batoudo”.
When I asked students which language it comes from, the most popular answers were Spanish and Hindi.
Most of them thought it was either a type of traditional garment or a spice!
Students using the word came up with examples like:
(The ones who thought it was Spanish)
”Almost ready for the party! I just have to  get my batoudo to the dry-cleaner’s tomorrow.”
”We have to go back, I left my batoudo on the chair.”
(The ones who thought it was Hindi)
”Add some batoudo for a twist in your biryani!”
”The girls looked lovely in their batoudos.”

This is an activity I really enjoy doing with students and thought I’d share it with all – as always, feedback is greatly appreciated, leave a comment if you have any examples of your own or some different ideas!

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.

English #Outdoors Vol.1

It’s July! “Kalo Mina” as we say down here and a great start to a magnificent summer period!

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

Learning happens anytime, anywhere and, weather permitting, outside the classroom is the best place to start! I’ve been working in English learning summer camps for the past seven years and thought I’d share some of the funnest activities I’ve done with my students.
You might think they’re meant for large groups of young learners, but no. We’ve had the most fun trying them out with my colleagues; just the four of us, the young-at-heart teachers!

In this first post I’ve included three quick activities which serve as great ice-breakers and help teachers and students know each other better, remember names and choose leaders and team members.

“But, why are you?”
Age: 7+
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

A fun game to get to know everyone in your class or team, while reviewing vocabulary on emotions. Everyone chooses an emotion. The coordinator helps anyone who struggles and ensures there are no repeats. Create a board (an A3 paper and a marker would do) with all the names and the emotion they’ve chosen under each. After the board is ready, give everyone five minutes to look at it and note names and emotions. Everyone then sits in a circle on the ground and when the coordinator gives the signal (best to set and explain what the signal will be before you start, especially if you have a group of young learners only) each player has to turn to the person on their  right and ask them the following: “But [name], why are you [emotion]?”. If they get the name and emotion right, both players leave the circle until everyone has had their turn. If they get one or both wrong, the other player has to ask them the same question. The game continues until all players have been asked the question.

*Make this more challenging by having players mimic the emotion they’ve chosen while they wait to be asked the question.

-“All aboard!”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

Learn and remember everyone’s name with this energetic game!
Draw the outline of a boat on the ground, jump in and inform everyone you’re the captain. Players shout their name twice and then stand around the “boat” waiting for orders. The captain starts with any player, saying “Sailor [name], on deck!”. That player has to jump in the “boat” and the captain asks “Sailor [name], are we all here?”. While the answer is no, the captain has to repeat the initial order for all names. When all “sailors” are gathered, the captain shouts “All aboard!” and further activities can begin.

-“Blind date”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 2 minutes
Players: 7 or more

An easy activity to instantly create two random teams.
Draw two lines on the ground or use two ribbons, e.g. red and blue. The coordinator stands with their eyes shut while all players go around and touch them on their back. Every time someone touches them, the coordinator shouts red or blue and each player goes to  stand on either side, until everyone is in a team. Done!

Feel free to use them and send me feedback!

Next post coming up, with word games and observation skills activities.

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