Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dare them to practise Positive Thinking-Showtime!

And the time has come to show what my students have thought of as their good qualities. In my previous post about positive thinking I mentioned that they should make a list.
Well, I went a little bit beyond that point and I asked them to make a 'selfie' video of their thoughts. I was certain that they would get more motivated and go into that task right away- you know how thrilled they get about selfie photos and videos. Furthermore, I did not want to spend more time from the lesson to shoot videos. Last but not least, I wanted to make sure that they would complete the homework I had assigned them.
Another step that I took was to expand this task to all levels. It crossed my mind that all learners, despite their age and language level, have to remind themselves of thei good points of their character; it's more like a reflection of their strengths. Therefore, we adjusted the activity to their language knowledge and they processed it practising speaking, writing and descriptive vocabulary.
There have been learners, however, who are not confident enough to expose themselves on a video. I did not put any pressure on them. They made their lists, which have been added on our padlet wall. The main target of the task is to make them think and approach their goals with a positive attitude. Some others have procrastinated their task but I am sure they will finish it as soon as they see our padlet wall.
And now... I present you my students who would like to share their qualities with you and what makes them special!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Make them be excited to speak!

Early in the afternoon. First lesson with nine-year-old pupils, Level A.1. Not very excited about a speaking activity, would they? But this time it worked as an ice breaker! And it came from them! I never stop getting surprised at what can come up unexpectedly, whether good or bad.

The kids were eager to show me the photos they took on their daily excursion to the renovated seafront of our city.

And that was it! I took their memory card from their camera, stuck it into the laptop and over the projector we could see the photos. 

I had never seen them more involved in the task. They revised vocabulary about animals, plants, colours, actions and leisure activities. It was a good chance to practise Wh-questions and grammar, using Present Continuous, modals and plurals.

Below, I have added the photos I asked them to describe, and the questions I used.

What can you see?
Where is it?
Is it sunny?
What time is it?
What is this?
What flowers are these?
What colour are they?
How many umbrellas are there?
What can you do in a cafe?

What can you see here?
Is it big or small?
What is it doing?

What colour are the fish?
Where are they?

Monday, 5 May 2014

The seven powers of a Teacher

Sunday evening and I was thinking what teachers should have to make their presence significant and notable in the classroom. The stimulation was a video that I shared from Teacher Channel some days ago. There were some colleagues who found it a bit exaggerated, describing the teachers as the core of education and the answer to everything. Personally, I found it humorous and I couldn’t help agreeing that there were some truths included.  We are definitely not the Holy Grail but we can make a difference and be awesome.

Therefore, I created a post with the seven powers that distinctive teachers should acquire:

T for tutoring – How many times do we give our extra attention and support to students who need it? Do we turn our backs to them? Absolutely not! We lean over their shoulder and guide them through their twisting path of learning.

E for embracing – Teachers should embrace all their students, their ‘kids’ as we tend to call them. Do parents distinguish their children? I don’t think so and I hope not. The same should apply in teaching. Our classrooms, no matter what their size, are full of little/older human beings, with their personalities, their qualities and flaws, their strengths and weaknesses. Open your arms and embrace them, both literally and metaphorically. They will appreciate it, no doubt about that. Show your attention to all of them, some need it more than the others, but try to keep a balance. No student should feel neglected.

A for affection – Teachers should not keep a distance from their students. They should show their care, support in tough times, be open to talk to when their students need someone to turn to. There are minor and huge problems, some can be solved and others need the advice of an expert, but the point is that students receive your attention.

C for creation or creativity – The most essential power for many educators including me.  Let’s think out of the box and develop critical thinking in learners. Let’s give it a go and try to be creative with our lessons. Give the chance to students to be creative with their learning. Let them use their own powers and boost their confidence. Let’s create a positive atmosphere in the classroom where goals can be accomplished and dreams can be pursued.

H for humour – Teachers who do not face their rat race with some humour cannot endure for long. The outcome? They become aloof, grumpy, feeling run down most of the time. They cannot enjoy their work, their time with their families and friends.  Concerning the classroom, humour can be used as an ice breaker or a lively start of the lesson. It can be the means to get new learning material across, bring students back to order, deal with sticky wickets.

E for effect – No matter how controversial that issue could be, no matter how many debates there are on this subject, I strongly believe that teachers have an effect on their students, positive or negative. The focus of our vocation should be to have a constructive impact on learners’ studies. It makes their learning procedure easier, it is the trait that we will be remembered for.

R for resources – Teachers may not be the answer or have the answer for all questions. However, we are the ones that students think of when they are at an impasse.  Especially for the younger ones, we are their living, breathing, walking encyclopedia, dictionary, Wikipedia. We should think of this characteristic as our privilege. We are there to enlighten them, share our knowledge, open their eyes to the unlimited world of knowledge. Even if we can’t know everything, we should, at least, spark their interest to questioning and searching.

The seven powers of a teacher- these are what I could think of. There are definitely more or there are ramifications hiding in my terms. Any additions from your part are most welcome.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Reflections on Spreading Literature into the world!

The school year is coming to its end. A bit more than a month left but despite the hustle and bustle of exam preparations, completing the syllabus and meeting the administration requirements, I can't help thinking of what we have accomplished since last October.

In one of my previous posts, I promised myself that I would strive to make the best of the school year and I would definitely have fun with my students. It all started with an idea I came up with last autumn. I thought of using our national literature in teaching English. The main goal is cultural exchange among students around the globe. Learners would evaluate, interpret translated work of their national poets and authors and express their opinions, thoughts and feelings about them. I had the fortune to share my idea with 
George Raptopoulos, a colleague with huge teaching experience, vast knowledge and great passion for literature. And I had the privilege of his collaboration. Our dream is to have our students, consequently, watch other English learners abroad presenting their national heritage in the target language through a video or any other web tools. We set off on our journey around Greek literature with our minds on encouraging and motivating our students to share their experience.

Three groups were formed of different English levels and age groups; from elementary to proficiency level and with primary school kids to young adults- university students. Three months lasted the project, with us keeping the role of the facilitators, stepping into the melee when the students came to an impasse.

And then posts of inviting speakers to submit abstracts at various conventions started popping up on social media network sites. Should we give it a go?

The first stop of our exhilarating, unique experience was in Athens, at TESOL Greece Convention in March. The whole event fascinated me and emotions overwhelmed me during the long weekend. I met fellow teachers for the first time, we attended inspiring, motivating talks and presentations and we felt most welcome by the board members and the supporting staff. I must admit it; my knees were weak before our presentation. We both felt that it was our obligation and duty to let our students shine through the project. The comments we received afterwards were the motivating force to continue.

Next stop TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Conference. We felt at home...literally. It took place in our hometown, Thessaloniki. Another surprise was waiting for me there. I was asked to cover the conference as a roving reporter together with my colleague Theodora Papapanagiotou. Video interviews with presenters, reports on their presentations along with our session as speakers. The board members created a very warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere for everybody. Among the plenary speakers there were a good friend, Vicky Loras and Kieran Donaghy, a teacher with ingenious lesson plans based on short films.

Latest stop, BETA-IATEFL Conference in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. First time abroad at a Conference, not only as attendees but as speakers as well. It was the opportunity we were waiting for, to share our experience with colleagues abroad and- if possible- to motivate them to try the same with their students. There were intriguing, motivational speakers and we have kept in mind several ideas that we want to put in practice or run a future project on.

It was not before long that Shelly SanchezTerell suggested we present at VRTWebCon. It was an honour and very uplifting at the same time! Webpresenters at one of the most well-known webconferences! It was time to go on line, reaching even more colleagues around the world!

One of the hardest moments was when we had to withdraw from Conference in Bratislava. Due to the economic crisis we could not pursue this dream. Hopefully, things will improve in the future and we will be able to join our fellow-teachers there next year.

All in all, the reflections of our participation in all these events cannot be summarised in a few lines. Personally, I made one of my goals real; to present our project and our students' effort in front of colleagues, I believe I improve myself as a speaker and confronted one of my biggest fears, to speak in public. I felt motivated with all the encouraging comments of our colleagues who keep me going. Of one thing I am sure from now on. If you set a goal and you believe in it, nothing is impossible. Pursue your dreams and never be afraid of dreaming big!

Here are the links of our presentation at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, follow-up comments of the students, the poems and the text they have worked on as well as you can watch the videos with the students presenting their outcome at the side bar. I would suggest you that you should not miss listening to one of our students who got inspired and turned both poems into songs!

Presentation and follow-up comments
Prezi Slides on Prezi
Song Soundcloud- As much as you can
Song 2 Soundcloud- The seagull,
Slideshare Poems and Texts of our project

Dare them to practise positive thinking

In our last lesson with my B2 students we began a new unit about being positive. It is from the coursebook for  B2 Take Off by Hillside Press. In the beginning there were questions,calling for critical thinking, i.e. What might motivational speakers encourage people to do? They came up with several suggestions like becoming more confident about themselves, overcoming their fears and worries, trying something risky and adventurous. I should mention that it is one of the last units of the coursebook and, as exams are coming up soon, it was a chance for me to make them feel  more positive towards their own challenge to pass their English Certificate exams.
First, I asked them what makes a good speaker. What are their skills and qualities? Why are some better than others? What is the main characteristic of a motivational presenter? What could school students gain from an encouraging speech? The core targets are boosting self-confidence and positive thinking so that they perform their best.
On the next page there was a list of tips of what somebody should do to practise positive thinking. Some of them were to make a list of their positive qualities that they should read when they are in bad mood, make a list of their short-term and long-term goals that they should check every day. Another tip was to read an article or an autobiography of a successful person. Finally, they should make a list of things they are scared of or worried about and they should try to overcome at least one of them. We discussed a lot whether these tips would work for them, which ones they might try and which ones they find useless.
And here comes their challenge. At the beginning they objected to writing down lists. They  think that people just know their qualities, they don’t need to read their lists. My argument was that people need something or someone to remind them of their positive qualities when they are feeling down and the list can be at hand. So, I challenged them to make a list that they should check every time they feel  pessimistic. After all, they are teenagers, in a life period that all emotions are overwhelming and their mood could change within nanoseconds. As for their goals, they all mentioned passing their exams as a short-term goal- quite obvious. Reading that list will remind them of the goal they have set. Finally, they should read an article of a person they admire and they should prepare a presentation of the impact it had on them. I didn’t ask for a summary. I asked them to describe their emotions and how it made them feel while reading it. Could they use some of the methods? Are they achievable?
All these tasks should be practised till the end of the month before they sit for the exams. My goal is to make them feel confident and determined, they should believe in themselves so that they reach the best of their performance. Needless to say that along with the positive thinking exercise they will practise all language skills like speaking, writing, reading and listening. They have to use descriptive vocabulary and support their opinions with arguments.
Soon I will upload photos of their list and videos of their presentations on successful people.