Thursday, June 23, 2016

TESOL MTh Summer Event

Two talks, four exceptional ladies!
Added bonus: Wine party, food and singing!

Speakers: Anna Parisi, Nora Touparlaki, Rea Tsougari
Title: Welcome to the SEETA WORLD: 10 Teachers’ Associations - One on-line community.

Anna, Nora, and Rea will take you on a guided tour around SEETA, a unique online community of teachers’ associations in South Eastern Europe. 
Find out what’s on SEETA: online teacher development courses, webinars, collaborative projects, blogs, teacher resources, discussion forums and much more! All for free if you are a member of TESOL Macedonia –Thrace Northern Greece.
Join us to find out about the SEETA Research Project and how you can present in the SEETA /IATEFL online conference in December 2016. Anna, Nora, and Rea will answer all your questions on how SEETA operates, they will explain how you can be involved and introduce you to TAs in the region during a live connection at the event! 

Speaker: Maria Karatsali
Title: Playing games in the EFL classroom.

Games develop trust, promote collaboration, create optimism, encourage problem solving, make us focus, help us learn.....Games make us happy.
Games make us better people. So......Let us PLAY!!!

20:00 – 21:00 
Wine Pary & Finger food along with some music

Don't miss TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece Summer Event!

                                                            Meet our Speakers

Nora Tourpalaki
EFL/ESL teacher. MA in TESOL University of Nottingham, British Council e-moderator, IH London certified online tutor. 

She has been involved in Seeta community for many years and currently she is serving the board as a Treasurer. She never misses the chance to participate in the closed courses and webinars which help her a lot with her professional development. 

Rea Tsougari
EFL teacher, SEETA Articles Bank Coordinator – Newsletter Editor & Designer, former TESOL M.Th, N.Greece Vice Chair

Rea has been an ELT teacher for several years and has just earned the Cambridge CELTA Certificate (Pass A). She has taught students of all ages and levels and has also served as an Educational Consultant in a chain of English Language Schools. She has examined for various exam bodies and has been a judge at the Panhellenic Forensics Association Tournament. She has served the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece board for 4 consecutive years as a Vice-Chair and a Treasurer. She has been a supporter of the SEETA project since day one and was one of the founding members on the SEETA board. Rea is the SEETA Articles bank Coordinator and the SEETA Newsletter Editor and Designer. In addition, Rea holds a degree in Accounting and Finance of the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki.


                                                                             Anna Parisi
 Teacher & Teacher Trainer, Director of Studies Access, SEETA Project Leader.

Maria Karatsali
Director of StudySpace Teacher Development Centre.

She is a Cambridge approved tutor for CELTA and DELTA. She has worked in Japan, Spain and the UK. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dyslexia /Learning Difficulties in EFL: Useful Tips for EFL Teachers - Report on Marina Tzalamoura’s Session

Ms Marina Tzalamoura started her talk emphasizing that more and more students are diagnosed with Dyslexia and other Learning Difficulties and EFL  Teachers are being challenged to facilitate their learning by engaging them into teaching styles that will help them learn English as a second language. 

                                                                                                                                                                          Photo by Elpiniki Meimaroglou

Ms Tzalamoura went on to provide an overview of the strengths and weaknesses that characterize dyslectic students in order to enlighten the EFL Teachers as to the most appropriate methodology that could be used with them. She carried on offering valuable directions along with useful and practical advice to teachers in order to guide them on how to cope with these issues.

Additionally, she stressed out that nowadays, educators ought to be aware of the methods which can be effectively implemented in classroom so as to motivate and maintain their interest in learning English. Moreover, they should wisely choose texts and other material according to each student’s cognitive stage of development. She recommended three basic methods associated with teaching strategies in assisting EFL Teachers get involved in.
Being a strong proponent of multisensory teaching, she presented three widely used multisensory models, namely: Horn’s Look-Say-Cover-Write-Check method, the Visual-Auditory- Kinesthetic- Tacktile (VAKT) method and the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) method. She clearly illustrated how to teach spelling using these methods and provided examples and activities that could be used.

Horn’s Look-Say-Cover-Write-Check Method:

  •  Look at the word and take a snapshot of it.
  •  Pronounce the word while looking at it and listen to the sounds it makes.
  • Say the letter names while looking at them and spelling them aloud.
  • Cover the word and look at it in the mind’s eye with eyes closed.
  • Write the word using cursive writing.
  • Check the spelling by comparing it with the original version.

Visual-Auditory- Kinaesthetic- Tacktile (VAKT) Method:
This multisensory method works well particularly for someone with dyslexia who has developed phonemic skills and has learned to use phonological skills.

  • An effective method used to compensate for poor visual memory.
  • Aids retention, increases motivation.
  • Teaches students how to think about the process of spelling a word.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Method:
This method is a strongly visual approach and suits those who have good visual perception and visual memory. Some individuals with dyslexia have very poor visual memories while others have outstanding visual skills.

                                                                                                                 Photo by Elpiniki Meimaroglou

Multisensory teaching techniques and strategies stimulate learning by engaging students on multiple levels, thus helping a child to learn through more than one sense. She pointed out that thre is no one method for teaching spelling and that the approach should vary according to the individual learner’s capabilities. 

She, as well expressed that students with learning difficulties would benefit from differentiated instruction by focusing on each student’s needs and explicit instruction focusing on different aspects at a time. Learning strategies and mnemonic strategies should also be taught and more time should be allocated to students to spend on the task at hand. Last but no least teachers should bear in mind that these students should be praised for what they have achieved rather than be criticized for their mistakes. 

Concluding, Ms Tzalamoura on her talk has managed to provide invaluable feedback and up to a point aid the attendees to understand what is Dyslexia. Dyslexia is not a disease, it is a very special ability and we, English Language Teachers need to learn how we can transform it to an asset and by no means considering it as an obstacle to teaching English. 

Report by Dimitra Christopoulou

Interview with Marina Tzalamoura by Dimitra Christopoulou

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Aspiring to Inspire! From teaching to… educating - Report on Alexandros Agathangelidis, Maria Gourmou, Evanthia Kanonidou, Iro Sapouna, Despina Sarantidou, Persefoni Tyfliori and Dr Paschalia Patsala's Session

On 26 March 2016, within the scope of the 23rd TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece Annual International Convention with the theme "Beyond Teaching - Inspiring Others", a group of students (attending the BA in English Language and Linguistics Programme at the International Faculty of the University of Sheffield, CITY College) delivered a talk with the title "Aspiring to Inspire! From teaching to… educating". Ushered by their Lecturer, Dr Paschalia Patsala, the presenters: Alexandros Agathangelidis, Maria Gourmou, Evanthia Kanonidou, Iro Sapouna, Despina Sarantidou and Persefoni Tyfliori made a clear distinction between the concepts of 'teaching' and 'educating.' 

Our speakers firstly defined the term "to inspire" and listed the characteristics of a real educator. Among others, they emphasized the importance of hard work and willingness to help. A real educator should be disciplined himself/herself and set a good example for the students. They should have high expectations and standards and with their practices bring out the best of their students. Dedication and creativity are among other characteristics mentioned by our presenters. The human element is also very important; therefore an educator knows how to build rapport with their students and creates an environment in each students feel safe. Finally, a true educator is passionate about their work and loves what they do.

Since building rapport is one of the important characteristics of an inspiring educator, the six speakers focused on some of the techniques used for building and maintaining rapport with students. An inspiring educator applies teaching strategies which can be matched with different learning styles and cares for students learning difficulties. Another important element is feedback students received from their instructors. Such is the power of feedback that no wonder our presenters referred to providing it properly as "art". Empathy and respect were among the last characteristics mentioned by the presenters. Inspiring educators bond with the students and are compassionate. Even things as simple as asking how they feel, matter. Last but not least, a real educator is open-minded and treats each student with respect, regardless of the color, creed or origin.

                                                                                                                                                                               Photo by Margarita Kosior

Finally, the presenters reminded us that a road from being a teacher to being an educator is not all roses, and it can be a bumpy one. But it is worth it.  
Alexandros, Maria, Evanthia, Iro, Despina and Persefoni echoed the words of Rita Pierson in her TED talk "We are born to make a difference" and left us with an important message: We, as educators, have the power to change the world!

Report by Margarita Kosior

Will it Blend? Blended Learning.Language Classrooms Today and Tomorrow - Report on Eftichis Kantarakis's Session

Eftichis Kantarakis has been in the ELT field for more years than he can count as he never mastered the numbers after 20. He has worked as a teacher, an ELT consultant for OUP, New Editions and National Geographic Learning, an editor for OUP and New Editions and a free-lance Teacher Trainer. He has also been involved in a number of ELT publications. He was TESOL GREECE Newsletter editor and the vice chair for one.

The term blended learning has been around for about 25 years, but is still not very well-known in Greece. Eftichis succeeded with his talk in giving the audience an overview of the trend together with many suggestions for those who would like to try it with their students.
Eftichis started his talk with a video that would give every techno geek the chills! The man in the video was trying to blend new iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. With this video he certainly drew our attention as to what blended means. A combination of face to face instruction, online learning and digital instruction is what it actually means.

                                                                                                                               Photo by Maria Vlachopoulou

Although there is not a consensus on a definition, the term “blended learning” refers to “a formal education program in which a student learns, at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path and or pace. While still attending a “brick and mortar” school structure, face to face classroom methods are combined with computer mediated activities” (based on Wikipedia-blended learning).

Eftichis went on to give us the 6 models of blended learning, that is:
a) face to face, where the teacher drives in class with the help of digital tools
b) rotation model, in which students cycle through online study and classroom time
c) flex model, where most of the material is delivered online but the teacher is available for support
 d) labs, in which the material is delivered in a digital platform but the learning takes place in a lab
e) self-blend, where the students choose to enhance their traditional learning with online learning and
f) online driver, which takes place completely online through an online platform with possible teacher check-ins.

Then he illustrated the 10 drivers of blended learning, namely what the advantages of opting for it are. In particular, what was mentioned was the opportunity for personalized learning, the potential for individual progress, students’ engagement and motivation, the shift to online testing, the need to extend time and stretch resources, the potential to extend the reach of effective teachers, the ability to improve working conditions, the decrease of device costs, the adoption of learning apps by parents and students and last but not least the interest in narrowing the digital divide. In relation to this the 5 advantages of blended learning is that the learner is more engaged and uses a variety of content types, blended learning  caters for different learning styles, the instructor can assess the individual needs and act accordingly, the feedback is improved and it can make learning fun!

                                                                                                                   Photo by Maria Vlachopoulou

Next, Eftichis gave the audience a list of what one needs to look up if they decide to adopt blended learning. First, there has to be an LMS (Learning Management System), that is the learning environment for one’s students. PbWorks, Wikispaces, Google Sites and WikiDots were some of his suggestions. Then, one can choose from a variety of free Presentation tools such as Prezi, SlideRocket and Slideshare to deliver their material. Also, free recording tools to share audios. Vocaroo, Chirbit, Voxopop, Voicethread, Podomatic are some of them. Furthermore, besides the PrintScreen(PrtSc) button option on computers there is a number of free Screen Capture Tools with FastStone, ScreenHunter, ScreenCapturer and Jing being some of them. Last, for creating Online Playlist of Videos he suggested MyCloudPlayers, MentorMob and ProjectPlaylist.

                                                                                                                           Photos by Efi Tzouri

Additionally, he presented us with some great applications for ELT to make one’s classroom more interactive. FutureMe (letters to a future self), Penzu (personal journals), Storybird ( digital storytelling), Animoto (creating videos), VoiceThread (digital storytelling), GoAnimate (for animations), Little Bird Tales (record your students telling a story), Vocaroo (voice recording service), Soundcloud (for sharing sounds).

According to a case study presented during the talk, however, many students would not like to have an online component in their conventional learning. It seems that, although students are technology oriented nowadays, they prefer more traditional ways in their studying. Thus, we should be very careful about the use of technology in our classrooms. As for Greek ELT technology is considered a possible substitute.  IWBs (Interactive White Boards), Online Platforms, Skype Lessons, Power Point may be used in many cases, but usually Apps are used ad hoc and there is a limited rationale or link to syllabi. In other words, the tool is its own reward! Nevertheless, this should not be the case and the tools should enhance the language not only promote creativity.

Eftichis closed his talk with some advice to both experienced and new blenders. To always stick to a linguistic - not merely an entertaining goal, to stay up-to-date, because new tools are coming out all the time, to look up and experiment and try what works for our students. And always keep in mind that tools are here to supplement not replace. He ended with the conclusion: “Computers will never replace teachers. But teachers who use computers will replace teachers who don’t.”

List of References:

Report by Maria Vlachopoulou

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Teaching Vocabulary Appropriate for Beginner Young Learners through Games - Report on Konstantinos Kemparis’s Session

Konstantinos Kemparis gave a very interesting and informative talk on the importance of teaching vocabulary and how games can help young learners retain new words in a fun and inspiring way.

                                                                                     Photo by Aspa Georgopoulou

He started off by stressing the importance of vocabulary in communication and by extension in language learning. Through several references and examples, it became clear that “no matter how well students learn grammar, without words to express a wide range of meanings, communication in L2 cannot happen in any meaningful way” (McCarthy 1990: viii). It is therefore, essential for students, as they develop greater expression and fluency, to acquire productive vocabulary knowledge in order to communicate effectively and also develop their own vocabulary learning strategies.

Younger learners, who are at the beginning of schooling, serve as the best age group for developing good vocabulary learning habits and strategies for lifetime. But, what is the best way to teach them? According to Konstantinos, the translation of lists of words isolated of context, “limits opportunities for students to develop their lexis in a meaningful fashion”. Games, on the other hand, can help young learners, who enjoy learning through playing, retain new words in a fun and motivating way.

Teaching the vocabulary goes through four stages, which according to Doff (1998:98) are presentation, practice, production and review. To effectively acquire new vocabulary, it is essential for students to go through all of them. 

                                                                                                                                Photo by Aspa Georgopoulou

There are several techniques. Konstantinos presented seven, which as proposed by Harmer (2003:159) include realia, pictures, mime, action and gesture, contrast, enumeration, explanation and translation. The choice of the most suitable technique lies within the teachers’ knowledge of their students’ characteristics. 

Vocabulary appropriateness is another important choice.  “Coursebooks aimed at young learners often focus on nouns, as they are easy to illustrate. However, language is more than just that”. Konstantinos suggested choosing high frequency words and lexical chunks and emphasized on how important it is to take students’ schematic knowledge and cognitive ability into consideration. 

Teaching vocabulary to young learners also entails a good knowledge of how they acquire it. “Learning a new word is not a simple task that is done once and then completed”. When teaching young learners, vocabulary items should be recycled in different activities, with different skills and for multiple times. 

Games are ideal for serving these purposes and come with many more advantages. They add variation, improve attention span and concentration, encourage pupil participation and communication and reduce distances between students and the teacher. 

However, teaching vocabulary to young learners and using games in the classroom can give rise to several issues. Konstantinos went on by addressing them and offering valuable hands-on solutions:

1. Young learners need a lot of motivation in order to participate and learn effectively. Teachers should find ways to make the learning experience enjoyable and stimulating. They should also establish a class atmosphere of mutual trust and respect and show their enthusiasm so as to inspire students to reach their full potential. 
2. Remembering and being able to retain new vocabulary can be challenging for young learners. In order to make the learning process more memorable, teachers need to recycle it through different learning tasks. Visual aids, personalization, kinesthetic teaching, TPR activities and games can make the experience of learning the vocabulary more memorable.
3. Students may often get confronted with spelling and/or phonology difficulties. Some useful games to help them deal with these difficulties in a more fun and creative way are “paper and pen” games such as cryptograms, hangman, running dictation and dictogloss. Other techniques include finger modelling and backchaining.
4. Playing games in the classroom is exciting, but can also be noisy. Calmer activities should always follow in order to restore the balance of the lesson, calm students down and settle them into a routine. 
5. Some parents and school owners may feel that games are a waste of time. Good teacher-parent and teacher-school owner communication should be a main goal as it can help bridge gaps and benefit all parts. 

                                                                                                                   Photo by Aspa Georgopoulou

In the end, Konstantinos presented the game “Pass the Ball” from the book Oxford Basics for Children. A fun and communicative game to encourage students recall and recycle the target vocabulary. To play, students sit in two circles. The teacher places a set of picture flash cards, facing down in the middle of each circle. While listening to music or singing, students in each group, pass a ball around. When the music stops, the student with the ball picks up a card from the pile. The rest of the students try to guess what’s on it, the size and the colour of the object, by asking questions. The game ends, when every card has been picked up. The aim for each group is to correctly name all the cards first.

An enlightening talk on the whys, the whats and the hows of teaching vocabulary to young learners, with a useful theoretical background and a variety of interesting and valuable ideas to put into practice.

Report by Aspa Georgopoulou

Interview with Konstantinos Kemparis by Dimitra Christopoulou

The ‘Phalange’ Effect - Report on Georgios Chatzis's Session

George Chatzis was one of the presenters at the 23rd TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Annual International Convention in March 2016. The title of his presentation was, to say the least, intriguing. No wonder, Mr Chazis started his presentation with the following questions: "What is 'Phalange'?" making his point at the same time right from the start of his session; unknown words removed from their context have little, if any, meaning to any learner, whereas, on the contrary, they become meaningful when presented in a context.  

                                                                                                                                             Photo by Margarita Kosior

                                                                                                                        Photo by Margarita Kosior

 Therefore, teaching and learning should be all about putting things in context. In learning, just like in cooking, separate ingredients may be meaningless, and it is a complete dish that has real flavor.

Unfortunately, in the exam-oriented environment of many education systems, there is little room for teaching, and the focus is on testing. This creates anxiety in many language learners who often focus exclusively on unknown lexis. They misunderstand the process of learning and believe that in order to understand a reading passage they need to know the meaning of every single word in it and this leads to L1 interference. The role of the teacher is to shift students' attention from single words to contexts, from word-by-word translation to adaptation, and cure this, as the presenter humoristically put it, "student myopia" as a result of which our students focus on the ball and miss the whole court.

                                                                                                 Photo by Margarita Kosior

Putting things into context gives learners a chance to present more than one interpretation. On the other hand, learning words for tests and exams involves memorization and gives only one possible answer.

                                                                                                                  Photo by Margarita Kosior

 Our job as teachers is to switch the students' focus and make them realize that context is important. It can be summarized in one sentence: "if you want to teach a language, don't teach a language". In other words, our role is to guide our students and encourage them to involve in extensive reading which presents the language in context, but also show them practical applications of the language they use, since only then it acquires real meaning.

Report by Margarita Kosior