Friday, May 20, 2016

Teaching Beyond the Classroom: Teachers Influencing Students' Attitude to Learning - Report on Maria Araxi Sachpazian & Manolis Kontovas's Session

The presentation took place in a fully packed room, not at all to my surprise. Both the ever-interesting topic and presenters attracted many participants. Maria and Manolis started off their presentation by illustrating the different representations of learning. So, learning may be perceived as just an act of “filling vessels”, it can be delivered by an authoritarian and punishing teacher, who is the only source of knowledge, or even be considered just as a test-taking process. It may be part of a CLIL based curriculum or it may involve an engaged classroom. These perceptions vary because the educational values have changed over time. On the one hand, learning is an internal affair, and it depends to a point on intrinsic motivation but, on the other hand, extrinsic motivation and the emotional side of learning, which can result in the building of bonds between the teacher and the students, play an important part in the process of learning. What we call the “affective filter factor” can make a difference not only in the learning itself, but also in the attitudes students form towards learning.

                                                                                                                                                                      Photo by Maria P. Vlachopoulou

Manolis went on to explain how he uses Minecraft to engage his students and help them learn while having fun. Students play without even realizing that at the same time they also learn all about planning and  time management, how to make efficient use of their time and effort, and last but not least they learn how to be creative and use their skills in order to make something. Also, humour, another way to build rapport with one’s students was widely discussed.  The use of humour in the classroom can empower learners, help them think out of the box, create interest, enhance self-esteem, promote willingness to work, emphasize socialization and mould behaviours. Then participants were asked to share their ideas on how they try to connect with their students and build bonds. Many ideas were mentioned such as following classroom rituals, sharing videos, songs etc. that could raise the students’ interest and so on. Maria also mentioned creating a closed Facebook group where students and the teacher can communicate and post things that can interest one another.  In general, what was made perfectly clear is what our students want from us and what can certainly strengthen personal relationships: clarity, pacing, variety and room.

                                                                                                                 Photo by Maria P. Vlachopoulou

Although all these sound so good, there are often things that get in the way and do not allow us to do what is needed in order to build stronger relationships with our students. So, what gets in the way?  Time, or materials we have to cover, tiredness which sometimes increases the distance between the teacher and students. Lessons deprived of feelings. 

What can certainly help is to share positive feelings with our students. Offer our students chances for success, not failure! Believe in them! The teacher’s expectations can increase the students’ performance. A sense of belonging, empathy, comradery and a sense of shared purpose create a safe environment in which students can thrive! Learning becomes memorable, personalized, enriched and students can take responsibility for their own learning. The teacher can teach “learning to learn” strategies, get students to brainstorm, revise strategies and evaluate. Regular tutorials can be organized during which the student is respected, in a non-judgmental environment, can self-assess and the teacher can review and discuss performance. This promotes better communication. 

                                                                                                               Photo by Maria P. Vlachopoulou
The presentation was closed with a very touching video on YouTube “You never forget a good teacher”, , which brought tears to everybody’s eyes and was the perfect end to a wonderful presentation!

Report by Maria Vlachopoulou

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Magic Moments in Mixed Ability Classes - Report on Despina Karamitsou's Session

Dressed as a witch who just arrived from an origami conference in Japan, Despina Karamitsou welcomed her fellow educators to  the workshop”Magic Moments in Mixed Ability  Classes” by using her theatrical skills to take everyone by surprise.I must admit her introduction was more than what I had expected and was even more eager to see what was to follow.
“Have you seen my book of spells.. ? I seem to have lost it! “she said looking all confused.
“No”  was our immediate response without a second thought, not  having realized that was part of her act .

                                                                               Photo by Cathy Salonikidis

That is how the magic all started on Saturday morning on the premises of Anatolia College and the story only gets better …
Applying  her  good sense of humor and passion for creativity and fun is what definitely Despina knows how to do  as a an educator in this particular workshop.

 Secret Doors was the activity in which  we all got involved  by using scissors,colored markers and colorful cards  after following  carefully her instructions. As she explained the Secret Doors cards can be used with any level and any topic. They can be used for riddles and mysteries, vocabulary definitions grammar transformations (active-pasive voice/used to/too-enough/reported speech) recipes( ingredients/instructions), story book (who is who), non fiction texts (questions and answers), cartoon captions , travel info (countries -nationalities-capital-sights etc) weather predictions, problem and advice and many more...
To be honest, I do not remember the last time I did craftwork and it felt really good to use my artistic skills again but even more, I enjoyed the sharing I did  with my classmates as we had to help one another because the task seemed easier than it was.

Collaboration, sharing , laughter turned  this activity into  a memorable experience .
If we could  have so much fun  creating in English, imagine the joy and the smiles the kids will have!
I must admit that I had a minor difficulty starting off my Secret Doors as I did not know how to fold the paper or how to cut the flaps; somehow though we all managed to finish the task with a smile of satisfaction on our faces.

                                                                                                                     Photo by Cathy Salonikidis

The following are the instructions on how to make the Secret Doors given by the presenter:
1. Start with one and a half pieces of construction paper . 
2. Fold the full size sheet in half four times (this creates a cutting grid).
3. After unfolding the full size paper, fold it again, hamburger style.
4. Cut along the grid lines-toward the center fold (half-way up the sheet).
5.  After cutting your flaps, place the full sheet aside. 
6. Take your half sheet of construction paper and fold in half-hotdog style. 
7. Cut along the line.
8. Now use one of the quarter sheets you just cut, weaving it into the full sheet of  construction  paper (where you created the slits).
9. Weave the other quarter sheet into the full sheet on the opposite side-make sure to  weave in  the opposite direction of the first weave (under-over, over-under).
10. Once you've finished weaving, flatten your sheet and fold it so it creates two doors!

It is certain that our witch stirred up  her supernatural  powers to make impossible things happen and to cast a spell of enchantment.
Magic moments really took place in our mixed ability class!

Report by Cathy Salonikidis

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Culture-specific Language Aspects: How to Express Politeness in English - Report on Dr Kyriaki Koukouraki's Session

Dr K. Koukouraki has been teaching English and German for over 15 years. She worked for 5 years as lecturer for Translation and Pragmatics at the Ionian University, Corfu, Greece and is currently teaching Translation Strategies and Principles at the New York College, Thessaloniki. Dr Koukouraki gave us an insight in the concept of politeness in L2 acquisition. 

Her talk started with an apt comic strip of “How to be British collection” to discuss the concept of politeness in English language as a universal value, which is closely bound to its culture-specific verbal and non-verbal manifestations. 

                                                                                                                          Photo by Fani Miniadou

After that, Dr Koukouraki explained the importance of pragmatic competence in Second Language Learning (SLL) and correlated the communicative with the pragmatic competence. Since learning a foreign language (here: English) aims among other things at achieving successful communication with speakers of this particular language, pragmatic competence, i.e. ‘the ability to use language appropriately in a social context’ (Taguchi, 2009), is of paramount significance in the EFL classroom. 

Dr Koukouraki raised the inevitable question: “What can teachers do?” and gave us some handful advice to raise awareness while teaching English in relation to pragmatic competence, and more specifically for politeness markers. First and foremost, she suggested arranging opportunities in such a way that they benefit the development of pragmatic competence in L2. Then she proposed the use of authentic material within the ESL classroom. Finally, a task-based approach is what helps maintain a holistic approach in learning. 

Subsequently she explained that the concept of politeness per se intents to minimize conflict in an interaction and made a link to pragmatic competence and to SLL. Politeness can be expressed through various linguistic features like honorifics and the messages which are conveyed through them. We discussed concepts of formality, social distance, politeness, humility and respect. The juxtaposition of the honorific titles in English and in Greek, was a bright moment. 

                                                                                                        Photo by Fani Miniadou

Then, Dr Koukouraki raised awareness on the multifacetedness of making requests, especially in English. According to Searle (1969), a request is a directive speech act whose illocutionary purpose is to get the hearer to do something in circumstances in which is not obvious that they will perform the action in the normal course of events, as Dr Koukouraki highlighted. Moreover she distinguished the types of requests and made a comparison between expressing politeness in English and Greek. In addition, she introduced the concept of apologising in both British English and American English focusing on the reasons and the frequency they apologise. Summing up her presentation, Dr Koukouraki presented aspects of gender neutral language and politically correctness.

Finally, according to Dr Koukouraki, when teaching foreign languages the focus should expand beyond merely conveying vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. A holistic approach which integrates culture-specific language aspects will raise learners’ cross-cultural awareness and foster a better understanding of the respective language and its culture.

Report by Fani Miniadou 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Having Fun with Young Learners - Report on Zhivka Ilieva’s Session

Ms Zhivka Ilieva commenced her talk by outlining the importance of implementing fun while teaching young and very young learners. Thus, they develop interest, motivation and positive attitude to the subject. What is more, children have fun as they are playing, singing, listening to and taking part in stories, and acting out rhymes. She afterwards explained that the aim of her session is to fully demonstrate activities for the learners that in turn can be used either as a base for a lesson or as additional material.

                                                                                                                 Photo by Elpiniki Meimaroglou

Children need to be actively engaged in order to learn. Very young learners learn by doing whereas young learners need rich visualization and fun. In that case, the imput has to activate various types of intelligence, of memory, various sensors: to be auditory, visual, through movement so as to provoke positive emotions in order to be memorable.

How can we engage young learners into stirring activities when get bored or sleepy? Are they too noisy and want them to burn some energy and get them silenced? Well, all you can do is to get them involved. Children just love songs and especially funny ones. A good example of a song is “Do you like broccoli?” This particular song Mrs Ilieva explained that practices grammar mostly using the Present Simple in questions with short answers and vocabulary connected to food and also develops children’s creativity. Moreover, this kind of activity can be realized both at Kindergarten and at the Primary School in order to practice more effectively the Present Tense.

Using a range of books is as well of utmost importance according to Mrs Ilieva as they can easily grab children’s attention and bring creativity into classroom. However it is advisable to choose books based on their age, level and type of intelligence. Use music to stir joy or use mathematics to stir their little practical minds. Some of the recommended books are: “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, “Mine” by Nicola Baxter and “What Lola wants…Lola gets” by Salariya. She also pointed out that an excellent idea is to let them turn the title of the book into a tongue twister which is something that children find extremely creative and enjoyable.

                                                                                                                               Photo by Elpiniki Meimaroglou
                                                                                                      Have you got hyper-active young learners in your class? Actually that is a great advantage if you are thinking of bringing up a new activity in class. Get them started by dice games. Dice games can be organized as long as they are two sets of dice. One for the object of the sentence and the other one for the adverbial of the structure (There is/are …in the…). Teachers in Primary Schools can include nouns in plural and uncountable nouns as well as to practice the indefinite pronoun “some”.

She then continued her really informative and educative talk by referring to the significance of using Physical Activities as well. Does the “Imperative” troubles your little precious learners? There is no need to worry. Just use Body Movement and start giving orders like sit down, stand up, hop 1, 2, 3 or go left and right.

Ms Ilieva’s motivating and fruitful session was completed by underlining the importance of putting all the activities offered into action. As they can be adapted to any text and to various types of learners young and very young ones. The purpose of which is to enable them to learn the language with as little efforts as possible in a funny atmosphere.

Report by Dimitra Christopoulou

Spark the Fire of Creativity - Report on Dragana Andrić’s Session

In this inspiring and highly interactive workshop, Dragana Andrić managed to engage us all through tasks which sparked our creativity and turned writing into a fun, meaningful way of communicating ideas.

Right from the very start, Dragana set us a task that instantly energized our thoughts. “What would you do if you had a super power, or if a fairy could grant you a wish?” We were asked to put our thoughts on paper and then, Dragana told us a story about a wish that went wrong! In her story the character makes a wish and actually gets what he wishes for, only to find out that the reality does not live up to his fantasy. “Be careful what you wish, because you might just get it”! Prompted by this story, we were all asked to read someone else’s wish and write what could go wrong! It was so much fun to surprise others and be surprised by all those unexpected “twists of fate”!

                                                                                                                       Photo by Margarita Kosior
In the second activity we were assigned to create our own characters using indirect characterization. Indirect characterization is a process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character, without telling things, but by showing. The reader gradually finds out what kind of person the character is through his thoughts, words, looks, actions and effects on others. To stimulate us, Dragana showed us pictures of different types of homes and asked us to choose the ideal one. Then, she asked us to imagine we were a completely different person, living in that house. Using indirect characterization we had to reveal information about our character related to origin, profession and marital status. While writing and reading our stories, it became obvious that showing rather than telling is an approach that allows for more creativity and imagination not only for the writer but also for the reader. 

 “Weaving a textile story” was the title of the next activity and it was already enough to arouse curiosity and entice us into participating. Divided in pairs, we were given a piece of fabric and were assigned to brainstorm anything noteworthy about it. Then, in a second stage, we had to orally spin a story, in which the piece of fabric would serve as a central element. Pairs were, then, combined into groups of four and the task was to “weave” both our stories into one! Crafting a story together like this and being able to draw upon each other’s strengths and ideas was an excellent way for fostering creativity and a great opportunity for sharing and communicating.

                                                                                                                       Photo by Margarita Kosior
In her last activity, Dragana shared with us one of her favourite poems, “The Geography Lesson”, by Brian Patten. The poem talks about a geography teacher who always shared his enthusiasm and love for his subject with his students and whose dream was to sail to all those “places he had only known through maps”. Sadly, however, he never managed to follow his dreams. Our task, in this activity, was to think of a different, optimistic outcome and write a follow-up verse, “helping” the teacher fulfill his dreams!

Challenging, thought-provoking and definitely fun activities to fire up our students’ creative spark and get them not only interested but also excited with writing!

Report by Aspa Georgopoulou

Friday, April 8, 2016

It’s High Time We Stopped Teaching...Young Learners: Addressing the challenge & ‘The Young Learners Project’ - Foteini Malkogeorgiou & Maria Spiliotopoulou and Vasiliki Papadopoulos's Session

Ms Foteini Malkogiorgou has been an EFL teacher for over 25 years and an EAP instructor in higher education both in Greece and the UK. Since 2013, she has been the academic director of the English department at New York College (NYC) and tutor for the undergraduate courses foundations of linguistics, and the methodology of language teaching, of the BA (Hons) in English and English Language teaching of the University of Greenwich which is offered by NYC. In her talk, Ms Malkogiorgou presented a theoretical background on children’s foreign language education. Her project and main academic interest focuses on recent research in the field of neuroscience and the theories of learning which she kindly shared with us. As she indicated, children have only one path of learning and that is acquisition (Krashen & Terrell 1983). Children learn through experiencing the world that surrounds them (Piaget, 1997) and as social beings their development and learning is a product of their social interaction (Vigotsky, 1997).

                                                                                                                         Photo by Fani Miniadou
Neurolinguistics research has shown that social interaction “gates” language acquisition and that perception of speech is critical because being able to discriminate word boundaries (discriminating one word from another) correlates with acquisition (Kuhl 2010; Jusczyk 2014). Neuroimaging techniques also tend to show that the right hemisphere of the brain (RH) plays a key role at the beginning of the language acquisition process. The RH (non language-dominant) facilitates language processing in the left hemisphere and it adopts a holistic strategy to make the language learning process easier in its initial stages. As children, at least till the age of 10, have not yet developed grammatical “automatisms“ they rely on imagery and holistic thinking to tackle the acquisitional problems. In their world there are no tenses, nouns, adjectives there are no schemas labelled ‘grammar’ (Paradis, 1994).

Inspired by the work of well-known linguists, cognitive psychologists and researchers and her intrinsic motivation and love for children, as a mother of one, Ms Malkogiorgou has launched the “The Young Learners Project” a volunteer project offered to children of a non-profit organization for the protection of children’s rights («Το Χαμόγελο του Παιδιού»).  The volunteer project aspires to be also offered to other organisations that protect children in need. Vasiliki Papadopoulou and Maria Spiliotopoulou two graduates of the BA in English Language and English Language Teaching of New York College who participate in the project as volunteer teachers presented some of the resources and techniques they use to facilitate L2 acquisition in the language classroom.

                                                                                                                                                                                     Photo by Fani Miniadou

Vasiliki and Maria explained the spine of their cyclical task-based syllabus, a non-linear syllabus which treats learning as a dynamic process and which uses stories, arts and crafts, games and play, multisensory input, psychomotor behavior to encourage meaningful interaction. Task-based learning shifts the focus to the process of attaining an objective while language is a byproduct that children pick up effortlessly and naturally; as was the case with the words “cut”, “scissors”, “glue”, and chunks such as “press and hold” in an arts crafts Bob-Sponge project. Maria and Vassiliki involved the audience in a lively workshop offering them the chance to experience learning through the eyes of a child. Responding to their instructions, we drew an elephant. As the workshop progressed, the two joyous teachers got us dancing and miming animals and descriptive adjectives. They used a holistic approach and means to engage all types of learners in the activities. There was a children’s video song and a choreography that responded to the action verbs of the lyrics. Using beautiful carton cutout animals they animated the story of the “Sad Elephant” which later the audience took over to animate as Vasiliki was narrating the story.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo by Fani Miniadou

All in all, Ms Foteini Malkogiorgou and the two volunteer teachers, Vasiliki Papadopoulou and Maria Spiliotopoulou, shared with us the theoretical background, the techniques and practical supplies, and allocated the challenge to the educator to build on children’s natural orientation to meaning and communication. The suggestion is that the first two years of children’s foreign language education explicit teaching of grammar and lexis, and reading and writing should be avoided while facilitating their understanding of speech, promoting holistic strategies for meaning, creating an environment rich in multisensory input, psychomotor responses, authentic resources and tasks that offer opportunities for meaningful interaction will eventually lead to language acquisition and spontaneous production. The results can be magical!

Report by Fani Miniadou

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Learning through the Mind and the Body - Report on Danny Singh's Session

Danny Singh started by explaining the title of his presentation. It refers to his one day, two day or weekend courses that he gives to either students or teachers all over Italy and in other countries in Europe. 

                                                                                       Photos by Elpiniki Meimaroglou

He then went on to say how the use of all the senses, the use of emotions, humour and body movement are greatly involved in learning through the Body and the Mind. All of them are completely focus on all the skills, reading, writing, listening which are the basic factors in practising and getting familiar with a language. They also aid by improving pronunciation and increasing vocabulary.

Is it possible for you to go out and mingle with foreigners, selecting randomly places of their interest? If yes, then it is highly recommended by Mr. Singh and that appeals to both the teachers and their learners. Talking to people you do not know is an excellent way of exploring new language and enables you to use every day English in a more efficiently. Pick up different pictures, listen to music, dance, watch videos or anything that can stimulate the Body and then be reflected into the Mind which in turn aids the potential learner to remember information more easily.

His session went on by outlining a series of practical activities ready to assist the teacher and use them in the classroom and outside in order to facilitate memory, making learning a far easier proposition for the learner. But how these activities can help? They surely help a lot as they deal with the four main skills required by those students following exams on their grammar, reading, writing, speaking and listening.

                                                                                                                   Photos by Elpiniki Meimaroglou

He afterwards suggested to take our students out of their comfort zone. As an anti-course book teacher himself, he clearly pointed out how important is to teach them in a more pleasant yet effective way. He added that we sometimes have to go upstream in order to find the path and adjust it to every student's learning ability which indeed is the most demanding task to do. 

Have you ever heard about the massage mathematics? verbs stretching or grammar massage? (this activity can be easily done by writing a word at one's back while the other one tries to figure it out). All of the mentioned ones were fully as well as lively demonstrated which made the attendants being completely carried away realizing that total physical response is not only joyful but enables information to be stored in Mind. 

                                                                                                                  Photos by  Elpiniki Meimaroglou

Mr. Singh continuing his lively and full of creativity presentation gave the audience numerous hands-on activities which can be immediately implemented by the teacher in and out of the classroom. Firstly, he kindly requested us to stand up, make a circle and participate. Within a few seconds the room was filled with smiling faces and loud, rejuvenating laughs. We started with the welcome laugh (facing each other laughing out loud shaking hands) then we did the milkshake laughter in 3 versions, the classic, the intolerance, the jokey and lastly the mussel laugh. We could not stop asking from Mr Singh for more as we found it useful, effective and with lots lots of joy.

If you wish to find out more about what these activities are and how you can put them in action visit Mr Danny Singh website

Report by Dimitra Christopoulou