On June 22nd, TESOL MTh, Northern Greece closed the academic year with an interesting, educational and fun event at one of the most beautiful venues- the Macedonia-Thrace Folklore and Ethnological Museum. The event began- after a very long delay due to technical issues- with a presentation by Dr Mattheoudakis and Ms Elena Sofroniadou and was followed by a tour of the Museum by its curator, Mr. Zisis Skambalis.
TesolMTh was honored to have Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis and Ms Elena Sofroniadou presenting “Training the Early Bird to Catch the Worm: Wishful Thinking or Reality?” Through this most interesting presentation, we delved into the new policies surrounding English Language Learning at the experimental school as well as the ‘why’s and the how’s’ of early language learning. Dr. Mattheoudakis took the stand first and explained how language learning serves not only as a purpose in itself but also as a medium for raising intercultural awareness and tolerance to linguistic and cultural diversity. She then gave us a breakdown of the eclectic approach which the teachers of the experimental school chose to follow, i.e. choosing those fun and engaging activities from a range of approaches (Lexical, Suggestopeadia, Task based, Multisensory, Discovery etc.). The reason being that young learners learn through senses, experientially, they’re imaginative and brave and good at guessing; they need to move and they learn through movement; grammar is meaningless to them, so there is no need for explicit teaching. On the other hand, young learners have very short attention spans; they have good memories but also tend to forget quickly. As Dr. Mattheoudakis pointed out, young learners are alleged to be better language learners and this is true as far as pronunciation and listening is concerned. Hence, her advice is to use L2 in the classroom even if learners don’t understand.
Ms Elena Sofroniadou then took over and showed the attendees via video how this eclectic approach is implemented at grade 1. Ms Sofroniadou introduced the thematic areas which were covered, such as colours, animals, Halloween, etc. and how these were built and extended through various stories. For example, the story "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" was used to introduce animals, extended with more animal vocabulary and then extended even further to include adjectives. A personal favourite was the fruit party, where young learners were actually having a fruit party in class! Choral work, songs and choreography were also shown as well as arts and crafts, all bringing together the eclectic approach as was explained by Dr. Mattheoudakis at the beginning.
Our event continued with an interesting and informative tour of the Folklore and Ethnological Museum for all participants. What struck most of us was the passion and fervor with which our guide and Manager of the museum, Mr. Zisis Skambalis, spoke of the exhibits, his own personal involvement in recovering these but also, the necessity of such museums which preserve a country’s history. And for those English teachers who might have designers, mechanics, architects and engineers, this museum would be definitely worth a tripfew drinks.
To finish off the event the board and members took their time in enjoying the beautiful garden, with a cold drink and a few delicious snacks. And what better way could we find to end the year?
By Natasha Loukeri
Video credits: Margarita Kosior