Saturday, December 31, 2016

Then, now and after...

When I said that I would write in the last day of the year, I didn’t really know what I was going to write about. I felt really adventurous. But then again, isn’t it how we are supposed to be when we think about our future?
A lot of things have happened in the year that passed.
Opportunities, lots of hard work and effort, lots of joys, lots of struggle, no personal time at all…
Last year I had the opportunity to fulfill a lot of my dreams or 2016 resolutions.
Working as a teacher trainer has given me the chance to do a lot of research, to learn new things while teaching, to meet new wonderful teachers around the country and abroad and share ideas, lesson plans and good mood.
I had the chance to create my own material (which actually would be sold to clients and not only used by my students), learn new skills, work online and offline, give presentations, take part in conventions and wonderful teacher initiatives.
I went abroad both as a teacher trainer and as a yoga instructor - this last thing I never expected in my life...maybe this will give me the chance to find another professional path for the future?
And no, I am not just talking about my adventures to brag. I am sure that each one of us has their own professional and personal adventures, achievements and stories.
It’s December, it’s the end of the year.
So for me it’s time to make a list  - I love lists by the way.
What have I done this year?
What was good? What was bad?
Have I achieved everything I wanted? What fell behind?
How do I feel about it?
Yes, there were and still are a lot of negative things that happened during this past year.
Sometimes I wasn’t careful, sometimes it was not up to me.That’s life.
I am still trying to fix things. And I will. Or at least I’ll try.
So I am setting a task for myself for the next year. Like I do every year.
Some people call this New Year’s resolutions, I call them life goals.
Another list.
What’s important?  
What is your wildest, most far-fetched dream?
This is what you have to go after.
Dream, plan and just go for it!
From the bottom of my heart I wish you people a wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Xmas 2016: The Big Finale! Micaela and her students in Palermo

Last Day of our Christmas project!
Micaela was the first person who participated in the project. All here students were so excited to make the video.
Thank you so much for participating!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Xmas 2016: Crafty Christmas with Christina and her students!

Day 22: Everybody enjoys a good craft - Christina from Athens and her students are showing us how to have fun and learn at the same time!

It’s finally December, the greatest, most loving time of the year...right before we greet a bright and wonderful set of twelve new months.
For the last month of 2016, my friend Dora came up with the challenge to post an activity every day until Christmas - and oh how we love being challenged!
My absolute favourite is learning by making all kinds of somethings, using all senses and practising many different skills at once; so two of my little elves decided to find, make and share easy seasonal crafts with materials we have around our class and home.
I hope you’ll enjoy the activities with Despina and Irini in their video and get inspired to make and learn too.

Happy crafty Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Xmas 2016: Lesson ideas with Maria!

Day 21 and we are going to Amyndaion, Greece to see what Maria and her students have been doing

Decorate the Christmas Tree. A quiz with a twist!
                                by Maria Vlachopoulou
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Thus, I find it very challenging every year to introduce English Christmas customs and traditions to my students. They may already be familiar with some of these from films, songs or books.
This year I have decided to spend a few minutes in every lesson in December introducing a piece of information for Christmas, which students had to write down in your notebooks and learn. On the last lesson before Christmas we are going to have a Christmas Quiz in teams and see what we have learned! This is my plan step by step!

STEP 1: In  every lesson we do a little bit of something about Christmas. I have chosen to talk about Christmas food, Christmas traditions, Christmas decorations, the names of the Reindeer, information about Santa Claus and the Elves, to read a simplified version of “A Christmas Carol” and do a worksheet* on it and to listen to Christmas songs and Carols-you can find some nice videos here.**

STEP 2: I have prepared some cards with questions from what we have done all these days.

STEP 3: I have divided my students in teams, giving each team a colour, for example a red team, a green team etc. Each team will get a handout with ornaments***, which they will have to cut and colour  according to the colour of their team.

STEP 4: On the day of the quiz, I will put up a big Christmas tree on the board-or draw it if it’s not easy to make. The teams will play in turns. For each correct answer the team puts an ornament on the tree. The team with the most ornaments wins!
Ø  Variations: You can adapt the quiz depending on your students’ age or level. For younger students you can just teach some Christmas vocabulary and do the quiz with flashcards. For older students you can prepare harder questions.


Online resources

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Xmas 2016: Memories with Anastasia from Cyprus

Day 20: Anastasia from Cyprus is sharing her favourite Christmas memories with us!

Christmas Memories. - Christmas has always been my favourite time of year after the summer. As a little girl, I would help mum decorate the Christmas tree and make the traditional Christmas sweets. On Christmas day all the family would gather together at mum's whose cooking can still equal that of a great chef. I can still picture me sitting on grandma's lap , asking for yet another Christmas story....Mum would then serve champagne and canapés in the shape of Christmas stars or Christmas bells which prepared the palate for the festive lunch. After lunch, the Christmas cake was served in the living-room with coffee and liqueurs while we'd open up our presents which had been placed under the Christmas tree a couple of weeks before Christmas - all bearing the label "Don't open before Christmas". I remember how anxious I was to open them before Christmas but mum said that if I did, Santa would never again bring me any presents at all. Terrified at the tought of Santa's wrath, I would sit on the floor by the Christmas tree contemplating the nicely wrapped boxes..trying to guess or imagine what was in them. Nothing much has changed through time as I still anticipate Christmas with the wonderment of a little girl.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Xmas 2016: Barbi's lesson plans

Day 19:  
Today we are going to Hungary to read about Hungarian traditions and Barbi's lessons ideas!

Have you been nice this year?

The Hungarian tradition

Christmas tree, jingle bells, Santa, they are around throughout December. Here in Hungary the tradition is a bit different thought. It is NOT Santa that brings you presents at Christmas! Santa comes on 6th December, he has smaller gifts in his bag, he has an assistant (Krampusz) who is a kind of devil,  and if you’ve been naughty..., well, you’ll be given “virgács”, a bunch of  tree branches painted gold instead of chocolate and small presents.

Classroom management and Santa Claus

Well before Santa Claus day parents and teachers--quite controversially--play the  “virgács” card when behaviour problems occur. If you are a teacher, from 1st November you are entitled to stop bad behaviour by reminding kids of how Santa is watching. Although I hate all big-brother-like, shame-based  approaches to behaviour management and loath to give the responsibility to Santa, to an extent I have to fit in with the cultural environment of my beloved home country.

Here are some of my pre-Christmas lesson snippets, they focus on self-awareness, self-knowledge, empathy, they are a bit own-language heavy though, some of the steps might just work in a monolingual group where the teacher speaks the students’ L1. I have used them with small groups and individuals.

The internet knows whether they are naughty or nice

1. I remind kids of Santa day and explain to them that Santa and his helpers constantly assess their behaviour and put their names on the nice or the naughty list accordingly. I give examples of what behaviour causes them end up on the nice or the naughty list.
Language work:
Elicit phrases about behaviour: waste time, be late, help mom, bite my sister, etc.

Language work:
Exploit the picture: ask questions about the things and characters or just explain what is happening to provide input.
3. We enter the site and tell them how it works. (It give access to Santa’s report on your behaviour.)
Language work:
Listening to the explanation

4 We see the report.
Most of the time the level of the report is too high for my young learners, so I explain them that we can always ask Google Translate to help us understand it. I also explain that Google Translate is very good, but its Hungarian is quite poor, so it needs our help. At this moment they are very curious about their report, so they don’t really care about helping anyone :)
Language work:
You can read out the report with stops. They have to follow the written text and put the mouse to the place in the text where you stopped. (Just a little awareness of spelling-pronunciation.)

5. Help Google Translate.
I copy the report in Google translate and we listen to both the English and the Hungarian side. This might trigger unstoppable laughter, ba warned!
Now they really want to know what exactly Santa says about them. We then “suggest and edit” (by clicking on the bottom right of the box and together correct the Hungarian translation.
Language work:
This is only to contrast the two languages, which may be useful in the long run, you may show them a little bit about the difference of the underlying logics of the two languages.
6. Evaluating the whole thing
I ask them is they think Santa is right. Most often they think he is, even when there are obvious mistakes in the report :)
Language work:
Negative sentences: the report says “Every now and then gets a little cranky”--->I don’t get cranky, Santa is wrong!
At this point I always tell them the truth: this website has absolutely nothing to do with either Santa or their behaviour. I explain this is just a website that presents random sentences. Depending on their age and level of intellectual/cognitive development, I also tell them about the phenomenon subjective validation and make a reference to magazine horoscopes and fortune tellers, just to instill a bit of critical thinking.

Another two lists
I have a larger sheet of paper in my classroom divided into two sides: I’m nice /I’m naughty.
Both sides have behaviour examples, both good and bad. All my small groups use the same sheet, so week by week more and more naughty or nice things appear. I ask my students to say a few examples of their behaviour that count as “nice” in Santa’s standards. They can say these in L1 and I translate them and we write them on the sheet. I also encourage them to enlist some naughty things they do, the criterion here is that these things can be improved. I want to raise awareness to the fact that they are ABLE to control themselves, even when they are tired or hungry or frustrated. Of course I know they are kids, but a little effort can work wonders.
They  are really curious about other kids’ strengths and weaknesses, which adds to the excitement.
(This stage often turns into a discussion where they speak Hungarian, they are often not so sure about what counts as naughty and what is nice. This part may help them negotiate their values and make them think about how their behaviour affects others.)

Language work:
Loads of present simple sentences to use in a meaningful way, picking up relevant vocabulary, personalizing.

Hopefully you have picked up some ideas.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas (hoping you have been nice all year),

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Xmas 2016: Traditions from Argentina with Fabiana

Day 18: Have you ever wonder how they celebrate it abroad?

Do they go somewhere? do they do aything special?
Fabiana Casella was kind enough to prepare this presentation!
Click here to watch.