Friday, 22 April 2016

Let Peace talk through Arts - Part 3

Music was the third kind of Arts that I chose to trigger teenagers to express themselves about a controversial issue,i.e. peace/war. I used a worksheet from  Imagine - John Lennon but of course it is up to you to adopt the task according to your students' level and skills.

I have chosen this particular song because I wanted to motivate my teenage students to talk about a universal topic concerning most citizens, intrigued by a well-known composer and singer. It gave my young learners the stand to express their thoughts, opinions and feelings on the matter, not because they were externally motivated by a reward or lesson object but because they would get the satisfaction of completing a task on a topic that interests them. They had the opportunity to develop both their higher and lower thinking skills since they were involved in preparing an interview with the singer and summarising the main points of the song.

And here is the lesson plan

Step 1 
First, I had my Intermediate students listen to the music of the song without the lyrics. They immediately recognised it since they had heard it many times before. I asked them whether they know any of the lyrics or even some words of the song. Obviously, they were motivated to complement each other in  group work.

Step 2
 In the next stage I distributed the worksheet with the word gaps and I encouraged them to fill in the missing words in  pairs. These both first lesson activities activated the learners’ knowledge and contributed to them being introduced  to the listening activity. The outcome was quite satisfactory as they completed the task with no difficulty although they did not know every word of the lyrics. Thus, I could go on to evaluate and expand in the meanings of the song with questions that induced  their thinking skills, e.g. comprehension, analysis and evaluation.

Step 3
I asked them to write down questions that they would like to ask John Lennon. Let them act the interview. It is a good practice of forming questions and replies.

Step 4
Let them summarise the main points of the song and express their feelings and opinion. As I have called it Listen- Feel - Ask.
How do you feel when you listen to the song?
Does it make you think? 

The main advantage was that almost every student showed interest and wanted to participate in the process, which proved that they were motivated by the topic and they were encouraged by their peers and their teacher to complete the activities. They were involved in pair and group work as well as  autonomously. They practised their speaking, listening and writing skills, were engaged with concepts like peace/war/religion, expanded their vocabulary and felt approved by their peers and their teacher.

However, there was a problem that I had anticipated. They seemed to have difficulty in expressing themselves to some extent on controversial issues, e.g. religion, countries. This could be because they do not have the commensurable experience and language level. I tried to motivate them by referring to previous lessons where we talked about our ideal city or world. I encouraged them to adapt those ideas in the new discussion. It was a good opportunity to show them that their knowledge is not restricted to one issue and that it can be used tailored to the situations accordingly.

In my opinion, the students have enjoyed this new listening task and discussion approach as it was an enjoyable, different activity from the standard ones they cope with in their coursebooks. Furthermore, we were able to develop and put into practice various skills and sub-skills, i.e. speaking and writing, analysing, applying and evaluating a piece of work. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Let Peace talk through Arts- Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I chose three different kinds of Arts to talk about Peace with my Intermediate students in their project.
This time I used a video showing an amazing artist Ilana Yahav drawing on the sand.
These are the steps I followed to encourage my students to talk about the video.
Step 1
Let the students watch the video. Ask them to note down as many words as they remember from it. It can be  pair work or  group work
Step 2
On a “Globe”  mindmap write the subheadings “Earth” “War” “Peace”
Let the students list the vocabulary they have found accordingly. This is the time you can expand their vocabulary and add new words they do not know in English.
Step 3
This video is full of symbolism. It is a good opportunity to encourage your students to talk about symbols and what they understand from them, i.e lighting – symbol of ? = destruction, an old man – symbol of? = wisdom, sun shining – symbol of? = hope, future, a new beginning
Step 4

As homework you can give them the assignment to write a review of the video.  In the classroom they can check their writing in  pairs and improve any parts in grammar and vocabulary. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Let Peace talk through Arts - Part 1

Last year I ran another project with my Intermediate students ,inspired by my dear colleague Patty Salguero, an English teacher in Peru. We talked about running a joint project in an attempt to connect our students through arts. We decided to talk about Peace and War ,our creativity triggered by Picasso’s painting Guernica.
I took it a step further and added more forms of Ars, filming and music. This is the first post of the whole project, starting with interpreting Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I will present it like a lesson plan so that I can it keep it brief, precise and clear.


Step 1
Present the painting over a projector on the whiteboard. Let the students observe the painting. Let them even come close to the whiteboard so that they can have a closer look.
Step 2
Give them time to write down all the objects they have seen. It is a good chance to revise vocabulary related to emotions, war, peace, face  expressions  and body language. Draw a mindmap with subheadings on the whiteboard and let them add all the words they have come up with accordingly.
Step 3
As homework, share the link of an interpretation of the painting by the expert Gijs van Hensbergen in an article on BBC News. (Source Their work should be to scan the text and note down the most important information they think there is. Emphasise that they do not need to understand all  the points of the text ,which might be of a higher level than theirs. The objective of the task is to recognise the information and the key meanings to fulfil the assignment.
Step 4
In the next lesson ,students gather all the symbolism  of the different parts of the painting on a board. They can even gather them all on a digital board like
Step 5
In the final stage of the first part of the project, students summarise their comments, opinions, emotions in a paragraph. It is the time to evaluate this masterpiece of Art on paper. They can even write a post on their blog or record a Vlog if they wish to express themselves in digital form.

Acknowledgement to

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Present- A lesson plan on a video

Lesson Plan
This is a lesson around disabilities and how someone can deal with their own. It is a short film by Jacob Frey based on a comic strip by Fabio Coala.
Language Level: Pre-intermediate (A2) – Lower Intermediate (B1)
Learner type: Teenagers, young adults
Time: 50 minutes
Activity: Listening to the beginning of the film, speculating what it is about, predicting what is going to happen next, watching the film to the end, writing a narrative
Language : Vocabulary related to disabilities, emotions, present simple and present continuous
Material: Short film

Step 1
Write the word “present” on the board. Elicit vocabulary related to the topic.
What do people usually give as presents?
On which occassions?
Step 2
Let the learners listen to the beginning of the film with no pictures till the moment that the boy opens the box and the puppy is barking. You can even ask them to close their eyes and see  if they can visualise the scene better that way. Stop the video and ask them what it is about.
What sounds can you hear?
Who is talking?
What is the present?
Step 3
Let them see the film from the beginning till the moment that the boy rejects the puppy.
Elicit vocabulary about emotions, e.g. excited, disgusted, gross, happy, playful
How does the boy react to the present at first?
Why does he reject it?
How does the puppy feel?
Step 4
Let them see the scenes with the puppy and the ball.
Elicit vocabulary about movements and actions, e.g. push away, fall upside down, notice, limp, run into, push with its nose, cupboard, cardboard, ball
Step 5
Let them see the film to the end.
How is the boy reacting to the puppy’s play?
What surprises you?
Elicit vocabulary related to physical  disability, e.g. crutches, amputee, amputate
Step 6
After the film expand about the topic.
Do you remember what the boy does at the beginning of the film? Where is he? What  is the room like ? Why? Is he trying to hide from something?
How does the puppy help the boy after all?
How do you feel about the film?
Step 7
As homework, ask the students to write a narrative of the story. Write the link of the film on the board so that they can refer to it in case they forget some parts.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tips to kick off the new school year!

In my previous post I promised to share some ideas  on how to start the new school year with old and new English learners. No matter whether I already know my students from the previous year or they are new in the class, it is always  an awkward task  to get them involved and motivated from the first day, particularly so after  a long break like summer holidays.
This year I have decided to get unstuck from my comfort zone; apart from asking them the typical questions: “Did you have a good time this summer?” “Where did  you go?” and the rest, I tried some ideas which I found on the Net and I am really grateful to the colleagues who shared those tips.
So, let’s get started!
Tip 1
Who wants to travel on my spaceship? (Beginners and Elementary level)
First, you tell them to say their names. Write them on the board. Then you ask them if they wish to travel on your spaceship. But to do that they should bring something along. Write on the board:

I want to travel on your spaceship and I bring a ………………….. with me.
I want to travel on your spaceship and I bring some ………………….. with me.

The key is that the object that they should think of must start with the first letter of their names. You can start with your own name. For example, I say “ My name is Jo. I want to travel on your spaceship and I bring some jellies with me.” The funnier the things they think of, the more fun your class will have.

Tip 2
Look who I met (Elementary level and on)
Get your students to know each other. Tell them to choose their partner and ask each other questions . The higher their level, the more topics they can cover, i.e. family members, hobbies, favourite food, leisure time.
Then, tell them to present their partner to the rest of the class. This way, their classmates will learn more about the person introduced and the information will be circulated. For the kinesthetic learners you can practice this activity with the ball. Students throw a soft ball to their partner asking a question. However, their challenge will be to remember all the facts that their co-player is sharing.

Tip 3
 Let them know more about you (from Intermediate level and on)

I wrote some facts about myself under the numbers 1-6 , like some names, numbers, dates , etc. I told them to choose first a number and then ask a question so that they may get the answer. For example:
Nr1 – 19 years – “How long have you been teaching?” Correct answer !
It is not very easy to  form the right question from the start and it would be a good idea to mix easy and difficult prompts so that they can get the right answers in the beginning and later move on to a higher level. You can certainly adapt this activity according to your students’ level and age.

Tip 4
Post-it!  (Elementary level and on)
Give your students four post-it pieces. Tell them to write one statement about themselves on each one of them. Get a big piece of carton and stick their posts on it. You can have that poster on the board, let the students read them and guess who wrote what.
These are some of the activities that I practised on the first day of the school year and I am sure you can find further interesting ones on the Net. The main aim is, however, to have fun and raise your students' interest and engage them in their learning as they kick off the new school year.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Reflections of the first week back to school

The first week of the school year has just finished and I just want to note down my thoughts and experiences I shared with my students while I am enjoying my weekend free of lessons.
It has been a week full with timetable arrangements, meetings with parents, lesson plans, coursebooks and their components and colleague meetings.
But the most enjoyable moment was when I came up with the idea to introduce our school mascots. It popped up quite accidentally, actually. In our Creativity Room I discovered two old toy puppies in the boxes with crayons, markers, dolls and cartons. And I thought, “Why not? I will start the first day of our lessons with them.”
I went into the classroom and first I introduced myself. Some of the students know me already but there are new ones as well , who would get to know me as a teacher in action. Then I let them find out more about me and their classmates by using question games. But this is another post, stay tuned ! And then the big moment came… I took out of a bag the two mascots. I could see their excitement and their curiosity right from the beginning.  I shared my names- for- the- mascots finding  puzzle  with them. Could they help me find some for our puppy mascots? But there was a condition. The names should be relative to our school or classroom. We had a good laugh while they were brainstorming with the most inventive names, like Mr Pencil and  Ms Pen or Mr Laptop and Ms Mouse.  You can imagine how proud I felt when they finally agreed that we should call our mascots Ms Jo and Mr George, their teachers. We are the core of the school after all, aren’t we?  And I, wholeheartedly, believe that teachers are the soul of a school, not the teaching means or technology.

At this point I would like to stress the advantages on introducing a mascot in the classroom based on my reflections:
  •  It can work as an icebreaker and teachers encourage their  students to speak.
  •  A useful interaction tool between the teacher and the students and among the learners.
  •   It can be applied in all language levels and ages.
  •      It can be connected to any topic-related words.
  •      Learners feel relaxed and express themselves effortlessly.
  •     Most learners are familiar with mascots.
  •  They feel, especially the youngsters, a special bond between them and their school.
  •    With all  classes , mascots can be used  as the reward awarding agent  instead of the teacher ( and they find it really amusing !) , as well as a way to draw attention to student  (and teacher ! ) errors.

The mascot can be anything , a toy , an umbrella full with stickers with the students’ names on ,any of the multitude of objects found in a school.

All in all , it was an enjoyable experience for both my learners and myself , and it is definitely worth trying with your classes.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Goal #2 Be Someone's Champion


                       Interview with David Gibson and Luke Prodromou

                      David Gibson
Luke Prodromou

On a warm Greek Saturday afternoon, I met my two champions, David Gibson and Luke Prodromou. David is a teacher and teacher-trainer and has also worked as an examiner, team-leader, and inspector for a major examining board; he has now retired from active duty. Luke is a teacher, author, teacher trainer, and has also been an examiner for Cambridge and an item writer for the kpg exams. And I mention just a few of the things they have done so far. But they both agree that their brainchild, The Dave’n’Luke project, is their most important work as yet.
When asked how long their cooperation has been going on, they were happy to say they met a long time ago, teaching at the British Council of Thessaloniki, Greece.  David joined the British Council in 1987 where Luke was already working and performing in the Bits and Pieces theatre group with other teachers and students, which resulted in the publication of a book of original sketches. When this ended they formed the Teachers' and Students' Theatre Group putting on full-length plays by established playwrights. Since then, they had been working in the same town, each always promoting drama. There was a short period when they didn’t see each other much but, when David retired, they got together and somehow the idea of forming a project to write and perform based on drama and literature cropped up. They had the idea of getting a group of interested people together to revive Bits and Pieces and perform in support of the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign. After the initial meeting, the others dropped out and so it was just Dave and Luke. And it’s been fruitful since. Since December 2010 they have performed at teachers' conferences, in schools, colleges, and universities all over Greece, and, to date in ten other countries - more than sixty performances.
Then I asked them what they hope to accomplish through their project. Well, they said, first the obvious sheer pleasure they have working on their materials, rehearsing them and presenting them, plus the enjoyment of the warm welcome and positive response they receive whenever and wherever they perform. An educator, they pointed out, must be inspired by what he/she does in order to inspire others. And they do entertain their audiences and thus inspire them, since entertainment is not merely laughter but also food for thought. And they’re happy when they get people to think. A further reason why they do it is that they want drama to be transferred to the classroom, as drama is interactive, interpersonal, it is live –not a text, it promotes language acquisition as it gives learners the chance to use language and vocabulary in context, glean meanings in a real life situation, fathom the nuances of stress and intonation and so much more. From body language and gesture to the very simple learning of new vocabulary, dramatising it helps. More often than not, drama has proven the catalyst that turned a poorly performing learner into a star. And the benefits of using drama in the classroom have been observed, scientifically analysed and results of such studies have been presented in many an international conference.
Finally, I asked them where they get their inspiration from: “Each other “, they both  replied . They are both men of extensive education, reading, interests as wide as music and the theatre to football and so on, life is their stage and from life they get their ideas. They meet , exchange ideas, like some, discard some or put them aside for the time being, then choose some, brainstorm, consider factors such as “ Do we like it?’ , “Will they like it?’ And as soon as they’ve made up their minds, they get down to writing. While writing, they make changes. At times one of them may write half the dialogue while the other will contribute just the one sentence .At other times it will come spontaneously to both of them. It is the very fact that they really communicate at a deep level -they know each other this well-that allows them not to compete but rather complement one another.
Listening to them both, and feeling the passion they have for teaching- because educators they are first and foremost – enriched me as a person, as their presentations and performances have through the years .And naturally, they have encouraged me to keep pushing to become a better teacher, to keep learning, to discover ways to be inspired and inspiring, what they themselves have been through time. Dave and Luke-and the order is purely alphabetical- you are my champions. Thank you!