Sunday, 8 December 2013

Nothing's implicit!

Last week was full of emotions and joy for my family. My daughter has been accepted in the Public High School of Arts after having taken exams. There was only one open place, so you can imagine how proud she made us feel. It was a big dream of hers, following her gift and talent! I don't know where it will lead her to but, at least, she tried and achieved her goal.

And here comes the tutor who has helped her all the way to the exams. When I called to tell him the good news, I thanked him for his contribution. He is a good, patient, calm, full of understanding teacher; and quite modest, I should add. His spontaneous reply, " I did what I had to do. Alexandra achieved everything on her own. During the exams she was all alone with no help from my part." I couldn't help it! I told him that I totally disagree. Being a teacher myself, I think that we should believe in ourselves! Where should I start from? We are there for our students, showing them the right methods, helping them improve their skills, letting them express themselves, standing by them. My golden rule in teaching is to show students how to handle difficulties, think of other options, not to stick in one single path. And this is what he did! After many years of teaching, allow me to think that I can judge whether a colleague tries to find alternative procedures to get the message across, depending on the personality and skills of the student.

I must admit that I was sceptical at first. I have no idea about Arts. I admire them, feel content in front of a painting, sculpture, when I listen to music, watch a film/ a play, but as for the techniques.... not a single clue...
However, I could see how my daughter trusted him, followed his instructions, leaned on him. That was enough for me.

My point is that colleagues who think out of the box, ditch the plan, make the difference; and we should thank them! As the title of the post... nothing's implicit!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Goal # 21 Ditch the plan

Last Monday, last lesson of the day with my B2 students. They came in my office with a guilty smile on their faces. It was a strange coincidence that all of them forgot their workbook either at home or at school. I smile back, 'Don't worry. We'll find something to do.' I sensed they weren't very thrilled .

They are good kids, cooperative, and I must admit that they did their best in both projects we have worked on. Then it struck me! How about finishing the last part of our project about literature? We had to arrange the presentation and they had to evaluate the whole process. What impact did it have on them? Did they gain anything?

Believe it or not, I hadn't seen them so engaged before! First, they worked  on their own, preparing their part. When  they asked me for my help, I encouraged them to help each other. I would check their outcome later.

Thus, as you can realise, I ditched the plan.

I was there as a facilitator in the procedure, watching over them without interfering. For the whole two-hour lesson they were talking in English, writing, looking up words/phrases/expressions in dictionaries or on line, editing, practising all four skills and sub-skills.

I didn't have much to do in the end. I just suggested some changes in their pieces and then I had them rehearse their presentation. There I took up the role of the director (and I loved it!). You may have noticed that some students do not know how to read aloud, where to pause, where to change the tone and use the right intonation.

Soon I hope we will have the pleasure to share our work with you!

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Seagull (Part B)

It is a national holiday today and I grabbed the opportunity to update our project with my elementasy class. 
All kids were anxious to work on our poem. I think it is more their desire to be presented in a blog post rather than the poem itself but even this motivation is quite enough to shake them up.

We first heard the poem The seagull composed by Michalis Tranoudakis and sung by Aphrodite Manou. Then I let them read the poem for themselves. I urged them to take their time and read slowly. Young pupils get easily carried away and skip meanings and language items. When they were ready, I simply asked them whether they liked it or not. They spontaneously answered, 'Yes!!!'.  But then, the big question followed, 'Why?' I must confess I was surprised with their replies. They liked the language, the lines, the rhymes, the meanings and metaphors. Elytis describes and compares the seagull (symbol of freedom) and people's lives. 

In the next phase I thought to dare them a little bit. I asked them to translate the poem as much as they could. They came up with many words. My goal is not to have them translate but I believe they will be encouraged to see their contribution in theEnglish version.

 The reason I used the original text first was that I wanted them to get familiarised with the poem. They are preliminary pupils of elementary level and my intention is to make them feel secure and confident. However, the whole discussion was in English and they successfully transferred their ideas and opinions from their mother tongue to English.

In our next lesson I will distribute the English version and we will work on from there.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Opening their wings like the seagull!!!

Fly up to the sky!

The main purpose of our literature project is to involve English learners of as many age groups and levels. This is why I thought to encourage elementary school pupils at A1+ level to participate.

As I was flicking through their anthology of their Greek language subject at school, I came across Odysseas Elytis' poem 'The seagull'. I had no doubt that we would work on it. The reason? I have a special predilection to that bird as I always connect it with freedom.

The problem was that this poem has never been translated to English. Here, I would like to thank a good friend of mine who offered to help me out and make a free translation of the poem. The aim of the project is not the translation but to get the meanings, emotions, thoughts through into the world!
Since we went past this obstacle, I was confident that they would perform excellently and they will get wholeheartedly involved. The idea that their work will be uploaded in YouTube and that other English teachers will watch it filled them with excitement and eagerness.

The first step was to find information about the poet. They did their research and in the very next lesson they were ready to answer questions about Elytis' life and work. We picked up the main points through questions. This is how it looked:
The Kids :)

In our next meeting we will start working on the poem. The best are yet to come!!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

And they glow like luminescence!!!

Today our second meeting with C2 level project participants took place. We work on Kostas Ouranis' text 'Daybreak on Mount Athos' (1949).

Briefly I will fill you in what our idea is to approach the text. First, it should be mentioned that Ouranis' works have not been translated before and our presentation will be the first attempt ever to interpret his travel descriptions in English.

In our first meeting last Saturday we talked and analysed what translation actually is. As most of the participants are not Literature or Linguistics students, they thought that we should translate the text word by word. This is what they used to do when they tried to comprehend an English context in their first language.

Well, you can imagine their surprise when they realised from the first lines that this is not how it works. The main aim of our project is to spread emotions, meanings, linguistics and language abundance of the text. Their first comments showed that it was a challenging task but I was sure they wouldn't give up! Why? Simply because they love literature!!!

In just two sessions we are almost half way through but we do not just stick to translation. We discuss why they choose specific words over their synonyms. Do they sound better? Do they reveal the underneath meaning? What thoughts, emotions do specific structures evoke?

What I have learnt from them:

They keep surprising me with their talents, their initiative, their suggestions, their ideas! I come out of the meeting much richer in experience, with new perspectives, not to mention the enrichment of my English knowledge! 

Do not forget that it is also my first attempt to spread literature into the world after all!!!

Soon we will upload a video with one of our meetings so that we can present you virually what we do!!!

Friday, 4 October 2013

It's a wrap!!!

Here is the outcome of the project that my students have created!!! Let's look back at the stages they have been through:
1. They talked in the classroom and decided what they are going to present.
2. They prepared their presentation in written form.
3. We worked on their texts and edited them where necessary.
4. They rehearsed their presentations in the classroom and filmed them. Then we watched the videos and spotted the flaws and what they can improve.
5. They filmed their final presentations.

Here, I would like to thank Antonis Kapetanos (B2 level) who put the videos together...
 I couldn't make it without him! :)

And now... enjoy the premiere!!!

It's a wrap!!!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Project - It is showtime!!!

And the time has come to present our final outcome!!!
Before filming my B1 students I had prepared their background with pictures of their presentations.
They were impatient to start and they were curious about how they look on the screen. What have they learned? They could speak for a minute on their own without my intruding and it was their own work that they had prepared. In the previous lessons they talked about the topics, they prepared their writing, they edited it, they rehearsed their presentation.
What have I learned?
I really enjoyed our lessons, the time passed by so quickly and I realised that students need just a little boost to start creating.
B2 students are coming up. Wish me good luck in our filming outdoors!!! :) 

John - Poseidonio Center  (No, it's not the same boy... they are twins!)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Project - Part 2

Today we had a rehearsal of their presentation in the classroom. These students have decided to film indoors with photos of the sights at the background. It is a draft and there is more work to be done, but you can get an idea what is going to follow.

Aristotle Square

The White Tower

The Poseidonio

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The project - Part 1 (groupB)

As I described in my previous post with my upper intermediate students, I followed the same procedure with my B1 students. As you may notice, the mistakes are more but they did not prevent the learners from getting their ideas across.
So quickly to recap:
Step 1
I took photos of their work.


Step 2
I showed their presentations on the board over a projector and made any corrections necessary together -I know, one is missing... I guess I skipped taking a photo of it. Sorry about that!
I encouraged them to edit the texts on their own and I intervened when they got stuck.


Step 3
I let the students make any alterations in their writing in their notebook and then we talked how they want to film their project. Now, I thought to give them two options. We can either visit the sights or we can film the students standing in front of the board with photos of their sight sliding behind them over a projector. I thought that they may talk with less hesitation if they feel that no one is watching them. Younger learners feel more secure in a familiar environment.

That's all for now. Next time I meet my students we will decide when we meet and how we film our projects. Of course, there will be rehearsals of their presentations as well!!!

Shall we talk about it?

Last week many shattering events took place in Greece. A young man was stabbed to death by a member of Golden Dawn ( the extreme right party), demonstrations and scuffles with the police took place in many Greek cities, citizens all over Europe demonstrated against racism and Neonazism. Last but not least, a Sunday newspaper published a photo of the dead man on the crime scene in its front page provoking new protestations.
During our studies in ELT or in seminars we hear that we should leave our worries, concerns outside the classroom. Can it be so, though ?
We live in a social environment, events and changes affect us unless we want to be indiffirent. I believe that we should get the opportunity and talk about them. Share thoughts and feelings adjusting the topic to the level of the learners. People,especially teenagers and young adults, want to express themselves. However, we must be careful and sensitive about our students' beliefs and opinions. We should make sure that one's attitude does not insult others or violate their rights.
I know it is a delicate matter but I am confident that it is useful and meaningful to analyse current affairs, see them from different perspectives, give our students the chance to get involved. Motivation is the key to communication and learners perform better when they can relate themselves to the context of the topic.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Dodecalogue of the Teacher

The Dodecalogue of the Teacher
When I saw the post of the forum in SEETA site welcoming new teachers, I spontaneously grabbed the opportunity to share my thoughts about teaching. I have been in the field for over 18 years. I have had my share in success and failure, joys and disappointments, excitement and weariness. Inspired by the great poem of Kostis Palamas ‘The Dodecalogue of a Gipsy’, I present you my own ‘Dodecalogue of a Teacher’
I.                   Teaching is an option? Drop it!
If you see teaching as an alternative of occupation, you’d better think twice. I am sorry but you are not going to make money. The effort, the extra hours at home correcting, preparing your next lesson won’t pay back.
II.                 Be flexible!
Keep all the terms of ELT Methodology at the back of your head. Soon you will realize that there is not one single correct method. Your class is full of people with their own needs, intelligence, social and educational background. You will find out that the mixture of methods is the best option and support of your teaching.
III.              Be open minded – Love differentiation!
There is not such a thing as a perfect class. You will certainly find       yourself in front of  school desks with learners of different cultures, religions, social class backgrounds. Besides, copies are boredom. Be open minded, you may learn something from them.
IV.              Be friendly to your students – not friends!
You should put limits how open you are with your learners. They should never cross the line and you should keep yourself a bit above them. Students need role models in the classroom; they can confide their worries, problems to you, share jokes but keep in mind that they need an advisor, not another ‘buddy’. In that way you don’t lose control in the classroom.
V.                Be fair and honest!
As human beings we have preferences, likes and dislikes. Try to be fair and honest with your students. Some of them may cause trouble in class, irritate you, be rude. Tell them! Be honest, not sarcastic! Your position gives you no right over them. Try to solve problems out.
VI.              Expect the unexpected!
You have prepared your lesson but something goes wrong in practice. They don’t seem to get it. Don’t panic! Don’t think you have failed! Think how you can approach the topic in another way. It’s better to have two things done instead of overloading your students with extra information.
VII.           Get up of your seat – go out of the classroom!
Engage your students in outdoor activities once in a while. Visit a museum, a sports centre, a sight. You can use English to describe things, events. No matter what learner type your students are, they will be thrilled and motivated.
VIII.         Welcome challenges!
It would be ideal to have smart, diligent, obedient students but this is not the case. Don’t forget there are students with learning difficulties. Their IQ is high but they cannot show it in their skills performance. Don’t turn your back to them. Meet the challenge. Help them, support them. You will feel more satisfaction when you overcome the obstacles.
IX.              Keep up to date!
Attend seminars, English language venues, sign in forums, don’t be afraid to ask. Internet has opened a whole new world. You just step in. There are blogs, free webinars, articles, you just name it. And one good thing about our professions is that most colleagues are willing to help, share their experience, knowledge.

X.                Be a human!
No one expects ( or should expect) you to be perfect. If you don’t know the answer to the question, just tell them. For instance, you may not know the teenage slang language. After all, all English teachers are not native speakers. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if adult native speakers don’t know either… Tell them that you will look it up. Some of them will appreciate it. It means you don’t forget their request, you put time and effort to find the answer. The impatient ones may be displeased. Do not worry!
XI.              Give time to yourself!
Find some time during your day to relax and do things that you enjoy. Tired teachers get grumpy, impatient, everybody/ everything annoys them.
XII.           Be proud of yourself!
Yes, you must be proud! You share knowledge, you help people to communicate in another language. Don’t think this is a minor thing. When you hear your students talking in English, just sit back and think: “ I did that! I helped them all the way and now they can understand and speak in a foreign language!”

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The project - step 1

As I have promised in my previous post, I am going to describe how we have worked on the presentations for the project I participate with other collegues aroud the world.

The students are in upper-intermediate level. No wonder that not all of them brought their work at all or complete or of full length. So, we had to start all over again. I thought to take photos of their work and show them over a projector on the white board. Then, with the help of the interactive board we made changes, vocabulary/spelling/grammar corrections and enriched the text if we noticed that it was too short. We didn't have much time so we were halfway.

Presentation1 - by Elena

She is new in class so I tried to make her feel comfortable. Her presentation was rather short and she didn't seem to have caught the concept of the project. Thus, I opened the word processor and I typed the text that she was producing. They all could see the text on the white board. The other students helped too as I was asking them what else we could include in the presentation. The result was...

At the end of the class I had the text printed and asked her to think at home if there is something more she would like to add.

Presentation 2 - by Antonis

Antonis is a boy who likes talking. That is a good thing because he improves his speaking skills but his writing shows in some parts no cohesion, there are too long sentences or he repeats things over and over again. In his case we had to shorten his text; otherwise he could go on talking for hours... :)
So, we edited his text by omitting irrelevant or unimportant facts and the outcome was...

Unfortunately, we had no more time. Next week we are going to read the rest of the presentations and decide when we are going to film the spots... till then wait  for the presentations of B1 students...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A new project on its way

It is already the second day for my school and I think we started well. We agreed with the students of all classes about the schedule - thank God, I didn't have to play Sudoku this year to fit all their after-school activities! Then, I talked to them about the project that my colleague, Theodora Papapanagiotou, has in mind and I want to help with. All seemed very excited and liked the idea. I had already written a permission letter for their parents to sign as they are teenagers, Ι distributed it and then we discussed about the topics they want to cover in the project. As expected, they wanted to present their home town. I think it is a topic they feel confident about. They have already read and worked on texts from coursebooks about other cities and they have certainly taken part in cultural projects in their school.

The next thing I had to do was to explain to them what steps are about to follow. I don't know whether they have realised it or not, but I gave them homework to do for our next meeting. They have to bring their text so that we read them, make any changes if necessary and so on. I just warned them not to copy from a site because their speech won't sound natural and the issue is not to present a perfect language but too scholar. I want them to get engaged and speak in the video naturally. At least, I think that is the core point of communication.

Well, we see how it goes - never forget that teenagers get easily enthusiastic but somewhere on the way they lose interest... In my next post I will tell you how we have worked on the texts (if any!). I have some ideas about it.... till later then!

Monday, 16 September 2013

A new school year!!!

It is this time of the year that language schools all over Greece start their lessons. I wish you all prosperous, full of fun classes and don't forget... these are the moments that we, the teachers, share our knowledge. Students and their parents invest their time in us ( not to mention their money), so let's try to make the most of it!!!