Number Three – Ask A Learner – The 30 Goals Challenge 2012

Shelly Sanchez-Terrell (Image taken from Shelly's blog)

Shelly Sanchez-Terrell, an educator who has inspired literally thousands of people with her 30 Goals Challenges (and with her blog, tweets and Facebook page and the numerous talks she gives around the world) is coming back this year, with the 30 Goals Challenge for 2012 – Dare to Believe!

I would like to start doing them again this year – join in and inspire us all with your videos, posts and experiences.

I am going to start with Number Three – Ask A Learner! You can also read Shelly’s post and watch her video on Goal Number Three.

As a great number of educators out there, I have always enjoyed being a learner. Be it a language, skill or so. In class, regardless of the age of the students I teach, I share with them what helps me learn. I like to point out what works for me, so that they can look inside them and see what works for them. When students and particularly kids see their teacher as a learner, that gives them extra motivation.

Especially with younger students we try to discover what helps them learn and we remember that everyone works and learns in a different way. I have heard teachers get annoyed because some children lip-read or whisper when they read. Not all of them read silently.

I remember a student of mine who loved visual cues – we used that to his advantage and he learned so much. Others are audio-learners, others kinaesthetic, others learn better taking down notes…a diversity that makes learning such a great experience!

Asking the learners also brings to my mind asking for their feedback about their learning in general – if they like what we do in class, what more they want and how we educators can help them. Surely we are there and can see what they need, where they are doing well and where they need improvement, what they like and what not – but giving them ownership of their learning and showing them that we care about and respect their opinions and presence in our classes, gives them motivation for their learning.

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Monday Morning Inspiration – My Post for Brad Patterson’s (@brad5patterson) Blog Challenge

Some books from my collection

A few weeks ago, Brad Patterson, a fantastic person and educator located in France, and a person I am honoured to call a friend, posted a blog challenge on his blog A Journée in Language – Brad asked us to say which quote defines our teaching style. In the comments section, there is a huge number of amazing and inspiring quotes! I mentioned one that I (still) cannot remember who said it or if it was exactly said that way: A good teacher is always a learner.

I was going to write about that one. This morning though, as I was getting ready for class, drinking my coffee and checking out Twitter, I found this by Chris McCullough in Red Deer, Alberta:

The best part of my job is that it has inspired me to always be a learner… #teaching #abed

It hit me! This is it! A short, beautiful sentence that sums it all up so perfectly. Lots of us wake up so inspired every morning to go to work, which is so inspiring and motivating, it cannot even be called work. On a daily basis we all strive to do our best…and learn.

  • From social media: numerous are the posts and articles that mention Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to name but a few media that have greatly assisted educators worldwide to connect and learn from each other. It is unbelievable to see how many collaborations have begun, posts been written, conferences organised and educators connected face-to-face thanks to social media.
  • From books (paper, electronic or audio): a lot of educators continue reading about education wherever they are. Commuting on a train has become a joy for me as I can find lots of time to read – and I learn a great deal in the process!
  • Studies: Many decide to continue their studies and go on to Masters or PhDs, or do further courses  to enrich their knowledge and benefit their students as well.
  • Mentoring: Educators learn daily from other educators with rich experience and advice which can help them in their profession.
  • Conferences and workshops: A great number give up their weekends and free time in general (and great amounts of money, very often from their own budget) to attend conferences and workshops, very often far away from home and their families. It is another great way to learn and network with interesting people.

So, keep up the good work of learning every day! You are doing something great for yourself, as a aperson and educator, and your students can only see benefits from it.

A big thank you to Chris McCullough for his fantastic tweet-quote that made my day and my teaching career! You can visit Chris’s blog The Pocket Rocket to read some very inspiring posts.

A big thank you to Brad Patterson for an inspiring blog challenge, that collected a great number of great quotes from all over the world.

A Super Year!

I hope this has been a great year for all of you!

2011 has been for the main part a great year for me – I would like to say thank you to all of you for making it so special! I have felt so inspired this year, be it from working with great people and students, participating in conferences, online chats on Twitter (such as ELTChat and finnedchat) with amazing educators from around the world from whom I have learnt and who have challenged my thinking, interviewing some and being interviewed as well, meeting some for the first time and seeing old friends, writing blog posts, taking part in fantastic projects like the iTDi project!

May 2012 be great as well, full of health and happiness for all of us. 

I wish everybody Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! All the best!

#iTDi and #TeachMeet – Professional Development At Its Very Best

Yesterday was a super day – professional development at its best, educators’ paradise!

In the morning, the International Teachers Development Institute, known as iTDi, had organised a great set of webinars, co-ordinated by presenters none other than the super Shelly Terrell and Steven Herder. Speakers included Chuck Sandy, Luke Meddings, Scott Thornbury, Jonh Fanselow and Marcos Benevides. Great speakers, fantastic educators and people we could all listen to, free of charge, from the comfort of our own homes or workplaces. It is amazing and I still wonder at what technology has helped us all do!

After the iTDi webinar, followed TeachMeet International, another webinar organised and co-ordinated by a fantastic educator in Croatia, Arjana Blazic and a super one in Belgium I hope to meet in the future, Bart Verswijvel. Sonja Lusic-Radosevic, a colleague of Arjana’s (the two of them have created a fantastic website for Croatian students, Moja Matura) was the tech sepcialist and took great screenshots of all the speakers!

The great and original thing about TeachMeet was that each speaker had just three minutes to speak. We heard some fantastic people speaking and learned a lot. It was great for me, as I realised I can speak in three minutes (as I can be a big chatterbox! Ha ha!).

Both were fantastic experiences, full of energy and inspiration. It is great and all of us as educators are so fortunate to have these events going on.

Screenshot from TeachMeet (taken by Elinda Gjondedaj, English teacher from Greece)

So whenever you find out about something like this, be sure to let your colleagues know as well! Not all of them may join, but some have taken the plunge into social media, never looking back.

Educators Everywhere, Congratulations!

Congratulations to you all and thank you for everything you do! (Image taken from http://www.afamousartist.com)

These past two years, I have been connecting with educators everywhere in the world, either through Twitter, Nings, Wikis – you name it! I have learned and am still learning from them daily and I would like to say a big thank you for that. I have been so fortunate to meet some of you in person and I am sure I will be meeting lots of you in the future!

A few days ago my blog reached the fifth place in the finalists in the Edublog Awards, which was great news for me and a big thank you to everyone who nominated me, voted for me, supported me and the blog I have been writing for two years now. Lots of teachers were given awards in the Edublogs and lots are receiving recognition every day, either in awards ceremonies, their schools, conferences and meetings, from their students, the students’ parents, colleagues and employers.

Taking all this into consideration, I would like to congratulate each and everyone of you out there because everything you do daily is a great step, a great stone for the building of education.

A lot of you go to school sick, overworked, tired, sleepless in order to ensure your students a great education.

A lot of you skip lunch in order to teach your kids extra classes, or come home late for dinner because you were wrapping up things at school.

A lot of you are underpaid and have access to minimal resources, but you still manage to make a difference and offer your students everything you can, even if that means taking up second jobs or digging deep into your pockets to give your kids everything they need in school.

A lot of you have been through terrible storms in your lives, either in your personal life or in your health, but you still manage to pull through and be back for your kids.

With all my heart, congratulations! Keep doing what you are doing and think that it is worth every minute. I know and I understand, that sometimes it feels like an uphill road and everything is working against us. But take a minute to think how much you love this profession and everything that comes along with it – and hang in there because we all need you! You deserve a big pat on the back, handshake, hug – whatever you prefer!

TESOL France 30th Colloquium – Day Three (#TESOLFr)

And after two fantastic days of learning and connecting, the third day arrived which was equally super! There was only one difference though…we were all feeling sad at the end of it, because we would have to end a great conference and say goodbye to very good friends.

Willy Cardoso

The third day started off with a session by Willy Cardoso, Classroom Management – Who’s (Really) in Charge? It was the first time I had attended a talk by Willy. I am a big fan of his blog, Authentic Teaching – if you have not read his posts, I would highly recommend them!

I absolutely loved Willy’s talk. He shared his personal experiences in class with his students in London – Willy told us of how he gave his students ownership of the lessons. They felt comfortable enough to ask him to do something particular they liked in the next lesson and it worked – Willy had the greatest of lessons with them! They were still learning. He also spoke of seating arrangements that he changes all the time according to what he wants to do with students in class. I wish I could have seen one of Willy’s lessons!

Simon Greenall

After that, I had the privilege of attending the talk of a person I have admired for years for his work, and have had the good luck of meeting personally – and is a fantastic person as well – Simon Greenall! Simon talked about a subject very close to my heart, that of culture and diversity, which I have mentioned many times in the past as an integral part of my teaching. In his talk Mind the Gap: Designing Materials and Activities for Intercultural Training, Simon spoke to us about how he has integrated culture in his books and materials – the sensitivity we should have towards people of various cultures in our teaching, in order to pass this on to our students and show them that these cultural differences are important, in order to bring tolerance in our classes.

Arjana Blazič

Another one of my favourite people on Twitter was up next – Arjana Blazič and her workshop Testing, testing, 1 , 2, 3! Arjana is a multi-awarded educator from Croatia with two blogs: her own and one she has organised with her IT specialist at school to help students in their Matura exams.

Arjana, who integrates technology extensively in her classes, introduced us to a multitude of web tools in order to help our students with quizzes and online testing. The great thing was that on these websites teachers and students can be very flexible and create quizzes of their own. Arjana did a great job of pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of these web tools, which ones we could use free of charge and which we have paid versions of. You can see her presentation and all the slides including all the web tools on her blog.

Geoff Tranter

The conference closed with a fantastic plenary by Geoff Tranter, called That’s a Funny way to Learn a Language! Geoff has an amazing sense of humour (which he also showed us during the Open Mic night the evening before) and demonstrated how we can use it in class effectively – he showed us funny acronyms, riddles, funny signs and newspaper headlines we can use in our classes! I liked what Geoff said at one point: If your students are making humorous remarks in a foreign language, you have come a long way with them. I really enjoyed this closing plenary, as it was full of tips and also quite different.

After the conference, the BESIG weekly workshop, with Helen Strong this time, was broadcast in the amphitheatre – some watched it, some of us had to leave Paris unfortunately, and a great conference and very good friends behind.

As a closing treat to these three posts about the respective days of the TESOL France conference, I have some photos for you! I hope you enjoy them.

The Thevenin Amphitheatre filling up
With Sue Lyon-Jones and Sue Annan
With Ania Musielak
With Brad Patterson
With James Taylor
With Arjana Blazic
With Anna Loseva, in front of her poster presentation
With Elizabeth Anne
With Isil Boy
Mike Harrison, James Taylor, Sandy Millin and Sue Lyon-Jones before Ania Musielak’s presentation
A restaurant full of tweeters!

Classroom Activities for Young Learners – Guest Post by Christina Markoulaki (@christina_mark)

I have the great honour to present my new guest blogger to you – a wonderful educator from Crete, Greece: Christina Markoulaki! I have connected with Christina on Twitter and hope one day to meet her face-to-face. She is an enthusiastic teacher and blogger and also an iTDi Associate.

Thank you so much for your fantastic post, Christina!

1) Alphabet cards

Proudly showing our carefully arranged cards!

The students who start their journey in the English language are always very happy to make their very own alphabet cards. All they need is some cardboard paper (or any colored paper) cut in small square pieces and their crayons. On one side of the card, they can write the letter in uppercase and lowercase, while on the other they can write the word that begins with that letter and draw a picture of the word. This activity does not take considerable classroom time and is always welcome by the children.

Mickey can join in the fun, too!

As soon as the cards are prepared, the games that can be played with them are endless! The ones that never fail to excite my students are ‘Find the letter/ word’, ‘Form the word’, You are the Teacher’ and, of course, ‘Letter Bingo’. Judging by the names, it can easily be understood that the first games are a product of my inspiration during a cheerful lesson with the juniors, while the last one is well-known worldwide.

 Students can be divided in groups before they have a go at these games and learn how to collaborate from an early age. Each group can win points for each correct answer it gives, which makes things even more suspenseful! 

‘Form the word’ game

In the first game I mentioned before, the teacher pronounces a word or a letter and the learners have to pick up the correct card as quickly as possible. In the second one, they need to form the word they hear using the cards in front of them and in the third case they are allocated the teacher’s role, now having the opportunity to test their classmates’ knowledge of the alphabet by asking them to raise the card of the letter or word they utter.

The final activity is exactly the same as the popular Bingo game, but involves the use of letters, not numbers. Based on that, the students have to choose their favorite six (that is the usual number of cards allowed in my classes) letters/ words and have the cards depicting them laid on the desk. While the teacher (or another student) pronounces random letters or words, the players remove the letter they hear in case this is depicted in one of the cards they decided to keep in front of them. The first player (pair/ team) that has no cards left can happily exclaim ‘Bingo’! Admittedly, this is everyone’s favorite part of the game and can be heard from time to time even from passionate players who have not won!   

2) Grammar train

Past Continuous: Affirmative

Are your students bored with grammar rules and formulas? Turn everything into a train and they will love it! The inspiration for such a venture came after attending a seminar, where a quite similar idea was presented, but I decided to develop it a bit further and design my own wagons on my computer. This allowed me to visualize any grammar rule I wanted as well as include some funny figures in each wagon (famous people, cartoons or colorful pictures) to give the learners something more to be excited about!

Past Simple vs Present Perfect Simple

The idea is rather straightforward: you can design a wagon on your screen on a Word or Pages document by placing a rectangular shape on top of several circles which serve as the ‘wheels’ of the train. Needless to say, you could simply use a readily made picture of a train and paste the grammar parts on it, as I have done in order to create the first, and most impressive, wagon; that which contains the subject of the clause! 

The whole activity can be extremely amusing, apart from educational, since the students need to change positions to rearrange the parts of each tense if they want to form the affirmative, interrogative and negative versions of it.  Once again, the students can be divided into groups which should coordinate to quickly form the tense the teacher dictates. 

 Imagination poses no limits! Feel free to apply these ideas in your classroom and let me know how the experience was.  

Christina Markoulaki

Christina Markoulaki is an EFL teacher in Greece, where she was also born.

She is fortunate enough to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels within her 5 working years, their ages ranging from 5 to 50 years old!

Using modern technology in the classroom to create new learning experiences is what fascinates her. All links concerning the school she works in can be found on this colourful glog!

Blog: Teaching and Learning English

Twitter: @christina_mark