Podcasts, Prince and UnPlugged – An Interview with James Taylor

I am delighted to present you with the first interview for 2016, with one of my favourite educators ever, James Taylor!

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Today’s guest is an invaluable ELT colleague and friend: an English teacher, blogger, co-founder and former President of BELTA Belgium, TEFL Commute podcast co-producer, iTDi mentor, ELTChat moderator, conference and webinar speaker. He is very active on social media and we all learn such a great deal from him on a daily basis.

James joined me from Brasília, where he now lives.

Enjoy this amazing interview and listen to James talk about everything from ELT, life experiences and travelling around the  world as a teacher, podcasts, books, music and more!

A huge thank you, James!

(And thank you, James for coming up with the brilliant post title!)

Are You Playing or Learning? – Both!

 

VickyReadingontheFloorI am in my ninteenth year of teaching and I have taught in Greece and Switzerland so far, the latter being my home for the best part of the past seven years. I teach students of all ages and levels. When people ask me why I like teaching Young Learners, I tell them that I love it because it is

  • creative
  • I learn so much from my little ones
  • fun!

First of all, let us look at who these lovely little people we call Young Learners are. We have Very Young Learners (VYLs), who are 3 – 6 years old and then we have Young Learners (YLs), who are 7 – 12.

When I teach them, as do many teachers I know and have seen when visiting their classes, I love to incorporate the element of fun. Children learn in a much more pleasant environment and much more effectively, I believe. To be honest, all students and even adults like the element of fun in their classes!

Sometimes however, I have been asked the following question: “Are you playing, are you just having fun, or are you learning?” I have been asked this both by parents of students or caregivers, and also by a few teachers – rarely the latter category, but it has happened!

I understand their concerns, and especially in contexts where children need to follow a specific methodology in order later on in life to sit for a language exam. However, I still think that even in those contexts, fun can be part of the lesson – if not the whole time, even ten minutes at the end can help!

Fun ideas are loads to be found, either from colleagues, other teachers we connect to on social media, or social media themselves as resources, like Pinterest for instance.

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(Image taken from http://thegreatadventurelab.com

Some fun ideas I use in my classes are:

  • Story Cubes! They are dice with pictures on them and I discovered a specific kind from a Canadian teacher, Aviva Dunsiger, whom I am connected to on Twitter. They are called Rory’s Story Cubes and there different categories. Kids shake them, throw them on a surface and depending on the pictures that come up on the dice, they have to put them in the order they want and then they can tell the story they have just created. They come up with some really fun and funny stories, and above all they practise their speaking skills (they can even write down their story as a small task in class) and learn and consolidate a lot of vocabulary! If you do now want to buy cubes, you can even make your own. There are so many templates online and you can draw or stick pictures on them – even better, along with the kids! They will love it and again, learn so much.
  • You’re the teacher today! Sometimes I let the kids know beforehand that in the next lesson they can be the teacher for a while. They can teach us something as long as they do it in English! I go and sit along with the other kids, either in the chair of the teacher-student or on the floor with the kids. Some teach us dances, some bring in things like their favourite Lego creations…and they just love teaching us! They love the responsibility that comes with it and they always take it very seriously.
  • Books! Some teachers and parents say that their kids do not love books…well, I think that children need to be exposed to them first of all. There are books all over my school. Not only on bookcases, but also on plastic boxes and baskets on the floor, on the window ledges. You can just see them picking them up on their own, finding the topics they like and sometimes they want to read them out loud in class! What could be better? We can also organise trips to bookstores or libraries with them. Read-alouds once a week or as often as we deem necessary. Kids just loving listening to grown-ups read to them, especially if we change our voice for every character!

These are only some ideas for Young Learners. The list is endless!

Let’s keep in touch! I would love to know what you do with your kids. Just remember to have fun with them and they are still learning no matter what.

6 Years of Blogging!

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It seems as though it has been more than 6 years. 6 years of blogging!

I started not knowing what I was doing, what to share…and then it all fell into place! I got to know other bloggers, we exchange comments, I learn from readers’ comments, I share classroom experiences, lesson plans, personal moments too…

A million thanks to everyone who has read this blog, supported it, commented on it and taught me so many things!

Here’s to all of you, to 6 years and hopefully more to come.

Do Your Own Thing! – An Interview with Božica Šarić- Cvjetković

Božica Šarić- Cvjetković

Božica Šarić- Cvjetković

On the first day of March, we have our new interview ready! I would love to introduce you to a great teacher and friend based in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia – Božica Šarić- Cvjetković! She is very active on social media, and a lot of you know her already – those of you who don’t, follow what she is doing! She is great!

What do conferences and airports have to do with the interview? What does she do with her primary school students? Why and how does she use social media? For the answers to all these questions and more, watch our interview!

Here is Božica! Hvala!!!

 

When Education Comes From Enthusiasm – An Interview with Roseli Serra (@SerraRoseli)

Roseli Serra

Roseli Serra

I am absolutely delighted to have a new interview on my blog today – the first of the year, with a super enthusiastic, supportive and hard-working educator – and a very good friend: Roseli Serra!

Roseli and I connected three years ago, and I immediately was drawn to her enthusiasm about everything education. She is an educator, teacher trainer, materials developer, you name it – and blogs at Roseli Coffee Desk. Another love we share, that of good coffee. She is one of the people that you see on social media and your heart immediately fills up, as she always has something beautiful and positive to say!

I am very happy that this summer we will finally meet in person! Here’s Roseli in our interview.

And here is the book she mentions in the interview: Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, by Anne Wilson Schaef

What’s Your Story? Mona Arvinte Interacts from Iasi

Mona Arvinte and her little daughter

Mona Arvinte and her little daughter

Here is another story, number 55, all the way from Iasi, Romania and Mona Arvinte, an English language teacher who has written her beautiful story! Read on about how she found her way into teaching and interacting with other teachers. 

Thank you so much, Mona! Mulțumesc!

When I first saw Vicky’s post I wondered : “Do I have a story?”

Of course, we all have stories and we all like stories. Am I ready to share, to put it on paper? Hmm, that’s a totally different story. Let’s see.

My story is really simple.

I’ve been a teacher all my life. I’m not that old, though.😀

So hard to look back. That’s a real challenge to me, I think.

I chose to be a teacher for all the wrong reasons, I guess. I didn’t like kids, I had no patience whatsoever, didn’t like assigning or checking homework either.

That has changed over the years now. I’ve come to realize it’s best to interact, share and change ideas.

If you asked me what I’d be doing in 5 or 10 years’ time, I wouldn’t know. Probably the same but who knows? Life’s full of surprises.

I became a teacher about 13 years ago. Back then I did not even know I wanted to be a teacher. It’s not like I’ve been dreaming to be a teacher all my life. Let’s just say I had to, not that I wanted to.

I come from a small town and there were few opportunities for teaching English at that time. I remember quite well the look on the kids’ faces when the head teacher introduced me to the class. To say the least English was totally strange to them and so was the teacher.

So I entered the classroom. They did not pay any attention to me, nor to my words. That left me in a corner, not knowing what to do next. I began by telling them who I was. Well, I was so naïve to think they might actually look up to me for the simple fact I was a teacher. But no, that didn’t work.

I had to do something and quick, so I tried to improvise something. I remembered my first English lesson. I was about four or five. We were having so much fun, my English teacher at that time did her best to keep us motivated by involving each and every one of us in many engaging activities. I am positive I owe a lot to my first English teacher as to my teaching style. She was a fine lady.

Teaching is about sharing. I used to think teaching is just a job like any other job, you just go into the classroom, do your job, take your books and get back home. I was wrong, I guess.

Over the years I realized these kids have feelings, too. They aren’t like little robots that will do whatever you ask them to do just because you want them to.

No! They care, they have feelings and they also have their own stories that they like sharing, too.

As to my professional development, I’ve started to attend training courses and webinars that you can easily find online. That’s a whole new world to me. I didn’t think that would have been possible in the past. Or at least that hadn’t come in use to me not until last year. And I’m very happy about it as I get to learn a lot. As a teacher you never stop learning. It’s a long journey.

I am currently teaching 5th to 8th graders. It’s not that easy, not all are good students but it’s something that I love doing. Teaching is an excellent job, very rewarding. It helps you stay young at heart. Not to mention holidays!😉 Just kidding.

Plans for the future? Well, I kind of like to live in the present.

Start blogging? Have my own website page? Become an online teacher? All these trends are very appealing to me. I like trying new things all the time.

Definitely yes, if the time is right!

So this is it. My life, my story!

No time to think it through, I just do what I think it’s best for me and my students.

Time to turn the page to a new chapter, hopefully!

 

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“What’s Your Story” Is Up and Running Again! – A Blog Challenge With a Human Touch

The “What’s Your Story?” Blog Challenge is running again, thanks to all of you and your support! Some educators have offered to add their stories. If you want to as well, post your story (professional, personal, anything you think represents you) and:

1. Post on your blog and send me the link to add
2. If you do not have your own blog, I can post on mine.

I look forward to reading your stories!

Feel free to use #blogging #blogchallenge #education as your hashtags, or any other ones you prefer, when posting on social media!

A HUGE THANK YOU!

I have started adding the new posts here:

The Human Touch Series

(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)

(Image taken from onlineeducationforteachers.blogspot.com)

A year ago, I was asked by the amazing Chuck Sandy to write a blog post for iTDi under the title The Ideal Classroom. I thought about it and a few minutes later, I had a clear picture of an ideal classroom.I thought of all the environments I have worked in: some were picture-perfect, others much less so – no lighting, having lessons in our coats and gloves. But which is the best kind? The ideal one?

Some of them are hi-tech or bare floor. Some are in beautiful modern buildings, some do not even have windows or roofs. Others have tablets and computers for the students;  in other schools kids sit on the ground with little chalkboards, or even draw in the dirt.

Which is the best one? Or even better, what do they all have in common, which makes them all ideal classrooms?

The people in them. The students and the teachers. They are what make classrooms special, and ideal, and amazing.

It is the Human Touch in them.

In March 2014, I gave my very first plenary talk at the TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece Convention. I thought that this topic would be the one for me to talk about – and I hope that the teachers who would come to listen would connect with it. I shared my own story and the difficulties I faced during my first years in Switzerland. I found other teachers I had met online or face-to-face, who each represented a specific story and I included them in the plenary talk. The teachers in the talk found themselves in these stories, and I found myself in theirs.

Then I did the same plenary for RSCON5 and the opening keynote for the iTDi Summer School MOOC. More teachers, more students, more amazing stories to share! That is why I always say: every person, every student and teacher, has their own story. No one has had it easy at some point or another, and we need to be there for each other. We are there for each other, to help and motivate one another, and that is what makes education beautiful, in addition to all the learning that takes place.

This is the beginning of a series of stories, by you, the teachers and the students.

Watch this clip from the film The Freedom Writers, based upon the true story of educator Erin Gruwell and her students.

The Disabled Access Friendly Campaign (@DAFCampaign) – Thank you!

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I have decided to write this post as a huge thank you to the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign, started by the equally amazing Katie Quartano and Paul Shaw in Thessaloniki, Greece. It started in 2010, after an article in the Athens News was published under the title of A day in the life of a disabled person. The campaign was born as a Facebook page and at this very moment has 976 followers!

DAF has a great website full of free lesson materials, created by teachers all around the world – lesson plans and videos listed by level A1 to C2, according to the CEFR. They are designed to create awareness in the ELT classroom and outside of it. If you have any great ideas about lessons, share them with Katie and Paul!

A few days ago, they included me among their Ambassadors. I am deeply honoured and happy to be part of this great project! I will do my very best to help spread this great campaign. Other ambassadors are Hassan Ait Man, Julia Aliverti, Lindsay Clandfield, Jeffrey Doonan, Adir Ferreira, Ben Goldstein, Jamie Keddie, Sue Lyon-Jones, Gerard McLoughlin, Eleni Nikiforou, Waleed Nureldeen, Aleksandra Strahinic. 

The best news lately has been that the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign has won an ELTons award for Innovation in Teacher Resources. If you click on the link you can see a video of Katie and Paul’s red carpet interview (at 34:25 mins), the winning announcement and their acceptance speech (at 1:32:33).
http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/eltons

Congratulations to everyone at DAF and thank you again so much for everything you do!

Watch this video The Wheelchair, from the Disabled Access Friendly YouTube channel, with David Gibson and Luke Prodromou: