I am from Ontario, Canada. The place where I was born is called Mississauga and it is on the shores of Lake Ontario. There is another place in northern Ontario that I have never been to, but hope to visit some day: it is a nation in the Kenora District called Attawapiskat First Nation– it is one of 49 nations comprising the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. It came to national news a few months ago, because of the very high rate of suicides that had occurred and unfortunately keep happening, even at very young ages. I started following the news about Attawapiskat any way I could, and saw that the people there have severe lack in housing, medicare, everyday needs.
They did not stop, they have not given up. They have a wonderful Grand Chief, Alvin Fiddler, and their chief is Chief Bruce Shisheesh. Chief Shisheesh met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two days ago to discuss the actions to be taken for the community.
There is a website called I love Attawapiskat & Canada’s Aboriginal Youth, which shows their various activities and the things they do not only to help their own community, but other communities reeling from suicide and hardship across the whole country! Iain G. Speirs and JoseeLusignan are in charge of the Twitter account and much more for I Love Attawapiskat – they are the founders of this organisation and Josee is also the founder of I Love First Peoples; they work tirelessly, night and day! I am in awe of all that they do. On their website you can see different ways to help.
With this post, I hope to help raise awareness about Attawapiskat as much as possible. As an educator, aunt, godmother, Canadian and human, I hope to raise awareness for these amazing people, these brilliant children and their lives.
Attawapiskat, I have not met you yet, but I know you are amazing and I send all my love and warmest wishes.
Will you say I LOVE ATTAWAPISKAT with lots of other people who support the cause? Watch this video with Chief Shisheesh:
And here are some of the amazing young people of Attawapiskat, singing and walking for peace!
Note: Thank you so much to Josee and Iain for helping me learn so much and adding lots of details to this post.
One of the things I love about being connected on social media is that I get new ideas for my teaching practically every day. It must have been three or four years ago, when I was on Twitter and I saw an educator (apologies for not remembering who it was!) posting about using story cubes in class and then a lot of teachers got into the Twitter discussion, talking about how there were using them in class, others said they were also discovering them then and there like me…I found it a brilliant idea and they work a treat, not only with Young Learners, but also with my teenage students – I have also used them with adults and they loved them!
I also mentioned them in one of the workshops I did about three weeks ago, invited by the amazing Larissa Teachers Association in Greece! The teachers there have inspired me to write this post.
On to the picture dice, or story cubes now…
They can be used as a filler at the end of the lesson, for them to unwind and still learn, as a warmer for the beginning for the class – even though they might get really excited and not want to continue with other things – including the adult students!
This is not an advertisement for the specific product, but I also got this idea from a teacher on Twitter. There are actually ready-made story cubes, called Rory’s Story Cubes and they come in various topics. Actions, Voyages, Original, and many more. They are actually quite affordable and their material guarantees that nothing will happen to them.
How we use them:
The student holds them all together and shakes them, and then throws them on the table or floor as they would with normal dice. Then, they have to spend a few minutes thinking about the order in which they want to connect the nine cubes, in order to tell a story.
Sometimes, if we have time, we mix up two or three boxes and they can make an even longer and funnier story!
Two or three students can work at a time, preparing what they want to say and then, when the time comes for them to tell their story the collaboration and improvisation that comes up is spectacular!
One student throws the dice and starts telling the story, while the other(s) have their backs turned to the storyteller and they try to guess which picture the storyteller is talking about!
Students practise so many things with this game. Their grammar, and mainly their tenses and also vocabulary. They learn new items of vocabulary and they use them again and again in their next games, and they do it in a fun way too!
If you prefer not to buy, and create your own, or even better create your own along with the students, I have found a Paper-Cube-Template, online, which you can print on thick paper or cardboard so that it is even sturdier to use and lasts longer.
We can then:
Draw or cut and paste pictures on them with the students so they can create their own character and stories.
Add splashes of colour on each side of the die, so they can learn the colours, if they are beginners – we can do the same with numbers, or words, anything!
There is an educator in Istanbul, Evridiki Dakos, who did something last year that was terrific! She created her own huge dice using cardboard boxes, and then laminated them with clear tape so they would be more durable and the pictures could stay in excellent condition. Here is a collage of her work and you can find more super ideas from Evridiki on her blog, ELT Teacher Development.
Fabiana is a wonderful educator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I connected with her on social media in 2013 and am so happy to see all the great things she does, which she speaks about in this interview. She blogs at http://all4efl.blogspot.com.ar/
Vicky: Fabiana, I first connected to you online a few months ago on Facebook, and have been following you and your lovely class ever since!
Fabiana: Yes, you’re right, Vicky! I feel honored you have been following me!
Vicky:The honour is all mine, Fabiana! I learn so much from you. My first question is, how did you become an educator?
Fabiana: Well, when I was in High School I wanted to be a History teacher and a lawyer. Later, I realized I had to study something connected with the foreign language I was studying so, I thought of the possibility of becoming an EFL teacher.
Vicky: Wow, a lawyer – me too! Thankfully, for the world of ELT, you became a teacher : ) Can you tell us a few things about your students? What ages they are, what sort of projects you engage in with them?
Fabiana: I have always taught teenagers. I used to teach children and adults too, but my schedule is tight for I am a full-time mom. Right now, I am only teaching 13-14 and 17-18. Projects? Well, I had done crazy, but creative things in the past, that is to say late 80s when I started teaching, such as make my students read and record a whole play called “Murder At Walton, Hall” on video (VHS) where they performed like real actors and actresses! They had to study the script, adapt it or abridge it and simply… act! It certainly was a lot of fun for them, for the class and very rewarding and satisfying for all of us! Those that would not want to make a video, they made a picture story book with real photographs: they would dress up, take pictures and publish the “book” with narration and dialogs as in comic magazines. Some other projects were a little more complex and tough:my advanced students made documentary videos on the life of relevant people in the world: Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa or Ghandi. They studied the biographies by heart, sat in front of a camera and started talking.
Nowadays, everything is more digital: with my advanced Senior group I started commenting the news by reading Twitter, BBC World, CNN, NY Times, The Salisbury Post, Charlotte Observer and Buenos Aires Herald. There is something I truly value and it is the student’s self motivation and I try to promote and never let it die. The students you see in the photo below, traveled to Washington, DC and New York to attend the Global Young Leaders’ Youth Conference. They interacted with youngsters from all around the Globe and when they came back home they shared their amazing experiences with all of us. One afternoon, one of the boys got a voice message from a friend from Saudi Arabia telling all his international friends about the conflict in Syria. It was wonderful to listen to the girl and after that, discuss the topic all together.
Last year, we worked on two projects: Alcohol Awareness-Underage Drinking and Cyberbullying-Bullying-Digital Citizenship which was a real success, as my students participated actively in video, audio and images: in class and at home. A lot of reflection and comments in a foreign language was not an easy task, but they were fantastic.
My pre-Intermediate group participated in a project called “We Are On The Air”, which is an idea of a fabulous, Facebook friend and colleague an EFL teacher from Greece called Theodora Papapanagiotou. The students made videos about the area where they live and what they do. The idea is to show a bit of our city, Buenos Aires as well as some others around the world which she will include in her lecture at TESOL Greece this current year.
I believe English Language Learners need to speak the language at all times that is why I devote some part of my class to talk about updated news, like reading the newspaper in English, commenting on anything they read which they find interesting and doing vocabulary research. Last year, I also started a sort of flipping class using Edmodo, where I post varied types of tasks for them to do at home to be commented in class: Monday Morning News Update was We usually talk about the news the first minutes of the class: I feel my students need to be exposed to real content and have as much speaking practice as possible. Reading and listening make you a better writer and speaker.
It is some extra work for me and for the students, but in the long run we both benefit from it, especially THEM who are the ones that matter.
Vicky: I absolutely love what you are doing and have done with the kids, fabiana – it is all about discussing values and life as well, not only teaching the language and you do that very well. You also use culture a lot in your classes. Can you tell us how you do that?
Fabiana: Buenos Aires is a melting pot, so maybe because of that, I have always been multicultural, and have never feared to learn from some other cultures. I taught in the United States for six years as an international and cultural exchange teacher so I would say, that was the key point in my career as a teacher. It opened my mind more than it had been before, and made me see things from different points of view. I interacted with people from all the continents and cultures which certainly gave me a lot of experience. I participated in fairs where we showed typical objects, traditions, music, videos, pictures, magazines from Argentina. We even took virtual trips to my country Since I came back to Argentina, I have worked at the same small private school, Colegio Canadá or Canada School, where its owners and administrators have always had a plan in mind: to be part of international projects: sports tours and exchange trips to English speaking countries, teach English as a foreign language intensively, make students sit for International Examinations, sing the Canadian Anthem or become acquainted with the History and Geography of English Speaking Countries. We do a lot of cross-cultural activities, I mean, if the Social Studies teacher is teaching The Tudors, we read about them in English, make posters to decorate the classroom, crossword puzzles, trivia and other activities online.
It is a tradition to celebrate Canada Day all around the school, this past year my students made posters, flags and sang the Anthem on video. Later, I decided to publish everything on a Padlet wall: http://padlet.com/wall/qlsb3wfv9t
Vicky: You engage a lot in social media. How did you become involved in them, and how do you think they help educators?
Fabiana: Honestly, I was really reluctant to expose myself online. About two years ago one of my best friends and colleagues and my friends in the USA convinced me to open an account on Facebook for me to be connected with other educators and keep in touch with them, respectively. Then, I became a sort of addict, browsed every education group and started to relate with the greatest teachers, educators, teacher trainers, and authors around the world. I began to build my PLN which has grown quite a lot and helped me to be a real connected teacher. Some time later, I even opened an account on Twitter. Sometimes I stay up really late as there is too much information to absorb in a such a short day of only twenty four hours!. Besides, being online gave me the opportunity to work hard on my CPD because I began to study a Specialization on ICT and Education and attend many free webinars provided by the British Council, Oxford, Cambridge, Macmillan, WizIQ, American TESOL, EVO Sessions, BESIG, IATEFL and some others such as the amazing Tics en El Aula. I even presented at two International Conferences: The Reform Symposium and at the Global Education Conference. It is a wonderful way to blend being a passionate mother and teacher!
Vicky: You are so active and amazing how you combine everything! You also blog. Can you let us know what inspires you and what you write about?
Fabiana: Well, I started blogging a little because in all my twenty something years of teaching experience, I have never documented anything I did! Nobody told me…!
Last year, Shelly Sanchez Terrell invited me to join the 30 Goals Challenge Group on Facebook, and that was when I sort of pushed myself to write about my life as an educator. I know I am not perfect at what I do, but I try! I still have a long way to go, but still very happy I have already achieved some goals in my career. It takes time to think clearly what to write and how to write it: I am not a good writer, I´m just spontaneous and informal. Anyway, all I express is from the heart.
Vicky: How would you like to close our interview?
Fabiana: I am extremely thankful and proud to connect with you and learn from and with you. As I said before, I still have to polish some aspects of my English, my teaching and blogging among other things because English is not my first language, but I am really willing to learn and progress on a daily basis and I would like to inspire colleagues and students to feel the way I feel as a lifetime learner.
Vicky: Fabiana, this has been such a great interview!!! Thank you and the kids ever so much for sharing and letting us into your classroom!