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 ELTChatand 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 iTDiproject!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 ownand 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.
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.
And after the excitement of Day One…Day Two came along for all of us to learn, connect and have fun!
I started my day with Mike Harrison’s super session Before Words: Ideas for Using Images and Sound in the Classroom. It was the first time I had attended Mike’s session and I loved it! I got so many ideas about what you can do with pictures and sound effects in class. We even did a visual poem. I teamed up with Deniz Atesok, a great educator from Turkey in the activities that Mike showed us and we came up with some great ideas! I will definitely be using his ideas with my students – and I will definitely be attending more of his sessions in the future. You can find a plethora of ideas on his great blog! A big thank you to Mike!
Right after Mike – the drama specialist and enthusiastic presenter (and very good friend – I am so happy to know her!) Anna Musielak! Ania’s presentation was called Break the Ice with Drama. I had seen Ania last year as well and I could not wait to attend her session this year either!
Ania presented so many ideas, you definitely have to catch her at a conference – her enthusiasm is amazing and so are her ideas, which work with all ages. We took part in many activities and could see in practice how great these ideas are. I loved how Ania’s ideas made everyone so enthusiastic, lots of people volunteered to take part in the activities. Lots and lots of ideas. Ania is also star guest blogger on many blogs, including mine. Her posts are definitely worth reading! Thanks so much, Ania!
After our lunch break, it was time to see Cecilia Lemos in action in her session, Ideas for Improving Studentsʼ Writing Skills: My Experience. Ceci gave us amazing ideas of how to integrate writing actively in our classes – a skill that has been often disliked by students for the reason that (we have all heard it and Ceci pointed it out as well) they have nothing to write. She introduced us to some nice tips for writing, such as motivating the students into writing the essay paragraph by paragraph wothout even realising it, and then putting them all together to make their very own writing piece – and prove to themselves that they can write! I also like how Ceci told us how she motivates her kids to read – they all read the same book, which she has chosen carefully to be apporopriate for all tastes and for both genders. She has also done a webinar on the same topic which you can see, along with other super posts, on her blog.
Right after, it was time for the one and only Luke Meddings and his plenary Dogme and the City.
I really liked how Luke paralleled language learning and teaching and exploring the city of Paris. It was a really great pleasure to listen to Luke and talk to him afterwards – we also enjoyed his Greta Garbo impersonation!
Thanks for a great plenary, Luke! Truly enlightening and I look forward to attending more talks from Luke in the future.
Then it was time for Marisa Constantinidis – her session was The Reading Challenge: Motivation & creativity in reading lessons. Lots of educators heistate to use reading texts in their classes because they think the students may get bored. Marisa showed us so many ways to utilise texts in class successfuly, and get lots of things from them! She weaved reading texts into so many activities and extended them to speaking as well. I loved Marisa’s ways of motivating students to read – it counts to a great extent on how teachers present a reading text for the students to approach it! A great presentation form a wonderful person and educator! Read Marisa’s excellent blog for more great ideas – I am giving a link to her very imimportant challenge for people with disabilities, which she pointed out in Paris as well and I believe is a very important issue for all educators to keep in mind.
Right after Marisa, the last session of the day I attended was Ceri Jones’s, You’ve Got Mail. She gave us very interesting ideas on how to use e-mail in class, as a means of communication with our students (letting them know what has happened in case of absence, for instance, but also as an exchange of language between the teacher and students). Ceri and her students did an excellent job in extending their linguistic abiltites and improving significantly in writing – something I found very interesting, as I communicate a lot with my students via e-mail, almost on a daily basis. I am definitely taking a lot of ideas from Ceri’s session! Read her super blog Close Up – great work there!
Then we had the Open Mic Night, which was a huge success and so much fun! Lots of singing, juggling, poetry reading – you name it : )
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
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.
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!
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
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!
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 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!
As I have mentioned many times, on my blog, in my talks and conversations, Twitter has been an amazing opportunity for me to learn and meet wonderful educators from all over the world. In this post, I have managed to combine learning and meeting – I have met David Warr on Twitter, a great educator from England, who has created a great tool – the Language Plant Maker. This is one of the great things I have learned from David! He has invited us to make our own language plants – and post them on our blogs as part of his blog challenge! Join in the fun : )
My language plant is quite simple compared to the great ones David has created, but it pretty much sums up what I believe about education – teacher and student complement each other and learn from each other. I feel fortunate because almost in every lesson there is something new to learn from my students, regardless of how young or old they are. Here is my plant:
Looking at my plant now, teacher and student look like parts of links in a chain, which are connected with another link, learn together.
You can use David’s Language Plant Maker for your lessons too, as he mentions on his blog. David, I hope you like my plant!