May Day or International Workers' Day


Happy May Day! 

Since May Day is connected with barbecue in the open space and flower wreaths in Greece, we can give ours students some information about the origin of May Day according to Celts, the custom of Maypole Dance and some historical facts about the violent protests by factory workers in Chicago,in 1886. You can choose which of the three you 'd like to focus on and use the guidelines of the respective worksheet. All three contain extensive use of technology but you can adapt your lesson according to your needs.

 You can find all the material in the following link:


Good luck!


The magic of social networking during Covid-19 crisis social distancing!

 Some years ago, I read this amazing book by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected-The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape our Lives. The book as the title suggests is about social networks and their role in our lives. According to the writers, "a social network ,like a group, is a collection of people, it includes something more: a specific set of connections between people in the group. These ties, and the particular pattern of these ties, are often more important than the individual people themselves. They allow groups to do things that a disconnected collection of individuals cannot. The ties explain why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". During this pandemic I have seen this taking shape in various forms. I have found immense support, encouragement and inspiration in all the groups of colleagues I am part of. Stretching from local to national , and even European level the sharing in social networks is unconditional and the help invaluable.

First, at a local level we are sharing ideas, data (such as percentages of attendance, numbers of students facing problems with distant learning etc.) experiences and expertise with the colleagues at the schools I work in Kalochori. We have a group in Viber.  We are trying to support each other with difficulties faced during the lessons, we are giving and taking advice when needed, we are constantly expanding our knowledge with all this plethora of educational tools. Last but not least we socialize. We chat, share photos, memes, news, wishes.

Second, a little broader is the group of colleagues of the Region of Central Macedonia under the directions of our coordinator, Mrs Delimpanidou. Our coordinator being very supportive and extremely helpful before the pandemic, has excelled herself through these challenging times. She has organised a number of training webinars to introduce colleagues to new and useful  web tools, to provide them with teaching ideas for younger learners. A number of people volunteered to contribute to these webinars, proving that the bond among teachers of English is strong and one thing they surely have in common is creativity. There is also a platform where one can find all the webinars that were offered together with a lot of other useful material that colleagues are sharing.

Third, at a national level I am part of a Facebook group called "Cooperation among teachers of English in Primary Education". The group members number over 2.200 at this point. I have been part of many groups in Facebook, but never of one of such spirit. It is almost magic! There are numerous posts every day, ranging from simple activities, games, lesson plans and even whole units scenarios for every grade. There are also tutorials and very often advice for technical questions or problems. The group has inspired me to create and contribute to this enormous effort. It has made me feel that I am part of something bigger, something that provides me with so much more than ideas. It provides me with care and love and hope. 

Last, my network at a European level consists of my partners in an Etwinning project. I have started an Etwinning project with my 5th graders this year, although the conditions were not ideal at the beginning of the school year. We all knew that a lockdown was around the corner. However, who dares wins! I was lucky enough to find 7 partners from Italy, Turkey and Poland. Not only are they dedicated to the project and hard working but also very willing to share experiences and ideas. We have had an online meeting to get to know each other and we are planning to have online meetings for our students as well in the future. Although we live in different countries we have a lot in common along with the project at the moment! The fact that we are all going through the same phase with the Covid crisis has made us more understanding, more helpful and much more empathetic. We all have to survive this difficult period and make education work, no matter what. We have to adapt to the new conditions and fight. I should mention this is the more productive Etwinning project I have ever been part of! Another proof that tough times often bring out the best in us.

But for my social networks I don't know how I would cope with this manifold crisis. Psychological pressure, fatigue, lack of time often make it hard to pull through day after day. Knowing that you can count on people that are there to help you is a tremendous psychological relief, a feeling of care, it's almost like a pat on the shoulder,reassuring you that everything is going to be OK. Staying connected while social distancing may sound contradictory but it's certainly much more than that!

*The book by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected-The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape our Lives was published in 2009. The first Greek edition was published in February 2010 by Katoptro Editions.


I am a refugee calling out for rights

Read the poem "I am" on p. 18 here and write your own poem.

You can follow this framework:
We write our own poems for refugees…
I am _____________________________________ (write a person)
I am _____________________________________
(write an object)
I am looking for _____________________________
I am hiding from ____________________________
I want ____________________________________
I hope ____________________________________
I am a refugee calling out for rights.
Name: _____________________________

You can also draw something.

Please upload your poems here:

Made with Padlet


Wonder-Ideas for a lesson on diversity and kindness

Some years ago I read a blog post about this book - Wonder by R.J.Palacio. I remember the writer described the book as ideal for teaching diversity to children. Although for years on my TBR list, I never got to read it. However, when the film was out I was very curious to see what it was all about. I was so touched! It was indeed ideal to use in the classroom to teach not only diversity but a number of other themes such as bullying, friendship, family bonds, kindness etc. The story is this of a nine-year-old boy who was born with facial deformities and starts school for the first time in his life. It's told by multiple narrators and seen by different perspectives. It's told with humour and tenderness.

So I started doing some research on the Internet and what I found came as a surprise to me. Lots and lots of blogposts, articles, reviews both for the book and the film. Moreover, a big number of lesson plans based on Wonder. It seemed  that it has been the inspiration for a lot of people, especially educators. A quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer "If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind" used as a precept by Mr. Browne on the first day of school in Wonder has set the tone for the #choosekind movement joined by many schools in the U.S.A and other countries around the world.

Some of the resources that I found are the following:

  • Wonder-the book for teachers here. A set of downloadable teacher resources.
  • A very good worksheet on the film with some discussions questions and a true/false activity here
  • Another worksheet on the film with three simple activities can be found here
  • Also this is the worksheet I have created with lines from the film and some discussion points about the themes and the characters. You can find it and download it here
Also, if you are interested in going on and teach the theme of kindness in general, you can use this beautiful video 

or this for older students

Your students will certainly enjoy the film and the activities you choose to use. You will have the chance to talk about different themes.  It will be a lesson to remember for both your students and you!


Universal Children's Day, 20 November-Ideas to celebrate the day with your students

"November 20th is an important date as it is the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child...Since 1990, Universal Children's Day also marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the declaration and the convention on children's rights...This year the world is going blue! We're asking individuals, schools and corporates worldwide to go blue to help build a world where every child is in school, safe from harm and can fulfil their potential, and we know you do too. Going blue activities include: sharing our promo video for Children's day, signing the global petition and going blue in support of children's rights in social media and much, much more." (Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/childrenday/ )

Watch Unicef's promo video featuring actress Millie Bobby Brown, the famous YouTuber, Lilly Singh aka SuperWoman, actors, Liam Neeson and Orlando Bloomand and singer, Dua Lipa:
If you are interested in celebrating Universal Children's Rights Day you can find more information on United Nation site http://www.un.org/en/events/childrenday/ . You can also find 3 free, printable lesson plans on The World's Largest Lesson Plan (in partnership with Unicef)   http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/make-every-school-safe-to-learn/

Apart from these there are lots of and lots of resources online on how to raise awareness on human rights in general and children's rights for the day. I will introduce some tools and sites I have been using with my students for years.

Also if you are interested in further research on the issue you can have a look at the following books. 
In our days it's more important than ever to raise children who are aware of human rights and become strong advocates of them as they grow up. It is our only hope against the cataclysmic changes our world has been experiencing for some years now.


"Like the Story"(?) I sure did! An unforgettable Erasmus+ training course in Ireland!

It was the beginning of summer and my colleague, Chris, let me know about the call for participation for the training course "Like the story" by the organisation Active Youths of Florina. "I thought you might be interested", he messaged me. And indeed I was. A general description of the course included the following - "key phrases" for me: "empower the young people to be critical of their information intake and source", "explore the concept of storytelling and different techniques", "urban legend", "transformative theatre", "challenging stereotypes", "common values","social diversity", "migration", "refugees","social media". I really couldn't be more interested in a course, since I have been dealing with all these issues through projects  at school for the past few years. I had some experience but experience can never be enough! So I applied. And I was chosen. And I have to say this was the best thing I had done for my professional development in years!

Although the course itself is what matters most, I would describe the programme in general, because it was a superb experience from every aspect!

The participants
Thirteen countries participated in the course, two participants from each country. Ramona and Max from Germany, Anna and Kateryna from Ucraine, Mert and Hatice from Turkey, Flavia and Mona from Romania, Irina and Natalia from Russia, Mariam from Georgia-unfrotunately the other partcipant couldn't make it, Nicole and Ronja from Finland, Akylas and I from Greece, Kristel and Stewen from Estonia, Imane and Adib from Morocco, Janos and Kata from Hungary, Gayane and Syuzanna from Armenia. Also Ireland was represented by Vivian, who was waiting for us at the venue.

The venue
The course took place in East Clare Golf Village, a beautiful, tranquil place in the middle of the Irish countryside.The participants stayed in big, two-storey, fully equipped houses. The sessions took place in a big room in the central building-and when the weather was good we did some activities outside- and all meals, except breakfast, in a separate house in the same area. All meals were homemade-delicious Irish bread, as well-by a former member of Fishbowl Youth!

The food
Another thing that contributed to making this experience memorable was the food . The cook  made sure that the food was hot, varied and tasty every single day. She even prepared homemade Irish bread for us- plus she was willing to give us the recipe- and delicious desserts every evening. A very original idea that worked really well was the international breakfast. Each house hosted breakfast every day, which was prepared by participants of 3 or 4 different countries. They had to make the traditional breakfast of their countries. This was a brilliant idea as we had the chance not only to start our day hanging out with each other and socializing, but also to try so many different tastes from so many different countries.

The organisers
Fishbowl Youth was the host organisation. Alan was responsible for taking care of every single detail and he did really well. He was there at the coffee breaks, making sure hot coffee, tea, juice and food was on the spot. He always asked if there was anything the houses were short of and provided everything needed. He even did some shopping from the grocery when someone had a special request. All in all, he was very helpful in all cases. Moreover, he shared his love for guitar playing more than once and offered us moments of authentic Irish entertainment.

The trainers
Sophie and Eelin were absolutely fantastic! And I am not just saying this. The girls were well trained, experienced, with deep knowledge of their subject. They cooperated smoothly not only with each other but with the participants, as well. They were friendly, helpful and inspiring. They created the right atmosphere for contribution and they made everyone feel at ease. They fuelled creativity and boosted the group's dynamics! It was such a pleasure working with them!

The course
Day 1: On day 1 we had to focus on "getting to know" one another and "team building" activities.We were also introduced to the programme's activities, aims and objectives in detail. Among other things we all had to give a brief history of our names and how or why we got these names, which I found so interesting, and complete a 60-minute challenge in groups. What I will certainly remember for the rest of my life is talking to myself in front of the window, part of the challenge and one of the funniest things asked!Other interesting things included in the challenge were: "imitate the final scene of Dirty Dancing", "bring back Michael Jackson (from the dead)" and so on.
Day 2: Day 2 was mostly about "borders". We tried to define the term "borders" and what it means to us and we discussed if its meaning has changed through the years or not. The activity was called "It's a small world" and it was made very clear that we are  all citizens of the world. Because of the places we have visited or the places we want to visit, because of our parents' or our grandparents' origins or just because that's the way we should feel especially in our days. A number of  factors today have made it easier for people to move from one country to another, when they want to and even when they are forced to . We talked about all the reasons that may contribute to people leaving their country, that is economic reasons, political reasons, social reasons and ecological reasons. We also had to share our knowledge for terms like immigration, emigration, refugee, expat, asylum. Last but not least we listed a number of reasons why we would suggest someone to move to our country. Later on the day we talked about exploring and sharing values. This is vital when we want to build a common ground of values, which in turn is critical when we want to boost solidarity and accepting diversity.
Day 3:
On day 3 we focused on Urban legends, where we find them and how we can recognise them. We discussed some common characteristics and we also talked about click baiting and how we can avoid false news and support young people to critically analyse what they read online esp. stories in social media. Participants experienced how a story can change when retold from one person to another and had to prepare a poster with an attractive ( but often misleading) title which would attract many clicks online. After lunch we listened to Abigail's story and we in groups had to rank the 5 characters of the story from worst to best according to their values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. There was a heated debate in each group and some groups- for instance,ours- weren't able to make a final decision for their ranking. I think, this was a good lesson to everyone that the way we see and judge others, their values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours tells a lot about the way we are, our values and beliefs, our attitudes and behaviours. It also taught us that good and bad is a very relative notion, sometimes very difficult to tell from each other.
Day 4:
Day 4 was about stories.  How stories can form beliefs and stereotypes according to the perspective they are told. How powerful can a single story be. This was illustrated succesfully through the inspiring TED talk by the famous writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The danger of a single story. You can watch the talk here:  
https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story  Then there was an introduction to transformative theatre and after that we listened to the Bremen story and we had to retell and recreate the story from a different perspective. The aim of this activity was to try and see the different sides of the same story. Later on we had to perform the story, which was actually one of the most enjoyable activities of the course.  We then discussed the ladder of inference and how we observe, form beliefs and draw conclusions and all these lead to our actions. Finally, we made an exhibition of our collage self portraits.
Day 5: 
Our last day was mostly about reflection, evaluation and wrapping up of the course. We all had to reflect on what we had experienced during the past days. We had to complete the "shield", put some thought to what we had learnt, what we still needed to learn, where and how we could use it and what might make it harder for us to use what we had learnt. We also had to create a song meddling different songs from 4 decades to perform at the farewell party in the evening.Also, we all talked about our organisations and talked about future collaborations or exchanges. Last but not least, we all left post-it notes for one another with comments on our self-portraits. In the evening, we gathered in a house to perform our songs, give youth passes to one another and party.

*I should not omit refering to all the energizers and outside activities we did which gave a refreshing touch to our sessions. There was such a variety that I really looked forward every time to see what new we would do.

Our day out to Mountshannon:
On our fourth day we visited Mountshannon. Everyone loved this idyllic place by the lake. We walked around the place going shopping and taking photos. Later we went to a local restaurant to have delicious pizza and wine. There was a festive atmosphere and after our dinner we went on with songs and dances from each country. Alan performed some Irish songs with his guitar and we had a great time there. The entertainment went on with a visit to the local pub to get a taste of Irish beer and the traditional gathering around the fireplace telling stories and jokes.

All in all, this course was an unforgettable experience from every aspect. It was beneficial not only for my professional development but also for the expansion of my PLN. It will remain in my memory for many years and I will make use of many things I learnt there in my job.

P.S. I wrote about my experience from memory mostly, so please forgive any omissions, mistakes or twists of memory.

These are some photos from the course.


To read and how to read? That is the question! - 10 sites to boost your students' reading skills

Tampering with the famous Shakespearean quote I feel that many of you may agree with me that trying to teach reading to students, in a world that students do not read anymore, may turn out to be a very challenging venture! Because the sad truth is that most students do not like reading, either because they don't know what to read, or because they don't know how to read or even because they read for the wrong purpose!

So, it is widely accepted that students do not generally read long texts. They read in the social media. Bits and pieces- short posts, messages, comments, twits. They read, yes, but do they do any serious reading, even in L1? And how can we, teachers of English, expect them to not only cope with long reading texts in a foreign language  but also do tasks on these texts, under these circumstances? It must sound crazy to them! "It is often difficult to convince students of English as a foreign language that texts in English can be understood even though there are vocabulary items and stuctures the students have never seen before. But this is the case, not only for non-native speakers, but also for speakers of English as a first language." (J. Harmer, 191)

Taking all these under consideration, reading is a skill that should be taught from an early age and it should also be practised- a lot! Because, as with all skills, the more you practise, the more efficient you become. A very important factor to encourage students to read something is to arouse their interest and give them a purpose to read. Because in real life we rarely read something without a purpose. Reading always serves a purpose, whether our students realize it or not. We read to gain information, to find out about other people's views, we read about travels and places we've never been to, we read for pleasure-just because "reading takes you places". So it's imperative to first teach our students to recognise the reason they are reading for. Not all texts will be interesting, not all of them will be easy, but we have to read each one of them for the purpose they were written. For this reason the pre-reading or lead-in stage is very important!

No matter what approach we decide to follow as teachers,  the pre-reading stage must always be the first step. Because we have to make our students interested in what they are going to read. We can ask them to predict what the text is going to be about by reading the title, looking at the pictures that may accompany it, stating their personal experience-if any- on the subject matter or just applying their knowledge of the world to relate to the subject matter, ask them to guess some relevant vocabulary that may appear in the text, anything that can help them be more prepared for what is going to follow. If there is little they know about the subject matter, you can ask them to think about what they would like to know about it and then when they read,check if their questions were answered.

Then of course, we can go on with teaching different strategies for reading, scanning, that is reading to extract specific information, skimming, that is reading for general understanding, reading for gist, that is reading for the main idea, or reading for detailed comprehension , which may not be so often but it may still be the case. Of course, all these strategies being taught does not mean students will develop a love for reading. They may just improve their reading skills for the exams. Thus, if you are interested, as an educator,  in raising readers and not only train your students to tackle a reading exam, you may need to think of other ways to deal with reading in your classroom.

Reading may become a daily or weekly routine for pleasure. You may read a funny story to your students to make them relax and have fun. You may read a poem you like. You may read a mystery story and ask them to solve the mystery. You may ask them to bring their own favourite stories to read in class. Finally, you may have a reading club, but keep it as simple as possible, for students to participate with joy and not see it as just another activity they have to do. Of course, you can also talk to them about the benefits of reading in the long run, depending on their age. Or even show them the following table if you think it will help.
                                         (Source: http://www.scilearn.com/blog/daily-reading-practice )

There are many sites for developing reading skills, but I will mention here the ones I have managed to look into a little closer.

1. Storyplace
A preschool activity library, with online stories, online activities, videos and take home activities. Easy and fun!

2. Breaking News English
Easy English news materials, according to level. It also provides a techinque to improve your reading speed. There are also other things like mini lessons, dictation and speed listening.

3. Books that grow
This is not a free site but it is quite interesting, as it offers many classic books written at different reading levels and it very easy for the teacher to organise and monitor the reading activity of their students. There also other features such as predict, summarise etc. for each book. So, if you are interested in organising a reading class more systematicaly this may be of use to you!

4. Dreamreader
This offers free online english reading practice for learners. Categories include easy English-pictograms, interesting English, fun English, practical English and academic English.

5. The Reading Agency 
This is a site with tips on how to set up your own reading club and encourage reading for pleasure. There are many downloadable resources for young children, teens and adults.

6. Pernille Ripp's blog
This is an inspiring blog for those who wish to help their students develop a love for reading. It contains lots of advice and ideas for student engagement, global collaboration etc.

7. Reading Rockets
This site has it all. Ideas and advice on teaching reading, helping struggling students, many reading topics, children's books and authors and lots of research, guides and resources.

8. Whooo is reading
A site that promises improvement in reading comprehension through graphic organizers, differentiated activities and questions that address key reading strategies.

9. Storynory
This site features a collection of original, fairytales, and classic children's stories, which students can listen to. The text is also included in the site. You can also download the story or leave a reply or comment as to whether you liked the story or not.It also contains translation of texts into different languages.

10. Readtheory
A free site with easy reading comprehension activities and a record of each student's progress.

Last but not least, a bonus for teachers and students, is a site for a new way of choosing your next book. You can choose from different combinations of factors to find the book that closely matches your needs. Which book http://www.openingthebook.com/whichbook/ ) has lists according to style, guest lists, or the option to create your own lists. There is also a section for children and schools called Bookflavour.

If after all these your students are not convinced about the benefits of reading, this infographic may be illustrative of them. What reading does to your brain and body:
( Source: https://ebookfriendly.com/reading-habits-successful-people-infographic/what-reading-does-to-your-brain-and-body/)
You can find more infographics that promote reading here.

REFERENCES for further reading:

1. The Practice of English Language Teaching, Jeremy Harmer, Longman, Cambridge,1991

2. The New Yorker- Books smell like old people: Do teens read seriously anymore? 

3. KQED-Mindshift: Steps for cultivating a love of reading in young children


International Happiness Day

I started the lesson with the video of the song "Happy" by Pharell Williams (feat.Minions)! The video is colourful with lyrics so pupils could sing along and get into the mood of the day easily! As a listening activity I asked them to count how many times the word "Happy" is heard. This was actually fascinating as the word is actually mentioned about 50 times in the song. After the counting had finished, I asked them how they felt listening and singing along-because they had been singing along! They said they felt happy! This is when I wrote on the board: Happy International Day of Happiness evrybody! And the fun began! This is where you can find the video:


We went on with colouring the happiness colouring sheet. Students had to pick up their favourite colours and notice how they felt as they coloured in their happy word. Other students chose another worksheet in which they had to design their own T-shirt of happiness. Here you can find these sheets, together with other wonderful ideas, such as bookmarks, happiness meter, calendar, a book of happiness, a family happiness recipe, etc.:


While colouring and designing we were listening to music. Students were able to choose songs that made them feel happy and I was writing them down, so we could compile our class happiness playlist later. You can listen to some of the songs in our playlist here:


These are some of the things we did on 20 March! The aim was to make students feel happy and relaxed and I think it was achieved!

Other Ideas

Moreover, searching further I found some other interesting  material which can be used on this day,

  • On the site makebeliefscomix.com the following printables:

-clouds for you to fill with joy

- a wonderful thought that keeps playing in your head

- a page for someone that makes you happy

- think about something that brings you happiness

  • For more advanced levels the TED videos:

- Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness

- Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness

There is also a worksheet based on this video. You can find it here:

  • other worksheets on happiness on the site en.islcollective.com
       4 ESL happiness is worksheets

  • a nice lesson plan including role playing dialogues and a song on the site busyteacher.org

and many other worksheets, as well. 

  • Another nice idea would be to print some of the famous Happiness is... images and discuss them with your students and then ask them to draw their idea of Happiness is...

For the end I left some of the photos we took on this day:

*Credits to Irene Pateraki-Creative Classroom Group!
 I got inspired for the day because of her suggestion to celebrate it and some material she provided us with. This is the site she directed us to


The creative use of Voki in our etwinning project 2016 "Using Web Tools 2.0 to communicate, collaborate, create"

We have used Voki with my 6th graders for our etwinning project last year, too!So you could say we had already been familiar with it and maybe-just maybe-we wouldn't find it as exciting anymore!  But, no,  this year, we have found a new way to use it, a way that made it the most exciting, entertaining and successful activity of the project. Students had a great time and Voki is still on the top of the list with their favourite web tools!
Those of you who have used Voki would know that students love making up characters and they could spend hours choosing the right eyes, nose or mouth, the appropriate background for their characters and they could go on forever experimenting with voices and  accents when they give their characters a voice to speak! This happens everytime! They are never bored because they have a large number of alternatives!
The title of the activity was "Famous people in disguise". Specifically, what they had to do was the following:

  • Students were divided in groups and they had to decide on a person from the country famous around the world. They could choose anyone they liked, an actor/actress, a singer, a politician, a writer, a composer etc.
  •  Then they had to collect information about this person and write a short text with the most striking pieces of information.For example, their profession, what made this person famous, when this happened etc.
  • Then they went on to create their characters,but they had to make them completely different from what they really looked like, because they were supposed to be disguised. Partners would guess who they were based only on the information they gave on themselves. 
  • Then they gave their characters voice so that they gave the information the students had collected about them. 
This is what some of the Voki characters looked like:

Some of the characters we have created can be found here:


(note: unfortunately, it seems that the "embed"option which was free until a few weeks ago,  is not incuded in the free version anymore. We were able to embed our Vokis on Twinspace some months ago.)

After we had created our Vokis, schools had to listen to the information the Vokis from another school gave and guess who each person was. We listened to the information twice in class, pupils took notes and went home to search, based on the information they had extracted from the listening. Our guesses were posted on a  Padlet wall. This is what it looked like: 

It has been such an exciting activity, both the creation and the guessing! Students worked with enthusiasm and they were eager both to guess and see if others would guess their creations. All in all it was meaningful, fun and interesting.It included reading, listening and writing and it promoted both individual and collaborative work. It also involved both cultural and intercultural exchange of
information. For all these reasons,  it was voted the best activity of this year's project!