Κυριακή, 9 Αυγούστου 2015

Raising awareness in the English classroom

As a foreign language teacher the option not to "go by the book" can give you a freedom and a power, which will give both you and your students an insight you never imagined! The option to raise awareness using English as a vehicle, will take off you the "burden" to just teach rules,and random lists of vocabulary! After all, being a teacher is more than just a job!

This year I have chosen to focus on  four different issues to raise awareness: Safer Internet, Bullying, Racism and Environmental Conservation. Each of them was covered occasioned by the respective Day dedicated to it. And on this day I taught it to different levels using a variety of lesson plans according to level. I must admit that we only had time to scratch the surface, but I like to think that this is only the beginning and we will be able to do more in the future.

Starting with Safer Internet Day on February 10th, being an Ambassador of Saferinternet campaign in my school, I was given the chance to have access to lots of material in order to prepare for the day. We had the opportunity to talk about Netiquette, Privacy, Cyber-bullying. We watched some related videos and information leaflets were distributed to students. One can find a lot of material on www.saferinternet.org  . With my younger students we did some activities from the e-book Play and Learn: Being Online, published by European Schoolnet, which can be downloaded for free. Students had a good time while learning a lot of useful things about safety on the Internet.

The Day against Bullying is on March, 6th. Our shool took part in a joined event organised by three local Primary Schools. In class, however, we did some interesting things as well. With older students we took an anti-bullying quiz found on www.teachingtolerance.org, we talked about bullying statistics, created some posters in pairs or groups and an information leaflet was distributed Bullying: Advice for young people/forms of bullying. With younger students we coloured pages on the theme Be a Buddy not a Bully found on ElementarySafety.com and we made Friendship Wristbands found on www.KidsCanHaveFun.com. Bullying is a serious problem for students around the world today and, in my opinion, the more we do the better. The truth is there are loads of material found on the Web and one can get to choose what to focus on.

The Day against Racism is on March,21st. I spent days looking for material to do on this day. What I have found was enough to be covered not just in a lesson but in months of lessons. Again, there's a lot to do and you can choose what would be appropriate for your students. I have found extremely useful and full of interesting ideas the site http://www.theredcard.org/educational from which we did an activity on stereotypes, during which students had to decide who is who matching photos to jobs. The results were very interesting as to how young students form stereotypes according to experience. With another class we had to elicit ideas as to what racism is and what respect is. They had to write their ideas on post-it notes and stick them around the appropriate term on the papers on the wall.

On April,22nd is Earth Day. This year we talked mostly about sorting out garbage and recycling. With younger students we watched a Peppa Pig episode on recycling and coloured a page about different recycling bins:cans, paper, bottles. Then we did a cut-and-paste activity on sorting trash in Recycle-Garbage columns. With older students we played a Find-Someone-Who to celebrate Earth Day found on education.com. We all did different kinds of  word-search and colouring pages for the day as well.

These special days have stayed with my students memories of the year and mine, too! On these days we all shared our experiences and knowledge of the world and we did this in our English class! What students find engaging they wish to participate in and they have to do their best to express themselves and voice their beliefs.

Κυριακή, 19 Ιουλίου 2015

10 Things Students Like or How to make your students look forward to English class

In September I always give a welcoming letter to my 3rd grade students. They are the ones who are about to do English for the first time at school.  What I try to stress in this letter, among other things, is the idea that learning English IS fun (of course we all know that it can be dead boring sometimes, but this is something I omit on purpose!). And this is somehow a promise to them and a reminder to myself to try incessantly and make it fun for them. I believe it is crucial to make a good start when you start learning a language. So throughout the year I am trying to put my words into practice and maintain their interest for the language as keen as possible! Here are some ways I rely on-everyone has their own, and there is always room for trying something new!

  • Vary the way of starting and ending a lesson. Ken Wilson in his plenary in Tesol MT, March 2015 said that apart from teachers we are human beings and we might (just an idea) start a lesson differently, for example by narrating something funny that happened to us before we leave home. Or we could start with a saying, a statement or an opinion, which can be linked to the lesson afterwards, for the students to discuss. We can use a visual and elicit ideas and so on. Ideas can be infinite! It's not necessary, actually it should be avoided, to start the lesson in an abrupt or boring way such as:"Open your books and let's do some reading"! Giordana Popovic recently gave us some very nice ideas to end a lesson (http://themanyhatsofateacher.weebly.com/home/ideas-for-ending-a-lesson). 
  • Have classroom helpers. It is very important especially for young students to feel responsible and have a certain duty to do during class. Although it may seem strange it is something they look forward to at the beginning of the week. This is why I prepare a poster with different jobs that I assign to different students every week. This is what our poster looked like last week. (I plan to make some changes this year.
  • Teach songs. All young students like songs. TPR is always popular with these ages. They particularly enjoy dancing while singing or taking part in song contests-where they compete in teams or individually for the best performance. It is a fun way to learn new words and it is certainly very effective in also remembering them for a long time!
  • Read stories (actually dramatize stories). Stories are another favourite thing of young learners. When you read a story properly(with making voices and all), students are emotionally involved, they respond with entusiasm and they can learn through repetition. They can be asked to retell the story in their own words afterwards, role-play it, or they can create drawings of what their favourite part in the story was or make cards with words they have learned. 
  • Make lapbooks. Lapbooks are an artistic way of organising what we have learned in topics. The topic is common but the way every student creates the lapbook is unique. Each one is different, this is what makes lapbooks so interesting. There is much free printable material on the web and you can also create your own little books to put in your lapbook.

  • Let students teach.They say  the best way to learn something is to try to explain it to someone else. This may sound difficult or not feasible when you first hear it, but students can take it very seriously. You just have to be very clear on what you want them to teach  ( a rule, some new words, a short text) and you may have to give guidelines on how to do it with less competent students. Otherwise, it can be a challenge for them-don't forget that they have plenty of role models for teaching-not only you-and the outcome may surprise you!
  • Have students work in groups. Working in groups can have many advantages. However, groups should be of mixed ability so that students can help each other and each group has both more and less competent students. In my opinion, you should change the members of a group, but not very often. Students have to be given the time to learn how to cooperate with different people. Moreover, roles should be assigned in a group, e.g someone who writes, someone who collects and organises data, someone for technology-if technology is required for a task, an illustrator-if there are drawings to be done etc. This way, everyone contributes something and feels an equal part of the group. But members of a group should change roles, too, so as not to have the same people always do the same things.
  • Play games in teams. Games are motivational, anyway. They should be played for a reason apart from just having fun so there must always be an objective. When played in teams, though, the incentive is stronger. You have to do the best for your team. When a team wins though, remember to stress some positive points for the other team as well, so that they also get a feeling of achieving something and reassure them that they can try a different strategy next time in order to achieve more for their team.
  • Teach students how to use tecnology- and use it! I love technology. It's not that I can't teach without it, but I enjoy using it when I teach. I have found out that my students love it, too! Our students grow up in a world of (online) connection-they use social media, they play games online, it's just a way of living for them. So why not use this to our benefit? I love teaching them digital tools and it's really crazy to see their reactions when they create something with them! My students love Padlet, Voki and Google Docs and I am sure they are going to love every web tool they can use to create something with the language they learn!
  • Ask for students' ideas, when you want to alter an old boring activity. Children can have these amazing ideas to vary an activity you've been using for a long time and they got bored of it. You only have to give them the chance to use their imagination and listen to them! You can even make it sound like a competition and have their classmates vote for the best idea! Your students can give solutions to many problems if you only let them and show them you trust them!
To sum it up, the important thing is to show your students you care enough and you really want them to have a good time while learning. They have to feel this is a genuine feeling and an honest try! Then, they will feel free to contribute their best and make an honest try as well! It goes both ways!

Δευτέρα, 13 Ιουλίου 2015

Online Collaboration-Working on a project with other countries.

New technologies and social media are very popular with students nowadays, so educators should take advantage of this advancement and use it to engage their students and allow for communication and collaboration with peers around the world.

Participation in collaborative projects with classrooms from other countries can have many advantages and help students develop some of the 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation. It can also broaden their horizons as they get in touch with students from different cultures and they are able to share their experiences with them.

There are, however, some things you need to consider in order to participate in a successful project actively or even design it yourself.
1. There must be a clear timetable with carefully designed activities and deadlines.
2. Clear instructions for the activities should be given and other parametres should be defined such as
“Is it an individual or a team activity?”
“Should it be done at home or at school?”
“Is the use of technology for each activity optional or necessary? If it is necessary, do all students have access to a computer or the Internet?”
3. Clear directions should be given for the use of web tools or other web based resources as to how to use them
4. There must be some integration to the curriculum and clear learning objectives and expected results. There should also be reference to anticipated problems and possible ways of handling them.
5. The way of communication among the partners teachers or students may vary(e-mails, online platforms, social media etc.), it can be agreed beforehand, but it must be frequent for the best possible result. Moreover, it should be made clear whether it will be conducted one-by-one or in teams or among classes from different countries. In the latest case, for example a web-conference, there are some things upon consideration such as difference in time-zone, convenient class-time for all participants and technical problems that may be faced during the session.
6. It would be interesting to have a final product and see to its proper diffusion to the local community or the internet.

Apart from careful planning by the teachers, the hard work and the difficulties that may come up on the way, the whole experience is unique for the participants. The purpose for communication and creation is realistic and the process of foreign language learning becomes exciting and enjoyable for the students. The outcome is original and interesting, to say the least and makes both the students and the teachers proud of themselves.

Τρίτη, 23 Ιουνίου 2015

Professional development- a way to avoid being bored or boring!

  • This is for Marjorie Rosenberg, who gave a wonderful plenary at the TESOL MTNG CONVENTION in March and inspired us to do some serious thinking about the ways we use to develop professionally.Thank you, Marjorie!

As a student I loved English. Back then, however, I never imagined I would become an English teacher. I actually thought I wasn't cut for teaching, at all! And yet, here I am, many years later, an English teacher! A teacher who still loves the language, loves teaching it-and has never stopped learning it. Because teachers, especially  language teachers, are committed to life long learning. And this is a commitment both to themselves and to their students. Life long learning assists professional development and can prevent boredom and burn out!

Professional development starts the moment you start teaching. Every day you teach you learn something new, you try new ideas and not a single lesson is the same with another lesson,even you follow the same lesson plan. The students are different and the same lesson plan may lead you to different paths, variations of activities and techniques, because what works with a group of students can be completely wrong for another. So much depends on so many different factors in every lesson that you have no choice but to develop, to go a step further.

However, besides the development that comes naturally, you can do many things to boost this development yourself. There are things you can do on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, or a monthly basis and so on. What I do every day is use the social media-with Facebook being at the top of my list! I use them to read articles, blogs, interact with colleagues in my country or around the world and get informed about events related to my profession. I think that the social media have opened new horizons for teachers.What I believe to be the most important advantage of using the social media is that I got to know people I admire and respect and who I like to hear from regularly. Sharing is precious and it has become easier with the social media.

On a weekly basis, I try to attend a webinar. It is not always possible but there are so many webinars going on out there, on so many topics, that I find it hard to resist. This is another way to watch and listen to and learn from people you might never be able to meet in person. Experts, professors, personalities with huge contribution to education worldwide. Plus,there is always interaction with other colleagues again and again you may be able to make new acquaintances.

On a monthly basis, I try to write on my blog. This makes me better in a sense that I usually sit down and collect information about the topic I want to write about. I also read opinions of others on the topic to get a broader sense. I  like getting feedback on my blog posts as a way to start a conversation on topics of common interest with colleagues.

My favourite way of professional development, though, are MOOCs. It is a love I discovered two years ago and ever since I never stopped taking new courses on various topics related to teaching. Teaching using technology,teaching students with dyslexia, teaching character, the psychology of teaching and many more. Not only do I learn things on issues I am interested in, but I also have the chance to be a student again. I find a pleasure in trying to feel like my students feel as learners and be reminded of the difficulties and their worries .

As a general way to develop I try to attend workshops, seminars or conventions as often as I can, although this is not always easy as I live away from Thessaloniki and Athens, which usually host such events.

Professional development is intertwined with teaching if you really love what you do and you are serious about it. In my future plans is exploring the area of PLNs, and trying to set up a virtual classroom for my students. I try to get as much information as I can before I start. I feel we are really blessed to be in the field of education because we are given infinite opportunities for professional development. We only have to choose a domain or more every time and let the journey begin!

Πέμπτη, 28 Μαΐου 2015

I have a (rather humble) dream or my end-of-the-year reflections

I have a dream! That my students:

  • Always learn while exploring, creating and having fun
  • are as much enthusiastic to learn new things as I am when I try new things with them
  • see every lesson as a challenge to achieve something new, to go a step further
  • think out of the box and stretch their comfort zones in order to be creative and original
  • use English to communicate with people they wouldn't be able to communicate otherwise
  • see English as a way to be united to the rest of the world
  • share my enthusiasm when we create together
  • feel proud of themselves every time they come up with imaginative ideas and make these ideas come true as much as I feel proud of them
  • feel the love I feel for the language and for them
With this humble dream I go to bed every night and this dream I meet when I get up. And I have made this dream my purpose as an educator and for this dream I try to make every day worthwhile!

Πέμπτη, 30 Απριλίου 2015

TESOL Macedonia Thrace Convention 2015

I've been meaning to write about TESOL Macedonia-Thrace 2015 Convention for some weeks now, because I want my experience to be recorded.

It's been some years since my last convention-back in 2012-and I felt I had to do everything possible to attend this one. When it was all over I realized I had done the right thing. It was just then that it occured to me that the last time I attended a TESOL convention I learnt so much for the years to follow and a whole lot I had been using since. I realised that this happens with every TESOL convention. And I made the promise to myself to try and attend every TESOL every year. I hope I will be able to keep it!

A significant fact that made the difference for me at this convention this year is the people I met. First of all, old and dear friends. Then, people I knew from the social media but had never met. The feeling was unique! It was as if I had already known them in person for years. Last but not least, the new people I met at the convention. Exciting people with whom we communicate now almost every day.

So first of all, before writing about plenaries, presentations and workshops I attended, I want to make something clear. I may be able to report what I've seen and learnt but what I cannot do is convey the buzzing atmosphere, the incredible aura of some speakers, the interesting hangouts of the participants during the breaks and most of all I cannot convey the feelings. And all these are what make it such a memorable and definitely worth attending event.

Day 1: My day started with Marjorie Rosenberg's plenary "Getting unstuck: Stretching out of our comfort zones". Marjorie introduced to us many ways on how to keep our interest keen and develop further professionally. I loved her reasearch in the social media and the answers she got by colleagues around the world. It seems that everyone is trying out new things to evolve as educators and keep the fire burning these days. A lot of ideas were included in the plenary: using web tools,PLNs, ELT Chat, disabled access friendly campaign, Simple Engish videos, attending MOOCs and writing blogs among others. The presentation by Vicky Kostara-an old friend-and Katerina Kyriakidou "Let's follow Kavafy's footsteps" travelled us on a journey to the famous poet's works through the eyes of their students. A presentation which illustrated what our students can do with the right kind of motivation.
Margarita Kosior and Thomas Mantzaris in "Re-negotiating the Basics: Learner Autonomy", suggested in what ways we can foster our students' interest, engage them with the content and let their creativity flourish. The use of technology, games, the Internet, oral presentations along with peer evaluation forms, social media and other online platforms are some of their ideas in order to promote learner autonomy.
The next plenary by Alec Williams was amusing to say the least. "Bringing it Alive! Interactive Storytelling and the Early Years" made it so clear that learning certainly takes place when you have fun! As he quoted Strabon "Pleasure acts as a charm to incite the learning". He certainly brought alive many stories and made his plenary memorable. Dagmara Mathes-Sobocinska talked about gamification and how we can use game mechanics and game design techniques to make our students achieve a goal in her presentation "Changing the world through leadership skills". Many new ideas which I hadn't heard before and a lot to process after her presentation. The last presentation for the day by Aphrodite Giouri was one that touched me personally, because Aphrodite is a colleague in a state school -like myself-and it was a relief to see that there are colleagues out there in the public sector who work miracles. She talked about "Ten motivation success stories" motivated we felt indeed after her presentation! The presentation was full of practical tips and ideas. The Pecha Kucha was enjoyable and it came as the natural closing to a full and productive day! 

Day 2:   I couldn't make it before the first plenary which was "Only Connect: Seven Strategies for Ensuring Teacher-Student Communication in the Classroom" by Ken Wilson! A charismatic speaker, Mr.Wilson reminded us that Primary Education is the most revolutionary area in education-where all the changes take place-Thank God for this! He talked about ways to stay connected with our students whether we use the technology or not and gave plenty of original ideas to keep our students' interest! Lots of new things to try! The play by Dr Luke Prodromou, David Gibson, Aggeliki Markou and Maria-Araxi Sachpazian was a success as usual! "All the World is a Stage: Celebrating 451 years of Shakespeare". One naturally thinks how much  a teacher and an actor have in common. A successful performance is a give-and-take between the actor and the audience. The same goes for a successful lesson. It is a game of interaction. After the lunch break the inspirational Vassiliki Mandalou provided us with lots of food for thought talking about the connection between Philosophy and Literature. "Practical Literature in Class: Discovering Philosophy in Disguise". The material she chose to use filled the room with inspiration and tranquility something that was also reflected on Vassiliki's voice and face! Marina Tzalamoura  in her" Learning Difficulties: Dyslexia in Second Language Learning" talked about dyslexia in a packed room, something that showed how dyslexia is a porblem for educators and that we are all trying to find ways to deal with it so that they can help their students. She offered not only definitions and symptoms but also practictal advice on how to deal with dyslexic students. The last presentation I attended-because I had a train to catch-was "Harnessing the Complicated Phenomenon of Language Acquisition: Theories and Aspects" by Maria-Araxi Sachpazian. Maria is one of those gifted people who can talk about the most difficult topic and make it sound so simple. She said so much in so little time and  through a flashback in approaches and methods made us think or re-think about the techniques we are using to teach-what we should keep and what we should change.

On my way home I was bringing back to mind what I experienced during this full weekend! I kept some notes for future reference and I sent some friend requests on Facebook to all the new, interesting people I had met. The exchange of comments and experiences after the convention kept the feeling alive for days. The communication is constant and I think we all look forward to the next event where we could all meet together again.

Τετάρτη, 15 Απριλίου 2015

Towards a growth mindset- It's not intelligence that leads to success, it's the belief that you can succeed.

Children in Greece strive for grades. They study to do well in tests. They study to pass the exams. And when they don't do well in tests or exams they are disappointed,  disheartened. They often give up! They don't believe in themselves. This is because our educational system rewards intelligence and not effort. It's the binary trap of success and failure that is the aim. Nobody has ever taught them that the aim of education is learning not grades. We see children with good grades as smart children, we tend to praise ability rather than effort. We say "You did it! Look how smart you are"! And if the ability isn't good enough, what can you do? If you fail, in spite of being smart, then what? Where can you go from there?

So what should we do? It is my firm belief that as educators we can always make a difference! In this case we should try to create growth mindset environments for our students. And if the system doesn't promote such a mindset let's show our students the way. To create a growth mindset environment it means to teach your students not to focus on scores but on the learning process. If the outcome of this sprocess is not what they wished, teach them to try again. Mistakes are only part of the learning process for a growth mindset. There is no such thing as failure, because every "failure"is a stepping stone to the path of success. 

When you have a growth mindset you know that intelligence can be developed. So can talents and creativity. The brain is like a muscle and if you train it hard, if you challenge it enough, you can take it further. "Effort, good strategies and proactive help seeking are the 3 attributes of a growth mindset" according to Dr.Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, who has been doing a research on growth mindset. You don't have to worry about how smart you are because you know that you can always change this. Your focus is on hard work and improvement. Your goal is learning. "At the heart of what makes the growth mindset so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval."..."Stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself."

We should also teach that other values contribute to success, such as goal setting, grit or our perseverance  for long term goals, self-control in order not only to get started by setting a goal but also stay on track. A growth mindset is part of what we call character education, which is my intention to discuss in a future post.

Last but not least, we should set the example as teachers, practicing what we preach by developing a growth mindset ourselves. We should always try to learn: from our students, from reflection, from trial and error, from peers/colleagues,mentors/ supervisors or academic information in our field. We should be committed to lifelong learning and ongoing professional development. We should also be open minded, dare to embrace new ideas or implement changes. We should be all these we wish to see in our students.

(If you are interested in growth mindset you can watch Carol Dweck's videos on YouTube, or visit the following site: www. mindsetworks.com.  Also there is an article on Carol Dweck on Brainpickings- 29/01/2014)

Κυριακή, 5 Απριλίου 2015

How to transform a noisy class.

I have always said that I want my classes to be noisy! What I can't handle is demotivated students that are quiet and withdrawn. But when I say noisy, I mean noisy for a reason. I mean the buzzing of meaningful engagement, the creative kind of noise! So here are some tips on how to transform a noisy-without-a-reason class to a creative-noisy class.

Tip 1: Never teach by the book- literally and metaphorically.
Books address to a general audience. They cannot be tailored to your students' needs. Yoy are the one who knows their needs, this is why you have to make choices as to what should be taught and how you should teach it. Don't be afraid to be inventive and flexible. Supplement your book with your own material.

Tip 2: Give your students a variety of activities. 
A certain everyday routine is said to give students a feeling of security as to what they should expect in every lesson. Apart from this, though, try to vary the kind of activities you give your students so that they have the chance to practise all four skills. Give them a listening task and ask them to give an oral summary as an after-listening activity. Or a reading passage with no ending and ask them to write their own ending. The ideas are infinite!

Tip 3: Always-and I mean always-be well prepared. 
After 17 years of teaching I have come to the conclusion that almost all class management problems stem from...teachers! A well prepared teacher with a carefully planned lesson plan focuses on the process and gives the message that she is determined to get on with her lesson no matter what. Moreover, a well prepared teacher radiates with confidence because she knows what she's doing. Besides, she may even have a back-up plan to deal with anticipated problems. Of course this doesn't mean that you shouldn't allow for flexiblity or change of plan if something doesn't work. But again expertise would guide you into adapting the lesson accordingly .

Tip 4: Let your students be creative.
Avoid extensive TTT(teacher talking time). Don't do all the thinking and all the talking for them. Instead focus on giving clear instructions and let them do the rest. You'd be amazed at what children can come up with if they feel that you trust them.

Tip 5: Let them interact with each other. 
A noisy class needs to be expressed anyway. Let them channel all this energy to a purpose. Let them be noisy for a good reason. Use debates, information-gap filling activities, role plays etc. Don't be afraid to let them mingle in order to gather information. The "chaos" you think they are creating is well worth it. The outcome is almost always more than you expect!

Κυριακή, 1 Μαρτίου 2015

Etwinning-A "rescue" project for my 5th grade

Anyone who has taught a fifth grade in a Greek state Primary School would agree that choosing to do an Etwinning project would be the ideal thing to do with students of this age. I don't mean to sound harsh but it is a common secret that the book for this class is completely inappropriate both for the age and the knowledge level of the students. It is difficult and if you don't supplement it according to the class you teach students are bound to either lose interest early or feel discouraged because they will be unable to follow you.

So this year I have decided to try Etwinning with my students. I was amazed myself about how good this decision really was! I can only start listing the advantages and at the moment it would only be fair to say that there are a few disadvantages and these are not even worth considering.

So, first of all, MOTIVE! This must be the key word. Students are motivated to look up, find, write and create because they are really interested! They want to express their ideas and they are trying their best! They are looking forward to each lesson, each new activity and -believe it or not-they are disappointed when we miss a class! I love seeing the look on their face when I describe the steps that are about to follow!

Then, COOPERATION! Yes, there are times that they fight, but who doesn't? Most of the time students work together, everyone-and I mean everyone-is contributing with ideas and the final outcome is always interesting! They are writing articles, they are drawing, they are collecting information, they are creating imaginary characters and there is so much more to do in the future.

Also, CREATIVITY! Students are free to use their imagination and create! They don't see the "catch", but yes they are doing it in English! So, they have no excuses. If they want to express what they think they have to do it in English! They have to! And they do! And they do it very well!

Furthermore, TECHNOLOGY! Students learn how to use various web tools, which is really exciting for them. Padlet, Voki, Google Drive, just to name a few, are a whole new world for the students,a world that makes their learning fun!

And last but not least, E-FRIENDS! Both students and teachers get to know new people. Bonds are built, communication with people from other places helps us learn things about their countries, their culture, their way of living.

All in all, as I have said, etwinning is a unique experience, for both teachers and students. It also creates a stronger bond between the teacher and the class because they all give a part of themselves in this, they share thoughts and ideas and they also share a wish to give their best in order to succeed the best outcome! For those of you who haven't tried it or are afraid to try it I would strongly suggest it! The experience is worth the hard work!  

Τετάρτη, 11 Φεβρουαρίου 2015


1ο Δ/Σ ΑΜΥΝΤΑΙΟΥ        

Στα πλαίσια του εορτασμού της Ημέρας ασφαλούς Διαδικτύου, το 1ο Δ/Σ Αμυνταίου, όντας από φέτος πρεσβευτής του www.saferinternet.gr πραγματοποίησε δράσεις με τις τάξεις Γ, Ε και Στ.
 Οι μαθητές της Ε και Στ παρακολούθησαν βίντεο και παρουσιάσεις prezi ,από το υλικό που διατίθεται στην επίσημη ιστοσελίδα και ακολούθησε συζήτηση κατά την οποία οι μαθητές μοιράστηκαν τις εμπειρίες τους από την χρήση του διαδικτύου και αντάλλαξαν απόψεις πάνω στις έννοιες του κυβερνοεκφοβισμού και της προστασίας των προσωπικών δεδομένων στο διαδίκτυο. Στο τέλος μοιράστηκε ενημερωτικό υλικό σχετικά με την ιδιωτική ζωή στο διαδίκτυο.
Οι μικρότεροι μαθητές της Γ συμπλήρωσαν φυλλάδια εργασίας από το βιβλίο "Παίζω και μαθαίνω"(safer internet) σχετικά με την προστασία της ιδιωτικής ζωής, (σελ. 16,17,21) με σκοπό την εξοικείωση τους με έννοιες όπως ασφάλεια στο διαδίκτυο,προστασία των προσωπικών μου στοιχείων κτλ. Στο τέλος οι μαθητές συμπλήρωσαν ένα κρυπτόλεξο με λεξιλόγιο σχετικό με τους υπολογιστές και παρακολούθησαν το βίντεο Η Κοκκινοσκουφίτσα στο Ιντερνετικό Δάσος".

Δευτέρα, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Education and new technologies!

I have been spending time on courses about web tools 2.0, online learning, virtual learning, blended learning, flipped classrooms etc. for about a year now. I have to admit this has been the best thing I have done for my professional development for ages! What I have learnt has open new horizons for me. It has changed my perspective as a teacher no matter how exaggerated this may sound! The way I see it now, the role of the teacher should change or at least adapt to the new conditions.

 Times change and we, as educators, should change, too, if we wish to stay close to our students. The place of the teacher among a group of students should change as well. The teacher should act more as a  facilitator, a helping hand in the students' journey of dicovering the knowledge. Let's face it. We are not the only source of knowledge for our students any more, neither we nor our textbooks! Students are bombardised with loads of information everywhere, everyday. So we have to take advantage of the abundance of sources on the internet and incorporate this to our teaching. Use lots of and various means to teach. Use Google Drive, Padlet, Storybird, Pinterest. Be creative, be inventive and let our students follow our example! Teach them new intriguing ways to learn, make them believe learning is a worthwhile experience.

 At first, it may sound difficult to accept, give in our "authority status" in the classroom. It may come as a surprise, but we are not omniscient, we are not the omnipotent creatures we want our students to believe! :) And you know what? I personally feel relieved that we are not, that we don't have to be! Because this takes the anxiety off me about my students' expectations. Not my responsibility towards them, only the anxiety!

So taken that our students see a more humane face of us-besides that of the bad guy who give the marks,or the one who smirks at a wrong answer- they will see someone who wants to make them learn while having fun, they will start appreciating us more and even respect us more. They will even say hello to us when they meet us on the street! Because if they don't feel our "authority",they won't have to question or challenge it! And we all know how children tackle authority. They feel the need to test it all the time!

I have decided this year to take on an etwinning project. It takes lots of time and effort but it's worth it! This way I have esperienced together with my students the pleasure of being connected with others via the Internet, the fun and creative way of using English for a real purpose -our project-and the beautiful feeling of cooperation for a common goal! Moreover, I have seen the sparkle in their eyes, when they express their ideas and the smile on their face everytime we meet! All these is the reward for me! All these make me urge everyone who hasn't tried tecnology to go for it! It's really worth it!

Character Education

What is character? Virtue Ethics in Education
University of Birmingham

You still have time to join.

Παρασκευή, 23 Ιανουαρίου 2015

My story: A story of Gratitude!

I never really thought I would become an English teacher. I was really good at English at school, yes, but  teaching, no, had never crossed my mind. When I succeeded  in the university exams in the English Department I loved everything about it! I enjoyed my studies,but yet I couldn't imagine myself in front of an "audience" teaching! I thought it would be hard.
However, when I finished my studies I got my first job as a teacher. And it was not that hard! In fact, I started enjoying it more and more. But in May I got fired! I got fired from my first job! I couldn't understand what went wrong and I got really depressed. A friend of mine suggested that I forget all about it and try to look for something new. It got me some time to get over it but when I did, I got really organised, prepared a new C.V. and started sending it to schools. I remember sending it to about 15-20 schools. I also did some interviews. There was one school in particular, which made an impression on me. So big, so organised, with an inspiring atmosphere! I caught myself thinking "This is a place I'd love to work at!" .Moreover, the director of studies seemed so friendly but at the same time so professional. I liked her instantly. She told me she would call me, but she never did.
 A couple of months later, sometime before September, this same school had an ad looking for teachers, again. And I was still unemployed. I got tempted to try again, but I was hesistant. She didn't call me the first time, why try again, I thought. This same friend that was there for me the first time urged me to go for it. "You are still unemployed, and they are still looking for teachers", he said. "And you really liked this school." In the end I got convinced. And I went again. I remember the look in her eyes, when she realised she had seen me not so long ago. "We've talked again",she said. I admitted it. "But, you've changed your hair",she noticed. I had! "Why have you decided to come again?" she asked. "I turned you down the first time". "I really liked your school", I said. "I'd love to work here". She smiled and said "I like your persistence! I will give you a chance!" She asked me to do a class observation and then do a demo lesson myself. I did. And I got the job! I was delighted! 
It turned out my instict was right! The school was absolutely perfect. The director, Tasoula, also became my mentor, teaching me all she could. She is a generous person, who's not afraid to pass her knowledge to others. She trusted me, giving me full time from the beginning, and always was there for me through difficulties. She was the reason I have become a lifelong learner, she inspired people by her incessant desire to always learn more and do better. She was a pioneer in many ways. What is more, the people she chose to have by her side were exceptional, too. Eleni, Kyriaki, Angeliki were great people and talented teachers. They also shared their knowledge with me generously. All in all,we were a great team. I was so proud to be part of this school! I am really grateful to these people, they really made me what I am today. I often rememebr the days we had together, now that our lives are separate. Thank you girls!

Τετάρτη, 21 Ιανουαρίου 2015

A word for 2015 challenge: MOOCs

I read about this challenge on Vicky Loras' blog and it seems to me as the best way to start the year and this blog in general. (2012 has been called 'The year of the MOOC' by the New York Times-3 years later I'd like to believe that  every year from now on will be the year of the MOOC for me)

It's already been a year since I started enrolling in MOOCs. What  a year! I consider myself a fervent lifelong learning advocate and when I learned about the existence of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) the word became immediately synonym to "Open Sesame"for me . It opened the door to a whole new world of learning that I knew nothing of. My first course about online and blended learning also came as a surprise to me! I had no idea people learned this way. (Please , don't get me wrong!I love my job and I used to get informed about everything new but during the past ten years I have been a full time mummy to 3 children and I had to slow down with my job for a while-everybody knows the frenzy a teacher lives if she wishes to be a good teacher!) But of course I was about to find out more about it all by experimenting what it is to be part of an online learning community upon joining this first course. The whole experience was thrilling! I couldn't wait every Monday for the new week readings, videos and assignments. My instructor's help was immediate and conducive to my intent to do better and better. The communication with colleagues from around the world and from my own country of course was eye-opening! I successfully completed the course and I soon enrolled in a new one and another one and then another one...Needless to say, I attended some very interesting things! There were some courses I enrolled and never had the time to complete but I was determined to complete those I found exciting enough! It was like an addiction to me. When a course ended I immediately started a new one. Sometimes I attended 2 or even 3 at the same time. At the moment I am attending 3. To cut a long story short: I am Maria and I love MOOCs! They have become a part of my life for a year now and I plan to keep it this way for 2015 and the years to come- I hope!