Friday, May 29, 2015

Teaching Out of the Book by Despina Karamitsou - Report

One of our active members, Despina Karamitsou, delivered once again a brilliant talk entitled "Teaching out of the book" at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece’s 22nd convention entitled "Back to Basics", on Saturday 28th March 2015. 
Photo by Margarita Kosior

It tied in well with the general theme, as she presented some excellent easy to set up activities for primary school children; activities, requiring limited resources and preparation time but involving a lot of hands-on learning, enthusiasm and unlimited fun. 

The only prerequisites needed are energy, and willingness to step outside the confines of the textbook or even the classroom. They involved TPR, teamwork, creativity and more. Ideas like creating thematic lapbooks and dioramas to setting up relay races which not only promote language learning but also an awareness of various environmental issues like the importance of conserving water. 

Despina also shared her wonderful ideas at the seminar organized by the Larissa English Teachers Association, so that our colleagues who were not able to attend this year’s conference could get a taste of what being a member offers to professionals. 

I would like to thank Despina for her devotion and eagerness to contribute and I anxiously await to see her in action again.

Photo by Aphrodite Gkiouris

By George Topalis

Monday, May 18, 2015

Harnessing the Complicated Phenomenon of Language Acquisition: Theories and Aspects by Maria-Araxi Sachpazian - Report

Language acquisition is indeed quite a complicated phenomenon; Maria Araxi Sachpazian, however, managed to simplify the various theories with her comprehensive presentation of approaches to language acquisition, while inviting participants to reexamine their own practice.

The session began with a lively discussion, in an attempt to explain the complexity of the issue. Why are there so many different theories? Is learning conscious? What happens with second or foreign language acquisition? Does a form-focused approach work? Through the discussion, our presenter practically invited us to ‘’clean up our closet’’, analyse and pinpoint the elements of each theory that work and those that prove less effective. The participants were engulfed in dialogue while the presenter was showcasing the different approaches: Grammar Translation, Audio-lingual, Suggestopedia, Cognitivism,The Natural Approach,The Silent Way (as an example of Humanistic Approaches) and Communicative Language Teaching. The unparalleled variety of teaching practices kept unfolding and each participant had their own unique view and experience to share.

By the end of the talk, all participants had had the opportunity to express their opinion, their own approach and their worries on the subject of acquisition, as well as to listen to each other, offer suggestions and understand that the best each theory gives us can be used in our teaching.

What emerged from Maria-Araxi Sachpazian’s session was that socio-cultural theories definitely affect our approach to teaching and that, in fact, our teaching is determined by our learning and training. Shifting the emphasis on our students’ ability and firmly believing in our approach as teachers seemed to be the appropriate conclusion to this thought-provoking presentation.

In the short amount of time of the session, Maria-Araxi Sachpazian managed to clarify details on the varied learning theories and challenge participants to take an inquisitive view on their personal approach to teaching.

By Christina Chorianopoulou

Interviewed by Christina Chorianopoulou

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do The Media Tell The Whole Truth? by Linda Manney - Report

What does George Orwell’s Animal Farm have in common with products such as perfumes, energy drinks and chocolate? As Linda Manney explained at the beginning of her presentation at the 22nd International Convention, Orwell’s well-known book was the inspiration for this project aimed at 12-18 year old teenagers. The subject, of course: Propaganda.

How is propaganda used in today’s adverts which bombard our children? Are children aware of the techniques used in advertisements and which persuade them to buy the product? As Linda explained, she began the project by showing World War II posters to her students where the principles of advertising are more obvious, the images have both an emotional and personal appeal and the use of language is overdramatic. The task for the students: to find posters from the 40s. The ones the students chose definitely had the exaggeration of the time.

Moving on to today’s adverts, Linda explained how the same principles are used- they appeal to our most basic drives: glamour, wealth, excitement, adventure. Our task?  to find the clusters i.e. the group of textual parts which work together to convey a stronger message.; to watch adverts and find how the music adds to this; to find how the ads shown “speak to our fantasy”.

All in all, Linda Manney’s presentation had exactly what one would want when leaving a convention:  a project ready to use in the classroom for the teachers while at the same time doing more than just teaching English. It is this awareness raising which has become so important in today’s world and goes beyond language learning itself that this project offers and will remain with learners forever.

By Natasha Loukeri

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More? by Christina Siskou, Alexandra Philippidou & Popi Gerontidou - Report

"Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?" was the title of the project based on Charles Dickens’s wonderful book by three equally talented teachers: Alexandra Philippidou, Poppy Gerontidou and Christina Siskou. A project filled with interesting activities and fun tasks for young learners studying this book.

The project started by introducing learners to the idea of Victorian times. What does a Victorian house look like? What is a workhouse? What jobs did young boys do? And not in the usual “sit and listen to the teacher talking” way but in an active, fun and all inclusive one.  The introduction of new language as well as the revision had the attendees rushing around trying to find the right answers on each other’s backs, writing poems and chanting in unison. And who is going to help poor Oliver decide whether he should stay or go?  Why not act his thoughts and help him out.

Generally, the  45 minutes allowed  is definitely not enough for a  presentation like this and Alexandra, Christina and Poppy had to choose which activities to show us in order to give an idea of how they presented this book in the classroom. But one thing is sure: their students will never forget Oliver Twist and their three wonderful English teachers.

By Natasha Loukeri

Teaching Grammar through Skills by Fani Miniadou – Report

All too often we hear students, especially teenagers, complain about grammar exercises – difficult, boring, monotonous… In her presentation, Fani showed us how we can make teaching grammar more fun, more interesting, more exciting and, what is very important, more meaningful. By the end of her session we all had no doubts that even the most reluctant and bored students of ours can’t help but participate in class and enjoy grammar. 

The first activity that Fani showed was Grammar Auction, but unlike the classic version, in which students bid for the right to say whether a sentence is right or wrong and/ or correct it, in this version all the sentences that students are given contain grammar mistakes. There can be sentences taken from students’ essays or homework and thus a boring activity of correcting mistakes is turned into a fun way to review key points in grammar and sentence structure. 

The second activity is a great way to make students practice and revise prepositions of place and location and it will especially suit the learners who like drawing. Students are divided into A-B pairs. Group A is given instructions what to draw where, so they read the instructions to person B, who is supposed to draw what he is told. 

Taking a classroom survey is another activity that aims at practicing degrees of comparison in a personalized manner. Students are given a questionnaire and fill it in with the answers about themselves first and then about their classmates. Having done that, students compare their answers by using comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs. Fani then suggested that after finishing this exercises, students can be asked to draw a pie chart or a table using all the data and then write a short report – a very useful activity that get students familiar with so popular today IELTS writing.

In the next activity Fani suggested students practice conditionals imagining what they would do if they were the Prime Minister of the country. Students can be asked to come up with some ideas in class and then at home prepare an election campaign to be presented at the lesson. As Fani said, that was an exercise that engaged absolutely all her students. 

As can be seen, all these activities can spice things up at the grammar lesson and give our students opportunity to learn in a fun way. 

By Lana Lemeshko

Photo credits: Yiouly Vezergiannidou

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

10 Motivation Success Stories by Aphrodite Gkiouri - Report

“Macaroni and cheese – everybody freeze” – and everyone present at a marvelous Ms. Gkiouri’s workshop was more than happy to freeze and follow every instruction this fantastic teacher gave us. She had our attention within the first seconds of the presentation, during which Ms. Gkiouri shared with us 10 ideas on how to motivate and engage young learners. First we were told a story of Armelido, a student who struggled with English and was completely demotivated before he came to Ms. Gkiouri’s class. It is his new teacher’s love, constant encouragement and trust in the student’s success that made Armelido not only make progress in English but also made him dream of becoming a language teacher. What can make a teacher more proud than that? Teaching to all the learning styles in class is another way to motivate our students. The easiest and one of the most effective way to do that is by involving the learners to participate in different projects.

Some of the projects Ms. Gkiouri did with her students included interviewing “the Greek Prime Minister” or “Virgin Maria”, and a Eurovision song contest parody – a concert taken place at the end of the school year. 

Using a variety of games, puppets, storybooks and taking the students to the school yard, Ms Gkiouri manages to turn boring dictations and grammar exercises into an engaging activity. She actually goes beyond the classroom, encouraging her students to communicate with other people all over the globe, either by using Skype lessons, finding pen pals or inviting native speakers to the class, because that’s how students understand the real purpose for learning the language. Besides the language, Ms. Gkiouri pays much attention to developing students’ self-motivation and cooperation – two very important skills necessary to succeed. At the end of her workshop, Ms. Gkiouri shared “Whole brain teachers rules” – absolutely amazing ideas on how to deal with discipline problems. No wonder, Miss Gkiouri, that after such wonderful lessons your students want to “make the dear teacher happy.” 

By Lana Lemeshko

Interview by Theodora Papapanagiotou

Learning Difficulties: Dyslexia in Second Language Learning by Marina Tzalamoura – Report

In her presentation, Ms Tzalamoura gave an overview regarding the difficulties Greek dyslectic students face when learning English as a second language and suggested certain methods that could be employed by teachers in order to facilitate such students.

Ms Tzalamoura started by providing a definition of the term dyslexia and we learned that it is a learning difficulty that affects the student’s short term memory, which in turn, affects auditory or visual sequential memory. Thus, dyslectic students have difficulty in retaining new items in long-term memory. They also have difficulty in spelling, reading and writing, to name just a few. She also emphasized that this learning difficulty is not related to the child’s intellectual abilities, their age or their educational opportunities. It is clear that such children should be taught with other teaching strategies, the most effective of which being the multisensory approach. Multisensory teaching techniques and strategies stimulate learning by engaging students on multiple levels, thus helping a child to learn through more than one sense. Then, we were demonstrated how spelling can be taught through the Multisensory approach. 

Ms Tzalamoura went on to give us some very useful tips on how to facilitate learning, one of the most important of which being that educators should keep in mind that each student is unique. We should appreciate their efforts, we should always encourage them and we should always remember: If our students cannot learn the way we teach, we should teach them the way they learn.

At the end of the presentation Ms Tzalamoura focused on the strengths of the Dyslectic students and pointed out that they can be really good at Maths, Science and other technical subjects as well as at subjects demanding creativity and new ideas. They may excel in arts, sports or computer technology. That’s why some of the greater inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs of all times were actually dyslectics. 

By Lana Lemeshko

Practical Literature Activities in Class: Discovering Philosophy in Disguise by Vassiliki Mandalu - Report

What is Logos? How can literature and philosophy be effectively used in teaching and learning? 

Vassiliki Mandalou greeted her attendees with a visual prompt: a simple paper with an equilateral triangle containing the word Logos. She then proceeded to move their thoughts away from the common interpretation of ‘logos’ as a brand and to elicit the true meaning hidden within the word: the triad of logic, argument and language.

Taking attendees through a journey along several different excerpts of poems, novels and quotes, she argued that thoughts are first born as emotions and that literature is, in fact, philosophy. Within her handout, Lee Carol, Khalil Gibran, Emerson, Kazantzakis, Socrates, Wiesel and the mighty ‘Anonymous’ writer led attendees to discuss issues faced by both teachers and learners alike; virtue, ethics, facing doubts and fears, the philosophy of giving, working with love and teachers being spiritual parents. Vassiliki went further into exploring how we move from critical reading to critical thinking, by telling us to invite learners to question what they read and come in contact with, to put everything under trial and reflect on the discoveries they have made. She pointed out that making an effort is a reward in itself, that we should accept mistakes as proof of moving ahead and that the true purpose of a teacher is not to boast about achievements but to touch as many hearts as he or she can. 

Her presentation brought forward an interesting discussion among the attendees, with doubts being expressed and further points being made.

An inspiring presentation that certainly gave attendees food for thought and portrayed literature as a useful tool for teachers of any context, while adding the thought that philosophical questions are in fact simple, everyday questions.

By Christina Chorianopoulou

Mediation tasks in KPG by Evangelia Xirofotou - Report

Ms. Xirofotou’s talk was about the writing task of mediation in the KPG exams.

She first gave us various definitions what mediation is and then went on to give us examples of students (15-16) writing samples and the mistakes they have made from November 2003.

From these samples, it shows that the students have been using personal pronouns (you, us, we) and tend to personalize the task and also give their own opinion on the subject, which is not correct when the task asks for mediation and not analyzing the graph/ text.

The audience pointed out that this happened because students might not actually have been taught how to do this and that students need specific instructions, a variety of texts to work on.

Another problem would be that the rubric does not specify exactly the task and its purpose.

As a result, students need a lot of practice and gradual preparation, in order to understand the task.

All in all it was an interesting and very informative talk.

By Theodora Papapanagiotou

Re-negotiating the Basics: Learner Autonomy by Margarita Kosior, Thomas Mantzaris and Zoi Tatsioka - Report

Back to basics. One of the most fundamental things when it comes to teaching is student autonomy. Children strive to be autonomous. Then why do we deprive this opportunity for autonomy from our students? There are trends towards a more student-oriented learning, enclosed in either new methods or modification of older ones with the aim to suit the needs of today’s learners.

Why do we need to encourage our students to be autonomous?
How do we achieve that?
What happens then?

The term “learner autonomy” was coined by Henri Holec back in 1981. Another book referenced in the presentation is Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed because it considered one of the first texts that speaks about student creators.

So, it looks like education is suffering from narration sickness with the student being the patient “object” listening to the narrating “subject,” the teacher.

The previous, traditional approach looked at students as containers to be filled with knowledge, whereas the new approach looks at students as individuals full of skills and competencies and therefore the teacher is not the only source of information anymore.

Moreover, students are being respected more while treated as individuals with detachment not being equal to isolation, but a perfectly sound way of working.

Our students are able and capable to do things, we only need to give them guidance and provide supervision.

There is a lack of motivation and a gap between having the knowledge and applying it.
Autonomous learning bridges the gap while it provides an outlet for creativity. This can be achieved by making connections between real life issues and the taught material, which transitions learning from a teacher-centered model to a student-centered one.

It’s the magic moment of connection and meaning and therefore teachers should facilitate this moment and make it occur by making sure that the objectives of a course reflect students’ needs.

There are plenty of ways this can be achieved:

  • Using technology (e.g. clickers)
  • Using the web (videos, TED talks, tutorials)
  • Oral presentations
  • Peer evaluation
  • Social media and online collaboration platforms
  • Reflective writing / journal writing
  • Debates
  • Self-assessment exercises
  • Personal development
  • E-portfolios

Presenters provided a variety of examples for each of the ways listed above which they have tried in tertiary education, but can be used in other settings too.

By Dimitris Tzouris