Sunday, 21 November 2021

The Future

 The times are a-changin and we are changing with them. Here is a recent creation right out of gloomland:


Το μέλλον


Έρχεται πολλή παγωνιά

Θα σιωπούμε αενάως

Η φωνή μας άφωνη

Θα μετεωρίζεται πριν απ’ το λόγο

 

Άνθρωποι σκιές

Θα πλανώνται στους δρόμους

Τα παιδιά ασπρομάλλικα

Θα ματώνουν τη σιγή με κραυγές

 

Θα κλαίμε χωρίς δάκρυα

Θα θρηνούμε χωρίς λόγια

Στον αδιάφορο ουρανό

Ένας παγερός ήλιος θα βασιλεύει


Monday, 21 June 2021

Using models creatively: An Interview

 

I have always been fascinated by the “magic” of science and I never miss an opportunity to apply it to materials I create for my classes.

This time it is a very basic interview, which I have called An Interview Like No Other, and which may be reproduced in a myriad ways as the student’s fancy takes them. (and believe me it takes them all over the place!)

The idea is that the students are called upon to work out a puzzle: who is the interviewee. By the by you can teach the difference between interviewer and interviewee and mention other similarly formed pairs (trainer/trainee, employer/employee and so on.

Back to the interview: the interviewee is a cloud and I have based the answers on popular science to the extent I could. The children loved the mental stimulation, but to my surprise not everybody could come up with the right answer, which pleased me … enormously!

What was, however, the greatest pleasure of all was some of the interviews A2 Level students wrote using the mould of my interview, which goes to show that children have not lost their ability to spin stories and to exploit creatively whatever is given to them.

You can use the interview at any level and simply recalibrate the language or your demands in terms of language, which evidently should be consistent with the level of English your students have.

Here is my interview:

 

Where do you live?

In space

 

Who are your parents?

Water and Air

 

What do you look like?

I come in all kinds of shapes

 

What do you do?

I float

 

What is your hobby?

Hanging over mountains

 

What is your enemy?

Weight

 

What happens when you put on too much weight?

I fall

 

 

And what follows is one of the most resourceful interviews by an eleven-year-old child (level A2):

Who are your parents?

Water, rocks  and ice

 

What do you look like?

I am red and white

Have you got any special features?

Yes, my sky and the sun become blue in the sunset

 

Have you got any life on you?

No, but there are some rovers on me

 

Have you got any neighbours?

Yes,  my two moons, Phobos and Deimos

 

 

And another one by a student of the same age and level:

Where do you live?

In a school bag

 

What do you look like?

 Square and usually colourful

 

What do you have inside?

Sheets of paper 

 

What colour have your sheets of paper got?

Sometimes colourful and other times black and white

 

 

 


Monday, 3 May 2021

Poems to stimulate the mind An approach to Wind on the Hill by A. A. Milne



Although little has been written about the “losses” of exclusively online education – at least, to my knowledge – I couldn’t fail to notice how some of my students seemed to forget words or structures which I considered assimilated especially because they had been taught and consolidated before the outbreak of the pandemic.

When such lapses occur, it only makes sense to do some remedial work so that the gaps can be filled and the students can continue learning effectively. One can cite a number of reasons for these setbacks:

the distractions of the medium (messages, pop-up windows etc)

internet connection problems

doing all the exercises online

the inability of the teacher to keep an eye on everyone on the screen or even impose discipline

the failure to prevent cheating in online tests

Poems can come in useful when you try to escape the boredom of yet another grammar drill online.

 

I find children’s poems about nature fascinating and easy for the children to digest even when there is some philosophical depth to them.

This time I took a well-known poem (Wind on the Hill by A.A. Milne) and created a task-based approach which requires the children to look at the icons corresponding to the gaps in the poem and fill in the words they think are missing. Since I give them the title of the poem, I do not provide the word “wind” in the poem. The poem is quite simple and you might want to introduce the theme by playing the sound of the wind before you present the students with the task. Many different answers will be provided, but what is important is how to get the students to think creatively.

On completion of the task, depending on the age of the children, you could ask them what ideas they associate with the wind. Probably, the obvious one would be freedom, but students know how to always surprise teachers. Ask them to write a few lines or even a poem on the topic wind and freedom. Some questions might help them get started:

  • Can you catch the wind?
  • Can you limit freedom?
  • Should you limit freedom?
  • How do we harness the power of the wind?
  • Where would you go if the wind could carry you safely?

 Here is the poem:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lspdBdz3F0t5_jEzUTtdyk561k3CNj6E/view?usp=sharing

and my illustrated version of it:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EeabhvOpcEqPpJedV1Mab5P9_9MiDic3/view?usp=sharing


Saturday, 3 April 2021

The little snake and the iris : a leap of faith

 

Life is full of surprises; impossible friendships are struck in the most unlikely places between the most – on the face of it -- incompatible parties. Adults, being more experienced and less credulous, would find it hard to see any affinity between a flower and a snake, but children -- inhabiting the land of make-believe – might be fascinated by such a rare friendship. 

Basically the story is meant to dispel myths about snakes and, hopefully, question people’s attitude towards them. I had children in mind when I wrote it since their perceptions about animals and people (!) are still in the making. The choice of flower is purposeful too. Iris is the Greek word for rainbow and also the name of the goddess of the rainbow.

 

The lesson could start by asking the students some questions that will prime their minds to receive the story. Such questions can be devised by observing life in its humblest forms. For instance, ask the children how a butterfly relates to the sea. If they don’t feel equal to the task, ask them to draw a butterfly flying over the sea. Perhaps not a common sight but a possible one, I can assure you!



Here is the story and a powerpoint slideshow to help present the story. Thereafter,  the sky is the limit.


https://drive.google.com/file/d/1y5GN55xMJwjGqZfh5EQcVF4g2_FiDEhP/view?usp=sharing

 


https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1QbsJ0DQmVLZcwRqNDPoDdNtjtT1sqP9VzN5OGtm8pL4/edit?usp=sharing



Saturday, 23 January 2021

Improvising in the hard times of Covid-19

 

The pandemic has played havoc with our lives, personal and professional in many different ways. We are still in it so it is hard to make a final appraisal of the losses and the few gains (every cloud has a silver lining).

We, teachers, like our students, miss the physical contact and closeness sorely, and perhaps online teaching is taking its toll. Many of us found ourselves in the situation where we had to improvise a lot in order to keep up some semblance of normality, and I am no exception.

I have already digitised activities and games which were in paper form and have ransacked the internet for sources which will make my teaching more lively and stimulating, but I am not totally satisfied with the result. The reason is obvious: there is no substitute for real action in class especially when you teach juniors.

I came up with all sorts of ways that would add some physicality to our online classes, and regardless of whether they were still “fake” in a way, the children responded enthusiastically. So I invited the young pupils to hide in their room and ask the others to guess their whereabouts using (what else?) prepositions of place. I asked them to use cutlery (teaching basic vocabulary) to have a meal “together”. I joined them in miming action songs that I found online and so on and so forth.

And my efforts to whip up a bit more enthusiasm was crowned by a project that started tentatively but won the children over. I considered capitalising on some familiar vocabulary and at the same time introducing some more words which the children would find easy to mime after me. And since nature is what everyone missed most during the quarantines and lockdowns, nature it would be. 

I called my “sketch” The Elements and I had the children incarnate different elements by miming them after me. There is a very simple and memorable pattern to each line: I am (the element/noun) and I (the action/verb). The first time round it was the sun and the action was represented with movements of the hands in a radial pattern.

I am the sun and I shine.

Every time I introduced a new element, I got the children to repeat them all over --always using their bodies to mime. For words they didn’t know I accompanied each line with an image.

When our rehearsals were over, and taking advantage of the Christmas holiday, we all met up in the garden of my house--always at a safe distance from each other-- and I recorded them in the act so they would get a feeling of reward for all their efforts by watching themselves act out the sketch and have something to show for it.

Here it is:

 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZtKFTbNJ0LaR3JheQNfXfaUJpUmQOPTj/view?usp=sharing


Sunday, 15 November 2020

Daydreaming and improvising or spinning stories

 

I like daydreaming and improvising. The latter is an acquired habit which formed after many years of planning. I dare say it is the inevitable concomitant of meticulous preparation for every single class – the privilege of taking students by surprise or challenging them to do what they don’t believe they can accomplish. And as children also daydream and improvise profusely, especially when they haven’t got a clue about the “right” answer, it is not hard to sweep them away with your enthusiasm. 

When students have to talk about a specific subject, they often lack the ability or the patience to structure their speech. As a teacher, I feel I have to show them that structuring their ideas and thoughts can take on many different forms, and all of them can be valid.

Stories, like questions on a passage, can be open-ended or we can reach the solution or a resolution following different routes.

By way of illustration, I have created a slide show, which starts with the image of an unfinished tale and the question why this story was cut short, left untold. The fourth slide puts an end to the story by implicitly attributing the sound on the door to a figment of the mother’s imagination.

But the story could take a twist and instead of stopping short it could continue in the realms of fantasy. 

The slide show could be presented without the narrative so as to get the students to supply their own ideas about why the story was interrupted and what happened afterwards. Besides, I have written out a two-tiered narrative for intermediate and more advanced learners – and thence the three slide shows. (videos)








https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ip_xkccszFfYoMxYybC9kBXJ8kMZQb6E/view?usp=sharing


https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Wx33pNfmFcJv3BwOuWOA-dFlGaoah2RP/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xRTIiqZRZNo-ZOsbX_C5ARv_VoUwnp1d/view?usp=sharing


 

 

 

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

 

The following is a Greek poem about the Future Tense and how it compares to the Past Tense!


Μου αρέσει ο μέλλοντας


Μου αρέσει ο μέλλοντας

Όλα αυτά που θα έρθουν

Να σβήσουν τις μουτζούρες

Του αόριστου με μια κίνηση

 

Μου αρέσει ο μέλλοντας

Είναι ο χρόνος που ηχεί

Τόσο ανέμελα

Με ελπίδες φρούδες ανάλαφρος

 

Μου αρέσει ο μέλλοντας

Και η τεράστια ελαφρότητά του

Πόσο άνετα κι αθόρυβα διαπερνά

Του νου τις σαθρές αντιστάσεις