Friday, May 1, 2015

Let's Roll the Dice - Games with Dice for Young Learners - Guest Post by Vicky Loras

It's a great honour to have the one and only Vicky Loras write a guest post for my blog!! Enjoy!!!


Games with Dice for Young Learners

A few years ago, I saw a few teachers from Canada discussing story cubes. Up to then, I had no idea what they were, nor how they were used. Then they explained, after my asking them, that they were using a specific brand of story cubes to help their students develop their storytelling skills.
One brand I later on used myself (not advertising them here, there are many kinds but mentioning which ones I use) are Rory’s Story Cubes. There are many kinds: action, voyages and so on. Each box has 9 dice, which in turn have pictures on every side. The kids take them, shake them and throw them on a surface, a table, the floor and depending on which pictures land face up, they then have to make up a story, either orally or even written! They absolutely LOVE them! The stories they come up with are so cute and funny – sometimes dramatic…with a funny ending which crack us all up! The important thing is that they learn through having fun. They practise vocabulary, grammar, everything.
If you do not want to buy them, another even more creative idea would be to make your own. There are a lot of free templates online. Then you can download them print them on heavy paper and have the kids draw their own pictures on them. A colleague, Evridiki Dakos wraps them in clear tape to laminate them – and she makes big ones out of carton boxes!
The possibilities are endless. Have fun

Monday, April 20, 2015

How it all started - Guest post by Anastasia Pistopoulou

 It's a great pleasure to host another wonderful person on my blog. Anastasia used to be one of my very first students. She has always been diligent, hard-working and enthusiastic learner. Now she is all that as well as a passionate educator and a loving mother. Here is her post on her first time teaching:

To be honest, I don’t remember details of the first time I entered a classroom. I do remember that I had just graduated from the School of English (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and found a job at a foreign language centre. I mainly taught grammar at all levels, from beginners to C2 level.
Although I had chosen to become a teacher in order to make lessons more interesting to learners, my first thoughts were to do the basics so as to “survive” having to deal with 10 children at the same time! The number sounds small, but this isn’t how you see it when you are totally inexperienced!
“The basics” meant that I explained the relevant grammar rule and then proceeded with exercises and lots of homework. That seems to be enough, right? That’s what I thought then, but completely changed my mind a few years later. Incorporating engaging activities that make learning meaningful has been an integral part of my teaching since then. Every year I think about my learners’ needs and interests and try to renew my creative activities.
Anastasia Pistopoulou is a BA holder of English Language and Literature (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). She has been working as a permanent English teacher at secondary schools in Greece since 2004 and since 2013 she has been teaching at the 2nd Vocational Senior Highschool (EPA.L.) of Amaliada.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Once upon a time....

A few weeks ago I asked my dear friend and colleague Theodore Lalos to write a guest post for my blog and he asked me if I had a particular subject in mind. I know that free writing is really difficult, so I said, why don't you write about your first time teaching?
When his post came out I thought ... this could be a great blog challenge!
So I am too going to write about my#firsttimeteaching today!

Well, I was still in my last year at the Aristoteles University, studying German lit. and language. In fact I only had 2 or 3 exams to get my degree, but I had to wait for a year since the one course was from the winter semester and the other two from the spring semester. So imagine that this was almost a gap year for me.
I had already started tutoring my cousins from my first year at the university but this does not really count for me.

That summer I went around the city giving out my CV to almost every language school there was, east, west, north and south, went through endless job interviews - people were saying to me, you are inexperienced, you don't have your diploma yet, but I kept going.
In the end I found a "job" for 3 hours a week, German beginners, kids.
My employer did not have a clue on teaching German, so I had to go to various book exhibitions and book stores and get the books, which was good because I  got the ones I liked!
So I put on my good clothes and make up, got my books and went into the classroom.
I did not know anything about pedagogy, methodology, psychology.
Just got in and started writing letters on the board "teaching" them the alphabet.
The kids were really curious to see what tis new language was about, so thank God for me they were not bored!
After practicing the letters and pronunciation we started talking about Germany showed them pictures and maps and then taught them some fixed phrases like "what's your name" and  "how are you"?
When I finished my lesson I was really happy that I pulled this through.... but now I know that I was not prepared well. I did not have a lesson plan, did  not ask advice from anyone, did not lay any games to make it more interesting for the kids.
This was the beginning ... during these 20 years I keep making mistakes, learning and sharing....

You can find the #firsttimeteaching posts over here:
The tale of a not that good novice teacher by Theodore Lalos
My First Lesson by Vicky Loras
How it all started by Anastasia Pistopoulou
First time teaching & first blog challenge by Rachel Daw 
Value the unexpected by Sophia Khan
Waiting for your contributions. Send me a message if you would like to be on this list!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#IATEFL2015: Engaging parents in their children’s English language learning - Karen Saxby

When I started watching this session, I started taking notes, but then I found myself a bit lost trying to keep up. Everything Ms. Saxby said was so interesting that I just wanted to sit back and enjoy what was being presented! So I thought ok, I will not report about this, but it IS worth following! 
Then I saw the presentation PPT and to my relief, it was so detailed, that I could actually write something myself!

In the beginning of her session, Karen Saxby showed what she was going to talk about:

explore why parents might want or not want to engage in their child’s language learning
rethink why we learn languages and then …
using those thoughts, consider how teachers could encourage parents to engage more
look at ways in which parents can help their children
She then explained why might a parent want to get involved in their child's English learning:
- They might have ambition for their child (maybe grow up to be bilingual)
 - They might seek wider education (for example other subjects taught in the English language)
- They might want their child to be integrated to an English language community 
- Or they might just want to do fun activities with their children
She then went on to state the 4 essential roles of the parents and teachers:
information  direction  caring  energising
Unfortunately it is not possible either for the teacher or for the parent to cover all four roles simultaneously.
Some parents hesitate, because they are not sure of their English level, or they don't have the time, or they just think that other subjects are important. 
So we need to go back to the basics, to find ways to engage parents.
First of all we have to explain why we learn a foreign language:
- To say what we think
-To express our personality
- To learn about the world
- To listen and answer
- To connect with people
We learn a language not only to pass exams, but also to communicate and be confident about ourselves.
So in order to help, we, teachers have to give parents more information on what we are doing in the classroom, share ideas with them . remind them how helpful they can be. 
Karen Saxby then shared some fabulous activities and gave links and where we can find more information:
Cambridge English Language Assessment
1 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB1 2EU
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1223 553997
Fax: +44 (0)1223 553621
Keep up to date with what’s new via the website:
For important information about Cambridge English exams:
For more activities for parents and children, visit:

I borrowed a lot from the slides and you can find everything ( video and PPT) over here:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

IATEFL Conference 2015: Interview with Jamie Keddie

I was actually not going to write about another interview today, but while I was watching Scott Thornbury, I saw on the right side of the page that Jamie Keddie was on as well.
He is one of my favourite people in ELT (yes, I have many favourite people) and I had the pleasure of attending one of his talks some years ago on the TESOL Macedonia Thrace convention, plus the fact that my last year's project was a video project - I have to say that after one of his webinars, I sent him a message with my students' work and my presentation and he actually gave me his feedback and I really appreciate it that he took the time to do so.
So of course I would watch this interview and write something about it!

Jamie Keddie started his interview telling thatthe IATEFL conference is just like Christmas, it happens every year and it's time for reflection, what we have done the past year and also there is a lot of food ( and fighting!!)
He then talked about his story telling - video projects and that he tries to find ways to get students to become storytellers themselves.
"Cameras hold the key"
Videos are a dominant subject in this convention and he also mentioned that YouTube has become 10 years old this February on Valentines Day.
Teachers have been trying to find ways to exploit video and how to use it to teach English.
He wants to move though from exploitation to creation.
So he puts cameras in the hands of the students. His projects are not collaborative in the classroom but more individual, he tries to promote "video-blogging" - so that students can tell stories on video.
There are a lot of ways to share the videos, students can give the m to the teacher with a flash stick or upload it on google drivers, but the best way is to upload them online so that they can be shared with the whole class. 
The follow up depends in the nature of the task. It can be feed back or asking questions.

He then gave us an example of such an activity.
Students make an 1-minute- video telling a "lost and found" story, telling what is the most valuable thing they have lost or they have found or they have won. This story can be true or a lie. The other students who watch have to decide if this person is telling the truth or not.

Jamie Keddie was then asked if there is a special preparation for the tasks and he answered that the teacher can give feedback on scripts for example but the activities can be done better individually at home with peace and quiet.
He also suggested some videos he has made with advice on how to make videos which can be found on his YouTube Channel.

He then talked about his experience talking on an online conference and how it is different form face to face conference and he pointed out that talking on a camera to virtual audience is also a new presentation skill that has to be crafted.

It was a real pleasure watching this interview

IATEFL Conference 2015:Interview with Scott Thornbury

Browsing the sessions and interviews today, deciding what to write about, I couldn't resist on watching Scott Thornbury talking about Blended Learning.
Since I have completed an iTDi course on Blended Learning with Pete Sharma last month and my main work right now is working on a Flipped Classroom, I just had to know more about this.

It seems that Scott Thornbury is currently writing a paper on Blended Learning especially about the use of technology.
He mentions that he is training teachers online.
He has developed a series of criteria that technology (apps, tools) has to meet in order to be useful.
There has to be comprehensible input, output, practice, feedback, correction, guidance, scaffolding ...
Of course no app could meet the all the criteria, but it would make a good guide for developers and designers when they create a new app.
Another thing he pointed out is that technology will always be the addition to the classroom learning and not the main source.

In order for learning to happen, we need a lot of repetitive practice which is not fun.
So why not make it fun and move the practice out of the classroom?
He also talked about the Flipped classroom, which is a balance way to pre-classromm work.

I am really glad that people like Scott Thornbury support new methods of teaching and giving us more guidance of the subject.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

IATEFL Convention 2015: Plenary talk with Donald Freeman

I feel so lucky that I can take part in this convention from my living room! Otherwise I wouldn't have the chance to follow all these wonderful talks and interviews.
First plenary talk of the Convention was the on with Donald Freeman " Frozen in thought".
Donald Freemas's talk started with the definition of the word "reason:.
Reasoning: figuring out, justifying, explaining

There are two ways using this word:
  • To reason about something
  • think reasons for something
Then he presented reasons as myths (common beliefs) that serve a purpose. They are not right or wrong, but useful.
He then gave us an example of the teacher playing Bingo with her students, saying that this is the only way they learn, explaining that teachers try to justify their actions to others.

He divided the myths  that organize our work into 3 categories:
#myth 1
Teaching makes learning happen which is not exactly true.
Teaching influences learning, but it does not cause it. Teaching and learning ahve a relationship as a spiral movement from both the teacher and the learner.
#myth 2
The teacher has a role: he / she makes critical decisions, he/ she plans,   he/she prepares, but when it comes to learning it is  like a chess board.
The teacher makes one move and opens up new moves for the students which in turn make their move and that's how the learning happens.
#myth 3
Teaching proficiency which is mostly related to "nativeness" in a wrong way, because nativeness has to do with a geopolitical idea and not a linguistic one.
The assessment of proficiency should be done maybe in a more general way with no boundaries?

Donald Freeman then talked about the boundaries of the classroom and he showed a picture of a sculpture showing a suitcase frame. The frame is the outline of the the classroom, while the backround is the world.
He talked about "Horizontal Knowledge" which is the horizon that extends.

He then talked about "bitfalling" English and how we create a version of English for teachers when we teach.
It was a delight to attend this talk even from far away. I really enjoyed every minute of it