Sunday, November 29, 2015

Exams... For my students ( and their parents)

The time has come! Again...
I know I AM repeating myself. I know that for some of you this is the first experience you have with exams. But believe me. I've been there. I've done that. A million times. Both as a student and as a teacher. I like to believe that I know a bit more... So listen to me please:
  • It's not the end of the world if you don't pass the exam. You can do it again! And again and again! But it is not necessary. Just because your friend has got the B2 level certificate in the sixth grade, this does not necessarily mean that they now better English (German, French etc.) than you. It is not a competition.
  • Getting certificates at an early age will not help you when you will need them, for example when you want to study abroad or get a job. You have to keep learning (reading, speaking, cultivate the language)
  • The college you will go to, let's say in 4 years (if you are 14 taking a C2 exam) will not accept the certificate you got back then. You will have to take another kind of exam.
  • If you are learning with me as a teacher, I will probably not give you 4 exam books. I will give you one. And that because you have to understand the format of the exam. Doing tests without analyzing your mistakes will NOT help you.
  • When I start talking with you about irrelevant things (in your opinion) and work on songs and videos not in the exam format, it does not mean that we do not practise. My goal is to make you express yourselves in the foreign language. My job is to make you read, write, speak and understand. Not pass the exam. If you can do all of the above you will pass the exam. And be able to communicate.
  • My success as a teacher is not estimated by the certificates my students got, but from the people I have helped to use the language. The ones who use the language at their work or studies. The ones who were able to communicate when they traveled and did not get lost.
  • I am here to help you. To advise you when you take the exam but also to make you interested in the language and culture. 
  • Remember I spend more time you you guys than with my own family. I love my job and I love helping you, but I cannot be there whenever you want. So if I say no when you tell me to come on a Sunday or I don't answer the phone at 11pm, I think I cannot be blamed.
  • I love you guys, like family and you know that I will never stop caring about you (even if you forget me after the exams). I try not to push you too hard, but sometimes I have to.
Good luck to all of you. I know that we are all counting the days to this.
Love yaaaaa!!!

My ELT Blog Challenge

Inspired by Lizzie Pinard's blog, I thought it would be a good idea to commend on the ELT books or blogs/ sites/ articles I come across.
My bookcase is full of books I have ( or I haven't) read and I also found a wonderful collections of books at my office, which I can borrow and try out new ideas.
The first book that came to my hands was 'The diary of a language teacher" by Joachim Appel (Heineman)

It describes the efforts of a teacher trying to hang in there, at a state school in Germany.
I loved the fact that it is not a strict methodology book with theories.
It is a journey. A journey full of ideas and reflections of how it went,
What impresses me the most is that it is divided in three parts:
And I know that this reminds us all how we started and what we did to develop as teachers and as people.
When you graduate from school, you are never prepared of what you are going to face in your first job.
We face challenges and try to overcome any obstacles. Experiment ourselves with different techniques and ideas. Keep the good ones and get rid (or improve) of the ones that did not work out.
Highly recommended for new teachers, but also for us who have been teaching for a while. A chance to remember that we should never stop developing and learning new things.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Refugees... Someone to think about

Following the latest news, I thought that talking about the refugee issue with mys tudent, would be a great initiative, firstly because more and more people coming though the Greek borders from Syria and other countries who are experiencing war at the moment, so there are people who we could actually meet one day soon and secondly because this cold be the chance for something bigger, like gathering food and clothes for these people in need or even volunteer to help in places like the harbour or the borders.
In this experiment, I have tried to gather a link collection of links, articles and lesson plans, which could actually initiate a discussion among our students.
Breaking News: lesson plan about the refugees.
Conversation questions about the refugee issue
The status and rights of refugees
The life of e refugee lesson plan
Spot the refugee - UNHCR poster
Time: refugee questions and answers
UNHCE Protecting Refugees

You could also recommend Catherine Stine's 'Refugee", a book for teenagers and work on the book, for example - character description, what will happen next, feelings of the book heroes etc.

All these articles and activities could be followed by actual voluntary help - You can organize groups of students, involving the parents as well. Food and clothes collection and even helping refugees in your area.
Follow this link for more information about the Refugee Solidarity Movement here in Thessaloniki, Greece.


Dark History - lesson plan

While I was browsing websites for my work, I came across this page: bored panda: Teletubbies in Black and white, which was actually prey creepy, but full of prospect!
Lesson plan.
Give your students the lyrics of the son Atmosphere by Joy Division with gaps. For example:

.................... in silence,
Don't walk away, in silence.
See the ...............,
Always danger,

Endless talking,
Life ....................,
Don't walk away.

Walk in silence,
Don't ..............away, in silence.
Your confusion,
My .................,

Worn like a ............ of self-hate,
Confronts and ............dies.
Don't walk away.

People like you find it easy,
................. to see,
Walking on ............
Hunting by the rivers,

Through the streets,
Every .................. abandoned too soon,
Set down with due ................ .
Don't walk away in silence,
Don't walk away.

  • Divide your students into groups and have them guess the missing words before they listen to the song.
  • You can find the song over here.
  • Students listen to the song and check their answers.
  • Ask them what the song is about. Accept any logical answers.
  • Show your students the video to the song. Ask them if they have changes their minds.

  • Ask your students if they know anything about American History and the racism movement.
  • You can find more information, along with a short video in the History Channel site over here
  • Ask your students why they think this was happening.
  • Ask your students of examples of racism in today's world.
  • Brainstorm ideas how this problem could be solved
  • Show them the Teletubbies parody video

  • What is the hidden meaning behind this? (lead the discussion to "danger in disguise")
  • As a follow up, you can ask your students to write an essay about human rights and what can be done to fight racism.
You can also find material and more ideas on a blog I discovered called ELS Chestnut:

Let's talk about poop! ( Probably a PARSNIPs lesson)

Well I know that most of you would not use that in the classroom, but I find it a wonderful idea to talk about healthy eating.... (B2 level and upwards)
Lesson plan:
  • Print a poster of this infografic and show it to your students. Ask them what do these pictures have to do with their eating habits.
  • After they have read the chart, do they believe  that they eat right?
  • Ask them what healthy eating is in their opinion.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary and write them on the board.
  • How does food affect our body?
  •  What else should we do to have a healthy life? Is food enough?
  • Do they think that exercise is also important?
You can also use British Council worksheets ( I don't know if I have permission to post their link though)
healthy eating
Picture taken from:

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween.... my favourite holiday! (Links' collecton)

This year's pick's for my students:
Halloween tales  - Some are pretty scary, so don't use them with little ones!
Scary stories for kids
15 scary stories for kids
A brief history of witches  - adults or older teenagers (videos include scary stuff)
Lyrics - training Halloween song for the little ones

And of course why not a scary story challenge?
Some of my students' contributions:


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dolls - toys or role models?

I was just reading a text from an exam book with one of my B2 students about toys, the other day.
It was some kind of research on what kind of toys little children play and it seems that kindergarten- aged children love playing more with traditional toys like stuffed animals, wooden blocks and non mechanical cars than mechanical toys or computers, since they got bored of them easily.
My student started telling me how she loved stuffed animals and pony dolls and pet miniatures  and that she avoided dolls like barbies because they weren't real!
So the idea came for a speaking lesson plan. B2 level and upwards - I guess girls would love this one.

  • Ask the students with what they used to play when they were little kids.
  • Wha was their favourite toy and why.
  • Write all answers on the board.
  • Show them a picture of a doll (Barbie, Bratz, Wings etc.) and ask them to comment - do they like it? why? what don't they like?
     What would they like to change on her?
  • Watch the video about this woman who "transforms"  dolls into real - looking kids dolls.

  • Did they like the result? Why / Why not?
  • You can also use this commercial with real looking dolls.

  •  What impressed you from the kids' answers?
  • Why did they choose the new doll? 
  • What is the image that Barbie (or other fashion dolls) show to the public? Can you think other examples of showing the perfect image of woman to the world?
  • How are they kids influenced?
As homework you can ask students to write what they thought of this discussion and the videos they saw.