Friday, December 19, 2014

Xmas blog 2014

This year I decided to do more things with literature, especially Charles Dickens and Christmas carol.
So I found various activities and videos on the subject.

  • Information on Charles Dickens, his work and life in London in the 1800's in an animated way over here:

  • An animated old version of Christmas carol over here:(lasts 25 minutes, so you can also watch it in class)

  •  If you want a longer and newer version, you could also use this one (1.08 mins)


  • For higher levels, a narration of the story :


  • Reading ideas from British Council:
  •  Lit2go:

  • And last but not least... How about songs? 
A word- Karaoke from :

Merry Xmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happinness is....

I thought this prompt by Sylvia Guinan, would be an excellent idea for a blog post!!

The first question that came to my mind is "why do we teach anyway?"
For some, it is just another job. You had this opportunity to go to a school and "teach", get the book, say your stuff and go home.
For some others, teaching is their whole life. Sometimes you spend more time with your students or preparing, reading, studying, than "living".

You don't do it to get rich, but it is important to you to "spread" your knowledge, to open a new horizon to somebody, not just in the field you are an expert.

For me every day is just a little happiness.
Communication is everything.
For me it is not just teaching a language.
  • It is when they learn something about the country, the culture, the civilization, the traditions.
  • When we read something from a newspaper about a new discovery in whatever subject there is.
  • When they trust my with their problems, and they do trust me more than their parents.
  • When something good has happened and they send me a message to tell me.
  • When in they beginning they don't want to start lessons and when the first lesson comes to an end they are excited (and they just can't hide it)
  • When we sing, dance and have fun!
  • When students remember me after years and call me to see how I am doing
  • When I see students become great teachers themselves
For me they will always be my kids!

Friday, December 5, 2014

My teacher, by Eleni G

A surprise was waiting for me today, when I went to my student Eleni. Her homework included an essay about a teacher who has influenced them the most and she chose to write about me... It was so touching and I almost cried... And I know that this is the best recommendation letter for my work and NOT the exam results of my students. I love you too Eleni! :)

It is intrinsic for teachers to be motivating and in general role models for their students. This is why in this composition I choose to elucidate my experience with my teacher, Ms Dora, the most imaginative and lively teacher I have ever had. She is not just the definition of a "teacher", she is the connotation of patience, inspiration and nobility.
Ms Theodora Pap. (affectionately known Dora) has been a teacher of mine in German and English for over 6 years. Despite the fact that she is multilingual, she is also a gym-freak, blogger,a cellphone and caffeine addict and a terrible cook. (as she claims).
She manages to keep her life and work perfectly balanced and organized, though. She commits to every lesson and every student, while being methodical and talkative. Her lessons are always witty, pleasant and interesting because of her bubbly personality and the technical means that she uses, so that we don't get tired.
Another characteristic of Ms Dora is her patience and tolerance to all of her students' mistakes. She is not at all importunate or strict, neither is she frigid or melancholic. After her dose of coffee kicks in, she begins her lessons with cheerfulness and vitality. She also avoids intellectual stagnation. Her goal is not to prepare us only for the exams, but to cultivate love for  the language (unsuccessfully of course for German :P)
To sum up, Ms Dora does not work just for a living and does not do perfunctory work but her goal is to motivate us and hammer interest for the language. So thank you Ms Dora, for everything you have offered me and for everything I have learned from you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exams Exams Exams

Now that the first exams of the school year are over, let me make some "notes"
No, I am not going to write tips for people who take the exams.
I am going to express my complaints to the situation.
It seems that my job as a foreign language teacher in the private sector in Greece is to prepare people for exams.
And this is not bad from the one hand. I mean, certificates ARE important nowadays, in order to get a job, in order to study abroad, in order to communicate with people from other countries for various reasons.
And it is right to start early in my opinion. Children ARE better receptors of the language, they absorb the language, especially if you make it fun to learn.

What happens in my country, though, is something different.
Most people don't actually learn a language to learn THE language. They don't even care if they will use the language some day. They only care to get the "certificate".
The system in Greece is like that: If you have a certificate and you want to work in the public sector, you get additional points if you have more certificates. No matter how old they are. No matter if you can actually speak the language years afterwards.
So... parents and children AND teachers work towards that...
As a result, you hear things from parents like: "my kid has to "finish" with the language as soon as possible" or "my 12 year old kid has to be proficient in 4 languages - he will need it for a post-graduate  degree!!!"
I have to comment on that....
I am sorry, but you never "finish" with a language.... If you don't continue working on the language, you just don't remember anything after a while...
And I don't really know if the certificates you get at 14 will do you any good if you want to study abroad. No university will accept the ECPE certificate you got 4 - 6 years ago!
I also have to add that the subjects in high level certificates in all languages are not meant to be for teenagers, but for people with general knowledge of the world. This means that children have to try twice as hard to grasp meanings.
Partly it is not the parents' fault. They want to do the best for their children.
Even pressure them a little harder for their own good! I don't blame the parents.
I do blame the teachers though, who work this way.
We are there to teach the language for God shake, not pressure the kids to take exams.
And yes we will lead students to potential exams, but please don't forget that there are so many things we can do to achieve the best results.
We can be so creative, use literature, music, art, make our lessons memorable. That's the way people will remember the language.
Unfortunately I don't work for a hobby, I work for a living and I cannot really afford to lose "clients". I know that these things I say are not likeable to both parents and maybe teachers.
And although I don't like it I do work with test books and vocabulary lists and I have stopped doing projects and I feel that I have lost my creativity.
I hate watching children full of anxiety. I hate stressing children.
I love my job.... Not the exam preparation part, but I love communicating with people. What I am trying to do over here is to be there for the kids, exams or not. To make kids get interested in the language, in the culture, in the world.
Some people do not like that. And I know that I am not irreplaceable. Some people do trust me with their kids though. Mutual trust is what counts.
I want to wish my "kids" lots of success, not only with their results but with their lives. I'll be there! Promise!!

PS. A great post by a really accomplished colleague:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

QR codes - Why?

I have always wanted to know how this thingy works...
Recently I found out that I can download a QR code on my mobile phone, scan the code and .... you get the company's site on your desktop!!
Cool, I thought!! I want to make one too!!
So what info put into your QR code?
It depends what you want to show...  It is common to be used for work, so, it acts like a digital business card. So you either have a link to your site, blog or just write the info you want to share (mobile phone, email)
There are various sites that can generate your code for free!
The only thought that makes me wonder is... do people really use this?
Time will show!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"The princess who had no kingdom" by Athanasia S.

Once upon a time there was a princess who had no kingdom. She had a pony called Pretty and a cart. The princess wasn't rich like the other princesses, but she earned a little money delivering strange parcels and looking for her kingdom.

There was a duchess who didn't want her son, the prince, to see the princess, because, if he fell in love with her, he would want to marry her and what's the point of a wedding without a kingdom?
So, she sent him away boating.

The duchess and her six daughters invited the princess for tea, but they treated her unkindly. They gave her their old dresses and the jester gave her his red tights to keep her warm. The princess sold the dresses but kept the tights.

One day she went to the coronation of the new King and all the princes and the King himself wanted to marry her because she was very beautiful. The princess got tired of all their fighting and left.
On her way, she saw a young man who was trying to pull his cart and horse out of a ditch and she helped him. The man was the duchess' jester.  the jester offered his heart to her and together they wandered.

One day the princess received a parcel with her lost umbrella. On the parcel was written: " To the princess of here, there and everywhere". So the jester told her: " This is your Kingdom".
So they became the Queen and the King of  here, there and nowhere.
And they lived happily ever after!!

Athanasia is in pre-intermediate level and this was her first attempt of writing a summary of a book in English.
This fairytale was written by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb and the images are taken from there. 

Book-Reading in our lessons? Why not?

I have always liked reading... But during the lesson?
Most people consider this a waste of time, mainly because it does not belong to the material needed to work towards an exam!
So this year I was particularly happy that one of my students is taking an exam that actually requires reading a book and talking / writing about it.
I knew that he was not going to read it himself and of course I was not going to write the summary and the characters' description all by myself, so I decided to devote 15- 20 minutes in each lesson to read a chapter, stopping in some points and asking my students what would happen next and talk about the characters.  My student in return had to write a small summary as homework.
What did I gain from that?
First of all, I made my student read the book! Not only did we finish it, but he was also curious about the end of the story. He was eager to make guesses, to change the endings...

Of course I do not work with all my students on exams that need book-reading, but this gave me the idea to include short stories or even fairy tale books.
You don't have to dedicate the whole hour to the book, 10 minutes are enough.
When you finish the book or the story, you can have a discussion with your students about the characters, the story, if the liked it.
They could also make a small research on the author and talk about their other books, and make comparisons.

I also use short stories at special occasions like Halloween or Christmas. Last year we held a horror story competition and this year we read scary stories, trying to make them even scarier, changing what happened and talking about what they would do if they where the main character of the story.
Here are some of their stories:
story 1
story 2
story 3
story 4
This week's project was a fairytale
My student and I read a wonderful story by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb, called "The Princess who had no Kingdom" with wonderful illustrations talked about what was happening and then she wrote a summary.
Here is her work! 
It is not exam material I know. But students can practice vocabulary, pronunciation, reading skills, understanding, and writing skills.