Welcome to my EFL blog!

Thanks for joining me!

I’m a primary school English teacher from Greece. Through this blog I hope to connect with fellow educators, exchange views and teaching ideas, as well as give learners the opportunity to practise their English. I would be glad to hear from you!

Tenia

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Spellings: To test or not to test?

I’m reposting an interesting post I’ve read on Spelling teaching and assessment. I’m trying to find a new path for myself as regards Spelling because most students don’t seem to bother how to spell a word correctly unless spelling is what’s being assessed ! Any ideas?

Saved you a Spot

Anyone had thoughts about abandoning age-old practices of Friday spelling tests?

You all know the drill, I’m sure many of you did it when you were still at school: you get the words on a Monday to practice them during the week, then take a test on Friday. Great! If you get a high score, not so great if you don’t…

As a teacher you then start marking independent work and notice that children are still misspelling those same words and many others that share that specific spelling feature! Arrrgghhh!!

Could abandoning this practice be a step in the right direction? 

Teaching spelling well, is a massive topic! It’s clear that we need to teach kids to spell in a way that makes sense to them. No one doubts the importance of spelling – it supports both reading and writing fluency. We also know that methods like the one described above, most…

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Kids vs Adults: equal or not?

I recently read an article by Aldo Naouri, a French pediatrician, who states that “parents who make their kids feel like gods drive them crazy”. He claims that today’s generation, who in most countries have easy access to anything they desire, is the most spoilt and least motivated one. As an educator and as a mother, I find this to be very alarming but true!

Parents make their kids feel that they are entitled to everything. Kids, from the moment they are born, become the kings and queens of the household. Naouri says that birth control, family planning and having children later in life are the main reasons for this, meaning that most people nowadays become parents consciously and voluntarily, and this affects their parenting style. He advises that kids should be respected as beings, but not treated as equals by their parents in family decision-making, because mentally and psychologically they aren’t!

They cannot grow up in a healthy way without set boundaries, without the feeling that the adults of the family are in the lead. Such boundaries and the feeling of dependence create a sense of stability and safety, which are very important for a child in order to become a balanced and respectful adult; much like a young tree that we have to tie against a stick until it’s strong enough to take the blows of the wind on its own. 

I totally agree with this theory and try to follow this path both at home and in my classroom! I feel that children are calmer and behave better when there is a frame around them [firm but loving – loving but firm].   😉

 

EFL through Literature and Theatre

I have always believed that Literature is not separate from Language as a subject. Language is the tool to create literature and literature is the tool to teach language. They are usually taught as separate courses in the pupils’ mother tongue, but what about the countries where English is taught as a foreign language?

In Greek primary schools, English is taught as a foreign language and the coursebooks provided by the State rarely contain excerpts from actual literary texts. They usually contain specially written texts to teach a specific grammatical phenomenon or vocabulary topic. There are also some authentic texts taken from newspapers/magazines/brochures etc but literary texts are scarce.

I believe that literature should be included in our syllabi both as a teaching tool and per se. English and American literature are extremely rich and there are stories, poems and plays suitable for primary school children, even when teaching English as a foreign language.

A few years ago I adapted Shakespeare’s Hamlet for my 5th graders [aged 10-11] to perform at a school play. The adaptations I found in print or online didn’t suit my pupils for a variety of reasons, so I wrote the parts in English and inserted short texts in Greek in between scenes to help the audience [younger pupils, staff and parents] understand what was going to take place during the following scene and what had taken place in between the scenes in the original play.

The children had a terrific time rehearsing and performing the play! They managed to learn their lines by heart quite easily [which was a surprise to us all], they learned chunks of language [which I hope they still remember] and they really worked on their pronunciation [as they were going to perform in front of so many people]. They also got to know Shakespeare! Before embarking on the play adventure, we worked on a project on Shakespeare: life, works, Elizabethan era and theatre, Shakespeare’s language and his contribution to the English language…

I also urge my pupils to READ for pleasure! Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, graded readers specially written for EFL learners [adaptations of great classical literature]. Or even English translations of Greek literary texts.

For younger learners, I like to work with bedtime stories and myths: Pinocchio, The Selfish Giant, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig [ 🙂 ], The Princess and the Pea, Aesop’s Fables [my 3rd graders chose The Wind and the Sun to perform for our school a few years ago]…

I strongly believe that my work as an English teacher doesn’t mean that I have to stick to teaching the language in its narrow sense [grammar rules and vocabulary by topic]. In my opinion, teaching a foreign language shouldn’t be very different from teaching our mother tongue. We are there to teach skills and more importantly INSPIRE our pupils, make them fall in love with the language and culture we are presenting them with!

What about you, dear fellow teachers? Do you integrate literature and/or theatre in your EFL teaching? What are your or your pupils’ favourite works? Can’t wait to hear about your ideas and experiences!

 

 

Good things must share – educational sites for teachers and kids!

I am constantly looking for new ideas to use in classroom: tools to implement the school material, introduce a new topic, work on a project, relax, or even fill in the last few minutes before recess.

I have come across the following sites, extremely fun and useful, and I’m sharing them with you, because good things must share 🙂

web teaching tools

create your own comic strips

British Council [for Teachers]

create concept maps

NASA [for kids]

schooltube [educational videos]

fun grammar

short stories for kids

history and art

National Geographic [Education]

National Geographic [kids]

the history of our planet

Don’t swim against the tide on your own!

Getting one’s pupils to answer questionnaires is an easy task as (almost) everyone likes to talk about themselves 🙂 Pupils feel important when the teacher asks about what THEY like about their learning process, about what THEY want to learn and about how THEY want to work.

It goes without saying that their opinion IS important! A teacher must know what the learners’ needs are, as they define them themselves, in order for his/her teaching methods to be relevant and appealing. The national curriculum sets the general aims but the way to achieve them and the routes followed need to be designed with our pupils.

If we, as teachers, give our pupils the chance to show that they do have – or should have – an opinion as regards their learning, we will be amazed by the ideas they have and, more importantly, by the increase in their interest and involvement and commitment to make the plan work! We won’t feel alone, swimming against the tide 🙂

Below I’m attaching an analysis of the answers by primary school pupils gave to my questionnaire. The questionnaire was written in Greek and so is the analysis. But if there is anyone interested in using an English version, I could help.

questionnaire answers’ analysis (in Greek)

You can find the questionnaire by clicking on the following link:

Questionnaire for Learners of English [in Greek]

Creative ways to assess young learners’ progress!

Just about anything during class can be considered assessment. The teacher is always alert to take (mental) notes of what learners have acquired and what not. Tests, in their traditional form, every one or two units, with open- and closed-type activities on paper, are of course a useful tool and, the truth is, learners are used to this kind of assessment. They want tests to feel that they are being assessed! As long as they know the test is coming in order to prepare accordingly!…

There are, however, loads of creative ways to assess one’s pupils on an everyday basis.

You can read about some by clicking on the following link.

Click to read!

Teaching Questions CAN be Fun

Forming questions can be a horrifying task for learners! Especially when they have to do it orally in front of class. Getting learners to speak in L2 can be tricky. They either find  addressing a classmate to whom they’re used to speaking in L1 weird. They feel embarrassed to make mistakes. Speaking however is the skill required the most in real life. Role play can make learners feel detached, creates a distance from mistakes made. The Spanish teachers of English who created the video I am suggesting you watch are presenting games you can play in class to teach forming questions and practise speaking at the same time. The “coffee pot” game in particular is very funny and works well with learners, as it is drilling in disguise.

Click to watch the video!