In your hands

My life as a teacher of English and other curiosities

July 6, 2011
by annavarna

My favourite videos this year

Thanks to Mike Harrison for inspiration to share some of the videos I used this year with my classes. I teach young learners from grade 3 to grade 6. I used these videos with different classes for different purposes.

1. Drawing Inspiration

I used this video with grade six to revise the narrative use of Present Simple. But it was also an excellent opportunity to discuss about inspiration to teach the word predictable, to elicit possible endings. What I liked most was that they went home and showed it to their parents as well and they would come to class discussing various options. “My mum says the artist was the kid with the ball”, one boy said and I thought it was a good activity if they went home to discuss it like this…

2. Early Flight Attempts

Grade 6 again. There was a Unit in our coursebook about Flying. It is a very interesting unit about the inventors behind flying, about the mechanics of flying. The only problem with this unit is that there is so much material you bring in. It is used to teach Past Simple and Pat Continuous, to teach how to write biographies, how to talk and write about paintings, plus a huge vocabulary bank most of which is virtually unknown to 12-year-old Greek students. The labelling the plane parts exercise is infamously disliked by most teachers. I like it though because I see it as an opportunity. So among all these things I thought it was a good idea to show students this short video about early attempts to fly. Apart from helping revise simple past verbs (run, jump, fly, move, etc) I saw it as an opportunity to show the importance of failing!

3. We are what we do (intro)

Grade 5. This is a video I have used the last two years with considerable success. It was used for Unit 5, Ready For Action which is a unit about environmental sensitivity, about pollution and what children can do to change the world.

4. Animal Sounds

Grade 3 and 4. This is by far my favourite video this year. It was an instant hit and was used for many purposes. In one activity students had to write the names of the animals (20 in all), in another to recognise the letters, in a third one to say the sounds (video played soundless). All in all it was very popular and for days if not for weeks they would sing it in the corridors. And it was one of the videos they always asked to be replayed!

So these were some of the videos I used this year in my classes. What about you?

January 30, 2011
by annavarna

Beware of the teacher

This past week wasn’t particularly creative. What with being sick on Monday and Tuesday, and then trying to catch up the rest of the days. Having a kid sick at home didn’t help much either but now we are at the end of it and we are all OK, ready to embark on our new week tomorrow.

A highlight of the past week though was going to Karditsa on Wednesday after school, to attend a training session with other teachers of English in my area. We would have a guest lecturer from the USA so I was looking forward to it.

To be honest the presentation itself  (Teaching English to students who are deaf or hard of hearing) didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s not that the presenter didn’t know what to tell us because it was obvious he had a lot to say. But I think we somehow lost track of what he was saying because he was trying to answer questions from the audience at the same time, and then time flew and we had another presentation to watch and you know how it is: at the end of the session you don’t have a clear idea of what happened and why.  All in all I am not much wiser on how to teach English to people who are deaf or hard of hearing (and I happen to have a student like that in one of my classes and I often feel frustrated and fear I am not doing a good job with him), but there were other advantages and gains to be had from this session.

I think the most interesting thing that kept coming up was a different mentality to education. Some of the issues that emerged were the organization of Special Education in the US, the involvement of parents (and how militant they are as Mr Miller mentioned), professional development, attitudes of teachers in schools and how Special Education teachers may feel isolated from their “regular” education colleagues. Mr Miller didn’t paint a perfect picture of American education. He expressed his worry that in the pursuit of better results in international assessment charts such as the PISA tests, authorities seem to miss the bigger picture and become irrelevant by cutting recess and physical education.

But while we were discussing all these things I couldn’t help comparing with our own situation. “You can’t compare Greek education with the US one” people are telling me, OK, I know the US is sooooo much bigger than Greece, so much richer, and many other things so much more. But maybe it became like that because on Election Day their teachers are doing Professional Development and they don’t miss four days (like we did this year on Election Week).  Or maybe it’s because they don’t spend all their resources trying to come to negotiations with Physical Education teachers who are paid for being idle in some areas while in some other areas, in the centre of Athens for goodness sake, there aren’t any of them. I don’t know, I’m just saying…

I struggled a lot to write this piece. Not because it is such a great piece of writing but because there are so many issues that keep coming up whenever I sit down to write about education in my country. Every single day there is a challenge I have to deal with and I am not talking about what happens in my classroom. These are beautiful challenges that I am looking forward to. I am talking about the other ones that come up in the staff room, about “little” breaches of the law that happen so often that come to pass as accepted. But I read this wonderful piece by an intrepid teacher and because I want to be INTREPID too, here it is.


I’m just posting a photo of students’ work, because this is what I’m proud of and what keeps me going every day!

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