Category Archives: Reading

Feat No 28: Life issues through language lessons

When choosing a book to read to our students, while sometimes my own children are in these lessons, I choose one that will teach them or make them aware of more than just the English language. Sometimes, the books are intentionally chosen to teach them about life.

And I am absolutely certain that many teachers around the world try to do the same.

This blog post came up because of an incident. A child, like many others as it was discovered, trusted a stranger… online. Whether physically present or online, a stranger is a stranger. Several children had been tricked by a stranger, online, that he was a child himself, and had managed to arrange meetings with them. Thanks to the invaluable efforts of the police, this online stranger was stopped before causing more harm to young lives.

The “Berestein Bears” from “Random House” have an excellent – EXCELLENT – series about life issues for children of all ages.

We read the one entitled “The Berenstein Bears learn about strangers”. I was so content with the impact of this book on our students and our children. I took it a step further at the end of the book by mentioning that strangers are not only the ones we can see but also the ones we cannot see. The ones that ask for a “Friend request” on Facebook, a “Follow request” on Instagram.

I would like to advise parents and guardians to have their children’s accounts private and explain why they should be private. We should also explain to them that it is more than “ok” NOT to have many online “Friends”, numerous online “Likes” and a record number of online “Followers”, as long as the ones we have are not strangers. The book we are reading now is: “The Berenstein Bears : Safe and Sound” because my daughter wanted to play with her scooter without her safety gear.

Thank you.

Eugenia Loras

Ευγενία Λώρα

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Feat No 24: Our favourite activity; Usborne First Reading Books with audio CD and worksheets

For the past two weeks our children Maggie and Nicholas have been enjoying their Winter Sports Break. Besides relaxing, helping out with our new facilities and playing, they cannot stop enjoying the readers we bought for them and our students from Usborne Books at Home.

The series, English Learner’s Edition from Level 1 to 5 along with a CD and free downloadable worksheets have become one of our best investments both at home for our own children but also for our English language school, The Loras Network and our young students.

At home, we use them mainly as our bedtime story. It helps us all unwind and enjoy a creative and educational ending chapter to our long day. Even parents can benefit from the CD as there are evenings when we are too tired to read a bedtime book ourselves. And then there are times when we would love to read a story book to our children before bedtime and then do the brief fun activities that are at the end of the book, like spotting the differences between pictures or sequence activities based on the story.

At our English Language School, this series has become an excellent way to promote book reports with our young learners. And they love their new project. They read the books to us after having borrowed them at home to read and to listen to the CDs as many times as they like. Then we print the worksheets for them and again with the help of their books, they can complete the activities. Even in the cases that they find the spelling of some words difficult and choose to copy the word from the story book, they are enhancing their spelling skills. They are enriching their vocabulary and they are fluently becoming great readers. We even use the plot of some stories to discuss further and encourage kindness, team work, gratitude and other qualities that will help develop healthy personalities.

Thank you to all parents and teachers for investing in more books for their children’s and student’s libraries.

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Feat 20: Nicholas the German Language Fan… without actually knowing German

Multilingual Nicholas, from scratch, is now four years old.

While:

    Understanding and speaking English wonderfully well,

    understanding Greek surprisingly well and speaking it less fluently than English and

    obviously understanding German (both High and Swiss) but not speaking more than a few words,

Nicholas just loves German! And it is not that he does not like the other two languages, but whenever it is German Day on our audiovisual calendar, he cheers and expresses himself with such joy that one would not expect him to be the least fluent of all in this specific language.

He has been attending a Swiss playgroup for almost two years now for three hours a day, four days a week. He feels very comfortable there since Day One. Since the day, that is, that he did not understand or speak a word of German. A big part of this adjustment is due to Nicholas’ fantastic and experienced teacher, Prisca. The whole setup of her playschool and the activities she shares with the children are just beautiful and just right.

Nicholas, just like Maggie, has been exposed to all those media and experiences, methods and consistency, encouragement and efforts that we have been using all these years both at home and at our language schools.

He is at an age that he can productively and smoothly participate in our educational fun events at The Loras Network. He has a constantly growing interest in books and lately audio books. And he just loves German. His reaction towards a language that is new to our family, is such great news to us. Maybe even greater than actually hearing a new German word being pronounced by him. This attitude to his multilingual upbringing is so healthy that I am even more encouraged and consistent in the steps and decisions I make as a parent and teacher than ever before.

Nicholas’ spoken German words may still be very few but there is no doubt in my mind that, just like Maggie (and the comparison is in an encouraging and not mimicking way) he will maintain a progressive language journey. His own language journey.

Last week, I went to pick him up from his playgroup and one of his classmates asked him something in Swiss German. Nicholas seemed to immediately understand and gave a short response with a Swiss accent. Then turned back to me and in a Canadian accent (with a heavy R) went on in English about all he could remember concerning his day.

And even though I have been through all this before, as a mother and a teacher, it is still such a pleasant surprise to me. I am still astonished by the progress. I am still stunned by witnessing these gifts of my life and my profession unravel before me.

It’s like Christmas to me … So often!

Thank you very much.

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Feat No 17: Oops! There is always room for improvement.

That was the title of one of my slides for my talk on Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Language Learning and Families.

While preparing my talk for our 1st Workshop, I felt I should mainly use material from this blog. I tried to create a summary of all the things I have learnt, used, taught, studied, dealt with and felt while raising my children bilingually and multilingually.

 As I had paused the blog for a while in order to prepare for this event, I thought I should remember if I had added something to our daily routine now that Maggie and Nicholas are older. Or notice something in our home that had been changed or added to facilitate us educationally.

 I actually did come across two things:

* I remembered that just as we follow a pattern with our daily audiovisual moments, we started off using the same pattern for bedtime books. Before the children go to sleep, depending on which language day it is, I give them a stack of books in that language, either to flip through, or one of us reads to them; or Maggie even reads to Nicholas.

This helps them in all sorts of ways, whether they actually read or are read the book, or neither. If they are read a book, they gather all the pronunciation and vocabulary, phrases and expressions, illustrations and concepts the book (and its language) have to offer! If they flip through the book, even the direct or indirect encounter with the letters of the book and the pictures, offers a lot. In the case that Maggie reads the book to Nicholas, well then what more can you ask for! It’s the full package. And all that in a very pleasant and calm atmosphere. Relaxing before bedtime in one of the best ways!

* The second thing I realized was a mistake! A slip-up! And I mentioned it during my talk.   We love having things organized in the house! Especially I do. I personally wish I could have every single detail organized and labelled. Of course, a touch of messiness here and there has its special effect, too – or at least, I have persuaded myself so, in order not to get too obsessed with the issue.

 In Maggie’s room, we have several small wooden boxes that hold different items, mainly for crafts or collections. I labelled them, as you probably would expect, but…did so ONLY in English. So I took a photo of this error of mine and brought it up towards the end of my talk. All participants not only realized the mistake immediately but also understood the significance of writing the labels in our family’s other two languages as well.

And that is what I shall do tomorrow. No, no, I am not delaying something that I can do today… I just forgot the labelling machine at the office. It’s on my To-Do list!

Thank you!

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The Loras Network interviews Claudia Buzzoni (ELT Consultant for Macmillan Education)- Speaker at the 1st International Loras Network Workshop

Loras Network (L.N.): Claudia, thank you so much for giving us this interview. We are so excited that you will have a presentation at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism!

Claudia Buzzoni (C. B.):  Thank you! I’m really looking forward to speaking at your workshop next month. It’s a topic that’s close to my heart as my oldest daughter is just starting to put together her first sentences in both Swiss German and English.

L.N.: Claudia, we met you as the representative for Macmillan Publications. Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your work?

C. B.: I’ve been with Macmillan Education for the past three and a half years. I work closely with a wide range of private and public school teachers throughout the country, helping them to select and implement different teaching materials. Outside of work, I’m studying linguistics and German and am also a mum to two small girls.

L.N.: You have also taught extensively. What do you enjoy the most about teaching, and what about working in publications?

C. B.: I loved working with students and watching as they absorbed new information and developed their skills. Working with teachers, I still get a huge amount of satisfaction of helping someone find materials that will make their classes easier to teach and a more effective place for learners to learn.

L.N.: Macmillan has a great variety of readers, which in our opinion are an important means of learning in every home and school. How can teachers and parents best exploit your readers?

C. B.: That’s a big question! Giving children access to any kind of reading material has so many knock-on benefits. Modelling is a great way to encourage reading. Offering loads of opportunities to read and exploring different ways to use texts also helps. Sourcing materials that are enjoyable to the children and making sure that activities are suitable for their skills also helps motivate them to read more.

L.N.: We are extremely enthused with your six-series Macmillan English books for our international young learners. This is a series you specifically recommended we use and we thank you. What are the strongest points of your referral?

C. B.: This course makes use of research into how English is learnt as a native language, and how it is taught in English curriculum classrooms. As a result, it combines the best-practice of both learning English as a mother tongue and as a second/foreign language. It’s ideal for international children who come to your classes with varying degrees of English language experience. It also offers early exposure to rich and genuine language – a great basis for studying other subjects in English as well as leading towards native-like fluency in both spoken and written English.

L.N.: What would you advise all the educators out there reading your interview?

C. B.: There is no single ‘right’ way to teach, or to learn, and teachers should also participate in the ‘learning’!

L.N.: Thank you so much, Claudia! We look forward to seeing you in September and attending your presentation.

For more information on Macmillan Education, our 2013 event as well as the interviews of our other distinguished speakers, please feel free to explore the following links:

http://www.macmillaneducation.com/

http://www.lorasnetwork.com/events/events-1/25-1st-international-loras-network-Workshop

https://eugenialoras.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/feat-no-14-our-1st-workshop-on-bilingualism-and-multilingualism-in-language-learning-and-families/

https://eugenialoras.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/the-loras-network-interviews-alex-rawlings-speaker-at-the-1st-international-loras-network-workshop/

https://eugenialoras.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-loras-network-interviews-dr-muhammad-aslam-sipra-speaker-at-the-1st-international-loras-network-workshop/

A Special Feat: Professional Development While Being a Parent

For two and a half years, I was not in the classroom; not once did I think of deducting those years from my teaching career. And that, thanks to my two full-time students, in Life Sciences and English Language Learning; my daughter, Maggie and my son, Nicholas.

The amounts of Professional Development that I have been receiving through their development, physical, mental, psychological and linguistic, is invaluable.
This Special Feat is a message to all English Language Teachers who have become parents. Professional Development does not stop when you become a parent. On the contrary and through personal experience, you can make the utmost out of your gift and responsibility of being a parent:
You can be one great teacher for your family and for your students.
  •  We have turned our home into a school and our school into our second home. 
  • I have been extensively studying the specialized topics of Bilingualism and Multilingualism and have been applying all I am learning both to my children and my students.
  • Through this effort, several other colleagues-parents have become motivated and began studying and asking for advice on these issues – issues that are firmly bonded with teaching languages. 
  • Some of us may not be able to frequently visit workshops and conferences. That’s alright! That’s what webinars, online conferences and workshops, educational blogs, social media and books are for.
  • And some of us may be able to bring our own children into the groups we teach. This is my personal favourite. As if I have been living and working for this.  

Congratulations to all teachers and parents on their feats. Thank you.  

This post was originally published on the BELTA (Belgian English Language Teachers Association) blog.

Feel free to explore BELTA Belgium: http://www.beltabelgium.com

(The Loras Network is an institutional member of BELTA Belgium)

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Feat No 14: Our 1st Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism in Language Learning and Families

As a parent, I have been in doubt and under pressure when raising my children initially bilingually and later on multilingually. And there have been times that I have had to:
– study hard on the topic,
– invest in resources,
– be loyal to a plan or method,
– commit to a schedule,
– exchange feedback with other parents with similar experiences,
– accommodate ideas to our family life and all that… while trying to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone involved.

As a teacher, I have been encouraging language learning and teaching an additional language to a monolingual speaker or to an already bilingual one for almost eighteen years. And there have been times during that role that I have had to:
– study hard on the topic,
– learn through numerous experiences of teaching all ages and all levels,
– invest in resources,
– build up a methodology according to the feedback from students and/or their parents,
– pass on this information and experience to all colleagues working with us,
– ultimately contribute to bilingualism and/or mutlilingualism and all that… while trying to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone involved.

Whether a parent, a teacher or both, it is amazing how many things we have in common. Just look above. And that is how the idea of our 1st International Loras Network Workshop was born. Bilingually; multilingually; while raising our children and teaching our students.

In an attempt to cover as many aspects of this topic as possible:
Dr Muhammad Aslam Sipra will cover the topic of the contribution of bilingualism in language teaching at beginners’ level. (As a teacher, I cannot wait to learn more on this issue and as a mother, it will help me figure out how teachers handle it).
Ms Claudia Buzzoni will guide us in the world of resources, motivation and alternatives. (As a teacher and a parent, I need to invest in the appropriate direction).
Mr Alex Rawlings is our live example of how a child, a teenager and then an adult can learn languages – yes, in the plural. (As a teacher, I wish he were my student and as a mother, how relieved I feel with his results).
Vicky Loras will touch that international point of view of languages and countries, people and their cultures, our world. (As a teacher and a parent, I love the idea of our students and children learning in depth).
As a mother and a teacher, I, Eugenia Loras, would love to share the story of my personal and professional life, with all its mistakes and joy!
I will be honored to experience all this with you.
Thank you.
Poster Part
http://www.lorasnetwork.com/events/events-1/25-1st-international-loras-network-workshop