Tag Archives: Teaching

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…13?: Not that unlucky after all – We have the Sunshine Award!

Thank you very much Stephen Greene, www.headoftheheard.wordpress.com, for awarding the www.eugenialoras.wordpress.com blog with the Sunshine Award!

The Sunshine Award  is given to those who write positive and inspiring articles and bringing some sunshine into the life of others. The Sunshine blogging award has its own rules and requirements:

– Link back the blog who nominated you.

– Post the award images in your blog.

– Tell seven facts about yourself.

– Nominate 5 to 10 blogs and let them know about it.

I dedicate this award to my children and my family for all their achievements and support! Congratulations to them all!

As a Sunshine Award winner, I am supposed to say seven facts about myself:

1. I am a Thank You person so I would like here to thank you all!

2. I have been preparing and working for my children, Maggie and Nicholas even before they were born. As if I already knew them.

3. Words cannot describe how much I love my work.

4. My favourite colour is purple.

5. My favourite book is “Someday” by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds, Scholastic.

6. I really love autumn and my birthday!

7. Whenever I send my wishes to someone, I truly hope they come true!

And now I am honored with the privilege of awarding the following blogs with the Sunshine Award:

1. www.swissirja.wordpress.com : Sirja Bessero deserves the Sunshine Award because she is the super mother of three children and an excellent English language teacher in Switzerland

2. www.beltabelgiumblog.blogspot.ch: The Belta Blog Team deserves the Sunshine Award because they provide excellent guidance and support not just to teachers in Belgium but all around the world.

3. www.rosebardeltdiary.wordpress.com: Rose Bard deserves the Sunshine Award because she has been wonderfully raising three children and loves teaching English in Santa Catarina.

4. www.ariascarm.wordpress.com : Carmen Arias deserves the Sunshine Award because she teaches English in Spain, while beautifully raising her family.

5. www.rawlangs.com : Alex Rawlings deserves the Sunshine Award because he is an extraordinarily valuable role model for children, parents and teachers.

6. www.vickyloras.wordpress.com : Vicky Loras deserves the Sunshine Award exactly  because she is my sister. Vicky is a very special English Language teacher in Switzerland, she is the Godmother of our children and the best professional partner I could ever ask for.

Thanking you very much,

Eugenia

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Feat No 10: Maggie’s first bilingual school: The Loras English Academy

Today was Clifford Day at our English School. And Maggie was there, too. Just like she always has been these past eight years when she arrived and saved me from myself.

And that is why I love my job:

* Maggie would visit The Loras English Academy. Every day. How happy she was at “Mama’s school”, as she called it.

* And it belonged to her family. Her mom was working there. So were her aunts. Her grandparents brought her there every afternoon.

* The best part was that I also felt happy working in an environment that my child could visit and remained until I would leave. In the evening.

* We were not just together at the same place and at the same time, but I had arranged for Maggie to have short and fun English and Greek lessons there regularly while I was working. Just next door. Perfect. (Many global companies today, have childcare facilities within the companies themselves. The advantages are invaluable for everyone involved.)

* We had even created a playroom for our very young students when we renovated. Thanks to Maggie, many children and there parents became keen on learning English. They wanted to speak and understand English just like Maggie. Our daughter had accidentally become our walking and talking advertisement for these English Playgroups. As we had adopted the One person, One Language method concerning Maggie’s bilingualism, we had managed to draw attention by being among the minority of daily English-speakers in our former city, Ioannina.

The Loras English Academy Playroom

The Loras English Academy Playroom

* At the end of the day, we were both very tired but we always left the school happy and proud.

Too bad Nicholas missed out on all those incredible experiences. …Or did he?

Have no fear, The Loras English Network is here!

Together again at our school with Maggie... and slowly Nicholas will start attending, too

Together again at our school with Maggie… and slowly Nicholas will start attending, too

Feat No 8: Once upon a time…there were treasures on shelves!

If you have a bookcase at home full of books, then you ultimately have a treasure!

If you place the children’s books on the lower shelves, then they have immediate treasures, too.

Just like they learn how to play with toys, that is how they can learn to read books.

Naturally!

I have been placing books in close access of my children since they were born.

Mags Nick reading

– But they cannot read, Eugenia. What were you thinking?

– They cannot speak when they are babies either, yet we give them toy telephones. They cannot play, catch or kick, yet we buy them soft colourful balls. In the same manner, I strongly felt that easy access to books – soft books initially, then board books and then gradually to paper books – can turn reading into something as natural as playing. And so far with Maggie the results are more than evident. And Nicholas is following. Moreover, having Maggie as his guide he too spends some time flipping through books, looking at pictures, some pages more intensely than others. His eyes see words that he cannot read but it all becomes a familiar sight to him. Just like with Maggie.

It might start off with a thirty-second glance, then become a three-minute action. Further on it becomes a twenty-minute activity and before you know it, books are as loved as toys.

We did exactly the same at our wonderful former English school in Ioannina, Greece; The Loras English Academy. Our vast bookcase was our main attraction and ultimate joy for teachers, parents and students.

Libraries LEA

(The Loras English Academy is a Feat of its own. Sooner or later I will have to write about it… I think I am better now; I am almost ready to do so.)

Some children seemed like they were picking out candies in a candy shop when choosing books. And some others were not as interested but at least once borrowed a book from us. A start must be made somehow.

“Wow, how many books you have!”, said a mother of two children who were our students. “Yes, we are very lucky to have so many and we try to expose the children to them as much as we can. I do the same at home with Maggie. Just place the books close to them and they will come to love them”, I went on enthusiastically as usual. “No, no, it depends on the child. It would be a waste of time and money if I did that with my children”.

And all of sudden… disappointment “fell kerplunk on Eugenia’s head”. And I so wanted to tell her, “Well if you have not tried it, why do you make guesses, to their disadvantage?” But I didn’t. So, I just decided to do my best through the books in our school and at some point, hopefully, the children themselves would ask their parents to also quench their thirst for books.

Encyclopedias – for children and adults, dictionaries – simple, specialized and picture-based, thesauruses, course books, grammar books, readers – fictional and factual, story books, audio and not…we have invested in. Slowly, progressively, we almost had it all.

The more we bought, the happier we got!

My absolute favourites, though, are audio story books. And we have noticed at home but throughout our career that they are the most popular with children. They are so educationally fun that I actually teach a five-year-old boy this year, who wants to go through the full two-hour session we have, sometimes, only with these storybooks.

Both my children are very fond of them too and we have the whole series of some at home. Readily available for them. Tapes, CDs and books. All at hand.

“Come on Nicholas! Let’s listen to storybooks!” says Maggie to her brother just as if doing another playful activity.

My Top 5 Super Recommendations (in order of personal and professional preference):

  1. Express Publishing – Audio Storytime Readers (Stages 1 – 3)
  2. Scholastic – Readers (several series)
  3. Scholastic – Audio Storybooks
  4. Random House – Step into Reading Series (Steps 1 – 5)
  5. Oxford – Start with English Readers (Grades 1 – 6)

And I cannot wait to do something like this again!

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I just cannot wait!

Feat No 7: “I’ m singing in the “… home, morning, classroom, bath, entrance or exit of your school, celebrations, and anywhere else you can teach while having fun!!!

I have always considered myself a “Show Woman” type of teacher, meaning that I am very, correction, extremely enthusiastic and expressive when teaching. I enjoy making the lesson fun along with educative and also encouraging. I like turning something small into a big deal for our students; a huge achievement!

I am like that as a mother, too. I sometimes tend to overdo it, like Ms Frizzle from Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus, literally even dressing up according to the event or activity, but I love doing so.

What has been an essential tool for these in-house and school events are songs: Rhymes, traditional children’s songs, course book songs, songs from educational DVDs, songs from several audio storybooks, even songs from our own childhood.

Both my children and students are proof that songs have helped our lessons grandly throughout the eight years of being a mother and seventeen years of being an English language teacher:

* Our students, who are non-native speakers, have learnt words and phrases unbelievably fast and easily just by singing to these educationally fun rhythms

* Our students, who are native speakers, have realized the exact meaning or articulation of a word while singing

* My children have not just experienced everything above mentioned, but have also expressed an opinion on a song. I will never forget when I was singing the lullaby:

Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top,

When the wind blows the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks the cradle will fall….

And all of a sudden, four years after listening to this exact lullaby from beginning to end, Maggie, shocked, gets up from her bedtime pose and asks me to change the ending of the song on the spot. That it is not proper to sing the lullaby as it is. So from then on, to this day, …

… In mommy’s arms,

Maggie & Nicholas shall sleep …

is the new ending to that all-time classic. And Nicholas, being three-and-a-half today, has yet to hear Maggie’s forbidden version of the lullaby!

* Our students and my children practised and improved their skills in colours, numbers, letters, pronunciation and so many other topics.

* Under our family roof, this does not just apply to English, but to all three languages the children speak. And yet again, we have invested in providing them with equal language opportunities even in the audio sector.

* Children’ s interest and love in learning a language increases vertically through songs and the younger they are the more frequently you can use them during a lesson. I learnt this very well in my early years of teaching when I was responsible for the English Language at a private Nursery / Kindergarten in Greece for 7 years. They were aged three and a half to five and a half, were learning English as a Second language and were among the most productive projects I have ever done. Educational children’s songs were among my basic and best tools. We had even managed to put on plays including English songs. Some parents had even congratulated us as they felt their children spoke and sang the English performance better than their native language Greek play.

* In order for the songs to produce results, the teachers must have fun too while performing them! While enjoying them. While teaching them. While reenacting them and even reinventing them!

* There is another aspect to songs. Music itself. Being a former dancer (ballet – jazz – tap) I know the majestic essence of classical music. In our former school, The Loras English Academy, we tried something. In the hallways of the school, we would play classical music at a very low volume during lesson time. Teachers, students and parents gave us nothing but excellent feedback. During the breaks we would pause it.

* This is also applied at our home just before bedtime. After having studied two books on young children and pleasant sleep solutions (New Toddler Taming, by Dr Christopher Green and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley) and doing my best to adjust all this information to our family’s schedule and personality, we listen to classical music before the children fall asleep; at a very low volume. This even helps us parents calm down so as not to transmit any of our hyperactivity or stress on to our children.

* Music and songs have been used by us as English teachers with older students as well. Productivity in the classroom at its best, as excellently described by Vicky Loras through her blog post Born in The USA. Carefully selected lyrics from popular contemporary adult songs offer several teaching and learning opportunities.

I am very happy that I even remember songs I learned at school in Canada when I was a child. I sing them to both Maggie and Nicholas and they love them a lot. Not just as songs but also because they find it amazing that Mom used to be a child, too!

And while we listen to classical music, bedtime would not be complete without a story book!

Feat No 8 will take you to Story Land, books and all their wonders… in – house and at school!

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Maggie singing at The Loras English Academy Summer Celebration 2007

References:

Green, C. (2006). New Toddler Taming. London, UK: Vermilion.

Pantley, E. (2005). The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers. USA: McGraw-Hill.

Feat No 6: From the Past to the Present and a step into the Future; Sibling Language Code

As our family is today, German is the language that has strong allies on its side: the German-speaking environment and the professional consistency of school. To add to that, Maggie’s friends are mainly German-speaking. And the cherry on top is the fact that Maggie is not only enjoying and prospering in this educational system but has also obtained great confidence with her German language development. So she uses it. Proudly. Daily.

And as Nicholas grows older they might even change their preferred language of communication, from English to German.

This is something that we noticed had happened to us, the Loras sisters.

Growing up in Canada we communicated with each other in English. Then moving to Greece, we preferred Greek as teenagers. Becoming adults and working in our own English school all day with other English teachers, we returned to our initial English-speaking family code. Now, in Switzerland, English is used as strongly as if we were in Canada by Vicky and myself. But we communicate in Greek with our younger sister, Christine who still lives in Greece. She, too, being an English teacher, though!

What I have noticed is that:

* Maggie has always used English when playing alone; recently, at a lower percentage but it has made its bold occurrence, sometimes plays alone in German, as well.

* Nicholas plays alone in English only for the time being.

* Together they play only in English.

* They have never played together in Greek.

* Maggie has never played alone in Greek.

* However, both she and Nicholas have no problem playing in Greek if a Greek speaking person is involved like their father, their giagia, my younger sister or anyone else when we visit Greece.

* While speaking in Greek or German specifically, Maggie may encounter unknown words. I have noticed that English is her main language foundation and based on that she learns the Greek or German equivalent.

* They can both sing songs in all three languages but also in unknown to them languages with great ease… A few days ago, Maggie taught Nicholas the chorus of a song and then they both sang it to me and for me:

” Mamacita mamacita buena…” . I am still laughing!

Speaking of songs, for children though, Feat No 7 will disclose why I consider them miracle makers when teaching the English language, or any language for that matter. Both to our children and our students.

Thank you and feel free to enjoy the song.

The Loras sisters in Canada

The Loras trio in Canada

Feat No 5: So far English is at a winning distance from Greek and German…but will it endure?

Maggie and Nicholas communicate with each other in English. This alone is a victory for this language compared to Greek and German as it is the preferred language of our children.

It is literally their mother tongue. And I have been trying to spend as much time with them as possible since they were each born. We also have a whole school of resources for them and they are being used by their mother and their aunt who are actually real English language teachers.

So the English language has been strongly active in our home both naturally and professionally.

While Nicholas is still at preschool age, this method is working as beautifully for him as it has for Maggie. However, Maggie is growing…physically and mentally. How do we maintain such a successful development of the English language from now on when her questions, activities and dialogues are becoming more mature?

This is most probably the right time to actually place Maggie in a group at our own language school. Along with other children of the same age whose native language is English, following a structured curriculum throughout the school year will be exactly the right way to stabilize, build and then excellently materialize the development of her English language.

Even if The Loras English Network did not exist, we would have to find a solution similar to this.

Being an English teacher in our own home has been successful so far but if I attempt to raise the standards of our in-house education, we both sometimes end up behaving…as if we were at home; because that is where we exactly are.

Put the mother in a classroom and the child in a group and the behavioural pattern changes quite a bit. As Maggie and I have been in this situation several times in the past, we are confident it will work. In this new picture, Eugenia is concentrating on the actual lesson and not emptying the dishwasher while spelling out a word to Maggie, who in turn is concentrating on the lesson and not trying to keep her sock on her foot while Nicholas is under the table trying to pull it off. Fun moments, but they cannot last forever.

And while Maggie and Nicholas are arguing over the sock in English, a Feat from our own past will make us wonder if they will continue using this language as their Sibling Code. To be continued in Feat No 6.

Time for us to take it to the classroom, too!

Time for us to take it to the classroom, as well!