Original publish date: October 2018
This year started out with great energy and desire for change. It also brought a number of challenges that mostly had to do with logistics. I was going to have 30 first-graders. AND 30 third-graders! I had to get seriously organized just to be able to remember what I had to do, where I had stopped and what they had for homework! But more about my boxes and corners in another post.
My greatest challenge was me. I felt empty and full at the same time. On the first of September, I stood looking at the coming year and the surge of new students and I thought "What on earth am I going to do...". How would I be able to start over and do the same one more time? Plus, this year was starting with a new curriculum, a completely new philosophy and approach to the syllabus and, truth be told, some new-found freedom that I wasn't sure what to do with. That's when it hit me: I was going to try every idea I'd shelved over the previous years, changing my methodology as much as I could without losing sight of my primary goals for each level. If that did not renew me, what would?
So, inspired by amazing colleagues (including, but not limited to,Vivi Hamilou, Aphro Giouris, Vasso Papaioannou, and Maria Kammenou), I decided to try interactive notebooks, assignment portfolios, work stations, craft corners, shoe boxes, and... project-based learning!
I informed my 4th-graders that this year, they would have to discover knowledge, work in teams closer than ever before, use what they found in their boxes and make sure they were responsible and organised because we needed everything to be able to create the project at the end of each cycle.
Well, as you can imagine, they were very excited! I don't know what mostly appealed to them, maybe it wasn't one thing, but at least we were setting out with joy and anticipation.
So, I divided them in three groups of six - the red, blue and yellow teams. I used my kids' old Playmobil cases in corresponding colours and every two or three lessons, I put something new for them to do, something to prepare and glue in their notebook, or something to complete and then use for revision. At the beginning of the first cycle, I had them collaborate with other teams to make their own flashcards which we then used throughout the cycle. Our first topic was My School so we went through numbers 1-100, there is/are, have/has got, days, school stuff, classroom stuff and school subjects.
We used some of the pages and activities in the textbook, our Quizlet sets for practice and review (you can see an examplehere- for Quizlet uninitiates, there will be a blog post soon), a variety of other materials, some of which you can find at the end of this blog post, and slowly but surely reached the end of the first cycle. It was time for the much anticipated first project. I had promised them something that would involve collaboration and that would require them to put their new knowledge to use. I decided to prepare templates for an info-poster that would present our school and have them fill them in. I used things like these fonts: KG Red Hands and Action Jackson which you can easily download and install following the links. Or these frames, which you can download right here, and they can be used in a great variety of ways (trust me)!
This image came from the school textbook and surprisingly, hard as I tried, I couldn't find a better one online!
Finally, it was time to glue everything onto the construction paper which would serve as the background for our poster!
It took one and a half teaching hours to complete this. What I found out in the discussion that followed was that they were content with the result. They felt they had collaborated well and that they had been quick and efficient (which was absolutely true!). Funny thing, they hadn't felt like they were studying much in the process, but I think what they picked up doing this will stick around. I certainly felt great teaching them. Well. Only time will tell! In the meantime, we're too busy to linger, we have a new cycle starting on Monday. The topic? Sports! Their coloured cases already have materials for the flashcards! See you later!
PS. Things we used in this cycle included materials from Photodendron, such as this word game or this lovely picture dictionary. We also made use of the site http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en powered by the British Council and a veritable treasure trove! I especially enjoyed this story about a superhero school which ended with a lovely bit of writing. There's always time and mood for a cut-out and an old-fashioned grammar tidbit doesn't hurt! Flashcards are always useful as well as a little bit of tracing. (You can find the cut-out about school subjects in the members' area - sign up for free or log in!)