Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Holiday fun

I know holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but I just couldn't get around to correcting all these activity books and notebooks during the school year. Well then. Here's to recharging for 2016! :)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy holidays!

Lady dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside 
Cunning tricks and elfish play, 
'Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

We have heard the children say - 
Gentle children, whom we love - 
Long ago, on Christmas Day, 
Came a message from above.

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round, 
They remember it again - 
Echo still the joyful sound 
'Peace on earth, good-will to men!'

Yet the hearts must childlike be 
Where such heavenly guests abide: 
Unto children, in their glee, 
All the year is Christmas-tide!

Thus, forgetting tricks and play 
For a moment, Lady dear, 
We would wish you, if we may, 
Merry Christmas, glad New Year!

Lewis Carroll

Greeting card made by one of my first graders with my humble assistance

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Wintertime in my classroom

This school year has mostly been about young learners for me. I still teach two groups of pre-intermediate students but most of my students are ages 6–10. This also means my classroom is stacked with pictures, posters and other projects from my students.

This is how I approached the topic of winter with my first graders:

  • We listened to The Little Magician story and acted it out. I made the story up myself and it goes something like this:

    Once upon a time there was a little magician. He had no mother, no father, no sisters, no brothers and no friends to play with. The little magician was sad and lonely.

    One winter's day the little magician was sitting in front of his house when suddenly it started to rain. (RAINDROPS!) The raindrops were very friendly to the little magician. »Let's play!« they said. So he played with the raindrops.

    After a while the little magician thought of something fun. He waved with his magic wand and turned the raindrops into snowflakes. (Abracadabra, one, two, three - SNOWFLAKES!) The snowflakes were very friendly to the little magician. »Let's play!« they said. So he played with the snowflakes.

    After a while the little magician thought of something fun. He waved with his magic wand and turned the snowflakes into a snowman. (Abracadabra, one, two, three - SNOWMAN!) The snowman was big and white and fun! He was very friendly to the little magician. »Let's play!« he said. So the little magician and the snowman played together.

    After that day, things were different for the little magician. Whenever he wanted company, he just waved with his magic wand and he had friends. The little magician was never sad and lonely again. The end.

  • We sang the Snowman song. As for the snowman puppet, I made it myself while attending the course on puppets (see ZGUČAN).

I'm a little snowman, short and fat,
here's my scarf and here's my hat.
(melody: I'm a Little Teapot)

  • As a CLIL activity, we made paper snowflakes. I'm sure you know how to do that but just in case you forgot, here's a Youtube tutorial.

We had lots of fun doing it. All that's left for us are some Christmas activities next week and then, finally, winter break!!! 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Trick or Treat!

Halloween's here again. As English teachers, we're bound to cover cultural aspects of the English speaking countries as well as the language, so there's no way we could skip Halloween lessons. And besides, why would we want to? I always have so much fun celebrating Halloween with my young learners. Here's what we were doing for this Halloween with my first graders:

  • Paper pumpkins
They're so easy to make - what you need to do is cut two equal pumpkin shapes out of paper, colour them, staple them together (for obvious reasons, it's better if you do that for your students) and fill them with leftover paper from cutting. Staple the top last.

I'm a little pumpkin, come and play!
It's Halloween! Hurray! Hurray!
(sung to: I'm a Little Teapot)

  • Magic tricks
My favourite one is mixing colours with water - say, yellow and blue. Abracadabra, one, two, three and here's green! Also great for revising colours.

  • Talking about our costumes (introducing YL Halloween vocabulary)

  • Trick-or-treating
I tell my students to bring costumes to our Halloween lesson if they want. I always wear one myself for Halloween. We then go trick-or-treating around other classrooms. Of course, you'll need to ask your colleagues in advance if they're OK with the idea and give them some candy. Alternatively, you could ask some of the colleagues to NOT give you candy so you can play an innocent trick on them. From my experience, the students almost prefer NOT getting candy so they can play a trick!

All I have to add is I can't wait for next year's Halloween! :)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Upcoming workshops and webinars

New school year, new opportunities for professional development. There are new workshops, seminars and webinars on the horizon, and all of them free of charge! I'm planning to attend most of these:

Friday, 4 September 2015

Reading badge

Even though reading is just one of the four language skills, learners who read a lot improve their language abilities in general. Reading badge is a good way to promote reading among your students. There are two popular English reading badge competitions in Slovenia that you probably know, EPI Reading Badge and Bookworms. I do encourage my students to participate in these competitions, but at the same time we have our own "reading badge" projects. The problem with commercial reading badge projects is that they require students and schools to buy (or borrow) new books every year as they frequently change their reading lists. I have therefore decided to allow my students to choose their own book titles. What they have to do is read four to five level-appropriate readers of their choosing and do an activity for each od the books. Here are the activities they can choose among:
  • A mind map. It should include the title, the author, the characters, three to five new English words and an illustration (suitable for younger learners).
  • A comic. It should summarise the story from the book.
  • A handwritten summary.

Students who successfully present the required number of books then get a diploma at the end of a school year. I know it sounds like a lot of work but I'm happy to say most of my students decide to participate in my reading badge projects. :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Welcome back!

I hope you had a great holiday, you're well-rested and your first day back in school wasn't too difficult. ;) Full speed ahead!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Pre-holiday classroom activities

Summer holidays are coming and aren't we all glad! The problem is, what to do with your students once the grades are more or less what they are, the weather is hot and everyone is already day-dreaming about those carefree summer days about to come. I've prepared a list of activities I use during these days, I hope any of this comes in handy. :)

  • If you have a chance, go outside and play! Especially with young learners. Looking for ideas? Try here and here.
  • Work on writing skills and write holiday postcards.
  • Act out stories. You may let your students choose their story and their props. They could even prepare in advance and then act out their stories in front od their classmates. It's amazing what happens when you occasionally let them be their own bosses - their creativity seems to be endless!
The Magic Porridge Pot: overflowing porridge prop

The Three Little Pigs: house props

  • Play games: board games (perhaps something like this), Truth or Dare, Room 101, Activity (prepare word cards with all-year-round vocabulary which students then either have to demonstrate with charades, describe or draw) ...
  • Ask the students to make their own quizzes, crossword puzzles, word searches, comics on the topic of summer and then put their work together and make a nice summer magazine.
  • Sing campfire songs! My (and my students') two absolute favourites:



  • Have a small goodbye party with music, games and chatting.
Do add your own ideas in the comment section! Let's make these few last days as fun and useful as possible and I promise, summer holidays will be here in no time. ;)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

School farewell party coming up!

My dear ninth graders, each and every one of you has left an impression in my memory and in my heart. If I have taught you anything I am glad because you sure have taught me a lot. I wish you well and you will be missed!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

We've done it!!!

"Po temeljiti proučitvi vseh pripomb se je ministrica za izobraževanje, znanost in šport, dr. Maja Makovec Brenčič odločila, da ustavi postopek sprejemanja zakona ZOsn.
Vsem sodelujočim v razpravi se zahvaljujem za podane konstruktivne pripombe in dopolnitve ter zgledno sodelovanje."

Primary school subjects, part 2

In this post I'll cover ZGUČAN Art and P. E. courses. You can read my reviews of other primary school subject courses in this post.
  • ART (LUM)

    We discussed the syllabus and the methodology. The first you can find online and the second is pretty much the same as with any other subject (motivation, attitude, lesson planning, Piaget etc.) so I won't go into that much. There were some fairly important points I'd like to address, though.

    • Firstly, when you use Art for your CLIL lessons, what you have to take into account is the age of the children you teach and, consequently, their stages of development in art. You cannot expect them to deliver something they are not yet capable of.
    • When choosing a theme for their art work, show them the real thing if possible. Alternatively, show a photograph or a piece of acknowledged artwork with the same theme. By all means avoid showing colourful pictures of questionable artistic value. This also applies to other ways of teaching: use photographs instead of colourful flashcards whenever possible.
    • Never draw to show a child how to draw something because it kills creativity. Instead, help him observe the theme he's drawing: What has a cat got? A head? What shape? A circle? OK, draw a circle. What's on its head? Ears? OK, how many? Two? Small or big? Good, let's add two ears etc.

  • Physical education (ŠPO)
    Again, syllabus and methodology. Some practical work but I can't really say I remember much of it, unfortunately. We did cover some games that could fit into frames of P. E., so here are some interesting games you can use in your CLIL P. E. lessons (you probably know most of them already, though):

I hope this comes in handy. Now I only have a few more ZGUČAN courses to cover and I'm done. :)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Nestrinjanje s predlogom zakona o spremembah in dopolnitvah Zakona o osnovni šoli

Ministrstvo za izobraževanje, znanost in šport se je odločilo, da se zgodnje učenje tujega jezika v slovenskih šolah zopet prestavi, tokrat za dve leti. Udeleženke izobraževanja ZGUČAN smo jim v zvezi s tem napisale pismo, vsebino katerega delim tukaj. Naj opozorim, da sem ena od podpisnic pisma, nisem pa avtorica. 

Dne 23. 4. 2015 so osnovne šole prejele okrožnico Ministrstva za izobraževanje, znanost in šport (v nadaljevanju MIZŠ), v kateri so navedeni predlogi sprememb Zakona o spremembah in dopolnitvah Zakona o osnovni šoli; podpisnice tega pisma izražamo odločno nestrinjanje s tem predlogom, saj govori o zamiku uvajanja prvega tujega jezika za dve leti. Razlog, ki ga v dotičnem pravilniku navajate kot »racionalizacijo porabe javnih sredstev«, se nam zdi ponižujoč in nepravičen, saj se spet ustavljamo na točki, kjer bodo oškodovani otroci, ki bi z zgodnjim učenjem jezika največ pridobili. Le-ti in njihovi starši gotovo ne morejo plačati »cene« racionalizacije javnih sredstev.
Stroka opozarja na nepopravljivo in nenadomestljivo škodo pri tistih učencih, ki ne bodo imeli možnosti učenja tujega jezika že v prvem razredu osnovne šole. Na osnovnih šolah že poteka postopno uvajanje prvega tujega jezika v drugi razred; glede na to bi večina otrok oz. staršev (tako kažejo ankete) izbrala angleščino za neobvezni izbirni predmet že v prvem razredu.
Po podatkih ministrstva je bilo leta 2013/14 kadra s to izobrazbo premalo. Zato MIZŠ sofinancira študijske programe za izpopolnjevanje iz zgodnjega učenja/poučevanja angleščine, ki jih izvajajo Univerza v Mariboru (Filozofska in Pedagoška fakulteta), Univerza v Ljubljani (Pedagoška fakulteta) in Univerza na Primorskem (Pedagoška fakulteta), kjer se je tudi letos izpopolnjevalo veliko učiteljic, kljub temu, da so/smo formalno izobrazbo že pridobile. Program je kvaliteten, zanimiv in koristen; glede na to, da smo ga uspešno zaključile in izpolnjujemo vse pogoje za izvajanje zgodnjega učenja tujega jezika, se nam Vaš predlog zdi nesprejemljiv in je pravzaprav zavajanje vseh študentov, ki se odločijo za tovrstni študij.
Zadnje čase, ko strokovnjaki vse bolj poudarjajo pomen kakovostnega šolstva in pozitivne podobe učitelja v javnosti, se nam taka ravnanja MIZŠ zdijo nesmiselna. Vnašajo strah pred profesionalnim razvojem učitelja, morda celo strah pred neznanim in v javnost pošiljajo nasprotujoča si sporočila. Zato zavračamo način racionalizacije javnih sredstev na takšen način in vas pozivamo, da privarčujete drugje. Govorjenje in celo pisanje kolegov o tem, da naj raje varčujemo pri uvajanju tujega jezika v prvem in drugem razredu, ter da naj se učenci raje učijo slovensko kot angleško, pa kaže na nepoznavanje značilnosti otrokovega razvoja in izjemno potrebo po dodatnem izobraževanju. Takšnih stališč ne podpiramo in jih odločno zavračamo. Predlagatelji zakona bi se morali zavedati pomena zgodnjega usvajanja tujega jezika.
Tokrat smo podpisniki nekoliko mlajši učitelji oziroma učiteljice in zahtevamo, da upoštevate naša stališča, saj govorimo o nujni potrebi zgodnjega učenja tujih jezikov, ki se je zaveda tudi Evropska unija.
Zavod Republike Slovenije je kljub predlaganim spremembam aprila 2015 poslal osnovnim šolam obvestilo o strokovnem usposabljanju za uvajanje neobveznih izbirnih predmetov, tudi za uvajanje prvega tujega jezika kot neobveznega izbirnega predmeta v prvem razredu:  http://www.zrss.si/dokumenti/zajavnost/Obvestilo%20%C5%A1olam_NIP_1.pdf
Pripravili so tudi zloženko za predstavitev staršem:
To kaže na zaskrbljujoče pomanjkanje dialoga.

Zgodnje učenje tujega jezika je eden izmed najbolj izpostavljenih predlogov Nacionalne strokovne skupine za pripravo bele knjige o vzgoji in izobraževanju. Poleg tega v okviru EU Akcijski načrt o učenju jezikov in jezikovni raznolikosti spodbuja k večjezičnosti v Evropi in učenju dveh tujih (dodatnih) jezikov od zgodnjega otroštva naprej.
V Beli knjigi o vzgoji in izobraževanju med drugim piše:
»Pravičnost v izobraževanju, ki je bistven element družbene pravičnosti, je tesno povezana z enakostjo. Zato pravičnost v izobraževanju pogosto razumemo kot enakost izobraževalnih možnosti, ki je nujni pogoj za to, da imajo v sodobnih družbah, temelječih na liberalnih in demokratičnih načelih, vsi njihovi državljani enake možnosti za uspeh v življenju.
Ker je enakost možnosti, ki jih ima nekdo v družbi, močno odvisna od njegovih možnosti za izobraževanje, mora država, ki si prizadeva za pravično družbo, z različnimi ukrepi (izvajanje politike pozitivne diskriminacije za otroke iz socialno in kulturno deprivilegiranih okolij; zagotavljanje vsakomur enakega obsega brezplačnega izobraževanja; omogočanje individualizacije šolskega sistema in pouka, ki nudi vsakemu učencu optimalne možnosti za pridobitev kakovostne izobrazbe in formiranje v avtonomnega posameznika; inkluzije otrok s posebnimi potrebami v primerih, ko je to zanje koristneje, kot bi bilo, če bi se šolali v posebnih 15 šolah itd.) najprej vsakomur zagotoviti enake izobraževalne možnosti.«
S predlogom spremembe Zakona o osnovni šoli je kršeno načelo enakih možnosti, saj vsem učencem ne bo zagotovljen enak obseg brezplačnega izobraževanja še dlje časa kot je bilo prvotno predvideno.
Tuji jeziki
»Učenje in poučevanje tujih jezikov se v evropskem in slovenskem merilu pomika v zgodnejše obdobje. S tem se učencem ponuja boljša možnost, da postanejo uspešni govorci več tujih jezikov. Večjezičnost je eno od načel delovanja sodobne družbe in temelj strpnosti med narodi in jezikovnimi skupnostmi ter hkrati najzanesljivejša pot k udejanjanju medkulturnosti, ki se izraža v razumevanju in spoštovanju različnosti in drugačnosti. Večjezičnost hkrati vsakemu posamezniku ponuja več možnosti na trgu dela v širšem evropskem in svetovnem merilu.
Pri vsem tem je izjemno pomembno, da so učitelji prvega in drugega tujega jezika ustrezno usposobljeni za poučevanje mlajših otrok in seznanjeni s sodobnimi pristopi pri poučevanju tujega jezika v predšolski dobi oziroma prvem triletju osnovne šole.«
Prav tako bo kršeno načelo večjezičnosti. Cilj EU je, da naj bi prebivalci EU poleg materinščine govorili vsaj še dva tuja jezika. Z odlašanjem uvedbe prvega tujega jezika v drugi razred in tujega jezika kot neobvezni izbirni predmet v prvi razred se temu okviru samo oddaljujemo in ne približujemo.
Analiza možnosti odloga uvajanja neobveznih izbirnih predmetov
V mesecu februarju je gospa Potočnik poslala javno pismo takratni ministrici za izobraževanje, znanost in šport.
Eno od vprašanj se je glasilo:
»Nameravate v naslednjem šolskem letu nadaljevati z uvajanjem neobveznih izbirnih predmetov kljub težkemu finančnemu položaju v državi?«  
Odgovor bivše ministrice:
»Postavljate tudi vprašanja povezana z uvajanjem neobveznih izbirnih predmetov. Tako kot izpolnjevanje zakonskih obveznosti velja za financiranje dela zaposlenih bodo pri izpopolnjevanju zakonskih zavez upoštevana tudi programska določila, ki izhajajo iz Zakona o osnovni šoli. Med njimi je tudi izvajanje neobveznih izbirnih predmetov. Analiza možnosti, da bi zaradi finančne situacije v državi, zakonsko določbo spremenili in predlagali odlog uvajanja, kaže, da bi bili negativni učinki takega ukrepa večji od koristi tudi zato, ker bi prekinili proces, ki se je začel že v tem šolskem letu.«
Ali se je analiza spremenila?!
Sprememba zakona je torej usmerjena samo v izvajanje tujega jezika v prvi triadi, vsi ostali predmeti se bodo izvajali kot je bilo prvotno načrtovano. Sprememba zakona torej dopušča diskriminacijo!
Ali je primerno, da država še naprej varčuje na področju šolstva in izobraževanja? Varčevalnih ukrepov je bilo na tem področju že več kot dovolj. Samo z dobro in kvalitetno izobraženim kadrom si bo država lahko opomogla in ustvarjala naprej ter se kosala z ostalimi naprednimi in razvitimi državami. Naj se izkaže, da je znanje resnično vrednota.
V pričakovanju ustrezne rešitve vas lepo pozdravljamo,
učiteljice z opravljenim študijskim programom za izpopolnjevanje iz zgodnjega učenja.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Primary school subjects, part 1

If you read my CLIL post, you know that CLIL is the basis for the YL syllabus. That is why we had to go through the basics of all primary school subjects and their methodologies in ZGUČAN. In this post I'll cover whatever I found useful in these courses but I won't go through the syllabus since it's all available online.

    We discussed the syllabus and the methodology. The first you can find online and the second is pretty much the same as with any other subject (motivation, attitude, lesson planning, Piaget etc.). What I will focus on are games and activities that could be used and adapted for English lessons, especially in terms of CLIL.
    • GAMES: Kalah/Mancala, Nim (mathematical strategies), Hex, Tangram, PentominoBlokus (geometry), Salute (addition/multiplication)
    • ACTIVITIES: Measuring length with non-standard units (HERE's my lesson plan - it's meant for a lesson in English but it's written in Slovenian), Number/Shape/Quantity booklets (HERE's my number booklet in English)

    Again, mostly syllabus (online) and methodology (same old). The one interesting thing we did do was science experiments for kids. A colleague of mine found this website that is a great source of science experiments. It's called Science Bob. There's also a list of water experiments for first graders available online (Slovene only) - I think we did most of these in our ZGUČAN classes.

    Syllabus, methodology, music history. Music notes and conducting (waste of time since I still can't do and don't use any of this even though I passed the exam). However, here are a few useful tips I remember from the top of my head:
    • When singing with young learners, never sing off-key. They're at a critical age mucic-wise and very prone to repeating your mistakes. The damage you could cause by singing off-key to them is irreversible. If you can't sing, use a CD.
    • When teaching a song, go by stages (rhythm, melody, lyrics, instruments, dancing). If you can conduct, do that as well.
    • Since children can't read notes, some other visual support should be provided, or so they say. We had to make a kind of a visual aid for children to read music. HERE's mine; I made it for I'm a Little Pumpkin song (sung to the melody of I'm a Little Teapot). You be the judge.
    • Orff instruments could be very useful for accompanying the song you're teaching.

In my next post: P. E. and Art reviews. :)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Throwback Thursday #2

A trip to London with my ex students (June 2009). They were a group of nurses - some of the most fabulous ladies I've ever met!

Unfortunately, one of the ladies is missing from the photo since she was the one taking all the pictures.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Homework? Project work!

Most of my students aren't thrilled about homework, but when it comes to project work, things change radically. I don't know if it's task personalization or presenting their work in front of their classmates that makes them go the extra mile (and the possibility of extra credit doesn't hurt, either), but even the grumpy ones will do their projects gladly.

Some of the most successful (and popular) projects my students have done this year:

  • Personalizing and acting out course book stories
In The Sky finger puppets: easy to make but effective.
I got the idea from one of my ZGUČAN colleagues.

  • Posters
My family

My city

My favourite animal

  • Fakebook profiles
Notable Slovenes

  • Board games

  • Comics

  • Reading badge projects


I'm finally finished with the ZGUČAN programme!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Throwback Thursday

My students from Pionirski Dom rapping and dancing to the Afro Circus song (Festivalna dvorana Ljubljana, May 2014). Rock'n'roll! :)