Friday, 30 January 2015

U. S. Embassy school visit

Yesterday our school had a visit from the U. S. Embassy in Ljubljana. Their first visit to our school was made by Bilateral Affairs Officer Major Perry Read. After the Principal's welcoming reception, Mr Perry visited a classroom with about 90 students to talk about different topics upon their request. The students were interested in racism, gun control, genetically modified food, and asked hundreds of questions on the topics. BAO Perry Read received a very loud and long applause at the end of more than an hour long conversation with the students. This was a second U. S. Embassy visit for me as a teacher and I found them both very engaging and beneficial for the students. If you have a chance to invite a representative from an English speeking Embassy in your country, I definitely recommend it!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Puppets, part 1

In my last post I told you about the study programme I'm attending and I'm back with my first subject review. 

a. k. a. the part of the study programme that actually proved to be useful for teaching English to young learners. Not only did we learn to make different types of puppets for different purposes ourselves, we also learned how to use them properly. Even though I had been working with puppets before as puppets are often YLE course components, I can truly say I learned a lot in this course.

There are many types of puppets: hand or glove puppets, finger puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes (string puppets) and others. Puppets can assume different roles in a classroom. You can use a puppet as a host puppet (for motivation, discipline, special occasions such as celebrations etc.) or as a part of a puppet show (to act out stories). Regardless of what role your puppet assumes, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Your puppet should face its audience (your students) at all times.
  • Keep the puppet’s head down as it needs to make eye contact.
  • Puppets don’t need a special voice or a distinctive accent, but it might add to the puppet's "character".
  • Think about your puppet’s character - how it will act and what it will say. It’s better when they have emotions and act in character.
  • If you're visible while using the puppet, try to look at the puppet when it's speaking. Don't make eye contact with students (easier said then done, trust me).
  • You might consider giving your puppets a steady "home" somewhere in the classroom.
  • If you're using your puppet as a host puppet, give it a name, a personality, a language (even if you don't always use English in your classroom, your puppet definitely should!), a voice and a home. Also, the puppet does not need to be present the whole time. Use it for specific purposes only: greeting, singing, asking questions, error correction etc. 
  • When your classroom gets too loud, hide the puppet or put it back in its home, as "it doesn't like noise/is scared". This way a puppet can also help you maintain order in your classroom.

If you're interested in using puppets in your classroom and you want to explore the topic further, there is a lot of material available online. Here's a page I found useful: CLICK

And here are some photos of me in my classroom, using a puppet I made myself. More on making puppets in my next ZGUČAN blog post!



Monday, 19 January 2015


I am currently attending a study programme called Zgodnje učenje angleščine  (ZGUČAN) at University of Maribor. It is a study programme "for continuing education, meant for widening knowledge for the obtaining of an education and is legally determined as precondition for teaching a certain subject or subject field," in my case teaching English to young learners.

Those of you who know me know that I have mixed feelings about the programme. A month ago I even wrote a complaint email which you might have read as it's been circling among Slovenian English teachers. However, the aim of this blog post is not to complain further, but to focus on what I've learned and/or found useful. Yes, I have actually learned new things, and I'm still learning, be it from my teachers or my fellow students. There will be a series of blog posts focusing on different subject of the programme. The first one will be on puppets, and you may expect it soon. :)

Friday, 9 January 2015

Useful videos and more - YL

Today I'm sharing links to a few websites, Youtube channels and videos that I find very useful for teaching young learners.

My absolute favourite: Maple Leaf Hashima. It's a Youtube channel and it's got everything from songs and talking flashcards to funny skits. The character everything revolves around is Marty Moose - meet Marty and his friends HERE.

Some other nice Youtube channels for YL students: Super Simple Songs, Kids TV 123, EFL Kids Videos.

As for websites, there are three that I use regularly: British Council Kids for games and videos and Kizclub and Bogglesworld for printables. I use other sites as well but I usually find them via search engines and I rarely bookmark them.

There's also this DVD my YL students love and it's Playway to English - they just can't get enough of Mr Matt stories. Why am I sharing this here? It's now available on Youtube! CLICK

If you're feeling ambitious and you want to make your own customized games and activities for your students, ClassTools might come in handy. Here are a few games I made for my four-graders: CLICK, CLICK and CLICK.

And here's how I set the dates for oral assessment with my students: WHEEL DECIDE!

I hope this comes in handy. I'll finish with a video by Maple Leaf Hashima I used today - we were talking about the weather. Enjoy! :)

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Children and self-control

Are you familiar with The Marshmallow Test? We watched the video below during one of our ZGUČAN psychology classes and here's what it's about: a child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. It's an experiment on self control and it does get you thinking. Do we sometimes expect more from children than we are capable ourselves? How long would you have lasted? 

By the way, according to Wikipedia, "in follow-up studies, (they) found unexpected correlations between the results of the marshmallow test and the success of the children many years later." Hence, encouraging self-control in your classroom is important. I'm sharing two articles on the topic that I found useful - not too vague or theoretical: Teaching self-control: Evidence-based tips and 

I start (again) on Monday! :)

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year, new layout!

My Slo English Classroom has gone through a thorough renovation. The walls have got a new coat of paint, the teacher has changed her handwriting and we've even installed some nice red telephone boxes in there. And wait, there's more. Our Facebook page is also updated - that old blackboard is gone and replaced by a smartboard, and since the holidays are (almost) over, there's a fresh new cover photo as well: CLICK. I hope you like the changes. And if you do, you might want to donate to our designer, LanguageSitter® (they're not only great designers but amazing language teachers as well!). I hear they accept all currencies. 

So, new year, new layout - and expect lots of new content!