Documentary lessons

“The lessons helped my daughter to gain more confidence in her English speaking skills and pass the B1 Cambridge exam. My daughter also learnt something else besides English.  She learned about the whole world!  Evie’s approach and relationship with children is amazing, they are always looking forward to her lessons.”

Kveta Uhrikova, parent, Prague

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“Evie’s international schooling and international life experiences and her positive, dynamic teaching style helps students to connect with each other and with her.  She fosters an environment where everyone is welcome, cared for and successful.  She loves young people, she loves language and she loves music – the international language.  She gets her students to sing songs in many languages and many themes (a difficult feat in high school), ensuring they never forget what they learned about their role as international citizens.”

Tony Ackerman, Ph.D, Chair, Upper School Department of Fine Arts, International School of Prague

 

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I travel about ten times a year!  However, I never stop thinking about teaching.  I collect lots of materials from my travels – souvenirs, authentic realia, toys and books, natural souvenirs like red sand from Arizona, black magnetized sand from Milos island in Greece, rocks and minerals from geologically interesting places like Iceland, fossils from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco … to give the children a taste of adventure in the real world and a genuine, hands-on experience.  I believe the classroom should be a “walk-in encyclopedia” for children.  Children should be inspired by the environment as soon as they walk in the door.  They should want, during their free time, to come visit me, and to go straight to the things that interest them, to the parts of the room that they find fascinating, and learn things based their self-motivated observation.

I place a HUGE emphasis on lessons in which kids learn geography and world cultures. I remember in one of my favorite schools, a Czech Montessori school in Prague, telling parents, colleagues and the kids themselves: “Chci, aby mé žáci byli kulturní” (“I want my pupils to be cultured.”)

A great classroom should have many options for children and it should be set up to inspire and engage their interest in world culture – and incidentally, learn the basics of many disciplines  – to present a geographical location in the English language. My priority is not linguistic perfection but rather, an amazing experience for my students, one they will never forget. My goal is inspired interest in the topic and an ability to present it in English to those who are watching.

In this post, children as young as six present the following cities / destinations: Prague, London, Paris and the USA – with the exception of the video below, where first grade boys show their learning of the world’s continents, the division between Europe and Asia, and also a few countries:

Adorable first grade Czech boys practice learning world geography in English. They play as geography professors and I am their student.  We did this little video in the last ten minutes of class.  Viewers will hear background chatter in Czech, but that is due to their engagement with the activity.  Kids love puzzles – especially this puzzle as some of the pieces are the exact shape of the country.  If taught properly, through fun role-play, they enjoy geography too.   Later in the video, two boys from this group give me yet another geography lesson during their “office hours”.  As I am a very demanding student, they are very patient! 

The African continent is talked about in the following lesson. My focus there is on the Republic of South Africa for its connection to the English language and for its animal diversity. 

Syrian (Czech nationals) and Czech-Dutch girls plus one Czech boy present their home city – which was my beloved former home city as well, for 9 years! Despite the amount of time I spent there, the children still had information to share which I did not know prior to their presentation.  Teachers learn from their students all the time.  They should let their students know this as much as possible.  It contributes to the “democratic, two-way street” experience in the classroom, empowering students to feel great about themselves, and motivating them to make maximum efforts to learn – in this case, to learn English.  Plus, when the teacher honors the “host country”, he or she further strengthens the students’ motivation to “honor” the subject which the teacher is promoting.  I love the multi-cultural cooperation that I share with my students.

We did not practice before filming – therefore this “documentary-lesson” is “raw and natural”.  I did not correct my students’ English very much, either.  I let them simply speak in English as much as possible.  I just let them film, “show and tell”… at times, very independently, without my help.

A 10 year old girl presents London (with some English culture and a touch of Tudor history.) 

A group of 7 – 8 year old girls present Paris (after a mere 5 minute tutorial).  Their work is amazing considering the spontaneity of this presentation!  Wonderful repetition and efforts at understanding.  I hope the video enlightens parents as well. Paris is one of my favourite cities :).

A 10 year old girl presents the USA and shares info with me that I myself did not know!

I believe in using the finest and widest range of materials for my students so that their learning about the world happens effortlessly through inspiration and curiosity.  Here are some examples of what a Global Kids Through Drama and English classroom include:

  • installations of London, New York, the whole USA, Prague, Paris, Berlin and Dubai (which include natural souvenirs and man-made ones as part of each installation’s “souvenir shop” or “museum”.  There are  also authentic realia, Famous People dolls that represent the country + 3D puzzle maps of the cities.)
  • play-and-learn areas / “adventure areas” – where I keep a two-man tent (room for at least five kids though) set in a rain-forest background made of big artificial plants, trees and shrubs + MANY good quality animal toys
  • materials to replicate the many other ecosystems of the Earth (the ocean, tundra and polar regions, the savanna, the prairies, the forest and rivers.)
  • a class library full of books both fiction and non-fiction for every age and level (including Dr. Seuss :))
  • a “nature corner” where I keep natural materials, man-made objects from these materials, rocks and minerals collected or bought from my many travels + books about climate and weather, the seasons, Earth history, prehistory (with a great collection of realistic toy dinosaurs, animal classification, the Solar System and many other subjects to do with nature and science.  There is a real telescope, binoculars and a microscope with slide samples of some of the specimens / natural materials.  Each natural specimen, each book, each learning material is connected to a particular location in the world, which my students can find on the world map, and connect this information to cultural and historical notions of the country or continent.  Everything is connected – from nature and science to history, culture and geography.
  • an art area where children, on their own, can help themselves to what they want and realise a project which they then present in written and spoken English.  The purpose of the art area and art activities is also for kids to make their own learning materials and finally, for kids to contribute to scenery-painting.  They own their education in every way possible. 
  •  Labels are all over the place, on almost every surface and learning material, so when a child sees something pleasing or interesting, he or she can immediately read what it is, in English, and continue to learn both content and language, as well as practice literacy.

Above:  some children very new to Germany and still learning German, take on the challenge of learning English by presenting the world on a big world map. 

Below: one of those two boys gets “laser teaching” on London and manages to retain enough information to make a successful presentation of the city, after only five minutes of tutorial!  So proud of him. 

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