“It’s not just any kind of lesson. It’s highly intelligent play”.
Sarka Robinson, parent, Prague, Czech Republic.
The Alphabet Song –
For my teaching style, I am indebted to Maria Montessori (doctor, educational reformist, philosopher and pedagogue) and Shelley Anne Vernon, international speaker and author of books and learning materials for children learning English as a second language. )
I meet with each student group only once a week – rarely more often than that, so I don’t get to practice something with the same group of children from one day to the next. In most cases, a whole week goes by before the kids see me again. It means that I have had to find ways to make sure that what they learn is so memorable, that I do not need to repeat the whole lesson in order to produce results on stage or on film. This goal (creating unforgettable lessons) used to frustrate me until I replaced my drive for perfection with a drive for excellence. If the children, at the end of a single lesson:
- have learned a lot of new words in English
- have grasped and retained interesting and inspiring content
- can present it to an audience or at least to their own family
- show awareness of their results and pride in their results
I know that I have realized that goal.
Raw and “unedited” is often my style. It is not easy – for many reasons – to bring a professional photographer into the classroom, and most of the time other staff members are also teaching. Often it is one of the students (as young as six years old), who films the lesson or performance. This actually helps the students to be even more engaged than they already are. Filming is often done by students who like English with me, but do not like to be on camera or to be the centre of attention. There is therefore a job for everyone: actor(s), script writer(s), stage / prop manager, director (who appraises the scene and the cast, and decides when we are ready to start or to stop, and uses the clapperboard), and finally, cameraman or camerawoman. I don’t aim for a perfectly polished performance; I care for engaged children who are learning, having fun and trying their best. And part of that fun and motivation is the good feeling of ownership over one’s education. Look at any of the pictures or videos of my students here, and hopefully, their faces will show just that: engaged, joyful learning. Intrinsically motivated learning. Such naturally focused involvement in a project is the outcome of greatest lesson I have learned from the wonderful Maria Montessori and from life itself: teach something interesting and make the game around it fun, with problems to solve. The kids are eager and quick to find solutions, and cooperation in teams is practiced and strengthened.
If my young students can say that they co-produced the performance, they have reinforced ownership of their own work. Just imagine the quantum leaps in their self-esteem! The results are sometimes raw, unedited, but always great! The kids engage themselves and try their best. I am so, so proud of them :).
It is amazing work that they do – and always through fun, so that they go home and tell their parents that all they do in my classes is “play”. Luckily, their parents know the truth: their kids are learning English and a whole lot more! Hopefully the results below will speak for themselves.
Famous People impersonations by children from 1st through 3rd grade –
Famous People Presentation (Queen Elizabeth, Frida Khalo, Vincent Van Gogh)
Tummy Rumble in the Jungle –
Presentation on Paris and France by second graders –
Presentation of Prague and the Czech Republic –
Science Fiction and Fantasy Play (co-production between teacher and student)
Class songs with second and third graders –
Restaurant play with five to seven year olds –
At the Fortune Teller’s (telling the Future) –
Doctor Bara explains the human organs and their functions –