My learning diary Katerina Toubeki - GREECE
I 've been teaching English for more than 20 years, most of them in the Primary Sector. My main concern is to create an enjoyable and motivating environment for language learning, which stimulates my need for experimenting with a variety of tools and techniques. It also gives a refreshing perspective to my everyday teaching and helps me understand how children and young people think.
I work in the 6th Primary School of Pyrgos, Greece. It is a large public school with about 400 students and 30 teachers. We have very good computing facilities, but not enough outdoor space and green areas. We are quite experienced in European collaborations and are working towards enhancing our European profile and building up a setting of productive collaboration among teachers.
I live in Pyrgos, Greece. Pyrgos is a town of about 30.000 people, very close to the archaeological site of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. It is an area surrounded by beautiful countryside and seaside areas with clear blue water.
1.1 Why PBL?
Our world is full of problems that work against progress. PBL can help young people develop skills of coping with difficulties and working out solutions. It can foster creativity and stimulate initiative. It can make the most of diversity in thinking and foster collaboration. It is a method that can stimulate work for authentic goals.
1.2 Why is PBL not widely used in my educational system?
Although most Greek teachers would agree that PBL is the ideal tool for educating future successful personalities, they wouldn’t be really prepared to implement it in everyday school practice. The main reason for this is unwillingness of a large number of teachers to abandon traditional tools and techniques. Teachers would need to go through training and devote extra time in order to be able to put PBL in practice. They would need to abandon long used testing techniques and to design new material. They would need to re-consider the bulk of knowledge that long used schoolbooks mean to provide. Moreover, successful implementation of PBL would require good collaboration among teachers of various subjects in the same school. It would require teachers to make very good use of technology and be ready to work beyond classroom walls.
In a nutshell, teachers would need specific training in order to become more effective professionals. As long as teaching improvement is left to individual initiative, PBL use is hard to be widely adopted .
1.3 Reflecting on my teaching practice
I try to apply a communicative approach in language teaching, by exposing students to authentic language as often as possible. We use the textbooks a lot, but most of the times I try to enrich language input with material from videos, songs, books or comics.
Students often do projects related to our points in focus and often collaborate, but we haven’t used PBL a lot. We have used some of its aspects, though, like working in groups to identify a problem and finding solutions, organizing campaigns in the school or producing digital material.
I try to incorporate technology tools in my teaching as I have seen that their use motivates young learners and provides a realistic setting for learning.
In general, teaching English in the public sector in Greece is a very complicated issue. Most students take English language lessons in afternoon private schools or private lessons at home. The structure of such lessons is strictly exam-oriented and the main goal is for students to get a certificate as early as possible.
How can I persuade parents that language learning in our times is not just obtaining a certificate?
And how can I improve learning standards without missing out on the general demand for a certification at an early age?
These are MY Problems requiring solution.
I intend to experiment with PBL in ELT next school year by having 6th grade students design a series of English language lessons and asking them to teach younger students.
1.6 My driving question:
How can learning English be fun?
Student-led survey on the essence of English language teaching.
My collaboration picture
(6TH PRIMARY SCHOOL OF PYRGOS, JUNE 2011)
This is a game having its roots in ancient Greece. It’s called “dielkinsteda”. The members of each team need to combine their effort in pulling the rope.
In every collaboration, individual skill and effort is very important, but it means nothing on its own. It needs to function as a part of the group.
Good organization of "joint forces" is a key to success!
Involving the community
I work in a primary school. In my opinion what schools mostly need is good communication with parents. Parents can offer a wide range of cooperation opportunities and can be of great help. At the same time teachers create a good platform of communication which can help their educating role. Among parents we have found professionals on almost any subject we wanted to introduce to young learners and help them see applications in the real world.
Moreover, a school can create links with university representatives. A cooperation with young people can have a very important effect on children development.
As far as English language teaching is concerned, it's good to bring students in contact with international organizations and involve them in actions with a worldwide effect.