Sunday, 15 September 2013

New Beginnings

It's easy to forget how difficult beginnings and transitions can be. So here's a video to remind us all of how priceless a helping hand may turn out.

Love to all,

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Rounding up the year, part two: Gruffalo's Animaniacs Recipe

One of the things I'm particularly proud of this year is the cartoon my 3rd grade students and I have made. It was an experiment - I'll admit not to really have known what I was up to, but I loved every step of it. So here are some tips, tricks and software support on how to do the same.


  • a story
  • 6 really eager readers, so happy to participate not having a rehearsal was not an option, ever
  • a class of eager voices, willing to repeat a poem indefinitely, even in the middle of a lesson, for no apparent reason, but just to have fun
  • as many little artists as you can summon
  • some music, as described here:


  • The story I've used - The Gruffalo, is a story we did in class for Christmas. It isn't easy to understand so we did the song first and then read the story and watched the cartoon, but only as an extensive reading activity. I do think it's maybe a little bit too difficult to expect a class of 9-year-old to understand everything or read it out loud. 

  • The readers were the ones I've approached first, because I thought the length of the text might scare them off. But they proved me wrong. We met 5 or 6 times, in part because they needed to practice and in part because I had to figure out audacity and in part because finding a quiet place to record isn't easy in a school. They had difficulties pronouncing all the new words at first, but with each new reading they got more and more precise, fluent and confident. They got used to the sound recorder and the fact that if they make a mistake they can take their time and repeat what they feel should be repeated, and by the end of our practice sessions they really were like little professional cartoon voices. Their enthusiasm was unbelievable.  
  • Then I talked to the artists. As they did not participate in the animation process, they were a little bit more difficult to motivate, but the surprise of the final product was the greatest for them. 
  • I had their drawings scanned and imported into Power Point. I made a presentation of each of the parts of the story - and used the presentation effects to animate the drawings. Then I exported the presentation as a movie. As I did everything backwards and first recorded the sound, instead of first doing the animation and then recording the sound with pupils looking at their characters, I had to think about the length of each presentation and the timing of different words and characters.

  • Now I had a set of silent movies which I imported into Microsoft Movie Maker. I added the sound recordings.

  • I played around with opening and ending credits and that was it. 
Now this is just a short overview, but it is time consuming. And your computer needs to be very powerful for exports of presentations into videos and exports in Movie Maker not to be time consuming. 

But it's worth it. Just watch: The Gruffalo by boys and girls of Elementary School Brajda, Rijeka, Croatia. :)

Love to all,

Sunday, 30 June 2013

School's out!

I'll do some more posting, but untill then...
Love to all!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Rounding up the year, part one: On how bottlecaps made my life easier

I've been an inconsistent blogger and I'm sorry for that. I think I'll remain inconsistent, so just stay tuned and don't give up, because as inconsistent as I may be I'm here to stay ;).

It's that time of the year when schools are all about summing up and report writing, so I've decided to draw up one or two of my own. Those who've paid attention will remember this post: On Antennae and Token Economy . It was a short report on something I've found and decided to give it a try - token economy. In short:

Within the notion of token economy, tokens are items (buttons, bottlecaps, stickers...) used as positive reinforcement. They are of no value of their own, but they symbolize praise.

In the classroom, tokens are used to acknowledge a good action as simple as it may be - opening a book, apologizing, writing something down, being patient in a game, waiting for one's turn, etc...

Open the book - get a token...

Raise your hand - get a token...

So I gave it a try, and expected the fad to last for a week, maybe two... Three, if I'm lucky. But my student really grew fond of it - collecting tokens became a kind of a game. The class was curious and supportive about it as well. And a week passed, and then another one, and then another... I decided to make a table, recording the number of tokens collected each lesson and placed it on a visible spot in the classroom. And then it went on for a bit longer than two months - right up until the school finished. And it didn't get boring, nor did it lose its power. It focused us all on the good and helped us set our minds on learning.

I made a little diploma and added the numbers of all of the tokens collected in the two months - it came up to 700 so I wrote:
 This certificate is awarded 
in recognition of
700 good things done during English lessons
from April to June 2013.
Thank you for your cooperation and good will!

I signed it and presented it and confused my little troublemaker, but it really meant a lot to him. 700 good things - sounds pretty great, doesn't it? Especially when all one hears is Don't!!, oh no!, why did you?!, how could you?!, stop it! and the like.

It's just a simple little thing.

And it sounds silly.

But really -
It worked.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Seeking first to understand as opposed to being understood

There are some thing I do not agree with in this talk, I should tell you that right at the beginning. But, nonetheless, it's beautiful to hear. I've read somewhere that Rita Pierson at times sounds more like a preacher than an educator, and at times indeed she does. Whether it's a good thing, or a bad one, or somewhere in between, I leave for you to decide. There's definitely food for thought in what she says.

And remember:

"I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I'll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go." You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you. 

Love to all,

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Coursera bucket list

This is just wishful thinking on my part. I'd like to join a MOOC - a massive open online course. If you need more info on what a MOOC is click here.

And here's a list of the things I'd like to try:

Introduction to Psychology, University of Toronto
The Camera Never Lies, Univeristy of London
Why we need Psychology, University of London
Social Psychology, Wesleyan University
"Pay Attention!!" ADHD Through the Lifespan, University of Pennsylvania
A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behaviour, Duke University

Now, someone, please send a remote control so I can put everything else on hold.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Beauty is... the eye of the beholder.

A million things could be done with this video - bottom line is: It should be watched.

"Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not 
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked…."
Baz Luhrmann, "Wear sunscreen"

Love to all,

Friday, 26 April 2013

When less is more

I'm one of those busy people wishing the day was longer, even though I realize it would only make my life even busier. Here's a trick I could try:

Sometimes, less really is more.
Love to all,

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

On Antennae and Token Economy

My last post was basically a link to a documentary. If you haven't seen it yet and there's a possibility for you to have to deal with ADHD at some point of your life or work, it's time you do it. But that's not the tip I'd like to disseminate with this post. The film is a wonderful insight into what ADHD is. You won't learn many tips from it and chances are you won't be taking notes while you watch. But that one tip I've picked up is so simple anybody can do it and it has an incredible change potential.

The tip is called "token economy" and it comes up around the 45th minute of the documentary. "Token economy" has roots in what psychologists call conditioning and it's a form of immediate positive reinforcement of desirable behavior or in plain words: whenever a student does something well they get an object which has no value unto itself, but represents a currency through which a reward is attained. So, if you want a student who cannot keep quiet to learn how to raise their hand and wait for their turn, whenever they quietly raise their hand you give them a token, whenever they remain quiet with their hand up while you're speaking to another student they get a token, whenever they give a relevant answer after you call their name they get a token. The student receives a token for everything they do well, as small as it is, and they MUST receive a token immediately.

Think well before you use anything edible for a token.
There's a possibility they might disappear before being counted.

Tokens can be anything: marbles, stars, stamps, bottle caps, pencils, stones, sequins, buttons, pieces of cloth/string, paperclips, stickers, rubber bands, anything made of cardboard (stars, suns, flowers, birds, lions, faeries...)... I think you get the point. The aim is for the student to collect as many as possible in a given period of time - e.g. a lesson. I repeat - they MUST receive a token for EVERYTHING they do well, as small as it is, IMMEDIATELY. And a deal must be made: 

If the student collects X tokens, the teacher will ________ .

This is where you need to think about your student and figure out what is important to them. If nothing comes to mind do what I did - Ask them "Who should I tell when you're being good?". Chances are they know exactly who you should call, so follow through. You MUST FOLLOW THROUGH. 

But be flexible the first time you start doing this. I tried the recipe from the documentary and set an objective of 50 tokens in a 45-minute lesson. The student only collected 35, but behavior change was so dramatic, I followed through with the deal nonetheless. As I said, smiles all around ensued. 

The trick is in the fact that tokens focus us, teachers, students and parents on students' strengths and abilities and help us overcome the difficult bits and reduce difficulties into bits, wherever and whenever possible. And as I said, smiles all around ensue.

I'll confess having reservations about all of this at first, but I decided to give it a go because something had to be done. It did not magically change everything for the better, nor did it magically cure ADHD, but it gave a strong positive note to my lessons.

So be brave and persist.

Finally, keep your antennae on alert whatever you do, because you never know when and where you might come across a brilliant idea. 

When you get one, pass it on.

Love to all,

For those interested in research on token economy, click on the titles to go visit:
Wikipedia - to start off.
R.P. Liberman: The token economy. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2000
G. LeBlanc: Enhancing intrinsic motivation through the use of a token economy. Essays in Education, 2004, 11.
K. Zlomke & L. Zlomke: Token economy plus self-monitoring to reduce disruptive classroom behaviors. The Behavior Analyst Today, 2003, 4, 177-182.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Astounding Details and Heartbreaking Difficulties

48 minutes and 56 seconds of pure food for thought in the shape of a BBC documentary. It's not about preaching or giving advice (although one or two at the end will maybe come in handy), it's a snapshot of what living with ADHD means.


Love to all,

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Music to my ears

It's been a long time because I'm swamped with work. But here's something useful for anyone set out to make a small film or a project with their students - there's a big artist out there who is willing to share his music for free.

Moby introduces from Moby on Vimeo.

You'll have to log in and ask for a licence, but I think it's worth it. :)

Apart from that there's this: - an abundance of good music just waiting to be discovered.

I've found my soundtrack and wish you all the luck in finding yours. :))

Love to all,

Monday, 18 February 2013

Why can't we all just get along?

"You're the ONLY one who's been complaining!" I've been told on a Monday.

"Yes, but we've received no support three years ago when X did this and two years ago when Y did that. Why should I expect any support now?!" I've said on a Wednesday afternoon.

"Stop writing notes in the teachers' journal, because everyone else will think you can't deal with them." I've heard on an idle Friday.

The context doesn't really matter. Explaining the situations above won't make things clearer for anyone because they're all THE situation in which the grown-ups are at the end of their wits and the blame-game begins. If you haven't been involved in one, you've witnessed it. If you haven't witnessed it, you either haven't paid attention, haven't worked for very long in child care or are that one human embodiment of luck no one really believes exists.

I may be childish in thinking asking for help when one needs it is actually a sign of strength and self-awareness, and sometimes I may be a wee bit too honest about what I see and notice in the classroom at my own expense, but I actually think it's the right thing to do. Experience is probably going to try to teach me otherwise. So this is a post, for future reference.

SPLITTING is an unconscious defense mechanism: "The child unconsciously protects itself from difficult feelings by starting to view people as either all bad or all good, rather than a mixture of the two." (Delaney, 2009:92)

The SPLITTING PROCESS is what groups of people go through when under pressure or peril. The three examples from above are textbook cases of splitting in school environment - seeing others as not doing their job, warning them to do their job or hide their faults, when actually constructive advice, naming the emotion of helplessness, noticing what does work or simply describing the situation would do a far better job. (Delaney, 2009)

And now I wonder, am I taking a risk for even speaking up?
Maybe it'll do some good for someone else (hopefully, not ammo-wise) even if it doesn't do any good for me.

Just remember,

Do one thing everyday that scares you.
(Baz Luhrmann, Wear sunscreen)

All my love,

Delaney, Marie (2009) Teaching the Unteachable. London:Worth Publishing

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

In the eye of the beholder...

I think I've mentioned this before - the thing about describing the behaviour to the student and not making judgements, but here I go again, because I've come across a perfect video to illustrate it.

To sum up simply: If someone seems like they're not listening to you, that doesn't mean they don't hear and understand every word you say. The same goes for a whole palette of possible misinterpretations...

And then there's this (be sure to click on the link, seriously - it's a gem). It begins with dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of Rossier school of Education saying: "Real thinking is never divorced from emotion". Later on she elaborates it mentioning Descartes' error, term which also stands for António Damásio's book and signifies the division Descartes made between mind and body, emotions and reason which is erroneous in  Damásio's  view- skip to 5:20 to catch that. There's also a discussion on standardized tests and frustration in learning. I was happy to hear an expert say we should teach kids what they need to know regardless of the test format and then just help them apply it to the test, because it only covers a little bit of what they'll need in life. So very true about the school leaving test my students will take at the end of fourth grade - which is why I'm trying to bring the context of the outer world into the classroom as much as I can.
All in all -I've seen the video twice and am still discovering things. Check it out!!!

All my love,

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A sum of its parts: no more or no less?

So, I've joined an EVO session this year and decided to stick to it. Last year I gave up, because of the Blogathon - time management issues, but this year I'm persisting.

For those of you who don't know what an EVO session is, here it goes: EVO stands for Electronic Village Online. It's educators and scientists coming together to explore a subject for four or five weeks during January and February. Everything is free and everyone are welcome. There are workshops and discussions, sometimes live webinars, where people from all around the world share a learning experience or two - as you can join more than one EVO session, this year 10 are on offer.

I've joined Neuroscience in Education: Braining-Up Your English Lessons. Why? A part of me just wants to do everything at the same time, but it turns out I also had some mythical reasons. Puzzled? Well, let me explain. This little post of mine is not just a post. Every EVO participant needs to have a portfolio, so this is also the inaugural post of my first EVO portfolio. During EVO's week 1, we had to introduce ourselves with the basics of how brains work and some commonly accepted brain myths. It turns out - learning styles are something of a myth, as are multiple intelligences. I'm not sure if I like that. I grew very fond of learning styles and they helped me understand myself and my students better. I'll still give this a chance, maybe I learn even more.

There's another thing that struck me. In the material on Brain Basics (unfortunately I do not know the author or where it came from), I came across a very strong claim of what philosophy calls materialism:

All perceptions, thoughts and behaviors result from combinations of signals among neurons.

Sounds lacking in romance? No spirits or wonder? Well, judge for yourself:

If all of that is true, then do we know how a thought is formed? This opens door to so many unbelievable Matrix meets Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind possibilities. Can we actually plant a thought into someone's brain?

Here are some more brain myths - see how well you fare:

So there's my food for thought, my ideas to mull on and explore.

What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere. (Inception, 2010)

Are we JUST a sum of our parts? Are we a SUM of our parts? Or is there something more? Why introduce the more at all? And why not?

Well, no more or no less, I leave you with an anecdote on how wondrous whatever we are may be:

Teacher: What can we see in the sky?
Pupil One (8): A star!
Pupil Two(8): A moon!
Pupil Three(8): Pretty rainbows!
Teacher: Good job!! And what else!!
Pupil Four(8): A black hole!!
Pupil Five (8): No you can't see it with the naked eye - they're anomalies!!!!

Love to all,

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

To start off with a bang...

...or an ode, as you like it. But one must confess this is an example of gooooood collaboration.

There's some impressive patience and attention shown off at 4:24. 

Love to all near and far,