Sunday, 4 September 2016

Note to a Stranger

Isn't it fascinating how a single image can become a springboard for a class discussion, a lesson plan, or at least for an engaging activity?

The picture below was taken somewhere in Warsaw, Poland by a colleague and an inspiring educator, Milada Krajewska and shared by her on her Facebook page. I read the note in the picture and I couldn't resist :) The warm-up activity just "wrote itself". 

Don't tell your students what the lesson is going to be about. Let them discover it by themselves. 

First, ask them what kind of messages and notes they expect to see pinned up on traffic and signal lighting poles, or in other places in town: at bus stops, or electricity poles. Let them brainstorm ideas: 
advertisements, announcement, apartment rental ads, obituaries, lost pet notes, private classes announcements, concert posters, etc.

Show them the picture below. For the fun of it, you can ask them to read it. Can they recognize what language it is? Do they believe that this note belongs to any of the categories listed by them earlier? There is no contact number, there seems to be no address, no time indication, no image...

Tell them that the note says: "Whoever you are, I wish you well." Ask them to freewrite for five minutes about how reading this kind of note would make them feel.

Wish them a nice day before you dismiss the class.

Photo credits: Milada Krajewska

Talk to your students about the importance and benefits of treating others in a kind manner. It may be a life-changing lesson for them and for the world.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Margarita Calling Home

Earlier this year I had a great pleasure to be interviewed for "The Teacher" by Milada Krajewska. This interview was especially significant to me as it meant reaching out and connecting with colleagues back home, which I rarely have an opportunity to do. I am an English instructor of Polish origin based in Thessaloniki, Greece. I try to stay active at all times attending professional development events, so far only in the area of Southern and southern Central Europe. Hopefully, the interview for "The Teacher" is the first step into a new path. I have lived and worked in Greece for 15 years now, practically all of my teaching career. People in the Balkans often ask me about the ELT world in Poland and I have started feeling the urge to connect with colleagues back home. So, maybe that chat I had with Milada marks a new beginning of my cooperation with colleagues in Poland.
In the interview we talked about relatively anything: my decision to become a teacher, inspiring and motivating moments in my teaching life, passions within and outside ELT, professional development, but also about storytelling and incorporating social issues into language teaching, the two areas which are closest to my heart. 

You can read the interview here.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

About How Four Digits, a Punctuation Mark and Two Letters Can Turn Into a Lesson Plan on Social Injustice

The interest in creating ELT materials, most of them built around social issues, has led me to this course: Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. I am halfway through the course and I am learning a lot. The first homework task was the following: 

"Find a very short text or a collection of very short texts appropriate for your learners. Design some learning materials using the text(s) as the content. Think about these things:

  • Aims or objectives
  • Interaction
  • Skills or language focus
  • Support needed (useful phrases, a model, etc.)"
I always say that the best source of inspiration is what happens around us. If we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find stimulating material which we can use in our class.

An everyday situation was the source of the task which I created for the first assignment in which a text as short as four digits, a punctuation mark and two letters turned into a lesson plan on social injustice.

Lesson plan available here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day in the English Language Classroom

27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, has been designated by the UN as International Holocaust Memorial Day.

In view of International Holocaust Memorial Day I would like to invite my colleagues to use this lesson plan with their students this week and to return to me with their own reflections and the reflections of their students, but also with documentation of their students' work. Hopefully feedback collected comes from various countries which will provide an opportunity to compare holocaust awareness in those areas.

How much do we know about the holocaust? How is the holocaust relevant today?

I would like to thank Mark Andrews for inspiration.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

SO(U)L Camp 2015 - a Stepping Stone

My participation in the SO(u)L Camp in Sremski Karlovci in August 2015 was an important stepping stone in my growth as a global educator; an experience which convinced that together united, we can make a difference.

SO(u)L Camp in Sremski Karlovci 2015

To be honest, I was not even planning to go on a teacher training summer course when the CaLiMeRo Competition for TESOL MTh members got announced and it was only because of the nature of the task to be completed that I got interested. Candidates were asked to design and deliver a 45-60 minute lesson for learners of English based on the theme of 'social justice' and then submit a reflective essay on how it went. It felt like the task was specifically tailored for me. That's how I won a place on the Sharing One Language, SO(U)L, Camp in Sremski Karlovci, Serbia, taking place  from 13 to 20 August, 2015.

Photo: Margarita Kosior

After receiving the first emails from the organizers, I realized that it was not going to be a conventional teacher training experience. What can you expect if you are asked to bring: a book in English that you would be prepared to give away, a small object that somehow represents your country/culture that you would be prepared to give away, a sample of national food to share at the international dinner, something connected to a river in your country, a small box of matches, and… a pebble?

On my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by the trainers and organizers of the camp: Mark Andrews, Mike Harrison, Vladica Rakić and Sanja Čonjagić and introduced to my co-trainees, women from Slovakia, Albania, Serbia, FYROM, Romania, Croatia, Russia and Hungary. It didn't take us long to realize that, despite the different places of origin, we had much more in common than only our passion for teaching. That night, in a cozy restaurant on the banks of the Danube, we started bonding.

The exchange of foods and drinks from each person’s country and singing songs from each others’ countries were among the most memorable nights of the camp. We tried different kinds of wine, sweets and snacks, which very often served as a springboard for discussions about our cultural differences and… similarities. Being a representative of two countries (Poland, my country of origin, and Greece, my home for the last fourteen years) and therefore two cultures, I shared with others some dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice) and a popular Polish folk song.

Exchanging books and presents took place at a local winery, Vinarija Došen, which was a perfect venue which added to the very unique atmosphere of those two nights. There is something special about sharing objects which are important to you or which you hold close to your heart. Sharing a symbol of your home, of your country or town, makes you proud. The participants brought a wide range of presents which represented their home and which they were willing to give away: traditional objects, little statuettes, candy, pictures and paintings, postcards and books, or even precious childhood possessions.

Photo: Margarita Kosior

One of the highlights of the course was our visit to the first Serbian Grammar School founded in Sremski Karlovci in 1791. We couldn't have had a better guide than Vladica, one of our tutors, who had worked as an English teacher there for twenty years. Being a fantastic storyteller, Vladica did not simply show us around. We traveled back in time with her: silently strolled along the corridors, inhaled deeply when we walked between rows of old books in the library, sat in the awe inspiring assembly hall with beautifully adorned walls and a splendidly decorated high ceiling, and a grand piano next to a window overlooking the main square of the town.  Were we in a school building or in an old castle..? When we sat down at the desks in the classroom which used to be hers, Vladica started telling stories from all the years when she was a teacher at the school; funny, fascinating, inspiring and nostalgic stories. Was I the only one in the room who could almost hear the voices in the corridors and the bell ring at the end of the recess…?

Ljiljana Jovanovic, whom we met by the Danube, was yet another inspiring figure on the camp, "the guardian of the forest". In her unique manner she showed us an easy way to take our students out of the classroom and out to nature, and let them smell it, touch it, observe it and listen to it. Standing in the middle of a clearing in a beautiful forest by the river, listening to the sound of tree leaves, cows mooing in the distance, and bees buzzing right above our heads, is among my fondest SO(u)L memories. It made me wonder: why have we lost touch with nature? Why not try and rediscover the power and joy of it?

Photo: Margarita Kosior

Photo: Michael Harrison

Photo: Eva Nagyova

Discovering our history is just as important as discovering the beauty of nature. Only if we go out to the local and get curious about the past, will we be able to understand and experience the here and now and its problems. During our excursion to Novi Sad we visited a historical site of paramount importance: a monument erected in memory of the victims of the Novi Sad massacre of January 1942, Jews and Serbs, pushed under the ice covering the Danube by Hungarian troops. This made us all think about the atrocities of the past and the present and of the ways in which education can help end them today and prevent them in the future.

Photo: Michael Harrison

On our return to the hostel, we further discussed this burning issue with our trainer, Mark Andrews, trying to answer the question: at what age can a child, a student, be introduced to the topic of genocide in order to raise awareness and challenge discrimination, racism and fascism? Opinions varied, just as our backgrounds and perceptions. The task which followed, preparing a lesson plan around the issue of racism, fascism and genocide, got us all deeply engaged. The debate and discussion resulted in a poster with numerous ideas, reflections and recommendations. We were not just English teachers during that discussion, but a team of passionate educators fighting for a common cause on a mission to make the world a better place.

Photo: Michael Harrison

Every single day on the course was a highlight, so I could just go on and on: a brief course of Serbian with Sanja and Vladica, a visit to a viewpoint over Sremski Karlovci, a visit to the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of Peace and Mike’s classroom arrangement session, a drama workshop, morning yoga sessions, a visit to Belo Blato and talking with the headteacher about the multilingual school experience, Ilhana’s spontaneous “Find a Cause” session, Mike's open discussion session and others. Every single one equally memorable.

Serbian Lesson
Photo: Margarita Kosior

So there I was, on a teacher training course I had not even planned to attend, enjoying myself to the fullest, sharing ideas, listening and talking, discussing, chatting, laughing, singing, dancing, chanting, learning, relaxing, absorbing, reflecting, and… throwing pebbles into the Danube with the hope that the ripples go far. And the ripples WILL go far if we all try to apply in our teaching what we learnt during that week on the SO(u)L camp in Sremski Karlovci. Once we do that, we will have every right to repeat after a fantastic educator, the late Rita Pierson: "We can do this. We're educators. We're born to make a difference" (from TED Talks Education 2013, "Every Kid Needs a Champion")

Vladica, Mike, Sanja and Mark
Photo: Margarita Kosior

More pictures from SO(u)L 2015 in Serbia available in my album.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Social Issues in the ELT Classroom - ELT Methodology for All

My interest in promoting the integration of global issues, global awareness, and social responsibility into foreign-language teaching has given birth to a presentation with the title "Teaching for Social Justice: From Social Context to Teaching Content" which I delivered last June within the scope of an open seminar series "ELT Methodology for All" devoted to Social Issues in the ELT Classroom organized by the English Studies Department of CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield

Open Seminar Series 'ELT Methodology for All'(FREE ENTRANCE)

It is no coincidence that I am part of the Department where like-minded educators work together to a common goal and share the same view of what education means. This fact made it possible for me to introduce social content into BA and MA General English and Methodology modules I teach.

It was an honor for us to have Dr Luke Prodromou participate in this first in a series of seminars with an interactive and entertaining talk “Social and Global Issues and the Language Teacher. From Dickens to Debt; The Current Crisis and its Consequences from a Critical Pedagogy Perspective”. Watching Luke Prodromou in action is always a pleasure. It was also a pleasure to "share stage" with him.

I hope we managed to persuade our audience that there should be a link between ELT and global issues and that global issues should be among the concerns of a foreign language teacher. 

With the motto "Let's educate, and not only teach", I would like to invite you to watch the recording of the two presentations.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Turning Adversity into Opportunity

Level: Upper-Intermediate/Advanced

Duration: 60 minutes

Theme: Turning Adversity into Opportunity (Disability)

  • Raise students' awareness of a social issue
  • Practice speaking, listening and reflective skills
  • Change the students' attitudes

By the end of this lesson students will be able to:
  • Use target vocabulary related to the topic of the lesson
  • Understand and define the notion of disability and present arguments in the controversy surrounding the topic
  • Recognize different types of disability
  • Take a stance and express reflections on the topic

The lesson plan includes the following TED Talk.

Online lesson available on the TED-Ed platform


Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Duration: 90 minutes

  • Raise the awareness of the students of an important social issue 
  • Improve the students’ oral fluency 
  • Revise the second conditional 
  • Use audio-visual media to convey a message 

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson students will be able to:
  • Present their ideas on the topic of kindness in speaking and in writing, but also using audio-visual media (e.g. Movie Maker) 
  • Make hypotheses using the second conditional: using the right form of the second conditional talk about how the world would be different if people were willing to do more good deeds 
  • Do Internet research in order to gather information 

A complete lesson plan available at TES.

Modern-Day Slavery

Level: Upper-Intermediate/Advanced

Duration: 90 minutes

Theme: Social Justice; Modern-Day Slavery


  • Raise students' awareness of a social issue 
  • Practice speaking, listening and reflective skills 
  • Motivate learners to take action against social injustice 

By the end of this lesson students will be able to:
  • Understand and define the notion of human trafficking and modern-day slavery
  • Understand and use vocabulary related to the topic of modern-day slavery
  • Recognize different types of modern-day slavery
  • Take a stance and write a reflective essay on the topic


Photo credit: Ira Gelb

CC BY-ND 2.0

The lesson plan includes the following TED Talk:

Online lesson available on the TED-Ed platform at 

This lesson plan was a CaLiMeRo Competition Prize Winner (2015) offering a free place on the Sharing One Language, SO(U)L, Camp in Sremski Karlovci, Serbia, in August, 2015.