Greece, Day 3: Simple Gestures

Full speed ahead.

That’s the only thing we’re allowing ourselves to think as we head into our second day of teaching. The previous day had been chaotic and borderline disastrous, due in part to the lack of aspects that the students really enjoy in the lesson plan. That is to say, various competitive games. Our new lesson plan thus took shape:

Lesson Plan Two 

First Hour

  • Vocabulary game: class split into two teams and given a letter; they take turns naming words that start with that letter until one team is unable to. Possible twists:
    • Ask to use the word in a sentence
    • Ask for definition of word

Second Hour

  • Reading hour: students take turns reading pages of the books we bring

Third Hour

  • Bingo

Fourth Hour (this is usually a play hour) 

  • Give them options: kickball or relay race

I think we hit the jackpot. Not that we follow the lesson plan to the tee. In fact, we ended up changing the second hour plan entirely on a whim by giving them a word search and a writing task (write three lines about themselves) to do.

First hour goes by exceptionally well. We play the vocabulary game described in the lesson plan and the students really enjoy it. As we’re coming to see, introducing competitive elements into the learning environment has a profound impact on their level of engagement. What’s more, Sonny and I are very pleasantly surprised by the extent of their vocabulary. We thought that we would give them at least five or six different letters to work with during the letter, but the game goes on for the entire period with just the letter “F”.

“They know their stuff,” I murmur to Sonny, who nods, “They just don’t know how to use it. Yet.”

Second hour is unexceptional for the most part. We change the plan suddenly because we anticipate issues with having the students reading a book. While one is talking, the others have a tendency to disengage and start making a lot of noise. The word search and writing task keeps reasonably interested and occupied for the second hour.

I am absolutely confident when I say that third hour is the prime hour for them. We have been told multiple times that they enjoy a game of Bingo, and we come to find that to be an extreme understatement. Lucas, Sonny, and I take turns reading out the words, each punctuated with a loud cheer or groan from the students based on what their Bingo card contained. The classroom erupts into frenzy whenever someone shouts, “Bingo!”. We give out prizes-Canada stickers and pencils-which they also love and are desperate to win. Bringing something from your home country upon going on a volunteering trip is definitely advisable. Anything colourful and preferably shiny will do the trick.

Fourth hour is another play period. We attempt voting on whether or not they want to do a relay race instead of kickball, but they begin shouting for kickball so loudly that we just give up and send them out to the back. Sonny and Lucas accompany them, while I stay back and clean up the classroom after Bingo. I sit down after I’m done and start writing.

Upon reflection, as fun as the other parts were, my favourite aspect of the day was our establishing a new rule: for the kids to signal thumbs up for yes or thumbs down for no when we ask them “do you understand?” after explaining something. Repeating this often helped us to keep up communication with the students and rely less on Lucas. He provided clarification in Greek if there were still thumbs down after we tried to explain a concept in a different manner.

As I sit considering ideas for the following day’s lesson, worrying about how to maintain the same level of engagement and energy in the classroom, I hear the door open. One of the new boys comes in.

“My head’s hurting,” He says in response to my questioning gaze, and goes to his desk.

“Do you want some water?” I offer. He shakes his head and takes out some coloured pencils. About ten minutes later, I hear him get up. The door closes with a quiet click behind him and I look up. His name placard, which we had asked him to fill out earlier in the day but hadn’t been touched, points toward me.

“Fillip,” It says in big, multi-coloured block letters.

I smile.

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