Inspire, Aspire, Succeed
Today I am glad to introduce Anita Efstathiou Gregoriades, an enthusiastic English teacher from Cyprus who runs the school Jolly Workshop. Apart from providing high quality English courses, Jolly Workshop also organises teacher training courses. In addition, Anita is proud to have created her own system of Jolly Phonics.
Let's find out about more Anita's teaching approach and the system "Jolly Phonics".
Hi Anita, you run the school "Jolly Workshop" where students learn in a creative atmosphere. Would you tell us about your teaching approach, please?
Indeed, I run a language school which is at the same time a teacher training centre. We love to create and try out new teaching activities that make learning an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Now… as far as my teaching approach as you put it so well -and not my teaching method- it is to a great extent the product of my own teaching philosophy. Learning, as the Russian educational psychologist L.S. Vygotsky said, is socially constructed. Thus, I try to create the necessary conditions and opportunities for my learners to collaborate with each other as well as with me. I view my classroom as a learning hub and myself as facilitator of learning. Teaching for me is not the traditional ‘spoon feeding” method by which a teacher simply delivers information to students. Learning is alive, an on- going process where children can actively be involved and take pleasure in. In order to meet individual differences and spark student enthusiasm for learning I have incorporated a variety of kinaesthetic, auditory and visual activities. I wholeheartedly reject “teaching to the test” or “drill and kill” methods as they are called, as they are counterproductive and do not provide holistic understanding of the language. My aim as educator is to provide strong foundations for life-long learning. Our motto here at the Jolly Workshop is “Inspire, Aspire, Succeed”.
You often use "Role plays" in class. Do you believe it is the best way to engage shy learners?
This is definitely one of the ways to engage shy learners but before introducing “role playing” or other pair or group work activities to the class someone needs to consider the following:
Shy or reluctant students usually have a high level of interpersonal skills, that is, they are able to hear and analyse their own thoughts but a low level of interpersonal skills, skills that enable someone to communicate and interact successfully with other people. It is therefore important to build a positive and safe class environment where all students can speak without fear of judgement or embarrassment and where everyone respects each other’s views. For me, this is an important step before asking my students to take part in role playing or other form of activities where interpersonal skills are in order.
You have created your own system of "Jolly Phonics". Tell us a little bit more about it, please, and why you encourage teachers to use it.
I kind of like that… “my own system of Jolly Phonics because that’s what it is exactly… Jolly Phonics is a method created by Sue Lloyd more than 30 years ago and it aims at teaching literacy skills to English native learners. Since the majority of my learners are not English native speakers, several adaptations needed to be made to meet the needs of my non- native audience. Jolly Phonics is a highly multi-sensory approach to teaching literacy. Every sound is taught with an action and the action helps children remember that sound. Strong visuals and auditory aids support the whole learning process and it is incredible how quickly children start to read and write. Despite the adaptations I brought to the programme I always apply its principles as they are key to unlocking the foundation skills of reading and writing. I did try in the past several other approaches to teaching literacy but none of them yielded the results of Jolly Phonics. With Jolly Phonics children can read effortlessly, can decode unknown words and because of that we can introduce books to them earlier. This means higher exposure to the target language… and as Dr. Seuss said, “The more books that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”. I am a strong supporter of extensive reading as it increases children’s vocabulary and understanding and embeds the structures of the language. Therefore, I encourage all teachers to use Jolly Phonics in their classes – it’s fun, it’s multi-sensory and most of all it provides strong foundations for reading and writing.
You also run workshops for teachers. What are the three top teaching tips you would like them to remember when they leave?
I run my workshops in the same way I teach – I try to instil enthusiasm in teachers and encourage collaboration among them. At the same time, my goal is to trigger critical reflection mechanisms in teachers – step back, recapture past experiences, mull them over, evaluate them and eventually make future adjustments or changes to teaching practices. When they leave my workshop I want them to remember that there isn’t just one way to teach such and such, that there is a way to move away from teacher centred instruction and conduct student centred lessons, and that there is a way to plan fun packed lessons that are appealing to a variety of learning styles.
Thank you, Anita!
You can read the whole interview with Anita Efstathiou Gregoriades in the May issue of "Inspirational English".