Sunday, 30 March 2014

Asperger Syndrome & Autism

Description: This lesson proposal is organized around the theme of Autism and Asperger syndrome through the use of a magnificent in its detail work of art by the Australian Steven Coventry, an artist with Asperger’s and a touching short film, “Q & A” by StoryCorps. The Visible Thinking routine used is I used to think..., But now I think...

Level: Intermediate-Upper Intermediate
Learners: All ages
Theme: Asperger syndrome and Autism
Language: Autism and Asperger related language, expressing opinion, may + infinitive
Skills: Observing and describing, speaking, watching a short film, developing reasoning abilities, recognizing cause and effect relationships
Materials: slides, a short video, worksheet, interview transcript

Step 1
Write the word Autism on the board and brainstorm your students around the theme.

Step 2
Show your students Steven Coventry’s painting and hold a plenary discussion around the work of art by asking questions such as: 
What do you think it is?
Do you like it?
Can you find a title?
Encourage your students to use language of expressing opinion such as:
I think…
I believe…
I suppose…
In my opinion…
As far as I am concerned…
As I see it…
It seems to me that…
In my point of view…

Step 3
Tell your students that the title of the painting is Blue Butterflies tongue. Then, show them the photo and ask them if they would ever think of drawing a butterfly’s tongue like this.

Step 4
Explain that what they see is a work of art by an artist who has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. Write on the board: If we want to accept and embrace any person within the autism spectrum we have to think out of the box. Have your students express their opinion about what the idiom think out of the box means (think freely, creatively, imaginatively, unusually). Ask them if they agree with the statement. 

Step 5
Tell your students that they’re going to watch a short video about Asperger with the title Q & A, which is based on an interview. Ask them to predict who will be the interviewer and who the interviewee. Allow 5 minutes and then show the video once.     

Step 6
Let students compare their predictions. Then, ask them how the video made them feel.

Step 7
Let your students in the same groups and tell them that they’re going to watch the video again and that they can ask you to stop it at any point and discuss vocabulary or expressions. Show the video.

Step 8
Ask groups a) to discuss the statements in the worksheet and decide whether they’re true or false and b) write as many sentences as they can using may + infinitive to describe Aspergers. Help them with vocabulary. Allow 20 minutes for the groups to complete the activities and get feedback.

Step 9
Show the autism awareness posters and quotes and ask them to discuss them in small groups.

Give students the transcript of the interview. Tell them to have a more careful look at it at home and ask them to write a short paragraph where they should reflect on their thinking about the theme of Autism and/or Asperger by using the stems:
I used to think…
But now, I think…

I hope you find this proposal worth experimenting.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Description: This proposal is organized around the theme of urbanization through the use of 2 works of art by Cyril E. Power, and LS Lowry, 20th century English artists of the emerging modern city, three urbanization infographics, and a short video on urbanization and the evolution of cities by Vance Kite on TEDEd. The Visible Thinking routines used are: What Makes You Say That, See-Think-Wonder, and Connect-Extend-Challenge

Level: Intermediate-Upper Intermediate
Learners: All ages
Theme: Urbanization
Language: Urbanization related vocabulary
Skills: Observing and describing, drawing inferences, understanding alternatives and multiple perspectives, speaking, watching a short video, making connections between prior ideas and new knowledge 
Materials: Paintings slides, infographics, a short video

Step 1
Show students each painting and ask them: What’s going on? What do you see that makes you say that? You can use a tree map to document students’ answers.

Cyril E. Power, The Tube Train

LS Lowry, Returning from work
Step 2
Brainstorm students around the common elements in the 2 paintings. Elicit that both of them deal with aspects of urban life. Ask them a) how they think the people in the paintings feel, and b) how they themselves feel by looking at the paintings. 

Step 3
Show your students the infographic below. Have them work in groups and answer the following questions in writing. Then, hold a plenary discussion.

Where were the first cities?
What did the first settlements depend on?
What happened from the 18th to the 20th century?
Where is most of the urbanization taking place?
What are some of the issues related with urbanization?

Step 4
Show your students the following image. Ask them what they think it is about. Get answers from the whole class. Tell them that it is a 15'' UNICEF infographic of 100 years of urban growth. Follow the link and show the infographic. Have your students name the countries where most of the urbanization is taking place.

Step 5
Write the following numbers on the board. Have your students read them aloud, and copy them in their notebooks:

> 1,000,000

Step 6
Show them the infographic below and ask them how the numbers are related to it. Have them first write sentences in pairs. Allow 10 minutes and get feedback.

Step 7
Show students the following photograph. Ask them: 
What do you see?
What do you think about it?
What does it make you wonder?
Keep a visible record of students' answers. 

Step 8
Write on the board: How can future cities adapt to our growing populations? Brainstorm students around this question. 

Step 9
Tell students that they are going to watch a short video on the past and future evolution of cities. Ask them to focus on the suggestions put forward regarding the ways cities might adapt to growing populations. Show the video (this part of the video starts at 3.00). If needed show for a second time.

Suggestions: adequate food/sanitation/education/sustainable growth/environment protection/food production might move to vertical farms, skyscrapers, roof top gardens/power from multiple sources of renewable energy/vertical residencies instead of single family homes/self-contained buildings/smaller self sufficient cities focused on local and sustainable production

There is also a subtitled version of the video you might consider showing:

Step 10
Organize your students in groups. Ask them to review all the ideas and information explored concerning the theme of urbanization. Then ask them to think about these questions:

How are the ideas and information connected to yourselves?  
What new ideas did you get that extended or pushed your thinking in new directions?
What is still challenging for you? What questions, puzzles or wonderings do you now have? 

Have groups share their thoughts in writing first. Then hold a plenary discussion. Keep a visible record of students' ideas. 

I hope you find this proposal worth experimenting.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A few words II: Blog Challenge 11

This is a post written in response to a Blog Challenge for which I was nominated by Vicky Papageorgiou. A challenge indeed since Art Least's mission statement describes a teacher resource blog that explores the use of art in the efl context; it is not meant to be a personal or professional reflection blog. Vicky is, however, a worthy colleague and dear social media friend, with whom we share a common love for art and I have tried to respond in a way as faithful as possible, I hope, to both Art Least's genre, and to her expectations. 

This kind of writing is completely strange to me; I fear I'm an utter disaster. Actually, it is the first...and last time time I'm responding to such a challenge. 

11 Random facts about myself

A family person
Picasso, Family of  Saltimbanques 1905


At times over analytical
Favourite pastime: drawing on stones


and arrogance 
 deeply annoy me

Elizabeth Polzleitner's tagxedo
I go through frantic work phases 


...but at times 
a bit of idleness 

Reading Foucault and Freire 
has changed my way of reading the world

Visible Thinking Routines for Blogging
Visible Thinking Routines have provided me with a working methodological framework that truly fascinates me. 

Visible Thinking Routines for Blogging

During the past month through blogging and social networking I have "met" amazing educators and bloggers. I hope one day I meet them in person! Here they are (in order of making the contact)

On the road, Messinia, Peloponnese
On the road, Argolida, Peloponnese

Leros island
I enjoy taking  photos 
Evinos river, West Greece
On the road, Arcadia, Peloponnese

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Vicky Papageorgiou's 11 questions:

1. Name a book that made you cry.

2. Name one book that you...regret having read.

Honestly, I can't remember one.

3. Name your favourite song and tell us why.

Because of the multitude of threads embedded in it: blues, gospel, hymnals, jazz, Civil Rights Movement, Nina Simone's personal tumult and anger. Because of the Thomas Crown Affair film.

 4. Which city or country in the world could you easily live in, apart from your current city?

I think Barcelona

Photo by Tom Wilkinson "Zapp English"

5. If you weren't an educator, what else would/could you be?

I have no idea, classroom feels like home to me.

6. What is the riskiest thing you have ever done in your life?

Not the risky type really.

7. Describe your favourite library: where is it, how is it, why do you like it?
The IOE Newsam library in London. Huge educational archives and resources. So glad I was given the opportunity of studying there.

8. If you could write a book what would it be about?

Growing up in rural and urban Greece stretching from the post World War II era to civil war conflict, and post-civil war reconstruction through my father's memories.

9. Which is your favourite ELT website?

10. An embarrassing moment in your professional career. When, where, what?

I had to teach in an early phase in my professional career in a Technical School with 200 men, most of them older than me. Pretty uncomfortable in the beginning though an invaluable experience in terms of classroom management.

11. Describe one of your best moments in your teaching career. 

The 4 years I worked as an adult educator in a Second Chance School for adults from socially vulnerable groups who had not completed compulsory education. They profoundly shaped and redefined me as a person and as an educator.