New innovations in Greek language teaching explored

The 3rd Professional Development Seminar was marked with success and the announcement that Ancient Greek will be offered next year by the VSL

More than fifty Greek language teachers attended the 3rd annual Greek Teachers Network Seminar organised by the Greek Consulate Education Office in Melbourne in conjunction with the VSL (Victorian School of Languages).

The teachers who attended were from all levels and all school sectors. The program covered several areas of teaching and a number of keynote speakers presented a broad range of interesting and refreshing ideas on how to better engage and enrich Greek teaching and learning in Australia.

Welcoming the fifty plus teachers, was the recently arrived Greek Education Consul from the Greek Consulate in Melbourne, Mr Vasileios Gkokas, and the Principal of the VSL, Mr Frank Merlino. Mr Frank Merlino announced on the day that Classical / Ancient Greek will be offered by Distance Education through the VSL in 2012. Xenofon Arvanitis, from Balwyn High School, who has been teaching a very successful classical Greek program, shared some of the secrets of his achievements.

The speakers included Helen Nickas and Konstantina Dounis, who presented the work of Greek-Australian Writers and a few samples of what to incorporate within the teaching of Modern Greek in terms of preparing our students for senior and VCE levels. Within the same spirit, Penny Kyprianou, who is in charge of the Greek Film Festival in Melbourne, suggested some film titles appropriate for specific levels, according to the Victorian Education Department’s Curriculum and Assessment Authority Study Design, as resources for compulsory teaching topics. Helen Nickas, the owner and publisher of Owl Publishing, distributed as gifts to teachers, copies of her Greek-Australian Anthologies while Konstantina Dounis also gave away copies of her own poetry anthology and we salute them both for their generosity and inspiration.

Anthi Baltatzi spoke about the 2nd Greek Student Film Festival Competition and the great number of schools who participated from around Australia. The award winning students’ short films can be view online on YouTube. The afternoon workshops offered many and varied activities for teachers to experience and learn new ways of engaging and inspiring students in their Greek classes using old ideas in new ways, incorporating eLearning in their curriculum. Hopefully this will better enhance multiple intelligences in order to engage students in Greek language and culture, like never before.

The highlight was “Teaching and Learning the Greek Language, Geography, Culture and Much More Through Greek Folk Dancing” by Consulate teacher, Christos Monoheir, who has been teaching this methodology to a group of Greek teachers throughout the year. Maria Anagnostidou, (also a Consulate teacher) and Connie Barkatsa, from Stonington Primary, presented a very colourful art display of a series of clever ideas about how to teach Greek language and culture by engaging our students in the visual arts. “Let’s Make Village Bread…”, a hands on immersion Greek class, stole the show. Venetia Kefalianos encouraged teachers to become young children, improvising as a grandmother figure, providing storytelling and sharing of oral histories.

While the dough was being kneaded and the yeast was rising, they broke bread together and improved their knowledge of Greek language and culture. This and other presentations of the seminar have been recorded and will be vodcasted online for others to share. The use of technology as a tool to teach and learn the Greek language can no longer be ignored.

Two computer lab. workshops were presented, to enhance this methodology. The Victorian Education Department’s “Languages on line” and “Cartoon Story Maker” initiatives were very informative. The ERT Archive online, presented by Emma Papaemmanouel, who is a correspondent from ERT (Greek Government Radio & Satellite Television) was overwhelming. Approximately 750 hours of video and film, materials from 1136 TV programs and over 5,000 photographs from much loved TV series, documentaries and music, are accessible anywhere, anytime. ERT is beginning a new program called ERT Australia, about the lives and achievements of the Greek-Speaking Communities of Australia in mid December, where the seminar will be presented to the Greeks of Greece and the entire Diaspora. We are looking forward to similar workshops and the sharing of great ideas to engage and inspire the teaching and learning of Greek in Australia. This begins in the home and continues in the classroom.

We are hoping that future seminars will be shared and organised with the collaboration of other Australian States, who have shown a great interest and have far more to share and offer. Wishing all school communities a safe, spiritual and festive season and a relaxing summer holiday where we can recharge our batteries and return inspired and enriched by the sharing of the knowledge above and beyond. Many thanks to all those named and unnamed who made this event the success that it was. Looking forward to bigger and better initiatives and bigger collaborations. * Maria Foscolos is the VSL Greek Distance Education Teacher and course writer.