Tuesday, November 29, 2016

English for Refugees - addresses and locations

Aim - To help refugees with some grasp of English give and understand addresses as well as talk about locations in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece.

Materials - A map either on paper or via Google Maps via smart phone.

Level - Elementary/intermediate

I - Revise how to say addresses in English, use some well known example, for example the building in which the lessons are taking place. In Greece addresses are usually given thus;

Egnatia 34  - Name of the street then number
Kalamaria  - District
Thessaloniki - City or town
54333 - Post or zip code

Often the floor of the apartment is given as most people live and work in apartment blocks.

You may need to teach

0 - ground floor
1 - first floor
2 - second floor etc.

2 - Now read out an address and ask students to write it down. Repeat as many times as necessary until people have it written, Optional activity - ask students to find out the address on Google Maps.

3 - Now students dictate addresses that they know to each other (be warned many newcomers may not know any, including their own address). Alternatively. they give their own address back at home but the y not want to do this for obvious reasons.

 Another possibility is this address

Brothers Menexopoulos Dried Fruit and Nuts store (it has herbs, spices, dried fruits and nuts, grains and black tea at very good prices)

Katounis 49
the centre

4 - Revise or teach points of the compass

5 = Draw or hang a map of the city and ask students to say where they are now in the city.

e.g In the centre, in west Thessaloniki etc.

6 Now ask students to say which area they live in and its location in or near the city (if they live in camps). You may have to help if students are hazy about the location of their neighbourhood,

7 Teach or elicit other useful phrases used to describe the location of a place,

e.g next/close to, near, behind, in front of, between, above and below (useful in Thessaloniki when talking about roads).

8 Now ask students to describe the location of the building where the lesson is taking place. or the shop mentioned earlier

9 Students now describe the location of their accommodation.

10 Ask students to describe buildings/ locations that are useful for them

e.g local supermarket/police station/doctor's office etc.

A useful mobile phone app is the one by the local public transport company OASTH  which gives information on local bus routes in Thessaloniki area.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Refugees Welcome, Golden Dawn Scum Are Not - this design is free to download and use.

Refugees Welcome Golden Dawn Scum Are Not

The day after  a meeting held by seniors members of Greece' neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party on the island of Chios, the Souda refugee camp was attacked by right wing extremists who throw firebombs boulders down upon the tents were refugees are housed. The meeting was also attended by MPs with Belgium's far right Vlaams Belang party.

Refugees Welcome Vlaams Belang  Scum Are Not

English for refugees - lesson plan for numbers and dates.

This plan is designed to help students revise numbers in English with the purpose of talking about dates and for other uses such as shopping and other financial exchanges. This part of a course I am devising and teaching here in Thessaloniki for refugees and migrants. The different parts can be used in any order and the aim is to provide English language skills and knowledge that will of immediate and practical use rather than a broader based academic course.


Revise use of numbers 1 to 100 in English as the prelude to talking about dates.


The photocopy below



Numbers 1-100

1 - Hand out the photocopy and go through any pronunciation issues. (you could  ask students to write down the words as well or set this for homework).

2 - Ask students to stand up and form a circle. Explain to students that we'll play a game. You start and the person next to you will say the next number 1,2,3 and so on. If the person makes a mistake they are out of the game and leaves the circle. Start over with the next person in the circle and continue until there is a single winner. If you have a large group you may have to divide the class into smaller groups to ensure the game is over quickly.

3 - Get students to play the game in 2-3s.

4 - Students sit back down and write on a piece of paper (in numbers and words (e.g 44 - forty four) numbers that are important to them.

They can be their age, the number of their home, How many kids they have etc.

5 - In 2-3s ask or guess why their partner's numbers are important.

Days and dates

1 - Explain to students they are going to talk about days and dates. Elicit the names of the days of the week and write them on the board. (you could also ask students to write the Arabic/Farsi on the board)

2 - Ask them what today it is today, will it be tomorrow and what it was yesterday.

3 - Ask some students what is their favourite day of the week? Students then ask each other.

4 - Play game where students take turns in pairs saying the days, when one makes a mistake, they start again.

5 - Introduce months, elicit names of the months of the year, write them on board. Go through any pronunciation difficulties.

6 - Play circle game again in pairs with names.

7 - Ask which months they like the best and why. E,g June because school finishes for summer.

8 - Explain how to say dates. I'd recommend the US system for ease of comprehension and use.

E,g November 7 rather than 7th of November.

9 - Now students ask each other when there birthday falls. and the other person writes in down in full.

10 - Ask students about important dates in their own country/Greece or other places they know. E.g Independence day, religious holidays, New Years's Day etc.

11 - Now explain how to say years in English i.e nineteen sixty, not say One thousand nine hundred and sixty as they do in Greek, for example).

12 Write down a timeline on the board with important dates from your own life.


             1960       1975      1986    1999           2010        2016

13 - Ask students to guess or ask directly what happened on those dates.

14 - Students write down their own timelines and then mix up the groups and people ask others they don't usually work with to talk about their timeline.

15 - Optional activity. Ask students to write a short personal biography based around the date mentioned for homework.

"At the third stroke it will be 1936 precisely."

At the third stroke it will be 1936 precisely

Sunday, November 20, 2016


This is part of a series of lesson plans for teaching basic English to refugees with elementary to intermediate English language skills. The plans are in twos, each pair focusing on a particular thematic point, rather than an area of grammar, function or vocabulary. 


For part one click here.

AIM - This is designed to introduce the names of various jobs and occupations, vocabulary associated with them and works on practicing for job interviews.

MATERIALS - Photocopies of a  job interview dialogue, small pieces of paper with names of jobs written on them, sellotape.

LEVEL - Elementary/intermediate


1 - Remind students that you asked them to find out some details of their dream/perfect job in the previous lesson. 

Ask them to write this on a piece of paper (you may need to give them time to look up the name of this job on their smart phones). Ask them not to share this information with anyone else yet.

2 - Ask them to think of the perfect job for you the teacher (if you were not a teacher) and if possible explain why.

3 - Write the names of the jobs on the board and ask the students to say who they thought chose which job (and why, if possible).

4 - Ask some students to explain what is the perfect job for them, this is quite difficult so get the more confident students to do this to the whole class or get others to say why to each other or in small groups..

5 - Now explain to students they are going to do a job interview. Ask if anyone has done one, what was the job they wanted and what questions people usually ask in a job interview.

6 - Write down the questions on the board.

e.g Where did you study?
       Do you speak foreign languages?
       Do you have experience?

With the help of the students solve any language difficulties.

7 Hand out the photocopy of the job interview. You may have to adapt this to your own particular teaching situation. Also putting on their phones as a PDF file is an option, if photocopies are unavailable and wi-fi is,

8 - Ask students to read through this and find any words/phrases/ideas they are not familiar with. Encourage students to use Google Translate on their smart phones to help, if this is an option where you teach.

9 - Ask one of the quicker/more confident students to help you with the dialogue, if they wish to. Ask them to choose a role and read through it together to the side and deal with any pronunciation issues.

10 - Read aloud the dialogue for the class. Deal with any pronunciation issues.

11 - Ask students to do the interview together in pairs. Students then swap roles.

12 - If time permits, students use this dialogue to write their own version with their dream/perfect job. Otherwise set it for the next lesson.


This is part of a series of lesson plans for teaching basic English to refugees with elementary to intermediate English language skills. The plans are in twos, each pair focusing on a particular thematic point, rather than an area of grammar, function or vocabulary. This choice reflects the fact that the language chosen is for practical (hopefully immediate) use and also that my teaching situation is still fluid, not to say chaotic which means a more involved syllabus attempting to cover all bases is simply not an option at the moment.


AIM - This is designed to introduce the names of various jobs and occupations, vocabulary associated with them and works on practicing for job interviews.

MATERIALS - Photocopies of a  job interview dialogue, small pieces of paper with names of jobs written on them, sellotape.

LEVEL - Elementary/intermediate


1 - Write on the board

       What do you do? 
       What do you do for a living?

Explain what these phrases means, remember to include occupations such as student, mother, housewife etc. Give personal examples of jobs you do/have done.

2 Go around the class and ask each student what they do.and write their answers on the board.. Remember that many students will not be working so might be better to ask them what they did for a living in their home country. Encourage students to describe their jobs in English, if possible and also encourage the use of mime as much as possible.

3 - Elicit the names of other jobs Write their answers in English on the board and ask students to translate them into their own language(s). If possible ask a student to write the word in their own language on the board as well. It's important that you encourage students to use Google Translate (be warned the service has limited success with some languages/dialects) on their smart phones, if that is at all possible.

4 - Pick a job from the list on the board and mime it, The students guess which job you are referring to,

5 - Get students to work in pairs/small groups and each person then chooses a job from the list on the board and mimes it. The others try to guess the job then swap roles.

6 - Now explain that the students are going to play a game. The teacher asks  a person to sellotape a job to their forehead and ask the others questions to find out what the job is (but they can't say the name of the job) The teacher then asks the students questions to find out the job.

7 - Write/ask students to write down useful words/phrases/questions they will need to play this game. Put these on the board.

8 - Place a piece of paper with the job on each student's forehead and ask them to play . Encourage students to stand up and mingle rather than sit down and rely on the person next to them,

9 - Now choose 3-4 jobs and ask students in groups of 2-4 to think of as many words/phrases as possible connected with the job. Do one as an example.

E,g Teacher - class, lesson, school, mark homework etc

10 Elicit answers from the class.

11 Now ask students individually write down words/phrases about their job/occupation.

12 Students then talk about their own jobs/occupations  with the other members of the group.


Ask students to think of the dream/perfect job for them and ask them if possible to look up details of such a job on the internet, for example what qualifications does it need, what does it pay, where can I do this jobs, what do they do in this occupation etc.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

English For Refugees

English For Refugees

After so many months of silence I have decided to start writing here again. After the refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece was shut down and the people moved to more permanent settlements throughout the country.Our group, The Refugee Solidarity Movement, Thessaloniki, wound down and I decided that I needed a break from this. In addition it seemed clear that other groups were taking over so our group's efforts were less needed.

However,  I have managed to get back into the game and as with so many things that happen in Greece, it's as much to to with chance and serendipity as it is with any plan I may or may not have had in mind. Whilst visiting the Oikopolis Social Centre on an entirely unrelated matter, I found out that they were about to start new language lessons with refugees but one of their volunteer teachers was soon to Leave Greece to start a new life in France. So that is how I found myself in front of a class of refugees from Syria once again teaching English along with another Patricia, another volunteer teacher.

The situation was and still remains somewhat chaotic with people of different ages (11 till 50) and different levels of competency in English (complete beginners to those with the fundamentals sorted) in the same group. In addition we are in the social area of the centre which is like teaching on the hard shoulder of a motorway.

This is gradually being sorted out, Patricia has decided to form a group of complete beginners while I work with those who have intermediate skills. We are never sure how many students will turn up as new students turn up, others change class and others still drift away looking for something else.

With such uncertainty I have decided  to not use a course book both due to the cost and the fact that students are coming and going all the time. Instead I have been inspired by Teaching Adult Second Language Learners by Heather McCay and Tom Abigail. Designed for teaching practical, every day English to those arriving in an English speaking country, I have adapted some of the activities for my students so they can communicate with NGOs, the authorities, etc in English.

My approach is based on utilising students experience and expertise and giving them language skills that can be used instantly, rather than to be filed for later. I eschew technology as much as possible, not because I am against its use in lessons but from experience that so much time is used explaining it, and setting it up that time for other things is wasted. I hope this will change in the future as my students grow more confident with their English. Most have smart phones and we have internet access but this cannot always be relied on.

Also I have come to realise that the occasional photocopy, copious use of the white board and role play/mime are not only more easy to implement but take far less time setting up.

Topics covered so far

Introducing ourselves
Talking about family and background
Numbers, especially dates
Interviews (asking and answering questions)
Parts of the body

When I have time I will be uploading detailed lesson plans.