quarta-feira, 4 de julho de 2012

24 Hours of English


Here at the Secret Garden we have an extra special weekend where the students come to stay the night! This year it was the 7th graders' turn.  Their group is called the Ants!

Just for you to know, all our groups have the name of a bird or insects, for example: Robins, Spiders, Butterflies, Bumble Bees, Dragonflies, Ladybirds, Ants and Beetles!

The program of activities included: Warm up games, mime, storytelling, puppet making, cooking, music and singing and a final puppet presentation!

Apart from using English for 24 hours non-stop, the students had the opportunity to taste a typical English breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, orange juice and a hot cup of tea.

As an educator, what I notice is how the groups change when they are out of the regular class context. The simple fact of cooking together, making a fire, singing and staying the night in the school etc. transforms them, and as a result they become closer. Through this kind of 'intimate' activity they share much more than a simple English class. It is my hope that they also share an unforgettable memory of childhood too! 

quarta-feira, 6 de junho de 2012

The First Certificate Group

Just have to tell you about this great group of 16 year olds who are studying the Cambridge First Certificate here at The Secret Garden!

They are our pioneer students who have been with us since the beginning! They will be taking this test in 2013 which will not only bring them up to an upper intermediate level, but also provide them with an internationally recognized certificate in English!  We are working hard on all the papers for the test which are: Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening and Speaking. Together with this we have also had time to cook, invent poems, play some interactive games and film the students talking!  This visual and dynamic possibility allows the students to see where to make improvements in their language use, pronunciation and general performance.

The teachers, myself and Maria Fernanda, are really enjoying working with such interesting and motivated students!  Well done you guys!

sexta-feira, 1 de junho de 2012

Following a special path

There are so many things to say about the school! In 9 years we have done so many things!  But I will start from NOW and tell you what we have been doing this past month of May 2012. I will attach more information, past newsletters, interesting articles, photos and quirky stories at a later date!

PARENTS IN CLASS. Together with my super dedicated team of wonderful teachers, we decided to invite all the parents into the school with the intuitive of : improving school/home links and generally getting closer to the the families, exchanging essential information on how to encourage English at home, allowing parents to voice their doubts and worries, providing a hands on experience of the way we teach the children and giving space for the parents to see their son/daughter interacting in the classroom. 

Needless to say, it was an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved! 

segunda-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2012

How it all began

In 2003 some dear friends asked me to teach their children English.  They suggested that a whole afternoon would be more practical for them as most of the English courses were twice a week which made it difficult for parents who were working.   I had, up until then, been teaching privately on a one to one basis but I too thought the idea interesting.  I also wanted my two daughters to learn to read and write well in English and I imagined them participating in the group.  I also thought that a whole afternoon would be almost like an immersion course and that I would have time to use English as a basis for various other activities too.

A starting point
I started with 5 children in a small classroom in my house.  All the children came from the same school, Escola Waldorf, Anabá. This meant, in my mind, that I would have to understand the pedagogy and methodology of Waldorf teaching so that I could offer classes that ‘fitted’ both the children and the parents.  This is a life learning task, because as you may know, the intuitive of Waldorf education is also self education both as a parent and as an adult.  We, my husband and I, put our children in such a school because we wanted out children to truly live their childhood.  To have time to grow and learn, to be recognized as individuals and to be surrounded by excellent teachers, beautiful words and meaningful subjects for life.

Many of my own childhood memories came back to me and as I planned my syllabus for The Secret Garden I included much of what I consider to be part of a true childhood.  All the garden games I had played, the stories I read, the rhymes I knew off by heart and the songs that one never forgets. In fact I discovered that English could be used in all circumstances if it was graded appropriately for each age group.  With the use of up to date material and prior knowledge of linguistics I felt very ready to start this new adventure. I also thought it essential that the children felt happy to spend the afternoon at my house that they felt motivated and interested in what they saw.

Now, years later the school has grown into its own building in the garden.  We have 60 students from 6 to 16, eight groups, five teachers and an administrator.  I continue wanting the children to feel happy here, learning and living the English language.  I am a strong believer that children need time and that early intellectualizing stunts their long term possibilities, cuts back their imagination and produces ‘dead’ adults.  By offering the language to them within playful contexts we enter into their world, we bring true meaning to the tasks while giving them structure and clear ground rules to follow. 

With a strong and competent teaching body I am confident that we are offering a specialized course that combines good English language teaching techniques together with two most essential ingredients in what we do; love and understanding.