Greek program activities

Pre-planned expeditions to shops

These activities were designed and developed by Tina Isaakidis.

Introduction

Schools close to shopping districts with shops/businesses where the community language is spoken can provide their students with the opportunity to conduct language-based activities in their local shopping area.

For example, student note-taking activities can include a stroll around the shopping district with the intention of 'discovering' text written in the community language (eg notices or price tags inside the shop or in shop windows) or listening for conversations in the community language spoken in the streets (eg by passers-by) or in shops (eg during sales transactions by sales assistants or customers).

Such shopping expeditions were organised and took place at two different schools which offer Greek and Chinese (Mandarin) in their school curriculum.

Preparation: activities in class

Objectives of the unit of work

A unit of work entitled "At the Greengrocers" was designed to facilitate the following two objectives:

  • a) To integrate the numerous community resources into the teaching and the enhancement of Greek to students with diverse backgrounds in Greek, and
  • b) To encourage students of differing levels of Greek proficiency - within the same class and, furthermore, between concurrent classes - to work together with activities that will benefit all students

Description of the unit of work

The unit of work included activities for Year 8 students (according to the Victorian Curriculum and Standards Framework II: Level 5 Pathway 1*, and Level 4A-5A Pathway 2**) and introduced the students to features of the Greek language (vocabulary, grammar, etc) relating to shopping at the greengrocer's. Furthermore, it allowed students to simulate their encounter with the community first in class (through role-plays and games), before they visited the community itself. Finally, students were assessed individually and competitively between groups (by their teachers and their peers, respectively) by completing certain oral and written tasks in a final presentation session

* Pathway 1: Formal learning of Greek starts at primary school level.
** Pathway 2: Formal learning of Greek starts at secondary school level.

Organising students into groups

At school G there were two year 8 classes that ran concurrently (one 'beginners' class and one class with 'intermediate' and 'advanced' level students), which allowed students from the two classes to combine into smaller groups and work together.

For the purpose of integrating students of diverse backgrounds and language proficiency (see objective b above), the two classes were combined and then organised into four groups. The objective of dividing students into the four groups was to obtain a homogenous level of proficiency in each group. Thus, students of both classes were placed in the four groups, and students from both classes had combined sessions for some classroom activities and for the field trip activities. However, for most classroom activities (including the final student presentation), students remained divided into their four groups but within their own class and not combined with the other class. This was due to a variety of reasons (see Final outcome).

Preparation - School and other approval transport arrangements

Obtaining approval from the school

Once the date and duration of the field trip was established by the teachers and the researcher, the school's approval was gained and arrangements were made by the daily organizer to cover the teachers' classes on the day of the field trip and to engage two more teachers for further assistance during the field trip.

Obtaining approval from the students

Long before the day of the field trip, the teachers distributed to students consent forms that were to be signed by their parents/guardians. Once the signed consent forms were collected by the teachers, the trip could be made. It was a good idea for the teachers to suggest (on the consent forms) that students bring a small amount of spending money for lunch or other possible shopping expenses: during the field trip, all students bought their lunch, with some choosing to purchase Greek food, while others, during the morning recess break, chose to sit at a Greek cafe and order drinks and Greek sweets.

Obtaining approval from the shops

Long before the date and details of the field trip were determined, approval from the shops that would become involved in the activities had to be obtained. The teachers and researcher approached the store managers, who were very willing to assist in the activities, providing these were conducted during the least busy business hours. Finally, the shop managers of the shops that were to be involved in the more challenging activity (see Activity 2 below), were reminded of the students' pending visit by the teachers a few days in advance.

Field trip activities

Depending on the number of shops available to visit and the number of student groups, teachers would have to organise the groups' timing of the visits and the other activities. Since at school G, only one shop was available for Activity 2 (see below), two groups at a time (out of the total of four groups) visited the shop for Activity 2, while the other two groups conducted Activity 1; then the groups exchanged activities.

Activity 1

For the first activity, the students were required to identify and note shops with Greek writing, and recorded this information in writing on handouts designed in the Unit of Work, such as the name of the shop, the Greek text and the location of the text (eg price tag, poster, sign). When possible, the student groups entered some of the shops while searching for more Greek text; in one music shop students discovered Greek text in magazines, books, and on the covers of music CDs and video tapes.

Activity 2

This more challenging activity required the students to enter the shop itself, approval for which had been obtained earlier. Each student conducted a brief conversation with a shop assistant in Greek, while their fellow students took notes of the exchange of information. For the sake of brevity, each student was assigned a part of the conversation, such as greetings ('hello'), introductions ('we are students from ...', 'my name is ...'), and request for information. The complexity of the conversation depended on the students' language level, thus students of a more advanced level were expected to engage in more complex conversations and generate their own conversation rather than adhering to a script.

Final outcomes of the activities

Overall, positive views were expressed by teachers and students alike about the classroom and field trip activities. In the composition of groups, student personality and attitude also ought to have been considered more.

Teaching style and some practical issues (eg timing and coordination between the classes, student levels of proficiency) affected the extent to which student groups formed and worked effectively together. For example, the final student presentation, though designed to be conducted by the two classes combined together, took place in the two classes independently.