Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Theatre: A Tool For Expression and Growth

For 20 years I have been working in theatre and the performing arts. It never ceases to amaze me how bodily expression and play inspires growth and change. To play, to tell stories, to enact characters, and to expand vocal and physical range is to explore and expand who we are.

As a teacher, I use various aspects of theatre and art to elicit responses from children as they learn a new language. People, especially children, hold latent knowledge of language. The use of gesture, mime, objects/props, and costume are all excellent methods for drawing out reaction or response to something. Theatrical expression helps to build new pathways in the brain that with repetition imprint and aid in the memorisation of new information. To elicit is to prompt, to trigger, to spark – and to employ theatrical methods as a teacher is to inspire and encourage students to express themselves in the broadest sense.

I have been teaching at Hi-London since the beginning of the year. In this time, I have worked with a wide range of children/teens with varied levels of ability in the practice and understanding of the English language. Children pick up a massive amount of information and very often know more than they are aware of. It is so vital to encourage the leap between knowledge that is there inside somewhere, latent, and to draw out that knowledge into the practice of speaking and action.

The ability to listen, to focus, and to express are key to learning language. In children, progress can be made quickly if they can be stimulated to take a risk. Play and storytelling are great ways to help children feel at ease. Even before they can formulate or understand words, gesture can be used to cross the boundaries of difference and culture. Gesture can communicate even before words are spoken, and once the children feel safe within the community of a group, they are much more likely to grow. Playing games, drawing and storytelling are excellent methods to build foundations for new skills in communication of a new language, and Hi-London provides the incredible cultural backdrop of one of the greatest cities of the world. There are so many contexts and themes to draw from. Each of our week-long courses are theme-based around a topic which helps the students to stay focused and to create meaningful memory and experience.

One week, the theme was London Jungle. We began the week by reading the story Why Elephant Has a Trunk (Tinga Tinga Tales). At the beginning of the week, even when many words were not yet understood, pictures, gesture, and a theatrical delivery provided the aid to build understanding. Repetition is key. Therefore, to read the same book a few times during the same week was important, and as the children grew more familiar with the story parts, they remembered and filled in information.

During a workshop at a zoo that week, one of the workshop leaders used simple gesture for each animal which the children had to then repeat as they named the animal and its habitat. Gesture is a powerful way to memorise information. In theatrical performance, text is always accompanied by action to clarify the meaning of the story for the audience, but it is also employed to anchor the text in the actor’s memory.

The London Jungle week culminated with the making of animal masks and a re-enactment of the elephant story. Each child chose an animal to perform, and they were encouraged to voice new information from the week as they played. Growth was born easily, naturally and spontaneously from the excitement of theatrical play, interaction, and a city which holds infinite possibilities!



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

London vs. Berlin

By Pia

Although a river flows through both of them, London and Berlin are two cosmopolitan cities with their own characteristics and histories.

When taking a first look at London coming from Germany, there aren’t too many differences to Berlin one is able to realize. People are busily walking around, the traffic is bad, tourists are blocking the footpaths all over the place, and the whole atmosphere is nothing else but hectic. Those are characteristics that London and Berlin share, but when you take a second, closer look  at London, there are more differences than one would have thought in the beginning.

The first rather obvious difference are the buses and taxis. Many tourists get attracted by the look and system of the buses since they are double deckers, but the system is the same in Berlin; so, that doesn’t draw a lot of attention. However, the colour does. London is famous all over the world for its red buses.  In Berlin, the buses are yellow. Also, the look of taxis  differs from the one in Berlin. While in Berlin they are a kind of yellow and don’t need to be a specific type of car, the taxis in London are all black and from the same company.

Another difference are the older buildings. During the war, most of Berlin was destroyed, which caused the population to build new apartments but also buildings for public use. Therefore, Berlin has much newer and higher building than London.

In general, people seem to be more dressed up and wearing business clothes in London while in Berlin, clothing is more casual even in the business district.

Another point which makes the cities differ is that London is known for its great musicals while Berlin isn’t a musical city at all but well known for theatres.

Another characteristic to mention is that Berlin has far more parks and forests within the city and even downtown than London.  London does have its green areas just not as many.

One of the biggest differences between Berlin and London is probably that the United Kingdom still has a monarchy while Germany doesn’t. In London, you see pictures of the Royal Family in almost all the stores while in Berlin, it’s just not part of the society.


All in all, one can say that although both cities are well known in the world, are the capitals of their countries and have citizens who seem to have the same daily life, they still have their own individual characteristics which make them both interesting and important in their own way. 

The River Thames vs. Lake Van

By Alara

Do you know the River Thames and Lake Van? They are located in different countries, and one of them is a river and the other one is a lake. I will give more details about them and compare them to each other. What are we waiting for?  Let’s learn more about them.

Firstly, I am going to start with the River Thames. It is a river that flows through southern London. At 215miles (347km) in length, it is the longest river in England. Its name from Sanskrit means ‘dark’, and the water is often dark and cloudy. Another school of thought is that it is named after the Roman ‘Tiam’ meaning ‘wide’.  The source of the water is the Thames’s Head. There are 50 bridges that cross the Thames, and four of them are very famous. They are:  Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, London Bridge and Westminster Bridge. Also, from the sea, it is estimated that the Thames carries over 300,00 tons of sediment each year. More than 100 fish species have been recorded in the Thames over the last 30 years and many of these in the River Thames within London.

Secondly, I am going to give you more information about my country’s longest lake. It is the largest lake in Turkey, and it lies in the far east of the country. It is in the provinces of Van and Bitlis. It is a saline soda lake that receives water from numerous small streams that desend from the surrounding mountains. This lake borders Vann, Tatvan, Ercis and Ahlat. The length of the lake is 11km. Lake ‘Van’ is derived from Chayon, the name of an old capital of the Urartian Kingdom. In the biggest sodium water lake in the world, there are 103 types of phytoplankton.

Lastly, River Thames is bigger than Lake Van, and I will now compare them. My first comparison is the about the difference in their appearance. Lake Van in enclosed by land, and the River Thames is exposed more. The colour is different too. The Thames is brown and looks dirty. Lake Van is not connected to the sea like all lakes, and it is clear. Another difference between Lake Van and the Thames is the movement. River Thames basically runs and flows along, and it often flows in one direction. This is different compared to Lake Van. Lake Van is immobile. It appears that Lake Van flows very slowly, and most of the movements are influenced by the wind.

There is so much to compare when thinking about their history and how they changed the lives of people around them. There is so much more to learn about both of these bodies of water.  This is just a start.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Why Hi-London Again?

As a crowd of eager and excited children and teenagers forms around us on Monday mornings, we are often delighted to recognise a few familiar faces. The faces are those of returning students alongside those of their guardians or parents.  We try very hard to create a welcoming atmosphere and deliver engaging programmes, and it’s rewarding for us that our unique teaching methods through conversations and activities are appreciated by the kids and adults, making them want to return year after year.  Below is what a few of the students and families say about their reasons for returning.

A Mother’s Perspective:  A Fun and Effective Holiday Experience

First, we spoke to Daniela from Milano Bergamo, mother of two girls. For the past three years, she’s trusted Hi-London for her children’s summer education. At Hi-London, the girls always seem to be in a great mood, eager to learn and looking forward to the next activities, whether it is games or a museum workshop. Daniela believes in what we do and in our method of teaching as her children’s English skills keep improving as the days pass. Her feedback was nothing but positive as she explained why Hi-London will still be a popular choice for the children’s future summers.

Content with the activities we propose, Daniela mentioned how reasonable the price was for the week we offered as it covered not only food but also all the entry and workshop tickets to museums and other venues, ensuring a week of fun!

Having the children just break up from school, she wanted them to learn English in a fun and more casual way as she did not expect them to want to sit at a desk all day like at school. Though we have a few classroom hours, Hi-London’s teaching methods are mostly based on oral communications through activities adapted to the student’s English skills. Daniela also liked the fact that the school gave them the opportunity to live in London as the English taught during the day could still be practised throughout the week in an English environment.  Daniela believes that learning in a comforting, supportive environment like the one we create at Hi-London helps to improve her children’s confidence and English.

A Teen’s Perspective:  The Best in London for Me

We also spoke to Nicole, a bright twelve-year-old student from Milan who has been coming to Hi-London for the past two years. After trying out different summer schools throughout the city, she’s concluded that Hi-London suits her best. What she appreciates most is our way of teaching. When discussing this with her, she mentioned how the grammar taught at school was very rarely put into practise, making the language hard to relate to. Hi-London gave her the chance to fully grasp what she had been taught previously, as conversations flowed throughout the week. Not only does she love the activities, her favourite being the workshops in the Natural History Museum, but so does her aunt, who lives in London and acts as Nicole’s guardian during her stay. Her aunt mentioned that our programmes are well suited to her niece’s needs and ensures a fun time. Nicole always values the friendships she makes during her time with us, and this too is a big part of her Hi-London experience.

A Child’s Perspective:  It’s Fun!

We also spoke to a very smiley seven-year-old Dzonni from Russia. This year was his second year with us, and his daily enthusiasm and good mood always brought a smile to our faces. He is a big fan of London and adores the London Eye! As a keen tennis player, he wishes to practise his passion later in life. His feedback was that the school was very fun and that he loved the activities that we proposed as well as the teachers - something that we always love to hear!



Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Angelica's Story: From Hi-London Student to Early Years Teacher

Angelica is an Italian university student studying to become an early years teacher, but don’t let that fool you- she is quite the cosmopolitan world traveller. At just 20, she has friends in France, Poland, and Australia and has spent three summers in London to visit family. Her ability to speak English makes this all possible. However, she does not credit this to the 13 years she spent studying English in school.
“We only learned academic English,” she said. “We studied grammar, learned vocabulary, but never learned how to actually speak, to interact. It was pretty useless considering I could not actually speak after all that.”

You might be wondering, “Well how did she learn to speak then?” All it took was spending three summers in London as a teenager. That does not quite tell the whole story though, as she spent her summer days travelling around the city with Hi-London, an intensive English immersion programme for all ages and ability levels.

With Hi-London, students spend a small amount of time in the classroom learning concepts appropriate to their level and for the rest of the time they practice these concepts in the real world. Students practice with each other, the teachers, workshop leaders and those they meet on their days out, making the entire city one big classroom. Angelica and her classmates became such good friends that they even talked in the months between her summers at Hi-London.

Not surprisingly, Angelica prefers the Hi-London approach over how English was taught at her schools in Italy. “I prefer Hi- London because it is more fun, and you learn more because you are interacting with your friends, and you want them to know what you are saying.”

The notion that the more fun the educational method is the more effective it is may seem too good to be true. However, Angelica swears that she learned more in three summers with Hi-London than she did in 13 years of studying English in school. To anyone looking to improve their English, Angelica has a message for you: “I would recommend Hi-London to everyone because you get to go around London and meet different people from all parts of the world.”

Angelica also appreciated her “classwork” which included performing in plays with her classmates and even going to the theatre to see a Shakespeare production. “I liked how the teachers had us put on plays. It was fun to be somebody else and also a great way to learn English.”


Angelica is glad she found Hi-London, as she formed many strong friendships and had a lot of fun. She is also looking forward to the cultural, academic and professional opportunities that fluency in English provides. She is thinking about studying in London and once a week teaches an introductory English class for nursery children: “I just really want to say thanks to Hi-London,” she said. “It has given me lots of opportunities.”

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Summer of Discoveries


Hi-London came into being 10 years ago, and since then, we have seen a steady improvement in the English level of the teen students who come to us. We are thrilled to see the investment that many families are making in English language tuition for their children and excited about the opportunities this offers for us to explore our weekly themes in greater depths with our students.


Understanding the World Around Us


This summer, we are covering issues like climate change, natural disasters, evolution and technology with our teen students. We have discovered how tectonic plate interactions shape landscapes, generate earthquakes and form volcanoes and how plant life has evolved over the years. If all this sounds rather too serious as summer holiday activities, rest assured! We have our fun too. We dodged the falling grocery items in an earthquake, and clung to each other as we took in the views above the treetops. Ali – we will remember you always on that treetop walk!
                                   


Tea is History


The English are famous for their tea drinking, whether it is the Tetley tea with milk and Digestive biscuits or afternoon tea. On a tea clipper and through a special tour on tea at a museum, Hi-London teens explored the history of tea and how the tea trade led to the growth of the British Empire. An afternoon tea at the Kensington Palace Orangerie topped off a session on tea for some lucky students. A French teen helped to reinforce the global nature of the drinks business when he realized that the fizzy drink he bought in London was in fact made in France!

The Darker Side of London Town



London is the birthplace of Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist and Romeo and Juliet. It also became the birthplace of murder mysteries created by our teen students. Inspired by a murder on the Victorian docks and with props bought at Camden market, they entertained us and made us proud. There was also the opportunity to see some gangster action on stage with the damage being done with pies and cream!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

May the Summer Sessions begin!

A Wild ​T​ime 


It is a truth commonly acknowledged that children love animals. So far this summer, the youngsters have already ​met​ a whole lot of wildlife. The Royal Parks are wonderful places for urban animal spotting. Rosaria's favourite ​was ​the squirrel; ​she ​was delighted when she got to touch one. Whilst drawing under a tree​,​ the children were lucky enough to have a glimpse ​of​ no less than 14 horses belonging to the Queen's guards​. ​Paolo was responsible for counting​,​ and there were indeed 14 of them!

The children have also had the chance to encounter and feed lamas, goats, rabbits and ducks at a farm in central London. Nadia, one of the youngest in the group, kept expressing her excitement by repeating the word "happy". Back in the classroom​,​ it was ​interesting to see​ the children link​ing​ animals to their favourite superheroes: Batman, Superman and Spiderman.

 Foodies on ​B​oard 


Spending most of the day together means that we soon get to know our students​'​ eating habits. Manuela, the oldest of the Teens​,​ could not hide her love for sushi; so much so that she acquired the nickname 'Sushi Girl'. A multicultural eater​, ​she also confessed her love for the English carrot cake​, ​which she pointed out can​'t ​be found in Italy. Exploring ​the ​food markets ​with such students is a joy​, with​ ​them ​gasp​ing​ ​with​ excitement at the diversity of ​the ​food ​found in ​London. Having said that, there is still one summer staple that is like no other after a long day of learning​ and ​exploring​ -​ ​a ​refreshing ice-cream ... Right, Bihar?

Show Time! 


With a focus on creativity and alternative ways of learning, Hi-London often employs the performing arts as a way of not only teaching English but also to motivate kids to learn. Role playing at a Victorian School, the children were encouraged to try on period costumes. One of the boys opted for a velvet red dress. It is fair to say that he was surprised when he looked in the mirror and realised that what he had on was not a magician's cloak!

With some background on theatre and its vocabulary provided by Hi-London teachers, the ​t​eens were well prepared to produce their own theatrical performance. ​They wrote their own script, shoppe​d in Camden Market for props and wardrobe items​, and​ ​performed their piece under the trees in Hyde Park. ​​W​ith accessories on hand such as a Sherlock Holmes hat and a pink dress, ​theirs was​ a murder plot worthy of an Oscar! Click here to watch the video on our Facebook page!