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We can do it - tips for migrants and locals

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Luke Prodromou & Vasiliki Sarantidou

Luke Prodromou & Vasiliki Sarantidou
State school teacher (VS); Teacher Trainer, ELT author (LP)
“Teaching refugees in a multi-cultural school: from despair to hope”



Luke Prodromou graduated from Bristol University in English with Greek and has an MA in Shakespeare Studies from Birmingham University; a Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language (Leeds University, with distinction) and a Ph.D (Nottingham University), published as English as a Lingua Franca: a Corpus-based analysis (Continuum, 2010). He is the author of numerous coursebooks, the award-winning handbook Dealing with Difficulties (with Lindsay Clandfield) and Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge First (Longman). Luke is a founder member of Disabled Access Friendly Campaign. He has been a plenary speaker at international ELT conferences, including IATEFL, UK. He has worked for the British Council, ESADE, Barcelona, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Thessaloniki, Pilgrims Canterbury, NILE, Bell Schools et al. He currently teaches ELT Methodology on the MA TESOL University of Sheffield International Faculty, City College, Thessaloniki.



Vasiliki Sarantidou graduated from the English Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and has taught English and French in the private sector. Since 1998 she has been an English teacher in the public sector. She wrote, with Luke Prodromou, the article: ‘A Journal of Teaching and Learning in a Multi-Cultural School in Thessaloniki’. (









Aims: In this interactive workshop, we explore with participants the challenges of teaching a class of refugees and immigrants to Greece in a multi-cultural state-school in Thessaloniki and the practical solutions we came up with.

Context: Our secondary school students were recent arrivals from a diverse range of countries and cultures (Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, China, Albania, Pakistan, Russia et al). No students we had ever taught before could have prepared us for this heterogeneity on so many levels: country, culture, first language, age, level of English, learning styles and a host of socio-economic factors. Some of our new students lived in the neighbourhood of the school with their parents while others were brought in to the city-centre on buses arranged by NGOs, already tired, sleepy and hungry. A number of our students had lost their families in war and were vulnerable and traumatized. The last thing on their mind, initially at least, was learning English! Methodology: There was an urgent need to find material and organize a syllabus adjusted to the unique characteristics of each class. We needed texts that would interest the majority of students, taking into consideration the rich diversity in the groups; the texts would be taught in a way that would make the diversity a pedagogic opportunity rather than a handicap. Lesson plans would draw not only on the students’ ability but also their personal aspirations and plans for the future. We aimed to teach each group as a whole not as disparate fragments, using an approach that would encourage them to learn together and from each other, and thus building their individual and collective self-esteem.

Conclusions: The importance of team-teaching, the role of evaluation, the constructive use of the mother-tongue and mother-culture and the quintessential importance of building a sense of ‘love and belonging’ (Maslow).


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