November 11, 2012

Why teach about Thanksgiving?




I teach EFL in Croatia, a small country in Europe. Should I include the holidays like Thanksgiving in my English lessons? A lot of teachers, parents and others who are interested in what children learn at school think it is a good idea, while others say that the children in Croatia have their holidays and don't need American holidays, too.

I teach my young students about a few holiday that belong to other cultures, Thanksgiving included, and my reasons are numerous:
  • Children should be aware of how similar and how different countries are, which holidays people celebrate and how. School is the best place for them to discover the world, learn how to ask the right questions and learn.
  • Holidays always tell stories that include history, geography, singing, dancing and acting, crafts. They are excellent opportunities for children to make sense of all the school subjects they usually learn separately and to show their talents.
  • Thanksgiving in particular is a holiday that can teach my students a lot of positive messages of how to see the world not only through how much of material things we have but what else we have to be thankful for.

This year I've made a selection of great websites with ideas for the use in the classroom. I am going to use them with different groups of students I teach:

- an activity book with pages for colouring , word search, writing a poem, even doing some Maths :)

- a very simple (and simplified as a story) play for a group of students; seems interesting to combine it  creating some finger puppets of the characters or simplified paper costumes;  or simply as a reading activity after watching a video about Thanksgiving;


- a great listening and reading activity, with a timeline of events, great pictures, a lot of useful information about history and geography, presented in a very interesting way, e.g. The Mayflower virtually, Daily Life at the time of the first Thanksgiving, etc.

- a funny fill-in activity.

I have discovered some great resources:
I am thankful to the people who created these materials and shared them with students and teachers.





June 2, 2012

Talking Cultures Project


The last day of this school year is approaching and it is time to think about what went well and what could have been done better, the lessons that worked and the lessons to be improved if I want to use them again. Talking Cultures Project is one of the projects I want to continue next school year.

Talking Cultures is an international online project which celebrates cultural differences. It is a project for students in grades 7 and 8 of primary school, organized by British Council,. This school year it has had participant classes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Russia and Ukraine, divided into 9 clusters, with one class representing every country in every cluster. My students are in cluster 7, with classes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine and we work on our wiki 

British Council created a wiki for every cluster. A wiki is a special online platform designed for students to upload their work and share it with partners. It is a safe place on the Internet, only members can read and edit it.  The teachers are administrators of the wiki and the students are writers. They edit the pages together, uploading their writing, photos, video and audio files. The students can edit only their own project pages but can follow and comment on the work of all the partners on the wiki, which is an excellent way to learn about a new culture.
At the beginning of the school year the teachers were offered the Teachers’ Toolkit, a set of nine lesson plans, with a lot of ideas and materials, to use or adapt. Every teacher adapts the lessons, deals with all new vocabulary and structures that appear. After the lessons at school, we add a digital part, different web 2.0 tools to upload students’ writing, discussions, polls, pictures, widgets, audio files and all other different ways we use to share our ideas with partners.

The topics of all nine lessons are very appropriate for the age and language level of the students, but also so general that they can be used with students of all age and language level groups:
Lesson 1: Class Biography
Lesson 2: Our Country
Lesson 3: Food
Lesson 4: Famous People
Lesson 5: Festivals
Lesson 6: Music
Lesson 7: Holidays
Lesson 8: Sports
Lesson 9: Farewell

The work on the project is benefitting for the students in a number of different ways. Firstly, students learn to share, to collaborate and to think critically and decide on the material to present to the partners and share on the internet.
With the use of the wiki, learning does not stop with the end of the lesson at school. Students access the lessons in their own free time and do the tasks on the wiki. That makes them more autonomous in their learning. They are very proud of their work because it stays on display forever. A very important part is also reading and commenting on other groups’ work, which teaches the students to be positive, tolerant and polite.

Working on the project I have noticed a few problems, too. The first problem I had to deal with were privacy settings of the wiki. Because of the young age of the students, the organizers thought it was the best idea to set the wiki completely private, so that only the members can see any content on it. That sounds right, but in fact all parents, other teachers or students from our school would have to become members in order to see our work. The other problem was that all our partners used the wiki to upload the final versions of their presentations on various topics. I thought we needed to use one more advantage of the wiki – collaborating on various stages of the tasks. The problem was we did not want to be the only ones showing their work in progress.

The way to solve the problems for me seemed to create another wiki, for my students only. I set the privacy settings a bit differently – everybody can see the content, but cannot communicate with students or edit the wiki.
Our classwiki,  is safe, too, and it offers one more opportunity for learning for the students – they have learned about the responsible use of the internet: they never upload portrait photos, display their full names or write personal information. The use of our own wiki helps us in two ways: it allows us to use the wiki not only to share our work on the internet but also to work collaboratively outside the classroom. We have all our work on the internet and continue working on the tasks between the lessons at school. There is always a lot of work in progress on our wiki. Students add their part when they can, correct one another and help or finish their friends’ work if they think they have a better idea. We also show our work to parents and other teachers. Our two wikis seem now the perfect way to finish all the work on time and display its best version for our partners to see and comment.
Discussing different aspects of Croatian culture and everyday life, comparing them with British culture, sharing the information with students from different countries and learning about their different cultures are the main aims of “Talking Cultures”, but there are other equally valuable advantages for my students:
  • they use English outside the classroom and understand its importance in an authentic communication with peers,
  • they have become more confident in the use of the language,
  • they have become much more confident and responsible in the use of the internet.

This project is making it all possible and my students can’t wait for next school year. They are looking forward to new topics and the teachers are already working on the list. 




May 5, 2012

Love from the World

Love from the World is not a project with a primarily language learning aim but I didn't hesitate for a moment to take part in it as soon as I first heard about Sun Ho's beautiful idea to ask teachers from around the world to help students create the flags of their countries and send photos to her, and send the flags in the post to her Singapore address.
 I was very happy to see my students as excited about it as I was. Two of my students, Maja and Klaudia (13), painted the flag of Croatia on a piece of cotton cloth of given dimensions. I took a photo of them with the flag and sent the flag to Sun Ho.
I loved the idea behind the project: Sun Ho is going to sew all the pieces together into a patchwork. I can't wait to see it. It is also great to see the gallery of photos on the website of the project.

This project teaches children love and respect for other people and countries and gives them the opportunity to meet children from around the world and learn about their countries. If they use English language in the process, that's only one more reason to choose to be part of it :) 

March 28, 2012

Easter baskets for irregular verbs

This is the lesson I created this morning, for a group of 11 year olds, to be used in a classroom without a computer, three days before our Easter break.
I was very happy because my students loved it and I could see they were learning and having fun.

The aim of the lesson was to revise a set of ten irregular verbs.

I brought a number of paper sheets in various colours and a pair of scissors and started by cutting out egg shapes. My students immediately guessed they were Easter eggs and joined me. I distributed the paper stripes to be folded and cut. They exchanged eggs because they all wanted the eggs in all colours.

While cutting, we talked about the story we read in the course book. When we mentioned an irregular verb, I wrote it on the blackboard. I chose to write only the ten irregular verbs I wanted to focus on.

I suggested writing the verbs on the eggs. We wrote the simple past form, too – on the other side. Now they could check if they remembered all the irregular forms.

I had more paper. The sheets were square – shaped. I challenged the students to play a game and win a prize, a paper basket to keep the eggs. I saw this beautiful paper basket used in a lesson on http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/easter.html where I also found the link to the instructions on how to make a basket: http://www.wipapercouncil.org/origami.htm

The task was:

1 Ask me a question in the past, using the verb on the egg I pick from your desk.
2 Listen to my answer (Yes, I did / No, I didn't; Yes, I was/No, I wasn't)
3 Make a sentence about what you have learnt (Ms Bozinovic … /The teacher didn't )

While my students were making their questions and sentences, I was quickly making the baskets and giving them their prize. After I'd made a few, some stronger students joined me in making the baskets for friends. Then they asked and answered the questions in pairs and I only monitored.

As a follow-up activity the students wrote five interesting sentences they remembered.

They took the baskets and eggs home with the task to decorate the eggs and revise the verbs,
and to add a handle to the basket ( a piece of thread, wire, a straw, or whatever they find appropriate).
The optional task was to use the verbs to tell a short story.

At the beginning of our next lesson I expect some stronger students to share their stories and the weaker students to show that they can use the past form in single sentences. I am sure they will all want to show me the decorations on the eggs in their beautiful baskets and all kinds of handles.

March 21, 2012

Video interviews - what a treat!

It's been a busy day. I had to miss some events at the conference in Glasgow. The consolation: there are recordings to be watched on a quieter day, there are reports written by four roving reporters and a whole group of registered bloggers. There is no reason to be sad.

What I can't miss is the forum.The forums are very lively. I introduced myself in Young Learners and Teens Forum and already met people enthusiastic about international projects.

The choice of today's videos is also great. The list of people interviewed today is impressive:
Vicki Hollett
Lindsey Clanfield & Luke Meddings
Associates from around the world
Michael Carrier
Penny Ur
Jeremy Harmer
Robert Hill
Associates from France, Japan and Bulgaria
Hornby scholars from Venezuela, Ethiopia, Nigeria from Venezuela, Yemen and Nigeria
Interview with associates: Patricia Rose (the Netherlands), Simon Gillett (Korea) and Dimitrios Primalis (Greece)
Scott Thornbury
Hornby scholars: Awgichew Arega and Getachew Melaku Yitbarek (Ethiopia)
David Graddol
Catherine Walter
Meet the Online Team with Marion
Russel Stannard
David Heathfield
Andrew Hockley

Do you know which interview I saw first? Of course, Marion and the Online Team, the people who have been making this all possible for teachers from all over the world for six years now. Then I had to see a few more videos... :)

March 20, 2012

Glasgow Online Forums

Before a conference starts, interested teachers go through the Conference Programme checking day by day: plenary sessions, workshops, poster exhibitions, events… The most difficult but also the most interesting first activity is to choose the best, the most interesting ones.

Attending a conference online makes the process much easier: the choice is between Live Sessions and the recordings, and you don't think about what you can miss but about what you can follow from home. The website of the conference, if prepared and organised as well as Glasgow Online is an essential part of the conference, even for those attending some f2f sessions, because it helps them do what was until recently impossible – be everywhere at the same time!

Watch live streaming video from iateflonline at livestream.com


The omnipresence of the conference - goers is a talent we wish from a conference website and Glasgow Online gives it abundantly: if I am at work, I follow the conference events during breaks or at home in the evening. I guess I am one of many already used to getting information on demand.

The real gem of Glasgow Online is The Forum. All SIGs are represented and the moderators in all Special Interest Areas help participants feel at home. Teachers introduce themselves, presenters give additional info about presentations, young and less experienced teachers learn from more experienced teachers and teacher trainers who share and teach about the importance of sharing in education. Old friends meet again and new friendships are born every moment, day and night – forums opened before the official start of the conference and will stay open after all f2f participants have already gone home.

IATEFL Glasgow Conference Begins!

It’s the first day of the 46th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Glasgow, Scotland, which lasts 19th – 23rd March, and I am not in Glasgow, but following the online edition.

This is my first post as a Glasgow Online Registered Blogger. I have been accepted to be a registered blogger and so I can have the conference badge embedded in the sidebar of my blog.

By clicking on the badge you can access Glasgow Online, where you can find the latest news about and from the conference, watch the sessions and interviews, live or recorded, see the images shared on Flickr, find all the sessions organised by date and the names of the presenters.

Glasgow Online seems an ordinary web site with all the useful information, but it is not just that. For all of us following the conference from all over the world, Forums on Glasgow Online are the place to meet and share ideas with colleagues. It is the first day and there are already hundreds of posts. Old friends and first-time participants share ideas on teaching, learning, topics specific for various IATEFL Special Interest Areas, and the conference itself.

Live Channel is already active. Today, all online participants could watch and comment in live chat a series of very interesting interviews with Eric Baber, Chia Suan, Neil Ballantyne, Nik Peachey, Gavin Dudney, Ilnur Minkhmetov, Viktoria Ostankova, Sirin Soyoz, Adam Simpson and Jamie Kadie. Tomorrow, there are the plenary session with Adrian Underhill from 9.00 a.m. and British Council Signature Event: Global Primary ELT Issues from 17.35. For those who won’t be able to watch them live, there will be the recordings, of course.

Plenty of learning and fun for someone who “isn’t attending the conference this year” :)))

March 6, 2012

Getting ready for my second TeachMeet

Last Saturday I took part in a professional development online session which was really special – TeachMeetInt'l.A group of teachers from different countries and continents, 24 of them presenters from 17 countries, met in an Adobe Connect Pro Meeting Room to share and listen to three-minute presentations about various educational topics. The moderators of the event, English teachers Arjana Blazic from Croatia, and Bart Verswijvel from Belgium talked to the participants between the presentations and introduced the presenters. Sonja Lusic Radosevic, a Math teacher and ICT expert from Croatia and Hrvoje Lisac, a tech guy from CARNet, Croatian Academic and Research Network, which made the organization of the event in Adobe Connect Pro possible and free, helped the participants with uploading the presentations and all technical issues.

I was very proud to be one of the presenters. It was my first three-minute presentation. It felt great to share my work with colleagues. The biggest challenge was to fit all I wanted to say in only three minutes, but Bart was merciless. He showed me the stopwatch, a mild warning to remind me of the time limit, and after a few seconds, his hilarious monster bell, a sign I had to stop talking. I felt very happy because I managed to say everything I wanted.

This is my presentation about how and why I use wikis with my students:

TeachMeet is a kind of professional development event I would recommend to every teacher. All you need is a computer with the Internet connection, a headset and web camera, and an idea you want to share with other teachers. What you get is meeting colleagues, sharing ideas, discussing various relevant topics, all in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Next Saturday there is TeachMeetRegional: teachers from Croatia and the region meet and the presentations are in Croatian. This time there aren't so many teachers who applied to present. I wouldn’t miss for it the world and I hope some more teachers join us for one of the future editions of TeachMeet – International or Regional.

February 12, 2012

Writing poetry to reflect on learning

To reflect on what they have learnt during the lesson, my students sometimes spend the last part of the lesson writing a short poem, the cinquin.

The cinquin consists of five lines which don't rhyme. I first explain how to write each line:



  • name the subject (usually one noun)

  • describe the subject in two words (two adjectives)

  • three verbs that describe actions related to the subject

  • a phrase consisting of four words that express the student's feeling about the subject

  • one word which is a synonym for the subject and summarizes once again the topic

The form of the poem looks simple but to write a good cinquin you have to reflect and analyze critically what you have learnt and how you feel about it. To create your poem, you go throughthe notes, think about them and search for the right words – you only need a few of the most important.

I usually do the activity in pairs. First, each student works on his or her version for approximately five minutes, then they share their poems with partners. In pairs, they talk about their creations, discuss the reasons for using different words and create together one poem, using the parts of the poems they first had. When they finish the poems, they share them with the group.

This is a cinquin I wrote about British Council’s Bogathon, a very interesting event that took most of my free time during last four weeks. Just like my students during the last part of the lesson, I tried to express my thoughts and feelings about this event. This cinquin was born in the first hour of the last day of Blogathon:


Blogathon
Creative, up-to-date
reading, writing, reflecting.
Great Teachers All Win.
Sharing.

February 3, 2012

Keen on professional development ? Play this game!

There are games for all possible situations in the life and for all kinds of players. People gamify their reality for all sorts of reasons: for the feeling of happiness games give , intrinsic reward, a purpose… Why not play a game and work on our professional development?





“The School“ is a game to help encourage continuing professional development for EFL teachers and it offers some serious possibilities for all aspects of efficient professional development.

The author, Paul Braddock, organized the contents of the game in five “Rooms“, plus the Staffroom and the Resources room. You start in Room 1 and win points going through a series of real-life and online challenges and gain access to new classrooms and new challenges. Just as all other games, this game has a goal: to work your way through all the rooms in one academic year and win the respect of your colleagues.

The resources room is a room where you find a lot of useful tools for teachers to use and learn about. Of course, you gain points for adding to the collection. The Staffroom is a place where you find regularly updated links to relevant articles, discussions, blog posts – every teacher's dream-come-true staffroom.

The registration is free. I like the goal and the rules. My plan is to join and I hope to collaborate with some of you in some projects, webinars, peer observation tasks and other challenges of the game.

February 2, 2012

My first QuizStar quiz

I've tried a new online tool for creating quizzes and tests - http://quizstar.4teachers.org/

QuizStar is a free site for teachers by teachers. You can register as a teacher or student. Teachers can create classes and assign them quizzes. Classes can be public or private, teachers can register their students or students can register themselves to take quizzes. If your class is private, you have to accept every student in it, if it is public, everybody can enrol. The site offers the teacher the possibility to view every student’s performance, to edit the quizzes and to import other teachers' quizzes with their permission.

When you register, everything is simple. You click on Class Manager icon to create a class. I decided to call my first class after the name of my school, Hribar 7, so that students can find it easily. I left it public. My students will register to take the quiz. The quota is 25 students.

In Quiz Manager I created a new quiz. It is done by filling in forms. The questions can be multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions. In my first attempt I did not add any media or hints with the questions. I might edit the quiz later.

The title of my quiz is “Taking a Break“, because it tests some vocabulary about holidays. My students will register and search my name, the name of the class or the title of the quiz to take it.
Let's see if they like it.

February 1, 2012

ProProfs Quizzes for students

My students often say that everything online looks better than on paper, even tests. That's why I started writing online quizzes and tests. We still write paper tests, of course, but a quiz from time to time is a nice change. There are a lot of free and easy to use online quiz creators and one of them is ProProfs (http://www.proprofs.com/)

You need to register to create a scored or a personality quiz.
A scored quiz can be one of various different types:
- Multiple choice
- Checkboxes
- True/false
- Fill in the blanks
- Essay type
- Matching
You can include media or other supplementary teaching material and import questions from other quizzes.

Once created, your quiz can be embedded, you can link to it , email it or just print it and use the paper version.

The free version of the account gives you 10 reports of your students' attempts, including time taken and their score. If you want more reports stored for you, you can always upgrade your account.

I created this simple quiz last year. Now I think about editing it to use with a new group of students. It is very simple, with the purpose to check if the students have acquired some basic vocabulary before going on with the topic. If you like quizzes, you can take it:




After you finish the quiz, you can print a certificate with your name and score, or share it on facebook or twitter. Students like it:)

Language acuisition is a form od ecsasy

Two days ago I listened to Stephen Krashen's live presentations in Adobe Connect. Mr Krashen is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of California. He is best known for his theory of second language acquisition and as the co-inventor of the Natural Approach to foreign language teaching.

The first presentation, “The Comprehension Hypothesis vs. The Skill-Building Hypothesis: Why accept a delayed gratification when the gratification never comes?“, was very interesting.

The two ideas are quite opposite. According to the skill-building hypothesis, you learn about the language and practice grammar and vocabulary. Hard work and discipline pay off after some time.
Stephen Krashen claims that we acquire language when we understand it. His suggestion for learning a second language is: relax, listen to stories, read good books, the result of all the comprehensible input is learning the language. Learning is a pleasant experience.

He added some proof in the form of research results which show that in tests related to communication, comprehensive approach gives better results, in grammar tests, the results are equal or better. His papers can be found on his website: www.sdkrashen.com

Mr Krashen talked more about reading and his speech was music to my ears. Reading is the source of our reading and writing ability, vocabulary, spelling and grammar competence, he said. The most powerful form is free voluntary reading.

A lot of food for thought.

January 27, 2012

Gamifying class management

I love webinars – learning and meeting colleagues from the comfort of my study, at odd hours sometimes, but with everyone in a good mood, is one of my favourite forms of professional development.

I attended one earlier this evening. Kyle Mawer, one of the authors of “Digital Play“, the book I'd recommend to every EFL teacher, talked about digital games in the classroom. I have already bookmarked some sites to check over the weekend and find those that work for my students.

During the speech K. Mawer once mentioned Class Dojo describing it as “gamifying class management“. That can't be wrong, I thought.

I registered as a teacher on Class Dojo and started a class. The teacher adds students and their names come with avatar icons, there is no need for real pictures. The second step is deciding on what to reward in the students' behavior. Participation, creativity, helping others are some icons for positive behaviour, and you can add more. Negative behaviour is being late, interrupting, disrespect, no homework, or whatever else the teacher adds.
If you display the in-class view, you can see all class in one screen. You should display the page on a whiteboard, projector or laptop and give or take points to students during the lesson. The teacher's smartphone, tablet or iPod touch can be used as remote control to award points from anywhere.
The page also shows report cards and all behaviour reports can be emailed to parents or printed.

Cool, isn't it?

January 26, 2012

Playing in the virtual sandbox

When we create a blog or a wiki for students, our aim is to help them learn outside the classroom and become more independent in learning: we add useful links to practice grammar, consult a dictionary, improve skills. Students do the assignments and then they look for some online fun.

I think it is a good idea to offer some fun activities that in students' eyes don't look like lessons, but being in English and appropriate for their age and level, help them improve their English without noticing it.

These are some fun activities I offered on a class wiki:

Free Rice – you play a vocabulary game and for every answer you get right, ten grains of rice are donated to help end hunger. It is easy to add their banner to spread the word about the programme and allow the students an easy access.

Draw a Stickman! – you draw a character who interacts with you to help you tell his story.

Build Your Wild Self – Animal lovers can add some animal parts to their human portrait and learn about the animals in the process.
I mentioned the fun page to the students. Now I listen carefully to their comments and add a new activity from time to time.

January 22, 2012

Sharing with other teachers

Teachers who care find various ways to share. One of them is Blogathon, others are social networks, conferences, real life and online events. I have recently found out about TeachMeet sessions.

There are no real-life TeachMeet events in Croatia or in the region, so I didn't know much about that way of professional development until December, when a group of teachers started online editions of TeachMeet Int'l, in English, and TeachMeet Regional, in Croatian.

TeachMeet is an informal professional development event during which teachers tell other teachers about their projects, ideas that worked or web 2.0 tools they use in their teaching. They do it in the form of three-minute presentations. Moderators invite presenters one by one. Presenters turn on their web camera and microphone, control the previously uploaded slides and present in voice. The teachers who haven't signed up to present just join to listen, like you join any other webinar, following the link.

I listened to the first international edition held on December 17 and was fascinated. There were 22 speakers from 15 countries. All presentations were very interesting. You can read about it on http://teachmeetinternational.wikispaces.com/

The second edition is scheduled for March 3. I have signed up to present this time and I'm looking forward to it. “There is no delight in owning anything unshared“, I read in a message advertising a TeachMeet event in the UK and I can't agree more with the anonymous author.

January 21, 2012

The Technology Integration Matrix

I have been browsing The Technology Integration Matrix http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/matrix.php).

I came across the matrix during “Digital Tools in the Classroom“ TESOL EVO professional development course, where my task was to reflect upon where I am and where I would like to be according to my educational context.

The matrix, originally created to help support the integration of technology in schools in Florida, associates the characteristics of meaningful learning environments with the levels of technology integration.

I think my use of digital tools in the classroom is on Adoption and Adaptation levels, although I would like to find myself more in Infusion and Adaptation cells in the future. My students are actively engaged and collaborate, but I'd like to help them with more constructive learning, doing authentic tasks and integrating school assignments into their lives outside school.

I believe the times we live in and teaching “digital natives“ are good reasons for teaching with the help of technology, but reflecting, discussing and learning with and from peers, help us make the most of it.

So, where do you see yourself in the matrix?

January 19, 2012

Creative Writing Tools - Scholastic Story Starter


I've explored Scholastic Story Starter

This tool seems like an interesting tool to try with my 11-14 year-old girls and boys learning English as a foreign language, to practice writing in a creative and fun way.

The task comes in four levels: K-1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4-6th. You choose a level and start the adventure: you find yourself in front of a strange looking machine with four wheels you can spin with a click of one of four buttons or you can decide to click a big button which causes all parts of the machine to spin at the same time It looks quite amusing and game-like.

Every time you click you choose one part of your writing task:



  • Form ( Write a postcard/ letter/ invitation/ to-do list,… Describe.., Write a funny/horror/.. story …)

  • An adjective describing the main character (brainy, nerdy, young, old, stubborn, …)

  • The main character of your story (movie star, rock star, dentist, weasel, gorilla, …)

  • A part of the plot – a dependent clause (…. who writes murals, … who ages 20 years in one day, …)

I had a lot of fun spinning the wheel over and over and these are some tasks I got for level 4.6:



  • Write a to-do list for a know-it-all president who explores a newly discovered planet

  • Write a horror story about a greedy president who discovers she has superpowers

  • Write a postcard from an unpopular vampire bat who ignores orchestras
    Write a brief biography of an old rock star who hitchhikes cross-country


What I liked about the tool:



  1. a lot of creative ideas for writing

  2. visually attractive for students

  3. activity can be done in the computer lab but also printed or with one computer and a projector

  4. activity can be done in different ways, the tool gives only the idea and the template for writing and allows the teacher a lot of space for turning it into a lesson

  5. if written on the given templates, stories can be printed and look very nice because students can use drawing tools, too

  6. the tool is free.


Possible problem I've noticed:
- stories can't be linked to or embedded, only printed.

January 17, 2012

Let Me Introduce Myself - Ms Blogathon Newbie

My first post in British Council's Blogathon 2012:

The first thing to do in a new company is to introduce oneself. That's what we do in the classroom, introductions are the topic we use at the beginning of every new course with new students. We are also asked to introduce ourselves during various professional development courses we attend or groups of teachers we join.

I have decided to share with you two of my introductions in TESOL professional development courses, which, in my opinion, could be successfully used with students. Both involve the use of learning technologies, images and a bit of writing and I enjoyed not only creating them, but also reading other people's introductions, too. Also, I got a lot of comments, which gives me the idea that the introductions like these can be used as a starting point for other activities in the classroom, too.

BigHugeLabs and My origins : http://flic.kr/p/7xLNTg

I am a big fan of photography and I use Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/) a lot. Playing with your own photographs is great fun, too. To make My Origins photo I used Mosaic Maker option (http://bighugelabs.com/mosaic.php ). To complete my introduction and illustrate the photo, in “Images4Education“ group last year, I added a little poem :

I'm from the blue sky
and the blue sea:
the line between them is me.
I'm from the white stone
of the mountains and streets.
I wear a perfume of
the lemon blossom and roses
from my mum's garden.
When I add to it
some basil, or thyme or rosemary,
I just smile
and call my mother.

My 3,2,1 Animoto Introduction: http://animoto.com/play/UOvL8HSAOmxfl6RDVTtlXg

This year I am participating in TESOL EVO again and I created a 3,2,1 Introduction for “Digital Storytelling4Kids“ group. It is an Animoto video. Animoto (http://animoto.com/ ) is a free tool which combines photos, text and music. The tool is free for creating 30-second videos, but there is an Edu option, which gives educators full-length video creation for free. I've already tried it with my students and they loved it, too.

I hope you have learnt more about me through this post and perhaps got an idea how to use one of the tools I suggested to create an introduction or to ask your students to introduce themselves in a different way.

January 9, 2012

Taking part in the TeachingEnglish Blogathon 2012

I've just registered for my first blogathon, the blogging marathon that will take place on the TeachingEnglish site.

I got the information about it from British Council Croatia and read about how to take part on their site. I got interested for two reasons:



  1. the winner gets an all expenses paid trip to Glasgow to attend the IATEFL teachers' conference in March

  2. even if I don't win, it helps a lot with my New Year's resolution to blog more regularly.


My task is to write posts from 16 January until 12 February, about the topics like



  • dealing with disruptive students,

  • keeping teacher talking time down, so students speak more than we do,

  • networking with colleagues nationally or internationally,

  • some other topics related to teaching. Of course, my posts should be interesting to other teachers.

I've read carefully the tips for writing, which advise:



  • original content,

  • friendly and informal style,

  • posts which are quite short, not longer than 250 words,

  • tagging posts so other participants could find them, read and comment ,

  • attractive titles,

  • referencing any external sources,

  • bullets and paragraphs to make posts readable,

  • checking out blogs of other participants to comment on their posts.

I quite like the idea of writing for a period of time with a group colleagues as readers in mind, who will check out my blog from time to time (at least I hope so!).


I guess I'm ready for this blogging adventure.

January 4, 2012

Talking widgets

A tweet by a teacher and teacher trainer from Greece I respect very much, Marisa Constantinides, made me want to check the web page she mentioned as a good place to use to practice listening, http://www.acapela-group.com/index.html. I clicked on “Demos and More“ to see what kind of help in teaching listening they offer.

There is a number of possibilities for the use of this site. There is no price list but I didn't get the impression the services are expensive. If I created a lot of material, I'm sure I would send them an email explaining my needs, because what they offer sounds very interesting: help for visually impaired users, easy vocalization of newspapers and other materials, talking stories, “word wizard“, games... I'm sure even teachers who create a lot of materials for listening practice can use this service well, but I'm not one of them: I use a lot of listening exercises that come with the course books and also a lot of free listening materials from the Internet, so I haven't paid for creating my listening materials so far.

What I found useful was a talking widget. When I needed voice for my online communication with students, I have so far used only Voki and liked it a lot. While checking this site, I noticed a possibility of creating a talking widget and I decided to try it.

Creating a talking widget is very easy: there is a space for your text and I typed the text I wanted my students to hear. Then I chose the language and voice with one click of my mouse – English, Lucy, UK. All I had to do next was to choose the colours and the size for my widget and get the embed code.

My talking widget


talking widget by Acapela Group




I quite liked the widget: it took me only a few minutes to embed it, the sound is good, it looks nice on the page, and it is a lot more attractive way to post a message to students than a written note.

When I compare it to Voki, it is much simpler because there is no creation of the avatar, which can be good and bad, depending on how much time you have and how attractive you need your widget to be. Voki also gives you the opportunity to record your own voice, which is a nice feature and makes the widget more personal, not to speak about endless possibilities of its use as a speaking exercise, when students record their messages.

My Voki






An example of a Voki a student created






To sum up, I liked the simplicity and quality of this talking widget, but I immediately remembered the amount of language, computer skills and fun involved in the creation of Voki. I missed it here. In the part where these two can be used to achieve the same goal, they remain very different and both with a lot of possibilities for creative use in language learning.