Blogathon 2013


4 February 2013 
On the first day of Blogathon 2013

Dear colleagues, blogathon runners, 

It's a great pleasure to be part of this unique event for the second time. The feeling is just the same as the first time: the wish to read and to write at the same time.

My name is Sanja and I am  an EFL teacher from Croatia. In my teaching I believe in creating the atmosphere of fun, challenge, making my students think critically about what they learn and teaching them not only English but positive values of life through English.

For me, Blogathon is the place where teachers from different countries write to reflect on their teaching, share ideas to improve it and learn together because they are passionate about teaching and learning . It seems like a great place to be and I am honoured to be one of the participants.

Looking forward to a lot of learning and sharing,

Sanja


4 February 2013
A Day 1 Ice-Breaker

All good teachers have some secrets of their success and they often share the routines to start a lesson, various activities and approaches, classroom management tips.  Other teachers listen carefully, take notes, ask questions, buy books.  
All the tips and books have helped me accumulate a number of practical ideas, with the aim to use them some day. The interesting thing is that I'd always like to do things differently, even the best ideas need to be adjusted.
Thinking about it has given me much more. I've come to the conclusion that the only way to make your lessons work is to tailor them to your own unique teacher personality and style.

 I am currently teaching young students and I believe that entering the classroom full of the right kind of energy to create the right cheerful but working atmosphere, and starting a carefully planned but spontaneous-looking first language activity are two key ingredients of the success of my lessons with them. The details of the activity are not important, my students recognize and respond to the energy and the atmosphere – it is English time in their Croatian class.
Who knows if other teachers feel anything like this?
5 February 2013
The seriousness of a child at play

I've recently come across this quote: “Man is the most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.- Heraclitus“

I stopped to think about it. The picture of a child at play was powerful – a motivated child doing his or her best to achieve a goal. It is what I aim to achieve in my foreign language class.
In my opinion, it is only natural to teach young learners a foreign language by creating an atmosphere of fun and play. The seriousness the teacher needs to plan the lessons mustn't be obvious, it's not the part the learners must be aware of.
I expect my young learners to enjoy the lesson, to use the language first without much time to stop and think. Later, during a break from a lot of speaking and moving around, I give them some quieter individual tasks and they sit and think and put the new pieces of information into the old bag of already acquired language. Hopefully, they start calling  the new chunks of language and the new skills their own. That's the goal achieved.

 This is the way I prepare lessons for my 10 year old students: I present, we practise and I'm hoping to hear their production. In my opinion, the plan works even with big classes of 20-25 students that I have in my school, but I'd love to hear from other teachers about their experience and their ways.
6 February 2013:
Why Blogathon Rocks

Reading my colleagues' blogs is a special treat at the end of the day, a special kind of professional development.
Teachers taking part in this blogathon write about a number of topics, all very interesting to me:
  •  the use of technology
  • classroom management
  •  activities that worked in their classrooms
  • teaching grammar and language skills
  •  professional development
  •  the role of the teacher in the society.

 Different approaches to writing, different teaching situations described in the posts, and a large number of posts, make me, like all other participants, I guess, choose a number of posts to read more carefully and comment. In our comments we usually ask the blogger for clarifications, agree or disagree.
What I specially like about this kind of communication between teachers is that it includes a lot of sharing, learning with and from colleagues. There is a great atmosphere of friendship, positive energy, support and blogathon does not look like a competition at all.
That's why Blogathon rocks! 

6 February 2013
Online safety for Young Learners 

Using the Internet for teaching young learners can be very rewarding, and I do it a lot.
However, there is an issue of keeping young students safe online, which the teacher must address before planning the activities. These are the steps that I have thought so far to take:
  • When working online, students use only first names and don't post any portrait photos.
  • I emphasize the importance of keeping the information about their passwords to themselves.
  • I carefully choose websites to use, only those safe for kids.
  • I teach students to evaluate pages they visit when looking for information.
  • I respect copyright and teach about copyright and plagiarism.
  • I teach about cyberbullying and what to do if it happens.
  • I involve parents. There are parent permission forms to be signed and I encourage them to take interest in their children's work.
I have a nice collection of websites with materials suitable for lessons on digital citizenship, safety, bullying, illegal downloads and similar. I have recently added two new sites to the list: BrainPOPJr  and Common Sense Media.
I'd love to hear from other YL teachers about their experience and their thoughts about kids using the internet.


7 February 2013
Quizzing Tips

Earlier this evening I participated in a very interesting webinar organised as part of  TESOL EVO course, “Becoming a Webhead"“, a great free online course for teachers. The webinar was about Online Testing Tools, with a presentation by Ms Arjana Blazic, a teacher from Croatia.


All kinds of test creators were mentioned and discussed. One very simple tool got as much attention as the most sophisticated ones - http://www.discoveryeducation.com/free-puzzlemaker/


Everybody loved it because it offers a number of different puzzles like word searches, letter tiles, hidden messages, cryptograms etc. You can use it without registration, for free, in no time. The only problem is you can't embed your puzzles or link to them, you must print them.

It was also great to hear more details and see some examples of the use of the tools I used and wrote about in my blog last year - Quizlet, Quizstar, proprofs.com.

Also, I took notes about a few new tools which looked interesting for my students and I'll write about them as soon as I try them.
These quiz creators are very easy to use and free. Students like taking the quizzes and can be asked to create them, too. It is an interesting and fun way of revising vocabulary in the classroom, isn't it?

 8 February 2013
It's not such a big crime if I take it for educational purposes


I listened to a colleague give a presentation  this afternoon. I quite liked the topic. There were some fresh ideas in it,  but one thing spoilt all the hard work. Or, perhaps, you'll disagree.
What made it difficult for me to focus on the topic were the pictures. The pictures were great: landmarks, animals, people, places…. – all taken who knows where from. Even comics and pages scanned from picture books.
The photos, comics, pages of picture books were given a new use and they were used really nicely, but without any credit to the original authors.
Not many people seemed to think about it, most teachers were focused on the new uses for old things. Then somebody asked about copyright and I have been thinking about the presenter's answer since that moment. I can't get it out of my head. She said: “I know the rules, but this is for educational purposes. It's not such a big crime if you do it for educational purposes, is it?“
“A crime is a crime,“ I thought.
Am I taking things too seriously?

9 February 2013
Create, Share, Care
Creating educational materials is a very efficient way to raise the quality of lessons, motivate students, have better results and more fun in the classroom. The Internet helps a lot in many ways: teachers can find a lot of free tools for creating materials, photos and other pictures, sounds and music, tutorials for teachers. Teachers not only use them but also teach students to use some in their learning and doing homework.
Before we start using the Internet and give our students the first task, there is a lesson to be learned about the rules of respecting and using other people's property on the Internet. I find http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Sharing_Creative_Works_23, the slideshow explaining Creative Commons licensing very useful, both as a reminder for teachers and to use with students because the slides explain the rules in a way even children can understand.
When I need photos to use in the classroom, I usually use Flickr . I am a member of a few groups of teachers on Flickr and I share my photos there, too. I particularly recommend http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/.
I haven't used sounds to accompany the exercises  yet, but I am thinking about that possibility. I have learned about  http://www.soundzabound.com/, a royalty free music library and I am going to check it soon.
I'd love to hear about other blogathon runners experience with creating and sharing on the Internet.
10 February 2013
One Word
Simple. You'll see one word at the top of the following screen.
You have sixty seconds to write about it.
Click go and the page will load with the cursor in place.
Don't think. Just write.
This is the text you see on http://oneword.com/.  When you log in and click on Go
button, you can see one word on the page and some writing space.
You start writing. You can see a line getting blue at the bottom of the page,  as your 60 minutes are passing and finally there is a message to warn you that your time is up. You can finish your last sentence and submit the story.
After you submit your story, you can see the page with your word on top and all the submitted entries. There aren't two similar stories. I had fun reading what ideas different people had come up with the same word in mind.
I think I'll try it a few more times until I figure out the best way to use it with students. Dear blogathon runners, if you decide to play with One Word and think of an idea how to use it in the classroom, please write your idea in the comments.
11 February 2013 
Only a Game

While browsing a site about online safety, I found this idea for a short play to do with students: http://kidsmart.org.uk/teachers/KS2/drama.aspx. The staging of a play seemed a very interesting activity to try as part of language lessons: there is  the use of authentic language, creativity, smart use of  technology. The play was perfect for my 12 year-olds. I wrote to the authors, got the full script, three lesson plans and a lot of other help.

My students loved the story: a child whose parents let him play whichever game he wants for as long as he wants, gets into trouble …All class took part, some as real and some as virtual characters from the game. Students created the sounds and characters for an imaginary game, as well as posters based on SMART rules – the rules about safety. They loved the acronym, too: S-safe, M-meet, A-accept, R-reliable, T-tell.

I used the materials I got from the site but the students had enough freedom to create within the given rules. We combined learning the text, discussions, creating posters, bringing to class the props, creating the imaginary game with sounds and characters. It was great fun.

The best part for me was that the aim of the lessons was not only the language, but also critical thinking about the decisions they make in the world of computers and school.

It's an activity I recommend for the use with younger teens and even pre-teens, depending on the level of language.


12 February 2013
Stories are links to make sense of the world. C. Arena

Reading and telling stories and fairy tales can be a very nice way to make students learn Simple Past. After a number of stories shared in the class, over a few lessons in a row, I gave the students the task to write their own stories, using the characters, settings and parts of the stories they'd heard in class, but trying to create a completely new story.

When I got the first stories on paper, I was very happy to see how successful the activity was, but also sad thinking of what to do with  them after some time on the classroom wall.

Technology helped: I scanned the stories and uploaded them to voicethread. Next time I offered the students to add audio recordings to their stories.

Voicethread is a very simple and free online tool. After uploading pictures, there is a comment option and you can record the comment or type. Also, there is an option to split the owner's personality into a number of avatars to comment. I named them after the students reading the stories.

The reading activity was a success, too. I'd never seen so much support, encouraging weaker students and carefully listening to others as during that lesson.

I published my students' work on our school's web page - for all students, teachers and parents to see. Here's the link for you, too: https://voicethread.com/share/3008487/


 13 February 2013
Making plans for Valentine's Day
14 February 2013
Who's talking in that photo?

Do you sometimes get bored with the illustrations you find in various course books and workbooks? Visual elements of exercises are important to me and a lot of students.

I sometimes use the photos I take in my free time, some even during various events at school, the photos that have something to do with students' or my life and they get more interested.

A very simple way of turning photos into teaching material is BigHugeLabs and I've tried several of its possibilities:

  1.   Captioner (e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsanja/4344665730/  ) adds comments and the bubbles can be made with various language content or empty. It can be used for speaking or writing exercises, to practice grammar…
  2.  Motivator (e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsanja/5207177295/ .) puts a photo into a frame with a title and a motivational text –  great as a starting point for discussions, or as a writing task;
  3. Trading Card (e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsanja/4344665730/ )  turns a photo into a trading card, complete with a short descriptive text and  icons that show the card's powers – the teacher's imagination and the age of students are the limits to the use of this one.  

Some other ways of using BigHugeLabs for creating tasks for students are Magazine Cover, Movie Poster, Billboard…
So, if you ever want great looking personalized illustrations for your lessons or to give your students really creative tasks, BigHugeLabs is a site with some great ideas that work.


 15 February 2013
CPD
In Croatia all teachers working in state schools are organized into professional development groups in their cities or counties. There are meetings several times a year, usually to discuss the theory of teaching and share some practical ideas in workshops. It is organized by the national education agency.

Then, English teachers can be members of HUPE, our national teachers' association which has several branches in different parts of the country. They organize their own events, where teachers volunteer to prepare workshops for colleagues. A few hundred members get to participate in the annual conference held every spring in one of the most beautiful Croatian tourist destinations, Opatija.

Also, all major publishers are represented in Croatia, and they organize several events during the year, trying to inform teachers about all the news from their authors and the newest publications.

Besides these f2f options there is a growing number of online events offered to teachers. Teachers' organizations, publishers ' websites, international associations of teachers all offer support and invite teachers to become members and start sharing with the international community of teachers.

I try to choose from all the above mentioned possibilities. When I think about what I enjoy most and find most benefitting, I choose informal communities of teachers, teachers volunteering to share and not hesitating to ask for help or advice.

I'd love to read about other teachers' opinions and what it's like in different countries.


16 February 2013
All work and no play



17 February 2013
Little Monsters and Classroom Management

When six graders enter my classroom, they can see their little monster avatars from http://www.classdojo.com/ projected on the wall.

 ClassDojo is an online tool which records students' behaviours and accomplishments and I use it in big classes of children, where motivating and keeping all students on task can be hard work. ClassDojo helps  motivate children to behave properly all the time, to be on task and help each other instead of making fun of weaker students, to work hard and compete. It reminds them constantly of their green and red score.

Introducing the tool was easy: I named the classes, added students and named the positive and negative elements of students' behaviour. I let the students check the list and allowed them to suggest some categories they considered important. So, we ended up tracking original ideas in  discussions,  how much they help each other, but also if they are out of chair for no reason or late.

Awarding points is easy - one click on the name and the category does the trick. It does no harm to the rhythm of the lesson.

There are some other cool options, like sending a report to parents with one click, and showing the report for the whole class at the end of the lesson. As a reward for some really high scores, I printed the secret codes students can use to access their avatars and change their appearance. Isn't that cool?


 18 February 2013
WeeBehave


I discovered WeeBehave   a few years ago. It’s a site for parents, teachers and therapists, but I used it only as a parent, to create “to do“ lists for my sons. I liked the motto of the site: “Manage. Motivate. Measure. “ I tried to motivate my sons to be more responsible in doing some household chores.

We decided the tasks together, created online chore charts and checked them every evening. I always asked my sons to help me decide if the tasks had been done well enough to gain a green point (completely), a yellow point (only a part) or were still in red (not done). We could easily compare the amount of work they had done and the lists for different days of the week.
 I think the tool could be very well used in small groups of very young students, for tracking progress with learning English, learning the basics of the classroom discipline, participating in the activities in the classroom, doing homework, etc. As every child has a separate list, but everybody can see all the lists, there is also an element of competition.
Some advantages of WeeBehave are:
  • Children can see their performance
  •  they can suggest some tasks they volunteer to do
  •  they can take part in deciding how successful they were
  •  it motivates students to work harder knowing the list will be checked at the end of the lesson or a day.
To me, the site looks worth trying with young learners.
19 February 2013
Reading long articles with students
The textbooks I use with my students are not my choice. I work in a big school with a rule that all English teachers should use the same textbooks. As there is nothing to be done about it, I try to make most of them.
The texts for reading are quite good, but look very unattractive and long. To motivate students to read and think about the details in the text, I use INSERT method I learned about during a RWCT course.
The first part of the lesson is brainstorming when all students think and discuss what they already know about the topic. I write the notes about all the mentioned details.
Then I introduce the text and give a task to do while reading:  they write signs on the margin:
  • a tick ( ) - when what they read confirms what they already know ,
  • a plus(+) -  when they encounter a new piece of information,
  • a minus (-) - when they find a piece of information opposite to what they knew or thought was true,
  • a question mark(?) - when they get to a part which they don't completely understand or would like to know more.
After reading, we talk about what they have read – in pairs and as a group and check our brainstorming notes, compare and discuss what we have learned.
This method is really efficient, but I'd like to learn about some other, equally good methods.
20 February 2013
Teachers can live twice
21 February 2013
Avatar Identity
When a teacher enters Second Life with the intention to use the environment for language teaching, that intention influences the teacher's choice of features in the creation of the avatar.
Most teachers choose human avatars of a presentable appearance. A group of teachers in SL resembles a group of teachers in RL.
 When I first created San Krokus, I paid a lot of attention to her hair, skin, eyes, not to mention clothes. I didn't attach much jewelry – just like in RL. Later, during a teacher training session, I discovered that most teachers felt the same or similar.
At time passed I wasn't sure any more: I sometimes asked myself if students who chose such an environment for language learning really found important that the teacher had a certain recognizable shape.
What I like about the possibility to easily change appearance in virtual worlds is that it
  •  can be easily and efficiently used in language lessons
  • makes role-play  much more acceptable and authentic
  • adds a fun note to the lessons.
A middle-aged lady, a young man on fire, or a little teddy bear - whichever appearance a teacher uses,  it is important to notice that behind the avatar, there is a real teacher with real emotions and different ideas for teaching. Identity of an SL avatar itself can be a great resource but can never make somebody a better or a worse language teacher.
21 February 2013
A Virtual Classroom? Why Not a World?
A lot of teachers use virtual learning environments because they are safe, easy to use, you can reach your students anywhere anytime to share content and communicate, give tests and feedback. What else can any teacher want? Here are some of my thoughts about why I preferred a virtual world, Second Life.
Just like other VLEs, SL can be used in a passive way – you use the environment for teaching. However, there are a few elements that enhance the learning experience.
 Moving your avatar through a 3D space: walking, running, flying, dancing, teleporting are specially appealing to kinaesthetic learners.
The places created to be replicas of different parts of the world or wonderful imaginary places make the choice for field trips we can never have in real life. 
Using simulations to teach about concepts, places and things difficult to understand: emotions in virtual worlds are real and teaching in a kitchen fire, in a mind of a schizophrenic or visiting Macbeth island, to mention only a few, is very convincing.
Unlike other VLEs, it makes sense to study the environment itself as part of your language lessons. My favourite activities were building objects and adding scripts so that they can communicate when clicked.
 
All these advantages mentioned, I must admit I spend most of my time in my RL classroom, a little less time using Moodle and some time using blogs and wikis. And I'm pretty sure you can guess why .


22 February 2013
A six-word story about a Friday afternoon
If you could describe how you feel when you come home on Friday afternoon in the form of a six –word story, which six words would you use? Please do it before you read the rest of my post.
I came home, it's Friday afternoon and everybody is speaking about the weekend. My plans are a bit different:
  • there is an online course I'm moderating and a lot of things to do there,
  • there is an online course I'm participating in and midnight is the deadline for the task I have to finish,
  • there is Blogathon and I have already spotted a few discussions I would like to take part in, plus I'd like to write a  post,
  • my mum is visiting, she has some health problems and  would like to spend some time with me,
  • my husband and sons have already made some new plans for our quality time together over the weekend.
A six-word story seems an impossible task for me. Do you sometimes share my feeling of guilt because I have only one life and so many things to do, not to mention the terrible fact that the weekend is only for two days. Then everything goes back to normal. Or does it?
Btw, a six-word story is one of my favourite short writing forms to use with students –you have to think hard and choose carefully.
Looking forward to your stories,
Sanja
23 February 2013
The end of lesson writing activities
Early Saturday afternoon is the time for writing plans for my lessons next week and arranging my books and papers in the process. I've just come across an old list of end-of-lesson writing activities taken from a book by C.B. Smith, S.Smith and Mikulecky(1987) and read it.
 I use some of these activities, but I must admit I have completely forgotten about a few.

The activities that I put on the list the first time I learned about them:
  • students write a paragraph about the most interesting idea discussed during the lesson
  • students write list of instructions on how to do something discussed during the lesson. It can be applied to anything that has a number of steps or stages, with an easier variation to arrange the already prepared but jumbled list into the right order
  • students write one question each about the lesson. The questions are collected and distributed around the class and students answer their colleagues' questions
  • students describe photos/pictures related to the topic and the content of the lesson
  • students write questions about what else they would like to know about the topic of the lesson. The questions are for the teacher to answer during one of the next lessons.
Do you sometimes use the same writing activities for the end of the lesson? Which do you find useful? Do you have a different list you'd like to share?
Please do,
Sanja
23 February 2013
Save the last line for me
In this post I'd like to share an activity which can help students reflect on a reading task. It also makes after-reading discussions livelier and adds to the seriousness of the discussions.
While reading a text, especially a longer one, students choose a sentence to quote. The sentence should be one they consider very interesting, important or worthy of commenting. After reading the whole text, each student copies his/her chosen sentence on a piece of paper. Then the students take some more time to think and write their own comment on the sentence. They write it on the opposite side of the same paper. In the comment, they can explain what the sentence meant to them, agree , disagree or choose a completely different approach. 
The other part of the activity starts when the teacher asks a student to read aloud his/her quote and then asks other students in the class to comment. The teacher can add a comment, too, but the main role of the teacher is to moderate the discussion. The discussion ends with the student who started it – he reads his comment. That student's comment must be the last and the teacher can only start a new discussion. 
In my opinion, this activity helps shy students participate in the discussion, and also helps the teacher by making it impossible for him/her to have the last line and decide what is right or wrong. The focus is on the students. 
24 February 2013
We are debating tomorrow
25 February 2013
The Sage on the Stage meets Technology
Reading a lot of posts about the use of technology in the classroom made me think about “The Role of Technology in teaching and the classroom“, one of great articles by M. Prensky, published in Educational Technology, Nov-Dec 2008.
In that article Prensky explains the difference between the old pedagogy where the teacher lectures and the new pedagogy with students teaching themselves with the teacher's guidance, and what happens when technology is used when the old ways haven't changed. It's a disaster.
I love Prensky's argument that the teacher should move from being the“ Sage on the Stage“ to become a “Guide on the Side“. Only then we can move on to define that pedagogy should lead technology.
Although a lot of time has passed since 2008 when it was written, there are a lot of parts that are true even today:
  • there are still teachers who resist the change,
  •  there are school authorities that still tend to save money by avoiding to invest in the education of teachers on how to implement the technology,
  • there are a lot of students who use technology for every possible purpose before they start using it to help them with learning.
That is what the situation is like where I work. I believe it is different in small private schools, especially in small language schools.
Do you think of the facts in the article as describing your past or are some of them relevant for the situation you work in even today?
25 February 2013
Too loud or too shy - coloured pencils can help
A lot of language lessons include parts in students share ideas in groups. Depending on how many students I have in a class, I divide them into groups of four to six. Students usually like working in groups and do well, but there are always problems like having a shy and a too loud student in the same group, or a few students only pretending to work while waiting for the rest of the group to do the task.
 Some little tricks can help the teacher make them all participate.  One of my favourite tricks is with coloured pencils.  The rule is that each member of the group must add to the discussion and to prove they have spoken, they put their pencils on the desk. They can't speak again until all the pencils are there together.
 After the first statements, whenever students want to speak, they take their pencils from the desk and keep them in hand while speaking. That prevents the loud ones from speaking all the time without letting others say what they think. It also makes it easier for the teacher to monitor the activity and make sure only one person speaks at the time.
It as a colourful and fun addition to the speaking activity and the students don't mind doing it, but its real value is not in distracting a part of students' attention with coloured pencils, it's in making everybody participate and learn.


 26 February 2013
Digital immigrants in search of digital wisdom
The story of  M. Prensky's “digital immigrants“ from 2001, and the way the immigrant became  “homo sapiens digital“, digital human, in 2008, resembles the way many of us here met technology for the first time while we were students and embraced it as teachers later, learning and teaching at the same time. You can read these two of M. Prensky’s articles on http://tinyurl.com/65gej7h
and http://tinyurl.com/yjodyfu
 Reading again the articles made me remember when I first used the computer and it made me think about how I felt then.
I had just already started working but I did not use it at school, it was my private computer and I used it mainly for writing text. It had some games, too, but as far as I remember they were very simple. I find two things very funny now:
I never thought it would have such a huge impact on learning and teaching EFL
I was much more excited than today when I see the most sophisticated devices, tools, games…
Do you remember the time when you started using the computer?
27 February 2013
Interview, be interviewed and write notes
Questions and answers can be part of every stage of the lesson. Sometimes we even set the task of asking a number of questions: “Interview B. and report about what he/she said.“
There is a way of making the interviews a bit more complicated, which hopefully leads to making them a lot more useful in the process of learning.
Students are divided, but not in pairs. They are in groups of three, with a different task each:
A – interviews B,
B – answers the questions,
C – writes all the answers /makes notes about all the answers.
The students rotate their roles inside the same group. When they have had all three roles each, they use their notes and report the interviews to the group.
In my opinion, this addition to the usual pattern adds two important things to the activity:
  • students pronounce and listen to the same questions three times without being much aware of the drill technique,
  • All three students in the group have the same task to summarize the answers and report, so weaker students can hear a model for their speech, they don't have to report in front of the whole class, but in a small group, which is easier.
Depending on the type and part of the lesson, i.e. the questions, the activity can be continued in a number of different ways.
27 February 2013
Wordia to play with words
There is a list of adjectives in the next lesson for my12 year olds. The lesson is about comparison of adjectives. Some students haven't learned all the adjectives yet while some know the meaning but are not sure about spelling.
I've decided to give the students a little fun addition to the homework assignment – a simple game I'd like them to play over the weekend.
The game I created is http://www.wordia.com/play/5411/englishtime. It's a very simple game created on a site which is free but you sign up with your educational email. The teacher uploads a list of words and chooses the type of game from a few options. Mine is to practise typing and improve vocabulary by quickly reading the words that move on the screen and typing quickly to get points. It's easy enough for the weakest students and trying to get a high score  could be motivating.
wordia.com isn't only for creating games, there is a section for videos. You can publish your own (or your students') video in which you give your own explanation of an English word. I haven't tried publishing videos yet, but I like to watch other people's videos, because you can listen to real people speak and see the dictionary entry next to the video. It's fun.
I watched a few videos, created my vocabulary game, and stopped by stopped by Blogathon to share with other dictionary lovers. In case you want to play my game, the playcode is  “englishtime“.
28 February 2013
As Blogathon is coming to its end
As Blogathon is coming to its end, I am thinking about its beneficial effects on me –my teaching, the way I feel about teaching and me as a person who happens to be a teacher.
Firstly, I've learned a lot about schools and teachers in a number of  different countries. Reading the posts by teachers from other countries has given me a unique opportunity to peek into their classrooms and find some little differences but many more similarities. It was a great feeling also because whether you complained about  problems or shared some good solutions, the feeling that we think about the same issues and can join forces to find some better solutions was inspiring and optimism –boosting, the mixture of feelings every teacher should have about the job.
Secondly, I've picked a lot of great teaching tips. I can only hope that we won't stop exchanging ideas and reading each other's blogs. I value this opportunity to share very much.
Thirdly, we shared a lot of stories about our lives, various details about our personalities. I now feel I am in the company of people I know, friends. Although Blogathon was announced as a competition, the atmosphere of friendship, collaboration, support and learning together is prevailing. For me, this, too, is an important quality of Blogathon. It tells a lot about what it takes to be a good teacher.
Do you already miss all this when you think that it ends in a few days? I do.
1 March 2013
To ban or not to ban the use of mobile phones
The newest idea coming from the educational authorities in my country  is making a rule for all state schools to strictly ban the use of mobile phones at school. The situation now varies from school to school, sometimes individual teachers make their own rules for their classes.
The arguments in favour of the ban were that students use mobile phones to play during the classes, to cheat and to bully their colleagues, and only occasionally they really need them e.g. to call or send a message to parents.
My first reaction was a shock. Why didn't they think about
  • all the advantages for learning of the smart phones students have
  • the role of the school to help students learn in different ways, not only from books
  • the fact that banning mobile phones at school can't possibly solve the problem of cyber bullying
  • bans rarely solve any problem at all, let alone the classroom discipline problem.
My experience with students bringing mobile phones to school has so far been very positive: students have used them to write, record audio, or quickly check some information. When there is a test, they leave them on my desk. They don't play games, and if they did, it would be  a sign for me there is something very wrong with that lesson.
What is the rule about mobile phones in your classroom? Should mobile phones be used or banned at school?


2 March 2013
The Young Designer of the Week
Drawing fashion sketches was one of the one-week  projects that was very popular with my students. I did it after doing a unit about fashion. The last activity for students was the participation  in a contest for the the best young designer of the week.
The task was to draw a figure of a woman, man or child with all clothes, shoes and accessories on, and label all in English. I offered the templates for all those who wanted to use them. That part was done at home.
In the second step students presented their work – they described what clothes, materials, patterns and colours they used. We pinned the sketches on the board in the classroom.
The exhibition stayed for a week and all students who wanted to participate presented their work.
Then the jury of students, me and two other language teachers  gave the votes to the best. The first three got prizes – a book and some sweets .
I liked two things about this project:
  • learning how to name clothes, shapes, materials and colours was meaningful
  • students participated because of their different interests for fashion, drawing, prizes or English, but in the end they all participated and had a lot of fun learning English.
A team of students prepared a few interview questions for the winners, who were treated as celebrities. I scanned the sketches and arranged them in an animoto video for our school web page:
3 March 2013
Send to the Future (FutureMe)
There is “Send to the Future“ button and it can be found at http://www.futureme.org/ - you can write an email and send it to your own address with the option to be delivered on a designated date in the future.
The owners  of FutureMe advertise their site: “send your future self some words of inspiration. Or maybe give 'em swift kick in the pants. Or just share some thoughts on where you'll or what you'll be up to in a year, three years...more? “
You can make your letter private or public. If you choose to make it “public but anonymous”, your letter will be published in public letters section of the site, without your address and only if no specific people are mentioned in it. Reading other people's public letters is quite interesting and also usable with students for different reading tasks, discussions and other activities.
 FutureMe seems a nice tool for writing, to use with groups of students we are going to teach for a longer period of time, when we set some objectives at the beginning of the course and want to check them after some time.
Also, if you are reflecting on your participation in Blogathon this year and making some plans and decisions for next year, maybe it's time to write a note about your present thoughts to FutureYou and get a surprise from the past on the first day of the next Blogathon. Emails are much more accurate than memories.
 
 
4 March 2013
Let's Post our Goodbye Messages on this Board (WallWisher)
This month of blogging has been a great experience. I am very happy because I have met so many dedicated teachers and learned so much with you and from you.
Today I feel very proud to be part of this community, and thankful for the opportunity to give my contribution to this blogging adventure.
I'd like to know how other participants feel on the last day of Blogathon, so I've created a wall for our messages: http://padlet.com/wall/trk4miym4c
Please visit my wall and share your thoughts on the last day of Blogathon 2013!









No comments:

Post a Comment