Christina Martidou's Blog

EFL Teacher

November 7, 2014
by Christina Martidou
7 Comments

‘Queen Elizabeth alongside James Bond’- Lesson Plan

the-queen-and-james-bond-the-olympic-opening-ceremony-2012-1343666209-custom-0

(Image taken from http://bit.ly/1xaiTjG)

This time I’d like to share with you a lesson plan that I recently created and used with my new group of young adults. In an attempt to familiarize them with the British culture and take a break from the book, I chose this fantastic short video which shows London at its best and catches viewers’ attention with its unique plot! Please download the full lesson plan (plus the student’s worksheet) from the box. widget on the right side of the blog.

The Queen Sequence Opening =TEACHER’S NOTES

Target Group: teens, young adults

Level: Pre- intermediate and above

Time: a 60- minute- session

Watch here:

STEP 1: Distribute the worksheets to your students and tell them they’re about to watch a short clip from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London in 2012. Ask them to go through questions 1- 7.

STEP 2: Play the video once.

STEP 3: Pause the video at 00:44- Ask students to predict who will come out of the black cab. A: James Bond- Daniel Craig

STEP 4: Pause at 01:20- Who is James Bond going to meet? A: Her Majesty, the Queen.

STEP 5: Pause again at 04: 10- Can you guess what’s going to happen next? A: The Queen and James Bond will jump off the helicopter and land in the stadium using parachutes.

STEP 6: Check students’ answers to the following questions- You can replay certain parts of the clip to crosscheck the answers.

Q1: Which country’s flag is on the children’s baseball caps? A: Brazil’s.

Q2: What time is it? A: It’s half past eight.

Q3: How many pet dogs does the Queen have? A: Two

Q4: Which famous man’s statue appears in the clip? A: Winston Churchill’s.

Q5: Name as many sights as you can remember seeing in the video.

A: The Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Canary Wharf (Tower 42) , Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Q6: Describe the Queen’s entrance into the stadium with 3 adjectives! Possible answers: Impressive, amazing, spectacular, fantastic, great e.t.c.

Q7: Circle the things you can spot in the video- Correct answers: gold string, police officers, William’s picture, balloons, the British flag.

Suggested Follow- up activities:

1. Writing task: Describe what happens in this short clip as if you were broadcasting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Use the Simple Present tense.

*Note: Students can do this activity in class either individually or in pairs. Let them watch the video as many times as they need. Alternatively you can assign this for homework.

2. Ask students to surf the Internet and find:

- Five interesting facts about the Queen’s life.

-  Who Winston Churchill was and one of his famous quotes that you can later discuss in class. (e.g. ‘No one should waste a day’, ‘A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.’, ‘Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn.’)

-  Which actors have played 007? (A: Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, Daniel Craig)

3. Correct and return students’ descriptions of the clip. Ask them to record themselves whilst broadcasting the sequence. A great, simple online voice recorder they can use is Vocaroo. If they work on iPads/ iphones, the Voice Record Pro App is ideal since it allows you to record at unlimited length and offers many exporting options (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box Cloud, email e.t.c.  For Android devices, I’d suggest trying Smart Voice Recorder which has similar features.

 I hope you enjoy my ideas and if you have some more, please feel free to share them in the comments!

 Best,

Christina

May 4, 2014
by Christina Martidou
5 Comments

‘A Childhood Dream Comes True: The Making of Our 1st Digital Storybook’

banner_1024x500I’m very excited and proud to announce that our first digital storybook for YLs of English (aged 9 and above) has been recently released on the App store and the Android market! ‘Dylan and Lydia at the Fortune Teller’s’ is a highly interactive, double- path story packed with:

* delightful illustrations

* enchanting background music

* engaging audio narration

* multiple reading modes: Read to me- Read it myself and Record my voice

* charming animations, surprise features & sound effects within each page.

* enjoyable ELT activities

* in-built dictionaries

* fun story-based games

The Plot in Brief:

On a day trip to London the endearing 9-year-old twins, Dylan and Lydia, meet Madame Sonya, a famous fortune teller who slyly tries to trick them into her evil plans. The twins have the chance to experience magical moments in ‘Fantasy Land’ or spend an adventurous day with notorious pirates on a real pirate ship! Both adventures teach them important life lessons about the value of true friendship and trust. You can take a slight idea from the promo video below:

How it all started:

My sister Marina and I have always loved fairy tales and until today we’re big fans of Walt Disney! Writing and publishing our very own children’s book was one of our childhood dreams. Feeling a great need to be creative in a time of deep financial crisis, we came up with Dylan and Lydia’s adventures last spring on a ship to Corfu- a beautiful island in the Ionian Sea.

Why a digital storybook?

Who doesn’t love a good story? A well- told tale can fascinate, grip and engross us in a fictional world no matter how old we are. Both children and adults are drawn to stories in a natural, effortless way. In effect, the pedagogical values of storytelling are unparalleled. It’s the oldest form of education and a fabulous tool in teachers’ hands. Albert Einstein’s quote beautifully describes the unique powers of storytelling: ‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’ ;-)

Einstein's quote

Stories can have a profound impact on foreign language learning too. They are motivating, fun and provide a low anxiety context for language learning. Teachers can exploit stories to introduce or revise new vocabulary, grammar rules, and language patterns as well as to engage students meaningfully.

Digital storybooks are the ‘new generation’ of fairy tales. They combine the multimodal nature of new technologies (text, visuals, audio, music and animations) and the valuable linguistic and psychological features of storytelling. This much promising ‘marriage’ reflects the digital age we live in and is bound to open up new paths in educational practices worldwide.

‘Dylan& Lydia at the Fortune Teller’s’ was created with this rationale in mind. It aims to address the needs of the 21st language learner by offering EFL teachers a brilliant chance to teach English through the lens of storytelling and technology! It can help boost young learners’ language proficiency, spark their imagination and engage them in extensive reading.

Making of:

The journey from the initial grasping of this idea until its final completion has been wonderful yet sometimes overwhelming! By no means, could we imagine the amount of work and devotion needed when we first ventured into this project.

One of the first things we did was an extensive research on the ELT market for similar products. We also read numerous digital storybooks to spot their main features compared to traditional print fairy tales. Next, we planned the basic structure of the storybook and I set out to write the stories in English as well as design the accompanying activities and games.

Our main aim was to develop an educational App that would combine learning and entertainment seamlessly. For this reason, the storybook includes multiple choice questions, an imaginative writing activity, two in-built dictionaries and a glossary. The reader can then have fun while making sliding puzzles or matching pairs with 3 levels of difficulty. What’s more, 2 mini games (a hidden objects game & a knowledge quiz) are an integral, contextualized part of the plot. In this way, the reader is involved in the action and the overall reading experience becomes more interactive, fun and engaging.

collage

Unlike conventional linear novels, we thought of writing two stories instead of one, with different endings and morals. So, when Dylan and Lydia are in Madame Sonya’s caravan, the reader can choose the direction of the story in the role of the protagonists and create his own reading path.

collage

From a pedagogical scope, the tales have been written in simple yet not oversimplified English both in terms of vocabulary and grammar. The repetition of words and lexical sets along with the two dictionaries contribute to learning and content understanding. Delightful illustrations complement the text and make it easier for less fluent students to understand and follow the story. The user can hear the story read aloud or record his own voice narrating and play it back! This helps improve both his listening and diction skills.

It’s a well-known fact that language learners’ exposure to different accents and voices is beneficial. So, two great colleagues and native speakers of English, Edmund Dudley and Esther Martin, have lent their voices to this fairy tale. The roles of the main characters have been narrated by students of ours (non-native speakers).  In this way, when students read the stories, they can relate to other fluent young learners of English.

As for the graphics, we experimented a lot in order to make our characters appealing to young children. The outfits and the overall style of the protagonists have been carefully chosen. We have mainly used bright and joyful colours except for the screenshots at Madame Sonya’s caravan where we wanted to add some extra sense of mystery :-). Every screenshot has been designed in detail and there are many interactive elements and surprises for the learner to discover.

Most importantly, English language learners have been part of this creative process from day one. We had all the materials (texts, graphic designs, games& activities) tested by 10- 12 year old students (boys and girls) from different backgrounds and language levels. Their feedback was invaluable and we actually implemented many of their ideas.

Challenges along the way:

A very common problem with children’s stories written for language learning purposes is the dumbing down of the texts which unavoidably leads to their loss of magic!  Therefore, achieving a suitable language level for learners worldwide without sacrificing our stories’ magic was by all means one of the most serious challenges I had to face. Being used to teaching Greek students who usually acquire a high level of English from an early age, my first drafts were pretty advanced. So, I used the valuable help of Hanna Kryszewska and Charles Boyle to grade down the original texts appropriately. Here is just a short sample of the first draft and its final adaptation.

textThe second biggest challenge was the recording of my students’ voices. To ensure the high quality of sound, we visited the professional recording studio where my sister broadcasts her radio show on a daily basis. My students were more than happy to participate and were thrilled to visit a recording studio! However, they were a bit intimidated by the microphone at first. The tricky part for us was to achieve a satisfying level of performance (good pronunciation and acting) without losing students’ spontaneity by having them repeat their lines again and again. Luckily, with a little encouragement, the recordings were completed successfully ;-). Here are some pictures from the studio:

collage

Some trivia:

  • Madame Sonya was initially drawn by my sister Marina when she was in high school! While sorting out old stuff, we came across the drawing and decided to craft a story around this mysterious white cat ;-). Look at the following collage and see how the drawing was adapted by the graphic designer to fit the overall look of the storybook.

ms collage

  • The charming music that comes with our storybook is royalty- free music that we found on the Internet. The artist Kevin MacLeod offers a big number of pieces that can be used for educational purposes under a Creative Commons license. Visit his website here:  http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/
  • When my sister recorded Madame Sonya’s lines, she was 9-months pregnant ;-)

Seeing the project being completed piece by piece and our characters come to life has been a truly unique experience! With the help of dear colleagues and the participation of enthusiastic English language learners, our personal dream has come true! We’d like to thank each of them wholeheartedly for their invaluable contribution.

Please visit the App store here , the Play store here and Slideme here to install and read our storybook. We’d be delighted to receive your and your students’ feedback! You can also like our FB page for updates and supplementary teaching materials.

We really hope that our stories will touch the hearts of young English language learners all over the world and make language acquisition a fun, hands-on experience!

All the best,

Christina

April 28, 2014
by Christina Martidou
1 Comment

Coming soon…

…a fresh blog post about the making of our 1st digital storybook for young learners of English! ‘Dylan& Lydia at the Fortune Teller’s’ is now available for all ios and Android devices!

In the meantime, take a slight taste from the short video below:

Stay tuned :-)

All the best,

Christina

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January 4, 2014
by Christina Martidou
4 Comments

Happy New Year with a Fun Blog Challenge among ELT Bloggers!

The first blog post of 2014 has been inspired by a dear colleague and friend, Dimitris Primalis, who asked me to join the online blog challenge called ‘11 Random Facts, Questions, Answers and ELT Bloggers

If you want to meet this challenge too, just follow the next steps:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

 So here are 11 Random Facts about me:

1. I recently became an aunt to an adorable baby girl and I’m utterly excited.

2. I love watching ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ again and again. My favourite ‘friend’ is Ross although I’m more of a teaser like Chandler.

3. I have a sweet tooth! I eat chocolate 7 days per week :-).

4. Summer is my favourite season because life is much better at the beach!

5. I make handmade jewels& leather sandals and have a big collection of earrings. Look at some of my creations :-)

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6.  I like hanging out with people who have a positive energy and make me laugh!

7. I’m a night owl. I get the best ideas and usually write after midnight!

8.  My favourite colours are pink, red and white!

9. My favourite social platform is FB because it helps me keep in touch with dear friends and colleagues who live abroad.

10. I want to swim with a dolphin.

11. This song brings out the nostalgia in me: 

My answers to Dimitri’s 11 Questions:

1.  How long have you been blogging?  1 year& 3 months!

2. What made you start blogging? My teacher trainers in Oxford and Pilgrims encouraged me to start my own blog and I must admit that sharing and connecting with other educators worldwide has been a fantastic experience so far!

3. What advice would you give a new blogger? Update your blog regularly and try to be as innovative as you can.

4. How do you spend your free time? I surf the Net, cook, take long walks, read books, listen to music, watch TV, do family stuff, go out with friends and so much more!

5. If you were not involved in ELT, what would you do? If I weren’t an EFL teacher, I’d be a chef or run a boutique hotel on a Greek island!

6. Do you speak any other foreign languages? Yes! German and French.

7. What is the ideal class for you? There are no ideal classes. Every group poses different challenges to the teacher. However, I prefer teaching more advanced students because it helps me improve my language skills and broaden my general knowledge too!

8. What is the biggest challenge for educators at the moment? To address our students’ real needs and prepare them adequately for the future when educational systems tend to be more obsolete and people fearful of change.

9. What do you imagine yourself doing in ten years time? I usually avoid making long term plans or dreams but I hope to be healthy and surrounded by all the people I love!

10. Who is your favourite author? Nikos Kazantzakis- I admire his free spirit as well as the strength and density of his writing.

11. Is learning technology a fad or a trend that will play a key role in education in the years to come? For me, technology is definitely not a fad. It’s an amazing teaching aid that can help us enrich our lessons and empower our students IF used wisely.

 My 11 Questions:

  1. The peak/the most awkward moment of my teaching career was…
  2. Name a song which helps lift your spirits:
  3. What’s the thing you like most about teaching?
  4. If I weren’t an EFL teacher, I would…
  5. Who is your favourite cartoon character?
  6. Describe yourself in 3 words:
  7. Which two Web tools would you suggest to a teacher who is a technology novice and why?
  8. What is the first goal in your New Year’s resolutions list this year?
  9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
  10. What’s the best piece of advice you have been given as a teacher?
  11. The best book I recently read is …

I’m tagging ELT bloggers/ good friends who hopefully haven’t been tagged before ( it’s OK if you don’t have the time to respond :-) )

Edmund Dudley

Antonio Marsa

Isil Boy

Wishing you all the very best for 2014!

Christina

December 15, 2013
by Christina Martidou
0 comments

‘How to celebrate Christmas with Technology: 7 ideas& a lesson plan.’

As the magic of Christmas is spreading, I’d like to share some festive activities that we teachers can try in order to make the last lessons of the year more fun and memorable! Here’s my list of suggestions on how to celebrate this Christmas with technology:

1. Visit lyricstraining.com and get your students to practise their listening skills, while typing the lyrics of popular Christmas songs! There is a great variety of artists, songs and three levels of difficulty per song so that all language learners can manage! These are the links to two cool Christmas songs you can use:

 http://bit.ly/1efIj9E

http://bit.ly/1efIsKh

2. ‘HOME ALONE’ is one of my favourite Christmas movies and that’s how I plan to use the following trailer with my younger students:

- In pairs, one student watches and narrates the video while the second has his back to the screen. They change roles every few minutes with your signal. Remember to write all the unknown vocabulary or action verbs your students will need on the board to ensure the success of this activity. Your students will have fun while learning new vocabulary in a contextualized way.

3.  E-mail to Santa Claus: Why not write an e-mail to Santa Claus? Go to http://www.emailsanta.com/, fill in the letter and Santa will reply ‘faster than the reindeer can fly’ ;-).

4. Have a go at MailVU and let students record and e-mail short videos of themselves sending season’s greetings, making New Year’s resolutions or expressing their wishes. It’s is as easy as Click, Record, Send and you don’t even need an account for this! http://mailvu.com/

5.  E-CARDS: Disney offers a fabulous, interactive card template that students can complete, share on social media sites or email to beloved family members or friends. Alternatively you can use one of the following websites:

http://www.123greetings.com/events/christmas/spirit_of_christmas/

http://www.dancingsantacard.com/en/

http://www.elfyourself.com/

I’m sure your students will enjoy this simple yet cool activity! Have a look at my elf self  here ;-)

6. VOKI is a tool I love using on such occasions. So user- friendly, fun and safe that you won’t regret trying it! Students create their speaking avatars which they can then send via e-mail or post to your classroom’s blog or website! This is my student’s’ Voki in the role of Santa Claus ;-)

7. ANIMOTO- PICOVICO- CLIPGENERATOR

Making a video with their year’s highlights is a creative activity that your students will love! ANIMOTO, PICOVICO& CLIPGENERATOR are three awesome tools that excite both adults and children. Pick the one that suits you best!

8. Finally,  find and download a  lesson plan on how to use a top scene from ‘LOVE ACTUALLY’. Go to the ‘Flash Widget’ box on the right hand column of this page, click and download it for free.

For more Christmassy ideas click here.

Hope you all enjoy the best holidays ever ;-)!

All the best,

Christina

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September 15, 2013
by Christina Martidou
3 Comments

Go Techy this School Year: 6 Easy Tools& Useful tips!

Fotor090503554A beautiful summer has flown away and another school year has just kicked off!  For most teachers, this is a very busy yet exciting period of time since we get the chance to make a brand new start, set new teaching goals and bring fresh ideas into our classrooms!

If you are a novice in the use of technology and you wish to ‘go techy’ this school year, below you’ll find a selection of 6 basic, very simple educational tools and websites you can explore and use with your students.

JING is definitely number one on my list. It’s a fabulous tool that captures what you see or records whatever you are doing on your computer screen. Once you’re done with your screen capture or video, simply upload it to screencast.com and share it through IM, email, social media and more. You can create up to 5- minute- videos to:

- Provide feedback on your students’ writing assignments in a more elaborate and contextualized way.

- Give instructions alternatively.

- Add voice to your Power Point presentations.

 In fact, any speaking activity can take place with Jing! Ask your students to send you a Jing video about:

-Their likes and dislikes (a favourite website, song, actor, their most hated movie character etc.)

- An object, an animal, a photograph they love, explaining why it’s important to them.

I personally love using Jing with my FCE students! They can compare and contrast pictures while recording themselves. This way they get a lot of practice and reflect on their performance! This is the link to one of my FCE student’s video: http://bit.ly/14SixDZ

On the Techsmith website, you’ll find many free training videos that will take you step-by-step through the use of Jing. Trust me once you try it, you’ll love it :-)

EDMODO is a great social networking platform for educators. At first glance, Edmodo will remind you of Facebook. However, it’s more private, educationally- orientated and definitely safer! It allows you to set up class groups quickly, share your materials, assign homework, and create puzzles, polls and quizzes! So, go ahead and host your own online classroom where learners can log in and collaborate after school too!

AVATARS When you go online with your students, their safety is of utmost importance! If your students are under 18, they should use avatar images in their profiles instead of real pictures. Avatar- creation is a fun activity that also provides learners with hands- on practise in identity- building.Have a look at the cool avatars of myself that I created using 3 awesome websites (marvel.com, southparkstudios.com & reasonablyclever.com). Which one do you like best ;-)?

create_your_super_hero 5b1d1e8b-c403-4768-aa36-74ab07f7cf61 (2)

KEYBR is a nice website you can use to train your students- especially the younger ones- to type accurately and faster.

TAGXEDO- ABCYa: Both are wonderful word cloud generators! Tagxedo is more sophisticated and will appeal to your older students while ABCYa is ideal for younger learners. Pick the one that suits your students’ age group and needs best and let them be creative :-) If you want to learn more about Tagxedo, click here.

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SKYPE We have all used or at least heard of Skype! It’s a free, easy tool which opens up your classroom to the rest of the world! Your language learners can benefit from talking to experts as well as cooperate and share ideas with other classrooms. This way, foreign language learning becomes much more targeted and realistic! Here are 10 creative ways you can use Skype in education http://www.edudemic.com/10-ways-to-start-using-skype-in-the-classroom/

 **Things to consider when using technology:

-Always have a back-up plan because many unpredictable things may occur in technology-based lessons!

- Make a contract with your students including strict, clearly-set rules about the appropriate use of technology in your classroom. The consequences of their violation should be clear too! Then, have both parents and students sign it to ensure a smoother school year!

-Don’t be ashamed of not knowing! Make your computer- geek students your assistants! They often know lots of useful tricks and they are eager to help the teacher out when technology ‘emergencies’ come up!

- Raise students’ awareness on how to stay safe online! This is an excellent video you can use to teach them about online safety: http://premierskills.britishcouncil.org/en/learn-english/staying-safe-online

Technology is a powerful teaching aid that can give a new dimension to our lessons if used wisely, for the right reasons. Don’t be afraid to embrace it, even if you face difficulties in the beginning because this is part of the ‘game’. In the long run, you’ll realize that stretching out of your comfort zone now and then is really enjoyable and rewarding! 

All the best& good luck!

Christina

*If you enjoy reading this blog and want to keep up with my latest posts, you can subscribe by adding your e-mail address to the relevant box on the right-hand column.

Collage made using photos taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @CliveSir, @sandymillin, @foster_timothy,@aClilToClimb and AnaMariaMenezes used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

August 9, 2013
by Christina Martidou
8 Comments

EXETER COLLEGE, OXFORD: The Sequel! English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar 2013.

A week later and I still seem to be under the ‘Oxford spell’… To be honest, I was a bit reluctant before enrolling on the English Language Teachers’ Seminar again because my first time there was utterly amazing! However, going back was really worth the while!

Feeling more mature professionally and having set new goals, I decided to avoid making any comparisons with the past and enjoy this new experience afresh! So, once again I found myself in atmospheric Oxford and the beautiful, old surroundings of Exeter College.

A wonderful group of 62 English Teachers from 27 different countries were my family for the next 15 days! All highly motivated and willing to share their teaching experiences and positive energy! As expected, the course was intensive and very informative with daily morning lectures and workshops that covered different areas in ELT and addressed individual teaching needs!

We were taught by the best team of teacher trainers who inspired, broadened our horizons and made us want to become better teachers and well- rounded human beings.

During these two weeks, we learnt so much that time for reflection is absolutely necessary! However, I’d like to single out some of the things I learnt from each teacher trainer and really cherish:

Adrian Underhill: ‘Every wall is a door.’

Charles Boyle: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.’- Quote used by Charles at our closing dinner.

Hanna Kryszewska- ‘How to become a teacher trainer’: ‘Never give up teaching even if you become an expert teacher trainer’.

Edmund Dudley- ‘Teaching Teenagers: Challenge Accepted.’: ‘When dealing with difficult students, make them feel valued, irrespective of their performance.’

Jon Hird- ‘Exploring Grammar’: ‘Allowing students thinking and planning time can result in greater accuracy on a grammar level.’

John Hughes-‘Writing Materials for ELT Publishers’: ‘Always test if your materials work with the public. Ask other colleagues to try them out and give you feedback about how they worked for them and their students.’

Ken Wilson: ‘All our students are different and differently talented. We need to find ways to access their way of learning.’

Russell Stannard: I loved one of the iPad/ iPhone apps Russell demonstrated in his lecture called Brainshark! Use Brainshark to make impressive presentations: upload your pdf/word files/videos or images, add your recordings (up to 15minutes) and share via e-mail or post to your blog and other social media.

For me, if you are an English teacher seeking inspiration and fresh ideas, Oxford is THE place to go because there you can combine high-level education with loads of fun and entertainment! For more information about this course, click here: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=X162-2

Finally, for many people studying in Oxford is a dream! In my case, this dream has come true twice! So, I can’t help but feel blessed… I’d like to say a big, sincere thanks to our teacher trainers, Richard& Joe and all my dear new friends who made this another unforgettable experience! Hopefully our paths will cross again…It’s a small world after all :-)!


All the best,

Christina

May 31, 2013
by Christina Martidou
5 Comments

My Top 20 Free Educational Apps for iPads! (Part 1)

Tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices have changed our lives profoundly in the last few years. Similarly, they are bound to revolutionize the ways we teach and learn. The ability of ipads and other tablets to deliver a wide range of content, support streaming video, audio, text, images and social media makes their educational potential great! New technology-oriented terms like mobile learning, moblogging, and mobile storytelling have made their appearance while a big number of pilot ipad programmes are already underway in countries like the UK, the USA, Brazil, Turkey and India. As estimated, tablets will eventually replace whiteboards, traditional PCs and pricey heavy books in educational spaces.

The purchase of my ipad triggered a childhood memory a few months ago. Those of you who grew up in the 80s will definitely remember Penny, Inspector Gadget’s niece. Back then, the portable ‘magic book’ that Penny used to gather information and save Gadget from M.A.D’s devious plots, seemed completely fictional! Interestingly, now these super duper tablets are actually real and students can use them to learn at their own time, pace& space :-)! The truth is that once you buy an ipad you are amazed at its endless capabilities and the abundance of apps, educational or not!

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Below, is my randomly ordered list with the top 20 free educational apps that I’ve found really useful both in my teaching practise and everyday life.

1. Tellagami is a great app that you can use to create a short story called ‘Gami’ on the go! Customize your character, add a background, record your voice or use the text-to- speech tool and your Gami is ready! Then share it on FB, Twitter or via e-mail and sms! Have a look at my Gami here: https://tellagami.com/gami/BBEE6W/

2. Animoto I do love this app! Both you and your students can make impressive videos with it! Choose a style, add pictures, captions, music, video clips and get a professional-looking video instantly! Then tweet, email or download it to your ipad/ iphone. This is the video I made to assign an ‘alternative’ kind of homework to my students for the forthcoming summer :-). Feel free to use it too!

Video made using photos taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @theteacherjames, @asalinguist, @pysproblem81, @AriannaBasaric,  @abfromz,@CMartidougr used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

For more info about Animoto, click here: http://bit.ly/SRT0kQ

3. Tell a Tale offers a great collection of writing prompts! Students get the first and last sentence of their story and three pictures to construct an imaginative narrative! Isn’t this challenging :-)?

My Photo

4. Evernote

Evernote helps you stay organized and remember everything across all the devices you use. Take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders and access them whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.

5. TeacherKit

TeacherKit is a very handy personal organizer for the teacher! It enables you to organize classes and students. Its simple and intuitive interface lets you track attendance, students’ grades and behaviour easily. You can also save parents’ contact details as well as send them group e-mails.

TEACHERKIT

6. TED

Get inspired and learn on the move while watching TED Talks on a wide variety of topics. The app also allows you to bookmark or download talks for offline viewing. It’s undeniably a must-have resource for every progressive educator.

7. Pocket

Is there an interesting article, video or web page that you want to read, watch or view later? Put it in Pocket! It automatically syncs across to your phone, tablet and computer so you can view it anytime on any device, even without an internet connection.

8. Lino

Lino is an online stickies service that allows you to post and peel off colourful stickies on canvases. Insert your text, images and videos freely. Then share your canvases on Twitter or via mail. Stickies posted from your iPhone/iPad App can be accessed with PC browsers too. This is the canvas of post-its my students made, expressing what summer is for them:

φωτογραφία (5)

 

9. Screenchomp

Screenchomp turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard! Explain a tricky concept, create an animated lesson, add commentary to your photos or teach someone from afar. Just sketch out your ideas, record your tutorial and share it via e-mail or Twitter with your students. What’s more, you don’t have to create or manage an account!

 10. Twitter

A must-have app for every educator! Get connected and discover the huge online ELT community! Learn from your PLN and exploit this wonderful stream of teaching resources, articles, ideas, and links! An ideal app for your free professional development and a very useful tool for your classes!

Which are your favourite apps? 

Stay tuned for part 2 with the rest 10 ipad apps of this list…!

All the best,

 Christina

April 30, 2013
by Christina Martidou
5 Comments

Presentation Skills- Presentation Online Tools

Presenting materials and introducing ideas is an essential part of our teaching profession. Similarly, our students should learn how to communicate messages or opinions eloquently in front of an audience. No matter what they choose to do for a living, public speaking is undoubtedly an important life skill that we should help learners possess during their school lives.

During the past few years, I have attended numerous talks in ELT conferences and professional development courses. For me, it’s always interesting to observe speakers’ versatile presenting styles, pick the elements I like and adapt them accordingly so as to improve my own presenting skills. Every presentation is unique. I’ve come across very gifted speakers and highly engaging talks to less compelling ones where the audience felt completely disengaged and bored. This has made me wonder: What are the secrets to a successful presentation? Is good presenting some kind of innate talent or is it a skill that can be eventually acquired with lots of practise? How can a speaker stand out by giving a memorable presentation?

Whether we are teachers, teacher trainers or students keeping an audience focused and inspired can be quite a challenge. Quality content is vital but only if delivered confidently with the aid of the right presentation tool, will listeners not switch off!

I’d like to recommend three impressive online presentation tools we can all use as good alternatives to the conventional yet always useful PowerPoint :-)! Their main asset is that the presentations you create are stored online ‘in the cloud’ and are accessible any time any place. Thus, there is no need to worry for USBs or other data storing devices!

1. Prezi is a great online whiteboard where you can insert text, images, sound, diagrams, files and You Tube videos. There is also a PowerPoint Import feature that enables you to bring your existing content directly into your prezis! What’s really special about this tool is its 3D zooming canvas. While presenting you can zoom in to examine the details of your ideas or zoom out to show the overview. This way, presentations are more dynamic and non-linear. Prezis can be edited, shared via email, embedded online or downloaded to your PC! Moreover, you can find reusable educational Prezis, if you don’t feel like making your presentation from scratch. There are free or billed student and teacher Prezi licences to choose from. Prezi is available in the App Store for ipads or iphones for those of you who love to work ‘on the move’ too :-).

Have a look at the presentation an intermediate student of mine made using Prezi to get an idea of what you can do with this tool. His task was to present a synopsis of the first Shrek movie, its characters, embed his favourite scene as well as share some movie trivia and rate it!

2. Google Drive

Most people would now be familiar with this lovely tool offered by Google! Among others, Google Docs lets you create powerful presentations with text and different kinds of media while collaborating remotely with other users in real time. One of its few limitations is the fact that users can’t add music to their slides. Presentations can be embedded in your own website or shared with an e-mail link.

Below is a presentation two of my CPE students created with Google Docs. Their ‘aim’ was to inform and convince British people and the British Museum about the Return of the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece in only 10 slides! 

3. Empressr is a free online storytelling tool that allows you to create, manage and share rich media presentations online. It lets you quickly import images from Flickr, Google, Yahoo and Photobucket. In addition, you can upload a PowerPoint file to Empressr and use its slides as pictures or as a fully editable presentation. Your presentations can be kept either public or private. Embed your Empressr into your blog, your favourite social network page or share it via email and impress :-).

Here, I’d like to share the list of presentation guidelines I give to my students. This is also the link to a You Tube video they find very useful since it highlights some of the key techniques Steve Jobs used to employ in his knockout presentations:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-ntLGOyHw4

  • Make sure your content is relevant, engaging& to the point!
  • Organize your talk well: “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.” (George Bernard Shaw).
  • Prefer a clear layout and plain templates.
  • Dark backgrounds with light fonts or the reverse are more legible and pleasing to the eye! Remember to use images, flowcharts, audio or video to complement what you have to say and make your visual stories more impressive!
  • Colour your voice and don’t speak very fast.
  • Smiling with the right dose of humour will help make your talk more captivating.
  • Rehearse a lot to gain confidence and feel relaxed.
  • Keep eye contact with your audience. Avoid reading out from a script.
  • Allow time for questions at the end.
  • Finally, remember that the ‘soul’ of your presentation is yourself! So, take a deep breath and do your best :-)!

Can you think of any other handy tips we can share with our students so that delivering a presentation can be a less stressful and more enjoyable experience? What are your dos and don’ts when presenting?

Let’s enrich this list together ;-)

All the best,

Christina

March 23, 2013
by Christina Martidou
5 Comments

How to create and use comics with your English language learners!!!

In 2012 I attended a very useful online EVO session on ‘Digital Storytelling for Young Learners’. Among other things, I became familiar with a variety of web tools used to create comic strips and explored the ways to incorporate them in my EFL lessons effectively. In this post, I’d like to share some of the things I learnt as well as reflect on the use of comics in language teaching from my personal experience.

To start with, I’ll suggest 6 great comic creation tools! The first four are simpler to use and there is no need to sign up in order to employ them. The rest two are a bit more sophisticated, thus more appropriate for older students or very competent computer users.

1. Dvolver is one of my favourite tools! Completely free and straightforward! Just select your characters, different backgrounds, add your lines and music to create a comic strip in the form of a digital movie!!! You can e-mail your movie as soon as you’ve completed it!

2. Professor Garfield: Who doesn’t love this lazy, fat cat who hates Mondays and diets :-)?! Your students will have loads of fun while making their short storylines with Garfield and his friends Jon and Odie! They can then print or save their strips as a jpg or png file to their PCs! The site offers some nice tips and videos about the secrets of writing comics that your students will find very handy before moving on to the creative process! Check out the strip two of my intermediate students created with my help after a session on how to stay safe online.

3. Phrase.it This is a lovely tool to add cartoon speech bubbles to your own pictures! It also lets you import FB images or use a random stock photo! It’s ideal both for very young learners and older ones! It allows you to post your creations to FB, tweet or pin them, download or e-mail them! Take a look at the three images below to see what you can do with it!

4. Makebeliefscomix.com: That’s a neat, free tool to create comics with! However, the site doesn’t store your comixs! Thus, you should e-mail, print the out or use Jing (or another screenshot tool) to capture and save them to your computer!

5. Toondoo Learners can create wonderful strips with Toondoo! There is a variety of characters, backgrounds and inbuilt clipart! Signing up is free and students’ work can be embedded, e-mailed or printed! The comment feature is also available in the free version! You can also create private Toon spaces for your class/ school at a low rate. Here is a lovely Toon my 12 –year- old students Achilles and Elizabeth made the other day:6. X-treme Comics is a powerful visual writing tool! Teachers set up an account, add students (with or without e-mail) and can easily moderate their actions! Students can create very elaborate strips that will then be printed, downloaded, embedded or shared on the web!

Why?

Because…

  • Comics are a great way to inspire and motivate students of all ages! Even yourself ;-)!
  • It helps learners get a clearer understanding of how to develop a story in a logical sequence (Beginning- Middle- End).
  • Students learn how to convey an idea precisely in a few words! Trust me, it’s more difficult than it sounds!
  • Learners get the chance to practise the dialogue aspect of comic stories.
  • They practise creating& designing characters with different personalities (nice, mean, funny, heroic, goofy e.t.c), giving them emotions as well as picking the setting of their stories.
  • Students can understand the differences between traditional narratives and comic strips more easily. (more dialogues, images, use of punch lines, funny words or ‘pantomime’ e.t.c)

 Teaching Ideas:

Here are some ideas on how to use comics in class! Ask students to make comics:

  • On Internet safety rules.
  • On road safety rules.
  • On Facebook manners or other useful social media habits.
  • To describe ways to stay healthy or happy.
  • To create an autobiographical comic strip at the beginning of the school year.
  • To change or go beyond the ending of a book you have just read in class.
  • To build their plot based on a given prompt. This is a cool website for story starters for kids: http://www.thestorystarter.com/jr.htm
  • To comment on a current social or political issue.
  • To describe or summarize their feelings about a personal experience (e.g a school trip, holidays, cheating or failing a test, been lied to by their best friend…).
  • To present a recipe or make an instruction manual.
  • To practise on a new grammar rule or new vocabulary words.

 Tips to get the best out of comic strips:

  • Make sure to familiarize yourself with the comic creation tool(s) before introducing it/them in class. Explore their capacities, how they function as well as their weaknesses/ limitations.
  • Choose the tool or website that best suits your students’ age, level as well as their computer skills! Some of these tools can be quite complex and may discourage the less tech-savvy students. Collaborative work is preferable!
  • Give students time to experiment and play with your chosen tool.
  • Learners should always plan their comic strips before they start creating them.
  • If you want to challenge your students a bit, why not give them 5 specific words they ‘must’ use in their strip?
  • From my experience, this whole creative process can be pretty time-consuming. Nevertheless, it’s very worthwhile if anything, for the sheer fun of it :-).

Have you ever tried using comics in your ELT class? What were your students reactions? Did you face any problems?

I’d love to hear your experiences!

All the best,

Christina