‘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. ANIMOTOPICOVICOCLIPGENERATOR

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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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.

TAGXEDOABCYa: 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/

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

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!

collage

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. 

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

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

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

‘St. Valentine loves Technology: 5 ideas for your ELT class!’

St. Valentine’s Day usually evokes mixed feelings. The non- Valentine lovers pour scorn on it for being pointless and commercial while the unrepentant romantics see this as a special day of love and romance! I guess that when you’re still in your teens- as many of our students are- this celebration hasn’t yet lost its ‘magic’ or ‘importance’ :-). So here is how I suggest that you celebrate St. Valentine’s with your EFL students while using technology effectively:

Idea No 1:

Movie Clip: I’ve always been a huge fan of Disney’s movies! Recently this black and white short film called ‘Paperman’ caught my eye on Facebook and I simply loved it. It’s a sweet love story which has received a nomination for the Best Animated short film at the upcoming 85th Academy Awards and it’s very worthwhile watching.

Thus, I came up with some ideas about how to use it with my teenage students on Valentine’s Day. These are my suggested group activities:

  1. Students make predictions: Show students the film and pause at 1.33’. Ask them to guess how the young man will try to catch the woman’s attention. Pause the video again at 3.29’: ‘Will he go after her or will he give up, discouraged by his boss’ disapproving look?’. Last pause at 4.18’: ‘What will happen next?’.
  2. Play the clip once and ask students to create a timeline of events. You may have to pause the clip at the end of major events to allow students enough time to take notes. Play the clip again so that learners can complete or correct their work. For homework, students write short summaries of all the events on the film clip.
  3. Have students write a thought script. What are the animated characters thinking? Students share their scripts and then vote for the most inventive one. (this could be an alternative to activity B).
  4. Ask students to describe the characters using as many relevant adjectives as they can!
  5. Can they think of an alternative film title?
  6. What are the hidden messages of this short love film? (Possible answers: One can find true love in the most unexpected places/ you can’t avoid love/ if something is meant to be, it’ll always find its way e.t.c)

Idea No 2:

Music: I picked one of the most famous love songs of all time, ‘Always’ by Jon Bon Jovi which I found suitable for this occasion and potentially ‘acceptable’ to both boys and girls :-). One of my students (who is a big Bon Jovi fan) helped me change some of the song’s words with mistakes in rhyme. Learners will have to read through the song first and try to spot these mistakes. Then they correct them while listening to the song! Please find the worksheet I created and download it for free from the flash widget in the right hand column of my blog!

Idea No 3:

Voki: Why not have students create their Vokis in order to send their love messages to their beloved ones? Voki is completely free, you don’t need an account plus your Vokis can be e-mailed or embedded in any social media site, blog or website. For more details click here: http://bit.ly/10Tm811. Below is the Voki I’ll use as an example:

 

Idea No 4:

Animoto video: Students can produce wonderful short videos using their own images, text and soundtrack based on the theme of love and different manifestations of it. What is true love for them?? For more information about Animoto’s capabilities have a look at my older post here: http://bit.ly/SRT0kQ

Idea No 5:

Tagxedo: Last but not least, a simple yet always creative& enjoyable activity: Tell students to pick a love poem or song beforehand. Ask them to design their own word cloud while playing with different shapes, colours, orientation and fonts! Have a look at the Tagxedo one of my adult students created last year based on William Shakespeare’s sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved

Hope you find these ideas useful and enjoyable! Pick the ones you think your students will like most and leave your comment to let me know how it went!

Even if you are not a big fan of St. Valentine’s Day, try to spend it in love…there is nothing that completes us more as human beings.

All the best,

Christina

‘How I love using Word Clouds with my students’

Wordle and Tagxedo are currently two of the most popular Web 2.0 tools. They turn the text of your choice (poems, lyrics, your tweets, news articles e.t.c) into visually wonderful word clouds in an instant! Both of them are free, easy- to –use and don’t require a user’s account. You can toy with different colours, shapes, fonts, orientation and themes to create your own word cloud. In this post, I’d like to share the way I love using them with my language learners!

Discovering and reading famous quotes is something I particularly enjoy when surfing the Net! For me, this kind of ‘concentrated wisdom’ eloquently expressed by eminent, successful people is inspiring to say the least!

Thus, I decided to use famous quotations as excellent thought- provokers and the springboard for further discussion and writing assignments in class too! Here is the procedure you can follow if you wish to try the same:

  • Collect quotes relevant to your student’s interests& create a Power Point presentation (you can download the one I used for free from the flash widget in the right hand column of the blog).
  • Write the words of each quote on separate post-it notes. (Alternatively you can print the quotes out and cut the sheet into strips- one or two words per strip according to the level of students& length of quote.)
  • Give each pair of students a different quotation.
  • Students must arrange post-its in a logical order to reassemble the quotation.
  • Pairs then discuss their quotation for five minutes.
  • Each pair writes a short summary of their discussion including their reactions and feelings about the quote.
  • In the meantime, write the names of the chosen public figures on the board. Ask students to guess& match the public figure to their quote. ‘Who said it?’
  • Your PP presentation will reveal the correct answers!
  • Students create a Tagxedo or Wordle out of their quote!
  • For homework you can have students ‘build’ their public figure’s profile by presenting 10 important life facts in class. If the quotes are contradictory enough, you can also ask more advanced learners to write a composition. Younger learners could memorize a quote for dictation.

Below you can see four Tagxedos my students created with great enthusiasm, based on different quotes:

Walt Disney: ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them’.

Marilyn Monroe: ‘So keep your head high, keep your chin up and most importantly keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.’

Audrey Hepburn: ‘I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.’

Michael Jordan: ‘Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or walk around it.’

Albert Einstein: ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.’

Wordle or Tagxedo??

The two tools have a lot in common. However, I am a bigger fan of Tagxedo due to some features Wordle doesn’t possess:

  1. You can upload and use your own pictures to be used as a template!
  2. Your images can be saved in different sizes as jpg or png files. Saving your image in Wordle is more time-consuming& complex since you have to use print screen and then crop the image to get your word cloud.
  3. I love the gallery of selected shapes (hearts, stars, animals, symbols).
  4. Apart from blogs and wikis, tagxedos can be embedded into Facebook& Twitter.

For more ideas on how to use Worlde& Tagxedo have a look at the following links:

http://bit.ly/aiJ8iU

http://bit.ly/bhhQ3M

Quotes make learners think while technology helps them be creative& enjoy the learning process more! Isn’t this the combination we look for :-)?? Have fun using word clouds too!!!

 All the best,

Christina

HOLLYWOOD in your ELT class via You Tube!

 

The holiday season is now over and we’re all back to our daily teaching routines for good! However, it’s always refreshing both for the students and us to find ways to take a break from the textbook!

Being a cinema lover myself and with the Oscars around the corner, I decided to create a lesson plan inspired by the glam and beauty of Hollywood so as to bring Film into my ELT class. Undeniably, You Tube was the handiest tool in order to achieve this.

Here is only a short intro of my outline. You can find and download the complete lesson plan for free in the right hand column of this blog (see flash_widget BOX).

Topic: ‘Hollywood Lovers’.

Level: Intermediate and above.

Time: Two 40’ sessions+ One 60’ minute session (for students’ presentations& comments).

Aim: To analyze movie trailers in depth, become familiar with different genres, write film reviews, and practise both critical and listening skills.

What you need: a computer, a projector and an Internet connection.

Movie Trailers used:

– ‘Troy’ (2004), http://bit.ly/S9Ht2p

– ‘Notting Hill’  (1999), http://bit.ly/Wb49NY

– ‘Snow white& the Huntsman’ (2012), http://bit.ly/uKivC8

– ‘Meet the Parents’ (2000), http://bit.ly/W2Yfkf

 

At the moment, You Tube is the top social video sharing site online. Here are some amazing facts and figures which caught my eye and I believe they are worthwhile mentioning:

  • As of February 2011, there are 490 million unique users worldwide per month!
  • More than 400 tweets per minute contain a YouTube link.
  • You Tube mobile gets over 100 million views a day.
  • You Tube is localized in 25 countries across 43 languages.

You Tube is a kind of window to the outside world and with its phenomenal popularity it can be used as a powerful, exciting educational tool. Students and especially teenagers absolutely love it! Even less tech-savvy teachers, who are more sceptical and reluctant to embrace educational technology, use it in their personal lives or are at least familiar with it. So why not give it a try in class too?

You Tube is free, rich in content, requires minimum IT skills from the part of the teacher and only basic IT school facilities. Below are some great tools you may also find useful while using You Tube:

  1. TubeChop allows you to easily chop the section you need from any YouTube video and share it.
  2. SafeShare.TV & ViewPure generate safe links and remove distracting and offensive elements around YouTube videos. SafesShare.TV also allows you to crop videos before sharing them.
  3. Listentoyoutube.com extracts the mp3 from any You Tube video of your choice. You only enter its URL and you instantly get your downloadable mp3!
  4. Teachertube.com is a channel designed to tend to teachers& learners digital needs featuring a big variety of educational videos.
  5.  You Tube for schools

Do you use You Tube in your class? If so, in what ways? How do your students respond to it? Do you have any other ideas on how to introduce Film effectively in your ELT lessons?

I look forward to hearing your ideas!

 All the best,

 Christina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas& New Year Celebrations with Animoto& Wallwisher in your tool kit!

The countdown to Christmas& 2013 has begun and students are already thrilled and so looking forward to our holiday break! During this time of the year, we all tend to look back, cherish the good moments, leave the bad ones behind and take ambitious decisions for the New Year! In this context, I used two wonderful tools with my students- Animoto and Wallwisher– that I highly recommend if you plan to embrace technology in your ELT classes. So here goes:

Animoto is a F A N T A S T I C tool for creating videos and presentations! I personally love it! Teachers can apply for a free Animoto Plus account with extra features and no restrictions on the length of the videos. Students browse through the numerous templates and choose a style for their video.  Then, they upload their clips, images, add text or captions and choose a suitable soundtrack. This way they make impressive, professional- looking videos only in a couple of minutes! Videos can be easily shared via email, on a classroom blog or website, on You Tube or even be downloaded to a computer.

I asked my students to create videos of their most special moments of 2012. Of course, I clarified that their content should be appropriate, inoffensive and copyright free. Below I have embedded the video I made and used as an example! This way you can get a small taste of the ‘wonders’ you can do with Animoto! You’ll find relevant advice on how to set up your students’ accounts here: http://bit.ly/cJmVLB. Animoto is also available on the App store so that you can create and share your videos on the go!

The second tool I picked for this holiday season was Wallwisher! It’s simple, fun and gives you great options! Teachers basically create a digital corkboard where students can post their messages along with images and videos! Go to http://wallwisher.com/, sign up with your email and build your wall. Give it a name, set your privacy settings and invite your students to work on it by emailing the wall url to them! You have the ‘power’ to approve as well as edit their posts!

Take a look at the wall my students and I built with our New Year’s Resolutions! You can also access the wall here: http://bit.ly/UFC8gO 

Created with Wallwisher

If you teach very young learners, you could ask them to create their Christmas gift lists to Santa Claus :-)!

Finally, I’d like to thank you for visiting this blog and wish you all the best for 2013! Stay healthy, do what you love, get inspired by your students and the best is yet to come… :-)!

Christina

 

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