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Saturday, October 20, 2012


Let’s talk about POLLS. 

A poll is a survey used to give a public opinion about a specific topic or question. Using a poll with in your class allows you to ask one multiple choice question and receive results which will reflect how other students feel about a particular subject.  Nowadays, most polls are being asked online.  An online poll tool gives you the opportunity to receive instant information or feedback from other students in your class.  You can use create polls to use on your computer or on any device such as a smartphone, ipod or ipad.

Some easy sites to make polls are:


Look at this example.

Let students control some of their own learning by giving them the opportunity to be active and  feel that they are the 'creator' of learning activities such as this one!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Here is a tool I came across that I think could be useful for teachers working  on reading skills.  I think it could best be used by the teacher with the whole class, projecting the text in question using the OHP and working on the text as a group activity.  As well as working on reading skills, teachers are introducing key vocabulary in a visual way which facilitates comprehension, esp. in a foreign language.

Wordsift visualizes texts and picks out the most frequent words used.  Wordsift also does a google image search and retrieves images to match the two most frequent words found. Examples from the source text containing the most frequent word in the text is displayed under the Visual Thesaurus word web.  One intended use of this feature is to organize the text to preview key vocabulary. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012



A Canadian based website with playful podcasts to help you learn English. Culips podcasts have a lot of cultural contents and we talk a lot about life in Canada and in Montreal in particular.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Reading a newspaper can be a frustrating experience, even in one’s own language!
 Add to the equation a language which isn’t your native tongue and the task becomes even more cumbersome.   Try using ‘The Times in Plain English’.
 The Times in Plain English brings you important news from America’s best sources of information. The writing is in clear, readable English.  It’s a great for learners of the English language because it avoids:
  • Complex sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Distractions from the main thought
  • Comparisons
  • Metaphors, similes and analogies
  • Argot, slang and idiomatic words
  • Contractions
  • Adjectives
This is a great reading resource for English teachers!


Here is a link to some great applications for making or editing videos. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Nik Peachey has recently published 15 reasons why online teaching development works best.  I normally try to use my own ideas when blogging but it turns out that I completely agree with Nik and couldn't have expressed myself better than he has!
As an online learner myself, I can completely back up any of the points mentioned.  Having done an online masters practically full time for two years, I could work at my own computer, learn at my own pace and try out any new ideas on the classes that I had at the time. It was a steep learning curve but that's the beauty of working at one's own pace.  On top of developing and fine-tuning my own digital literacy skills, it also gave me great insight into what students go through when participating in online courses and forums.  Last but not least, studying online put me in contact with a great network of professionals with whom I have continued working with and learning from.  For me, the benefits far outnumber any inconvenience.  Have a read!


I came across this short and sweet text written by Melissa LaBianca about ESL lesson plan strategies and wanted to quickly share the link.  Most of you will be starting up a new school year and wanting some new and refreshing strategies and ideas which will help you when it comes to planning your lessons.  Something to think about!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I was recently reading a presentation by Professor Dalton Kehoe of York University about 'energizing teaching with technology'. He is actually referring to university level students in his presentation but I feel his advice is very relevant when it comes to re-energizing teachers or students of all ages.

  I would like to share a few good points that I've taken from the presentation and offer it as advice to all of us who really want to make a difference with our lectures or classes.

  He mentions that lecturers/teachers display three general qualities:

  • Love of the subject matter

  • Appropriate preparation and structure

  • Obvious care for their students

  It may seem like obvious information, however, it's made me reflect about my teaching practices. You often find teachers who love their subject matter but lack the skills in preparing interesting classes which will engage their 21st century students. Other teachers are great at preparing their classes but lack that personal touch when it comes to connecting with their students. It´s not always easy to keep all three of these qualities present at all times and with all classes. If you want to improve your teaching, I invite all teachers to take a short reflexion and ask yourselves if you possess these three qualities and if you lack in one area, it's something to work on!

  I’d also like to invite all of you teachers out there to post a comment on my wallwisher, ENERGIZING TEACHERS. The question is: What have you done this Summer to re-energize for the upcoming school year? I would really appreciate some feedback! To end, I'd also like to invite you all to read an article written by a high school student and his view of text books. It's worth a reflexion as we all begin this new school year. "A high school senior’s view of textbooks and worksheet packets"

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I've been working on digital stories with my students over the course of one term. I set up a project with three other schools; two from the States and one from Canada. The first step of the project, other than finding the other schools, was to work on 'Script-writing'. Students worked in pairs or in small groups to decide what it was they wanted to actually say to others. I'd say that this is one of the most important steps and yet unfortunately it's the one step that many of my students left out. Many of them couldn't decide what they wanted to say until they had their videos and photos to draw upon. In any case, script-writing and deciding where the storyline was going was my main objective for them at the beginning.
Once their topics and spripts were written, I set up a website using Weebly. We tried to document the students from the beginning to the end of the project. The teachers involved all had editing rights to the site so each teacher added information about their towns and school and kept their own pages going as the project developed. We opened up a separate wiki for students to begin communicating and introducing themselves.
Once the scripts or topics were decided, students had to go and collect the relevant photos or videos that would support their story. Some students were a bit lazy and used internet photos instead of making their own.
When this step was more or less ready (Every week some groups would come to class with NOTHING...) we talked about some of the different tools they could use to make up their stories. Many of them started with Moviemaker and then finally heeded my advice and used an online digital storymaking tool called Stupeflix. Others had the excuse week after week that they couldn't work in class because their work was saved on THEIR computer at home and couldn't be saved onto a pendrive for who knows what reason. I heard so many excuses! They were finally able to download their photos and videos, from home or from the class. We did most of the voice recordings in class using audacity. Stupeflix doesn't allow you to record your voice directly but it does allow you to upload sound files. Some students went out into a quiet hallway and recorded their voices using their mobile phone voice recording tool. And of course, some students never got to the recording stage and ended up just putting writing onto their stories with no voice.
Considering how reluctant teenagers can be and how limited we were with time, internet connection, tool choices, etc... I am happy to have finally completed the project. Some stories are better than others but they all got them done in the end. The other schools also put up their stories on the web and we dedicated two classes to looking and listening to the other stories and having them go to their student wiki to write comments and feedback about the other schools' stories.
All in all, it's been a steep learning curve for both the students and teachers. It's not always easy to organize a collaborative project and to keep everyone on track in the way in which you imagine but I do think that projects like this are worth it. Along with the language-learning factor, they have definately had the opportunity to try out some web tools and new technologies.
I'd love to hear your comments about the website and stories in general. Please enter the site and comment!

Friday, May 11, 2012


I have to say that I am genuinely surprised at how successful STORYBIRD has been with my 15-year old students! They are coming to the end of the year. They are lazy, unmotivated, whiny and reluctant to do almost anything I propose. I was at my last straw and I thought, ‘Let’s see if Storybird grabs their attention and keeps them quiet and me sane for at least 30 full minutes!” To my surprise, after the initial 10 minute explanation of how this tool works, they excitedly worked on their stories. They totally got into their work. After the one-hour class was finished, most of them had produced some great stories. In fact, I don’t even care if all of their stories weren’t so great. They were ENGAGED in the task, they had fun, they were writing, they were asking for vocabulary and most importantly, they were QUIET!!! It was great to see the results and have them genuinely want to save their story and make sure that it didn’t get lost. In order to facilitate the task with the time limit we had, I saved all of their stories in my account and then they invited themselves as collaborators. I’ve seen that as a teacher you can set up classes and add the students beforehand but as I mentioned, this was a last minute attempt to find something that would interest them so I didn’t have time for that. Next year, I will definitely set up different classes within my account and try to organize different themes for different groups.

Here are a couple of examples:

The saviors of the planet. on Storybird


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This week we've been working on writing HAIKU poems. A Haiku poem is Japanese and is typically written using 3 lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables. More verses can be added keeping this format.

  Steps to the activity:

  1. First we brainstormed SPRING vocabulary. Students worked in pairs and wrote out the vocabulary in their notebook.

  2. Once we had the vocabulary, we went over the rule for making a HAIKU poem. We looked at some examples and counted out the syllables.

  3. In pairs, they played around with the vocabulary and made the first three lines. They had to count the syllables and eliminate extra words or syllables. They had to be flexible with the GRAMMAR!

  4. The teacher corrects the first three lines to make sure students are following the rule.

  5. They wrote out 9 lines, following the 5/7/5 syllable rule.

   6. On a white paper, they wrote out their poems and illustrated them with small drawings.

7. They were put up on the wall to decorate the classroom.

  8. Photos were taken of the process and the final product. A photopeach was made to display the activity. Animoto, stupeflix or any other video tool could be used.

  Here is the final product!


Monday, April 23, 2012


Have your students write Haiku poems and record them reading them out. As it was Sant Jordi today, I first brainstormed vocabulary related to the legend of Sant Jordi. They had all of the words on the board in front of them. Then we went over the rules of a Haiku poem. A Haiku poem is a traditional Japanese poem and generally has three lines, the first with 5 syllables, the second with 7 syllables and the last line, once again with 5 syllables. They wrote out their poems fairly quickly. They had to be reminded that it had to be 5 syllables, not 5 words. Once they had finished, I recorded them reading out their poems. I used Vocaroo. It's fast and simple and the code is sent to you directly. Once that was finished, I put their poems together on a Stupeflix video and added illustrations and music. This is the final product.

Friday, April 13, 2012


My students and I have been working on digital stories this past month. Some have used a new tool called Stupeflix, whilst others have used Moviemaker. I'm really happy with the results and I'd like to share a couple of their examples. They've all worked really hard and I think they've learned quite a lot. Obviously they've had to practise a lot of English (Script writing, dubbing photos and images, subtitling), however, they've also learnt some other great skills; use of technologies, problem-solving, pair-work, negotiation. All in all, they seem to have enjoyed themselves and I am very proud of the final results! Feel free to comment. Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Rob, Andy and Nik round up the Iatefl conference with a last interview of some stats and impressions.

Surprisingly, There have been viewers from 157 different countries! According to the numbers, well over 100000 teachers have been watching videos of the sessions and interviews so organisers are very pleased and proud of this year's participation. With easy online access to the live sessions and interviews, teachers from all over the world have been able to access and follow just as if they had actually been there. In fact, Nik mentions that some teachers who were actually physically present at the conference were walking around with their ipads and tablets, listening in on some of the live sessions at the same time. Isn't technology fantastic?!

Some points worth mentioning:

- There was a lot of talk about bridging the gap between research and classroom practice. Good to hear!

- Teachers need to be clearer with their feedback and they need to challenge students more. We are too easy on our students!

- Nik was also thrilled to have shared chats with Scott Thornbury about technologies and their positive role in education.

- Iatefl is enabling more and more teachers from all over the world to get together, physically or virtually, to share ideas and get together socially to talk about TEACHING.

All in all the conference has been a great success and they want to let us all know that online coverage of the conference will be available for the next year. Check out this link to watch videos of the many interviews and sessions that took place.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Well, another IATEFL conference has come and gone. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the conference in person but have been trying to catch interviews here and there.

There were a lot of interesting talks and interviews happening this past week but I'd like to share with you the interview with Nik Peachy as I thoroughly agree with everything he mentioned and it certainly rings true to what I feel has happened in many of the schools in Catalonia. Nik mentions that a lot of money has been invested in technology over the past couple of years and yet there’s not much evidence or no real impact can be seen from an educator’s point of few. I’ve seen this first hand, both as a mother and a teacher. In my eldest daughter’s high school, the 1x1 computer pilot program started 2 years ago. Both the parents and the government joined together in buying laptops for the 120 students involved in our local high school. I dutifully set up parent-safety control on my daughter’s computer and got ready for some long-awaited changes to come about with regards to the way students in the school had been learning. I waited and waited and week after week when I asked her if they’d used the computers that week, her answer was always the same: No! The reasons ranged from teachers not wanting to use the computers when they already had a perfectly good book to work with to the more technical problems such as the internet/broadband connectivity being down or not strong enough to support an entire classroom of computers. Two years later, she reports that half the students’ computers are either lost or broken and from what I can see, it’s mainly being used for facebook and social networking from home. The program has been cancelled and many students, my son being one of them, have not even got to the stage of receiving their laptops this year. As my daughter’s computer is rarely used at school, it’s become a permanent fixture in her bedroom and I now have a very disappointed son who feels it’s unfair that his sister has one. From a teacher’s point of view, I’m also very disappointed as my class at the school where I work was supposed to get on board with the 1x1 computer program and since it’s been cancelled there are no computers or intentions to get computers anywhere in sight! It’s all very depressing. Upon entering this school three years ago, I had just finished my Masters in Technology and Tesol and I was so excited to help bring both students and teachers into the 21st Century but it’s been quite a big let-down and I privately end up doing as much as I can with the little technology I have available.

Nik also mentions that IWBs have been thought of as the solution to integrating technology into schools. Boards are bought, set up in the classrooms and then teachers are supposed to just get on with it, with no proper training or professional development with regards to teaching their subject using the boards. Again, the same thing has happened at the high school where I teach. The boards are on the wall, the markers have been taken away and hidden and the laptops removed from the room until someone finds the time to train the teachers how to properly use it. Pick me, pick me I want to say; only it seems that fellow colleagues are reluctant to learn from a ‘newbie’ and quite frankly most of them seem relieved that they haven’t been made to learn how it works yet. I’m not joking. One of them said to me, “Why do I need to learn how to give my class on an interactive board if I already have my lessons planned and I use a book?” Again; very depressing. Nik’s advice for our teachers is that we give them more training. OBVIOUSLY! These laptops and IWBs have been thrown into the educational system without even contemplating teacher training. Few teachers are truly ready to use 1x1 laptops in a confident way and in the way in which they were intended. It’s the same with the boards. Many teachers who do in fact have their boards up and running are simply using them as they would a regular computer, projector and screen. There’s nothing interactive in the way that they are using the boards. It’s not entirely their fault. They haven’t been trained. He states that teachers need to be trained so that they can support the students outside of the classroom.

Nik’s advice and vision for future students is that they will be allowed to bring in their own devices; cellphones, ipads, kindles, etc… and that teachers will ‘teach’ them how to become autonomous learners, able to learn the educational value of the tools that they are already familiar with. It’s a great dream Nik. Have you ever taught in a Catalan/Spanish school?! I’d love to share your vision but I see it as an ‘almost’ impossible feat in my current teaching situation. He also mentions that there needs to be more thought put into the way homework is given to the students and that it has to be used in a more integrated and practical way so that students develop digital literacy at home and are able to bring their experience into the classroom.

I enjoyed the interview a lot but it’s made me see that things are not happening in a very quick and progressive way from where I’m standing. Unless I one day open a private school as Nik has done, these changes may not come about until at least the 22nd Century!

Interview with Nik Peachey | Glasgow Online

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IATEFL - Extensive Reading Foundation Reception and Awards Ceremony

My readers will have to excuse the lack of 'techy tools' in my next couple of posts. I will be commenting on videos and interviews from IATEFL Glasgow this week and will therefore not be posting about 'tool' examples as usual.

I Am listening to Jeremy Harmer's session "Extensive Reading Foundation Reception and Awards Ceremony". Jeremy is talking about how important it is to use reading as a tool for language learning and language improvement. I couldn't agree more. It's taking me back to the memory of my 6th grade teacher who first got me interested in reading. For the last 30 minutes of each school day, she used to turn off the lights and tell us to rest our heads on our desks as she proceeded to read the entire book of 'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R. Tolkien. It was wonderful and magical and I'm convinced that my love of reading stems from this experience. Getting our students interested in reading anything in a language which is not their mother-tongue is definitely a challenging task. Sure we have the obligatory readers which they must read as part of their course work; however reading for FUN is not generally something that language students do on their own. One of the award-winners mentioned that when writing for non-native speakers, stories must be both SATISFYING and ENGAGING. I also totally agree with this point, however, I know that it's also very difficult nowadays to engage our learners in words printed out in paper-form, non-three-dimensional with no words or images jumping out and spinning around in circles just to entertain them! I feel that it’s my duty as a language teacher to really make them ENJOY the books that they HAVE to read. In fact, just today I was reading out the first two chapters of ‘The Mummy’ to my 3rd Eso students (14-year olds). I knew that if I simply put the cd on for them to listen to or asked them to silently read the chapters on their own, their interest would quickly dwindle. I read it to them as my 6th-grade teacher had read to me, along with a few personalized ‘extras’ such as keywords written on the board and a theatrical me starring as Anck Su Namun stabbing herself in order to save her lover Imhotep! (They’ll never forget what the word stab means again!) I’m getting off track but my point is that reading really does have to be engaging and even more so in the case of non-native language learners. I congratulate all writers of books and readers for EFL learners as I know that it really is no easy task.

To my surprise, one of the award-winners was Tim Vicary. I’m not surprised that he won an award. I’m surprised at the coincidence that I had just recently finished an online interactive activity site for his book ‘The Elephant Man’. It was nice putting a ‘live’ face to the book!

And last but certainly not least, I had the privilege of watching the dear Robert O’Neill as he so truthfully spoke about… I’m not quite sure what! He impressed us all so much with the couple of loud F-words that left his mouth that even Jeremy Harmer was left speechless! Very amusing to see, and hear!

The message I leave you all with; READ!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking Photos? Try FOTOBABBLE

This is a very simple tool, especially good for getting younger students to share information in English.  All they have to do is bring in a photo and then it can be uploaded in Fotobabble and a voice recording tool records their sentence.  They can pick colourful backgrounds to suit their photo too. This is a very simple tool, especially good for getting younger students to share information in English.  All they have to do is bring in a photo and then it can be uploaded in Fotobabble and a voice recording tool records their sentence.  They can pick colourful backgrounds to suit their photo too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Some interesting facts and misconceptions about video games and education. Video Games and Education
Via: Online Colleges Guide

Thursday, March 1, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, after trying out short stories with 5-card flickr, I decided to try out the story starter idea on the page.  Although it says it's for primary students, I thought I'd give it a try with my 15-year olds. They had seemed to enjoy writing quick stories using flickr images and they were asking me for more!  The activity worked well and they are getting used to creating quick stories in a short period of time.  I am not focussing on form, only FUN.    Here is an example of how I did this activity:

1.  Open the story starter page on scholastic and get four students to pull the lever in order to choose the topic that they will be writing about.
2. Put the students in pairs.
3.  Give them about 10 minutes to write a quick story using all of the elements as shown in the picture.
4.  Read the stories out in class.
5.  Don't be too hard on their grammar.  Let them use their imaginations and have a bit of fun with writing!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


My students will be trying out this tool to make their digital stories. It looks a lot easier than Moviemaker and a lot more modern. From what I can see, it let's you add photos, videos, music, subtitles and voice. The first video is free. I'll post some examples once they have finished but it looks like a nice and easy tool for them to use and everything is in one place and easily shared once the videos are done!

Friday, January 27, 2012



This past Summer I took a two-week long Multiple Intelligence course in Canterbury and I must say that it took my mind off technology for a while and opened up my mind to many different types of activities which I had forgotten worked so well with EFL learners.  I'd been so obsessed with using technology in my classroom that I'd been putting off doing pair work, oral activities or activities in which students get out from their desks and move around the room. Those ‘linguistic’ activities which are typically used by language teachers had been set aside whilst I was trying out all the amazing new Web tools with my students.

As a language teacher of many years, I was actually surprised as I reflected upon my current teaching habits and techniques and how they have been changing over the past couple of years.  It's not that I had been purposely avoiding activities involving movement, personal reflection or tedious grammar activities.  It was simply the fact that I was so involved in my new ‘techy tools’ that my classes were beginning to feel like a broken record.      

Now, If there is one thing that I learnt in the Multiple Intelligence course, it’s that we must VARY our lessons in order to reach ALL of our students.  Students learn in different ways, with stronger or weaker degrees of ‘intelligences’ influencing them along their learning journey.  We are all born with the seven intelligences, however we have predominant ones which are often manifested in our ability or inability to learn something new.

Upon further reflection, I realized that by using copious amounts of technology with my students, I wasn’t failing them or their intelligences entirely!  I was in fact working on a variety of intelligences without actually realizing it. 

For those of you who are not familiar with Gardner's 7 Multiple Intelligences, they are:
  • Visual-Spatial
  • Bodily-kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal 
  • Linguistic
  • Logical –Mathematical
At a quick glance, it may appear that when teaching English we are automatically working on developing Linguistic intelligence. But by integrating music (Musical), getting students to share their opinions (interpersonal), keeping a journal or self-evaluating log (intrapersonal), putting together a digital story (Visual-Spatial); we are in fact working on various intelligences.  If we teachers take a look at the list, there are probably one or two that we systematically avoid.   Either they don’t appeal to us or we feel we know little in that particular area and thus we avoid them.  Let someone else teach that! 
To make a long story short, the course In MI has really enhanced my thinking in my EFL classes and recently I seem to be looking for and analyzing which ‘additional’ intelligence-s’ I am touching on, along with the more obvious Linguistic one.  I try to add a  lot of VARIETY to my lessons in the hopes that if the verb ‘to be’ doesn’t enter into their heads through the grammar exercises, it may finally get there through chants, visual games or the making of comics!! 
This whole reflection today has come about because of a fantastic lesson I had with my students this week.  It was an activity that I did with fellow teachers on the MI course and I think it’s worth sharing it with you.  From my own interpretation, I’d say that all but two intelligences are worked on in this activity and as an added bonus, the students had a lot of fun and laughs whilst doing it!
1.      Prepare the following link about Mozart:
2.      Students sit in pairs, one looking at the wall, the other looking at the video on the screen.
3.      The latter must describe to his/her partner everything that is happening in the skit.  The present simple or present continuous tenses work best and the video is very visual and eventful.
4.      Even if they don’t have the vocabulary to say everything, tell them to keep talking, fitting in any words they don’t know with their native language.  They have to sit very close to each other in order  to hear above all the noise the others are making.
5.      Halfway through the video, stop it and have partners switch their tasks.
6.      Once the video is done, show it to the class again and go over any words or actions they had trouble describing.
7.      As a last reflection, you can get them to think about how the skit depicts Mozart’s personality and his ability to play his music no matter what was happening around him.  Come rain or come shine, he never once stopped playing!

If you are looking for the ‘techy’ in this activity, sometimes a simple computer, projector, screen and a youtube video suffice!


Monday, January 16, 2012


Listen to your favourite blogs wherever you go. Vocalyze can read out blog or news articles rather than you having to read them yourself. If you're in the car, for instance, and don't have time to stop and read, Vocalyze allows you to listen to the blogs you follow, rather than reading them. Readers can listen on a web browser or on their mobile device - iPhone or Android phone. It reminds me a bit of Qwiki, which I mentioned a couple of months ago, where information on any subject you've searched for is then read out to you. This could be a useful tool for language learners. I tried it out today and find it quite interesting. The only thing that annoys me a little is the digital voice that's used to read out the text. It's not always easy to understand what's being said due to a lack of expression in the voices used. Other than that, I consider it a cool tool.

Listen to your favourite blogs wherever you go. Vocalyze can read out blog or news articles rather than you having to read them yourself. If you're in the car, for instance, and don't have time to stop and read, Vocalyze allows you to listen to the blogs you follow, rather than reading them. Readers can listen on a web browser or on their mobile device - iPhone or Android phone. It reminds me a bit of Qwiki, which I mentioned a couple of months ago, where information on any subject you've searched for is then read out to you. This could be a useful tool for language learners. I tried it out today and find it quite interesting. The only thing that annoys me a little is the digital voice that's used to read out the text. It's not always easy to understand what's being said due to a lack of expression in the voices used. Other than that, I consider it a cool tool.