Thursday, 29 April 2010
I love the headline above- "Gillian only popped out for a loaf and came back with Brown toast". A wonderful use of informal language "pop out" meaning to go out for a short time, and the play on words "Brown toast" which means that Gordon Brown is in desperate straits or indeed, doomed.
Thanks to the English Blog's excellent coverage of the events here, I was able to view some brilliant cartoons and use them as a handy warmer and discussion opener with my eager FCE / Upper Intermediate level students in the morning and my group of lovely secondary school teachers in the afternoon. I had a copy of the Guardian newspaper to hand and the front page showed a dejected Prime Minister with his head in his hands. The following is a Tagxedo of the words that came up in the discussion that ensued.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Here is my list of 10 blogs which I think are definitely worth having a look at:
Mike Harrison's Blog
Sean Banville's Blog
Zarco English- Tool of the day (AlexgFrancisco)
Life Feast Blog (Ana Maria Menezes)
Traveloteacher (Arjana Blazic)
A Journey in TEFL (Eva Simkesyan)
Bits'n'Bobs Show and Tell Blog (Chris Adams)
The Island Weekly (Anne Hodgson)
Friday, 23 April 2010
The engine purring away contentedly at an average cruising speed of 120 kms per hour, I had to find something to do whilst riding as a pillion passenger on an Aprilia Caponord Rally Raid motorbike for 2 days from Abruzzo to Oxford. The only way to beat the volcanic ash from Iceland was to hop on a motorbike and take to the open road. Time flew past, because I was totally absorbed in the nature that surrounded me. I could throw every cliche in the book at this point and they would all be true, so I will limit myself to a few. Yes, I felt "at one" with nature. Deep in thought, I was able to appreciate the spectacular beauty of the undulating hills of the Abruzzo countryside. Yes, the roar of the engine was a thrill, when pulling out into the traffic. Yes, I was surprised to see that a lot of people were staring at the motorbike, an awful lot.
What is the connection to my adventure with the following headings?
- The End of the Road
- Stairway to Heaven
- Pony Express
- Salvador de Madariaga
- Espallier Pears
- The Real Deal
- Ted Simon
- Born to Be Wild
- Arabella's Biker Club
- A White Rolls Royce
- The Parting of the Waves
- The Royal Wave
- "Bella Moto"
- Saddle Sore
- The Tunnel by Friedrich Durrenmatt
- Formula 1
- FC Basel
- Akropovitz Exhaust
- Sheepy Hollow
- Eternal Flame
My next blog post which will reveal all is titled "Special -K in April Rally". I had over 2,000 kms to think of this title. Second best was "On the Road", 3rd best was "Easy Rider". Last one was "Janet's Motorcycle Diaries". As you can see, my mind had a very pleasant work-out and I proved that I still do have some grey matter left.
Unfortunately, the group of primary teachers I was going to be teaching for the next two weeks was unable to get to England from Turkey, Italy and Japan. I was allocated another class of delightful Upper Intermediate/FCE level students. A great mix of UAE, Nicaraguan, Swiss, Spanish, Japanese and Korean students.
Coming very soon - an explanation of the above titles!! In the meantime, can you guess what the above could refer to???
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Karl's military background is invaluable in organising such trips. As a former Flight Systems Engineer in the RAF, it was his duty to give the planes the all clear for take off. Everything had to be meticulously checked off. Today, everything has been planned with military precision and the motorbike is packed and ready to go. The intercom has been set up, so we can chat together to while away the hours. The challenge now is:how will the fully loaded bike cope going up the partially vertical 1.2 kilometre dirt track that was formerly known as a road?
Having to unpack my suitcase and hand luggage which weighed approximately 25 kilos and squeeze things into a pannier, was challenging, but it's done. My biggest problem was deciding which EFL book I should take with me out of the ones I had originally packed. Guess which one is in the pannier? Answer at the bottom!!
Weather conditions for tomorrow are not too brilliant. Fog all the way to Ancona, then light rain until Milan and rain until Basel, where we stop at a Formula One Hotel for the night. From Basel partly cloudy and maybe sunny until Oxford, 2,000 kilometres later. I think a nice cup of tea will be in order as soon as we arrive! Actually, maybe K would prefer a nice cold beer.
A big thank you to all my lovely PLN who have tweeted words of encouragement via twitter. I appreciate it very much. I won't be tweeting along the route as it's going to be difficult in full motorbike gear, but as soon as I can, I will blog or tweet. That's all for now. Ciao ciao!!
The only EFL book I am taking with me to England tomorrow is......"Teaching Unplugged" by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings.
Friday, 16 April 2010
Tweets sent as soon as I had decided to travel by motorbike from Italy to England
After a fruitless day being kept permanently on hold by a certain airline company beginning with "R" (and being charged extortionate rates thereby adding to the misery), and after exhausting various other means including a kind offer of a lift by Chris from Bits and Bobs blog, I have accepted the very kind offer of a 1,350 mile one-way lift by motorbike as being the fastest way to get to Oxford by Monday evening. I will therefore be able to teach my group of primary school teachers from Turkey, Japan, Spain and Italy on Tuesday morning. Well, I do hope they will have arrived from their countries by then. I think I might be a bit exhausted, but at least I will be fulfilling my duty. I will also be able to visit my dear mother, who is once again in hospital after having suffered a setback earlier this week.
The Guardian newspaper has the folllowing newspaper article on "The Iceland volcano ash problem:European flights disruption
Aprilia Caponord - Rally Raid
This motorbike has travelled to and from Italy many times. I just hope it doesn't rain. You see, I'm not a good pillion rider at all. In fact, I would call myself an "Unnatural Born Rider".
Riding around in Abruzzo on the Aprilia Caponord Rally-Raid.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Image created just now from wordle.com
After watching this news bulletin from the BBC News, I suddenly undestood the gravity of what has happened and is still happening in Iceland. I am very sorry for all the disruption it is causing to so many people.
In Pictures from BBC News.
A lesson hot off the press literally from Jason Renshaw's English Raven blog called "Iceland? Volcanoes? Ash Clouds? Have I got a TEFL Lesson for you!"
Iceland volcano shuts Euro airspace a lesson from Sean Banville's Breaking News English website.
The big question now is:will Janet get on a flight tomorrow so that she can teach on Monday morning? I am hoping the answer will be yes, and for quite a number of very important reasons.
Arabella's First Grand Outing in Second Life
Anima Petri Wine Review
New Book Review of "Moodle 1.9 Theme Design: Beginners Guide Book"
Lake School of English News Update
Monday, 12 April 2010
You might also like to read "Let us Now Praise Famous Women" on Nik Peachey's Quick Shout blog and IATEFL and Tweet-ups on Ozge Karaoglu's blog.
The Colourful World of Tagxedo
Image above generated by www.tagxedo.com
I read about this new tool called tagxedo via my Twitter stream from Free Technology for Teachers and being ever curious, I had a little go with it yesterday. I downloaded a plug-in called Silverlight and then I simply typed in the URL to my blog in the Create section and hey presto, the lovely shape above was generated. It is still in Beta form, so the words don't move around yet as they do on the official tagxedo website. I sent Russell Stannard from Teacher Training Videos a DM tweet asking him if he could make a video on tagxedo, and the answer was almost immediate. Within a short time he sent me a link to a video tutorial which will be available on his site very soon. Absolutely amazing!
I also read this very interesting post by Eva Buyuksimkesyan on her delightful blog A Journey in TEFL which included a lovely tagxedo cloud.
Can you guess what the tagxedo below is about?
Do you think tagxedo will replace Wordle as a teaching tool? I'd love to hear what you think.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
3rd Annual Pecha Kucha Event at Harrogate
Last night I got myself ready and with a glass of the lovely "Anima Petri" red wine to hand, (more on this exciting new Italian wine in a separate post), I settled down to watch the live streaming of the 3rd annual Pecha Kucha event from IATEFL 2010. I had registered myself on Livestream in order to be able to use the chat function, which I had not used before. It was incredible to see so many names of people I recognised from Twitter in the chat box and it was fun saying hi to a few of them. Lindsay Clandfield was the expert and entertaining MC.
The Love of Language
It was fantastic to see all the brave presenters do their slot and I enjoyed all of them. The title was "The Love of Language". They were all unique and brilliant in their particular fashion, and I urge you to watch the recorded version below. I liked Marisa Constantinides's PK which was full of lovely memories and her bravely singing a song briefly, and I enjoyed Karenne Sylvester's PK, which was a brilliant reading of a poem. She read it with great passion and it was a marvellous performance by Karenne. As I mentioned, all the PKers were fabulous so sit back, relax and enjoy the Pecha Kucha below!
A Multi-Faceted Conference
This conference is turning out to be an incredible experience for me, what with co-moderating the Learning Technologies Forum, popping into some of the other excellent Forums to read about Teacher Development, Learner Autonomy, Young Learners and many other topics, keeping up with tweets about IATEFL, and watching some of the many live interviews presented throughout the day. I missed the one with Shelly Terrell and it is embedded below. Shelly talks about using Voicethread, Glogster and Voki with young learners in the classroom and how she and Ozge Karaoglu have teamed up to do some collaborative work with their young pupils. It's excitng stuff!
Web 2.0 Tools that make a difference
This is one of the many videos that are available to be viewed from the IATEFL Online website. Russell Stannard below gives a talk on Web 2.0 tools that make a difference to teaching.
You can find out what has been happening in the sessions at IATEFL Harrogate Online by reading the information from Hanaa Khamis and Elena Oncevska, the 2 excellent "Roving Reporters" on their Session Reports blogs. They are doing a sterling job of keeping people updated with the presentations. The whole online experience has been run brilliantly by Julian and the British Council team. Harrogate Online is a very exciting place to visit if you cannot be there in person. A lot of people are meeting up for the "Final Tweet-up" tonight in Harrogate ( a meeting of people you know from Twitter), and I would so love to join in!! Maybe next year, I'll see if I can get to IATEFL Brighton 2011. I wonder if I would be brave enough to give a presentation myself??
Excellent blog posts on IATEFL Harrogate Online 2010 that I have enjoyed reading to date include:
Shaun Wilden's Blog - What I saw on Day 1
Anne Hodgson's Blog - Feed the Grammar Guru
Sunday April 11th is the final day of Harrogate IATEFL and the day will be action-packed with many fantastic speakers. The Final Plenary online session is at 12 o'clock, given by Jan Blake, one of Europe's leading storytellers. Don't miss it!
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Cycles, phases and rhythms
The talk introduced 4 main people who have influenced Tessa's research into this subject. Jennifer Jarvis, Mikel Huberman, Patricia J Sykes and Eric Ericcson, all at one stage or another, leading luminaries in the field of educational research and teacher training. Teachers were followed and observed from probationary status to retirement stage. Other teachers falling into different categories according to length of service were interviewed extensively for up to 5 hours each, and this combined research came up with some very interesting trends. The following trends regarding the number of years of service are descriptive rather than normative.
Years of Teaching: 1-3 years
Survival and discovery were the key points for this particular group. Some NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers) were interviewed and what they said brought back memories of how it was for me too. Yes, spending 3 hours on a 20-minute observed lesson plan is something I did in my early years. Being in school spending time preparing and then taking books home with me and doing more prep til the early hours is something I did and I have to add, very gladly. I wanted to do things right. The pressure to do well was great. Young teachers have a big shock when the classroom control tips and procedures they have read about in books don't really physically help you out when you are faced with 20-30 lively and maybe unruly teenagers!! These early years can be very exciting but also stressful, when you are "learning the ropes".
Years of Teaching: 4-6 years
During these years, the freedom from constant direct supervision leads to a feeling of relief. Teachers tend to settle down in their roles. A period of stabilisation ensues. "Finding your feet", "trying out new techniques" were cited.
Years of Teaching: 7-18 years
This period in a teacher's life can lead to experimentation and possibly activism born out of stagnation. A desire to use different materials, a desire to increase one's own impact, a desire to branch out with one's own ideas is a common thread, which researchers found out about. The interesting term "pedagogical tinkering" was mentioned by Tessa Woodward. Teachers become more interested in HOW to do their work. This leads to teachers wanting to learn more, becoming interested in professional development, and also becoming more ambitious. I can say that this is true for me. I remember after many years of teaching at the chalkface, I started to think about how to further my knowledge. I think back to my appraisals and I remember saying I wanted to push myself. I wanted to teach teachers. I wanted to go on courses. I wanted to write materials. A whole list of things. I was lucky enough to have wonderful and supportive directors, who allowed me to develop professionally over the years. I guess I simply didn't want to burn out or stagnate, which is a danger that could be faced by teachers in this category. The feeling of "stagnation" or things being over-routinised can surface, leading to a mid-career crisis. Generativity is important at this stage. What is a resolution for this difficult phase in a teacher's life? Tessa gave her audience one minute to think about possible resolutions or non-resolutions for this phase.
My personal resolutions for a solution to "burn out" phase as jotted down in my rather bling and extravagantly bejewelled teaching notebook were the following:
- personal development
- go on a course
- join a teacher's club
- branch out
- talk and talk and some more
- get things off your chest
- mentor less experienced teachers
- stay in job, feeling miserable
- blame the system
Serenity and possibly conservatism mark these years. I would hope that the word "serene" sums up exactly how I feel about teaching after more than 30 years (and a half, to be very precise!) Tessa explained that a veteran teacher is one who has been teaching for more than 24 years. I can now proudly call myself a "veteran" of teaching. Serene, more relaxed, more self-accepting sum up teachers in this category of years of service. I used to get very upset if a lesson didn't go too well and I remember taking things very personally. Now I don't. I calmly accept that I have done my best and I try to learn from the experience. Every teacher has a "bad hair day". Just move on and get on with more important things rather than wasting your very own valuable and precious time berating yourself.!! That's my way of seeing things, anyway.
According to the research undertaken by the four educationalists mentioned at the beginning, conservatism in teachers can creep in during this stage. Tessa gave us some interesting quotes taken from teachers interviewed, who were reluctant to accept innovations.
Years of Teaching: 31 - 40 years
Do I fall into this category as I'm in my 31st year? I'm not sure. Anyway, the key words which mark this cycle are serenity or disengagement. Some teachers are already mentally retired when they reach this high number of years. There is a theory of disengagement whereby ageing individuals tend to withdraw, as they may feel a bit squeezed out by the younger, more energetic teachers.
The Secret to Reaching 40 years of Teaching?
What keeps some people in teaching for up to 40 years? This is a fascinating question. What is going to keep me going for another nine and a half years? Well, Tessa suggested we should be kind to ourselves. I agree entirely! We should also "tinker" with change. That's exactly what I am doing! I guess I am "tinkering" with new technology. I don't understand half of it, but I am having great fun opening up my previous very limited knowledge and great fear of the unknown. "Tinkering" with changes, new materials, new groups, all lead to a more satisfied teacher. Such changes however small, lead to a greater feeling of serenity.
Here is a link to Anne Hodgson's very informative "The Island Weekly" blog which features a great post on "Pedagogical tinkering". It offers another perspective to this very intriguing "buzz" phrase of the day.
To Sum Up
Tessa stressed that as a professional group of teachers, we all have a responsibility to help younger teachers to set off in the right path. We need compassion. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. We must never forget that we all started off in the same boat. Just imagine if we had all had a "mentor" to guide us at the beginning and the middle stages of our chosen career path? We all need a mentor. This is why I love mentoring newer teachers. It's the most satisfying feeling in the whole world. To instil the enthusiasm that I still have in my profession after all these years is something that I truly enjoy.
Tessa Woodward's plenary talk was fantastic in every sense of the word. It was a fine opening to what is going to be a brilliant IATEFL conference over the next few days. Please join me in the Learning Technologies Forum or the many other exciting online forums.
In the interview below, Tessa talks about the different stages in her professional career..
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
It is one year ago today April 6th 2009. K was in Abruzzo, I was in the UK when I first heard of the devastating tremor that was to claim 308 lives and destroy so many people's way of living. One year on and the people of Aquila are rebuilding their lives, slowly but surely. A lot of candle-lit processions have been held around the Abruzzo area to commemorate the 1st anniversary. Today as a mark of respect for the victims there will be a minute's silence in Aquila and a lot of the inhabitants are taking an unofficial day off to mourn.
Links to articles mentioning Aquila and the first anniversary:
Il Centro Abruzzo (in Italian)
In Abruzzo (in Italian)
Blog from Italy by Alex Roe
The Man who predicted an earthquake article from the Guardian
1st hand account from my hubby who was in Abruzzo that fateful night on April 6th 2009. His post was mentioned on US media as one of the first to come out of the region.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
I have had the great pleasure of writing a guest post on Shelly Terrell's awesome "Teacher Reboot Camp" blog. I was delighted when I was invited by Shelly via Twitter a few weeks ago. I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I was in the middle of creating another Powerpoint presentation, one on Phrasal Verbs. I decided it would be a good theme to expand for a more in-depth post. I wrote my article directly onto Teacher Reboot Camp and did all the research whilst writing the draft there. I will confess now that it's all up and running fine, I was a bit afraid of accidentally deleting stuff, as I did in "Gone with the Wind". It's one thing to mess up one's own links, but to do so on someone else's blog, was absolutely unthinkable and not really an option to consider. I have asked Shelly's kind permission to present my guest post in full on my blog. The embeds and animations are now all in one easily accessible site for me to re-use and show to teachers and students in the future.
An Xtranormal Kind of Introduction
Teaching phrasal verbs is my favourite activity of all! Why is this so? Well, in my experience, I have found that students generally don’t like studying them because they find them “too difficult, miss!” I set out from elementary level to train my students not to be afraid of them, but to look forward to showing off their newly acquired knowledge of them. To stand out from the crowd. To use phrasals in a natural way. In the correct context. How do I do this? I will explain.
I encourage them to chill out during the lessons if I see they look a bit stressed out. I ask them to come up with ways of using new phrasals both in class and outside of class. I encourage them to ask each other this question as a natural starter “Have you come across this word? Do you know what it means?”, if for example, they don’t know the meaning of a word. Instead of asking me all the time, students are encouraged to ask each other first, always using this phrasal verb until it becomes instinctive for them and of course, second nature. On a Monday morning my first question is inevitably “What did you get up to over the weekend?” Students then ask each other in pairs and dialogue ensues following this prompt. Another question would be “Did you get through the weekend homework?” I make sure that these questions are all in context and provide opportunities for practice.
Below is an example of a Powerpoint presentation converted to Slideshare. I have created this in order to maximise opportunities for student discussion. This would either be used as an introduction to this set of verbs, or as a review and recycling activity. I have introduced 18 phrasal verbs with some follow-up activities at the end. I have experimented with whole pictures as background for added interest.
Bookr by Pim Pam Pum is a nice tool for exploiting images to enhance your phrasal verbs lessons. You can easily create a “book” in minutes by selecting pictures, according to the theme you want to explore, and then simply dragging them into the pages of the book. You can write a short sentence on each page. The example below is one I created especially for this post to demonstrate how it can be used.
This is a great site for dialogue exploitation. The animations are easy to create with a set group of characters. There is a choice of background music which adds to the special effects. There is no sound for the characters.
This is another cool site for creating animations. Go!Animate can be used by students to recycle phrasal verbs learned or indeed, any item of vocabulary that needs to be reviewed.
Create your own at GoAnimate.com.
I registered on the ZimmerTwins site for the purpose of researching for this post. I was surprised at how intuitive and easy it was to create my very first animation. I have a feeling that students will love this tool!
Have a look at Phrasals in the Jungle!
I love ToonDo because it’s easy to create cartoons for any topic you like. Students enjoy creating small dialogues or comic strips. Here’s one I created which has a phrasal verbs theme. The cartoons can be easily embedded into your class / student blogs or posted via email.
The last on my list of favourite e-tools to make teaching and learning phrasal verbs fun is PhotoPeach. I was able to create a simple quiz using my own photos. You have to select a synonym out of the 3 options given for the verb in the picture. I hope you enjoy it!
Test your Phrasals! on PhotoPeach
I hope I have inspired you to use some of these cool sites with your students. You can adapt them to suit whatever theme you are working with. Why don’t you try one of these out for your next class? I am sure your students would enjoy creating short animations and dialogues or short books or indeed quizzes to test each other on new vocabulary or structures they have learned with you.
Have you had experience with any of these tools? If so, I would love to hear from you to learn how you and your class got on with them!I would like to thank Shelly for giving me this wonderful opportunity to write for her Cool Sites series. It’s a great honour for me to be here.
Friday, 2 April 2010
Gone With The WindHow did I cope with my spot of bother? I tweeted about it to get it off my chest. This is what I wrote:
hours of xtra work trying to remember all the cool links.
An immediate response came from @JoHart who helpfully offered some sympathy and practical advice. I will have to look into delic.io.us as she so kindly suggested. Luckily, I do have some bookmarks saved under "Bookmarks" and also in diigo, but they are in different places, as opposed to all in one convenient bunch. You may ask, but surely Janet had a back-up system in place? Surely she has saved a copy elsewhere? The answer is NO, I had meant to copy them all into Word, but somehow I had never got round to doing it. The proverb "A stitch in time saves nine" has never rung truer than now. Anyway, it's no use crying over spilt milk and so what is done is done. I have to live and learn!
The second thing I did to cool down and ponder on my "technical mishap" was to attack the grass cuttings with renewed vigour. Aided and abetted by chickens, cats and dogs, I was able to continue building a huge compost heap. I intend to sit right on top of it, like I did last year. This might make me feel better. There's nothing to beat sitting on "top of the world", so to speak.
The third thing which made me take my mind off the delicate state of technical affairs was to accept the offer of writing another book review for packtpub. I enjoy writing book reviews and feel pleased that I have been invited to do more.
The fourth thing I did was to sign up for wikispaces. I had been meaning to transfer all my lists into one place where I could add stuff as I came across them. So that is done now and I guess this is a very positive step for me. I have not really had much to do with wikis since my excellent wikis course with The Consultants-e and it's about time I really looked into them and started using them.
The fifth thing I did was to make a nice pot of tea and sit on my elephant bench and just look at the beautiful view in front of me. Like Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone with the Wind, "Tomorrow is another day."
K busy cutting the grass earlier today
Chickens gleefully jumping into my carefully laid out mounds of grass cuttings and wreaking havoc! You can catch a glimpse of the jungle in the background.