20 April 2016

Writing Bytes

Increasingly I find that creativity and learner autonomy are two of the most challenging skills to develop in education. Both are intrinsically connected with social environments which complement the educational scene. If, for instance, children are encouraged from a young age to solve problems rather than have a maid or someone else do things for them, it is no surprise then that the child will grow up with a more active attitude to problem solving, being creative and autonomous. Being autonomous includes a sense of responsibility and accountability -  neither which are simple to foster only in classrooms. These are characteristics which require a whole society to value and cultivate at home with children. 

 In learning cultures where repetition and regurgitation are still the norm, with the aim to achieve success in exams, it is even more challenging to then later ask learners to be creative in their learning. 

Attitudes towards creativity and learner autonomy, will of course, influence writing skills in language classrooms. Writing is hard. Full stop. Writing in a foreign language is even harder. However, writing is a skill that in no way is going to fade away, despite all the visual media we now have. 

For busy teachers, reaching out to inspirational writing activities to introduce in class, can be draining after months of teaching as well. It's at those moments when dipping into shared resources online really help. 

offers writing prompts and ideas which are both challenging and fun - and which don't require hours of outlining and agony to write a full blown essay.

which is useful for both K12 and even ELT/ESL.

Creativity, inspiration and the will to write don't come easily.

They require constant practice.

Rather than constant requests of long essays, writing in smaller bytes may be an encouraging approach to make students enjoy writing. 

How do you foster a more positive approach to writing in your classes?

Further Suggestions:

Creativity and Writing

A Writing Resource For Everyday of the Year

Writing Prompts, A Story Dice and Book Creator

60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate What They Know

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

Student Interactives - by READWRITETHINK - A rich source of inspirational activities to engage learners

Ma'agalim - Jane Bordeaux from Uri Lotan on Vimeo.

17 April 2016

Climate Change for Young Learners


If you live where I do, before opening your eyes, you will know that the morning sun will be shining bright and that wearing cottons will be perfectly comfortable for the day's weather. However, even in environments where there are few seasonal changes, there have been unexpected changes in weather patterns. 

Climate change is not something which concerns only one nation nor is it something that "someone else will fix".  Climate change, like so many other environmental issues is something which affects us all in varying degrees and stages.  

Climate Kids  is a great space to share with young learners when discussing our planet and the environment. 

There is a special section for different kinds of environments (air, ocean, weather and so on) and a big wheel which presents questions to get started: 

Climate Kids  also offers more - a selection of games, activities for learners to make and build, as well as more resources for teaching  . Information about different ecosystems are clearly explained, learners practice how to  
read and understand graphs
and can even play to test how much they know about to protect our environment. 
Climate Bingo!

There is a wealth of information and variety of activities for young learners here, including a Time Machine, which will certainly excite their imaginations and a game where they can test their skills in using alternative energies for lightening up a town. 

Change doesn't happen in a day nor month.

Creative thinking and problem solving doesn't occur in classrooms unless learners are given the opportunity to learn, to be curious, to be playful.

Raising awareness about the state of our planet and how it will affect their lives, is a necessary change to bring into classrooms.

If nothing else, climate change and protecting the planet,  a topic that demands real world problem solving, is an issue which connects us all. 


Further Suggestions:

A Breeze of Summer Green

Inquiry as Learning - An Environmental Example

Going Green

Earth Day Lessons - by Apple

Pinning Summer Projects

Summer may be young people's preferred dream time of happy classroom-less days, but for many teens, summer also spells out long weeks without being with school friends. 

So how can one fill up summer days without making the task too much like regular school work?

Pindex is similar to Pinterest, but designed for education. 

Once you request an invitation, you can start pinning games, images, videos, texts related to specific themes.

 For teachers this becomes a rich resource of shared materials; for learners, this becomes a simple way of creating a bank of materials on a topic they are interested in. Without any pressure of having to submit their pinning for a grade/mark, it becomes an exercise of personal curation, something they can add to their learning portfolio and share with others. Best of all, is a sense of creation - instead of merely surfing online aimlessly to kill time, they can actually be creating a board of their own interests to later present. 

What other summer projects do you share with learners? 


15 April 2016

Being Learner Centered


Micro learning...

Personal learning....

Deep learning ...

Bite-sized learning....

Everyone wants to sell me a "new" notion of learning.

Yet, as a practitioner, the song remains the same in classrooms. Connect learners to themselves and peers. Foster social learning - students will always find their peers more interesting than the classroom teacher.  Give space for learners to question - question and create! Learning may not necessarily happen in classrooms, yet students who are given a learner focused approach in classrooms are often more open to their learning processes and success. 

Practising a learner centered approach is not only for F2F classrooms but also for online classes, where with distances, the learner needs to take on a more active role in his/her learning. Facilitating, encouraging and fostering e-tivities which enable a learner centered approach weaved with the incentive  and structure for social learning, seems to me, to be one of the most successful approaches to studying online. 

As for idea for a more learning centered classroom, I'd like to share this infographic by Mia, An Ethical Island, which can be used in a wide range of settings and different subjects. 

What other approach to learner centered classrooms would you include?

Further Suggestions:

13 April 2016

Learning with IATEFL 2016

Making an Impact via photopin (license)

How do you perceive yourself as a professional?

In my case, I neither consider myself an academic nor specialist, but as a practitioner. In some ways, I may be regarded as a specialist within the field of English Language teaching - after all, I have been doing that for many years and have dedicated a lot of professional training within the field.  However, I have also taught other subjects and equally have other professional fields of interest which I dedicate time to learn, improve my skills and use as a practitioner. 

I digress.

April, the cruellest month, a month when teachers feel the itch of burnout, the longing for exams and admin work to be finally over. 

I digress. 

April is the month too of professional development for educators in the field of English Language Teaching and currently, the annual IATFL Conference, taking place in Birmingham. 

Personally, attending a conference or symposium, is an opportunity for inspiration, a moment when any trace of professional burnout disappears with the enthusiasm and positive energy that these events share with participants. However, as many other educators around the globe, I am not always able to attend in person.  

As with other conferences, for those who would like to attend IATEFL but are not able to, there is the Livestream which you can follow, recorded interviews  which you can view in your own time,and a  Live Schedule to help you organise your preferences. 

I include the video links of two of my favourite professionals in the world of ELT here below:

Nicky Hockly - who talks about blended learning and how many teachers may be finding themselves in a blended learning context in the near future.


Jim Scrivener  - who discusses a different and relevant angle of teacher training. 

IATEFL Online shares a wealth of inspiration and learning for anyone willing to take some time to connect, listen and simply let oneself discreetly (or not) participate in a great professional event.

Albert Einstein The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence via photopin (license)

Further Suggestions:

Demand High ELT

e-Moderation Station

11 April 2016

Do You Have Visual Swag?

If reading, writing, remixing, composing, designing and sharing are skills which are considered part of digital literacy today, then making use of images and text in the language classroom is an excellent activity to provide practice for students. 

Literacy today also includes the skill to think critically about images,  and to be able to produce and not only consume visual communication. Learners need to consider elements such as colour, image selection, scale and justaposition.  The choice of colours, for instance,  can be symbolic, associative or evocative.  Images themselves can be symbolic, representational or provocative. They can confuse or clarify an audience. When adding text, learners need to reflect on the scale of objects and how text adds meaning to their image.

WordSwag is an app which generates images and text to create quotes. Images may be found in the offered selection, through an in-built search or by choosing one's own images.

There is a range of fonts to choose from as well as quotes. The image above is an example of what WordSwag creates.

Similar to Word Dream
- which is free - WordSwag already offers most fonts and options for free (with the paid version).

So, how can these apps be used in the language classroom?

1 - Students can create a quote which reflects their identity and these artifacts can then be shared in a Padlet, thus creating a sense of community.

2 - Students can connect image and how they feel about a topic or their learning progress

3 - Students can select images and vocabulary which they feel go together

4 - Create a poster for a school event and then the class chooses the best posters

5 - Create a book cover for an assigned reading

Possibilities are as endless as there are teaching contexts.

Most of all, students are engaging in languages for creation and communication for today's world. 

Further Suggestions:

Soundbites for the Classroom

Diffuse with a Quote

Visual Literacy - Toledo Musuem of Art

Web Literacy - Mozilla Learning

Another app for creating text and visuals is Adobe Post