22 September 2018

Inspecting Texts and English Levels

unsplash-logoOliver Cole

As much as one would like, not all texts are written equally. There are different genres, styles and levels of language - and that is just on the surface to begin with!

To help EAP (or any student studying in English), Text Inspector  
is an interesting tool to use when analysing texts in English. 

You can try pasting up to 250 words for free, click on "Analyse"  and Text Inspector will give you a statistics of language and readability as well as lexical diversity. 

Text Inspector also will analyse reading and listening - one only needs to change the mode to obtain the results. 

Not entirely free, but there are subscription options. 

As for linguistic equality, let me leave you with this short video:

unsplash-logoSøren Astrup Jørgensen

Further Suggestions:

Elements of Leadership in Education

International Women's Day 2016

A Homage to Girls, to Women, to All

International Women's Day 2018

Search Engines and Digital Footsteps

Cascades of shimmering red under Autumn skies.

Cascades of digital footprints in the never ending, ever winding digital life.

How to keep learners safe in this digital space, where every light footstep is digitally recorded and digitally imprinted? There are two search engines which help.

DinoSearch  is a search engine designed for young learners and may be used safely in classroom.

Another option is using Duckduckgo
as a search engine which doesn't leave tracks.

The Web For Classrooms is yet another alternative; not free, but worth looking into.

Your Digital Footprint: Leaving a Mark - Teacher Video from NCTA on Vimeo.

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Common Sense Education also offers three great lessons regarding  digital identity and using digital media in healthy ways:

How can I cultivate my digital identity in ways that are responsible and empowering?

How can we help students use media in healthy ways?

How can I communicate effectively and positively to build relationships?

If you are interested in other search engines, why not browse through the list on this blog (on the left had side)?

How do you keep learners safe when online?

Further Suggestions:

How Do You Search? Let Me Count the Ways

Carrot2 and Behold

Visual Search Engines

Search Engines

21 September 2018

Problems the Earth Faces - Resources for Educators

unsplash-logoJosh Hild

There are probably more problems in the world than I care to mention, though the environment is one that always comes to my mind. Whether it is fresh drinking water or devastating fires (as seen in different parts of the world these past months), the well being of our planet lies in our hands and every contribution towards its health is needed. 

What Is the Most Serious Problem Facing Earth? is a lovely resource to use - and not only for Earth Day

What is the Most Serious Problem Facing Earth is a webquest which includes a lesson plan for teachers, including steps and ideas for the classroom before learners begin their research. It also includes support for teachers who teach younger learners. 

Google Science Fair  has created a mini library
with materials and exercises focused on the problem-solving process - these can be downloaded and used in when discussing the environment or other problems which need solutions (and learners always come up with great ideas!) There are lesson plans for teachers, each with steps supporting team work, problem solving and communication. Definitely worth exploring and adapting to one's own lessons and classes.

Further Suggestions:

15 Interesting Ways To Start Class Tomorrow

Viewing Comprehension Strategies: Watching Videos Like You Read A Book


The Environment - Resources including videos, games and more

Seasonal Resources for Autumn

Autumn spells back to school and academic life for those living in Northern hemispheres. As days become busier, teachers need support for inspiration in regard to lesson plans and ideas for classroom activities. 

Autumn is also a time when celebrations begin and with the global industry of ELT around the world, celebrations such as Halloween find themselves creeping into classrooms and imaginations. 

Pearson ELT offers some free resources for seasonal celebrations, including for Halloween. 

Some other suggestions for Autumn and Halloween are:

Two other suggestions for this Autumn are Kami, Your Paperless Classroom Hero and Insert Learning, which I am looking forward to using this Autumn.


Everything you need to know about Halloween 2018

And if you have interest in witches and dance, find out more with the Wolfshäger witches!

What other resources will you be using this Autumn?

Unwrapping Ethics - A Resource for Educators

Students do know what is wrong and right for themselves in their own contexts, but very often they also need guidance to think critically through situations which may or not affect them directly., yet are present in our world. Reflecting and thinking critically through contemporary issues related in ethical behaviours helps learners explore their own values more clearly and perhaps, even open their eyes to other ways of perceiving the world. 

For educators who are teaching law students, the resource below  may also be useful as there is a wealth of ethical contexts to choose from.

Ethics Unwrapped offers videos which are clear and easy to follow, adding value to classroom discussions. There are also case studies on ethics and leadership, with topics ranging from the ethics of bullfighting to cultural appropriation. 

Each topic comes with additional support for teachers - discussion questions, related videos  and a bibliography on the topic. 

Ethics Unwrapped includes further resources on these contemporary issues, 

as well as a Glossary which is accompanied by videos on each term, in a simple and memorable way. 

How do you approach ethical choices in your classrooms?

Further Suggestions:

Where Empathy and Tolerance Grow

Games, Documentaries and Images for Empathy and Social Skills

20 September 2018

Continuous Professional Development for Educators

It never fails to surprise me how certain individuals at educational institutions disregard informal professional development. It is so easy to blithely dismiss professional development which is offered through MOOCs, through online training and any other training which is not gate-proofed by formal Higher Ed institutions. 

Yes, there is a time and a place for formal professional development - a place,  which more often than not,  comes with a hefty price which is prohibitive to many teachers' budgets. Despite the value of a yet another piece of paper declaring that individual X completed XYZ course (on the condition that full fees were paid), this attitude - especially among educators who should know better - is very much stuck in a past which no longer makes sense. 

There are excellent opportunities for continuous professional development and learning online - whether through specific training providers (who provide practical training which one can use immediately in one's practices) or through MOOCs, webinars, blogs, open resource journals and more. 

One space for teachers, in particular for those who work in the field of K12 is CubeForTeachers

CubeForTeachers shares practical resources, aligns curriculum standards, giving voice to educators through their blog and resources which teachers share. Having started in Ontario, Canada, it is a collaborative effort through which teachers share best practices and educational issues. 

Another site which is of interest for teachers is Playmeo

Playmeo is not free but provides an activity database, resources and tutorials as well as professional development to educators. Its driving force is embedding fun activities and approaches to educational practices - something which is dearly needed for learners!

Educators have more choices than ever for their own professional development today. Whether taking online training, courses,  joining learning communities or sharing resources, teachers today can own 
their own professional learning; they are empowered to make choices, to share their voices, to learn in an open world and not rely solely on formal learning at institutions. Both have a place in learning but professional development is more than just sitting in a lecture room listening to someone who has little, if any, experience of real life classrooms outside their protected ivory towers. 

Your world is open.


In change and pulsating with life.

Further Suggestions:

Teacher Development and Resources

Re-Visting Professional Development

Sharing Learning and Professional Development with Videos

Games, Documentaries and Images for Empathy and Social Skills

In a previous post, I mentioned empathy and tolerance and how they contribute to learning, as well as the need to foster empathy and tolerance in classrooms.

This is a shorter entry, with further suggestions of materials and resources which may be used in classrooms in regard to developing stronger social skills among learners. 

Teaching Tolerance (already mentioned in a previous post), has a series of 12 lessons based on photography to teach about social justice. Each lesson indicates which level/grade/school year the lesson is geared to, with lessons ranging from year 6 to 12. And naturally, teachers may tweak /adapt these resources to better meet their own learners' level and needs. Each lesson has its objectives clearly laid out, key questions to ask learners as well as lesson steps. Topics range from reflecting on different aspects of Identity, to exposing homelessness and poverty, to  confronting unjust practices and includes a lesson plan for students to showcase their understanding of these social issues. 

These issues are not only found in a distant, faraway land - they are present in all our societies. From Europe where immigration is a hotly debated topic to countries where racism is rampant, social problems are not hidden away from our students. Very often they too are victims of racism, of hidden, disguised poverty and bullying. Using visuals is a great way to engage learners and to allow them to think through social issues which surround our days. 

The Social Express is one among other games which help learners to develop their social skills and make appropriate social decisions. 

A list of suggested Inventive Games That Teach Kids About Empathy and Social Skills was published by KQED/MindShift, which always has interesting articles related to learning and education, in particular within K12.

Still one of my favourite games for raising awareness , is the challenge that Spent presents to students.  Perhaps designed for older learners (i.e. not children), Spent challenges players with its questions and decisions that they  need to make in order to proceed with the game. 

From images to games and now to videos.

Sprworld offers documentaries on current affairs
and claims to focus on what is not discussed or shown in mainstream media. 

It is simple to navigate, with a section of documentaries by region (as you can see in the image on the right) as well as a list of videos/documentaries laid out in alphabetic order.

As with Spent, this is a resource more appropriate with older learners and not for children. 

There is a wealth of choices to make which may be used with different ages and levels.

All it takes is making a choice.

Further Suggestions:

Citizenship Workshop - Maha Bali

Exploring Wealth Inequities: An Experiential Learning Activity - Jackie Gerstein

Empathy and Global Stewardship: The Other 21st Century Skills - Jackie Gerstein

A Look Inside the Classroom of the Future - Dana Mortenson

Decisions, Debates and Discussions

Games for Decision Making

Be Safe, Be Cool

Cyber-bullying and Learning

You, Me and Others - Bullying in the Playground

Where Empathy and Tolerance Grow

One of the most rewarding courses I have recently taught  had students with diverse mother tongues such as Arabic, Mandarin and Cantonese. As motivated and keen as they were to succeed, it was the way they interacted and bonded with each other as they worked hard throughout the course which remains most significantly with me. There is an increasing discussion on the importance of empathy and tolerance in education and in the workforce - and yet, as so many of you know, it is usually far easier to claim how essential these skills are, rather than put them in practice. 

However, these students succeeded in precisely that, i.e. to practice empathy and tolerance towards each other, thus creating in a positive learning environment where trust, respect and learning came first. No, this does not necessarily happen in the first lesson - though it does help when mutual respect , equality and equal participation are highlighted. Fostering empathy and tolerance among learners is both a question of whether they are experiencing similar experiences, share similar points of references but also how an educator establishes and nourishes these skills in the classroom. 

In the case of these particular students, they did share similar experiences as they were now living in a foreign country and  had to engage in the  language and understand the cultural norms and behaviours which surrounded them, needed to master the required academic skills for their Master and PhD degrees, and most of all, in this midst of this complex process, establish successful relationships with their foreign peers. Despite coming from different parts of the world, each with their own specific culture/s, religion and social values, these students were open to learn with each other and share their experiences and view points. Discussions were lively, inquiry was real. Critical thinking was present in their writings and presentations. Most of all, empathy and tolerance towards each others' differences was embedded in their daily classroom practices. 

By the end of the course, there was a phrase I heard repeatedly - how much they enjoyed and valued working with each other and how they learnt so much from each very different culture. 

We don't live isolated in a uni-cultural bubble any longer. Being able to learn, to understand and relate to another individual, and/or to another culture, is an essential trait for today's workforce. Being able to listen to other perspectives, to avoid groundless assumptions and senseless judgements, makes for richer learning environments and quite possibly, happier, better balanced learners - not to mention a more welcoming work environment, where different voices and opinions may be heard and taken into consideration.

Each and every classroom will develop its own living culture. Nevertheless, educators too are part of that classroom culture and there are different approaches to cultivating a stronger sense of empathy and tolerance among learners. Here are some suggestions to dip into. 

The Daily Wonder App is a lovely place to begin with learners. Based on the book 365 Days of Wonder, this app provides sayings which celebrate positivity and strength. 

Although it may be regarded as a way of promoting the book, the app does have its uses with learners. 

Teaching Tolerance is another great resource for educators.

Teaching Tolerance offers references for frameworks for teaching complex issues, lesson plans and resources , as well as professional development resources for educators.

With a wide range of topics and resources for educators, Teaching Tolerance is rich source of inspiration and a practical website for teachers to add to their daily toolbox. 

Further suggestions:

Want A Crash Course In Stanford’s Design Thinking? Here it is for free (Pt. 1 Empathy)

The Nature of Classroom Roles – An Inquiry

Breaking the Ice with Nametags

At the start of most courses, there is the obligatory checking of names and confirming how learners prefer to be known, as well as the necessary ice breaking activities. 

One of my favourite icebreakers to use with teenagers and young adults is using name tags. 

Name tags, with interesting questions or statements added to them, provide more scope for individuals to ask questions and to really interact with each other. Learners need to listen carefully to replies and this in turn may trigger further dialogue among them. Creative name tags can really help build a group identity, a stronger team approach and are most of all, fun!

Here are some ideas for creating interesting name tags:

18 September 2018

Digital Sticky Notes

If teachers often ask learners to work in small groups or pairs, isn't it expected that teachers themselves are able to collaborate among themselves as well? Sharing ideas and resources with digital sticky notes is one way to collaborate and get things done throughout busy schedules. 

One of my favourite collaboration tools is Padlet, which is no longer free to use regularly (there are different plans though and it's worth looking into them). The reason I like digital boards is that they are simple and efficient to create and share - not to mention how practical it is to share with learners and colleagues. There are some other alternatives to Padlet which I'll mention here in this post. 

Pinup and Notely are similar with their boards having a cork background. Pinup does however, offer a group chat box at the bottom right of the screen, which may be of interest to participants of the board. 

Pinup.com Introduction from Wayne Bond on Vimeo.

And then there is StormBoard, which offers different ways to collaborate, including in realtime. StormBoard offers different templates for the boards, depending on the purpose of collaboration (e.g. problem solving ), including board templates for education.

There is a range of prices (including one free board for a small team) as well as a blog with ideas on how to use sticky notes for improved productivity.

Further Suggestions:

Brainstorming and Collaborating

Trello  - Work Collaboratively

Tricider  - Collect Ideas and Vote

Sticky Note Generator

Conserving Sounds - An Online Museum

In a world changing so quickly, it is worth taking time to stop, to think back and remember. Cityscapes and landscapes change, habits change, teaching approaches change. So much of these changes have happened quickly; others have been more gradual; both provoking the recent past to slip into memories or oblivion. 

What sounds do you remember of your childhood? What sounds do you remember falling asleep to? What sounds do you remember in kitchens and around the home?

Storytelling helps us to detangle the present, to make sense of contemporary life. Storytelling also looks back into the past, whether recent pasts or mythical. Narratives emerge to give meaning to events but most of all, to make sense of where one finds him/herself at a certain point in time.  With visuals, words and sounds - all this too is learning. 

A beautiful project for narratives is  

Conserve the Sound is an online museum for sounds which used to be part of our daily lives and have either vanished or are in the process of disappearing altogether.  By clicking on different items, you can hear the sound it makes. There are also interviews and videos, which further enrich this online museum. 


 There are many different kinds of activities educators can introduce to learners by visiting this online museum - including asking learners to contribute to their own class sound museum.

Sustainability is usually related to keeping the environment healthy,  fighting poverty, to food supplies and so on. In terms of narratives, developing and maintaining  an online museum may also be another aspect of sustainability at a different level,  i.e. sustaining elements which have been embedded in our lives but no longer are being used. 

They are part of what defines us.

They were stepping stones of change.

Further Suggestions:

Supporting Sustainable Development

Free Sound for Educators and Learners

Creativity, Global Issues and the English Language Classroom

14 September 2018

Digital Bibliographies and Citations

For learners beginning to do research (or even for those who already have experience), managing bibliography lists can be challenging. There are different styles as well as including websites and online publications.  Every institution will have its preference, whether that may be Harvard style , APA or MLA and students need to write their bibliographies and citations in that particular style.

Below are some suggestions for creating and managing digital references - some are more individual,  while others also allow for collaboration.  As with any other tool, it is up to the individual  to choose which one will be most useful in his/her context. 

Made with Padlet

Citations for Beginners from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.
Citations for Beginners from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.

What other tools do you suggest to share with learners?

11 September 2018

Writing - Reflections and Narratives

unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo

Time and time again, I face learners who struggle with the challenge of writing. Often, they are writing in a second or third language. Often, they have not had the academic training or practice of writing well in their first language and then often enough, feel insecure when it is necessary to write in English.  For any educator who teachers a second/foreign language, this scenario will quite likely be familiar. 

Nevertheless, writing continues to be an important skill, both in academic and professional environments. Increasingly, reflective writing is taking a more visible role in the learning process - not only requiring learners to keep a learning journal, but for learners to think critically about their learning process.  Again, this is not necessarily new, even though the role of reflection is now being more widespread and becoming common practice in many educational settings. 

As Nigel Coutts points out, 

"Our students require now, as perhaps they have for a long time, skills and dispositions which will allow them to find and solve problems, deal with complexity and ambiguity and communicate their ideas with clarity. Knowledge may not have the value and power that it once did in times before Google, but being devoid of knowledge is a state of being no-one would argue for. Skills or knowledge alone have little real world value. Intelligence is being able to use what you know in new ways and to solve new problems. "

One of these skills is, writing. Writing helps one to reflect and to clarify ideas which may otherwise be transient and consequently lost to the learner. Writing helps one to make sense of our experiences, our learning and how one can best relate the learning experience to the world outside the classroom.  In many ways, the act of writing, of reflecting, is learning by doing - something all learners need to have experience of. 

Below are 2 videos which help learners to understand the reasons for reflective writing,
based,  as many may be familiar  with, the Gibbs reflection cycle. 

As for writing for pleasure, for discovery and letting one's imagination run loose, and creating one's own fictional narratives, there is Edward - .
Write your First Novel

For budding authors or simply for learners who wish to write, Edward - Write your First Novel  is a great place to start.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Nik Peachey with whom I first learnt about Edward - Write Your First Novel. 

unsplash-logoKaeyla McGee

How will you be encouraging writing this academic year?

What narrative writings will your learners experiment with?

Further Suggestions:

Debating false dichotomies: a new front in the education wars - Nigel Coutts

The Trick Question

Reflecting Learning on Teacher Training Courses

Do You Imagine?