Saturday, 23 October 2010

My Life as a Wordle

On Monday I will have the pleasure of teaching face to face with 2 groups of students at the Lake School of English. A possible "getting to know you" introduction to myself will consist of this Wordle. Students (in pairs or small groups) will have 5 - 10 minutes to discuss what connection the words have to my life. They will get a point for each correct fact they guess about me! The students will then in turn create a wordle of their own. In small groups, they will show their wordles to each other and discuss the connections to their lives.

All due credit due to the amazing inspiration behind this simple activity comes from the fab "Powerpointing Me" lesson by Karenne Sylvester. Many thanks, K!!

You will also find "Using word clouds in class - a lesson plan" by Marisa Constantinides extremely useful and practical.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Seminar in L'Aquila for Tesol- Italy Teachers: Effective Images for Powerful Activities

In front of my PowerPoint display

It was my great pleasure yesterday to present at the first TESOL seminar of this new school year for Tesol Italy in L'Aquila, Abruzzo. This meeting was organised by Annamaria, the co-ordinator of the Tesol L'Aquila group, and it was lovely to meet her in person. She welcomed me and K (who was my personal chauffeur for the day) very warmly, and then helped me to set up the computer in the designated room, which was in the newly born Resource Centre for Teachers of Foreign Languages, hosted by Scuola Media "Dante Alighieri" of L'Aquila. This fabulous resource centre has been equipped by Tesol Italy with all kinds of materials available for the teachers of L'Aquila.

The session lasted approximately 2 hours, and there were over 20 teachers who were able to attend. My presentation was entitled "Effective Images for Powerful Activities". I showed a combination of slides I have used before, and a few additional new slides. I have embedded a Slideshare below.

Feedback and Analysis
It was an absolutely amazing and very moving experience for me to be with teachers, who have been through so much. I was very happy to see all the participants joining in the activities with such a lot of enthusiasm. It was a very interactive presentation, and I liked the fact that I was able to move around everyone and see how they were getting on with the tasks I set. I think we all had some fun and the time literally flew past!

The participants did the following activities amongst others:

  • brainstorm adjectives beginning with "C" to describe qualities of an effective teacher
  • discuss the qualities of an efffective teacher
  • 20 questions "guess the famous couple" (Romeo and Juliet)
  • retell the story of Romeo and Juliet in under 50 words in pairs / groups
  • retell the story around the class with each participant using only one word (this was fun!)
  • guess the story of how a couple met
  • create a poem/short paragraph from a picture prompt
  • read a poem out aloud with correct stress patterns
  • complete half a text to recreate a full text
  • guess a famous person (George Clooney) - relevance to Abruzzo being his latest film "The American"
  • briefly touch upon the implications of "teaching unplugged" via a picture prompt
Some Web 2.0 Tools
I introduced and showed examples of the following tools (amongst others), which I had used to create special effects and or edit my own images:

create a newscast picture with
create a film strip picture frame with
create a magazine effect and motivational poster with (see the one above)
a mind map using

The mind map below is one I have just created highlighting the lovely qualities of the teachers I met yesterday. Please press on the image to make it bigger. This has been saved as a .jpeg file.

Below is the same mind map, but it has been saved as a moving file, which is quite fun. This was embedded very easily straight from to my blog. Which one do you prefer?

Teaching Unplugged

I discussed the fact that teaching "unplugged" is a topic which is very topical at the moment. To teach with a coursebook or not / to teach "Dogme" style lessons or not. I introduced this topic briefly by a tuxpi - edited image of myself teaching back in 1981 (!!) in the GDR. Of course, back in those long distant days, I did literally teach "unplugged". Eg I had no internet, no OHP, no modern gadgets. Just the plain old, but incredibly useful, blackboard you can see behind me. The excellent "Streamline Departures" was the coursebook I used with all my Beginner level groups of students for the whole year. That is why after 30 years I still know the book inside out. I have very fond memories of it indeed!

I also showed the following image to generate a short discussion topic on "guess what is Janet saying to her students in 1982?"

As an addendum to our brief discussion yesterday, I would like to add the following excellent blog posts, which are currently featuring the subject of "Teaching Unplugged" principles:

Dogme Blog Challenge by Karenne Sylvester.
Dogme for All? by I'd like to think that I help people to learn English blog.
Unplugged Teaching Journal entry #2: My week with Marilyn by Jason Renshaw.

You might also find the following blog post "Animating your Coursebook", by Marisa Constantinides, very interesting.

On the theme of Romeo and Juliet, have a look at this absolutely amazing "Interactive Romeo and Juliet" resource, mentioned on Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers blog.

I was very touched when at the end of my presentation, Annamaria presented me with a beautiful book on the history of L'Aquila. I will treasure this book forever.

Many, many thanks Teachers of L'Aquila for your wonderful participation in my seminar. It was a huge pleasure to meet you all. Hope to see you at TESOL - Italy Rome National Convention next month!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Feedback: #VRT10

Taking part in the 3rd Virtual Round Table Conference this weekend was an amazing experience and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. The array of guest presenters was fantastic and the choice of sessions was huge and varied. A very big thank you to all the organizers, Heike, Shelly and Berni. They did brilliantly! Below is a slideshare of my Phrasal Verbs presentation. Here is a link to the recorded sessions, which are currently being updated. Here is a link to a Google Docs with useful notes and further links to all the sessions. I have a lot of viewing to do over the next few days, as I wasn't able to view all of them. I hope you enjoy them as well.

You can see a recording of my talk, alongside Russell Stannard's excellent Web 20. Tools presentation, here. I have to add that most of my learning about new web tools has been entirely self taught from watching Russell's excellent step by step video tutorials. So it's a huge honour to be in the same recording as my virtual teacher!

3rd Virtual Round Table Conference 2010: Fun with Phrasal Verbs
View more presentations from Janet Bianchini.


I came across the word "entropy" recently and I had to look it up in the dictionary. Lo and behold, very shortly afterwards and by complete coincidence, entropy cropped up in a fascinating blog post by Terry Freedman, entitled "In Praise of Entropy".

My summary of last year's Virtual Round Table's Pecha Kucha event has been selected from the archives, with many thanks to

Here is a great post on ways of using Fotobabble in the classroom from iLearn Technology blog.

Here is Russell Stannard's fab step by step training video on Fotobabble.

Why don't you try one today and add it to your blog or wiki? It really is as easy as A-B-C!

Monday, 4 October 2010

3rd Virtual Round Table Conference- Animoto preview

Create your own video slideshow at

I am thrilled to be presenting on Saturday 9th October at the 3rd Virtual Round Table Conference, together with many other presenters from around the world. I have created a short Animoto preview video of my phrasal verbs presentation. My Power Point is all ready, and contains some of the images on the Animoto video. I will be speaking from 9.30 am to 10 am (GMT). You can check the time zones on the Virtual Round Table list of speakers.

You can view the full, exciting programme of events below. It will be an action-packed 48 hours of fantastic talks, workshops and presentations, with a Pecha Kucha on Friday evening and on Saturday evening as well! It will be amazing!

3rd Virtual Round Table Conference, 8-9 October 2010

Look forward to seeing you at the conference!!

Friday, 1 October 2010

#ELTchat - My Personal Thoughts

Recently I have been following the newly formed #ELTchat on a Wednesday. The most convenient time for me is usually the first session of the day, which begins on the dot at 3pm GMT (4pm Rome time). There is also an evening session at 9pm GMT. These two slots cover most time lines around the world so teachers can choose a convenient time.

What is #ELTchat? Well, it is a weekly discussion based on a pre-selected topic, which is held entirely via Twitter.

There is a poll where teachers can choose what they would like to talk about and this poll is posted up on Sunday evening for people to vote for their choice of topic for the following Wednesday.

Here is the poll to vote for the choice of topics for Wednesday 6th October. The top 2 topics are discussed either in the afternoon or evening session. Therefore, if you wish, you have the opportunity to attend 2 different #ELTchat topics on one day!

The chats in the past few weeks have been varied and very interesting, including the latest one I attended - "Given the demands of a full-time teaching position, is using a coursebook really a bad thing?" Despite encountering a few technical difficulties, almost 700 tweets were exchanged on this lively topic. You can view the full transcript here. The chat is moderated by an excellent crew of moderators, and they are able to keep the chat on track very skillfully.

Over the weekend, I will be looking through the transcript of the evening session I missed, which was "Critical Thinking vs Comprehension". Here is the transcript for you to get a taste of how it went.

The Art of Being Concise

How can you say what you want to say in only 140 characters, you may be thinking to yourself.
Well, I thought that as well, before I started my learning journey on Twitter. My doubts were soon dispelled. You can definitely get to the heart of the subject, cutting out all the waffle and perambulations of the language, all within 140 characters.

When I attended my first #ELTchat session, I was a bit lost initially, as you really have to be "on the ball" to follow a lot of people tweeting at once. The one-hour is fast-paced, action-packed and truly exciting. Time literally flies! Despite my initial feelings of "Oh my goodness!! This is too fast for me! I can't keep up!!", I was hooked from the very beginning. I am getting better with practice.

Reasons for Participating
Why should you take part? Well, here are a few of my personal thoughts for starters!
  • It allows you to discuss with your peers from around the world valid topics of educational interest.
  • You can connect with not only teachers, but also publishers, ELT authors, people from all sectors of the industry.
  • You can learn a lot from the discussions.
  • You can feel a part of how education is evolving.
  • You can make things happen via your input.
  • You can make new friends and expand your PLN.
  • You can feel part of a unique experience.
  • You can use some of the ideas in your own lessons.
  • It will stimulate your world!
If you can, why don't you join me and other teachers from around the world on Wednesday 6th October? It will be an enriching experience, I assure you!

Follow all the updates via twitter by using the hashtag #ELTchat.

Hot off the Press!
#ELTchat has just won the Site of the Month Award October 2010! Wow, that is amazing for something which has only been going a few weeks. Many congratulations to the organisers of #ELTchat.