Sunday, 30 October 2011

Learning in a Diabolik-al Way!

"Alien Language" comic created by Janet with Marvel Super Hero

Learning a new language via comics is fun and engaging, and this has been proved in numerous pilot studies as reviewed here. Comics usually contain short sentences, phrases and are often repetitive, thus making the language easier to comprehend. People of all ages enjoy reading them and I often recommend that students buy comics of their choice while they are in England or else suggest they view suitable comics online, to pick up new vocabulary and expressions. Comics often contain examples of everyday, colloquial English in manageable chunks.

I am still collecting links and resources for using comics in the classroom via the web curation site You can view the latest additions to this site here.

Learning Diabolik-ally
In addition to reading motorbike magazines in Italian, my husband K also sometimes buys copies of Diabolik comics (fumetti) in Italian in order to pick up the language in a fun and stimulating way. Diabolik is a fictional character, an anti-hero featured in a series of Italian comics. He drives an E-Type Jaguar and his girlfriend is called Eva.

The hugely popular comics were written in 1962 by two sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani, both born in Milan. By all accounts, they led a very exciting and fulfilling life. Both sisters had an extraordinary and vivid imagination to be able to produce this series of comics, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012.

Below you can see a personal copy and image of Diabolik, "Sull'Orlo della Fossa", March 2011 edition. In parts, K has annotated in pencil with translations in English. Maybe if I were really "teacherly", I could create a series of review cartoons in Italian specially for him to test his understanding of key words??? Hmmm, maybe if I have time....

The comics are well illustrated and full of high action with easy to recognise sound effects such as "Boooom!!" Craaash!! Splaaash!! etc

Everyday expressions crop up frequently such as the following:

  • Che cosa succede? What's happening?
  • Buona fortuna! Good luck
  • Grazie Thanks
  • Ma che cosa...?? What on earth..?
  • Poco dopo.. Shortly after...
  • Piu tardi.. Later .....
  • Sono d'accordo I agree
  • Va bene! OK!
  • Attento! Watch out!

These short phrases enable the reader to take in the meaning of these expressions with ease. I would love to add some of the comic scenes on my blog, but the publishers have imposed strict copyright usage on their content, and I have to respect that.

A Diabolik Scenario
In view of this limitation, I have reproduced a typical generic scene from Diabolik by using the Super Hero Marvel Comic cartoon site. I have written a short sample dialogue in Italian using some of the language I have introduced above. See if you can work out what the characters are saying :-)

Comic created by Janet with Marvel Super Hero Comic Squad

Can you understand what the 2 characters are saying in Italian? If you can, well done!!!

K enjoys reading them and with the use of a dictionary, he can pick up a lot of new vocabulary. I also like looking through them as they are so visual and the stories are interesting! This comic series comes out monthly and each copy costs 2 euros and that is quite good value.

You can view Diabolik comics online from the official website if you click on Diabolik Fumetto Online. So if you are learning Italian, and you want to pick up some useful Italian expressions, go ahead and browse through the site. Then why don't you make your own free and easy to use Super Hero comic strip using the new language you have learned and print it out directly? You could also keep your lovely creation in a folder for review purposes, or simply print it out and pin to your work area wall and create a nice collage of your work of art??

That is what I am starting to do in order to jazz up the wall of my "office" area, as you can see below!

Apologies to anyone following my blog for my accidentally publishing this post yesterday with just the title. I deleted it immediately, as I hadn't written the post content yet(!!) but for some reason, I think it is still showing up in blog feeds as published.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Language Garden: A Word Cloud Blog Challenge!

My very first Language Plant! My plant is surrounded by a Tuxpi flower ornament frame!

David Warr from the amazing Language Garden blog kindly encouraged me in a very convincing way, by the mere mention of kittens, to take the leap of faith, and play with the fantastic Language Garden Plant Maker tool, which he has created. This was for the Blog Challenge he has set up as follows:

"Well, stage 1 is here, and I’d like to propose a blog challenge. It’s simple enough: make your own word art – a language plant, a mind map or word cloud using the new language plant maker."

It took one simple tweet to get me to leap into the unknown and create a simple language plant. How could I resist David's challenge after the tweet below?? Within moments, I took up the challenge and tweeted back to David with the image of my handiwork.

I was thrilled when shortly afterwards David tweeted this very helpful alternative based on my original Abruzzo plant with the comment: "Sharing the adjective morphology endings". This indeed would be an excellent introduction to studying such adjective endings with students. It shows how creative you can be with different adjective endings.
Images / screenshots above and below reproduced from tweets sent by @DavidWarr.

I also received this lovely, beautiful plant on the theme of kittens.

A Message from Fluffy

All these fabulous creative examples prompted me to have another go, and this is the result. As you can see, I hadn't cleared all the little icons when I saved the language plant.

I found as with all new things, you need to practise and practise to get used to how a new tool functions. I viewed David's helpful video tutorial below and this helped me a lot.

I felt that I could do better than my first Test version, so I timed myself to see how long it would take to create a similar one, but with more colours and separating the words. I was much quicker the second time and I was able to move the words around more easily.

Here is my creation below. I am really thrilled with it!
However, I could see that the colours were a bit mixed, so I set out to try to change the colours and separate the "I love" into 2 blocks rather than one block. Here is my 3rd attempt, which took me an even shorter time to create. I could see that I was getting quicker and more able to manipulate the bends and sizes. The final letter of the word "weather" is a bit tilted, but I am sure practice will make perfect!!

I think this tool is a fabulous resource and leads to a lot of creative activities. You can get students to make up short poems, write short descriptions, play around with grammar items or teach each other simple phrases such as demonstrated in the blog challenge samples submitted by various bloggers in Language Garden. My verdict? It's a sure fire winner with students and teachers alike!!

One thing which would be good for the future is an "undo" button if you make a mistake or want to delete a word. I am sure that this will be possible in due course :-) For now, I believe it is an amazing tool which will make learning and teaching English much more fun! So many thanks to David for sharing this brilliant creation with everyone!

Why don't you have a go, and then share your language plant with David on his blog? He would be really happy, I am certain to add your creation in his beautiful Gallery.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Abruzzo Dream - My Story

Thanks to Vicky Loras's Blog Challenge, I would like to share this post, which presents a different angle to a part of my life. The reason why I moved from England to live in the heart of Abruzzo, Italy. Then soon after, an event which shattered me to the core..

Worlds apart yet a destiny foretold. My blood is 100% from Abruzzo, my heart is 100% British. Two countries forever intertwined from the moment of my birth. I was born and brought up in England by my parents, both from Abruzzo. Now I find myself living deep in the beautiful countryside of Abruzzo surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Far From The Madding Crowd. I wrote about these two very different worlds in May this year and to read all about it, you can click the link Worlds Apart.

My parents had left Abruzzo in the 1950s during the depression to seek a new life and work in England. Both my parents have settled down in England forever, and they return to Abruzzo now for holidays and only accompanied by myself or my sisters. My beloved grandmother had also left Abruzzo at the grand age of 61 to begin a new life in England with my parents. I wrote about her life story here.

I have written about the unique love story of my parents in "1955: The Look of Love" here. I guess I owe my life to a certain mirror which played a pivotal role in their first encounter. Below is the anniversary card I made for my parents this year. They both loved it. A young, beautiful couple, their whole lives ahead of England in 1955.

What brought me to leave my country of birth after half a century?
Together with Karl my hubby, we decided we wanted to live in a more open, less hectic space. It was impossible to afford this in England in 2007. House prices had rocketed with the housing boom, and we were faced with properties costing up to half a million pounds. YES!! that is what it would have cost to buy the house of our dreams. At our advancing ages, we would have had a mortgage around our necks forever.

Time for a Change
At that time we were living in a tiny two-bedroom maisonette in an area only a bike ride away from the city centre of beautiful, historic Oxford. We had lived in the same place for 16 years. However, the area had changed considerably over the years. From friendly, peaceful neighbourhood to a busy, noisy and ever changing scene. People never stayed in the houses around us for long. Respect for the buildings and gardens was different from when we first arrived. Strangers coming and going. We had neighbours above us, next to us, across from us - every direction was covered. There was no peace, no quiet. It had become a living nightmare, if truth be told. It was time for a serious change. A change which led to the image below.

In the depths of the Abruzzo countryside

A Seachange
The change was about to become dramatic. We began looking at houses in the Oxfordshire area. We wanted a house with a bit of land around it, so we would not have the problem of noisy and unfriendly neighbours ever again.

We looked at lots of properties and we even put an offer in for a beautiful, charming, picture perfect cottage in the heart of a lovely village in Oxfordshire. The house cost a cool quarter of a million pounds!!! The bank had already agreed to lend us the money for a mortgage. Everything was set for paperwork to be signed. Then after a survey of the cottage was completed and everything was ready to go, we suddenly got cold feet and we pulled out. In hindsight, if we were meant to buy the house, we would have gone ahead with the deal. Nothing is impossible when you are determined and are passionate about something!

So we continued looking, but became disheartened. We both had excellent jobs and I suppose we were the epitome of DINKIES. Dual Income, No Kiddies, so we had quite a bit of disposable income at that time. Yet we still could not afford what we wanted without having to borrow a huge amount from the bank. That is when the idea came to our minds. Why not go to Abruzzo?

Why was Abruzzo chosen?
It was an area K and I both knew as we had visited for holidays many times. The pull of my family's roots played a part. The land where my parents were born. The land they had left to begin a new life in the 1950s.

The price of properties in Abruzzo was much lower compared to in England. Why not give it a go? The seed had been sown.

We could have chosen to go anywhere in the whole world, but Abruzzo held a special, magical attraction. The people, the lifestyle, the scenery, the food, the traditions...the glorious summers, the beaches, the mountains......what was there not to like about this region? Why not move lock stock and barrel to this stunning, quiet, unspoilt area?

We were advised by friends and family not to sell our little house, which was in a prime location.

"You should rent out your house in Oxford, get a mortgage, buy a property in Abruzzo then in the future if things don't work out, you can always come back to your house in Oxford."

My dear readers. I absolutely agree this was very sensible advice at the time. However, we followed our hearts and instincts. We did not follow this advice. We chose to risk everything for our chance to live the dream and walk the talk............even if it eventually turns out to be temporary.

Location, Location
So in 2007 we began looking on the Internet for properties in Abruzzo in earnest. We discovered so many breathtakingly reasonable prices. We registered with House Around Italy and they provided excellent assistance in all stages of the process. Within 5 weeks of viewing our property after a whirlwind weekend tour of properties, we had the keys to the house. It was a fast and painless process. Maybe we were lucky. We were so, so excited!!

What we got for a very reasonable price was a tumble down "casale" (old farmhouse) in great need of restoration and tender loving care. It was the perfect restoration project! The property was set in 12,000 square metres of land, with olive trees, an orchard and many other fruit trees. It also had a big open barn and outhouses. Two rooves were missing...... Undeterred, we fell in love with it at first sight.

We had been in the right place at the right time and the moment we sold our flat in Oxford was the highest point in the property boom. It crashed a few months shortly afterwards. By that time, we had spotted the house of our dreams in Abruzzo and with the proceeds of the sale of our property, we were able to buy the house outright and have money left over to start the long renovation process....That was in August 2007. The move to Abruzzo wasn't complete until mid 2008. Within months of the dream move, however, my life and that of K's changed completely.

February 25th 2009
My mother suffered a devastating accident on her bicycle on the way to church one bright, sunny, beautiful, calm and peaceful day. In just one second her life and all the family's life changed forever.

I returned on the first plane to London to be told by the consultants to brace ourselves for the worst possible scenario. My mother had suffered a catrastrophic brain injury and it was touch and go whether she would pull through. The idea of abandoning our new home in Abruzzo was something we considered privately. I spent more time in England than in Abruzzo during these turbulent and stressful days, weeks and months.

Amazingly, my mother did pull through!!! She spent over 5 months in hospital and rehabilitation. The day she came home was the most fantastic day ever. We celebrated her birthday in style, and then I finally returned to Karl and furkids in Abruzzo.

I have written about this miracle many times on my blog and so will not dwell on it in this post. I would just like to say that as a result of this event, my heart has been in 2 places. My family need my help and moral support. For this reason I travel back to England quite often. I am half here, half there. The dream move did not come at the right time, in all honesty. I have not been able to seriously contemplate a full time position in Abruzzo, because of the need to return to England at a moment's notice to deal with my mother's affairs, and also to give my sisters a well-deserved break. Maybe one day, a fresh decision will have to be made about where to spend the rest of our lifetime.....

K and I agreed that a margin of 10 years to do up our house would be realistic. 4 years have passed since we actually signed the paperwork. We are only a third of the way there! Now we have become LILOPs. Limited Income, Lots of Pets! We are currently actually living like the proverbial church mice, but it is a new experience and we shall see how long we can last.........

How have my two lives fared?
They have fared well so far, but it hasn't really been easy. Dividing my life between the 2 countries, and the pull of family commitments tugging at the heart strings is something which is difficult to get to grips with. I am faced with the eternal dilemma. I would like to be in two places at once, but that is of course unrealistic.

What is my future destiny?
The simple answer is I don't know. My life is still an open book waiting for the next page to unfold. Yes, this is a bit scary sometimes, but I don't dwell on this, as I am living in the present. In the past, I used to live with my head in the future. All I know now for sure is that nothing is permanent. Life can change in one second, that is all it takes. My family in England is very dear to me. I love Abruzzo and I feel at home here. I love England and feel at home there, too.

Together with K, we feel comfortable in both worlds. I would like to say that K has been my rock and has supported me and my family with great understanding and devotion.

Abruzzo Scenes Today with the Menagerie

With Kelly and chicks.

With naughty Fluffy and more chicks.

With new kitten on her first outing in the garden today.

More new kittens relaxing indoors.....

Due to a special request by @ David Warr, here are some more cat images!

Kitty's looking at you, David.

A pensative Fluffy. She is a brilliant big sister to the 4 kittens.

Below, in the early days in our new home in Abruzzo. You can see me de-weeding an area which had no roof, so weeds had reached to the ceiling! This room now has a roof, and it needs considerable more work done to it before it is finished.......

Sunday, 9 October 2011! Update

I first wrote about the web curation site three months ago here. Since then I have been using the site to add to my growing collection of Comics and cartoons, which has been viewed over a thousand times! Thank you so much to everyone who has visited it, and also a big thanks to all my followers.

I have reproduced the Pixton comics below from my previous post about It is now part of a series of comics on this theme.

Fun Scoop.its to Follow
I have also been busy following quite a few Scoop.its on a variety of topics, which include technology, images and presentations, amongst others. I follow these sites for my CPD. I like the fact that each site contains a lot of useful links all in one place. This is both convenient and time-saving. I intend to show these sites to teachers as an example of the type of themes that can be curated. In fact, the world is your oyster! You can curate anything that interests you. I get daily notifications of any updates on the sites I follow. This is very handy! sites I follow include the following:

Inspiration for tired EFL Teachers

Tools for Learners
Teaching English
Digital presentations in English
Visual Literacy

Larry Ferlazzo has an excellent and informative list of Best Posts & Articles about Curation.

If you haven't already investigated starting up your very own site, then I hope this post will inspire you to do so!

If you already have your site, I would love to hear how you exploit your curation site(s) for your Continuous Professional Development, or your classes.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Have the Courage to Follow Your Heart and Intuition - Steve Jobs RIP

Image source

These words formed part of a momentous speech that Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder and CEO of Apple, gave to his audience at the Stanford Commencement Address in 2005. He sadly passed away on October 5th at the young age of 56 after a prolonged battle with cancer.

How To Live Before You Die
I wrote a post back in March 2010 after I had viewed the 2005 Stanford Commencement Address given by Steve Jobs. That post was simply called "How to live before you die". The video of his talk moved me considerably.

I made up a lesson using the phrasal verbs encountered in the talk as seen above and I also generated a discussion activity.

Here is the video below. It is full of truly inspiring words about life and death.

The Guardian have just released a video of his life and career:

The untimely death of Steve Jobs has generated a lot of posts from around the world. This is an amazing testament to the charismatic and influential person he was. I have just done a search on his name, and found an incredible 42 blog posts have already been posted on onestopenglish blogs. This shows how he has affected so many people in different ways.

Follow Your Heart and Intuition
For me, I admired Steve Jobs' determination to live life to the full, to experiment with the unknown, to create innovative technological tools, which have helped millions, and finally the ability to follow his own advice such as "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Truth Is Out!

Thank you to everyone who has attempted to guess which facts are NOT true about my life. I made a Jing video and wrote a post about the blog challenge here. Dave Dodgson who started off the Tuth or Lie? blog challenge has posted up his answers to the challenge on his blog here.

Thanks to Dave for this very interesting and worthwhile challenge. I have visited new blogs and connected with other teachers from around the world, and that has been fun.

Here was the challenge:
  • Post a video, audio recording or just a regular post on your blog in which you state 5 facts about yourself - 3 truths and 2 lies.
  • Invite your PLN to quiz you and speculate on what the lies are!
I have a big confession to make. I have just realised that only 2 facts are strictly true, so there are 3 false statements in my Blog Challenge: Truth or Lie? post. I apologise for any confusion!!

Fiona has guessed two facts correctly! So has Sue from ESOL Courses. Well done!

Here are the TRUE facts as seen in the individual Poweroint slides below. I used Jing to screen capture each slide as an image.

Statement 1

I originally said I cultivated 100 litres. Maybe one day it will be true and olive oil cultivation will be my full time day job!

Statement 2

I said I had been blogging for 5 years. In fact it will be 3 years very soon.

Statement 3

This fact is true! You can see my blog post called Janet's Motorcycle Diaries, which describes a trip I made from Abruzzo to England last year. I and my hubby used to be members of a motorcylce club and we went touring all over Europe! I have been to Assen twice on the back of a Triumph Trophy 1200 motorbike, and I have seen Valentino Rossi win the Moto GP there. Both trips were amazing and I loved the exciting atmosphere at the Moto GP race track. I must find some old photos and add them to this post!

Statement 4

Yes, this statement is absolutely true!

Statement 5

I said I had been to all the places on the red dots. In fact, I haven't been to all these places Janet's Abruzzo Edublog HAS been viewed by people from over 100 countries in the world, as you can see from this Clustrs map, taken from my blog's Main page!!!

I look forward to finding out the truth about the other bloggers who have taken up the challenge.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Blog Challenge: Truth or Lie?

Challenges are hard to resist sometimes especially when you can kill two birds with one stone! Dave Dodgson from the super Reflections of a Teacher and Learner blog has set up an interesting Truth or Lie? challenge amongst fellow bloggers. You can find out more about this fab challenge and view links to Dave's and other bloggers responses on this post: This is My Truth (or is it?), Tell Me Yours - A Blog Challenge.

I found this Dilbert comic strip via Twitter today, and thought it is very apt indeed for this post. Thanks to @ Sandymillin for tweeting it!

The Challenge
Here is the challenge:
  • Post a video, audio recording or just a regular post on your blog in which you state 5 facts about yourself - 3 truths and 2 lies.
  • Invite your PLN to quiz you and speculate on what the lies are!
To complete this challenge, I first made a Powerpoint presentation and then I used a Jing screencast to video capture the slides. I am still very much a newbie Jing user and it took me a few attempts and deletions to get it right!! I am not sure about the sound. Hopefully you can hear it ok.

In my presentation, I say five facts about my life, but only three are true! Can you guess which two facts about me are NOT true?? I'll post up the answers some time this week. I hope to use this video as a new "Introduction to Janet" for my next class.

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