Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A Class with Storybird

It's been quite a while since I held a class where my students presented their stories created using Storybird. Finally, I got round to sharing this remarkable experience. First off, I'd like to outline some advantages that using Storybird brings in your classroom:

  • storytelling becomes shared experience (students are genuinely interested in the stories created by their peers and gladly respond and give feedback)
  • Storybird tools help unleash creativity (looking at how diverse the students' stories may get, what pictures they choose to illustrate their stories delivers a powerful message that once given what to do and means to do it without restraining them on how they should do it students demonstrate outstanding results)
  • presenting a story can be a special experience (I held my Storybird class in a different room where we had a projector to have everyone better see the stories and illustrations of one another. Having to read the story to their peers gave many students a chance to be proud of their creations and choose the best way to present them)
One of my students presenting her story The Cat That Believed

In order to track the progress of your students, it is a good idea to create a class and ask students to join it. This is what I did too. In Storybird, you can comment on others' stories, which is a great way to give feedback. Initially, I was planning to ask students to leave comments in Storybird while their peers were presenting. Unfortunately, the Internet connection wasn't so good to allow this. Therefore, I asked them to write their comments on separate sheets of paper. Later, I took pictures of those and uploaded them in a social network they all use.

If I had to give advice on how to hold a Storybird class like mine, I'd offer the following tips:

  • create a Storybird classroom to keep track of your students' progress and easily find them on the list during a class
  • make sure there's a good Internet connection (it sounds too trivial but once it's not there the whole idea might fail)
  • encourage students to ask questions and provide feedback for their peers
One of the papers with feedback

 It's likely that initially students won't feel enthusiastic about having to use a new tool like Storybird to create their stories. This was my case. Some students would ask, 'Why can't we do this on paper?' and similar questions. However, after they had created and presented their stories, their attitude changed dramatically and they kept asking me to do this again. Therefore, do not get discouraged by lack of enthusiasm in your students. Once they see what they are capable of, they will develop a different perspective on this kind of tasks. Why rob them of such an opportunity?

Saturday, 15 August 2015

5 Great YouTube Channels for EFL Classroom

Image source: wikipedia

There are so many great posts by blogging teachers who praise the benefits of using videos in the classroom that it's become a must, and rightly so. Authentic material that can engage students and promote further discussion or enhance grammar/vocabulary skills deserves the highest credit. Besides, let's be honest, students love watching videos and prefer them to coursebook exercises and routines. What can be challenging for a teacher in this situation is how to select a proper video for the EFL classroom. My top criteria are:

- it should be relevant to the learning goals
- it should be easy to understand but contain some unknown vocabulary
- it should be interesting for students

In this post, I would like to outline 5 YouTube channels that I normally browse to find videos for my classroom. Naturally, there are much more than that but before I start looking for specific videos using search filters, I resort to these. One thing that these channels have in common is that it's possible to find videos on any topic. This is especially important for me as I have a textbook-based course that involves dealing with various subject areas. What is more, the videos are short and of high quality.

Here we go!

1. Open University

This is a great channel to find short videos on academia related topics (philosophy, social sciences etc.). In addition, the way of presenting information could well be the subject of study for students.

2. CrashCourse

The name speaks for itself. Any topic is presented in a concise and engaging manner. Great to use for ESP. On average, the videos are 12 minutes long.

3. Mental Floss

If you seek some thought provoking stuff, this channel is a right place to start. The authors of the videos have a goal to debunk common misconceptions about anything they lay their eyes on.

4. The School of Life

The videos on this channel try to answer important questions of life with the help of culture. "How To Find Fulfilling Work?", "What Is Success?" are among them. What's more, they use engaging infographic.

5. WatchMojo

This is a wonderful infotainment channel that has separate channels for areas like Travel, Fashion, Lifestyle etc.  Normally, the videos present top-ten lists on anything related to popular culture.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Student Blogging: Appearance, Character, Relationships

Naturally, the blogging task my students considered to be one of the most compelling was the one related to the topic "Appearance. Character. Relationships". It didn't come as a surprise to me as young people are always eager to talk about their friends, roommates and dates. 

To help them make their stories full of great collocations, phrasal verbs and idioms, I offered them some online resources apart from the basic wordlist:

A lesson on PHRASAL VERBS related to relationships:

Interactive vocabulary exercises:

In order to practise active vocabulary in speaking, I offered them some role play situations:

1.  A married couple is talking to a therapist about their relationship.
2.  Two young people are discussing their dating experiences.
3.  Two friends are deciding who they want and do not want to invite for a party they throw.
4.  Old friends are recalling their college years, friendships and people who were special for them.
5.  Two young people are gossiping about their new roommate.

6.  A young person is trying to convince his/her friend who fell in love with a wrong person to let it go.

Finally, the very blogging task included creating a comic strip. That's where the most of the students had lots of fun!

You  have to write a story that meets the following requirements:
- description of characters
- some details of their relationship (friendship, romance, parent-child etc; date, falling out, argument etc)
- dialogs and conversations between characters

Conversations and dialogs will be presented in a form of comic strips created in or If you wish to present the whole story as a comic strip, you certainly can do this. Otherwise, include at least 3 comic strips in your story.

A rough example, as usual:


Good Luck!

As always, here are some works by my students:

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Student Blogging: Travel, Tourism, Migration

Finally, I feel like getting down to blogging again. In this post, I'd like to continue sharing some ideas about a blogging project I did with my students. There have been several posts about it, so this time I'll write about the task my students particularly enjoyed.

The topic we were working on was related to travel, tourism and migration. In order to practice vocabulary in different ways, I offered them to do role play situations on travel and tourism and to do the blog task on migration issues. Prior to desinging this course, I managed to find some great resources to help my students learn more about this topic and explore the usage of vocabulary related to it. One of such resources is the interactive activity developed by the Tenement Museum. By doing this activity, students can learn more about immigrants to the USA in the early XX century and their everyday lives. They can take on a personality of an immigrant and explore the harsh realities of their journey and daily struggles. In this quest, they are accompanied by video stories of Victoria, an immigrant girl, who shows them all ins and outs of immigrant life in New York a century ago.

As my students were completing this quest, they had to accomplish the following task:

In this activity, you will get acquainted with the realities faced by immigrants in the USA around a century ago. As you enter the site, press "i" for instructions.

You will have to choose an immigrant character for yourself and follow further steps.  A girl called Victoria will be your guide in this adventure. After you have completed all the stages of this game you will be offered to send Victoria a postcard. This is the base for your blogpost (you don't have to do the task on the game site; you should write a letter in your blog):

Write a letter (200-250 words, 20-25 active words and expressions) to Victoria describing your imagined experience based on the choices you made throughout the game (mention as many details as possible) and your imagination. Make sure you include some facts from Victoria's stories too. Also, paste an image of your immigrant passport and any other pictures you  consider relevant. 

Some works by my students:


Saturday, 4 April 2015

History Lessons

Last week my students and I were discussing outstanding historical figures and remarkable events in our English classes as long as the topic of the unit was called "History lessons". As a rule, I like adding some extra activities to those suggested in a coursebook (and I believe I'm not alone here). Being a genuine history lover, I designed some activities based on information I'd come across surfing the net. So here's my list.

1. A funny warm-up "You'd never believe it". I found some unusual facts about well-known people and wrote down their names on the blackboard. Then I would present the facts like this: "This person .... did so and so..." and have students guess. After presenting all the facts I asked them what they remembered about each person from the list. We had a lot of fun! A worksheet can be found here.

2. Short jigsaw reading "Dating tips". I found this information in this blog and thought it would be cool to use it with my students. The post was about imaginary replies of famous historical figures to commonplace dating problems of different people. I arranged  problem letters and the replies in a table and printed it out. In class, some students got the letters and others got the replies. The task was to match a problem letter with a corresponding reply. The worksheet is here.

3. A speaking task "Portrait Interviews" (from How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer). In pairs or small groups, students choose a portrait depicting a person or event from the past. Their task is to present a conversation that might have taken place between the people depicted in the picture. If there's only one person on the portrait, they could present it as an interview with him/her. I've just given this task to my students so I'm looking forward to their presentations. I'm sure they will come up with something special. I was also thinking to help them with a choice of a portrait by using this great tool by Classtools: 3D Gallery

.... and finally decided to do it:

The Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck
Image source: wikipedia

Friday, 27 March 2015

Student Blogging: Fakebook Profiles

This is the task my students had to fulfil for the topic "Media, News and Celebrity". In the class, we had a discussion about freedom of speech. The questions I used can be found on the site ESL Discussions.

As far as the task for their blogs is concerned, they had to use Fakebook to create a profile of a celebrity they like.


Imagine that a world celebrity (of your choice) paid a visit to your college/school (the reason and purpose are also up to you). You have to create a fake facebook profile of this celebrity with his/her updates concerning this visit (up to 250 words, 20-25 active words and expressions) and embed it in your blog. Remember to add pictures and/or videos, as well as his/her friends' comments to make it more interesting.

Use this tool:

Here's one of the existing profiles of Johnny Cash:

Some works of my students:

Dylan O'Brien by Hanna 
Audrey Hepburn by Alina
Mila Kunis by Sasha

More on student blogging:

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Student Blogging: Houses and Buildings

This is the task I designed for my students' blogs to get them to recycle vocabulary on topic "Houses and Buildings". As you know, the wordlist usually includes the names of various types of houses, parts of a house etc. So I was thinking about a task that would somehow encompass using as many of those words as possible. Finally, I managed to come up with this one, which proved to by lots of fun for many students. As a little addition to their writing they had to paste a short video (up to 1 minute) they had to shoot themselves.


- imagine you're an alien who finds him/herself on earth and has to send a message to his/her friends about a place where they can find him/her;

- fortunately, you find yourself near a building (of your choice), so you need to make a video of it showing as many details as possible (outside and/or inside) (up to 1 minute);

- in your blogpost, you will describe a building, some details of the surrounding area and/or story related to it.

Image source:

Some works of my students:

More on student blogging:

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Student Blogging: Body Language

The task for students' blogs on the topic "Body language" included taking pictures and pasting them in the blog. As long as it was one of the tasks in the first term some students still had to learn how to do it. However, they could go further and try the tool called to add speech bubbles. It proved to be lots of fun for many, especially those who tried to take pictures of their groupmates or roommates. 


1. Your blogpost will be based on the observations of your groupmates as well as other students (and teachers too if you will) regarding body language they use in different situations. Be observant!

2. Take several pictures of people using their body language to include in your post (make sure you get their permission first). They may logically fit in your narration or you me provide them with additional comments. You may also add captions to your pictures using this site:

It might look like this:


Sites to learn about body language:

3. Watch the video and write out the tips presented by the speaker and use this information in your post. Remember to use active vocabulary.


Some works of my students:


More on student blogging:

Word formation
Vocabulary web-tools
Newsjack tutorial
Voki tutorial
Mind maps

Ideas for teaching vocabulary with web-tools:
Vocabulary course tips Part 1, Part 2
Creating content using web

Monday, 16 March 2015

Student Blogging: Education and Mind Maps

I designed this task for my students' blogs when we were discussing the topic "Education". This took place in the second term, after I revised my approach to the tasks. Namely, I decided to provide them with the material to work with (videos, interactive games, articles etc.) prior to the blogging task so that they could see and/or hear how active vocabulary is used. Additionally, the content of the offered material might inspire them to better shape their ideas and further express them. Thus, in this task my students had to watch videos on education to later present their views on the issues discussed. Their reflection had to be accompanied by a mindmap created in Coggle.


In the videos below you will hear two renowned and visionary educators, Sugata Mitra and Sir Ken Robinson, present their ideas on the present an future of education. While you're listening, jot down the ideas you find complelling, controversial or impossible to agree with, i.e. those that inspire you to express your own opinion on them. It is particularly important to single out the ideas that YOU personally find thought provoking.

Now that you have watched the videos, write a blogpost where you will include some ideas (not more than 4) that you've jotted down and express your opinion on them. Requirements: 200-250 words, 20-25 active vocabulary expressions.

Think about your own ways to improve education system in your country based on what you have learned from the videos. Present your ideas in a mindmap created with this tool: and add it to your blogpost. You will need to sign up using your google account.

A very rough example just to give you an idea what it looks like:

Once you've created a mindmap, you can download it as an image and paste in your blog, or choose the option "share publicly" (then you have to copy the code and paste it in your blog).


Some works by my students:

More on student blogging: Creating a Company (plus Voki tutorial), World News (Newsjack tutorial), Word formation, Vocabulary Web Tools.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Student Blogging: A Voki Tutorial

This the task I offered my students so that they could recycle vocabulary on topic "Jobs ans Professions". Apart from a company description they had to provide, the task included using a tool "Voki" to create a speaking avatar. The tutorial was presented in the task.


This time you will try on a role of an entrepreneur and try to describe a company (or an organisation) you would like to set up as if you have already done it. Therefore, describe it in a promotional manner to attract new employees.

Your description should include:
- general characteristic (the sphere of activity, aims, rules and MOTTO);
- working conditions (pay, perks etc.)
- descriptions of positions available (two or three),
- qualities that employees should possess
- any other details that you find relevant.

Besides, you will have to incorporate some gimmicks in your post. This time you will have to create speaking avatars using site Follow these steps:

1. Start a new post and make sure you enable this option in your settings :
2. Go to
3. Choose "Create"

3. Choose a character from many suggested categories (you may as well select a background, choose character's outfit etc.):

4. Give your character a voice! The site offers different options: by phone, text-to-speech or recording with a microphone. You have to choose EITHER text-to-speech OR record option.

If you use text-to-speech option, you can either type or paste the text you wish. You also have an option to choose a male or female voice and an accent. Have fun trying out different options!

Now, what is your Voki avatar going to talk about? Obviously, about something relevant to the company you have created. Your Voki avatar could be a boss giving introductory info, an employee sharing impressions about his or her workplace, a new manager who has got promoted or anybody related to your company. Let your imagination do the work! What you have to bear in mind is that you have to use active vocabulary and the number of signs you can input (around 850).
If you wish to record your voice, you can speak up to one minute.

5. After you have created your avatar, embed it in your post. That is how you're going to do this:
- press "Publish" and name your avatar

- press "save" and close the window that will pop up:

- copy the code and paste it in your blog (the code is long, so make sure you cope the whole thing):
- if you've done everything properly, your code will turn into an avatar as soon as you publish your post. If you wish you may create more than one avatar!

Good luck!

Some works by my students:

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Student Blogging: Newsjack tutorial

This is the task I gave my students so that they could practice using vocabulary of several units we had covered. They had to produce one news item and several headlines based on college events. The task also encompassed a short tutorial to the site     


This time you have a chance to feel like a journalist of one of the world's leading newspapers. Follow these steps to accomplish your task:

1) Go to site

2) Enter the URL of the newspaper. You may want to choose out of these:
Press "Remix"

3) Now let the magic begin! You can edit any part of the newspaper by clicking it. You can even change pictures! Your task is to fill the front page with the news from our university using at least 20 words from the units mentioned in section 3. Change headlines and content of the news reports, articles and other entries. The main part of the task is to write one report based on a recent event (up to 150 words). TIP: Have your report typed in Word before pasting it onto the Newsjack site.

4) After you have made the changes and typed/pasted your report, press "Share Your Remix". You will see a link to your remix, which you have to copy and paste in your blog.

5) As you can see there are quite many headlines and reports on the front page. You don't have to change everything, of course (however, you can do it if you wish). Make sure you have ONE extended report (up to 150 words) and change the content on the part of the newspaper that is available on your screen without scrolling down, i.e. this much:

Here are some tips:

How to replace the text:

1. Click on the text you want to replace.

2. Delete existing information.

3. Type or paste the text you want to add.

4. Save Changes.

5. Enjoy the result!

How to replace pictures

1. Click on the picture you want to replace.
2. Delete the URL of the picture.
3. Paste the URL of the picture you want to add.

4. Save the changes

5. Enjoy the result!


Some examples of my students' work:

Friday, 6 March 2015

How Modals Made My Day

Recently I've had a class where I planned to brush up on modal verbs with my students. In one of the previous classes they had to make grammar presentations (see soon in my blog), so this time I needed an activity to bring it all together and, naturally, have some fun (you won't blame me for that, will you?).

That's what I came up with.

1. First, I played this wonderful video for them (without showing the lines) and asked to write down sentences with modal verbs they can hear. The video is a compillation of various song extracts containing modals.

2. Next, we checked what lines they had. They were supposed to have these:

May it be.
We might as well be strangers.
We might as well be living in another time.
I just can't get you out of my head.
I know I can be what I wanna be.
You mustn't sigh and you mustn't cry.
The show must go on.
My makeup may be flaking but my smile still stays on.
It must be love.
You've got to let me know, should I stay or should I go.

It's also a good idea to elicit students' answers on what modals express in each sentence (e.g. ability, permission, obligation etc.)

3. Finally, I asked them to write a short paragraph that could be a beginning or an end of a story, or some part of it, like a monologue of a character etc. The requirement was to incorporate one of the lines they'd written down. 

We had lots of fun when they were reading their pieces! There were extracts from romantic novels, drama, philosophical essays, you name it. It was quite a productive outcome I didn't even expect, especially that this idea was born very much on the spot ))

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Role Play: Travel, Holidays and Tourism

I find that having my students do the role play is one of the best ways to recycle vocabulary and have fun along the way.  So, I offered them to play out the following situations for the class based on the topic "Travel, Holidays and Tourism".

Situation 1. At the Travel Agent’s

Student A. You’re a travel agent. Offer a couple who came to your office a holiday option that would satisfy both spouses as they seem to disagree on everything.

Student B. You’re a wife. You want a fairytale holiday, preferably on an island. Your husband offers to choose something less expensive. You insist that he should agree with your choice.

Student C. You’re a husband. Your wife wants to have a holiday that you find too extravagant. Try to convince her that another, less expensive, option could be as much enjoyable for her as her initial choice.

Situation 2. Good Times, Bad Times

Student A. You got together with your peers to share some stories about your travel experiences. Show some pictures from your most memorable journey and explain why it was so unforgettable.

Student B. You got together with your peers to share some stories about your travel experiences. Show some pictures from your most disastrous journey and say what went wrong.

Student C.  You got together with your peers to share some stories about your travel experiences. Show some pictures from a trip that was somehow life changing for you. Explain how it influenced your life.

Situation 3. Great Expectations

Student A. You’re a tourist who bought a package holiday. You were attracted by a beautiful brochure and expected to see the same once you arrived at the resort. However, the situation there is far from that described in the brochure. You talk to the hotel manager about problems you face (e.g. no air-conditioning, no swimming pool, bad view etc.) and then try to contact your travel agent to ask for a partial refund of the holiday cost. 
Student B. You’re a hotel manager. One of the tourists seems to be upset because of lack of facilities at your hotel. Try to encourage him and offer other opportunities available in the area to help him/her enjoy his/her holiday.
Student C.  You’re a travel agent. One of the tourists calls you to complain about a package holiday he/she bought at your agency. You know that some information in the brochure was somewhat embellished. Now he/she wants a partial refund of the holiday cost.

Situation 4. Losing Your Heart (taken from here)

Student A. You’re ecstatically happy. You’ve fallen in love with a boy/girl from the country you are visiting and you’ve decided you want to buy a house on the beach and live there forever. Tell your friends about your big decision.
Student B. Your friend has something important to tell you. Listen carefully and then respond: You think your friend’s gone mad and he/she is going to make a terrible decision. Think of all the reasons why his/her plan is crazy and convince him/her to come back home with you.

Student C. Your friend has something important to tell you. Listen carefully and then respond: You think your friend’s gone mad and he/she is going to make a terrible decision. Think of all the reasons why his/her plan is crazy and convince him/her to come back home with you. 

Download as a WORD file

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Vocabulary Course: Resources On Word Formation

Can anyone imagine a vocabulary course without a stopover in the word formation? It's hardly possible. Besides, this issue obviously deserves more time than just a flying visit. Fortunately, I can take advantage of students' independent work and have a bit of a flirt with "flipping" my classroom. That's what it took me this time.

Step 1. Load them before the class. 
As I only have one class to discuss word formation, I decided to load my students beforehand to reap the fruit of their effort during the class. This is what was on their menu:

1Check out this site with the ENORMOUS table full of roots, suffixes and prefixes:

2. Watch these videos and note down roots and affixes mentioned in them

3. Get some practice with the following quizzes on Quizlet:

Step 2. Lots of practice during the class.

In the class, we mainly focused on the exercises in the book and finally did a matching activity.

The worksheet can be downloaded HERE.

Step 3. A creative follow-up.

1. Choose a quote you like that contains a word with a Greek or Latin root.
2. Use one of these sites to create a postcard with the quote of your choice:
3. Paste the picture you created in your blog.
4. Write your reflection (180-200 words) on the quote using  words that contain affixes or roots we have discussed in the class. 

Here's an example:

Some samples of my students' creativity: