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: