Amazing photo and video for a fun creative writing task

Here's a creative writing activity — or digital storytelling if you like to be modern — that went down well when I tested it on three willing teenagers and which we posted earlier today, along with two other similar activities on our Spanish teacher training blog (content in Spanish):

To really appreciate the photo in the tweet there, you perhaps really need to see the other photos in this Huffington Post article (and see the amazing video, below).

I'd recommend doing this in groups of at least 5, with one person being the Queen sitting there in the photo and the other members of the group being people that live and work in the castle (which you can just about see there on her knee — and see also the article mentioned above).

Stages of the activity
(1) Discuss and pick who should be Queen (there were only four of us and I finished up being the Queen (!) but in a bigger class I wouldn't want to do that).

(2) The "workers" should answer the following questions individually:

  • What's your name?
  • What's your job?
  • What effect do the mushrooms have (see article, or the video below, for the images)
  • Is the Queen good or bad — and why?
  • What hidden secret do you have which — until now — you have never told anyone?

(3) Whole class — or with the class divided into however many groups you have — get together, in the presence of the Queen, to discuss the answers, and keep and/or iron out any contradictions as well as making any additions to the story desired.

(4) Write (or record) and share — and comment — on the different versions of the story.

Tools for the activity
With only 4 of us, we in fact did this in a shared Google Drive document, though it would work excellently on a class blog — one on which all your learners are authors — with each "worker" writing their story as a post, with text and images (their own!) as desired and/or audio versions (with Spreaker being my preferred tool for that).

On a blog, you could then get the Queen to "comment" (something which I did, as the Queen, in comments inside the Drive document). You want comments in this kind of activity — comments give you more interaction, more use of language!

In a bigger class, within the groups, you could pair people to tell their story-within-a-story — as husbands and wives living in the castle.

Fun!

How it was made…

Into the Gloaming (Episode One) from Alexia Sinclair on Vimeo.

Amazing…!

Edueto: is creating exercises really Web 2.0?

Here's a site I've not tried out with learners and which personally I actually don't like the idea of.

However, Edublogs drew my attention to a post by Larry Ferlazzo which says that Edueto — for creating online exercises (multiple choice, gap fill, matching…| example) — "has got to be one of the best teacher & Web 2.0 sites of the year".

It's free, it's easy to use but I have two principal doubts: (1) is creating exercises the best use teachers can make of technology — and do they have the time or get paid enough to do that, for what return-on-investment; and (2) is Edueto really a "Web 2.0" tool anyway?

True Web 2.0 tools ought really to involve people in creating and sharing things, and commenting on things other people have created — and thus creating interaction and dialogue.

You could argue, of course, that Edueto is letting you create things and share them with your learners. But, to that, I'd say that you want to flip not your classroom, but flip who is using the technology in your classroom.

I never tire of saying this:

It's not about what YOU do with the technology!

Yes, Edueto will save you a certain amount of time if you wanted to create "interactive" exercises… but is that really the use you should be making of your time, and of technology?

Recommended | I picked this one up from an Edublogger email update. I don't actually use Edublogs (I prefer Blogger, and recommend that to teachers) but if you do blog, using whatever platform, it's well worth subscribing to get the new Edublogger posts.

Great BBC podcast series to recommend to your learners

One that I posted on Twitter last week, BBC Learning English Drama, which is an excellent BBC podcast series:

In weekly episodes of 6-10 minutes, they are retelling both classics and stories specially written for the series, with Jamiaca Inn the current story. Probably suited for B2 (or a good B1) and above.

As a language teacher, what more vital role do you have than getting your learners started on independent mobile learning?

Podcasts that they will enjoy and learn from are a great way to achieve just that and you want to be recommending that kind of thing!

July courses: Success with technology in language learning

Teacher serving in a restaurant aka a classroom

They pay you to teach — but in fact you're a restaurant manager, a cook and a kitchen slave. In the digital age, are there magic ingredients, recipes, that will make your "restaurant" a success?

Enrolment for the July courses we run for the Generalitat de Catalunya's Departament d'Ensenyament starts this week and is open May 14-29.

We've running 4 courses this summer, three in Barcelona and one in Lleida, with me as tutor on courses (1) and (4) below:

  1. Technology for project work in the English classroom (Barcelona, July 1-7)
  2. Improve your language analysis for teaching purposes (Lleida, July 1-7)
  3. Making the most of your ELT time in Primary (Barcelona, July 6-10)
  4. Success with technology in language learning (Barcelona, July 8-14)

Success with technology
The two technology courses are designed to be hands-on as far as possible — so be prepared to have your fingers on keyboards or smartphones for up to about 75% of most of the sessions.

I've mentioned recipes and magic ingredients there in my question in the caption below the image above. We'll be using various bits of technology (we stay as jargon-free as possible ;-) !) to discuss those but I'll say now that I'm not sure that such things exist — certainly not ones that will apply to all teaching circumstances. What I hope you'll come away with will be "recipes" that you can try out and adapt in your "kitchen".

To a considerable extent, I don't like to go into these courses as the tutor with a fixed "menu": as the teacher, you're the person best-informed to decide what is going to work best in your classroom. But I'll advance this: I'm a big believer in the teacher not using technology and handing it over to the learners to use for language practice.

Both of the technology courses are really about how we can do that.

Note that these are closed courses for school teachers in state schools in Catalonia. Enrolment is via XTEC.

See also
We offer other ELT summer courses at IH Barcelona, including CELTA and DELTA (the latter already full) as well as other professional development courses.

Best practice: have your learners use smartphones to make video

Flipped learning: technology is not about the teacher does with it!

Here's on I posted on Twitter this week:

The project and competition is here (you have only until 1st June to get your learners to complete it, so hurry!) and the book is this one, Film in Action, by Kieran Donaghy, who produces the ideas for using film clips in language teaching on the brilliant Film-English.com website.

Go to any language teaching conference nowadays and you're all but guaranteed to hear someone speaking about flipped learning and how it's the Next Big Thing. I'm sorry, I just don't buy it, not for language teaching. In ELT, I don't think we're paid anywhere near enough to be producing video content, no matter how easy smartphones have made that. Now getting learners to produce the videos — as in the competition — that's surely the way to go!

Here's another brilliant example of the sort of thing learners could produce, which I also tweeted this week, from Mike Harrison:

Can your learners — not you, your learners!!! — tell a video story in 6 seconds (or 15 if you use Instagram)?

A tweet from the Innovate ELT Conference this weekend quoting Ceri Jones suggested that we should "Ask not what your tool can do, ask what it can help you to do". IH Barcelona replied:

It seems to me that real innovation, revolution if you like, isn't going to come from tinkering with what teachers do or don't do, or from what teachers do with technology, but from what teachers get learners to do with technology.

Recommended | The other titles from Delta Publishing are well worth exploring. See also two excellent ones on technology — Going Mobile (Nicky Hockly and Gavin Dudeney) and Teaching Online (Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield).

On Twitter, as @Tom_IHBCN, I post a maximum of one thing a day which I think will be of interest to language teachers and/or learners.