Tuesday, 17 February 2015

This is a guest post by Çağla Usta, one of my students from Foreign Languages Education Department at METU... Çağla is a born teacher with great ideas, that's why I asked her to contribute to my blog and she kindly accepted... This is what she would like to share with us: 

In recent years, visual presentation tools have become quite popular and indispensible, especially in education. The most popular one is undoubtedly Power Point Presentations. However, because of their extensive and perfunctory usage, it is clear that PowerPoint presentations are not able to appeal to people that much anymore.

Therefore, we need other alternative presentation tools to grab our audience’s attention, especially for the younger ones. Very recent and amazing one of these alternatives is provided by a company named “Powtoon”. The company works through an internet site: www.powtoon.com. Here we can create free, colorful and visually engaging presentations in just a few minutes. The fantastic thing about it is the fact that Powtoon enables us to create animated presentations as well, which certainly appeals to both kids and adults. Moreover, Powtoon presentations are not common, thus still quite attractive for most of the people.

After you sign up for free, you can start to create your presentation either by using the ready-made templates or a blank page. The free version of Powtoon includes 10 different themes. Each theme contains various different backgrounds, icons, objects, songs, sounds, transitions, and both animated and stable characters. In addition to these default themes, it is also possible to upload and embed any image, video or sound, including your own voice. Also, it enables the user to save the presentation either as a slideshow or a video clip which can be also uploaded to your Youtube channel.

Different from the free version, the paid version of Powtoon also provides 11 more themes which involve far more appealing and animated characters. Further, it allows users to download their presentations to their computers unlike the free version. (A tip for free users: You do not have to buy the full version of Powtoon just to be able to download your presentation. After you upload your Powtoon presentation to your Youtube channel, which is free, there are several easy methods to download a video from Youtube to your computer; you can google it :) )

If you are used to preparing PowerPoint presentations, it may seem a bit harder to use Powtoon at first. But actually Powtoon is among the most user friendly softwares with clear instructions and a plain format.  You have everything you need in a single page. After you learn the basics, the rest is up to your creativity...

Here is the link to a Powtoon presentation I created for you: 


Monday, 16 February 2015

A Need for Renewal...

In their inspiring book, “Resonant Leadership”, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee highlight the importance of renewal in one’s life. Although the book discussess the strategies needed to become a resonant leader, it gives insight into managing one’s own and others’ emotions in ways that drive success. And to this end, renewal is one of the techniques suggested by the writers.

The inevitable result of constantly running headlong into the stiff winds of life is to be in need of renewal. This renewal might be in any form: physical, mental or emotional...

Preoccupied with workplace demands (teaching, reading papers, writing our latest book, “The Compass: Route to Academic English 1”) for a long time, I’ve realized that I needed a new challenge which would renew me by taking me away from my routines.  
That is why when I was asked to teach a methodology course to a group of pre-service English teachers, I accepted it... 

Although I had experience in in-service teaching training, I did not have the opportunity to work with pre-service teachers before. This teaching experience reminded me, once again, of why I wanted to become a teacher.  Meet these inspiring people: 

We inspired each other throughout the semester, and as Boyatzis suggests, I was renewed physically, mentally and emotionally thanks to my lovely students.  Some of you might wonder how one can be renewed physically while teaching? Dodds (2013) claims “successful renewal invokes brain patterns and hormones change our mood, while returning our body to a healthy state.”

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A brand new term, new students and an icebreaker...

While planning the first lessons of the semester, I thought of sharing with you an icebreaker from my activity book, the Activist...

If I were a Dictionary Entry:

Level: Elementary and above
Materials Needed:  Paper and pencil
Preparation: None
Interaction Patterns: Individual work, whole-class activity
Time: 30 minutes


-          Tell students that they will introduce themselves, but not in a conventional way:

“Now we will get to know each other, but I want to make this a bit different. Let’s write a dictionary entry for our names and introduce ourselves in this way. But I want everyone to be as creative as possible. At the end of the activity, I want you to remember others’ names and something about those people. If we write dull and ordinary entries, no one will remember us! So let’s write interesting entries. I have written one for my name. If you want, let me read it for you:

“Hasanbasoglu, Burcin:  (proper noun): A human being who became a multi-tasking machine after the birth of her daughter”

-          Students write their own entries and then share them with the class.

-          Collect the entries at the end of the activity and prepare a class dictionary with hard cover using those entries. You might want to make a copy of this for each student as well.

Because students are free to express themselves in the way they want, they tend to come up with quite interesting entries as a result. They write quite memorable entries, which helps others remember their names and even the entries the next time they meet.

A Speaking Activity: Dragons' Den - English Classroom

I came up with this activity while watching the famous TV show, Dragons' Den. And here are the details...

Level: Elementary and above
Materials Needed: None
Preparation: None
Interaction Patterns: Group work
Time: 15 minutes

- Start a discussion on the TV program Dragons’ Den by asking students if they watch it and what kind of a show it is:

For those of you who may not be familiar with this TV program:
Dragons' Den is a series of reality television programmes featuring entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas in order to secure investment finance from a panel of venture capitalists. The contestants are usually product designers or service operators who have what they consider to be a viable and potentially very profitable business idea, but who lack funding and direction. They pitch their idea to five rich entrepreneurial businesspeople, the eponymous "dragons", to attract them.

- Tell the class that they will all attend Dragons’ Den but note that it will be a bit different from the original format since they will not be free to come up with their own invention. Give the rule of the game: “In this invention contest, students will invent something new out of two commonly used objects.”

- Now, choose three students and call them the “jury”for this activity.

- Students work in groups of four.

- Before the groups start work, explain what they will do in detail by giving an example yourself. Write on the board two concepts or objects (e.g. TV and a printer) and show your students how to combine these two concepts / objects in a novel way.

E.g. The TV that has a printer attached to take snapshots from films or TV series

- Give groups a new set of objects / concepts. See the sample list below:

Pencil                   Computer

Hair-dryer           Paper

Eraser                  Grass

Perfume              Mobile Phone

- Students, in groups, try to combine them in 5 minutes.

- During the group work, the jury visit each group and check if all students speak in English (or they might be asked to give ideas to the groups).

- After all groups come up with an invention, they present it in front of the class. They explain in detail why their idea deserves to be the best by giving reasons for their way of combining them.

- The jury asks questions if they need clarification.

- The jury decides on the best combination, gives 1 point to that group and justify their choice.

- Give another set of objects to the groups.

Personal Comment:

- As students may sometimes tend to give points to their best friends, it is a good idea to select the students for the jury carefully. Students who are not good friends with a specific group of students, but with the whole class are best candidates for this role.

- Students enjoy participating in this activity because it is a great problem-solving game which requires creative thinking. Even the normally quiet students may contribute to the activity by combining the objects in a novel way, which increases the motivation level of the class.

If you can think of possible variations of this activity, please comment on this post...


p.s. This activity is taken from my activity book, The Activist.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

21st Century Skills

Whenever I have some free time (thank God, I just finished marking all the papers on my desk and finally found some time to do some reading), I love reading some stuff about 21st Century skills... Such resources help me reflect on what I do in class. Does it really help my students? Or will it help them in the future?

Today I'd like to share with you what I've just read... Below is Proffessor Lawrence Jones' Foundation skills, which are the essential jobs skills for the 21st century. I believe these skills are not limited to business life only; we, as 21st century teachers, can benefit from nearly all of them while designing our courses and facilitating learning :)

Foundation skills:
  • Basic Skills
  • Thinking Skills
  • People Skills
  • Personal Qualities
The Basic Skills
  • Reading: Identify relevant details, facts, and specification; locate information in books/manuals, from graphs; find meaning of unknown words; judge accuracy of reports; use computer to find information.
  • Writing: Write ideas completely and accurately in letters and reports with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation; check, edit, and revise for accuracy and emphasis, use computer to communicate information.
  • Mathematics: Use numbers, fractions, and percentages to solve problems; use tables, graphs, diagrams, and charts; use computer to enter, retrieve, change, and communicate numerical information.
  • Speaking: Organize and communicate ideas clearly; speak clearly; select language, tone of voice, and gestures appropriate to audience.
  • Listening: Listen carefully to what person says, noting tone of voice, and other body language; respond in a way that shows understanding of what is said.
The Thinking Skills
  • Creative Thinking: Use imagination freely, combining ideas or information in new ways; make connections between ideas that seem unrelated.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Recognize problem; identify why it is a problem; create and implement a solution; watch to see how well solution works; revise as needed.
  • Decision Making Skills: Identify goal; generate alternatives and gather information about them; weigh pros and cons; choose best alternative; plan how to carry out choice.
  • Visualization: See a building or object by looking at a blueprint, drawing, or sketch; imagine how a system works by looking at a schematic drawing
The People Skills
  • Social: Show understanding, friendliness, and respect for feelings; assert oneself when appropriate; take an interest in what people say and why they think and act as they do.
  • Negotiation: Identify common goals among different parties in conflict; clearly present the facts and arguments of your position; listen to and understand other party's position; create possible ways to resolve conflict; make reasonable compromises.
  • Leadership: Communicate thoughts and feelings to justify a position; encourage or convince others; make positive use of rules or values; demonstrate ability to have others believe in and trust you because of your competence and honesty.
  • Teamwork: Work cooperatively with others; contribute to group with ideas and effort; do own share of work; encourage team members; resolve differences for the benefit of the team; responsibly challenge existing procedures, policies, or authorities.
  • Cultural Diversity: Work well with people having different ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds; understand the concerns of members of other ethnic and gender groups; base impressions on a person's behavior, not stereotypes; understand one's own culture and those of others and how they differ; respectfully help people in these groups make cultural adjustments when necessary.
Personal Qualities

  • Self-Esteem: Understand how beliefs affect how a person feels and acts; "listen" to and identify irrational or harmful beliefs you may have; and understand how to change these negative beliefs when they occur.
  • Self-Management: Assess your knowledge and skills accurately; set specific, realistic personal goals; monitor progress toward your goal.
  • Responsibility: Work hard to reach goals, even if task is unpleasant; do quality work; display high standard of attendance, honesty, energy, and optimism.
Source: http://education-2020.wikispaces.com/21st%20Century%20Learning

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thesis Statement Partners

Level: Intermediate and above

Materials Needed: paper


o   To teach students the rules of writing successful thesis statements, prepare a pair of good and bad thesis statements, each of which exemplifies a rule (see the sample thesis statements below). Put each thesis statement on a slip of paper. Make sure there is a slip for each student. You may need to increase the number of sample thesis statements according to the number of students you have.

o   Make copies of the rules and sample thesis statements for all students.     

Time: 20 minutes


-   Shuffle the slips of paper. Give the instructions:

“Here I have some sample thesis statements. Each thesis statement has a pair or two pairs, which are either the improved or the poor version.
Your task is to pick one thesis statement first. Then, you will find the pair or pairs of that thesis statement. When you find your partner, you will analyse them and decide which one is the good one and which one is the bad one. Then, you will come up with a rule explaining your sample thesis statements.”
Students pick a slip of paper and then mingle to find the student who has the pair of that thesis statement.  

-   When students find the pairs, they analyse their statements and decide which one is good and why.

-   Closely monitor the students at this stage and provide support if necessary.

-   When students come up with the rule, they write it on the board.

-   When all the rules are put on the board, go over them together with the class and make corrections if necessary.

-   Distribute each student the handout on which you have both the rules and the examples.

-   If your students are not kinesthetic, you may prefer to ask students to do the same task on a worksheet.

Personal Comment:

-   Asking students figure out the rules of thesis statements rather than providing them with the rules is always much more helpful. What I have witnessed is that students tend not to forget the rules when they themselves figure them out.

This activity is from my book, The Activist. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Using Word Clouds on the 1st Day...

Word clouds have been quite popular in ELT classrooms for some time and I also like using them for different purposes (which I will be writing about in my coming posts) since most students find them fun. 
In this post, I will be sharing with you “Me in a Cloud”, an icebreaker in which you can use a word cloud to introduce yourself. There are many FREE online word cloud generators such as Wordle, and ABCya, but my favorite one is Word it Out since you can easily download or print your word cloud and then use it in your classes in the way you like.

To play “Me in a Cloud”, you need to first generate a word cloud similar to the one below. The following word cloud is generated on Wordit Out. I just typed some words/phrases that describe me and thus play an important role in my life and the following cloud was created the moment I clicked on Word it Out button. You may click on “random settings” or “redraw” to change how your cloud looks, if you like. You may then save, download, e-mail or print the word cloud.

After the word cloud is ready, photocopy the word cloud or take a print-out which is large enough for all students to see. Ask students to make predictions about yourself, looking at the words and phrases on the word cloud, and then tell if their predictions are true or false. At this point, for example, you might have a dialogue similar to the one below:  

Students: “You can speak Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch.”
Teacher:  “I can speak German and Dutch but I cannot speak Spanish and Italian.”
Students: “You have cats and dogs at home.”

Teacher: “I don’t have any pets but I love them all.”
After you introduce yourself, you might want to ask students to create a word cloud similar to yours (either a hand-written one in the same lesson or one prepared on Word it Out to be brought to class later).