Saturday, 29 November 2008

Appraisal of my first month of blogging and thanks

The above posting was generated thanks to link here. This site provides many different activities for creative text writing including fun short newspaper articles like my example.

Feedback of my first 30 days
It's been a rollercoaster journey of highs and lows and then highs again. My overall feeling is one of great satisfaction. I have achieved what I set out to do (create a blog) and the future of where my blog is going is in my hands now. One of the "highs" was the very first comment I received - this proved that at least someone was reading my blog! The lowest point for me was when I realised or thought that I was the only person reading my blog regularly and my posting "All Quiet on the Blogging Front" was written when I felt a bit down and was questioning the worth of what I was doing and why. The other "highs" have been the practical adaptation of all the new ideas in technology that I have come across in the past month. It's pushed me to new heights and opened up a whole new universe.

Personal thanks
As stated in "The Abruzzo Daily", I have come a long way since November 1st when I began my blogging adventure. I did a ten-day e-course on blogging with The It was money well spent and for a novice like me in the fast-changing world of technology, I needed more personal guidance and the course truly helped me to get to where I am today. Thank you so much Kristina! Personal thanks are also due to the blogs and bloggers that I am following and are listed in my sidebar. They have all been an inspiration to me. In particular, Nik Peachey was kind enough to give me personal encouragement at the beginning of my journey into the unknown and I owe my growing confidence in part to him and his amazing site. Thank you Nik! Steve Dembo's very informative 30-Day Blog Challenge for novices like me has been very practical and tremendously useful. I have left a comment on his latest posting Day 29 "Be a Rock Star". A special word of thanks also goes to Jane for all your support. Your Edublog is very interesting and full of fantastic ideas for teachers. Last but not least, my dear husband Karl has been a true "rock" during these 30 days. He has been inspired to set up his own blog recently and it's been great fun seeing how he is fast developing as a fellow blogger.

You have all helped me in my quest for achieving something that I thought was unattainable just a short time ago. Wow! This has turned out to be like a veritable "Oscar's Ceremony Thank You Speech"! but I suppose that's what " stars" do!!
The Future
Where do I go from here? Well, now I have started, I hope that it's going to be a case of "onwards and upwards!" I hope I will find "my voice" and have a lot of fun in the process. If I can inspire others to do the same, and help teachers and students in some way, I will be very happy and proud and it will be mission accomplished. At the end of the day, it's a learning curve for me, regardless of the result.

"Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!
One last thought I would like to share with you is that I have just taken a huge step. I have finally summoned up the courage to hit the "allow Anyone to read" blog Permission button.......

I will leave you with an image of what I have been up to recently. It hasn't been just blogging!!

This lovely little bay tree was uprooted by the savage, tempestuous winds we're experiencing in the Abruzzo region at the moment. This tree has now been partly shredded for the compost bin, the trunk chopped for firewood, and the rest of it used as cuttings to recreate it for the future. So luckily, life for this particular tree will go on........The rest of the day has been spent re-tying up the olive trees we have to protect them from the gale force winds.

Friday, 28 November 2008

"Speechable" site

I have just come across this very interesting site called " Speechable" and I decided to give it a quick twirl. After the initial playing around and leaving behind a few practice attempts , I was surprised to see how easy it was to upload my own photo and create a caption inside a speech bubble. This picture of Joey would be used as an introduction to the theme of "Animal Idioms". I personally feel it's always easier for students to remember new idioms if they are given a visual image of an idiom in context.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

My life behind "The Iron Curtain"

One of the best teaching experiences in my whole life took place from 1981-1982 in the former GDR in the city of Dresden. I taught EFL at The Technical University of Dresden. I had just done my PGCE in EFL and I was offered the golden opportunity of seeing what life was really like in a Communist country during the end of the "Cold War" in the early 1980's. It was to be a fantastic learning curve for me. I taught small classes of maximum six males - all eminent scientists, doctors, professors and leading experts in the fields of science, medicine and technology. My students
were all "mature" complete beginners and I
was relatively young in comparison. I had a secret "Stasi" member (East German secret police) in each class whose job it was to report whether my lessons contained any reference to three "taboo" subjects - religion, the Royal Family and politics. As you can imagine, I found it difficult to avoid talking about these subjects but somehow, I managed it.

Life is indeed a circle. The "hot" coursebook in 1981 in the GDR was the Streamline series by Bernard Hartley and Peter Viney and I used "Streamline Departures" (OUP) for the whole year with my beginners and that is why I know the contents inside out!! I recently used the same trusted book to teach a complete beginner. Twenty seven years later it is still doing a "solid" job!!

I made many friends in Dresden and I am still in contact with them. I remember that "Animal Farm" and "1984" by George Orwell were forbidden books. Nobody was allowed to have copies of them. However, I managed to smuggle a copy of each book into the country and therefore eluded the dreaded border control guards at "Checkpoint Charlie".
The look on my friend Uli's face when he had the books in his hands was priceless. It taught me to appreciate what I took for granted. The freedom to read and talk about whatever I wanted.

"The Lives of Others"
is an excellent film which reflects what was going on in the former GDR at the time I was there. When I saw it for the first time, I felt as if I had been transported back in time...

To be continued....

Sunday, 23 November 2008

"The Big Picture"

I have just read in "The English Blog" of a site which has lots of pictures attached to news topics of the day. It is called "The Big Picture" Click here. What is good about this site is that the pictures are large and easily displayed. Warm-up activities such as "slow reveal of picture" and "guess the picture" would be ideal. Once you have finished the warm-up stage,you could then lead on to a discussion about the topical subject of the picture.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"All Quiet on the Blogging Front"

Today I realised that I am undergoing a classic beginner's moment of self-doubt. I began with great panache but somehow I seem to have got a bit lost in a dark wood like Dante in the Divine Comedy. Basically, I can't see the wood for the trees.

The photo above taken just a few minutes from where I live is nice and clear - that is how I'd like to feel about what I am doing with blogging. There are so many excellent articles re blogging like for example:
which has been written to help people exactly like me. However, the great "digital divide" is rearing its ugly head: those who know and can and those who want to know but can't quite get there! You can imagine which side of the dividing line I belong to.

Having taught Beginner level many times during my life, I know that it is easy for some learners to get worried about their progress when it is not fast enough and the classic "me class higher" syndrome is a desire to run before they can walk. Well, I'd be happy with simply "walking" at this particular moment!

Anyway, I will end this rather gloomy posting on a higher and more positive note. I will endeavour to listen to all the kind words of encouragement that I have received and I will not give up quite yet.....

Photo taken by KRB in Abruzzo 2008

Sunday, 16 November 2008


One of my favourite sites for creating all sorts of games and puzzles is

I have just created the "BLOG" word search puzzle below in a matter of seconds. The instructions from the site are clear and easy to follow.

I use word search puzzles for a)introducing a vocabulary topic
b)recycling grammar / vocabulary
c)true / false statements re personal information

Once the target words have been found and highlighted, students could make up a short paragraph using as many of the words as possible within a given time frame. Students would then share their ideas either in pairs/small groups or open class.

Students can then create their own word search puzzle to use at a later date in class or as a quick and fun review item.

Click here to open it in PDF format.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Book created by Janet

This is a "book" I've just created following Nik Peachey's video tutorial posted today on how to use an innovative new tool called Bookr created by " Bookr enables us to create nice interactive image books with text captions. It's my first attempt at becoming an "author" so I do apologise for the simplicity of my first publication! I had great fun experimenting with this. For a complete list of ways of exploiting this activity, please refer to:

Here's the Bookr video tutorial I looked at before I created my book.

I can imagine students would have a lot of fun creating their own mini books or short poems.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A "Word Cloud" experiment

Looking through Nik Peachey's blog archive link I read about "word clouds", a tool for creating some fun text-based activities. I decided to follow his very clear tutorial and came up with the example above. It is based on a short text about the coolest person on the planet at the moment. I wonder who he could be?

Below is the actual short text taken from the above link.

'Elegant Obama' inspires fashion label

Barack Obama's elegance and fashion sense has inspired a Bosnian company to name a new line of men's business suits after the US president-elect.

"We chose the name Obama" for the suits, which were already selling well in Bosnia and neighbouring Croatia” said Ahmet Curic, a manager at Borac, the company that produces the outfits.

"It's a line of top quality business suits, and naming it Obama was an obvious choice because the president-elect is clearly a very elegant man and one of a few who knows how to wear a suit," he told AFP.

Curic added Borac also wanted to "pay respect" to the United States for providing the company with funds to help restart production after Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

Based in the central town of Travnik, Borac is Bosnia's oldest clothing factory. It cooperates with several leading European fashion houses including Hugo Boss.

Have a go at creating your own "Word clouds" - it's great fun!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Five minute lesson plan using a picture prompt

Tonight I set myself a target of 5 minutes to create a mini lesson plan for a picture exploitation activity.

I would use a picture like the one above as a lead-in to a debate / discussion / opinion activity on such topics for example: the role of animals in society
dog or cat - which is the better pet?

I would ask students to think of adjectives to describe SOFIA's character by thinking of an adjective which begins with each letter of her name, for example

S -ociable
O -pen-minded
F- un-loving
I -ntelligent
A -miable

Students earn a point for each adjective they come up with which is the same as my list above.

Can you guess the IDIOM?

I have read "how to teach English with technology" so many times (!) that my book has become a bit DOG-.....................

The first person to post the correct answer will get 100 points!!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

My thoughts on e-learning and F2F learning

This is my first e-course on Moodle and I really enjoy the challenge of studying in a totally different environment. Using Internet technology is fast and so many different activities such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and videos can be created and used by the teacher all in one place. It is a much more time-effective medium of instruction and a lot of ideas can be easily shared straight from the Internet.

The development of Second Life in the last few years has revolutionised the way technology is used as a teaching medium and the notion of a virtual classroom is definitely here to stay. I have seen e-courses advertised in many places and the idea of being able to study within your own home environment is naturally very appealing to a lot of learners. I can speak from my own experience now and I can honestly say that e-learning is an excellent way of studying. There is a lot of background support via e-mails, moodle blogs and Skype chatting which is very important and highly effective.

F2F teaching and learning has many advantages of course. The buzz you get from direct contact I suppose is one of the features that technology can't ever fully replace. I agree that possibly teaching via Skype could be as close as you can get to being in front of someone and video-linking also has been used very successfully to link students and teachers from all over the world. However, F2F is a more emotionally challenging and direct way of imparting knowledge and I do hope that there will always be a place in society for what could very soon become an old-fashioned style of teaching and learning. I have always taught F2F but I think it's maybe time for me to move on to a different level of teaching...

I look forward to hearing your ideas on this subject.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Xtranormal video tutorial

I have set myself a challenge. By the end of 2008, I'd like to have created a few dialogues using the Xtranormal programme and if it's possible, I'll post them on my blog. This video tutorial makes it seem quite easy to do. We'll see....!.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

My first post

Welcome everyone!

This is my first posting to this

I would like to share new ideas on teaching and thoughts on new trends.
This photo was taken very near to my home in Italy.