Saturday, 28 March 2009

Albergo diffuso, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Abruzzo

This has to be my favourite place in the whole of the Abruzzo area. I have been to Santo Stefano di Sessanio many times since I and K first discovered it. It is a hidden jewel of a masterpiece. We have actually stayed in one of the fully restored medieval rooms and it was one of the best experiences of my life! The article below has been taken from "Italy Magazine".

Words by Carla Passino

Up among the wild, forbidding peaks of the Gran Sasso National Park, in Abruzzo, stands a medieval village of cobbled lanes, sun-flooded squares and ancient stone houses. Courtyards and patios, porticoes and alleys, chimneys and carved stone doorways shelter behind thick walls, protected by a slender tower and surrounded by the green embrace of terraced fields. It is Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the Abruzzo, a fortified borgo that was once a Medici stronghold.
And, until a few years ago, it was little more than a wreck.
Over the centuries, this once prosperous village lost its riches and many of its people, becoming a ghost of its former self. Abandoned, the old stone houses quickly turned into ruins—until a passionate Swedish-Italian entrepreneur, Daniele Elow Kihlgren, chanced upon the place one day and decided to launch a restoration project that would bring Santo Stefano back to its Medici splendour.
His restoration company, Sextantio, bought more than 3,500 square metres of homes and set out to rescue and preserve the village. The plan was to repair and renovate the houses and turn them into an Albergo Diffuso—an extended hotel with guestrooms scattered around the village.
But this wasn’t your average development project—at Santo Stefano, historical accuracy was top of the agenda. The work was preceded by a lengthy research to understand and study the vernacular style of the area, so that it could be recreated—using reclaimed materials—in those buildings where years of abandonment had obliterated it.
Architects studied the original purpose for every single room in every single house through photographic archives and on-site interviews with the local elderly, so that each renovated home would, wherever possible, remain true to its authentic blueprint.
This care for conservative detail extended to the d├ęcor—a joint project with a local museum identified traditional home-decorating styles, and austere Abruzzese mountain furniture was sourced to replicate the houses’ original look, from stone fireplaces down to wool mattresses and handwoven bedsheets.
But this painstaking approach to conservation—and the ensuing sense of stepping into an atmospheric time warp—isn’t limited to the guestrooms. It pervades the village’s alleys, lanes and squares. Streetlights look like ancient oil lamps, the restaurant serves robust Abruzzese cuisine from locally sourced ingredients, and artisans make jewellery, ceramics and woven fabrics in traditional workshops.
People can simply book a room via Sextantio’s online reservation service, head to Santo Stefano, which is about an hour and twenty minutes’ drive from Pescara international airport, and dream of living in turn-of-the-century Italy for a weekend. Those who are hungry for more, can also buy one of the ancient village houses there through developers Realitalia. For more information, or to book a room, visit

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A BIG Thank You

Many thanks to Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers for his wonderful guest blog post. It is a very insightful and informative guide on integrating technology in the classroom. It was a real pleasure and huge honour to have "Mr Byrne" write on my "Janet's Abruzzo Edublog". I really appreciate the time and effort involved in helping me to make progress with my blog. He is a true inspiration and mentor.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

A Straightforward Assessment

I have recently used "Straightforward" Intermediate published by Macmillan with my class at the Lake School of English and I would like to outline my thoughts regarding what the book is like.

I have enjoyed using one of the units (Unit 5 "Hard Sell") because the material was challenging and suitable for the level of my class. The Teachers' Book was thorough, the resource activities were engaging and the topic matter was relevant to the needs of the students. Please see below a pasted version from the Macmillan website regarding some of the many features available with the series of course books.

The Teacher's Book

Written for new and experienced teachers alike, the Straightforward Teacher's Books are a comprehensive teaching resource. Written by Jim Scrivener, they provide:

  • Easy-to-follow lesson plans guiding teachers through each unit
  • Ideas for supplementary and extension activities
  • Answer keys and tapescripts for all units
  • Detailed notes on the language and cultural content of the Student's Book lessons
  • Regular 'Methodology Builders' which provide inspiring and practical advice
  • Photocopiable resource materials for every Student's Book lesson, including songs
  • An accompanying CD which includes editable tests and other resource material
  • A second CD which contains the Teacher's Audio materials, with extra listening tasks

The e-bag

What's in your e-bag this month?

In this section you will find all the great Straightforward resources that are available for
you to download.

Each month we will be updating the Straightforward worksheets, giving you new teaching tips to use in class, and more ideas to get your classes talking.

Teaching Tip
by Jim Scrivener

This month, Jim shares a great game to get your class thinking. Yahroo! can be used at any language level.
from Lindsay Clandfield, Ceri Jones & Philip Kerr.
Download new extra activities to supplement your students' Straightforward course or give them extra practice. Click here to find out more.
MED Dictations by Philip Kerr
Straightfoward author Philip Kerr has written some fantastic dictation activities to accompany the new edition of the Macmillan English Dictionary. Ideal for use with Upper Intermediate and Advanced students, they lessons tackle common learner problems.
This month, we have 5 quick and easy ways for you to use quotes into your lessons from author Lindsay Clandfield.

Student Feedback
My class consisted of a multi-lingual group of students from Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Romania, Nicaragua and Angola. As a group, they were communicative, lively, outgoing and a lot of fun, exactly what I needed to help me get by! Some of their comments regarding opinion of the materials used are as follows: "challenging", "very nice", "role play is very interesting", "it's good for my level", "I can remember lots of phrases", "it is very useful".
On the whole, the students enjoyed using the materials.

Modern English Teacher Magazine
Please click the link given for a full review of the Straightforward series in Modern English Teacher Volume 18 Number 1 January 2009.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Getting Started on the Road to Technology Integration

Integrating technology into your classroom instruction can seem like a daunting task the first time you try to do it. The first attempts at technology integration can be extra daunting if you started teaching before computers were the ubiquitous machines that they are today. But even if you're a digital native, integrating technology may not be as easy you expect, because as we know, being able to do Algebra and teaching Algebra are two separate tasks. Likewise, being able to use a computer and being able to teach with a computer are two separate tasks. I learned this the hard way, hopefully I can help you avoid having to learn the hard way too.

In schools that do not have one to one computing programs, using a computer may not be a daily occurrence in a student's life. The school that I work in has over 1200 students, but only four computer labs with a total of less than 80 computers between them. Students who are not regularly in one of the computer labs often forget their network ID's and or network passwords. If you plan an online activity and get to the computer lab only to discover that 25% of your students have forgotten a piece of their log-in credentials you either lose time trying to get them onto a computer or they lose out on the activity. To prevent this situation from happening, I maintain keep a list of all of my students' network log-in credentials. Once your students are online, if they are using a program that requires them to have a user name and password, make a list of these too. While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, it wasn't obvious to me the first time I took a class to a computer lab.

Cloud computing is awesome. Every document that I have created in the last year is on my Google Docs account because I know that I can access it from any Internet connected computer. Web 2.0 tools like wikis and blogs are great too. Wikis and blogs give students the power to create and share with a small audience or a global audience. The one thing that these tools must have though, is an Internet connection. If you do enough activities online, eventually you'll run into a situation where your class is paralyzed by a slow or broken Internet connection. Have a back-up plan. This is something that we're all taught in teacher training, but for some reason I see teachers forget this when they plan Internet based lessons.

If you're a digital immigrant this scenario is more likely to happen to you than it is to a teacher that is a digital native, but the solution is the same. Your class is settled in, they're working on the task you've given them, they're learning and enjoying creating content online, and then someone runs into a problem that you don't know how to immediately fix. Rather than getting flustered or trying in vain to fix the problem, turn it into a learning opportunity for you and your students. If you present the problem to the class and let each student try to solve it, chances are one of your students will figure it out. As long as they have a saved copy of whatever they are working on, students (particularly younger students) are willing to try just about anything on a computer.

Selecting a resource
Selecting a resource to use in your technology based lesson plan is much like selecting any other material for a lesson plan. Consider the objectives of the lesson or assignment then choose an appropriate web resource. There are way too many choices of resources for me to begin to give specific recommendations for each subject area, but I can offer some general recommendations. You can find more than 1200 resources for all subject areas linked to my blog Free Technology for Teachers. The search box in the top, left corner of my blog is very useful for finding resources by tag words. The key to successful integration of any web resource is to have a good understanding and familiarity with that program.

Blogs are great tools for a variety of classroom objectives. Students can create individual blogs or contribute to a group blog as an exercise in journalism. Group blogs are also great to have as a living and growing record of the topics studied and knowledge gained by your students.

In some applications wikis are a better tool than blogs. In most cases it is easier for the first timer to add pages to a wiki than it is to add pages to a blog. If you would like your students to create a reference resource, wikis are a better choice than a blog. Last year students in my Contemporary World Studies course built a wiki about Africa. Each student was assigned a country to research. Each student then shared what they learned on their own page in the wiki.

With a little planning and practice technology integration can become a seamless part of your lesson planning.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Guest blog spot

Free Technology for Teachers: Guest Blog Spot
I am delighted to welcome Richard Byrne from "Free Technology for Teachers" as my guest on my blog in the next day or so. It is a great honour to have Richard write a post on his chosen subject and I look forward to reading it very much. His excellent blog posts are always up to date and full of practical tips, useful information and advice regarding new sites.

An inspirational mentor
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Richard once again for helping me as a "newbie" blogger and for being such an inspiration to me.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

A change of scene

Back to F2F
As had been originally planned quite a while ago, I am doing a two-week teaching period at the Lake School of English, Oxford. I began again on Friday 13th and had the most genteel introduction back to F2F teaching I could have wished for. The class was delightful, a mixture of high level Spanish, Italian, Russian and Swiss students. The welcome back I received from my colleagues was warm, wonderful and uplifting. After approximately 20 weeks away from the chalkboard, I immediately felt at home as soon as I walked into the classroom. I was able to switch off from the outside world and enter an interactive, constantly flowing, dynamic, challenging and thought-provoking atmosphere.

A "Staightforward" kind of week
I will be teaching full-time next week and will be dipping into a book which is new for me called "Straightforward" published by Macmillan. It is an integrated skills package with an "e-bag" element, CD Rom, and "Straightforward Portfolios" for students. At the end of the week, I will carry out a general review of the book and will hopefully publish my thoughts.

My "Sidebar Gurus"
I will be dipping into the websites and blogs you can see on my sidebar during the next two weeks and I would like to take advantage of some of the excellent materials and ideas that can be viewed on a daily basis.

A glimmer of light
My work commitments have come at a time when my innermost thoughts are completely elsewhere, but fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope which is carrying me and my family forward into the unknown future. "Dum spiro, spero".

Friday, 6 March 2009

A new era

An urgent call

Life as I know it changed forever last Wednesday when I received an urgent call from my family in the UK. My beloved mother had been involved in an accident on her bike and she was in ICU at the JR Hospital in Oxford. I got on the first plane available from Abruzzo Airport and rushed to see her. Since then, I have been near my mother as much as possible and she is gradually showing signs of progress. I hope and pray that she will make a good recovery.

The end of the dream?

At the beginning of the year, I told you I had no idea what 2009 had in store for me. Well, I now know that this year is going to be a tough one for me and my family. My dream life in Italy will be reassessed as the weeks go by.

A long, dark tunnel

Life is very worrying and unsettled at the moment and until now I have not had the time nor the energy to contribute to my blog. Of course, I would like to continue writing, but I feel as if I have entered a rather long, dark tunnel. I hope that over the coming weeks, my mother will have the strength and will-power to pull through this dificult time .

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

I have always liked the saying above. It's time to see if it is true.