Thursday, 28 January 2010


Magazine cover "Chicken Weekly" (only 2 Euros!!) created by me, via

Kelly viewing new additions to the menagerie with some interest

The photo below of Nikita and Chikita has been "Hockney-ised" courtesy of

Chickens Ruling The Roost
Everything is ready for them. Nesting boxes have been skilfully handmade as well as feeding trays and a perch.
I am a newbie chicken owner, so I will need to learn lots. This will be something real and tangible for me to investigate over the coming months. Articles such as the "Absolute Beginners'Guide to having Chickens" from have provided a wealth of helpful tips. Below is a list of some questions which are answered in
What is The Pecking Order?
What size house do I need for my chickens?
Will Chickens ruin my lovely Garden?
Will my Dog hurt the Chickens?

I have also come across a lovely site called which writes about all aspects of keeping chickens.

Top Chicken in the Pecking Order
Welcome to Norris. She is definitely already the top chicken in the pecking order. She is a Rhode Island Red. This is the most common type of laying chicken and they are said to be very robust. She has ventured out today and has already broken my nice terracotta pot, devoured the parsley in it, jumped on top of the car, made her way upstairs to the balcony, deposited a lot of chicken droppings ready to be placed in my compost bin to make fresh friable compost, made friends with Kelly and even managed to lay her very first egg in her lovely new nesting-box. Indeed, she is an incredible "multi-tasking" chicken.

The Very First Freshly Laid Egg
My dream of having fresh eggs every day in order to make pasta, cakes, Tiramisu, you name it, has been realised! Our Italian pasta machine is a manual handcrank Atlas 150, bought and kept in the attic in England for many years. It has now been dusted down and is waiting to be used on a regular basis. Soon, K and I will be able to make home made pasta with our very own eggs like the first egg below, freshly laid by Norris this morning!

The Power of a Twitter PLN
Yesterday I sent Sean Banville from the excellent Breaking News English website a tweet on Twitter asking him if he had any lessons on chickens. The following is the remarkable dialogue that ensued.

@SeanBanville An unusual request- do u have any lessons on chickens? Am doing post on arrival of chicks. Wld like 2 link 2 some lesson ideas

@janetbianchini Only bird-flu-type lessons. When do you need it? Tell me the level / focus and i'll make you a special chicken lesson.

@SeanBanville Thank you soo much!! Any level +4 idioms would be great! Posting in next few days, but will add your lesson when it's ready?

@janetbianchini Will try and have the lesson uploaded tomorrow - must look for chicken idioms - PLN help?????

@SeanBanville Fantastic!! Idioms:"chicken feed/headless chicken/be a chicken/chicken out/play chicken/count one's chickens/no spring chicken

from SeanBanville: 'Chickens' Latest #esl listening lesson from my Listen A site: - for @janetbianchini (hope u like it :-)

@SeanBanville Absolutely love it@ Brilliant- am very privileged that you have done it for me! Thank you very much!.

@janetbianchini My pleasure - I had fun making that one :-)

"Chickens" by Sean Banville
So there is now a fabulous newly created lesson on chickens and chicken idioms on Sean's Listen a site. The 9-page worksheet has all the different components that a great lesson should have. I really can't wait to try this one out!!! Nikita, Chikita, Norris and Berry are well on their way to becoming super Chick stars and they say "Thank you very much, Sean, for creating this lesson so quickly and brilliantly!!

Lesson update from Breaking News English 16th July 2010: The Chicken Came before the Egg

Some More Egg and Chicken Lessons and IdeasHave a look at this lovely BBCLearning English lesson on Egg Idioms.

Again, via my Twitter PLN stream, David Deubelbeiss, from the fantastic EFL Classroom 2.0. gave me this fabulous link to "What's in an Egg", Tar Heel Readers, which are great for children beginning to read.

Have a look at Pamela Stephenson's "Book Chook'" blog, which is a great site for children's book reviews and lots of other useful information on children's literature and literacy.

The Book Chook

You might be interested in reading this fascinating article from The Telegraph: "Chickens are capable of feeling empathy, scientists believe"
Thanks Susan, for the link!

Chicken and Dog Picture Dialogue Game
In the photo below, a nice Picture Dialogue Game activity could be played with students, either spoken or written. Ask them to create an imaginative and funny dialogue between the pair and then vote for the funniest one.

My friend Uli from Germany was inspired by the photo and has just sent in this delightful dialogue below.

Shandor and Patrena
"Hi Shandor, nice day, isn't it?"
"Hi Patrena. What exactly do you mean?"
"I only mean it is a nice day", smiling.
"Yeah", thinking, until you came.
"Fancy place you found to place your eggs?"
"Don't be ambiguous, Patrena, I'm here on scientific purposes only."
"Uuh!" Patrena reflecting, what crossed his mind this time?
"Well, looks as if you were trying to spy on the ghosts of your ancesters in the clouds."
Shandor not listening while in deep contemplation. They said it would occur at Sagittarius… "Woof!"
"What do you mean by woof, Shandor?"
"Oh, it's just a relaxed woof" and after a while,
"You are not inspired by astronomy, Patrena, are you?"
"No, not really. To be honest, I keep my mind off superstition."
"Hey, old peck, I pronounced it correctly, I said astronomy, not astrology!"
"Oh, Shandor, you fool, but that's one and the same thing after all. Don't be so silly!"
Shandor to himself: That snobbish hen, one day I'll kill the cheeky pecker.
Loudly: "Didn't you watch Faunatics last night?"
"Nepp, I watched 'Killed in a Chicken Run.', the whole bloody story."
"Therefore you don't know that they announced a Supernova for 7.11h ."
"… and now the bus doesn't arrive to get you near it!", laughing.
"Shandor, don't let yourself be fooled all the time. I remember you sitting here when your friend Stroby had announced a solar eclipse last month. Then only a thunderstorm came and you were nearly struck by lightening. Remember!"
"Don't bring that up! This one is another tale and a really good one. And now, I ask you, keep your beak tightly shut and place your eggs somewhere else. I am thoroughly convinced that I'm going to watch something extraordinary. If only those rotten clouds would fade away…"

Many thanks Uli! Anyone else care to make up a dialogue??

If anyone has some tips or advice for keeping chickens, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Images4Education and Moodle for Gardening and Cooking: Course Update

My EVO Images4Education course is going very well and I am enjoying exploring all the new features and connecting with other participants. I now have a Flickr account and I have been learning a lot. I have also found out about all sorts of lovely sites to use to edit photos in a fun way. Big Huge Labs is an amazing tool just waiting to be played with and well, dear reader, I certainly have played to my heart's content! The following photos have been simply re-edited with different effects such as create a stamp, a magazine cover, a postcard, a film poster and so on.

How can this tool be used in class? Well, the students can create projects, promotional posters, visual prompts for poems, they can use their imagination (like I have!).

The following pictures show you some of the special effects you can create on Big Huge Labs.

The first picture below was taken yesterday by K. It shows me with one of the 5 new olive trees I bought with some birthday money from my family. It made me reflect. I don't have any children, but these 3-year-old olive trees should last for many centuries, so for me, they represent a very powerful symbol of what I will leave behind for future posterity and that is something which makes me happy. I just hope this young olive tree below will last the course! I will be writing up a blog post soon on the topic of "Olive Tree Cultivation."

I love the film poster effect and this is one I have created, starring the elusive and very mysterious film star Arabella Cascarino and her Creator. Rather cheekily, I have taken the liberty of nominating the film for 5 special and imaginary Bit's'n'Bobs, Show'n'Tell Oscar awards.
Oops! The film star is Isabella Cascarino (the sister).

Abruzzo poem

Part of week 2's imaginative and challenging tasks was to write a poem based on a photo depicting your origins. The photo of the mountains is one of my favourite and I have referred to it many times in my blog, for example here. I really enjoyed this activity and I let my imagination run freely and the poem came straight from the heart.

I am now from the wilds of Abruzzo
from central Italy
I was from the cosmopolitan hub
of a medieval university city
The two forever linked
by nonna Natalina's move
from rural village
to sophisticated Oxford
The mountain of adventure beckons
enticingly amidst the cool backdrop
of ancient olive groves, centuries old
learned trees, the fruits waiting
to be picked by my fair hand
Ice-capped peaks denoting a
majestic grandeur
The valley of adventure waiting
to be explored
Virgin territory as yet untrampled by
swarms of tourists
I am off the beaten track
No postman dares venture beyond
the old ruined farmhouse
perched precariously on the hilltop
Isabella and Sofia rule the roost
Nikita and Chikita as yet unborn
Soon to be united in a glorious
mingling of all creatures great and small
This is my destiny
This is my future
This is where I am now

Interesting Links to Explore
Natasa is also taking the Images4Education course and her writing and feedback is inspiring. The poem she has written is amazing.

Carla Arena is one of my brilliant facilitators on the course and her blog is very inspiring. Her knowledge and fantastic use of Flickr is incredible and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Ana Maria from Life Feast blog is also one of the excellent co-moderatators on my course and I am learning a lot about how to exploit images from her.

Here is an interesting blog post I found on the resource-packed Box of Tricks which focuses on Using Images in the MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) Classroom.

Larry Ferlazzo has a very interesting post on "How do you use Photos in the ELL Classroom".

Just seen and will add "10 Sites for Playing with Images of Students" from Graham Stanley's excellent Digital Play blog.

Moodle for Teachers-3 Gardening and Cooking Course

I am also busy on my Moodle course. There was a weekly live Wiziq session on Saturday and I presented a Power Point presentation on behalf of my team mates on the Gardening and Cooking Moodle course. It was the first time I had done such a thing "live" and I actually enjoyed myself. The slides were a collaborative project via Google Docs and we have been organising ourselves with daily emails and weekly meetings on Skype and Google-Wave. My Team members come from Canada, USA, Canary Islands and Japan. We also use Diigo to bookmark useful links for the course that we are developing. We are now busily working and collaborating to present and showcase our future course next weekend. No rest for the wicked!

As you can see, I have been able to combine some of the new things I am learning from my Images4Education course. I am delighted to share them with you here.

I hope writing this post will inspire you to experiment with a few new tools. Are there any other Web 2.0 tools for using images that you like and that you would like to share here? I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Happy Birthday Princess Caroline!

Princess Caroline of Hanover, formerly known as Princess Caroline of Monaco, is one of my heroines. I have followed her life story from the moment she was born on January 23rd 1957, 53 years ago to be precise. She is the first child of the late Prince Ranier 111 of Monaco and of the late American actress and Princess Grace of Monaco. Princess Caroline's life has been full of adventures and amazing experiences, but she has also had more than her fair share of difficult times.

An Amazing Coincidence
Princess Caroline and I were born on the same hour, same day, same month and same year!! I have written to her twice on the occasion of two of our very special milestone birthdays and she has personally responded twice. I was extremely delighted and honoured by this fact.

I have a collection of original stamps issued in Monaco in 1957 to celebrate the birth of Princess Caroline.

A delightful image below of her beautiful mother, the late Princess Grace of Monaco.

Princess Caroline and I not only share the same birthday and age, but we also share the same values and interests. She is very dedicated to her family, like I am. She has a passion for languages, like I do. She is a keen gardener and she loves socialising. Of course, we share the same horoscope sign and this is also a unifying factor. Like most Aquarians, we are both fiercely independent and loyal companions. We both have 2 siblings and we are the oldest of the three.

Differing Lifestyles
I sometimes reflect on our completely different lifestyles. Princess Caroline is a member of a royal dynasty going back centuries. She is a member of the international jet-set. She is very wealthy. She has four beautiful children. She has a hectic schedule with many responsibilities. She has fabulous homes around the world. Her life is in the public domain. The list is endless. In comparison, my lifestyle is relatively simple, living in rural Abruzzo. I am of very modest means, I have no children, only 5 lovely furkids. I don't physically jet-set around the world any more like I used to but, I guess I'm a "virtual" global jet-setter now, which is equally exhilirating for me. I don't have too many responsibilities. My life is not in the public domain.
The video I found on Youtube below highlights some photos in the life of Princess Caroline.

A Special Message
Happy birthday, Princess Caroline, from one of your greatest admirers. I wish you all the happiness in the world. You truly deserve it. I hope you will have a wonderful day today, wherever you may be.

23rd January 2010
Happy birthday to Silvana, my cousin's wife, and happy birthday to Gemma, my best friend Daphne's daughter. Enjoy your special day!!

Other events and people born on the same day can be viewed here.

A Fabulous Web 2.0 Birthday Surprise!
This is what I received from my absolutely lovely colleagues from the Lake School of English. It made me feel very emotional and I would like to say thank you to all of you for thinking of me. I can't wait to see you next month!

You can press on the Wallwisher link to see all the lovely messages. This has well and truly made my day!!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Riding on the Crest of the Wave

I am a recent newbie convert to GoogleWave! I very politely declined an invitation a few months ago because I felt I was already happy enough with Web 2.0 means of contact such as email, Twitter and so on. I really didn't know how on earth I would be able to cope with yet another tool. Anyway, I had a change of heart a few weeks ago, and I now accept that GoogleWave looks like an incredibly useful and versatile tool. I have been using it as an excellent collaboration resource with fellow course participants on my Moodle for Gardening and Cooking course. I am learning by doing. I am trying to find my way around the "blips". " A blip is the smallest unit of conversation. Think of a blip as a single email or a single instant message".

Have a look at the links below which feature excellent tips and information about Google Wave.

The Idiot's Guide to GoogleWave (found via my Twitterstream)
The Complete Guide to GoogleWave (via Radney :)
"Google Wave - Feature by Feature" (via Jane Hart)

The Art of Asking a Good Question?
Have you tried out Google Wave yet? What are your thoughts? Is it going to be the biggest Web 2.0 hit of 2010? I would love to learn more. Please post a comment and share your ideas :)

Image below found on"gtaforums" from Yahoo Images: Crest of a Wave

A Combination of Courses

I am enjoying my Electronic Village Online Images4Education course and Moodle4Teachers course. The PhotoPeach video below achieves two objectives. Firstly, I have used my own photos except for one from the Internet- can you guess which one is not mine? Secondly, I have created a simple gardening quiz for my Moodle for Gardening and Cooking course, that I am currently developing with the help of my 3 lovely coursemates from Canada, Canary Islands and USA. I was inspired by Ana Maria Menezes' posting on PhotoPeach Quizzes here.

Have a go at my quiz! It was very easy to create.

Gardening Quiz on PhotoPeach

How did you get on? I would welcome your feedback!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Lathyrus Apenninus

Photo above copied from article below
A new plant has been discovered in Abruzzo! It is a member of the leguminacea family and it has been christened "Lathyrus Apenninus". This species of flower has never been seen before and it was discovered by the Apennine Floral Research Centre in the Abruzzo National Park of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga.
In addition, a new type of Delphinium has also recently been discovered. Please click here to read the article in full, which is in from the Abruzzo "Il Centro" newspaper.

Here is a link to my WikiEducator page that I am developing on the theme of Abruzzo. I started it last year during my excellent WikiEducator course and I hope to add to it in 2010. It is a collection of links connected to the beautiful region of Abruzzo, where I live. My home is just within the National Park area and I am surrounded by wild and spectacular rugged scenery.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Monday, 11 January 2010

For Janet's Eyes Only- an Interview with Nicole K

Starting in September last year, I looked through and commented on various new student blogs from America and Australia as a direct result of the Student Blogging Challenge - Better Comments, which Sue Waters from the Edublogger organised here. The standard was very high and at such a young age, I was so impressed with how the pupils organised their new blogs. I had great fun reading through the posts and leaving comments as often as I could. It was a learning curve for me, too. I wanted to see how class blogs were organised and also wanted to help young new bloggers on their learning path by encouraging them with positive and helpful comments.

A Very Special Interview
I have great pleasure in showcasing an interview with Nicole K, a student from Moran Middle School in USA. I first met Nicole via her delightful "Welcome to NIKKI'S" Blog which was one of the blogs I was assigned to on the Student Blogging Challenge. I first commented on Nicole's blog on September 10th 2009 on this post called The Perfect Classroom. Over the months since then, I have followed Nicole in her progress as a blogger and she has done brilliantly. With her kind permission, this is an interview we have arranged about the film Nicole has made recently for a school project on her hero Johnny Clem.

Please click on "For Janets Eyes Only" to see the full interview. I would like to congratulate Nicole for her fantastic development as a blogger. For someone who only started blogging a few months ago, she has made remarkable progress.

I include the link to Nicole's fantastic SchoolTube video below because I am sure you will want to view it again.

Thank you very much Nicole for agreeing to be interviewed by me. Good luck with your future blogging. I look forward to reading more of your posts. You are a natural!

All the best

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Fun Subtitles

Having just read Ana Maria Menezes' excellent blog post where she highlights a new site called BombayTV, I decided to try it out immediately, as it looked like such a lot of fun. Here is the result below. Thank you very much, Ana Maria for inspiring me!!

<a href="">Agence communication Paris Graphéine</a>

I believe students would love creating new subtitles for these short scenes either in pairs or small groups. This would certainly be a different way of exploiting dialogues in class.

My EVO (Electronic Village Online) Images4Education course starts on Monday and I am raring to go!! I will be charting my progress as the course develops and hopefully I will recount my experiences here on my blog.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

2010:The Year of Living Studiously?

I have just enrolled for an EVO course!! As of 11th January I will be learning about Images4Education 2010, hosted on the Ning platform. I am very excited about learning more about how to exploit the power of images and how to use them effectively in my lessons. There is a fantastic group of participants already registered and enrollment is open until January 10th, so hurry and join me if you are interested in this subject area!! It would be lovely to connect with you.

I have to admit, it was soooo difficult for me to choose because I liked the look of every course!! I almost opted for Digital Material preparation techniques and resources for TESOL professionals.
Maybe I will do this one next year.

As well as the Images4Education course, which I am really looking forward to, I am currently doing a course in Moodle for Gardening and Cooking. You can see details of the Moodle4Teachers programme here on the Integrating Technology for Active Life-long Learning website. This promises to be very interesting and I will write about how I get on in the coming weeks.

Arabella Cascarino
Yes, she does exist, virtually!! Arabella Cascarino was created at the end of 2008 and has lain in limbo ever since. She is waiting for a First Life, let alone a Second Life, but I haven't given her any sort of Life yet. This is a bit sad but, tweeting, blogging, ninging and horticultural matters have impeded her development. I would love to resurrect her and give her a dazzling lifestyle in Second Life but I am a complete novice and so, I kind of RAN away as soon as her eyecatching name was penned.

A Matter of Life or Death
Why Arabella? It sounds aristocratic and old-fashioned even if I have found out it's also the name of a famous racing horse. Why Cascarino? It sounds like a cool surname and added to Arabella it engenders a mix of aristocracy and"je ne sais quoi". Resolution for 2010? To take the plunge and breathe some life into Arabella and see how she develops??? This will mean even more learning. Am I up for it all? Why not? Life is for learning and challenging oneself. I should begin by teaching myself the basics by reading Nik Peachey's excellent posting here, which also contains references to informative Second Life video tutorials by Russell Stannard.

I hope 2010 will be a fantastic learning opportunity for you all, doing whatever your heart tells you to do!!