Friday, 30 November 2012


Janet's Abruzzo Edublog is proud to announce its fourth birthday.  My blog has been going for four enjoyable years, and I hope to continue writing on it for many more years to come.  Last year I didn't celebrate, and I vowed I would in 2012, after reading this blog post by Natasa.

My blogging adventure started four years ago.  Since then, I have written and published over 400 posts, on a wide range of subjects.  These include teaching English to students and teachers, thoughts on educational technology matters, experiments with many Web 2.0 tools, and my own lesson ideas and materials. In addition, I have posted my opinions of the beautiful region of Abruzzo, where I am currently living.

I would like to say a very big thank you to all my readers and viewers. I feel incredibly honoured and humbled that viewers from 171 countries from around the world have at one time or another taken the time to read one of my posts. Below are screenshots taken just now of the different countries.  The first shows the top countries from the Clustrs list that is in my dashboard.

The second shows the countries where readers have visited occasionally:

Here you have a current view of the world map:

...and another view:

The most popular posts being viewed today include some which are over two years old!

Fun at the Lake is one of my most recent posts, and outlines some of the activties and lessons that I taught recently at the Lake School of English, Oxford.

Why do I blog? There are many reasons, but the most important ones are as follows:

  • to share my teaching ideas
  • to share my presentations and webinars
  • to share my experiments with using new tools
  • to reflect on my teaching
  • to reflect on my experience of online courses
  • to have a repository for my thoughts on teaching
  • to connect with teachers and educators from all over the world
  • to connect with my PLN
  • to write my personal reflections on conferences I attend
  • to write book reviews
  • to write about my life in Abruzzo
  • to connect with other bloggers via my sidebar
Once again I would like to say a very big .......

......... for reading my blog!! 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Memories of Professor Salvador de Madariaga and A Very Special House

I read an article earlier this year about the house where Salvador de Madariaga lived for many years in Oxford. I have been inside that house on several occasions. It was awarded a coveted Blue Plaque  The article below evoked a lot of memories from the past.

The connection is that my father used to be the gardener for Don Salvador de Madariaga while he lived in this house. I sometimes accompanied my father while he was carrying out his duties in the garden, and so I met and spoke with the owners, Professor Salvador de Madariaga and his wife, Emilia Madariaga.

They were a lovely couple and were very kind and friendly towards me and my sisters. They even came round to our house once for homemade Italian food, cooked by my mother. I wish I could remember more about that event!!

I have a personal signed copy of one of his novels called "Sir Bob" dated 1969.  Sir Bob is "A Tall (Though Not Grown-Up) Story for Children from Nine to Ninety". I enjoyed reading it immensely.

The garden was kept beautifully neat and tidy by my father, and I remember there was a fabulous miniature doll's house in a corner. Sometimes I was invited to look inside it by Mrs Madariaga and it fascinated me as it was so incredibly detailed.

In their later years after they left Oxford, the couple stayed in a beautiful hotel in Locarno, Switzerland. It was "Hotel La Palma au Lac".

 I and Mrs Madariaga became very good penfriends. We wrote letters and postcards to each other in Italian, Spanish, French and German, as we both loved languages.  She gave me a lot of encouragment when I was younger, and she was thrilled to read about my adventures abroad.

I remember when my sisters and I were very young, she used to call us " Le mie tre principesse".

Although there was a big age gap between myself and Mrs Madariaga, it didn't matter at all, because we both had so many things in common. A love of languages, a love of the Classics, a love of travelling, a love of translating. Mrs Madariaga was a professional translator, interpreter and editor. I know that I have a collection of her letters somewhere hidden away, and I am determined to find them one day and reread them all. They are a link to my forgotten childhood and youth. She was very encouraging towards me. I loved receiving her letters from Hotel La Palma au Lac in Locarno, Switzerland. The address is etched in my mind forever.

 One of the many lovely postcards I received from Locarno from Mrs Madariaga.

The highlight was when my family and my uncle's family all descended in Locarno one day to say hello to the Professor and Mrs Madariaga. The look on the faces of the diners in the very elegant restaurant as we all traipsed in, was priceless. We were invited to sit down and join them and a few pleasant hours were spent in their company. The views of the lake from the terrace was stunning. I wish we had taken a photo of that scene for me to be able to recount what happened more vividly!! All I know is we were tired after having travelled in a Morris Oxford (6 of us) from Oxford, on our way to a holiday in Italy and to be welcomed so enthusiastically by the Professor and his wife, is one of those classic unforgettable moments in my whole life.


My father was able to communicate with people from all walks of life, and so he made friends with the Professor, and they had a mutual respect for each other, despite coming from hugely different social and cultural backgrounds. My father had no pretence to be anyone other than himself. He was down to earth and called a spade a spade.  I believe this is what endeared him to the Professor.  My father has many fond memories of his days spent working for Professor and Mrs Madariaga.

My sister used to play the classical guitar. She was incredibly excited when Professor Madariaga very kindly arranged a meeting with Andres Segovia, the world famous Spanish classical guitarist, who was visiting his home in Oxford. She was presented with a ticket to watch his classical guitar recital at the Sheldonian Theatre Oxford, and has a programme signed by the grand master himself.

 Below you can see a photo I took of St Andrew's Church a few months ago. The tombstones in the cemetery are just about visible. This is very near to the house and garden which holds so many happy memories for me.

To read more about a very pleasant stroll down Memory Lane whilst I was in Old Headington, you can view this post from my Project 366 blog, called Day 47:A Walk Down Memory Lane.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Fun at the Lake

Jumping back into the Lake School of English, Oxford,  after a period of time away is always a refreshing change.  Face to face teaching is still such a thrill for me personally, after all these years, and I enjoy the experience enormously.  The three directors, Susan, Carmel and Lilly are wonderfully supportive, and the dedicated group of  friendly teachers and staff are a real joy to work with.

The Lake School of English has been featured in the EL Gazette in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as a Centre of Excellence.

This time round in September, I taught two General English courses, Elementary and Pre-Intermediate level - my favourites!  The students were a fabulous mixed bunch from Poland, Turkey, The Ivory Coast, Spain, Angola and Italy.

Having taught complete beginners for a whole year in Dresden, I have a particular soft spot for teaching lower levels.  The reponsibility of establishing a solid foundation right from the beginning, is quite vital.  If a teacher does not oversee a student's development at this critical stage it could lead to a lifetime of fossilized errors taking hold.  I enjoy being the lead teacher of an elementary group, so I can set up a strict focus on accuracy right from the beginning.  Trying to undo errors which have become fossilized at a much later stage can be a nightmare..

I decided I wanted to introduce a Blended learning element into this itineration of sessions and therefore any homework I set also had the option of being sent back to me by email.  A few of the students welcomed this opportunity and I was delighted to receive regular online tasks submitted.  I was able to give immediate feedback and  a good working relationship was established from the outset.  Mixing an online element with the f2f element gave me the chance to experiment with various tools to send to the students as feedback encouragement as follows:

Once again I used my Project366 blog for and in my lessons, and it was a useful place to keep materials and resources in one site.

Below you can see a word cloud I used as a warmer for students to guess my likes and dislikes connected to food and drink.  Can you guess what I like / dislike eating & drinking?

 I created an Animoto "Around Town" which was used in my lessons to teach vocabulary of places.

Try our video maker at Animoto.

We studied some make and do expressions and I had fun creating a new lesson.  You can see some of the lesson activities embedded in a Youblisher e-booklet format below.

Make and Do Expressions

I showed the class my weekend in the shape of a TagxedoWord Cloud flower, and then got them to create one for themselves, if they wished as homework to show to the class.

To get us in the mood for the weekend ahead, we listened to Rebecca Black's (in)famous Friday song.  Before the all-important singing stage, the students had to predict what the song was going to be about by viewing the words below:

My final message on my blog to the lovely students I taught. This cartoon was created with ToonDo. Picture frame by Tuxpi.

Now I am back in Abruzzo, I can keep up to date with Lake School news by checking into the Lake School of English Facebook page.

The Lake School is also on Twitter and you can follow regular updates from @EnglishinOxford.

Thanks to everyone at the Lake School for making it such a memorable teaching experience for me!
See you all again very soon :-))

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford!

Teaching pupils about cultural differences and making them aware of cultural diversity is an important part of the curriculum in British schools.  I would like to showcase an event which took place on November 5th at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, to celebrate and honour The Mexican Day of the Dead festival.  60 lucky pupils from six local Oxfordshire schools were invited to take part in the celebrations.

You can read more about this special event in the dedicated Oxford Brookes website page.
More information in the local Oxford Mail.

Thanks to my sister Giulietta for sending me this information today.  She was part of the Oxford University Brookes team who organised this hugely successful event. Well done to everyone!!
Below a fabulous and very colourful flickr slide show showing scenes from the Mexican Day of the Dead at Oxford Brookes.