Working with Ukraine via Edmodo

After using Edmodo for so many years just to create and manage classes, now I have started taking advantage of the many opportunities it offers.

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Edmodo is also a really big community of teachers from all over the world and a couple of weeks ago a colleague from Ukraine posted a message in which he expressed his intention to put his students in touch with others from abroad. I replied his post and now we are working together in a friendly and collaborative way. We have called the project Our Cultures and Languages and the first aim is of course to help our students improve their level of English, but it is also very important for us to put them in touch with a culture which is somehow unknown to them.

Another important feature Edmodo offers is the connection with Google Drive so we could create a shared document and work together adding our ideas, comments and suggestions.

We created a group which all our students could join. I love Edmodo for its flexibility and the fact that you don’t need any sensitive information from your pupils: name, surname and that’s it. They join the different groups using the group code we teachers provide them with and they are in, ready to exchange notes,  do surveys,  turn in assignments and share their works.

All the students were then divided into groups and so, inside the main group, we created some small groups so to give the students the possibility to work only with the partners in the group. This avoids confusion and distraction and the kids can focus on their tasks.

As first step we both made a video in which the pupils introduce themselves. It was great fun for us and I must say that in the end we had much more material for the backstage video than for the real one!

Then my colleague shared a video about their town and school and we could analyse it and see the differences and similarities with our neighbourhood and the way we think of school. What my students noticed at once was that we don’t have any classes about drama or singing or dancing. They liked it very much.

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The second step was to find out some information about the partners. In the small groups the kids starting asking and replying questions so to have enough material to create a presentation about the Ukranian kids. They learnt about the sports they practise, the food they like and even some words from their language. They shared their works as an assignment.

It was nice to watch the presentations in the classroom and notice how others see us. My students loved it and it was also a good opportunity for class discussion.

I really love working on this project. It gives me the opportunity to use the language my students need to know in a very realistic way with such lovely and live material!

If you have not joined Edmodo yet, my advice is to do it ASAP!

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Spotlight: Edmodo big gift!

I started using Edmodo almost nine years ago and now I could not work without using it. It allows me to create my virtual classes and so to stay in touch with my students and share links, files and any type of material with them. Thanks to Edmodo I can create quizzes and assignments which I use for my students’ formative assessment and I can also create polls in order to check, for example, if everything is going on fine.  screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-17-55-28

During these last years anyway, Edmodo has turned into something much bigger. It has become kind of educational social network where I can meet teachers from all over the world and share my ideas, worries and opinions about topics I am involved with.

But there’s more! Edmodo has given us Spotlight!

Spotlight is the place where teachers can upload their resources and share them with their colleagues. If they decide to do so, they can even sell them, but I think that’s not the main point. What is really great is the possibility to download the resources there, analyse them and use them with our classes. You can filter your research according to students’ age, school and subject and the quantity and above all the quality of the material you will be able to see is really remarkable.    edmodo-spotlight

But there is another aspect that I like and this is the most important for me, personally. I am always afraid that what I create is not good enough, is not precise or interesting. Spotlight has been kind of challenge for me. When I uploaded my first resource, I was quite tense but when I got the first reviews and realized that other teachers would use my work because they found it interesting and helpful for their job, I felt somehow stronger and more confident.

Spotlight is a treasure for me and it is encouraging to see so many great colleagues who work hard for their students and are willing to share and improve!

If you you want to learn more and find awesome resources, you must definetely give Spotlight a try!

HALLOWEEN!!!

This is an activity about Halloween which I have already done with my students and which they have always found interesting and fun.      halloween

It helps them develop their cultural awareness, their digital skills and their creativity, but also their presentation and language skills.

Students work in groups of four. One is from Austria, one is from France, one from China and one from Ireland. They use the link Halloween around the world and look for information. They have to find out how Halloween is celebrated in their country and get ready to tell their mates. They have to consider the games people play, the food they eat, the way they dress up, popular beliefs.

Then they compare the different celebrations and complete the following organizer:

HALLOWEEN

SIMILARITIES

DIFFERENCES

                   CHINA                              AUSTRIA                                  FRANCE                             IRELAND

Following activities:

Studens pretend they are journalists and have to write an article about how Halloween is celebrated around the world. They use all the information they have learnt  and write an article for a youth magazine. They can use pictures and clip arts to make it more attractive. When it is ready, they can post it on a padlet. here is an example of a padlet which was created for another Halloween activity  Halloween

Students use all the information they have learnt  and create either a presentation using prezi or an interactive picture  using thinglink.

A visit to the Epic Citadel

It is incredible how many things you can learn day by day through social networks. Twitter and Facebook above all are kind of mines of information and are essential for a teacher’s professional development.

And it is incredible how many lessons, videos, tutorials you can create while comfortably sitting on your sofa and using a tablet.

Just yesterday I learnt about Epic Citadel. According to Wikipedia it is “ a tech demo developed by Epic Games for iOS to show off the Unreal Engine 3 running on iOS devices”, which was also released for Android.

epic citadel

pic from itunes.apple.com

I have no idea what Unreal Engine 3 is but I read on Twitter that Epic Citadel can be used also in education. I had no idea either of how to do it but felt curious and so I downloaded the free app and started the tour of the citadel. It is really amazing! It is just a setting with no story, nor people in it but how wonderful to use it for asking students to fill it with stories!

Sometimes students complain about not having ideas when they are asked to write and always need some prompts. So I thought of creating the prompts using Epic Citadel. I needed also kind of guide for them and I remembered Buddy Poke, an app which I had installed some time ago but never used so far with which you can create avatars. The avatar would become the guide I needed!

collage made with Halftone2

collage made with Halftone2

I made this short video for my students in few minutes and I am going to use to ask them to write a story and create characters, setting, atmosphere and so on.

The video is thought for my younger students but I think that, with some changes, it could be adapted also for the older ones.

A lesson with tablets

Next year one of my classes will be using tablets. I am thrilled at the idea of experimenting what I have learnt so far and am now planning because I know that planning is essential if you want your work to be successful. 

In addition I really don’t want to focus on the technology itself, but I am interested in considering how tools and apps can really help my students get knowledge and above all the skills that they will need in the future.

I have just read an interesting article Learning is not about the Technology and I think this exactly is the point.

At the moment I have created a sort of warming-up activity for the first days at school.  Next I am going to create other lessons but above all to study the right way to integrate technology in my daily routine at school.

In my first lessons what I intend to do is:

Make the students work in groups so to foster their team-working skills;

Make the students get familiar with some tools they will use throughout the school year and which hopefully will allow them to express their creativity but also skills related to analysis and synthesis;

Make the students practise reading skills and language analysis 

I have chosen a funny story from the ones presented here 

I have cut the story into short paragraphs/sentences and with the words I have created some word clouds, using Wordle. 

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Students are divided into groups of four and are now asked to reconstruct the paragraphs. I have used Wordle because it has the right layout, it uses all the words I need and the most used ones are made bigger.

In order to rebuild the paragraphs, they are expected to read all the words carefully and find out the right way to join them, taking into account capital letters, their function in the sentence, and anything else that might link words together.

When they have finished, they have to upload their paragraph to Edmodo in order to share and see what the other groups have found out.

All the paragraphs are of course in a jumble order and they have now to put them together correctly and rebuild the whole story. Here too they have to analyse all the sentences carefully and decide together on their right order.

Finally they have to suggest an appropriate title for the story; a poll is now created on Edmodo and they use it to choose the best one. 

Since this is class of students who already know how to use Animoto, Vimeo, Toondoo, Audioboo, EduCreations, as a follow up activity, they can now choose to

write a story of their own; 

illustrate the story using comics or a video; 

create an image which presents the story;

dramatise the story;

rewrite the story but set it in another country and consider what should be changed;

create an audio version of the story.

They can prepare such activity as homework working together in groups using Edmodo while in the next classes they can work together to improve and complete it.

A class will be devoted to their performances or presentations, which could be filmed to be shown also to parents, for example.

Is this an activity which could be made even without tablets? 

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Let’s see. I should print all the wordles, ask the students to write their paragraphs, photocopy all their paragraphs or write them all on the blackboard in order to give them the possibility to reconstruct the story, ask them to write their suggestions for the title, read them and ask them to vote, maybe raising their hands, and then ….comics, audiorecordings, videos… well, no , I don’t think I could do it; you can of course create content even without tablets but not this way and not so easily.

I don’t know if this is the right way to integrate technology in the classroom, but I think it is an honest attempt.

 

 

 

 

Using videos to improve speaking skills

Making my students speak English is quite a hard job. It is not that they are reluctant to speak but they usually can’t find much to say 🙂

I usually turn to mind maps: big maps on the blackboard where we gather ideas, vocabulary and all that we need to prepare our talks. They usually help because students can get kind of draft to develop on their own.

Here is an example we have created before a class conversation about holidays

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Sometimes we use presentations which show pictures in order to collect ideas, just like this one

But the best way to make them speak fluently and in a correct way is to film them when they feel ready to speak.
I prefer filming them using ToonCamera because I think that they can overcome embarrassment this way and I must say that the activity always gives good results for more than a reason.
First, they concentrate more since they know that everything is recorded; then they try to sound more natural and probably they also feel more natural – when asked to speak after preparing their talk, they usually tend to read instead of speaking; finally they enjoy watching themselves and every time they notice what was wrong and could be improved. When the videos are ready, I usually embed them on our class blog and so they can write their comments.

Making videos in the classroom is extremely helpful for me too since it allows me to revise the activity and see what can be improved.

QR Codes

I’ve done it! I have created my first scavenger hunt using QR codes. Honestly it was just a try, I mean I didn’t focus so much on objectives or content because I just wanted to see the potentialities of such an activity. I can say I’m satisfied with the way it went.
The activities was anyway focused on vocabulary and it was meant for 15 year-old students with an A2 level of English.

 

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What was it about? I wanted to make the kids practise prepositions and some vocabulary we had studied during the school year. Consequently I hid the codes in different places inside the classroom, i.e. under the dustbin, on the cupboard, inside the cupboard, under the teacher’s chair, on a window pane, and so on.
Each code included a riddle and the clue to find out the next one. Each riddle was about a letter of the alphabet: i.e. it’s the serpent you find in the place where young people meet, have fun, socialize and ….learn. They had first to think of what place it is ( = school ) and then of the letter which is a serpent (letter S) and so on. We created four groups, each group had to find out two letters. In the end, they had to put all the letters together and find out the mysterious word, which was suncream 🙂

luca qr

Other riddles were: in the sport that looks so violent (rugby) it comes in the silver place (letter u);
you can find two of this in what is delicious in summer and … why not? in winter too (icecream); but be careful, it is not what you can find in cars (E and not C) and so on.

What I noticed was the attention they paid while reading the clues; the way they exchanged opinions trying to find out the solutions (no, it can’t be that because …), the correct way they all respected the rules and finally their concentration when they had to find out the mysterious word 🙂

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I think this is an activity that can be used in plenty of different ways. I created the codes using the site http://www.classtools.net/QR/ because you don’t need Internet connection while using them and I only used written texts. With Internet connection, you can however also use audio files or videos and so the activity can be stimulating for different types of intelligence or for students with problems. It could be a different way to practise listening skills, for example, and this will probably be my next hunt.

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