Posts tagged CLIL

Death By PowerPoint? No Thanks! – Digital Storytelling Using PowerPoint

PowerPoint has the ability to utterly, utterly destroy your soul with boredom – and yet it can totally engage your students’ attention and draw them into a digital story plot if used well. And how should you use it well? These slides will show you! ๐Ÿ™‚

I have posted these before, but this is a slightly updated version that I made for the teachers and trainers at Bolzano Free University’s language department (a tri-lingual University in the north of Italy!)

I had wanted to upload this to VoiceThread so that you, my dear readers, could ask and answer questions and see how effective Voicethread is – unfortunately, Voicethread allows a maximum of 50 slides per presentation and … well… this has several more slides than this. Anyhow, the first slides are the digital story part. If you’d like to skip straight to theย  PowerPoint hints and tips, go to slide number 48.

Hope this is helpful – if you have any questions, leave them in a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Blogging with EFL Students โ€“ Part 3 โ€“ Get Your Blog Moving!

In this final part of my short series on how to blog with EFL students. If you missed the first two you can find them here:

Blogging with EFL Students โ€“ Part 1 โ€“ Setting Up a Blog

and here:

Blogging with EFL Students โ€“ Part 2 โ€“ Blogs Grow With Comments


In this final set of slides I’ll discuss a couple of the essential things every blogger should be able to do to whether they be a teacher or a student. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of everything a blogger should do, but it should help you get the final basics in place.

Uploading a photo to your blog post makes it far easier on the eye and therefore more likely to be read. Adding a link to other related posts or interesting information helps give your reader a bit of background and adds context to your post and finally sorting out your profile lets your reader find out a bit more about you which, hopefully, will make them more likely to want to connect with you.

So, on to the slides: Once again, please do ask if there is anything you’re unclear about or if you want a bit of help with something. If you think I’ve missed out another vital skill for bloggers, do tell me. I’d love to know and will happily update the slides in the future. Down there at the bottom in the comments section, let it rip! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Take care and all the best,


Blogging with EFL Students – Part 1 – Setting Up a Blog

Blogging is a great way to allow your EFL students a little space to be creative, talk to a “real” audience and connect with other learners.

This year at the high-school I work at, Martino Martini, in Mezzolombardo, Italy, we’ve been experimenting with using student blogs as a kind of reflective journal to discuss things we’ve learnt in class. We’ve also started a class blog as a digital noticeboard for pasting slides I’ve used in class, homework reminders and examples of great work from within the class.

Although they are quite specific to the needs of my students (and trainee teachers,) I’ve decided to share the slides I use to teach blogging.I hope they can be helpful to other teachers and teacher-trainers, too.

So, this will be the first in a series of three presentations to help EFL students and teachers learn how to blog and how to use Blogger. In these slides I go through the basics of what blogging is all about and show how to set up a Blogger account, using screenshots from Blogger itself.

I hope these slides will help you and your students get started with this great communicative tool! If you have any questions, or have any advice of your own about setting up a blog to use with students, be sure to leave a comment to tell us about it ๐Ÿ™‚


p.s. I know, I know what you’re thinking. This presentation breaks many, if not all the “rules” I shared in my Death By PowerPoint – and How to Avoid It post I wrote recently. My only defence is that I wrote this guide about 18 months ago, before I’d spent time studying how to improve presentations. Tell you what, I’ll make a promise. If I get round to updating these slides, I promise to upload the improved version here, okay?! ๐Ÿ™‚

All the best,


Students in Trentino, Italy

Skype Calls for e-Twinning in L2

I have been using Skype to make cheap calls to friends and family abroad for ages now. While making these free international calls, I’d often wondered whether it would work well in the language classroom for e-twinning. Well yesterday I got the chance to find out.
Thanks to the wonderful Enza Antenos-Conforti of Montclair University, New Jersey, Iย  did some Twitter twinning between my 5th year social sciences class and her Italian language and Italian Studies university students this year. Using the micro-blogging service, Twitter, the initial e-twinning wentย  really well. Our discussions ranged over subjects as diverse as; the right to die, favourite dances and music, politics and Berlusconi, sexism, the media and all sorts of other rich and interesting topics.

After a good three or four months of text-based chatting both Enza’s and my students thought it would be a shame to finish without ever seeing or hearing each other. Proof, if nothing else, that the Twitter twinning had raised our students’ interest in what they were learning. This is where we came up with the idea of an online meeting using Skype.


Although it was great fun, the Skype meeting took a little bit of organising.ย  I thought I might share what went well and what didn’t go so well for anyone else who’s thinking of doing the same in the future:

How we organised the lesson

Setting it all up (the technical bits)

We installed Skype on enough computers for all of the students to have a computer each (10 in total in Italy, 12 in the U.S.) The US students already used Skype, so they signed in with their own Skype IDs. I set up 10 generic accounts for my students. I got the computers working and logged in to one of the generic Skype accounts on each computer before the lesson. I also added one of the US students as a “Skype contact” on each of the computers in the ICT lab.

What went well:

The students didn’t have to think at all about who to call, who to add as a contact and how to start a call. They didn’t all end up calling the first alphabetical name in the list either. Basically each student had one ready-made partner. Although by setting up each computer with one Skype contact we cut down on confusion at the beginning, it did make life difficult later in the session when the students were doing the one to one calls.

What I would do differently next time:

Basically one of the US students didn’t manage to make it to the session, and one wasn’t added to my students’ list of contacts (my fault, oops!) This meant that one of my students and one of the US students were both without someone to talk to for the first 10 minutes or so until we sorted the problem. Next time I will add all the contacts from the other school to each of our generic accounts. Then to make sure no-one gets a call from two of my students I’ll give them a piece of paper saying who to chat to.

Group Introduction:

We did a 10-minute introduction where each of the students from the US and from Italy took it in turns to introduce themselves, say who they were on Twitter and say one or two facts about themselves as a kind of mini “bio.” We did this part as a class-to-class video conference. We used our IWB to do this, but any beamer attached to the computer would do just as well.

What went well:

It was great to be able to see each other at last. The placing of the webcam was a tricky choice. In the end I taped it to the wall above the projector screen. It was also nice to have a whole-class warmer so that the students were able to get their foreign language practice going. My students presented themselves in English, The U.S. students presented themselves in Italian. Me and Enza, and my colleagues from Martino Martini presented themselves in both langauges.

What I would do differently next time:

At first we used the microphone built in to the webcam for our students to speak. This was great to begin with, but as the students towards the back of the class started introducing themselves, the US students complained that they couldn’t hear very well. In the end we plugged in a microphone to the computer and passed this round whoever wanted to speak. I’ll do this straight away next time.

One-to-One chats:

After this each of the students sat down at a computer to have a chat, one to one, with a student in the US. This was the part of the lesson I had most been looking forward to from the point of view of a teacher as I thought it would give each of the students the maximum time to talk with someone in a second language. To help them do this they had a list of suggested topics to talk about (based on conversations we’d had throughout the term.) These topics were all based around our school’s and the university’s curriculum. The students also had to take notes about their partner’s answers while they were talking to them. As all language teachers will know it’s always a good idea to have a task to achieve when doing a listening or speaking exercise.

Students in New Jersey, USA.

Students in New Jersey, USA.

What went well:

The students got over their initial nerves about talking in a foreign language and spent a good 40 minutes chatting away to their partners. Both the U.S. and the Italian students seemed to have a lot of fun as you can see in the photos. As we were twinning with a class learning Italian (and they with a class learning English) there were lots of opportunities for the students to fall back on L1 if they ever got stuck. The whole session was pretty much bi-lingual, though (to be honest) I though I heard much more English than Italian being spoken, though to be honest, this could be as I’m used to having to struggle to get my students to use L2 so I was just pleasantly surprised (Enza, did you think this too?) The students also showed an amazing knack to multi-task so common with “digital natives.” While they were chatting they were also sharing favourite music videos on Youtube, adding each other to Facebook accounts and lord knows what else! Our students were also talking about core-curriculum areas too (politics, social issues, the theses they are preparing and so-on) as well as the traditional get to know you chats.

What I would do differently next time:

My students were really nervous about chatting in L2 at first were pleading to be able to do only a group chat. I really felt that this would only give the stronger students a chance to talk, so I refused this. I think that if the students had had more time to prepare for the chat they would have been less worried about the whole one-to-one chat business. I did actually give the students some time to prepare, but I think I overloaded them with tasks when dong their prep (talk about subject, not down key vocab,write follow up questions) which didn’t leave them to feel free enough to chat in L2.

Students in Trentino, Italy

Students in Trentino, Italy

Overall Experience:

Personally I really think that yesterday’s experience was a great success. Sure there were one or two rough edges to smooth over next time, but I think that the sheer fact that a whole class full of high-school students were speaking a foreign language for more than an hour speaks for itself. If we get a bunch of webcams and a higher bandwidth internet connection I’d love to try a full-scale video chat where each of the students could see each other to add to the experience. Overall though my students left the classroom with big smiles on their faces after staying behind late at school after a hard day of exams. In my book that’s a lesson that has worked well!

Finally, a big thank you to the following for all their help getting this together:

Silvana Devigilli (my class’ tutor, Martino Martini), Diego (ICT Technician, Martino Martini)ย  Michael D. Heller (Director of Emerging Instructional Technology, Montclair) AJ Kelton ( Director of Language Learning Technology, Montclair) and last but not least, my inspiring colleague Enza Antenos-Conforti, the tutor from Montclair University.

Now we’ve had this experience getting a Skype conference call and individual calls together, I’d be really happy to help out with advice, hints and tips or to answer any questions you might have about getting something similar done. Leave me a comment here if you’d like to chat about this ๐Ÿ™‚

All the best,

High School Digme Courses Inspire

Minneapolis Roosevelt High School students have been using blogs, Twitter, wikis, video, podcasts and other digital media in their English lessons.

At the University of Minnesota they have been looking at how the Roosevelt High School “Digme” programme has given students an opportunity to engage with English lessons in a way they never did previously. Judging by some of the feedback in the video, the use of Web 2.0 tools has inspired the students so much that they now really look forward to their English lessons.

Apart from mygeneral interest in the use of ICT in education, this program has really grabbed my attention as the school seems to be doing almost exactly the same kind of activity that I’ve been doing with my students this year at Martino Martini in Italy. I too have been using Twitter to facilitate e-twinning, podcasts and voice recordings to encourage oral fluency videos of science experiments and a social studies video to enthuse the students and encourage them to use the target language.I have also been using a wiki to co-ordinate the whole programme and give teachers, students and parents one central place to check up on the latest classroom activities.

In short, they’re doing just what I’m doing. It’s nice to know that you’re heading in the right direction! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a look at this video of the U.S. students to see how positive they seem about the whole project.


Speaking Philosophically – CLIL Lesson

students-at-work2This year I’m working as a CLIL/ICT teacher at Martino Martini, a high school in Mezzolombardo, Italy. It’s a really interesting project where I co-teach different subjects together with the “regular” class teacher. The difference with this CLIL project is however that I don’t just help teach the subject in English, but I have to use technology to teach the subject too.ย  This means that so far this year I have taught subjects as diverse as History, Biologyย  and Social Sciences using all sorts of different Web 2.0 technology such as wikis, web-based video, online surveys and so on. I tell you what, it’s been great fun! Take a look at our wiki if you’d like to see some of my students’ great work.

For one of my philosophy classes recently I decided to do a speaking activity based on one of the arguments from the BBC World Philosophy Day article from last year. As philosophy is often taught as a fairly dry subject here in Italy, I decided to “spruce it up a bit” by using some of the great creative commons photographs from Flickr to illustrate the arguments. I put them together as a Powerpoint presentation and I hope you’ll agree that the results are pretty good!

Although the PowerPoint presentation deals with philosophical ideas that Kant had, I’m sure that many speaking classes would really enjoy the subject. The references to Kant are infact only in the last slide. I used this lesson with a class of 17-18 yr olds. It does deal with some pretty “full on” issues, so have a good look through the slides before taking it into your class.


Click on the image to download the PowerPoint file. It’s 14 MB so it might take a minute or two!

Talking Philosophy PowerPoint


Thanks to some great ideas from The Webheads, I’m now also going to do this lesson as a VoiceThread. So, if you (or more likely your English class) fancy joining in the debate, click on the comments button in this VoiceThread version below:


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