Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nowadays, there are many tools to help a teacher justify his/her choices in class. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a useful tool that helps us reflect upon our classroom practices and learn any content area. The revised version is really speaking to a lot of educators who use it, and it seems to be useful because it links a variety of technologies  that address different levels of educational objectives. A wise start is to look at the activities I am already implementing and see what objectives they touch on. With that in mind, I can aim at the right direction and deepen my learning to higher brain processesMost of the tasks I have used in class so far fall into the bottom of the Taxonomy (remember and understand). Although these tasks  help students practice basic skills, there are other options I need to address to make sure I use the iPads to reach the higher levels of the Taxonomy.  I designed a chart to help me visualize all the apps I have available and how they can be used for each category. The following image might help me apply The revised Bloom`s Taxonomy in my practice because they give me some basic ideas on very broad objectives for each category.

Using AppsAt the bottom of Bloom`s Taxonomy


Apps that fit into the ‘remembering’ concept include those that improve a student’s ability to recall facts or words, list, retrieve, find, name, recognize, identify, locate, and define terms or concepts.


WordFoto is an easy and fun app for the language classroom. Students take pictures and write words and sentences that will appear all over the image. The app is light and students do not need more than 5 minutes to get the work done. The app only accepts up to 10 words.
Teachers are usually very creative and we all can surely find many fun ways to explore the pictures, but here are three ideas.
1 - Relay race - students make lines facing the board. The last student in line has an image and has to whisper the sentences to the student in front of him. Students keep whispering till first student in line hears it and writes the sentence down on the board. 
2. Put all the images on a presentation and have a silent dictation.
3. Show all the pictures and take them away. Play some music and let students write down all the sentences they can remember. Stop the music and check students` work. 


Flashcards are no longer tied to paper. Now with the help of flashcard makers we can give our students the chance of recalling vocabulary items easily. We can prepare the flashcards with the app and make sets, or we can import sets from a site called - Quizlet. We can ask students to take the quiz as warmers to games, writing or speaking tasks. 


We can use the camera native app for a number of activities, but I like the simplicity of memory games. I was teaching "going to", and there was a picture in the book that students had to describe all the about to actions people in the picture were doing. I asked students to pose for a picture to have a similar task and motivate them to practice the target structure and have fun. They love working with their own pictures! Screen Chomp is basically a doodling app with markers.

I was teaching adverbs of frequency and frequency words to talk about routine. To transition from sentence level to discourse level, I used an activity suggested on Cleide Nascimento`s blog - Draw My Attention to contextualize the topic, and asked students to reorder the activities according to their daily routines and narrate the slides. I `ll use their work as resource for follow up activities.


With Screen Chomp students can record audios or videos or upload a file, and then use the drawings tools to jolt down ideas, label, point out, etc. I have used it as a way to brainstorm ideas as a pre-writing activity.

Educreations is a useful tool that can be used in many different ways. I used it to practice vocabulary items in a simple way. I asked students to draw clothing items with the app and then used their work to practice the words.

Coming soon, moving up towards higher thinking skills 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Role Playing to Prompt Writing Tasks

App: IMovie
Number of iPads: one per group 
Level Teens 4

I have a very creative and hectic group of teens, who is into technology and loves playing games. My students engage really easily in tasks that have a digital component, but they tend to disconnect whenever they have to deal with more traditional ones. I decided to bring some of their creativity into play and asked them to roleplay the dialogues in unit 5. I gave each group an iPad and asked them to record themselves roleplaying the dialogues. I played the video with the sound off, and asked students to write the dialogues down as a graded exercise. In the following classes, they asked me to watch the videos again and again. I believe this repetition helped them internalize the structure because they have all done really well in this part of the oral test this morning.


By teacher Dani Lyra

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Appitivity - Young Learners and Educreations
The young learners we have in our classrooms nowadays are digital natives. It means that they were born during or after the general introduction of digital technology.  They are familiar with computers, mobile devices and internet from an early age.  I have been using the Ipads in my Kids group and they simply love it!
For the first activity I used Educreations. We were practicing vocabulary related to the beach, but the teacher can adapt and use this activity for any kind of vocabulary practice. 

Here is the activity:
  -  Take the Ipads beforehand and open the app (Educreations).
·         - Make it ready-to-use (click on “new project” and you’ll see a blank page).
·         - Make sure Educreations is logged in (branch’s account). So, it’s easier to access the students’ projects later and share or embed it on the web.
·         - After doing the activities you have prepared for the Circle Time (songs and chants) use the Ipads to review content. In this case: vocabulary.
·         - The children are already on the floor.
·         - Divide them into pairs and explain they are going to work together, taking turns.
·         - Open your Ipad (before giving the kids their devices) and show them how they have to proceed.
·         - Tell them you’re going to speak up a word and they´ll have to draw it. (model)
·         - After drawing they have to touch the REC button and say the sentence using the word. (model)
·         - They have to pause touching the REC button again. (model)
·         - On the bottom of the page, right side, they touch the arrow that goes to the next blank page. (model)
·         - Everybody waits for the second word.
·         - Use the same procedure for the rest of the words.
·         - After the last slide you have to save their projects. (Ask your aid for help)
·         - Save the project with the students’ names and the class. (e.g.: Maria and Julia – K02)
·         - Save it public.

·         - Teacher: “It’s a bucket.”
·         - Students: draw the bucket.
·         - Students record their voices saying: “It’s a bucket.”
·         - They pause.
·         - They go to the next slide.

Educreations puts the slides all together and makes a short video. They really enjoy watching their project and their classmates’ projects. Below you can see one example:

After class, the teacher can access the branch’s account and click on ‘Welcome, CTJ’. You’ll see all the projects saved. Click on the project you want to use and you’ll be able to share or embed it.

I have created a digital portfolio using the free pbworks WIKI - On the WIKI, I created a page for each student and embedded their projects there. In the end of the month, I sent the link to the parents. Another idea (from Carla Arena) is to create a page for each project and send the link through “Registro Escolar” to all parents at once. This is a screenshot from one of my student’s page:

Monday, September 09, 2013

Teacher Talking Quality

Robert O’Neill has questioned a basic idea of EFL teaching that too much teacher talk is bad and therefore more 'student talk' can be achieved by reducing teacher talking time. In contrast, he introduces the idea of teacher talking quality; it’s not the time the teacher spends talking, but the quality of the teacher’s talk*. O’Neill certainly makes a valid point, yet it requires further elaboration.
First, the idea that decreasing teacher talking time (TTT) will increase student talking time (STT) needs to be addressed. One can imagine a teacher doing various things, e.g., telling stories, partaking in speaking activities, and giving instructions. Should a teacher avoid talking when it comes to piquing students’ interest; relaying some culturally relevant anecdotes; explaining how an activity is going to work?  I don’t see how a seasoned teacher could argue that TTT should be avoided when it comes to these situations.  TTT versus STT becomes important when considering speech which does not result in student learning. Such speech from teachers would therefore be lacking in quality and efficiency, but what does that look like?
STT and TTT have to do with time, which is easily measured. O’Neill has proposed the acronym TTQ (teacher talking quality). Quality in comparison to time is not quite as objective, which is why I believe the discussion of TTT x STT seems to be a recurrent theme in TEFL.  That’s not to say that quality can’t be measured. One could design a rubric for scoring the quality of teacher talk just as we’ve developed a scoring rubric for the writing assignments we give to our students. This TTT rubric should give points to a teacher who uses elicitation, gives practical and clear explanations, checks for understanding by asking concept questions, allows students to be responsible for their self-directing their speech, organizes students into speaking pairs or groups, and tolerates silence long enough to give students time to formulate a response. Likewise, this TTT rubric should take points away for a teacher who speaks for many minutes without elicitation, gives explanations full of terminology, transitions to an activity without first asking questions that check student comprehension, controls or dominates discussion to the point where students have limited involvement in the learning process, or impatiently reinitiates talk without giving students time to process so as to formulate a proper response.
Above all, teachers need to be humanistic and understand that although silence can be used as a technique in specific instances (allowing the student time to find their words), being silent all the time is not natural and doesn’t cater to everyone’s learning needs. Students who seek clarification or wish to share their experiences with the class should be welcomed with a warm response from the teacher. In fact, teacher talk can include current issues in comparison to dated textbooks or audio, disseminate relevant content, and fine-tune language to a level that is readily comprehensible based on that student’s level of language development. We also can’t forget that the teacher’s English is a source of input for our students to process both consciously and unconsciously.
 To summarize, it’s safe to say that there are some strong points to O’Neill’s argument for TTQ. When TTT is dry and monotonous, void of elicitation, or needlessly complicated, it becomes obvious why TTQ is so crucial.  That is not to say that TTT shouldn’t be limited at times when students are capable of some learner autonomy; they can guide their own discussions, which both further involves students in the learning process and develops their speaking skills when it comes to turn-taking or discovering the meaning of vocabulary or grammar rules for themselves. English classes can’t be all about the vocabulary and grammar, however.  Teacher talk is needed to build rapport with our students so that they not only learn the language but are given opportunities to use the language in ways that are meaningful and humanistic. In the end, it bodes well for the teacher who recognizes when it is necessary and not necessary to talk during class, duly combined with the idea that when TTT is warranted, it is done with our students’ learning needs in mind.

*Robert O'Neill – IATEFL, April 2004

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Compositions and iPads in the Classroom

I would like to start by pointing out that this post does not refer to essays, since they are too long and it would take forever to type 5 paragraphs on an iPad (at least for an old dog like me). However, if we are dealing with single paragraphs or shorter compositions, it works brilliantly. 

Let’s take the first composition topic of 3B, for example. The students are supposed to write about a place that they would recommend to tourists. The example in the book is the Great Wall of China, but students can choose any place they have visited, be it in Brazil or anywhere else in the world.

After handing out the iPads, you could start by asking them to find a picture of that place (using Flickr – creative commons pictures, for example). After that, they can start writing their paragraphs. They can check spelling and find alternative words using a Thesaurus dictionary. Also, they need to write about the history of the place and give suggestions to tourists. This could easily be done with the travel apps that we already have in our iPads, and/or with the help of Wikipedia.

In the end, they can send their final product straight to your email account. This activity will keep the students focused and they will have fun doing it. What a great way to refute the students’ preconception that compositions are boring.

By teacher André

Friday, September 06, 2013

iPad Tip of the Week - Kids Apps

Many teachers report that they fear taking the iPads to use with their kids because they might get wild, ipads might get dirty, might break... In fact, from what I´ve observed, it is quite the opposite. With a good lesson plan and classroom management, iPad classes with kids are a tremendous success with engaged and excited kids.

iPadProject_ (51)
Teacher Fernanda Mello with a group of enthusiastic students using ipads for the first time

When teachers dare and take the iPads to class, they always mention how fun their classes were and how enthusiastic kids became with the mobile devices. Some of the little ones innocently even ask if they can take the iPads home!

 Did you know that we have a Kids folder in all iPads? We have apps to practice colors, the alphabet, shapes, stories, animals, numbers, transportation, food, besides the other ones for students to draw and write.

CTJ iPad Kids Folder 

Some classroom management tricks to work with ipads in a kids´ classroom:

- think of your pedagogical goal for the activity and check the choices of apps you are going to use
- test the app before your class

In class:
- Ask students to sit on the floor
- Give instructions and project on the board the steps to access the app 
- set the rules for good ipad use
- hand in the ipads
- carry out the activity
- consider the kind of follow up activity you will do with the students. It could be just asking questions and practicing with them, or if it is a drawing/project, there could be a show and tell moment. In this case, make sure everybody puts the ipads on the floor and close them as they listen to their peers. 

iPadProject_ iPadProject_ (48)

By taking these steps, your class will be a smashing hit!

So, I´d like to invite all of you to consider including an ipad activity the next time you prepare a class for your Kids, Kids Fun, Top Kids and Junior classes. Remember that the Ed Tech Monitors at your branch are ready to give you a hand to plan for an effective approach to using iPads in the classroom. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

App of the Week - Educreations

Educreations is one of those apps that are king in the classroom.
It is easy to use, really intuitive, and it gives a blank screen for students and teachers to record, draw, insert images.

Some activities that you can use Educreations for:

- students record examples of what they´ve learned
- students can talk about likes/dislikes, physical description of characters they draw...
- students can tell a story
- students can have a map in Educreations, one gives the directions, the other draws the way as they record the instructions to get to a place
- students can practice a dialogue
- students can interview each other and add images as they go along
- students can work on their book projects, drawing and recording a scene of the book
- teachers can use the app as an interactive whiteboard, even recording what they did as they explained something and then send it to the students
- teachers can record a lesson (explanations, tutorials) and send it to students

Learn how to use the tool and schedule some time during your lesson to add some Educreations fun to your classes:

Here are some examples of what teachers did with their students using educreations. Browse through the lessons our students and teachers have worked on in Educreations:

Browse through lessons from other teachers and students to get inspired at

APPtivity of the Day - Using Dictionaries in the Classroom

Sometimes we think that we can only schedule to use the iPads when we feel confident enough, have practiced many times how to open, close, use the features in certain apps. We practice so much that we give up as insecurity increases exponentially when we give a thought about the students we have, the little time we have in our schedules, added to the responsibility of those devices in nervous hands.


Ruben Puentedura´s model for tech incorporation can be a relief for teachers in the sense that it is OK to start with substitution practices that enhance the learning experience towards a more informed and bold move towards transformative uses of tech in the classroom.

So, instead of the distress of considering tech possibilities and never having the fearlessness to try it, start with a fun and very simple activity and then move on to more challenging activities. 

Did you know that in our CTJ iPads we have fantastic dictionaries you can use with your groups?
Here are some:

The first one on the list (LDOCE 5) is an expensive paid app which is worth every penny for the quality of its digital version - Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 5th Edition. 

You can´t imagine how much fun my teen students have had with this app. We searched for some words they were studying, I asked them to check the pronunciation of American x British English and to see if there was any relevant difference. They could see the words in use, including collocations and idiomatic expressions. 
The activity was nothing new, but the teens spent some minutes having fun with the language and exploring the possibilities of use. We then played a game in which I´d say the word, they needed to check the meaning and come up with an example different from the dictionary´s. 
Later in the semester, when they had to write paragraphs, they asked me if they could look up for synonyms in the dictionary! 

Now, if it worked with a rambunctious group of teens, imagine exploring the wonders of the dictionary use with our adult groups! You could explore high frequency words (identified in red in the app); you could have a treasure hunt, pronunciation work, definition game. The world of possibilities using digital dictionaries in class is simply limitless...In addition to making your lessons more engaging, your students will start noticing the possibilities of the devices they use in their daily lives to learn English. 

So, the first part of your tech integration ladder is done: substitution activities using a dictionary app. 
Ready for the challenge?
What kinds of activities with dictionaries do you envision with your groups?
Let us know when you plan a lesson using the dictionary apps and what the outcomes were. 

Tip: is a very good free app that your students can download to their smartphones and tablets.