Wednesday 25 May 2011

Fantastic new tool for annotating web pages

Scrible (with one 'b') is a fantastic tool for both students and teachers, fantastic if you surf the Net a lot, especially for research. Imagine if you could do to the web page that you're reading what you do to your research material. Well, with Scrible, you can. It's a great piece of online software which allows you to scribble notes onto the web page itself, highlight sections, save the edited page in your library for use later, and share it with your friends. They'd need to sign in first, though. (And, no, I don't get paid for saying all this, in case you're wondering).

Your annotations are automatically added to a table of keys (legends), to which you can add your own descriptions, for example, you could assign red notes as URGENT, blue notes as INTERESTING, yellow highlights as NEEDS CHECKING, etc.

The free version of Scrible, at the moment, gives you 125 megabytes of space for you to save your files.

If you'd like to see an example of an annotated page, I've been testing it on this blog itself, providing instructions on how to navigate around it. You can see it here. (You'll have to sign up first - it's free). You can move the notes around simply by clicking and dragging (in case there are overlapping notes). Be warned that the notes are sometimes moved a little after saving, so they may not be exactly where you had them originally.

To start using it is really easy. No installation is required. Go to You can add the Scrible toolbar as a "bookmarklet". Just click and drag the button which says "scrible Toolbar" to your bookmarks bar as shown in the image below.

If you have done it successfully, you should now be able to see "scrible Toolbar" on your bookmarks bar. You can click and drag it to wherever you want on the bar.

To begin, click on this, and after a few seconds you'll see a floating Scrible (I wish they'd spelt it with 2 b's!) toolbar.

You're now ready to start using it.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Resources, Games, Activities: Anotating web pages using Scrible

To add notes, just click on the notes icon, and you'll see the icon following your mouse. You'll find that Scrible starts to highlight the texts where your mouse moves to. Click again when the text you want your notes to refer to is highlighted. A text box should appear near your selection. Write your notes, and repeat process to add more notes.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Resources, Games, Activities: Anotating web pages using Scrible

The other features, such as highlighting, changing fonts, etc. work the same way. Your files are saved automatically, but you can save it under a different name - just click on the floppy drive icon as shown in the image below. To share the annotated file with your friends, click on the envelope icon.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Resources, Games, Activities: Anotating web pages using Scrible

Since Scrible saves your work automatically, check your library often to make sure there are only stuff that you want, and delete the rest.

Scrible is in public beta stage, so if you find problems, or have any suggestions for improvement, just let them know.

What do you think of Scrible? Please leave your comments below.

Related posts:

Friday 20 May 2011

Time to vote! – Lexiophiles Top 100 Language Lovers 2011

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2011

Each year, Lexiophiles hold a competition for the top 100 language lovers based on user votes (50%) and their own ranking criteria (50%).

This year, they're hosting their fourth edition, and are looking for the best in four categories: Language Learning Blogs, Language Professionals Blogs, Language Facebook Pages and Language Twitterers.

Once again, a cLiL to cLiMB has been nominated, and this year, it's in the Language Learning category. The voting period ends on 29th May. Results will be made known on 1st June.

Each person is allowed one vote, so, please ask your friends, family, students, neighbours, etc to vote for me! Your vote counts!

To vote, click on my voting button. You can see it at the top of the home page, at the top of this post, and also on the right, under AWARDS. When you click on this button, it will bring you to Lexiophiles' voting page, and, easy for voters, a cLiL to cLiMB is the first on the list. Check the circle to its left, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on VOTE.

Each person is allowed to vote once. But if you're sharing one computer, you'd need to clear your cookies to be able to vote again, or use a different browser. Don't cheat, as Lexiophiles will remove any votes they consider fraudulent.

Thank you kindly!

If you wish to know how the competition works, go here.

Every Picture Tells A Story: Let The Students Speak!

Some of you may already know that we have a Twitter "group" which goes by the hashtag #eltpics, and each week we have a 'theme', this week's being Every Picture Tells a Story. These pictures here form part of my contribution to this theme. If you would like to share your photos, read through Sandy's post on how to join us.

In recent weeks, I've suggested ways of using images to get students to speak, and I've given examples of prompts that teachers can use in order to encourage their students to use their imagination. Those are, of course, just ideas which you can either use as they are, or adapt to your style and to that of your students'.

Let us now go a step further, or rather for the students to take a step forward, and the teacher one step back:
  •  Divide the students into groups of 4 or 6, and within each group, split them further into two.
  • There are two sets of images here (Images 1-3, and Image 4). Allow them to select whichever they prefer. Or if they have their own (in their mobile phones, for example), they can use them instead, if they wish. Set them a time limit.
  • Using the mind maps I had shown in the previous posts as a guidance, one half of the group prompts the other, encouraging them to elaborate in all the little details (remind them of the 5 senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste).
  • Depending on how they get on, you may wish to reverse their roles: the one prompting before will now do the describing.
  • From the description they've imagined, they will then form a story.
  • At the end of the time allocated, each group tells the class its version.
  • They then decide which story they liked best, which was the most fantastic, the funniest, the least/most plausible, etc.
  • For homework, they could write up the story (not necessarily the one they'd invented) to accompany the image.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Cokey Monkey: Lesson Plan for Speaking Lesson on the 3000th ELTPics Image

ELT ESL ESOL CLIL EFL Lesson Ideas on Images
Image by Kylie Barker

This is my response to Sandy Millin's challenge for the 3000th ELTPics Image: What would you do with this picture in your classroom?

Those of you who had been following the last few posts would have seen my digital mind maps done with the help of Unfortunately, the free version only allows a miserable three saved copies, so I had to look for alternatives. Coupled with Sandy's challenge, I decided to kill two monkeys with a stroke: brainstormed my answers to her question and test Mindomo's mind map tool.

You can see the results below. Close the 'Topics Notes', and click anywhere on the mind map and scroll to the left or right to see the rest of the ideas. You can also see the whole thing here. If there are any problems, or if you've got any questions, please let me know. If you have further ideas, or if you're bold enough to try this lesson plan on your students, share your views as comments at the end of this post.

Related posts:

Photos + mind maps = Ideas on a silver platter
Speaking lesson using close-ups

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Photos + Mind Map = Ideas on a Silver Platter

A few weeks ago, I suggested some ideas for a lesson based on a close-up image - if you've missed it, I suggest you read that first. Click here to read it.

I snapped this shot today, and I thought I'd share some more ideas with you all. Between this and the previous article, I think you'll get an idea how you can start your students speaking on any picture. Ask them to share a picture from their mobile phones, and build a lesson from that. If you use these photos & my ideas for a lesson, don't just stop at the end. Ask your class to bring a photo, preferably one they took, and invent a story around it. This can be done in groups. You can re-distribute the photos at random. When they've finished, they can tell the whole class their story, and, in the end, they can decide which group has invented the best story.

If you prefer to use photos taken by others, you can find more like these in our group ELTPics in Flickr. You can join us in Twitter. Upload your photos with the hash tag #eltpics, and one of the lovely lady moderators will add them to the sets.

I've decided to relay my ideas in the form of a mind map this time. In fact, you can, if you wish, do the mind-mapping activity from scratch with the whole class. Just use my prompts whenever you're stuck. To use this mind-mapping tool, see here.

ESL ELT ESOL ELL CLIL Games, Resources, Activities, Lesson Plans
Photo 1

To zoom in on the map, use your scroll dial, or click on the '+' or '-' sign on the top left. You can then drag the image left and right. If you prefer, click here to see the full version.

ESL ELT ESOL ELL CLIL Games, Resources, Activities, Lesson Plans
Photo 2

ESL ELT ESOL ELL CLIL Games, Resources, Activities, Lesson Plans
Photo 3

ESL ELT ESOL ELL CLIL Games, Resources, Activities, Lesson Plans
Photo 4

If you've used these photos/ideas, please share your experience with others. Perhaps, you even get your students to share their thoughts and feelings.

Related posts:

Sunday 15 May 2011

Grammar Rules & Activity: Expressing Purpose with for and to

Expressing purpose using 'for' and 'to' poses significant problems for some learners, so I will try to make it slightly clearer. When you've finished reading the explanation, do the quiz at the bottom by clicking on the image.

A common error is to use 'for to', for example:

Wrong: I went to the café for to have a cup of coffee.

We never use 'for' and 'to' together.

We use 'for' with nouns to express personal purpose:

They went to the snack bar for a bite to eat.
She's saving for her summer holiday.
He came to me for some advice regarding the usage of infinitive of purpose.

We don't use 'for' with verbs to express personal purpose.

To do this, we use 'to' + verb:

Right: They went to the snack bar to have a bite to eat.
Wrong: They went to the snack bar for having a bite to eat.
Wrong: They went to the snack bar for to have a bite to eat.

Right: She is saving to go to Croatia for her summer holiday.
Wrong: She is saving for going to Croatia.
Wrong: She is saving for to go to Croatia.

Right: He came to me to ask for some advice.
Wrong: He came to me for asking some advice.
Wrong: He came to me for to ask me for some advice.

However, we can use 'for' to express purpose of a thing, especially if the thing is the subject of the clause. Format: for + verb in -ing form

Is the mobile phone only for making phone calls?
What do we call the object used for measuring wind speed?
I use the microwave oven only for heating food and drinks quickly.

Click on the image below to test if you've understood my explanation. You'll have to enter an email - either a valid one or a fictitious one. If it's valid, the results will be sent to it. All other fields are optional - you can skip them by pressing the ENTER button on your keyboard.

ELT ESL EFL ESOL CLIL Resources, Games, Activities: Expressing infinitive of purpose with for and to

Related posts:

Is this the best interactive multilingual dictionary?

ELT EFL ESL ESOL CLIL Resources, Games, Activities: Learn while you browse

When Russell Stannard says Lingro is the best site he's discovered this year, then one can't help but to sit up and take notice. And took notice was what I did and duly put it through its paces. Russell, as usual, has done a fantastic training video on it, and you can watch it here.

Lingro is basically a dictionary, but a dictionary with a difference. It's almost like having a dictionary beside you while you surf the web, except searching is almost instant. Here are its features:
  • It allows you to load a web page, or a document (.txt, .doc or .pdf)  and it makes all words of the page clickable.
  • It claims to have 8 million translations in 11 languages.
  • If you just want a plain old dictionary, it claims to be the fastest multilingual dictionary on the web. Definitions appear as you type.
  • It remembers all the words you look up, allowing you to review and study them
  • It also keeps the sentences in which the word you looked for appeared
  • You can also play games with your stored words
  • You can organise your words into different lists
  • If a word isn't in the dictionary, you can collaborate by adding the meaning. I've already added some.
Russell was right, Lingro is indeed fantastic. However, perfection doesn't exist, so expect the odd problem here and there, such as occasional sluggish response (especially in Chrome - the problem Chrome has with Flash is quite well-known). Here are a few other reservations I have:
  • Although you can browse around a website within Lingro, you'll have to remember that to follow a link, you'll need to click the little green button which appears above the link you hover over, and which says 'Click here to open link', because, if you click on the original link, it will presume you're looking for the meaning of the word you happen to click on!
  • It is only capable of looking up single words, not phrases, nor even phrasal verbs.
  • Each time you look up a word, it's stored on your word history, even if you'd already looked it up before. Allow me to explain. Imagine you looked up the word 'consigna'. Maybe you clicked on it twice. You go to your word lists page, and you'll see 'consigna' in your word history list. You drag it to your 'Spanish' list. Then, maybe you click it again, just to check. Now, you drag the word from the history to the bin as you've already kept it on your 'Spanish' list. But, you'll find that the word is still on the history list! That's because since you've clicked on it a total of 3 times, you'll have to drag it to the bin 3 times! Somewhat of a pain, really.
  • The sentence history is on a separate page. It would make more sense to be able to see the sentences together with the word list.
Remember that to be able to save your words, you would need to log in. I had trouble finding where to do it! It's placed (misplaced, more like it) at the bottom right.

ELT ICT ELL CLIL EFL ESL Tools, Resources, Using Lingro multilingual dictionary

Thanks to Russell Stannard for discovering this site. To try Lingro, click here. I think learners would love this site!

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative    Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative    Delta Teach Dev: Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching

Friday 13 May 2011

How to create an interactive mind map for use in the classroom, Mark II

When I published this the first time, Blogger had a crash, which lasted for two days. They had to delete some posts (including mine), but subsequently restored them. I'm not sure if the restored version is trustworthy, so I'm re-publishing this article. I also decided to add more ideas on how to use mind-maps as I know a lot of teachers just want all their stuff served on a silver platter! ;-)

I have just discovered this nifty mind-mapping tool, so I decided to put it to a quick test. It's called are lots of things you can do with it and it's user-friendly, so it's quite easy to use. In any case, if you're in doubt, they have a comprehensive help page. If you still have problems, just write a comment below or email me.

You don't need to have an account with them to start using it. Click start, and begin clicking and typing! Among the things you can do are undo (but not redo), copy & paste, drag, change colours and size of bubbles, and linking manually.

When you've finished, you can print it.

However, if you have an account - it's free and easy as pie to set up - you can save your mind map, and share it by linking or embedding it on your own site.

I won't go into all the details as they do it better on their help page. As an example, I did a map on Asking Questions, first seen on Teaching students to ask questions, and embedded it here. To enlarge, click on the + sign on the top left, or try the scroll knob on your mouse.

There's just a slight niggle I have about it, though. When you start the tool, you may get, like I did, Adobe Flash Player asking permission to store information on your PC. I'm not sure why, so I refused it permission, but, as you can see, it didn't prevent me from creating a mind map.

So, what do you think? Do you like it?

Here are some ideas on how you can use mind-maps:

  • Use it to teach pronunciation: you can do phonetics (see example of partial mind-map below), rhyming words, etc.
  • Pronunciation of the ending of regular past simple
  • Spelling rules, for example, plurals (see my post on plurals)
  • Irregular past tenses (group similar verbs, e.g., grew-grown, flew-flown, knew-known)
  • Get to know each other by doing a personal mind map (hobbies & interests - past & present, family, places travelled, etc.). Students can do it at home, then in class, beam it up and have them guess who the map belongs to.
  • Group tasks. You can also map the tasks first, and the students decide themselves which tasks they prefer.
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Idioms
  • and the most common usage - vocabulary. Encourage them to do their own at home. You can review them at random in class, and brainstorm additions to their lists.
Some people will say that digital mind maps defeat their original purpose, that each map is individualised: each one does it in their own way, the crazier it is, the better they will remember what was written. Well, if they prefer, they can print it out, and then add their own illustrations, for example.

If you only have 1 computer in class, you can make the mind-mapping a whole-class activity, but if there are more, do it in groups. Then, you can compare them and get the students to bounce ideas off each other.

 If you have other ideas on how to use mind maps in class, why don't you share it with us?

Related posts:

Monday 9 May 2011

Idioms Part 23 (Food - Pie/Potato) Interactive Game

I can't believe that almost a month has passed since my last idiom activity!

We're still on food; this time we'll take a look at pies & potatoes.

as easy as pie

It means just that - extremely easy. Sometimes, you'll hear 'easy as apple pie': That test we did today was really easy as pie, wasn't it?

eat humble pie

When you eat humble pie, you admit your error and apologize (normally): I was forced to eat humble pie when I mistakenly accused him of stealing my mobile phone; he had one exactly like mine, but mine was in my back pocket the whole time!

have one's finger in the pie

- to be involved in something. Often, you'll hear this version:

have one's fingers in too many pies

This happens when you're involved in so many things that you're unable to do any of them well: My son has his finger in too many pies; I told him to just concentrate on one course instead of having to divide his time among the five he's doing right now.

pie in the sky

This refers to a plan or an idea that is rather far-fetched, and is unlikely to bear fruit: All his ideas had been previously dismissed as pie in the sky until he came up with his brilliant add-on to Twitter.

slice of the pie

To want a slice of the pie is to want a part of what is being shared. This expression is used mainly in the USA; the UK equivalent is slice of the cake: This year's education budget has been reduced dramatically, so each school will have a smaller slice of the pie.

couch potato

Originally, this is used to refer to someone who spends a lot of time on the couch (sofa) watching television, but now, it refers to anyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle: You're such a couch potato! It's about time you start doing something other than sitting in front of your computer screen all day!

drop (someone or something) like a hot potato

- to stop being involved with someone or something due to problems. Sometimes, you will hear 'drop like a hot brick' instead: He was dropped from the team like a hot potato when he was seen with the team manager's daughter.

small potatoes

This expression is used mainly in the US. In the UK, it's more common to hear 'small fry'. 'Small beer' also has the same meaning: something or someone unimportant or insignificant: He acts as though he's a big shot in the company, but, in fact, he's nothing but small potatoes.

meat and potatoes (mainly US)

These are the most important or the most basic parts of something. It's also used as an adjective to refer to someone with ordinary tastes, or something that is very basic:

The meat and potatoes of any computer is the RAM.
Sue gave a meat-and-potatoes explanation of the new camera, but everyone understood.

Now that you've learned these idioms, put your knowledge to the test on this interactive activity. Click the image below to begin. Although it isn't necessary, registration at Purpose Games will allow you to keep track of your scores. Have fun!

ELT EFL ESL CLIL Resources, Activities, Games: Potato and Pie Idioms

Be sure to check out the rest of this series on idioms. Go to the index file and search (ctrl F) for 'Idioms'.