Thursday, January 19, 2012

Descriptive Video: Practiced by Beginner Level Prep Students at METU NCC

Hi all,

I would like to talk about a video project I've recently assigned my students. Steve has already mentioned it before and I made a brief comment on it, but I thought I should give it more space with this post.
  • I first gave them a video on how to create fun videos narrating an event. Here it is:
  • I also gave them a link to a sample video made by Steve's students earlier to give them an idea of the output.
  • I kept it voluntary, but with a promise of extra PG. I also assigned the topics and key language points to give them a frame of reference to move on. Below are the results.
Video 1
  • They created a video on a dialogue taking place between a newcomer and a senior student on METU NCC, the latter introducing the campus to the other. 
  • They added recorded dialogue on the video as well as background music. 
  • They also used some visual effects to pronounce the characters (made of cardboard).

Video 2
  • They made a video showing a dialogue between a customer (Faruk, a student from the class) and a travel agent. 
  • The technique is very similar to that of the sample video mentioned above; quick changes of cards and cut up characters as the dialogue moves on. 
  • They were very well prepared and organized as the video runs very smoothly.

  • This one is on the uses of present perfect simple and present perfect continuous tenses. 
  • What they did was quite different from the other ones. Since the group has an amateur photographer and an amateur actress in it, they preferred to make a video consisting of mute slides with subtitles. They handed in the subtitles in a file with an .srt extension.

What I did with the videos:

I played them in class accompanied by tasks for the students as they watched them.

  • What I could have done is to give them to opportunity to prepare the tasks on their own, but I did not have enough time to do so.
  • The first two tasks (for the first two videos) consisted of comprehension questions.

However, the task for the last video had three steps:

  1. Watch the video (without subtitles, with background music) and decide on a possible conversation taking place between these people.
  2. (To Volunteers) Read your dialogues as the video runs. Try to improvise if the dialogue needs adaptation.
  3. Answer comprehension questions related to the video.

What I observed:

The videos had positive feedback from the students as well as my colleagues. I also heard Steve showed them at the ELT department and they made positive comments, especially for the last video on perfect tenses, finding it open to exploitation, exntension and adaptation and allowing for improvisation, role-play and dialogue building activities.

I just thought it is worth mentioning. Hope the videos could be of use to you as well.

Steve, again, thanks a lot for the suggestion.

PS: The language used in the videos has mistakes as I preferred not to intervene in the process. Editing the dialogue could be another idea as an extension activity.

Reinventing the teacher - what five years of technology has done to change the face of teaching

Ever feel like you are spinning your wheels and can never catch up on all the new technology?  Not suprising when you consider the list of skills that Nik Peachey has identified as being part of the 'tool kit' of a 21st EFL teacher.
  • As Peachey points out, most of these skills were actually not around five years ago, so any teacher who has been working for five years or more won't have had any exposure to them in their pre-service teacher training.  
  • At METU.NCC, we do cover many of the issues in the CTE319 course, but I haven't done a survey of the TEFL programme graduates who are currently working as teachers to see if they have been able to apply any of the skills in day-to-day practice.
  • However, if you are like me, then any skills you have developed have been as a result of individual initiative and curiousity. Those of us who have been teaching more than five years are fortunate in having  younger colleagues who are tolerant of us in the 'digital immigrant' generation, and help us become more tech-savvy.  In return, we can share our experience in traditional teaching, so that technology use and practical experience can be woven together for a richer educational experience.  
  • Likewise, the Teacher Development Unit at METU.NCC has been keen on promoting a community of practice through this blog, workshops and more.  However, like any 'never ending story', it seems that every five years we will have to reinvent ourselves as teachers, which on the positive side of things means that our jobs will certainly never be boring. 
Worth doing the survey below just to get a flavour of the technological influences on teaching that have evolved over the last five years, and what you think are skills that should be in the 21st Century teacher's bag of tricks.

Teachers' digital skills tick list

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BLOGGER SCRIBE - next generation corpus-assisted language production

GOOGLE scribe started out in the famous GOOGLELABS site, where all things GOOGLE first appear and then either wither and die, or go on to make it big in the real world.  See Kuntal Loya's blog post for details about SCRIBE.

It was developed to encourage people to write more blog posts, and was developed for people who use English as their first language.  Here is a screenshot showing how GOOGLE SCRIBE works in as it tries to assist us as we write.

Why does GOOGLE want people to write more, you may ask.  Well, GOOGLE doesn't generate much of its own content.  YouTube is a classic example of this.  Instead, it relies on us to create the content which then enables GOOGLE to drive their advertising services and make billions of dollars.  User-generated content seems a nice idea, but they found that people tend to have 'writer's block' when it comes to creating regular blog posts, so SCRIBE was designed to overcome this.  It checks what you write against a corpus of billions of words of English, and based on the words you have already typed, it will suggest some likely words to follow.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language, I thought that this tool might be very handy indeed for my students.  So, I asked a few to try it out, and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  They all reported that it allowed them to write more fluently as they didn't have to constantly struggle to find the right words to express their ideas.  I found that their writing was much more coherent, and also much more accurate, especially with regard to collocations, appropriate chunks, etc.  Here is a very brief introduction to the tool:

If you use this with your students, I'd love to hear about your experiences, reservations and ideas for developing a corpus-assisted language production pedagogy based on tools like SCRIBE in, and

Notice that these tools are not foolproof.  In the video above, it allowed me to type "In England and popular meal.." instead of "In England a popular meal..."  So, it does require a reasonable knowledge of English to be used effectively.  As a tool to teach writing, it could be a powerful way to guide students in language production that up until now has been unprecedented. It's a bit like having an English teacher hovering over your shoulder and whispering suggestions as you type...but this English teacher can be turned off or on at will, and is available 24/7/365, GOOGLE willing. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hey Steve - love the flag counter .....Thanks.

Games can be serious

We had a great competition between METU.NCC and EMU with the FREERICE challenge. Hopefully we not only learned a bit, but we also feed over 125 people as a result of playing vocabulary games via the World Food Programme.

Here is another blog post by Nik Peachey about playing games, but these are 'serious' games like FREERICE, in that there is a social benefit to them--and students can engage with English at the same time. Might be worth telling students about so they can practise their English during the break.

Using social networks and media to support our continuing professional development | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC

For anyone interested in personal learning networks (or PLNs, which are somewhat over-hyped IMHO, but anything with 'social media' in its moniker definitely has that 'jump on the bandwagon' factor) there is certainly a lot of merit in using social networks and media to support our continuing professional development Follow this link for details about the live session you can to see what other teachers are doing to keep themselves up to date.

Free development opportunities

Here are some links about the upcoming free webinars and sessions

Enjoy them!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Interactive White Boards - Webinar by IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG

To be honest, I'm still not sold on interactive whiteboards.  Seems like a big interactive white elephant to me. :)  Nevertheless, school administrators seem to have swallowed the IWB fad hook, link and sinker.  So, it is a good idea to become familiar with ways in which the technology can be best used.

I missed this (was grading term papers), but the webinar will apparently be recorded and available for review later.  The technology Ms Gardner uses is the SMARTBOARD, which is the same as the IWB we have at the SFL.  If you see any good tips here that are relevant to our context, please share as a comment.

Cool Activities with IWBs

Barbara Gardner
When: Sunday 15 January 2012 GMT 15:00.

In this webinar we'll look at a few tips and tricks for new IWB users. We'll look at some ideas for using text, images (including sources), animation and IWB tools such as the screenshade and themes. The session will be interactive, we'll brainstorm ideas for using the tools and record the ideas we come up with.  You will be able to access the webinar afterwards and revisit all the ideas we collect. Throughout the session you'll be able to see real examples from real teachers in the UK. The session would be suitable for teachers using any type of whiteboard. All my examples are from Smart Boards as we use them in our schools. There will also be opportunities to ask questions and some recommended useful links.

Research into practice: Vocabulary

Looks like a very interesting discussion about research into practice, with Paul Nation as the moderator.  This is organized by the IATEFL Research SIG, so for anyone who is doing a Master's or PhD research in the field of vocabulary learning, this is a discussion not to be missed.


Article Discussion: Research into practice: Vocabulary
Date: 16-20 January 2012
Article: 'Research into practice: Vocabulary', by Paul Nation
Guest facilitator: Anthony Bruton, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain.

Here are the initial 'prompts' to get the ball rolling, and there is an article by Paul Nation at that you should read before the discussion.

1. What do you consider are the priorities for research into formal EFL vocabulary learning? And ESL?
2. Do you think Extensive Reading is a viable means of vocabulary expansion in typical FL contexts? Would on-line exposure and task be more accessible and as effective?
3. Do you think some tasks used in EFL vocabulary research are inappropriate: e.g. fill in the blanks; multiple-choice; write sentences with these words; etc.
4. Do you think levels tests should not only be language-specific, but context-specific (e.g. according to country).
5. Did you know about the involvement load hypothesis? If so, is it of any particular pedagogical consequence?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love the 'you might like feature Steve!  Also been meaning to say I adore the human calendar. You said anyone can just send in a photo here???

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Topicmarks: Extract Facts from Lengthy Documents and Obtain Their Summaries

I've been using this site for about a year and a half.  It is still in beta, and a bit quirky at times, but I've included it in the CTE319 course on Instructional Technologies and Materials Development for the past two years.  It demonstrates the changing landscape of how people process language and texts these days.  I believe this technology is fundamentally changing the way people function in English as a foreign language, and therefore, will change forever the way we teach English as a foreign language...whether we like it or not.

Have a look at this very good blog post that explains how the site works with some very good screenshots and easy to understand language: Topicmarks: Extract Facts from Lengthy Documents and Obtain Their Summaries

Would love to hear from any luddites about the ramifications of this technology on learning and reading. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Teacher's Pet - word sentence jumble

Teacher's Pet ( is a great tool to add to your WORD or OPEN OFFICE software.  It consists of a number of 'macros' which let you create simple paper-based exercises very quickly.

Here is an example of the use of the jumble words in a sentence.

Teacher's Pet: Pair Matching

Teacher's Pet ( is a great tool to add to your WORD or OPEN OFFICE software.  It consists of a number of 'macros' which let you create simple paper-based exercises very quickly.

Here is an example of the use of the pair matching 'macro'.

Using the 'FORMAT PAINTER' tool for interactive WORD documents

I use the FORMAT PAINTER tool almost every time I create a WORD document.  It saves me countless hours when it comes to formatting.

  • When our classrooms were equipped with data projectors, I came up with a rather simple technique that lets me create an 'interactive' WORD document on the fly, literally in seconds, which I can print out for a paper-based material and then check 'interactively' using the data projector.  
  • If I want to save on paper, I can just use the worksheet right on the data projector 'on the fly' -- which really appears to me, as I fly by the seat of my pants quite often when it comes to technology. :)

I just created a simple demonstration of how I use this as a short video:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Free Thesaurus by Grammarly

There are a number of online thesauri around.  See our Lexis page for links to thesauri, collocation dictionaries, etc. Students are spoiled for choice these days.

Here is one I came across recently:

  • Not as nice as the visual dictionaries on offer, but it is pitched at a level that EFL students could use.  
  • All of the words have definitions, and most of the more common words will have examples to show the sense of the word in context.
  • Really easy to navigate and use.
  • Also, dead easy to provide a link in any online feedback to writing, as the URL can simply be edited with the word in question, e.g. -- if your students submit their work online, you could easily hyperlink some of the main words that they are using incorrectly to have a look for the more appropriate synonyms.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Descriptive Video for the English Language classrom

Using descriptive videos in teaching and learning English

Meral, Ozge, Gizem and I created this video to teach comparatives and superlatives for new English learners. This was part fulfillment for the group project in CTE319.
  • As a group, we thought that the students may be confused about these two topics, even though they have seen the grammar and done lots of exercises in the course books.  
  • So, we thought that they might better consolidate what they know by watching this video.

    How to make a descriptive video

    We go the idea of creating a descriptive video from Mr Fogle, a teacher in America, who shared the process he used with his elementary school students.  We found that that this approach can be meaningful for groups of students of any age.

    We followed Mr. Fogle's steps easily.  It took us some time to come up with the scenario, but while shooting the video, we tried to do our best, so it took 3 hours in total. 

    While creating our video according to Mr Fogle's steps, we had a second camera to show the 'behind the scenes' of us creating the video.  You can see here how we arranged the camera, read the script and animated the pictures and graphics.  If you watch this, you will know exactly how we shot the video.


    We took pictures while we were making the video, and produced this Stupeflix video to document the process.

    So what?  How can descriptive videos improve learning?

    This video can be used to motivate and warm up the students to the lesson before introducing comparatives and superlatives.
    • If they know a little about the play, "Waiting for Godot", the video would be more meaningful.  In using this with students, we might get them to read about the play first, in their L1 (For Turkish, start them off here:
    • You can apply the standard techniques in using a video, such as playing it without sound at first to elicit the language, get them to retell the video after watching it, etc.
    • For a weak class, you might like to review some of the adjectives used in the video, so they can concentrate on the form.
    Upon reflection

    In fact, shooting the video made us as ELT teachers-in-training remember and review our own knowledge about the topic of comparatives and superlatives.
    • So, rather than teachers creating these videos, perhaps students could be asked to create their own descriptive videos based on their own understanding of the language they are learning.
    • While preparing the video, I learned that there should be at least three members in the group because a lot of interesting ideas came up from the members and this made the entire process from brainstorming to publishing the video enjoyable.
    • Also, it is impossible to create the video with the active participation of at least four people.  This is a good exercise in cooperative and collaborative learning.

    Words and phrases: frequency, genres, collocates, concordances, synonyms, and WordNet

    For those of you who like working with corpora, Mark Davies has just released a new interface for the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English). Mouthwatering stuff!  Especially the upcoming resource that will let you input a text you've written to get an analysis and suggestions for words that you could use to improve it. My prediction of more corpus-assisted language production tools just came true.  God bless Mr Davies!

    Here is a brief introduction to how the site works:

    Read on for a copy of the body of the email message circulated by Mark Davies (thanks to Gulşen Musayeva-Vefali and Nilgun Hancioğlu for this):

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Kalinago English: 10 Speaking English Activities using

    I love TEDtalks, but I haven't used them in class (although I have worked online discussion tasks around a few).

    • In Kalinago English: 10 Speaking English Activities using the blogger addresses the EFL teacher 'knee-jerk' reaction to think that before using a video in class one has to spend hours developing pre-, while- and post-video worksheets. 
    •  Granted, you don't want to just turn on a YouTube video and slip out for a quick cup of coffee, but the ideas in this blog post are very practical and present the essences of teaching, which is to engage students in the learning process.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Feed a child, feed a dream

    In between marking finals and midterms, you might like to watch a few of these videos about the real impact of the World Food Programme, and the grains of rice that we managed to donate in our FREERICE challenge.

    If we run the FREERICE challenge again, perhaps we could use some of these videos to introduce our students to the WFP and explore what happens to the grains of rice we donate by playing a game.

    EMU trounces METU.NCC in the 2011 FREERICE challenge

    Thanks to everyone who took part in the 2011 EMU-METU.NCC FREERICE CHALLENGE. Well done to all...the motto of the FREERICE challenge in North Cyprus was "every meal begins with a single grain of rice..." All together, we amassed over 2 million grains of rice in less than one month, which will feed 125 hungry people.

    1. In the SFL STUDENT CATEGOGRY, EMU students defeated METU.NCC by a donating a whopping 1,543,750 grains of rice, over 15 times as much as METU.NCC students, who donated a respectable 97,980 grains
      • The startling fact was that the vast majority of EMU's contributions came from a handful of students in Nevin Adalar's I-106 class. Amazing work, guys! 
        • Just imagine how many meals we could have donated if each and every student in the SFL had pitched in....over 2 billion grains of rice--or enough to feed well over 10,000 people. 
        • Thanks I-106 students and Nevin for setting such a great example.
      • Thanks to all the students in ENG311 for pitching in -- you far outnumbered the EMU SFL students, but we just ran out of time...
    2. While EMU dominated in the STUDENT CATEGORY, in the EFL INSTRUCTOR CATEGORY, METU.NCC came out handily on top, with the METU.NCC ELT teachers-in-training donating 147,390 compared to 125,240 for the Instructors in the School of Foreign Languages. The Instructors at EMU came a distant third with 92690 grains.
      • Thanks to all the instructors who gave up their coffee breaks over to FREERICE for the month of December.


    DIAMOND (OVER 500,000 grains)