martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010


Prompting reading speeds

This is a really handy little tool which is doing the rounds at the moment. It's called CuePrompter and it's an online Teleprompter. 


Sound Transit is a really wonderful formulation of an idea. It's not just a huge collection of Mp3 sound files from all over the world, but the sounds have been tagged by country and described and a visitor to the site can take a sound journey around the world.

martes, 7 de diciembre de 2010


Creating multimedia stories

I know that it's easy to be cynical about Microsoft, but every now and then they do produce great things for free! Photo Story 3 is one of those great things, and yes it is free!

Photo Story 3 a piece of free software that you can download to your PC and use to create multimedia photo stories complete with images, transitions, effects, text, background music and your own voice narration.

I know there are a lot of online Web 2.0 ap that do all of this too, but for those of us with slower, unreliable or more expensive connections, it's nice to have a bit of software that can do the job for us without using any bandwidth at all (apart from downloading it of course).

You should be able to download Photo Story 3 from
It's a 5 Mb download, so that shouldn't take too long even over a dial up connection.

How to use this with students
You can use it to create multimedia materials for your students, whether is for use in class or to take home for homework. Here's some things you can do:
  • Create some narratives for them to view
  • Create narratives which illustrate grammar points
Create a series of pictures and words which illustrate different sounds from the Phonemic alphabet .
Having software like this that can produce a professional looking end product can be really motivating for students and really help them to push themselves to produce accurate polished work. Here's some things you can get your students to do:
It's ideal for presenting the results of project work.

  • Get the students to take photographs and upload them to tell their own stories to the class
  • What they do each day
  • What they did at the weekend / on holiday
  • Stories about their family
  • Get some pictures from Flickr and get the students to order them and create a story around them.
 What I liked about it
  • It's free
  • Easy to use and quick to learn
  • Really liked some of the filter effects
  • Liked the way you can easily create a wide range of background musics
  • File sizes were quite reasonable and exports pretty easily for a number of different devices


Soundscapes from Soundtransit

Sound Transit is a really wonderful formulation of an idea. It's not just a huge collection of Mp3 sound files from all over the world, but the sounds have been tagged by country and described and a visitor to the site can take a sound journey around the world.
You just choose your country of origin, your destination and how many stops you want to make. You then get offered a choice of itineraries with stops at various destinations and descriptions of what you will hear there. You choose the one you want and then the site edits together the individual sounds to create a unique sound journey for you. You can then download your mp3 sound journey, listen to it online or send it to a friend.
  • To try this go to the Book a Transit part of the site. It's just like booking a flight on an airline website (except that it's free and a lot more user friendly!!)
Alternatively you can search the database of individual files by country, keyword or creator and just download the sounds you want. All the sounds are licensed under creative commons 2.0 so you can save and reuse them according to the limitations defined by that license.How to use this with students
  • You can use the sounds for visualisations. Get the students to listen with closed eyes then write about what they heard. Or they can create a story from what they heard.
  • You could collect four or five clips for students to listen to and then get them to create a chapter / episode of a story around each one.
  • You could use them for grammar practice ( e.g. present continuous "Someone is speaking." etc.)
  • You could get the students to use the site to plan a holiday with four or five destinations then use the descriptions in the itinerary to say what they 'will / are going to' do at each place. They can then choose the best holiday. For past tense practice they can tell other students what the did on their holiday while the students listen to the sounds.
  • For vocabulary practice they could just listen and say the things they hear. This will probably involve a lot of guessing, so you could extend this for practice of modals of probability (e.g. It might be someone eating, It can't be in Argentina. That must be a car door etc.)
  • You could use this site to give students inspiration to collect their own sounds and to tell the rest of the class about them. They could even upload them to the site and share them.
  • They could create their own sound journeys ( e.g. Going to school, what they did at the weekend etc.)
  • You could play 'Guess the sound' as a warmer with student and award points to each student or team.
  • You could ask students to find their favourite sounds or talk about what the sounds remind them of. (e.g. This is one of my favourites. It's the call to prayer. This one was recorded in Delhi, but it reminds me of when I lived in Cairo. I went out to Giza one evening and listened as thousands of mosques from all over Cairo erupted in to a grand symphony of sound.)
    Listen here
  • You can use the sounds to create atmosphere for story telling activities or student plays
  • You can play the John Cage game and just get the students to sit silently and listen to the sounds around them in the school classroom ( for 4 mins and 33 seconds) then talk about what they heard. You could also tell them about the famous John Cage composition 4'33" afterwards and ask them what they think of it.
  • You can play "Where am I?" by playing them one of the sounds and asking them to guess where you are. Try this one. I'm in a cafe in Moscow getting some coffee
What I liked about this site
  • It's a wonderful free resource with a huge collection of sounds.
  • It can really get students thinking about the sound environment they live in.
  • I love the idea that the sounds are tagged to countries and that students can book a sound journey.
  • The creative commons license


If you enjoy working with images with your EFL students, especially on an IWB (interactive whiteboard) or a data projector, then PicLens is exactly what you need.

PicLens is a plugin (small program) that works within your web browser (there are versions for Firefox, Safari and IE 7) and it converts many of the standard image sharing websites, like
flickr, Photobucket, Google Images, Yahoo Images etc. into "3D immersive environments"!

How to use this with ELT students on your data projector or IWB

  • Pull up a wall of images and describe one while your students try to guess which one it is. Then get a student to describe an image and the others guess which one. (This will work best with quite similar images). You can then get students to do this in pairs.
  • Type in a search term and ask students to describe the connection / relevance of the image to the term (This works best when you enter abstract nouns like politics, alienation, paranoia etc.)
  • Use the resource for any new vocabulary words that come up in your lesson. Simply collect the words, type them in and find images that relate to the word. (This won't work for every word)
  • Get students to compare and contrast two images (A common task in EFL exams such as FCE)
  • Play just a minute and select an image for each student, they then have to talk for one minute about that image with repeating them selves or pausing (This is difficult to do, so don't expect too much) award points for the student who manages to speak for the longest.
  • Put students with their back to the images, select one and the other students (in two teams or groups) have to describe the image to the student who can't see it. The student then has to guess which image they described.
  • Pull up a single image and ask students to think about the photographer's intention.
    • Why did the photographer take the image?
    • What did they want to say?
    • What is their relationship to the image content?
    • What were they doing before, after they took the image?
  • Students can select their favourite image and explain why they like it, or the one they like least.
  • Students can try to use their imagination to describe the space around the image that you don't see.
    • What's happening around the photographer that you don't see?
    • What is the photographer wearing?
    • What's happening behind the photographer?
    • Describe the photographer (age, gender, nationality, personality etc.)
  • What I like about it
    • The Plugin is free and very simple to download and install and less than 2 Mb
    • The interface is really easy to use and very attractive
    • It really highlights the images and frees then from the textual distraction that you often find on a web page
    • There's no advertising on it
    • You get access to some really fantastic images in class without having to download them or violate anyone's copyright
    • The most recent version also enables you to create immersive walls of videos from YouTube !!! Fantastic!
If you want to use PicLens then you can download it from here:


For the last few days I've been playing with WallWisher a handy tool for creating online noticeboards that you can add sticky notes to.
It's very easy to create your own noticeboard, just click where it says 'Build a Wall' and you'll see a new wall with some options on it that you need to complete. Basically these are:
  • Uploading an image
  • Choosing colours
  • Adding title and subtitle
  • Creating your password
  • Deciding who can see and add to your wall

Once you have done this you just click the big 'Done' button and you are almost ready to start adding content to your wall. Before you start to add content you'll need to check your email account where you should find your password. Then you just log in to your wall and double click on the wall to start adding the sticky notes.
The sticky notes are quite simple, you just add some text and you can either link to an image, a video or a web page.

The nice thing about this is that when users click on the link it opens in a pop up browser over the wall. This means that you can use your wall to focus students access to sites like flickr or Youtube and stop them drifting into other content. It also means that you can use the wall to set up specific activities and get your students to post their responses on the wall (as long as you have selected 'Everyone' to allow others to post to the wall)

So how do we use this with students?

  • We can create video tasks and get students to post responses to the wall by leaving it open for everyone to contribute. Here's a wall that I created about Ramadan. This wall has been left open for anyone to contribute to.
  • We could use the wall to collect different links to various resources around the web for students to explore, a little like a web quest or treasure hunt.
  • We could give students a theme and get them to create their own walls based around that theme.
  • We could get students to create fan walls based around a favourite band or celebrity.
  • You can use the wall to collect and share resources like this one on IELTS
  • You could use the wall to set up video or image based activities. Here's a video activity that I have set up for teachers based around a Mr Bean Video. Feel free to contribute.
  • This activity uses an image to get students to practice using present continuous.
  • You can use the wall to create debates. You can do this either by posting your own contentious opinions or using videos from sites like and get students to respond. This could be a way of dealing with sensitive issues and enabling students to be able to express opinions that they might not feel comfortable doing in the classroom. Here's an example
  • We can even create grammar walls and get students to post what they know and examples of different verb tenses or grammar points.
  • We could even get students to post their wishes on it using third conditional.
  • Or last but not least we could use it to notify our students or parents of homework assignments and keep them up to date with what's happening in class.



I've always found wise (and sometimes not so wise) quotes really useful, both within the classroom with students and as a way of introducing a topic when writing materials. I've used lots of different websites to find quotes over the years, but iWise is certainly about to become my new favourite as it seems to have taken wise quotes to a new level.
You can search for quotes by keyword, look at quotes of the day, browse quotes by topic or just click for a random quote.
Here are some suggestions:
  • Get students to find a random quote and translate it into their own language or find a parallel quote in their own L1.
  • Collect 8 - 10 quotes on a similar topic and get students to discus them and see which ones they prefer / most agree with.
  • Get 8 - 10 quotes and cut them in half to create a matching activity. Get your students to match the two halves of each quote.
  • Get you students to match the quotes to the writer of the quote.
  • Give your students a list of 6 - 8 topics and ask them to find their favourite quote on each topic, then compare them in class and discus / have a class vote on which is the best (students should try to convince others in the class that theirs is the best quote)
  • Get two+ quotes on the same topic. Print them up and put them around the class get the students to stand by the one they most like / agree with and discus why.
  • Choose 2 -3 people and get your students to find their best quotes, then compare that quotes and try to decide which of the people is the wisest.
  • Give the first part of some quotes to your students and see if your students can write an ending to it.
  • Find some quotes about someone and see if the students can guess who they are about.
  • Use a single quote at the start of each lesson to lead in to the theme of the lesson.
  • Use a single quote at the start of each lesson as a warmer and ask students if they agree / disagree with the quote. They could give it marks out of ten too. Keep a league of favourite quotes.

sábado, 4 de diciembre de 2010


Phonology can be fun and free

Phonetics Focus is a really wonderful new free resource produced by Cambridge English Online Ltd.

Basically it is a collection of interactive multimedia Flash based games and resources that can be accessed through the CEO website at

What is it?
In all there are almost 20 different interactive tools all accessible through the one page. These vary from an interactive phonemic chart where users can click on the symbols to hear the sounds and so develop their knowledge of the chart and the phonemic alphabet, through to more fun games which involve shooting the correct sounds to make a word in a ‘duck shoot’ type game.

What I liked about it
All of the activity types are pretty intuitive as they draw on standards like hangman, odd one out, word searches etc and they all have clear instructions. Many of the games and quizzes also have more than one level so this isn’t just for beginners.

Some of the really exceptional features are:
  • ‘Record and Practice’ which is a small tool that users can download to help them record and listen back to what they
  • ‘Flashcard Maker’ which helps you to make your own flashcards by either using images from an image library or sketching you own pictures on the program, and adding phonemic symbols to them. You can then print them up for use in class.
  • ‘Entry and Exit’ tests so that students can check their level before using the tools and then check again as often as they want afterwards.
I have to say that it’s rare to find really good computer based pronunciation materials, but to find them for free is a real exception. They are really nicely designed, work well, load pretty quickly and have made really good use of multimedia. This is a fantastic free resource that will be useful for teachers and for students of any level or age too.


I've been looking this week at Forvo, which is a kind of web 2.0 pronunciation site. The site allows users to request, and add audio clips of the pronunciation of different words from a huge range of languages, so if you want to know how a word is pronounced you can either do a quick easy search for the word and then listen to it, or if the word isn't already within the database, you can add it and request a pronunciation.


Dictation goes Web 2.0

Yes and why not? Seems hard to see how this would be accomplished but it certainly does seem to be the case at the Listen and Write - Dictation website. What's more it seems to have been done in a pretty impressive way too.

Writing phonetic transcriptions

Adding Phonetic Symbols to a Webpage is a handy tool that allows you to add phonetic symbols to a webpage. It doesn't just have the ones for English, but has a few other languages too. Seems like you just type in the consonants from the keyboard and click on the additional symbols to add them. Then just cut and paste the script into your page.


  • After you copy text from the above box and paste it into your word processor or e-mail message, make sure you choose a Unicode font with IPA symbols in your word processor or e-mail application. Otherwise, phonetic symbols may not display correctly.

  • Recommended IPA fonts available on various platforms:

  • Windows XP: Lucida Sans Unicode


      Text2Phonetics is a very handy site if you like to use phonemic script with your students. It can take a lot of the hard work out of transcribing text to phonetic symbols. You just paste in a short piece of text, click a button, and it does it for you.

      You can then copy and paste the text into websites or documents.
      Here's a few ways you might use it.
      • Get students to type example sentences using new vocabulary words and convert them to script.
      • Produce some sample sentences in script for your students to decode and read.
      • Produce some examples of script and the original text and add some pronunciation errors to the script and see if they can spot the errors.
      • Get students to translate short texts or sentences to script and then use the site to compare and check their own transcriptions.
      • Create transcribed versions of conversations or dialogue and get students to draw on the intonation patterns to show where the intonation rises or falls. You could actually use short exerts from film or TV scripts to do this and then find the clip on YouTube so they can listen to hear the intonation. Drew's Script-O-Rama is a good place to find TV scripts.

      viernes, 3 de diciembre de 2010


      Using YouTube videos with students can be really great, but finding a video with the exact language you want and at a suitable length with too many other distractions around can be really difficult. That's why SafeShare.TV is so useful.

      CREATE A VIDEO QUIZ is a great free site that enables you to create your own quizzes based on video clips from popular sharing sites like YouTube or BlipTV.

      jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010


      Vorbeo must be one of the quickest and easiest poll creators I've ever seen. All you need to do is to go to there website at:


      Ask 500  People  is a really simple single question survey tool.You just give your survey a name, then decide on the type of questions you want to ask.

      miércoles, 1 de diciembre de 2010


      Mashpedia  is a combination of a search engine and an encyclopedia. It's very simple to use, you just type in a search query and hit search.


      Urtak is a web based social polling application that enables you to very quickly and easily create online polls and questionnaires.

      Once your poll is complete you can either link to it via the URL or embed it into a web page.