Sunday, 28 August 2011

A present for my new school year - Papershow

My school administration surprised me by giving me a present to be used in the classroom in the new school year. The present is a digital writing set consisting of a special interactive notebook and a Bluetooth digital pen - PAPERSHOW.
image from

Its version Papershow for Teachers developed for and by teachers can be viewed here

The idea of the tool is to enable the teacher write (anything) while walking around the classroom. The teacher's notes are displayed on the screen / whiteboard instantly. (You need a computer connected to a video projector, of course.)

image from

I have tried it and I like it for the simple reason that it is another way of making the lessons more interactive and technology-supported. The tool can definitely be used also by the students which will increase their interest and participation in the study process.
After I try the tool out in the classroom, I promise an update about how it works and what its benefits are.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Where to fish for back-to-school ideas

image by jchip8 from

While I was thinking of writing about my favourite back-to-school activities, I realized that none of them are downright my creations, they have all been gathered over the years from different websites, jotted down at seminars, learned at conferences, heard form colleagues.
So what I ended up doing was I decided to post a digest of web links to different sites which offer useful tips and classroom materials for the first lessons of the new school year.

Scholastic is a fantastic website for all things teachers need. Here are a few pages with valuable advice and tips.
Top 5 Ways to Get to Know Your Students - great suggestions for introductions and getting acquainted with your new class.
8 Ways to Welcome Students -
help your students feel comfortable in the new class.
Fabulous First-Day Ideas - suggestions for classroom activities on the first days of school.

Another great website for teachers is Education World. Check out these pages.
Fun Activities: Get the School Year Off To a Good Start - will help the teacher get the year off to a great start.
Icebreakers Volume 4: Activities for the First Day of School -
teacher-tested ideas for getting to know your students.
Check out more icebreakers and other fabulous ideas in Back to School Archive.

Teaching Happily Ever After
is a great blog about creative teaching which has a page on back-to-school activities suitable for little kids. You will get inspired by the pictures of classroom arrangement and decorations, and you can also read some useful tips.

Brainpop has a fantastic Back-to-school page with an interactive quiz, lesson plans, graphic organizers and a Brainpop animated movie kids will love.

A huge list of back to school activities has been published on the TeachersCorner. Be prepared to spend some time reading about "get to know you" and icebreaker ideas, first day lessons, and bulletin board ideas. Printable activities and worksheets included.

There are plenty of websites which offer printable worksheets and lesson activities. Here are just a few of them.

A terrific collection of 80 Back-to-School - First Lesson worksheets is published on BusyTeacher website. The worksheets are aimed at younger kids but you will find many activities suitable also for older students.
Freeology website has a great collection of printables including icebreakers, "get to know you" games, and beginning of the year activities.

Finally, check out this video for little kids which is the right choice for setting the cheerful and dynamic mood in the classroom.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Short writing activities for exam classes

Writing is one of the most difficult parts of the English exam for non-native speakers. While they are coping with speaking and reading tasks quite easily, writing exam may cause much distress and anxiety to a number of students. Teachers can do a lot to help their students to prepare for the exam.

Here are a few suggestions how you can raise students' confidence by using short and effective writing activities.

1. Expand the sentence
Write a short sentence on the board and ask your students to expand it by adding adjectives, adverbs, intensifiers, modifiers, clauses and so on. Ask your students to build a pyramid of the sentences in their copybooks and after they have run out of ideas, ask them to read their final (longest) sentence and vote for the best one. This activity can also be done orally, then the sentence "travels" round the classroom until it is complete, i.e. no more words can be added.
Example: The boy ate a sandwich ✒ The hungry boy ate a big sandwich ✒ The hungry little boy ate a big ham sandwich ✒ The hungry little boy hurriedly ate a big ham and cheese sandwich ✒ In the kitchen, the hungry little boy hurriedly ate a big ham and cheese sandwich and asked for more, etc.

2. Write a chain story
Tell your students that they are going to write a ghost story (an adventure story, a crime story, a love story, a horror story etc). Write the first sentence of the story on a sheet of paper and pass it on to the nearest student who then writes the second sentence and passes the sheet on to the next classmate. Each student writes one sentence.
To involve more students simultaneously, put them ir groups and give the same starter sentence to each group. In the end read and compare the stories.
Starter sentences: It was a dark and stormy night... / Somewhere in the house a floorboard creaked... / The house looked abandoned and bleak but...

3. Write the opening sentence
Tell your students the topic of an essay for which they have to write the opening sentence. Give them 3-4 minutes and then ask them to read their sentences. Discuss which was the best and why. Be prepared to read your own sentence.
Example: Surveillance cameras are a threat to citizens' privacy.
Variants of the opening sentence: a) Today surveillance cameras are everywhere b) Today citizens are being watched, spoken to, and analyzed by CCTV cameras c) Surveillance cameras are used for prevention of disorder or crime, etc. 

4. Associations
Tell the students one word, eg. yellow, and ask them to write a quick sentence describing their accociations with the word or the first thought that comes to their mind when they imagine the word.
Example: I was standing in a huge field of sunflowers and listening to the hum of bees.

5. Picture description
Display a picture on the board and ask your students to write all the words that they can think of while looking at the picture. 
To give the task some structure, be specific - first ask them to write nouns (the easiest category), then adjectives, verbs, adverbs and finally ask them to make up a long sentence using the words they wrote down. As usual, listen to the sentences read out by the students and pick the best one.
If you have time, you may ask your students to write a longer description of the picture or invent a story based on the scene. A variant of the story: Describe what happened before the moment in the picture.

Sample photo:
The image was taken from my favourite website where you can find fantastic pictures on any topic.

Here is a brilliant website for you and those students who would like to spend more time on developing their writing skills:

You may read my older post about developing writing with the help of journals.