Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you.
My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three yearss. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.
2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students.
Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Thursday, 17 April 2014

FAWLTY TOWERS for Funny-ELT-Consideration...

Is it remotely possible that any British person born in the 2oth century has not heard of this iconic comedy series? I also reckon millions of Americans, Indians, Australians, Canadians and South Africans have all had the joy of watching this wonderful "televisual feast" (Bernard Cribbins in Hotel Inspectors).  

So, I thought to myself it only fair that my Turkish students get to watch this also at 14 (it is when I first saw it), and do some scaffolded work that I have prepared through making edited clips and word/phrases lists for them to thoroughly enjoy. But before I share that particular avenue of happiness and joy (John Cleese in Hotel Inspectors) enjoy Cleese talking about his legendary show in this short video interview.


I am sure you enjoyed that little insight to the great man? So, what have I done?

First of all, when I thought about how to balance out our very heavy 6 week unit on The Boy in the Striped pyjamas and Auschwitz, I wanted to give the students a sense of light relief, while at the same time get a handle on more cultural comedy, language and the happiness they will feel once they can get into the style of sarcasm Cleese et al utilize and display with an impressive mastery.  So, first I started surfing for the episodes.  THAT was really easy, since everything is now available in this medium on the net (it wasn't when I first had the idea of making comedy Falty ELT units).  Next I had to find the srt or subtitles for each episode.  There would be little or no chance in keeping the students interested by listening and viewing alone.  That did take a little longer, but I found them courtesy of a Canadian site which had each one in place.  Next I wanted to edit the episodes. However, that would be really tricky, difficult and boring to then re add subtitles with all the mixing I'd have to do. It mean I hardcoded each episode with the subtitles.

Order of Events
Search for the episodes in mp4 or avi
Search and locate the srt subtitle-files for each one
Hardcode each episode with the appropriate subtitles
Watch each episode again and decide on parts to cut
Upload the edited segments onto google drive
Transfer the GD-urls to BLENDSPACE for each episode
Watch the edited pieces again and pull language out
Record the language and grammar phraseology on word
Write surface-questions and add those to BLENDSPACE
Convert the word documents to PDF (all platform use)
Upload to the GoogleDrive folder for adding to website
Copy the shared links and add them to our blogsite
Give FAWLTY TOWERS its own special place on site

That was THIRTEEN STEPS (and I am on holiday!).  I kept at it because I believe in this
as a way to get more language over. It may not work, but I doubt it.  Perhaps the fact it is from the 70s may have a negative impact, but I believe because of the slapstick element to it, even though so much of the sarcasm will be lost on the young Turks, I am sure they will remember Falty Towers for the rest of their lives, like I have from 14 years of age.  I recognised much of what was being said, and I have to be honest it appears ı have modelled a lot of my own attempts at humor on Cleese et al.  It is a great thing to realise that unconsciencly I have kept the memory alive of those shows with me for teaching purposes.  I don't mean setting fire to the school canteen, or building new walls to keep people out, but just the little mannerisms, and witty quotes that make Fawlty Towers what it is: COMEDY GOLD!.  


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Why Do WE think we have the right to do this...?

A friend of mine shared a YouTube video last week, and after I watched it I told myself that I simply had to share it with my students.  The video was made by a brilliant animator who felt so empassioned by humans' disregard for nature and its wonderful inhabitants. The creator, Steve Cutts, has put together a very clever allegorical tale of how we, as the human race, have walked on the planet solely for our own needs, and without any consideration for animals.

I first made a Blendspace, which can be seen here

So, my intention was to get students to critically think about themselves, and how much
their own attitude to animals mirrored that of the film creator and director.  I pre-empted the video with a predictive question of what the video would be about.  I then asked for some examples that prove humankind treats the animal kingdon with respect.  I asked if anyone knew what had happened to the DodoBurd.  There was not one student able to do so. I concluded that even the importance of knowing what has happened to extinct animals is being excluded from natural history and science lessons.

We then watched the video, and followed it by asking questions.


Finally, the students wrote on Edmodo about the video and its really powerful (and embarrassing) message. These are the responses from a small group of Turkish 15yr olds, who have been learning English for only 8 months... (no editing therein)

Remember, the Dodo was an animal that we wiped off the face of the Earth 375 years ago. It seems like we want all species to go extinct in the same way. We MUST stop the insatiable desire for "progress" at the expense of the animal kingdom. Showing your students such videos may not directly help save the animals, but it might start to make our youth more aware of the faults our ancestors began, and we  still continue today.

Saturday, 5 April 2014


Being an EFL Educator means you always have to be aware of including new vocabulary for almost every lesson.  It means you cannot be complacent when preparing what the students are hopefully going to enjoy and participate in with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, for most EFL students, the boring drilling and memorizing nature of vocabulary building is an irritation, even though they know deep down that is an integral part of their learning curve if they hope to be genuinely proficient in L2,3 or 4.  Flip over to us, the educators, and our conundrum is knowing which lexical items to include for activity-focus. That is why it is never easy.  However, with the inception of thousands of ICT-APPS in the past four years, the task can be made easier for us, and even a bit more interesting for our students.  Here is one way to approach lexical-items inclusion for a research project.

By using the website, VISUALTHESAURUS for making wordlists, you can have a very quick list(s) for the benefit of your students. The book the students have been reading, MUD CITY (previous post on the research activity), is the background to getting students both to read a novel in English, quickly, and to enter into serious research on subjects ranging from the Taliban to child-kidnapping and refugee camps.  So, I took the e-book version and opened it up in CALIBRE on my PC.  I then cut-n-paste each chapter into the Visual Thesaurus Vocabulary Grabber.  The results are excellent and the site provides you with the following visuals.  Here is chapter three in graphic form.

We asked the students if they liked the colored images over b/w word lists and they all responded in the affirmative.  Now, you may being saying to yourself, "So what? I do this already, what's new about it?"  This is where I reckon the new idea comes in.

1: We assigned the students one chapter each.  
2: They chose 20 words they felt would be good to learn 
3: They then submitted those words in a prepared table 

This was done using GOOGLE DRIVE, the ONLY way to collaborate (seriously)

(previous posts on GoogleDrive: ONE, TWO , THREE)

Once the students had chosen their words, found the correct Turkish meaning (we helped there, as well as by using their laptop bi-linguage dictionaries), they then had to put in a false meaning to box two.  This was so we could make a class set of multi-choice quizzes on our PLN, Edmodo.  The students thought this was really cool that they could be the test maker for their peers.  So, again, ICT really got the students engaged, and I DO mean all of them.
Here is a visual of the top scorers and an analytical breakdown of words.  You will see that "collapse" has many wrong answers. In fact, it is because the student who prepared the definitions put down the wrong one. But it was OK because we identified it and got everyone focused on the word at the same time post results.

We have had a 15 minute pop quiz each day on the students' chosen words. The kids actually love doing these types of quizzes for vocabulary, and it is the real reason for this post.  Don't baulk at giving these types of quizzes. They are acting as formative assessments plus the students get to see them again and again. The seventeen pop quizzes average will be taken and that grade inserted into the students' performance note.


The activity covers several areas of interest for us, and the students of course.

VOCABULARY from the current text
SESLI SÖZLÜK (English-Turkish digital dictionary)
Memorizing of the Lexical Items for pop-quizzes

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Students Get Serious About Bullying

Each and every year of our program, I still get genuinely excited at the start of the second semester.  After a long and tiresome first semester, in which the primary focus of our syllabus is building our students' core English language skills, we return from the mid-year holiday break, and our attention turns to building academic skills and the importance of group work through three different thematic-based units.  

The first of which is based upon There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, written by acclaimed children's novelist, Louis Sachar.  This is a story of a young fifth-grader named Bradley Chalkers who is a loner and a terrible student.  Because of his serious lack of belief in himself, as well as receiving minimal pastoral support from his family, Bradley turns to bullying his school peers in order to make himself feel better.  It isn't until a young, unorthodox school counselor named Carla Davis begins to take him under her wing that Bradley gradually starts to change for the better.

Although much of the novel does center around the personal growth and change in Bradley, my colleague and I decided that our core target while teaching this unit would be bullying.  As educators, we have become all very aware of the prevalence of bullying in schools all around the world, and the terrible consequences it has on those affected.  Even in our own private high school in an outer suburb of Istanbul, though physical bullying is rare, mental, verbal and cyber-bullying all do occur on a regular basis.  

So, with this in mind, we wanted to first remind our students of the seriousness of bullying,  teach them the different types, the consequences, as well as the reasons behind it through the use of various videos and non-fiction articles.  One video I highly recommend that you watch and discuss with your students is called the Bullying Experiment, made by a couple of university students in the U.S.A. Check it out below...


The Project

After spending around two weeks discussing the various aspects of bullying and what we can do about it, we assigned our students a group project that they would work on autonomously in and outside of school time for the following two weeks.  Their task was to create and promote their own Anti-Bullying Campaign which they would not only present to us, but also, in conjunction with our counseling department, present to the middle school students. The only requirement that we gave them was that they had to use one or more ICT tools to create their projects.  For example, they could create their own bullying scenarios and record them on IMovie; they could create their own Stop Motion videos; or they could make promotional posters on Glogster.  

The key, we believe, is that we gave them the freedom to be creative and produce whatever inspired them about bullying.  This also left us to be very curious about what what they would come up with, and in the end, several of the groups left us speechless...

Emre and Kaan

Despite waiting until the last couple of days, this group made a massive effort in producing their own Stop Bullying website using wix.com.  The image below is the home page of their site, and you can see that they included the different types of bullying, how to stop it, and the reasons why people get bullied.  Finally, they even add a link to a video about bullying that they thought gave a great message. 


Gözde and Mina

The other example of a magnificent group effort that we would you like to share with you is these two students decided to make their own IMovie about two girls... one is the bully, and the other is the victim.  Using only strong facial expressions and short messages on cards, they explain why children become bullies, and how it feels to be a victim. We were simply blown away by it.  Have a look at it below...

To be quite honest, I was definitely worried a few days before the deadline of the project.  When asking the students where they were in terms of getting their presentations ready, many admitted that they still had lots of work to do.  I was thinking at that point that leaving them to their own devices was probably not the best idea.  In the end, however, they had all proved me wrong. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Have you ever wondered where toilet paper originated? or Do we get wetter in the rain when we walk or run? or the old classico, What came first, the chicken or the egg? 

So I came across this really interesting book last year, written by Andrew Thompson. The publication is packed with curious and interesting facts that we all take for granted, and probably never really think about it.  The way Thompson has laid it out, and the simple explanations he uses means EFL students at around pre-intermediate/B1 level can grasp the content and do some non-fiction reading.  Here are the other chapters in the book, first:

So, you can see that the list of topics is really quite extensive.  The activity I thought about using, and has now become an integral part of Wednesday mornings, is one student each week presents one topic to the class.  They have to make a blendspace of what they highlighted, write two or three EQs, then have an open-ended class-discussion on what they have learned from reading the article.

I chose the topic above since there was a really great thing that happened on the first week of the activity.  One of our really inquisitive boys, Rüzgar, had chosen this topic since he really wants to study science in high school.  So, this physics type of question was perfect for him.  So, he went away and did all the that was asked of him, and he came back excited about what he had learned.  While he was presenting our Deputy Principal looked in to make an announcement.  But, when he saw what Rüzgar was telling the class he took a seat.  Mahir, the DP, is also a physics teacher. So, now Rüzgar was presenting to his future physics teacher, and he had many facts to impress him.  It was brilliant to watch both the excited student, and the willing science teacher engaging in the subject. It was also great for me tıo take a back seat and see another teacher at work on my lesson. 

The really great thing about having Mahir in the class was that he really knew the subject
before, and he came up to the board, posed some other questions, and made diagrams
to explain the topic even more.  It was wonderful to see the students learning science in English, and normally the activity lasts fifteen minutes, but this time we were engrossed for forty minutes.  It was great to have some collaboration with an administrator, and also the science department.  It was a clear example of how important it is to share such activities with other departments, so that more solidarity between all parties is developed in school.

Monday, 24 March 2014


Carl Reiner's 1979 comedy masterpiece, The Jerk, is still one of my favorite films of all time.  The Reiner-Steve Martin co-writing, directing and starring is so clever in ever respect, the irony of the title could never be more striking.
Basically, Navin (Martin), has grown up in an African-American family thinking he was born Black.  He has no rythym, his favorite meal is a Twinky and a can of Tab, but he has no sense of purpose for his future.  That is until one night while listening to the radio his toes start to keep beat to the music.  Then his whole body and mind find 'it' as he realizes his purpose; in fact, his SPECIAL PURPOSE. 
The way Reiner and Martin have weaved the satirical plot to address so many US cultural norms such as Southern folks,  African-American families and their habits, people with learning differences and stereotypes of Jews, Blacks, hookers, carnival workers, drug dealers and big money men is superb. 

This is the reason I wanted to show my students the idea of having a PURPOSE for doing anything in life, and the lesson went like that.  I am sharing it with you along with the clipped vidos I prepared, then you can read some student responses after the clips.

I also prepared a Blendpsace tutorial should you wish to follow my lead in your class?.  I find the Blendspace platform to be versatile, simplistic and really effective.  It eliminates so much of the formatting issues associated with Power Point.


The film opens with Navin now living on Skid-Row.  He then starts to tell the story and it cuts away to earlier in his life, and how it all began...



This shows Navin finding his SPECIAL PURPOSE through music from the radio. One of the funniest scenes in a movie, ever, for sure.  I only wish Steve Martin could recapture some of what he had back then..



Navin decides he has to leave home, go out into the world and there he will find his purpose.  The metaphor and comic imagery will have you howling; while, at the same time, you can convince your students that they need to have a purpose and especially one for their education, if they're serious about doing well at school and university.


These clips are all included in the Blendspace, plus there are some questions for you.
We had the students write a response for THEIR OWN PURPOSE, and you can see jpeg snips of them below.  In line with our PLN-EDMODO policy, we don't edit or correct responses, as we prefer to let the students write freely for general L2-practice. Therefore, you can see some errors of syntax; however, they do not generally affect the communicatve meaning for the reader.

I hope you can use The Jerk as a springboard to having your students consıder the importance of having a Special Purpose for doing anything they are assigned to do. The responses are clear in their message and although it may appear to some that it is a bit over the top to get students to consider this, I firmly believe teenagers need such direction and "purpose".  If anyone would like to leave a comment regarding the Jerk, the format or even the activity & content, please do so. We would love to hear from you.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Are You in a Dilemma? This Will Fix It...

We are all faced with dilemmas at some or many stages of our life.  The fact that we have these tough decisions, and usually have to deal with them ourselves, does not mean another one won't pop up whenever we are not expecting it.  So, when you point this out to teenagers, and you get passed the translation (it took quite a while explaining it to our Turkish students), you can start to hear some pretty good situations, stories and anecdotes.

We have just finished our peunultimate novel, and a link to a previous activity we did on it, There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom. The book is perfect for teenagers as it highlights so many teenage issues, behaviours, parenting, schools and education, insecurity, sibling rivalry, bullying and peer-acceptance. As a final activity for the book, we came up with the idea of incorporating grammar through dilemmas faced by the book's characters as a way of practising the structures the students had been learning side-by-side with the book.  The three main areas of new explicit grammar were:

3rd Conditional:  If I had known you were so horrible, I wouldn't have sat here.

"Regret" + Gerund:  Mrs Ebbel regrets turning to Bradley and telling him to shut it.

Wish / If only:  Bradley wishes he hadn't broken his toy dinosaur.
                         If only he hadn't shouted at his dad. Everything would be okay now.

However, before getting to the the final part of the lengthy activity, we did lots of scaffolding exercises, as well as of course, reading the book.  The students would then be expected to use their prior knowledge of the constructions, and recall information with what came out in classroom discussion regarding the dilemmas.


We gave the mechanical constructions of each grammar part, in typical fashion (p-p-p + visual/video springboards) over a period of two weeks. Apart from the visual references, drilling and practice found in their grammar reference book, Top Grammar, we also had them create a google doc and write out personal situations that typically need these grammatical components to work.  This was done over the same two week period, thus the students could go back via the google drive service, amend their original efforts, and more importantly have a digital record of what they had written.  Here are two examples of those:


The students are split into groups.  They are then given page numbers from the book, and asked to read the dilemmas already chosen by us from the story.  The groups then work on each dilemma and discuss possible suggestions using the appropriate grammar. Once they are happy with their suggestions, they come up to the whiteboard, and under their group they write out the suggestions.  

The student writing is clearly enjoying the activity.

Two boys from her group eagerly look on, as one dictates.

All groups go back to amend their already written suggestions. 

  • The focus of the finished suggestions is first the grammar, then logic and finally punctuation and spelling.
  • The teacher then checks each one quickly, and marks next to the sentences which errors or problems there may be with the suggestions.  
  • The same groups are then allowed to confer with their peers and make changes.
  • The teacher then checks again.  If there are still problems, the needed corrections are opened up to the whole class.
  • Once every group's answers have been amended and corrected, the activity is done.

The activity, a variation on a classic ELT lesson, also uses the support of ICT (google drive, i-reader).  However, it is the classic style of getting up off the seats, going to the board with support and confidence of the group as a whole that makes this very enjoyable for both students and teachers.  In addition to them discussing the book's characters, they get to think of soulutions for dilemmas, while at the same time practice the grammar of English.  I doubt whether any teacher could say this type of activity is not better than gap-fills on photocopies.  But, hey if there are, please leave a comment below and we can have a debate...