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 years. 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, 30 August 2012

Using S.C.A.S.I. for Literary Analysis

Literary analysis has traditionally been considered by most people as something only for students working in their own language, or those who have reached the higher levels of ESL/EFL.  Although I would agree in part with this, I firmly believe that if we approach it by using scaffolding methods with our students, more people can have the pleasure of really understanding what a piece of literature actually means.
In order for students to get to grips with the thematic considerations of any text for analytical purposes, they have to be able to see what the author had intended for the proficient reader.  THAT is very difficult, even for many native speakers in any language, trying to decipher the (dense) prose in order to find meaning.  However, I have been using a method of deconstructing texts that has the potential to unlock the door for more lower level students (and the more proficient of course) to enjoy reading more as it has a firmer purpose for the reader.

The quirky acronym stands for:

Setting         Character(s)        Action        Style        Idea 

By using these prompts students can much more easily identify:

Where/               Who               What          How         Why

The use of the 5Ws and 1H is a standard way by most teachers to get their students to understand a text via T/F, Multi-choice, Open-ended and Comprehension Questions.  So, WHY? I hear you ask should we introduce yet another set-type of questions, and yet another acronym to our students, isn't this just more meta-language?

Well, I would say NOT!  This slight tweeking of the widely used comprehension question paradigm can cause a huge shift in students' comprehension and ultimately lead to them being able to successfully analyze literary texts.  In addition, by introducing this scaffold of deconstructing texts in chunks, students will get used to it for when they do reach a proficient level, and are expected to do this type of literary analysis as seniors and university students.  It also shows them that by breaking down texts, they can definitely grasp meaning much sooner autonomously, rather than waiting on the teacher's 'correct' answer.  It will also build confidence in them to tackle bigger and more complex texts.

The text below is taken from a stage two Oxford reader

 A typical SCASI scaffold would look like this:

I have given the SCASI above as what one would expect from a more advanced student, but I want to show how such a simple text can produce a lengthy literary analysis for even lower level students to accomplish.  In addition, perhaps an analysis towards the end of a chapter could provide more understanding of themes within for those learners.

The bottom line for me is trying to get students to read past the surface questions they generally tend to have at lower levels.  By extrapolating more information and the way it is presented helps to give them more of a sense of purpose to reading in school.  It starts off as a chore, but soon becomes pleasurable for them as they are then able to ask questions of their own reading and share with confidence their findings.

Following on from this students would then be able to write a commentary based solely on this extract.  I feel that this offers much more scope than typical comprehension-type questions.  They are still the primary focus for me, but it is good to also mix it up when there is a decent text for students to get their analytical teeth into. 


Using S.P.R.E. to organize your essay.

Learning how to organize an essay is surely the most challenging consideration for all students.  Therefore, a great deal of time and effort needs to be made by the teacher through organised instruction, guidance and by giving students the opportunity to see the model in practice.  If we start by using models such as SPRE, we can hope to instil, in the students, the need for an organisational framework before they begin to write the essay.
Examples of SPRE can be seen everywhere that students are familiar with.  This helps to show how it can be useful, as students are then able to see it in practice; thus making it viable for students to consider it as a model they'd like to learn.

Examples of this would be:


Situation:  16th century Verona: Two teenagers meet and fall in love.

Problem:   Both families of the teenagers are feuding, and forbid the relationship.

Response: The star-crossed lovers decide to elope.

Evaluation: The young couple come a cropper, and the families are left distraught.  
Young love  can bring heartache to everyone involved.


Situation: Oya is a new student at school and a beginner of English in the Prep. class.

Problem: Every lesson is in English and it is very daunting not being able to fully   
understand what she is being asked to do. Oya is not happy at her new school.

Response: Oya works very hard by doing extra work at home, asking for help from her teacher and continuously practising the new language she is learning with  her peers.

Evaluation: By the end of the first semester Oya has caught up with her class mates  
and is enjoying the English lessons.  She has become very successful.   


Situation:  Young people tend to prefer junk fast-food.

Problem:   It is causing a huge amount of obesity around the world.

Response: Governments are holding food manufactures accountable for the food they 
produce, and providing literature to schools for better education on what young people should eat if they want to remain healthy.

Evaluation: The rates of obesity are being reduced in those countries that are  
making the effort to enforce laws to restrict food manufacturers, making information available on what is healthy and what is not; with the result, more young people are eating better and healthier food.

Admittedly, the organizational descriptors above need expanding, and within each one development is also required.  However, as a starting point for getting students accustomed to organizing their ideas better it really is affective and effective.  I would urge you to think of this last example which relates to the ICT-ELT paradigm as a final S.P.R.E. model of ideas for you to leave the post with:


Situation:  Information and Communication Technologies are available for teachers to help support and develop their more traditional teaching styles.

Problem:   It is causing a huge amount of concern for teachers as they are fearful of change and they are in need of PD if it is going to be useful.

Response: Schools and teacher trainers are providing extensive pd-support, information and the opportunities to try out the new wave of technology and methodologies in their classrooms.

Evaluation: ICT-in-ELT will no longer cause teachers to fear technology as they begin to realise the huge benefits it can bring to their teaching. ICT-ELT is here to stay and the sooner teachers ADOPT it and ADAPT it to their teaching, the better opportunities it will give them to find more effective ways of engaging students.

I couldn't resist adding my feelings of ICT-ELT into the post. I do hope you can see, though, how the SPRE model of organization is a a valid consideration, and one method from which the students can benefit when it comes to their writing.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

CHALLENGE, CONNECT, CHATINAR: An authentic way to engage students

Finding activities that can genuinely engage students out of school has always been difficult.  However, with the emergence of fabulous ICT-ELT platforms, and available to all of us for free,  this is all about to change in every student-teacher working relationship.  The activity, what I have coined, as a CHATINAR, uses video, Edmodo our class PLN, and an hour of scheduled time at home.

A CHATINAR is an activity I thought of doing in December, 2011. The reason it emerged at that time was because we had been having difficulty convincing all of the students in our preparatory group to use our class PLN, Edmodo, described below in Brentson's post, for more than just the mandatory homework check. So, having found this amazing video of a whale being rescued by a small boat of marine biologists in the Mexican gulf, only eight minutes in length, the idea to transfer the discussion moved from the classroom to Edmodo. Please watch the video and read afterwards about the amazing thing that happened on our PLN.

The video is amazing, right? So, here is what I thought might work.  After we watched the video, and saw how emotive the kids felt, we knew that we could get the students to respond enthusiastically.  We told them that instead of doing a feedback brainstorm on the IWB; for a change, we the teachers, would be on the Edmodo PLN platform from 9pm-10pm that evening for the purposes of building a chat discussion based on the video. AND, what happened next really suprised us.

It is important to remind the students about the activity over and over again.  Teenagers genuinely forget school things, so rather than castigate, continued messages via the PLN and even better via active peers.  They will listen to their mates before the teacher d;-)

You can see here also that there are boys active in the process.  This really surprised us last year, since traditionally boys tend to leave after school activities to their female counterparts.

Finally, the PLN really shows how beneficial it is for students confidence and awareness by offering a real-time platform for guidance and support either from teachers or peers.  

This image highlights two really important aspects of getting your CHATINAR to work successfully.  You, the teacher, needs to be very active in order to keep the thread alive.  Failure to do so, will mean that the students drift off topic or lose interest.  However, as in all chats, this is a very authentic environment for students to feel that what they are doing is normal.

Secondly, the quality of syntax and grammar is also not to be considered or commented on by teachers.  It does not matter in this context, since you want participation first and content second.  Form doesn't even come into it.

This activity deserves to go viral in our opinion. Not only did we get many of our students engaged out of the class in a totally authentic, yet new communicative environment, but for one hour we had 644 posts done totally in English.  This  activity continued once every three weeks after that until the end of April, which meant we did a total of five.  Each subsequent CHATINAR completed saw the chat posts increase from the more peripheral type of students, thus allowing a across-the-class participation.
Engaging your students with ICT-ELT is something so exciting.  Now with this type of authentic communicative platform, you can find a great deal of participation and perseverance in your students to get their opinions over to their friends.  Not only that, but it also gives you the teacher a further opportunity to connect with your students in a fun and exciting way.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Edmodo: A Year On

At the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year, my colleague and I decided to sign up for Edmodo and make it a central part of our program.  In fact, we got our students registered to the website on the very first day of school.  We were so impressed with Edmodo that we wrote a blog post about it, where we introduced our audience to some of the brilliant features available on the website and how it truly engaged our students at the time.  

The purpose of this post, however, is to share with you some of the lessons we learned now that we have been working with Edmodo for a full academic year.


Our previous blog post about Edmodo was written in the middle of the academic year last year at a time when our students were truly engaged and enthusiastic about the website.  Our students were literally contacting us and their peers every evening after school.  They were sharing pictures and interesting links that they had found on the web. We simply couldn’t believe that our students were using their newly-learned English skills outside of the classroom. 

Here is an example of a student asking for a vocabulary assignment after school.

This level of engagement, sadly to say, did not last throughout the rest of the year.  We came to realize that there were, in fact, several highs and lows during the year.  From about October to the end of December, we achieved unbelievable success.  Then, however, came the final weeks of the semester and the two-week holiday following that.  Quite understandably, being 14 and 15 year olds, our students wanted absolutely nothing to do with school for those few weeks.  They became bored and only thought about their upcoming holidays, during which they had completely forgotten about school.  Once the second semester started in February, it took nearly another few weeks to get them engaged with Edmodo, let alone with school.  There were many days during this period when he had the chance of snow and school possibly being closed. 

The snowy weather affected student engagement.

It is sometimes difficult to believe, but this had a major impact on our teaching for several weeks.  As much as we tried, we could not get most of them engaged again.  In the end, I suppose our constant complaining about their overall lack of effort got them back on the saddle in March, and we went through another two months of great success where we made some massive achievements, which are highlighted upon in the attached video below.  As per usual, there was another steep drop in engagement in the final few weeks of school, which we are all familiar with as educators.


The following video gives a brief two-minute introduction to Edmodo itself.  Then, it explains our strategies and rules for improving student engagement with the website.


In addition to the information learned about the levels of engagement, we also discovered that, while Edmodo is a brilliant educational website, it doesn’t guarantee you success simple because you got your class registered.  It takes dedication from the teachers to keep posting information about homework, projects and other assignments on a daily basis, not to mention constant reminders to students to check the website.  I have heard of stories from other teachers who had initial success from using Edmodo, but then lost total engagement from students because they themselves did not keep updating their class page.  Dedication to post information during as well as after school, even via the mobile app, is paramount to finding success with Edmodo.      


Rule #1 - An English-Only Platform

Finally, another vital strategy for achieving success is to set up some basic rules for your students as soon as you get to sign up to Edmodo.  The first, and most important, rule for students is that Edmodo must be an English-only platform.  They are free to ask us and their peers anything related to school, even other subject besides English, as long as it is in English.  If this rule is broken, the student is warned and their comments are immediately deleted from the page. 
Students writing and responding on Edmodo only in English.

Some teachers may assume that students may not respect the English-only paradigm on your Edmodo class page.  We also had reservations about it at the beginning of the year.  We had expected our students to use L1 from time to time, especially when communicating with their classmates.  We were blown away, however, when not only did they use L1, but that they were only responding to each other in English!  This is unheard of in the realm of ELT.  One incident truly stands out for us during the course of our first year using Edmodo as our home page.  One student had forgotten what the Math homework was one evening.  He came onto our class page, even though Math was not connected to us at all, and asked his classmates about the homework in English.  Then, the others responded to him in English!  It is such a minute example, but we could not believe it!  The fact that they were responding to each other in English about a non-English lesson was truly unbelievable for us.  At this point in the year, we had already experienced what benefits Edmodo brought to our lessons, but this was an unexpected bonus!

Rule #2 - Give Responsibility to Students to Check it Daily

On top of the English-only rule, it is also extremely important that you tell your students that they must check Edmodo every day.  It is indeed difficult to get any student to check a website, other than Facebook and Twitter, every day, but you have to stick with this rule. 

Our students using Edmodo in the classroom.
One strategy that we use to do this is to tell our students that from time to time there will be some important information about class that they can only get on Edmodo.  This could be information, for example, about an upcoming pop quiz the following day.  If the students fail to check Edmodo after school, they won’t know about the pop quiz, and thus not do very well on it.  They will moan and complain that it isn’t fair, but all you have to do is remind them that it is one of the rules that were established at the beginning of the year.  It is guaranteed that they will check Edmodo from that day forward.


  • It is vital that you set up your Edmodo class page on the first day of school.
  • Teachers must consistently update the class page to keep students interested and to show them that it is indeed a major component of the course.
  • Set up some basic rules before registering students.  Two of the rules should be keeping an English-only platform and making students responsible for checking the website daily.
  • Even if you put in a maximum effort on your Edmodo page, you should expect students to have ups and down in their engagement, but don't give up.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


We have been awash with superheroes since Adam West, as Batman in the 50s,  grappled into his latex suit and cloak, and emerged from the hidden underground basement at his mansion, to save the citizens of Gotham City.  These superheroes have come in all shapes and sizes, and the latest offering from the archives of the Marvel group has audiences watching the Avengers and the new-nothing-like-the-50s-version Batman battling to win the largest audiences. I have to admit, I did go to see Batman, and it was amazing.  The Avengers, on the other hand, not so good.

This post, however, is about HANCOCK from 2006 and The INCREDIBLES from 2004.  Will Smith plays the unconventional hero in this way over the top, even for superheroes, Hollywood movie.  Yet it is because of the unconventionality and over the top nature of the movie that made me want to make this lesson-post. In animated contrast, but not so much in terms of theme, of course, Mr Incredible comes to the city's rescue in the opening scene.  Similarly, his exploits are not appreciated by the citizens and authorities, thus, just Like Hancock, he is forced to step down.

The grammar focus for these clips is the RELATIVE CLAUSE.  To begin with we will look at clips, answer questions on the content, and then finish up with a grammar activity in picture form.

  • What does Hancock do that shows he is unconventional?
  • Why is Hancock not a conventional superhero?
  • What are his super powers?
  • Where do you think he came from looking like he does?
  • Why do you think the people of the city will be so angry with him?

  • After Hancock saves the man from the train, what is the crowd's reaction?
  • What do you think is going to happen to Hancock?
  • Why do you think it would be a good idea or him to comply?

  • What is going to happen next?
  • Why is it wrong on so many levels for these two to be in this position?

  • Why is this scene more conventional in the sense of what a superhero does?
  • Who are the men that are under the counter?
  • What type of store is it where the robbery is taking place?


Relative clauses are used to join two sentences together.  The way they are made up is by using special grammar words that act as adjectives in the middle of the sentences.

Looking at the pictures, here are the two sentences for the first one.  
Now, you do the same and find them for the other three. 

     1.  "Hancock is a superhero."
  2.  "He can lift cars easily."

Hancock is a superhero WHO can lift cars easily.

Now that you have an idea of Relative Clauses in the superhero movie, Hancock, it is time to look at  Pixar's,           "The Incredibles"

There are many similarities & differences in the opening scene of this movie and Hancock.
  • Identify the similarities and differences, and share them with your class?
  • Why is it easier for animators to show destruction on the streets?
  • Why is it less of an ethical issue for animators to show such things in their movies?
  • Explain how these ethical and moral issues are still affective on the audience.
  • Which of the two opening scenes do you prefer, and why?
After you have answered these questions, it is grammar time.

Describe the action in the film by using the RELATIVE CLAUSE forms explained above.

e.g. Mr Incredible is the superhero who is trying to save the city where he lives.
Mr Incredible changes from 'normal' to 'superhero' when there is a problem.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The TRUMAN SHOW: is there really no difference between private life and public life?

Since the advent of 24/7 TV, and its ubiquitous nature worldwide, we have been bombarded with footage, images and programming that focus on the lives of the rich and famous; namely "the celebrity."  This has meant we have been taken into the private lives of those people, all in the name of "entertainment."  Right or wrong, people are interested, and the fascination to learn about your favorite film, tv, sports, even political personalities and their habits, wrong doings or scandals has led tv and film producers to make it their business to share as many of these people's habitual goings on as possible.

 "For me there is no difference between a private life and a public life." H.Gill (Burbank's wife's real name)
The first Hollywood film to expose the practices of the media and their wrong doing was "The Truman Show (1998) starring Jim Carey.  The tagline for the movie was, "On the air, unaware," and basically a tv production company follows the private world of Truman Burbank.  Cameras are set up Big Brother style all around his home, his town and his workplace in order to get a 'true life' experience for the viewer.  However, as with all reality shows, problems ensue as the protagonist starts to realize there is something amiss in his life, and he questions his very existence; while 'his tv audience' watch obsessively.  The sub-plot has the producer battling with ethics over viewing figures.

The aim of this post is not to further summarize this awesome film, since you should definitely watch it, but to focus on the ethical issues central to our 24/7 intrusion of surveillance cameras in our own world.  Furthermore, you can see how grammar across the English Time-Frame works and can be used by you to describe events in the film.

Here you can see Truman and what he does every morning.  His routine is clear to see.  Identify each of his daily habits and share with the class.


Once you have become comfortable with Present Simple for everyday actions and habits, it is now the turn of the Present Continuous to describe events, actions and things that are happening NOW.

Take a look at this chart, and see the difference between present simple and present continuous.

You should always remember that it is very important for you to mix up your tenses and forms of language, both when speaking and writing.  As long as you have the time-frame organized in your mind, the rest should fall into place.   

The trick is to try, make mistakes, and then try again to get it right. 
We can only learn how to say it and write it correctly by making mistakes.

Towards the end of this video clip, Truman's wife asks him, "Where have you been?"
This question is what can help you to understand the logic behind the present perfect.

[on the beach]
Where has the rain come from?

Why has he been looking out to sea?

[at home]
Where has Truman been?

What has he been doing?
Who has Truman been thinking of?

Why has Truman been thinking of him?

The consideration of this tense over past and present is really important in English.  It is necessary to define the time that starts in the past and leads up to now.           Truman has been at the beach, and his wife wants to know everything he has been up to, where he has been, and what has happened on way back home. 

Consider the following examples:

At 7.00 am you wake up.
At 7.15 am you take a shower.
At 7.30 am you eat your breakfast.
At 7.45 am you get on the service bus.
At 8.05 am you arrive at school

Your teacher asks you, "Where were you?" (past simple)

You naturally have two options:

              1. "When?"
              2. "At home (in bed, in the shower, in the kitchen), on the  service bus.

But, if your teacher asks you, "Where have you been?"

You should answer,e.g., "I have been coming to school."

This difference between both tenses is clear here, with past simple using definite times in the past and present perfect with an uncertain time in the past, yet connected to now.

  • You have been doing exercises based on the Truman Show.
  • You have been working out which tenses to use for your sentences.
  • We have all been enjoying the movie clips from this great 1999s movie.
EQs on the ethics of media intrusion

  • Do you agree with Truman's wife on public versus private life?
  • Even though this is not the whole movie, can you see how unhappy Truman is?
  • Why do you think Truman feels so trapped?
  • What is the director of the movie describing with his Truman Show metaphor?
  • How many hours of tv do you watch a week?

  • Have you ever watched a Big Brother type of show?
  • Why do celebrities in our world crave for publicity?
  • Why do these same celebrities complain when the media intrude on their lives?
  • Are celebrities using the media for gain, or is the media exploiting their rights to privacy?
  • Why has TV become so incredibly influential over the past decade?
  • Why are you seeing more and more Hollywood 'A' stars in tv series?
  • Do you believe that media companies will continue to cheapen 'celebrity'?
  • How far do you think this current trend can go before it slows down?