Tips and Tricks: Some Essential Basic Tools any 21st Century Teacher should Know About.

Do you know how to download a video from youtube or convert a PDF or a website into an editable Word document? Do you know where to find free images and videos to use in your projects or how to record audio and create a QR code to share with your students and colleagues? Did you know that long URLs can be easily shortened so that they can be shared more easily?

If you don’t, then this post might be for you!

I’m not a digital native. Far from it. Everything I know I had to learn by trial and error. However, right now, you can probably say I’m the typical technophile always on the lookout for new tools to create activities to spark up my classes.

The tools I want to share with you today are nothing fancy. You cannot create activities where your students will ooh and ahh, but trust me, they are going to save you a lot of time and a lot of searching. They have been tested and tried and I have been using them for a long, long time.

 


AUDIO AND VIDEO


Problem: I need to join/cut two audio files and I need to record myself on video/audio

Solution: 123apps.com/

This is a great tool to work with audio and video. It’s free, easy to use and you don’t even need to register.

What can you do on this page?

  • Cut video or audio ( you need to upload it from your computer)
  • Join two audio tracks
  • Convert video and audio from one format into another
  • Easily record video and audio ( and then download it)

Downside: you need to have the video/audio on your computer. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to download a video. Keep on reading.

 

Problem: I need to record my voice/upload audio and then share it

Solution: vocaroo.com/ 

Vocaroo has been around for a long time. They are even working on a new and improved version. It lets you record your voice in a very easy way or upload a file from your computer. Then, you are offered different possibilities:

  • Download it
  • Share it on social media sites.
  • Share or email the link
  • Embed it on a blog or website
  • Get a QR code

Downside: Vocaroo does not provide permanent storage. There is not a definite age at which messages are deleted, however, it is likely messages will expire after a few months. If a message is important you should download and save it to your own computer as soon as possible to avoid losing it.

 

Problem:  My internet connection is weak and I need to download a video from a website other than youtube.

Solution:  videocyborg.com/

This amazing tool lets you download videos from any platform, even from youtube. To download a video, just get the link, copy/paste it into the box and download it. You can choose to download the video or just the audio.

 

Problem: My school has blocked facebook but I need my students to see a video there.

Solution: get the link for the video and then download it using  videocyborg.com/

Watch the video to see how it is done.

 

Problem: I need to cut a video from youtube

Solution: You need  tubechop.com/

Cut it, get the URL and then download it using videocyborg (link above)


TEXT


Problem: I need to convert a PDF into an easy editable WORD document

Solution: tools.pdf24.org/en/

This is a great tool to work with PDF. It’s free, easy to use and you don’t even need to register.

What can you do on this page?  Pretty much everything.

  • Convert a PDF into a Word document and  Word into PDF.
  • Split a PDF or merge them.
  • Sign or add page numbers to the  PDF.
  • Remove or extract PDF pages.

 

Problem: I need to convert a website into a PDF file or an editable WORD document

Solution: documentcyborg.com/

You only need to copy and paste the URL into the box, choose the format and download it and save it on your computer. You don’t even need to register.

 

Problem:  I have a scanned PDF or an image with some text and I want to extract the text

Solution:  www.onlineocr.net/

Onlineocr is free, simple and no registration is required. Copy/àste the URL ad then download the text as a Word document among other possibilities.

 


SHARING A LONG URL


Problem: I need to share with a long URL  with my students

Solution:  bitly.com/

Sometimes we have to give our students a long URL which seems almost impossible to type without making a mistake. Instead of writing this long URL, use bit.ly to shorten it. To do it, paste the long link in the search box and that’s it.


PRINTING A WEBSITE


Problem: I want to print some content from a website, but I don’t want to print all the images and adverts.

Solution:  printwhatyoulike.com/

Just enter the URL, edit the page getting rid of anything you don’t want to print, and then print it.


CREATING A QR


Problem: I need to create a simple QR Code with the answer to an exercise and download the QR Code to share it with my students

Solution:the-qrcode-generator.com/

Easy to use and doesn’t require registration. Just paste your text and then save it to download it.


FREE TEMPLATES FOR POWERPOINT OR GOOGLE SLIDES


Problem: I need to find beautiful free thematic templates  to make a presentation on Google Slides or PowerPoint

Solution: slidescarnival.com/

FREE IMAGES AND VIDEO


Problem: my students are doing a project and they need to find free images and/or videos

Solution: for free images: pixabay.com/ ;for free videos pixabay.com/videos/

I hope these websites are helpful and save you a lot of time.

 

 
Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 4.0 Internacional.

Reporting verbs: A Translation Exercise Using Grass Skirts

Do you like translation exercises?

If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.

Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀  ).  It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me:  I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.

I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.

In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better.  You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.

 


The activity


Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.

Now, you are ready to start.

Procedure:

Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.

Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.

Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.

Rules.

  • The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
  • The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
  • Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
  • The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.

Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them.  Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.

Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink  😆 

Have you ever played Quizlet.live? Then, you are missing out!

Easter is here and this means a break from teaching. A very much needed break to be honest. Not that I am complaining but, is it me or does this Easter feel extra early?

Anyway, the last day before the Christmas break and the Easter break are always days that I both love and hate. These are the days when I have to give my students good or bad news. This means marks and, unfortunately, not all the students pass with flying colours.

Well, this last day and just before giving them their marks I wanted them to have a bit of fun and leave the class in high spirits so I decided to try a new game I had been meaning to try for a long time, Quizlet.live.  I tried it and I have to say I liked it.

Here’s why:

  1. Students work in groups. I like this much more than individual work.
  2. Students have to discuss the correct answer and they have to agree before they click. And this means talking. A lot. In English.
  3. If they make a mistake, they can start again. And this means reinforcing.
  4. However, they have to choose the correct answer very carefully. If they make a mistake they go back to 0 points.
  5. The teacher can create his own sets or if he is feeling lazy or too busy, there are millions of public quizlets to choose from. Thank God for this small favour!
  6. It’s free.
  7. It’s fun. Like, a lot.
What you need to play:
  • Mobile devices: tablets, mobile phones or Chromebooks. One for every student.
  •  A minimum of 4 students. The more the merrier.
  • A study set with at least six unique terms and definitions. Again, I would recommend more.
Setting a game

Part 1. Pre-game

  • Once you have decided on the study set you want to give your students, choose Live. I have created a study set to revise the use of the infinitive and gerund in English.

  • Then, choose Definitions and Terms. Actually, if you do not have a Premium account, that’s the only one you can use. Bear it in mind if you decide to create your own set: what you have written as a definition will be what your students see as a question and what you write in the space provided for the term will be the possible answer.

  • Ask students to take out their devices and go to quizlet.live. Share with them the join  code you will get once you click Create Game. When prompted, ask them to write their real names. Writing their real name makes it easier to form the groups.
  • The computer randomly selects groups. If you have some students that you feel won’t work well together, you can always reshuffle the groups.
  • Ask students to stand up and sit in their groups

Part 2. Playing

  • Once the teacher clicks Start Game, the students will see the first matching task.
  • On the class screen, they will only see that the ostriches and sea turtles are tied 0-0.

  • Now the first question/definition/word is displayed on their screens. It’s the same for all the members of the team, but only one member of the team will have the correct answer. They will need to discuss who has the correct answer and click on it. For example, in the picture below, I am pairing with Mary. I do not have the correct answer, but my partner does.

  • Tell students that the first team to get to 12 points wins the game.
  • Warning: If a team chooses an incorrect answer, they go back to zero and they will lose all the points and will need to start again. In my opinion, this is just great to reinforce knowledge.
  • At the end of the game, they can analyze the answers and see what they are struggling with.
What I liked most

What I like most about this game is that students are collaborating with each other all the time, using vocabulary and discussing which answers are correct and which are incorrect in a way that is really engaging and motivating.

Also, you can share with them the link for the study set and have them revise at home.

Finally, on twitter, I saw an idea that I really liked, especially if you don’t mind some noise and you only have a few devices. It was from a teacher called Mrs. French. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing the video.

Crime and Punishment: Some Engaging Classroom Activities

I am not a big fan of watching TV. I find most programmes dull and very often uninteresting. However, one of the very first things I do as soon as I wake up (this, of course after my first cup of coffee) is to watch the news. However, lately, I have been considering skipping them. Is it me or do you have the impression that the news is filled with disaster and corruption?  How can you be expected to rise and shine when the world is going crazy,  when all the stories in the news are about crimes and criminals? I’d rather watch the weather forecast! Hey! Hold on!! Just heard about hurricanes and floods? I think I’ll stick to Netflix.

Anyway, please excuse my rambling and let me share with you some of the activities I have designed to help my students learn and practise vocabulary related to crime in a series of engaging speaking activities.


Using grass skirts. Making up a funny crime story

Preparation:

  • Choose a number of crimes and write them down. You can use my own template. See it here.
  • Cut a line between words (see picture) but don’t cut them all the way so that the slip of paper doesn’t detach.
  • Each poster contains 9 crimes. If you have between 10 and 18 students you will need two copies of the poster.
  • Put the poster(s) on the walls of the class.

Procedure:

  • Point to the posters on the walls of the class.
  • Tell students they will have about 10 minutes to make up a funny crime story. They can take notes but they cannot write the whole story.
  • Ask students to stand up and take a crime. They will do it by tearing off the piece of paper containing the crime.
  • Students sit down and began making up their funny crime stories.
  • In groups of 3 or 4, they share their stories and decide on the best story in the group.
  • The best story in each group will be then shared with the whole class and again the best story will be chosen.

 


Using a Feedback Tool to play a game to revise vocabulary.

This one is a lot of fun. Believe me!

Aim:  to revise vocabulary related to crime using the free online tool Answergarden

Preparation: Minimal.

If you have never used a feedback tool, you really should give it a try. I have used feedback tools and also backchannels in my classes in a number of ways to teach English and I like them for several reasons.

  1. They are very effective
  2. They tell you in real time whether students are really learning or not.
  3. They give voice to all the students and not just to the ones who always raise hands.
  4. They are fun and make classes more interesting and engaging.

Downside: it requires the use of devices with an internet connection. However, two students can share the same device.


If you find it hard to integrate technology into your classes, I run workshops  on the use of online free tools in the language classroom (tool+practical tested ideas+practice designing your own activities- see workshops here)


How to set a room in Answergarden in less than 1 minute.

  • Go to Answergarden and click on Create Answergarden
  • Type your topic or question
  • Set Classroom or Brainstorm Mode
  • Set the answer length to 20 characters
  • Click on Create and share the link with your students.
  • Students submit their answers and they are represented in the form of a growing word cloud.

Tip: Don’t forget to refresh your page to see all the answers the students are submitting or to choose the expand tab which will refresh the page automatically every 5 seconds.

The Game.Procedure

Step 1. Creating the wordcloud

Share the link for the Answergarden you have created and ask students to submit words related to crime. Their answers will be represented in the form of an attractive wordcloud.

(Note: This is an active answergarden. You can submit words, but please, only words related to crime 🙂

Step 2. Playing

  1.  Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud is displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table in front of the students and on the table place two reception bells. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!
  2. Set a timer for 90 seconds. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible. Point to a word and ask the class to describe the word using synonyms, definitions or paraphrasing. If a captain knows the word, he will need to press the bell and then say the word.
  • If the answer is correct, his team scores a point and the game continues in the same way until the time runs out.  The teams choose other captains to continue playing.
  • If the answer is incorrect, he won’t be allowed to guess again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing.


Random Questions- A Speaking Activity.

I have created the presentation with questions to discuss about crime and punishment with the free tool Genial.ly

Procedure:

  1. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “ to be sentenced to” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “sentenced “.
  2. Click on the random question button in the presentation. Ask students to swap slips of paper with their partners and get them to discuss the question reminding them to use as many words from the slip of paper as possible. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
  3.  Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
  4. Click on the random question button in the presentation again and repeat procedure.

Hope you have enjoyed the activities.
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Let’s Talk about Crime: is it Rob, Steal or Burgle?

Do you know the difference between steal, rob and burgleHow do we use these three verbs?

TO STEAL

You steal when you take (unlawfully) what belongs to someone else. The object of this verb is generally what you have stolen.Generally, you steal things. The person who steals is a thief.

  • Someone’s stolen my watch
  • He stole all my money
  • They wanted me to steal your ring

You can also  steal something from someone

  • He stole from me and from my friends
TO ROB

You rob when you unlawfully take something from its owner.You rob someone or you rob a place (bank, shop, house…etc. The person who robs is a robber.

  • I have been robbed
  • Robin Hood robbed the rich
  • He robbed a bank

 

A person or institution is robbed of something by someone or an entity

  • She robbed me of all my money
TO BURGLE

It means to steal from a building, a home…etc.   The person who breaks into houses, shops … etc to steal things is a burglar.

  • My house was burgled last night
  • She has been burgled

Test your knowledge with this exercise.

Click at the top right-hand corner to enlarge the window (red arrows)

 

A Low-Prep, Low-Tech Discussion Game to Activate New Vocabulary with a Simple Scrap of Paper

Naturally, I am a huge supporter of any activity that involves students getting out of their seats and interacting with other students. Also, if you have been reading me for a while, you will surely know that I am always worried about making vocabulary stick.
So, this super simple activity combines these two things+ zero preparation. How does that sound? Yes, I know. Besides, it’s compatible with any topic you are working with. Believe me, this activity is a hit.
There is a 99% chance that you will end up participating in the activity, but please, do not get all proper and spoil the fun by telling students to keep their voices down. Let them enjoy.

Aim: to make vocabulary stick by revising, reinforcing and using it.
Topic: Any. I was working with the theme of environment, but any topic would do
Level: Any.

How to go about it

Revising.

1. Revision with slips of paper. Start by revising the vocabulary you have introduced in previous lessons. I usually write the vocabulary I need to revise on slips of paper, place myself in the middle of the classroom (desks are arranged in a U shape) and very quickly give a short definition, synonym or antonym. The student who guesses correctly gets the slip of card. The winner, as you might have guessed, is the student who has more cards at the end of this activity. I do this activity very often. I think I like it because I can see that my students love it and it is a good exercise not only to revise meanings but also to work on pronunciation.

Writing.

2. Writing 5 newly- acquired words. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “make the most of” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “make the most “.

Speaking

3. On the board, write a question for the students to discuss in pairs.

4. Tell the students to stand up with the scrap of paper containing their words and choose a partner to talk to. They can sit down if they want to or they can remain standing.

5. Ask them to swap the pieces of papers and read the 5 words on it making sure they know what they mean. If they don’t, they should ask their partner to explain or clarify meanings

6. Point to the question on the board and ask them to discuss it trying to introduce as many words as possible from their list of words. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.

7. Important step: Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.

8. Write a new question for discussion on the board. Ask students to sit down with their new partner, swap the scraps of paper and repeat procedure.

My students said they loved the game! Let me know what your students think if you decide to give it a go.

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The Liar: a Present Perfect Continuous Game.

This week is not supposed to be a game week. I can feel the “exam cloud” starting to creep up on me. Yes, exams are just two weeks away and I should probably be dedicating the whole lesson to revising. And I‘ll do it. I promise. And it will all be very academic and probably boring.  So what you are about to read is very likely the last fun activity I’m going to do with my students before exams but students deserve a break from time to time and I’m sure they will enjoy this little game to revise the Present perfect Continuous. Besides,it is a ton of fun.

I have to say that I have not invented the game. I was kindly offered to me by a teacher from EOI Plasencia (hello Maite Martínez) after an enjoyable training session. I asked her to write a guest post explaining the game, but she kindly refused and said she could not do that as she was not the author adding that the game had been in her possession for a long, long time and couldn’t remember where she had got it from.

I have googled up the game trying different combinations, but I could find no trace of it. So I have decided to publish it.

Please, if you are reading this and you’re the author, write to me to give you proper credit.

Now, with the game.

Aim: to practise the present perfect continuous in the pattern:

  • How long have you been playing golf?
  • I have been playing golf for 6 years

 

Before the game: You’ll need to prepare cards with the numbers 1 to 10. You will need a deck of cards for every four or five students. Numbers (1-10) will be repeated three times in each deck of cards. So, you will have three 1s, three 2s, three 3s… etc, ie, a 30-card deck.

You can download mine here.

The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

  • Ask students to play in groups of 4,5 or 6.
  • Tell students they are all “nouveaux riches”.
  • Someone in the group shuffles the cards and deals them out. All of them.
How to play:

  • Player A, the person on the right of the dealer, begins. He turns to Player B, the person on his right, and asks him a question. For example:

                   How long have you been eating at Maxim’s?

  • Player B puts one of his cards face down on the table without showing it to anyone and answers, for example:

                    I have been eating at Maxim’s for 5 years.

Important: You must always put down a card equal to, or more than, the previous card. Player B will need to put down a card with a number higher than 5. If you cannot do this, you must lie and hope not to be challenged to show your card. 
  • Now, Player B repeats exactly the same question Player A asked him to Player C, the person on his right. Player C answers and puts one of his cards face down on top of Player B’s card. For example:

                  I have been eating at Maxim’s for 7 years.

  • Now Player C repeats exactly the same question to Player D. In this way, play moves round the circle in turn.
  • If any player suspects that another player is lying, they can say:

 Stop! I don’t believe you- let me see that card.

  • If it’s a lie, that player must pick all the cards on the table. However, if he was telling the truth, the player who challenged him must pick all the cards.
  • After a player has picked all the cards, it‘s he who starts the game again asking a new question.
  • The first player to get rid of all his cards is the winner.

List of snobbish things to do

  • Ski in St Moritz
  • Eat caviar
  • Play golf
  • Fly business class
  • Wear Armani clothes
  • Vote conservative
  • Shop at Harrods
  • Drive a Porsche
  • Go on cruises

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Top Website to Help you with Writing

I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.

Has it ever happened to you?

I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.

For example, let’s take this simple sentence

Global warming is produced by…

Does it sound Ok to you?

For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right.  But is it a natural collocation in English?

Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?

When I am in doubt, I  have a bunch of useful websites I use, but my favourite for this kind of problem is Netspeak. Please check my post Six amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger to read about this “bunch”  I was referring to.

So, when I am not sure if “xxxx ” is correct, this is what I do.

What else can you do on Netspeak?Among other things:

  1. If you have forgotten a specific word, type ?   Ex:  ? for granted
  2. If you need to find many words, type   Ex …granted
  3. If you are not sure about two words or want to compare them [] Ex It sounds [good well.

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First Conditional Sentences: Advanced Grammar and Moral Dilemmas for Discussion

Oh, this tool. I cannot tell you the number of times I have used it to teach English.

Not going to lie to you, although it’s one of my favourite sites to create visual activities, play buzz is way less exciting than using other tools such as Flipgrid. Still, a lot of fun.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like teaching grammar. I’m not one of those enthusiastic teachers that eat up grammar books in search of the perfect written exercise to give students. I devour vocabulary and speaking activities, but to be honest, grammar exercises bore me. That must be the reason why I always try to find a fun activity so that not only my students but also me, can have a nice time when dealing with grammar. So, it felt really nice to create this visual activity where I could see my students using the First Conditional in context.

Firstly, after explaining the grammar we reinforced its form by watching this video I have created with Lumen5. This tool is the latest craze. If you are attending my workshop on “Using Images” on Tuesday 20 or Thursday 22 (Feb) this is one of the tools we are going to work with. Let me tell you that it is one of the easiest tools I have come across and nowadays, on social media, you can see a lot of presentations created with it.

Secondly, I asked my students to form small groups and discuss what you’ll see below. The questions are thought-provoking, morally challenging and with a touch of fun. It might also be a good idea to ask yourself what you would do in any of these situations.

Display the first photo+caption and ask students to finish the sentence using the first conditional. Encourage discussion within the group and then a whole class discussion.

  • If I find a wallet in the street, I might take it to the police.
  • If I find a wallet in the street, I will probably call the police to let them know I have found it, but will probably keep it until the owner called me.

Show the second picture+ caption and repeat procedure.