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

Saturday, 27 April 2013

End of the Year Academic and Reflective Portfolio

As yet another academic year slowly comes to an end, our students are about to embark on the most important assignment of the year in our syllabus; the Academic and Reflective Portfolio presentation.  Portfolio presentations are essentially a way for students to reflect on what they have learned and produced throughout the year, and they are quite common in Turkish education, all through K-12.  In the most basic format, students choose several projects or assignments that they have done during the year, then reflect upon not only what they learned, but also the reasons behind choosing those particular assignments.  Students then incorporate these assignments into a presentation, usually in PowerPoint, and show them to their teachers, as well as their parents, who are invited to come to school on that day.

Just to give you an idea of what its all about, please watch the following clip...

My colleague David and I, who have been teaching in Turkey for a combined 25 years, are both huge supporters of portfolio presentations.  They provide a fantastic opportunity for teachers to see just how much their students really have learned during the year in terms of their English language ability, in addition to their overall improvement in academic skills.  Furthermore, depending on how candid the students are, teachers can receive beneficial feedback by finding out what students really think of their chosen assignments, projects, or the curriculum as a whole.

Because we teach our students for more than 20 periods a week, there are a myriad of assignments and projects that they can theoretically choose from by the end of the year.  It could actually be quite a headache for them when trying to decide on what they should present, and where those assignments are now (because they most likely lost them). Therefore, just as our blog motto states, we Adopted and Adapted the basic idea of the portfolio and transformed it into something more suitable for our students' needs.  

The Criteria

First, we introduce the concept of the portfolio presentation via a Blendspace tutorial usually three-to-four weeks before the due date.  This gives them plenty of time to brainstorm, organize, prepare and practice their speeches by the time the portfolio day arrives.  Moreover, the Blendspace tutorial is shared with the students, as it has all of the information they will need to adequately prepare for the project, meaning that can check it anytime they wish.


(Click on the image to reach the Blendspace tutorial)

The tutorial provides our students with a list of academic skills, activities, projects, books and ICT tools that we have introduced to them during the year (see below).  The students must choose only three of these skills to present in their portfolio.

After deciding on the three skills they would like to present, we inform the students that they must make three PowerPoint slides for each skill.  Although they are free to design the slides in whatever fashion they wish, the slides must include the following three items:

Finally, in addition to the making the PowerPoint presentation, we also require our students to write up a reflective response on Penzu.  In it, the students simply further expand upon what they are going to/have present(ed) to us using the traditional five paragraph organizational model, meaning they will have an introduction, three body paragraphs based upon their chosen subjects, and a conclusion. An example of a student's response can be seen just below...

We began to use this style of portfolio presentation three years ago.  It is rewarding to see our students, who came to us with very little English in September, stand up confidently in front of us, and reflect on their academic successes of the year. By doing this, we are then able to find out students' opinions of our curriculum, some of which we hadn't known before, and that allows us to amend for the next academic year.  It also gives the students one final opportunity to show us what they have learned using proficient English and quality presentation skills.

Following on from this...

For both us and our students, the academic portfolio day is always special each and every year.  Both teachers and students give an astounding effort to make it successful and memorable.  Because of this, my colleague and I wanted to come up with a way to save these presentations for our records, as well as share them with our students and their families. We decided on first recording the presentations via our IPADs, and then creating a Blendspace tutorial for each student with all of the portfolio criteria included, as pictured below.


(Click on the image to reach the Blendspace tutorial)

Here is what we included...

Box 1: The student's picture on portfolio day (we ask them to dress professionally)

Box 2:  A brief introduction to the academic portfolio

Box 3:  A link to this very blog post in case the student's family members would like to learn more about the project in much more detail

Box 4:  The student's recorded presentation (linked via Google Drive)

Box 5: The student's PowerPoint presentation in video format (linked via Google Drive)

Box 6:  A link to the student's portfolio essay (linked via Penzu Classroom)

Box 7:  The student's final grade based upon our rubric (an image of the rubric is uploaded to Blendspace)

Box 8: A brief introduction to our 'Can Do Statement and Interview' language assessment method based on the CEFr(click here to reach David's published article in the ETAS Journal which fully explains the objective and process of it)

Box 9:  Both my colleague and I recorded an audio message for each student.  David focuses on their language development and which skills they need to improve on, whereas I remark upon their progress as student from a more holistic approach as their classroom teacher.

Boxes 10 and 11: Finally, as an extra gift to our students, we prepared a slideshow of the best moments of the year (linked via Google Drive)

EDCANVAS has added a QUIZ function

We have been using EDCANVAS now for four months. Initially, for video tutorials we had been using Tildee, but when EDCANVAS appeared on the scene we quickly switched over, and now we have transferred all our video lessons to this platform. The reasons are clear: simple to use, student-affective and very useful for getting your video-lessons over to students in a clear and crisp way.

I have already posted about EDCANVAS BRILLIANCE , so this post is more of an update since the site has just had a face-lift, and it now incorporates a QUIZ FUNCTION that allows teachers to make quick quizzes that can add to their Formative Assessment tool bag, and remove any need for time-consuming grading of papers at home.

The first step is, of course, to sign in (dohhh!), and press the huge + icon.  You are now in a position to make your new Edcanvas.  In this case it is one I made for our novel that is currently underway.

So, when you open the website now, you see the awesome team have added the option to make a quiz. This is in addition to the drag-and-drop functionality for images, videos and links from the right side of the template.  You can also see there an array of handy places to get your resources from like Flickr, YouTube, or simply the ubiquitous search engine, Google.  Once you have your opening description or image video or link, it is then up to you what you want to include.  This could be short summaries, vocabulary, links to themes EQs or whatever.  For this post i have kept it short.  So, my quiz is on the second slide.

The snip from the finished quiz shows the crisp borders and formatting the team has come up with.  The options for quizzes, in this case multi-choice, is limited for now.  But, I am sure they will increase this with feedback from their Beta-Amabassadors (I have been chosen for such feedback ;-)).  I plan to inform them of the need for varied types ,so as to satisfy all testing methods and assessment requirements from subject teachers 

My short tutorial ends with a YouTube link to the trailer for the movie, which we will show at the end of the book, then do a compare/contrast of the content and approach by both author and director to the themes of both genre-types.

You can see the Edcanvas if you click HERE.  


We hope you try out this awesome service, that is FREE!!!  Incredible altruism, indeed!!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Avengers Retold: A Comprehensive ELT Activity

The final two months, in all seriousness, is my favorite time of the academic year. The reason for that is, by April, we have brought the majority of our students up to a strong B1 English-proficiency level according to the CEFr, while a few have even reached B2.  Furthermore, my colleague and I have taught a variety of literary analysis and academic writing skills throughout the year, and now they are finally starting to sink in with the students. What this allows us to do is spend more time on innovative and collaborative projects that include a variety of academic skills to wrap up the year, one of which is called The Avengers Retold.  Just to give you a sense of what this project is about, please watch the following trailer that we have made on Apple IMovie.     

The Avengers Retold

From the trailer, this activity may appear to be as simple as getting students to fill in speech bubbles from any given comic book. That is indeed included, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Avengers Retold also incorporates a number of the grammar, literary and ICT skills that we have taught our students throughout the year. These included reported speech, the SCASI and SPRE literary organizational models, as well as IWB and PowerPoint technical skills. It was basically a year's worth of ICT in ELT teaching broken down over about six class hours between two groups.

The project all begins with each student getting one picture from The Avengers comic book with the aim of creating a dialogue to fill in the empty speech bubbles.  However, the key to this activity is collaborationWell before the writing of the dialogue can begin, the students are told that they have to put all of their pictures together to make one storyIn order to do this, they first have to work together to place the pictures in any order they wish. They, then, must develop the characters, story and dialogue using the SPRE and SCASI models to give the story a sense of purpose and a fitting conclusion. Finally, when the speech bubbles are completely filled in and saved to a PowerPoint presentation, it is sent to the students of the other preparatory class to assess and retell the entire story in reported speech; which is then recorded and turned into a PowerPoint video, as seen here.


Again, the entire process takes about six or seven class hours, not to mention a couple of hours of teacher preparation. Therefore, we have broken down the activity into three parts to give you a step-by-step detailing of how you can also prepare and implement this activity in your own class.  (You can also download a copy of a checklist for the activity here.) It is worth the time and effort. 

Step 1: Prior to Class

1. To begin with, you need to select pictures from any comic book for the number of students that you have.  Each student will get one picture for which to create a dialogue.  Secondly, you want to have an appropriate amount of speech bubbles for each picture, preferably four.

2. The next step is to erase the original text in the speech bubbles.  The easiest method for us is to upload the picture to the IWB and erase the text by rubbing it out.  If you do not have an IWB, it could be done on your computer through various picture editing programs.

3. After saving each picture, we then added them all to a PowerPoint presentation, and we assigned a picture to a pair of students who are not in the same class. The reason for this is that, for example, Barışcan will create the dialogue for the picture, and when all is said and done, his partner, Petek, from the other class, and who has not seen what Barışcan has written, will report what is in the speech bubbles to the rest of her own classmates. 

4. Finally, we printed out a set of pictures to help the students put the story together, which will be explained in Step 2. We also uploaded the PowerPoint presentation to our PLN (Edmodo), so that the students could have a digital copy of their assigned pictures as well.

(If you would like to use the same Avengers pictures as we have, you can get them here) 


Step 2: Putting the Story Together

Putting the story together from beginning to end is the largest and most time-consuming part of this class activity. 

1. Present the PowerPoint presentation to the class, and tell each student to identify and begin thinking about their own slide.

2. Go through the presentation a second time, and as a whole class, discuss the context of the pictures. What's happening in them?  

3. Then discuss the (S)etting, (C)haracters, (A)ction, (S)tyle and (I)dea (SCASI) of the story, and make a table on the IWB. Students copy the table in their notebooks.
4. Next, again as a whole class, discuss the (S)ituation, (P)roblem, (R)esponse and (E)valuation (SPRE).  This organization model will give the story a rise and flow, followed by a conclusion. As in the previous step, make a table on the IWB, and students write it down in their notebooks.

5. Attach the printed copies of the pictures to the whiteboard, and the plan the order of the story based on  SPRE.  You can assign one student to come to the board and help with the organization of the pictures.  Once you have the order set, you then change the order of the pictures on the PowerPoint presentation to correspond with what the students have thought about and decided. 

6. The students then get into small groups based on where their assigned picture lies in the SPRE. For example, the students with the pictures designated in the (S)ituaton come together, the students in the (P)roblem area work together, and so on.  They write out their speech bubbles in their notebooks, making sure that what they are writing makes sense as a story. 

7.There should also be one representative from each group to go and see what the group before them in the order of SPRE  is writing, again to make sure that the story is coherent and cohesive.

8.  When all the groups have completed their speech bubbles, they come back together as a whole class, but this time working in a discussion circle.  The students read and act out the comic they have written from beginning to end.  The teacher assists in fixing any errors in the content and language.

9. Once ready, the students then come to the IWB, in turn, and write out their speech bubbles.  Each picture is then snipped again using the Windows Snipping Tool and made into a PowerPoint presentation.

10.  The presentation can then be uploaded to your PLN for the students in the other class to download on to their own computers.

 Step 3: The Retelling in Reported Speech 

The final part of this activity is where you switch over to another classroom and the practice of reported speech comes into play.

1. Get the new group of students to download the prepared PowerPoint presentation from step 2. Have the students read the story by themselves quietly and also identify with their assigned slide.

2. The teacher also displays the presentation on the IWB.  As a whole class, read through the story and get the students to identify the SPRE  in the story. You can also discuss how the story may be different from their own class and whether they liked it or not.

3. Students then return to their netbooks where they downloaded the PowerPoint presentation and write out the speech bubbles of their assigned slide in reported speech in their notebooks.

4. Once all students are finished, call them one by one to the front of the class and get them to retell the story in reported speech.

5. As an ICT bonus, you could also record the students' voices while they are reading their own sentences. It is so easily done now with smartphones and tablets. Tell the students to go off on their own to a quiet place and record their sentences.  Once finished, have them email their recordings to you, and then add those recordings to the PowerPoint presentation, and save it as a Windows Media video. Upload the video to Youtube/ Vimeo, or your blog and proudly share their work with the world!

  A Final Word

Despite this being quite an undertaking in terms of time and organization, we definitely recommend doing this type of activity in any ESL class.  It is without doubt one of the most successful and rewarding projects for everyone, that we have designed, prepared and completed.  It combines so many facets of ELT all in one project, from grammar and speaking to literary analysis and story-boarding organization. To give you an idea of just how many skills have been incorporated into this project, we have listed them below...

GRAMMAR: Using direct and reported speech to retell the story

READING: Reading and understanding the other class' story

WRITING: Writing out sentences in their notebooks, and on the IWB

SPEAKING: Talking and discussing with classmates to create the story

LISTENING: Listening to each others' ideas during the creative process

CREATIVITY: Tapping into the students' creative process in order to create their very own story

COLLABORATION: Working together in small groups, and as a whole class to create the story, and then to make sure it is coherent & cohesive 

LITERARY ANALYSIS: Using SCASI and SPRE to not only analyze their own story, but also to assess the other class' story 

ICTUsing ICT tools such as Edmodo, the IWB, Snipping Tool, PowerPoint and smartphones or tablets to make and record the final class video

Friday, 19 April 2013


Today we want to share our latest INNOVATION ZONE project that is taking place this morning over in our Preparatory classes.  Since we have been studying PERSUASIVE TECHNIQUES in ADVERTISING and ACADEMIC WRITING we felt it a great opportunity to have the students use these (hopefully) learned techniques to promote and persuade their audience (US, or any of you who would like to see them?) in next week’s presentation time during the INNOVATION ZONE. I will explain it below…

The use of propaganda in our lives is perpetrated by governments, associations and other groups who want to sway and persuade audiences to follow their ideas and beliefs.  The THREE techniques we shared with our young teens in Hazirlik were:

ASSOCIATION – Celebrities, Jumping on the bandwagon of groups, fashions…

LOADED LANGUAGE – Positive or Negative

EMOTIONAL – Vanity, Fear, Humor etc

So, I made two adverts that are self-explanatory once you click the links. 

You can see that I have used the same pictures for both Edu-Commercials.  That is another scaffolding attempt to get students to see that if emotive language, association and loaded language are used they can be persuaded to follow the commercial/advert maker’s idea.  I intentionally exaggerated the negatives and positives to show how far people go to persuade their audience.  I decided, however, not to use overly-graphic images since that can turn people off who are sitting on the fence.

So, how are we expecting to transfer this to the students’ collaboratively creative minds?  We will be putting them in groups, chosen by our desktop app, Triptico (that way everyone participates, as it is done randomly) then we will ask the students to discuss in groups of FOUR to decide upon which social issue they feel strongly about.  For this to work, and assure that everyone has a voice and the chance
to persuade using the techniques stated above, each student is being given 3 minutes to convince their peers which social issue they want to promote.  Once the 3 minutes are over, a vote will be taken, and that is what that group will research and complete for presentation next week.  We will now have FIVE different propaganda campaigns next week.  We will share with our school's colleagues and have them see our students participating in this creative & collaborative process.