Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coffee, no cream - Scrambled Slide Show Project

Here's a simple but very rewarding project that gives students a chance to practice pronunciation and transition words like "first," "second," "next," and "finally." Create a simple photo essay using Power Point or other slide show program demonstrating the steps of a process. Make each photo clear and distinct and put one photo on a slide. Don't add any text or timing. Scramble the order of the slides and save the presentation. Include in the saved name "Master" or "Scrambled." Students are to open the presentation, rename it with their own name replacing "Master" or "Scrambled," and save it with the new name.

They then unscramble the slides and add a narration giving directions (instructions) using the transition words.

Download the scrambled presentation here (click on the download link at the wiki).

I'll add actual student projects when I get back to school in January!

Project Enhancment: Once students have finished narrating the scrambled presentation, they can create their own presentation from scratch (Their own photos of a process they've selected.) I'll add some examples of original student projects in January!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A PowerPoint Project Idea From a Student

This idea was generated completely by a student. I quickly made it a project for everyone! Students work with a list of new vocabulary words every week. My student Karla called me over to look at what she was doing. Turns out she had made a PowerPoint slide show featuring one word contextualized in a sentence and illustrated by an image. It turned out great. It's a simple idea with a lot of utility and flexibility. Her project appears as a SlideShare presentation below. It may take a few moments to load...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Using PowerPoint to Deliver Content Instruction or Practice

A very engaging way to introduce or practice vocabulary or grammar content is to use a series of images in a PowerPoint presentation. View the PowerPoint presentation below to see the way several ESL topics could be introduced or practiced. The presentation is just a sampler, with one or two slides demonstrating each type of activity. In practice, each topic would have anywhere from 10 to 20 slides to provide sufficient material for introduction or practice.

View the sampler presentation

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Using Video Clips as Prompts for Conversation and Making Predictions

I was recently reminded of the importance of reading stories as a classroom exercise in terms of giving students the opportunity to make predictions about what will happen in the next part of the story to be read. The same can be done with video clips. The following three clips come from a car commercial. I play them in order for the whole class. The students work in groups. Each group has to make a prediction about what will happen next. I write the predictions on the board before showing the next clip. Try it yourself by watching the clips in order and making your own predictions.

Watch the first clip

What do you think will happen next? (Write your prediction down!)

Watch the second clip

Was your prediction accurate?
What do you think will happen next? (Write your prediction down!)

Watch the final clip

Was your prediction accurate?

Try it with your students! If your students are anything like my students you will have great discussions and they will enjoy the surprise endings, especially after the second second clip!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Authentic Easy-to-Read Stories Online at the Toronto Star

I was recently introduced to the "Acts of Kindness" series published weekly by the Toronto Star by a multilevel instructor who teaches in Canada. She noted that these true stories, submitted by readers of the newspaper, are very suitable for multilevel classes since they are short and often written in "easy" English. She has the students work in cross-ability groups with the stories in a variety of ways. For example, students may be assigned to explain a story to a student at a different ability level, or rewrite the story in their own words. After a quick search, I found that the more than 2000(!) stories are archived at the Toronto Star online edition at and they are not only suitable for multilevel ESL situations, they are a wonderful resource for any ESL class.

The stories cover a wide variety of topics and everyday situations, so there are many opportunities to work with vocabulary and associate stories with topics being covered in class already. For example, I saw several stories related to getting stuck without money and someone helping, others related to losing things on buses and recovering them, and still others related to being helped by a stranger when a crime is about to occur. Most newer ESL textbooks have chapters related to finances, public transportation, and public safety. It would be very easy to choose selections from the stories and introduce them as supplemental activities to particular units during the semester.

There is also a link to submit one's own story! Students at all levels could work in groups or individually to submit an "act of kindness" story and see it published online!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How to download a YouTube (or other similar video) using

There are probably several ways to download YouTube and other videos and save them to a DVD or flash drive. Basically, you'll just download them to your computer using converter software and then copy them to your flash drive or burn them using the DVD burning software on your computer.

A free web-based converter can be found at (there are also more versions of the same software with added features for a fee at the same website)

The process is really simple but it takes a few minutes because you're converting relatively large files.

1) Find the video you want to use in the classroom on YouTube or TeacherTube and copy the URL for that particular video. It's usually really easy to find but sometimes you have to click on a few links to find the actual URL (not the "channel") It should look something like this

2) Go to the Zamzar website and in STEP 1, click on the URL link in the sentence "Select files or URL to convert." The default Step 1 is to convert a file you already have on your computer so the typical "find file" window would appear. By clicking on the URL link, you get a spot to paste the URL of the video you want to convert. (Remember to delete the "http" that's already there before you paste in the URL if you've copied another "http" when you copied the URL; you don't want the "http" repeated.)

3) In STEP 2, select the file format output that can play on your computer. If you have Quicktime, you could select MOV. If you have Windows Media Player you could select WMV. You might have to experiment to find the right format for you.

4) In STEP 3, enter your email address.

5) In STEP 4, click on "convert" to start the process of converting the selected file to the file type you selected. What happens is that the selected video gets uploaded directly to the Zamzar website and starts to be converted. When it's finished being converted, you'll get an email message saying your file is ready to be downloaded with a clickable link included. Click on the link to start downloading the converted file (most likely to your "Downloads" folder. According to the email message, the converted movie is stored at the website for 24 hours only in the free version so get it without delay.

6) View the movie by doubleclicking on it just as you would any other movie file, copy and paste it to your flash drive, or burn it to a DVD or CD using the appropriate software. is not the only online or software method but I have used it and it works for most movies you'll find on YouTube or TeacherTube. There are apparently some movies that are protected.

Friday, September 04, 2009 for reducing image file size for online images.

It's great to find a website that provides a service of use and works well-and for free! Web Resizer is one of those! Do you want to make sure that people who view your website aren't waiting long periods for your photos to load? This is especially true for teachers who post images of students or student projects or who have websites where students upload a lot of photos. Webresizer reduces wait time in two ways. It electronically reduces the file size of any image, and it provides a convenient online cropping tool. The process is simple: browse for an image saved on your computer and click the upload button. The image is automatically reduced using the electronic process and appears on the screen next to the original image. The new file size is displayed and the difference in size between the original and the new image is shown as a percentage. Click on a link that says "download" this image and the reduced file is saved on your computer. The real proof is when you post the new optimized image on the website next to the original image and compare how long it takes for both images to appear. The difference is immediately evident.

Not only is Web Resizer free, you don't even have to register for it. Just click on the link and start resizing your photos!

There are also other online photo editing tools to check out including a cropping tool, adjustments for contrast and brightness, and a way to add borders to your photo.

There are probably other websites that provide similar tools, but this was the first one I heard about and it works great.