IT@IH for T’s: goals and opportunities

By now, you have seen how we place importance in adding technology to enhance the classroom experience.  Technology can be used to access resources, create our own and also to challenge students during the class.  Let’s survey some of the skills you can work on this summer, especially if you take our IT@IH course.   Technology is not the centre of our teaching, but it certainly provides support!

This week let’s set some goals related to technology or at least see some opportunities that technology can provide us with if we use it well.  Technology should never be the centre point of our teaching, but it certainly can provide support!

I always tell people how I moved to Portugal with just a couple suitcases, which meant I didn’t bring any resources for teaching English along with me.  What I had, which has been a never-ending resource has been my laptop.  From there, I have been able to share a bit of the US with my students, or at least, English.  Just think of all of the videos on YouTube, and don’t forget the TED talks we talked about some weeks ago.  We’ve got the world at our fingertips, but we have to set some goals so we can take advantage of what technology can help us access.

That’s why the first goal is:  because you invest in creating activities to accompany video, why don’t you learn how to download the video?  Let’s download, create folders and organize our worksheets and videos so that they’ll be ready when we need them.  Also, let’s not leave ourselves at the mercy of a wi-fi connection at our school.

The second goal is:  take screenshots of videos.  And why not make PowerPoints & worksheets from our screen shots?  This summer, we’ll be working on making our own visually-rich activities using images from the internet, screenshots and perhaps even our own photos.

The third goal is:  calculating results.  Excel seems like a dirty word, but it’s a very powerful resource.  We just have to look at what we want to do and how to do it.  Working together, it’s really not as hard as it looks!

The fourth goal is: let’s explore a few online platforms like what we’ve seen here, such as Kahoot to challenge our students.  Several moments throughout the year doing activities and playing games using technology changes the pace and makes learning enjoyable.

By setting these goals, in fact we are creating opportunities for ourselves and our students.

Getting grammar and language out of picturebooks

Today we are going to work with a specific book, but I hope that you take a look at your library and find books with similar characteristics and that you try to make your own activities. 

Or, get a copy of Lost and Found and have the same experience I had with my students.  This book, in particular, works well with two language points — simple past and connectors.  Also, it helps students build emotional intelligence, or at least engage in a conversation requiring empathy.  You will find this especially interesting to do with students at the A2 and B1 levels.

So, let’s take a look at the cover.  And, if you’d like to take a look at a narrated version on YouTube, you can follow this link:

Once we get inside, you’ll see that the verb forms are in the Past Simple and so it’s easy to practice that verb form. I have also worked conjunctions in the text (but, so, and) and time sequencers too.

So, let’s look inside at what I have done.  You  can do the same with another book or with this one.

I have cut out the phrases that would appear in the text and have replaced them with a letter.  Students have a table with all of the phrases cut out and with phrases where they have to supply the verb in the past simple.

Here’s the first picture of the text.  Which one is the matching sentence?

Further on, we see the boy talking to some birds.

And we see the boy starting out on his mission.

so the boy decided to help the penguin…

Notice the conjunction in this sentence—so.  Although I have taken out a lot of sentences out—17 in all, students are able to do this activity.   Later, they can do a matching exercise with pictures printed out.  Even better yet, they can re-narrate the story, given their own versions of each sentence.

There is so much you can do with picturebooks! This was one that worked really well in some of my classes. I hope it works well in yours.

Stories are fabulous, and even better if we can work with vocabulary and grammar. 

Next week, we’ll be here to work with something of more virtual appeal—we’ll look at some goals and opportunities for English teachers when using IT.

Wordless picturebooks — a sneak peek

Welcome back to Shawn’s corner, where today we’ll be looking a special kind of book.  You know about some wonderful storybooks out there, like those from Dr. Seuss, especially Green Eggs & Ham, my favorite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Giving Tree (as we saw in an earlier Shawn’s Corner) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Some of these may work best with younger students if, but we should take some time later to see other ways we can use these classics.  For now, let’s look at a type picturebook that is good for most levels and ages—the wordless picturebook. 

My favorite authors in this genre are Shaun Tan and David Wiesner, illustrators of “The Arrival” and “Sector 7” but there are many more out there like a funny little story called “The Flower Man” about an old man who moves into the neighborhood and brightens it up with his flowers.  Another one is “The Journey” about a girl who has amazing adventures that she partly creates with a red crayon.

Let’s take a look at one that I have found engaging at all levels called “Flotsam” by David Wiesner.  As I don’t want to include a spoiler, I am just going to show you the first part of the story and you’ll have to check out the book to find out what happens.  You will be amazed to see how the book can convey a fantastic story without a single written word.

Students should learn phrases to hedge a bit, like “He must be doing something”, “He like is…” “It looks as if…” “It looks as though” “Maybe” “Perhaps” and so on.  This is the kind of language that lets their imagination run free without losing face.

You, as the teacher, can ask as many questions you like because everything is open for interpretation. These books give tons to talk about so they really are worth checking out. 

In the next Shawn’s corner, we will look at a picturebook with text and some ideas for using it for grammar and vocabulary study. 

In regards to what you saw today, I hope you came to the conclusion that although these picturebooks are wordless, your students should be far from speechless when working from them. 

Getting creative with video

Do you mind if I work on a cliché?  A picture is worth a thousand words… that’s why I’d look at moving pictures today.  So, you do the math, thousands times a thousand…those are a lot of words. That what you get when you work with moving pictures!

There is so much to do with video—in this video segment, I am going to show you how to make a prediction activity, meant to get students talking!  This is just one of tons of different ways to get thousands of words out of moving pictures.

In order to take screenshots, there are 2 tools: 

for PC users, do a search for “snipping tool” if you haven’t already found it in “accessories” and pinned it to your start menu. 

for Mac users, you press three keys at one time:   command – shift – 4

I am going to show you a video with quite a simple story line, but it’s a chance to get students to speculate and predict what’s going to happen without having to pre-teach too much vocabulary.

So, let’s make some screenshots from the video Soar.

What I did was download the video so that I could get the screenshots without any pause or play marks on the screen.  Also, this means that I can do the activity even if I have problems with the internet on the day we look at this video in class.

So, I’ve mentioned the tools to use to take screenshots.  I will do it on my Mac and show you how it works.  With a PC, the process is similar.

I’ve watched the video and marked 8 different moments that I want to use for my speaking task.

Here they are if you’d like to make the activity yourself. 

:37  :40  1:03  1:19  1:39  1:47  3:41  3:51

You can use any number of pics you like, but for working in pairs and small groups, I try not to do more than 8, otherwise the task might become too complicated.

So, I advance in the video and pause on the frame I’d like.  On my Mac, I type command + ctrl + shift + 4 all at once, so I can paste the picture into Word right away. 

If I’d like to save all 8 pictures as files, then I can press command + shift + 4. These files are saved on my computer and this is the process you use with the PC. You can save the files and then put them in your document all at one time.

After putting these all into Word and I have a worksheet like this.  You can put the pics in order or have students order them.  It’s a great pre-watching activity and it gets students talking.

So, get some words out of your student, maybe a thousand words, by using screenshots.

From student to teacher: Students helping make Kahoots!

Welcome back to Shawn’s Corner. Last week we looked at several different types of Kahoot! To finish off our exploration of this tool, I’d like to give you ideas on how to get your students involved in creating games. They’ll be reviewing language at the same time they set up items for other games that everyone in the classroom will benefit from.

So, here is what you need.
1. A Kahoot account
2. A model for students to give Kahoot items like I’ll be showing you.
3. A group of students who want more challenges.
4. A few minutes at the computer to set up your game.

In past Shawn’s corner segments, I mentioned you could use other people’s games, but today I am going to show you how to make a game, while also presenting a model for getting your students to make up the question items.

So let’s go to our account at (remember is for students to play games)

Let’s go to create.
Just to remind you, the most common type of game to play is a quiz.
And now we’re down to two options, we can type in Qs one by one or we can use a template. Today my objective is to show you who easy it is to use a template, especially if you get students to help you make the questions.

You can download a simple document I’ve created for my students so that they can create their own items or possibly copy from another resource. Perhaps, in most cases, it’s best to make a rule that questions can’t be from your current textbook or workbook activities you’ve already done. Or, if it is from the book, they must change some words to make the question look like a new one. Consider too, whether you’d like to make a list of grammar points that you’d like to gather questions for.

Video segment on:
How to download template
A simpler worksheet version for students
How to transfer this information to the template and complete
Uploading the template

Now, let’s put the template and my worksheet side by side. See how easy it’ll be to get the items written up. In my case, I have the items written up and I’ll cut and paste, but your students probably won’t write up long questions anyway 

And now, upload your document and the game is done! That was easy and now you just have to wait for the class you’re going to play it in.

This is the last in our sequence on Kahoots for now. Next week, we’ll take a look at an idea for getting students to talk about videos in class.

Have some fun with this learning tool. Your students are now in cahoots with you on making a Kahoot.

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Different kinds of Kahoots!

Last week we looked at how you could get started with Kahoot! By now, I suppose you have your account and you’ve looked around.  Today, I am going to talk about different kinds of exercises that you can create, all focused on how to teach & practice language.

There are five different kinds of Kahoot! exercises that I have come up with.

Let’s start with the one that is a favorite in workbooks—dehydrated sentences.  When you set up Kahoot, you can choose the “JUMBLE” option and this will allow you to have sentence parts presented randomly each time you play.  Students will drag the parts of the sentences in the right order on their phones.  Please note, that you will can only cut up sentences into 4 parts, so think about how you’d like to challenge your students.  I often like to have sentences with two main clauses joined by linking words.

The second type is the most common type to play:  Multiple choice options to grammar questions.  It works out well to use sentences from other resources or the workbook.  You simply need to have between 2 and 4 multiple choice answer options.  You can even put in various correct answers, but I find that students don’t like that possibility!

The third way is to use Kahoot for a flashcard activity. You can put pictures up on the kahoot and give students vocabulary options.  You could ask a question like “what’s this” so students identify the picture.  Or you could put up a picture, say, of school and then ask which word is associated with it.  You can also link YouTube videos in with it, so you can play a short segment of a music video and ask students which vocab words they heard.

The fourth way is playing trivia.  I have found this a fun way of introducing new vocabulary and promoting discussion.  With these, I generally look for a  Kahoot on a topic that we are talking about, like health, copy it to my account and then add or delete questions.  Many times, Kahoots that have been made for a class in the US has been useful for my English class if I simplify the questions a bit.

The fifth and last way is multiple-choice cloze reading activities. For the Cambridge First exams and other tests, there are reading texts which test 4 different but similar words and their collocations.  As an example, there might be a text where we want to contrast and the word choices could be however, despite, although, or but.  Depending on the rest of the sentence, only one would be the right answer.  For example, you could complete this sentence: I didn’t raise my hand to volunteer ___________ I knew the answer.

I didn’t raise my hand to volunteer although I knew the answer.

So these are the 5 ways I have found of using Kahoots.  It’s a great way to keep students challenged, to keep the game fresh and to also be able to adapt Kahoot to what you are teaching.

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Give a Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a website that allows you to create questions and turn any type of multiple-choice question into a gameshow format.  In the next Shawn’s Corner segment, we’ll look at all the different ideas we have for making Kahoots, but in this one, let’s look at the basics and some considerations.

First of all, making the Kahoots. To sign up for an account and to view other people’s games, you need to go to

Once you have made your account, you can click on “discover” and type in your grammar point and the level you are looking for to find other people’s Kahoots.  Try, for example, Present Perfect A2, Conditionals B2, Sports A2, Linking Words, etc.  These are just a few ideas!

To make your own, click on Create.  In a nutshell, you write a question and must provide between 2 and 4 answers.  You can time the questions and add as many as you like.  We’ll look more at this in a future session.  My suggestion is that you find the one you like, click on “duplicate” and then modify it to get the hang of the platform.

So let’s move on to our next part, which is student interaction.

When you play with students, you will refer them to the site or they can download the app.  You should normally project the game on a screen so that students can see the game.  Because the question options do not appear on the phone, it has the advantage that all students will pay attention to the board.  They only look at their phones the moment they are answering. They will become very involved and it’s a very energetic experience, so it’s a great way to finish off a class.  Basically, you can do the whole content of a worksheet in a short time with a lot more attention. It’s memorable, saves paper and gets students engaged.

If you’d like to view some of the Kahoots I’ve made or adapted from other Kahoot users, please do a search for “Shawnito”.  Look for the creator as a “shawnito” and you’ll know that it’s one that I’ve used or made, from 5th grade level on up through university student levels.

So, because you really do give a hoot, why don’t you give a Kahoot!  Learning will happen during the game.

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Use TED Talks for Language Practice

Have you been to lately?  What’s your favorite talk?  Is it the one by Sir Ken Robinson on “Do Schools Kill Creativity?  Is it Susan Cain on “The Power of Introverts”?

Ted Talks carry strong messages and innovative ideas. They’re up-to-date, appealing and powerful.  But how can we use these for teaching English?  After all, they talk really fast.

Well there are 3 ways, each with three different qualities.

1. TED-Ed

Many teachers like us have contributed ESL lesson plans.  They may be on topics associated with TED talks or even some are just original ideas.  The lessons are comprised of a video, followed by questions to make students think.  Then there are further references which may be useful for students to read or for you to prepare for your lesson.


2. with interactive transcript

Going back to the regular site, there are often articles associated with the talks themselves, which make useful reading comprehension exercises and they can also be useful for determining what vocabulary to pre-teach.  You can also use this as an exercise to practice pronunciation and look at language. This can really promote autonomy and engagement.  Motivated students can watch part of the talk, then read and then listen again to compare their pronunciation to that of the TED speaker.

3. TED NPR Radio Hour

The third way of using TED is very useful for adults and also a treat for us teachers:  if you go to Googleplay and download the Podcasts app on your Android phone or, for you iPhone or iPad users, if you look for the Podcasts app, you can use any kind of smartphone to subscribe to the TED Radio Hour prepared by NPR, National Public Radio.  Every week parts of TED talks are gathered around 1 topic and then there are interviews with the speakers.  In the end, those great ideas are presented in a more accessible way.

So, these are the 3 ways that you can use TED to bring great language (and ideas!) to your learners. 

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The Giving Tree Project

In this Shawn’s corner, we are going to take a peak at a project related to the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

Here’s what you can do to make your own giving tree with your students.

For younger students, you can list different emotions that one would feel while hearing the story, such as:

  • I was amazed
  • It was amazing
  • It was sad
  • The tree was happy
  • I was surprised
  • It was surprising
  • I was confused
  • It was annoying

Notice here that it’s a great practice for differentiating between adjectives with -ed or -ing.  After all, it’s not the same to be bored as it is to be boring!

For older students, you can practice the third conditional.  Tell them to note down facts as to reasons why the boy took things from the tree.  Afterwards, they can write up sentences for others to explain like “If the boy hadn’t wanted to travel far away, he wouldn’t have cut the tree down.” 

So imagine, this part of the book:

Students could be surprised that….

If the tree hadn’t offered to ….., then ….

After reading, I gave my students tracing paper for them to trace around some printed leaves shapes I found.  You could also just print out a copy of leaves for each student or have them draw their own.  I just had a few minutes for artwork, so I wanted this to be fast.

Then I made a tree trunk out of cardboard and the students hung up their leaves around the tree.

That’s how we made our own Giving Tree, while talking about emotions and some hypothetical situations.

Hope your students enjoy the project and take benefit from this timeless and meaningful story. 

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Introducing Shawn’s Corner — The Plan

April 2   What is Shawn’s Corner?
Teacher Training at International House Porto is committed to sharing new ideas and giving support to teachers in our area. We have a tradition of quality trainers who work hard to innovate and bring the best there is in English language teacher to our community. That’s why, on top of our extensive teacher training programme (Coffee@IH, You@IH and IT@IH), we are proud to introduce Shawn’s Corner!
In Shawn’s Corner, we will share tips, ideas, projects and food for thought as well as have mini-tutorials and provide links to good materials. In just a couple minutes, teachers can take away some new, motivating ideas. We’ll be in touch with you on a weekly basis, on Tuesdays. And then, we hope to see you at our Wednesday sessions. Please check out for more info and to sign up to attend!

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Shawn’s Corner Programme

April 9  The Giving Tree Project

April 16  Using TED Talks for Language Practice

April 23  Give a Kahoot!  (intro)

April 30  Different kinds of Kahoots!

May 7  From student to teacher:  Students helping make Kahoots!

May 14  Getting creative with video

May 21  Wordless picture books —  a sneak peak

May 28  Getting grammar and language out of picture books

June 4   IT@IH for T’s: goals and opportunities

June 11  Using Prezi in speaking practice exercises

June 18  Focus on one of the “10 things to do in 2019”

June 25  IT@IH starts next week! Your chance to build your skills!