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!

IT @ IH – Improving our practice, having fun & reaching out to our students by Shawn Severson

Teachers with practice and experience have so much background knowledge and so much insight into the language learning process. They know the language, inside and out. They know the demands of school curricula, metas and language acquisition. But when it comes to certain aspects of their language teaching, can we say they have “an accent”? As a matter of fact, we can. Paper, textbooks, notebooks and the lot are all fundamental, but not being able to add in some of the digital content that is out there, means that a teacher has a bit of an accent as far as speaking the language of “21st Century Skills”. That’s why we’ve been working on our IT@IH course, first starting with our own teachers, looking at ways to further their practice, in an IT @ IH 1.2 course (to use the language of the Internet).

And let the IT @ IH 1.1 course begin! [pronunciation: eye tea at eye aitch one point one] Two of the most fundamental aspects of using technology is overcoming fear of technology and seeing need for what technology has to offer. That’s why after just reviewing some of the more basic skills we went into visually appealing and language-rich materials using video, image and text. Before our eyes, we could see how we could turn a short videoclip into a resource to lead students in predicting the story. Not only that, we also downloaded the video and saved it for future use. By the end, we could download a video, take images from our screens, and put this image in a document along with text. We could take a picture of an unchangeable .pdf document and get it into a worksheet. That frustrating thing of images pictures jumping around in our Word document, we learned how to stop. In short, we had made some great resources to reach out to our students. Our “accent” was already getting better.

From there, we imagined ourselves in “assessment time”, working with Excel to calculate test grades. Not such a captivating module, but one necessary nonetheless. We laid out the marking scheme and created formulas. When we put in the information of our fake students’ scores, we could see their grades developing in percentage, the class average and also the number of times correct. To finish it off, we made some idiom flashcards in Word to make a resource we could use for teaching and also as a pelmanism/memory game.

To round it off, we worked with PowerPoint to make our own presentations. Using the skills we had acquired working with image from the Word module, we put video, audio, pictures and text into PowerPoint. For the final test, we saved the file in the way we had discussed so that we could open up all of that catchy media on someone else’s computer. (Have you ever had that bad experience of having a PowerPoint with a video and opening it up on another computer and received the message “cannot find video file”? Well, we learned how to avoid that.) Mission accomplished! Sound, image and customized materials for student interaction made and ready to go.

The last module of IT @ IH 1.1 is about exploring and having fun – online tools for ELT teachers. To make a list of the tools here without showing how they work would simply not do those tools justice. So, let’s just say we had a lot of collaboration, a bit of competition, culture galore, communication unfolding, a fair amount of critical thinking and creavity?—yes, you guessed it, we were creative and certainly working on getting rid of our “digital accents”!

Beyond Words – A Video Project for your Students by Shawn Severson

Beyond Words – A video project

Are you skeptical about using the New York Times with your students? Well, regardless of their level, here is a project they are sure to enjoy. It’s called “Beyond Words”. In it, students explore their acting, drawing, writing and speaking skills. For our purposes, we will modify the outcomes and the procedures slightly, but this is a project that could be done at any level, A2 level and above.

To quote the New York Times there is a magic equation, which we can apply to our learners of all ages: “Tenacity + a desire to edify + an enterprising nature – sloth = a beguiling result.”
In other words, if we, as teachers stick to it (tenacity), and encourage our students to build up their skills while having fun (a desire to edify) and they are creative (an enterprising nature) but not lazy (no sloth), then the outcome can be really beyond words (a beguiling result)!

So here is the challenge: make a 15-second video in which a word is clearly pronounced, the part of speech is given, the definition is read and then the word is used in examples or clearly exemplified through acting or pictures. The NY Times started publishing a Word of the Day in 2009, a practice on which this is based, and then in 2013 (by which time some 1,000 words had appeared) the NY Times Learning Network launched a Vocabulary Video Contest. At this point, the vocabulary list has 1,827 words and that number is growing every school day! When students are looking up the word, they can either use a paper dictionary or go to or Warning: advise Ss that they must not use the examples that appear in these dictionaries. Also, videos should really be no shorter than 10 and no longer than 20 seconds!

Students can take the lead in production: encourage Ss to work in pairs or groups of 3 although each student must submit their own video. Using their mobiles or a tablet, they have sufficient technological tools to make a good video. Then, as Ss are “digital natives”, as Marc Prensky started calling youth in 2001, they will use a video editing program to piece the different “takes” together, their definition and a screen with the definition written out. As you can see in the screenshot below, one student used VivaVideo, but I usually suggest Moviemaker and iMovie. What is important is to let students choose the software and be empowered to produce the final version. One student of mine, who had been absent for the class when we did the bulk of the project, recorded her definition, downloaded images from the internet because she didn’t want to star in the film and then did a voice over, editing it all on my iPad using iMovie.

So as a starting point for you as a teacher, take a look at what the New York Times gives as food for thought, just to get the creative juices flowing and to give your students some ideas:

“Use your imagination. You can act the word out, animate it, use puppets, draw, sing a song, create a dance, incorporate photographs, create a Claymation, or anything else that will help viewers understand and learn your word.”

To spur students and to give them good examples, one should also show several winning videos from 2018. The first 3 featured are good examples, as they show how acting, examples using the word and drawn images can bring a word to life.

My students touched on several different themes with these words: potion (n.), rave (v.), contraband (n.), anvil (n.), fugitive (n.), venom (n.), among others. Can you guess which word was illustrated in this screenshot from one student video? Talk to your colleagues, this project is easy and will be sure to get other classes also engaged.

For the original challenge, please go to


What’s the Story? Commercials for “Digital Storytelling” by Shawn Severson

Here’s a proposition from a teacher who used to believe that materials brought into the classroom should be aimed solely at providing input:  use commercials that have no words or that are in another language to promote thought as well as opportunities for storytelling and language production.  Inspiration for using images like commercial in the ESL classroom has reached me from various sources, but I always focussed on discrete short films and occasionally commercials that were cleverly disguised as not selling anything.  However, why not use a commercial that openly sells, provided it tells a story or relates to a topic at hand?

 Commercials can naturally entertain and set a mood for a class, but they can also:

·       inspire curiosity

·       engage students

·       motivate

·       give context for classroom interaction

·       promote critical thinking

·       help students relate personal experiences and viewpoints

 Before my final selection for recent conference talks, an exceedingly long list of commercials were suitable for developing activities.  In fact, critically paring the list down still brought a solid 20, even when narrowed to the last few years.  Thus, rather than giving a long list, it seems better to give a few examples and then explain how to find your own, impactful specimens.

 Japan – Ocedel Lighting “Firefly Man”

Writing intertitles or subtitles for this film is an engaging exercise.  The surprise ending also can lead to multiple explanations.

Canada – Snack Time Mystery

The disappearance of “Chip” is answered in three scenarios, so students can choose their own adventure. Students can predict the endings using the titles of the different versions.  They can also write their own ending.

 Romania – Rom Milk Chocolate

Here you can talk about the different “tricks” the Romanian farmer had.  What could you do in your community to get tourists to do your work?

 India – Ariel Share the Load

Commercials can be also much more than just funny. At times, important social issues are also covered like in this one.  Students can write their own letter talking about things they are sorry for doing/not doing around the house.  Similarly, many interesting commercials are to be found for the “Touch the Pickle” campaign in India. These focus on breaking down some Indian taboos related to young woman.

 China – Breathe Again

This last example, touches on the environment, just the tip of the iceberg in this area and others. What other facts can your students find about air pollution? What does air pollution affect?

 Finding good videos can be easily achieved in four steps.  First, open up both Vimeo and YouTube.  Second, brainstorm what kind of product you could associate with topics in your class. Consider using brand names, but also just talking about the product (for example, Ice Cream rather than Ben and Jerry’s).  Add a country you could find interesting and the word “commercial”.  Third, enter these searches in both Vimeo and YouTube.  Add also descriptors such as “funny” “sad” “surprising”.   Fourth, look for commercial awards lists such as this one: Cannes Lions Archives.  This database has names of projects that are innovative and will engage your students.  You can get names of new projects and then search for them on YouTube or Vimeo.   Sometimes you will find commercials like those above or you may also find descriptions of campaign projects likes this one promoting literacy:

 Additionally, you can also look for lists like the one below, which are more user-friendly but less complete:

 To find simple lists, Google keywords such as “commercials awards winners + year”.  In the link above, you have a description of projects explaining the commercials, which gives added dimension to activities.  These will be sure to please, while the quality stands out.  Putting this into perspective, consider that media producers aim to engage the modern day public increasingly bombarded by sensational claims and images.  Through the art these gurus wield, teachers can certainly find engaging stories to promote discussion and to lead to further language activities. By using commercials, you can set the mood for your class and set a stage for your students to perform, whatever the language.

Coffee@IH Porto – Mindfulness in the classroom

What is Mindfulness? What is not Mindfulness? A lot has been said about Mindfulness and its implications for both teachers and students. In this session our Academic Manager, Edite Abrantes, approaches the topic and shares her experience and ideas with the teachers who attended the session.

If you didn’t watch the session live on Facebook, here’s the link. After you watch the session, please leave your opinion on our feedback form. Your honest opinion will help us improve.

Coffee@IH Porto – All alike but all different

As you might know, IH Porto has two sorts of events taking place at the school regarding Teacher Training. There are the You@IH Porto and the Coffee@IH Porto.

Our Coffee@IH sessions are meant to be about sharing experiences, opinions and ideas. You can join the session at the school (it’s free but limited to 10 seats) or, for some of them, you can join live on Facebook.

Today we went live on Facebook with “All alike but all different” which aimed at raising awareness to the “different” students we have in our class regardless of whether they are “special needs” or not. It also meant to share tips and ideas that teachers can use in their own classes.

If didn’t watch the session, don’t worry. Something great about Facebook live is that you can catch up later. All you need to do is visit our Facebook page. Or… you can watch here 🙂

Don’t forget to follow our social media accounts to find out when our next session is taking place.

If you watch the session, please give us your feedback by clicking here.

See you in the Teachers’ Room!