Saturday 18 December 2010

Creating Video Sentences

Twist Our Words is a great site I spotted while watching TV in the UK. It enables you to create video sentences that are 'mashed up' from a collection of clips of UK TV celebrities saying each word. If you don't understand that then look at this example I created. Click the white arrow to play it.

Making a video like this is very simple, just go to: and you'll see a page full of words. Click on the words you want to put in your sentence.

Then click on the words will appear along the bottom. When your sentence is complete, click on the white arrow at the and to watch it.

If you like the video, then just click on submit and you'll be able to get a URL link for the video or and embed code to add it to your site or blog.

If you don't want to create your own sentence you can just click on 'Lucky Dip' and you'll get an automatically generated sentence.

I think Twist Our Words is a great tool to use with students to get them creating and listening to language.
  • They could try to make poems or haiku
  • They can produce a lucky dip sentence and then see how many word they can add to it without it loosing sense.
  • You could produce sentences that have errors in and get the students to try to spot the errors and correct them.
  • You can produce a collection of sentences and get students to decide which are correct and which are not.
  • You could have a competition to see which students can produce the longest grammatically correct sentence.
  • They could collect together all the words they can find that include a particular phoneme or all the word which rhyme.
  • They could try to make a video with all the words that contain 3 syllables and the same stress pattern.
I hope you can try a few of these ideas and they work for you and your students.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 15 December 2010

A Collaborative English Grammar

I have to admit that I'm not a great fan of grammar, but this is a site that I do really like. It's called English Language and Usage and it is like a Q & A of English grammar. The site has a huge collection of questions that people have sent in about various aspects of English grammar idioms and general usage and anyone who is registered can the try to answer the questions.

I think this would be a great tool to use with trainee teachers. They could find questions and check to see if the agree with the answers. They could also post their own questions and answers. It's also a great way to test your ability to answer thorny questions that might come up.

If you are looking for questions related to a particular aspect you can search through the tags to the side and click on any that interest you.

For me this is a great way to approach the development of grammatical knowledge ( I find attempting to read grammar books impossible). Though I'm not sure that the site would be suitable for any but the more advanced students of English.

English Language and Usage is a really good way to make grammar interesting and collaborative. I hope you find it useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 3 December 2010

Lyrics and Video and Grammar - Song as Corpus

A while ago I wrote a posting (Teaching Grammar Through Songs) on how you could search song lyrics for particular words or phrases, then find the lyrics and video to go with the song. In the posting, this involved using two different sites, but now I have found one site that does the whole thing.

The site is called Batlyrics. It's very simple to use. You just go to the search part of the site and click the 'Lyrics Words' search.

Then type in the phrase, structure or words you want to find in the text and you'll see the possible phrases from the lyrics start to appear.
Once you select one, you will be linked through to a page of possible versions of the song. Select the one you want and the video of the song should appear with the lyrics underneath.
This is a really fast way to find motivating listening materials for your students that deal with specific structures or vocabulary.

Using this with EFL students
  • You can get students to search for their own examples and learn the words.
  • You can use it as a way to find listening materials and copy the lyrics to make into classroom activities such as gap fill or reorganising the text.
  • You could cut and past the lyrics into this cloze test creator and you then have an interactive listening activity. Better still students could find there own songs and copy the lyrics into the cloze test creator so that they create their own personalised activities.
Batlyrics is free to use, but it does carry quite a lot of advertising though so be careful where you click.

I hope you find Batlyrics useful. Here you can find more EFL / ESL activities that use songs.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 2 December 2010

Make Quick Pronunciation Activities

Text2Phonetics is a very handy site if you like to use phonemic script with your students. It can take a lot of the hard work out of transcribing text to phonetic symbols. You just paste in a short piece of text, click a button, and it does it for you.

You can then copy and paste the text into websites or documents, like the text below which I copied from Wikipedia. Here you can see how well it transcribes.
This was done using the 'RP' setting.
  • | fəʊˈnɒlədʒi z ðə ˌsɪstəˈmætɪk juːz əv saʊnd tə ɪnˈkəʊd ˈmiːnɪŋ ɪn ˈeni ˈspəʊkən ˈhjuːmən ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ | ɔː ðə fiːld əv lɪŋˈɡwɪstɪks ˈstʌdɪɪŋ ðɪs juːz |
  • Phonology is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use.
This looks like a really great tool to help prepare materials for students or to get students using for themselves.

Here's a few ways you might use it.
  • Get students to type example sentences using new vocabulary words and convert them to script.
  • Produce some sample sentences in script for your students to decode and read.
  • Produce some examples of script and the original text and add some pronunciation errors to the script and see if they can spot the errors.
  • Get students to translate short texts or sentences to script and then use the site to compare and check their own transcriptions.
  • Create transcribed versions of conversations or dialogue and get students to draw on the intonation patterns to show where the intonation rises or falls. You could actually use short exerts from film or TV scripts to do this and then find the clip on YouTube so they can listen to hear the intonation. Drew's Script-O-Rama is a good place to find TV scripts.
If you want to transcribe longer texts then you can also download a desktop edition, but this only runs on PC, so I haven't tried it yet. The tool even offers a degree of customization so you can remove or include different features.
I hope you find Text2Phonetics useful and soon have your students producing perfect 'RP' accents.

Here you an find more web based activities for pronunciation.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 26 November 2010

AudioBoo to Posterous: Audio Podcasting from the Classroom

For a while now I've been using Posterous in class and in training sessions to help show teachers and students just how easy it can be to create a blog.
(Basically, all they have to do is send an email to with the title of the posting in the subject line and the text they want in the email along with and media as attachments and within minutes they'll get a link back to their published posting.)

No, though with the combination of Posterous and AudioBoo, the process of publishing audio directly to the web within minutes has just got easier too.
AudioBoo is a great free platform for publishing audio online. You can either go to their website and start recording straight away, or you can download a free app either to your Apple device or Android smart phone.
The site really does enable almost single click publishing once you have registered and set up your profile, but better than this it can be synced with a Twitter account, Facebook profile or blogging account so that any materials you record go directly to your network.

Publish directly from the classroom
I've found this really useful, particularly as I have the app installed on my iPad. This means that I can wander round class recording my students and then click a button and have their recordings published directly to my blog with seconds.
Then I can go to the blog later and build review tasks around the materials or students can go to the blog pages and comment on each others' recordings.

With students
Having this ability to instantly record and publish students' speaking can be very powerful, particularly when using a task based approach, as students are often reluctant to review and repeat speaking tasks that they have already done once. However, knowing that their speaking will be recorded and published gives them the extra motivation to repeat tasks, focus on what they have learned and concentrate on achieving a level of accuracy.

Setting all this up is very simple. Once you have your Posterous blog account, register on the AudioBoo website, create your profile then go to settings and click on 'Post to other sites'. There you can decide which services you want to synchronise your AudioBoo account with. Then you just start recording and publishing.

AudioBoo and Posterous together can help you to build a powerful and versatile publishing platform for your students work and they are both free, so why not give them a try.

I hope you find them useful. Here you can find speaking activities to use EFL / ESL with students.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 25 November 2010

Get Students Checking Grammar and Collocation is a really handy site I saw today that allows students to check two different ways of saying the same thing, so that they can decide which is most likely to be right.

If you type the two different ways of expressing something into the two fields, the site checks these through Google and shows you which is the most popular. This is a great way to get students checking paired sentences with their common mistakes against against each other. Also great for getting them to check collocations to check that they have the correct combinations of words or how popular different collocations are.

What's also nice about the site is that it shows you the context in which it found the examples, so students can reinforce their learning by seeing some examples of the phrase used correctly in context. So you could also use this as a source of authentic materials to build grammar lessons around.
Students can even click through from the phrase the the source to find out where and how the expression was used. This is a great tool to get students editing or peer checking thier work together and to encourage more self correction.

I hope you find useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Sunday 7 November 2010

iPad Apps for English Language Teachers

Well like a lot of people I’ve bought an iPad over the summer and I’ve been having my first taste of shopping for apps to extend the capabilities of the iPad. I’ve also been having a look at how some of these can be used for language learning, so I thought I would share with you a little bit of information about the first few apps I’ve tried.

For those of you who don’t know Forvo, it’s a marvelous pronunciation dictionary site which is collecting together audio examples of of the pronunciation of different words from languages and speakers all round the world.
The app works as a simple pronunciation dictionary which you can carry with you in class and whenever a new word comes up, you can get an example pronunciation form it. For many of the more common words in English you can get multiple examples from different speaker (male, female, UK, US, Australian etc.)

The app could be really handy for use in class, especially if you aren’t confident about your own pronunciation or your students want to study a particular accent. The app runs on iPhone or iPad. You’ll need to have a connection to download the pronunciation examples and unfortunately there isn’t any capability to record and upload your own examples (you’ll need to go to the website to do that), but it’s still a pretty useful tool.

It isn’t free, but it’s pretty cheap and you can download it from:

Dragon Dictation
This app is from the makers of the popular Dragon voice recognition software and as you would expect it is designed to recognise your words and transcribe them as text. It works pretty well too, though it does make some mistakes which you then have to correct. You can correct the errors by typing in the corrections or tapping the surface where the error is and trying to say the words again.
This would be a good way to get students working on their speaking skills and correcting errors in text. It’s also a very handy tool if you don’t like typing a lot as once you have created a text on it you can either copy or send it by email or post it straight to Facebook or Twitter. You don’t need a connection to use the voice recognition part, but you’ll need to be connected to share your texts. It also works best if you have an external microphone for your device.

Mobile Air Mouse
This is a really clever little app that transforms your iPad, iPod or iTouch into a remote touch pad controller and keyboard for your computer. That might not seem like such a big deal, but what it means is that once you have the free software installed on the main computer in your classroom, any student that has Air Mouse on their mobile device can take control of the computer, write or draw on the board and interact with your learning materials without leaving their seat.

This duplicates a lot of the functions of an interactive whiteboard and slate, so it might also save some money. There’s a free version and a pro version. The app runs through your wireless connection.
Flipboard is my favourite app so far. It is a type of feed reader for the iPad. The really great thing about Flipboard though is that it converts the feeds into a magazine type format that you can then easily browse. This is particularly useful for feeds from things like Twitter, which can be very reader unfriendly and I’m now getting a lot more information a lot quicker from Twitter than I previously was using a desktop based app.
So this is a great app for keeping up with your PLN as well as finding images and text to use in class. Flipboard is also free, so that’s another big bonus, but you will need a connection while you are using it.
Here’s a video showing how it works:

This is an app that has been developed to support the website (or could it be the other way around) MeeGenius contains a collection of illustrated books for primary level kids. The books have audio accompaniment and words are highlighted as the kids listen.
Great to get younger learners reading and listening in English. The app isn’t free but it’s very reasonable priced (especially compared to buying the books) and it contains 12 free books 6 of which are ready installed and 6 more that you need a connection to download. If you want more books after that you can buy more.
This is a handy app that allows you to add audio to images or sequences of images and then export them as video files. There is a free version that allows you to create videos of up to three images and 10 mins recording time, or you can buy the pro version and make unlimited sequences. This is really handy for grabbing screen shots from your iPad or iPhone and adding audio to them or for adding audio to photographs.
Describing pictures and images is a handy way of getting students to practice their speaking and the videos can then be exported for sharing.
I hope you find some of these apps useful, and if you don't yet have an iPad, I hope they give you some idea of the enormous potential that these tools have.

Related links

Nik Peachey

Thursday 19 August 2010

Survey Results: Mobile learning for ELT

The purpose of the survey was to ascertain the level of awareness and openness to mobile learning among English language teachers. I also wanted to find out to what degree and how teachers were already using mobile learning both in their teaching and and professional development and to establish whether they would be willing to pay for and use mobile content. The survey also collected information about the teachers’ existing access to mobile services and the kinds of device they are using to get access to mobile Internet.

The survey was carried out during June and July of 2010. The survey was answered by over 500 English language teachers.

The results of this survey were collected online using a web based survey site called The online survey was distributed through:
  • My Twitter Network (3k teachers world wide)
  • The British Council’s ELTeCS list (15k teachers world wide)
  • A number of email based ELT discussion lists (these are long established lists from around the world. They are teaching rather than technology focused)

The respondents are likely to be early technology adopters as they are mostly people who are already involved in some form of online teaching network. However the majority of the networks used to distribute the survey were not focused on the use or discussion of technology in teaching, but are mainly forum to discuss mainstream teaching.
I hope you find this information useful. Many thanks to all those people who took the time to answer the questions and share information.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 22 June 2010

eBooks for Kids that Read Themselves

I've just spotted this wonderful online library for young learners called MeeGenius. It has a great collection of classic stories and fairy tales that are delivered as illustrated online books.

The library is very easy to navigate, just click on the book you want. You can personalise the books my selecting the names of the characters in the book, though you have to register to save these, or just read through by clicking on the button to read and clicking to turn pages.

You can also click on the 'Play' option and when you do this you hear the book being read to you with the words being highlighted as you hear them.
This is a great site to help younger learners with their reading. the stories are ones that will probably be familiar from their L1 anyway and this combined with the audio support and word highlighting should really help not only with their reading but also their listening skills and pronunciation.

There is also a mobile app for iPhone- iPad - iTouch, but it isn't free (the website is free). I bought it for about 2 euros and it works pretty effectively. You still have to download each book before you read it, so this is best done on a wireless connection (so you aren't paying mobile rates) but it is then stored on your device until you want to read it.

The site and the app are really good recommendations for parents if you want to advise them on how to support their kids learning development and help them to read with the kids.

I hope you find MeeGenius useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday 7 June 2010

Teaching Grammar Through Songs

I have to admit that I find teaching grammar a bit on the boring side and finding good examples of grammatical structures in interesting authentic text can be quite time consuming, so when I saw this lyrics search tool Lyreach I was instantly impressed.

All you need to do is type in an example of your grammar structure and you can then find it in a whole range of different song lyrics.

This links to the lyrics start to show beneath the search box as you type, and then you just click on the sentence to link to the correct verse from the song. You'll see the part of the song highlighted and there's a link to a clip from Amazon.

Unfortunately the clip is only the start of the song and may not have your grammar example in, but it is easy from hear to find the clip on YouTube or find the clip and the rest of the lyrics together using a tool like Tubeoke that matches clips to lyrics.

So now using these two easy tools you can find lots of authentic examples of your grammar points in song lyrics and create quick activities based around them. You could even paste the lyrics from the verse into Wordle and use it as a prompt to get the students to drill, memorize or review the verse after they listen.

So, who says technology doesn't save time??

I hope you find Lyreach useful.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Thursday 3 June 2010

ESL Activities to Explore Issues Around Human Migration

Over the last few months I have been gradually working away at editing lesson plans and writing activities that exploit materials from the OPENCities project and I would like to share links to those materials here.
OPENCities is a project that collects together information and case studies on best practice regarding the successful social and cultural integration of migrant workers and their families into their host cities. As many of you probably already know, the issue of migration will be one that is and will continue to have huge impact on our societies over the next few decades and dealing with this effectively is going to be of key importance.

Language is of course a huge issue for anyone moving to another country and so it seems appropriate that the materials, information and images from the project be exploited for their language learning potential, as well as the potential they have to inform, enlighten and open up discussion about what can be a very sensitive issue.

Here are links to some of the materials.

Who is it?
This activity contains audio, script and images of real people who migrated to Dublin. The students find out about some of the real people and have to imagine the lives of some of the others to build up a profile.

Image by Veronica Vierin
Activity: Who is it?

The challenges of being a migrant
This is a speaking and listening activity that involves students in thinking about the kinds of problems and challenges they might face as a migrant going to Belfast. They then listen to the true stories of 5 migrants talking about the challenges they have faced and this is made more real for students because these are genuine stories and the materials include images of the real people.

Activity: The challenges of being a migrant

Artists as immigrants
People’s ideas of what an immigrant to their country is and the kinds of work they do can often be very stereotyped, so in this activity I’ve tried to confront those stereotypes by using images of different kinds of artists all of whom are migrants to Dusseldorf. The students have to imagine they are one of the people and try to see the experience of migrating from their perspective.

Images by Liza Nguyen
Activity: Artists as immigrants

These are just a few of the activities I’ve created and there should be some more on the way soon. There are also 4 complete lesson plans with pages of linked activities.

Most of the materials contain images as well as Mp3 audio recordings for listening exercises. You can find a complete list in the Education section of the OPENCities website.

I hope you find these activities useful, and if you d then look out for more coming soon.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Future of Educational Technology 3: Augmented Reality and ELT

In this article I want to have a quick look at Augmented Reality and what potential it holds for the future of English language teaching.

What’s Augmented Reality?

Basically, augmented reality can be defined as the interweaving of virtual Internet based materials with or physical reality. This still sounds a bit vague, so let me take this a step further. Virtual reality works with the aid of GPS (Global Positioning System) type mobile devices which are able to accurately track your physical location and they deliver to your mobile device information from the Internet which is specific to that location.

Image from Sndrv

By specific to that location, I don’t mean that if you are in London you get information about London. It’s much more specific than that. You can be tracked through your mobile device to the exact square metre on which you are standing and the information can be delivered about exactly what, or potentially who you are looking at from moment to moment.

You can see a simple video explaining augmented reality here: Augmented Reality
Most virtual reality applications at the moment are being delivered through mobile phones with cameras on, so when you hold up your mobile phone and point the camera in any direction you can see information about the things around you on your phone screen and click on the screen to get more information.

Image from PetaPixel article on AR apps for History

One marvelous example of how this can be applied is a free virtual reality App for the iPhone called Streetmuseum which has been developed by The Museum of London. It enables users walking around the streets of London to hold up their phone and get a 2D or even 3D image overlay of what that street would have looked like at some point during history.

Augmented reality in 3D can also be applied to books. You can experience this on your computer now if you have a web cam and a printer. Just follow this link to Ecomagination at, print up a simple piece of paper and follow the instructions. You’ll see a 3D animated model with sound and movements that you can actually interact with appear in front of you on your screen.

Think about how this simple piece of paper if applied to the pages of a book, could transform the experience of reading and the relationship of text to images.

How will Augmented Reality impact on teaching and learning?

  • It means that we can take learning out of the classroom and deliver it to exactly where and when students need it. 3D interactive learning materials can be delivered to students on the spot at the supermarket, train station, bank whenever they need it just through an app in their mobile phone camera.
  • Not only this but the ability of GPS to accurately track location means that you can track other users of the same app, so that if you walked into a room full of people anywhere in the world and held up your camera you would be able to see information about those people, find out which were teachers or learners of English and have your face to face lesson, or peer to peer study group with anyone and anywhere you happened to be when you had the time.

So virtual reality applications have the potential to transform our social and learning reality. They have the potential to transform the way we read and interact with text. They have the potential to transform the way and the places where we teach and the relationship between teachers and learners.

Is this something we want? Do we want to be tracked by the Internet where ever we go? Well the fact is, that if you have a GPS enabled mobile device with you right now and it’s switched on, then this is already happening to you.

As for how we as teachers deal with this and the uses it’s put to in education, that still remains to be seen, but this is happening now and we need to be aware of and start thinking about how we want this to impact on our lives and work.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Sunday 30 May 2010

Image Based Speaking Activity for IWB

This is a quick image based speaking activity that any teacher with an IWB or just a data projector in their classroom can do.

It's based around a photographic portfolio site by photographer Scott Stulberg. Scott's site opens directly to a slide show of some of his fantastic images.
The slides change at the rate of about 1 every 4 seconds and the sequence seems to be pretty much the same each time you go to the site. Here you can see Scott's images

So what's the activity?
  • It's very simple tell your students to watch the image slide show. After about 10 - 15 images, close the site and put your students in pairs and try to get them to brainstorm as many of the images as they can remember. This should get them talking and describing the images to each other.
  • Once they have had some time to talk and remind each other, get some feedback from the class and try to get them to describe as many of the images as they can remember to you. Help them with any vocabulary they may be struggling with.
  • Next, ask them if they can remember the order of the images. Which one was first etc? Put them in pairs once again to discuss again and try to remember the order.
  • Next, play the slide show again and get the students to check the order. When the slide show is finished. Get the students to once again tell you the order of the slides.
  • In the next lesson, ask the students again to try to recall and describe in pairs as many of the images as they can remember from the previous lesson. You could use some vocabulary words, especially the new words that came out of the lesson as prompts.
If you want to follow this up by getting some more static images to get students to describe in more detail, then be sure to check the index, as there are lots more images there.

I've always found images to be a very powerful tool for helping students to remember vocabulary and descriptive words. I hope you find this activity useful.

Find more: image based activities for EFL / ESL students

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Create Books for the IPad

ePub Bud is a free tool for creating books for the iPad. It does this in a number of ways. Either you can send a book to the company and they say they will digitize it for free, you can upload an existing digital copy and it will be converted on the site, or you can use the WYSIWYG interface to write straight into the site.

I tried uploading my Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers manual from the PDF format and this is what it came out like. You can download it from here if you are lucky enough to have an iPad Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers iPad edition

The process of uploading it was pretty simple. Once you are registered you just click on 'Upload', locate the file in the usual way and click again to upload it. Once the file is uploaded, it takes a short while to convert it to the format for iPad.

When it has been converted the status will change from 'unprocessed' to 'Converted to ePub'. You can then share the link with anyone who wants to read your materials or book on their iPad. You can set privacy status on the file and add tabs and index it. You can even edit the file once it's uploaded using the on site WYSIWYG.

This is a great way to convert content for use on the iPad. It doesn't have to be books of course, you could also use it for worksheets, or notes for your students or books or stories they have created themselves.

It's also worth checking out the books that are already there too as there is quite a collection. The focus seems to be mainly on children's books at the moment. Have a look in the 'browse' section and see if anything takes your fancy.

Now all you need is an iPad!

Related links:

Nik Peachey