Friday, 31 December 2010

Poll creation tools

A new poll creation tool Pollmo - simple and easy to use, is one more useful application for setting up quick polls when you are in need of a feedback or public voting.

There are many various online tools for creation of survey polls. See the Answer Garden which I have mentioned before.
Very similar and as easy as Pollmo is Micropoll which also analyzes the results.

For more reading, here is a useful post on Richard Byrne's website Free Technology for Teachers - Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students.
Another article on making free polls - 7 Online Tools To Create Polls For Free.

Vote here to test the tool. You can vote only once, then the poll "freezes" to prevent multiple votes from one computer. 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


I got into poetic mood today while I was watching the amazing snowfall.

There was no wind. The snow was falling in slow, languid motion drifting past my eyes as I was looking through the window at the breathtaking beauty. The snowflakes were enormous and looked heavy but they landed one upon another more tenderly than the fluffy down.

Then I took some pictures of them but could not capture their ethereal beauty.

What is snow?
Snow is precipitation in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes. Since it is composed of small rough particles it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by external pressure. Snow is precipitation in the form of ice crystals, mainly of intricately branched, hexagonal form and often agglomerated into snowflakes, formed directly from the freezing of the water vapor in the air. Snow is ice crystals that fall from clouds and which may stick together to form snowflakes.

I read a wonderful poem by Robert Frost and enjoyed the fabulous winter day.


The way a crow 
Shook down on me 
The dust of snow 
From a hemlock tree 
Has given my heart 
A change of mood 
And saved some part 
Of a day I had rued.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas time

by Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe)
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The super book of web tools

This is a must-read book for every teacher who uses technologies or would like to start. Written by a team of highly-qualified and experienced tech profs, the e-book is a rich source of information and new knowledge.

Published on Free Technology For Teachers website by Richard Byrne, the e-book gained immense popularity overnight and I can confirm that it deserves it.

The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Mini-books for everyone

Mini-books are popular not only among younger schoolchildren but they are also fun for older kids. Even adults make scrapbooks or family albums. Various kinds of mini-books include pocket books, envelope books, accordion books, flip books, origami books, pop-up books and many others.

Until recently I had not paid particular attention to this kind of activity but having read several great articles and tutorials, I realised that the process of making a mini-book may result in a busy and active lesson.

Here is a mini-book I made for 12-13 year old students which has to be written, coloured and then folded into a booklet.

Download this printable from

If you are not familiar with the technique, watch this video which will show you how to prepare and fold the mini-book. You can use any paper to make it but for kids it would be better to use thinner paper which will fold more easily and the booklet will look neater. You can use coloured paper too but then the pictures won't look so good. This Christmas mini-book looks best on white paper coloured green, red, blue and gold.

Here is a fantastic collection of resources on all kinds of mini-books with tutorials, links and samples. You can download instructions how to fold the mini-books.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Save the Words

I came across a truly fascinating site called Save The Words supported by Oxford Dictionaries (which is not new at all, as I found out later). You need Flash Player to view the site.

Its design is colourful and eye-catching, the background is a patchwork of English words which are no longer in active use and may soon be extinct. If you click the word, the site provides its meaning and gives an example of its usage.

The funniest part is you can adopt a word and get the certificate of adoption! You are asked to use the word as frequently as possible thus helping it return into active vocabulary.

The cause of the site is noble but dubious regarding its impact on saving the dying words. Yet it is a real gem for advanced students who are interested in lexicology. Might be used in classes as a fun activity.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Games that teach geography

There are numerous sites which offer online games for checking your knowledge in geography.

One of the most popular kinds of quizzes is recognizing the flags of the countries like Geography Genius. You can choose the level and read the clues about the country. Great source of information!

Another popular kind of geography games is finding a place on the map. I love Geosense which asks you to identify the world countries. You can play the game alone or against someone on the net.

Finally, there are games which ask you to point at a specific location on the map as close to the actual place as possible. I love the one on the TravelPod website. Really challenging!
There is a variety of games about each continent, UNESCO sites, capitals and flags of the world in The Traveler IQ Challenge® and they even let you embed the games on your own website.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

City Creator

City Creator is a cool application for building 3 versions of cities.

You can choose between a medieval city, a city in winter (great for Christmas) and a modern high-rise city.

The construction work is simple - you just drag and drop pieces from the palettes and arrange them on the field in the way you want. You can change the background until you get the one you like.

If you want to save your city, you need to register on the site.


How can you use it in the classroom?
1. Ask your students to build the city of their liking and describe it while showing the city on the screen.
2. Decide with your students on building the same version of a city, e.g. medieval, then ask them to describe it on paper. Give a copy of all descriptions to every student. Show each city on the screen and ask the students to guess which description fits.
3. Make a city yourself and ask the students to describe it on paper. Then choose the best description.
4. Teach vocabulary using the city image (directions, location, types of buildings etc).
5. Finally, it is great fun!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Quiz maker for online testing

Here is another great application Class Marker which lets you create quizzes online and use them with your students. It is free if you use the basic version.

You can create online tests with combined multiple choice, true false, free text, short answer, fill in the blank, punctuation and essay questions types.

It is possible to register your class or a group and invite the students to do the test online.

I have made a few sample tests and here you can have a look at one of them. (Don't take it seriously though.)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Test maker

A practical and easy-to-use test generator for creating online multiple-choice tests. I first learned about it from the website Free Technology for Teachers.

There are several good things about this application. First, you do not need to go through the lengthy process of registration. However, the teachers will have to create two passwords - one for the students and another for themselves to see the test scores. If you decide to make the quiz available to anyone on the net, you don't have to create a password.

Great from the teacher's perspective (but not so handy from the student's) is the one-attempt limit per test. Students can't redo the test (using the same name) to get higher scores.

What takes most time for the teacher is to create the quiz but once you do it, you can use it as many times as you wish, provided you have not lost or forgotten the web address of the test. Each test has a unique address. The teacher can make it accessible to everyone or just send the link to a selected group of students.

Look at the short sample quiz which I made to test the tool. Use any name to enter the quiz

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Halloween is creeping up

October is the month of the scary Halloween celebrations. Like it or not, you can't ignore it because --- kids love it!

What an excellent chance to enliven your lessons with different Halloween activities and tasks.

Take a look at my suggestions, also my previous post here.

Bring the festive spirit into the classroom with this video (suitable for older students) giving an idea about the history of Halloween.

Always useful and handy printable worksheets by Sean Banville can be found on Here is the Halloween lesson plan with printable listening and reading tasks.

English Page offers a lesson with Halloween vocabulary which is first studied and then used in writing tasks. Great resource for online practice.

Halloween worksheets on the good old Bogglesworld - a well-known and reliable site.

A rich Halloween resource page for younger pupils with a lot of choice for the teacher on Teacher Planet.

Finally, a great page with Halloween crossword puzzles for both younger and older students.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Watch videos on Wimp

If you are looking for flashy, colourful and feature-laden sites, this is not for you. Because Wimp is plain, bare and colourless. But don't get discouraged by the first look. Explore the videos which have been grouped according to the date (it is the only organisation apparent).
The creators of the site say: is a mainstream, user generated, family friendly video website...
We are not a funny video website; rather, we feature all kinds of videos: funny, educational, inspirational, cute, science, news, pretty much anything we think that might add 'value' to your life in some shape or form. We are anti-sensationalistic...
Once I had watched the first random video (which turned out to be totally entrancing - Tokyo timelapse by Samuel Cockedey), I delved deeper and found more and more fascinating films.
There is one disappointing drawback (deliberate?) - you cannot download the videos.

Some more captivating videos:
Nuit Blanche: Most beautiful four minutes ever
Why is the sky dark at night? (with a narrative)
Wingsuit proximity flying in Switzerland and Norway

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Lingro - the coolest dictionary

Recently I discovered this amazing translation technology Lingro which the creators call a dictionary.

At first glance it does not look like a dictionary because it is more than a dictionary! You can paste the URL of a website and then click on any word - Lingo will give you the translation. It translates words from / into 11 languages! And what's more - it will save the words that were translated for you in your history (to save the list you have to register). You can go back later to review the words and learn them. What an easy way to get the meaning of an unknown word instantly!
Lingro does it with a simple text file too! Just upload the file and start translating!

If you think you'd like to use Lingro services constantly, you can download the browser plugin (it offers Firefox extension) and you will be able to translate ANY word on ANY page you are viewing.

Great tool for learners of languages!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A tool for creating simple polls

If you need a quick response to some question, create an interactive online poll using  Great feedback tool!
Test it now by typing your answer in the box.

You can limit the answers to one per day or allow multiple answers. Be careful - mistakes cannot be corrected after you submit the answer!

Which web tool do you like best?... at

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Classroom timer

A really simple but useful tool - classroom timer - can be found here.
You will have to open it on the screen or whiteboard.

A fantastic tool if you want to limit the time for some lesson task, e.g. a short vocabulary check. Tell the students they have got 5 minutes, start the clock and leave it on the screen for the students to see it.

The best thing is you can make the timer count up or down depending on your needs.

See more fabulous classroom tools on

Friday, 13 August 2010

A letter from the college

Something to make you smile while you are getting ready to recommence your work in September.


A student's view on the school budget (click to zoom)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Teaching topic - Banksy

When the curriculum says "next topic - contemporary British art", you certainly cannot bypass Banksy, a notorious figure in British and world art.
Here is a video that will help you to present this artist to your students.

There is a nice online exercise based on this video at

I have prepared a worksheet about Banksy with 3 reading tasks which you can see in the preview.
You can download it here.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A new tool Iconscrabble

Despite of looking plain and even boring, this new web tool Iconscrabble makes wonders. You have to enter a word or a short phrase and the tool presents your word in a special way - it composes your word of icons/ logos which in turn are linked to their respective websites. Amazing!

You get a picture like this but its links are active only on the Iconscrabble website. A pity you cannot embed it anywhere.

You can use this tool at the lesson - ask your students to type their names and discover what websites each letter in their name represents.
Ask them to find out a website for each letter of the alphabet. There are many icons for one letter so students will have different websites for one and the same letter. A whole lesson of fun!

Saturday, 24 July 2010


What once was a simple selection of letter forms to be organized into words and sentences and then printed, now is the art and technique of arranging type, type design, and modifying type glyphs.
Typography has evolved as both a science and art for one main purpose: to make words easier to understand and more meaningful to read.

Typography is also what you get when you use word cloud generators mentioned in my post Web tools for making word clouds.

Example of typography (click to enlarge):

An awesome example of creative typography

Further reading on typography:

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Browsing the net lately, I have come across the term infographic on many occasions. What is it?
Infographics is the mixture of text and images to tell stories, explain concepts, describe processes, or provide instructions.

This is how Dave Gray defines it:
1. It's a visual explanation that helps you more easily understand, find or do something.
2. It's visual, and when necessary, integrates words and pictures in a fluid, dynamic way.
3. It stands alone and is completely self-explanatory.
4. It reveals information that was formerly hidden or submerged.
5. It makes possible faster, more consistent understanding.
6. It's universally understandable.

Look at some examples (click and zoom to enlarge):

Further reading about infographics:

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Web tools for making word clouds

Word clouds or clusters of words are a fun way to sum up the lexis used in a particular text. There are quite a lot of tools for creating them, here I have exploited four of them. I have already mentioned TAGUL and WORDLE before.
I have used the same poem The Little Boy and the Old Man by Shel Silverstein for making all clouds. You may try to predict the content of the poem while looking at these word clouds, and then read the full poem at the end of the post.

Further reading about the ways how you can use word clouds in the lessons:

WORDLE is probably the most popular tool. I have not researched its history but I believe it may also be the oldest of all tools of the kind. I developed my love for the word clouds thanks to Wordle.

WORD IT OUT is a tool I discovered recently and liked it at once for its simplicity.

Word clouds made with ABCya are amazingly similar to Wordle products and as lovely!

Finally, TAGXEDO which is popular because of its versatility. You can even create a cloud in the shape of a star or an animal. But then Tagul also makes shapes if you wish.

Here is the poem I used to make the word clouds.

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


... a Canadian teacher Todd Wandio /
"I consider my vacation time a form of detox.
Whether or not you pick up and go anywhere this summer (winter for you down unders), a small piece of advice - and the cool thing about advice is that it is free to give, free to take, or free to ignore - make time every day to find balance, peace of mind, and calm. You may not get more than two minutes to find it, but that two minutes can save you a half year of therapy."
Spiderweb (click to enlarge)

Rice fields in China (click to enlarge)

To see more fabulous and incredibly beautiful pics, go to
- one of my favourite sites for nature photography.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

E-book that helps to prepare a lesson

 The useful e-book gives suggestions about using web 2.0 tools to make your lessons more attractive and interactive. It is worth reading it!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

10 things I am going to do this summer

It is fashionable now to make lists on different topics, for example, 10 things you should know about..., 5 books you can't miss..., 7 new tools a teacher can't do without..., 9 best tips on... etc.

I have fallen for this strategy too, and out of idleness I have decided to create my own list. What could it be? Probably something I can realize during the summer. (A list can be manageable only if you have free time to do it, right? No use writing a list knowing that you will be occupied with other "more serious" things.)

Writing a list also somehow makes you stick to it, at least that is true for me.
I confess, I have been influenced by Mike Gayle's The To-Do-List which I read recently. I could never ever do as many as 1277 things he had written on his to-do list but then he had given himself a whole year to complete the task.

So, here I am writing the 10 things I am going to do this summer which otherwise might have not been done (I allow myself to extend the list if need be):
  1. Read at least 4 new and valuable books (Cheating  because I was going to read them anyway!)
  2. Sort out the wardrobe!!!
  3. Wash the windows!!!
  4. Go to the Forum Cinemas and watch at least one new film (have to decide which one).
  5. Call on an old friend (or two depending on their availability) in another town.
  6. Prepare a workshop I am going to deliver at the teachers conference (I was going to do it anyway, so it's cheating again).
  7. Set up a new social site for my next year students and think out how to use it :))
  8. Make a few jars of jam e.g. strawberry, blackberry, cloudberry, orange etc. (I have already made rhubarb-banana jam which is good!)
  9. Take a picture of myself so that I have one ready to publish where necessary.
  10. Go for a boat ride with my family in the Daugava. (Have done it before, and loved it!)
I'd write as item no.11 - learn the names of proper coffees but I guess that's not serious. My Italians confirmed the names except they did not know about Cafe Breve.

(click to enlarge)    

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Three days in Aluksne

Beautiful Aluksne - who would have expected to find such a place on the border of nowhere!
Old, neat and homey, with tales and legends (told to us by Una), with a picturesque lake and cobbled paths, with enormous oaks (live for hundreds of years) and their own Bible translator, with stories about the czar and his courtiers - what a wonderful place in Latvia which is surely obscure to those living in the central parts or the capital!

Very successful Teacher Trainer Development course hosted by the British Council and Aluksne Infantry Training centre. (Surprise again!)

Eric with his flute in the morning and a hood on his head in the evening...
Galina with her bouyancy...
Rita with her red hair and her savvy of the subject...
Robert with the gift of the gab...
Ligija with her composure...
SilvijaA with her relaxed wit...

Poisonous mosquitoes...
Roman columns...
Bride's Veil island...
Beer with the game btw France: Mexico in the background...

What else?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

E-book about teaching with Web 2.0

An excellent resource for those teachers who are interested in using Web 2.0 tools for teaching. The e-book analyzes the most popular sites and tools and gives tips for using them in teaching. Easy to learn things which you did not know yet!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - tomorrow!

Being a total non-fan of football, I can't ignore this grand event. Here is my contribution - an interactive calendar which shows all teams, all games, all stadiums in an awesome and attractive way! (NOT made by me ha ha ha...)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

June 2010 has begun

June is a lovely month. School is over! Exams are over! (Grading them is another matter...) There are still a few duties to perform (students who have lagged behind, some reports to be written), but nothing compares to getting up in the morning with a feeling of I-do-not-have-to-hurry.

The Learning Technologies course seems as if it took place last year despite only a few weeks in-between today and the 19th May. I see blogs have been forgotten, NING and wiki sites have been abandoned, tweets have not been written - as if they had never existed... Well, hopefully life gets back into them in a while, later, later....
Because of the course, I have turned into a faithful Twitter reader. I don't have much to share but I enjoy what other people have found and shared. There are tons of good things every day!

It's nice to write something for myself....

Japanese tulips

Friday, 7 May 2010


As I am getting ready for the seminar in Bauska, I keep looking for attractive ways to present Web 2.0.
This is what I found a few days ago - another tool with a funny name SCRIBBLAR implying writing, drawing, scribbling etc.
This is what you can do with it (for something more exciting I have to practice a little longer...)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New presentation tool - Prezi

I discovered this PREZI tool for creating presentations recently and spent some time trying to make my first presentation. In my not-so-humble opinion, the result is quite viewable! Start by clicking on the arrow below, just wait till it loads.
Once it loads, you can click on Fullscreen to experience the true magic of Prezi. You can also set it to Autoplay.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Singing with The Wiggles

Had I taught little kids, I may have discovered these fantastic singers - The Wiggles, children's musical group from Sydney, Australia - a couple of years ago. But I did it only now, and like a kid myself, I kept listening to their songs and crooning along until I thought I had heard enough.

It is a must for those who work with little children! Check The Wiggles on YouTube or search Google or Yahoo videos. Even adults might love listening to these cheerful, catchy and relaxing songs!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Learning Technologies course - the sunny side

Not all things are black, only cats at night...
To be fair, after my previous post I have to bring out the best points of the course which are numerous.
First, I have re-discovered people who were familiar to me but unknown at the same time. Doing the course tasks has revealed their skills and talents which are really surprising. They are displaying perfect command of the subject, excellent writing skill, logical and coherent comments and postings. I am really happy to have learned this...
Second, I am gratified that many course participants feel satisfied with all the new things they learn every week. After all, I was the one who invited them to this course, and although I did not build it, I sort of feel responsible for the outcome.
I think the course is challenging but rewarding...
Third, I have understood that the ladies who are on the course are really trying to do their best to complete all the tasks, do the quizzes and questionnaires which is not easy for some of them, having little children or sick parents. And the gardening season is open! What a dilemma - do the tasks or work in the garden?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Learning Technologies online course - stumbling along....

The third week of the course is coming to an end, and I have already drawn some harsh conclusions.

First, people should not apply to this course if they are not sure of their ability and willingness to spend hours and hours online, being persistent and diligent.
Second, people should not apply to this course if they do not favour technologies and hate the time they "waste" at the computer. Finding "very objective" excuses seems childish to me...
Third, people should not apply to this course if they just hope to complete the course by lurking (see what is a lurker) quietly somewhere "behind the scenes" and never showing up in public. Being taciturn, does not rank high on such a course.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on creativity

In this fascinating speech creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He believes that schools kill creativity. He is an amazing speaker, never tiring or boring, with the typical British sense of humour. It's worth watching!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Starting a Learning Technologies course

Finally the time is ripe for the first online course with me as a moderator. See the previous post about this course

After completing the final leg of the preparation (3 more weeks), I am now ready for this adventure.(?) I only hope my "students" will be as excited about it as I am now. We are meeting on 30 March for a face-to-face meeting. I will report about the event...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Dinner for one

I have come across the most hilarious video ever! I fell about laughing while I was watching this old film made in 1963. It may be a little naive but you still have to see it. Just be patient and wait until the plot develops....
Part 1

If you wish to see the 2nd part - the staggering ending - then go to

Monday, 1 March 2010

Music is the universal language

Watch this amazing short episode showing the 10-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin (Don't worry, be happy) getting the audience to perform music which they have never heard before. It reveals a surprising result of the way our brains are wired.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Tag cloud with TAGUL

TAGUL is a web service that enables you to create gorgeous tag clouds. Similar to WORDLE. Point with your mouse over the words and see how they come alive! If you click on the tag, Google finds related pages.
You need to register and then you can start playing with words.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Listen and relax!

Here is my little gift to you - a lovely song that will go perfectly well together with thoughts about why people celebrate Valentine's Day (those who do). Because they feel unloved or, on the contrary, they are bursting with love? Because they are open to any fun that passes by or they are in need of brushing up their lives? What if there is nothing behind?

Just enjoy being alive!


Sunday, 7 February 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!


Ladies and gentlemen, Leonard Cohen! 


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love

Friday, 5 February 2010

A video for teaching Conditionals

Use this great video at the lesson when you are teaching conditionals. You may also watch it on YouTube or download it to your PC.

The Poetry Channel

I just discovered a new website The Poetry Channel which presents poetry in videos.
The poems are read by the authors themselves. The site is not big yet because they have just started but I liked it at once because it is exciting and inspiring to watch the poets and listen to their voices.
There are poems which are fantastic for classroom use.

I loved this poem

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Moderating my first online course

[P o s t p o n e d !]
Next month I am starting a new course, approved by the British Council and the Ministry for teachers who want to learn new ways of using the internet with kids at school. This is a great course, challenging, demanding but also satisfying the needs of a caring, professional teacher who wants to be knowledgeable in Web 2.0 tools.

I am looking forward to this course not only because I will have to test my skills as a moderator but also as a blogger who has been blogging in solitude for about a year, writing for myself, as I like to remark. I would love to have comrades who would care to visit my blog and I would be immensely interested in visiting their blogs in return.

I don't feel like twittering or chatting but somehow blogging has an inexplicable appeal to me. A blog is like an open door to a person's thoughts and views. I would like to have a chance to be a guest to another world-of-mind now and then...