Friday, 30 November 2018

Developing creativity across the content areas

This  post is a follow-up of the previous one, which I wrote to highlight our obligation to ensure that our students will be ready for the challenges they will have to face when they leave our classrooms and enter the professional world. 

Today I would like to reflect on one of these "21st century skills", which has been described as creativity. We have to  try hard to help students to develop this skill and we have to assess it too.

Let me start by  sharing this short video that made me draw some  interesting conclusions: 

After seeing it, I reckon you will agree with me that we sometimes forget that our students need time to be creative. Maybe we  do not forget it but we  do not allow them to spend longer on creative projects because we tend to think about the number of projects /lesson plans that we still have to carry out and we are worried we will not manage to cover them all. Therefore, let us never forget that we should always choose quality over quantity. 

In my view,  special attention should be drawn to the fact that students also  need time to share their  creative outcomes  with their peers. If they do this,  they will learn a lot together and  others' acknowledgement will help to build on their  self confidence. 

As I pointed out above, we have to find ways to assess creativity because assessment has a clear  impact on students' motivation so you can start by explaining that you will consider creativity as part of your assessment and you can start with a simple tool they can easily understand. For example, if students have carried out a PowerPoint Presentation on a topic, you can use this assessment template.  

I  will continue developing this challenging topic in future seminar sessions but now I would like to share a very recent publication by University of Navarre: "Towards Creativity in CLIL", which offers very good examples of creative projects for different content areas.

My most sincere congratulations to participants in these projects:  Ruth Breeze,  Melinda Dooly, Alessandra Agati, Fernando Echarri, Amaia Alvarez, Maika Goya, Laura Medina, Izaskun Tomasena, Henri Eric Castleberry, Laura Giamattei, Abel Miguel-Marqués, Angela Ruotolo, Immacolata Ercolino and Daniela Amendola. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Developing 21st century skills in our classrooms

Nowadays, teachers are faced with the challenge of equipping students with a long list of skills: creative and critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, collaborative skills, leadership, communicative skills and digital literacies. How can we face  this challenge? I would like to suggest a couple of simple activities that will provide learners with the opportunity to develop their creativity and critical abilities by making new connections to the acquired knowledge after a virtual visit to a museum.
ACTIVITY 1: we become artists
Students visit a virtual exhibition of Art objects, choose their favourite one and create a video in which they describe the object to their peers and suggest new ways of using the object nowadays. This video project will enable students to  increase their competences as effective communicators with digital technologies and these skills are and will be essential in their lives.
Language level:
From B1 to C1
Links to virtual exhibitions:
Handouts for the students:
Group work. Students work in groups of 4/5.
Number of sessions:

4 sessions :

1 session to visit the virtual exhibition, choose their favourite Art object and write the description of the object

1 session to  prepare the video script and create the video clip (There is a wide variety of tools for creating videos. Among them, I would like to suggest Screencastify,  which  is a very good tool to create and share videos easily. It is an extension of Google Chrome which will be very appropriate for your Google Classroom contexts)

1  session to rehearse  because they need to talk in English during the videoclip. 

1 session to share their videos with their peers. (The teacher can use "Rubrics to assess students' videos during this session or watch the recorded videos later for assessment)

After this final session, I suggest sharing the videos  with the rest of the students and the families through the school blog or website. 
Integrated skills (reading, listening, speaking and spoken interaction and writing)
ACTIVITY 2: our Art auction
Students create their own Art object/artifact , bring it to the classroom and prepare a short description of it for and Art Auction which will be held in the classroom.
Language level:
From B1 to C1
Handouts for the whole process:
The same handouts for descriptions used in Activity 1 plus:
Several choices are possible: students can create their Art object individually or in pairs. When the Art auction takes place, you will need a student who conducts it and the rest of the students will take turns to sell their objects and bid for others’ objects.
Number of sessions:
This will depend on the number of students and the number of objects but you will need at least 3 sessions (one for the creation process, another one to let students prepare their roles for the auction and the last one for the real auction).

During the auction you can assess students' oral performance by using the handout "Rubrics for oral assessment". If you choose to do this, students should take turns so that all of them act as either the auctioneer or the person who wants to sell his/her object.
Listening, speaking and spoken interaction, writing
I hope these activities will be useful for you. I reckon we have a true challenge ahead and our students will be better equipped for their future if we foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking in our classrooms.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Teaching the Periodic table of elements through Poetry and Music

Can you think of a better way to  focus  on the Periodic table of elements than through Poetry and Music?  Let me explain what I mean:

- Make your students go to this link  where they will find Mary Soon Lee's original Periodic Table, which will enable them to review the elements  by enjoying Kaiku poems. How? Just by clicking over an element to read the Haiku.

I suggest that you should exploit Lee's idea as follows: 

You can  start by explaining that a Haiku is a Japanese poem consisting of three lines that do not rhyme. You should add that traditional Haikus follow this structure: the first line is 5 syllables. The second line is 7 syllables. The third line is 5 syllables. That's why they are called the 5-7-5 structure.

Then, you can proceed to ask students to work in pairs, choose one  element, read and understand the meaning of the Haiku and create a new Haiku of their own for the chosen element. Encourage the use of on-line dictionaries while students are reading the Haikus and creating their own ones. 

Finally, students would share their elements and the Haikus they have created with their peers. 

- Students will probably have difficulties to pronounce the names of the elements properly . How can you help them? Make them  listen to the Periodic Table song AsapScience offers us on its YouTube channel.

You can find the lyrics here. (No fill in the gaps this time because students will have to make a huge effort  to follow the lines, so just ask them to sing along after they have listened to it twice.)

Please, share your views on the activities above with me. I will be eager to know if they are  useful for you. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Making input comprehensible in CLIL classrooms

As I wrote in previous entries on this blog, there is no doubt that explicit vocabulary instruction is a must in order to succeed at making our students acquire subject-specific vocabulary. The best  results regarding the use of classroom  strategies that facilitate vocabulary acquisition will undoubtedly occur when language teachers and  content area teachers work together. In our next seminar session, which will take place on November 6th, we will talk about your specific schools and the possibility of working as a team .

Right now, I would like to mention four  of  the strategies that any teacher can put into practice and be sure that, if done repeatedly, will have a positive impact on the amount of vocabulary our students acquire:

1)  Keep vocabulary notebooks made up of word maps organized by units.  We will see several examples. This is one from

2) Visualize the key  words and concepts which are essential in the unit you are teaching.  Do you know about wordsift? It is a very useful tool both for teachers and students. We will analyze its features together. 

2)  Use charts and tables when students are learning new terms and concepts in your content areas. This simple strategy requires very little preparation and works in all content areas. You can find an example for a Science class here

3)  Teach  students how  to pay utmost attention so as to  find context clues that help them to guess the meaning of new terms and concepts. Needless to say that context clues are not always effective to determine word meanings when we are talking about content-specific  academic vocabulary but we need to train students for the occasions when context clues do help. These context clues can be provided by the author in 8 different ways! Would you like to know which ones?

4) Use "Word attack" strategies. Do you like the name?  It sounds promising, doesn't it? Would you like to know a bit more about this strategy? 

I hope you answered "yes" to the questions above and I promise to provide you with the answers in our seminar session on November 6th. 

Happy All Saints' Day to all of you.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

STEM is everywhere

Back to work and back to our CLIL Seminar! I am really happy to see so many of you have registered for the seminar and I am eager to start working with all of you on October 9th. Our first seminar will focus on basic resources for the subject areas you are implementing at school and I will try to facilitate your work by providing you with the academic language which  you will need to include in your CLIL suitcase for the whole school year. I will place special emphasis on the language for Science and the language for Geography and History. Besides, you will also get a planning template for your CLIL lessons. 

As many of the participants in the seminar belong to the STEM field, I would like to let you know about "STEM is everywhere" MOOC course. I believe that it  will be a very useful  course  for all teachers who wish to motivate students towards STEM careers because it  offers guidance and practical examples for you to bring real-world problems to your STEM teaching in an entertaining way. The course also aims to connect you with other STEM teachers so that you can share experiences and best practices.

"STEM is everywhere"    is the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that is fully designed and carried out as part of the Scientix project, the community for Science education in Europe. It is now possible to register for this course that starts on 29 October 2018 and is completely free of charge.

The main objective of this new course is to connect Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes with real life and to help teachers to integrate everyday problems into their STEM lessons and practices. For more information about the course and to register, click here.

As I mentioned above, we will meet on October 9th for our first seminar session and I must say I am looking forward to it on its 15th anniversary. 

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Working on grammar through extensive reading

Our students are often asked to read for understanding and for pleasure. We encourage them to read in order to enrich their vocabulary but we can also ask them to read a text not only  for the   reasons mentioned above  but also to improve their grammar. 

I would like to share an example based on a Science text. My classroom proposal  is aimed at B1-B2 students depending on your teaching context. You can put  it into practice if you are teaching English or if you are an English teacher  working in coordination with a Science teacher who is developing the CLIL approach. In this case, the activity that focuses on language  would be carried out by the language teacher and the Science teacher would focus on Science concepts. 

The main purpose of this type of activity is to foster students' reflection on the features of Science texts so as to foster understanding. 

You can click here to download the text and you can find the classroom activity below the following  image: 

 A heatwave can fry the brain. Photograph: aryos/Getty Images

Classroom activity:

Today we are going to read a text to learn about a new research carried out by scientists but we are also going to read the same text to discover the grammar of it. Therefore, the first time you read the text, check that you understand the ideas in it by looking up the new words. The second time you read the text, work with your partner and pay attention to language use by answering the questions below:

1)  Find at least two comparative sentences.   Would you say their use is important for the type of text? Why?

2)   The text is written in the present tense and in the past tense but you can find at least   an example of the present perfect tense. Can you underline it and say why the writer uses it?

3)   Can you find any words or phrases that express probability?   Underline them and pay attention to the way they are used in this text. Do you think they are common in scientific texts?

4)  Lines 13-14: what do you notice about the use of the words “increase” and “decrease”? Have you learnt anything about the way they can be used?

5)   Lines 10-12: “not only … accurate”.  Do you understand this sentence? Is it the first time you see a sentence starting with “not only”? How could you paraphrase it and make it more simple for a friend of yours who does not understand it?

6)   A feature of scientific texts is the use of long sentences. Can you find one and divide it into two sentences to increase  understanding ?  

7)   The use of the passive voice is very common in scientific texts. Can you find at least three examples? Why do you think the passive voice is so common in Science?

8) Lines 24-33: look at the way “while” and “meanwhile” are used. Is it a different use from the one you knew?  Do you understand  their meaning in this context?  

 9) Lines 31-33: notice the use of "face" in "buyers are faced with far fewer decisions". Can you make a sentence of your own using "be faced with"?

10) The text says that "women are sick of AC standards being tailored around men". What are you sick of? 

I hope this proposal is useful to make your students improve their grammar and better understand Science texts by reflecting on language features of this type of text. Please, let me know what you think about it. 

Science text taken from :

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Literature circles to foster reading for understanding and enjoyment

We know that making students read and talk about what they read is not easy. However, it is not impossible. Have you ever tried Literature circles? 

What are literature circles? 

    Literature Circles are small, temporary discussion groups of students who are reading the same piece  of literature.

Would you like to try? I should start by describing the  main features: 

  Students prepare the reading assignment independently before joining their group.  Then, they will  participate in group discussions when they join their classmates. 

  Each group member will have a specific responsibility (role) during discussion sessions

   The circles will meet on a regular basis to discuss their reading

   The teacher is a facilitator, not a group member or instructor

    Each student reads the story from a given perspective so each member is responsible for one aspect of what a mature reader does naturally

    A spirit of playfulness, sharing and collaboration pervades the classroom

  It reaches the broad spectrum of students in a natural way (multiple intelligences and diverse learning styles)

  Assessment includes teacher’s observation and students' self-assessment

  When books/stories are finished, groups may prepare a final project / booktrailer/digital poster, etc.  (Depending on the amount of time you have, this final product is not a must since students have already been working on the reading assignment and assessment has taken place too). 

How do you organize students into groups? (Ideally, 5 students in each group)

    There  are different roles that you can choose  for each of the  students in the same  group but I would suggest, at least,  the following: 

      Group discussion leader
      Passage performer
      Vocabulary builder

I will try to lay out each of the roles briefly:

Group discussion leader:

    This student must have a solid grasp of the posible themes and the basic plot of the story
   He /she opens the discussion with a few open-ended questions concerning the story
  He/she keeps the conversation moving but is not “the boss”. All students are responsible to speak and to ask follow-up questions

Passage performer:

   This student is asked to make a very close reading of the text and to look for well-written or key passages in the story
   He/she will read the passages he /she has chosen to the group members

The connector:

•       He/she tries to find connections between the text and the real world in which he/she lives. For example, the Connector may make connections between the thoughts, feelings or actions of the characters and his/her family, friends or  classmates.

The word wizard:

    This student chooses some words that he/she believes are very important in the story.
  The Word Master is not confined to defining new words, but should be encouraged to look for special uses of common words or analyze why the writer repeats some words.

The illustrator:

       This student  responds to the events and themes in the story in a creative way by drawing a picture (diagram, sketch, cartoon…) about it.  He/she will have to ask others what they think it means and after hearing them he  will tell them what it represents to him/her.

If you wish, you can use the templates I have prepared for each of these roles above by clicking here.
(I have added a template for another role: the summarizer. You can find it useful if stories/books  are long and students need to meet on different dates to discuss the whole reading assignment.)

Have you ever used Literature Circles to foster reading?  I would love to know your opinion. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Lesson plans for Innovative Maths teaching

Teachers face an increasing number of challenges in their daily work in the classroom and they often struggle to receive the training or support to address these. The Teacher Academy by the School Education Gateway supports educators to access relevant training opportunities by providing teachers (from Pre-Primary to Upper Secondary) with a platform to search for, participate and evaluate training courses available onsite and online across Europe. 

In 2016 and 2017  Moving to Maths 2.0 course was organized to help   Maths teachers to  foster a sense of curiosity and confidence and also to help students understand the relevance of this competence outside the Maths classroom.  

As part of the course, participants produced lesson plans (also known as learning designs) incorporating many of the ideas, tools, and activities covered on the course. These lesson plans have been curated by a participant editorial board, which has reviewed and selected the lesson plans for publication here in the Teaching Materials section. The members of the participant editorial board were appointed to the board due to their exemplary work and commitment as part of the course and include:
·         Adriana Colda
·         Adriana Laze
·         Anita Šimac
·         Ariana-Stanca Vacaretu
·         Diego Tich
·         Igor Bogdanoski
·         Lorenzo Castilla Mora
·         Mariapia Borghesan
·         Michailidou Christina
·         Virginia Alberti

The lesson plans can be accessed here and are available exclusively in English.
From this virtual space, my heartfelt thanks  to the authors of these lesson plans:
·         Mariapaola Biondi
·         Michela Beoletto
·         Chiara Invernizzi
·         Igor Bogdanoski
·         Ariana-Stanca Vacaretu
·         Virginia Alberti
·         Christina Michailidou
·         Anita Simac
·         Snezana Tosovic
·         Kerli Viidebaum
·         Anastasios Xanthopoulos
·         Lena Kristin Eckhardt
·         Chiara Ghilardi.
·         Giuseppe Vullo
·         Zulmira Magalhaes
·         Alessandra Cadamuro
·         Xenia Xistouri
·         Maria Petrescu
·         Arminda Pereira
·         Lorenzo Castilla Mora
·         Kolipetri Zoi
·         Francesca Romana Beneo
·         Enrica Maragliano

Some lesson plans are aimed at Primary level but most of them are for 12-18-year-old students. Review comments by Maths teachers are also provided. 

The course has concluded but you can still access the modules by registering here.  You will not have the support of the instructors but you will be able to enroll the course and get all contents by clicking on the modules tab above. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Preparing the path for students' active engagement in Global learning

The EAThink Kit, included in the European project eathink 2015,  is a working tool including the best Global Learning Units for Primary and Secondary school teachers, global education trainers and volunteers engaged in educational activities on global learning and sustainable agriculture. You can download the different Kits developed by the EAThink partners in several languages, Basque included. 

Below the language section, you will find a series of very useful tags that you can use to search for the units that you may prefer depending on the subject you teach (Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Ethics, etc.)

In 2015,  “Eat local, think global” was the motto this three-year EU funded project chose to prepare students for facing their responsibilities as active global citizens, starting from the choice of what they eat.

Far from bidding farewell to this powerful project in 2018, you can start welcoming it into your schools if you have not known about it till now because it is being constantly updated. In fact, just some days ago I knew about a new series of activities that will be launched in 2018-2019 at Primary and Secondary schools in the Basque Country. You can find everything about the workshops and activities Euskalfondoa has organized here.

If you wish to use the classroom units in Basque, just click here. Classroom resources in Spanish can be downloaded here. Regarding the units in English, this is the link to download them.

There is no doubt that these superb resources will help educators to enhance students’ critical understanding of and active engagement in global development challenges, focusing on sustainable food systems and smallholder farming.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Fostering reading habits through reading and viewing

This post is aimed at helping teachers to foster reading habits in their classrooms. Do you find it difficult to make your students read pieces of literature? I would like to share my insight into engaging students in literature through combining printed texts and video adaptations of the texts. The following powerpoint presentation includes some practical proposals for the classroom  based on two short stories and two poems. 

Friday, 18 May 2018

Today I am writing to let you know about a very powerful platform called Europeana
Europeana is Europe's digital platform for cultural heritage. It provides free, online access to over 50 million digital records coming from over 3,700 libraries, museums, archives and galleries across Europe. Europeana features art from over 3,000 institutions across Europe, from the likes of Rijksmuseum, the British Library and the Louvre, as well as local museums from every corner of the European Union. Highlights include Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, and music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Undoubtedly, a very helpful source for those teachers implementing Art both at Primary and Secondary levels. Click here to see the Art-Europeana collection.

Europeana offers a Music collection which includes recordings, pieces of sheet music and other music items from across Europe so Music teachers will benefit from this platform too.

Teachers who wish to introduce Natural History content in their Science classes 
will have the opportunity to explore the natural world in 3,415,528 drawings, specimens, images and documents in the Natural History collection.

211,249 items on the topic of migration to, from and within Europe are thoroughly depicted in the Migration Collection. 

I am sure this platform founded by the European Commisssion in 2008 and updated with new features including a translation tool into 27 languages will enable you  to enrich your classes.