Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

I live in Getxo and new containers, including the ones for organic waste, have just been installed. Maybe that is the reason why   I have become more sensitive about the need to recycle, reuse and reduce. The Town Hall of Getxo has also launched an on-line  competition for Primary and Secondary students  in the area so that they face a series of challenges that will let them learn about the benefits of recycling. Eight schools are taking part in this competition and I can say that families and teachers are as happy as students themselves. 

I was wondering how I could contribute to raise awareness about this topic in other schools and I have thought of sharing a simple proposal I have thought of with teachers of English or teachers who implement Science or Global Issues through the medium of English. You can find my proposal here.

If you can spend more  than two sessions on the topic, I would recommend a great website by Michelle Henry, a teacher of English. There is a huge variety of activities on vocabulary, audios, games,  and even songs related to the topic. Jack Johnson's "The 3 R" is my favourite. You can listen to it  below these lines:

Jack Johnson was   named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2015 but seven  years before that he was interviewed  for ABC news and maybe his words  leave a mark on your students. While listening to the interview, ask them to keep these two questions in mind:

-  What did he do as a singer so as to protect the environment? Name at least two actions he carried out while he was recording. 

-  In his view, how can music change the world?

You can follow the interview here:

I hope that by  trying one or more of the suggestions above your students will collaborate to the 3 Rs.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

2017 International Essay Contest on "Learning from Nature"

Based in Japan, the Goi Peace Foundation is a public benefit organization supported by members around the world working together to create a culture of peace.  Every year they organize an  annual essay contest in an effort to harness the energy, creativity and initiative of the world's youth in promoting a culture of peace and sustainable development. It also aims to inspire society to learn from the young minds and to think about how each of us can make a difference in the world.

The theme of the contest 2017  is ‘Learning from nature’, so your students will have a great opportunity to take full advantage of everything they have learned in their Natural Science lessons. I would like to encourage you to develop this essay writing skill with your students and ask them to take part in this exciting  essay-writing contest.

There are two categories: a) children (ages up to 14) and b) youth (ages 15-25).  Essays must be 700 words or less and can be written in Spanish, English, German or Japanese. 

If you are interested in helping your students to take part in  this contest, I have developed a simple document which includes some basic tips on essay writing, a list of connectors in English  and a checklist for students that will help them to see if they can improve their essay  before sending it. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Art competitions for children and teenagers

Look and Learn is a London-based picture library specialising in educational images and a member of BAPLA (the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies).
Since 2006 they have run monthly online children’s art competitions with the explicit objective of creating the world’s best gallery of children’s art. All entries appear in their online gallery, and children and their sponsors (teachers or parents) get their own personal online galleries. 
There are two main choices for your Art classrooms: 
1) Enter the Art gallery, just  click on any picture to enlarge it, download it or  send an e-card of it to friends and family. 
2) Take part in monthly competitions (entry to the competitions and gallery is free). 
Competitions focus on a different theme each month and  entries are  divided into three age groups (0-7, 8-11 and 12-18). Entry to the competitions and gallery is free so I am sure you will be interested in taking part in the next competitions  with your students. 
From these lines,  I would like to thank  Look and learn for offering children and teenagers this great opportunity to enjoy Art. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

International Women's Day 2017

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took a historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Over many decades, the UN has made significant progress in advancing gender equality and on every March 8th they focus on a theme to keep on advancing towards achieving gender equality. 

The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2017, focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. The website is, as usual, a superb source for educators but I would like to recommend the section called "From where I stand", a collection of stories of women around the world who are bringing real change regarding gender equality.

I wanted to contribute to the celebration of March 8th in our classrooms through a lesson plan based on a film. Why? I would say that sometimes the names and deeds of the heroes in  films are known to all. However,  there are those films that shine the spotlight on those whose names were known to only a few, but whose stories deserve to be told. This is the case with "Hidden figures", which tells the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.

One of these women,  98-year-old Katherine Johnson,  is a true hero who was totally hidden until this film was released and I would like to pay my humble tribute to her and to all hidden women whose deeds should be known to all. The starting point of the lesson I have developed is Katherine's biography  but let me suggest using the uplifting Gospel song from the film as a warm-up:

If you wish, you can ask students to carry out a  fill in the gaps activity while they listen to the song. The complete version of the lyrics can be downloaded from here.

After listening to the song you will have created the environment to start this lesson plan on "Empowering Women in the changing world of work".

I hope my proposal will help your students to reflect on the need for gender equality regarding acknowledgement of work achievement. 

Downloadable resources for the lesson plan:

Handout for the student: Katherine's biography

Handout for the teacher: Katherine Johnson's biography

Handout for the student: biography writing frame

Handout for the student: feedback on peers'  presentations

Handout for the teacher: oral presentation rubrics for a biography

Handout for the student: listening activity

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Using newspaper and magazine articles in the content areas

Needless to say that we do not have to supply students with physical newspapers. We are very lucky to have online versions of most newspapers, some of which with lesson plans that can be very helpful when you like the article but you lack the necessary time to prepare some activities for students to carry out while and after reading. The Guardian includes a series of free  lesson plans for different content areas. The New York Times also offers a learning section with lesson plans. 

Next seminar I will present some of my favourite activities to make the most of using newspaper and magazine  articles in the  classroom but before we meet let me share some of them with you.  You can find them here

To help students with summarizing skills and  new vocabulary when reading newspaper articles, you can use this template  provided by Readwritethink.

Most newspapers are included here:

You can find some worksheets that relate to newspaper articles here:

The following is a collection of online magazines on very different topics:

For Science topics:


For History content:


Spanish El País can be read in English:

More student-friendly  websites you can use:

Thursday, 2 February 2017


Multicultural classrooms are a growing phenomenon as migrants flows are increasing exponentially. Classrooms now host students from  diverse nationalities and cultures and  teachers have  to acquire new skills, competences and materials to work effectively with culturally diverse students. 

Multicultural Schools project is a valuable bank of resources that will help all of  you who want to foster integration among different cultures and languages within your classrooms. 

The repository will give you free access  different types of ready-to-use materials for students of both Primary and Secondary levels. The materials are available in six different languages corresponding to the partner countries taking part in the project. 

I would like to suggest making students  listen to  and watch Marla Lewis' wonderful song and video "We all laugh in the same language"  as a way to celebrate unity within diversity in our multicultural school contexts:

You can download the lyrics of the song here

Please remember that the partners who are taking part in this project need our feedback to keep on working on the project and improving it. Therefore, let me know about your classroom experience after putting some activities into practice with your students.

Finally, but no less importantly, thank you very much for your immeasurable support towards cultural integration in our classrooms. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


La Mar de Ciencia” is a competition for young artists interested in Science and the sea. Students of Primary and Secondary grade levels from Spain can present their videos, drawings and stories through the website www.lamardeciencia.es until March 10, 2017. “La Mar de Ciencia” is an initiative of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB) and "la Caixa" Banking Foundation and its aim is to bring the marine sciences closer to the students and raise awareness about the importance of improving our knowledge on the sustainable management of the oceans.

As a novelty, this edition, entitled "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet", allows group participation in the video mode and the contributions can be presented in Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician and English. The winners will enjoy a scientific weekend in the Balearic Islands to learn more about the research carried out at the CSIC centres, participate in a SOCIB oceanographic campaign and visit the Marine-Terrestrial National Park of the Cabrera Archipelago. The classroom with the best video will be awarded with a digital whiteboard.

I reckon that this is a great opportunity to develop  students' awareness on the  enormous impacts that humans have  on marine ecosystems and resources.

If your students choose to focus on the Mediterranean sea, the program "Medclic: the Mediterranean in one click"  can be of great help.

For students aged 14-18, National Geographic offers a great amount of lesson plans on the threat which is being inflicted on our oceans.   I would  recommend the following one:


Let me finish by  stepping  back into the 17th century to pay my humble tribute to  Blaise Pascal, great mathematician, physicist and philosopher, who  warned us about the threats oceans have to face.

Among so many home truths, he said:

"The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble". 

Therefore, we can and we must do our best to protect our oceans and today we can start by encouraging our students to take part in the competition I suggested above these lines.