The Shift in Paradigm for Learning

I read two inspiring posts on the  shift in paradigm for learning last week. You may not be a PYP/IB teacher, but the shift in paradigm for learning is the same everywhere. As George Couros says, “Learning is not a one-way street and the places we can learn from have grown exponentially.” The resources, the content, the knowledge is no longer scarce. They are completely abundant; so, schools should no longer act as distributors of knowledge. Our role as educators is not to give students information about the world, but to help them understand the world they live in. It is not the teacher’s job to make meaning for the students anymore. Students should make meaning for themselves. Education is about co-constructing knowledge and building skills together. Instead of focusing on delivering content, we should be facilitators of learning. By being a learner first, educator second; we should demonstrate life-long learning for our students. As Edna Sackson says, “It’s valuable to see everything as an opportunity for learning.”

The videos in these two different posts – one by a PYP teacher, and another by a non-IB teacher/division principal – are telling the same things about the shift in paradigm of learning by giving different examples.

Where did they learn it from? Who cares?


Students learn many new words during the language process, but when it comes to using these words while speaking or writing they rarely do so because they haven’t internalized them. Students with an inadequate vocabulary range won’t be able to communicate effectively in the target language, are more likely to struggle with reading and writing, have difficulty in understanding content, and can be seriously at risk for academic failure. Research tells us that students need multiple and various exposures to a word before they fully understand that word and can apply it. Here is a list of different things learners need to know about a word before we say that they have learned it:

• Predicting and finding the meaning(s) of the word
• Its spoken and written forms (pronunciation & spelling)
• What “word parts” it has (any prefix, suffix, and root )
• Its grammatical behavior (part of speech)
• Its collocations
• What associations it has ( synonyms, antonyms )

Longman Vocabulary Website has exercises on all the topics listed above for students at different levels. In order to improve their prediction skills, we should teach students context clues explicitly.

You can use this vocabulary journal while you are teaching predicting the meanings of the unknown words using context clues. Here is a great lesson prepared by a creative teacher on using comics to teach context clues and here is another video you can share with your students to teach context clues.

Foreign language learners may come across a lot of new words while they are reading a text. However, it is impossible for them to internalize all these words at once. That’s why; choose 5-6 key words to focus on each week. Make sure that these are high-frequency words that your students will need to use in their further studies and in real life to be able to communicate in the target language effectively. Consider the Academic Words List while you are choosing key words from your content for your high school students. The AWL website offers lists of words, a definition for each word and its pronunciation (click the words in the sublists), and over 170 exercises to practise and review the vocabulary contained within the academic words list. You can find more exercises on the AWL here. The AWL is especially useful for EFL students who want to study in an English-speaking college or university and who are planning to take exams like IELTS or TOEFL.

While you are introducing the key words each week:

• Instead of giving the meanings to your students, give them examples, ask questions, use visuals, facial expressions, movement, mime, and gesture. In other words; show, don’t tell! Trying to understand the meaning of the word and thinking about it will actively involve the students in the learning process and enable them to remember and use these words more easily.
• The definitions in the dictionaries usually don’t help the foreign language learners much as they include unknown words and are hard for them to understand. Moreover, if they come up with their own definitions, learners are more likely to remember the words. Therefore, ask them to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
• Engage them actively with the word with your questions or by asking them to give examples, to make sentences about the new words, to identify synonyms-antonyms, to find collocations and to derive new words by using prefixes and suffixes.
• Have them create an image or any kind of symbol that will help them remember each word. Before you ask them to do so, describe your own mental image for each word. The effectiveness of this approach is consistent with the findings of Robert Marzano and his team whose research shows that “the more we use both systems of representation – linguistic and nonlinguistic – the better we are able to think about and recall knowledge.” Here is a vocabulary journal I use with my students at this stage.

Effective vocabulary development includes systematic practice, review, and deep processing. Therefore, recycling the new words regularly with different activities is essential. We can utilize tech tools to do that. Today there are many digital tools that support vocabulary learning, making it interactive and fun. This link will take you to a great post which lists apps you can use for each step in Marzano’s 6 Step Process for teaching vocabulary. Here is a list of digital tools and online dictionaries for language learners and another one for teachers with game and puzzle templates and assessment tools. These tools have been designed for different purposes; so, they must be chosen carefully to support learning goals and the needs of students at different levels.

Created – not only with words – but with images, examples, analogies, and connections to students’ worlds; word walls are effective vocabulary learning tools. However, they shouldn’t be seen only as a display of words. Word walls should be integrated into the learning process with different activities. Here is a list of classroom games and activities that you can try by using word walls. Teachers can also use tools like Padlet and Thinglink to create digital collaborative word walls. Both teachers and learners can upload images, links and videos as well as text onto them and can embed them into their class websites and blogs.

Effective vocabulary learning requires active and positive student participation and games are ideal tools for that. Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with the new words. You can see my Symbaloo with links to online vocabulary game websites below. Even though most of these games do not include activities fostering higher order thinking skills, they can be used to recycle vocabulary.


• Ask your learners to make their own picture dictionaries with the vocabulary they have learned or ABC Books based on the novels they have read / the topics they have studied. They can do this as computer-based image searches (using sites like Piclits, Classroom Clipart,, and Pics4Learning) or draw their own pictures.
• Ask your learners to present the new words to the class via skits, pantomime, posters, infographics, videos, jingles, and comics.
• Have them dramatize the words using pictures and speech bubbles and a tool like Blabberize.
• Write incomplete analogies for your learners to complete and have them write (or draw) their own analogies.
• Have them sort or classify words by using word clouds.
• Show your learners this video. Ask them to identify the easily confused words in it and write their own examples. Then ask them to work in groups and create their own Easily Confused Words video by choosing words from the word wall.

• Here is another game you can play with your learners after watching this video. Ask them to use the themes or concepts they learned during the school year to generate words.

• Instead of providing your learners with “Other Ways to Say ….” posters ask them to make their own posters. If you don’t have time to do that, brainstorm “the other” words with the learners by using a tool like Popplet and post it on your class blog. Alternatively, you can ask your learners to create a word cloud.


Many students find grammar boring but there are ways we can teach it more creatively by actively involving the students in the learning process. My first rule about teaching grammar is to teach it in context by pulling out the grammar topics from the texts the students are studying or by making connections with the writing units. I never teach grammar in an isolated fashion.

My second rule is to use an inductive approach instead of a deductive one while teaching grammar so that the rules are inferred by the students through guided discovery. As I strongly believe in the power of active learning, I never teach grammar explicitly by giving students the rules. Instead, I guide the students to discover the rules themselves and have them create their own pieces through writing, making speeches or simulated conversations, creating videos, podcasts, infographics, and comics using the grammar topics they have learned. The reason why I choose to teach grammar this way is because my experience in teaching has shown me that students can’t use the grammar point in their speech or writing if it has been taught explicitly by the teacher. I have seen many students who can explain a particular grammar rule and complete the exercises about it correctly. However, the same students can’t use that particular grammar rule correctly while speaking or writing because they haven’t internalized it.

Here is how I do it:
• I give the students an extract from a novel, a story or a non-fiction they have recently read and analyzed in class. If they are familiar with the target structure, I ask them to underline all the examples of that specific structure. If they are exposed to it for the first time, we underline the examples together in class.
• I then ask them to discover the rule/s about the target structure by working in groups and make a chart showing each rule with an example. Since they are already familiar with the text, students usually don’t find this task hard. I also go around the groups and offer them guidance whenever they are stuck.
• After the groups complete their charts, we make one class chart choosing the best examples from the students’ work as the whole class and display it in the classroom.
• At the end of this 40-minute lesson, I assign them videos about the target structure they have just learned and ask them to write down each example together with its rule. They are then asked to write their own example that matches with each specific rule. Here is a list of websites to assign videos and interactive lessons for your students at different levels.
• In the next lesson we go over the video assignment focusing on the examples and the rules related to them. Students then listen to and read texts including the target structure and do the tasks about them. They also complete different types of exercises, such as gap filling, error correction, sentence completion, etc. on the target structure. You can assign them grammar games instead of worksheets at the end of the lesson. You can also assign them speaking tasks by using the target structure. Students can record themselves by using a podcasting tool like Audiboom and send the link to their teachers.
• The final step is creation. I have my students do an oral response through role play or by giving a speech and complete a writing task like this one given to students who are learning Past Continuous Tense. While I am teaching parts of speech, I try Wacky Web Tales. or the activities here. Since we all internalize what we have learned by doing and teaching others, for difficult grammar concepts, I give students options asking them to work in groups and create a video, an infographic, or a comic book to teach the target structure to their peers in a student-friendly way. If you are going to assign a similar task to your students, display the final products your students have created in your class website or blog and save them as treasures to show in future years. You can share this guide with your students who are going to make a video and this link with the students who are going to make a comic book so that they can choose the tool they want to use.


Infographics are great tools for learning. If your students aren’t familiar with infographics, you had better teach them what infographics are before they create their own infographics to display their knowledge and analysis of a grammar topic. Here is a post by Nik Peachey on how to use infographics in ELT.  You can also check out my Pinterest board on infographics.

Many students love learning grammar via film clips and videos because they are authentic and students can easily make real life connections. They help the students see the aspects of culture and make the language comprehensible. That’s one of the reasons why I frequently use them in my classes. Here is a great post by Kieran Donaghy on how film can help you teach or learn English. As I mentioned in my previous post, I use the resources in his website, Film English a lot. Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals and Lessons on Movies are two other websites I frequently use to teach grammar.


You can also check the ideas and resources in the post that Larry Ferlazzo wrote for Edutopia and the comprehensive handbook on Using Video in the Classroom, by David Deubelbeiss, the creator of EFL Classroom 2.0 website. You can use the videos in these websites as class openers to grab your students’ attention, as brain breaks, conversation starters, to teach and review grammar and vocabulary, or in your assignments as you can see in my example above. I sometimes give links to the websites and ask my students to do the activities there or I adapt the resources according to the needs of my students as you can see in this example. The last activity in this worksheet has been taken from Lyrics training which is a language learning site through music, lyrics and karaoke. It offers gap filling exercises for each song at 4 different levels. You can also use the songs here and prepare gap filling exercises with the lyrics to review the target grammar and vocabulary. TEFL Tunes is another website where you can find popular songs to teach grammar.

You can generate many activities to teach grammar by using silent movies. Apart from the sites mentioned at the end of this post, you can also visit Bombay TV which is a fun site where learners can add subtitles and voice-overs to Indian television and film clips and Clip Flair where learners can dub and add subtitles to video clips. Students love these dubbing activities; so, we started a dubbing club at our school this year. The students in the club are working to organize a dubbing competition among middle schoolers soon.

You can also flip your grammar lessons by using videos. If you want to convert YouTube videos into a flipped lesson, you may find the information in this post and this one helpful.

Considering the different learning styles of your learners, try to include activities for your kinesthetic learners in each grammar lesson. There are many activities you can do with post-it notes, QR codes, and even with a ball. You can also use Russel Tarr’s QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator to create treasure hunt type of grammar games.


Games are very popular among students and you can easily design grammar and vocabulary games by using sites like Jeopardy Labs, Super Teacher Tools, Tiny Tap, and What2Learn. All these sites are so easy to use that you don’t have to be a tech expert to create games. You can also assign grammar games to your students from the list I gave above. What is more, you can use popular games like Minecraft that your students are playing online to teach them English. David Dodgson offers great ideas in his blog on how you can use Minecraft and The Sims in your English classes creatively. You can also try Quandary which is a free game designed for English Language Arts students by MIT and Learning Games Network. You may find this post on the game useful before you try it with your students. Just give game-based learning a try and see how your students will amaze you with their motivation and engagement.

Telltale Games published choice-based versions of Minecraft and Game of Thrones in which players personalize their gaming experience by choosing their own adventures. Since each student will come up with a different story about the same game, students can then write about their stories and swap them with their classmates for peer review. If your students don’t have the opportunity to play these games, you can use this online version of  “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories or Inklewriter, a free writing tool which allows students to write their own interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories.

After each exam and each writing activity, I prepare a handout and a mini lesson showing common errors and creative examples of language use. Upon going over the handout in class, I give differentiated assignments to my students depending on their errors. Because I don’t have enough time to prepare these assignments for each student, I give them assignments from the websites in this list. It is really practical because most of the websites in the list also give the students the answers and show them their mistakes after they finish each exercise. Here is a creative assignment prepared by a teacher for the common errors she spotted in her class. I will try this next time I prepare one by including samples from this website as well. When there is not enough time for peer review during the writing tasks, I allow my students to use one of the grammar and vocabulary checker tools in this list. I believe they contribute to improving their grammar and vocabulary as they give immediate feedback.

Effective grammar instruction is an important component of a skills based curriculum as it gives our students the means to express themselves accurately. Therefore, it should be taught systematically together with listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Here is a list of listening, reading, and writing resources to reinforce grammar instruction.



Unlike technical, academic, and other forms of writing, creative writing fosters imagination and allows students to have a voice. Therefore, it is one of the most effective ways to enhance creativity in the language classroom.

Creative writing helps students express themselves and sometimes serves as an outlet for their deep feelings. For example, through journal writing you can get to know your students much better and connect with them. Giving them journal entries like the ones in this post may be a good idea to start the year. The Soundtrack of Your Life is another great creative writing activity you can try at the beginning of the year to get to know your students and to create a positive classroom climate.


According to Toby Fulwiler,  journal writing is an important way of individualizing instruction and encouraging independent thinking. It also enhances students’ confidence in writing. Therefore, instead of trying to correct their mistakes in their journals, try responding to your students sincerely. While you are doing that, you can use the correct forms of their mistakes in your response to model for them. You can find information, articles, and resources about journaling in Journal Buddies. and Daily Teaching Tools. Make Beliefs Comix also offers interactive digital journals, like  Spark Your Writing or Something to Write About. Make Beliefs is a great site that offers comic strip templates and writing prompts in different languages. It will help your reluctant writers to take a new look at creative writing, so please make sure to check all the resources here.


Using visuals prompts for writing is another activity that enhances creative writing and there are great sites offering resources for that, such as Writing Prompts, Visual Story Prompts, Photo Prompts, and Write About. Students using Write About can either write their story or record it. They can also save their draft to work on it later. Write About offers you to select the creative writing topics among different categories and according to the grade level.

Here is a lesson plan designed for B2+ learners encouraging them to talk and write on picture prompts and in this post you can find some app suggestions for generating prompts and story starters. Both teachers and students can create their own writing prompts by using Piclits where students can find inspiring photos and a list of useful words to spark new ideas. They can write captions, sentences, stories, paragraphs, poems, raps, quotations, lyrics, and more. Students can either drag the words onto the picture to create sentences or hide them if they want to use their own words. According to the site, “The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture.” Before you start assigning picture writing prompts, you can use this lesson by the NY Times Learning Network to teach photo-based writing skills to your students. You can also read this post for more ideas on teaching literacy through photography for English Language Learners.

Build Your Wild Self is a cool tool for young learners to create avatars using different animal parts and attaching them in a human body. Students then can send it to a friend by entering a name and email address, add as a desktop background, or print their wild self. They can write a poem or story about a day in the life of the wild self they created, using the new creature as a writing prompt. This worksheet we prepared for our primary students includes an activity on Build Your Own Self. Most of the templates in this worksheet have been adapted from Twinkle where you can find great resources. The presentation rubric in this worksheet has been taken from Edutopia.


Video writing prompts are as popular as the photo writing prompts. Corn Dog Art offers both video and visual writing prompts to inspire creative writing. Teach Hub is another website where you can find video writing prompts. You can find different writing prompts for different age groups about the same video. Check the video prompts for Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Hunger Games. Lesson Stream by Jamie Keddie offers a wealth of creative and imaginative lesson plans for young learners and teens based on short videos. Film English, another great site by Kieran Donaghy, does the same based on short films. Here you can see one of my favorites from Kieran’s amazing site. The resources in All at C and Viral ELT can be used with higher level ELT learners.

John Spencer created an inspiring about creating a step-by-step guide on how to become a superhero and here is a collaborative project task we designed for our middle school students using this video.

Storytelling is one of the best ways to inspire creativity in our learners. Check 60 Narrative Story Writing Prompts for Kids by Squarehead Teachers, Boggles Words Creative Writing for ESL Students, and Story Starts. Literacy Shed also has great story starters you can use with students at different levels.


Writing Exercises provides students with writing prompts and exercises to help them get started with creative writing and break through writing blocks. Students can generate random story ideas, plots, subjects, scenarios, characters, first lines for stories and more. They also have a Children’s Section with creative writing prompts for children of primary/elementary school age. Interactive writing games in Fun English Games may help your students improve their writing skills.

Nowadays technology provides students with more engaging ways to practice creative writing. Safestyle’s Secret Door is a very interesting creative writing web page I learned from Özge Karaoğlu. This web page embeds a Google maps street view URL. Step through the secret door and be transported to some of the most fascinating places across the globe. With a click of the button you can travel to the South Pole, China’s Great Wall, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and start writing your story. You click a door that says “Take me somewhere else” and Google Maps Street View shows you another place on the planet.


Primary students enjoy writing short stories using Scholastic Story Starters. There are four story themes for the students to choose: fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. Students pick a theme, enter their names, choose their grades, and spin the big wheels of prompts. They can spin the wheels until they find a prompt they like. After they select the prompts, they start writing their story using one of the four formats the program offers and print them. Another creative tool designed for the primary students is Read Write Think Fractured Fairy Tale Generator. Students can read a sample fractured fairy tale and write their own version of a fractured fairy tale by using this tool.


Book Box is a great website for middle school students to practice creative writing. The Writer’s Toolkit in Book Box is like a step-by-step guide teaching students many aspects of writing. This website puts students in touch with their favorite authors and their books while they are wandering through Secret Passages. Students can find about more than 30 favorite authors and their books and the chance to watch authors read favorite passages on-screen. There are also some literacy games for the students to play.

Wordtamer is another cool site designed for the new generation of the storytellers to help them learn the process of developing characters, setting, and plot in creative writing. It is set up as an interactive journey through a funfair of literary devices. As students move through the funfair they learn how to develop characters, setting, plot for their stories. They can print out what they have written at each step. Students can also watch the videos that will help them understand the roles of characters, settings, and plot development in crafting a good story. The site  offers certificates to students who have completed the training.


100 Word Challenge has been designed for students 16 and under. In this activity students respond to a prompt using not more than 100 words. Writing is posted on a class blog, where responses are invited. The activity encourages regular writing for an authentic audience.

One Word offers a one word prompt and gives the students 60 seconds to start writing. This is a great way to fight writer’s block and make writing a little more fun. Another website you can share with your students who are trying to cope with writer’s block is Telescopic Text. You can also show Telescopic Text as an example to your class of how a short simple sentence can be expanded and continually added to. This tutorial will help you use the writing tools. You can make your own telescopic text here.

Ask your students to write six-word memoirs using this lesson plan, six-word stories, or a six-word book review.

When they are learning letter writing, ask your students to write a letter to their future self by sending a time-capsule email delivered on a day they chose in the future via Future me website.


Some teachers don’t associate creative writing with non-fiction writing. Look at this example and ask your students to rewrite this Learning Enhancing Potion by adding their own ingredients. You can also ask them to prepare Creativity Enhancing potion, write a recipe for friendship or make a video explaining how to make friendship soup. If you are teaching in a 1:1 classroom, your students can use apps like Explain Everything to do these. You can find future news for 2020 and beyond in News of Future. After your students read, analyze, and discuss some of the articles here, ask them to write their own future news articles. A lesson like this one may be a good introduction to this creative writing assignment. Finally, please check this great post about activities and tools that can help students use their creative and critical abilities while learning.

Poetry is another genre your students can practice creative writing. Shelly Terrell offers amazing ideas and resources on teaching poetry in this post. Here is another post by Lisa Nielsen on bringing poetry to life with a cell phone and a Voki. This is a great poem to start teaching poetry to young learners. Giggle Poetry, Poetry by Heart, Poems & Stories 4 Kids, and Poetry4Kids are great websites for primary students to learn about and write poetry through word games and funny poems. Read Write Think offers many lesson plans on poetry for all grades, including interactive media and giving links to other websites focused on teaching poetry creatively. You can find some more resources and ideas to teach poetry in this article.


Some students are great at telling stories but they may have a writer’s block when they are asked to write using pen and paper. Technology helps them express themselves using different multimedia tools. You can find 18 free digital storytelling tools for teachers and students in this post. Technology also helps students improve their collaboration skills. For example, Boomwriter is a collaborative writing tool. Have your class or creative writing club use technology to collaboratively write a real book to enhance their language and creative writing skills using Boomwriter on computers, tablets, and phones. Groups of five students or more can use it to read, write, and get published! Creating an eBook is especially rewarding for language learners as it allows them to combine digital and language skills and come up with something to show to their friends and parents. Moreover, students are more motivated to write, work harder and more willing to revise their work when they share it with a larger audience, not just with their teacher. Therefore, many teachers today are using class blogs to have their students showcase their work and to communicate their voice to a larger audience.


You can find free resources for creative writing and blogging in this toolbox curated by Global Digital Citizen Foundation. While your students are writing their creative pieces, you can use Noisli a background noise and color generator- to create a mood for creative writing.


The C Group that aims to foster creativity for change in language education offers a provisional definition of creativity as: ‘thinking and activity in language education that is novel, valuable, and open-ended, and that helps to enrich learning in our students and ourselves’. Being creative is a must in the language classroom not only because
creativity is an important life skill in the century that we live in, but also because it motivates, inspires, and challenges the learners and increases their engagement. In this post I will try to give some examples that will help the learners think about and use the language creatively.

Before giving your students creative challenges, you can start by brainstorming on what creativity is discussing all aspects from generating original ideas and narrowing them down to not fearing making mistakes. Helen Buckley’s poem, The Little Boy may be a good starting point to do that. Here is a video you can share with your students while you are discussing creativity with them.

You can also share Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk or other TED talks on creativity with your students,

discuss them in the classroom and ask them to prepare a TED-style talk on the significance of creativity.

My favorite website to assign creative tasks to students is The Literacy Shed where you can find a wealth of visual resources together with creative ideas for literacy teaching that you can extend. Creative Educator is another great site by tech4learning where you can find ideas for your Language Arts classes.

Teach with Movies provides teachers with lesson plans and learning guides on movies and film clips. You can also create your own lesson plans for English Language Arts and Literature classes based on the movies. Here is a  project assignment for students who have used Teach with Movies website together with the novels they are reading and here is a blog post on why use film to teach literacy.

Classtools is a free site for teachers created by a teacher. He has created tools for students including timeline tools, diagram makers, hamburger paragraph makers, SMS generators, video games maker, a QR code treasure hunt, and breaking news generator. The Fakebook page is great for character profiles. Ask your students to choose one of the characters in the book they are reading and prepare a Fakebook page for them considering what links and photos they would share, who they would friend, what their updates would look like. You can find the help sheet for Fakebook here.

Russel Tarr, the creator of the Classtools website has also designed Twister, which is a fake tweet generator. Students can create tweets as the characters in the book they are reading or as the author of the book using Twister. This link will take you to his blog where Russel, shares different ways you can use Classtools.  Alternatively, you can use Twiducate, which is a social networking tool for schools. If you need ideas on how to use twitter to teach, check this post and share this guide on Twitter Lingo with your students.

Read Write and Think is another site where you can find several activities to teach creatively. Your students can use the Cube Creator while reading or writing biographies or stories. They can also create their own cube by filling in their own questions and responses to a topic. Read Write Think offers a Profile Publisher that your students can use like Fakebook. You can see an example on how to use it in this project that we gave to our students last year. In this project the students have been asked to prepare a book trailer instead of writing a book report. Book trailers are creative alternatives to traditional book reports.

Sharing the book trailers of your students with the school community is a great way to encourage reading as their friends’ recommendations excite the young readers much more than anybody else’s. You can also ask your students to prepare alternative book covers for the books they have read by designing creative artwork and a compelling blurb. A worksheet like this one may be helpful before you ask them to design their book covers. The students who want to make digital book covers can use the Book Cover Creator by Read Write Think. In this post, Catherine Reed, a creative teacher explains how she built excitement for reading in her class through the augmented reality book talk and the book blurbs her students have created.

This worksheet can be used to foster higher order thinking skills at the end of a novel project. You can also ask your students to rewrite the story they have read by adding themselves as another character or write an alternative ending for it. They can prepare a flyer to describe the setting of the novel they are reading by using Canva, Smore, Tackk, or Lucidpress. Here you can find a series of creative tasks for novel projects prepared by a creative teacher, Caiti Joly. Here is another great post on book talks and literature circles.

If you are teaching letter writing, Read Write Think has a Letter Generator that your students can use. You can ask them to write a letter to one of the characters or to the author of the book they are reading. They can also write a letter as the novel protagonist to an Agony Aunt Column presenting the character’s problems. Students can then swap the letters and write a well-written response as the Agony Aunt.

Talking avatars are great tools for language classes. Visit Web Tools for Kids for different types of avatars, talking pets, postcards, robots. Ask them to choose one of the Talking Avatars from the website and create an Avatar for their blog about the internet safety rules they have learned. They can also create avatars to send New Year messages, postcards to their friends or on other different occasions throughout the year. Introducing yourself to your students and the parents using Voki on your blog or class website may be a nice beginning for the year.

If you are using a textbook, you can ask your students to add several pages to the unit they are studying to make it more student-friendly. If you are studying a topic or a global issue, you and your students can save articles, photos, and videos about it onto Flipboard to create a digital magazine. You can ask your students to work in pairs and prepare questions about the articles in Flipboard. Groups then can swap the questions and answer them. Here is a video on how to use Flipboard in education:

When you are giving these projects make sure to give options to your students to choose. Never assign only one project for one task. Keep some of the projects your students have submitted and share them with your students the following year when you are assigning a similar project so that they have a better picture of your expectations.

For more ideas you can check this post by Matt Miller and this booklet published by the British Council. You can find Nik Peachey’s presentation based on the ideas in this book here:

All these creation-based tasks promote higher order thinking skills, enable students to make connections with their own lives, to construct meaning and to make sense of the world around them. Many of these tasks also encourage collaboration, which is another important skill in the century that we live. While the students are expressing themselves creatively in the language they are learning, they improve their language skills naturally and become more competent users of that language.

What kind of activities do you do in your classes to enable your learners to think about and use the language creatively?



The globalized world today needs globally competent citizens who have learned to take responsibility for their actions, respect and value diversity, and contribute to a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world. Enabling young people to participate in shaping a better shared future for the world is at the heart of global education and it is our job to ensure that they develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to thrive in our interconnected, diverse global society.

TeachUnicef, Edutopia, Edudemic, Oxfam, Global Concerns Clasroom and Connecting Cultures offer many resources that will help you design your global citizenship curriculum. Field Trip Earth provides teachers with strategies for global education together with resources. You can also check Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Sites for Learning About the World’s Different Cultures. Teachers who are new to the concept can start by reading this guide. You can find a very creative project here for your students to understand the significance of globalization. Sharing this video with your students may be a good starting point for your global citizenship lessons:

In our connected world today, global education does not only mean knowing about other cultures and global issues. Teachers and students should also be communicating and collaborating with their peers and experts all around the world to identify and find solutions to challenges on global issues such as health, environment, natural resources, the economy, global security, peace-buiding, human rights, and so on. Through collaborative global projects students will develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures and contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve real-life problems.

Intercultural understanding encourages students to make connections between their own worlds and the worlds of others and understand that they are part of this global society where cultures, economies, and people are continuously connected. Luckily, technology helps us do that very easily. From video conferencing to blogging, technology provides opportunities for international collaboration anywhere, anytime. Students and teachers can now connect their classroom to the world using tech tools.

You can find a list of links for global collaborations here; but if you are a globally connected teacher, you can find many more links posted by teachers from all around the world on Twitter. The examples below are from the online global collaborative projects our students joined last year. I came across with all these project on Twitter.

Our 5th graders last year joined DEN Voices Connect. They learned the project song, Agents of Change, which was about global citizenship, collaboration, and teamwork. They connected with a partner school in USA and explored digital media based on the song content via their class blogs. They brainstormed on what they could do to become change agents to make a difference in the global society. They shared their ideas on Padlet.We recorded  their performance song and sent it to DEN Voices. The experts at DEN combined all the videos sent by the participating schools to make a virtual choir performance by students all over the world:

Our 7th graders participated in the Global Read Aloud Project and analyzed a novel together with the students from their partner school via their class blogs. It was a student-led project and our students enjoyed it so much that they went on collaborating with their peers even after the project was over. You can learn more about this project on their old website.

Our high school prep students joined the Web Design Contest organized by Global Virtual Classroom. They collaborated with two other schools, one in the United States and the other in Russia via Edmodo to design a website on World Cuisine and World Music. They won a merit award; but for us, the experience they had during this project was a true life lesson which was more important than the award.

Having a global mindset will not only foster empathy, flexibility, independence, communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills but will also offer our students an economic and intellectual advantage in their future careers and life. It is a major competitive advantage for young adults entering the workforce and an important life skill for anyone to have no matter where they live or what kind of job they do.

What do you do to foster a global mindset in your students?


Today’s definition of literacy is more than reading and writing as the world is increasingly dominated by mass media and communication technologies. Since we can reach limitless information through modern communication tools, the effect and control of media on the way we live and think has significantly inreased. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to prepare their students for real life by making them media literate. In order to be functionally literate, students are expected to analyze and interpret the messages that can influence people’s attitudes, behaviour, and values, produce examples to express their own messages through multiple forms of media. Media Literacy Now and Open Thinking Wiki offer a comprehensive list of resources you can use with different age groups to teach all these skills.

As part of our media literacy program, our students first study an introductory unit on what media literacy is and why it is important to study media literacy. For high school students, you can use the resources in the MLC website to discuss these issues. Students then identify, analyze, interpret, and evaluate media techniques and messages in different formats and create similar products. Please read this blog post for more ideas and download the Quick Start Guide that has great project-based ideas to teach media literacy skills to your students. My Pop Studio is another great site that helps students learn media literacy skills and promotes positive youth development with highly interactive creative play activities. Here you can see the project assignment sheet that we prepared for My Pop Studio.

We integrated news literacy, ad literacy, and film literacy units into our English program because they match so well with our learning goals. Before doing so, please make sure that your students know how to analyze non-fiction texts, write informative texts, use persuasive style, and distinguish fact from opinion. I can hear some people saying, “Why should I teach media literacy, after all I am an English teacher!”  Please read this great post on the value of media education. Doesn’t our job also involve making a difference in our students’ lives and preparing them for the challenges of the era they live in? Integrating media literacy education into your curriculum will enable you to teach your students many of the Now Skills 21st century requires. Many teachers complain about disengaged students. One of the reasons of this disengagement and boredom is because students cannot relate to what they are learning in the classroom. The real life connections that media literacy lessons provide may increase the level of engagement of your students.

             Image Source: Embracing Technology in Education Wiki

You can start teaching news literacy to your older students with this great TED-Ed lesson on how the opinions and facts (and sometimes non-facts) make their way into the news and how the smart reader can tell them apart. Like any other TED-Ed lesson, you can create a new lesson by changing the tasks depending on your students’ needs and level, using the tools the TED-Ed website offers. In this list you can find some resources that you may use to teach news. Start by giving your students news reports that you think will interest them. Here you can find a graphic organizer, a recipe, and a checklist for news writing that your students can use. This 5 W’s and H graphic organizer and The Inverted Pyramid graphic organizer will help them understand the format and style of news reports better. Teach your students all the ingredients of news reports (how to write a headline, a lead, how to use quotes, bias in writing, etc.) before they start writing their own news. This assignment  will familiarize your students with the format and style of news reports and magazine articles. The news unit is also a good time to teach or revise Reported Speech as your students will use it while they are writing their news reports. We always try to teach each grammar topic when there is a need for it and never teach it in an isolated fashion.

After they master all the ingredients, you can give your students a collaborative news writing task using Google Drive. My students love the news writing competition activity when I give them the headline and the lead of a news report and ask them to work in groups to predict and write the rest of it using everything they have learned about news reports. After they finish writing their piece, groups exchange their news reports and give each other feedback. Then, I share the original version with them and they choose the news report that is closest to the original version. They then compare their style with the original version and choose the best news report in terms of style. Another creative collaborative news writing task can be given in Literature classes. Ask your students to choose one part in the novel they have  read  and write a news report based on it.

Students also love the ad literacy units because of their real life connections. Just like the news writing unit, they first learn how and why ads are designed, how the features of a magazine advert are different from that of a TV commercial or a persuasive advert like a flyer. They learn about the different techniques and styles to use for different types of ads, the significance of catchy slogans and the target audience. In this list you can find resources  you may use for your ad literacy units. There are several game-based, interactive websites among them like Admongo and Don’t Buy it! Get Media Smart! Your students will enjoy playing the games here and learn a lot about advertising while doing so. Please visit the Teachers’ pages in both websites where you can find  resources to teach ad literacy. After students learn about the techniques on designing ads, you can assign them a task like this one or give them a list of target audience to choose from and ask them to design a product and an ad for that specific audience.

Film literacy is the most popular media literacy unit among  students. The main goal of film study in the classroom is to make our students active viewers of films rather than passive ones. Students, as critical viewers learn to analyze what is in the frame, how it is constructed, what is left out and apply the techniques they have learned in their own products. The basic principles of the film study in English classes across levels can be:

* Elements of film language
* Features of different genres
* The rules of filmmaking
* The difference between still and moving images
* How the sequencing of shots can create a narrative

* How the use of camera angles, light, music, sound effects, etc. change the meaning of a moving sequence
* The critical role of screenwriting

In this list you can find some resources you may use while designing your own lessons to teach film literacy and you can find great media literacy projects created by Global Digital Citizen in this guide. In the video below, the famous filmmaker, Martin Scorsese talks about how ideas and feelings can be expressed through a visual form and the importance of visual literacy.

The ability to appreciate and analyze film is a critical skill for our learners as it also teaches them how to make their own products to be able to tell their own stories. Of course, film is not the only medium for the students to practice these skills. The fact that young people are surrounded by visuals today, has transformed the way they learn and perceive the world. They read, analyze, interpret and create graphic novels, comics, and cartoons to make sense of the visual world and to express themselves. Here is a sample task we prepared for our 7th grade students using the resources in Cartoons for the Classroom.

Combining images with text is a fun way for learners to demonstrate understanding and be creative. Today, there are many tools for the learners to show what they know using different forms of media. Especially learners who cannot fit into the traditional classrooms with one-size-fits-for-all type of education, benefit a lot from using sequential images and text together to tell a story or relate their understanding of learned materials.

Digital media offers us a great learning tool by bringing text, images, sound, and music together: Digital storytelling. The reason why digital storytelling has become so popular is because students love expressing themselves using different forms of media.

Here you can find a great post by Silvia Tolisano on creating new forms of digital storytelling using digital media. One of these forms is transmedia storytelling, in which the narrative is told across multiple platforms, and may include sound, images, text, movie and gaming elements. All these elements contribute to the meaning of the narrative and the reader cannot fully understand the text without interacting with each element. Inanimate Alice, Pottermore, Rockford’s Rock Opera, Collapsus and Ruby Skye are some transmedia examples. Here you can see the summer homework we prepared for our students on Inanimate Alice. The students were expected to read all 5 episodes of Inanimate Alice and after completing the assignment on episode 1, we asked them to choose another episode and prepare a digital worksheet about it like the one we did and post it on their blog. As the last step, we asked them to continue Alice’s adventures by creating their own digital story, episode 6 and post it on their blog. If you want to use Inanimate Alice in your classes, please check these lesson plans and student resource pack and this starter booklet.


Here you can find the summer homework we prepared for our 6th grade students on Rockford’s Rock Opera. Both of the resources are amazing examples of creativity and imagination and serve as perfect models for our students who are also creating their own digital stories. As Jason Ohler says, “Today, digital expression is the new literacy and creativity is the new fluency.”



Even if you are not using social media at school, your students are using social networking sites like Snapchat and Instagram, downloading music, and playing games online. Learning how to look after one’ digital footprint is an important issue these days and knowing what to share, who to share it with is a vital part of this process. Therefore, it has become inevitable for the schools to teach them how to be safe and responsible online. In order to do this effectively, schools should design a digital citizenship curriculum. There are many resources available according to the needs of each age group online that will help you do this.

Before you start designing your own curriculum, please read this post by George Couros and watch the video. I strongly believe that the message in this inspiring post is very important and our curriculum should be designed to teach our students and the parents what they can accomplish if they are smart and responsible in using the opportunities technology provides us. You can then visit Mark Dribble’s website and read his post on the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.

9 Elements

IMAGE CREDIT: Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth

Google, YouTube, and Common Sense Media have prepared their own DC curriculum that you can use while designing yours. Digital Citizenship resources by Edutopia, Edudemic, ISTE, ICT Evangelist, Shelly Terrell, Digital Citizen wiki and Digital ID wiki may also be helpful.

If you follow this link, you can see a free comic book that teaches many things about copyright. The resources in this livebinder may also help you teach copyright to your students. In this link, there is a great guide prepared for K-6 teachers planning to design a digital citizenship curriculum. Here, you can find another great interactive guide which you can explore with your students. If you scroll down the blog post by Global Digital Citizen, you can find digital citizenship agreements that you can download and use with your students. Please make sure that the resources you have curated or designed are age-appropriate and relevant and meet the needs of your learners. You can find examples here  and here. Finally, in this blog post, Andrew Miller suggests designing Digital Citizenship PBL projects with students. I’ll try this with my students next year. What about you?



Digital literacy is more than knowing about how and when to use the tools. It is the ability to process information by locating, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, creating, and sharing it using digital technology. In the past, we used to do it with printed materials, but now technology provides access to a much wider range of learning resources available at all times and allows us to communicate information in a variety of media beyond word and text; so, looking up information in the library in traditional ways is obviously not enough. To be literate today requires navigating a connected world offering us endless information with which we can interact in many different ways.

Our students are familiar with technology but they use it for social purposes. They know how to copy and paste but they don’t know how to process information with the help of technology. They should master the critical skills below to conduct research effectively and come up with creative projects instead of copy-pasted ones:

• Identify how information can support their learning
• Locate and access information from a variety of sources both print and digital
• Compare, evaluate and select information
• Organize and manage information
• Apply information to specific problems/ issues
• Analyze and synthesize information
• Communicate information in a variety of media

If we deprive our students of all these skills, they will graduate without being ready for the challenges of the work and social life that is awaiting them. Therefore, it should be the prime duty of each teacher and school to teach information literacy to their students.

To integrate information literacy into your curriculum, you can start by checking the resources on Cybraryman’s Research Page and by visiting Kathy Beck’s website. Power up offers a great guide you can use while planning your lessons. This blog post will take you to a link  where you can find resources for your elementary students. Do your students look up information for projects and end up with websites way beyond their reading level? This tutorial will show you how you can change the reading level of your Google results and this post offers you tips on teaching the research paper to your students.

Many schools have policies against plagiarism and there are consequences for students if they plagiarize, but in many cases students do so because they don’t know how to deal with that information. They should know how to paraphrase , how to locate and cite sources, how to use the information to explain, persuade, and create. There are also great tools that help us conduct research and our students should be familiar with them and this link will take you to a post on creating collaborative research projects with Google Apps.

Information literacy is not only about finding information but also about evaluating what you find.  Students should learn this critical skill to determine whether the information they have found is relevant and reliable. You can check the resources on evaluating websites and the quality of content in this list before you start creating your own resources.

While teaching effective researching skills to our students, we should also teach them the inquiry process.

the-inquiry-processIMAGE SOURCE: Inquiring Mind Website

The first step in teaching the inquiry process is the art of asking good questions if we want our students to come up with creative solutions to the problems using their critical thinking skills. Questioning is a skill that has often been neglected because we tend to focus on the correct answers rather than questions in educational systems based on standardized testing. However, thinking is driven by questions. Here is a video from an expert explaining why we should focus more on questions than the answers:

Here is another video that you can share with your students on the importance of questioning:

The next step is to teach them about essential (thick, rich, fat) questions.

Another important step is to help them refine their questions to come up with questions that cannot be easily googled by hitting a search button. There are a number of frameworks used for guiding students’ questions. My favorite is created by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and here you can find an update for it.

The next step is the information processing. There are a number of models you can use like the Big 6 (and Super 3 for young learners). Here you can find a long list of tools students can choose from and use at each step of the inquiry cycle and here is another great list with both tools and resources curated at ISTE 2015. You can also use Google tools for your project.  This website has great resources that you can use during the entire process.

When their research is finished, students share what they learn via a presentation tool of their own choice. After they have presented their project, have them write a blog post to reflect on their learning and share evidence of their understanding. This also gives them an opportunity to assess their progress and think about how what they have learned may apply elsewhere beyond the project.

In her blog post, Projects with Rigor Jane Kraus lists the important aspects of critical thinking to make better projects. After reading her list, you can also check the project ideas here and some project samples in ISTE Resource Library.  Once your students master the questioning skills and the inquiry cycle, you can go a step further by not giving your students problems to solve. Instead, help them find real-world problems for projects. You can watch Ewan McIntosh’s TEDx talk for more information on this.

Inquiry, project and problem-based learning help students enhance collaboration, problem-solving, critical and creative thinking skills if they are used correctly. By using these pedagogies, teachers can connect their curriculum to the real world and make learning meaningful. Many students prefer this kind of learning in class to being lectured as they have a real need to know something so that they can use this knowledge to solve a problem or answer a question and they learn by actually doing it. Using these approaches will bring learning to life but only students with strong information literacy skills and schools that are able to build strong learning communities can do that effectively.

What tools and models are you using for your learners to internalize information literacy and inquiry learning? Please share your experience.



According to the definition on the Cornell University website, digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet. If used correctly, digital literacy enables students to think critically about information and communication as citizens of the global community while using technology responsibly and ethically. It will eventually help them become life-long learners who have internalized the fact that learning can take place anywhere at any time in multiple ways.

Digital Literacy has 3 important components:
• Technology Literacy
• Information Literacy
• Digital Citizenship

I had originally planned to write about digital literacies in one post but it became such a long post that I decided to write about information literacy and digital citizenship in another post. I know there are too many links in this post but updating curriculum to transform learning requires a lot of reading and research to be able to do it effectively. Transforming education is not an easy process. I strongly believe that before transforming our schools and our curriculum, we need to transform ourselves as educators and know the reasons why there is a need for such a transformation as well as how to do it.

Technology Literacy

Our students should develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology as active and successful participants of the 21s century global society. This will allow us to personalize learning effectively and fully immerse them in content that is interactive, relevant and authentic, making learning fun, and improving student motivation and engagement. The important point to keep in mind is the fact that tech integration is not about technology, it is about learning. Otherwise, adding technology to our curriculum, without changing the way we teach, will take us nowhere.

"The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the  classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning"

Image source: Langwitches on Flickr


• Use technology for discovery, accessing opportunity, documenting and sharing learning, showcasing achievements and reviewing/reflecting on learning. If used correctly, technology can give every student a voice and help make student thinking and understanding visible, enabling them to communicate and collaborate with others in and out of the classroom to find solutions to problems, to construct knowledge, to create content, to share their learning or to get and give feedback. The aim is to enable the students have the control over their learning by making choices about what to learn and how to learn it at their own pace by using higher order thinking skills and practicing effective communication and collaboration skills. In such a learning environment, the teacher is the coach rather than the expert and the authority in the classroom. Instead of focusing on delivering knowledge, the teacher provides scaffolding to help students develop higher order thinking skills and deeper understanding.

• In our tech and information-infused, rapidly changing world, teachers are not expected to have all the answers. The teacher is a learner, too; so, don’t be afraid of using technology if you feel that your students are better at it than you are. Instead, empower them by making them the tech leaders of your class. Let your students be in the driver seat and make sure that your relationship with your learners is based on trust and openness rather than power and control.

• Technology will give you endless opportunities to personalize learning. Address and respect your learners’ gifts and struggles appropriately by utilizing technology to ensure that each learner feels a part of your learning community. Give them freedom to discover and develop their own passions and interests to boost their engagement.

• Make sure that learning doesn’t only come from books but from experience as well. Since you cannot be an expert at everything, let your students connect to experts all over the world to find the answers they are looking for or to learn new things. Imagine how excited your students will be if they get connected with the author of the book they are reading or someone from NASA if they are learning about space. You can also take them to virtual field trips and bring the world into your classroom.

• Using technology in the classroom may sometimes mean making mistakes and failing. Instead of avoiding using tech in your classroom because of that, use it to show your students that making mistakes and failing are important parts of learningtechnology and can be used as an opportunity to grow on the way to success.

• Help your students become creators rather than consumers of technology. Make sure that your students know creation literacy skills so that they can effectively create information.  Provide them with opportunities to self-publish and share their work.

• As learners learn best when they create, share, and teach others, have your students use screencasting tools to create meaningful learning experiences. Model your students by screencasting yourself to flip parts of your curriculum.

• Technology will also help you make formative assessment a routine in your classroom to support learning. Make sure that there is ongoing formative assessment in your classroom as a seamless part of the classroom culture. There are great tech tools that will help you do this. You can use backchanneling tools to get immediate feedback, ask your students to create video projects, or podcasts to review the lesson, use digital exit tickets or QR codes for reflection activities  and give them feedback on their work. Teachers whose students don’t have or are not allowed to use electronic devices in the classroom can use Plickers.

Here you can see an end-of-the-year reflection assignment prepared for our 11th graders who took an IELTS preparation course. This was a two-hour elective chosen by some of our students who were preparing for the IELTS exam. Because it was a mixed-ability class, we designed a class blog to cater the needs of different types of learners with different levels of English. By clicking the links under the Useful Links tab, students were able to choose the tasks according to their needs and do them at their own pace. Some students were going to take TOEFL or SAT instead of IELTS, so we added links for them as well. As this was an elective course, students who didn’t take this course but were going to take IELTS had access to the blog as well. Without the help of technology, it would have been impossible for us to do all these in such a practical way both for the teacher and the students.

• So, how are you going to integrate all these skills into your literacy curriculum? Teach-Learn-Lead is a digital edu-library where you can find a wealth of resources for your PLN. Please keep it on your desktop or Dropbox because you will refer to it a lot if you are planning to update your curriculum. This valuable resource was curated by my Twitter friend, Dean J. Fusto. Even though we have never met personally, we have stayed connected via social media and have learned many things from each other via sharing.

• Before you start designing your new curriculum, you can analyze NCTE’s framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment,  Curriculum 21, Education 2020 Wiki, ISTE standards, and ISTE Standards Implementation Wiki as a starting point. You may also check the questions in this post.

• For effective tech integration, WebTools4U2Use Wiki, 21 Things 4 Teachers, 101 Free Tech tools for Teachers, Apps for Education40 Free Mobile Apps, and Hidden Gems may be helpful. You can also find many useful resources if you visit Edutopia.  Shelly Terrell’s website is a treasure for teachers. You can also visit websites like Curriculum21 Clearinghouse and Graphite to find teacher reviewed apps, games, and websites.

• Using Google Apps for Education is a practical way to share resources with your students. They are great for classroom and school-wide collaboration. You can find what other things you can do with Google Classroom in this blog post and how you can use it in this comprehensive guide.

• Please note that all these tools have been listed for you to choose the ones to support your curricular goals and learning objectives. Otherwise, there is no point in using them. Make sure that your digital curriculum includes tech that improves the learning process. After all, digital literacy is more about enhancing learning than using tech tools. In this blog post a first grade teacher writes about how technology has transformed her teaching.

• Having proficiency and fluency in using tech tools not only means knowing how to use them but also when and why to use each tool to achieve the desired outcome. Therefore, instead of telling your students which tool to use for a specific task, give them a list of tools to choose from. For this purpose, you can use curation tools like Pinterest,, Symbaloo,, and Edshelf. You can also share websites like Web Tools for Kids and wikis like Cool Tools for Schools with your students. Let them find, evaluate and use apps that match with the work they are doing and take risks and try new things with them.

As Heidi Hayes Jacobs says, “As times change, so must our curriculum. Start small by learning one new tool a month or making one curriculum upgrade a month. Your students will love you for it, but even better than that you will be sending them out of your class with tools they need to be successful RIGHT NOW – not in the future!”