Blog number 9:Language Corpus has become so much easier to use thanks to Skell

I remember stumbling upon the English language corpus and getting very hyped about the ramifications of such a powerful tool.

What is corpus? Well, basically it is a way of seeing language in action right now, based on all of the hundreds billions of bytes of English across the web. Example, you come across the word ‘peachy’, almost impossible to understand without a context, let alone use. corpusSo I typed it in in the search engine and I get all types of information, where the word appears, what year and we see a pattern in how the word ‘peachy’ is used, and it’s not necessarily ‘like a peach’ and the context is overwhelmingly a positive one.

Skell, however is a much more learner friendly, user friendly interface, with a lot of the extraneous information we have in corpus engines (which are really more for academics anyway) removed. Plus you type in the word and you get the results right away, whereas with corpus you have to get through a couple of pages before you get there:



But that’s not the only thing that’s cool. You have something called ‘word sketch’ which shows up like this:

word sketch peachy

Which is pretty cool, as it is important to know that we often say that things are ‘just peachy’, ie. peachy is used in a slightly cynical or sarcastic way.

Here’s a more impressive example, using the word ‘impassive’

impassive skell

I typed in a tricky to use word, ‘impassive’ and skell has come up with a word sketch of an ‘impassive face’ or ‘remaining impassive’, which really sums up the contexts that one would use the word ‘impassive’ in.

Then there’s similar words, wonderful for creative writing:similar words

made into a lovely word cloud. Then there’s this other option in ‘more features’ called a ‘sketch engine’ which is beyond the scope of today’s blog, but looks super-cool:


sketch engine

Skell is a great tool that enables students to understand how language is embedded in contexts. As we know, teaching vocabulary as simple words and translations without a context is a lost cause, especially if we teach the word in the lesser used context. However, if we give students tools to understand how that specific word is used, then we give them the keys to productive language acquisition rather than rote learning. It is also helpful for us in providing real, live examples of language in use and useful sentences for quizzes and tests. I mean, there’s nothing I hate more than sample sentences which would never be used in real life.

Happy skelling!


Day 8: Canva Resources for Education

I remember when Canva came out and people got very excited about it. It was the first time that I felt you had access to the most beautiful templates for presentations, posters and other documents without actually having to pay a graphic designer to do it for you. I actually really feel sorry for graphic designers these days, I mean you really can create some impressive looking publicity without needing anyone!

You can see below how user friendly it is and how nice everything looks:


Canva is great for teachers in a number of ways. Firstly, it creates gorgeous, I mean gorgeous power points. A couple of my students used it for a presentation two years back and it made their power points stand out from the rest in unbelievable ways. OK, but let’s say you don’t care about presentations. They also have a massive selection of templates for other things, such as book reports, journal entries, creative writing prompts, KWL charts, infographics, posters, invites, ID cards etc. Teachers can either print them out for class distribution or turn it into an activity eg. a class newsletter.

Yes Canva is really easy to use. No, Canva is not entirely free but a lot of it is. You can down posters to PDF and share and edit presentations together.

I created a power point for you to see as an example of the aesthetic wow of canva.

Like it or not, looks are important. With more and more responsibility going falling on teachers for curriculum design and adaption, and more and more projects and tasks being created by students online, knowing how to create handouts and presentations that look good is important. It’s the world we live in.

see you later


Day 7: Make your own interactive storybooks with Elementari

The best way to practice writing is having students write, it’s a simple as that. For younger learners in particular, having them write their own stories is a relatively painless and fun for them to practice their writing skills, while adding some creativity at the same time. There are some great technologies to help them.

Once again, I must thank Larry Ferlazzo for all his resources, because it is through his site I found out about Elementari.

Elementari is a very easy to use storybook creator, with  cartoons and music. You can create a story for you class or have them create their own in a very short time and, so far it is free.


So this is what it looks like when you’re creating your own story. Pretty simple, heh?

Here’s an example of a finished product.

It’s a great idea for a class project and looks like a lot of fun!

Happy storytelling!


Day 6: Using TED talks in the classroom

Does anyone remember life before TED? I can’t. I have found some of these talks truly inspiring, eye opening, revealing, shocking, tear jerking…you name it.

A good story is a great basis for a class lesson or extension activity. I will hopefully do another blog with a list of my favorite TED talks for the classroom but today I want to talk about TED ed.

TED ed is a wonderful site where TED talks can be adapted for classroom purposes. You can take any TED talk and add your own questions (multiple choice or extended answers) and the format is really user friendly. I’ve made a couple and have used them with my students. The best plus is the short animated talks used on TED ed (a potted version of the longer TED talk) are really appealing for students.

I gave a test a couple of times to my classes where students got to pick a TED ed topic to be quizzed on and they had an essay at the end. It worked very well.

There are also tons of ready made lessons on the site already. You can adapt them to your class if you want.

TED ed

There are TED ed talks on so many different fascinating topics, and most likely you’ll be able to find something relevant to the one you’re teaching right now.

Remember, if it’s hard for students to understand the video, you can slow it down in the ‘settings’ menu of the video player!

Have fun and dig deeper!


Day 5:short video clips for analysis and production

This challenge has been great for me in a number of ways. Firstly, it forces me to go on an educational learning curve. The other plus is it gets me to revisit technologies or great sites that I have forgotten or neglected.

There are a number of great sites with videos for the classroom, but this one is a little different. It’s a blog by Kieran Donaghy called Film in Action. The blog contains tons of clips and lesson plan ideas, as well as video-making activities for classrooms.

I really have to take a closer look at the wealth of activities on this site, but we’re talking about something put together by someone who knows a thing or two about English teaching. The lesson plans look great.


While I’m here, I can recommend a couple of great sites with short clips suitable for ESL lessons. The first one is omeleto, on you tube, which features award-winning short videos from around the world. Really worth looking at. The other is film English, which, as I’m writing this blog I have realized is by the same blogger as Film in Action!! Well, fancy that! Even more reason for us to buy his book!

film english

I have used film English in the past. The clips come with really useful lesson plans. Such a resources of ideas, it’s incredible.

bye for now


Day 4: Edpuzzle has come a long way

I remember joining Edpuzzle way back. I’m so happy to see it’s still around and has expanded it’s features.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Edpuzzle, you should be. You can very easily create quizzes based on videos which actually ask questions at pertinent parts of the video. Other features include cropping, voice overs and audio notes.

It really works very quickly and efficiently and I’ve created a couple of video quizzes on it with minimum hassle.

The issue has been sharing them. Beforehand the only way you could share thme and have students do the quizzes was with Edmodo. What a pain.

Now I see that you can assign classes and the students enter via a code. Or alternatively, you can share them on google classroom.

Students can access quizzes by signing into Edpuzzle, using their google account or Edmondo (or google classroom, but I don’t know how)

Features NOT included are – self grading, creating of different question formats (multiple choice, text boxes etc). So you’re going to have to do that work yourself.

HOWEVER, having students listen to videos again and again until they hear the answer is very good practice. It’s great for flipped classrooms also. On the site you can upload from you tube, Khan academy, Crash Course (which I love) and other educational sites.:


Again, I cannot overemphasize how EASY the site is to use.

And this is how your students will work from it:

Edpuzzle in progress

You can see all the green boxes are points when the video stops and you have to answer the questions.

And, best of all, Edpuzzle is totally FREE and there are no pesky notices that pop up offering me Edpuzzle Pro for $99 a year, or something like that. I’m sorry, I just have a hard time dealing with profit and education. I guess it’s because I’m not given a budget for these resources.



Day 3: Pocket- a place to store teaching materials

One of the biggest challenges of being a teacher is staying organized. No matter how many hacks and resolutions I make, I still end up desperately searching for that item that could be oh-so handy right now. I think when you’re teaching 4 or 5 classes of 25-30 individuals who hand in work late, lose stuff, are absent, redo, resit and generally drive you mad, it’s practically impossible for you, one person, to be ‘on top of it’ all the time.

However, if I use this app ‘Pocket’ correctly, I may find that at least I can access that darned article that would be so relevant and useful right now. I share in a million different places; wordpress, facebook, whatsapp, email but I think the first thing I need to do is share with myself.


Pocket is a very simple app. You basically just type in the URL of the article you just read/video you saw/image you liked and it will keep it for you and display it so it’s easily accessible. As you can see, the format is easy and streamlined.

articles pocket

HOWEVER, I just watch a really inspiring video about Victoria Arlem this morning as I was drinking my morning cuppa. This girl was in a coma for years, and then went on to be a paraplegic olympic champion swimmer and eventually learned to walk, after everyone else had resigned themselves to her staying in a wheelchair. It’s a perfect inspiring video for kids, especially if you are teaching ‘Count that Day Lost’ or even ‘The Road not Taken’ as poems for bagrut. The best video out there is from ‘upworthy’, who post via FB. But the link doesn’t show up in my Pocket as being about Victoria Arlem, it just has a FB logo (see image), which is a little annoying. It’s darn pesky when videos can only be found embedded in FB feeds!

Pocket has another amazingly cool feature which is great for English learners, it actually reads your articles out loud, so you can read while on the go!

upworthy FB

like, hello? what is this video about?

Before you ask me, I don’t know if Pocket is better or worse than Google Keep. One thing I do know is that Google has, on more than one occasion, ‘lost’ something of mine. This might work better.

see ya,