Monday, January 26, 2015

Youtube Playlists as Literary Tools

I like using music in the classroom, and students seem to be a fan too! I've posted about creating soundtracks for books before  This is similar, but uses YouTube as the medium.

Using YouTube students create Playlists that are meant to show that they understand the texts from class.

Example questions to create a playlist could be:
  1. Create a playlist that shows a character developing throughout the novel
  2. Create a playlist that you think a character in the story would have enjoyed.
  3. Keeping in mind the theme and tone of the story, select 10 songs that accurately fit what you think the author wanted the readers to feel.
  4. Create a playlist where each song represents a different character (or location) in the book.
  5. Consider the story is turned into a musical. Find five songs that characters could sing at different points in the book.
This is very similar to other soundtrack assignments. There are some pros and cons to using YouTube

  • Practice on the computer. I know it seems silly, but a lot of my students still need that.
  • For some students it is faster to just do everything on the computer and on the same program (no switching to glogster to make a poster, you search for the song on YouTube, add it to the playlist on YouTube, add a description on Youtube, etc.)
  • Some students are just more motivated to do an assignment using YouTube. To them YouTube is fun and they watch videos anyways, so this assignment sneaks in there being an assignment, but not entirely boring.
  • Ads. Youtube is filled with ads.
  • YouTube is often banned or limited at schools.

If anyone else has used YouTube playlists in class and would like to share their experience I'd love to hear about it! Drop a line in the comments to share your knowledge with the rest of us.

 For those of you new to using YouTube, I've included two tutorials below.  I personally don't like watching videos (I read faster) so below I've included a picture tutorial and a YouTube video walking you through how to make a playlist. Remember, clicking on any of the pictures will make it larger, so you can take a closer look.

Step 1 Adding to / Creating a playlist
Students find a song that they are interested in. At this point you may want to remind them that the songs need to be appropriate for school. Then they add it to their playlists. From the search displays sections, they click the three dots to the right of the video and description.  The first time they add a song, they will need to create a playlist.  They click, "Create New Playlist."

Step 2. Naming and Privacy
Name the Playlist and decide on the privacy settings. If students want anyone to be able to see their work, they want public. If they want to be the only ones that see their playlist, they want private. A happy medium is Unlisted. Playlists that are unlisted won't show up in a search, but people with a direct link can see them. This way you can check the playlist, but the student (and/or their parents) doesn't need to worry about privacy concerns.

Step 3 Playlist Information
This section is great for students to explain how they think the songs connect to one another the the book. They also have the chance to explain why they picked certain bands, or how they felt about this assignment. You may want to mandate that they write a paragraph, or let them use it as they wish.

Step 4 Song Information
In addition to writing about the whole playlist, students have the chance to quickly (in 150 characters or less) explain why they choose a song. I usually require my students use a quote here, but you could alter the requirements as you saw fit.

Song 5 Sharing
Your student has made a fantastic how do they get it to you?! Just click the share button to get a link. They can also embed the playlist in a blog if you have students create blogs.

If you prefer videos check out the YouTube video:

Voila! If anything is unclear, or you aren't sure why it was done a certain way please ask me! I am happy to help you out so that you can try this out with your students!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Coding for Teens

I recently saw a celebrity interview ( I am ashamed to admit that I don't remember who) where he said something along the lines of: I think every student should learn coding. It was like typing when I was younger. Everyone thought typing classes were a joke, but now everyone types everything.

I agree! I think that in ten years people who code will have a head start on those who don't.

I believe that students and schools are realizing more and more that in addition to learning facts, students need to learn how to use them. In other words, more than learning how something works, they need to figure out how it works by actually making or creating it.

There are lots of websites and apps out there to help people learn how to code. There's a free one going on right now i wanted to share with you from webucator.
  1. To find it you go to their Self-paced Courses page. 
  2. Browse through the courses to find the course you want to take!
    • For coding, webucator suggests Java Training, PHP training or Javascript Training
  3. Click on the Order Now button next to the course. 
    • Ignore the prices because I am about to give you a coupon!
  4. Enter CODE4KIDS for the Coupon Code and click Validate Coupon.
  5. Agree to the Fine Print
    • By using the CODE4KIDS coupon, you certify that you are registering students who are at least 13 years old. NOTE: enter the student's information on the billing and student registration forms. USE A UNIQUE EMAIL ADDRESS FOR EACH STUDENT.
    • When signing up you agree that instructor support is limited to content covered in the course. 
  6. Problems? For any registration questions, you can email:
I won't lie, I haven't tried these courses, but any time I can pass on savings that help educate your students and save hundreds of dollars I'm sure to do it.

There are other sites, so if you dislike that one don't quit on coding! Check out This year I plan to take a course and then post an updated blog about how I would use it in the classroom, but for now I am sure you can find tons of information out there to help you:)

Plus, if you have any students who don't do anything in English outside of school, this may be a way that they will spend more reading, which will undoubtedly help their English in your class!

Let me know if any of your students take the course and what they think!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Infographics for Novels

I finally have a moment to post about a great project that I did with my students last semester. We were reading Julius Caesar and I wanted them to work on their digital skills in a way that isn't just technology. I also wanted them to practice their essay skills without writing an essay.

I decided to make an infographic project! They had to compare (or contrast), William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to Tina Fey's Mean Girls. There are other movies you can do this to (21 is one I've seen many teachers do), but I like Mean Girls because the high schoolers can really relate to it. Plus, I teach a lot of exchange students from other countries. Since my school is private, I appreciate the ability to point out that no, not every public high school in America is like their pop portrayal.

The assignment:
Mean Girls, has a lot in common with Julius Caesar. Just look at the themes! However, since the movie and play have vastly different settings, and audiences, it isn't just a modern adaptation (like Ten Things I Hate About You and Taming of the Shrew). In your infographic, create an analysis of the play vs. movie where you argue the basic story of Julius Caesar was changed specifically because one one thing. Please support your ideas with at least 6 pieces of textual evidence (three from the movie, and three from the play).
For example: They could argue that because Regina was much younger than Julius Caesar, the movie becomes a comedy rather than a tragedy.

I got students started by telling them they could think about which characters were alike, and then why they are different.
For example:
Cady -Brutus
Many students also want to say Gretchen is like Caesar (mainly because of her monologue where she suggests Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Give freedom here! Whatever makes the most sense to them, is what they should support.

They could also look at the setting
For example:
Students High School vs Politicians and Soldiers in Rome
60BC vs 2004
A small town near Chicago, Illinois vs The Roman Empire

And anything else they found interesting! Heck if they wanted to I'd be happy if they wrote about fashion, or diction.

Some example, "thesis statements" from my students (you can see their complete infographic by clicking on the links)

This was a great way to get them practicing essay writing skills, without making them write essays. They needed to find support (quotes), interpret the quotes, and analyze them to support their argument.

 It was challenging, but they really enjoyed it!

This could have been done entirely as a homework assignment, but we spent two days working on it in the computer labs my school has on campus.

There are quite a few infographic tools to choose from. I let my students select their own, but in the future, I plan on limiting it to one site. This time troubleshooting the whole class got complicated as they each needed different directions.

The three sites I suggested to my students were:

They were all free sites and I thought they all worked just fine. My students seemed to prefer piktochart. I would suggest you find the one that you like the most since you'll be the one answering their questions.

That's it! Has anyone else used infographics with their students? I am looking forward to including them in my speech class!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alula - Great Creative Writing App

There's always that great go-to assignment whenever you need a no prep activity. You have one student say/write the start of a story, "Once upon a time there were three beautiful butterflies."Then the next student would continue the story, "They wanted to be explore the world, but they were afraid their wings wouldn't fly."

I am going to discuss three reasons I love this app for my students, and a few ways I think you can use it, and include a video showing you how it works.

1. I hate to say it, but the app is free. When you use as many different apps as I do in class it can be tough to charge students all the time. So, when you find a great free app, it kinda feels like you won the lottery.

2. It is offered on iTune and Google Play. My classes are about equally divided between Mac lovers and Mac haters, so having an app that works on both devices is great.

3. It is ridiculously user friendly. A fast sign up and voila, you're ready to get creative. Also, because the stories are so short, students shouldn't get overwhelmed.

As far as how to use it:
1. Have students collaborate to make stories. Then vote on the best.
2. Have students select their favorite quotes from a text that you are reading in class to start an Alula. See how others change the meaning from the original text.
3. Have students pick a story that they like and make it longer on their own.
4. Choose a story that has some errors and have students correct it.
5. And more!

What's it look like? Check out:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pensoul in Class

As I have mentioned before I am not an artist. Yet, we've all read the studies, and we know that, especially with students who are newer to English, there is a need to use visuals when teaching.

I've recently been using an app called PenSoul to create amazing graphics I can use in my class.

Since I got a little excited about how easy it is to use, I made a short list of other ways to use the app.
  • Have students create their own book covers for a novel
  • Have students create a WANTED poster for a character in the story
    • Be sure they include traits in addition to their picture
  • Let students use the app to create a fake Instagram picture or Tweet of a character
  • Encourage students to create art that they feel a character would have made.
  • Make a menu that the characters would have enjoyed (include pictures of the food!)
And so much more! What would you have them do?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

7 Online Tools to Show Your Students' Writing Talent

Today a guest blogger is joining us to write about different tools you can use online to show off your writing with others. I think this is a really awesome way to get students motivated. After all, you want their audience to go further than you, don't you? Then they can become famous writers and quote you as their motivation...or maybe just enjoy writing homework a bit more.

Throughout the blog I've inserted my thoughts on how to really apply this site to your class and students. Whenever you see the writing in italics, that's me. Everything else is the very talented Veronica.

Writing is not just a talent but also a skill that students should continuously develop and share to others. In fact, if good writers, can definitely use it to attain income and to finally establish themselves as professional writer. Thanks to the Internet there are now various tools and platforms that you can use to showcase your writing talent and eventually, establish careers. Here are the 7 online tools to show off writing talent:

If you are searching for jobs where you can earn legitimate income, is a website where people searching for writers and professional writers can meet. With this website, clients can post a job and find the people they need. From editors, book designers to book marketers, it is now much easier and more convenient for writers and freelancers. Freelancers, just post their resumes and bid on the available jobs.
Create a class account and donate any funds made to charity!
Showcasing your talent is essential especially if you really want to pursue this career. To do this, you also have to keep on improving and honing your craft. Using online platforms, there are several websites available for writers. is one great site where you get to have almost all of the things that you need as a writer. This is a perfect platform where you can share your passion. The site has a lot of useful online resources that you can use as a writer. Apart from being able to do your passion, you can also get the chance to share it with others and to interact with other writers. You can actively participate in groups and forums where you can learn from others and also share what you know.
Some of the resources are great to use on a class-wide level. Otherwise, this is a useful site for students to get exposed to having their work, "out there."

When you are a writer, you have to keep on improving and honing your writing skills. In writing, there are several aspects, elements and techniques that you have to learn. You also have to keep on improving your vocabulary. One great site that you can use for this purpose is This site is an online etymology dictionary where you can get comprehensive explanation of words. The site is really useful especially if you want get to know more about the words that are often used. With this website, you can learn many things about classics and words that may often be lost in translation.
This is an AWESOME site to use with students. Once they understand why a word means something, they are less likely to forget the meaning
A prolific and effective writer should write content free from any grammar or spelling error. With so many things that you have to do, you may not have the time to do the editing and proofreading on your own. The good news is that you can always seek for professional editing and proofreading services. If you do not have the time to go over your written work, you can avail the services offered by The site is known to have the best editors and proofreaders. For years, they have already established their reputation in the business. So, if you are looking for a firm that can offer you quality editing services, All Correct is one of the best choices out there.
I wouldn't use this with a high school class, but I don't think there's anything wrong with showing students that even professionals get their work proofread! This may motivate them to get their work checked by a friend before submitting it.

When writing, it is not just the quality and the kind of content. You also have to take into consideration the structure and the formatting. This is where most writers are having a hard time. With ideas overflowing and with the details you want to add, this can be challenging. The nice thing is that you can use the tool Scrivener. This is a tool that you can use for content generation. In using Scrivener, you get to control the formatting. The tool works as a complete writing studio that can make it easier for you to organize your thoughts and finished works.
This costs about $40 and is great for your more disorganized students.
The Internet has a lot of online resources and materials that you can use to show your writing talent and to improve your skills. Another great tool that you can use is This platform allows you to listen to new, websites and even documents. Even if you are so busy or if you are traveling, you can listen to materials online. The tool is very easy to use since you can use it even if you are accessing the Internet through your mobile device. With, it only takes seconds to listen to articles, blogs and documents. To utilize the complete features of this tool, you can just pay $2.95 per month.
If you have a student who is a really slow reader, practice makes perfect! However, sometimes, to help them catch up, you can let them listen to assignments instead.
This site is a well-known online community for writers. Launched in 2001, is the perfect place where you can share your creativity and skill as a writer. If you are in search for a place where you can share your work or if you are looking for a reader who can provide feedback, this is the site for you. You can join for free. Once you have registered, you can have your create your online writing portfolio for free, share your work, participate in various contests and activities, make use of writing tools and a whole lot more. The site also enables you to communicate and interact with other writers who share the same creative minds like you.
With the readily available tools that you can use to showcase your talent, you can effectively use them to develop your skill and to be recognized as a writer. It may take months or years but definitely it would not happen overnight. But with continuous work and persistence, you can make it big in the industry.
Did someone say contests??? I know my students love some competition, don't yours?

About the author: This article is a guest post by Veronica May, an experienced editor and blogger. She has written for multiple online publications, where she strives to share her knowledge and opinions. Her main focus is covering a variety of topics in the field of education.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Teacher's Resolutions: 2015

This is the January blog carnival from the RTT Teach Abroad Blog Carnival. The next blog carnival host is Sharon Couzens, so be sure to check out her blog around February 5th to see everyone's great posts! If you’d like to contribute to the next Blog Carnival, please get in touch with to get in the loop!

The New Year is always a reminder to get, "out with the old and in with the new." We take the time to try and get rid of old bad habits and start new great ones!

This blog carnival has links to blog posts from different English Language Teachers who write about their plans for the New Year. Many of them have stuck to a strictly educational perspective, whereas others have included their personal goals. Take a moment and check out these great blogs! Get inspired by their resolutions, or help them out by giving them tips. Most importantly, have a great 2015! 

New Year, New Goals
Who: Sarah is a New Hampshire native and a proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire. She taught at a high school in New Hampshire for a year, then decided to move to South Korea.  She is currently teaching in South Korea with amazing co-workers and students alike. She enjoys the challenges, surprises, and lessons that come with living abroad, and couldn't be happier about moving to Korea!

What: Sarah learned a lot of lessons the hard way during last semester, and is looking forward to improving her teaching, traveling, and preparing for her life after Korea in the upcoming year.

Check it out:

New Year, New Potential
Who: Holly was bitten by the travel bug in her early teens and has long since rejected the idea of spending her entire life in Canada!  Having volunteered in Honduras, backpacked around Southeast Asia and studied in Australia in the past, she now calls Seoul home for the next year.

What: After four months of teaching, I no longer fear I’m on the verge of getting fired, and I’ve found my own groove, but there’s always room for improvement.  This year, I plan to get more creative, ensuring I’m teaching effectively, and focus on what really matters- my students!

Teaching and Travel Resolutions for the New Year
Who: Abigail prefers walking to motorized vehicles and likes the idea of slow travel, getting to know a place by building up a routine that absorbs the new culture. Her interests include illustration, editing (film & writing), reviews, boston terriers, artist books, and iPhonography.

What: Three lists of general teaching, teaching ESL in Korea, and personal travel resolutions for the new year, as well as a teaching history from Abigail of Bodging for Apples II.

Check it out:

New Year Travel Resolution

Who: Dean has been traveling for around 3 and a half years now with a small stint back in his home country. He's from the UK and began his teaching career on the island of Bali. Then he made the move to Taiwan where he currently resides.

What: Dean's blog delves into the rewards that can come from learning another language. He focuses on the challenges that had so far, as well as the hopes had for the future. Mandarin is not an easy language to learn. But the best rewards come from those that demand the hardest work.

Travel and teaching resolutions in 2015 
Who: Rebecca Thering is a freelance writer and editor who has lived abroad teaching ESL in Spain and South Korea. Valuing education and things that aren't things, she inspires and helps others by writing about her experiences abroad, cultural insights and self-improvement pursuits at her personal blog, Rebe With a Clause.

What: Rebe does not currently have an ESL teaching position, but she's discovered that she has done a decent amount of teaching since leaving her elementary English classroom in Korea this past fall. Here's her new angle on teaching, plus how she resolves to improve and grow her teaching and traveling in the new year.

Check it out:

Teaching Goals  
Who: Carissa has been teaching abroad for many years and finally made the move back to San Diego. She loves trying new things in the classroom and is slowly embracing the crazy cat lady status she earned by bringing her Mexican cat over the border to California.

What: Adjusting to a new school and different classes can be difficult. By making five simple changes Carissa hopes to become a more productive teacher.

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed! For those of you who were unable to contribute, feel free to post your blog link in the comments, or just list your resolutions there. I look forward to reading them :)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Teaching Christmas Gifts

It has been said that when people give you gifts, you should look at them as reflections of how others see you.

That's why I enjoy getting teacher themed gifts from friends and family over the holidays. Here are some of my favorites from December 2014.

I am a bit sad that we aren't allowed to wear t-shirts to school because this gift from my boyfriend's parents is a keeper. It reads, "I am not crazy because I teach. I am crazy because I like it." Oh how true that is! I often say that by definition if you choose to teach for a living, you have to have a little insanity in you.

I don't know where they found the shirt, but I found a similar version here. You can also see the t-shirt on the right hand side.

I am a big Whovian, which means I like the television show Dr. Who. I got this great mug that I plan on keeping at work. Since I can't machine wash it, this will be a great mug for me to keep at work and wash by hand. Coffee is definitely a vice I plan on keeping for one more year, and this mug will be a fun way to do it!

I've seen these mugs all over the place above is a pretty good picture and you can buy Doctor Who's Disappearing Tardis Mug here as well.

At this job I have business cards. I always joke that I don't really know what to do with them because as a teacher I don't really hand out cards to people. At least now I have a Mahogany Business Card Holder Wooden Case to put them in. I can't find the one that I was purchased online, but here's an equally pretty one.

In addition one of my friends thinks I am the best teacher! I am not sure that my students would agree, but it is a great gift to grab for any teacher! I have also seen the ornaments for 2013, so I am sure in 2015 they will have a new one too! It isn't too late though, you can still buy the  "Best Teacher 2014"  Ornament for anyone in 2014.

Finally, as a joke, my boyfriend got me Bad Teacher as a joke. I have never seen this movie, but I'll give it a shot!

I also got some random things I wanted to have around the classroom, some magnet clips, stamps, etc.

What about you? Did you get any fun teaching gifts this year for Christmas?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Teaching Goals

This post is part of the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival. The host for January is me here at mELTing Activities, so be sure to check out this link:  to see everyone's great resolutions! If you’d like to contribute to February's Blog Carnival, please get in touch with to get in the loop!

This was me in my Mexico office with my Mexican coffee
2014 was a wild ride. I finished up my three years teaching at a University and High School in Mexico and have moved back to San Diego where I got a great job at a private school near the Mexican border. I teach a diverse group of students including students from Brazil, China, Mexico, and Lithuania.

In addition, I work with the entire student body after school where I supervise the tutoring center. I get to help students with math, science, Spanish, English, and pretty much anything they need help doing.

While I love my job, I feel like I am doing about a million things at once (although I think that's normal).

Following are my resolutions. Some are pretty boring, but I hope by writing them down, I'll be more likely to accomplish them.
  1. Have More Patience
    • I feel like I use all of my patience up by the end of the week. I am going to try to have more patience with my students. I think that I will be able to accomplish this if I sleep more, start exercising again, and have really well planned lessons.  
  2. Include More Fun
    I am spirited! Me on a school spirit day.
    • I used to do tons of fun and games with my classes, but this year I feel like there just isn't enough time to do everything I need. Plus, I think I am having, "new teacher syndrome," where these classes are pushing me to see how far they can go. As a result, their behavior doesn't merit having fun and games. However, I think that if I make more of an effort to find ways to make class more fun, their behavior may improve as well. 
  3. Support Extra Curricular Activities
    •  I love supporting my school, yet, as stated above, I already work after school. That means while other teachers get out at 3:00, I am at school until 4:30pm. Because of these lengthy hours, I often find myself going straight home and not watching students sports events. I really feel that teachers who make an effort to go to these, are seen my the students, and that it is appreciated. I hope to attend at least one event every other week. 
  4. Eat SOMETHING that school
    • I have a thirty minute lunch. I usually use it as prep time for my next class. The problem is by the time I get home (again, usually after 5pm) I am starving! This cannot be healthy. I vow to eat something every day. Even if it isn't lunch. Maybe a granola bar, or an orange Anything to keep my body fueled. 
  5. Be sure to have ME time
    • I think I am becoming a workahaolic! I don't want to be addicted to my job, and I don't want to burn out my first year back in San Diego. Instead, I vow to take at least... thirty minutes a day... for me. Just me. I may take a walk, watch a TV show, or grab coffee with a friend. In these thirty minutes, I don't need to think about work or lesson plan. I LOVE my job, but burning out as a teacher is a serious issue that I hope to avoid. 
So there we are, my five resolutions to make me a better teacher.

If anyone has any tips or tricks on how I can accomplish the previous, I'd greatly appreciate it.
Maybe you have an awesome time management tool, a great and easy snack for lunch time, or fun games that students love and are behaved while you do it. Please share in the comments.

Remember, if you have created any resolutions you too can join the blog carnival. Just post them in your blog and get the link to me before the 5th. I'll compile a list and post the blog carnival January 7th!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Help a class plan a trip!

He has a learning chart
He leaves notes
My friend is an awesomely creative third / fourth grade teacher. Her class has a third grade student named Alex. He is like many other students in her class. He forgets to use apostrophes and struggles to get stars on his learning chart. He is also imaginary.... I told you she was creative.

Right now, Alex is planning a trip around the world to go with the term theme of journeys. She is looking for help from around the world, and I think this is an AMAZING opportunity for you to be part of an authentic exchange.

Basically, she is looking for people to convince Alexander to come and visit where they live.

As a class, you could: Write him a letter, make him a video, or send a postcard telling him why he should visit where you live. Messages might include: 

  • What cool sights he would see? 
  • What food would he eat?
  • Where might he sleep? 
  • Would he see any cool parties or festivals? 
  • What languages would he hear? 
  • How would he need to dress? 
  • Does he need different money? 
  • What do you think is different where you live than where he comes from?

Whatever you send, he and the class will send you back in kind. That means, if you send them a letter, they will send you a letter back!

If you send them a video...they will send you a video! I am sure you get the idea here. The messages can come from one person or a group of people.

You may send messages via snail mail to:
Alexander Jackson
Summers Knoll School
2203 Platt Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Email and videos can be sent to

They are available on SKYPE between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00pm EST. (9:00-15:00 New York time) Username: andaiye.spencer

The class is going further than just reading your messages. They are also taking this information and using it to plan Alex's trip! They'll create a route, figure out the price of traveling (tickets, etc) and budget Alexander’s money, as well as learn about different cultures around the world.

What an AWESOME way to make school come alive!
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