Monday, 20 March 2017

Disabilities among us - a heart melting video

It's all about being noticed!

Today, I would like to encourage you to have a closer look at the "invisible" problem of the disabled ones and a lesson that can be done around this topic. It started with a press article about the action that took place in one of the shopping centers in Poland. However, as it later turned out, it was part of a bigger project that have already been carried out in other countries, as well. A group of people decided to make people aware of the problem of parking spaces for the disabled ones. People keep parking their cars there, pretending not to see the "No parking sign". When asked, their most common explanations were:

"I'll be back in a moment", "I'm in a hurry", "I'm only for a second", "I've just given a lift to my grandpa", "Big deal, only this place was free".

"I'll be back"
"I'm sorry, I'm in a hurry"
People placed wheelchairs in the most "wanted places" in a car park situated in a big shopping center (Alfa Center) in BiaƂystok, in form of a protest. Drivers kept coming and being irritated often left the car park with screeching brakes. But that is how the disabled people feel, don't they? Their disability is not the case of a choice but leaving a free parking space is.


Level: pre-intermediate +

Topic: health, disabilities, equality, human rights

Vocabulary to pre-teach: disabled, wheelchair, parking space, tow away a car, overcome problems, lifts, to be ashamed of, the need of support and acceptance, easily accessible place, protest against
With more advanced students: attitude towards, physically handicapped, live with dignity, impairments, mentally retarded, overcome everyday hurdles, wheelchair access ramps, adjust trasport, pothold pavement/sidewalk, ill adjusted, obstacles


Put the two pictures of the wheelchairs in the car park on the board. Don't say anything for a while. Let the students think for a moment and then ask:
1. What do the pictures show? Why are there wheelchairs in the car park? Where is the car park?
2. Is it a problem in our country?
3. Have you seen any people parking in a "no parking" places?
4. How do you think the disabled people feel?
5. Do you think such actions make sense? etc
Explain the story behind the pictures. Make students interested in the topic.


Tell your students that they are going to watch a video of man who parked in a place for the disabled ones. After a while he came out and saw something shocking. What do you think it was? Students are predicting and guessing with the use of expressions like: perhaps, maybe, I think... etc. Now play the film to the end. Later ask your students:
1. What would you do in such a situation?
2. How would you feel?
3. Do you think the man will ever park in such a place again? Why? Why not?
4. What do you think about such actions? Do they make sense? Are they effective?

Film address:


Ask your students:
1. Are there any people in the school that are disabled? Have you ever talked to them?
2. Do you have any disabled children living in your neighbourhood? Have you ever talked to them?
3. What things can't you do when you are disabled? How do think they feel?

Play the film till 12 sec and pause. Ask your students:
1. What do you think the boy with a ball is thinking?
2. What do you think the boy on a wheelchair is thinking?
2. Can you imagine a typical day of a boy on a wheelchair? What things can't he do?

Play the film till 18 sec and pause. Do you think the boy will join the game? Why? Why not? 
Would you join? Why?

Play the film till the end. Ask your students:
Are you surprised by the ending of the story? How do you think the boy was feeling? (accepted, like an ordinary memeber of a society, memeber of a group)

Film address:

STAGE THREE - Homework.

Find an example of a disabled person who despite his/her disability has achieved success. Prepare a short story of such a person. Bring picture/s in your mobile phone and just take notes as you can't read the story. Students find a lot of examples like Nick Vujcick or Bethany Hamilton.

Further film and lesson materials: "Butterfly Circus"  (only 22 min) or a new film called "The Fundamentals of Caring" (2016)
Hope you liked the lesson plan and you will enjoy it with your students

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Image challenge - The tallest, the longest, the fattest

Image challenge - week ten

It's good  to come back to old books sometimes and read them over and over again. Every time I take a look in the book Images by Jamie Keddie I find something interesting. This time I spotted a great activity and decided to give it a try. Well, you won't believe it but it was a success in every age and level group - kids, teens and adults. That's why, I decided to share it with you and encourgae to try it in your classroom.


This week Image Challenge is connected with the Guinness Book of Records. Find three interesting stories of people who have broken some record. I have chosen the following ones:


Age: 12+

Level: pre-intermediate+

Vocabulary and expressions to pre-teach:

With less advanced groups write down the words: I'm not sure but I think..., Perhaps...., It seems that........etc.
These are some of the words that my students needed while inventing questions: beautician, grow nails, paint the nails, nail polish, disgust, have in common, stand out from a crowd, fame, put on weight, pick your nose, scratch, bend, bump, bite your nails, brush/comb your hair, ceiling, peel banana, use toilet, point at somebody, sponge, addicted/addiction, set a record, break a record etc.

Warm up – guessing game

Print out three pictures of people who have broken some record. Stick them to the whiteboard so that the students can't see what it is. Tell them that you have 3 pictures and they have to guess who or what it is. It can be a person, an animal or a place. 
Students keep guessing: I think these are the pictures of sportsmen./ Perhaps these are objects from the kitchen. Students often try to make some connection with the previous lesson(s) or the topic.
Of course, it’s quite difficult to guess but you should keep them in suspense. After a while, give them a hint and tell that all those pictures present people and that they have something in common. What kind of people can be in the pictures then? Further discussion. Finally, uncover one of the pictures and let your students guess. You show the picture with the tallest man, for example and ask: Who is in the picture? Who do you think is in the other photos? Keep them talking. At last, show all three pictures. Students may be surprised or disgusted, as in the case of a woman with the longest nails. My students wereJ (this part shouldn’t be longer than 5 min)

Stage one – 5 -10 min

Class discussion. Pictures should be chosen in such a way that they provoke a discussion, students want to make a comment and you should just control the use of a language.
Ask your students the following questions:
1.Why do you think people want to be in the Guinness Book of Records?
2.What kind of people decide to take part in such competitions? (personality adjectives)
3. Have you ever tried to set a record in something? /What was it?
4. Have you ever broken a record? / What was it?
5. Would you like to try it? Why? Why not?
6. Do you know anybody who did it? What was it? Etc.

Stage two - 10 min

Imagine that you are from all the most popular tabloids from all over the world: The Sun, the Daily Mirror etc. I’m sure, you have some in your country, too. You were given the chance to carry out an interview with those people. Write two questions to each of them (you can ask about anything you want). If the class is big, it’s enough to invent one question to each person. If it is smaller, more questions are needed. (in one group my students were convinced that we were really going to ask questions, by Skype or other communicator and it was really funny as they did they best inventing questions)
We all know that questions are one of the most difficult structures in English and it’s always problematic for our students. Monitor them, help with the structure as well as vocabulary. With less advanced students knowing only the basic structures, I would write down the patterns – the beginning of the sentences:
Can you….? Do you…? Are you….? How often do you…..? Did you…..? Have you ever….?
With more advanced groups, I told them that they can’t use general questions, only detailed one: When was the last time you…..? Is it true that you……..? Here are some questions invented by my students:
1.How long have you been growing your nails?
2.Have they ever broken?
3.When was the last time you were outside?
4.How big bed do you have?
5.Can you drive a car? Have you ever tried it?
6. Do you have a girlfriend?
7. How do you feel when people point at you on the street?
8. Do you wear a bra? J
9. Your nails look like Wolverine’s claws! Have you ever scratched or stabbed somebody with them?
10. What is your shoes size? Etc.

Stage three – 15-20 min

Now, choose one person and ask him/her to sit under the picture of a selected person. Give instructions: Imagine you are this fat man and decided to give an interview. Try to be creative and answer all the questions the journalists are going to ask you. For the first person, I always choose the most creative student from the class, with a sense of humour to show others how to do it. The other students ask questions one by one. There are, of course, extra questions that come up during the interview. As you can see both sides have to be very creative. And there is a lot of fun during this exercise. Then you choose another student and you repeat the task with another record breaker.

Stage four - 5-10 min

You can discuss with the class who was the most creative in answering questions. You can also ask them who they really would like to see live and why. Variation: Ask you students to check in their mobile phones the real stories of the interviewed people. For example, how long her nails were or how heavy the man was etc. I played a few short films from you tube about the people, as well.

For me, the most important in this activity is that students really get engaged and want to talk and find out the facts about these people. Just three pictures can help you run an exciting conversation class. Hope you enjoyed it and going to use it with your students.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Image challenge - MEMES IN THE CLASS!!!

Image Challenge - week nine

For those who have just joined our challenge, I would just like to remind the idea. There are 52 weeks this year and I have decided to present 52 ways of using images in the class. Because images are not only photos from the coursebook. Images simply surround us, we 'live and breathe' images nowadays. They are everywhere and our students also know it. So the challenge for you, the teacher, would be to try a new way of using images with your students and share this expercience.

 Memes - how to check your students creativity?

To stay for a moment in the topic of ART, as my last post was devoted to it fully. I would like to encourage you to use art and memes together. How? It's simple. There is a site devoted to it and it's called Classical Art Memes (you can find it easily on facebook). But don't worry, the Internet is full of such memes.


But what are memes in the first place? If this term in unfamiliar for you, here is a brief definition:

'An Internet meme is a cultural phenomenon that spreads from one person to another online. In general, a meme is an idea that is passed from one person and possibly one generation to another throughout a culture. Online, a meme is a prime example of viral content.

A meme spread online could be just about anything that is voluntarily shared, including phrases, images, rumors and audio or video files. In most cases, meme content is brief. In the case of an image, it's usually just a picture with a line or two of text. An Internet meme might originate and stay online. However, frequently memes cross over and may spread from the offline world to online or vice-versa.' (source:


All you do now, is to show one or two examples and give them the idea what the memes are and how we can use them with famous paintings. I would start with what Socrates once said:))


Now when your students know what the memes are just google in 'google images' the word speech bubbles and you will quickly find all kinds, shapes and sizes. Cut out various speech bubbles and give away to your students. Here are examples:

Now print out some classical paintings. You can use the website Google Arts & Culture I recommended in my previous post to find great paintings. Try to choose the ones with two or more people in it and then your students will be able to create funny dialogues. You will be surprised how creative they can be.  It is also some kind of a challenge since students need to choose suitable words and expressions that are funny and witty at the same time. They also have to be concise, sticking to the picture!

But memes are not only dialogues. Sometimes it's just a sentence or a phrase that points out something. So you can choose some painting or any other kind of photo showing emotions (animals can often come in handy) and ask them to write what the people or animals are thinking about at the moment. Here is the example:

I've tried it a number of times and it always worked. Hope you enjoyed it and you will try it in your class soon. Fun is guaranteed!!!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Let's visit museum! Google Arts & Culture in the class

Image challenge - week eight

Virtual tour? Why not?

Recently, I have seen a great picture showing a typical students' visit in the museum. Unfortunately, it reminded me of my last school trip to Paris. One day was devoted to art and culture so went to the museums. After visiting the first floor of The Orsay Museum my students decided to do this.....

Oh, I was absolutely furious. But then I thought I shouldn't be, as most kinds of Art seem to be neglected at school (Maths will always have a priority) and sometimes it's not presented in an attractive way. Moreover, still a lot of students have no regular access to museums, they hardly ever go to big cities or even if they do, they simply can't afford it. So what can we, language teachers, do about it? Take them on a virtual tour!!! Saves time and money and still can be beneficial.

There is a great website that my new friend from Greece Dimitris Tzouris recently presented, which I'm sure you will find interesting.

Website address:  (Google Arts & Culture)

How can we use it in general?

- you can simply take your students on a virtual tour, especially the young ones if they have never been to one
- you can asked them to find particular works of art - they learn art movements
- you can compare and describe various paintings, especially if they are by the same artist and hang next to each other
- thanks to zoom option you can notice and describe the colours, techniques and styles
- finally you can also create your own collection and become a curator
- you can practise art vocabulary: canvas, oil, still life, abstract art, sculpture, water colours etc.

So let's go to the website:

In the backgroud there is always some piece of art, not necessarily painting. When you press it, it enlarges and contains all important information about the painting, the author, technique used and the story behind the photo, which can be used perfectly in the class. You can also zoom the photo and see the details.


There are lots of sections to choose from. You can look for the paintings searching by an artist. Let's say, we are fans of Van Gogh, then we simply press his icon and learn about him and all his works of art. You can ask your students which painting of their favourite artist they would like to have in their bedoom and why.


Or maybe you want to introduce your students to various painting techniques and search accordingly: oil paintings, water colours, paper metal, wood, pen, sculpture to name but a few. Which technique appeals to your students the most? Have a discussion!


Sometimes we can introduce art through investigating some art movements such as street art, modern art, pop art, surrealism art etc. We can ask our students to look through various movements and choose the one the like the best giving reasons.

There are also other categories like historical figures and events or places. All suitable for the class use. You just have to try:)


There are over 2600 virtual tours available. You can visit most museums from the inside. I divide my students into groups and each group gets a different museum to discover. I always choose some of my favourite ones and give certain tasks such as:

What is the admission fee? (introducing vocabulary at the same time)
What are the opening hours?
How many floors are there?
Is there a souvenir shop?
Is there a cafe?
When can you visit the museum for free? (we all know that there are some days or hours when you can visit a certain museum for free, it's good to make students aware of that) etc.

Then, of course, detailed questioned follow. for example, find a certain painting and tell me who painted it. then you can ask them to go to the artist section and read facts about the author and finally ask what art movement it belongs to. There are plenty of combinations to use art in the class.

This is just an introduction to the topic of art. Soon a ready to use lesson plan. Hope you will find it as enjoyable as I did.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Image challenge - how to teach critical thinking through INSTAGRAM

Image Challenge - week seven

This is part two strictly devoted to Instagram. This time, however, I'm looking at this tool from a bit different perspective.  If you haven't read part one, just scroll down and enjoy the activities.

Critical thinking and Instagram?

At first glance it doesn't seem to have anything in common. But if we take a closer look, then we realise that with information and images overload, we have to learn to look critically at things that surround us.  It is what visual literacy is all about. It is the ablility to interpret visuals, as well.

It is estimated that there are over 400 mln active users daily on Instagram. And if each of them posts at least one photo a day, the number of uploaded photos every single day is staggering.

What it means is that we can't take everything for granted and what is more we shouldn't let our students believe in everything they see. Those pretty and sexy looking girls, those well-built, handsome men, those perfect lifestyles with glamorous cars and amazing parites that never end. If we don't teach our students crtical thinking, it will lead to constant frustration and anger. After all, their lives aren't as stunning as they would like them to be. Celebrities also set unrealistic standards for their followers.

That is why, in today's post I would like to present you a quick lesson plan that includes elements of images together with critical thinking. It is perfect for pre-intermediate + students, age 13+. 

The truth behind Instagram photos

Warm up

For a start, ask a few questions:
1. Do you use Instagram? If yes, how often? If no, why not?
2. What kind of things do you post? Photos of you and your friends or maybe photos of objects? What objects ?
3. What other things do people post and why?
4. Do you follow any particular people? (some would say that they follow celebrities, you can ask which ones and why)
5. Are there any photos that you don't like? Which ones and why? etc.


Tilda Lindam, a model with an excellent sense of humor, decided to show the truth behind the photos posted on Instargram as well as vanity in creating photos. In a series of photos she showed the reality. Let me show you what she did.  (Source:

Take those four pictures (there are other photos available if you have a bigger group) and divide your students into groups. Each group gets an Instagram photo (without background) and a set of questions. Give them 4-5 min to discuss the photos.


Take a small picture posted on Instagram and ask a lot of questions concerning the lifestyle of a person. For example:

Students' version

1. Who do you think posted the photo? Is it a man or a woman? What makes you think so?
2. Where do you think the photo was taken? How do you know?
3. What kind of a lifestyle does the person have? Is it a typical businessman or a teenager?
4. Why can't it be a teenager's room? (they would say it's too clean)
5. What do you think is on the walls? Are there any other furniture? Which ones? etc.

Original photo

Now students swap and discuss another photo. There should be at least two changes. Then you can show the original photos and ask additional questions:

1. Were you right? Why not?
2. Why do you think people post untrue images? What is the reason?
3. Do you sometimes post such photos? Do you know anybody who does? (sometimes students even show who does it and they discuss if it looks convincing or not)
4. Should we believe then in everything that is posted on social networking sites? Why? Why not?

To finish the topic you can play a film:

Youtube address:

Hope you will enjoy it:)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Image challenge - How to use INSTAGRAM creatively in the class

Image Challenge - week six

#instagram #can #be #fun

Another week, another challenge. This week inspired by a great conference that I have just attended in Thessaloniki, (sorry for a week absence but duties need sacrificies, promise to catch up), I would like to share a few ideas connected with using INSTAGRAM creatively. This is part one focusing on creativity. Part two will be devoted to critical thinking - soon on the blog:)

One of the workshops entitled “And you call it art?” was run by two excellent speakers from Poland, Hanna and Monika. In general, they were telling how to incorporate art into the classroom, but they also showed a fantastic activity concerning the use of Instagram. That, of course, inspired me to write the following post and think about other activities that can be done with the use of Instagram. Thanks girls:)

I expect that some people may not be familiar with Instagram, so let me briefly explain what kind of app it is.


What is it all about?

INSTAGRAM – is another app perfect for all photo lovers as it allows you to take pictures or use the ones that are on your mobile and post it on your wall, similarly like on facebook. You can give your photo a title, usually using hashtags###. However, that is not all. Photos are public on Instagram. If you want people to have to ask permission before they follow you, set to private. The cool factor of Instagram is the fact that they have 11 different filters you can use to upgrade your photos. Even boring photos can look amazing with some of these filters. Instagram, like any other social network, is based around having friends or followers. On Instagram you ‘follow’ people. Another thing you can do is like photos and comment on them. Both are appreciated. Instagram lets you see which of your Twitter and Facebook friends are using it and easily start following them. So that’s the gist of how Instagram works.

On some blog the other day, I saw a post about Instagram and that is another interesting aspect of using Instagram. The woman called it: An Education on our Shared Humanity. What she meant was that it “gets a glimpse into the everyday lives of people who she’ll never meet, who live in completely different cultures than she does. What she’s found is not so much how different we are, but how alike we all are. People all over the world celebrate weddings and birthdays, cherish their children and pets, appreciate a nice sunset or beach scene, like to drink and are obsessed with food.” Can it be used in the class then? Of course, it can.

Students, as it has been underlined in my posts regularly, carry their mobile phones with them all the time. That is why, using photos as a way of engaging them with the language outside the lesson is a fantastic idea and Instagram seems to come in handy. I have been using mobile phone as homework for quite a long time now. Students have to be aware, however, that such homework has the same value as ‘millions of copies’ with exercises that we give them. Soon they simply get used to it. So let’s get to work. 

#english #outside #class

One of the ways to use Instagram, especially if you live in a bigger city is to ask your students to take photos of examples of English that they see on the street. Then students hashtag them and comment on form, grammar, content and have a further discussion. This activity makes them fully aware that English simply surrounds them. Perfect for elementary and pre-intermediate students of various ages – even adults. Here are some examples:

#englishsigns #funnysign #liverpoolstreet #holidayfun

In the first case, students use their basic vocabulary to hashtag the photo with the vocabulary they know. while in the second one, it can be used to teach various meanings of the word operate, for example. Unfortunatelly, students usually associate it only with the hospital as a synonym of the word 'surgery'. In reality, it has a lot of meanings and the example from the photo proves it.


Verb (used without object), operated, operating. work, perform, or function, as a machine does:
This engine does not operate properly. work or use a machine, apparatus, or the like. act effectively; produce an effect; exert force or influence (often followed by on or upon):
Their propaganda is beginning to operate on the minds of the people. perform some process of work or treatment.
5.Surgery. to perform a surgical procedure.
6.(of a drug) to produce the effect intended.

*optionally you can use “hashtagging” with elementary group to let students introduce themselves in the class. Students write for example: #adam #12 #football #sport #tall. Then a teacher collects their sentences and puts the sheets of paper around the classroom and students have to guess who it might be. Students are not so scared to present themselves as it involves very basic vocabulary and they usually know it well.

#caption #it


That can be used in many ways. Students just have to take a photo referring to the topic that you are currently covering. Let's say, it's a chapter about FOOD. Ask your students to take a picture of their breakfast and add a creative caption under it. Of course, they have to include vocabulary that was taught during the lesson. the words like nutritious, delicious, yummy etc. Students bring their 'mobile homework' and compare the answers. The best photo with the best caption will be printed out and put on the board. It can be a photo of a week or a photo of a month.


We can't forget that our students take photos anyway. They are extremely creative and we, as teachers, should encourage them to show it, to express themselves and to show their individuality.

Remember that you can also use the existing photos and search in the box by writing, for example, #breakfast and you will see over 54 million photos connected with breakfasts. How can we use it? Culture differences or/and similarities is another idea worth considering. Especially, if you teach international groups.

This is part one of using Instagram in the classroom. Hope you liked the ideas and you will try it with your students this week. Soon PART TWO!!! New ideas about teaching critical thinking through Instagram. Enjoy:)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Image challenge - How to use PINTEREST creatively

Image challenge – week five

Why and how to use Pinterest in the classroom

During my last visit in Malta at the Image Conference I met Andreia from Brazil, who had a powerful workshop about the way she uses Pinterest in her classroom. I liked it a lot but thought that it may be too complicated or not interesting for my students. Then, one evening I decided to give it a try and that’s how it started – love at first sight. When we talk about visual teaching in the classroom - Pinterest is a must!

What is it and how it works?

Pinterest has quickly become a favorite online tool among educators in the past few years. The concept is simple. You find images you like, and pin them to your Boards.  You create boards based on categories you create. You could have a board for home inspirations, arts & crafts, cooking, quotes, fashion etc. Using online “pinboards” teachers can save everything from photos to blog posts in one easily accessible and usable place. All need to do is log in (can be done by Facebook account) and here you go.

Pinterest is also a social networking site.  You can follow other people on the site that you know or don’t know, people whose pins you like, your friends, etc.  You can scroll through pinboards by subject to look for visual content that you like from pinboards that other people have pinned.  If you see a picture you like from another pinboard you can pin it and add it to one of your own pinboards.

Compare and contrast

But how to put it into practice? Let me give you an example. You are looking for some photos referring to the topic of extreme sports. All you need to do, is to type a phrase ‘extreme sports’ in the search box and a huge selection of photos concerning this topic together with website links will appear. You can save them, print them out or just show your students and have a compare and contrast activity. Let’s use those two first photos shown in the attached picture that I have taken (extreme skiing and paragliding). Students work on their mobile phones or if you have an individual lesson you can use yours. Ask your students to compare and contrast them and decide which sport they would like to try and why. Students can also choose the pictures to describe for the other students. Great pair work activity. You can also modify this activity. Ask your students to create a board called ‘extreme sports’ at home (with maximum 20 extreme sports) and bring it to the lesson saved on their mobile phones. Students working in pairs compare their boards first and then various activities can follow. 

For example:
1.       Choose the most daring/exciting/unusual/difficult sport from you list. (practice of adjectives)
2.       Name three the most risky sports that you wouldn’t like to do and why.
3.       If you had some spare time which of the sports would you like to try and why.

The list of topics for discussion is endless. Be creative and rack your students brains. It’s also great for FCE/CAE students to practice Part Two of the exam - compare activity. 

Brainstorming activity

Imagine you are covering the topic of environment and you need a creative warm up activity. Divide your students into two teams. Ask your students to create the board called: how to be eco or ecology in Pinterest and ask them to add any images they like. (It can be done at school or at home) Then students compare their images and discuss which ideas are the best. Each team has to choose maximum 5 best ideas. Then, the teacher writes down their ideas on the board and introduces necessary vocabulary. You can also use the images to create an information board in the classroom (they just print out the pictures they enjoy and put them on the board creating a kind of a collage) or a magazine cover (students using graphic programs or just a sheet of paper to create the cover of the ECO magazine with suitable photos and headlines). As you can see, there are plenty of ideas to use it creatively.

Why should we use Pinterest?

Because Pinterest provides a place where the user can VISUALLY bookmark photos and we do teach visual generation students. They love browsing websites full of interesting photos more than reading pages of texts. It is easy and creative and for sure mind stimulating activity. 


If you got interested in it and want to know more there are plenty of ideas to use Pinterest in the Internet. One of them is TEACHTHOUGHT.COM, where are listed 37 ways teachers can use Pinterest both for their own use and the classroom use.

Website address:

REMEMBER! - The use of Pinterest is just endlessJ