Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A student activity on Endangered Species

One good way to get students started discussing a topic is to have them work on texts from the online press. Here is the first environment-related activity I did with my students this year, on Endangered Species.

Endangered Species WebQuest

This activity asks students to suggest solutions to the disappearance of endangered species, with the study of an article from BBC Learning English and a WebQuest where they take the role of research scientists.

Part 1: On the BBC Learning English website, you will find an article called "China Dolphin Extinction" that includes a wealth of supporting material, including the text, important vocabulary explained in English, the radio news report students can listen to, and a teacher's lesson plan with several useful activities. I prepared a one-page version of this text with the vocabulary and five general knowledge questions, that you can download as a Word file or PDF file.

Part 2: The WebQuest: Students work in groups of two, taking the role of research scientists. They select one endangered species, visit a range of resource sites to help them describe their species and the risks it faces, then they use the ideas they picked up in class to formulate solutions to the risks facing their chosen species. You can download the student worksheet in Word format or PDF format.

Note that my students studied the BBC article in the classroom, not on the internet. While dealing with the general questions, we treated grammatical topics like cause and effect, obligation and advice, and comparisons that students need at the end of the WebQuest in order to formulate their solutions. We then had a debate around the (rather absurd) assertion that "Extinction is inevitable and trying to save endangered species is a waste of time and money." We also used two activities from the lesson plan on BBC Learning English. I suggest these activities as a useful lead-in to the students' work on the web.

Soon, I will be taking my students back to the internet to write online, on the Viva Virtual Village, about their ideas on endangered species. That will be the point where our students can exchange ideas, and really begin the E-Twinning project in earnest.

Cheers, --- Phil

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Saving Our Planet," a new E-Twinning projet for 2007-8

We're just beginning a new multi-site project encouraging student interaction and communication around the theme "Saving Our Planet", loosely modelled on the project "Our Way to Save the Planet" that's been on the E-Twinning website for the last three years.

What I'd like to set up is a project based in participating schools in at least four different countries. I've already got a tentative agreement from Justina Tracichleb-Lichosik in Kielce, Poland, and I'm exploring links with schools in Ireland, Andorra and perhaps even Morocco. Ideally, I'd like to get several other European countries on board, but that will depend a lot on answers to my emails.

I teach English in the Lycée Pierre et Marie Curie in Châteauroux, France, near Orleans and Tours. My students are mostly aged 16-18, and several of my other colleagues teaching English, Spanish, Italian and German are also interested in participating. I also have two colleagues in "collège" (lower secondary level) with students aged 13-15 who would like to join the project and who would like correspondents at that age group.

My students have already done classroom projects on saving endangered species and on questions of immigration that I thought might be good starting points for exchange with other classes in this project. Here is a list of some other topics I'd like to explore:

Topics: pollution, renewable energy and recycling, overpopulation, famine, natural disasters and international cooperation.

I'm exploring new communication tools, but one of the easiest to use is the Viva Virtual Village, and you'll find other messages in this blog about how to participate.

I envisage the communication and exchange to work like this: Students communicate in a common target language, English, and also in their native language, or an alternate target language, with each message. For example, a student in France would write in both English and French, a student in Poland in both English and Polish, while a student in Ireland might write in both English and in a second language they are studying, such as German or French.

I'm very open to other ideas about communication tools, and would like to explore possibilities for visio-conferencing, and perhaps in future more ambitious projects like Comenius and Socrates so that participating teachers and students can actually travel and meet each other.

For the time being we're just in a discussion and brainstorming phase, but my students are ready to start writing about some of these topics on Viva. I'm going to jump right in with colleagues in Poland and in other schools here in France, and hope to get our partnerships registered at the E-Twinning site as soon as possible.

Please contact me if you're interested or have other ideas to share. Although I've got many of my own ideas, I'd really like to work together with partners to develop a project we can all take a part in shaping.

Cheers, --- Phil at

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Démarrer avec un projet E-Twinning

Un projet E-Twinning est une bonne façon de vous lancer dans les TICE, et d'ouvrir votre classe sur le monde, que vous soyez professeur de langues ou d'une autre matière. Il ne nécessite pas beaucoup de ressources, et peut servir de point de départ vers d'autres projets plus ambitieux; il permet aussi d'étayer des demandes de financement de matériel auprès des conseils généraux et régionaux ou du rectorat.

De nombreux outils de communication et de collaboration sont disponibles sur le site E-Twinning. Voici un autre outil, le Village Interactif Virtuel en Ardèche Viva.

Le projet Viva est un outil de communication "clés en main" du CDDP07 conçu pour faciliter au maximum son utilisation, ce qui vous fait gagner du temps et vous libère pour gérer d'autres aspects de vos projets.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Using Viva

For teachers who are new to using Viva with their classes, let me give you a step-by-step explanation.

1) First, you need your own password as a teacher. I can create a teacher password for you, or you can contact the team at the CDDP36 directly. You can reach me at

2) Next, you connect to Viva: log in using your login ("identifiant") and your password ("mot de passe").

3) Next, on the right, log in using your user name("identifiant") and your password ("mot de passe").

4) Next, you can use the administration area, "users / add users" to either create a login identity for each class, or for individual students. I strongly encourage you to create individual logins for each student. For my students, I used the same login and password as the students use when logging into the school network. Note that although you will enter your students full names (first and last names), only their first names will actually appear on the forum messages. This is important, as we are supposed to protect our students' identity. Be sure to tell them never to put in personal information like full names, addresses, phone numbers, or even personal email addresses. Note that you can have students create their own individual login simply by hitting "Registration" on the initial Viva page.

5) Once you have created personal logins for each of your students, you are ready to take them to the internet room in your school. For their first visit, please explain to them the purpose of Viva: it's a tool for communicating ideas in a foreign language to distant partners. They need to understand it isn't a "chatroom" and they shouldn't use inappropriate language, or abbreviations like when they send messages on their cellphones. They should use proper English (or another language) and they should remember to *respect* the other participants - no insults, no bad language, etc. They should also try to always write at least 4-5 lines in each of their messages, or more. This is so that other students who read their messages can understand their ideas, and perhaps have something to respond.

6) The best way to get started is to place a message of your own on a topic you've been working on in class, and have them prepare their messages in advance. then they can respond directly to your "teacher's message".

7) Another good way to participate is to locate messages by other students on a given topic, and ask your students to respond directly to those students, by asking them questions and giving their own point of view. For example, some students have recently written in the "Forum Europa" forum on the topic of "Getting to know each other", where I also asked them some basic questions about the environment. Your students can prepare texts in advance on the topic, and then respond directly to those other students.

8) For good students who write quickly and finish their work before the end of class, you can then allow them to use their remaining class time to visit other forums of their own choosing and write messages on their own, either in response to other students, or starting their own topics. Remember to ask them to explain their ideas, and always write at least 4-5 lines or so. There are a lot of really short messages on the forum, and my feeling is that those short messages don't really give students the opportunity to express their ideas or give others the opportunity to respond in an interesting fashion. Students who want responses need to write more, it's as simple as that.

9) Ideally, we as teachers should talk to each other and plan to have our students write about the same topics, so that they can have direct interaction. Feel free to contact me via email, or you can use the "Teacher's Room" forum to tell about a topic you'd like to work on. I don't have the email addresses of all the teachers using Viva, so the forum may be your only way to reach other participating teachers and their classes.

10) If you have correspondance partners for your classes already, feel free to ask me to give your current partners a teacher login so that they too can use the Viva forums. It's an open project, and there is always room for more participants.

That's it! Once you have your teacher login, just jump right in and participate!

Cheers, --- Phil

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

E-Twinning avec de nouveaux outils

Depuis bientôt deux ans, le projet européen E-Twinning propose de vous aider à trouver des partenaires dans d'autres pays européens, pour organiser des projets communs de communication entre élèves. Cet atelier vous propose une initiation au projet E-Twinning, ainsi que des outils pour réussir votre projet, tels que weblogs et les forums en ligne du village interactif virtuel Viva.

Que vous ayez participé à l'atelier au CDDP36, ou que vous ayez découvert ce blog par hasard, vous pouvez participer à la discussion autour du thème des échanges internationaux entre élèves.

Cheers, --- Phil