My Favourite Sites for Teaching Phrasal Verbs by Janet Bianchini

Part of the Cool Sites series

An Xtranormal Kind of Introduction

Teaching phrasal verbs is my favourite activity of all!  Why is this so?  Well, in my experience, I have found that students generally don’t like studying them because they find them “too difficult, miss!”  I set out from elementary level to train my students not to be afraid of them, but to look forward to showing off their newly acquired knowledge of them. To stand out from the crowd. To use phrasals in a natural way.  In the correct context.  How do I do this?  I will explain.

I encourage them to chill out during the lessons if I see they look a bit stressed out.  I ask them to come up with ways of using new phrasals both in class and outside of class.  I encourage them to ask each other this question as a natural starter “Have you come across this word?  Do you know what it means?”,  if for example, they don’t know the meaning of a word.  Instead of asking me all the time, students are encouraged to ask each other first, always using this phrasal verb until it becomes instinctive for them and of course, second nature.  On a Monday morning my first question is inevitably “What did you get up to over the weekend?”  Students then ask each other in pairs and dialogue ensues following this prompt.  Another question would be “Did you get through the weekend homework?” I make sure that these questions are all in context and provide opportunities for practice.


Below is an example of a Powerpoint presentation converted to Slideshare. I have created this in order to maximise opportunities for student discussion. This would either be used as an introduction to this set of verbs, or as a review and recycling activity.  I have introduced 18 phrasal verbs with some follow-up activities at the end. I have experimented with whole pictures as background for added interest.


Bookr by Pim Pam Pum is a nice tool for exploiting images to enhance your  phrasal verbs lessons.  You can easily create a “book” in minutes by selecting pictures, according to the theme you want to explore, and then simply dragging them into the pages of the book. You can write a short sentence on each page.  The example below is one I created especially for this post to demonstrate how it can be used.


This is a great site for dialogue exploitation. The animations are easy to create with a set group of characters. There is a choice of background music which adds to the special effects. There is no sound for the characters.


This is another cool site for creating animations. Go!Animate can be used by students to recycle phrasal verbs learned or indeed, any item of vocabulary that needs to be reviewed. Getting Down to Phrasals by Janet Bianchini

Create your own at

The ZimmerTwins

I registered on the ZimmerTwins site for the purpose of researching for this post.  I was surprised at how intuitive and easy it was to create my very first animation.  I have a feeling that students will love this tool!

Phrasals in the Jungle!

Have a look at Phrasals in the Jungle!


I love ToonDo because it’s easy to create cartoons for any topic you like.  Students enjoy creating small dialogues or comic strips.  Here’s one I created which has a phrasal verbs theme.  The cartoons can be easily embedded into your class / student blogs or posted via email.

A Dilemma
Create your own Toon!


The last on my list of favourite e-tools to make teaching and learning phrasal verbs fun is PhotoPeach.  I was able to create a simple quiz using my own photos. You have to select a synonym  out of the 3 options given for the verb in the picture.  I hope you enjoy it!

Test your Phrasals! on PhotoPeach


I hope I have inspired you to use some of these cool sites with your students. You can adapt them to suit whatever theme you are working with. Why don’t you try one of these out for your next class? I am sure your students would enjoy creating short animations and dialogues or short books or indeed quizzes to test each other on new vocabulary or structures they have learned with you.

Have you had experience with any of these tools? If so, I would love to hear from you to learn how you and your class got on with them!


smalljanetjoeypicI would like to thank Shelly for giving me this wonderful opportunity to write for her Cool Sites series. It’s a great honour for me to be here.

Janet Bianchini (@janetbianchini) has been an EFL teacher for over three decades.  She still loves teaching and she is enjoying the challenge of learning more about new technologies and how to integrate them into her lessons. She writes a blog called Janet’s Abruzzo Edublog.  When she is not writing, studying or teaching, she loves to spend time in her rather wild garden with her menagerie in tow.

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18 Resources for English Language Learners to Learn via Blogs

Part of the Cool Sites series

Perhaps your students are like mine and are not quite ready to make the leap to begin blogging. I work with very young language learners and adult language learners. Many of my adult learners will not put the effort into blogging but that doesn’t mean they will not try learning from a blog. I have found several valuable blogs for my students to learn English. Daily they can receive a lesson through e-mail or through RSS readers. Last semester I decided to teach my students how to learn with blogs.

This was how the first lesson plan went:

  • We were learning about travel in America, therefore I had my students read Shonah Wraith’s post, Big, Bigger, BIGGEST.
  • I asked students to leave comments on Shonah’s post.
  • Shonah did a great job of responding to my student’s questions and comments. Scroll down to the end of the post to see the fantastic results!
  • You can do the same lesson in any subject by telling a blogger ahead of time that your students will visit the blog and asking the blogger to answer the students’ questions.

2nd Phase: Video Tutorials

In the first phase, my students became familiar with the process and realized the amount of learning they could receive through interacting with blogs. Therefore, my next goal was to get my students to subscribe to the blogs. In order to teach them how to do this I made a video tutorial on how to subscribe to blogs with e-mail and get a lesson in their inbox regularly.

I shared this video so that students could also subscribe by Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

List of Blogs

I also shared a list of blogs the students could subscribe to. I told my students to explore the various blogs and subscribe to the ones that best appealed to their learning styles and interests. Each of the blogs had different aspects. Some had audio, others had video, and some had written words. I put these links in my wiki for my adult students to explore. Below are the English lesson blogs I suggested sorted by e-mail subscriptions and RSS subscriptions:

Blogs with e-mail/RSS subscriptions:

Blogs with RSS subscriptions only:


Have your students learn English by interacting on blogs. Gather a list of blogs in your subject area for students to explore.

You may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

What are your favorite blogs in your subject area (math, history, science, English, etc.)? You can have your students even interact on their own blogs?

Do you want to add more blogs to my student list?

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12 Resources for Grammar and Punctuation Usage by Karen Schweitzer

Part of the Cool Sites series

There are many different websites that can be used to teach your students about grammar and punctuation usage. Some of the best are interactive and can serve as fun reinforcement tools for those who are working to retain what they have already learned. Here are a few websites to bookmark and try throughout the school year:

Quizlet- This free flashcard site has hundreds of pre-made English grammar flashcards that can be printed or studied online. Quizlet also allows users to create their own flashcards.

- This site provides a free digital-based game to help people boost their knowledge of punctuation and capitalization rules. The game displays an incorrect sentence and then asks players to choose the correct version of the sentence from four multiple choice options.
Free Rice- Students can give rice to hungry people when they play the FreeRice English grammar game online. The United Nations World Food Program will donate 10 grains of rice to the needy for every question that is answered correctly. There is no limit to the number of questions that can be answered each day.
SpeakSpeak- Created by an English language teacher from Great Britain, SpeakSpeak provides a large collection of free English grammar and vocabulary exercises. Exercises are available for beginner, intermediate and advanced students.

Chomp Chomp – This site offers definitions for common grammar terms, interactive grammar exercises with accompanying handouts, quick tips and rules, and projector-ready presentations.

Using English- Using English is an excellent place to find ESL tools and resources. Useful features include a grammar glossary and reference, printable handouts and worksheets, English quizzes, and a text analysis tool.

- The Web English Teacher provides many different punctuation resources on her site. Resources include materials and lessons on commas, semicolons, apostrophes, capitalization, and more.

– Lang-8 is perfect for students who are looking to practice the English grammar and punctuation they have already learned. Site visitors can write in a language they are learning and get the writing critiqued and corrected by a native speaker.

– Parapal online provides a wide range of interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises designed to improve listening, writing, and reading skills.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) – Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab provides more than 200 free resources to help students learn grammar and mechanics, punctuation, style guidelines, and more. The OWL also has a selection of suggested resources for writers and ESL students.

- Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty provides information on grammar, punctuation, style, and word choices through a free newsletter, blog, and podcasts. Students who visit the Grammar Girl site can also submit questions to be answered by grammar experts. - Created to supplement the bestselling Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, provides a free online guide to grammar and punctuation usage. Other free site features include online quizzes, videos and tests.

Karen Schweitzer

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School.


Use one of these free tools to spice up a grammar lesson!

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17 Stop Motion Video Examples & Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

Many educators wonder how to inspire their students and motivate them to strive to learn. Standardized testing has burdened our students and a majority walk into our classrooms probably dreading the school year. My SEETA course, How Do You Youtube?, inspired me to think about the incredible benefits of using stop motion video for student motivation. Stop motion films can inspire your students because these films are creative, visually stimulating, and often feature incredible music. Here are three of my favorites from Vimeo. Visit the links to read about the making of these films, how they were used, and how the artist came up with the storyline:

A SHORT LOVE STORY IN STOP MOTION from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

Sister Winter from FloodSanDiego on Vimeo.

The Piano from Kleis Auke Wolthuizen on Vimeo.

Here are three places you can find several stop motion videos to inspire your students.

Classroom Uses

Educational uses of these videos, include having students:

  • discuss one of these videos as an icebreaker to a lesson involving digital storytelling
  • journal a response to one of these videos
  • work in groups to create the dialogue. The students can also create the subtitles for the video using Overstream or video editing software.
  • choose their favorite video to discuss in a round table discussion
  • work in groups and choose their favorite video to mimic

One of the best ways is to have students work in groups to create a stop motion video. This can be a part of any curriculum. Have students create one to show a real world use of the learning. This can apply to math word problems, explaining scientific theory, defining an idiom, and so forth. You can also use a variety of materials. Below is an example of a stop motion film Maryna Badenhorst’s students created using clay. In the video, Daylight, the students put a nice twist to the Romeo and Juliet story.

If you work with little ones like I do, then consider having them draw and color the scenes to a group story. The video, Chiarastella, is a great example of a class story created with student drawings and voices. Visit the website which tells you more about this cultural holiday in Venice where students go caroling door-to-door to raise money.

Chiarastella from Raffaella Traniello on Vimeo.

Tips and Resources

You will find the following resources valuable in creating and planning your stop motion film:


Have students create stop motion films.

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What are your favorite stop motion films? How could you use this in your class?

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Vocabulary 2.0: 15 Tips, Tools, & Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

In every subject students must acquire new vocabulary, which is often taught through rote memorization. How do we engage learners to engage with new vocabulary? In a previous post I shared with you 12 word cloud resources. Now, I want to share how I make vocabulary engaging by using various websites in conjunction with the word cloud tool, Tagul.

Tagul Video Tutorial

With Tagul you can:

  • create a word cloud by pasting in text or from a url.
  • choose to have your word in a variety of shapes such as a heart, star, rectangle, or cloud.
  • choose which specific website you would like to draw your links from for each of your tags.
    • By default, Tagul will have the clickable links lead to Google search results.
    • In order to customize the link to go to a specific website, replace the Google search link with the website’s search link and at the end add $tag.
    • To get the website’s search link, you type in a word in the search box and a link will show up that has an “=” sign. Copy the html address up to and including the equal sign. Paste this in the Tags’ Links Pattern box and add $tag at the end.

The following video tutorial will show you the process.

Lesson Example

This is a Tagul word cloud I used to help my students learn about the Winter Olympics. My adult English language learners click on any of the words in the cloud and find a video, image, or article related to that word. I used Nik Peachey’s tip on using Vocab Grabber to create my word list for the Winter Olympics to copy and paste into the text box instead of having the system grab words from a website. This lesson helped my students learn vocabulary within a specific context and choose which topic they wanted to explore. The students then brought in their findings to talk about in class. I embedded this in my class wiki for the students.

Vocabulary Resources

You can use a variety of websites to help your students define words aside from typical dictionaries. Here are some ideas and their search codes to copy and paste into the Tags’ Links Pattern box:

    • Visuwords- Enter words into the search box to find an interactive mindmap of the word with associations, synonyms, and definitions. The url to paste is$tag
    • Wordia- Search for a word and a person defines the word in a video. Students can upload their own videos defining the words. The url to paste is$tag
    • Kidstube- Type in a search and find kid friendly links to videos, audio files, blogs, and images. The url to paste is$tag
    • National Geographic- Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Neo K12- Educational videos and lessons for K-12 in math, science, and social studies. The url to paste is$tag
    • History- Find videos, images, and articles on a variety of historical topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Word Pics- Illustrated English vocabulary for adults learning by words on pictures. The url to paste is$tag
    • TED Talks- TED videos with inspirational speakers on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag
    • Earth Touch- Videos about wildlife all over the world. The url to paste is$tag
    • WatchKnow- Videos that teach students about math, science, and other school subjects. The url to paste is$tag
    • School Tube- Student friendly videos on a variety of topics. The url to paste is$tag


      Tagul the next chapter, vocabulary list, or article you want your students to read.

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      How can you use Tagul to improve a lesson?

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