"You talk as if a god had made the Machine.. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind."The machine stops - 1909 - Forster

Saturday, March 5, 2016

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY: grammar-translation in the digital era

Grammar-translation seems to have become an old-fashioned method in the era of flipped classrooms, mobile learning and web2 tools.
I agree on the fact that in classes where students learn grammar rules and then apply those rules by translating sentences between the target language and the native language for most of the time there is little interaction among the learners and less emphasis on the communicative process, but I am also convinced that grammar structures need to be internalized and the more we work on them the better it is. Moreover, I think that  error correction is necessary to advancement and students can greatly benefit from the thinking process required by the effort of translating into a different language.
What follows is my attempt ro make a translation exercise a bit more appealing to 21st century students.
The starting point being a pedagogical aim - in this case the ability to distinguish between  past simple and present perfect and use them correctly - I asked myself " Is there a tech tool which could help me reach that goal in a more efficient way and could let me enhance the traditional task of translating sentences?"

I decided to use Todaysmeet, a free backchannel chat platform that students can join fast with no registration.

They worked in pairs on their ipads and what I did was to write and send sentences in Italian for them to translate into English.

Here is an example.

After each sentence I gave them a quick feedback and made sure they understood the mistakes.
We also had a "reward" for the fastest and most correct couple.

Some of the advantages of having integrated this tech tool into the class activity may be summed up here:
- it proved to be a powerful way to get formative assessment , fast and personalized  ( I was able to see each student's answer directly on the screen and I realized immediately who needed extra practice on the topic )
- everybody was actively involved
- they had the possibility to see both correct and wrong sentences
- it gave us the chance to really work on mistakes in a meaningful way

In order to maximize the learning opportunities I asked them to save a copy of the transcript and to create an online multiple-choice test using Testmoz  and recycling the sentences I had dictated.  They chose the answers among the ones written by them during the previous activity. They didn't even have to make the effort of inventing wrong answers.

Finally we shared all the links to the different tests and in the following lesson they practised on the exercises created by themselves.

Here is the link to one of the tests . Have fun trying it!


Sunday, January 3, 2016


As J. Bergman and A. Sams state in their book  Flip your Classroom - Reach every student in every class every day  " The goal of flipping a classroom is to remove attention from the teacher and place it on the learner." Teachers should explore and hybridize  the flipped-mastery model and adapt it to what they already  know to be good teaching practice. Some teachers may not want to adopt the model fully but they would rather opt for  a step-by-step strategy.First, a single lesson could be flipped, then a learning unit and finally a part of ( or the entire ) syllabus.
What follows is how I flipped a unit with my third year students.
The main question being " What is the best use of in-class time?", I tried to plan a sequence of lessons which could meet three specific needs:
- effective technology integration
- cooperative team work
- layered activities/tasks based on Bloom's Taxonomy


Students will:
- remember facts about Malala's life
- explain in their own words the major events in her life and identify the most important issues
- reflect on limitation of women's rights in some parts of the world
- practise asking meaningful questions assuming different roles
- compare their life to Malala's
- evaluate and select good strategies for further actions
- create/compose a final slogan/motto related to Malala's campaign for education


1 hour
Aim: presenting Malala's biography
Class activity: jigsaw group work
Material: handouts

Homework: exploring the online resources  "Inspiring People"
Here you can download the text students worked on. The words in bold are the ones that were pretaught.


Students were divided in 3 different groups according to their language skills ( for the names of the groups  some adjectives were chosen which well describe Malala's personality ) :

- hardworking
- brave
- determined

The text was cut in three parts and each student received one. They were given 15 minutes to individually read the text and learn/remember as many facts as possible. They could highlight their texts, take notes, make mindmaps, underline.... While they were working I was walking around the classroom, helping them, clarifying any doubts and answering their questions.  

After that, all the "brave" students gathered together in one corner of the room, and so did the "determined" and the "hard-working" ones. Without looking at their texts or their notes, they had to share what they remembered and check if their comprehension was adequate. I didn't intervene during this phase, which lasted 10 minutes.
Finally, the students were regrouped ( each group being composed of one "brave"/one "hardworking"/one "determined" ) and their task was now to answer some comprehension questions I gave them. To complete the task each member of the group had to share what he had learnt and everybody made their contribution ( individual accountablility and equal partecipation ).


For homework they had to explore the online resources about Malala and post on a padlet 3 new things they had learnt ( some new information that was not on the handout )  and one more question ( that was invaluable formative assessment which gave me an idea on how they were learning and if they had watched the videos  )  


2 hours
Aim: working on lower and higher level thinking skills of Bloom Taxonomy.
Class activity: cooperative work
Material: handouts/ipads

Students were given a handout with a series of activities structured by levels ( from LOTS to HOTS )



1 hour
Aim: self-evaluation, reflecting on the whole process, sharing results
Class activity: cooperative work
Material: handouts from the teacher/works from the students

Final reflections

Was that a flipped unit? I would say that an objective was the starting point, technology was integrated to support the whole process, good teaching practice ( the jigsaw strategy ) was used and the attention was always placed on the learner. It worked for me and my students. The Flipped classroom is not a dogma, and it's not all about videos, of course: it's just helping to do what you are already doing better. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY: "The travel agency" - authentic task

What is an authentic task ? ( compito autentico )

In general, an authentic task is one which:

  • is purposeful and engaging
  • models how people solve real problems in work and/or communities
  • puts knowledge to work
  • potentially demonstrates what students know and can do
  • supports multiple representations and solution strategies
  • offers opportunities for meaningful learning and higher order cognitive thinking
  • results in some product, presentation or outcome as a result of the deliberations of the group and/or individual
In other words, it can be said that an authentic task

  • is real-world and involves making real-world decisions
  • involves the creation of a product
  • requires multiple skills and covers more than one subject
  • has to be performed collaboratively
  • promotes students' autonomy
  • develops multiple competencies
  • arises from a non-googleable question

When constructing authentic tasks, the acronym GRASPS may help:

G    Real-world Goal

R    Real-world Role

A    Real-world Audience

S     Real-world Situation

P     Real-world Products or Performances

S     Standards

THE TRAVEL AGENCY  is an activity I did with my third year students, which worked well and is an example of authentic task.


Devising the task, using the GRASPS elements


Creating the webquest


Dividing the students into groups, giving instructions, setting a time limit ( 2 hours )


"Setting up" the travel agencies and performing the oral tasks ( a big thank you to Benedicta Pretorino, a real-world nice girl, who spent some days in our school, observing my flipped students while preparing her degree thesis )


Giving them positive feedback, for both effort and achievement.
Some students took their job so seriously they even produced an elegant brochure in order to convince Miss Pretorino ( and that was extra-non required work ).

The Travel Agency - A trip to London


This task involved students in a productive use of technology, integrated more subjects
 ( english, ICT, geography ), gave students choices, promoted meaningful learning and assessed students' ability to operate in an authentic context.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY: online syllabus for third year exam

These days third year students have been revising for their Middle School final exam. We've been flipping our lessons since September and our blended learning methodology has allowed us to work completely without a textbook. To tell the truth, even before setting up a flipped classroom , my students hardly ever opened their textbook during class time. I'm not against textbooks, of course, but I think that the best part of a teacher's job is preparing activities for students, to keep them busy during class time and to maximise their learning. Moreover, coursebooks tend to standardise ways of introducing content and what I need for my classes is differentiation and personalized learning. I know there are ways to "humanize" textbooks but still I prefer not to use them.
In the past months we worked on a lot of different resources and material, all published on an online platform and on the virtual classes on Edmodo and I thought having a visual reminder of all the covered topics might help students organize their revision. So I created a sort of Game of the Goose, a game board where each space has a topic on it, with links to downloadable paper handouts, videos and mindmaps. On the space "Keep calm and speak English" a link has been added to a recording with all possible questions students could be asked at the oral exam. To make it a little more interactive students have been invited to create speaking cards to be used for practice both in class and at home.
 My friend and colleague Daniela has kindly made a video to explain students how to create the cards. Hope this will be useful.
Click here to download the paper version. I have printed one for each student and laminated some to keep on the table when they are taking their oral exam. They might even "play" with the exam commissioners..!

Here is the online syllabus

And the video "How to create your own speaking cards"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY: setting up a semi-flipped classroom

School : istituto comprensivo Villanova Mondovì

Grade : Middle School - Third Class

Subject : English as a foreign language - Vocabulary

School year: 2014-2015

Step 1


Step 2


You can download the letter here 

Step 3