Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday's photo walk

Me and Lydia decided to go on a photo walk through out neighbourhood. She had her HP307 and I, my Nikon D40. Still, despite the difference in equipment she really is coming along as a photographer. I wish I could have taken these kinds of pictures when I was seven.

My photos

Lydia's photographs.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday in the city

Walking off the internet

And into real life. About a week or so ago I got a phone call via Skype from Mario, a teacher/journalist based in Northern Italy. As he was travelling here to Thessaloniki to cover a theatrical award he wanted to ask me a few questions about the city. I was more than happy to oblige and later after a flurry of emails we got to meet up for coffee on the sea front and chat about Milan, teaching, eating out, theatre, politics and and the like.

It was great to see how the internet, which is supposedly cutting us all off from "real" human contact can, in fact do exactly the opposite.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My corner of Thessaloniki

Spiderman, Batman and the FCE interview

The FCE exams are fast approaching and that means getting students ready for their interviews. The problem is that after you've done the format a few times the students start to get bored and their answers become wooden and stilted. So to liven up the whole procedure I've been playing with a few ideas that spark interest.

Part one

In this part of the FCE, CAE and CPE exams the students is expected to give information about themselves. they are asked things such as;

Where are you from?
What do you do for a living?
What do you like about where you live?
Do you have plans for the future?

Instead of asking about themselves, students can answer as if they were;

1 - A famous person.
2 - Somebody else from the class?
3 - A super hero
4 - A character from a fairy tale/movie/book.

Part two.

Instead of the usual stock photos choose two photographs of

1 - Super heroes
2 - The class at tho different times during the school year.
3 - You at two different stages of your life.
4 - A recent news story.

Part three

Ask your students to think of the different powers that super heroes have e.g. invisibility, flight etc. Write these on the board. Divide them into pairs and ask them to either rank them in order of importance or choose the four they'd most like to have.

Part four

In this part of the FCE exam the questions are usually based on the topic discussed in part three. So try these;

1 - What do super heroes do for a living?
2 - What problems do the husbands/wives of super heroes face?
3 - If you had super powers would you use them to make money?
4 - What disadvantages would your powers bring you?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lesson Time

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Taken today while doing a private lesson with a couple of my younger students.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The Hollow Men

T. S. Eliot (1925)


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer --

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Listen here.

Writing assignments using Flickr

Here are some ideas for getting our students to write using photographs from Flickr.

1 Choose a picture of a everyday scene and act them to write a story that explains or continues the situation.

2 Choose a picture of a dramatic situation and ask them to write a newspaper article based on it.

3 Choose a picture of a person and ask them to imagine that they are that person and that they're going to write a letter to introduce themselves.Photo by Rod Monkey

An EFL Photo Essay

I came across this site on how to create a photo essay. Although it is not aimed at ESL/EFL learners but I think that it could be used as a student project. As most of my students have mobile phones with digital cameras, access to such technology is becoming more and more widespread.

Photo Essays Step by Step

Wendy Folse

Photo Essays: Step by step
  • Pick a subject that interests you.
  • Decide on a theme or a viewpoint.
  • Make a list of shots that would reinforce and illustrate the theme.
  • Make a list of possible locations to shoot at and times.
  • Visit the site for several days and at different times.
  • Get to know your subjects.
  • Sort the pictures by relevance.
  • Construct photo essay into a flowing story.

    Shooting a Photo Essay:

    A photo essay is nothing more than a group of photos tied together by a common theme. The photos illustrate a point of view carried through the text.

    In my last article I touched on the merits of Dorothea Lange's career. Lange frequently shot photo essays of migrant farm workers. This would be a subject. The theme may be the conditions in which they lived, the bonds they formed, the way they see themselves, the way the outside world views them, etc.

    The theme acknowledges the photographers intended viewpoint just as in a written essay. The photos would reinforce the thesis. Shooting photo essays is not difficult and offers great practice for the photographer. It forces the photographer to think out the photo shoot in advance and to plan the shots accordingly.

    Some excellent subjects to begin with might be neighborhoods, playgrounds, playtime, racetracks, backyard wildlife. Deciding on the theme takes a little more thought.

    Let's work with one subject for example. Let's say that we choose the subject of playgrounds. What about playgrounds?

    • "Places of carefree abandonment"
    • "Accidents waiting to happen"
    • "Backyard Traps"
    • "Gathering Places"
    • "Kingdoms and Castles"

    Or let's consider another subject. Say barndoors for example. What is so interesting about barndoors?

    • "Windows to Rural America"
    • "Modern Drawbridges"
    • "Defending the Castle"
    • "Rural Zoos"

    Or maybe stain-glass windows, or old churches, or butter churns, or road signs? Whatever subjects you are interested in can be fair game for a photo essay. Just remember that it isn't the subject that makes the essay, it is the theme. All the photos must have a common theme and must tell the story from a viewpoint.

    How about city life as a subject. "Urbania" for example.

    • "Cul de sacs"
    • "Manicured Lawns"
    • "Soccer Moms"
    • "Urban Jungles"
    • "Home of the SUV"

    As you can see by the above examples, each subject can be portrayed in a vastly different way depending on your viewpoint. That is what makes a photo essay. It is a collection of photos that have a common theme. Below is a simple outline for working on a photo essay.

    Remember to carry model release forms with you and ask permission before shooting. Some people are flattered to be asked and others may treat you like a criminal. Respect their wishes and get Hanging around a playground with a camera and photographing people's children may cause a great deal of suspicions and raise a few eyebrows. Choose locations in your own neighborhood. Talk to the parents and explain your project. Most of the time you will get their enthusiastic cooperation.a signed permission form whenever possible, especially if working with children.

The projects can be posted on the student's individual or class blog. Alternatively, you could make a slide show or a Photo Story video.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Today's photos

Audio books in EFL/ESL

Today two of my students happened to come to the end of the books I had assigned them to read. Nothing unusual in that except that in both cases as well as given them the print version I had also given them an mp3 of the unabridged audio book. Thus combination of sight and sound versions is a great way to get reluctant ESL/EFL learners to practice their reading skills. The advantages of such a pairing are

1 - It's quick. Students get through a chapter of say, Harry Potter in under half an hour. Something even my time famished students don't find overly burdensome.

2 It can be done anywhere. Audio books in mp3 format can be listened to on the student's MP3 player or mobile phone so they are completely portable.This means they can do their homework laying on the bed, or while killing time on boring bus ride .

3 It appeals to different learning styles. Both visual and audio learners get to learn in a way that suits them.

4 It's cheap. Books can be reused endlessly, audio books can be downloaded free from the internet and copied onto CDs.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In support

One of my favourite bloggers is Devious Diva who writes about issues of race, prejudice and the like. Her posts have been an inspiration to me on so many levels and she is one of the reasons that I consider blogging a noble calling. Unfortunately, her no nonsense, "call it as it is" writing has drawn the ire of the chauvanist, racist element in the Greek blogosphere. Some of these loathsome pond spittle have outed her. i.e circulated her real name and other personal details. Words cannot describe the anger I feel at such a low blow, such a cowardly gesture. They shriek about honour and courage behind pseudonyms. They make me sick.

There are times when you have to stand up and be counted. This is indeed one of the those times.

Going home

Fasten Your Seatbelts - Pendulum

Probably my favourite song of all time, at least for this week. I just love the video. Check out Fevva's other work.

Nuturing talent

Lydia asked to borrow my camera and with heart in mouth I handed over my newly acquired toy. I only give her two pieces of advice;

1 - Take black and white.
2 - Get as close as you can to the thing you're photographing (Robert Capa would be proud).

Here are the results (with just a little tweaking on the computer).

Lydia is seven years old.As you can see with the right direction young learners are capable of so much more than we usually give them credit for.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Seven hours, seven photos

All the photographs were taken over a period of seven hours today, from 12 till 7pm.

"...but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much; my heart fills up like a balloon and it's about to burst. And then I remember to relax. And stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me, like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for *every* single moment of my stupid little life...".

--from American Beauty (Lester Burnham/Kevin Spacey v.o. at the end)

(Thanks To Cynthia SF for reminding of the quote).

JPG Magazine

I came across JPG magazine through Lane Hartwell's photos on Flickr. It's got some great stuff in it.

Looking back

Well, the first week back at work is now over and it's been hard getting back into a routine. Last week as some of you know I decided to buy a new camera and take my life long love of photography up a notch. It's strange I'd almost forgotten that part of my past until a few months ago. As with so many of the interests and hobbies I go through phases of frenetic activity only to completely forget about them later until some chance incident reignites my passion.

Looking at my Nikon D40 for the first time hanging around my neck I sudddenly remembered the Polaroid instant camera that I had got as a present when I was 11 and the pictures I had taken on one of my first school trips. Fuzzy portraits of friends who wouldn't sit still. Endless failed vistas of black landscapes populated only with a few dots of city lights. Somethings don't change, LOL.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A day in pictures

Kantalk 2.0

One of the internet applications that I really think can help my students is KanTalk. This is a Skype based tool that allows language learners find people to help practice their speaking skills. The idea is that you post your profile and you link up with others. For example, a native French speaker who wants to improve their English can find people in say, the USA who want to learn French.

This is a great example of how web 2.0 can allow learners to gain the speaking skills so necessary for exam success even if they don't live in a country where the language they are learning is spoken widely. Now they included stuff that can help with the tricky area of pronouciation in English.

"we've just added a neat feature that allows user to record a short paragraph on the site. It's a good tool for users to get feedback about their accent and pronunciation (the original ideas is from this professor:"