Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time to go

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Greek photography

As the more observant of you have noticed I like to take a picture or two. As a result I'm a member of many Flickr groups and enjoy seeing the work of other photographers from the rest of the world. One of my favourite groups has to be Greeks on Contemporary Life which has lots of great photographers posting pictures on modern Greece. It's refreshing to see a view of the country that doesn't fall into the trap of reproducing all the old postcard cliches, as beautiful as they may be.

Perhaps best of all is their blog (click here) which showcases the groups best work. The descriptions are in Greek but even those who don't read it can see that the images speak for themselves. If you want to what 21st century Greece looks like beyond the beaches and museums this is as good a place as any to start looking.

Learning English with Yahoo

Here is a good place to practice your listening and reading skills is to listen to the Yahoo People of the Web site which has a short video accompanied by an article. If you were teaching you could do;

1 Some warm up exercise based on the subject. E.g. Ask your teen students how they could become a millionaire at their age.

2 Then show the video and ask the students to write down as many details as possible.

3 They then work in pairs to share their notes and then write up an short summary of the piece.

4 Finally, they compare their version to the article that goes with the video.

This could be used as a warm up exercise for a debate or discursive essay writing lesson.

Playing with the camera

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

28 days later

28 days later, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blogging safely

It seems that there is a rapid development in the way the internet is being viewed here in Greece. Until quite recently, there didn't seem to be a day go by without some story in the media depicting the web as the devil's own sandpit, a byword for vice and iniquity. As a result parents were (are) loathed to let there children use it or even allow access at home. This stance wasn't helped either by the ridiculously high access fees that were charged until recently.

However, all this is changing and the TV is full of ads selling cheap, fast access. Indeed the internet is now being being heralded as the font of all wisdom and culture, absolutely vital for a modern life.

Of course, neither viewpoint expresses the reality on life online. Whilst having access is undeniably a plus for people learning, the old anxieties concerning the safety of younger users still remain. All the more reason then for young people and parents to be fully aware of possible dangers they face and ways to protect themselves against them. As I keep on reminding wary parents the internet is like traffic in the street; necessary but potentially dangerous, nevertheless. Similarly, just because cars and the like are a threat we don't simply lock up our kids till they reach say, 14. No, we teach them how to behave in such situations from a young age.

Click here to download a PDF with five tips by Childnet International on how young people can blog safely.

Thanks to MrsW for putting me onto this.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

28th October parade - Part 2

Every year Greece celebrates the Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas's decision to refuse the entry of Italian troops into Greek territory. It is marked here in Thessaloniki and other cities with a military parade. See here for more details on Wiki.

28th October parade - Part 1

, originally uploaded by minas_of_the_north.

Every year Greece celebrates the Greek dictator, Ioannis Metaxas's decision to refuse the entry of Italian troops into Greek territory. It is marked here in Thessaloniki and other cities with a military parade. See here for more details on Wiki.

I did take some pictures of my own but Minas's is far more evocative than anything I captured.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kantalk - Using the internet to practice speaking skills

One of the problems students face when studying English is that they have limited chances to speak the language outside the class. Unless you're lucky to move in English speaking circles then you are going to find it hard to practice these skills. Luckily, once again the internet has the solution in the shape of Skype.Now anyone with a fast internet connection and a microphone can speak free of charge. Even better Kantalk has been created for those who want to practice foreign language skills with others from all over the world.

Taking this concept a step further they have now created lesson plans which allow people to discuss various topics with others online. Check out their lesson on TV here.

Scary old buildings

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

This has to be one of the spookiest places I've ever been, even in broad daylight. It was an abandoned factory full of the weirdest assortment of rubbish, I've ever seen.At the end of one of the largest rooms was this door, half open.

The Bridge

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Friday, October 26, 2007

We're all living in Amerika

We're All Living in Amerika - Rammstein

An American Bomb - Ice Core Scientists

“I’m Sorry Dave, I Can’t Do That”

Day off

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Today Thessaloniki celebrates it's patron saint, Agios Dimitrios. This means we all have the day off and so most of the inhabitants have decided to head off out of the place for long weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Footage taken after I was attacked by Greek riot police

I guess I should be flattered that the police deemed it necessary to employ the services of four fully armed riot cops to subdue one 40 - year old, camera wielding English teacher. This footage of me laying, handcuffed face down on Tsimiski St was taken by Alter TV channel on the 8th September this year.I still wince when I see these images as I was in intense pain as one of the guys tried to yank my backpack off my dislocated shoulder and all I could see was my blood on the pavement.

What it doesn't show is the previous scene in which I was slammed into a lamp post by a riot cop's shield in an unprovoked attack whilst photographing a peaceful protest march (click here to see photos). As a result of that I suffered a suspected fractured nose, dislocated shoulder and multiple cuts and bruises. Even now, six weeks after the incident I do not have full use of my left arm.

I'm now in the process of suing the police for this attack but this is proving difficult as they are stone walling all attempts by my lawyer to get more information on what units were on duty at this particular point. They even went as far as to refuse him entry to the central police station when he went to ask. They really are a law unto themselves. See here for the full story.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

High school protests

I came across this demonstration as I was going through town, It was made up of high school students demanding the government provide them a better education.

This year's blogs

Finally managed to get all my student blogs set up. As far as the class blogs are concerned I'm simply going to use them as a kind of notice board which students can add to as well. Attempts at more sophisticated activities didn't work out well last year and lack of internet access at school makes it difficult to teach them anything more advanced. It's a start at least.

So welcome to

Proficiency 1C

Proficiency Michigan

Proficiency 2D

D Pupils class

Street art in Thessaloniki

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back in the day

I think it is indicative of the way EFL/ESL seems to lag behind the rest of the educational world the fact that we still have to use audio and video cassettes instead of CDs (mp3 anyone?) and DVDs when teaching English. Just like the books they accompany the cassettes are stuck in the 80's desperately hoping to ignore the changes that have happened over the last 25 years.

However, I see a ray of hope as more and more of my students are complaining that they can't use the cassettes as they don't have a cassette recorder at home. Maybe, just maybe the publishing companies might cotton on to the fact and start releasing their stuff on CD. Radical thought, huh?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

In the market

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Gaining access

Once again the internet allows us access to learning material that was once the sole preserve of those attending elite universities. In this case it is a lecture on journalism and conflict held at the university of Berkley with Don McCullin, Catherine Leroy, David Leeson, Jonathan Schell and Micheal Cerre.

Getting started

Over the last couple of weeks I've been starting new classes at the school. So, once again I tell them about the different ways they can practice and use their English outside the classroom. Usually I start the lesson by putting a DVD, book, magazine, CD, mp3 player, mobile phone and printed web page on a desk at the front and ask students to think of how these can help us.

Then I give them this handout and go through it explaining anything they may not have heard of;

This is a list of different things you can do to improve your English outside class.

1 Use the internet - How ?

a Surf the web on a regular basis - 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough.

b Use chat rooms - Mirc or Yahoo have easy to use (and FREE) chat services.

c Listen to radio or download podcasts from the net.

Or download a book and listen to it. It costs nothing.

d Set up your own blog (web page). It's easy and costs nothing. Also it is a great way to practise your writing skills and come into contact with others

e Use Skype (, which allows you to make free phone calls over the internet in order to find speaking partners from all over the world. MSN and Yahoo also have similar services. is a good place to start.

f Watch Youtube ( in order to see clips in English. There are plenty of videos aimed at those learning English, e.g

For longer programmes see;

Google Video (

2 Watch DVD's - without subtitles - at least once a week. This is a great way of preparing for the listening test.

3 Read something other than your course books. Literature, short stories, magazines, newspapers; In fact just about anything you can find in English. All reading is good practice for the Reading Comprehension part of the Cambridge exams. All these things can be found at the kiosks in Aristotelian square or in central bookshops.

4 Record yourself. If you have a cassette recorder, mobile phone that can record or a microphone for your PC, record yourself speaking. It's a great way of correcting errors in your spoken English. You can record part of a film you've seen, a page from an audio book, a listening exercise from the course book etc. Listen to the original and try to copy it as closely as possible.

5 Speak only English in class. This is probably the only chance you'll get to speak English before the exam so make the most of the opportunity.

Nobody expects students to do all of these things but if you try some of them during the course of the year then you'll see a great improvement in your language skills and of course you'll greatly increase your chances of getting a good grade in the exams.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Passing by

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Watching you

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Walk on by


Ta Kastra

Ta Kastra, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Starting back

Luckily, more and more of my students have access to the internet at home and more importantly, access to ADSL. This is going to make life so much easier for me and learning a lot more fun for them.

I've been putting this into practice with two private lessons I stared this year. In the first case Stathis and Sofia are young learners who have completed two years of English. We've only done a couple of lessons so far but yesterdays internet lesson was a great success. I decided that a great way to start was with the British Council's Learning English Kids page which is full of brilliantly executed teaching activities. The Story Maker activity proved to be very popular and even if it was a tad difficult for their level the fact that it was so well thought out meant that they were willing to deal with any language problems. Next stage is for the students to perform their story. They have until next lesson to make sure they fully understand it and can read it aloud with confidence.

I've emphasised the fact that I don't want them to learn it by heart but rather be able to perform it as an actor might. We will record this performance next lesson using a digital camera an when they are happy with their performance we'll post it on their blog.

My second example comes from Kyriakos, a bright teenager who has just started his own blog. We ran though the basics such as adding text, pictures, video and links and now his homework is to write about the DVD I gave him last week (Final Fantasy) and add suitable photos, links and a video of the film's trailer.

This is just the beginning, of course, once the students (and parents) become comfortable using this technology then the next stage is to get them involved in projects with students from other parts of Greece and the rest of the world. if I have time I' d ideally like to set up a Moodle which would act as a hub for my students' efforts and allow them the chance to check out each other's work at a glance.

One cautionary note, however, comes from the other experience I had teaching yesterday. With another student virtually everything we tried to do connected with the computer and the internet ran into technical difficulties. A poorly maintained PC, out of date software, ignorance of basic internet safety procedures meant that the student's computer thwarted our attempts to do some pretty basic stuff. I didn't have the time to fix the problems during the lesson nor did the student have the knowledge to do it on his own.

Unfortunately, most people who buy a computer for their kids are blissfully unaware of things such as firewalls, anti-virus programs etc. As a result they leave themselves vulnerable. Sadly, the computer studies lessons the students do at school are of little practical help. Indeed I have been told by kids of weeks going by without them even touching a computer, let alone doing something useful with one. Instead, they read endless pages of theory which is unlikely to help them.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Aristotelous meets the Great Plains

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

History seen and unseen.

"In the 1960’s an anti-war movement emerged that altered the course of history. This movement didn’t take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile. And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. Yet today few people know about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam."

Ain't No Mountain

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Listen, baby
Ain't no mountain high
Ain't no vally low
Ain't no river wide enough, baby
If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far
Just call my name
I'll be there in a hurry
You don't have to worry
'Cause baby,
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
Remember the day
I set you free
I told you
You could always count on me
From that day on I made a vow
I'll be there when you want me
Some way,some how
'Cause baby,
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
No wind, no rain
My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
I'll be there on the double
As fast as I can
Don't you know that
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
Don't you know that
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough

Mrs Robinson

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Essay writing revisited

This year I'm going to be teaching a writing class and I thought I'd post this idea about how to make discursive writing a little more modern. Basically,the idea is that students have to produce a slide show which accompanies their essay. The concept comes from watching something similar on the Magnum agency website. Since the technical skills and software are readily available and easy to learn I thought that this would also be a great opportunity for my students.

1 Tell your students that they are going to see a presentation on war.

Be warned - some of the images are shocking. If you feel that this slide show is not suitable for your class then choose another podcast from Magnum's extensive list.

2 They have to make notes and write down as much as they can about what the narrator says. Please remind them that it is impossible for anyone to write down anything and they should just get what they can.

3 Show the video above.

4 Students then compare notes.

5 Ask students what they think is the message of the piece. Students write down their personal answers and then discuss in pairs/groups.

6 Elicit suggestions from the class.

7 Now play the video again and ask students to choose two images which they consider the most powerful/moving.

8 Students discuss this in groups and try to come up with a choice which they all agree on.

9 Now write the essay title on the board;

"Only the dead have seen the last of war."
Attributed to Plato.

10 Ask students what they think this means and if they agree.

11 Divide students into two groups according to what they think. Each group writes down 3/4 reasons and provides examples/reasons etc to support them.

12 Now ask each group to think of 1/2 reasons why the opposite side might disagree with their side's view and what we could say to counter such arguments.

13 Put students into two groups with representatives from each side.

14 Students discuss the question.

15 Students then write up their opinions in the form of an essay for homework.

16 After you've corrected the essays explain to students that they are going to create their own slide show that will accompany their essay in the same way that we saw previously.

17 For this students need to collect images from the internet that reflect their essays or illustrate their examples. Flickr would be a good place to start.

18 Next show them how to use either Windows Movie Maker (which is already on most PCs) or Photo Story 3 which can be downloaded free from Microsoft (click here). Make sure they understand how to record their own narration and add background music/sound effects.

19 Students the do this for homework and post their results on their class blog/wiki etc.

As well as providing students with a model to emulate this exercise also also gives them valuable speaking practice. Most importantly, they are required to listen to how they speak in English which is a must if they want to improve their pronunciation skills.

"We are the hollow men"

"We are the hollow men"

'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."

TS Eliot - The Hollow Men

Friday, October 12, 2007


Funfair, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

This was taken last summer during the Ashton Court Festival in Bristol. I have to admit that this photo owes a lot to Lane Hartwell's work. Let's be polite and call it a homage.

Lydia learning

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Radiohead - pay what you like

"In Rainbows, the seventh studio album by alternative rock group Radiohead, has become available for download from their official website.

The band have let fans decide what to pay for the 10 MP3 files - from nothing to £100."

Click here to read the rest of the BBC report.

I decided that this would provide the perfect excuse to practice our writing and debating skills over the pros and cons of downloading music.

Lesson plan

1 Explain about what Radiohead are doing and ask students;

a Why do you think they are doing this?

b Would you buy an album in his way (not necessarily one of Radiohead's)?

c How much would you pay?

2 Students write down their answers individually then discuss their answers in groups.

3 Elicit answers from the class.

4 Now, ask students if they have ever downloaded music from the internet without paying for it.
Why/why not?

5 Do you consider such downloading theft? Why/why not?

6 Divide the class into two groups. Those who will argue that downloading music without paying is wrong and those who think it is acceptable.

7 Each groups writes down as many reasons as possible in 5 - 10 minutes.

8 Then divide students again into two groups with representatives of both sides and organise a formal debate.

9 As a follow up this could be used as the basis for a discursive essay lesson. Click here to see ideas page on writing. It is full of useful activities and handouts.

In praise of colour

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Police obstruction

I guess I should have known this would happen. I just talked to my lawyer and it seems he is being given the run around by the police. They refuse to release information about the police officers who beat me on Saturday 8th September. Indeed, they wouldn't even let him enter the Astynomiko Megaro (Police hall) in order to ask. The only thing they gave him was a typed report (full of errors) which says that I was detained for acting suspiciously. Since the only thing I was doing was taking photographs during a peaceful demo I would love to hear what they consider "suspicious". Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Red and blue and black

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

The Byzantine walls

The Byzantine walls, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

"March is the cruellest month."

In praise of the thin blue line.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Shop window

Using songs in EFL/ESL

This is the an exercise I've been using over the last week to finish off my opening lessons. It's easy, requires little preparation and is fun. Basically, all you need is some source of music which can be played in class. I used my mp3 player and grabbed the speakers from the secretary's PC.

Lesson plan

1 Ask students to discuss the last film they saw with the person next to them.

2 Tell students that you are going to play a piece of music and that they have to imagine it is from a movie. They have to answer the following questions;

What kind of movie is it?

Where is it set?

Who can you see?

What are they doing?

What is the movie called?

(It may be a good idea to revise/teach different film genres at this point using examples).

3 Remind students that there are no wrong answers to this and that they should use their imagination.

4 Play part of the song.

5 Students discuss their answers with each other.

6 Repeat this two or three times.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Getting back to normal

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

I finally got rid of the sling and am now mobile thanks to Italy's most wonderful export (after food and designers); the Vespa. This means I can risk life and limb in a more conventional way by travelling to lessons ala scooter rather than taking photos.

Also now that I feel more relaxed I can enjoy the time I spend with Lydia more,even if she fusses over me and keeps on asking which arm hurts. As if in sympathy she now keeps me up to date with the catalogue of the daily bumps and bruises that being eight seems to entail.

After much thought I decided that I wouldn't lie to her about what happened to me and I think this has caused her some consternation. On the other hand, I think kids pick up on such lies pretty quickly and this just leads to greater worries as they imagine the worst.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Berkley university lectures

Now this is what the internet should all be about; getting knowledge out of the classroom/lecture hall and into wider circulation. Berkley university has announced that it is putting hundreds of its lectures on YouTube (click here). As a language teacher it means that I can find materials which my students in my classes may find relevant to their own studies, but in English (most of the students at the language school are studying at university). Alternatively, other lectures such as those on non-violence allow them to see the lecture format in another language and can be used to promote note taking skills with are vital in exams such as the Michigan ECPE and TOEFL.

Thanks to Diagoras for putting me onto this.

In praise of abandoned buildings

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma!

For more information;

Free Burma Wiki

Blogs about Burma


Aegeon, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Looking back

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

On a whim

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

TED talks and teaching discursive writing

Whilst surfing over at the TED Talks site I came across this video - Steve Pinker - The Myth of Violence. It's basic premise being that society has become less, rather than more violent with the passage of time. An interesting, if counter - intuitive idea. This got me thinking about how he presented his argument and what lessons could be learnt by my advanced ESL/EFL students who have to produce discursive essays as part of their examinations, albeit in a more simplified form.

An mp3 audio file of this talk can be downloaded from here.

Lesson plan

1 Ask students if they think the world is getting more or less violent. Then get them to think of three reasons or examples that support their argument.

2 Students then present them to each other, and then you elicit answers from the class as a whole. Odds on they'll say that the modern is more violent than ever.

3 Now tell the students that they are going to hear a talk by Steven Pinker that argues the opposite and that they are going to analyse both what he says and how he presents it.

4 Luckily, the video is divided into different sections. First play the introduction (28 secs till 2 mins 10 secs.) and ask students to describe how he introduces the subject.

5 Students listen then form groups to compare answers.

6 Elicit responses and ask students to think about why he choose this particular approach.

7 Next explain to them that in the next section(s) - 2 mins 10 secs to 9 mins 30 secs he gives shows us how much violence has declined. What evidence does he give? How would we characterise such evidence? Statistical ? Literary? Expert opinion? Play the video.

8 Students discuss their answers with each other in groups. Elicit answers.

9 Next Pinker asks a rhetorical question. What is it? What evidence does he give to support his answer? What kind of evidence does he give? Play the video - 9 mins 30 secs to 17 mins 30 secs.

10 Students discuss their answers. Elicit answers.

11 Now explain that Pinker is going to come to a conclusion. Ask students what that might be.
Students discuss this in groups. Elicit answers.

12 Play last section 17 mins 30 secs to 18 mins 15 secs. What is his conclusion?

13 Students discuss answers in groups. Elicit answers.

14 Ask students if they agree with Pinker. Why? Why not?

15 Homework - Write out and essay plan for Pinker's argument and decide think of possible weaknesses in it.

16 In the next lesson students compare plans and critiques and then work together to create their own essay plan arguing the opposite point of view which they write up for homework.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Memories of summer

Ashton Court 2007, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Taken at the Ashton Court Festival in Bristol.