Comic Life for Workflows and Story-Telling

Comic Life is a paid ($4.99) Photo Comic Creation App. As much great as it can be for students to create photo comic and use it for story-telling, it is also great for teachers to create workflows and classroom instruction guides. Below is a sample workflow we created and used for the theme ‘ best friends’. You can see the detailed lesson plan here. The visuals, embedded speech bubbles and step by step instructions help teachers to plan their lessons and create step by step guides and instructions for students. The finished product can be saved to camera roll as jpeg, e-mailed directly from within the App as a Pdf, copied on WebDav or opened in a different App, such as Edmodo or eBackpack. We would highly recommend the Comic Life App.

Workflow on ComicLife



Students’ Presentations: Getting Ready for Speaking Exams

This semester, we have been teaching groups of level 1 students. A while ago, we shared some lesson ideas on getting ready for speaking exams and today we would like to share some short clips of our students getting ready for speaking exams by presenting to their classmates. Please note that the entry and exit CEFR levels for Level 1 students are A2 and A2+ and that they have only had 10 weeks of instruction prior to these videos being taken.  Therefore, we feel they have done an amazing job preparing for these presentations and presenting in front of their classmates and teachers.  The students prepared their presentations on Keynote App and connected to the Apple TV in our classrooms with ease. A big thanks to all our lovely students for agreeing their videos to be shared with you on our blog:)

Abdulla’s Presentation

Humaid’s Presentation

Ebrahem’s Presentation

Jassim and Mohamed’s Presentation

Emirati National Day

December 2nd is National Day in the United Arab Emirates.  This year will be the 41st anniversary of the unification of the Emirates. Today we celebrated at college with a car parade of cars adorned with national flags and photos. There were also stalls displaying local products and artifacts such as henna painting and reed weaving. I took lots of photos and videos with the belief that they will be useful for future iPad projects.


I initially used the photos in class to help students students prepare for a paired question and answer speaking exam. As a teacher the beauty of doing this on the iPad was that it literally took 15 mins maximum to put together as a lesson, once I had taken the photos. The Audioboo was unrehearsed and I thank Robert Dobie  for agreeing to make a spontaneous recording. Robert produces

Here is the steps we followed:

Provide an example of the speaking task :

Task Prompt: Look at the three photos and decide which stall you would visit if you were at the National Day Celebrations, but only had time to visit one stall.  ( The car is part of a decorated car parade. There is a prize for the winner.)

Play Audio boo to demonstrate the task and elicit key language.

Use Skitch and photos to name items in photo, brainstorm words onto the photos that students can use during the speaking task.

Practice would you like to… Do you like verb ing  Questions ( optional)

Students carry out the same speaking task  from the Audioboo. This scaffolds them into the task.

Students swop partners and  repeat process with new pictures

Students record themselves conducting the speaking tasks using Audioboo, then  listen  and evaluate their performance .

The whole class listen to a number of class generated recordings and discuss strengths and things to work on .


The 6 photos were collated  using the Pic Collage App.


 Here are two videos from the celebrations. One of the car parade by students, and another one of the Emirati National Dance performed by a group of students.

car parade

dance video



I am sharing some of these here as one of the great things about e-learning is that students have access to many cultures and traditions previously unavailable to them. Please feel free to use them.

For really professional photos of the U.A,E taken by a colleague Peter Waters, please visit his blog:

I will post more photos of the celebrations taking place on National Day itself- December 2nd.


Working With Graded Readers and iPads

There is a lot of evidence to prove that sustained silent reading is exceedingly beneficial both inside and outside the classroom and a key advantage of  mobile devices is the  ease with which students can have access to rich reading resources. Additionally, it is also possible to follow the written word on the page, whilst listening to an oral rendition of the text. This is particularly important to students whose mother tongue is written in a script that is not the Roman Alphabet and as in the case of Arabic, does follow the same spelling rules. Vowels are often not represented in written Arabic,: and thus students forget to incorporate them into their written English.

Our institution subscribes to the Oxford Bookworms Series of Graded Readers for EFL students. I would like to share some of the activities I have done with my students using this online reading resource and other digital programmes.

Conventional Pre and Post Reading Activities

I listed and used the conventional pre and post reading activities frequently employed to test comprehension, enrich vocabulary acquisition and foster prediction skills when a class set of readers is used. These included:

. Saving pictures from the book onto the Camera Roll and using the slideshow function to present them to students.  During the slide show students predicted the genre,possible plot, and the role certain characters would play. I also elicited target vocabulary.

. Playing snippets of conversation of the story to the students and asking them to predict the next few scenes. I did the by playing the audio on one iPad and recording the excerpts with another iPad using Sound Note.

. Creating vocabulary reinforcement exercises in Spelling City, Quizlet and Socrative.

. Creating follow up comprehension questions in Socrative.

. Playing You Tube videos connected to a key theme or event in the book. For example, after listening to a description of the skies darkening before a volcanic explosion in ‘Last Chance’, we stopped the audio and quickly switched to a volcanic eruption on You Tube which caught the students imagination and enhanced their understanding of the dangers the protagonist was facing.

. Saving several pictures from the online book into the Camera Roll and then inserting them into a Pages document as visual prompts  which scaffolded the students  recapping of  the story.

These were all effective activities, but I wanted to utilize the social networking possibilities of m-learning and engage students in tasks they normally do outside of the classroom in their real lives. So I turned to

This site allows you to make realistic counterfeits of documents such as SMS texts and Facebook accounts.

The Facebook Account of Police Woman Sue Parker from Police TV ( OUP) .

I created a Facebook Account which situated Sue Parker in central London. It was easy to add photos saved and cropped from Camera Roll and to enter the key events in the story as events in her calendar. I then wrote an open comment saying that she was worried about the number of thefts that had recently occurred in North Street and asking her Facebook friends for suggestions on how to catch the thief.













Students logged into Sue’s page as User Name: SueParker, Password:english because I felt this was a safe way to proceed. I did not want students to use their own authentic Facebook accounts and disclose personal information. However, several students decided to do so and others who had not previously owned an account, felt motivated to open one. The task was simply to read several pages of comments, photo albums and event recordings and to feedback to the class the information they had gathered about the police officer. Each group took it in turn to reveal more information and not to repeat the information provided by other groups. This gave students a reason to listen carefully to their peers. Afterwards, students chose the comments or pictures they wished to reply to. Whilst moving around the class, I was able to post answers to student comments, encouraging further reading and writing.

There was a strange blurring of fiction and reality. Although I had created the account using and the character was obviously from the storybook, the verisimilitude of the Facebook text and the authenticity of the tasks set,  led to some students questioning whether or not  they were corresponding with a real person.

Warning: A good activity goes wrong. 

I used a fake document website, rather than the actual Facebook site so that the information posted was not in the public domain and to substantiate the point that this was a classroom based simulation type activity. I used my own email address to create the document, but had to add a fictitious gmail address for the protagonist.  I did not need to create an authentic gmail account before creating the Facebook account. However, during the activity someone must have changed the class shared password for Sue Parker and once I had exited the account, I could no longer log back in. I tried to rectify the situation by creating the make believe email address, but a genuine exists and so I have not been able to get the security code to change the password and now need to create the bogus account again. It would therefore be prudent to register an email account under the book character’s name before developing their webpage. This really does blur reality and educational exercises!

SMS Texts also helps you produce text messages. I created one from the police officer to the class. I could not get this sent properly and so I took a photo shot of it and emailed it to students, who opened it in Skitch and typed in their responses. Sue Parker asked them a personal response question about how things were going in Abu Dhabi first, and then asked them questions referring to the plot of the book, asking them to infer who the thief was. This started students asking how they could contact an English speaker abroad with whom they could genuinely text.









A Puppet Pals Interview Between the Police Officer and a Suspect

As the target language at present includes simple past question forms, students worked in pairs to write, rehearse and then record a dialogue in the form of a police interview that took place between Sue Parker and a character from the book who many students believed was the thief. An advantage of Puppet Pals is that photos saved from an online book can be turned into the background and characters of the puppet show. Hats off to technology, photos can be manipulated in such a way that a character who is looking left in the original photo, can be made to look right on stage and during a three person dialogue characters can actually change the way they are facing to look at the speaker!






Students uploaded their dialogues onto eBackpack from where they were viewed via Apple TV. The whole class discussed the merits of a dialogue, awarding points for the variety of questions asked, the usefulness of questions asked to the police investigation and the accuracy of the grammar and vocabulary. eBackpack has a review function into which grades and comments are entered, and saved by the teacher(as a representative of the class) and viewed by the material’s creators.

In conclusion, students interacted with the content of the short stories in creative,mobile, social, visual, gaming and story telling ways, meeting all five educational materials criteria recommended by Dr Ruben Puentedura,Founder and President of Hippasus, and designer of the SAMR model of change and innovative implementation.


Their language use, especially in the Facebook activity was meaning focused and not simply for display purposes. In the last three  e-learning activities outlined here, students not only used language communicatively,  but also developed many digital literacies.



Skitch: Providing feedback, Giving Instructions and Developing Games

Skitch is free and can be accessed via its website or as an App. It allows users to annotate and share a new photo, one from their Camera Roll, or a web screen shot making it a very flexible classroom tool.

An Aid to Classroom Management

Students can be photographed either individually or according to where they usually sit, at the beginning of term, and their names or college identity numbers written over the photo.  This will help the teacher learn student names quickly or at least have a quick reference tool when in class. Students who have individual iPads can take a photo of something easily identifiable to them and use Skitch to write their name on the photo. This can be set as the Home Screen and Set Lock Screen, so that the device is easily identifiable.






The blank slate function can also act as a whiteboard which teachers can use when moving amongst students. It can be used with individual students or with the whole class via the projector.

An Aid in Providing Feedback in Written Work

Teachers can take a screen shot of student work, which then becomes saved in Camera Roll. After importing the photograph into Skitch, they can annotate the student authored text using a variety of colours and choose between handwriting and typing. Lexical items, sentences or areas of text can also be boxed and commented on.  Now in image format, the marked work is emailed to students who save it, insert it into a writing document and make the changes necessary to improve their work.

An Aid to Giving Clear Instructions

Annotated images provide students with clear directions on which icons to tap, the sequence to follow, the codes to submit etc. Individual images can be embedded into a Keynote Presentation or a Camera Roll Slideshow, and used in whole class lockstep or at the learner’s individual pace. These instructional clips enable teachers to circulate and provide individual help. Skitch annotations can also be embedded into PDF instructional sheets.








An Aid to Classroom Games

The Pixel-blur function helps create information gaps which lead to genuine classroom communication. For example, target vocabulary items can be partially blurred, adding another dimension to naming lexical items. Instead of simply asking ‘Can you name this word in English?’ the teacher challenges students to use their imagination.





The same effect can be achieved with the crop function. Blurred images can be effectively used in tandem with the flashcard App A Pro +.  Blurred images prompt the use of modal of possibility, as in the man up the ladder might be cleaning the windows or he may be locked out of his house.

In the thieves’ scenario, one witness can describe thief one to the police and, the other thief two. Before being interviewed by the police, the witnesses also share their descriptions with each other.






Ease of Use

Skitch is very easy to use and share, although there are occasional glitches during which the delete icon keeps reappearing whilst users try to write with the pen and sometimes marks slide down the page. One tip is to save the image to Camera Roll before writing too much. As Skitch is owned by Evernote, it also works more reliably and offers a save option if you have an Evernote Account to which it is synchronized.

I would certainly recommend this versatile programme as a key mainstay of your teaching toolkit.

This App review first appeared in Perspectives Volume 19 No. 3 produced by TESOL Arabia and was republished in this blog with their permission.



Something old, something new – marrying the two.

Some lesson material works again and again regardless of its age and for me, one of my golden oldies for practicing the simple past and simple past question forms is Willie the Kid from Streamline Departures by Bernard Hartley &Peter Vinney, OUP (






The wild west theme works well with male students and also matches a character set and background from the Puppet Pal App.  Thus, we have language input in the form of a story and output in the form of an interview between a journalist from The Dodge City News and the sheriff delivered via a puppet show.


This is a brief summary of how we worked through the lesson.

This comic strip was projected on the board and used to elicit the setting and possible scenarios. Students then worked on vocabulary in Spelling City.









As students had newly been introduced to the simple past, their work mainly concentrated on learning the endings of regular past verbs.  Students then listened to the story and filled in a gapped text which again focused on regular past verb forms. This can be done with a pencil and paper or if a digital copy is preferred,  words can be blanked out using the white pen  in Skitch by the teacher, and the worksheet sent to the students as an image . Students then use an annotation app such as Neu Annotate to fill in the words, then listen to check their answers. An alternative is to send students the original text and get them to highlight all simple past verbs using an annotation tool.








This is an old fashioned form focused,  consciousness raising activity which students enjoy because  it helps them manipulate the target language at an early stage of learning it and it is achievable.  Whilst doing this kind of activity essentially constitutes substituting the iPad for the book, I think it still has a place in iPadagogy because it is a scaffolding step on the way to potentially public, student generated digital product centering on the use of language they are acquiring.

Students next asked and answered questions about the story orally. All prompts came from the online teacher’s book found at the  


These questions help students automatize simple past question and answer forms, so that when they come to analyze the language, they have a visual and audio memory of form. Simple past question formation was then elicited onto the board using ‘Write and Slide’ sheets.




This language structure work was left on the board for peripheral learning and as a resource whilst students produced their own questions during the communicative language activity.




Students worked in groups of three to produce their interview puppet shows. so that they had three screens were available to them at once: one student had the original text, another wrote up the interview dialogue and a third prepared the characters and background for the show. Each student contributed to every production stage.









Once students had written and practiced their interviews, they found a quiet spot outside the classroom to record them. Finally, we had a class screening of different productions.

The puppet show interviews varied both in the questions they asked and in the way they began and ended their dialogues. Some groups even had the sheriff’s horse or Willie the Kid’s horse speaking. All groups used simple past question forms and answers, although they did not all use them correctly.  The results were much the same as when I first used this activity in 1985. However, I feel that students had a more personalized, sustainable experience of my Willie the Kid lesson now that it is delivered with the  iPad.  This springs from our using the Spelling City App which enables students to work on vocabulary at their own pace and to be able to repeat an activity as they see fit. Each time students open an exercise they have a clean slate. A variety of games focus on different features of the target lexis including pronunciation, spelling, meaning and the sentence grammar of the word. The competitive gaming element encourages students to concentrate and they appear to learn words more deeply, than if they were doing paper based vocabulary exercises. Secondly, students take their recorded interview away with them. It is no longer transient as it was in 1985. In the past, students took away a written version of the dialogue, but now they have both the written and spoken versions and they are accessible where ever they are. They can share them with pride, revise from them and use them to evaluate their own performance. The Puppet Pal interviews can also be stored in an e-portfolio as evidence of  progress.  Thirdly, the prefabricated characters and background scenery encouraged student creativity. I have done this activity many times, but have never had a talking horse giving his opinion before.







   ”Popplet is a platform for your ideas. Popplet’s super simple interface allows you to move at the speed of your thoughts. With Popplet you can capture your ideas and sort them visually in realtime.”

With its simple interface, Popplet allows iPad users to create visual mind maps in seconds. As teachers, we have been using Popplet to plan our lessons and create workflows. With a tap, it is possible to put differently colored popples, connect/disconnect, move and resize popples on the pinboard. Popplets can be saved as photos on  iPads or e-mailed as PDf or jpeg fies. Teachers can name the popplets with the date of the workflow, or the theme of the lesson for record keeping.




We have also been encouraging our students to use Popplet, especially for brainstorming before writing. The easiness of being able to crate a colorful visual mind map has been welcomed greatly be our students. They have been brainstorming on Popplet before writing and inserting the Popplet into Pages to refer to while writing. This, we must say, works really well and makes Popplet one of our most commonly used Apps!

Listening Lesson Using Audioboo. Describing People, Elementary Level. STUDENT COPY

Listening activities: Describing People One        OPEN IN PAGES.       Level One                                    


Write down the opposite adjective. Use the underlined words  There are three extra words:

Straight           short    short               beautiful          unfriendly        dark     blonde             small   noisy    ugly            talkative          nice     funny              single

e.g.      tall      short











TASK TWO: Go to Spelling City and practice these words

Route 1:

Route 2: Spelling City App, Level1, ADMC Level 1, Describing a Person: Appearance and Personality. password is ‘English’






TASK THREE: Read one of the descriptions below. (Your teacher might tell you which one to read)

John, a college student:


Okay, I am short and athletic. I play a lot of sports such as baseball, football, and tennis. I have black hair and dark brown eyes. My friends say I am friendly and nice. I am very quiet. I do not like talking a lot. I love reading about interesting ideas and meeting new friends.



James, a doctor


I am short, but I am fat! I am sometimes quiet around people I do not know. With my

friends and family, I am very friendly and funny. My mum says I have a handsome face. I like my beard and moustache. I also like my short, brown hair. My favorite colour is red and I like listening to music and going to concerts.


TASK THREE: Listen to James or John talking about themselves.  Listen and find the differences between what they say and what you read.

  1. 1.       Listen and highlight the word

John, a college student:


Okay, I am short and athletic. I play a lot of sports such as baseball, football, and tennis. I have black hair and dark brown eyes. My friends say I am friendly and nice. I am very quiet. I do not like talking a lot. I love reading about interesting ideas and meeting new friends.

  1. 2.       Listen again and  change the word

Okay, I am tall and athletic. I play a lot of sports such as baseball, football, and tennis. I have black hair and dark brown eyes. My friends say I am friendly and nice. I am very quiet. I do not like talking a lot. I love reading about interesting ideas and meeting new friends.

TASK THREE: Listen to James or John talking about themselves.  Listen and find the differences between what they say and what you read.

  1. 1.      Listen and highlight the word

James, a doctor


I am short, but I am fat! I am sometimes quiet around people I do not know. With my

friends and family, I am very friendly and funny. My mum says I have a handsome face. I like my beard and moustache. I also like my short, brown hair. My favorite colour is red and I like listening to music and going to concerts.

  1. 2.       Listen again and  change the word


I am small, but I am fat! I am sometimes quiet around people I do not know. With my friends and family, I am very friendly and funny. My mum says I have a handsome face. I like my beard and moustache. I also like my short, brown hair. My favorite colour is red and I like listening to music and going to concerts.

TASK FOUR: Find a partner who listened to the other person. E.g. You listened to John, find someone who listened to James.

Tell your partner about your person. Use he/his e.g. His name is J…… He is a ……… He has……… He is…….

TASK FIVE:  You will record yourself describing a friend.

 Plan what you will say. Talk about his appearance and personality.

TASK SIX: Download the App Audioboo. (free version) 

Record yourself speaking about your friend.

Send the recording to or to



Workflow Plan: An Integrated Skills Lesson

Workflow Plan:  An Integrated Skills Lesson    Level: Elementary and above


Students read a short text in order to acquire information to be shared with classmates during an oral recount activity. Using information gained from each other, they answer comprehension questions and co-author a written summary.


Socrative Teacher & Socrative Student

Platform for sharing materials: IFiles/Dropbox/Email/E-Backpack/Evernote etc.

Sound note




Materials Needed:

Reading text divided into four equal parts

Pre-lesson prepared Socrative Quiz



Plan APP Outcome/Rationale
Jigsaw Reading  Step One: Information Gathering


Divide class into four groups. Each group retrieves their allotted reading text e.g. Group A gets Text A, Group B gets Text B etc. from the teacher’s platform of choice.


All members of a group read the same text and help each other identify key information and comprehend the vocabulary.


Students make notes, writing down key vocabulary and information. Full sentences are not allowed. These notes will provide scaffolding during the retelling stage.


Students can rehearse retelling their information, recording themselves for self-evaluation and feedback. They amend their oral recount after listening to the recording of themselves and other group members.

Platform for sharing materials:

IFiles/Dropbox/Email/E-Backpack/Evernote etc.








Sound note or Note





Sound note/ iPad built in video

Students acquire the language and lexis to be able to share the information specific to their group.
Jigsaw Reading  Step Two:  Sharing Information


Students are re-grouped so that each member of the new jigsawed group has read a different text ( St. A, St. B, St. C, St. D)


Students take turns at recounting the information from their texts from memory, using their scaffolding notes.


Students teach each other vocabulary from their text and note down new words below their scaffolding work. They can take a picture of other students’ notes.






Sound note or Note








Students acquire language, lexis and new information in this information gap activity.












Jigsaw Reading  Step Three:  Consolidating  and checking information


Students return to their original groups and share the information they have gained.


Testing information:

The Teacher projects this lessons Socrative Teacher Quiz’s home page onto the board. Students sign into Socrative Students and enters the Room Number, signs their name and submits.


The Teacher decides whether the quiz should progress in lockstep or at a groups own pace.

Students answer questions about the four texts. Questions can focus on content information, language structures and vocabulary.

Group answers are shared with the class. Remedial teaching can be carried out.








Socrative Teacher

Socrative Student













Learners see how much information students from other provided them with. The test increases the need for students to listen to each other well at the information stage.




Writing Stage:

In threes, students co- author a summary of all the information from the four texts. Students can take turns to write. The other two students help decide what to say, re-read notes, check for spelling etc.

Students first go to Settings, General, Accessibility, Large Text, 40, so that the emerging text is easily read by all three members of the group.

The teacher and fast finishers circulate and offer editing advice.


Each group adds two pieces of misinformation to their summary, giving other groups a reason to read their work.

Finished texts were then emailed directly from Pages or Note to all members of the authoring group and to the teacher.



Pages or Notes


Students write about content they are now familiar with. Thus, they are able to concentrate on organizing the information in a coherent, grammatically accurate manner.

Reading Student Texts Stage:

Students form new groups and read each other’s summaries to find the misinformation.


Pages or Notes

Students have a purpose to read the work of other groups in that they need to identify the misinformation.

They see how other students express the same ideas in different ways.