Pedagogical Uses of Flickr

Technology and outdoor education


In the past story-telling used to be a powerful tool by means of which a coummunity would share and reinforce its values and beliefs. For the survival of a small comunity it was vital that the distinctive traits of its culture, folklore, stories and customs should be stored in a "collective mind" in the form of archetypal truths and values. These "truths" would be then available to the new generations that in turn would later pass them on to their children and so on.

The following traditional folk-tale comes from Ireland, a place well-known for both the hospitality and the story-telling skills of its people.

You will find out that if you can't tell a story the people might turn out not so... friendly after all!!!

Far Darrig in Donegal
Pat Driver, the tinker, was a man well-accustomed to a wandering life, and to strange shelters; he had shared the beggar’s blanket in smoky cabins; he had crouched beside the still in many a nook and corner where poteen was made on the wild Innishowen mountains; he had even slept on the bare heather, or on the ditch, with no roof over him but the vault of heaven; yet were all his nights of adventure tame and commonplace when compared with the one especial night. During the day preceding that night, he had mended all the kettles and saucepans in Moville and Greencastle, and was on his way to Culdaff, when night overtook him on a lonely mountain road. He knocked at one door after another asking for a night’s lodging, while he jingled the halfpence in his pocket, but was everywhere refused. Where was the boasted hospitality of Innishowen, which he had never before known to fail? It was of no use to be able to pay when the people seemed so churlish. Thus thinking he made his way towards a light a little farther on, and knocked at another cabin door. An old man and woman were seated one at each side of the fire. Will you be pleased to give me a night’s lodging sir? Asked Pat respectfully. Can you tell a story? Returned the old man. No, then, sir I canna say I’m good at story-telling, replied the puzzled tinker. Then you maun just gang farther, for none but them that can tell a story will get in here. This reply was made in so decided a tone that Pat did not attempt to repeat his appeal, but turned away reluctantly to resume his weary journey. A story, indeed, muttered he. Auld wives fables to please the weans! As he took up his bundle of tinkering implements, he observed a man standing rather behind the dwelling- house, and, aided by the rising moon, he made his way towards it. It was a clean, roomy barn, with a piled-up heap of straw in one corner. Here was a shelter not to be despised; so Pat crept under the straw and was soon asleep. He could not have slept very long when he was awakened by the tramp of feet, and, peeping cautiously through a crevice in his straw covering, he saw four immensely tall men enter the barn, dragging a body which they threw roughly upon the floor. They next lighted a fire in the middle of the barn, and fastened the corpse by the feet with a great rope to a beam in the roof. One of them began to turn it slowly before the fire. Come on, said he, addressing a gigantic fellow, the tallest of the four-I’m tired; you be to tak’ your turn. Faix an’ troth, I’ll no’ turn him, replied the big man. There’s Pat Diver in under the straw, why wouldn’t he tak’ his turn? With hideous clamour the four men called the wretched Pat, who seeing there was no escape, thought it was his wisest plan to come forth as he was bidden. Now, Pat, said they, You’ll turn the corpse, but if you let him burn you’ll be tied up there and roasted in his place. Pat’s hair stood on end, and the cold perspiration poured from his forehead, but there was nothing for it but to perform his dreadful task. Seeing him fairly embarked in it, the tall men went away. Soon, however, the flames rose so high as to singe the rope, and the corpse fell with a great thud upon the fire, scattering the ashes and embers, and extracting a howl of anguish from the miserable cook, who rushed to the door, and ran for his life. He ran on until he was ready to drop with fatigue, when, seeing a drain overgrown with tall, rank grass, he thought he would creep in there and lie hidden till morning. But he was not many minutes in the drain before he heard the heavy tramping again, and the four men came up with their burthen, which they laid down on the edge of the drain. I’m tired, said one, to the giant; it’s your turn to carry him apiece now. Faix and troth, I’ll no’ carry him, replied he, but there’s Pat Diver in the drain why wouldn’t he come out and tak’ his turn? Come out, Pat, come out, roared all the men, and Pat, almost dead with fright, crept out. He staggered on under weight of the corpse until he reached Kiltown Abbey, a ruin festooned with ivy, where the brown owl hooted all night long, and the forgotten dead slept around the walls under dense, matted tangles of brambles and ben-weed. No one ever buried there now, but Pat’s tall companions turned into the wild graveyard, and began digging a grave. Pat, seeing them thus engaged, thought he might once more try to escape, and climbed up into a hawthorn tree in the fence hoping to be hidden in the boughs. I’m tired, said the man who was digging the grave, here take the spade, addressing the big man. It’s your turn. Faix an’ troth, it’s no’ my turn, replied he, as before. There’s Pat Diver in the tree, why wouldn’t he come down and tak’ his turn? Pat came down to take the spade, but just then the cocks in the little farmyards and cabins round the abbey began to crow, and the men looked at one another. We must go, said they, and well is it for you, Pat Diver, that the cocks crowed, for if they had not, you’d just ha’ been bundled into that grave with the corpse. Two months passed, and Pat had wandered far and wide over the county Donegal, when he chanced to arrive at Raphoe during a fair. Among the crowd that filled the Diamond he came suddenly on the big man. How are you , Pat Diver? Said he, bending down to look into the tinker’s face. You’ve the advantage of me, sir, for I havna’ the pleasure of knowing you, faltered Pat. Do you not know me, Pat? Whisper—When you go back to Innishowen, you’ll have a story to tell!

Follow-up task

Creative writing

Imagine you are Pat Driver.

A few months after your adventure involving the four men and the corpse you happen to be back in the village of Innishowen. It’s getting dark and you need a place to spend the night…you knock on a cabin door and an old man says he’s willing to let you sleep in his cottage only if you can tell a story…Of course you can, can’t you?

Tell the story of the corpse.


1. Introduction

During the whole history of the existence of mankind, as N. Filips (Filip, 1997) writes, people have told one another fairy-tales. The papyrus, dated approximately back to 1700 B.C., disclose that Pharaoh Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, was fond of fairy-tales, and there is a surprising similarity of the fairy-tales, which have survived, with the fairy-tales of today.

Fairy-tales are found throughout the world. Many of them are very ancient because the same plots and their elements have survived in different cultures on all the continents. Every person in his lifetime has many times experienced the miraculous impact of fairy-tales on his imagination, mind and feelings. They are our intellectual heritage, which never become obsolete, but always captivate emotionally with their simplicity, imagery and deep philosophy. But we seldom reflect upon the content of fairytales, not only in their ethical aspect but also as a source of different kinds of knowledge, including the knowledge of mathematics. However fairy-tales are not so widely used in mathematics education in primary schools and preschools because there is not completely evaluated mathematics content in fairy-tales.

Fairy-tales in a simple conspicuously imaginary way reflect mathematical notions and connections. When listening to and reading fairy-tales everyone experiences in his imagination the adventures of the heroes of fairy-tales, different situations in which they find themselves, they observe what happens and remember the expressions the heroes use, the settlement of different situations. Each generation have their favourite heroes of fairy-tales. For some it is the Thumbling, the Thumbelina or the princess Nesmejana, for others it is Karlsons or the bear Winney the Pooh, for some others it is Harry Potter. These characters are so bright emotionally that their impact is lasting throughout one’s lifetime. Even statesmen interweave now and then a character of fairy-tales in their speeches. O. Ambainis (Ambainis, 1955) wrote in the introduction to the selection of fairy-tales in 1955 that fairy-tales can be divided into three kinds:

  • fairy-tales of miracles;
  • animal fairy-tales;
  • domestic fairy-tales.

The analysis of the content of fairy-tales leads to the conclusion that all kinds of fairy-tales contain mathematical notions and connections, but they found a little more in fairy-tales of miracles. In them, for example, the father’s son walks down the road till he comes to the cross-roads. There he has to choose which road to take. If he turns to the right he will come across some events, if he turns to the left he will experience quite different events, but if he goes straight still other events will await him there. Thus the son is offered three conditions and he has to choose one of them. Here are given clearly seen figurative representations, which form the foundations of the theory of probability. Fairy-tales brightly reflect the interconnection between the size and measure there are used different measures – the thumb (The Thumbeling, the Thumbelina), an inch (Tom Thumb), the distance of a call, a three-step length, etc.

2. The role of fairy-tales in the child’s development

Fairy-tales are usually explained as being fancy prose, more seldom as poetry, compositions, which have mainly found their expression in fairy-tales. The typical character of the European fairy-tale is a poor, brave and resourceful hero or heroine, who come into wealth and well-being after many risky trials. The German fairy-tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, have been retold in numerous variants. The form of fairy-tales can be used to express ethical and literary ideas, as the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen did it. The plots of Latvian fairy-tales are very much alike the fairy-tales of other European peoples. One of the most prominent collectors and arrangers is Anss Lerhis-Puškaitis (1859-1903). The fairy-tales published by him in 1891 are well-known to everyone. Professor P. Šmits has made a collection of fairy-tales and tales in fifteen volumes. It should be noted that in the introduction to this edition P. Šmits especially stressed the educational and teaching role of fairy-tales in the children’s development. In their time the Brothers Grimm named their collection of fairy-tales “Kinder-und Hausmärchen” (Children-and home fairy-tales), and it was done so for didactic aims. “Gesta Romanorum”, composed in the beginning of the 14th century and used by clergymen in their sermons was used for this purpose, too. Tatjana Zinkēviča-Jevstigņējeva (Zinkēviča-Jevstigņējeva, 2004) admits that fairy-tales have been used as an educational and learning means since ancient times. It is possible with the help of metaphors to give children knowledge, without pressing and moralizing, about life, the relations among people, different possibilities of how to live one’s life. Already in ancient times the grown-ups passed knowledge to the children through tales and fairy-tales, stories and legends. Our ancestors have encoded various life situations and potential modes of behaviour, as well as concrete knowledge, in the fairy-tales. These codes have survived up to our times and they help us comprehend the world around in interconnections.

The style of fairy-tales is simple they do not urge children to make immediate logical judgements and conclusions. Fairy-tales offer characters with the help of which children imperceptibly learn the information necessary for life. Fairy-tales are full of activities, events and changes following one another. The language and style of the fairy-tales are understandable for children. The language is simple, but at the same time promising secrets and miracles: "once upon a time in a certain country….", in olden times when birds and animals could speak, etc. Fairy-tales take children to a world of things, relations and conceptions, which in everyday routine often may remain unnoticed and they are unconscious of them. Fairy-tales make them look at, realize and comprehend them as if being observers. They prepare children for further perception of things and connections, which in their turn guarantee a successful beginning of learning at school and in their further life. The outstanding representative of humanitarian pedagogy V. Suhomļinskis (Suhomļinskis, 1974) has said once: ’I cannot imagine learning without listening to fairy-tales and composing them.’ Many educators, among them K.E. Vandergrift (Vandergrift, 2004) suggests using fairy-tales more actively in the study process. It is a means of developing a creative, educational and learning stimulating environment, by involving the children's imagination and asking them to interpret and explain the expressions and actions of the heroes of fairy-tales.

3. Expressions in fairy-tales characterizing mathematical notions

Fairy-tales are an excellent means in the acquisition of mathematical notions and connections, because they contain many significant parts of mathematics: the basic notions of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, numerical theories, the theory of probability and others. Four fairy-tales, best known for generations, were chosen for the theoretical analysis – Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Cat in High Shoes, Little Snow White and the Thumbelina.

Picture 1.: Math nations in a fairy – tales

The Latvian fairy-tale “Bear-ears” gives a more detailed analysis of the reflection of the notion of "group". Here three kinds of group can be mentioned: group with a definite number of elements, group of numberless elements and group which contain no elements (empty group).

Picture 2.: The notion of a set in the Latvian fairy–tale “Lāčausis” (Bear ears)

The expressions and the development of the plot of the fairy – tale can be arranged according to mathematical sections. The set is seen in situations when the youngest son has there horses and he uses them by turns, or when the blind feel the parts of the elephant and thus form the notion of the elephant. The number theory is seen in the frequent use of clichés connected with the number ‘three’: three brothers; instead of the three heads of the dragon, when cut off, crop up three on each head; at the other end of the world (miles and miles away); twelve robbers; the young girl walks through all the three rooms one after the other. Functions or functional coherence is seen in situations illustrating the fact that the shorter the hero of the fairy – tale the braver he is, or also in the conclusion that the less you mention the evil the sooner you will benefit something.

Elements of geometry find their expression in the descriptions of objects and phenomena in fairy – tales: a crooked club; a steep hill; an inch – tall little man; to travel around the sea; to walk all over the kingdom, i.e. crosswise and criss–cross. Foundations of analytical geometry are found in the description of situations showing the activities of the characters of fairy – tales: to dash upright; to sink downright in the ground: to fly over slantwise; to cast a glance at the person sitting opposite; to fall on one’s back; to follow one’s shadow.
Elements of the theory of probability are seen in situations when the son of the father is standing at the crossroads and he has to choose one event put of the three offered by choosing a road.

4. Teachers’ Points of View on the Mathematical Notions in Fairy-tales

A poll of 86 teachers was carried out to clarify their points of view concerning the mathematical notions found in fairy – tales, which can be used for the learners’ comprehension. The teachers’ opinions were that the learners can acquire the following mathematical notions:

Picture 3.: Teachers’ Points of View on the Mathematical Notions in Fairy-tales


1) differentiate between the following notions: one, many (much), one by one, no one, more, fewer (less), more than, less (fewer) than;
2) make up rows of numbers in growing and diminishing order;
3) name the numerals;
4) divide objects into two parts and in halves;
5) determine objects according to their size: long (tall), short, wide, narrow, high, low, thick, thin, the longest, the shortest, the widest, the narrowest, etc.;
6) use different measures and measure different objects;
7) define directions in space;
8) name the parts of twenty – four hours;
9) identify geometrical forms and figures.

Most teachers acknowledge that fairy-tales can be used best of all when learning to differentiate between the notions one, many (much), one by one, no one, more, fewer (less), more than (less than) (88%), and when learning to determine objects according to their size: long, short, wide (broad), narrow, high, low, thick, thin, the longest, the shortest, wider, narrower, etc. (87%). The number ofteachers who see the importance of fairy-tales when teaching children to name the parts of twenty-four hours is a little smaller (78%). Less than half of the respondents (45%) mark out the usefulness of fairy-tales when learning to name the ordinal numerals which seems a little surprising as the numerals first, second, third are often used in fairy-tales. Only 6% of the respondents consider it necessary to use fairy-tales for the identification of geometrical forms and figures. It should be mentioned that comparatively seldom these geometrical notions are used in fairy-tales. However, the teachers see the usefulness of fairy-tales when learning to make up rows of numbers in growing and diminishing order (21%), to divide objects into two parts and to have them (28%), to use different measures and measure them (17%), to define directions in the room (26%).

5. Conclusion

Consequently, fairy-tales include a number of notions which help children get mathematical notions about the surrounding world, its variety and glory. Fairy-tales not only develop children’s imagination but also develop their skills to use mathematical connections and basic notions in a simple understandable language in primary and preschools mathematics education, at the same time putting stress on these connections and so paving the way to further serious acquisition of the systemic course of mathematics.

It is advisable to use fairy – tales for the development of the learner’s comprehension of mathematical notions. It can be done in various ways. Here are some of them:

  • by drawing the learner’s attention to particular mathematical notions or coherence, and encouraging them to find similar ways of expression in other fairy – tales;
  • by asking the learners to compose fairy – tales of their own, making use of definite mathematical notions and coherence;
  • by encouraging the learners to illustrate situations in fairy – tales, which refer to mathematical notions and coherence

For example, when asking the children to make up a fairy-tale about three small frogs, a high hill and descending it, or asking the children to recall which fairy-tales tell us about two sisters or three brothers, or asking the children to draw the flight of the Firebird slantwise across the sea.

In this investigation is more analyzed content of fairy-tales for mathematics education. In futures investigations could be particularly analyzed efficiency fairy-tales using for achievements of children in mathematics lessons.


[1] Ambainis, O., Feldhūne, A. (1955) Latviešu tautas pasakas. Izlase. Rīga.: Zinātņu akadēmijas izdevniecība, 5. – 15.lpp.
[2] Philip, N. (1997) The Illustrated Book of Fairy Tales. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
[3] Suhomļinskis, V. (1974) Sirdi atdodu bērniem. Rīga: Zvaigzne.
[4] Šmits, P. (1937) Ko pasakas un teikas māca? – www.ailab.lv (15.10.2008.)
[5] Vandergrift, K.E. ( 2006) Snow White Teaching. – www.scils.rutgers.edu (12.05.2008.)
[6] Zinkeviča – Jevstigņējeva, T. (2004) Pasaku terapija audžuģimenēs. Psiholoģijas pasaule. 2004.Nr3, 5.- 8.lpp.

Author Rudite Andersone, Dr.paed., professor, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia



Motivating Language Learners with Flickr


Some language educators are turning to Web-based social networks in an effort to motivate their students beyond the carrot-and-stick methods of the traditional classroom. Social networks bring people together who share common interests and give those participants the tools to produce, collect, share, and re-mix artifacts (Dieu and Stevens, 2007). Such networks provide language learners with opportunities to meet and interact with people from around the world in self-directed ways on personally meaningful topics. They also give learners a chance to construct a space to call their own; a space without any institutional affiliation, giving learners complete ownership and control over their own work. As long as educators give learners the freedom to choose the content and direction of their online activities, participation in social networks can tap into the bubbling fountain of intrinsic motivation that each learner carries within.

Flickr is one such social network that uses photos as the primary content for sharing amongst its participants. Started in 2002 by Ludicorp (Graham 2006), Flickr’s membership numbers grew rapidly. Bought out by Yahoo! in late 2005, Flickr now hosts a pool of around 500 million photos (Arrington 2007).

One of the advantages Flickr offers language learners is the presence of few linguistic barriers to participation. Unlike the more complex language found in weblog communities, for instance, most of the text-based communication on Flickr consists of short sentences or “one-liners” that tend to be of a positive, encouraging nature. This is ideal for beginning and intermediate level learners, who can receive a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction seeing their photos commented on in positive ways by other people.

The purpose of this paper, then, is to show educators how they can begin putting Flickr to immediate use with their students. After a brief description of Flickr’s main features and how to get started, I will list some practical, and enjoyable activities that teachers can have their students carry out using Flickr and their computers and/or cell phones - both inside and outside of the classroom - to share their photos, write about other photos, and carry out simple conversation with people in different countries. Flickr is a great deal of fun to use and your students are certain to love it.
Main Features

Flickr offers its users a wide variety of features; some of the most fundamental are:

* Photo Galleries – each user can store up to XX megabytes per month.
* Comments – users can comment on each others’ photos; a fun and easy way to communicate.
* Profiles – users can choose to share information about themselves, such as age, geographic location, interests, favorite movies, etc.
* Contacts – users can create their own personal network on Flickr, enabling them to keep in contact with specific people who share similar interests.
* Tags – Flickr allows users to describe the content of their photos with a list of keywords - called tags. Clicking on a tag takes users to all photos sharing the same tag, thus enabling a user-generated classification of content, also called a folksonomy.
* Groups – Users can also create or join theme-based photo pools with corresponding discussion lists. This enables more in-depth discussion on topics of shared interest.

Getting Started

Registering for Flickr requires a Yahoo! ID. This is easy enough for any given teacher to accomplish, but those wanting students to maintain individual accounts should give them clear instructions for how to complete the registration process. It is best to demonstrate the procedure step-by-step with a digital projector. Make sure students write down their Flickr usernames and passwords, for they inevitably forget them (I create a special handout specifically for this). Once registered, teachers should have their students fill out their profiles with information relative to their personal interests, such as hobbies, favorite movies, etc. From there they can begin to upload and share photos.

One convenient feature of Flickr is its four privacy levels: users can mark photos private, family only, friends only, and public. It is important that students understand the implications of sharing personal information in a public space. Teachers should deal with this privacy issue before embarking on a Flickr project with their students, particularly with younger learners; they should be encouraged to use pseudonyms whenever possible. Teachers need to monitor learner activity and be ready to advise when necessary.
Activities with Flickr

Listed below are some activities that language teachers and their learners can use both in and out of class. I’ve chosen to group them according to the type of room in which the class is held. Most of the activities necessitate individual learner accounts, others can be carried out with just a single teacher account, while a few, like ‘searching for photos’, ‘picture dictionary’, and ‘exploring geotags’, can even be done without any accounts.

In a Computer Room:

1. Searching for Photos: Students can search for photos, either via tags or text, and display them using a large size on the monitor to use in conversation or writing activities, such as:
* Show and tell, using descriptive adjectives.
* Practice using the subjunctive and/or conditional tense.
* Giving opinions, making recommendations, or making comparisons.

The serendipity involved in browsing photos by ‘most viewed’, ‘most relevant’ and ‘most interesting’ makes this activity enjoyable for everyone.
2. Uploading Photos: Uploading photos to Flickr is a great way to start using English, especially for beginners.
* Each uploaded photo needs a title, caption (called a ‘description’ in Flickr), and a set of tags that describe the content of the photo. Students using a computer can even leave notes on their photos for people who want to take a closer look. Teachers should model this activity on their own Flickr accounts.
* Photos can be uploaded either directly via the Flickr site or via students’ cell phones. Students with their own computers can download other, more sophisticated uploading programs.
* There are four general privacy levels: private, family only, friends only, or public. If teachers don’t want students sharing photos publicly, have students make ‘friends’ of everyone in the class.
3. Making friends: Students can search the keywords they entered in their profile for their interests, likes, favorite movies, favorite books, etc., to browse the profiles and photos of other people who entered the same keyword. If they find someone who looks intriguing, they can make that person a ‘contact’, labeling him/her a ‘friend’. From there, they will be able to receive new photos from their friends on their ‘contacts’ photos’ page. They can and should try to interact with their ‘friend’ by leaving comments on their friend’s photos and/or by sending Flickr emails.

4. Commenting: Leaving comments on photos is a great way to practice sentence formation. Teachers can have students integrate grammar and vocab being learned in class into the comments students leave on Flickr photos. Furthermore, teachers can teach students common techniques of conversation starting in their comments, such as making complements and criticisms, and asking questions. A student’s record of “comments left” can be viewed for evaluation purposes if desired. Always remind students to answer all comments left by others on their own photos. They should see comments as conversation starters, not merely as one-liners.

5. Leaving Notes: Another fun way to use English with Flickr is to leave ‘notes’ on photos. These notes can be left on personal photos or those of ‘friends’. Notes are great way to hone in and describe the details of a particular photo.

6. Joining Groups: Students should join Flickr groups (photo pools coupled with threaded discussion lists) related to what most interests them in their personal lives. There are two major benefits to joining groups:
* Students can send their own relevant photos to the group pool, thus increasing exposure to their own work and making receiving comments more likely. Students should always try to comment on photos of other group members.
* They can take part in discussion on the group list – a challenge even for intermediate students.
7. Exploring Geotags: Flickr, in association with Yahoo! Maps, allows users to tag their photos with a specific geographic coordinate. This allows students to both tag their own photos by selecting the exact location on a map, and to explore the world map by finding photos from a geographic location of their choice. This is an excellent way to learn geography while associating the maps with images. Teachers could have students practice speaking about directions, geographic features, distance, area, countries, cities, etc.
* Photo Tours: Students can choose a specific region that they have never been to before, explore the photos there, and introduce other students to the region. This would be a good chance to combine this activity with some research on Wikipedia or CIA website to learn more about the country/region being shown.
8. Blogging Photos: If students are using weblogs as part of a writing class (as mine are), the “blog this” button over each Flickr photo allows students to directly post the photo to their weblog with text. I often have students to practice different paragraph types (compare/contrast, opinions, recommendations, illustrations) with photos of their choice.

9. Emailing Other Flickr Users: With its internal email system (called Flickrmail), Flickr also presents opportunities to practice the genre of email writing: a very useful skill to possess in today’s world of international electronic communication. Have students find someone whose photos they enjoy, and write to that person with a question. My students have enjoyed a high response rate for emails sent within Flickr.

10. Creating Slideshows: Flickr offers an attractive “view as slideshow” feature that can be activated with the click of a mouse. Students can create on-the-fly presentations on themes or topics of their choice. For example, if Kenji is into baseball, he can put together 12 photos that best capture the spirit of his interest. He can then prepare descriptions for each of the photos and then present these to the class, or to small groups of other students using the slideshow feature. Having students prepare a peer and tutor edited script can be a part of this as well. Alternatively, teachers could have their students prepare an online version of the slideshow using an application called Voicethread, which integrates with Flickr.

11. Using Flickrtoys: Many offshoot applications, called Flickrtoys, have been developed specifically for Flickr users, some of which are fun and easy to use. For example, students can use photos to create a calendar, a magazine cover, a billboard, a CD or DVD cover, a cartoon with bubble captions from a particular photos, etc. This fun factor makes using English enjoyable for everyone, especially if you combine it with language learning activities.

12. Using Combinations: Many of the above activities can be combined into a single assignment that can be given to students at intervals during the semester. For example:
* Have students start with one of the tags the entered in the ‘interests’ section of their profile, ‘sushi’ for example. The student, let’s call her ‘Mayumi’, then browses profiles of others with the same interest. When she finds someone with interesting photos of sushi, say Cindy - an American who takes photos of Californian sushi - she leaves a few comments and makes Cindy a contact. Then, Mayumi chooses one of Cindy’s most interesting photos, makes it a “favorite,” clicks “blog this” and writes about it on her weblog. Over the course of the semester, Mayumi follows Cindy’s photo stream and continues to leave a comment here and there. Eventually, Mayumi might even email Cindy, asking her about sushi in California and why they use such strange ingredients. Mayumi also takes photos of sushi she eats, Geotags them according to the location of the restaurant where each of the photos was taken, and creates a photo set pertaining to the topic, which she presents to other students at the end of the semester. On those photos, she can leave notes that educate viewers on the Japanese names of each of the sushi ingredients.

In a standard classroom with one computer and digital projector:

1. Photo Sets: Teacher can create slideshows and/or photo sets of images related to the lesson and use them in class to stimulate conversation.

2. Photo Streams: Teachers can aggregate RSS feeds of tags or groups that pertain to classroom content. These can be displayed in class for conversational purposes. Aggregation of these feeds can be combined with content from other sources (such as blogs, news, podcasts, etc) with a service like SuperGlu or Dekita Orchard, and the resulting URL can be displayed in class, or can be given to students to access and comment on in their free time as well.

3. Picture Dictionary: Instead of having students break out their dictionaries, the teacher can do a tag search to show a photo of the vocabulary word in question – “worth a thousand words.”

4. Class Account: Teachers can set up a ‘class account’ where students can use it to post photos. This can be coordinated to complement textbook content. For example, if the theme of the week is ‘food’, students can post photos of a “the most delicious dish they ate during the week.” The resulting slideshow can be projected on the main screen and students could vote on which was the most delicious. If this were done weekly, the winning photo could be “favorited” by the teacher’s personal account, and then the student with the most ‘favorites’ at the end of the semester would win some kind of prize.

5. Individual Student Accounts: If teachers had students open individual student accounts, many of the same writing activities below can be used. However, caution must be taken with this approach, as a significant number of students don’t have a personal computer at home, forcing them to find time in their busy schedules to make use of university machines.

In a standard classroom with no computer or digital projector:

The following three activities assume a majority of students carry cell phones with built-in cameras.

1. Photo viewing: Students can view photos the teacher pre-selects via their cell phones. Teachers would need to provide the students with the URL to his/her Flickr account at the beginning of the term, which the students would then bookmark on their cell phone. Photos with questions could be used for warm-up activities. Individual student accounts not needed.

2. Homework photos: Teachers can have students take photos of their choice with their cell phones to be used in conversation activities. Students should prepare to explain the five Ws of their photos to other students - a great warm-up activity.

3. Search and find: Conversation activities can be constructed around students using their cell phones to search the Flickr database and find photos, either of personal interest and/or related to course content. Teachers should use caution with this activity, as it will inevitably cause students’ monthly phone bills to increase.


The activities described above are only some of the many others that could be done with Flickr. What is important for teachers to remember concerning the success of their students in social networks like Flickr is to release students into these communicative spaces, giving them as much control over the direction and content of their actions there, while modeling the very same activities with their own accounts. Teacher control of direction and content leaves no room for the expression of intrinsic motivation; it’s akin to putting a growing plant inside a box and closing the lid. Help your students meet interesting people and use the English language in fun and personally meaningful ways with Flickr.








A ballad is a folk poem which flourished in the late Middle Ages. It was originally meant to be sung and handed down orally from generation to generation. Ballads are narrative poems and they are music. Words and music are closely dependant on one another.

Listen to this version of a very popular ballad: Lord Randall. Focus on the music first. (Several versions of the song can be found surfing the net)

Where do you think the ballad comes from?
Are there some words which don’t sound “standard English” at all?

Now read the text while you listen to the ballad.

‘O WHERE ha you been, Lord Randal, my son?
And where ha you been, my handsome young man?’
‘I ha been at the greenwood; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.’
‘An what met ye there, Lord Randal, my son?
An wha met you there, my handsome young man?’
‘O I met wi my true-love; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, an fain wad lie down.’
‘And what did she give you, Lord Randal, my son?
And what did she give you, my handsome young man?’
‘Eels fried in a pan; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.’
‘And wha gat your leavins, Lord Randal, my son?
And wha gat your leavins, my handsom young man?’
‘My hawks and my hounds; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.’
and what becam of them, Lord Randal, my son?
And what becam of them, my handsome young man?’
‘They stretched their legs out an died; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m wearied wi huntin, and fain wad lie down.’
‘O I fear you are poisoned, Lord Randal, my son!
I fear you are poisoned, my handsome young man!’
‘O yes, I am poisoned; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’
‘What d’ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?’
‘Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’
‘What d’ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?’
‘My gold and my silver; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, an I fain wad lie down.’
‘What d’ye leave to your brother, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your brother, my handsome young man?’
‘My houses and my lands; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’
‘What d’ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?’
‘I leave her hell and fire; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

Can you grasp the essence of the story from the rhythm and from some key-words?
Is it a sad or happy story?
Who are the people involved in the story?

Now read the text carefully with the help of your teacher. Ask him/her about any difficult or “strange” words (the teacher may decide to point out that the language of this ballad is Scots English so some words are spelled differently and some expressions are non-standard in British English. Students might be surprised to hear that soon rhymes with down!

With the help of the teacher – who should now feed in some information to clear some hazy parts of the text – students should be able to tell the story behind the song.


As the story doesn’t say anything about the reasons behind the cold-blood murder of the protagonist at the hand of his “true love”, students should be encouraged to provide their own explanations.

Imagine that the girl has been arrested and found guilty of her lover’s murder. Students write the letter in which she confesses the crime and explain why she killed her lover.


Features of the ballad

A ballad is a folk song that tells a story with stress on the crucial situation, tells it by letting the action unfold itself in event and speech, and tells it objectively with little comment or intrusion of personal bias.

The definition above points out the main characteristics of the ballad. A ballad is transmitted orally - It’s a narrative in verse - it is made to be sung. The story focuses on a single episode (the past is implied rather darkly or even ignored). In other words it tells the story in terms of its crucial incident. The action interprets itself with minimum of comment and descriptive setting. The story is a highly compressed and centralised episode. The story is told dramatically mostly through direct speech. Nothing matters except the action. It presents action and represents it. A ballad lets the facts, dramatically presented, speak for themselves. Moreover a traditional ballad is characterised by dramatic impersonality. The ballad maker treats the subject (often universal themes like love, death, revenge, sometimes historical episodes) with objectivity no matter how personally involved he might have been (as in the case of the so-called borders ballads, dealing with the tragic consequences of the conflicts between English and Scots). As a rule, the events furnish their own commentary.

As to its artistic value we can state that traditional ballads are a form of art developed among people whose training was oral and not visual. The people who made ballads and sang them did not commit their art to the written page and relied on their memory to transmit it to the following generations and so did the people who enjoyed them for centuries.

The narration proceeds mainly through co-ordination, which is more characteristic of speech than of writing. Repetition is used to increase the memorability of the text. in Lord Randall incremental repetition is extensively used, that is the repetition of a previous line or lines with a slight variation which advances the story by small additions.

The obvious implication of the process: oral transmission shaped the ballads and altered it so that we have so many different versions.

British and European ballads: Ballads have been circulated over wide areas. Their origins cannot be accurately determined. Versions of Lord Randall, for instance, have been found as far east as Hungary, as far north as Scotland and Sweden and as far south as Calabria in Italy. In the Scottish version the mother questions the son who has come back to her mortally ill after having eaten what he thought were eels but were more probably snakes. As the dialogue progresses we discover the horrid truth. In the European versions the actors of the story may vary but the events are basically the same.

Ballads are to be viewed as manifestations of a culture common to European folk as a whole.

Ballads feature intensity of passion, justice of feeling and they show no subtlety of emotions, no delicacy of perceptions. The emphasis is usually on the adventures of one or more individuals. In Lord Randall unfaithfulness and treachery lurk in the background. The mistress poisons her lover for some reason we do non learn.

Form of the ballad: simple and regular. Each stanza has four lines which rhyme abcb or abcc. The stress pattern tends to vary.

Now read the following ballad that comes from the area around Reggio Emilia and Parma. Students are invited to find the similarities between the Italian and the Scottish ballad.

Il testamento dell’avvelenato

Dove t’è sté ier sira, figliol mio Rico?
Dove t’è sté ier sira cavaliere gentile?
Sun sté da me sorela, mama la mia mama.
Sun sté da me sorela che il mio cuore sta male.
Che t’ha dato da cena , figliol mio Rico?
Un’anguillina arrosto mama la mia mama.
Che perta è sté la tua, figliol mio Rico?
La testa e non la coda, mama la mia mama.
Dove te l’ha condita, figliol mio Rico?
In un piattino d’oro, mama la mia mama.
Andèe a ciamer al prete, mama la mia mama.
Sin vot mai fèr dal prete, figliol mio Rico?
Mi devo confessare, mama la mia mama.
M’avete avvelenato e il mio cuore sta male.

Loosely translated into English:

The Will of the Poisoned Man

Where were you yesterday evening, my son Rico?
Where were you yesterday evening, my noble knight?
I went to see my sister, mother my mother
I went to see my sister because my heart is sick
What did she serve you for dinner, my son Rico'?
A tiny roast eel mother my mother
Which part did you have, my son Rico?
The head and not the tail, mother my mother
How did she serve it, my son Rico?
On a golden plate, mother my mother
Go and call the priest, mother my mother
Whatever do you need o priest for, noble knight?
I must make my confession, mother my mother
You have poisoned me, and my heart is sick.



Let me take you back to your school years for a moment. Who was your favourite teacher? "The old" soldier-like Maths teacher who was very strict in the class or "the young", friendly Literature teacher who was always open to all kinds of ideas, even to the extreme ones. I can hear you screaming the answer. “The latter one”

There are a lot of views regarding education and its purposes. If our goal is only to produce good students who will study to pass the exams, learn what they have to learn without exploring all the other possibilities and cause no problems to us, then it won’t be a difficult issue to educate them. If, however, our goal is to produce well-rounded, cultured gentlemen and ladies who are open minded and capable of solving the problems they faced in the real life and to make the things they learned during their education at school meaningful, then the means of education will be much more complicated.

In this context, it seems really hard to decide which method/theory is better to apply. There are 2 different ways of thinking on the education; Traditional or Modern Methods? Both sides of the issue tend to fling mud on the other side. So, traditional and modern concepts can be seen as opposite because of misunderstanding and misconception, then which of the two assessing methods would be most efficient to give our students a better education?

Modern, progressive education sometimes causes our denying or ignoring the souls of the students. Our students study not to learn something new but to pass the exams. The brain, thus, works as a sort of computer that stores data only, but if we ignore the souls of children and so remove love from education, what do we get – modern, progressive, dumbing-down education in which the students have the fear of failure. Because of this pressure they may feel desperate and it’s a well-known-fact that when the students feel secure they become more successful.

On the other hand, traditional ways of teaching have a lot of handicaps. The teachers generally shoulders too much of responsibilities for teaching in the classroom to make sure everything they taught were understood by the students. There is a typical way and controllable class where the teacher will teach on the blackboard, explain, ask students to copy and make sure students pay attention and listen. In this kind of education, the teacher becomes the centre of classroom interactions, and the students can’t play an active role. Instead of being the dominating authority in the classroom, the teacher should facilitate the communicative process among the students. Any unnecessary intervention on the teacher’s part may prevent learners from becoming involved in the activities and thus hinder the development of their communicative skills.

If children shared only similar physical and emotional characteristics and expectations, it would be easy to motivate them and one method would be enough may be, but we are aware of the differences among our students and modern education has a goal to fulfill the individual needs, interests and capacities of the students.

In order to cultivate students’ innovation and learning effects, a variety of teaching methods should be applied to inspire and guide students involved in learning process. With the help of modern educational technology, the traditional lecture style and across-the-board teaching methods have been changed to individualized teaching methods and the closed classrooms are opening now.

In this context, Comenius project is a big opportunity for us to give our students a better education because the students will be able to communicate without the fear of failure. Peter Sacks’ “Sandbox Experiment” is a good example for this situation. He, as a teacher, thought that if he made the classroom similar to a playground, the students would become more willing to participate in the teaching-learning activities. Sacks stated “I’ll call class the “sandbox” and we will play all kinds of games and just have fun. He called this “The Sandbox Experiment”. He also had an approach that he called ‘Collaborative Approach’ where he didn’t act as he knew more than the students.

For the students who are learning English in a non-English-speaking country, there is a little chance for them to learn an acceptable form of English outside the classroom. In language teaching, it is important to provide opportunities for our students to engage in real-life communication in the target language, otherwise it won’t be meaningful for them to learn or speak English. The comenius project will give the teachers and students this chance, they will also have a really big “sandbox” to play in, learn something new, meet new people and share their ideas without the fear of getting low marks.

It is clear that modern education technology changed people’s traditional education idea. It changed the single teacher and student relationship in the past into relationship of teacher and student, student and teaching resources, student to student and the change of education elements became a positive contributing factor to the development of education itself. However, it mustn’t be forgotten that modernization process in education is a result of countless experiences. As human mind evolves, his perceptions, approaches and reactions evolve on many areas too. So it is very natural to notice many changes on teaching and learning methods, starting with the antiquity, reaching to our very day. To give our students better education, instead of separating the old ways from the contemporary ones, we should mix traditional and modern values in teaching by getting the best sides of them.



Target: students of 14 years of age –first year of high school –who do not live in the town center.

  • understanding and giving directions, learning specific nouns and the use of the imperative and the Present Tense;
  • taking notes , how to make questions.

Method of working: In group .

Location: Town centre of Reggio Emilia .

During my teaching career, I 've realized that teaching by playing is a method usually very successful and motivating for students. It's easy to understand that they prefer learning in an amusing situation and in a more relaxing atmosphere rather than in their own class, at their desk, listening to a lesson. I admit that it is not always possible to take them out of school because of the daily school routine, the school rules etc. but I suggest that you do this from time to time, when possible. Some time ago, I had some difficulties getting my students to remember specific names (geographical names) and to learn prepositions and the use of some tenses. For this reason I decided to help them overcome their difficulties by playing a game that's like the "Treasure –Hunting"game. First of all, I created a large number cards for each group with clues, questions to reply to, instructions to follow etc. on them. I kept one card for each group and then I hid the others in a variety of places in town. I contacted people in town and gave them instructions to follow when the kids would to ask for some information from them. Then I split my class into 5 groups of 4 people, none of whom were living in the center of town . I took the kids to the town centre and there I picked up a referee for each group who had the duty to coordinate the group and to record all the steps done and information obtained and if requested ( on the card) the questions made or the replies they got. I gave them a deadline and when I said "please let's go " ,they started to read the only card they had and to solve the clue .The clue asked them to take some action or to move towards a specific direction or to follow some instructions … If they responded accurately they would find the second card containing the new set of requirements. The group who completed all the steps with accuracy:

  1. followed all instructions given ( objective=following directions) ;
  2. understood the orders (objective=imperative) ;
  3. wrote down sentences containing correct vocabulary and grammatical point (present tense and names ) ;
  4. asked the prompted questions etc .

That group would win!