Friday, February 29, 2008

Widgets, Gadgets, and other fun stuff

Look at the right side of this blog. Scroll down. Scroll up. Now click the picture above in order to make it bigger. Look at the picture. You can see some of the same things that you saw on the right side of this blog. These things are called widgets, or gadgets. There are three kinds of widgets: web widgets, desktop widgets and mobile widgets. You can read about web widgets on wikipedia in English and Japanese. You can read about desktop widgets in English and Korean. Mobile widgets are widgets that you can use on your mobile phone. Mobile phone is 携帯電話 in Japanese.

Look at the picture above again. The widget in the middle is the newest widget on this blog. This widget comes from a great blog called Image English. Image English is like a picture dictionary.

Look at the picture again. The widget next to the Image English widget is from a website called
Urban dictionary. It's a dictionary of slang. It's really useful for understanding pop, rap and hip hop songs, but be careful! Many of these words are NOT words that you should use in class, or in a conversation with your homestay family!

Look at the picture again. The widget above the Image English widget is from the English 4 Today podcast. This podcast is for advanced learners.

Look at the picture again. The widget in the top right corner is from Vocabulary Grapher Thesaurus. This is my favourite widget. Click the picture below to make it bigger.

This widget is great for learning more about words that you already know. For example, in the picture above, the keyword is "student". From the graph you can see that pupil is a synonym (同義語) of student. The Vocabulary Grapher Thesaurus is a very useful for TOEFL test preparation too.

Look at the first picture again. The widget in the bottom left corner is an mp3 player from a website called Finetune. You can use this widget to listen to music while you read this blog. If you click the arrow next to the star in the top left corner of the widget and then click "user profile" from the drop down menu, you can listen to some playlists that I have made.

Look at the right side of this blog again. Scroll down. There are two more widgets. These widgets come from two great teachers' blogs.

You can get the Image English widget and the Finetune Player widget from Springwidgets. You can get he Vocabulary Grapher Thesaurus widget and the English 4 Today podcast widget from Google Gadgets. You can get widgets from other places too including Yahoo widgets, Widgetbox, and Schoolhouse Widgets.

Finally, I want to tell you about a great widget called Sing that iTune. Sing that iTune finds and saves lyrics for the songs that you listen to in iTunes. It also finds and saves CD cover art. You can get it from Yahoo widgets or if your computer is a Macintosh you can get it from your Dashboard.

Please tell me about your favourite widgets.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Learning and teaching communities

Image made by D'Arcy Norman

I started this blog in January 2006. It began as a part of a community of bloggers at Kanto International High School. I am not a teacher at Kanto International High School anymore but some of Kanto International High School students and alumni still communicate with me through this blog. Also, my students at Toyo Gakuen University, Shibaura Institute of Technology and Takushoku University communicate with me and each other through this blog. Furthermore, teachers from other schools in Japan and in other countries communicate with me through this blog and various on-line communities including EFL CLassroom 2.0 and Classroom 2.0. Today I joined another community called MyBlogLog.
I hope everyone who visits this blog will join on-line communities and have a chance to communicate with people from all over the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More comics YOU can make!

I found another great website called Pixton. Pixton was created by someone in Vancouver, Canada. Please visit Pixton. You can make comics! It's easy!
I made a comic. This comic shows a typical Monday morning in one of my classes.

Click to see larger image

Click to see larger image

Click to see larger image

I hope you will make a comic. Please send me your comics. I will post them on my blog.

Note to teachers: Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for introducing me to Pixton through EFL Classroom 2.0.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Comics made by students and teachers

In my post called "You can make your own English comics", I introduced you to a website called My student Kenji made the comic below.

Click to see larger image

Kenji's comic made me smile. I think Kenji was thinking of the Toyo Gakuen Listening class when he made this comic.

My friend Paul Carr has also made some comics. Paul is a teacher at Sakuragaoka Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo, and he is the creator of ESLpodTV. He has started a new series using It's about English idioms. Please visit ESLpodTV. You can download a pdf textbook and learn more about the idioms shown in the comics.

Click to see larger image

Click to see larger image

I discovered another interesting website called Historic Tale Construction Kit. I found this website through another great website called Educational Origami.
I made the comic below using Historic Tale Construction Kit.

Click to see larger image

Try it. You'll like it. Send me your comics and I'll post them here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another Collage Celebrating Black History Month

I've made another collage to celebrate Black History Month this year. I made a collage last year. You can see last year's collage here.

The collage I've made this year has pictures of Nobel Prize winners.
The man in the top right hand corner is Sir William Arthur Lewis. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Below Sir William Arthur Lewis is Dr. Ralph J. Bunche. Dr. Bunche was the first Black person to win a Nobel Prize. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. In the top left hand corner is Albert John Luthuli. Luthuli won the Nobel Peace Prize too. The woman wearing blue clothes is also a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Her name is Wangari Maathai. Next to Wangari Maathai is Wole Soyinka. Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Above Wole Soyinka and to the left of Sir William Arthur Lewis is Derek Walcott. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature too. Finally, below Albert John Luthuli and beside Wangari Maathai is Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison is one of my favourite writers. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Carnival in Trinidad, Brazil and New Orleans

Photo by carf modified in photoshop


Carnivals are in full swing in many countries around the world now. The most famous carnivals are in Brazil, Trinidad, and New Orleans. The carnival in New Orleans is called "Mardi Gras". Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. It is usually the last day of a carnival. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. During Lent Catholics fast. The carnival is their opportunity to eat delicious food, sing and dance before they have to make their Lenten sacrifices. Fat Tuesday is called Pancake Tuesday in Canada because we eat pancakes on this day.

I have made a playlist of the great music that you can hear at a carnival.
Please click this link:

Here are some videos of the most famous carnivals.

Carnival in Trinidad

Carnival in Brazil

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shibaura Institute of Technology Global Issues 2 Assignment 2

The environment was one of the topics studied this year in the Global Issues 2 class at Shibaura Institute of Technology. Students read articles about the dangers of overfishing, fur trapping, animal and plant extinction, and garbage dumps. Following this the students were given a reading assignment. They were asked to choose between the two tasks, one based on an article about whaling in Japan, the other about the Tokyo Governor's plans to make Tokyo a greener city . Most of the students were unable to write a summary of the article they chose. One strategy they used was editing the actual article, cutting out the details and leaving in the main points. Clearly these students needed instruction on summary writing. The assignments are below, followed by the students' reports.

Option 1: Whaling

A Japanese school lunch including whale meat. Click the photo to see the large size. Photo by jmurawski

According to the BBC (
“Tokyo argues that whaling is an ancient Japanese tradition, and has pushed unsuccessfully at the International Whaling Commission to reverse the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. Environmentalists say Japan's research programme is a pretext (口実) for keeping the whaling industry alive.”

What do you think? Copy and paste the link above into your web browser. Read the BBC article. Do the following tasks:

1. Write a 50-word summary of the article. Be sure to include all the main points.
2. Write a 100-word paragraph explaining your position on the whale hunt.

Shingo's Report

I agree with the environmentalists who oppose Japanese whale hunting because I don’t know how Japan does scientific research on whales. I think that Japan doesn’t research whales earnestly. So, I think for Japan whale hunting is a business and not scientific research. If Japan doesn’t research whales actually, hunted whales are wasted. Another reason, I think Japanese whale hunting should be stopped is that that Japanese don’t eat whales. I have not eaten whales since I was born. I think most of Japanese people have not eaten whales. I think Japan should stop whale hunting and protect whales.

Yoshiaki's Report

I think if we decrease the number of whales, the whale hunt is not a bad thing. I think the number of whales killed in the Japanese whale hunt is very small despite foreign countries’ criticism.
The biggest cause of the decrease in whales was the indiscriminate fishing in order to make whales into fuel by Europe and America. I think if the present number of whales killed in the Japanese hunt doesn’t increase, the number of whales won’t be reduced. I don’t understand why people say “ Don’t hunt whales.”

Dan's Report

I have not eaten whale’s meat. So, I don’t know how delicious whale’s meat is. Also, I don’t know if whales are really near extinction. If that is true, whale hunting is not good but if it is not true whale hunting is not bad. Eating another animal is natural behavior. To live, meat-eating animals need another animal’s meat. It is a natural. So, no one should stop animal hunting. I wonder why Greenpeace wants to stop whale hunting. If the reason is that hunting whales isn’t good for whales, I think that is poor thinking.

Option 2: Greening Tokyo

A Tokyo municipal building's rooftop garden. Click to see large size.
Photo by

According to the policy speech by the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, at the First Regular Session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, 2007 (
“If one phrase were to describe Tokyo in ten years it would be, ‘Tokyo: a comfortable metropolis of clear skies and greenery.’ ”

What do you think? Copy and paste the link above into your web browser. Read the Tokyo Metropolitan Government article. Do the following tasks:
1. Write a 50-word summary of the article. Be sure to include all the main points.
2. Write a 100-word paragraph explaining your position on the policy.

Seiya's Report

1. Summary of the article

This article is about a policy speech of the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. He said he hopes to change Tokyo so that it is called the cleanest, and most vital city. He said Tokyo lacks green spaces, waterfront areas, road development, speedy traffic. He also said Tokyo is facing the environmental problems now. In his speech, he suggested some policies to solve these problems.

2. My opinion

To tell the truth, I don’t like him because things he does are too sudden, and selfish. But this time, I’m for his policies because they are very concrete and agreeable. Tokyo is one of the most advanced places in the world. But the air in Tokyo is stagnated and hot. Many vehicles emit dirty gases and make noises. I think Tokyo must look itself over again. In his speech, he wants to retain the scenery of the Edo period. I think we are should only look forward. So I’m for his policies which promote the speed of vehicles and make more green spaces very efficiently. I think his policies consider the present condition of Tokyo. They costs numerous amounts of money, but I believe they make us happy and make Tokyo a beautiful city.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Shibaura Institute of Technology: Another Global Issues Project

One of the topics studied in the Global Issues 2 class at Shibaura Institute of Technology this year was marriage traditions in various cultures. The students read articles about Botswana, Cretan, Jewish, and Chinese wedding traditions. Following the unit the students were given the research project below:

Marriage traditions in Japan: Omiai

Even today, some people in Japan have arranged marriages called omiai (お見合い). Some people don’t like arranged marriages because the couple doesn’t love each other, at least in the beginning. Some people think that arranged marriages are still a good idea because both men and women are very busy now and they don’t have a chance to meet a potential spouse. What do you think? Discover your feelings about omiai by doing the following tasks:

1. Write a brief explanation of omiai (100 words)
2. List the good points of omiai (at least 5)
3. List the bad points of omiai (at least 5)
4. Explain Konpa (コンパ) (50 words)
5. Explain your opinion of omiai. (150 words)

You can get information from:
Make reference to your textbook too – at least one reference.

Seiya's Report

1. What is Omiai?

Omiai is a method of making couples in Japan. Some people are too busy to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend. So they submit “tsurisyo” to a “nakoudo”. (“Tsurisyo” is like a resume. “Nakoudo” means matchmaker in English. Relatives or neighbors or company bosses usually serve as nakoudo.) The nakoudo exchanges tsurisyo with other nakoudo in order to search for a person who matches the client’s requests. If the person is found and the clients wish to meet each other, they meet with the nakoudo and pay money to him. If they marry, they pay money to him again.

Nowadays, omiai is done without nakoudo by means of internet. But sometimes this type of omiai leads to crimes because the web page can be seen by everyone.

2. Virtues of Omiai

1. Couples can be made without relying on chance.
2. People need not to search for a girl/boy friend by themselves.
3. People can meet and talk with many other people.
4. It can be done again and again until the best person is found.
5. Everyone can do omiai.

3. Faults of Omiai

1. It costs money.
2. It exposes personal information to many people.
3. Some people can hide their real faces at the omiai.
4. It has many traditional rules.
5. It takes a long time to begin companionship.

4. What is Konpa?

Konpa is a drink party held in order to make deep friendships in Japanese universities and companies. Members eat and drink and talk with each other. “Ikki-nomi” is popular at Konpa. Ikki-nomi is drinking a schooner (even a pitcher) of alcohol in one shot. It is a very dangerous performance.

5. My opinion of Omiai

I take the middle position regarding omiai. Omiai is a method of meeting for busy people or unlucky people who can’t meet potential companions. I think should everyone should have this chance. So I think omiai is okay. Also, it is a Japanese tradition! But I think omiai is a very risky method of marriage. Some people say that we really feel love for each other. But I think it is very rarely the case because couples are unable to really get to know each other through just a few conversations. Some people can hide their real faces and fake themselves. So if they marry, they will find faults in which they don’t expect in each other. I have heard they divorce due to this reason. In addition, omiai requires many traditional rules. If I love someone, I want to do it freely. Finally,I think omiai is okay but I don't want to marry by means of omiai.

Shingo's Report

A brief explanation of omiai.

Omiai is a marriage meeting. It is when a woman and a man hoping for marriage meet. It is mediated by a person called nakoudo. A high-quality hotel and restaurant are used for the place of omiai. Traditional omiai is performed with the courtesy of a ceremonial occasion. In recent years, a marriage information service companies offering nakoudo service have appeared probably because the persons in question can not readily reach marriage by leaving all this to others.

The good points of omiai.
  1. To know the career and the family relations of the partner beforehand, after association, the flow to the marriage is smooth.
  2. Application is possible.
  3. Both persons think about marriage seriously.
  4. If a person doesn’t like the other person, he or she can decline.
  5. There are very few troubles to marriage.

The bad points of omiai.

  1. It costs money.
  2. It takes a lot of time.
  3. It is troublesome.
  4. It is formal.
  5. It is difficult to come across an ideal partner.

My Opinion of omiai.

I think that omiai is necessary. Omiai is a tradition in Japan. If omiai perishes, Japanese tradition is decreased. I think that omiai is necessary for people hoping for marriage. Omiai is one of the tools that can be used in order to marry. Omiai is necessary so that many people marry.