Modern Storytelling & Pop Culture Studies

Many Zulama courses study pop culture: Modern Storytelling examines Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Almost Famous, among other shows. Games Through the Ages examines cultures and the games they played throughout history, including in recent times. And so on. Does the study of pop culture have academic merit? What do you think? Do you teach pop culture? If so, let us know!

When Pop Culture & Academia Collide

Make Textual Information “Come Alive”!

36 Tools for Digitising your ELT Course Book

A great set of resources for both Zulama course authors and teachers from Nik Peachey:

Vocabulary Development

Wordle Get students thinking about the vocabulary from the texts they are studying.
Wordnik Get students finding out more about words and creating their own word lists.
FlickRiver Brainstorm topics using visual to stimulate vocabulary and existing knowledge.

Going Beyond Word Level Students can hypothesize and check collocations.
PhraseUp Students can find out words that are commonly used together.


Forvo Get students to do pronunciation research and find out about other accents.
HowJsay Get students to explore word stress and find related words.

Making example sentences and texts more interesting

Flickr Poet Students can make visual records of sentences or illustrate short poems or paragraphs.
Phrasr Create visual slide shows of sentences or short texts.
Transl8it Students can translate example sentences to text speak and keep them as a record. They can build up text speak dialogues.
PhoTransEdit Students can translate text to phonetic script and keep their example sentences or short texts in phonetics

Going beyond sentence level

Telescopic text Show students how to add detail to sentences and they can examine sentence structure. they can also practice adding detail to their own sentences.

Developing receptive skills

WallWisher Create receptive skills work which draws on varied sources and different types of media.
Simply Box Create reading tasks that exploit multiple texts and get students to collect their own selections of texts.
Twurdy Find texts based around key topics for lower levels far more easily.
Tag Bulb Students can explore multiple sources and media types based on a theme.

Checking comprehension

Urtak Create yes no receptive skills tasks and students can compare their answers with others. You can get students thinking about discussion topics. You can get students creating polls.
Intervue Me Get students to answers comprehension questions verbally using video. You can create discussion questionnaires for them.

Getting deeper into a text

Cue Prompter Develop students gist reading skills.
Cloze Test Creator Create instant interactive cloze test tasks.
Memorizenow You can create instant dialogue builds and gap fill activities that test students abilities to recognise word relationships.

Developing grammar through rough receptive skills

Bat Lyrics Find songs that link to key grammatical structures or lexis.
VYou Set up your own grammar q&A video booth. Get students to ask you questions.

Getting students practicing functional language

Dvolver Students can create dialogues. You can create short scenes that illustrate time relationships.
Makebelief Comics Students can create dialogues and link them to context.
Xtranormal Students can create dialogues or news reports or more complex animated scenes.

Developing students speaking skills

MailVu Students can send in reports and homework tasks verbally using video.
AudioBoo Record and publish audio directly from your classroom.

Controlled practice

Voxopop Create discussion tasks. You can set drills and get students to listen and record their responses.

Listening comprehension

Listen and Write Create your own listening activities for dictation or listening close tests.

Developing writing skills

Sync In Students can work on text collaboratively in real time.
Write or Die Students can write and focus on fluency and drafting ideas rather than accuracy.
Posterous Get students writing and publishing while integrating different media into their blogs.
Bookr Get students to write illustrated reports.

“Get to Know” Zulama course author Gary MacKay

Recently we asked Gary to share his story—what inspired him to become a teacher?!

I’m not sure there was a particular experience that moved me toward the teaching profession. It was a progressive dissatisfaction with the way I was being taught. I remember, in fact, that was the subject of a speech I had to give in an English class one year, and my suggestions were all in the realm of what we now call experiential learning. I was not without good teachers but they were relatively few. I just felt there was a better way; a more practical and, at the same time, more creative way to connect students to the skills and content of a given course.

If I’ve had a sense of accomplishment it generally comes at the graduation ceremony each year when a few students seek me out to thank me for being “more than” just a teacher to them. In some cases, I was never their teacher; I was the coach who didn’t cut them or the ear to their troubles or the guy who talked them out of drug use rather than rat them out.

I begin the course by asking them how they know what they know and continue to challenge their knowledge base throughout the course by placing them in real life roles that deal with getting at the truth of something in which they have some personal stake. I would like to think that, by the end of the course, they will realize that the “way” they know is as important as “what” they know.”

Gary is author of the course Media Fluency—The New Standard for Media Fluency.

In the course, students expand their writing abilities, fine-tune their research skills, and explore the limits of media presentations.

With the exponential growth of information in the 21st century and the increasing call for the necessary skills to process the information we are bombarded with every day, it is no longer sufficient to achieve media literacy. This course helps students achieve media fluency through an experiential model that places them in the roles of survey and investigative journalists as well as documentarians.

Beyond literacy is fluency. Fluency is the ability to practice literacy at the advanced levels required for sophisticated communication within social and workplace environments.

Contact us for information on how to enroll!

Zulama comments on Big Thinkers: James Paul Gee on Grading with Games

Interesting video, not new ideas, but a provocative re-packaging and timely commentary, sort of a generalized “state-of-the-union” for education.

Our takeaways:

  1. games push schools to provide students with hands-on, experiential learning
  2. games often provide information on-demand, and just-in-time
  3. kids produce, not simply consume
  4. social tools allow kids to form passion-communities. These are groups of like-minded people (or at least people interested in the same topic), and:
    •  are not age-graded
    •  anyone can be either a teacher or learner
    •  set high standards
  5. kids are accustomed to cross-media experiences and learning
  6. after Sputnik, the pressure was on and theU.S. educational system rose to the challenge. The global competition in today’s society is our new Sputnik challenge
  7. teachers shouldn’t be intimidated that they don’t know more [about technology] than kids. If they learn with kids, that can be great
  8. we need to make schools cool and sexy,  and value teachers and their professional work

Another unique course added to the Zulama catalog!

horrorHorror: Read It, Write It: If You Dare!!!

What makes a story seem scary? Is it the setting? The characters? Suspense?

Decide for yourself in this semester-long course—if you DARE!

Students read horror works written by the father of the horror story Edgar Allan Poe, as well as others by Shirley Jackson, Agatha Christie, HP Lovecraft, and Stephen King. By the end of the term, students will write their own horror story using the elements learned in the course.

Author Melissa Ragan is a former high school English teacher who likes to write and read – horror, of course!