19 ways to use Textivate to teach vocab

What is Textivate? In their own words:

“Textivate generates a wide range of interactive activities based on your own text and / or matching items.” To really make the most of its features, you need to buy a subscription, which is very reasonably priced, starting at £25 p/a. The huge range of features on offer makes Textivate a great investment for your planning…

For introducing new vocab chunks

N.B. If you’re not sure why you should teach vocab in chunks, check out these posts from Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti:


1. Flashcard oral repetition
As I explained in my Quizlet blog, using ‘flashcards’ can be a good way to do some choral repetition, modelling pronunciation. Clare Seccombe of changing-phase.blogsplot.com and Steve Smith of frenchteachernet.blogspot.com both offer different ways of making this activity quite fun…
varying the repetition
saying the word in different ways
alternating between different groups in the class, rows, boys, girls, individuals
shouting (!) etc.  

Managed well and done in small doses, it can be a great intro to new words. To avoid any guesswork or ambiguity, switch the top and bottom flashcard for students to see the English first (a little bit à la Michaela School).

2. 1 in 3 match as a class
Similar to the above, except you offer three L2 options to choose from, which gets them to analyse the TL phrase more closely. Give students a few seconds to discuss in pairs and then cold-call / hands up. Alternatively, do it in silence on mini whiteboards. To make it more challenging and give the students some more input to process, show the L1 answer first, and then read the three TL items slowly.

3. Dominoes or matching cards
A bit more prep required, so I tend to reserve this for teaching smaller groups like sixth form classes. Print and cut out a set of dominoes or matching cards and students match them on the table.
Again, chunks of vocab are beneficial here rather than individual words, as students can use language they recognise to help work out the matches, rather than random guessing!

4. A basic matching sheet
One of my go-to lesson starters. I love using a matching sheet with good chunks so that students can find clues in the sentences to make the matches. Go to ‘swuffle’ on the Textivate matching menu and print. Exploit this activity further by doing some reading aloud and choral repetition to drill pronunciation, or a ‘vocab hunt’ – write a list of English words on the board that appear in the sheet – students find the TL version!

5. Oral matching task
Oral equivalent to the above – save on printing and get them speaking. Select ‘swuffle’ on the matching menu, give students a moment to look at the board and go through the items aloud in pairs, then check answers afterwards with hands up / cold-calling.

6. A gapped vocab-list
One of my favourites as well, as it can encourage more thorough processing than a simple matching sheet – they have to actually read each word to work out which word is gapped. Paste your chunks list into the Text section rather than match, separating L1 from TL with a symbol like =. Textivate allows you to select the words to be gapped, so choose carefully in your TL column (or you could even do a mixture of gaps in both languages). See below:

For practising listening

7. Conti-style sentence puzzles
Use the ‘jumble’ feature in match to create a worksheet a bit like Gianfranco Conti’s sentence puzzles (covered in this blog post https://gianfrancoconti.com/2018/07/30/patterns-first-how-i-teach-lexicogrammar-part-1/). Students see the L1 translation, followed by a jumbled-up version of the TL. Read out the correct TL version whilst students carefully listen and note the correct order of the sentence, having to recognise each word in front of them and focus on spelling as they write it down. This is a great one for modelling complex grammatical structures where word order can be challenging eg. perfect tense in French, partitive articles with nouns or use of different object pronouns.

8. ‘This or that’ listening with L1 flashcards
A low-prep, short and snappy activities for consolidating vocab that students have just seen. (You could also do it with the Quizlet method)
a) Go to ‘flashcards’ and make sure the L1 flashcard appears on top.
b) Give two options orally in the TL eg. ‘il y a beaucoup de’ ou ‘il y a trop de’ ?
c) Students note the correct option / repeat it back to you, however you prefer.
I like this one because it requires pupils to listen to both options carefully and therefore gives them input as well as requiring output – you can make it harder by giving three options, or even four if it’s a really able group.

9. Missing vowels / consonants / 50:50 dictation
Found under the ‘missing letters’ option in the matching menu, it’s a great way to practise certain sounds. It’s best as a consolidation exercise when students have seen the words a few times, but can also work well to introduce new vocab if it’s a language where there aren’t too many different spellings for the same sound (good for Spanish, could be trickier for French!)

For retrieval practice

10. Missing letters worksheet
As above, except instead of listening, give a missing letters sheet as a plenary or starter the following lesson for students to practise recall and spelling.

11. Oral initials task
Similar to the above, an excellent plenary/starter to recall prior learning. Use the ‘initials’ option in the missing letters activity.

For word order and meaning in context

12. Jumble worksheet
It’s up to you whether to include the L1 translation on your jumble sheet by creating it from the match menu. That way, the activity can serve as a scaffolded translation. If you remove L1 by creating it through the Text menu instead, students have to identify the sentence meaning and then reorder it – both great for reinforcing word order and processing vocab in context.

13. Gap-fill
You can either create a ‘user-defined’ gap-fill, allowing you to choose the vocab or grammar point you want students to practise, or do a ‘random’ one to practise a mixture of everything in the text. I find this activity is best done as a worksheet, but can work when projected on the board in the Textivate page and done orally / on mini whiteboards, provided the text is fairly short.

Independent tasks for students to do on devices or homework

14. Challenges or sequences
For this, you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium membership, at around £50 p/a. You can set challenges or sequences of activities such as matching, jumble, gap-fill, hangman etc. which students can complete on a computer using their logins – a great way to get them recycling the language for their homework, or a low-prep idea for part of a lesson if you have the luxury of a language lab / computer room / iPads / BYOD policy.

15. Trapdoor, Invaders, Snake, 3 in a row etc.
There are several great games that can be played as an individual rather than a whole class, so you can add these to a sequence for homework or during a lesson – they find the games extremely motivational, and doing several games with the same text or matching pairs is an effective way to ensure thorough recycling.

My favourite end-of-lesson ‘games’ using Textivate:

16. The countdown game
My students get so excited for this little plenary game. I use the Windows split-screen mode, a Youtube window with Countdown clock on one side (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JVwo3D72cc) and a Textivate window on the other. I go to an activity like ‘multi match’ / ‘jumble’ / ‘missing letters’. When I start the clock, one team has 30 seconds to answer as many of the questions correctly as possible. As soon as they shout the correct answer, I click it and it goes onto the next one. I note on the board how many they got in 30 seconds, and we repeat with another team. You can vary this by making teams rotate answers around the team if not everyone is participating actively. You could also give each team ‘lives’ and they lose a life if they shout an incorrect answer.

17. Football
Another one students go crazy for… it can be done with a text or a set of matching items. Split the class in half, one half are the blues and the other are the reds. When they have the ball, they answer the questions aloud. You click the answer they said and they get to pass the ball / shoot.

18. Hangman
A great retrieval exercise. Simply tell the students the phrase will be one of the ones from today’s lesson and get them to call out TL letters until someone gets the answer. Could also work in teams!

19. Snap
‘Snap’ is one of the built-in activities in the matching section. Either play it without awarding scores just for the fun of it, or get teams to go head to head and see which team can shout snap first when there’s a snap. Of course, you deduct points from teams who say snap when there isn’t one!

If that’s not enough, I should also mention that there are MANY other awesome features of Textivate that I have not covered in this article, such as use of Trap door activities, listening comprehension and parallel texts, which you may be interested in if you like the Knowledge Organiser parallel text method. These would all require an entire blog post each, so I recommend consulting Textivate’s user guides for more info on these. http://textivate.posthaven.com/user-guides-1

Please comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts on Textivate, my suggestions or other ways in which you exploit this great tool.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy learning about 9 uses of Quizlet for MFL


McColl, Hilary (2000) Modern Languages for All. Abingdon: Routledge.

Smith, Steve (2017) Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Abingdon: Routledge.


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