Featured

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:
https://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-curse-of-single-word-vocab-learning.html

https://gianfrancoconti.com/2017/05/21/why-you-should-ditch-word-lists-and-traditional-grammar-rules/

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
whispering
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

References:

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

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

Featured

9 ways to use Quizlet in MFL teaching

9 ways to use Quizlet in MFL teaching

Before we jump in, here is a brief intro to Quizlet which you can skip over if you’re already well acquainted with it…

What is Quizlet?

Quizlet is a popular website and app for any device to access and practise ‘study sets’ on ‘every conceivable subject and topic’ (https://quizlet.com/en-gb/mission) It already has 50 million monthly learners. It is often used for independent study as a revision resource, or can be used in class with the game ‘Quizlet Live’. Its activities allow MFL students to practise spelling, listening and reading in a range of different ways. Most words and phrases that you will be teaching in your language are already uploaded to Quizlet with audio! You can find many ready-made vocab lists on their, or upload your own (which can be done VERY speedily – see below!).

Should I use the free version or pay for ‘Quizlet Teacher’?

Personally, I think you can do so much without buying a subscription – you can do 8 out of the 9 of the activities mentioned on this post using the free version. One big advantage of the paid version is that it allows your students to ‘join’ their ‘class’, where you can track their progress.

How can I put my vocab lists on Quizlet?

The quickest way is to use the ‘import’ tool on Quizlet when you create a study set. Open the document on your computer that contains your vocab list, select all, copy and paste into Quizlet. You can adjust which symbol represents the space between the two languages on your list, depending on how your document is formatted, to ensure it copies it in correctly. If you don’t have a list to hand, you can very quickly make one by inserting two-column table in a word doc, typing in the items, then copying and pasting into Quizlet. You can find YouTube tutorials if you need further help.

9 ways to use Quizlet in MFL

1. Matching worksheets / multiple-choice worksheets
A classic matching worksheet can be a great lesson starter to settle students and introduce a new set of vocab in chunks.
Read about the benefits teaching vocab in chunks here:
https://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-curse-of-single-word-vocab-learning.html
https://gianfrancoconti.com/2017/05/21/why-you-should-ditch-word-lists-and-traditional-grammar-rules/
To make one, go to your chosen study set –> test –> print test –> change the options to tick matching items only or multiple-choice if you prefer.
Exploit this activity further by doing some reading aloud with choral repetition to drill pronunciation, or do a ‘vocab hunt’ – a list of English words on the board that students need to find in the TL on the sheet.



2. Flashcard oral repetition
Once you’ve created a study set, use the ‘flashcards’ tool 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 fun:
varying the repetition
saying the word in different ways
different groups in the class repeating – rows, boys, girls, individuals
whispering
shouting (!)
etc.
Managed well and done in small doses, it can be a great intro to new words. To avoid guesswork or ambiguity, switch the top and bottom flashcard for students to see the English first (a little bit à la Michaela School). Turn off audio and use your own voice to model pronunciation, otherwise it can sound a bit robotic, and you also have to listen to the English voice!



3. ‘THIS OR THAT?’ listening with L1 flashcards
One of my favourite short and snappy activities for consolidating vocab that students have just seen.
a) Go to ‘flashcards’ and make sure the L1 flashcard is appearing on top (you can use the options button to adjust this)
b) Give two options orally in the TL with a slight pause between them
eg. if the phrase on the card is ‘there is a shopping centre’, you’d say ‘il y a un centre commercial…? ou il y a un stade?
c) Students note down 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 some 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. Again, turn the audio off when you do this one and use your own voice!



4. Vocab tests
Not only does Quizlet help students study for vocab tests, but you can also create and print the test on Quizlet. Go to:
study set –> test –> print test.
Adjust the options depending on whether you want L1 to TL or TL to L1.



5. Setting homework
If you pay for Quizlet Teacher, you can set your students homework tasks, for example, ‘complete learn, speller and match for the set regular verbs’. You can check student progress, which will tell you which students completed the task, how long it took, and their scores, as well as general data on which vocab items they struggled with the most and which they did best in.

6. Pre-teaching vocab for listening/reading
As Conti and Smith have emphasised in their blogs and their latest bestseller ‘Breaking the sound barrier: teaching language learners how to listen’, listening extracts and texts should contain a very high percentage (around 90% or 95%) of comprehensible input if they are going to be a productive activity for your students. You can therefore look at the text or extract to be used in class, pick out vocab they will need to learn beforehand, and upload it to Quizlet. Then you could do one of the following options:

a) Send students the link to the study set and they study it for their homework (flipped learning model) – if you have Quizlet Teacher, you can check they have done this, or if you don’t, give them a mini-test at the start of the next lesson.

b) If you have the luxury of a languages lab/computer room/iPads/BYOD policy, you can send students the the link at the start of the lesson and they can spend 10-15 minutes practising the vocab before you begin. It’s handy if they can also have headphones for this so they can listen, too. They love playing ‘gravity’ and ‘match’.

7. Quizlet Live
Students absolutely LOVE this game and it works well as a plenary activity. It’s a race against other teams to answer all the vocab questions correctly, as the leaderboard on the screen shows them who is winning. It also teaches them to be careful as if they get one wrong, they go back to zero. At the end, you also get to see which vocab items pupils struggled with – helpful data for future planning!

8. Gravity / Match plenary games
Who doesn’t love a good game to test students’ progress from the lesson? You can easily turn Gravity or Match into a whole-class game or a team game – use your mouse scroller and the ctrl key to zoom in sufficiently so the class can see the vocab clearly enough on the projector. You can either bring up individual students to be in charge of the mouse and select students to give them the answer, and encourage the class to try and beat their high score. Or, make it into a competition and have two teams take turns to call out answers and see who can get the best score.



9. Independent study / revision materials
This is undoubtedly one of the best things about Quizlet. You can create several different folders and classes, which means you can basically have all the language you want them to know on Quizlet. You can then ensure that students can access your resources during weekends/evenings/holidays by sharing the class link with them, so they can use Quizlet for revision or independent study. Students no longer have an excuse to not do it – they have everything they need at their fingertips, provided they have a phone or device with internet that they can access at home.

If that isn’t enough, Quizlet also provide various posts of their own about how to make use of the site…

Games:

https://quizlet.com/blog/classroom-game-idea-match-relays

https://quizlet.com/blog/5-fun-easy-ways-to-adapt-quizlet-live

https://quizlet.com/blog/classroom-game-idea-quizlet-quest

MFL ideas:

https://quizlet.com/blog/teacher-to-teacher-five-ways-to-use-quizlet-in-the-language-classroom

https://quizlet.com/blog/quizlet-live-four-activities-for-speaking-and-listening-practice

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this post helpful. Please comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts or offer any other ways in which you use Quizlet!

If you love time-saving tech tools that engage your students like Quizlet, you may also be interested in learning about ways to use Textivate to teach vocab.

4 subscription sites for MFL teaching that are worth every penny

Not only are the following sites great for student engagement, but each of them is, in my humble opinion, well thought-out for language learning. Each one incorporates a multi-skill approach that can be a very effective way to complement your classroom teaching. They can greatly reduce prep time, and in some cases, there is no marking because the computer does it for you! From the perspective of a teacher in the UK, the following sites are best adapted to KS3 and KS4 (ages 11-16), with the exception of Textivate, which can also be used for higher levels of language learning.

Please note that the prices indicated and the features mentioned may have changed since the time of writing, so you’re best checking each of the websites for the most up-to-date info!

1. Textivate

Teacher or student access: Teacher only on Basic account, student logins on Premium

What it’s for: creating worksheets and short, snappy interactive activities based on a text or a vocab list

Cost p/a: £25 for Basic, £50 for Premium, £120 for Group

Website: www.textivate.com

I honestly do not know where I would be if I hadn’t found Textivate. So much of my planning begins with this website. Two of its best uses are 1) making worksheets and 2) creating short, snappy, interactive activities on the projector in class, both of which require very little preparation. It has a hugely comprehensive Textivate ‘blog’ with extensive user guides on all its amazing features – I’m probably only making use of about 50% of it right now and it’s still amazing. Below are some of my favourite uses for it:

a) Making a matching worksheet

b) Gap-fill worksheets

c) Missing letters worksheets

d) Jumble worksheets

e) All of the above but as paperless, oral activities to do on the board

f) Fun games such as snap, football, invaders, snake

g) Create sequences of activities for pupils to do individually and track progress

You can read more about these on this post: 19 ways to use Textivate to teach MFL. You can also check out the Textivate blog http://textivate.posthaven.com

2. Language Nut

Teacher or student access: Both

What it’s for: games and activities for learning vocab through all four skills, exam practice, grammar practice

Cost p/a: £595 per language

Website: www.languagenut.com

Languagenut is a very engaging MFL website and app that has been designed for secondary language learning and prepare for KS3, KS4, GCSE exams and others. I tend to use it either for homework tasks or for a session in the computer room in the second lesson of a double. It has a wide range of features, but the ones I have found most valuable so far are:

a) Differentiated exam-style questions (8,000)

b) A GCSE/IGCSE revision section for Foundation and Higher, tailored to the different major exam boards (AQA, Edexcel, Cambridge)

c) Differentiated ‘vocab trainer’ exercises on all major GCSE topics, that allow students to practise the vocab through all four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking

d) Grammar section that teaches verbs in chunks/short sentences rather than just conjugations in a vacuum. Covers lots of tenses, major verbs and other grammar points

e) Leaderboards and a variety of different award systems and ‘unlockable achievements’ to motivate students

f) Sentence building tool to practise word order and collocations

g) The possibility to create your own vocab lists (with audio) to add to the vocab trainer

h) Ability to create classes, add students, assign tasks, check if students have completed the work and track progress – provides you with useful data.

One advantage of Languagenut that sets it aside from other sites is the fact you can incorporate loads of listening into the learning of vocab. As Conti and Smith have highlighted in their blogs and bestselling books (gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com and https://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com), learning vocab through listening is essential, and textbooks don’t tend to provide the resources for extensive recycling of vocab through the aural medium. On Languagenut, pupils can play games like Snap, Noughts & Crosses, Word Pop and Multiple Choice to practise recognising different words and phrases aurally. I haven’t yet tried the ‘speaking’ function, but this is also a big USP of this site, as saying vocab aloud helps to embed vocab in phonological memory and can’t always be done extensively in lessons. Another benefit of Languagenut is that I have found the customer service team to be extremely responsive and helpful whenever you’re having issues. You can also book a demo to help decide if it’s for you. They are frequently updating the site with new features to provide the best possible experience based on customer feedback.

3. This is language

Teacher or student access: Teacher access only on the most basic subscription, £2.40 per student to add student logins
What it’s for: listening videos to do on the computer from native speakers with differentiated tasks, grammar activities and worksheets
Cost p/a: £300 for 1 language, £489 for 2, £540 for 3 and £600 for 4. FREE UNTIL JUNE DUE TO CORONAVIRUS.
Website: www.thisislanguage.com

Thisislanguage provides unique and valuable listening experiences to your students in that the material is all authentic – this prepares them for real, authentic, unscripted language, which students can find motivational. The videos fit into common GCSE topics and have rigorous exercises. Here are its main features:

a) Videos interviewing native speakers spanning most major GCSE topics, accompanied by a set of four interactive exercises, each increasing in difficulty (Jigsaw, Video Vocab, Gap-fill and Comprehension)

b) Ability to do the above on the computer OR print a worksheet for pupils to complete at home using the video

c) Clear system of difficulty levels for each video

d) Vocab Trainer and Grammar trainer

e) Slightly wacky 2-minute grammar videos – an engaging way to introduce a new grammar point that doesn’t require student logins – simply play it on the classroom projector

f) Printable grammar worksheets

g) Ability to create classes, add students, assign tasks, check if students have completed the work and track progress – provides you with useful data

h) ‘Nutty Tilez’ vocab recall game – a realtime, multi-player game that students love

4. The Language Gym

Teacher or student access: Student access to self-marking activities and Teacher
What it’s for: verb conjugations, grammar practice and vocab-learning.
Cost p/a: £100 for an individual teacher and 120 students or £200 for 15 teachers and 800 students
Website: https://www.language-gym.com/
https://www.language-gym.com/about

This site is the brainchild of Dr Gianfranco Conti. If you’re familiar with Conti’s work which I’ve referenced in previous posts, you’ll know that every technique and activity is designed with sound research in mind about memory and second language acquisition. Vocab-learning and verb-conjugation activities are varied and target all the different aspects of what it means to ‘know’ a word or chunk. I think the gamification of verb conjugation and vocab-learning makes it a great tool for less able learners, but also the excellent range of vocabulary makes it well suited to the high achievers in your groups as well. The students can be set assignments or ‘live’ games to compete against each other. You can also print any of the ‘work-outs’ as worksheets. The site will soon be adding a listening section and a huge teacher library of downloadable worksheets authored by Conti and co-writers.



And two FREE bonus ones…

Quizlet  https://quizlet.com/latest
Quizlet may offer a subscription called ‘Quizlet Teacher’, but you can actually already do a lot with the free version. Here I offer some of the best Quizlet features for MFL teaching.

Languages Online https://www.languagesonline.org.uk/
I actually remember using this site when I was in Year 8… but it’s still fantastic for its grammar drills and gap-fills, practising verbs in context. On top of this, you can find lots of vocab activities on a variety of topics. It’s great for GCSE level but also has some reading comprehension and grammar that are well adapted to A-level standard. Languages online now also offers a separate subscription site called ‘Languages Online Extra’ where you can assign homework or classwork to students, track progress and reward good work.

Do you have any recommendations for subscription sites or any thoughts in response to this post? Leave a comment below! The next one on my radar is Teachvid, which has been launched by the creators of Textivate, have a look at www.teachvid.com

Useful websites for listening materials

As a teacher of French and Spanish, I can recommend the following sites that I have found useful – they offer a mixture of intermediate and advanced level listening practice. Some provide comprehension activities or transcripts. Some are also subscription sites but they offer a certain number of free activities. They can be used:

1. To find appropriate audio extracts around which to create a comprehension worksheet or online quiz adapted to your students’ needs

2. To recommend links to students for independent listening practice eg. during revision season

Please add your own suggestions to the comments section!

FRENCH

Apprendre – TV5 Monde

To Learn French – dialogues

To Learn French – dictations

Le Point du FLE

French Resources

Lawless French

French Kwiziq

EasyFrench YouTube Channel

Lyrics Training

Audio Lingua

Coffee Break French Podcast

Ilini

1 jour 1 actu

Linguo TV

News in slow French

SPANISH

Conjuguemos Tube

Ver Taal

Spanish Kwiziq

Spanish Listening

EasySpanish YouTube Channel

Spanish Pod 101

Gritty Spanish

Lyrics Training

Lingq Spanish

News in slow Spanish

123 Teach Me

Notes in Spanish

Spanish Proficiency Exercises

Speechling

Radio Lingua


Please add any of your own recommendations in the comments below. Thank you for reading!