TRAPDOOR TRANSLATION: Using Trapdoor in Textivate to make a multiple-choice translation rebuild activity

(Please scroll down to the bottom of the post to try the activity for yourself.)

This post refers to the optional text-based activity, Trapdoor, as introduced in this blog-post / user-guide:

The end result of this blog post also requires you to include a parallel text translation in the L1 (which may or may not be divided into "chunks" by adding vertical pipes as in the example shown). See this user-guide on parallel texts and how to add them to your resource:

The procedure...

1. So, start by creating a short text resource and adding a parallel text.

This activity works best (and is easier for you to set up) if you chunk your text, as explained in this blog post:
(Essentially, this involves putting each chunk on a separate line and adding ###chunked### as a new line at the top of the text.)

2. Next, click the Trapdoor button (as shown below):

You'll see your text appear in the Trapdoor text pane. 

3. Now, select each chunk, as defined by you -- if you have chunked your text into separate lines, simply select each line to make it into a Trapdoor "trap". After selecting all your traps, it should look similar to the image below:

4. Next, add the alternative translations for each trap, by clicking on the underlined text. You can add 1, 2 or 3 alternatives to each trap. The image below shows the trap options for trap 4:

5. Make sure you have checked the option "Game mode: Fixed (original text)" (which you can see in the image in 3 above). This tells textivate that only the original text is acceptable as the correct answer, as students have to select the version which matches with the translation in the parallel text.

6. Upload / Save changes to your resource, and that's it! 

The result...

You end up with a "sudden death" (i.e. students restart from the beginning if they go wrong) chunk-by-chunk translation activity, based on your own text, which should look something like this:

>>> Try the activity for yourself by clicking here <<<


BTW, and as an afterthought, you could of course do this activity the other way round, where students are reading a text in the L2 and choosing from a list of L1 chunks each time. The only downside to this is that the resource would not really be of any use for anything else, as the main text would be in the students' L1. Whereas with the version shown above, you still have all these other activities to go at...

Textivate Testimonials

The page contains an assortment of quotes from textivate users. Please feel free to contact textivate if you'd like to know the source of any of these quotes.

"Your site is the only one I know that reflects my ideas about language learning / acquisition."

"In an era when there are probably too many gimmicky uses of ICT in MFL, this is a package which will stand the test of time, provide a good mental challenge and support any language course you can imagine. It appeals to the teacher who values analysis in language learning, but also provides good comprehension material which you can grade to the needs of your class. Crucially, it is a super time saver, being quick and easy to use, even for any technophobe teachers. You can probably guess that I recommend it highly."

"What I like most about textivate is that you can add vocab alongside the texts so students can play in a wide of range of activities and games with a format such as a booking letter / email or an account of a holiday and then separately deal with say the key verbs in a specific tense. The vocab / verbs or whatever are highlighted in the text. Personally I think that is a pretty devastating combination."

"Creating computer based materials can be incredibly time consuming and also very frustrating as websites and web based content can change so quickly, that's why it is always so nice to discover tools like Textivate which can enable you to create instant interactivity using almost any text you find from around the web."

"This is a remarkable find, not only because it is indeed a useful tool, but in that it recapitulates a bygone era in CALL, that of text manipulation. [...] I think text manipulation is a venerable technique, and it's nice that virtually unlimited home-grown materials can now be only as far away as your browser."

"I LOVE Textivate! Textivate is a website that allows students to manipulate texts in various ways. And it’s SO easy to use. You paste in your text, hit “textivate” and you have 20+ activities ready made to give your students repetition in reading, but in interesting ways."

"Textivate is great tool when you would like students to review a story. This is obviously very relevant for my students learning a foreign language as repetition is key. Whenever we read or create a story, it is important to follow up on it with more practice and more repetition of the vocabulary structures that I want them to learn."

"Textivate is an amazing tool. If you have a story, all you need to do is copy and paste it into your textivate account and it automatically creates online games for students. They can put the story in order, fill in the blanks, matching, etc. It's a wonderful tool for review and a great time filler if you have a few extra minutes at the end of your lesson. Or, it can also be used to review a story from the day before or as a formative assessment. All around, its a great tool!"

"This is the best 2.0 tool for comprehensible input classrooms. I only say that because I can’t think of one that I like better. This is EASY for teachers and easy for students. It takes less than a minute to “Textivate” a text, and there are twenty-seven different activities that your students can complete while interacting with the text and getting reps and reps and reps and…."

"I LOVE textivate, and can't imagine teaching without it."

"I can whip up a new textivate in class while we are telling the story and have it ready to go as soon as we wrap up the story, now that I've been using it for a while. A HUGE time saver when you need sub plans in a crunch (assigned on google classroom, or printed out and ready to go!) or you finish early and suddenly have 10 minutes you didn't anticipate (whole class game projected on the smart board!)"

"Textivate is my favorite favorite favorite thing ever."

"I like the way it gets students thinking about sentence structure, parts of speech, and grammar without it being explicit."

"It really helps my students to write for mandated department testing."

"Textivate is the best, 100%"

"Textivate is amazing - it's hard to explain why, without writing paragraphs worth of things, but you should check out the blog."

"There's definitely a learning curve when trying to learn all of those features. It's a powerful tool once you learn its quirks. Check the user guides and examples in the Textivate blog."

"I am not a fan of most tech in the classroom. [...] That said, I do like using Textivate, which is a platform that allows you to upload stories (or whatever you use in your target language), and then have students do stuff with these activities. [...] I like Textivate because it involves students reading and processing meaning, it is relatively low-tech, it is simple and reliable, and kids don’t need accounts, apps etc (it is doable on a phone)."

"I love your site!  I teach 4-6th grades using TPRS in a private school in California, USA and think that what you have done is amazing for my students!"

"Thank you so much for all your work. Textivate remains the best and the best value language-learning resource available as far as I am concerned."

"I absolutely love Textivate and my students really enjoy it!"

"I love this site and the excellent customer service."

"My students LOVE Textivate and it is my 'go to' for sub days. Thanks for all you do!"

"I am the department chair for World Languages. We love your service!"

"I love Textivate and will use it a lot this year! Thanks for always making it even better!"

"Thanks for offering Textivate to the world. We love it."

"Textivate is fantastic! I, and my students, love it!"

"Thanks again! I love Textivate!!!"

"Thank you for such an excellent resource! I love using textivate for my students."

"First of all, I would like to thank It answers my need to do differentiation in classroom. The TTS of Chinese is 99% near native speaker. Just love it."

"I got a lot of mileage out of Textivate last year, at a point in my career when it was tough to push myself to do anything new. [...] I love the possibilities you've created for the tool, with all the thought and hard work you've poured into it!"

"I can't thank you enough for adding in the classroom piece to Textivate. So excited to try it out in the Fall. I don't think you realize how much Textivate gives me a platform to make my classroom more practical for student practice of personalized CI. Truly amazing. Thank you!"

"Textivate motivates even students with only 7 days of class instruction to want to read and write in Spanish like no other product I have seen."

"One of the many things that Tina (Hargaden) and Ben (Slavic) mention in their book ("A Natural Approach to Stories") is Textivate. I love Textivate! I have used it in the past as a way to review stories. I like it because it is easy differentiation and students can go at their own pace while reviewing stories."

"The challenge gets everyone engaged. We do it as teams. My classroom gets so quiet you can hear a pin drop and then there is raucous uproar when someone on a team dumps a chunk of points. The kids get so intense. It is a great wrap up activity after a story has been told and I've done everything I want to with actors and re-tells, etc. this is my final push and we end with a bang!"

LOVE textivate! Just type in your text and then create games for language practice. Good for working with music lyrics, too! You can allow students to decide how to play with the language or assign specific tasks / games. The subscription is worth every euro.

I hesitated for a long time, wondering whether or not it was worth it. I got a subscription this year and it was honestly a lifesaver.

It’s a brilliant resource, particularly if your school is keen to tick the box for tech - this is a really useful tool. I love Textivate!

I really rate [Textivate] as a productive use of simple tech for providing input and practice. So adaptable and easy to use.

I love Textivate! It's a great sub activity or can be used for a change of pace. It's also really easy to differentiate activities. I use it a lot to review a story, reading, or Movie Talk.


Some GCSE SPANISH translation resources...

The resources in this post were created based on texts taken from old GCSE Spanish papers, and which featured in a booklet uploaded to the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group by Kate Jones. Here they are presented in the same order that they appear in Kate's booklet.

The images below are clickable and will open the menu for each resource in a separate browser tab. 

Each resource provides access to loads of translation-like activities. Scroll down the menu and click on the "Letters" option to see some translation-like resources requiring students to type in the Spanish translation, with different levels of support.

1) AQA June 2012,  Question 4 – Relationships

2) AQA June 2014, Question 2 – Carlos and his family

3) AQA June 2011, Question 7 – Future plans

4) Edexcel June 2013, Question 4 – Manolito Gafotas

5) AQA January 2013, Question 9 – New technologies

6) AQA June 2013, Question 6 – Horror films

7) AQA June 2012, Question 10 – A music festival to celebrate the end of exams

8) Edexcel June 2014, Question 8 – Healthy living

9) Edexcel June 2011, Question 5 – A letter of complaint

10) Edexcel June 2011, Question 7 – A Spanish omelette-making competition

11) AQA June 2011, Question 9 – Victoria’s birthday

12) Edexcel June 2011, Question 4 – Alejandro’s birthday


For group subscriptions: sharing resources with group members

A new feature for those with Group subscriptions (23rd Feb 2018)...

Group members can view and easily access Public and Shareable resources uploaded by other members of their group, provided those resources have been shared with the group. 

This means that Group subscribers can finally share the work of resource creation and adapt materials already created by group members, without having to make their resources public!

You can access group resources by going to Search > My resources and then changing the selector from "just me" to "group". You can also search by group member, by tags, by search terms etc.

To share a resource with other group members, simply select the "Share with group" option (see below) when you upload a resource.

You can edit your existing resources by going to Search > My resources and clicking the "Edit tags + resource type" button for each resource. On the pop-up screen, simply select the "Share with group" option (see below) and then save the changes.

You can also create challenges based on shared group resources, by changing the selector at the top to "Group resources". (See below)

Resources shared with the group still belong to the original group member, and only s/he can make changes to the original resource. If you want to modify anything in a resource that has been shared by another group member, you will need to upload the resource as a new resource, which essentially makes a copy of the original. Once you have ownership of the resource, you can change it in any way you like.

The "textivate>>" button

The "textivate>>" button is where the magic happens :0)

You can click on it at any time to have a look at the range of activities that are available based on the information (text, matching items, parallel texts etc) that is in the tabs and text boxes on the textivate home page.

Simply click the "textivate>>" button (the one at the bottom right) and textivate will take you to a menu screen, like the one below:

From the menu screen, you can try out the many textivate activities using the activity menu bar on the left.

(Try it for your self: follow this link and click on the "textivate>>" button to see a menu screen based on a sample English text.)

Click on the "<<Back to textivate home page" button (at the bottom right) to go back to the home page, where you will be able to make changes to your resource, upload it, or start a new resource.

If you want to share your resource with others, such as your students, you'll need to upload it first. To do this, use the "Upload" icon (the up-arrow in the cloud) which appears beneath the text boxes.

If you want to make a new resource, click on the "New resource" icon (the blank page), which also appears beneath the text boxes. Clicking this removes all of the information from the text boxes and tabs on the home page, leaving you with a clean slate.

For LOTS more info about using textivate's many powerful features, have a look at our user guides. (Of which this is one.):


Not-quite translation: transforming L1 notes to L2 text

Today I read a blog post on the Language Teacher Toolkit blog by Steve Smith entitled "Google Translate beaters". 

(Here is a link to the blog post.

In it, Steve suggests a translation activity based on providing students with an L1 and L2 text, each with different words missing. (Think 2-part information gap, but with each text in a different language). The gaps in each text are dashed to indicate the number of letters required, so only the correct translation will fit. Steve suggests this as a way of providing 2-way translation which, because of the chopped up nature of each text and the dashed gaps, is practically impossible to complete using translation tools such as Google Translate. An excellent activity! :o)

Translation in textivate works in a similar way to Steve's example because it specifies the letter gaps to be completed. i.e. it will only accept the pre-defined translation. This makes it difficult to google translate because GT will only work as long as the GT translation matches the pre-defined L2 text provided by the teacher.

Textivate translation into the L2 is a useful activity to push students to practise particular language; particular words, chunks and expressions that we think they should be able to say / write. However, it occurred to me that we could make the activity slightly more challenging and even less google-translatable by providing L1 notes rather than the "Full English" (as it were...).

See the image at the top of this post for an example of this.

For this sort of activity to be successful, ideally we should make sure our resource complies with the following:

  • the L1 notes should be easy to understand
  • the L1 notes should be as close as possible to the order of the L2 text
  • the L2 text should consist of precisely the language items that your students should be familiar with, having been exposed to them consistently in prior lessons / teaching

Provided the above conditions are met, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to use a whole range of translation-like tasks (such as many of those suggested in this blog post) with various levels of difficulty, using L1 notes as the stimulus rather than a full English L1 text.

If you can make the L1 notes include abbreviations etc that GT will not be able to translate, even better!

Try "no letters" (as shown above): no letters resources with 1 in 2 words affected

Try "jumbled words": put the words of each sentence in order

Try "next word": rebuild the text 3 words at a time

Try "no vowels": fill in all of the vowels

Try "no consonants": fill in all of the consonants

Try "initials": only initial letters are shown

Try "anagrams": 1 in 2 words affected

Try "space": click to insert the spaces in the text

Try "tiles 4x4": put the blocks of text in the correct order

Go the menu: from here you can try out all sorts of other activities


Textivate now served via https (secure site access)

At the end of December 2017 we migrated textivate to new servers, and the site is now also served via https only. 

The pros

The benefits of this are:

  • Secure log-in
  • You can now embed textivate activities on other sites served via https. (Over the latter half of 2017 many sites became available via https only, which meant that they could not display content served via the unsecure http protocol.)

The cons

Well, there shouldn't really be any, to be honest. Video embeds now need to be via an https url, but textivate will automatically convert all of your old urls.

The only thing that has come to our attention after a couple of weeks of the new site being live is an issue with locally stored resources. Read on...

Local Storage

If you are someone who had resources stored locally as part of your browser's local storage (via the filing cabinet icon on textivate), you will see that, following the change to https, none of your locally stored resources appear when you click the filing cabinet icon.

Here is a solution to that problem:

Using the computer and browser on which you have textivate resources locally stored, go to the page linked below. It will automatically transfer your locally saved resources to https and make them available again via the new textivate site:

N.B.: The page should show one of 2 things:

  1. a list all of your resources in text boxes, with a message at the top confirming that your resources have been transferred; or
  2. a message saying that no locally stored textivate resources were found

If you have any problems, please get in touch via the contact form on the textivate website.


Create Challenges based on Textivate Plus resources

Somebody said it would be nice if they could make Challenges based on Textivate Plus resources. So we added that functionality :)

(What is Textivate Plus? See here.)

The vast majority of Textivate Plus resources are in French at the moment, and are primarily aimed at UK KS3 and KS4.

Note that Textivate Plus resources require a textivate log-in. With this in mind, you may want to make any challenge based on Textivate Plus resources require a password.
(It doesn't really matter whether or not you do this though, to be honest. If they aren't logged in when they land on a Textivate Plus resource, they will be asked to log in anyway.)

Hope you find this a useful addition.


(By the way, you can already make Sequences based on Textivate Plus resources, using the process described in this blog post.)

Parameters for Challenges :)

If you edit an existing Challenge or click to add a new Challenge, you can now set some parameters for the activities within your Challenge.

("What's a Challenge?" you ask? -- see here.)


This affects the Tiles, Horizontal, Gap-fill text activities and the Shuffle match activity, and determines whether or not textivate checks answers as soon as tiles or gaps are dropped into place.
The default setting is "On".
(The default for existing challenges is "not specified".)

Split text by...

This affects the following text activities: Tiles, Horizontal, Multi-choice, Million.
Split by word count means that the words in the text are split into roughly evenly sized chunks.
Split by sentences / chunks means that, where possible, text chunks will be based on sentences and/or line breaks.
The default setting is "not specified".
(The default for existing challenges is "not specified".)

Show word list for gap-fill

This affects the 2 gap-fill activities: random and user-defined.
The default setting is "Yes" (i.e. word list is shown).
(The default for existing challenges is "not specified".)

Order of Match items

This affects the match activities: Multi-match, Jumble, and the Letters activities, and it determines whether or not the items are shown in random order or in their original order.
The default setting is "Random".
(The default for existing challenges is "not specified".)

Switch match order for Letter activities

This affects the match activities: Jumble, Letters, Hangman, Invaders, Snake and Maze.
Our recommendations are:
For match resources with items ordered L1>L2, set this to "No".
For match resources with items ordered L2>L1, set this to "Yes".
This prevents students scoring lots of points on these activities simply by typing in English (L1) words.
(There is also the option to set this to "Do not specify", but this is not recommended.)
The default setting is "No".
(The default for existing challenges is "No".)


Check out the Challenge on the link below, which is set up in the following way:

  • Autocheck on: so all tile activities etc will check scores automatically.
  • Split text by sentences / chunks: this is particularly useful for the resource included in this Challenge, which has been "chunked" as described in this blog post.
  • Show word list for gap-fill = yes: so words can be dragged and dropped into position.
  • Order of match items = random: so each match activity will run through the items in a different order.
  • Switch match order for Letters etc = yes: this is because this resource has matching items listed as L2>L1. By choosing this option, we get the best of both worlds -- matching activities with a comprehension focus and writing activities with an output focus.


Hope you find this a useful addition to Challenges :0)

Dual-language parallel texts for vocab-in-context activities

Just something I was playing around with today, sort of based on this idea on "Using mini dual texts to present vocab in context in MFL lessons" from the TaskMagic blog.

I thought it would be nice to make both the L2 and the L1 text available at the same time as a parallel text along with vocab activities, as a way of drawing students' attention to how the sentences break down (and, conversely, how the chunks of meaning are fitted together to make sentences).

I'm not entirely sure if the end result is worth the effort. What do you think?

>> Here is the 1 in 10 vocab activity shown in the image above << Here, I've fine-tuned the URL so that the vocab appears in the same order as in the text, making it much easier for students.

Or how about the same thing, but where students need to type in the French, as in the image below?

Here are some live examples. You can specify whether the vocab questions appear in random order or in the original order. Original order is much easier as students simply work their way through the parallel text without having to search each time. The examples below use the original order.

>> Fill in the vowels <<

>> Fill in the consonants <<

>> 50:50 (half the letters missing) <<

>> Initials as clues <<

>> No letters, just word shapes <<

>> Anagrams <<


The 1 in 10 activity plus any one of the above would make for a good flipped sequence.