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.

:0)


Circling questions (just trying something out...)

Just trying something out: activities based on TPRS-style "circling" questions. What do you think? The plan is to make a tool that can help teachers to generate circling questions based on their text, that can be used in the ways shown here. The image (above) includes a parallel text. The circling questions appear in a specific order.

>> Try it here <<

Or try it below as an embedded activity. It's based on this text:

Hay un chico. El chico se llama Juanito. A Juanito le gustan los gatos. Juanito no tiene gato, pero quiere un gato. Quiere un gato rojo.

Click below to access the activity. (Opens in a new window on touch devices.)
Click here to open the above activity in a new window.

Or how about as a football game with random-order questions? (would only work for a short text such as this one...)

>> Try it here <<

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Working with written texts... (inspired by TLTT)

I've just been reading through chapter 10 of the excellent "The Language Teacher Toolkit" by Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti (available here). 

The chapter is called "Working with written texts" and it gives a list of 30 or so different types of activities that can be done with written texts. As I read through the list it occurred to me that many of the activities listed can be automated and can therefore be delivered via textivate. I thought I'd put together some examples :)

The sections below are: 1. Listen and read; 2. Jigsaw reading; 3. Parallel texts; 4. Find the French; 5. Synonyms; 6. Definitions; 7. Question forming; 8. Completing sentences; 9. True, false, not mentioned; 10. Matching tasks; 11. Multiple-choice questions; 12. "Wh" questions; 13. Gap-filling; 14. Changing the point of view; 15. Translation; 16. Dictation; + Other activities.

Working with chunks :)

It was suggested to me recently that it would be really good if textivate could provide text re-build activities based on chunks specified by the teacher. The rationale behind this is that it is better for students to work with words grouped in meaningful chunks rather than in isolation or in randomly generated segments.

Textivate already has re-build activities based on letters, words, sentences and randomly split sections of text, but it occurred to me that there was no way of specifying chunks. 

But then I realised that this actually could already be done, as explained below.

Specifying chunks by line break

If you separate your text into chunks using line breaks as shown in the image above, textivate treats it in the same way as it would treat any text formatted in this way, such as a song or a poem. It treats each new line as a separate section or sentence. So if you then choose the "split by sentence" (rather than by word) option on those activities that have this feature, you sort of end up with what we are looking for: re-build activities based on the teacher-specified chunks of text.

BUT doing this alone has the following drawbacks:

  • Text-to-speech (if used) reads each chunk separately, so there is no way of making activities where a whole sentence is read out and students piece the chunks together based on what they hear.
  • The re-constructed text also appears on separate lines in this way, which is not really ideal... (And the same applies to all of the gap-fill and letters activities.)

Solution?: ###chunked###

Add ###chunked### to the top of your text (as shown above).

This instructs textivate to chunk your text only for those "split by sentence" activities. Note that it removes ALL line breaks from the text, assuming that all line breaks are in fact chunk-separators. Note also that double line breaks are kept in the text, so if you really want your text to appear as paragraphs, simply hit the return key twice between paragraphs.

AND it makes sure that text-to-speech ignores the line breaks too.

The result...

See the embedded examples below.

Manage classes and students for individual student log-ins and sequences which can be completed on multiple devices

The shared student password:

As explained in this blog post, students have always been able to log in to textivate using their teacher's username plus a shared student password. This allowed them to take part in Challenges, Sequences, etc.

One downside of this approach was that a Sequence had to be completed on the same device on which it was started. So a student who didn't finish a Sequence in class time would not be able to finish it at home (unless they took the device they used in class home with them...).

Also, because students were only required to identify themselves at the end of a Sequence, this meant that Sequence scores were only ever submitted for fully completed sequences.

NEW Individual student passwords:

If you click on the "Manage students / classes" icon (as shown in the image above), you'll see a screen which displays a list of all of your classes. You won't have any at first, so just click on the "+ New class" button...

New optional text activity: Trapdoor :)

If you open a text resource or type in some text in the text tab on the textivate edit screen, you'll see a new "Trapdoor" button. Click this to add a Trapdoor activity to your resource.

Many language teachers will be familiar with Trapdoor as an activity done in class using a text with several multiple choice options, such that many different versions of the text can be created by selecting from the multiple choice options. In class, this is typically played as follows:

  1. The teacher selects a route through the text, making a note of his / her selected options.
  2. Students take turns to read the text, guessing at the options chosen by the teacher, and they continue until they make a wrong guess, at which point they fall through the trapdoor. It is then another student's turn to start again from the beginning, remembering the progress so far.
  3. The activity requires students to listen carefully, paying close attention to which answers are correct and which are wrong. It is also good speaking (at least pronunciation) practice. 

On textivate Trapdoor is similar. It is essentially a guessing game and a memory game combined. Students have to guess their way through a series of equally valid multiple choice options to rebuild a text. If they guess correctly, they proceed to the next option. BUT if they make a wrong guess, they fall through the Trapdoor, which means that they have to start again, remembering their progress so far as well as where they went wrong. They keep on playing until they reach the end of the text.

Each time textivate loads a Trapdoor activity, it picks a different random route through the multiple choice options that you have specified. (So it's important that all options are equally "correct".)

Select words in the text on the Trapdoor edit screen to create traps. Traps appear as ||-underlined-|| on the Trapdoor edit screen (and with ||-these symbols-|| around them on the textivate edit screen). Your traps can be based on single words or multiple words. 

Once you have made a trap, click on it to add your options (see image above). You need to add 1, 2 or 3 options. Remember that all options must be equally valid, because textivate selects a random route through your options each time the Trapdoor activity loads.

You need to have a minimum of 3 traps (each with 1 - 3 options) for your Trapdoor activity to be made available. 

Trapdoor works best with short, simple texts, where most of the text has been turned into traps, preferably with no more than 10 or so traps in total. See the embedded example below - a French trapdoor activity with 8 traps.

Click below to access the activity. (Opens in a new window on touch devices.)
Click here to open the above activity in a new window.

Trapdoor does not require students to make judgments based on correctness of grammar or vocabulary. It provides lots of repeated exposure to a simple, short text, and it tests students' memory.

Let us know what you think.

:o)

New search functionality, plus views and likes

Several small updates and improvements:

  • New search resource type options:
    We've added to the search parameters to include "all with text" (which includes text AND text+match resources) and "all with match" (which includes match AND text+match resources).
    This means it is now possible to search through all resources that have a text, rather than doing a text search and a text+match search separately. Similarly with vocab / matching resources.

  • New search order options:
    We've added views and likes to the search by options. These search by most viewed and most liked respectively. (And then by most recent.)

  • Views and likes:
    We've started counting views and likes.
    Likes are based on logged-in users clicking on the "favourite" icon for a resource.
    Views are based on a resource being accessed by any user. (Repeat views with a 15 minute period are not counted.)
    Users can search by most liked and most viewed. Numbers for views and likes will also appear in the resource info for all resources, accessible via the +i icon, as well as in the Public and My resources lists.
    (Clearly, views and likes are not retrospective. All counts started on 16th May 2017.)

  • Recent and Favourite resources increased to 100:
    Previously, we only stored info for the 10 most recent / favourite resources. We've increased it to 100.


Set and enforce your own team names for scoreboard challenges

New feature as of May 2017

Normally, students are prompted to type in their own "scoreboard names" when they take part in a textivate scoreboard challenge, and they also have the option of using the same scoreboard names so that they can compete together in teams.

(A scoreboard challenge is a way for students to compete individually or in teams, scoring points by completing all sorts of reading, text-reconstruction and vocab activities. See this blog post for more info.)

A recent addition was the facility to select from one of the existing scoreboard names, which makes it easier to return to a challenge on a different device or to join an existing team, without fear of spelling the name wrongly, as explained in this blog post.

What we've now added is a way for the teacher to set the team names. And students can only log in to a challenge using the team names specified by the teacher.

The image above shows the "new challenge" pane. There's now a section at the bottom which you can use to specify the team names that you want your students to use.

Simply type in your team names, separated by a semi-colon ;

If you leave it blank, students can use whichever team name or individual name they like. But if you include two or more semi-colon-separated team names, those names will be enforced, and students will have to pick a team from a dropdown menu, as demonstrated in the image at the top of this post.

Here's an example for you to try: >> French, daily routine, past tense (passé composé) <<

N.B. You can edit your existing challenges and add team names. But note that any scoreboard data that you have not deleted will still be visible on the scoreboard. You can delete scores in the usual way, via the challenge scoreboard page.

Why team challenges?

One of the benefits of a team competition is that all team members can feel that they are contributing to the overall team score, even if they, personally, are not the brightest and would quickly lose heart if they saw that their scores were very low while other students in the class were racing ahead. This would work particularly well if you set up "vertical" teams, where every team has a range of ability, and preferably equal numbers. (Having said that, allowing for varying numbers of team members might also be a good way of redressing the balance between groups of students with different abilities.)

This new feature even makes it possible to set up inter-class competitions!

Here's a quote from a user of textivate (a TPRS teacher) commenting on team challenges on facebook:

"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!"

:0)

See also:

Configuring match resources based on sentence halves

The key thing to remember when making matching resources based on matching sentence halves is that the matches should be exclusive - i.e. you should make sure that there is only one sentence end that could possibly go with each sentence starter. It's no good making a resource based on the following data:

Je fais partie d'un club >> de foot
Je fais partie d'un club >> de tennis
Je fais partie d'un club >> de rugby
etc...

...because any of the ends can match perfectly well with any of the starters.

Instead, you need to do this sort of thing:

Je fais partie d'un club de >> foot
Je fais partie d'un club >> de tennis
Je fais partie d'un >> club de rugby
etc.

...so that each match is exclusive.

The screen image above shows a textivate Match resource which has the following characteristics:

  • The matching items are all in L2...
    ...with the first half of the sentence on the left and the second half on the right.
  • No text-to-speech
    Since for most activities TTS would only apply to either the first part or the second part of each match, it's best not to use it at all.
  • Several mostly production focused activities have been removed
    Flashcards, because it would essentially end up as a guessing game for this sort of content;
    All of the memory activities, for the same reason;
    All of the "letters" activities, for the same reason, and because our focus here is on matching the 2 halves, not filling in the last half;
    Hangman, because it doesn't present the first half of the match, so it wouldn't make sense with this content;
    Snake, because I think it's too difficult with this content... (Having said that, I've left in Maze and Invaders because I feel they are more do-able and the letter clues help students to complete the phrases -- best attempted later on in the learning sequence).
    See this blog post about excluding particular activities from the textivate menu.
    The image below shows the activities which have been excluded (via the "Extras" tab):

Here is a link to the resource shown above: >>> French: Je fais partie... <<<

Related posts:

How to make a match resource with an input (understanding) focus

How to make a match resource with a production / output focus

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