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 has always had re-build activities based on letters, words, sentences and randomly split sections of text, but until now, there was no way of specifying chunks. 

Follow the instructions below to set up reconstruction activities based on your own user-specified chunks:

Step 1: 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.)

Step 2: ###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.

A Trapdoor activity is a multiple choice activity where students click their way through the options to (re-)build the text. It is called Trapdoor because if they get a section wrong, they fall through the trapdoor and they have to start again.

Two types of Trapdoor activity: Random & Fixed (Update November 2017)

1. Traditional Trapdoor : Random or "guessing game" mode:

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 when played in the default random (guessing game) mode. 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".)

Traditional (guessing game) Trapdoor works best with short, simple texts, consisting essentially of a series of substitution tables, 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 at the bottom of this post - a French "guessing game" trapdoor activity with 8 traps.

2. Fixed or "original text" mode:

In "original text" mode, the game is essentially the same as above, except that the correct answers are ALWAYS the options that come from your original text. This makes the activity a sort of sudden-death gap-fill activity with multiple options, rather than a guessing game, and it tests students' recall of the original text.

Creating "traps" in the text:

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. (Click and drag to select 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, if making a traditional "guessing game" Trapdoor activity, 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. 


1. Random / guessing game:

A short French text. All answers are equally valid. Students guess their way through the text.

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.

2. Fixed / original text:

The same French text as above, but this time there is only one correct answer for each option. The others are grammatically incorrect or misspelt.

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.

Additional thoughts...

Trapdoor in "guessing game" mode 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.

In "original text" mode, however, you can choose to make activities where the "wrong" answers are either grammatically or factually incorrect, or which simply deviate from the information in the original text.

Also, in "original text" mode, you have the option of a Trapdoor-translation activity, with the L1 as a parallel text! In "guessing game" mode this is not possible because the "correct" text is different each time. See the screenshot below of a "trapdoor-translation" activity:

(And here is a link to the above activity.)

Let us know what you think.


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!"


See also:

Exploiting texts

This is a step-by-step user-guide which demonstrates how simple it is to exploit a text with textivate.

Each of the steps below has an ">>> our resource so far" link at the bottom. Simply click this to see what the textivate resource would look like if you followed the instructions in each step. 

Note that many of the steps are optional: a text-based resource is in fact ready to be used after step 2. (It just needs to be uploaded, which isn't mentioned in this post). The optional extras (steps 4+) add all sorts of extra features to your text resource, such as vocab activities, text-to-speech, parallel text, etc.

1. Create a new resource

Click on the New Resource icon to clear the contents of all of the text boxes before you start.

>>> Our resource so far: empty home page

2. Click the Text tab and type or paste in a text

You can type or paste in any text of up to 500 words.

There are various sources of texts:

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

...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. 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


Access textivate free this weekend (free student access)


Want to try out textivate this weekend? (until Sunday 23rd April 2017)

Go to and click the "Log in / subscribe" button. Select "Log in" and enter the following:

Username: temporary

Password: [leave this empty]

Student password: student1234

This will give you the equivalent of student access to textivate. With this you can:

  • Put your own texts / matching items into textivate and try out the activities that are automatically created based on them.
  • Add data into the extras tab to add video / audio / image / parallel text, as well as text to speech.
  • Save your texts in local storage via local storage icon (the filing cabinet).
  • Try out the ready-made French resources on "Textivate Plus" (see link on the textivate home page).
  • Browse the thousands of resources available via the search icon (the spyglass).

You will not be able to do any of the following (which require teacher access):

Check out the textivate user guides for more info about what textivate can do and how you can do it:


How to make vocab resources with a production / output focus

Vocab resources with an output focus ask the question "how do you say ...?" rather than "what does ... mean?"

The focus is on students' productive skills (speaking, writing) rather than on receptive skills (listening, reading), so they are more challenging for students.

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

  • The matching items are in the order L1 >>> L2
    This means that the L1 item will be presented first, with students being required to say how that L1 word or phrase is said in the target language.

  • No text-to-speech
    Since adding L2 text to speech would make many of the activities much easier, turning them into dictation-type activities rather than "how do you say" activities.

  • Several mainly input-focused activities have been removed
    Snap because this is more about recognition;
    Shuffle, Switch, Click Match, Memory because these are not really output-focused;
    Hangman because this does not ask the question "how do you say ...?"
    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, daily routine, perfect tense

N.B. The most output focused activities are:

  • the Letters activities (Vowels, Consonants, 50:50, Initials, No letters, Anagrams) - which require students to spell the words, with varying levels of support;
  • Invaders, Snake and Maze - which require selective letter filling in game formats;
  • Flashcards - which does not require any writing / spelling, but tests students recall. ( Note that different levels of support can be provided via the "clue" selector at the bottom left.)


Why not set a Challenge each week based on this sort of resource? You could award prizes (according to your school's reward system) for the highest scorers, and you could require all students to score a specified minimum number of points each week (1000? 5000? -- bear in mind that the Letters activities score many more points than the simple matching activities, and Flashcards scores next to nothing because students assess themselves). 

Doing this sort of thing regularly should make a big impact on your students' ability to produce core vocab and expressions.

(See this blog post about Challenges on textivate)


Related posts:

How to make match resources with a receptive focus

How to make vocab resources with a receptive focus - good for GCSE R/L revision

Vocab resources with a receptive (or input) focus ask the question "what does ... mean?" rather than "how do you say ...?"

The focus is on students' receptive skills (listening, reading) rather than on productive skills (speaking, writing), so they are less challenging for students. We want to know what they can understand rather than what they can produce themselves.

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

  • The matching items are listed in the order L2 >>> L1
    This means that the target language item will be presented first, with students tasked with understanding the meaning (and looking for it in L1).

  • Text-to-speech has been added to the L2
    Provided that students make sure that TTS is turned on (which they can do on the activity screens), they will hear as well as see the target language word or phrase. TTS is added to the resource via the "Extras" tab. See this blog post all about TTS on textivate.

  • All output-focused activities have been removed
    This means that all of the activities present the L2 and test students understanding of the L2 word or phrase with reference to the L1. None of the activities require the student to spell anything, or work on re-building words in the L1. See this blog post about excluding particular activities from the textivate menu.
    To exclude all of the output-focused activities, simply select all of the activities listed on the bottom 2 rows in the "Extras" tab, as shown in the image below:

Here is a link to the resource shown above: GCSE French environment - RECEPTIVE


Why not set a Challenge each week based on this sort of resource? You could award prizes (according to your school's reward system) for the highest scorers, and you could require all students to score a specified minimum number of points each week (1000???). Doing this sort of thing regularly should make an impact on your students' receptive understanding of key vocab.

(See this blog post about Challenges on textivate)


Related posts:

How to make match resources with an output focus