Text-to-Speech (TTS) on textivate :0)

Something new has appeared in the "Extras" tab on textivate...

We've added some new Text-To-Speech (TTS) functionality (using a third-party API from responsivevoice.com). It should work on all devices. (See the "Compatibility" section at the foot of this post...)

As you can see in the image above, this new feature allows you to select a language for...

  • The main textivate text. (i.e. the one that is used for text activities)
  • The left and right matching items.
  • The parallel text. (if you have one)

Text-to-speech is optional. You can leave it off; or you can add languages to just the text; or to just the left match, or to just the right match (or to both matches); or to just the parallel text; or to everything.

If your students are using textivate to help them learn their own texts, they can also add TTS to their texts :)
(Although, as I'm sure you are aware, text-to-speech isn't always 100% perfect...)

TTS on the menu screen

If TTS languages have been specified for a resource, you should see little grey speakers appear after each paragraph of text and after each matching item.

Here is a link to the menu screen for the French resource examples provided below: http://www.textivate.com/menu-6ovjn1

N.B. If you are editing or creating a new resource, these will only appear if you are logged in to textivate. 

TTS on activity screens

If TTS has been added to a resource, TTS option boxes should appear on activity screens. (Obviously, if you have a text+match resource and you have only added TTS for the text, the TTS option boxes will only appear on the text activities...).

TTS is available on all but a handful of textivate screens. The ones that don't have it are: Hangman and SpeedRead. (Also, the "no keyboard" versions of some of the activities have no TTS enabled.)

TTS in sequences

If TTS languages have been added to a resource, you should see TTS option boxes for any activities that you add to a sequence (except for those that have no TTS available; see 'TTS on activity screens' above).

You can turn TTS on and off for specific activities within a sequence. Note also the new 'switched' / 'not switched' option (as shown in the above image) available for some of the match activities, which allows you to specify which way round the match items appear in the sequence activity.

TTS specified in URLs

If TTS languages have been added to a resource, you should have the option to fine-tune link urls, embed code etc, to include TTS specification. (except for those that have no TTS available; see 'TTS on activity screens' above).

See this blog post about fine-tuning activity URLs.

Some TTS examples

Things to consider when making a textivate sequence...

Please note that this post was written before the arrival of individual student passwords on textivate. These now make it possible for students to complete a sequence in multiple sessions on multiple devices. With this in mind, many of the considerations regarding time available, devices available etc are no longer so important. That said, many of the points below address other important issues related to sequences, so it is still definitely worth a read.

The "ideal" sequence?

People have asked for suggestions for the sorts of activity combinations they should use for sequences. 

The difficulty with this is that it depends on a lot of factors:

  1. whether it's a text resource, a matching resource, or both;
  2. the length of the text / number of matching items;
  3. how much exposure to the particular text students have already had -- how new it is to them;
  4. whether you want to use it for homework or for classwork;
  5. how long you expect to spend on the sequence (and if in class, the maximum time you have available for all students to complete the sequence);
  6. what devices your students will use to complete the sequence;
  7. what additional support you provide;
  8. what score you expect students to get (do you want a high pass grade, for example?)
  9. the level / ability of the students, etc, etc

Below I'll share some thoughts on some of the above (in no particular order). And in the second part of this post I'll make a couple of general suggestions for combinations of activities, and give a few examples.

(But please don't expect the "perfect" sequence. Too many variables, I'm afraid...)

Textivate terminology


A resource is a text entered into the "Text" tab, or a list of matching items added to the "Match" tab, or both of these.

A resource may or may not contain extra bits such as a parallel text, or a link to a video, an audio file or an image. It may or may not contain details of a sequence of activities (see below).

A resource is, essentially, the contents of the "Show all" tab on the textivate home page.

You upload this to textivate using the upload icon.

When you click on "textivate now" you go to a menu page for your resource, which has icons for lots of different activities (see the image below). If your students access the menu for your resource, they are free to choose from the activities and attempt them in any order.

If your resource is uploaded to textivate as a 'shareable' or 'public' resource, you can share a link to your resource either via the home page (edit screen) or the menu page, by clicking on the "Share" icon at the top-right. (This will provide a link to the home page or the menu page, depending on where you copy the link from.)

Activity / Textivity

Activities (A.K.A. textivities) are the many games and exercises that are (mostly) automatically generated by textivate based on your resource.

If your students have access to the menu page for a resource, they are free to choose from the activities and attempt them in any order.

If your resource is uploaded to textivate as a 'shareable' or 'public' resource, you can provide a direct link to any activity. To do this, go to the activity page and click on the "Share" icon at the top-right. (You can also embed activities on other web pages, blogs etc via the same "Share" icon.)


A sequence is an optional addition to a resource, added to the resource via the "Sequence" tab.

A sequence consists of a list of activities from your resource, with target scores and various other parameters set, and students have to complete the sequence of activities in the order specified.

At the end of a sequence, after completing all activities satisfactorily, students can upload their sequence scores to textivate so that their teacher has a record of the time taken, scores, repeats etc.

Sequences do not have a time limit, although sequence scores are only stored for 30 days.

If you want your students to access your sequence, you need to provide them with the sequence URL. First, make sure that the resource uploaded to textivate as a 'shareable' or 'public' resource. Then click on the "Share" icon at the top-right of the home page, the menu page, or any activity page; click the "Link to sequence" option, then copy the URL from the URL box and share this with your students.

(You can also get an embed code for your sequence via the "Share" icon on any of the activity pages.)

(Only Premium and Group subscribers can use sequences.)

See this blog post on sequences (and see the other related links at the bottom of that post) and this blog post on the differences between sequences and challenges.


A challenge is completely separate from your resources. (It is saved separately and is not part of an existing resource.)

A challenge is a scoreboard competition for individuals or teams based on one or more of your own resources.

When taking part in a challenge, students are free to choose from all of the activities on the menu page for your resource and they can attempt them as many times as they like and in any order. After completing each activity satisfactorily, points are added to the scoreboard. Students can go back and look at the scoreboard at any point to see how they are ranked.

You create challenges using the "Challenge" icon (the trophy) on the textivate home page.

Challenges have a time limit (5 mins to 30 days) and students can take part in them in class, at home, or wherever.

If you want your students to access your challenge, you need to provide them with the challenge URL. To do this, click on the "Challenge" icon on the home page, scroll down to the challenge that you want to share, then copy the URL from the URL box and share this with your students.

(Only Premium and Group subscribers can use challenges.)

See this blog post on challenges, and this blog post on the differences between sequences and challenges.

Textivate icon reference

New resource

On the home / edit page. Click this icon to clear the contents of all of the tabs on the home page before embarking on a new resource.


On the home / edit page. Once you have created your resource and are ready to upload it to the textivate server, click this icon to add the name of your resource, extra information, tags etc and upload it. You need to have a full (teacher) log-in in order to upload resources.

Local storage

Team Challenges

Have you tried a team challenge on textivate?

You can do this during class time or between classes, or from one week to the next. (Just make sure to set an appropriate end time for the challenge.)

It's dead easy to do. Simply create a challenge based on one or more of your resources, split the class into as many teams as you like, and tell each member of each team to use their team name as their "scoreboard name". In the example above I've rather unimaginatively used "Team 1" to "Team 4", but you can use whatever names you like -- just make sure the students type them in correctly...

What you end up with is a team challenge where students can return to the scoreboard between activities and see how well their team is doing. If you are doing this in class, you can set it up so that the scoreboard is on display on a projector or IWB, with auto-refresh turned on, so that the scoreboard automatically updates every 30 seconds or so. (You can only do this if you are logged in and the challenge was created by you.)

A challenge is a great way of encouraging students to re-read a text in lots of different ways, increasing their exposure to repetitions of core structures, vocabulary, etc, and it provides extrinsic motivation to engage in the many activities -- i.e. to score points and beat the other teams! 

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.)

Here's a link to the challenge featured in the image above. Why not join a team and contribute?


(BTW, if you feel that the text featured in the example above is not the sort of content you would like to expose your students to, well, that is not a problem -- you can make your challenge based on whatever text and / or vocab items you want to expose them to.)

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:

The Space Game

A simple team game, played ideally with a fairly short text.

In the example here (see image above and live example below) I have chosen to affect 1 in 3 spaces in the text (i.e. 2 in 3 spaces between words are already present) and students have 48 more spaces to find.

Divide the class into 2 teams and select a member from each team in turn to play.

The rules:

Discourse scrambles, via Bill Van Patten @teawithbvp

Bill Van Patten recently shared a link on the Tea With BVP website to a google doc (see below) on the topic of discourse scrambles.

Discourse scrambles are activities where you take a list of sentences or dialogue utterances, and students are required to put them into the correct order. According to Van Patten, "the language overall should be comprehensible in its original form, otherwise students cannot complete the task".

Van Patten goes on to explain the benefits of discourse scrambles:

The shared student password on textivate

What is the shared student password?

On textivate, when your subscription is set up, you are assigned just one student password shared by all of your students.

How do I get a shared student password?

If you have a Premium or Group subscription, you will already have a student password. It was sent to you as part of your account activation email.

If you have a Basic subscription, you don't get a student password.

How do I get individual student passwords?

Since July 2017, if you have a Premium or Group subscription, you have a "Manage classes / students" area which allows you to create classes, add students to classes and create individual passwords for your students.

When do students need to log in to textivate?

A student password is only needed for the following 4 scenarios.

  1. Students submitting sequence scores -
    Students need to be logged in with your username + either the shared student password or the individual password that you have set up for them, in order to submit sequence scores.
    • Shared student password: if logged in using the shared student password, scores are only submitted at the end of a textivate sequence, and students need to add their name and class so that you can identify them.
    • Individual student passwords: if logged in using a password set up for them by you, students' scores are automatically submitted at the end of each activity, even if they didn't complete it successfully.
    See this post on sequences on textivate.

  2. Students accessing password-protected challenges -
    If you have created a challenge for your students and have specified that a password is required, this means that it can only be accessed by you (with your username + password) and your own students (with your username + the shared student password). They also need to add a scoreboard name so that they can be identified on the scoreboard. See this post on challenges on textivate.
    Note that if a challenge is not password-protected, students do not need to use the student password to log in.

  3. Students textivating their own texts -
    Many schools use textivate primarily for this: so that students can put in their own text and use all of the text re-construction, gap-filling and text-entry activities to help them learn its content or memorize it. (See the next question, which deals with this issue.)

  4. Students searching or browsing public resources -
    Students need to be logged in using your username + the shared student password if they want to search or browse the thousands of public resources uploaded to textivate (via the spy glass icon).

If you simply want to share a resource or a particular activity with your students, they don't need to log in using a student password. You can simply provide a URL to the resource or activity, or you can embed the activity on your website or blog.

If you have created a challenge for your students that is not password protected, there is no need for students to log in. They just need to key in their scoreboard name and start playing.

Can students upload their own texts using a student password?

No. But they don't need to anyway.

If your students are using textivate to help them to learn a text, they have 2 options regarding how they store and access their info.

  1. Copy and paste -
    If students are using textivate, they have to be online. So it's easy for them to access email, webmail, google docs, one drive, etc etc. There are plenty of ways of copying and pasting to and from another source. At the beginning of a textivate session, students copy from their source text and paste into textivate. At the end of their session, if they have made any changes to the resource, they can copy all of the text from the "Show all" tab and paste it to wherever they are storing it.

  2. Local storage -
    If students are using the same device each time they access textivate, they can save their resource into local storage (by clicking on the filing cabinet icon). At the beginning of the next session, they can open it from local storage. At the end of the session, they can save any changes to local storage again.

So students really do not need to upload their own texts. 

(Nor is there any need for you to upload their texts for them. It simply is not necessary. And it's a waste of your own time.)

If you are thinking that you would rather get around this by giving your students your own teacher password, or by assigning one of your Group subscription username + password combinations to your students, please read on...

Should I let my students use my teacher password?

No. You definitely should NOT give your students access to your own teacher password, or assign them one of your Group subscription username + password combinations.

Here are a number of reasons why:

  • They can change your account settings -
    If a student has your username and password, they can change the email address linked to your account. Once they have done that, they can change the password for your account, locking you out of your own account.

  • They can delete your resources, challenges, sequences, gradebook, classes etc -
    Even if they do not change the email or password for the account, they can still do all sorts of damage. If you have uploaded any resources to textivate, any student with access to your username and teacher password will be able to modify them or delete them.

  • They can upload inappropriate content
    If you give teacher account access to your students, they can upload resources just like you can. They could upload inappropriate or offensive content and you would have no way of knowing who was responsible.

  • Log-in problems / Automatic log-outs -
    Bear in mind also that only one person can be logged in at one time with a teacher password. This means that if several students are using the same teacher log-in, they will constantly be getting messages telling them that someone else is logged in, and being automatically logged out of textivate. And if you want to use the account too, the same will happen to you. This is not the case with the shared student password -- all of your students can use it at the same time.

Making matching resources? The L1 / TL order really does matter...

When you create a "matching" resource on textivate, it really does make a difference which side you put the target language...

TL = Target Language (the language being taught)
L1 = First language / mother tongue / the language of instruction.

Consider the activities generated by textivate when you create a resource based on 12 or more matching items (see image above). There are 32 (at the time of this blog post).

Let's go through them...

Flashcards, Snap, Shuffle, Switch, Click Match (x5), Memory Match (x5)

With these activities it makes no difference which way round you put your matching items. With Flashcards*, you can choose before you start playing whether to see the cards as left-then-right or right-then-left. With the others, it makes no difference really.

*Which one of these options the student chooses can make a big difference to how the activity works though -- if it's TL first, the student is checking if they know what the word or phrase means; if it's L1 first, they are having to produce the correct word or phrase based on a L1 prompt. Very different.

Multi Match (x4), Million, Football, 3 in a Row

With these activities, which are all essentially Multiple Choice activities, it doesn't make a big difference. But it does change the focus. 

If the prompt is in the TL, with multiple options in the L1, you are asking the students if they know what the particular TL word or phrase means, and offering them some options to choose from.

If the prompt is in the L1, with multiple options in the TL, you are asking the students how to say that particular word or phrase in the TL, and providing them with some options to choose from.

In the 1st case there is more of a receptive focus, and in the 2nd case more of a productive focus.

All the rest...

With all of the rest of the activities, it makes a BIG difference which way round you have input the L1 and the TL words and phrases.

All of these activities are focused on producing language. And usually on spelling words correctly. There is very little value in providing prompts in the TL and asking students to spell the L1 correctly, is there?

Hangman, for example, would simply involve guessing words in the L1 (i.e. no TL work at all!)...

Most of the activities are far too easy if the order is TL>L1. Or they are testing the wrong thing -- L1 spelling rather than producing correct TL.

Bear in mind also that these are the activities which score the highest points in textivate challenges, precisely because they are the most challenging, in that they require the student to produce correct TL words or phrases rather than just recognize correct answers. If you set challenges based on matching resources where the order is TL>L1, you are rewarding students with high scores simply for spelling words in the L1...


If you want your students to experience a real range of difficulty within the same set of vocab or matching items, put the target language ON THE RIGHT.

And if you already have matching resources on textivate with the TL and the L1 in the wrong order... it's OK, you don't need to type them all out again! Simply click on "Switch matching items..." and it switches them all for you:

Update (July 2016)

In July 2016 we added a "Switch" checkbox to many of the textivate match activity screens, so it is now possible for students to change the order of matching items from within the activity (EXCEPT when the activity is part of a Challenge). You can also fine-tune URL links and sequence activities to specify whether the activity appears as "switched" or "not switched". 

This Switch feature is available for all the Match activities except: Snap, Click Match (6,8,9,10,12), Memory (6,8,9,10,12)

The Switch feature is NEVER available...

  • when the resource contains images (or speak::) in the left match
  • when the activity is being attempted as part of a Challenge


Resource blog: Plus de croissants en forme de croissant chez Tesco... (parallel text)

A resource blog based on a text suitable for AS French, I think. The text is about Tesco's decision to stop selling crescent-shaped croissants...

All the links below will open a textivate activity along with a parallel text

For most of the activities the parallel text is in English, to help students to complete the various reconstruction, gap-filling and text-entry activities (i.e. structured translation). 

The two activities that mention "Find the French" have the parallel text in French.

Rebuild the French text (1 in 4)

Put the blocks in order (3 x 5)

Random gap-fill

Separate the words that are stuck together

Find the French... (anagrams, 14 terms)

Find the French... (word shapes provided, 14 terms)

Rebuild the text, 3 words at a time

Put the words of each section in the correct order

Fill in the vowels

Anagram text (all words)

Fill in the letters (1 in 2 words affected, initials provided)

Fill in the letters (all words affected, initials provided)

Fill in the letters (only word shapes provided)

And here is a link to the menu screen (the one shown in the image at the top):


The menu provides access to loads more activities, many of which can be configured to change the number of words affected etc.

See this blog post on parallel texts, and this one on scaffolded translation using textivate.