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.


DO THIS whenever you want to make a new textivate resource...

Textivate can do a lot. 

It can make activities based on a text, on matching items, or both; sequences and challenges; resources with additional parallel text, an image, audio or video... and all of this based on user input. 

All of this user input is introduced into textivate using the "tabbed" front page:

All you need to do is click on the appropriate tab and key in the data or click the options. (What you then see in the "Show all" tab is what the user used to have to key in manually, before we introduced the tabs -- it used to be a LOT more complicated...)

BUT here's the problem:

Unless you delete all of the content from all of the text boxes, there will usually be something left behind that you might not be aware of. This might be the default welcome text (and matching questions and answers), or maybe the text / matching items from the last textivate resource that you opened or viewed on that particular device. If the last resource that you accessed also had a parallel text or video, this will also be stored.

Textivate does this on purpose, so that you can close your browser and next time you open textivate you'll go straight back to the last resource you were working on (or to the default text, if it's your first time on textivate).

So I often come across resources where the text is what the teacher intended to include, but there are also matching items from a previous resource, or the default matching items. Or maybe the teacher intended to create a matching resource, but their resource ends up containing the default text as well, or the text from another resource (very often in a different language!!). I can only imagine the confusion this must cause for students working on those resources...

THE GOOD NEWS is that it's SO-O-O-O easy to prevent this.

Simply click on the "New resource" icon:

This will clear everything: the text tab; the matching tab; any extras; the sequence information; and obviously the "Show all" tab will be empty too.

Get into the habit of doing this whenever you want to make a new resource, BEFORE you do anything else.


Speed Read! (text reading activity against the clock :)

Speed Read is a great way of helping students to memorize a text, and of getting them reading and understanding quickly and accurately.

It's simple: students have 3 "lives". The timer runs across the screen while the students decides the next correct part of the text. If they get it wrong, they lose a chunk of time. If the time runs out, they lose a life. Once all 3 lives are lost, the game is over.

The info at the bottom left of the screen indicates the overall score plus the number of times the complete text has been read.

The challenge is to get a high score, by reading the text several times. (The timer gets faster with each re-read!)

The text chunks alternate between 3-word chunks and 2-word chunks with each re-read.

Here's an embedded example:

A couple of NEW options for Flashcards

We've added the option to flip the flashcards so that the right-hand part of the match is shown first, by selecting the "Switch top & bottom" checkbox.

We've also made the choice of "Original order" vs "Random order" selectable via option boxes.

Both of these can now be included in your fine-tuned urls for links and embedded exercises, and also in a sequence of activities.


Separate the words (Space) -- NEW feature: choose the number of words affected.

We've made an improvement to the "Space" activity (Separate the words), so that if your text has more than 20 words in it, you can now decide on the number of words to be joined up.

Your options are: All words; 1/2 words; 1/3 words; 1/4 words; 1/5 words

Why do this? Well, for a couple of reasons...

Firstly, for longer texts, the Space activity can be quite long and drawn out. Imagine a 300-word text, requiring a click between every word. It takes a long time to complete. Reducing the number of words joined up means the activity is much quicker. Set at 1/5 words, a 300 word text would only need about 60 clicks to complete.

Secondly, in a strange way it adds an extra element of challenge. You're no longer just starting with a block of text and looking for the end of each word. When the text appears with lots of the spaces and punctuation already there, you have to figure out which bits of text -- which may actually look like words -- are made up of more than one word.

You can fine tune urls when you share a link to a Space activity, and you can stipulate the number of words affected when you include Space as part of a sequence.

Here is an embedded example, about greenhouse gases, in French. 1 in 5 words are affected, so it only requires about 35 clicks to complete it (rather than about 180 previously) but it still requires the student to read the whole text, paying close attention to spellings etc.

(Edit: we've also now added a Hint button, which provides the next space, starting from the beginning of the text, but which affects the student's score.)