CHALLENGES in textivate

Get your students competing in class or for homework with a Textivate CHALLENGE!!

A Challenge is a time-limited competition based on one or more of your existing textivate resources. (Anyone with a Premium or Group subscription can make challenges.)

The challenge menu

Click the trophy icon on the textivate home page (see image above). This opens up your challenge menu (see below), which lists all of the challenges that you have created. (It will be blank at first, of course, until you have created some challenges).

Adding accented characters to textivate...

OK, so there is no textivate-specific way to add accented characters or special characters to textivate.

Note that most textivate exercises DO NOT require the student to type in accented characters. The only exception to this is the Gap-fill (and user-defined Gap-fill) activity, and only when no word list is provided. 

But as a teacher creating your own resources, you will want to make sure that all the special characters are included in your resource.

If you are using a smartphone or a tablet, there shouldn't be a problem inserting accented characters either, as in most cases it's simply a case of long-pressing the un-accented version of the character and then selecting from one of the accented options.

If you're using a desktop computer, laptop, or notebook, it can be a bit trickier.

Personally, I use a Spanish keyboard, which makes it s-o-o-o much easier, but if you don't have that option, read on for solutions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Google Chrome - "Special Characters - Click and Paste"

This Chrome extension is a really neat solution to the problem of inserting special characters for French, German and Spanish. You can get capitals by using the shift key. And it does things like upside-down question marks and exclamation marks ¿¡

It adds an á icon to your chrome browser, and clicking this gives you a list of accents to choose from. Click the desired character and then paste into the text box on textivate (or use the ctrl+v shortcut).

Mozilla Firefox - "abcTajpu"

Install this add-on to Mozilla Firefox, then add accented characters by right-clicking into any text box, you should then see an "abcTajpu" context-specific option, which gives access to hundreds of accented and special characters.

You can modify the add-on via the add-on options menu, to add the letters for the languages of your choice. For example, if you add French and Spanish, your context-specific right-click will produce a list with "abcTajpu" (ie. the default), plus "French", plus "Spanish".


La coupe du monde de rugby à XV

A few resources to share...

An embedded gap-fill. Fill each gap with a word based on the word provided.

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.

A printable pdf based on the same activity:

Here is a link to the menu screen for the above textivate resource:

And here is a sequence of 4 activities based on the same resource:


Tabs on textivate

We've added 5 tabs to textivate, as shown above.

The idea behind this is to make it simpler, so that users no longer need to type all of their bizarrely formatted text into a single text box, taking care to put everything in the correct order. You can now add your data via the first 4 tabs -- Text, Match, Extras, Sequence -- and textivate automatically combines it into the "Show all" tab.

The "Show all" tab is the equivalent of the old-style textivate textbox. It is also the default open tab when you land on the index page.

Let's run through the 5 tabs in the order in which they appear, left to right:

Is the term "Computer Assisted Language Learning" (CALL) obsolete?

In the article on the link below Krashen and Jarvis suggest that the term CALL is obsolete because it focuses on conscious learning, whereas most students use technology to access online resources un-related to conscious language learning and acquire language as a by-product of their browsing. Have a read of it. It's only short - 5 pages - won't take up much of your time.

Jarvis, H. & Krashen, S. 2014. Is CALL obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital Age. TESL-EJ 17(4).

The 2 results in the above paper are:

"Result One: English language acquirers use the Internet a great deal, and much of this use is in English. This is true for both social and informational use of English."


"Result Two: English language acquirers think that non-pedagogical uses of the computer in English are helpful for English language development, and in some cases value them more than they value pedagogical programs."

That's it.

I'd say that the explanation for result 1 basically boils down to this: Much of the internet is in English and many non-English learners of English use English-medium websites, probably because to avoid doing so would limit their access to all sorts of things on the internet such as social media etc.

Result 2 is not that surprising either. Which of these do you prefer? (a) using language-learning webpages (b) doing all sorts of fun things on the internet using social media etc. The fact that students find (b) helpful in acquiring language does not negate the value of (a). And the range of possibilities covered by (a) is huge, isn't it? What do students really understand by "web pages designed for English language learning"? Do students of a FL really know what's best for them anyway?

Note that the paper focuses on English as a foreign language. I'd argue that English is a special case. I imagine these results would be very different if the same survey were conducted among English speaking learners (or acquirers, if you prefer) of other languages.

The paper's conclusion that CALL is dead seems to hinge on the use of the words "computer" and "learning" in the acronym, and the notion that CALL focuses on conscious learning. So if we change this to "technology" and "acquisition", does that really make any difference? Is TALA a better acronym than CALL? Does any of this matter?

Whatever the acronym, the use of digital media for language learning and/or acquisition -- specifically using tools and materials whose aim is to facilitate this learning / acquisition -- is most definitely not dead.

Scaffolding output based on comprehensible input

This is an output activity that can be used by comprehensible input teachers, no? (See my reasoning below if you're not convinced)

(NB: It's based on chapter 1 of "Brandon Brown veut un chien", which I added to textivate a while back with permission from Carol Gaab.)

Here you have:

  • English text to refer to so that meaning is clear
  • First letter of each word provided
  • Option to just gap every 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th word to make the activity easier (and to increase the input)
  • An activity which, if used after the students have read the text, provides a template for retelling the story correctly
  • Something which DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TYPED - you can use the combination of the English translation and the initial letters as a basis for students re-telling (re-building) the text ORALLY in class.
  • Linked to the above point, you as the teacher can type in the text as students read it out (re-tell it orally), confirming the spellings etc so that they can see the text appear as they speak, or you can help them with tricky bits by typing in the letters.

What do you think?

Comment tu vas à l'école?

This post demonstrates a textivate resource based on a short text AND matching items.

The text contains all parts of "aller" in the present tense.

The matching items are based on the parts of "aller" as well as other vocab from the text, matching English to French.

The post features 8 embedded activities based on the one resource. (The resource actually has around 60 activities to choose from).

NB. To see the complete resource, open one of the activities below, then click on the "" link at the top left of the activity. This will take you to the textivate home page, and the text that you see inside the text box is the full text for this resource.