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...)


THINGS TO CONSIDER

Time available

If you are setting a sequence that you expect students to do in class, you really need to have an awareness of the amount of time required for all of your students to complete it. Otherwise you will have the faster students finishing first and the slower students not finishing at all, which means that you will have no record of their work (and they will be annoyed by this).

So if you are doing a sequence in class...

  • Try to keep it the whole thing short, limiting the number of activities included, taking into account the length and complexity of your text etc.
  • Don't set it at the end of the class! Far better to allow plenty of time for a sequence and then allow students to move onto something else once they have completed the sequence. (Football game in pairs? Challenge? Something completely different?)
  • Maybe consider setting the sequence for homework and use other activities for class time... How about a challenge, as individuals or in teams...? Or a collaborative text reconstruction task? Or some team games? Or activities based on textivate print-outs?

If setting a sequence for homework (and provided students have access to the same device from the start to finish of the sequence) you don't have to worry about the same time constraints.

Device

If you expect your students to complete a sequence on a phone, bear in mind that, since some textivate activities require all of the text to be visible on the screen, without scrolling (e.g. the tiles activities), text-size can become impossibly small if the text is too long or the screen is too small. Try to avoid these types of activities if your text has more than, say, 150 words. Stick instead to the multiple choice sequencing resources, such as 1in3, 1in4, 1in5.

If your students are using ipads, tablets, chromebooks, laptops or desktops,... no problem.

Length of text / Number of matching items

The time taken to complete the vast majority of the textivate activities will depend on the number of words in the text or on the number of matching items. There are a few exceptions to this, but that's the general rule.

You could quite reasonably expect 10 activities based on a 120-word text to take as long as 2 or 3 activities based on a 450-word text. Similarly, if you have a list of 120 matching items and you choose activities that require all 120 items to be completed, each activity is going to take 10 times longer than if you only have 12 matching items in your list.

The number of activities that you set and the time that you allow should reflect this.

Previous exposure to the text or vocabulary

Clearly, if you set a sequence of activities based on a text that is new to students, it will be more difficult for them to complete the activities, and they are more likely to make mistakes, at least initially.

So bear in mind how familiar students are with the text or vocabulary when you set targets for your sequence activities. 

Put yourself in the position of a student who spends 10 minutes working through a 450-word text that they haven't seen before, to be told that they have to do it again because they only got 90%. You can see how that might get frustrating. If it's something that you expect them to nail right away because they are completely familiar with the text and vocab, set a higher target. But otherwise, try to weigh up the frustration factor of having them repeat every activity because the target is too high for them.

Previous exposure will also have an impact on (i) the number of activities they can easily cope with and (ii) the difficulty of the activities (which can usually be translated as how 'output-focused' they are).

If you want your sequence to take students from zero knowledge, to recognition, to understanding, to being able to re-produce the language accurately, you can do that, but it's likely to require gradual progression through a lot of activities. (And it's like to require more time than you have available in class...)

Additional support

Providing support in the form of a parallel text, for example, provides students with information about the overall structure of the text. This means that they are less likely to make mistakes simply because they can't remember in what order the events in a text take place. 

A parallel text can be a translation of the text in English, but it needn't be. You could include a series of sub-headings or bullet-points in English or the L2, for example.

Or if you have a text+match resource, you can make the main L2 appear as a parallel text for matching activities, and the list of matching items appear as a parallel text for the text-based activities.

Another way of providing additional support is to include a preview. Unless there is a particular reason for not doing this, such as you are doing an assessment where you don't want them to see the text in advance, adding a preview can be useful, especially if students have not read the text before.


SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES

Taking into account all of the above, I would suggest that in general terms, you should aim to achieve the following when compiling a list of sequence activities:

  1. Move from easier to more difficult: start off with the easier activities that are all about recognition, with few options to choose from; move on through more complex activities, to the most difficult of all, which are the text entry activities.
  2. Try to include variety. Put a football game in there, or a 3 in a row game, for example. If your sequence is based on text AND matching activities, include a balance of these; intersperse them.


EXAMPLES...

Caveat: There is no ideal combination of activities that will work for all (or even many) cases. There are simply too many variables. 

So, the following examples are just that: examples. 

Not recommendations. 

Not fool-proof, fail-safe combinations of activities.

Just examples of some of the sorts of things you could do, if you wanted.


TEXT Examples

Text Example 1 - SPANISH - Story: Moggin tiene hambre

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.

The above sequence contains the following activities. It's a 200-word text. It also has a parallel text (accessed via the small text icon at the top-right). This sequence doesn't have a text preview.

2x3-e01-target:80% (Autocheck: Off, Split by sentences)
1in3-e0-target:70% (Split by word count)
3x3-e01-target:80% (Autocheck: Off, Split by sentences)
udgapfill-e11-target:80% (Show wordlist, Autocheck: On)
3x4-e01-target:80% (Autocheck: Off, Split by sentences)
million-e0 (Split by word count)

This sequence is all about exposing students to lots of comprehensible input. The story should already be known to the students and none of the text should be beyond their understanding. (The parallel text is there to help with structure if needed). There are 3 tile activities (6 blocks, 9 blocks and 12 blocks) interspersed with other activities; these tile activities are all set to separate text by sentence rather than by word count. 1 in 3 splits the text into 25 sections (in this case) and students can choose from 3 options each time. The gapfill is based on words that have been specified as part of the resource (user-defined gapfill) and are some key words from the text. The last activity is Million as this requires them to get it 100% correct.

As an extra challenge, tell students that you will grade them on the time taken to complete the whole sequence! This can work well if you set high pass marks for activities (you could even increase the ones above to 90%), because students have to try to read fast, but they can't just guess answers, because if they get below the pass mark they will have to repeat the activity -- and this all contributes to their total time taken!

There are plenty more tile options that could be added to this -- 15, 16 18, 20, 24 blocks. The more times the more the exposure, but the more annoying it might get too.... It also depends on how long you want students to spend on it.

Text Example 2 - SPANISH - En la cafetería - a text about food and drink

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The above sequence contains the following activities. It's a 100-word text. This sequence has a text preview.

3x3-e10-target:80% (Autocheck: On, Split by word count)
million-e0 (Split by word count)
space-e4-target:80% (1 in 4 words)
udfootball-e102 (Minutes..., 2)
initials-e4-target:60% (1 in 4 words)
speedread 

This sequence uses quite a range of activities. The first 2 are jigsaw reading activities. Then Space focuses on getting students to spot the separations between words. Football is based on user-defined gaps -- key words and expressions from the text. Initials requires the student to fill in 1 in 4 words (randomly selected). And finally Speedread sees how far students can get through the text without making more than 3 mistakes.

This sequence presumes that students have already been presented with and practised all of the vocab. The preview allows them to read the text before they start, but none of the vocabulary should be unfamiliar to them. It's sort of a revision round-up on the topic of food and drink.

Text Example 3 - SPANISH - Pobre Ana (ch.1, part1)

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The above sequence contains only the following 2 activities and no text preview.

1in3-e0-target:70% (Split by word count)
jumble-target:60% 

This short sequence presumes the students are already very familiar with the text. They will have read it (and probably translated it to check understanding) in class, having previously been exposed to all of the vocabulary in a variety of ways in class. The text comes from a TPRS novel, and students should not have read it at all in class unless they were already comfortable with all of the linguistic content. 

The first exercise reconstructs the text chunk by chunk (20 or so chunks, I think). The second exercise requires students to put the words of each sentence in the correct order -- this works well with this text because all of the sentences are pretty short.

 

MATCH Examples

Match Example 1 - FRENCH - Healthy eating

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The above sequence contains the following activities, based on 15 matching items. This sequence has a text preview:

m_flashcards-e01 (Original order, Right first)
m_1in3-e0-target:70% (Random order)
m_click10-target:80%
m_snap-target:80%
m_3inarow
m_jumble-e0-target:70% (Random order)
m_million
m_vowels-e0-target:70% (Random order)
m_football-e102 (Minutes..., 2)
m_initials-e0 (Random order)

The above 10 activities move from easy to more difficult and include a fair range of variety, with games to break it up a bit. 10 activities would be a lot if you have a lot of matching items. If you only have a dozen or so, it shouldn't take too long.
The sequence starts with flashcards. ("Right first" means that the right-hand part of the match is shown first, which means that if you usually set matching resources with the order L1>>L2, as I recommend, this activity will be a "what does X mean?" activity rather than a "how do you say X?" activity.) Flashcards runs through all the items in the list, as does the second activity, 1in3. If your list has a lot of items, you could substitute 1in3 for shuffle match, or leave it out all together.
Click10 only deals with 10 items of vocab, so it is quick to complete.
Snap goes through all items, so it might take a while if you have a long list.
3 in a row is just one game, which usually takes a couple of minutes.
Jumble is only appropriate if your right-hand matches contain multiple words. It will run through all matching items.
Million should be a quick game, but you can only proceed if you win a million.
Vowels runs through all items, as does the last activity, initials. These are split up with a 2-minute game of football.

If students have already been exposed to the vocab in class, they will clearly find the activities much more accessible. There is no reason why they could not have practised using the activities from the menu for this textivate resource (http://www.textivate.com/menu-wqqjn1) or taken part in a challenge based on it, prior to being set the sequence.

Match Example 2 - FRENCH - "On peut" + places in town

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The above sequence contains the following activities, based on 17 matching items. This sequence has a text preview:

m_1in3-e0-target:70% (Random order) 
m_click10-target:80% 
m_football-e102 (Minutes..., 2)
m_jumble-e0-target:70% (Random order)
m_million 

This example is a slimmed down version of example 1, with the text entry "output" activities removed and the flashcards and snap removed. Only 2 of activities run through all matching items, so it should be MUCH quicker than example 1. The main focus is the jumbled words activity. It ends with Million - they need to get everything correct to win a million.

Students should have already been exposed to the vocab in class ideally.

Match Example 3 - SPANISH - Chores / jobs

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The above sequence contains the following activities, based on 15 matching items. This sequence has a text preview:

m_jumble-e0-target:70% (Random order)
m_vowels-e0 (Random order)
m_invaders
m_1in10-e0-target:70% (Random order)

This resource is based mostly on 3-word items of vocabulary (mostly verb + article + object), so the jumbled words activity is a good one to start with. This sequence ends with the 1 in 10 activity, where the students have to identify the correct Spanish from 10 options. If you wanted to be focus more on students' ability to produce the correct forms, you could add an "initials" or "empty" activity at the end.

Obviously, the shorter your sequence, the less language practice you are giving your students. But if students have already had practice of the vocab in class in a variety of ways, this sequence can be used as a recap, and their scores can give you an insight into how well they have learnt the vocab. 

 

TEXT+MATCH Examples

Text+Match Example 1 - SPANISH - Brandon Brown quiere un perro (ch.1, part 1)

(This sequence has a link rather than embed code. The reason for this is that you can't embed activities with parallel text visible, and the 2nd activity requires a parallel text. To get the correct URL link, I navigated to the activity, made the parallel text visible, clicked on 'Link/Embed sequence' and copied the URL from the URL box...)

http://www.textivate.com/frames.php?ext=2sujn1&res=sequence-2sujn1

The above sequence contains only the following 2 activities and no text preview.

1in3-e0-target:70% (Split by word count)
m_empty-e1-target:60% (Original order)

This short sequence presumes the students are already very familiar with the text. They will have read it (and probably translated it to check understanding) in class, having previously been exposed to all of the vocabulary in a variety of ways in class. The text comes from a TPRS novel, and students should not have read it at all in class unless they were already comfortable with all of the linguistic content. 

The first activity rebuilds the text. The second activity requires the students to translate 12 key structures from the text into Spanish, and the parallel text means that students can select find the answers in the text.

Text+Match Example 2 - FRENCH - Chez moi (short text + house and home vocab)

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The above sequence contains the following 18 activities. It includes a text preview:

m_flashcards-e00-target:90% (Original order, Left first)
m_1in3-e0-target:90% (Random order)
m_snap-target:90%
m_million
1in3-e0-target:90% (Split by word count)
3x3-e00-target:90% (Autocheck: Off, Split by word count)
m_1in10-e0-target:90% (Random order)
3x4-e00-target:90% (Autocheck: Off, Split by word count)
udgapfill-e11-target:80% (Show wordlist, Autocheck: On)
4x4-e00-target:90% (Autocheck: Off, Split by word count)
m_vowels-e0-target:80% (Random order)
space-e1-target:80% (Every word)
m_anagrams-e0-target:80% (Random order)
initials-e2-target:80% (1 in 2 words)
m_initials-e0-target:80% (Random order)
anagrams-e1-target:80% (Every word)
m_empty-e0-target:80% (Random order)
empty-e2-target:80% (1 in 2 words)

The resource contains an 83-word text plus 25 matching items. This is an example of the sort of resource that might be used to present and teach new vocabulary, provide tons of practice and it should have the end result that students should be able to produce the target text by the end of the session. The only problem is that the session might take a long time... I reckon it would take at least 30 minutes even for someone who already knew all of the vocab, and much more than that if this is all new information. 

So... don't set this sort of thing in class. But you could set it as a substantial bit of learning homework / flipped learning. (Maybe give students a week to complete it. The key thing here is that students don't have to complete a sequence in one sitting. Their progress is saved as long as they are using the same device.)

Note with this example that the pass marks are set very high, so students have to prove that they know their stuff before they can move on to the next activity. The downside of this is that it could substantially increase the time required to complete the activity.

Text+Match Example 3 - FRENCH - Chez moi (same as example 2 but half the activities)

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The above sequence contains the following 9 activities. It includes a text preview:

m_snap-target:80%
m_million
3x3-e00-target:80% (Autocheck: Off, Split by word count)
udgapfill-e11-target:80% (Show wordlist, Autocheck: On)
4x4-e00-target:80% (Autocheck: Off, Split by word count)
m_anagrams-e0-target:70% (Random order)
initials-e2-target:70% (1 in 2 words)
m_empty-e0-target:70% (Random order)
empty-e2-target:70% (1 in 2 words)

This is the same resource as in example 2, but with half the number of activities. It's still quite a challenge, time-wise. It assumes that students have already been presented with all of the vocabulary in class (which in itself should make it more manageable). It also has lower pass grades than the previous example, so it's more forgiving of students making mistakes or asking for hints.


A SEQUENCE OF ONE?

Although the word 'sequence' suggests a string of two or more activities, you can in fact create a textivate sequence of just one activity. This can be particularly effective for text-entry (output-focused) activities.

See this example, which is a single-activity sequence based on translation a short text (French daily routine, perfect tense):

http://www.textivate.com/frames.php?ext=50061740247500z&res=sequence-50061740247500z

(It's a protected resource, so students can't access the original text).

Or how about the sequence embedded below? It's based on telling the time in Spanish (and again, it's protected):

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AND FINALLY...

Don't forget that Sequences are only one part of textivate. They weren't there at all for the first couple of years (and when I decided to add them it was primarily so that textivate could be used for self-grading homework). Look what else you can do with textivate:
http://textivate.posthaven.com/how-can-i-use-textivate

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