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