Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

After another lengthy hiatus  due to the summer term, cricket and laziness during the summer holidays, I’m getting back to blogging again. I have been fairly busy with work projects to be honest, as I’ve been occupied with populating my school’s Spanish department VLE. It is a source of pride and motivation to me that this should be a leader in the school, and the aims of it are as follows:

– to provide resources for independent study for pupils and suggestions for further study.

– to collate resources for the benefit of teachers

– to provide a framework for study for the department

– to enable the improvement of IT skills for pupils

As such, I am making use of many of the Web tools and Apps that I have blogged about (and will blog about in the future, hopefully!) and one of the web tools I am using a lot is Annotary. Annotary is a effectively a resource collection site, in which you can create ‘Collections’ for websites. This can be done on various other sites, but what I most like about Annotary is that you can download a tool for your internet browser’s toolbar that allows you to annotate texts that you have collected. This gives a lot of nice possibilities such as highlighting important vocabulary, key phrases, important parts or facts of the text, or to add questions to check understanding of the article. Pupils could also use it as a way of collating their resources towards project work (for instance IB extended essays, 6th form coursework or oral exams, other investigation work) and make notes as they go on. It is also possible to collaborate on projects, and to invite other users to these collections.

Here is a video made by Annotary to explain their product briefly.

Registering for Annotary is free. First go to the website http://annotary.com and you will see the screen below.

Annotary

 

Click on the ‘Sign up for Free’ button’ and fill in the relevant details. You can sign up with Facebook, though as a teacher, I do not use this option. As with most of these tools, I use a fairly formal username, though for Annotary I have created a Spanish Department account that all the teachers can use. The weekly newsletter comes to my email address, but the username is that of the departments. (Obviously, each member of the department has access to the password and usernam so they can add and annotate resources)

Having signed up you will need to download the toolbar app that eventually you can use most easily to add websites to your collections, though this can also be done without the tool, slightly less quickly, but still with few difficulties. You will then begin the process of creating collections and finding websites or articles to include in them. To create a collection, simply click ‘Create Collection’; then give the collection a title and if you want a short description of what the content will be, and then decide if you want to make it public or private. If you make it public then anyone can see it, if private then only people you can invite can see it, and the collection will not appear in the search function either.

Alongside my hard working Colombian speaking assistant, we have created folders for each topic within the AS and A2 syllabus (as well as the IB topics and subtopics), and our idea is to collate useful texts within each of these. These Annotary collections are linked to prominently on the relevant page on our department VLE, and hopefully they can be used by teachers and pupils alike. Teachers can quickly find a text they like, and pupils can read around the subjects and also use the texts for their preparation for their speaking lessons.

To add a webpage to a collection, find a useful page, and if you have not downloaded the toolbar app, then copy the URL address, go back to your Annotary page, click the green ‘Add Bookmark’ button, paste the URL into the relevant section, and then choose the folder to add the bookmark to. Finally click Add Bookmark again, and it will be in the folder. Alternatively, if you have downloaded the toolbar app, you will see a yellow ‘a’ in the toolbar, click on this and you will see a mini drop down menu of chain icon, a pen icon, an envelope icon, two little people icon and a home icon. To save the link click the chain button. The title will be there already but you can change it, add a note if you wish to, perhaps to be specific about what the text is about, and then choose the collection to add it to. It is worth noting that a new innovation enables you to use # hashtags and @ mentions for twitter.

You have to have saved a text before you can annotate it. To then annotate a saved text, click on the pen icon. Then highlight the area of the text you want to make notes on and a little sticky note will appear for you to type into. As mentioned earlier, various uses of this function suggest themselves such as :

– highlighting key vocabulary, such as topic words, useful phrases

– highlighting use of grammar, such as tenses (even proposing questions)

– asking questions to elicit understanding of the text

– suggest synonyms for words

– summarising key points

– highlighting most important info from the text.

When you are finished, click on the save button again. To share the text, click the envelope to send to pupils for instance or colleagues.

I hope this tool will be very useful this year with my students, and I intend to use it a great deal with my 6th form students in particular. I am very keen for them to read and listen to as much as they can to back up what is covered in class, and to facilitate that process.

Here are some other links about Annotary that may interest you.

http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57575179-285/use-annotary-for-efficient-online-research/

http://web.appstorm.net/reviews/project-management/highlight-bookmark-and-share-web-pages-with-annotary/ 

http://lifehacker.com/5993001/annotary-marks-up-web-pages-and-saves-them-for-later-research

 

GoComics

Posted: September 1, 2012 in Reading
Tags: , ,

I’ve blogged a number of times about pupils creating comic strips through using Stripgenerator, Chogger, Make Beliefs Comixs and so on. I’m also a fan of getting pupils just to read them. I luckily had a fair few Garfield, Mafalda and Calvin and Hobbes books from living in Colombia and Chile, and used to photocopy these for my door, or also use them in lessons from time to time (one fun activity was getting pupils to fill in single word blanks or entire strips with their own words in the target language.)

The GoComics site is a great site that has a wide range of comics updated daily. Not only can you read them online but they will also send them to you on a daily basis to your email account. Subscription is free.

Here is a link to the Spanish language cartoons available

http://www.gocomics.com/explore/espanol

You can add cartoons that you like the look of by clicking Add to my Comics as you view the comic.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a French or German option, but it could be good for EAL / EFL learners.

Here’s a Wizard of Id comic to get an idea

Xtranormal is another site that gives you the chance to make animated cartoon videos for free. In comparison to the other options I have already blogged about, it is more like GoAnimate than Dvolver, in that  you are much more of a director than you are with Dvolver, giving you lots of characters and options to be more in control of your animation. It is simple enough to use with some practice and at the end of the day, if you see the use of animations being useful for your teaching or for your pupils to adapt the language, then it will be a good option. Really, it only depends if you prefer GoAnimate or Xtranormal as to which one you use perhaps. Actually, at some point in a future blog, I may compare the two, as well as other similar tools offering similar services for ease of reference. Perhaps people might like to suggest some categories worth comparing? (Comment below!)

To use Xtranormal go to the webpage, http://www.xtranormal.com, and then register for free. As with various other sites, you can get enough out of the site without having to pay for the full licence that gives you more options and a greater range of characters, backgrounds etc. When you are registered, you will be directed to your ‘home’ and from there click on ‘Create’. The following screen below will be displayed.

As you can see below, there are a lot of character sets to choose from!

Once you have finally picked which characters you will use, you then have some further choices to make as to which, Sets, Actors, Sounds and Story you will use.

The sets option will allow you to pick a background or location for the story, the actors will be the main characters for thje action (you will be limited to start with as to who you can pick – to have more options you will have to upgrade your account – up to you of course if you need more characters), the sounds will allow you to have some atmosphere, sound effects or musical accompaniments to the action, and then you get to ‘Story’ which is the key element for you action.

You will see that you basically type into the box to allow the character to speak those words, and then drag various movements and actions from the left hand tool bar to add more realism and action to the scene. You can have camera movements, characters performing a variety of actions such as clenching fists, blowing kisses and ironic clapping amongst many others, having different emotive facial expressions and having basic interactions with the other character. Really it is best to explore the various options available, and use these to add to your dialogues to make the video more interesting. There should be plenty to give you or your pupils what you need for your films.

In terms of adding more speech boxes, you need to click the ‘+’ icon in the text boxes that will give you three options, either using a text bubble, uploading or recording your voice or adding a title bubble. The recording your voice option will obviously give your pupils the chance to practise their speaking and listening skills (it’s great how pupils will re-record themselves several times to get it right, thereby practising the language more than they would usually) or their writing and reading skills if you elect the text bubble option.

As you go along, you can click on the preview button to see how your video is coming along, and then go back and edit or change anything that you don’t like. When you are finished, click on ‘Save’ and then ‘Publish’ which will allow you to give your film a title, description and some tags to help people find it. It may take a few minutes for your film to be rendered which is worth bearing in mind if you want to show films made in class – allow time at the end of the lesson for this!

The completed video can be embedded or shared via a variety of mediums. To embed, click on ’embed the Xtranormal player’ on the right hand side of the video, under the video URL, choose a size for the video and copy the embed code. Then paste it into your blog or website, wherever you choose to use it. It can also be used on Posterous, something I intend to use a great deal this Academic Year. If you use Posterous, just put the embed code into the body of the email that you send to Posterous, and it will automatically come up! Fantastically easy! This could be the best way of your pupils sharing their own videos with the class if you have allowed them to become contributors to your Posterous space.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Again, the best thing to do is explore and experiment. If you have any questions, please do comment and ask.

Here are some other links worth checking out about using Xtranormal in the classroom

http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2010/01/making-your-xtranormal-mfl-lessons-work.html

http://www.slideshare.net/digitalmaverick/how-to-use-xtranormal

http://www.boxoftricks.net/2009/11/xtranormal-in-the-classroom/

 

It’s been a while since I blogged. The end of term and my time at my last school and all it brought with it took up a lot of time and although I am beginning to get ready for my move to Worcestershire and am starting to be surrounded by boxes, I’ve decided to get back to the blog.

Today I’m going to introduce Toondoo, which is another option for those teachers who, like me, are fans of cartoons and comics and see how they can be used in the classroom. I have already blogged about various other options to make cartoons, (see my blog entries about Chogger, Make Beliefs Comix, Stripgenerator and Witty Comics and visit their pages to have a look at the various differences) and I’m not going to talk here about how comics can be used as I have discussed this already. All I will say is that it is a novel way to practice writing and reading skills rather than doing your standard writing in an exercise book or reading from a textbook.

Toondoo is another free site to join and use although you can pay to get certain extra features such as high resolution images. Toondoo offers a wide package of facilities including the ability to make books as well as comic strips. It also gives you the option to create your own doodles and pictures to add a personal touch to your comic and feels quite like Go Animate for cartoons in a way. There are certainly more options to Toondoo than the other comic strips creation tool sites that I have already blogged about, but this means that it could take longer to get used to using the various options and feel like you have mastered the comic creation process!

Once you have clicked on the ‘Sign up for free’ button at the top of the page and registered, you are ready to go. The image above will give you an idea of what you will have in front of you, and the options you have. If you click on either Toons or Books you will see ‘Create Toon’ or ‘Create Book’ which will probably be your first option unless you want to explore the kind of cartoons you can make with the search facility. Click on ‘Create toon’ to start with and the first thing you will have to decide on is the layout of your strip as seen below.

Having clicked on one of these options, you will then have a dashboard much like the GoAnimate or Domo Animate dashboards if you are familiar with these movie and comic creation sites. It will look like the image below:

The buttons on the left hand side of the dashboard (from top to bottom) will allow you to choose your characters, backgrounds, props, speech bubble options, brushmen (random other images), specials, ClipArt images and then other images that you have uploaded from your own gallery. Let’s start with characters – if you put your cursor over this button you will have a variety of options of different characters. grouped in various different categories (Men, Women, KIds, Animals/Birds, Sports etc) and they will have the same character in different poses which helps add range to your comic. Once you have found a character you like, click and drag into the panel where you want to put it. You also have a range of tools at the bottom of the dashboard which you can click on to adapt a selected image, for example changing its size, way it is facing, its position in relation to another object etc.

To add a background, hover over the background icon and drag the one you like into the relevant panel. The same process goes with objects and is similar with speech bubbles. The only difference with speech bubbles is that you just type your words into the bubble having elected the type of bubble you want. It is a very easy process, and you can delete mistakes simply by selecting the offending image and clicking delete on your keyboard. The best thing to do is just play around with it, but I haven’t found many problems with it nd when I showcased it in a lesson, the kids quickly caught on to how to use it and had no difficulties.

When you have finished, go to the top left hand icon and hover over the ‘Toondoo Start here icon’, and click Save. Give your cartoon a title and description and decide if you are going to make it public or private. You can also email it directly to those you want to send it to, perhaps the best way for your pupils to send you completed efforts that they have done. Click publish when you are done and then you can either see it (go to page) or print it out. Here is one I made as I was learning how to use Toondoo.

A bit silly, but nevermind! To find all your previous creations, go to the Toon menu at the homepage and click on ‘My Toons’ where you can still edit your toon if you need to.

For more questions or to get a more in depth view of how to use toondoo, you can go to this link for the Toondoo wiki.

Here are some other useful links:

Teachers’ guide

Slideshare How to use toondoo

More detailed step by step guide

Toondoo cartoon on how to use toondoo!

Please let me know if you have a go and sign up for Toondoo. Perhaps we can exchange links to cartoons.

 

I have already done several posts about sites that make cartoons, movies or videos (and there will be more!) Domo Animate is another one of these, coming from the same family as GoAnimate, which I have already blogged about (see the archives). I do like cartoons and animations, both for productive and receptive Spanish. I feel that it is particularly important to vary your productive Spanish tasks, as doing the same old ‘write a letter, write a description, write an essay’ task gets boring for pupils and anything different, creative and fun can stimulate pupils into producing better work. This was very much the case with a prep I set my 4th form (year 10s) this week, describing car crashes. I got some nice videos back from GoAnimate and Dvolver, having given them the choice of these and Chogger. I really only gave them three options in case one or two of them didn’t work! You never know with our school computer system!!

Domo Animate works in the same way as Go Animate if you are familiar with this tool. It has a slightly more amateurish feel possibly, though this in no way detracts from the finished product. It feels slightly more old school cartoony, rather than the slightly more modern feel of the characters and scenarios in most of the GoAnimate scenes. Having signed up (free, naturally), go to Create Animation and then you have a couple of options. There is a slideshow option or the Domo Animation studio option. For both there are tutorial videos which are well worth watching to get a feel for how to get started and make the most out of the program. If you want to have a look directly, just click on this link. (there is an annoying advert before the tutorial vids). Below is the options screen for which type of animation to create.

Using the slideshow option might be a good way of getting pupils to do a presentation in which they narrate a series of events based on the pictures that they have uploaded, and a good way to practise link phrases and speaking generally. However, there are other slideshow tools out there, and you of course can generally do this from your media viewer, but it may be worth trying out with pupils, particularly if you have maybe downloaded a load of random pictures. What could be quite fun is to upload some random pictures from the internet on a topic to revise, but without the pupils knowing what they are. They then have to think on their feet and describe what they see, maybe scoring points for describing lots of things on the screen.

The more creative option is to click on the Domo Animation Studio create button, as this gives you the chance to exercise those film director tendencies inspired by the latest Aardman or Pixar productions!. Once you have clicked ‘Create’ you will see the ‘studio’ below.

The scene on the right hand side is your canvas as it were, and on the left hand side you have the various tools, characters, backgrounds, objects and effect buttons that you use to create the show. The bottom shows you the different ‘stills’ or separate scenes that make up your animated movie. On the left hand side you have buttons for characters (the egg type icon button), the type of speech bubble you want to employ for the characters’ dialogue, backgrounds (the scenery type icon button), objects (the tree icon button), music and other random animation effects. By clicking on these, you see which options you have to use in your movie.

If we start with characters, pick a character you like from the decent selection of oddballs (I have a preference for the monsters and animals!) and click on one you like. Your character then appears on your canvas, and you can then moev him around by clicking and draggin, resize, by adjusting the picture dimensions in the same way as Office Publisher, and change the way the character faces by using the arrow buttons above the character when selected, or whether it goes infront or behind another object. Below, you can the see the first stage of my video, having set a scary type background and with a monster selected.

You can add various characters onto the canvas, as you can again see below, and give them things to say by clicking the speech bubble button, moving the speech bubble to where you want it (including moving the orientation of it) and then typing into the bubble. Fonts can be adapted too, and the size will automatically adapt to fit the text into the bubble. Here is the scene with another character added and some speech bubbles.

You can then add things as you want. I then clicked on the music button to add some dramatic tension music. The music lasts throughout the video, so there is no need to add it into each different scene. When you are happy with one scene click on the clapperboards in the bottom right hand corner below to either add a new scene, or delete a previous one. The characters will be left in the same places ready for you to carry on the conversation, or move them someplace else. When characters are selected, you will see you have the option to make them move and do actions, adding to the events and excitement. It all works the same way as GoAnimate if you have already tried this, but without the speaking aloud or uploading recorded speech option.  Go about the scene creation in the same way as before, adding scenes where you want to. It is fun to play around and see what all your options are, and also useful to know how it all works before you unleash your pupils on the tool to have a go!

When you are done, click ‘Preview’ to have a look at your masterpiece. If you are happy with it, click save. If not you can always go back to edit, adapt, or add or delete more scenes. Having clicked save, you then have to give the video a title, tags, short description and choose it’s language. You can then either save it, or share with friends or pupils. See the screenshot below.

If you click Save and Share you can then choose to email it to your friends or class, or get an embed code for a blog, wiki or Posterous (which I will blog about when I have worked it out fully! This may be the best way to save class material for everyone to see).  I’ve embedded my very short video on Posterous if you want to have a look. (http://pedroelprofesor.posterous.com/domo-animate-trial). Or you can click on the following link: http://domo.goanimate.com/go/movie/0NqL6jaS7d4U?utm_source=emailshare&uid=0GIJlU_3sETw

Domo Animate takes a little time to produce, but is great fun and the results are excellent. You will need to tutor your class yo use it which might take a certain period of your lesson, but it is worth it! Enjoy!

Tagxedo

Posted: April 26, 2012 in Reading, Uncategorized, Web 2.0 tools
Tags: , ,

Tagxedo is an alternative to Wordle, a tool that takes a text and makes a rather fetching wordcloud. Having blogged already about Wordle a week or two ago, please read that particular blog entry to see how you could employ these wordclouds in your lessons, and do read the links there for more ideas from Samantha Lunn.

When you go to Tagxedo (click here) you will see the above start page. You have a range of options about where to source your text from that will be made into a wordcloud, URLs for webpages, Twitter sources etc. I’ve made one from my blog which you can see below.

Having put in the URL and clicked on submit, you then get one offering for a word cloud, which you can then adapt to the shape and colours that you like, or that are relevant to the words in the cloud. Here is the same word selection in a different style, font and colour scheme.

The thing that makes Tagxedo slightly more of an attractive option than Wordle is that you have more options about the end product. There are a variety of shapes that you can fit the words into, and a nice range of fonts, colour schemes and so on. The one down-side I think, and the reason why I suspect I will currently use Wordle more is that I don’t think you can input your choice of words (I may be missing something here as I have to admit that I haven’t had the time to fully explore Tagxedo yet – please correct me if I’m wrong someone) but the end product does look great.

Anyway, tagxedo certainly has its uses and in primarily the same ways as Wordle. Perhaps pupils could make tagxedo’s out of vocabulary pages or grammar explanations and use them as posters and it could help with revision for instance in addition to other uses already mentioned.

Please comment on how you use tagxedo already, or how you feel it could be employed.

Today I’m going to blog about Lingt. Lingt is a worksheet creation site, which enables you to embed videos onto the worksheet, as well as spoken questions for pupils to answer orally or in written form. Therefore, it is possible to assess all four language skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening on one document, which is a nifty premise, a real interactive worksheet. The best thing about it at first glance is that you can really get pupils practising the vocabulary or grammar in every way outside the classroom, hence promoting the ‘classroom outside the classroom’ idea.

To use Lingt, go to the following URL: http://lingtlanguage.com and click on Signup. After signing up, you will be taken to your homepage. As a free user of Lingt you can only create a certain number of assignments (6)which is a bit of a shame. To be able to do more, you will need to extend your membership (click on upgrade your account). The price does not seem too exorbitant if you want to upgrade to say 50 exercises (currently $39 a year), but I’m not really sure I would need to upgrade to have all the features for a $79 per year subscription. This is just something you will have to decide for yourself based on how effective you feel Lingt is for what you need it for.

I would suggest the best step now is to watch the Lingt tutorial video. Click ‘Help’ from your home screen (or click HERE to watch the tutorial to get an idea what you can do.) This is a well made Screencapture video explaining how to do everything and I strongly recommend watching it and making notes. The video goes through how to create a class, and then how to create an assignment for the classes you have created. There are a number of other useful questions answered for you on the help page.

When creating a class, you do not need to input anything apart from the class name. There is no need to input all your pupils, or even for them to signup to Lingt, as when you have created an assignment, the pupils will simply just go to your Lingt page (more of this later) and click on the relevant assignment for them. They will do the assignment online (on the web browser, before filling in their name and their email address at the end which will alert you to the fact that they have completed the assignment.

When you create your assignment you have a variety of tool buttons to create the texts. You have Voice, Text, Image and Video  (YouTube only) options for teacher prompts, and text and voice buttons for when you want pupils to answer. I have created a Prepositions and Furniture work sheet for my 3rd form. I have a video from Youtube going through the prepositions to start with, with questions in English underneath. Then I have uploaded an image of a bedroom with questions in Spanish again underneath, and then I have finally recorded some questions requiring spoken answers, before leaving one final question for a longer written response, describing their bedroom.

I have yet to test this out with the 3rd form but there appear to be a couple of risks involved with Lingt. Firstly, many schools have blocked Youtube (in my school only the 6th form can go onto Youtube) and I don’t know whether by ’embedding’ a Youtube video into your worksheet on Lingt it will allow the 3rd-5th formers to watch it, or if it will be blocked still. Secondly, pupils will need to have the ability to record their own voice (necessitating a microphone) and not all school computers or pupils will have one, and it could mean them being excluded from a task, or being able to complete it properly. Hopefully they can upload / save their recordings on Lingt – I have experienced problems with Voki and GoAnimate with uploading recordings on a browser, and I don’t know if this would be a problem with this website as well.

Hopefully these problems can be overcome without too many difficulties as the IT technicians in schools become more aware of the potential uses of Web 2.0 tools and other sites for the classroom and education generally, and unblock and allow full or timed use of them. There are of course risks with using Youtube, but the benefits are huge as well, and this should mean that a more sensible policy regarding its use can be found.

I do feel that Lingt has much to recommend it, and after the exam period I will investigate it further and see if I and the pupils experience any problems with its use. It does seem particularly useful for speaking and listening practise outside the classroom, and providing a really interactive worksheet, something I feel would appeal to a lot of students of all ages.

I would be really interested to hear from anyone who already uses Lingt regularly or who has tried it out to see what you think and if it has worked well or not. Please leave a comment below or tweet me @pedroelprofesor.