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

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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/

 

This post is a rather late follow up to a post I did about using Twitter in the MFL classroom, a post that was very kindly RT’ed around the Twittersphere by various people.

Rather belatedly I have come up with a list for Spanish students as to who they could follow to help them with their awareness of what is going on in the Spanish speaking world and to improve their comprehension skills. Here it is ready to download.

Spanish Language Twitter Accounts Worth following

Thanks to Amanda Salt and Tanya Castillo for suggestions and Amanda’s prior list which I have added to which can be found here.

Please feel free to add any other twitterers that are worth following in the comments section.

This is less of a web tool and technology based post and instead the offer of a form to help marking AS and A2 essays for the Edexcel exam board. I have kind of borrowed some ideas from Glenn Smith’s pro forma for the AQA board that you can find at his espanish website here in the resources section. As well as checklists for tenses included, things done well, mistakes made and checklists for what to improve in grammar, context and lexis, there is also the exact markscheme for the Section C of Unit 2 and Section B of Unit 4. Click on the links below to get them (Please note that I’ve got my school name in the top right hand corner – you will need to change this!)

A2 Edexcel Essay mark feedback form

AS Edexcel Essay mark feedback form

I may well do ones for IB Language B (Standard, Higher and ab initioas well at some point soon as I will also be teaching this over the coming academic year)

Please let me know if the pro formas are useful or if you would like to suggest any improvements. Also let me know if you have downloaded these by commenting on this post please.

Moving hiatus

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Just to say that since I moved house about 10 days ago, I don’t have an internet connection, so have to come to the library to go online! When things are sorted out I will start posting again, including one on Xtranormal and probably stuff on Posterous when I have got to grips with it properly!

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.

 

Dropbox

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I’m on the point of moving schools, and am needing to store the mountain of resources I have created over the last 12 years of teaching. I have got a portable hard drive which does the job nicely but another way of storing certain things that I need instantly wherever I am in the world is to use Dropbox.

Dropbox is an online store which you can also download to your computer and even as an App on the iPhone (I presume other platforms as well, but can’t confirm. It gives you a certain amount of space into which you can easily upload files from your computer or mobile phone, making it therefore much easier to access rather than having to rely on a memory stick or portable hard drive. To start with you have 2GB of space, but you can add to this by inviting other people to join Dropbox, by linking your account with Twitter and Facebook, and various other means. The maximum you can have is 50GB which you have to upgrade our account through paying!

To begin with go to www.dropbox.com and click on ‘Download Dropbox’. Follow the instructions on your screen to download the program onto your computer and in a short time you will have succesfully registered and you will have installed it onto your computer. You will have icons that you can click on to load dropbox, or you can open the website and sign in as well.

When you are on you will have a screen something like this below, with a list of folders in my case that you can add to that you have created, or that other teachers have shared with you. Here is a screenshot of my current dropbox contents:

Twitter users may be interested in the MFLTwitterati folders.These are dropbox folders set up and used by many wonderful MFL teachers across the world. Apart from the Spanish one that I am a member of, there are also French and German MFL Twitterati folders. To join these, you will need to be invited – I am more than happy to invite you to the MFL Twitterati and Twitterati Spanish folders (send me a direct message on twitter to @pedroelprofesor) but ask on twitter for the others using the #mfltwitterati hashtag and someone will oblige – you get extra mb space if you do so people will be keen! If you aren’t on twitter, send me a message via the comment facility on this blog. The folders contain a great deal of resources and ideas and are well worth joining and contributing to.

From your dropbox homepage you can easily create new folders, upload your documents and share files with others. Just have a look through the various icons at the top of the page (Upload, Create New Folder, Share Folder) or use the left hand left buttons (Sharing, Events, Links and Getting Started). It works much like your normal way of navigating through folders, so it should not be difficult to use successfully.

So how can Dropbox be used in the MFL classroom? For me it could be used as an alternative to a VLE. It could be an easier way to share files, exercises, websites, photos and resources with other teachers in the department plus with your classes as well. Giving pupils access to folders would allow them to access things at home, at school and on holiday which could make things easier for them, particularly for revision and due to illness. Edmodo offers a similar system to this with its library options, but Dropbox has the advantage in terms of how it can be used on smartphones and as a download as well, not just online. Similarly pupils could send preps to you in a similar way, and you can collate best efforts for others to learn from. I may well employ Dropbox for just this purpose in my new school, as it will save me a lot of time uploading files to a VLE when there is another alternative .

As a collaborative device, Dropbox has a lot of advantages, though you have to make sure you don’t exceed your memory quota. As a school or department, it could be worth while investing in premium accounts for teachers (though my new school declined my request for this having sent me the staff handbook via dropbox!) Please do ask to join the MFL twitterati dropbox folder as it is a very useful resource in itself.