Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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 and you will see the screen below.



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.



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

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

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. ( Or you can click on the following link:

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!

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: 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.

Dvolver is a nice little tool, if a little limited in its usefulness. It is a tool to create a short ‘movie’ though more like an animated cartoon. The language that will be used will be produced in the form of speech bubbles, so it will more be useful as a way of practising reading and writing, rather than speaking and listening. In this way it compares to the comic strip creators that I have blogged about already, rather than the animation creators like GoAnimate. It is quick and easy though so may be most relevant for beginners in the language. A program like Domo Animate (yet to be blogged about) is a much more ambitious and flexible tool that does the same thing, but may take longer to get used to using.

To use Dvolver, go to the following URL and click Make a Movie. There is no need to sign up, login or register, which also means that it is harder to save your movie creations on the flip side, though movies can be emailed and embedded. Having clicked on Make a Movie, your futuristic looking control panel will come up. First you pick a background and sky by clicking on the icons that you like the look of, and then click next (bottom right). Then you choose the type of scene you want, either rendez-vous, pick up, chase or soliloquy (this will be how the characters interact and move around on the video). Having clicked next, you then choose your two characters who will star from the lists provided. The you add your dialogue. There are some limitations here which make Dvolver of limited usefulness, as you only have three lines per character, and are limited to 100 characters of text, hence why I said it would be best for beginners in the language. In the next panel you add your music soundtrack and then in your final panel you pick the way you want your title to appear. Then you can see your movie and can send it to the person you want to send it to by inputting their email. After you have sent it, you then have an embed code given to you, so videos can be saved onto a blog or webpage. It is worth asking pupils to send you this as well in case you want to make a page with all their creations.

Here you can see my quick movie made for you lucky people

For this reason, I would use Dvolver as a tool for short written work and preps from students, and would ask them to email it to me. I can then show the pupils their movies in class through projecting the videos onto the whiteboard.


I reckon Wordle is a little tool that is very well known by many teachers now. I only found out about it through Joe Dale’s course in London in September (everyone should go on one of his courses btw, I got more out of it in one day than any other course I have been on) and in fact, Joe set me on the path to investigating web 2.0 tools generally. I had seen examples of Wordle around but hadn’t really ever looked into it, but since its uses were shown, I have used it a number of times and passed it on to other teachers in my department.

Anyway, if, like me, Wordle had evaded your attention, here is a little bit about it, and how it can be employed perhaps in lessons. Here is how Wordle describes itself on the title page: ” Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.”

When you go to the website, click on create and then either type in or paste a load of text into the box. Then click go and your word cloud will appear quickly (you will need Java by the way).  Here is an example of one I have quickly done, using an article from

Once you have created the wordle cloud, you can adapt it, changing the font, layout and colour schemes, so feel free to play around with it and see what looks effective. You can either print your wordle out then and there, or save it to a public gallery (it’s worth storing the URL for future use if you want to project your word cloud onto a whiteboard). Again, I would really like a self-storing area, being the natural hoarder I am, but this isn’t an option.

So how can Wordle be used – here are some quick ideas:

1. Posters for classrooms or prep revision sheets for pupils

2: Revision games: Maybe have your wordle on the board via a projector and pupils pick a word and say what it means, gaining a point for their team. Cross the word off on the board.

3. Sentence building. Pupils create sentences using words on the poster. Could try and recreate the whole paragraph perhaps

4. Odd one outs. Put a whole load of vocab on the wordle with a few topic exceptions. Also could play categories, eg have rooms, furniture, prepositions, adjectives and relevant verbs in a wordle and pupils have to categorise them.

5. Find key elements of texts, or how many tenses are used within essays.

As I said earlier, there is a lot about how Wordle can be used in MFL already on the web. I read this by Samantha Lunn after going to Joe’s course, so definitely go here for more ideas! This was done a couple of years ago, so Wordle isn’t something brand new, just a nice little tool you can easily find a use for.

There are so many exercise creation tools out there on the internet, and there are so many excellent sites available where your pupils can practise their language skills now, that it may be that you can get by without creating your own resources and exercises. I guess that most of us teachers enjoy creating our own stuff though, and from what I can see via twitter and so on, are more than happy to share them too. Hot Potatoes was one of the first tools or software applications that I used and it remains one of the best to use. I became aware of it via using the excellent Languages Online website and then again with Asi Se Hace, and since finding out it was free to download and pretty easy to set up exercises, I have used it regulary and put a number of exercises on to my own school’s department VLE website.

To use Hot Potatoes, you need to download it from the website (Click here). Just make sure you download the correct version for your computer, and then follow the various instructions to install it onto your computer. Hot Potatoes allows you to create a variety of activities, namely crosswords, cloze tests, matching exercises, quizzes and  jumbled sentences.

When you have opened up the programme you will see the above options, simply click on the type of exercise that you wish to create. I have done a lot of vocabulary exercises using the match tool, which is probably the easiest one to start with. Mostly I have used it as a way for pupils to revise vocabulary that has come up in a text from a book or article, or possibly over a week. If you click on the JMatch button then you will get the template below to fill in:

All you then do is type in the words on the left hand side, with their answers on the right. You also can insert pictures as well for a visual stimulus to vocabulary test. To input more than five questions, use the arrow buttons on the left hand side of the template. When you have finished you have to customise your exercise. Do this by clicking on the icon to the left hand side of the question mark along the top bar. This opens a box where you can change the colours of the various parts of the exercise (title, background, heading, etc) give prompts and feedback to help pupils, set a time limit and so on. Click on Save As to save your test.

The next step is to publish your exercise. You can publish your quiz onto a blog or onto a Website. My school uses Contribute currently to construct our VLE but it can be added to a blog as well. To create a URL version of your exercise, click on the little blue spider web icon with a 6 on it, save it, and then view the exercise in your browser. If you are happy with it, you can then obviously copy the URL and link to it on your blog or website.

The best thing to probably do is to follow the tutorial (in the help section of the menu option when you have opened the Hot Potatoes to learn how to do things properly. Here are some examples of exercises that I have already made. (It is posible these might not load up as they are published on my school’s VLE)

Example 1 – Matching exercise

Example 2: Crossword

Example 3: Cloze test

Example 4: Quiz