Lyricstraining – Listening
Listen to various songs and complete gaps in the lyrics.
I first learned about this tool at the IATEFL conference in Brighton in 2011 – interestingly, it was mentioned during one of the Pecha Kucha presentations in the evening. I found my notes from the conference about a year later and this year it has been one of my favourite tools. I hope my students enjoy it as much as I do!
How it works
Choose a song. Then choose one of three available levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) and click on play. As the song plays you have to complete the gaps in the lyrics. The difference between the levels is the number of gaps. Regardless of students’ level I always recommend starting with the Beginner level where you have on average 20 random gaps (they change every time) in a 4 minute song. Advanced level is all blank and you have to write all the lyrics yourself. The best thing about this tool is that the song stops playing until you supply the correct answer. You can go back and listen from the beginning of a line or give up and have the missing word displayed for you. This quick help guide shows the main functions:
Besides obviously being a great tool for practising authentic listening, a lot of gaps can be filled in by predicting what comes next using the knowledge of language (grammar and vocabulary) or what is known as bottom-up processing. Also, a recent study confirms what I've always believed in - language learners who listen to songs in a foreign language and sing along make faster progress, particularly when it comes to the phrasal lexicon.
(personal choices - mainly ballads)
John Lennon – Jealous Guy (easy)
Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man (a bit harder)
Adele – Someone Like You (medium difficulty)
Quizlet – vocabulary
Learn vocabulary in a variety of modes on the computer, tablet or smartphone
Most of you will be familiar with Quizlet. It’s a website for creating online flashcards: a word (known as “term”) on one side; translation or definition on the other. However, if approached creatively, Quizlet can be used to practise chunks of language as well.
Have a look at some of the sets I’ve created:
Everyday phrases: http://quizlet.com/_jqc7r
Politicians & embarrassing situations: http://quizlet.com/_da44c - In this set I don’t give definitions at all. Instead, students are given the first letter of a chunk we learned in class.
Delexicalised verbs and their common collocates: http://quizlet.com/_gto6p
How it works
You have to create an account or sign in with Facebook. Click on Create at the top of the screen to create a new set. Give your set a title, for example Travel or Health. Then start entering the items you want your students to practise. After you’ve finished, click on Save at the bottom and your set is now ready to be shared with your students. To create a set of collocations, enter the first word (e.g. solve) in the right column under Definitions and the second word (e.g. the problem) in the left column under Terms. See example HERE
When your set is ready, click on Share (1) in the top right hand corner of the page to get a short link (like the ones listed above) which you can send to your students.
When your students open the link they should start with Flash cards. This is the first mode which allows them to simply browse through the list of new items. I usually ask my students to select Definition under Start with. To check if they remember the word they should click anywhere on the card to flip it over.
After your students have gone through the set, they can choose one of the following review modes at the top of the screen. The modes are listed here in order of difficulty, i.e moving from mere recognition of new items (receptive knowledge) to being able to recall them (productive knowledge).
The terms and definitions (or whatever you entered under these categories) are scattered on the screen and you put them back together. If matched correctly, they disappear from the screen. Perfect for matching parts of collocations.
As the name suggests, it’s good for working on spelling. You type in the words as they are spoken.
This mode generates a graded quiz. Questions can be open-ended, multiple choice or true/false. Possibly more suitable for teachers and for words with definitions / translations.
tests students’ active knowledge of the items. They have to type in the answers themselves.
Or simply Race is the most difficult game. You have type in the correct answer as the definitions shoot across the screen.
Some of the excellent extra features include the following:
- You can add images to the definitions.
- You can “adopt” sets created by other teachers and modify them. (click on Copy - 2)
- You can combine your sets. (see under More tools - 3)
- You can print sets or combined sets and use them for paper-based activities in class. (4)
But this isn’t all. You can also create folders and organize your sets by levels or courses. You can create classes and assign a few sets to the same class or the same set to different classes. These two options are available from the home page after you’ve logged in.
Finally, if your students have smartphones – most of them do - they can install the Quizlet app. Then they have to find you (give them your username) and select one of the sets or classes you have created.
For other lexical tools, check out Essential Lexical Tools on this site.
Textivate – pre- and post-reading
Break the text apart and get students to put it back together
How it works
Copy and paste a text and then choose one of the modes / activities: tiles, shuffle, fill in the letters or the hangman. I usually use short texts from CBBC News Round or Tiny Texts Recommendation: 18 tiles for a text of 1000 words – anything longer that gets a bit confusing. Reconstruction activities of this kind force the learner to move from semantic processing (when they mainly pay attention to the message) to syntactic processing (when attention is paid to how the message is constructed).
See other ideas for revisiting texts (not involving technology) in my article on the TeachingEnglish website - click HERE
Unfortunately, as with all good things, Textivate didn’t remain a free app for long. At the end of March this year they introduced various pay plans. A free version was still available but it didn’t allow you to save the activities and send them to your students so that they could review the text at home.
As I was writing this, I realised that even the basic free plan had been discontinued. So even if you want to use Textivate in class using a projector or IWB you need to pay a subscription fee. A teacher on the in-service course I taught earlier this year recently told me that she’d got so hooked on this tool and it saves her so much time in class that 10 pounds per year is really worth it. So perhaps, considering there are not so many language-focused tools on the web I’ll fork out 10 pounds next year so that it stays my favourite app in 2014 too.
Are you familiar with any of the above tools? What tools have been your favourite this year? Looking forward to your responses in the comments below.