Word Clouds: Endless Options

A word cloud is a visual representation of a text. The tool I usually  use is Word it out (www.worditout.com).  Not only do word clouds look good, they are easy to make and fun to analyse.

What can you do with a word cloud?

  • Create a word cloud of class vocabulary to be practiced or learned
  • Make a word cloud of a text you have written to see which words appear most often
  • Make a word cloud of adjectives or verbs to display as a poster
  • Use in class before reading a text to pre-teach unknown vocabulary
  • Generate interest by having students guess what topic of the unknown text is
  • Use after reading as revision
  • Tell the story of the text
  • Use word clouds to help students create summaries of the information
  • At the start of the course, students could create word clouds with words and phrases about themselves to use as introductions
  • Create a word cloud with words in two languages, English and that of the students (if working with a monolingual group). Students try to match the words.

WordItOut-word-cloud-356768

How to: a quick youtube tutorial on using Worditout.com

Word it out is great to start you off. There are other sites, but this is my favourite. It takes no time at all to get to grips with how it works, sharing is easy, it’s fun and the end product looks good. You have the option to choose different settings, such as removing specific words or making your chosen words larger or smaller, but even without that, the images look good, grab students’ attention and create opportunities for discussion. What’s not to love!!!

 

Vocaroo. Think it: Say it: Share it – Podcasting

Despite the great success I was having podcasting with my university students, I hadn’t made much effort to introduce the idea to my adult business classes, being put off by the numerous obstacles I imagined would come up. While some students admit to being tech addicts, there are others who happily leave all thoughts of internet and computers behind them as they close the office door at the end of the working day. Even if I could tempt them to give podcasting a shot, the tool I usually use requires a log in, which for some people is a deterrent.

Then I happened upon Vocaroo.com – the perfect solution! This site lets you record and share voice messages over the internet in a variety of ways. No software downloads or log ins needed.

Vocaroo page- ready to start podcasting
Vocaroo – ready to start podcasting

Once you have recorded your message, you can listen to it and re-record it if you’re not satisfied. When ready,  save it and share.

 

Ready to share your finished audio message.
Ready to share your finished audio message.

On Vocaroo.com I recorded a message for the group outlining their homework task and played it at the end of class. Their job was to record themselves talking about the topic, which I chose depending on what we were working on at the time. In one class I asked students to talk about an experience they had speaking in front of an audience, as presentations was the topic coming up next in their course book.

I gave a few options as to what they could do with their recorded message.

  • Record it, listen to it and reflect on how they could improve.
  • Email me the finished recording for one to one feedback.
  • Allow me to share the recording with the class (for discussion on content) once I had given one to one feedback.

I asked them to share it via email as I felt that was the easiest for everybody. I also recommended that they each download their message as the site states that the recordings will not be saved indefinitely. The students may enjoy listening to themselves again in the future, hopefully marvelling at the progress they’ll have made in the meantime!


Audio and voice recording >>

So far, the podcasting experiment has worked very well. I found that some students, in particular those who I’ve worked with for a while, were more confident about sharing their finished recordings than others and were eager to discuss the experience with the group.  Everyone, even those who hadn’t made or shared a recording, got something out of the exercise and I felt slightly guilty that I had rejected the idea of podcasting with business groups for so long.

Vocaroo has helped me see the error of my ways and allows me to podcast merrily from classroom to boardroom!

Read the signs! Add your own text to signs.

Unbelievably simple, yet incredibly entertaining: this sign generator from redkid.net is my favourite. There are other sites, but I found them a bit trickier to use – not as classroom-friendly.  Here, you have a choice of 55 signs or images. You just type in your text, press generate and your new image appears! Some images allow for only a word or two, while others can fit a bit more. You can then save the image to your computer. Give it a try – it really is that simple!

http://www.redkid.net/generator/sign.php

My students have used it to create mock book covers to illustrate the ideas or themes covered in their creative writing pieces, titles to upload with their audio boo podcasts, and personalised images to introduce projects. We are all so used to seeing these types of signs in our day to day lives. It’s fun putting your own personal stamp on them.

awesome apps

It’s not just fun, however. Students have to come up with a good title for their stories or podcasts and try to pick a picture that is somehow connected to the title or that they feel fits their work. Deciding what title or message to use takes a bit of thought and if the words don’t fit, students have to start looking for synonyms.

cookie

I’m sure there are lots of other ways of using it in class. Let me know how you get on!

Chirp yourself Happy. Easy info sharing for teachers

Have you tried the Chirp app? It’s all about ‘singing’ information from phone to phone.  It’s a great way of sharing – fast, fun and most importantly, simple to use.

I think there is huge potential for using Chirp in the classroom. The idea of sending links, messages and photos  to students in seconds is quite exciting. It takes a lot of hassle out of sharing information. I don’t need to waste time emailing 30 plus students, and they don’t need to write anything down, friend me or open an email – the other methods I have used for sharing articles, links and other information with them.

So far, students have reacted positively towards Chirp, mostly because it’s a novelty and admittedly, very cool.

I’m planning on utilising it further in the coming semester by doing some of the following…

  • Role play task instructions  – 2 chirps, one for all the As and one for the Bs
  • Divide students into groups of 3 and assign each a number. Chirp 3 different images, one for each ‘number/group member’. Students take it in turns to describe their picture to their partners, and then try to decide what the link between the pictures is.  They could then try to write a story which includes their pictures.
  • Chirp Homework information. No need for them to write it down,  and no chance of them saying they ‘couldn’t remember where they wrote it/ lost the page/ wrote it down wrong’ or whatever inventive excuse they usually offer you.  (Some of my students have wild imaginations and think I’m incredibly gullible.)
  • Chirp out a funny message at the end of class as they go home for the weekend, or a group photo of all the students at the end of a course.
  • Send a chirp with an extra task for students who finish their work early.  Something to read, or a link to a site with grammar ‘games’ would work well.
  • Give students the homework task of taking a photo somehow related to whatever topic you are working on in class. They chirp it to the group and take a few minutes to explain what the picture is, where they took it and why they feel it relates to the topic. What a great idea for ‘show and tell’!

This would also be great during a lecture, staff meeting or presentation. And of course, it doesn’t just have to be the teacher chirping. Students can easily share with friends. One idea would be to have students take a screenshot of their homework or project to share with the group. Everyone could discuss the work and offer feedback without having to email it to everyone or use a projector.

We’ll all soon be chirping away happily!

Chirp it out loud!

Here’s a chirp I made earlier…

Share thoughts in poster form with Muzy

I have been looking at ways of using images in class, in particular, easy-to-use tools to give students the chance to create a visual representation of what they are learning. One idea is to create a poster with a summary of the main arguments or ideas introduced in a text or article. This idea could also be used for a pop song or students could  choose their favourite quotes from a book or short story they are reading in class.

There are many benefits to such an activity – as well as developing creative thinking and encouraging learner autonomy, the task is visual and hands-on, so accommodates different learning styles and task preferences. The resulting posters can be used as visual aids for communication and presentation activities, and if you’ve asked the students to include specific vocabulary in their sentences, the posters can be helpful when revising for tests.

 

no right to be up
‘Dad, just cause you are retired now, doesn’t mean you can rub it in by texting me daily to say that you got up at 10.30 am while I’ve been up since 6!’

Muzy was one tool I thought looked interesting, and while it was really easy to use, and to post to Facebook or twitter, it did take me a while to figure out how to save or print the image. I’m adding pictures and instructions here for anyone who fancies trying it out.

Click to enlarge images and scroll through for details.

Have fun!

 

Students find their voices with Audioboo

I love Audioboo. Before discovering it, I had used podcasts in class or directed students to podcasts as homework, but had never encouraged my students to make their own. Little did I realise how effective it would prove to be.

AUDIOBOO – EASY PODCASTING

The great thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere – while walking to school, driving to work, waiting at the dentist …

They can be informative, practical and entertaining, and creating your own can be so much fun.

Audioboo.fm

Audioboo is a site that brings together all different types of podcasts, professional and amateur, in different categories. You can find lots of interesting material to use in class. Or you and your students can create your own podcasts – in minutes.

For this, you need to sign up. You then click Record and have the option of creating a new recording or uploading audio material you already have.

A few ideas for using Audioboo.fm

  • Weekly news programmes.
  • Explanations of lesson content for students to watch at home before the class.
  • Write and record poems or stories.
  • Weekly audio journal or diary.
  • Book or film reviews.
  • Vocabulary lists to prepare for tests.
  • The teacher or students can record themselves reading texts from the coursebook, or articles discussed in class.
  • The teacher can interview English speaking family and friends, students can interview each other or their family, etc.

How to:

One example of how I used it was when working with a group of first year Media and Marketing students, analysing  advertisements. Students looked for an ad (in the English language) which they felt was particularly effective or memorable, and wrote a short text about it, discussing the product, the plot, target audience, why they thought it was successful etc. I asked the students to watch the Audioboo tutorial, and they then recorded themselves reading their texts. These we posted to our class Facebook group, and those who were finished could begin listening to their classmates’ podcasts, making note of the ads that sounded most interesting.  We later voted for the top three ads, which we watched in class on youtube, after listening as a group to the related podcasts again.

What surprised me was the effort some students put into the task. From carefully editing their texts and asking different classmates to check them, to recording it a number of times until they were satisfied, I felt they were more attentive to what they were producing than when I simply ask for a text.

The podcasting was so successful, I used it again at the end of the course, in a more light-hearted way. Students were asked to record messages for their group congratulating them on their hard work, or wishing them well in their exams etc. They produced some great content, and again everything was posted to our Facebook group page.  A few days later, I could see how often the messages had been listened to, but also that most of the students had commented after the various podcasts in English. Only small posts such as ‘what a lovely message, Vicky‘ or ‘it was fun working with you too, Saskia‘. Nevertheless, I was of course delighted to see that instead of reverting to German, they continued communicating in English.

One student told me she really appreciated having the chance to hear her own voice and notice her own mistakes, away from the noise of the lessons. Many mentioned it as one of the features of the class they most enjoyed.

So, as you can imagine, Audioboo has quickly become a firm favourite with me!

ELT with adult learners