Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Free Tools Challenge #7 - Kerpoof

Kerpoof is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. In fact, making pictures and movies in Kerpoof feels a little like directing a Walt Disney cartoon. Yes, it is ideal for young learners and yes, it isn't aimed at adult learners. Or is it?

Well, I am an adult (sort of) and I had so much fun playing with Kerpoof tools. In fact, that's why it took me so long to write this post - I was busy playing.

Here is what you and your students can do in Kerpoof:

Watch Kerpoof tutorials first. Then you can try and make a picture of your own. Choose the background you like and then just keep adding more things, the way I did here:

One way to do this in class is to start with an image such as this one. Then discuss fairy tales in general. Find out what your students' favourite fairy tales are, then let them create their own image. As a follow-up they can write the rest of the story.

Another tool that is very useful for TEFL teachers is Spell a Picture. Here is a link to a lovely lesson plan that tells you how to use it. And here is what the end result might look like:

Then, you can make movies:

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They are really easy to make and, of course, you can make your characters say and do different things:

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Let's not forget Tell a Story:

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Unfortunately, none of these are embeddable, which is why I had to use Jing to record them.

There is a wide variety of purposes Kerpoof can serve in an EFL classroom. You can introduce new vocabulary and grammar, Kerpoof images and movies can accompany reading and listening exercises or serve as writing and speaking prompts. They only take a couple of minutes to create.

And, as I will be away for the next ten days, I apologise in advance if I don't answer your comments as quickly as I normally do. I am pressing the Pause button on the Free Tools Challenge, but I hope I'll manage to finish the Challenge when I get back.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Free Tools Challenge #6 - DoInk

Today's Free Tools Challenge is DoInk, a free vector editor that you can use to create images and animations.

If you can draw, that is.

I, personally can't. You know how people say they can't draw, but they create lovely little paintings. Well, I am not one of them. I really can't draw. I never draw on the board, not because I am embarrassed by how I do it, but because my drawings only further confuse my students. Is it a bird? Or a butterfly? Oh, it is a flower. Isn't it?

I can't draw and I am going to prove it to you in a second. Yes, I did try DoInk. Of course I tried it. I managed to create this lovely educational video:

I bet my beginner students would never have grasped Present Continuous without it.

I can't draw, but other people can. And you can share DoInk drawings and animations on your website.

From what I have seen, most of the people in the DoInk community are very young. If you are teaching teenagers and if they enjoy drawing, this might be a perfect place for them. They have to be over 13 to join. But even if neither you nor your students feel like drawing, DoInk still has a lot to offer. Just explore it a little and see what you can come up with. For example, I really think I will be able to use this animation with my students:

As you can see, there is a lot of lovely language inside. And it fits perfectly with the topic of food and cooking.

If you are a blogger, you will find it easy to identify with this girl:

A lot of students are apparently choosing DoInk to do science projects, which is great if you teach CLIL.

For example, this little video is amazing:

And if you are interested in the topic, just follow the link underneath. There is more by the same author.

The trick here is to play around, watch a couple of animations and wait for the idea of a lesson plan to come to you. Unless you can draw, of course, in which case you can create exactly what you need.

As for my beginner students and their problems with Present Continuous, I think I am going to give this animation a try:

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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Free Tools Challenge #4 - Classtools

Our Teacher Challenge #4 was to explore Classtools.net.

Classtools are almost too good to be true. They can turn a most boring vocabulary list into an exciting game. They can organise your data. They can help you create wonderful graphs. There are so many tools out there, folks. And there is no need to even register.

The first tool I am going to show you is the Arcade Game Generator. Not because it is the first tool in the Classtools list, but because it is going to be our star of the evening.

When you click on the link I provided above, a window will open. It will look like this:

Simply type or copy/paste your list of words and their meanings into the window and click 'play'. That's all it takes to turn your boring list into something like this:

As you can see, there are five (yes, five) games generated from your humble little word list. What it does is make students go through the same vocabulary over and over again without even realising they are learning.

Let's look at another game. It is called Dustbin Game. Again, you create a simple vocabulary list and up to four 'dustbins' to categorise the words into. This is what you get:

Click here for larger version

Once again, I am urging you to explore Classtools on your own. There is something for everyone. I am going to share just one more thing with you today. It is called Hamburger and I believe no explanation is necessary:

Brilliant, isn't it?

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Sunday, 3 April 2011

Free Tools Challenge Number Three - Bitstrips

Update (2018): If you have landed on this page from the Let's Go Digital website, you might be confused about the tools I used to create these comics. Unfortunately, Bitstrips and Superherosquad don't exist any more. The Bitstrips people are still offering something called Bitmoji, which (although nice) is a far cry from its original. If you are looking for a comic creator, there are still a lot of free options out there, such as Toondoo. Superheromachine is still out there, luckily.
I have decided to keep this post as it is, instead of republishing it, since it still contains a lot of practical ideas for the classroom. The post was written a long time ago and it was a part of a blogging challenge I participated in back then.

Created with Hero Machine

I am going to keep the posts related to the Free Tools Challenge very short, so that I can explore as many tools as possible and somehow catch up with the challenge.

In Challenge Number 3 we are exploring Bitstrips. I have decided to modify the original task and adapt it to my teaching situation. So, instead of exploring Bitstrips for Schools, I am going to stick to classical Bitstrips.

Let's say you want to create a comic with or for your students. Why should you choose Bitstrips? Because they are really, really easy to use. Because they are flexible. You can create your own comics in seconds using the ready-made characters. Or you can spend five minutes more and create your own character. For the first activity I am going to share here I created a silly pink-haired girl called Jane. I liked Jane so much that I starred her in the other two comics I created.

It is easy to position the characters, to change their facial expressions and their gestures. I am usually puzzled by comic creators, but Bitstrips are very intuitive.

I promised in my first Free Tools Challenge that I was going to keep these posts down-to-earth and full of practical activities. Then why do strange winged ladies keep appearing on this page?

Well, see, I kind of got carried away and, along with Bitstrips I used several other tools, such as Hero Machine (great for creating comic superheroes), Superherosquad (for comics, really easy) and Marvel.com (again for superheroes). It so happens that all my heroines have wings. I would love to share them all here (I have created a whole bunch of them), but there is no space. I am somehow sure that they'll keep cropping up in my future posts.

Now for my Bitstrips activities. Practical and down-to-earth. Just like Jane, who hasn't got wings at all.

There are lots and lots of ways you can use comics in class. I have, yet again, focused on three:

1. to introduce new grammar and vocabulary or provide further examples

You could, of course, just write the examples on the board, but isn't this much more interesting?

Try to make your comics funny if possible. Don't forget to change your characters' expressions and positions according to what they are saying.

Bitstrips are great for vocabulary and especially for idioms. Have a look of what Janet did here.

2. Comic characters always use informal English, so comics could be used to teach the difference between formal and informal English.

In the following activity I used a letter of complaint where a customer was complaining about something that had happened to him in a supermarket and then I 'dramatised the scene' in the comic:

This is just an example, but it is possible to develop it into a full lesson plan. First you can work on the difference between formal and informal English with your students, then you can work on the language of complaining. After that they can compose a letter of complaint and finally they could create a Bitstrips comic. There is even room for a role play in between.

Or the process can be reversed. First they think of a real situation, then they create a Bitstrips comic, finally they write the letter.

3. In the third activity I have provided the strip, but no text. I am sure you are familiar with this type of writing activity. Usually speech bubbles are provided, but I haven't done that here. That way there is more flexibility. Who is speaking? Is the cat saying anything? What are the characters saying?

Any ideas?

Please share your ideas in the comment area. 

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Saturday, 2 April 2011

A Google Docs Quiz

Reading Place
Photo on Filckr by Erich Ferdinand

Free Tools Challenge #2 was to create a multiple choice quiz using Google Docs.

I normally use ProProfs when I want to create multiple choice exercises. I like ProProfs: the quizzes are easy to make, easy to embed, they look nice on your blog or wiki page and students immediately know what their result is and where they made a mistake. And, you can search ProProfs for quizzes other teachers made and share them with your students. However, it was time to try something new.

I love Google - from Gmail to Chrome to Blogger I am a Google girl. However, that doesn't apply to Google Docs. I simply never bothered to learn how to use Docs. Which is a pity, I suppose.

Well, this is a start. Not much of a start, since I only created one quiz. Here it is:

It looks nice doesn't it? And if you want to find out how well you did it, here is the link to the text where I found these particular words.

I like the idea of using a multiple choice quiz as an introduction into a Reading Comprehension exercise, the way I did here. A quiz can spark the students' interest in the text and make them want to read in order to find out whether they were right or not.

Google Docs have some obvious advantages. They can be edited over and over. Questions can be changed, deleted or added. They are collaborative, which means that different people can add questions to your quizzes, including the students themselves.

If you want to learn how to make these quizzes, check the tutorial in the Free Tools Challenge blog. I have also found a great tutorial here.

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