Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things

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As 2016 draws to a close, I contemplated writing a reflective piece about my favorite things of the year.  Rather than writing about my own accomplishments as I have in previous years, I decided that I would write about my favorite tech tools of 2016. As I pondered, the song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music got stuck in my head.  If you've never watched this classic musical film, here's a clip of it where Julie Andrews performs the song.

And since I can't seem to shake that song out of my mind, I'm going to attempt to write a parody of that lovely song about my favorite ed tech tools.

Here we go....

My Favorite Things

MacBooks and Google Drive for every student
Limitless resources for more than amusement
Tech integration made seamlessly
These are a few of my favorite things

ESL Bistro is the learning venue
Choice of assignments listed on a menu
Voice and choice give students wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Make presentations that gain our approval
Then we use Recap for reflecting
These are a few of my favorite things

When Internet's slow, when the site's down
MacBook tools like Pages come through
I simply remember these favorite things
And I don't feel so blue

Study on Quizlet and play Quizlet Live
Export the flashcards to Quizalize
Kahoot and Quizizz also interesting.
These are a few of my favorite things.

Skype and for global connections
Peace and politics made great conversations
Also use Blogger for connecting
These are a few of my favorite things

Grammar practice with No Red Ink
Newsela reading makes all students think
Listenwise helps with listening
These are a few of my favorite things

When Internet's slow, when the site's down
MacBook tools like Quicktime come through
I simply remember these favorite things
And I don't feel so blue

Hopefully my readers aren't cringing too badly. It sure has been fun writing it.

Most importantly, check out these tools and you may find them on your list of favorites too.  And be sure to keep checking my blog for tidbits on how I use these great tools. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me or enter a comment below.

I wish everyone a most blessed holiday season and may 2017 be the #BestYearEver!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Personalizing Vocabulary Development with Quizlet and Quizalize

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If personalizing vocabulary development seems unrealistic because of the workload it would create, I'd like to share some tools that can help make it a reality.

After reading this article on Quizalize's blog, I soon realized that personalizing vocabulary development and assessing understanding had been made much easier thanks to Quizlet and Quizalize. These two tools work together beautifully as they enable users to import Quizlet study sets into Quizalize to create formative quizzes. The export/import process is relatively quick and simple, facilitating personalized vocabulary development and allowing me to better meet my students' vocabulary needs. Since I generally involve students in creating their own word list and Quizlet study set, importing into Quizalize was just the icing on the cake.  

Quizlet has long been my favorite online tool for developing and reviewing vocabulary.  The multi-platform tool enables users to create digital flashcards and engage in various study modes including tests and games. Learners are able to add graphics to every flashcard and its audio component helps to ensure that students are not only learning spelling and definitions but also accurate pronunciation. And last spring, after adding the collaborative gaming feature, Quizlet Live, it quickly became my one of my favorite tools. Read more about how I use Quizlet in my recent contribution to Larry Ferlazzo's Q&A column on ed tech tools.

I'm also a fan of competitive, game style, formative assessment tools. I like them not only because they're fun and engaging for students, but I love the data they provide. Last summer I discovered Quizalize and found it very useful for both formative assessments and student review.  Soon after I learned that users can export Quizlet study sets and import them into Quizalize enabling teachers to check for understanding relatively quickly and easily.

So, here's how I'm using these tools, usually with informational reading selections.  After the initial reading (which I read aloud to class), students select 12 new or relatively unknown words from their reading material and create a Quizlet study set.  These can be in addition to or in lieu of a provided word bank. I find it much more effective to give students a voice in developing their vocabulary list rather than providing a predetermined list. Students share their Quizlet sets with me and I review them for accuracy. I then export the study set and import it to Quizalize, creating a personalized quiz. Aside from checking understanding, quizzes can be offered as a review tool and teachers can choose to have students complete the quizzes in class as a competitive game and/or on their own time as classwork or homework.

Why 12 words you may ask? In order to play Quizlet Live, sets must contain at least 12 words. While I would not suggest more than 12 words with English learners or special populations, you can certainly include as many terms as appropriate for the unit of study.  And if you haven't tried Quizlet Live, I highly recommend you resolve to try it in 2017.

In terms of the wow-factor, my students have not found Quizalize to be as fun as other competitive tools. However, the ability to quickly import from Quizlet facilitates personalized instruction and assessment and I think it will win any teacher over, just as it did me. And if creating a quiz for every learner may be a bit overwhelming because of class sizes, consider dividing classes into small groups where group members collaborate on creating a list instead of each individual student. The possibilities are endless!

I created the screencast below to demonstrate how easy the process is.

So if you're looking for an easy way to personalize and/or differentiate vocabulary development, I encourage you to try Quizlet and Quizalize.