Quickly Make a Quizlet Diagram

Work smarter not harder

Quizlet has a feature that they call “diagram.”  It’s pretty darn cool.  You upload a photo and then place dots on it and student identify the dots.  The implications for language learners to practice identifying vocabulary are clear.  Here I am using it not so much as a “diagram,” but as practice for vocabulary for a story.  But I am also going to use my diagram for a speaking activity and possibly some Bingo because who doesn’t love a game of Bingo?

I’ve got enough stuff to do besides giving myself more work, so here’s a “hack” you can use to make it go faster.

For this hack, I’m assuming that you are also teaching this vocabulary somewhere and that this likely involves a slide deck or Powerpoint.  I like when I can reuse something multiple times in multiple ways because it feels like time well spent making whatever I needed to make.  Did you know you can download individual slides as a jpg?  That you can then load into Quizlet saving you hours of time?  You can!

Make a slide

We’re going to import lots of images using the Explore tool and I like everything nice and neat so I first made a table.  The pictures won’t actually go in the table, but it will keep them nice and neat.  Choose the number of rows and columns.

Use the Explore Tool

If you are not already using the Explore Tool in Google Slides to find your images you are doing too much work.  Click on Tools>Explore Tool and search for what you need.  Click on “Images” to get a wonderful selection.  The search button isn’t like regular Google search so if you want a cartoon search something like: writing cartoon, or writing png.  That will help narrow it down to cartoons.  Click the plus sign to insert into your slide. Repeat.

Bonus:  My slide is actually a speaking activity to be done with partners.  I’ll show you what I did in my workflow.

Download Your Slide and Upload to Quizlet

You need a file for your Quizlet, so click on File>Download and choose .jpg.  Then upload that to Quizlet and add your dots et voilà, you’ve quickly made a diagram out of another activity.  #multitasking


Last week I published a workflow of my slides and it seemed well received.  (Nobody threw virtual tomatoes, anyways.)  So here’s another which shows how I also made this into a speaking activity.

Link to the Interactive Slide itself.


Turning 17 seconds into 15 minutes

Using Video for Input

A couple of weeks ago I happened across some absolutely adorable videos on YouTube that I wanted to use with my Novice Lows because the videos all started with a short introduction.  Video can be a powerful tool in the language classroom for communication.  Alternately, it can easily become background noise for students if it isn’t made comprehensible.   I used the video option in Google Slides to add video directly to my slide deck and the video options allowed me to maximize the languages and images for my class. Here, the tools I used to turn 17 seconds into 15 minutes of awesome.

(Google Slides has wildly simple and effective videos options that can be used for a whole class activity as long as the teacher has access to YouTube.  If students have access to YouTube you can also use these tools for video that students would interact with on their own.)

Find a video…

You can search directly in Google Slides for a video, but that is #nofun so I suggest finding the video in YouTube and then copy and pasting that video into the Insert video box.  Click on the video and then Select.  The video will automatically be inserted into your slide.


And know what you want to do with it.

Why are we watching this video?  How will students’ language be different after watching this video?  What’s the point? 

I thought about putting this first, but I think with the YouTube rabbit hole sometimes you know you want a video for a vague reason and then when you find the right video your mind goes crazy with ideas for using it.  Let’s say they should happen concurrently.  Here I’m using a bunch of videos from “Détecteur de mensonges” as input and interpretive listening for the second and third hour of French class.  I want students to listen to what these peoples names are and we are also going to talk about them using the (limited) vocabulary they have at the end of three hours and to introduce some new vocabulary (man, old, young).  The first 20ish seconds of these videos will be comprehensible.  The rest will be noise, so I am going to crop them out.

Set the start/stop time

Google Slides video options allow you to set the time the videos run.  First insert the video into your slide.

Next, select the video and choose video options and set the time you want the video to start and stop.   In this example I am only using the first 17 seconds.


You can faux-crop any video using the start/stop time option. Found a 4 min video where you don’t want to show the middle 2 minutes?  No problem!  Make a slide and import the video.  Set the run time for 0:00 to 1:00.  Copy that slide and in the copy set the run time for 3:00-4:00.  Voilà!  Video crop done.  When you present your slide deck and click from one slide to the next the video will automatically start after the crop.

Mute Video

In my lesson after the students watched the video several times and after we talked about the “characters”, they “role-played” the conversation themselves.  One person played the role of the little girl and the other the détective.  I wanted them to do this in time with the video because that seemed more fun than just role-playing on their own.  I used the same 17 seconds of the video and muted the sound.

The “Mini” Lesson

My lesson involved several slides (because I do everything in slides.) I didn’t just start off with the video.  First, I used screenshots of the “characters” to talk about them using the limited vocabulary of the students.  I introduced the new words: mignonne, jeune, homme and we talked about the characters using that.

I added three guiding questions for the students as they were watching the video.  Giving the questions helps students focus on what they should be listening for in the video.  We’d been practicing this all class.

Next, I used a slide of all of the “characters” to ask questions about them.  This was at the end of the second hour of French, so the questions were pretty simple.  

For me, this is what I think of as “disguised” input.  We had talked over and over about il s’appelle, elle s’appelle and I wanted them to hear that again in a different context and not about us.

The whole thing took about 15 minutes from beginning to end.


You can click here to access the slides I used.  Someone asked me over the summer about how I do all of the stuff I do, so for this lesson I made a “workflow.”  Literally, I just recorded myself making it and it includes the rational and shows the tools I used.  I hope it’s useful.


Three No Prep Activities for the First Day

It’s Back to School time!!

Officially school started over a week ago at the high school and I don’t go back to school at the college for another week.

Here are three no/low prep activities you can do with any class, but the newbies.  (For my take on starting with the with the newbies see this post.)

1. Categories

I don’t know about you, but when my students came in after the summer they hadn’t spent it practicing any French and I like the delicate toe dipping back into the TL.  Here’s how it works:

Brainstorm a list of categories (themes) students should know.  For example: School, Home, the Beach, Brandon Brown Wants a Dog, etc.  Whatever they most likely studied.  Then one at a time put those on the board (or on a slide deck) and instruct students to come up with a list of words that have to do with that topic.  It just needs to be a list.  (Don’t worry, we’ll make sentences later!) For example for school students might list: listen, pencil, paper, fun, partners, etc.  Give them oh, three minutes per topic.  Give prizes or Señor(ita) Bucks or whatever your reward system is for the most words, the most interesting words, the longest word, etc.  Whatever you want.  Here’s the important part- both partners have to write down the exact same words.  After each category I’d ask for volunteers to tell me some of the words all in TL.  Next, have them switch partners and go on to the next category. Repeat until you’ve gone through each category.  I’d recommend no more than four categories.

When you’re done you’re left with some nice lists and hopefully students have got their TL brains loosened up and working a bit.  But here’s where it gets really good:  send them to the next partner.  (See they’ve worked now with five different people, reviewed, hello, my name is, your name is, etc.)  With this last partner give them the instructions that they will have 10 minutes to come up with a 30 second conversation about one of those topics.  It can be a story.  It can be a dialogue.  It can be a newsflash, but both people need to talk.  I limit the time.  This isn’t about proficiency or an assessment, this is about getting their mouths moving again in the TL and for you to get an initial idea of their raw language abilities.  Then they can present their 30 second dialogues/stories the next day or on Flipgrid or Recap or whatever way makes you the happiest.

2.  Meeting someone you don’t know

For students who are new to a class together they need to get to know each other.  There’s lots of cute icebreaker ways to do this, but I am not that kind of girl.  I can’t stand icebreakers.  When I see on a meeting agenda icebreakers or getting to know you activities, I start planning a bathroom emergency.  I understand as a teacher that icebreakers are necessary, so here’s how I do it in class.

In partners ask students to brainstorm a list of questions you could ask someone you don’t know or have just met.  It’s important to specify that “How are you?” does not count.  While they’re doing this you can walk around and help and gush and see how they’re starting off the year.  When they’re done I usually ask for volunteers and write their questions on the board.  If I notice that they may need extra help, then when we brainstorm the questions, I’ll also review how to start the answer.  So when we write “Quel âge as-tu?” I’ll also get them to tell me and I’ll write “J’ai…”

But not done yet…..have students choose five of the most important questions. Which five do we have to know about each other?  (Hopefully they chose name as one of them if not say, “Oops, I said six questions” and mark name as one of them.)  One year students included – What’s your favorite book?  (That was a bookish class.)  One year, what’s your favorite movie?  Doesn’t matter.  They choose.

Still not done… have students interview a partner and then present their partner to the class.  You can do the not fancy stand up and present and that’s like 15 seconds per kid or you can go fancy and have the students do a collaborative Google Slide or use Flipgrid or Recap.  (If you haven’t guessed yet I choose the non fancy option for this.)

3.  Whaddya do?

If students know the past tense already, then as far as I’m concerned that first week’s lessons should include something about what they did over the summer.  Ask yourself, how many times did someone ask you about your summer when you got back to work?  It’s all anyone wants to talk about.  Sure, you can change it up and throw in an infographic about typical vacations in your language culture and have them compare, but I just like the no-nonsense tell me about your vacation.  (For ideas about talking about vacation here’s a whole post.)

This year I’ve been particularly interested in how many different ways I’ve been asked about my summer since I’ve been back:

Were you able to get away?

Did you get to relax?

Did you go anywhere?

Did you get out of town?

Catch any good movies?

What’d you binge on on Netflix?

Imagine the discussion that ensues with students around the intent of those questions.  Instead of just asking “What did you do?”  if I ask, “Were you able to get away?” I’m asking the same thing, but focusing on where the person went.  When I’m asked “Did you get to relax?” the questioner doesn’t want to know about how I got my pool clean.

First, ask students to write down or state what they did.  Then give them some alternative questions like the ones above and ask them to refine their answers.  (Fair warning- this next step is a bit of prep.)  Have these questions on cards and give the students the cards to circulate and ask what everyone else did, but focusing on the nuances of the question.

There you have it- three (mostly) no prep activities to start the year off in the TL!

Hacking Tech Support with EdPuzzle

Tech Support – How may I help?

If there’s one thing I dislike it’s taking up precious class time to do tech support and answer technology questions.  It my seem ironic, but for an Instructional Technology Coach and teacher in a paperless classroom, I’m pretty picky about what type of tech I use in class.  Don’t get me wrong- at the beginning we spend a ton of time making sure everyone is comfortable with the technology we’ll use every day.  If I’m going to sacrifice time in the TL then the technology better be worth it.

At the end of the semester this year in French 102 I decided to do a survey “project.”  Students created a survey using Google Forms and then were going to present the results as part of their final.  (I was trying to trick them into using the past tense because if you’re going to talk about what people chose, said, wrote, you have to use the past tense.  #sneaky) First, I had them create situations in Google Docs (using a template) and I read and gave feedback and then they were actually ready to create the form.  We had just finished the conditional so most of their surveys used that.  And they were funny.  Students had to take five classmates’ surveys and then get five other people to take theirs so they had a total of at least 10 results.

Google Forms sometimes acts weird on mobile devices if they’re created in a GSuite account and you don’t unrestricted it from the domain.  And by weird I mean it won’t let you access the form even if you’re signed into the correct account.  I just don’t bother restricting any Google Forms for my class anymore- not worth the hassle.

Because students would most likely be using a phone to access their forms, I knew that they would need to know how to do this and I didn’t want to spend any time going over it in class.  I also knew that if I just created a screencast they wouldn’t watch it and then I’d still have to answer questions which would make me not happy.

The Hack

I created a screencast showing them what they needed to do, put it in EdPuzzle and every time I wanted them to stop and do something I put a question with two choices:

photo of a screencast

And then I had a nice little data set of who had followed my directions and who didn’t and everyone’s surveys worked great.


#edublogsclub – Art

Using Art in the Classroom

I love art!  Love it!!  I can spend all day in a museum looking at everything. The back wall of my classroom is filled with art reproductions from students and posters that I’ve “borrowed” from the art teacher.  (Two art teachers ago, so I think they’re mine now.)   If I do get to Paris the only thing I insist on seeing is large format paintings in the Louvre.  When I did my master’s degree we had an amazing instructor who explained art to us and how to look at it and since then I have always incorporated art into my classes.  In French II we used to do a massive art unit (in French and English) where we looked at different art periods and artists and paintings and they chose a painting to explain in French.  It was extensive.  And I used overheads to do it all.  Overheads!!  You remember- back when we had to walk barefoot uphill both ways to school.  (This art unit was also the cause of what I now refer to as The Great Powerpoint Debacle of 2002 in which I swore I would never ever ever use Powerpoint again.  Ever.)

We are only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and I’ve taken students several times to the Getty Center as a culmination activity for the art unit.  One time went to the Huntington Library to view the Gutenberg Bible when we had studied the middle ages. Usually I had them find something that spoke to them and fill out an art critique form.  Recently, I’ve swapped out some homework choice assignments if students go to a museum.  I want them to get out and see what Los Angeles has to offer art wise, so I give them an overview of the different museums nearby-ish and encourage them to fill a car full of friends and take the day exploring.  At the very least they’ll learn that they don’t like art and museums.  They fill out the art critique form and turn it in in English.

There are other ways to use incorporate art in the classroom in a less formal manner and technology is what makes this possible and accessible to students on a daily basis.  Going from grainy overheads to having full color reproductions available to each student without expensive copying is revolutionary.

Three Activities Incorporating Art

Here are three examples of how I’ve incorporated art into my lessons.  (I’m saving my lessons with Google Arts and Culture for another post.)

  1.  La météo – A weather based description activity based on famous paintings.
  2. La Chambre de Van Gogh – Students describe Van Gogh’s room.  I’ve used this also as a speaking activity and had them compare their room to Van Gogh’s.  I’ve also had them describe what kind of person they think Van Gogh is based on his room.  What does what’s in your room say about you?
  3. Parau Api Paul Gauguin – Did you know Gauguin painted two different versions of this?  I stumbled upon this one day and I knew it would be perfect for talking about clothes and where people are.  When students look closely they notice that the women are actually in different places.  We do it as a partner activity where they first write about the image and then describe it to their partners to see what the differences are.  Go further and talk about how the colors influence the mood of the works.  What are they talking about?  What do the objects in the painting suggest the women might be doing? gauguin slides


Giving Textbook Activities a Purpose

Not every activity in a textbook is awful.  And sometimes, with just a small tweak, they can be pretty darn good.

The Tweak

So my friend Lewie (You know Lewie, right? Everyone knows Lewie!) Lewie has been talking a lot about giving a real purpose to student communication.  I took this idea and tweaked the “interview your partner” activities from the textbook.  First, at the beginning of a unit, students choose partners using stickies.  When I say “interview your partner” activity, I mean the ones where there are questions like Take turns answering and asking these questions –“What time do you get up?  Who does the cooking in your family? Are you nice or mean?  Do you prefer peas or carrots?” These are generally decent questions.  When I get to this type of activity (provided the questions are actually decent), I have students switch from their normal partners to one of the partners on their stickies.  Usually when I do this, I make them say, “Goodbye” and something goofy like “I’ll be back- don’t cry partner.”  It’s funny that’s why I do that.  I like funny.

Once they get to their temporary partner, I give them the purpose, “You are going to interview your partner, BUT you have to be prepared to tell your normal partner at least X number of things that you learned about your temporary partner.”  Then after 5-10 minutes of talking, they go back to their normal partner and tell him/her X number of things they learned about their temporary partner.

Tweaking It More

You could take this further by having students interview multiple partners and reporting back.  You could also have the normal partners compare answers about their partners and report back about that.  (Both our partners prefer peas.  Neither of our partners like carrots.  Our partners said, blah blah blah.)  I haven’t done that.  I’ve just asked them to share out about their temporary partners.  What I’ve found is that students listen more intently to their temporary partners when they know they are going to be held accountable for what they hear.

So simple and a students have a purpose for the conversation.


#edublogsclub – Giveaway

This one was tough, which is why it is weeks late being posted.  I couldn’t come up with one thing that would be interesting to give away besides ideas.

Here’s what I settled on…. a giveaway of an incredibly short activity I am going to do on Monday based on an video I happened upon while reading about the attack in Paris.  In fact, I didn’t even happen upon it, it just started playing in the background and I realized that it fit perfectly with the lesson working with the imparfait and continuing to work on the passé composé.  It’s basically a short listening activity.

I have no plans of an extensive discussion about the attack in Paris yesterday on the Champs-Elysées.  I have nothing to say.  I have no insights.  I know nothing more than what my college students can read themselves.  With the past attacks I acknowledged it and told the students exactly that.

For this, I am going to play the video once, then we will watch one or two more times the first 25 seconds and the students will listen for the phrases and mark if they hear them.  I’m probably going to point out his use of “on” and we may watch parts of TV5 JT for Monday, if after I watch it, it will be comprehensible enough for us to watch without me telling them everything it says.  I expect to spend no more than 20 minutes on this.

Le Parisien website with the video (It’s also in the speaker notes of the first slide)

Link to slides (because I do everything in Slides) -It will ask you to make a copy.



5 Ways to Use Google Q and A

I love using Google’s Q and A feature to get students talking.  In a 1-1 classroom it’s an efficient way to ask a question and elicit a response from the entire class; or rather from each student.  Here’s five ways you can use Google Slides.

Last week we were working on questions.  Students wrote questions about a story I had told and then I asked them to choose two to input into Slide Q & A.  When they were writing I told them not to worry about whether they could answer the questions (in French), so when they wrote their questions into Q & A, I had them “like” the ones they could answer.  I instantly knew which ones I could expect an answer for and which ones I couldn’t and then we answered the ones that were answerable.  Here is a sample (mistakes and all!)

student questions in French

The best part about Q & A is that it doesn’t have to be just for questions!  In fact, the first time I saw it I thought, “Questions? What?  I’m going to have them write responses!”


list of ways to use q and a

Learn how to start Slides Q and A here.


Super Simple Valentine’s Day Activity

If you school is like mine, Valentine’s day is a difficult day to get anything done with the constant interruptions of singing grams and Valentine’s deliveries and no one can see because one kid has a bouquet of balloons that covers half of the class and half the class is all hopped up on chocolates or grumpy because they don’t have a balloon, singing gram or chocolates.

This is a super simple Valentine’s activity you can use in all levels.


  • Labels (enough for each student to have at least 2, but ideally several). Run, don’t walk to the phone and call the secretary in charge of supplies and ask if s/he has any old ones for the dot matrix printer or that have something printed on them that they don’t use.  You could also use stickies and tape.
  • A Valentine’s heart.  Here’s a template with three different ways to print your hearts.  Select print slides and print the version that you want.
  1.  On each of the labels students write in the target language at least one positive, complimentary sentence about their partner and at least one positive, complimentary sentence about someone else in the class.  The more the better.  In lower levels this might just be: You are nice or You are funny.  In higher levels they can write why: You are nice because you always say hello or you are nice because you helped me with my homework. In lower levels you may want to brainstorm a list of adjectives first.  You might also want to model by making sentences for the principal or a team teacher.  They should try to be a specific as their language level allows.
  2. (Teacher step) Walk around and make sure that there wasn’t a knucklehead who wrote: you smell or equivalent.  Also be prepared with several labels of your own for students who may not get as many labels as other students.
  3. Students stand up and walk around and place the label gently (important direction for possible knucklehead-ness) on the back of the student to whom it belongs and say what it is.
  4. Once all labels have been distributed, students return to their original partner who removes the labels and puts them on the heart paper.  If you use stickies, tape them down during this step.

Et voilà, each student has a nice Valentine’s day heart with lovely sentences about them.  I had students who would keep this in the front of the binder for the rest of the year.


Open Mind Interactive Slides

I’ve been working on a presentation on reading strategies and updated my “Open Mind” Template for Google Slides.  An “Open Mind” activity is pretty simple.  Students insert words or images into the mind of a character or person they’ve been reading about.  (For example for Romeo Montague a student could put a heart and say that Romeo is in love.)  This works particularly well for language learners because they can insert an image and then talk about why they chose that image.  Since it’s a Google slide, you could also have students do it collaboratively- two working on it at the same time or even put several in a slide deck and ask students to fill in for different characters and then students could guess which character was which or explain to each other why they think those particular images were chosen. Students can justify their answer in the speaker notes portion of the slides.

I’ve included two templates in the slide deck.  One is a basic open mind and the second is a “says, does, and thinks” where students separate out what the character says, does and thinks.  I also like this one for language learners because it gives them practice using structures like “he thinks that…” “she says that…”  If you were working on the subjunctive you could also use for wants and wishes.  So much fun!

Click on the photos to make a copy of the Open Mind Template.

open mind
Blank open mind
Thinks, says, does Open Mind
Thinks, Says, Does Open Mind