Interpretive Reading Choose Your Own

I’ve been slowly re-vamping my units to include more interpretive reading and I’ve been using Google Forms for the reading.  This is a Choose Your Own reading activity that asks students to choose an animal to adopt as part of a bigger Adopt an Animal mini-unit.  Here’s the great cool part: it has different choices based on their answers, so that there are basically four different possibilities for reading.

Here’s how to do it.

Go to section

To make the choose your own, you have students go to a different “section” in the form based on their answer.  That process is simple enough, but it is helpful to plan out your sections ahead of time.  First, I plan, then I make sections with those titles, and lastly I add questions.  Here’s my planning document for this form:

Pro-tip:  Have an end page where everyone does the same thing at the end.  It’s just helpful for setting up the form to have everyone dumped back to a common destination.  In this form, the students all get dumped back to a page where they write about why they chose the animal they chose.

So for my reading, first students say whether they want a dog or a cat.  Then based on that they go to a different page.

I do not know much about cats because cats make me go to the ER and have breathing treatments and weeks of prednisone, so I had to ask some people about what kind of traits cat lovers look for when I was building my form.   Also, I told students if they didn’t like cats or dogs to pretend they did.  Maybe I’ll update it for other animals and maybe I’ll just continue to tell them to pretend.

There is a third dog; it is just not in the picture.

Once they choose a characteristic, students have three animals with those characteristics to choose from.  I added those by taking a screen shot and then inserting the image.

And then lastly, students tell why.


You can try out my Adopt an Animal Choose Your Own yourself by clicking here.

To learn more about how to set up this type of form you can watch this video.  (Not about reading, but a survey for after school.  It’s the same idea.)

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Data Validation Saves You Time

I’m always surprised how little teachers use Google Sheets (or Excel) because it has so many features that help make all the little tasks we need to do as teachers less time consuming. One of these is Data Validation.

Data What?

Data validation is a neat little feature that adds a drop down menu to your cell so that you have some pre-set choices.  You set the choices.  Highlight the cells in which you want the drop down menu to appear, then in the tool bar choose Data>Validation.  From there, I generally choose “List of Items” and list what I want my choices to be.  (You can also require that the cell be filled in with a number or a certain text, but I never use those.)  Click to view a video that walks you through the steps.


Applications for Education

Faster Feedback

When I give an assignment, I have a general idea of all of the items I may need to comment on.  For example, I know I want to give at least one positive comment, at least one “work-on” comment and then tell them what to do next.  I’ve used data validation to give feedback faster, by setting up data validation with the most common comments I think I’ll use.  Then I don’t have to type them in one by one, over and over for each student.  It makes the mechanics of giving feedback much faster.  I can still type in a unique comment if needed, but I don’t waste time typing in the same thing multiple times.  I use a Google Sheets Add-On like Autocrat or FormMule to send or share the feedback with the students with a few clicks.

Story/Sentence Creation

Students who can’t produce their own language just yet, can create stories using data validation.  Here’s an example I made with vocabulary from the first hours of French.  Click on the image to make your own copy and to see all of the choices. It’s like structured sentence creation.

Student Choice

I use data validation to set the choices for my homework choices sheet.  Students click on the arrow and it gives them a list of approved choices.  I’ve also used it for Flipgrid review.


You probably keep attendance in your classes in your school’s student information system (SIS), but data validation can be a quick way to keep track of attendance for clubs or extra curricular activities or anything else you might need to “check-off” over a period of time.


I use a spreadsheet to grade my end of unit assessments.  I have four columns for each of the four sections.  I use data validation to put in the possible scores and then as I’m listening to students or reading what they wrote I use the drop down menu to input their score.  I set the spreadsheet up to automatically add up the points.  It’s much easier to click as I’m walking around with the iPad listening than to type.

Go ahead, open a Google Sheet and see how Data Validation can save you time!


Tackling Pronunciation with Technology

At the end of last semester I was wrestling with how to work on pronunciation.  Alas, I was tired of hearing “Il essssssssssssst anglaissssss” and so I started to brainstorm ways students might be able to work on this problem without me.  This particular pronunciation issue is, in my opinion, an input and reading issue.  Students haven’t had enough input and then they are reading the words wrong.  Nobody ever makes this mistake before they see the word est. So how could I have them get more input, while working on their reading at the same time?  Or how could I get them to focus on the fact that when they hear “il est anglais” and they say “Il esssssst anglaisssss” that that’s essentially a reading error and how could they do this without me?

Here’s what I did.

  1.  I wrote/got/copied three short paragraphs in a Google Doc.  I wanted them to have typical reading/pronunciation errors that Novices make.  I chose one that I wrote, one that I barely “edited” of Cyprien’s Twitter page and one Tweet that had words we had not necessarily practiced with.
  2. I had students install the Read &Write Extension from Text Help.  This is an amazing extension that will read whatever is on the page in multiple languages.  (Well, it’ll read whatever’s on the webpage and you tell it the language.  So if you want to listen to bad pronunciation put up a French webpage and then don’t change the language to French.  Icky, blech!)  Read&Write Extension does a ton of other things that Eric Curts has explained on his blog Control Alt Achieve.
  3. Students used the extension to listen to the paragraphs.  I asked them to listen times.  Once just listening.  Once by silently mouthing the words as they were read to them and once speaking aloud as they were read to them and then to practice the paragraph themselves and listen again.
  4. Students used the Voice Typing Tool in Google Docs to record themselves reading.  This is where it got interesting.  I practiced using bad pronunciation and it typed out my bad pronunciation.  It was my hope that the students would realize that when they saw “Il a 25 ans” but they said “il est 25 anse” that they would realize that there was an issue that they could work on or re-do.
  5. Students filled out a feedback form so I could see if they thought it would be useful.  Overwhelmingly students said that they thought that this type of practice would be useful.  Some students reported that the Voice Typing “didn’t work right,” but when I checked what Voice Typing had written, it clearly wrote out their pronunciation issues.  The students just didn’t realize that they were saying it wrong.  I think that is an issue I can deal with and is just a matter of familiarity with what they are doing and why.

What’s not clear is whether the Voice Typing tool will adjust to their bad pronunciation and write out the correct words even if the student says it wrong.  What also isn’t clear is whether this type of work will be effective.  I know pointing out pronunciation errors of this type rarely has a positive long term effect, but I also know that if a student feels like s/he is making progress and has something “tangible” to hold onto they will make progress.

What I’m thinking I will do is for each lesson build a document with three or four short, comprehensible paragraphs that students can use for optional practice as part of their goal setting and homework choices work.  Even if the pronunciation work is less than optimally successful, they will certainly benefit from listening and reading more.

I’d be interested to hear how you have used Voice Typing tools to work on pronunciation.

Creating Individual Peer Review Forms

A colleague asked me to help her come up with a way for students to do peer reviews of projects using Google Forms.  The results had to be viewable only by the teacher and the student and all students had to have access to the links to submit the peer reviews for every student in the class.  The students also needed to be able to re-use the form.  I also added the criteria that the steps had to be easy enough that the average teacher could do it, because the things I found in my research were quite complicated even for me.

There are a significant number of simple steps for this, but it is well worth it if you will be doing a lot of peer review.  It will take you about 20 minutes to set up and about 10 minutes per class to have the students create their own forms.  You only need to do that 10 minute set up once per year per class. And – once you do the initial set-up, it’ll be ready for next year!

Essentially you create a generic form, force student to make a copy of it, then put then name on it and then submit the link to their now individualized form for others to use.

I have created a Google Doc that will walk you through all of the steps with images and links to copy examples of forms if you don’t want to make your own.  I also made a video that walks you through the entire process from both the teacher and student perspective.

Don’t let the number of steps intimidate you.  Lots of great things in life have lots of steps – like croissants and tamales and those are totally worth it.


Is it…Guessing Game

This last summer I spent some time with my six year old cousin. He has some speech issues and sees a speech therapist weekly and is not, in general, a great talker…yet.  However he loves playing the Guess Who game.  Do you know this game?  You have cards with images on them that you slide into a game apparatus and then you choose one of the images and then you ask your opponent yes or no questions to try to figure out which one they selected.

I was in love with the language that this little guy was producing and hearing.   “Does it have sprinkles on top?”  “Is it cold?”  And less anyone think this game is just about language, there is also a clear strategy, as I learned after I lost the fourth straight game in a row.  Carson is a Guess Who game master ninja.

My students can do that.  I can make that.

So I did.

I’ve made a slide deck with three different games.  I had a fourth of people, but I realized that all of the people were, uh, well, all the same, uh, color.  And while it represented me, it didn’t represent my students, so I deleted that one.  I’ll try to make a better one.

It’s simple, share with students and then they drag the circle onto the image they select and the x’s onto the ones that are eliminated from the questions they ask. Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat.

Click on the image to go to the slide deck to make your own copy.

Bingo with Classroom Objects

Who doesn’t love a good game of Bingo?

I created an interactive slide deck for Bingo with the classroom objects.

NB: In the textbook a bicycle and car are listed in the classroom objects section.  Who am I to judge?  There’s also an mp3 player and a CD player.  I just make fun of those.  I also purposely chose the old cell phone image because that’s what’s in the book and we laugh about that.

NBB: On Wednesday, my college class created this list of supplies needed for French class and then math class.  Look at the first thing they said for math class.

Xanax!  I almost fell over laughing.  They said math class is really stressful, so it’s helpful.

I digress.

My bingo game is meant for student to drag nine objects of their choice onto the grid and then I will describe the object.  So for pencil I might say, “You guys think it is necessary for math class, but it’s not Xanax and it’s not a calculator.”  Then they’ll place a yellow dot on the object if they have it.  If they get Bingo they’ll tell me what they had.   Then they can choose nine new objects and play all over again.  If we have time they’ll play in groups and take turns being the one to call out the objects by describing them.  There won’t be time for this.  This is the type of thing there is never time for in college class.  (The memory game is in French, but if you watch the workflow below you’ll see how to change it to your language!)

In the slide deck is also two version of Memory.  Let’s not kid ourselves that memory produces extraordinary language or is anything other than well, a memory game, but it’s fun sometimes.  It could be a finish early activity.  Students move the box on top of the grid to find the matches.

Click on the image to make a copy of the Bingo.

I’m always asked how to edit the master slide and make these types of activities so I made a workflow in case it’s helpful for you.

Resources for Accents

I updated what I give my students so they can learn how to do the accents because the amount of time in college class I am willing to devote to this is 0.  (Note: For younger learners, I believe it’s important to devote as much time as you need to teach students how to do the accents.)  My students have all types of devices so this covers everything.

I’ve made a one page webpage guide for students or teachers.

And I’ve made a printable slide deck with the key codes.  There are four per page so the kiddos can tape to their device.  And one full page for the Chromebook for my college students.  Note: The PC laptop without 10 key codes in the slide deck- I got this to work on one computer, but not another and I don’t have a PC without 10 key to figure out why, so I recommend if your students have that to advise them to use the Character Map.  I’ve left them in the slide just because I wanted to and in case it was useful for someone.


I always ask students to practice and here’s my practice sheet.


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.


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.