Free Texts for Students

The Web is filled with resources that can foster the development of students’ language competencies.

Thierry Karsenti, recently presented the findings of an important study on iPads. He noticed that students showed greater motivation to read on a tablet but that teachers seldom take advantage of this increased motivation to have students read more ebooks. Ebooks are available on many different platforms (tablets, computers, mobile devices, etc.). Here is a list of great FREE resources for your students and some ideas of uses for the classroom.

- Free eBooks for Apple devices can be found on the app iBooks.
- http://www.ccprose.com/videobooks
- http://openlibrary.org/ It has over 1,000,000 free titles

- http://monurl.ca/texts Thanks to Learn
- http://www.childrensbooksonline.org/library.htm
- http://www.gutenberg.org/

Ideas for the classroom

- Ask your ESL consultant to help you set up reading circles
- Ask students to select an ebook that inspires them and have them enact a scene
- Have students compare the settings or characters from the ebook to people/settings they know.
- Ask students to adapt parts of the book to today’s reality. How would it unfold today?

Finally, here’s another reason why you should consider going digital:

Why You should switch to digital

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Thinglink: Inform, Entertain And Engage Students With Interactive Images!

Thinglink is a free Web tool that allows you to enrich images by adding videos, text, links, music or other images.

Here are some examples:

Creating an Account

In order to create your own images, you will have to create an account. All you need to do so is an existing email account.

If you do not wish to create an account, you can still access thousand of interactive images that you can use with an interactive whiteboard, embed in your website or class blog.

Creating and Sharing Interactive Images

The production of enriched images is quite simple. Once you are logged in, click on the “Create +” icon in the upper right corner. You will then be prompted to upload the file of the image. The image will then appear. Click on the image and a short form will pop up. All you need to do is to paste the link to the clip/image/Web page in the first field of the form.

Add as many tags as needed.

When done, choose the appropriate privacy level of your image (“Editable by anyone” or “Private”). These settings can be changed at any time by selecting “Edit”.

Share your image by selecting the “Share” option.

Ideas for the Classroom

- Use the interactive image as the final production of a learning activity.

- Have students build or consolidate their vocabulary by having them create their own interactive images in which they reinvest the targeted vocabulary. Please note that students need to be 14 years of age or older to create an account.

- Include interactive images to introduce learning activities and use them as spring boards to launch students on selected websites.

- Create class images that incorporate all of your students’ productions to share at parent-teacher night or through your school website. Sharing your students’ creations makes the production process more meaningful because there is a real audience.

Here are 65 more ways to use Thinglink in the classroom

A Word of Caution

I would not recommend having students below 14 browse the Thinglink website as some content is not suitable for them.

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Ideas at the Secondary Level

Using the IWB at the Secondary Level

Many examples from the elementary can be used at the secondary level.

  • Have students identify specific elements (e.g. verbs) in a sentence on the IWB;
  • Adapt LES’s tasks to the interactive witheboard (IWB).
  • Have students list the characteristics of an object, a person, a building, etc.
  • Have students label objects/parts of a picture or a map. (e.g. labeling the states or labeling the parts of a flower).
  • Have students select the image that corresponds to a description.
  • Have students make changes to the task on the IWB using the editing tools.
  • Write a scrambled sentence on the IWB. Have student write their own sentences with the same words.
  • Growing stories : Have students come to the IWB at different times during the day to add an original sentence to a story. You could begin with a prompt or have students begin a story on their own. . You could start a growing story after working on a specific topic, related to a unit or a theme that you are working on. Before starting the growing story, it is suggested to work on narrative structure and brainstorm on the IWB the vocabulary and/or the knowledge on the topic.
  • Have students talk about what they have learned during the day and write it on the IWB.
  • Have students brainstorm prior knowledge on a topic on the IWB using a semantic mapping tools such as Popplet or use a blank page
  • Have student deconstruct a text to better understand its structure.
  • Have students find specific information in a text/poster/sentence.
  • Have students identify key elements and contextual clues of a text.
  • Have students look at the pictures and captions in a newspaper article to predict its content.
  • Have students use a semantic mapping tool to brainstorm on a topic (e.g.), the IWB software or some other editing software like Word.
  • Have students make a list of the new vocabulary words and expressions that they learn.
  • Have students draw a situation to demonstrate comprehension using a drawing software application e.g., Paint or Photoshop Express Editor.
  • Use the IWB to explain a grammar point (e.g. how to conjugate verbs in the simple present tense).
  • Have students compare newspaper articles from different websites.
  • Have students use graphic organizers  or open canvasses to better understand the structure of a text or a concept.

Graphic Organizers Resources

  • Have students annotate a text on an IWB in order to summarize each paragraph.
  • Have students draw a timeline a timeline of events in a text
  • Have students create a diagram using brainstorming software such as Popplet in order to compare, contrast, examine, investigate, etc.
  • Have students plan a future trip using Google Earth and present it using the IWB.

 

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Ideas at the Elementary Level

Listed below are examples that illustrate how the IWB can be used in the ESL classroom. Please note that these activities should be experienced in a meaningful context.

Elementary – First Cycle

At this stage, learning is more teacher-centered.

  • Play word games with the vocabulary words from a story (hangman, word search, …);
  • Draw characters using drawing software such as TuxPaint, Lopart,…;
  • Provide visual support : project images from a story or a song;
  • Brainstorm stories starting from scratch with a blank page, using an open canvas, or a semantic mapping software such as Popplet;
  • Model what needs to be done using a blank page or any software or support document;
  • Use student productions to reflect on learning and reactivate prior knowledge . (Consider using document camera to take a picture of your students’ work to project it);

Elementary – Second and Third Cycle

At this stage, students should be more autonomous after the teacher has modelled what needs to be done.

  • Write a collective story with tools such as StoryJumper, Storybird, StoryCreator2;
  • Write comic strips using tools such as Make Belief Comics, Comic Creator;
  • Have students create word games with the targeted vocabulary;
  • Correct a sentence using a blank page or a text written by a student;
  • Ask students to list what has been learned (vocabulary, grammar, sentence stucture, resources such as websites…) in the integration phase (metacognition);
  • Deconstruct a text similar to the one students will have to produce;
  • Organize words/pictures into categories using an open canvas;
  • Draw expressions on the board;
  • Write growing stories: Have students come to the IWB at different times during the day to add an original sentence to a story. You could begin with a prompt or have students begin the story themselves. You could start a growing story after working on a specific topic that is related to a unit or a theme that you are working on. Before starting the growing story, it is suggested that the students work on narrative structure; use the vocabulary and/or knowledge on the topic to brainstorm on the IWB;
  • Use graphic organisers (storyboard, chart, Venn diagram…) to plan a project, write a text, understand a text, …

Graphic Organizers Resources

 

 

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Various Ways to Use the IWB

How an we use the interactive whiteboard (IWB) in an ESL classroom?

The IWB can be used in many different ways. We have grouped them into four different categories. (Source: Recitus)

Watch the video

Various Ways to Use the IWB (in French)

The Blank Page

The white surface is the first page we see when launching the software used to activate the IWB. Using this white surface requires little technical skills. It can quickly be used by anyone regardless of their level of expertise with computers.

The functions of the IWB software are very common, e.g., the pencil, the highlighter, the selection tool, the shape tool, the eraser. They can be found in the most popular features of vector graphics editors, e.g.,  drawing, PPT and text editors such as Microsoft Word, OpenOffice.org…

Here are some examples of how to use the blank page:

  • Brainstorming
  • Building concepts
  • Providing references
  • Creating lexical fields

These activities are similar to the blackboard. The added  value of using the blank page is that it allows teachers to keep traces of what at been done in class. Also, the amount of time invested is minimal so the exercise (project) is less time-consuming.

Open Canvas (download various models)

The open canvas is a tool to organize information according to what is being covered in class with the students. Teachers can also use an open canvas to model what they expect students to do in the upcoming task.

Open canvases are mind maps used to organize information according to what is being covered in class with the students. For example, when teachers need to demonstrate how to analyse a story, they can model the 3- or 5-step narrative (depending on the level) to help students understand the structure of the story and thereby help them plan their own text.

There are many models of mind maps. Here are some models that could be used in an ESL class:

  • Timeline
  • Cause and effect
  • Debate (pros and cons)
  • Narrative (story outline)
  • Venn Diagram

Presentation

Softwares such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, SlideRocket and the basic presentation software provided with the IWB can be used to introduce new concepts, information or topics to students. Students can also be asked to present a project  or information to the rest of the class.

The presenter may add comments and annotate the presentation using the built-in tools of the IWB software. In the end, making a screen capture would allow the presenter to refer to the final product of the presentation.

“Interactive” Activity

The term “interactive” refers to activities that were programmed. Many elaborate ready-to-use activities have been created on various websites. These activities have been created by teachers who may have different intentions so it’s important to be critical in choosing and using them.  What is interesting when using these interactive activities is the variety of their formats. Teachers should be aware that the time invested in creating or finding such activities is not always worth the effort. It can be much more efficient to use the IWB using one of the models above.

Before selecting one of these activities, remember to consider evaluation criteria suggested by logicielseducatifs.qc.ca.

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Elements to Reflect on When Using the IWB in Your Classroom

Is there a real added value to using the IWB in class?

The IWB is another resource that we can use to improve the learning experiences in our classroom. As any other tool, it can prove to be beneficial. It all depends on how we use it. The mere presence of an IWB is not sufficient to engage students in their learning.

This being said, although there are no formal studies have shown this, it appears that in some contexts, teachers have reported that students have a more positive outlook on learning when an IWB is used.

Are my students engaged in learning?

The IWB can be a great tool for teachers but it doesn’t necessarily mean that students will be more engaged in learning.

To engage students in their learning, it may be best to vary our pedagogical approaches (cooperative, oral interaction, strategic teaching, project-based learning…).

(Note: the pedagogical approaches should not be confused with second language acquisition (SLA) theories which focus on how learner’s language is developed. For more information on the SLA theories, please read Tarone & Swierzbin, 2009, chapter 2.)

Here are a few pedagogical approaches, some of which tend to involve students more:

Images : Steve Quirion, Service national du RÉCIT, Domaine de l’univers social
Download PDF

Teachers need to find the proper match between the different approaches, the needs of learners and their pedagogical intentions.

Example: students are expected to memorize a list of words (behaviorist) and reinvest this newly learned knowledge when they create a poster (using the socio-constructivist approach).

Research has shown that meaningful situations that can be connected to the REAL world tend to motivate students (Rolland Viau1). The IWB can prove useful here as it can be a window to the world.

Allowing students to interact with the technology puts them in the center of the learning process. Teachers need to find a balance between teacher-centered and student-centered learning. Letting students use the IWB to perform specific tasks can increase their level of engagement with the task at hand.

1 : La motivation : condition au plaisir d’apprendre et d’enseigner en contexte scolaire, 3e congrès des chercheurs en Éducation, Bruxelles, mars 2004.)

Do I vary the complexity of the learning activities I plan?

In order to reach and challenge all learners, it is essential to vary the level of complexity of the tasks. Starting with lower-level tasks and moving up to higher-level tasks appears to be more effective (J.T Guthrie & S.L. Klauda, Making Textbook Reading Meaningful, educational Leadership, March 2012, p. 66).

See http://recit.org/bloom/Accueil for more details and ideas (in French).
See Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Wheel and Knowledge Dimension

What more can I do with my IWB?

Remember that your IWB is connected to the Internet which gives you access to a vast quantity of useful tools. Here are other technologies that can be used with your IWB.

Remember that your pedagogical consultants or your RÉCIT counsellor can give you support. Please do not hesitate to contact them.

How much time should I spend creating learning activities for the IWB?

It is not necessary to develop and program “interactive activities” to have an efficient lesson. Opt for more spontaneous uses (but planned) of the IWB by starting with the blank page or the open canvas.

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Planning an Activity on the IWB

What should I consider before planning an activity on the IWB?

Here is a model to help you think about different ways when proposing a sequenced activity to your students. This model was inspired and adapted from a research project at Keele University  (see planning tool).

Plan the use of the IWB in a meaningful context

  • Define your pedagogical intentions: what would you like your students to learn?

Example: learn the vocabulary related to the classroom and be able to ask for help.

  • Think about the best way for students to learn.

Example: using the IWB, create tags for all the items in the classroom and match them to images. Ask students to reinvest the newly learned words in a role-play activity.

  • What  will the format of your learning activity be?
  • Blank page
  • Open canvas
  • Multimedia presentation
  • “Interactive” activity
  • Which software is best suited for this learning activity?

Examples: word processor, IWB software, web applications, semantic mapping tools, writing tools, social bookmarking, digital presentation tools, collaboration tools, etc.

  • When planning, identify which moments are pertinent for using the IWB. It may not be beneficial to use the IWB at all times.

Example: When producing a podcast with your students, modelling the activity with the IWB may be a good idea but once students actually do the activity, it is probably better for them to use other technologies, e.g., MP3 players to record their voice or a computer to edit the audio file.

Here are examples of the use of the IWB at different learning phases:

Preparation:
Get started (trigger): present a video, an image, a text (word, sentence, concept, newspaper article, headline, etc.)

  • Brainstorm
  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Question
  • Present – Explain: a concept, a task, model a strategy, etc.
  • Set goals and expectations: present the evaluation criteria, present the final task (expected outcomes).

Carrying out the task:

  • Explicit instruction (process)
  • Complete the task
  • Regulate

Integration:

  • Reflect – Metacognition
  • Publish and share
  • Generalize
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StoryCreator2 : Write Myths and Legends

I have just discovered a very interesting platform specifically created for teachers and their students. With StoryCreator2 and with the help of their teacher, students can read or write about myths and legends and make their stories available on the site.

 

How to sign up

Send us an email at and we will open an account for you. We will also add your students to your account so that they can start writing their own myths and legends.

About StoryCreator 2

StoryCreator2 is a simple and easy to use platform. With only a few clicks, students can create stories and add pictures and sounds.

Since the site was developed for teachers and their students, all accounts and published materials are moderated by the site administrators. Once the productions have been verified, students can then ask their teacher to publish their production. Teachers have the option either to have the story published, write comments directly on the production and return it to the student, edit it, or simply delete it.

All productions posted on the site are done within the school context and are therefore available to your students.

How the site works

On the home page, a menu with various links will guide you through the procedure:

Home: you will find general information about the site as well as the latest publications.

About: what are myths and legends, how to sign up, technical aspects, general information.

Myths and legends: you can read stories created with StoryCreator2 and written by students from all over the world. You can also post your own productions. You can consult a Myth World Map and see where the stories come from.

Create your own: a toolbox will help you start the process.

Teachers: various resources for teachers are available: storyboards, myths and legends, activities, etc.

Teaching ideas

StoryCreator2 offers a rich environment to improve the students’ development of writing competencies in English (referred to as the “production process” at the secondary level) and to reinvest comprehension of written and oral texts.

  • Read about English Quebec folktales, myths and legends and use the characters from those stories to create new stories.
  • Read stories available on the site.
  • Create a legend about the city where you live.
  • Read about existing urban legends and create a new one.
  • Learn about other cultures.
  • Use one of the stories on the site and create a readers theatre text.
  • After reading one of the stories, have a debate around the story’s main idea.
  • Rewrite the story from a different perspective: the villain’s or the hero’s point of view.
  • Write a dialogue for one of the stories and perform it in front of the class.
  • What If: write about how the story would be different if the characters were something other than they are.
  • Biography: write a biography of one of the characters that most interests you.
  • Interview: select a story written by your students, or an online story. Have students prepare an interview with the author.
  • Second Chance: talk or write about how it would change the story if a certain character had made a different decision earlier in the story.
  • Make a podcast of one of the stories.
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Enhance your projects with online image editors

Many websites offer great online image editing tools1 that have different features allowing you to transform images.

Which one should you choose? Here are some recommendations:

Photoshop Express Editor is a great online tool to apply effects to your pictures and organize them. You will need to create an account on the Adobe website and confirm it in your mailbox.

First of all, upload a photo or image from your computer. At this time, this website will only allow you to upload a jpeg format. And, for better results, the file should be no larger than 16 Mg.  Because you have the possibility to organize your pictures online with the Photoshop Express Organizer, you could eventually use the pictures you have saved in this space at a later date, if you wish to do so.

Once you are in the workspace, this tool is very intuitive and has an inviting interface. Two thumb-index are offered:

  • Edit your picture: crop, resize, adjust the colour, add effects, etc.
  • Decorate your picture: add text, bubbles, costumes, frames, etc.

Once you are done, you can save your picture to your computer or share it on different social media websites such as Facebook, Photoshop.com, Picasa, Flickr or Photobucket.

BeFunky is one of our favourite imaging tools because it can be used quickly and easily without having to create an account.

This tool offers a user-friendly environment. Just click on Get started! to access the photo editing platform. To edit a photo simply upload it from your computer. Once uploaded, choose among the available editing options:

  • Edit the picture: resize, crop, adjust the brightness and contrast, tone, and saturation of the picture. Add highlights, etc.
  • Photo Effects: (not all effects are available in the free version). Change the tone and the colour of your picture (black and white, charcoal, etc.)
  • Artsy Effects: transform your picture with the cartoonizer or the sketcher tool.  You can create avatars or cartoon characters. You can also add speech bubbles, frames, cool shapes or other fun stuff to your picture.

Once you are finished, simply download your creation to your computer. For additional information for use in the classroom and tips, click on the links.

Ideas for the classroom

  • Make your cartoon, photo novel or any other project more interesting by using an image editing tool.
  • For a stop-motion animation project you can add artistic effects to each individual photo, picture or image.
  • Edit photos and images that will be used when creating podcasts.
  • Digital Scrapbooking.
  • Think about playing with images for your own projects.

______________

1 Definition of image editor from PCMag: Software that allows images to be edited and also converted to different graphics formats. Image editors typically deal with only bitmapped images such as GIFs, JPEGs and BMPs; however, some editors support both bitmaps and illustrations (see vector graphics). Common functions are manually cropping and resizing the image and using “filters” to adjust brightness, contrast and colors. A myriad of filters are available for special effects (see image filter). Red eye removal is included in editors specialized for photos (see photo editor).Source: http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=image+editor&i=44791,00.asp
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Creating and using audio tracks in the classroom

Audacity is a free software, digital audio editor and recording application. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

 

How to use Audacity

First of all, you need to install this Audacity on your computer in order to use it. We recommend also to install LAME , an MP3 encoder if you wish to export your project in this format.

Audacity has a lot of functionalities; you won’t need to learn how to use all of the functions. It depends on the projects you work on with your students.

To create great projects with your students, these simple Audacity operations are the most basic and easiest to learn: recording your voice; adding music or sounds, and applying different effects to the recording.

By following this procedure, you can learn to use this software easily in order to do various tasks.

Audacity in the classroom

Here are a few examples of how you can use this product with your students as they learn the English language:

  1. Students can record themselves having a conversation or when they are reading. They listen to the recording, take notes, and reflect on their communication skills and strategies;
  2. Students can produce an audio track for a project such as a stop motion animation film, a movie or another multimedia project;
  3. Students can produce a podcast on various topics. Download this guide on podcasting for your classroom and visit BaladoWeb site;
  4. Students can create an audio book;
  5. Teacher can record instructions related to a task, a story, etc.

 

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