Extra reading practice with ReadLang

Readlang (http://readlang.com/) is a useful site for students who want to read more in the language they’re studying but need a little help understanding. It offers a curated library of authentic text and video content that students can browse by language, level, and type (non-fiction, fiction, dialog, etc.). As students engage with the content, they have the ability to receive a limited number of translations of words and phrases they don’t know just by clicking on them. These words then become part of the students’ personalized vocabulary list and flashcard set.

Students can also upload their own content to explore in the Readlang environment or use Readlang’s Chrome extension to read websites and other web content that’s not part of the Readlang library.

While Readlang may not be appropriate for all students at all levels, it has the potential to be useful for students struggling to take that next step in reading comprehension.

Screenshots and screen-capture video using Chrome

Nimbus (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/nimbus-screenshot-and-scr/bpconcjcammlapcogcnnelfmaeghhagj) is a fantastic add-on for Google’s Chrome browser. It allows you to easily take screenshots and screen-capture video of all or parts of your computer screen without having to download a program. Once you’ve captured your video, you can download it to your computer in a YouTube-compatible format in just one click. For images, you save your image directly to your computer or edit it with Nimbus’s easy-to-use online image editor. All in all, Nimbus is a great, quick alternative to programs like Jing and Screenpresso.

Short URLS at UIC

URL shorteners make it easy to share website addresses with students and colleagues. While there are several popular services for shortening web addresses like Bitly and Google’s URL Shortener, UIC offers its own tool that we think is even better – Webtools Toolbox Short URL (http://go.uic.edu/short_url)!

Perhaps you want to make an internal page of your department website easier to point people to. Or maybe you’re teaching a language class and there’s an online verb conjugation tool you’d like your students to use. You can use Webtools’ Short URL to turn these long, complicated links into something short and easy to remember like go.uic.edu/french_verbs that can then be distributed via email, social media, print, or any other medium. Because it’s short and to the point, people will remember your link and make more frequent use of the site it points to. If later, the website is no longer available or you want to change the site that your short link directs to, you can do that easily and without fuss.

Best of all, unlike Bitly and Google, Webtools’ Short URLs are completely private – no one will ever know what your link is unless you give it to them – but can also be managed collaboratively.

Graphic organizers as reading tools

We often think of graphic organizers as things to be used in writing, but they also make fabulous reading tools. They can be used to visually map the argument of a critical analysis or to (re-)organize plot events in narrative works. They can also be used to categorize characters, vocabulary, events, etc. to help student construct a different understanding of a text they’re reading. Nearly any reading strategy you can think of can make us of a graphic organizer!

While you can ask students to create these on paper, there are also a host of FREE online tools that can be used to create organizers of varying complexity. Popplet (http://popplet.com) allows you to easily create mind-map-like cloud charts, while Lucidchart (www.lucidchart.com) allows for simple creation of complex flowcharts. Google Slides (http://slides.google.com) is also a great tool for graphic organizers – create a different slide for different categories and list events, characters, etc. on the appropriate slide, or use shapes to create simple flow charts. You can also create non-linear organizers by adding links to other slides for navigation.

Want more help on figuring out how to use graphic organizers for reading in your class? Email us at lclc@uic.edu.

SoundCloud for audio on Blackboard

Do you use Sharestream for audio activities in Blackboard? If so,SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/) is a great alternative that loads faster and doesn’t take over students’ browser while they’re listening. This is great for listening comprehension and dictation activities because they can listen and complete the exercise at the same time.

To create a SoundCloud account all you need is an email address (make up a new one with Gmail!). Then upload your audio, select the settings you want – we recommend private – and add an image if you’d like. To add it to Blackboard, just click the share button, select Embed, and follow these simple directions for embedding objects in Blackboard.

Fake social media profiles to practice writing and analytical skills

Have you ever considered using social media as a classroom tool? Having students create fake social media profiles can be a great way to practice writing and analytical skills. For lower level langauge students, you could have them create their own profile and short post history detailing a typical week. In more advanced classes, you could have students create a Facebook profile for the protaganist of a story they’ve read. They would have to gather not only facts, but also summarize the character well enough to complete an “About me” from the perspective of that charcter. Or, you could have them work in groups to create a post history retelling the story of a film they’re analyzing in class.

To do this, you don’t need anything fancy – you can just take the structure of your perferred media program and turn it into a Google doc like this. Or, for something more visually interesting, you can use a fake profile generator like Fakebook or Profile Publisher, or a Google Slides template like this one.

Need a quick timer for a classroom activity?

Just use your classroom computer and type “timer” (no quotes) followed by the desired time interval into Google. The timer will start automatically, display a countdown (that can be set to fullscreen mode for increased visibility), and beep when time is up. This is a great little trick to keep your class moving with very little distraction!

You can use a similar technique to do math (e.g., “(17/20)*100”), look up a word’s definition (e.g., “define grammar”), or convert units of measurement (e.g., “12 kilos in pounds”).

Consolidate your cloud storage

MultCloud (https://www.multcloud.com/) is a web-based tool that lets you consolidate all of your online cloud storage into one central location. By adding your individual cloud services like Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. to MultCloud, you can find and download any file without having to remember in which cloud you saved it. You can also easily move or copy files from one cloud to another without having to download and re-upload them.

Tools to help students organize their ideas before/while composing

While traditional outlines can be made on notebook paper or in a word processing program, these online tools may help some students better focus, arrange, and articulate their ideas.
  • Padlet (https://padlet.com/) is an easy-to-use virtual bulletin board that lets you post and visually arrange text notes as well as images, videos, attachments (limit of 25MB), and web links. Notes can be moved around, grouped, and even layered freely.
  • Trello (https://trello.com/) is an online organization tool that lets you create “cards” containing text, images, attachments (limit of 10MB) or links, and arrange them into categories and groups just by dragging and dropping. Cards can be tagged with color-coded labels to add an additional layer of organization.
Both tools are completely free, allow you to log in with Google, and offer free mobile apps. Additionally, both Padlet and Trello allow users to share their ideas and collaborate with others, and both feature simple, interactive quick-start lessons.

Authentic video for language courses

LangMedia (http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu/index.html) is a project that aims to offer free, authentic videos (with transcriptions and translations) for less commonly taught languages, as well as videos that highlight differences in regional dialects and usages for more commonly taught languages. Many of these videos focus on cultural points and can be a great supplemental resource for the videos and audio materials that accompany textbooks. And unlike YouTube, these videos are well-produced and designed with language learners in mind, plus they can be downloaded for offline viewing or integration into Blackboard.
Materials are available for many of the languages taught in LCSL – Arabic, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish!