Tech for Teach

Story Dice: Easy and Endless Speaking and Writing Prompts for the EFL Classroom

At the 2015 JALT conference in Shizuoka last year, I attended a presentation that highlighted a variety of online and digital resources for EFL teachers. As a huge fan of teaching tools that are easy and effective to use, Thinkamingo’s Story Dice application for iPhone and Android ($1.99) caught my attention right away. I bought and downloaded the app during the presentation and quickly saw its potential for creating interesting and challenging prompts for speaking and writing in my classes. In fact, I shared it with the attendees of my later presentation in the few minutes before it started, resulting in a short but lively discussion about its possible uses.

Since then I have been exploring how to use the Story Dice app in my classes at Tokai University. In this article, I will give a brief overview of the app and some suggestions for use.

As can be seen from the image above, the white dice with black images appear on a brown, wood grain surface. With a touch of the screen, a new set of dice appear on the screen, accompanied by the sound of rolling dice. One nice touch is that the sound actually corresponds to the number of dice on the screen.

You can easily change the number of dice on the screen from one to ten, and with a selection of over 200 images, the combinations are almost endless.

For the iPhone app, touching the button in the upper right corner labeled “MORE” accesses the settings to change the number of dice that appear on the screen, turn off the sound, or deactivate the “Shake to roll” feature.

For the Android app, swipe left or right to do the same.

The following are some EFL writing and speaking activities that I have successfully conducted in my classes using the Story Dice app:

One die

  • Students create sentences that uses the image.
  • Students create sentences using the image, then share with partner.
  • In groups, each student creates a sentence to share. Group votes on best sentence. Winner writes sentence on blackboard

Two dice

  • Students create sentences that includes or connects two images.
  • Students explain what the two images have in common or how they are different.

Four dice

  • Students divide four images into two groups of two and explain their reasons for their groupings.

10 dice

  • Students create a story that uses all of the images. If the teacher uses a screenshot of 10 dice, an appropriate story can be written beforehand to use after students write their own stories. The teacher’s story can be projected onto a screen or dictated to the students to be written down.
  • Students write the first line of a story using one image.  Their papers are then passed to the next student who continues the story using a different image.  The process is continued for all 10 images. The papers are then returned to their original students, who read the stories to themselves, their partners, or in groups. Groups can vote on the best story.

If you have used the Story Dice app before and have some good ideas, or you can see other ways to use it in your EFL classes, please feel free to comment and share below!

Tech for Teach

Quizlet.Live: Classroom based social vocabulary game

quizletlivemadness

Quizlet Live is a website-based classroom vocabulary game where teams of three or four students work together to be first to match vocabulary terms with their correct definitions. Quizlet Live is a new feature of Quizlet, an excellent digital flashcard website and smartphone application already popular with many teachers. It is free and easy to use, allowing teachers to create customized flash cards with text, images and audio, as well as share with and borrow from other users.

To use Quizlet Live in the classroom, the teacher and students will each need to have an Internet connected computer or mobile device. It is important to understand that this is a website-based game (NOT the Quizlet smartphone application) and is designed to work on any device, even older mobile phones. Students do not need to download any programs or applications nor register/sign up for anything. While not necessary, it is very helpful to be able to project the computer or device display onto a large screen so students can see the appropriate websites and track their teams progress during game play. 

 

Before introducing Quizlet Live

First, teachers must create a free account on the Quizlet website: Quizlet.com.  Next, create your own deck of flashcards or search through any of the thousands of sets created by other teachers. To see a good English/Japanese example, here is a link to a deck of flashcards about “Vacations” that I have used successfully. (https://quizlet.com/30856965/vacations-flash-cards/)

 

Introducing Quizlet Live in class

While logged into Quizlet.com, chose a deck and click on the blue box labeled “Live” at the top right of the website page.” This will open the Quizlet Live page where it is possible to create a game, watch an instructional video, or try a demonstration version of the game.

live button

Clicking on “Create Game” leads to a new page with instructions for students to go to the URL “quizlet.live” (https://quizlet.com/live) and enter the six-digit “Join Code.”  Write the website (quizlet.live) and the game code on the blackboard (If you have already taught the class how to use the Quizlet website and/or app, which I normally do, it can cause confusion. Be sure to let them know this is not the Quizlet app, but a website they need to access with their browser.)

code

If possible, project this website screen from the teacher computer or device onto a large screen so the students know where they are supposed to go. It is also a good idea to log into this website on a mobile device to carry around the room and show students what webpage they should find. There are two common problems at this point:

  1. Students go to “quizlet.com”. 
  2. Students open the Quizlet smartphone application if already downloaded.

In a few cases, my students have been unable to enter the code number using the Japanese “flick” style smartphone keyboard. A possible solution for this type of situation is to change the keyboard to the traditional QWERTY keyboard. If there is no QWERTY keyboard, try having the student switch back and forth between the English flick keyboard and their native language flick keyboard after entering each number. Quizlet has already been alerted about this potential problem, so it may be fixed soon.

Once students enter the code and push the “Join Class” button, they will be prompted to enter their first name. If another student has already taken that name, they will be asked to enter their last initial. If a student makes a mistake and it is necessary to change the name, click on that name on the teacher screen and delete it, and the student will be prompted to enter a new name.

At this point, their display will say “Waiting for your teacher to start.” Their name will also appear on the the teacher game screen, as well as the number of students who have logged in. When first introducing Quizlet Live, during this logging in process, it will probably be necessary to circle around the room, troubleshooting problems. It is recommended to become familiar with the process beforehand to quickly get everyone logged into the game.

waiting

When all the students have logged in, click the “Start Game” button to go to the next stage.  If students fail to login correctly before the game starts, they can be added after the current game is over. If at any point students who were correctly logged in lose Internet connection, return to a previous web page, or close the webpage, the game will give them the option to “Refresh” or  “Re-join the game I was in.”

At this point, Quizlet will create random animal named teams of three or four students depending on the total number.  The students’ screens will display their animal team name and image, as well as the names of other teams members.  Instruct the students to stand up, find the other members of their team, and sit together. This is where the beauty of this game really shows, students must physically stand up and move around the room to form groups and work together. 

Once everyone is ready, select “Start Game”, and students will begin to work together to match the vocabulary term with the correction definition. Each member of the team will have the same vocabulary term at the top of the screen. Below that term will be three or four definitions from the total of 12 questions. Only one of the definitions on one team member’s screen will be correct. The team must work together to identify the correct definition.  If successful, the definition will turn green and disappear and the next vocabulary term will appear. If the choice is incorrect, the definition will turn red and all screens will then show the correct answer before starting the team over from the beginning. The first team to correctly answer all 12 questions in a row is the winner.

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The teacher can then choose to exit the game, play the game again, shuffle teams and play again, or review the cards with the class. For an alternative idea, try using trivia sets such as this “Sports Trivia” set. Or, search for sets which use images instead of definitions. Great for certain types of vocabulary like “kitchen tools“.

waiting

 

Practical Teaching Ideas

Peer Grading in a Speech Class using Google Forms

2015-01-22 11.03.18A simple way to increase student involvement during a speech class is to have listeners fill out a form answering questions about the speech content. Another idea is to engage students in peer assessment. This can reinforce the skills being taught and reduce the burden on the teacher for a fair assessment of the speakers[cite num=”1″].

As an example, I often use the textbook Speaking of Speech[cite num=”2″]. The text is fairly straightforward, and the skills taught are universally useful. I have created a Google Form based on the skills taught in the text which I use for peer assessment. I share it with my students using a QR code. A template can be found here. All that remains is to add a list of the students names in the first drop-down list.

Grading based on this form can be done in Google Sheets using basic formulas such as:

=SUM()
=AVERAGE()

peer assessment sheets

Additionally, results can be sent to a chart and shared back with students.

Taro

Also, a summary of responses can be had from within the from creation app.

peer assessment sheets

A look at the summary of responses from one class grading session can show major trends. This can help to pinpoint areas which may need additional attention in a course.

summary of responses

In conclusion, Google Forms can be used to increase students involvement with the course through peer assessment. It can also provide useful metrics for both students and their teachers to assess progress.

References

  1. [cite num=”1″ return=TRUE]Toping, K. (1998). Peer Assessment Between Students in Colleges and Universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3), 249-276. Retrieved from http://rer.sagepub.com/content/68/3/249.short
  2. [cite num=”2″ return=TRUE]Harrington, D., & LeBeau, C. (2009). Speaking of Speech. MacMillan. http://www.macmillanenglish.com/courses/speaking-of-speech/