The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: R is for Reading Activities

When I first transitioned to teaching with comprehensible input (CI), the blog post I found the most helpful was Keith Toda‘s Todally Comprehensible Latin. He has one page on his blog that is an absolute gold mine. This page lists over EIGHTY ACTIVITIES that teachers can do in class to accompany reading.

Keith divides the list into Prereading, During Reading, and Postreading activities (The Postreading section is especially extensive). Some of the activities on Keith’s list are not conducive to distance learning, because they are games or activities that require students to work in groups. But many of the activities on the list can successfully be adapted to the online environment (The last four activities under Postreading are posts added after school building closed. They are great to help teachers navigate some of the technologies we may want to use while teaching remotely). As you work to keep think interesting while teaching online, make a point to bookmark this post.

Another blogger whom I consulted regularly when I was starting to experiment with CI strategies was Martina Bex‘s website The Comprehensible Classroom. It was on this website that I first learned about Smash Doodles (For more information about using Smash Doodles in a physical classroom and to see some examples, visit this post). Smash Doodles are a great activity to use to get students to engage with readings and creatively summarize what they have read.

Once most schools switched to distance learning, Immediate Immersion posted a template that students could use during distance learning to create Smash Doodles. My students used this template to summarize the book Brandon Brown Veut un Chien, which they have read using a Fluency Matters e-course. Once they finished the e-course, students created pages for the individual chapters. Below are two examples:

Once we’re officially back in school, I will create a book out of Smash Doodles to share with my students.

What are some of your go-to reading activities that you’ve had success with during remote learning? Please describe them in the comments!

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: Q is for Quizlet, Quizizz, and Quizalize

I have studied and/or used five different quizzing platforms these past few months while teaching remotely, (and while you may think five different platforms is overkill, I thought it was important to have a nice variety of online quiz structures so my students didn’t get bored). In this series, I have already written about two online quizzing platforms, Gimkit and Kahoot. You can see what I said about them in this post and this post. Today I’m going to talk about three other gaming platforms, Quizlet, Quizizz, and Quizalize. All five platforms can be used as assessments and to provide additional comprehensible input (CI) to students.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Quizlet, Quizizz, or Quizalize. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

What is Quizlet?

Quizlet is an online learning platform that allows users to create “study sets,” which is basically a set of online flashcards. Besides interacting with a study set the same way they might interact with physical flashcards, students can also play online learning games like matching or take a practice quiz with terms in the study set. Teacher can also use study sets to create a class game called Quizlet Live.

Have I used Quizlet during normal classroom instruction? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

Yes, I have used Quizlet many times in my classes. I use Quizlet to create study sets of essential vocabulary. My students can review the essential vocabulary on their own either in class or at home. In addition, the class has used study sets together to play Quizlet Live.

When I first started teaching with CI, I did not provide lists of vocabulary to my students, because my assumption was that they would just acquire new words naturally due to extensive classroom use. What I realized, however, is that my anxious and/or competitive students liked having a place where they could review essential vocabulary just to be sure they weren’t missing anything (Unfortunately, many students have been conditioned over the years so that they believe that all “good” teachers will explicitly present material to them and tell them which words and expressions they need to study for assessments. This is not what I do as a CI teacher, but having study sets on Quizlet makes them feel as if I’m doing that). Having a Quizlet set also came in handy as a quick bellringer activity and as a resource for students who had been absent.

Have I used Quizlet now that I’m teaching remotely? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

Yes, I have used Quizlet for remote instrudction. As I described in this post, I use Quizlet to introduce students to new structures that they need in order to understand and complete one or more follow-up activites. For example, I recently assigned the Señor Wooly video “Qué Asco” to my fifth graders. Before they watched the video in Spanish, I asked them to review essential words in order to make the video more comprehensible. Then after watching the video, students had the option to review the Quizlet again before they completed a follow-up activity (During normal times I would still make the Quizlet set available to my students, but I would most likely present those new structures to my students interactively, like through a story or personalized questions and answers).

Do teachers need to pay for Quizlet?

Quizlet has a free version and a premium version. The free version includes advertising but it allows teachers to make as many study sets as they want. The premium version allows more options for formatting study sets. For example, that version lets teachers upload images and audio and gives teachers the ability to emphasize texts by making them bold, underlined, highlighted, or italicized. The premium version also tracks usage so teachers can monitor student progress and ensure that their students are actually interacting with the study sets.

What is Quizizz?

Quizizz is a platform that allows teachers to create online quizzes similar to those you might see on Kahoot. Unlike Kahoot, however, students can complete the quiz on Quizizz at their own pace and can take it multiple times to achieve a higher score. By default, Quizizz posts memes between each quiz question, which most students seem to like (although I did have one parent who said the memes were a waste of time, but what she didn’t realize is that all my memes were in the target language (TL), thus supplying a little sneaky CI). In addition, Quizizz gives students the chance to earn “power ups” (special privileges) for a series of correct answers. It also allows students to review before taking the quiz by giving them the chance to complete a practice round. Quizizz also keeps track of student scores that teachers can access once students have finished the quiz.

Have I used Quizizz during normal classroom instruction? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

I have not yet used Quizizz during normal classroom instruction, but I have already thought of ways to implement it once we are back to our regular teaching model. Since Quizizz is a quick and easy way to check for understanding, it will be good to use it after we have read and reviewed a story. Since it is student-driven, students will be able to take the quiz at his/her own pace. In theory, this should cut down on cheating, since there’s no guarantee that two students sitting near each other will be on the same question.

Have I used Quizizz now that I’m teaching remotely? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

Yes, I have used Quizizz while teaching remotely. Quizizz has a feature that allows teachers to assign a quiz as homework. I usually give one of these after my students have read a story. Students still have the option to review with a practice round before they take the actual quiz. I tell students that they must score at least 80% to earn credit for the assignment.

Do teachers need to pay for Quizizz?

No. It is completely free all the time.

What is Quizalize?

Quizalize is yet another online gaming platform that gamifies a formative assessment. It is very similar to both Quizlet and Quizizz in that it is student-paced, but two features make it a unique tool. First, it provides extensive data based on quiz outcomes for teachers to examine. Second, teachers can link content standards to quiz questions in order to determine how well students are meeting those standards, which is very convenient for standards-based grading.

Teachers have the option of either creating their own quiz or adapting someone else’s quiz for their own use. They create their classes right in Quizalize and assign classes a quiz that students access with a code. After students finish a quiz, they can see their score and the time it took them to answer each question, a list of all questions, how they answered each question, and the correct answer. After students finish the quiz, teachers have the option to program Quizalize to assign an appropriate follow-up activity based on student quiz scores (review activities for weak students, enrichment activities for strong students).

Teachers see the same individual data that students see as well as data for the whole class, which includes a list of all student scores that is color-coded based on how well students perform. They can also see data based on each question, which can help them identify areas that need reteaching and review.

Below is an example of the data that teachers can see after students take a quiz on Quizalize from the blog A Lever and a Place to Stand. The first image is part of the whole-class report and the following two images are from an individual student’s report.

Teachers who use Quizalize regularly eventually have a pretty good amount of data stored on the platform that they can use to track student progress over time.

Have I used Quizalize during normal classroom instruction? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

No, I did not use Quizalize during normal classroom instruction, but I plan to use it in a manner similar to how I would use Quizizz during normal classroom instruction for assessments. Since Quizizz is free all the time, I would probably use it more frequently and I would save Quizalize for the assessments whose data I really want to study, like my mid-year and final assessments.

Have I used Quizalize now that I’m teaching remotely? If so, how? If not, how would I use it?

Next week is my last week of remote learning. I’ve designed a final assessment for students based on stories they have read during remote learning. As I mentioned in this post, my school is not grading traditionally for the fourth quarter, so I plan to use the data from the quiz to see how my students progressed while they were at home.

Do teachers need to pay for Quizalize?

Quizalize rivals Gimkit for the most disappointing free version. Like Gimkit, the free version of Quizalize is very limiting. Teachers can only set up three classes and five quizzes with a free account. Teachers who are interested in using Quizalize to track student performace and aligning quizzes to content standards would have to purchase a premium account.

My Final Thoughts:

Teachers are very lucky right now to have such a variety of options to spice up remote instruction. For those of use whose school year is coming to an end, now would be a good time to become familiar with these platforms in preparation for whatever the fall may bring when the new school year is supposed to begin.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: P is for Pear Deck

Pear Deck is a super cool tech tool that I just learned about recently. It is a Chrome Extension that allows you to create interactive slide presentations. Teachers can create new presentations directly on Pear Deck or can import presentations from PowerPoint or Google Slides. Then they can make those presentations interactive by embedding activities directly in the Pear Deck slides that students need to stop and complete during the presentation.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Pear Deck. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

At first, I was skeptical about using Pear Deck in a comprehensible input (CI) class, because when I searched for examples of how language teachers use Pear Deck, the videos I saw were of teachers doing explicit grammar instruction or output activities (I had a similar reaction when I first learned about Flipgrid, which you can read about here and here). As I have said many times before, explicit grammar instruction, forced output, and heavy correction of errors are not components of a CI language classroom, so I initially decided that Pear Deck was not for me.

Then I watched the amazing Elicia Cárdenas present about Pear Deck in a Fluency Fast webinar, in which she demonstrated some of the interactive, input-based activities she used when presenting with Pear Deck. Based on what Elicia shared and what I’ve seen in video tutorials, I’ve compiled a list of some of the ways world language teachers can provide CI using Pear deck:

1. Drag and Drop: Post descriptions of characters in the TL from a well-known class reading and have students drag the name of each character to the correct description. Alternatively, you can use the drag and drop function to take sentences from a well-known story and ask students to put the sentences in chronological order.

2. Draw: Post sentences in the TL and have students use Pear Deck to draw pictures to illustrate them.

3. Fill in the blank: Write an incomplete sentence from a well-known reading and have students fill in the blank using the text feature to complete the sentence.

4. Write a response: Show a picture and talk about it in the TL. Then ask the students questions about the picture in the TL for them to answer.

Alternatively, you can request details during storyasking and have students type in their suggestions.

5. Multiple Choice: Post a question in the TL about something you’ve been talking or reading about and have students choose a correct answer.

6. Listen and write/draw: The premium version of Pear Deck lets you add audio to your slides, which students can listen to and then respond by writing or drawing.

I always notice that when I give presentations in class, there are certain students who disengage, even if they know that they are going to have to complete an assessment afterwards about information from the presentation. That’s just the nature of middle school students. Pear Deck obligates them to engage and interact throughout the presentation, which I hope will help them retain information and further their proficiency in the TL.

So far I have only talked about using Pear Deck in physical classes, but many of the features I have spoken about will transfer to a synchronous, virtual class taught via video conferencing software like Zoom or Google Hangouts. I am not conducting synchronous classes, but I can still use Pear Deck in student mode, which allows students to interact with a presentation independently at their own pace.

If you are interested in learning more about Pear Deck, you’ll find more information on their blog and a TON of video tutorials on the Pear Deck YouTube channel. Pear Deck does have a free version, but unfortunately many of the features I’ve spoken about here are only available in the paid version. But if school districts continue distance learning in the fall, it may be work the expense.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: O is for OMG, Double Input!

Friends, are you familiar with the term “double input?” I first heard it two years ago in a presentation given by Kara Kane Jacobs and Arianne Dowd at a local state language conference. It refers to the practice of supplying comprehensible input (CI) in spoken form and written form simultaneously (Kara and Arianne also talked about the idea of “triple input,” which includes CI in spoken form and written form simultaneously and includes follow-up reading activities).

Any time a world language teacher shows students a video in the target language (TL) that simultaneously posts subtitles in the TL, that teacher is providing double input (I find that this is of EXTREME importance in my French classes because of the vast differences between the spoken and written language, but it’s also useful for any language if the speakers in the video are talking quickly). In a distance learning setup, one of the easiest ways teachers can provide double input to their students is by recording subtitled videos in the TL for students to watch.

Fortunately, you can find many programs that you can run on your computer to add captions. But if you are like me and either don’t want to spend the time or don’t feel comfortable using computer video editing software, your best option is to record a quick video using an app on your phone. If you have an iPhone, the app you absolutely must have is Clip-o-Matic.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Clip-o-Matic. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

Clip-o-Matic is SO incredibly easy to use. Once you’ve downloaded and set up your app, all you have to do is choose the language in which you plan on speaking and start recording on your phone as you normally do. You can choose from over 30 languages, which is AMAZING. The app also allows you to choose different caption styles and filters to customize your video and edit the captions in case of text inaccuracies. Once you’re done with your recording, your video will save automatically on your phone. From there you can share it with whomever (many teachers who use Clip-o-Matic upload their videos to their classroom YouTube channel and share links to them with their students).

Here’s an example of what your captions might look like (this is from Annabelle Williamson‘s YouTube channel):

You can see others here.

If you are an Android user, you will have to use an alternative app, because Clip-O-Matic is only available on an iPhone. I can’t speak to how easy or user-friendly the alternatives are, so you will have to research them and figure out which app best suits your needs. But once you find out which one suits you best, you’ll have to comment on it here on this post for other Android users. Happy recording!

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: N is for Novels

After I read some of Dr. Stephen Krashen‘s academic papers about the incredible importance of reading in the target language (TL), I implemented a pretty robust reading program in my world language classes composed of independent reading and whole-class reading. (For more on reading a novel as a class, click here. For more about independent reading in a world language class, click here). Things were going well until the current pandemic hit. When my school district closed, my seventh grade French class had only finished four chapters of Carol Gaab‘s novel Brandon Brown Veut un Chien.

The company that published the novel, Fluency Matters, generously provided access to the Brandon Brown Veut un Chien online e-course, first for free and then at a reduced and very reasonable price. The e-course included online access to the novel that students could listen to and read, access to the glossary, and three quizzes per chapter. The software automatically corrected the quizzes and recorded all grades in an online grade book. It was all very convenient and easy for me as the teacher.

Not all Fluency Matters novels are available as an e-course, but the company does offer other novels in an e-book form, meaning that it is still possible to listen to and read the novel online but the online quizzes and grade book options are not available. As far as I know, Fluency Matters is the only company that sells CI novels in electronic form, although the company TPRS Books and independent novelists like Mira Canion offer audio downloads.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Fluency Matters or any other businesses mentioned in this post. I just like sharing tools that are easy, free, and help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

At first, I thought I was all set with remote learning work for my Grade 7 class, but very quickly I realized that assigning a novel presented a problem. I had a large number of students who plowed ahead and stayed current with their work, but I had others who didn’t engage with the novel right away, or even at all in some extreme cases. Since the work was cumulative, students couldn’t do the current week’s assignments and then go back and makeup work from previous weeks. It pretty much guaranteed that students who realized that they had to go back and start at the very beginning were even less likely to start the e-course, because ten chapters and thirty quizzes just felt like SO MUCH WORK.

My school district is already saying that we may still be teaching remotely in the fall. I’ve already decided that I will not do another whole-class novel remotely unless it’s the kind that doesn’t have a continual story arc developing from chapter to chapter. Alternatively, I may offer an e-course as a choice of assignment for those students who like to read, or I may differentiate and only assign a novel to students who successfully completed the Brandon Brown Veut un Chien online e-course (For more about classroom choice, click here. For more about differentiating while teaching remotely, click here). But I guess I’ll have to wait and make my decisions once those in authority have decided what our fall instruction will look like.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: M is for More of the Same

Friends, while I know that this blog series is about providing comprehensible input (CI) through remote learning, will you humor me a bit and let me tell you about one of my children (I have both girls and boys, but to keep said child’s confidential, I will refer to said child as “El,” and I will use both masculine and feminine pronouns when talking about him/her). I promise that I will relate this to providing CI through remote learning!

When “El” was in his/her first year of middle school, s/he started having frequent behavioral problems in school. In elementary school, s/he had gotten into trouble from time to time, but we reasoned that it was because s/he was an energetic, curious, and impulsive child and that s/he would calm down as s/he matured. And to be honest, Hubby and I often shared a good laugh over why El got in trouble, such as the time s/he had to write the apology note below after disrupting a teacher’s lesson, whose room was adjacent to the restroom:

But by the time s/he was in middle school, El’s behavior got worse, and finally Hubby and I realized that something was going on with our child and that we needed some help. Based on the recommendation of a colleague at my school, we got El a complete neurological and psychological evaluation, which revealed that s/he has High Functioning Autism (HSA), which used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome, and also Executive Dysfunction (ED).

The term “Executive Dysfunction” was new to us, but our doctor explained that about 90% of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also had ED, meaning that they had other deficits besides the inability to pay attention and being hyperactive that could make learning challenging. Some of these include impulsivity, poor handwriting, being oversensitive to external stimuli, and difficulty organizing, self-regulating, or following multi-step directions (For more information about ED, click here. For information about how to support kids with ED in your classroom, click here).

Then the doctor told us that, as El got older and his/her schoolwork became more demanding, s/he would struggle most in his/her math and world language classes, because those classes usually required a lot of memorization of formulas, grammar rules, and vocabulary lists (This is not my main purpose for this post, but it should go without saying that a well-organized CI classroom is GREAT for students with HSA or ED!).

As Hubby and I tried to navigate our “new normal,” one of the things we noticed was that El did really well when s/he had a set routine. Students with HSA need routines to help them feel centered. As they struggle socially and academically, the routine calms them, makes them feel grounded, and lowers their anxiety. Routines help students with ED be more successful because they will know what to expect and are less likely to overlook something (Remember, organization is REALLY hard for ED students).

That brings me to this post’s letter, M, which stands for “More of the Same.” Giving students the same type of work every week while teaching remotely is a great way to help your students with ED and HSA be successfu (and is probably good for your other students, whose lives may be a little upended right now too). They’ll know exactly what to do, which means that their Affective Filter will stay low. With any luck, this will help them interact with the CI you are providing them and will help further their language proficiency.

If you’re a teacher who is overwhelmed with remote learning, you may establish your routine by assigning something simple but similar every week (like the teacher’s weekly lessons I describe in this post). Those of you who want to experiment with tech like EdPuzzle, Flipgrid, or Loom every week can still get creative, but you should still try to maintain some consistency. For example, if you give three assignments every week, make sure two of those assignments are the same type of activities you assigned the previous week and change only one. And whether you decide to give your students something simple or creative to do, consider giving them a visual schedule of what they have to do each day to help them organize their time.

If you’ve read this post, you already know that I have been using a Choice Board as one of the assignments in my classes. I’ll be honest and tell you that my ED and HSA kids REALLY struggled with this that first couple of weeks, to such an extent that I initially regretted using it and thought about abandoning it for something simpler. But ultimately I ended up keeping it, because my students eventually got the hang of it and I didn’t want to upend the routine that they had finally established. In other words, I wanted to give them more of the same.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: L is for Loom

When I was teaching in a physical classroom, one way I often provided my classes with comprehensible input (CI) was by projecting a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation and talking to the class about what was on each slide (just like many other CI teachers do, I’m sure!). Once we transitioned to remote learning, I wanted to be able to replicate that on video, so I started looking for a technology to help me do that. The one I like the most is called Loom (Shoutout to Annabelle Williamson for turning me on to this fantastic resource!).

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Loom. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

Loom can be accessed in three different ways: in your browser, via a Chrome Extension, or through an app. I recommend that you try all three ways, because the one that works the best for you may depend on what kind of device you are using. My friends with MacBooks prefer to download the app, and the app lets you record using an iPad or iPhone too, which is nice. Colleagues I know with Chromebooks or other brands of laptops prefer the Chrome Extension. Regardless of how you access Loom, the recording mechanisms all work in a similar way.

To record a presentation on Loom, all I have to do is pull up the presentation I plan to give, open Loom, and press “record.” I have the option of recording just my computer screen, just myself, or my presentation with a small video of me in the corner. Once I’ve chosen the type of recording I want, Loom gives me a countdown (3-2-1) and starts recording. Then all I have to do is start my presentation. I usually record my presentations with a small video of me in the lower left-hand corner of my presentation, like this:

I have the option of moving that video of me, making the circle larger, or removing it entirely ( which I may start doing since it’s been four months since I’ve had a hair appointment, LOL!).

In the image above, you’ll see a set of circles next to the circular video of me. Those are the controls that let me control the size of or eliminate the video circle and manage my recording. I can present for as long as I want, because Loom does not limit the length of my recording. Once I’m done with the presentation, I click on the green circle with the check mark in it. Then Loom posts my video on my personal Loom page, where I have the option to trim my final video if I make a mistake or if it’s too long. Loom then creates a link that I can embed on my blog or share with whomever. I can also download my Loom videos and save them on my laptop if I want to.

It is so, so quick and easy to create and share videos on Loom. Before I learned about it, I recorded a few videos using the video app on my computer. What a drag! The recording usually went fine, but then I had to wait for my computer to finish processing the video and upload it to YouTube before I had a link that I could share. It was kind of a hassle, and I didn’t make that many videos because of the multiple steps I had to take to secure my final project. One video could take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to finish and share, and sometimes it just wasn’t worth the time.

Now using Loom, the entire video making process can take as little as five minutes, and I find myself making more videos than ever because it is so quick and painless. The tutorials on Loom make it is so simple to learn that several of my low-tech/no-tech colleagues have started using it successfully too. Organization is a snap as well, because I can create folders on my Loom page to store videos in an orderly fashion.

Currently Loom offers both a free account and a paid pro account for individuals. Those with the free account can record and store up to twenty-five videos on their Loom page (although I’m not 100% sure, I think you can still record more than twenty-five videos with the free account but can only access your latest twenty-five from your personal Loom page). The pro account is usually $8 a month and comes with unlimited video storage space and a few more advanced editing tools. Loom is also rolling out accounts for teams, where groups of people can have a shared a workspace on Loom to collaborate.

While my main reason for recording videos with Loom is to provide CI to my students while we’re distance learning, I’ve also made videos to explain assignments or just say hi (my classes don’t meet synchronously). Below are some other ideas for use of Loom videos in the classroom courtesy of Kathleen Morris:

I know that teachers have a choice of using other programs like Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic, and even Zoom to make videos for the classroom as well. I’ve explored using Zoom, which can be cumbersome (but can allow you to add a virtual background to provide even more CI, like I discussed in this post), but I have little experience with Screencastify (which limits the lengths of free videos to five minutes and can only be used with a computer) and Screencast-o-matic (which limits the lengths of free videos to fifteen minutes). I’m quite happy with Loom, and will continue to incorporate it’s use in my class as I am teaching remotely, and will probably even use it once in a while once our school buildings are open and schools are back in normal session.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: K is for Kahoot

Of all the game-based learning platforms available today, the one that has been around the longest and is the most popular is Kahoot (Kahoot has been around so long that you can find multiple websites online describing how to “hack” a Kahoot game, which my thirteen-year-old did in his Spanish class back in January. So proud!). In physical classrooms, teachers project quiz questions to the class and students choose the correct answer to the questions on an electronic device using a web browser or Kahoot app. Teachers can use a Kahoot game to review content or as a formative assessment.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Kahoot. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

Earlier in this series, I wrote about Gimkit, another game-based learning platform. In that post, I wrote about three ways that Gimkit could be used in a remote learning environment. Specifically, I talked about playing a game in a live class on Zoom or Google Hangouts, having students complete a kit independently but still competing against each other to see who can earn the most money, and having students contribute questions to a kit that the class creates and then plays together.

Classes can also do activities similar to these using Kahoot. Classes can play the live Kahoot game in a synchronous class on Zoom or Google Hangouts. Challenge Mode allows students to complete a Kahoot game independently at their own pace but still compete against other students completing the same game. Lastly, students can create their own Kahoot game questions which, as I said in my Gimkit post, should increase engagement as students read questions carefully to see if it is one they contributed to the game.

Although Kahoot and Gimkit sound very similar, I see a few distinct differences between them. First, Kahoot only asks each question once, whereas Gimkit questions repeat themselves until the prescribed game time is over. That repetition is certainly valuable if you are using your Gimkit questions as a sneaky source of input. Second, while students can play a Kahoot game or a Gimkit kit independently, only Kahoot games can be played without a time limit. In theory this should help them read questions more carefully and interact with the input more closely. Third, Kahoot lacks a function similar to the Gimkit Kit Collab function, which allows an entire class to create a Gimkit kit together by contributing online questions that the teacher can preview. Finally, both Kahoot and Gimkit have free versions (and paid versions that offer more options), but the free Kahoot version offers a lot more than Gimkit does. Gimkit only allows teachers to create five kits with the free version, and it also limits the number of times you can edit those kits once you’ve made them. The free Kahoot account allows teachers to make as many free games as they want.

If you decide to add Kahoot to your remote learning plans, I advise you to use it sparingly so it doesn’t lose its allure (Which is the same thing I said about Gimkit in this post, but I would use Kahoot even less frequently than Gimkit). For what it’s worth, I have a paid version of Gimkit so I can create more than five kits and because I really like the Kit Collab option. But to each his own!

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: J is for Just the Basics is Just Fine

Friends, I’m sure many of you are familiar with those “rockstar” World Language teachers (and if not, you can visit their websites by clicking on links right here on my blog). In my case, following those teachers on social media and subscribing to their blogs is what got me started on my transition from legacy (textbook vocabulary lists and grammar explanations) to comprehensible input (CI) world language teacher.

Our “rockstar” teachers are the gold standard. They’ve invented and adapted techniques that make all of us better CI teachers, and they maintain blogs and host workshops all over the country to help other teachers improve their own practices. And now that we are all teaching remotely, many of these rockstars seem to have effortlessly made the switch to remote teaching and are doing things in their virtual classrooms that are just as amazing as what they were doing in their physical classrooms. They’ve mastered new technologies, refined techniques, and created new material that they generously share with the CI language teaching world.

Justin Slocum Bailey and Mike Peto have taken the Zoom virtual background option to the next level (Read more about that here). Annabelle Williamson and Sarah Breckley are two of the many teachers who have been creating videos for their students. Anne Marie Chase has been adapting games so classes can play them remotely. Elicia Cárdenas has mastered cool technologies like Loom, Snap Camera, and Peardeck to make her online instruction more engaging.

The danger of seeing all these great things that CI teachers are doing to continue their instruction in spite of a pandemic is that it can make the rest of us feel…inadequate. Not good enough. Not creative enough. Not committed enough to our profession or to our students. And then before you know it, you’re stuck on your couch with a pint of ice cream and a glass of rosé feeling sorry for yourself.

Do you want my advice?

Just stop it. As long as you keep exposing your students to high-quality comprehensible input, you’re doing just fine.

Virtual backgrounds, class videos, and other bells and whistles are nice, but I have yet to see any research saying that they are necessary to further language acquisition. But you know what DOES further language acquisition?

Comprehensible input.

The ONLY thing that matters is that your remote instruction contains as much high-quality input as possible. And if all you are able to do is provide your CI using just the basics, that is just fine.

One CI teacher I know always gives the same, basic assignment to his classes. On Tuesday, he posts a story in his target language (TL) for his students to read (they also have the option to listen to a recording while they read). After they’ve read the story, students answer comprehension questions about what they’ve read in English. Students turn their responses in and the teacher provides feedback and returns work to students. Then the teacher posts the same type of lesson again on Thursday. That’s it. Nice and simple.

And if you read this post about teaching with video asynchronously, you’ll see that I’m not breaking any new ground with the model of instruction I use when using video to provide CI. I am a basic b#tch.

So friends, if we all focus on just the basics – providing comprehensible input to help further our students’ language acquisition – we are doing our jobs effectively. And that’s all we absolutely need to do right now.

The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: I is for Inequity

As I make my way from A to Z in this series, I have already and will continue to post about tech, tools, and techniques that teachers can use to provide comprehensible input (CI) remotely. Even though the location of our classrooms have changed, the main goal of our instruction – providing high quality, comprehensible input – has not. I’ve already taken advantage of lots of free or inexpensive online professional development (like some of the courses from this site and this site) designed to help world language teachers make the transition to online learning.

While all this professional development can help make me become a more effective remote teacher, what it can’t do is address issues of inequity that are making distance learning a challenging experience for some students. This is often based on lack of reliable access to technology (If you have been keeping up with education news, you may be familiar with articles like this one about disparities in remote learning).

I address lack of technology access currently by providing students with activities that they can do at home on paper (as I’m sure other teachers do also). One of our lovely office assistants mails an envelope home to any students in need of a hard copy whenever I need her to, often including envelopes addressed to me at my home so students can mail me completed work. The envelope usually contains stories that students read with follow-up activities like listening comprehension questions in English or a blank comic book template to draw, and I encourage them to find a way to listen to French or Spanish if possible by listening to music or changing audio language selections on a DVD or Netflix show, if possible. It is frustrating that I can’t give them more choices.

I’ve also tried to address educational inequity by differentiating work as needed (you can read more about that in this post). Also, I am not grading traditionally. I realize that other teachers have no choice but to grade traditionally, but I am thankful to have administrators who read an article like this one and who wholeheartedly agree with this statement:

Spearheaded by our awesome team leader, my entire world language department is assessing student performance using a standards-based model loosely based on Novice level proficiency targets set by ACTFL. For my seventh grade, I want to see evidence that they can operate in the Interpretive Mode at the Novice Mid proficiency level, and I want to see evidence that my Grade 8 students can operate in the Interpretive Mode at the Novice High proficiency level. So when work comes in I ask myself two questions:

  1. Novice Mid: How often is the student effective at identifying some basic facts from memorized words and phrases when they are supported by gestures or visuals in informational or fictional texts? Rarely, sometimes, or always?
  2. Novice High: How often is the student effective at identifying the main idea and key information in short straightforward informational or fictional texts? Rarely, sometimes, or always?

In addition, we are required to comment about the level of student engagement during distance learning and have the option of leaving a personalized comment.

Lastly, I will be able to address some of the inequities of remote learning by having input about how my classes will be grouped next year. I will have two Grade 8 sections next year, and I was able to work with the woman in charge of scheduling to make sure that my current Grade 7 students who consistently engaged well with the material during distance learning are in one section and those that struggled or didn’t engage with the material at all are in the other class. That way I will be able to meet both groups where they are at without leaving anyone behind by moving too fast or too slowly. I also plan to share my reports about the success and engagement of my Grade 8 students with the high school teacher, who I hope will be able to use the information to guide her practice also.

What’s so frustrating is that the practices I’ve mentioned above are the only things I can do to address the education inequity my students have. It doesn’t feel like it’s barely enough, but I can’t really do anything else except try to make sure they know that I don’t judge them only by whether or not they are able to turn int their work. Our government really needs to address issues of educational inequity in this country so that we can help all students be successful.

P.S. Make sure you’re registered to vote, and make sure you vote for candidates who want to improve educational opportunities for ALL students!