Sunday, 31 October 2010

Posterous + iPod apps

Recently I've been playing around with apps on my new iPod Touch, enjoying the camera, video and audio recording functions that my previous Gen1 iPod Touch were lacking.

Over the past year or so I have been using Posterous to post reading exercises and student work for an increasing number of classes. It is simple to use and the fact that you can email posts straight to the web makes it great for creating things on the iPod before emailing it up to the class site. The amazing array of apps available for the iPod meaning you can add bells and whistles to your reading passage.

The following are some of the apps I have so far found useful. I use the free version of most of them though they do have paid versions with extra features that I may soon upgrade to.

I have more and more students appearing in class with iPod touches or iPhones and am trying to show them how they can use these devices for 'good' in my class. Some of the weaker students have used these devices to create simple comics or images with speech bubbles and although it doesn't sound like much, it is so much more than they have done before.

Comic Touch Lite (free)

  • Add speech bubbles (and a couple of effects) to your photos. 
  • In class: students can take photos of themselves before adding captions to the photos in the target language (Japanese). We did this during the 'Daily Routine'. You could also have students search for images of people, take a screenshot (by holding down the 'home' and 'on/off' button on the ipod) and add captions introducing themseleves in the target language.

SodaSnap (free)

  • Turn photos into postcards with the image on one side and your written note on the other. Great for writing in the target language and then emailing to your class blog.
  • In class: great for writing virtual postcards on where they have been, what they did, etc. The amount of text is limited but is useful for Junior classes. Connect with other classes using it and have students write comments on each others posts.

PhotoCard Lite (free)

  • Another app where you can create postcards, this one uses Bill Atkinson nature photos. The images are great and although they may not suit what you are writing about, you can write more than will fit into the SodaSnap postcard.
  • This one allows you to send it to yourself via email and also has a 'print-and-mail' service if you want a 'real postcard' to arrive in someone's mail.

Strip Design ($3.99)

  • Use your photos to create comic strips with a variety of templates, speech bubbles and other effects.
  • It's useful to remember that you can use it with any image on your device. Take a screen shot, use an image that you have enhanced via another app or use a map (with directions in the target language). With a little imagination the possibilities are huge.

SonicPics Lite (free)

  • This is something akin to a "Photo Story" type application. You can record audio over images and create a slideshow.
  • In class: you could use it for listening and speaking exercises, describing images (people or places) or giving directions on a map. Describe daily routine, a holiday, your family and so on.

StoryKit (free)

  • Create little electronic storybooks with pictures. This app is quite simple but an effective tool for writing in any language. Although it does not allow you to email the finished product, it does give you a web link to your product. Great for digital storytelling.
  • This is my little experiment with Mr Happy and the camera on the iPod Touch.

There are a lot of apps out there and because many are designed for having a little bit of fun in English, it makes them extremely useful for helping to engage the students and, in the process, for creating a variety of texts using the target language. Then, once you post them on the class blog / site, they are there for reading practice and for all to admire. Check out how I've done it here.

So, download some free apps that you think might be useful, play around with them and, if necessary, get the paid for version before showing the students how they can be used to help them engage with the target language and improve their ability to use it.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What has learning a language given you?

The central image in this poster is a screenshot of the wallwisher linked here, which asked the questions: "What has learning a language given you? What do you love about language?"

If you love languages please add to the wall by simply clicking in an empty space on it and expressing what languages have given you. You can even link to video, images or audio in your comment.

The text below the image seemed a good idea at the time but basically arose from the presumption that so many people still make (I still hear it at parent teacher interviews); that is, we don't need to learn another language as everyone else speaks English. I am fairly sure that I am not alone in my opinion that this belief is not quite on the mark, kind of like the views of those who dismissed Galileo's views back in the 17th Century.

Learning Languages



Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hiragana Play Dough

I've been meaning to buy some play dough for quite a while now, the kind we used to use in kindergarten - or more recently if you have children of your own. Play dough for creating whatever you imagine or, in our case, for helping to remember the Japanese hiragana script.

The class loved it, though its not an activity you would try too often. It was noisy but the students were thinking about the shape of each character and its associated sound. The results, thanks to the departments flip video camera, are below.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Language Learning: tips & tricks

Teaching our students how to learn is of course as important, if not more important, than what they learn. Learning a language is a new experience for many of our Year 7 students, and for those who have not learnt a language before, they may never have been shown how to do it.

Next time you set
"learn the ... vocab on p... of the text" as part of your students' homework, give them a few tips on how they can do that, assuming you haven't already. Let them know that we all learn in different ways and the way one student learns their vocab will not necessarily be the way that everyone else does. We need to help each student find the most effective way for them to learn. At school I learnt my vocabulary by writing it down again and again (and again), now I learn through flashcards and by trying to use the vocabulary as often as possible. Both methods work in their own way but I now prefer flashcards and flash games.

Here's my attempt at putting some tips for language learning into one place. If you have any tips for me to improve the presentation, please let me know via a comment.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Music and Japanese Lyrics

A while back I wrote here about using music to inspire your Japanese language learning. In class this week my students pointed me towards 'jpopasia', a place to watch music videos and communicate with like minded fans of Japanese and Korean Pop music. The added benefit of this site, from my angle, is that many of the videos have the lyrics (including kanji lyrics) alongside them. This means we can listen to as well as read the Japanese. As mentioned in the post linked above, I learnt a lot of kanji and vocabulary from too much karaoke and now I see many of my students doing the same; as well as learning Japanese through manga and anime. The difference now is accessibility - Japan and Japanese music is so much closer. As the site's authors put it:

All we want is to promote Japanese music outside Japan. It's really hard to find and discover new Japanese music because of the language barrier and availability. We think we can fill this missing link in providing romaji titles and promotional videos.

So, find a song your students like, look at the grammar and kanji in the lyrics and use these to help reinforce the structures and script being learnt in class. In class yesterday, Angela Aki's song Tegami and lyrics helped us to revise a whole heap of kanji and to look at the grammar structures 〜ないで、〜そう(な)and 〜(え)ば. I even learnt a couple of new kanji myself.

Posted via web from Js Nihongo

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Blogs for learning about all things Japanese

Part of my presentation to Japanese teachers this week was aimed at providing teachers with some authentic, real-time Japanese resources - for the language and the culture. For me, these are the blogs and sites that I turn to when looking for images or short, reflective pieces on Japanese festivals, food, music, language and so on. These are my favourite J-Bloggers. People who live in Japan or have lived in Japan and blog about Japan and their experiences there.

The best thing about these posts is not only the quality of the images but also the real-time nature of the blog posts. Posts and images on Children’s Day or Hinamatsuri can be found around those days. 

Previously, I have posted on finding images for teaching culture. This new list contains some of those same sites and some added extras that I have found since. It also contains some sites that focus a little more on the language, as well as the culture.

If these don’t satisfy, the best thing to do is to look at the “Blogroll” (usually found in the side pane of the blog) on these blogs.

Muza-chan's Gate to Japan  - Great images and explanations of what's happening in Japan

Kimonobox - From Hinamatsuri to decorations to quirky Japanese products (and great images)

Shibuya246 - Awesome images and easy to read explanations

Japan: Life and Religion - Reflections on Japanese life, culture and Buddhism

A Rinkya Blog - A place to find Japanese gadgets and quirky collectibles.

Caught Red-handed  - A variety of articles on Japan and the language that contains the occasional gem

Rainbowhill Language Lab - Language and culture, including lots of tips for learning Japanese

 Tofugu - Lots of tips and resources for learning Japanese

Hungry for Words: Mostly Japanese - Reflections on the Japanese language and customs

...and keep an eye out for the Japan Blog Matsuri. The recent matsuri on Famous Japanese People was pretty useful.

What are your favourites? Please add any I've missed in the comments section.



Posted via web from Js Nihongo

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Japanese Adjectives - The Movie

Something designed to help think about the difference between i-adjectives and na-adjectives. Designed for my Year 9 class.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Yr8 Profiles and MapSkip

A while ago now I wrote about the potential that MapSkip seemed to have as a place for students to create profiles with images and sound. Well, finally we have tried it out in the classroom and were really happy with how the students were engaged in the activity and working together, reading other student's profiles and commenting on them.

This activity came after a couple of weeks of lessons that taught students how to indicate name, age, place they live, nationality and phone number. The idea was for the students to use this knowledge to create a character in the target language (Japanese), create an image for their avatar and then upload these to a map that was accessible by all. Students could then read each others character profiles and hopefully learn from each other. There was also the option for students to record themselves reading the profile and then uploading that to the map. It took about 3 lessons and went something like this...
  1. Students created their character, giving information about name, age ,where in Japan they live and their nationality. All of this was fictional and the language was checked before moving to the next step.
  2. Students created an avatar using one of the sites in this post from Danny Nicholson. We are a 1:1 laptop school so students saved the image to their computer, either using the Print Screen function or the Windows+S buttons (which saves a clipping straight into OneNote). They then edited in Paint.
  3. Students were given a password and username to login to MapSkip; the site allows teachers to easily create and monitor student accounts.
  4. Once in MapSkip, students located the town their character came from in Japan and added a marker to the map. The then added their "story" and avatar image to the map.
  5. Students recorded themselves reading the profile and then uploaded that to their MapSkip "story". Note: You will need to save your recording as an mp3 file before you can upload. Not all students reached this stage.
  6. Students were set homework to read other students' profiles and make a comment. Some wrote comments in Japanese, some in English. I gave feedback via the comment option.
All in all the lessons went really well and the level of student engagement was fantastic. The only problem we did encounter was that some students had trouble adding a marker to the map. It either didn't allow it or it placed the marker a long way from its intended spot. One student's character now resides in the Pacific Ocean several hundred kilometres to the east of Japan.

MapSkip, despite the minor setbacks mentioned above, was simple to use for the students and the ability to create and monitor student accounts is really useful. It also allows you to filter out all stories on the map so that only your students' stories are visible.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Technology in Modern Foreign Languages – A practitioner’s perspective

If you are looking for some tips on how technology can be integrated into the Foreign Languages classroom, you need to read the collection of articles embedded below.

Written by classroom teachers for classroom teachers and edited by Jos
é Picardo, it covers a whole array of ways that have worked in the language classroom to integrate ICT into all the skill areas. Highly recommended professional reading; and, if you want to go further, create a twitter account and follow those who have contributed to the document. They are all inspirational.

Technology in Modern Foreign Languages - A Practitioner's Perspective

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Basics of learning a language

I have been working on the presentation embedded below for quite a while now and had in fact forgotten about it for a while. I began working on it as a means to try and help make our Year 7 language students more aware of how best to learn a language. For many students it is their first experience in learning a language and once the year starts it is pretty full on; they learn French for the entire Year as well as a Semester each of German and Japanese. Personally, I would like them to complete an Introductory Unit on 'Learning Languages', that shows them the importance of language learning itself and introduces tips and techniques on how best to do it. But ... time is an issue; those assessments are always getting in our way. So, rather than an entire Unit, I began working on this short presentation to use as a quick introduction. I am not convinced that it is complete, so if you have any tips of your own that would be suitable for younger language learners, please add them in the comments section.

Launch your own SlideRocket presentation!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

How about some music to inspire your Japanese learning

I learnt a lot of Japanese, in particular kanji and an ability to read the scripts more fluently, as a result of spending too much time singing karaoke. My excuse, if you'll allow me to go off on a small tangent, was the fact that my host father in Japan owned a Sake shop and we spent many evenings delivering goods to local "Snack bars" (a very mini version of the local pub). My host family lived in what was then the urban fringe and there were very few 'foreigners' around, so during the course of these deliveries I was of great interest to the locals and often called upon to sing; consequently I have no desire to sing "My Way" or "Yesterday" ever again. However, I do quite enjoy a bit of a sing and I began to look for and sing Japanese songs that appealed to me. This was great for my vocabulary and kanji. I would then rent CDs from the rental CD shop (at the time I was amazed that you could actually rent CDs) and study the lyrics. I still do this in a manner of sorts, only now I head to the internet rather than the shop.

So I guess the point I am trying to make is that if you like music, then it is a fabulous means to further engage and connect with a language. As a result, I occasionally throw songs out to my students, with the lyrics, hoping that some of them will like what they hear and explore the language further through song. Although all students will not relate to this I do know that many have and have also gone on to look for more. On top of that, many of them know more of the latest in J-Pop through their interest in Anime, Japanese TV dramas and video games. All in all, listening to music in any language that you are learning is going to help with motivation as well as vocabulary and even grammar. The best videos to find on You Tube are those that have the lyrics as subtitles, something that happens a bit on TV in Japan.

The following are either songs that I have shown to the class and used to help teach a certain phrase or topic or songs that I have recently discovered and plan to somehow weave into a Japanese lesson somewhere down the line...

For time:

For weather and seasons:

Just found this one; will perhaps use it to look at the Japanese syllabry:

And for a little bit of "family" topic related fun, you can't go past this one:

  • Do you use music when learning Japanese?
  • What Japanese songs do you know that could help with vocabulary, grammar or kanji?
  • Please add any in the comments below.

Posted via web from Js Nihongo