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Showing posts with label English. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English. Show all posts

Saturday, November 9, 2013


One of the best features of Google Docs is that teachers can comment on students’ essays by highlighting the selected text and giving textual commentary. Students can in turn comment back on their teacher’s comment, making it a great formative feedback for essay writing. It does not only kill the red ink annotations, which are a real annoyance to students, but also targets the intended selection to comment on in an organized manner.

However, if teachers want to take formative feedback to new levels of personalized feedback, a voice feedback would be a great solution.


This is what Kaizena actually does, and more. Kaizena is a voice commentary online application that integrates fully with Google Drive to maintain the smooth workflow. You don’t even have to go to Kaizena website to install it. It works much like the Google Docs commentary but instead of textual commentary in the highlighted essay section, you include a voice commentary. Kaizena also supports text commentary and highlighting options, but its stellar feature is voice commentary.

To open the students’ Google Document using Kaizena  for the first time you need to associate your Google Drive documents to open with Kaizena App.

From within the Google Drive, click on Create and then click on “Connect More Apps”. You will get a pop up window with many apps to choose from. Search for “Kaizena” and then install.

kaizena add


To open your students’ documents via Kaizena, right click on any student’s document and then choose “ Open with” and then choose “Kaizena”. This will open the student’s Document in Kaizena. From there it is very easy to insert voice comments.

essay kaizena

However, make sure that you ask your students to also connect Kaizena App to their Google Drive and to open their documents similar to the way you did.

What do you think of voice comments? Do you think it adds a personalized dimension of essay feedback? What are the effects on students’ noticing using sound instead of text. I haven’t found much conclusive studies on this, but they suggest that students tend to notice their errors more and are more inclined to revise their essays. I believe it is perhaps related to the psychological closeness that it creates between the teacher and his students.

Posted on Saturday, November 09, 2013 by Ammar Merhbi

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

noresumeIt's no question that the notion of literacy has transcended beyond the written word to include the combination of visuals and words. Writing skills has also evolved into the art of combining the written word with visuals such as images and videos. Our students themselves are disengaged from the writing and are more tuned in to the “Visual Word”.
For the past two years, I have turned the common CV assignments, part of the writing sessions with my grade 11 students, into Visual CV assignments. The results were remarkable, and I am writing this post to share it with you.
I was first fascinated by the visual CVs when I came across some. Professionals using PowerPoint + images + words to produce stunning visual CVs and resumes that stand out. I first did my own visual resume and decided that my students should also do it, besides their traditional paper CVs.

Students first wrote their traditional paper CVs which would serve as the basis for their Visual CVs. As high school students, they didn’t have enough experience or skills to make their CVs. So, I encouraged them to pretend they are now working in the profession they envision themselves doing and write down the experiences, education and skills that they would have gained along the way.
After they were done with the first part of their assignment, the paper CVs, I modeled some great visual Resumes. This gave the class enough material to discuss. They had to deconstruct those visual resumes, and we discussed what made them so communicative. By the end of the discussion, students came to realize that images mean more than words and that’s what they did.
Guided by their paper CVs each student chose keywords and turned them into images on their CVs. Each students started a Google presentation and shared it with me. This enabled me to give each one of them timely comments and suggestions. After they were done, each presented before the class and each shared his Visual CV on the internet. Below are some example of visual CV’s produced by my students.

Students were completely engaged. Their attitude towards writing has shifted to pleasure writing. Their motivation was heightened. But what was really remarkable is how low-achievers have improved in their writings. This is due to strengthening their willingness to communicate through not only text but also images using PowerPoint as a tool and the Google platform as a medium for communication and collaboration.

Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 by Ammar Merhbi


Thursday, September 17, 2009

I am sure all of you by now know Wordle and its great implications in ESL/EFL. Wordle- a word cloud that displays words of a text, website, or Delicious visually and according to a word's frequency- has become a favorite tool for English teachers to teach text genres, vocabulary building, and much more. Teachers all around the globe build activities around Wordle to result in enhanced language learning. If you would like to read more about Wordle and activities that can be built around it, I recommend you read Nik Peachey's Post. He also provides a tutorial on how to start with Wordle.
However, there is another web-based tool that is based on vocabulary acquisition theories rather than technical aspects. This web-based word cloud tool is

.  Now, to be honest wordsift is not visually appealing as wordle is and it is not customizable with regard to 1- words displayed in word cloud, 2- word cloud appearance, and 3- options of text input. Yet, it does render a great way to enhance vocabulary learning based on methodological framewrok.

Getting Started with Wordsift

As with wordle, worsift does not need any registration. The video below demonstrates how to use Wordsift.

As you have noticed in the video above, wordsift renders excellent representation of a particular word in text.

1- Frequency of each word in text is represented by its size.

2- Marks the words present in frequent word lists of AWL, lang.arts, Science, math, social studies

3- Word associations and definition of the chosen word are displayed in the virtual thesaurus .

4- Still photos associated with the chosen word "freedom" are displayed.

5- Videos associated with the chosen word are hidden so as not to distract the student unless the student chooses to watch the videos to have a better understanding.

How to Use It with Your Students

  • You can have students look up a particular word from an article they've copied and see how this word is used in context or how the meaning of the word differs from one sentence to another by examining the occurrences of the word in context.

  • You can have students utilize the words associated with the chosen word in the virtual thesaurus ( synonyms, antonyms) by replacing the word in context to see if it makes sense or choose the best synonym to replace it.

  • You can, for example, have students analyze the genre ( speech, poem. academic article, scientific article..) of an unknown text by looking at the word frequency and examine whether this text contains words that are listed in the AWL or math word frequency lists.

  • You can get creative and have students explain a particular word using the the visual representations in wordsift and another design tool such as glogster to poster a representation of the word with media.

The activities that you can do with wordsift are endless. As I always stress, the teacher is a designer who can create various activities that target various linguistic skills utilizing a particular tool.

Theory Behind Wordsift
Wordsift was developed by Stanford University ELL Resources. The theory behind wordsift states that
“ Vocabulary is a central arena in which the discrete skills of reading (decoding, sight-word recognition, reading fluency and accuracy) come together with top-down cognitive processes involved in comprehension
deficits in vocabulary knowledge and the semantic knowledge that it represents may be the most widely shared problem among struggling adolescent readers…
WordSift thus attempts to address one of the greatest challenges facing educators of English Language Learners: how to grow and enrich the academic vocabulary of their students across the grade levels, and especially through academic content instruction. Educators specializing in English Language Learners are faced with a substantial group of students who are “stuck” at the intermediate level of English language proficiency, leading to labels such as long-term ELLs or “lifers”.
Language development needs to occur in context, and content area learning provides the best context for it to occur.
A key challenge is to help content teachers define a new identity for themselves -- as a language teacher of their discipline. “
You can access the full text of the theory here.
If you have any comments, inquiries or you want to share you experience on wordsift your comments are most welcome.

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Posted on Thursday, September 17, 2009 by Ammar Merhbi

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