Hand Counters

This year in my classes I have started using hand counters. I purchased a few of them on Amazon and they were about $2 each. I use them during storytelling to get students to count the number of times I say a certain structure. Every since I have started using them, the kids all want to be the “counters” because they love using them. The great part is that I can tell very easily if they aren’t counting properly. It is easy to see if they have pressed the button and it also makes a clicking sound when they press it.

FilmArobics

FilmArobics specializes in comprehensive lesson plans which accompany feature-length films in four languages (SpanishFrench,German and Italian) and ELL. Although each lesson plan is different, the basic outline and types of questions are the same. They break the film down into 10 to 15 minute segments for each lesson. Each lesson contains:

  • vocabulary necessary to understand the film or necessary to discuss the film
  • cultural notes when appropriate
  • several comprehension exercises
  • two communicative exercises where students either discuss something in the film or discuss a topic related to their lives but which is brought up in the film
  • a follow-up homework assignment that is often a writing assignment

Each lesson generally lasts anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes of class time. They recommend you show a section of the film once per week over a period of 8 to 9 weeks.

For more specific information on how their lesson plans work, see How It Works.

eReader

An eReader is a great product for any language teacher or student to own and the reading experience is more more enjoyable than most people might expect. They use actual ink particles to create crisp, print-like text similar to what you see in a physical book. The screen is viewable in direct sunlight, it requires no power to maintain a static image, and it is usable in either portrait or landscape orientation. You can easily flip the page of the book with a swipe of your finger or by pressing a button, and there is generally a table of contents so you can skip around in the book if you want to. Since it only uses power when you flip a page or change the screen, eReaders do not have to be charged frequently and they can often go an entire month before they need to be charged.

The reason that I recommend an eReader for anyone teaching or learning a foreign language is that many models today come equipped with a built-in dictionary. Some eReaders can be purchased with specific dictionaries pre-installed, while others allow you to download and install a dictionary for the language(s) of your choice. The advantage of having a built-in dictionary is that while reading a book in a language other than English, you can translate a word you do not know almost instantly simply by double-clicking the word in the book.

Sony and Amazon are two of the major competing companies in the eReader market that have the built-in dictionary function. I have heard that Amazon still has a lot of kinks to work out with their dictionaries and in some languages (ie. German) they only have an English-German dictionary available and not the other way around. Many people also report having problems trying to use a dictionary because the language of the book is set to English and when that is the case, the Kindle will always default to the English dictionary and it is impossible to change it. See the Kindle Blog for further information about this. Personally, as an owner of a Sony eReader, I highly recommend their products, especially now that they have a new and improved model out on the market. It is a bit more expensive than the cheapest Kindle, but I think it’s worth it and I have never had a problem using their dictionaries.

See below for a list of the features of both company’s newest models to help you make a final decision.

Sony eReader PRS-T1 – $130

  • Size of screen: 6 inches
  • Weight: 5.9 ounces
  • Storage: 2 GB of internal storage (1.3 GB available to use) plus microSD expansion of up to 32GB
  • Interface: touch screen and five buttons
  • Charging time: 2 hours
  • Supported e-book formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT
  • Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, simple web browser
  • Computer software: Sony eBook Library
  • Dictionaries: American English, British English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Dutch (all pre-installed)
  • Additional features: can download eBooks from public libraries

Amazon Kindle – $80

  • Size of screen: 6 inches
  • Weight: 5.98 ounces
  • Storage: 2GB of internal storage (1.25GB available to use)
  • Interface: 5-way button controller
  • Charging time: 3 hours
  • Supported e-book formats: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC
  • Supported audio formats:
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, simple web browser
  • Computer software: Sony eBook Library
  • Dictionaries: British English (pre-installed), French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Croatian (available for download)
  • Other: advertisements are displayed on the screen when you’re not reading

The dictionary is a great feature, but even if one is not available in your desired language, you can still download and read books in that language, as long as the language uses a Latin character set. Ironically, Amazon is the best place to download books in other languages from, and in order to read them on a Sony eReader they must be converted from MOBI to EPUB format. Usually to find books in the other language you have to go to the Amazon site for the country where they speak your language. For example. for German books you would go to Amazon.de instead of Amazon.com. Amazon.co.uk also has a large selection of books in other languages. You just have to change which country you are from on the “Manage My Kindle” page and then you should be able to download books from that site. Then afterwards when you want to buy from Amazon.com you have to change your country setting back to the United States.

A good conversion and library management program that works no matter which eReader you have is Calibre. Calibre is free and open source eBook computer software that organizes, saves and manages e-books. It supports a variety of formats and it will convert e-books between differing formats (while still conforming to Digital Rights Management restrictions).

Eggspert

This product is recommended as a fun game for reviewing things in class. Basically it is a central unit with 6 eggs (wired or wireless) which light up. In “quiz show” mode, students each get an egg and buzz in to answer questions. Whoever buzzes in first will have their egg light up and can then give their answer. In “Wheel of Fortune” mode, the lights spin until only one egg remains lit and that student must answer the question. You can use this game to review anything: grammar, vocabulary, structures, or verbs.

From the Eggspert website:

Energize class review and add pizzazz to daily activities with Wireless Eggspert, the flashing, beeping, buzzing, interactive game system that can be used anywhere in the classroom! Eggspert’s two fun game modes – Quiz Show and Wheel of Fortune – spice up math facts drill, spelling bees, and quiz games on any subject. Using the wireless Teacher Remote, the instructor can set Eggspert’s lights in motion, choose players, select fun sound effects, and even adjust response times – whether at her desk or anywhere in the classroom. Because student response buttons are wireless too, students can buzz in from their desks – even at the back of the class! Includes wireless Eggspert, 6 wireless student buttons, wireless teacher remote, and guide.

Source: Jody Ford, moreTPRS