Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

December 15, 2015
by leesensei

Best of 2015! Top 5 Posts of the Year: Number 3 (Key Tech ‘Bits’)

As I count down the ‘Best of…’ this year it strikes me that the top posts – like our teaching practice – reflects a combination of the old and new. The top post drew on a classic game, and the second most popular on a philosophical shift in my ‘practice’. The third draws, not on major technological changes, but three small tech bits that work well in my class…and perhaps yours.

 Three “Small But Vital” Tech Bits for My Language Classroom techonology imagesThere are lots of technology ‘tools’ and ‘apps’ out there to make our teaching lives easier – and enrich the learning experience for our students. As I was uploading a file to my Evernote yesterday I thought about 3 ‘tech’ bits that are vital in my classroom.

Tiny Scanner App for my Phone –  I admit that I got this because Joe Dale posted that the “pro” version was free one day on his amazing blog. Wasn’t sure I’d use it but if Joe says its good – you get it. Well – with my use of Evernote for my school planning it has been an absolute winner. I use TinyScan to take pictures of my board before/after class. Often I don’t need a full ‘photo’ but really am just looking for a ‘record’ of what happened. Tiny Scanner turns my phone into a portable scanner. It will upload directly to my Evernote in formats from ‘photo’ to ‘black & white’ and can also directly link to other ‘cloud’ storage programs. It is an essential app in my daily teaching. (Joe has already let me know that if you are an Office user then Office Lens might be a more ‘seamless’ app for you to directly integrate with the Office suite of products.)

Keynote Export to Video (even HD!) option – I’m big on unit slideshows. I use them for teaching/repetition of ideas all the time. But a nifty feature I have been using more and more is the ‘export’ to video function. An example of its impact is going on right now in my class – we review ‘class language’ at the start of the year. I use my Keynote slideshow for that as I take kids through our key phrases. I also have the video file (set to about 8 seconds per slide) ready to go – it plays before class starts, it plays while the are completing work…it rolls whenever I need it. It’s a great way to reinforce key points, or introduce ideas in an indirect way. You can even export the audio from a presentation to the video as well. And yes you can also create videos via PowerPoint….

SaveFrom.Net – Easy Youtube Downloading –  When the internet at school is shaky – or even non-existent – you can’t stream anything in class. So downloading a video from YouTube or another source becomes key. There are some great programs out there – including – but my current fave is SaveFrom.Net. Why? Because you don’t have to copy/paste the YouTube URL to use it. Just type “ss” between the ‘www.’ and the ‘youtube’ in the URLusethis  – then hit ‘enter’. When you do this you go directly to their site. Don’t click on any links there for other products – but download your video when it shows up as ready to go! It will handle YouTube, Vimeo and many more formats. No more ‘buffering’ …..

What are your ‘small but vital’ tech bits that enhance your teaching life?


October 14, 2014
by leesensei

Sentence Building with the Unit Slide Show – Easy, Fun and Effective

MP900177844I love visuals for learning. I have blogged in the past about using visual slide shows in my classes. Today – yet another fun slide show and also an extended activity. On my recent summative assessment I was still noticing errors in constructing sentences – common errors that I felt needed to be addressed again. And so we did – with the aid of the slide show. For my Year2’s it became a great review activity for both vocabulary and sentence construction.

The recipe for today’s review?

Start with – A slide show – a pdf of today’s is attached – thematic pictures of Japanese engaged in a variety of activities.  I had mine set up automatically to change every 7 seconds but if I felt that I needed more time I would do it manually.

Add in – Round 1 – just let it play as they enter….

Then –  Round 2 – I ask “What are they doing?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

Next – Round 3 – I ask “Where are they doing this?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

Then – Round 4 – I ask “Who are they doing this with?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

And – Round 5 – They try to describe using all of the elements.

Finally – Round 6 – They ask their partner if they did that yesterday….

Adjust ingredients as desired! You can see that you the content, questions and desired output can change with your students’ needs.

It was a great review for my students, who also learned some new vocabulary (what do you call a sumo wrestler?) and reinforced great sentence construction. Even better – it was reinforced in a safe group environment – and no worksheet! More uses and ideas to come.





June 2, 2014
by leesensei

10 Minutes to Make – Impact – Priceless (The ease/reward of a unit slideshow)

MP900177844As Foreign Language teachers we are continually focussing on teaching in ‘context’. It is the link between the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ that really helps to deepen both the learning (and the will to learn) within our students. One of the ways that I have started to experiment with setting context is through visuals  – visuals from the target language country. It started, as many of my things do, with a one-off kind of thing – almost a fluke as it were. I was leading into seasonal activities – and wanted to incorporate both those that are popular here, and in Japan (my Target Language – TL). How was I to hook them – to set them up for what they were going to delve into? I have clip-art – lots of it – but I wanted more relevancy – more reality.

So I hit the search engine – and looked for images – images of Japanese people doing, experiencing some of the activities that I knew were going to come up from my students – and also things specific to Japan. I used ‘Google Images’ set my search to ‘free to reuse’. (I also use Creative Commons and Morguefile to find free to use images)  Then I started typing in what I was looking for “Japan – hot springs”  “Japan – snowboarding” “Japan – fireworks” and so on.

Quite quickly I had a set of 10-15 images that suited what I needed. I popped them into a ‘slideshow creator’ (I use Keynote) – no words – just images on a white background. Then I exported it as a Quicktime movie. I played around with how long the slides were shown for and found that a 3-3.5 second length was long enough to really see but short enough to move along quickly. And so my 3 minute Seasonal Activity Slideshow was made – in about 10 minutes.

I put the slideshow on ‘loop’ so that it played continuously as my students entered the room – and settled at their tables. They were intrigued by the images and it easily set the stage for our discussion. After some classwork on the vocabulary I ran it again – students were spontaneously calling out what the activities were in the target language. I ran it again – and they all told their partner if they ‘liked’ or ‘disliked’ or ‘could do’ those activities.

Quick and easy to make – and a great (and easy) way to both set the stage for learning – and spark discussion. I’ll be gradually creating these for all of my classes – 10 minutes at a time!


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