Tag Archives: teaching

More Reaction GIFs for the ESL Classroom

tom brady no high 5

I’ve written about using reaction GIFs in the classroom before, but a few collections recently caught my eye.  A reaction GIF is a small, animated image that typically summarizes a mood or feeling more quickly or succinctly than words can.  For example, in the image above, quarterback Tom Brady unsuccessfully searches for a teammate to high five.  Many of us can probably relate to this situation; even if you’ve never been left hanging for a high five, this GIF can still be a metaphor for other times in your life in which the people surrounding you are unable or unwilling to share in your excitement.

The following links to Reddit contain a treasure trove of reaction GIFs.  Note that, like anything on the internet, some of the content may not be safe for work (NSFW).  Depending on the student population you work with, you may want to preview this material before you use any of these reaction GIFs in your classroom.  As I wrote in my previous post, these GIFs can serve as excellent starting points for student discussions, writing activities, and more.

If you could sum up your life in a GIF, what would it be? – In this Reddit forum, Redditors post their reaction GIF responses to this question.  As you click through them, you’ll notice themes of self-deprecating humor and a bit of depression becoming the common refrain.  Many of these GIFs summarize a generally frustrated attitude, which can be interesting.

GIFs as comments collection – This is a collection of comment / reaction GIFs.  Many of the posts have links to multiple GIFs.  Lots of general and generic internet forum reactions here.

Retired GIF – This is a subreddit in which Redditors post links to conversation threads in which a GIF has been posted as a response in the “most appropriate context conceivable.”  Each link will take you to the conversation including the GIF and the context in which it was used.  If you’re not familiar with how GIFs are used as part of online discussions, this will get you acquainted very quickly.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Resources

Corpus Tools for English Teachers

typesetting letters for a printing press

I recently attended Ohio University’s annual CALL Conference where I discovered a handful of interesting corpus-based resources worth blogging about.  Most of these come from Chris DiStasio’s presentation “How Corpus-based Tools Can Benefit Your ESL Classroom” and from my subsequent exploration of them.

Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) – COCA is a huge (450 million words and counting) balanced corpus to which 20 million words have been added since 1990.  The interface takes some getting used to, but it is quite powerful.  You can search for frequency of words, frequency of collocates, structures based on part-of-speech, and much, much more.  One of the instructors in the highest level of our program asks his students to do searches based on the words in their vocabulary book.  From the collocates, they can identify the most frequent prototype strings or chunks.  These often sound far more native-like than what students (and in many cases, vocabulary textbook authors) come up with.  If you haven’t yet, take a few minutes (or hours) and explore COCA.

Word and Phrase.info – This site, which Chris shared in his presentation, at first seems to be the COCA corpus with a simplified interface.  But in addition to being a simpler way to query the COCA corpus, texts can be uploaded and analyzed based on the use of high frequency words (the 500 most frequent, the next 2500 most frequent, the least frequent, and “academic” words — a note on this last set is below) each of which is then linked to examples in the COCA corpus.  This can be a very useful tool for students who want a quick snapshot of how their writing compares to a target sample.  For example, if they aspire to be published in a given academic journal, they can upload an article (or several articles form that journal) and compare the analysis to their own writing.  As with the COCA interface, there are lots of other features that warrant further exploration.

Academic Vocabulary Lists – My curiosity about what Word and Phrase.info defined as an “academic” word led me to this site, which describes how the Academic Vocabulary List (AVL) was created.  Like the Academic Word List (AWL) that April Coxhead developed in 2000, the AVL is a corpus-based list of vocabulary words that appear with higher frequency in academic texts.  In both cases, high frequency words are first omitted leaving only academic words.  But whereas Coxhead built her own 3.5 million-word academic corpus an omitted the General Service List (GSL), a list that has been around since 1953, the AVL is based entirely on the 120 million-word academic portion of the COCA corpus.  Its creators claim better coverage of the COCA academic corpus (14%) compared to the AWL (7.2%).  And although I find this logic a bit circuitous (How could a list based on a given corpus not cover that corpus better than a list that is based on a different corpus?) the development of a more recent (2013) list of academic vocabulary is intriguing.

Just The Word.com – This is another resource described by Chris in his presentation.  This website, based on the 80 million-word British National Corpus (BNC), offers an even simpler, Google-inspired interface.  The user enters a word or phrase in the search box and clicks on one of three buttons: Combinations, which provides collocates; Alternatives from Thesaurus, which links to the phrase with one or more words replaced with synonyms to show the strength of the links between words in the original phrase; and Alternatives from Learner Errors, which purports to link to actual user errors, but I wasn’t able to see much difference between this and Alternatives from Thesaurus.  Although simpler, this tool took me a few tries to get the hang of.  For example, Alternatives from Thesaurus only works with phrases, which I did not immediately realize.  But aside from this initial learning curve, this tool is a very straightforward way for students to easily search for collocates and to learn more about the nativeness of their word choices.  And, like Word and Phrase.info, search results are linked to the corpus for quick and easy access to multiple authentic examples.

If you use these tools, use them in ways other than I’ve described, or know of others, let me know in the Comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

Web 2.0 Tools

tools

Just over a year and a half ago, Betsy Lavolette and Susan Pennestri presented a session at CALICO 2012 called Where’s the Peadagogy in Web 2.0?  In this presentation (available here), Betsy and Susan defined Web 2.0, couched these technologies in a discussion of Bloom’s taxonomy, and proposed curating an evolving list of useful Web 2.0 tools.  Naturally, they did this by crowdsourcing the list via a Web 2.0 tool, the online bookmarking site Diigo.com.

The most amazing part of all of this is that the list is still going strong and now includes over 400 items.  To access the list, go to https://groups.diigo.com/group/calicotools.  Each item has a brief description has brief notes and several tags such as reading, writing, listening and speaking, each of which can also be used to search for tools within the list.  Just click on the tag to view other resources on the list with the same tag.

To participate and contribute to this list, click on the “Join this Group” button and create a free Diigo account if you don’t already have one.  Diigo is a lot like Delicious.com, but has a few more features including the ability to highlight and annotate any web document before sharing it.  Diigo is a tool worth using on it’s own, but signing up for this group makes the experience even more useful.

2 Comments

Filed under Resources

Reaction GIF Resources

As I’ve written before, animated GIFs have re-emerged on the World Wide Web as a visual shorthand to express complicated emotions, ideas, and reactions.  Their popularity has received a boost from the fact that they are relatively easy to create and small in file size, meaning they load quickly on almost any device.  And, as one of my students observed, they’re kind of like the pictures in Harry Potter.

You’ll find animated GIFs throughout online discussion forums where they are often used to sum up a response to a discussion thread more quickly than a written message.  They also are often deeply embedded in popular culture, which can also be a bonus.

One of the most popular online discussion forums is Reddit.  Animated reaction GIFs are so popular on Reddit that there is a subReddit devoted to retiring GIFs that have been used so effectively that they will never again be used as a response in a more satisfying way.

ESL students can benefit from animated GIFs in many ways.  One approach is for teachers to use them as conversation starters.  Find something complicated that is expressed in a single GIF like this one and ask students what emotion is being expressed, what just happened to him, what might happen next, and to tell you about a time that they felt a similar emotion.

Animated GIFs also reference pop culture.  And because of the are much shorter than a complete movie or TV show, they can be bite-sized points of entry into different touchstones of popular culture.  For example, I recently watched Forrest Gump in an ESL classroom.  Animated GIFs can serve as a potent reminder of the key scenes.

Animated GIFs are also a phenomenon of pop culture in their own right.  Would memes like Tom Hanks as an animal have gone viral if the images were still?  Perhaps.  But animating these images doesn’t make them less interesting.  Animated GIFs are a participatory form of pop culture – anyone can contribute to the virality of a meme by sharing it, retweeting it, or even creating their own take if they have simple Photoshop skills.

So, where to find them?  Here are some good resources:

Any good search engine will turn them up.  Including the words “animated” and “GIF” in your search terms will help.

Giphy.com is a search tool for animated GIFs.

ReactionGIFs.com is a website that collects and tags animated GIFs.

Reddit has an entire forum dedicated to animated reaction GIFs.

Tumblr is full of them.

My favorites are tagged “GIF” in Diigo.com, an online bookmarking service.

A final note: As you and your students venture out in search of animated GIFs, be aware that this corner of the World Wide Web, like so many others, can occasionally contain strong language and adult themes.  If you work with younger students, you may want to preview these links before sharing them with your students.  You are likely to encounter language that you may not want to share in your classroom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

Open Music: Old Shanghai

In December 2012, Beck Hansen released an album called Song Reader in an extremely traditional way: on sheet music.  Best known for genre-bending songs such as Loser and Where It’s At, Beck is going blazing another new trail by reaching back to a format that predates recorded audio.  But, why?

Well, in an age of Instructables, MakerBots, and GarageBand, making things has never seemed less intimidating.  And with YouTube, you’ve got a way to share your creations whether you’ve played a song on your piano or mashed up a couple of hit songs into something new.

Beck talks about the audience involvement aspect of this album in an interview on the publisher’s website:

These songs are meant to be pulled apart and reshaped. The idea of them being played by choirs, brass bands, string ensembles, anything outside of traditional rock-band constructs—it’s interesting because it’s outside of where my songs normally exist. I thought a lot about making these songs playable and approachable, but still musically interesting. I think some of the best covers will reimagine the chord structure, take liberties with the melodies, the phrasing, even the lyrics themselves. There are no rules in interpretation.

In education, we talk about Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Beck has released an album that is completely open to interpretation and assembly by the user. By trusting and empowering his listeners to participate in his music, Beck has created something much larger than just twenty songs.  He has created a community.

Anyone can post their version of one of these songs to Song Reader.net via YouTube or Soundcloud.  As more songs are performed and uploaded, each work will form a kind of dialog and interaction with each one influencing the next.

Why mention this on ESL Technology.com?  There are some parallels between this open approach to making an album and the open education movement.  Trusting your students and empowering them to make decisions can be very scary — for both teachers and students. Letting students choose their own projects and then working with them to make sure the projects fit the curriculum is more difficult and time consuming, but it’s a process that can really infuse students with a sense of ownership over their work. Being responsible for their own learning is an important lesson for all students.

Opening your classroom to the real world (by making student videos and blog posts public, for example) can also be a scary, but rewarding, opportunity. Teaching in an open environment also means preparing students for the challenges in that real world — teaching strategies for dealing with griefers and phishing attacks, for example — which is probably some of the most useful learning they can carry forward from your classroom.  They all have to join the real world eventually.

Is Song Reader a model that can guide your teaching? Not directly. But the novel way that this album has been conceptualized relates to some interesting ideas that relate to how many are re-thinking traditional approaches to teaching.

For more on Beck’s album, visit Song Reader.net.  Some of my favorite interpretations of “Old Shanghai”, the single that was released before the rest of the album was available, are below.  If you’ve played “Old Shanghai” or anything else from Song Reader, please post a link to your work in the comments.

Piano only, with a beautiful video:

Ukulele only:

The staff of the New Yorker:

A more fully-produced trio, Contramano:

Two guys named Dave and Ted:

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration

Know Your Meme

Have you ever encountered an internet meme like Success Kid, above?  Memes like these are spreading across the interwebs, fueled by websites where you can make variations of them in seconds.

If you come across many variants of the same meme, you can start to tease out some of the social rules that have evolved to govern their creation.  Success Kid, for example, is usually used to celebrate the mudane successes in life.

You can view many, many more examples at quickmeme.com, memegenerator.net, any of the other ubiquitous meme generating websites, or on a Google image search.  Before you click on these links, you should know that some of the content way contain profanity or otherwise be NSFW (not safe for work.)

So, you can get a read on popular memes, and even contribute to them by creating your own.  But, do you know that Success Kid is based on a picture of a boy named Sammy that was uploaded to Flickr in 2007?  No?  Maybe you don’t really know your meme after all.  That’s where KnowYourMeme.com can help.

Taking Success Kid as an example again, Know Your Meme traces the origin of the meme through several twists and turns (as I Hate Sandcastles, for example) before arriving at what we now know as Success Kid.  This website is usually where I start when I first notice a new meme flashing across my screens.  (And, when you Google any meme, the link to KnowYourMeme is typically right near the top of the results.)

Another, more current example is the Harlem Shake, which is hard to avoid on Facebook and other social media as your alma mater, favorite sports teams, and other random groups of people each create their own version.

How can this website be useful to ESL students?  Given the pace at which these memes evolve, learning about their background and meaning could help non-native students better understand and interact with their peers who use memes and reaction GIFs as conversational shorthand in social media.

A teacher could also have her students put their anthropologist hats on and track the meaning and development of their own favorite memes.  They could then compare their conclusions to the “expert” information in KnowYourMeme to see how much they were able to deduce on their own.

Either way, this website is an excellent resource that provides students and teachers with well documented information on emerging trends in popular culture.

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources