10 ways to use Explain Everything in the Languages classroom

jpeg-image-dbc4671fd4a5-1Last week @joedale and experimented with the podcasting app Anchor.  Our slow chat was called Explaining Explain Everything.  You can listen to the chat here please feel free to join Anchor and join in with the chat – the more the merrier!

This blog post is designed to accompany the chat.

  1. Mirror your iPad to the main board in the room and use it just like an interactive whiteboard. At the end of the lesson, save the slides and share them with your students so that they can review the work they did in class at home.
  2. Create a screencast.  Hit the big record button on Explain Everything and record a screencast for your students. By tapping the record button Explain Everything records every pen stroke/keystroke that you make as well as your voice.  Screencasts are a great way to provide grammar notes and resources for your students, they are also a brilliant when using the flipped classroom model
  3. Get students to show what they know.  Consumption is all well and good but in my view it is when creating that students have the most learning gains. Students can use Explain Everything to create their own screen casts showing what they have learnt in a lesson or series of lessons.  It’s a great way for a teacher to understand any student misconceptions.
  4. Animate.  Animation is relatively easy in Explain Everything; record your screen whilst dragging hand drawn images onto the slide and adding speech.  When drawing in Explain Everything be sure to tap the finger image at the top of the tool bar after you have drawn each image or all the pictures ‘stick’ together. If students keep forgetting to do this (and mine do) they could draw in Paper 53 app and then export to camera roll with the background off and then import into Explain Everything.  It sounds more complicated than it actually is, believe me!
  5. Annotate and explain. Annotating and explaining is simple in Explain Everything. Imagine that your students have not done their homework very well, simply take a photo of a piece of work and import it into Explain Everything.  You can now annotate this work using the pen, highlighting and pointer tools.  You could do this activity on the main screen in your classroom with your class present or record your thoughts and annotations and share them with your students via your school VLE, Google Classroom or similar.
  6. Students can complete a similar activity by talking through their thinking on a piece of work or an exam question.  They can explain how they tackled a homework or an exam paper and they share their video with you. It’s a great way to get inside a student’s head and discover their thought process.
  7. Explain Everything has an infinite canvas which is great for creating more complex animations but in doing so giving the students more scope to talk in the target language. My students used it to talk about their home and surrounding area.  They began by describing their bedroom and then zooming out to describe their home and finally zooming out yet further to describe their village or town. I wrote about this here
  8. I have already mentioned annotating in Explain Everything but did you know that you can import a webpage into Explain Everything? It will scroll just as a webpage should but you can annotate, highlight and make voice notes too. I use this facility when asking students to explain how they tackled exam questions.
  9. It’s easy to draw in Explain Everything  so why not try some  sketchnoting with you class you could even get them to record themselves explaining their sketchnote in the target language.  My classes and I have used sketchnoting very successfully when introducing new vocabulary and also for explaining grammar points
  10. Similar to above why not get students to label a photo in the target language again they could record themselves using the vocabulary on the photo in phrases or short paragraphs.

Creating with VR in the Languages classroom 

2016 was supposed to be the year for VR. I was unconvinced. VR in my view was an expensive toy that had classroom potential but the cost of headsets, cameras and the like put it out of reach for most classroom teachers. I, of course was wrong thanks to innovative apps such as Google Expeditions, Thing Link 360 and Nearpod 360 VR became accessible for most of us. VR was being consumed in classrooms across the world and it took our students to places that they would never have been able to go to. It help increase understanding by making tricky concepts very tangible but there is only so much consuming one can do and in my view it is creation that can really strengthen learning. 

As my friend Kelly Croy regularly states teaching is about creating memories for our students as it is through memorable activities that we can amplify student learning. It was my view that creation through the use of VR was nigh on impossible due to cost but my fellow ADE and Queen of all things VR, Sarah Jones introduced me to Cospaces. This platform allows students to create simple VR environments on a laptop or desktop computer and then consume them using an iPad or iPhone via the Cospaces app

My Y8 class recently used Cospaces when learning about bedroom furniture and prepositions in Spanish. To get started, students simply log onto the Cospaces website and select new project. They then have a variety of backdrops to choose from or they can import a Creative Commons image and make something unique. Students also have a wide choice or pre-made items that they can choose from or they an ‘buy’ items from the marketplace. Cospaces also provides them with blocks and shapes that they can manipulate to make items for themselves. The most important features of this platform for me, as a languages teacher, is the ability for students to be able to label items and also to be able to upload and MP3 file to accompany their creation. My class and I actually ran out of time when we created our Cospaces activity so we didn’t add sound but we got round this by students mirroring their screen to the main screen in the classroom and then talking through their rooms. I selected students at random so each person had to be prepared to speak. I also add another level of complexity when I asked students to speak about somebody else’s creation. Cospaces are easily shared. My students simply copied the link and then posted it on our Google Classroom site. 

The activity was very well received and it engaged all but I was especially pleased to see that it engaged some of my students who are less than enthusiastic about language learning. Did it make the vocabulary more memorable? I think it did and this was borne out by the class’ most recent test results. Would I use this platform again? I would. I loved the creative element and the ability to add text and speech is a real boon for any languages teacher. Moreover the team at Cospaces are keen to help and are very supportive on Twitter. They also have a great YouTube channel of great how to videos. 

Sharing is caring

I love teaching grammar but this is an area of language learning that students often find tricky to master.  One of the things that I tend to do when teaching grammar is lots of discussion with students and worked examples on the board, I’ve found that this works well for students as we can discuss problems and misconceptions easily.  The disadvantage of this over a pre prepared power point presentation is that it all your lovely worked examples and discussion notes are tricky to share with your students.

This week Y9 were learning the future tense in order to be able to discuss future food habits and health.  For my teaching of this I decide to use the app Explain Everything and mirror it the board in my classroom via my Apple TV.  We discussed verbs and endings and infinitives and we did plenty off worked examples. The difference this time though, was that I could easily save the Explain Everything slides and whilst the students were working through some exercises in their books I could upload all of our ‘board work’ to Google Classroom before our atual lesson had even finished.  Now my students have a record of our grammar lessons with notes on all the problems and misconceptions that we discussed as well as worked examples.  

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the use of technology in the classroom but this week in my classroom technology helped to support teaching and the learning of my students, without it we’d have been resorting to taking notes from the board.  

Let’s make some noise. Using GarageBand Live Loops to make verb songs

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In spite of being a lover of music I am not particularly musical and as such the app GarageBand has always frustrated me as, I am of the view that you need to be reasonably musical to make the best use of it.  Imagine my delight then when earlier this year Apple added live loops to the GarageBand tools.  So what are live loops?  Essentially Live Loops is a simple way to create DJ style music using loops and samples.  Apple have made it super simper for us non-musicians to use as the loops are laid out in a grid format. You can activate single loops by tapping the box or whole columns of loops and samples by tapping the arrow at the bottom of the iPad.  The good news for the non musical amongst us, you don’t need to worry about beats or timing as GarageBand does it all for you!  There are plenty of different styles of music to choose from.

To begin tap the plus sign in the top right hand corner of your iPad now tap ‘Create New Song’

Make sure Live Loops is highlighted at the top of the screen and scroll through until you find a style that you like. 

Now it’s time to start playing to stop a loop from playing simply tap in the box and it will stop tap it again and it will restart.  You can only play 1 box from each row at a time.

Recording into the live loops grid.  This is the important part especially if you are making a verb song like we did.

Firstly, slide your finger along the bottom row of the iPad where the arrows are until you find a blank column.  This is the column into which you are going to record your voice.  To do this double tap on a blank square and the option record into cell appears tap this and you are taken to a recording window.  From here you can choose a variety of effects to add to your voice, if you don’t want to do this then select the option dry.  I would suggest that you turn the metronome of at the top of the screen as you will hear this when you record.  The backward looping arrow, once tapped, allows you to re-record your voice.  Once you have done tap the little grid icon in the top left of the screen to return to your song.  Tap another empty box in the same column and repeat the whole process. It’s really important that all your voice is in the same column as this will give you flexibility as to when you play it. 

Once you have recorded all parts of the verb you can make your song.  Simply play your favourite loops adding in your voice as you go. 


Above is a link to a powerpoint how to guide

I complete this task with my Y9 classes this week it took 2 lessons but we all know the verb aller now!  They loved this activity even going as far as to say that it was cool.  I was pretty impressed because as far as they are concerned I am right up their with the kings of uncool themselves, their Dad’s most of the time!

Have a listen to one of my student’s verb songs