Last term saw a focus on building vocab understanding and use with all students across our senior team based on the results of our PAT Reading Vocab test which weren’t quite as sharp as we wanted.
One could take the traditional route to building vocab which is generally done through the spelling or word study classroom programme but to be honest the old spelling notebook home on Monday and back by Friday for a spelling test with word activities in between does not really engage me or my students (and also is not pedagogically sound according to this).
I immediately thought of an old favourite I have used for the past 7-8 years, Hot Potatoes, a suite of six applications “enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web.”
Hot Potatoes, available for Mac, Windows and Linux is not free (but will be from September 01, 2009) however educational and not-for-profit organisations can apply for and receive a licence for free right now “on the condition that the material you produce using the program is freely available to anyone via the WWW.”
So we have used JMatch, JCloze, JCross and JQuiz this term as part of the literacy/reading programme. Students selected reading material based around our context of ecological sustainability, read and discussed the text, drafted and then created the hot potato quiz, published it to their eportfolio and then it’s ready for others to solve, including teachers, peers and parents.
Here are some to try: JMatch, JCloze & here, JCross and a JQuiz. The last example shows the flexibility of Hot Potatoes to embed web content, such as a YouTube clip, to add interest or for future projects where the quiz questions relate to the embedded content.
As we all know there are plenty of web based tools for creating similar puzzles and quizzes online and then linking to or embedding them in your site. However the degree of customisation you can have with a Hot Potato makes a great all round solution.
Admittedly, it is not without a few issues, the main one being that within the save dialogue box on a Mac, you can’t save directly to a networked folder. This creates an extra step when students save to their folder on the network. Also, making the files available to link from the student blogs, required the files to be FTP’d to a directory on our school’s web site due to our blogging provider, and all file hosting sites that I tried, not allowing .html uploads and links. Neither are big issues, but it would be great to see the saving and exporting directly to a networked folder, or even FTP’ing to a remote server, made possible.
Download it and give it a go.