Making foreign language learning more engaging.

I read a post this week about the challenges of making the teaching of grammar less boring in foreign language lessons. While I know that it’s important to teach grammatical concepts and rules, it’s the application that makes the learning worthwhile.  If the students know they will have meaningful opportunities to apply their language learning and to create for an authentic audience, they will surely be more engaged.

Our teachers explored a few such possibilities today and, while we teach Hebrew, these ideas could work for any language.

We started by looking at ways to use Power-Point to enhance second language learning.  Inserting sound creates all sorts of opportunities for the students to record themselves, thereby practising important reading and speaking skills.

  • Insert a series of images into slides and have students record a story based on the images (insert sound, select record).  This can be written first and corrected by the teacher, then read out, or students can simply improvise and tell the story right away.
  • Students select their own pictures or take their own photographs to use for their story. You can see an example in a previous post here.
  • Students work in pairs to create a conversation which they record, based on the selected images.

The slide show can be uploaded to Slideboom, or another such site, so that the link can be shared with parents and others, so that there is an authentic audience for the students’ creations.

Most of the above can be done with Voicethread too, adding the extra dimension of allowing collaboration. You can see see more detail in a previous post about Voicethread, with examples here and another example here.

  • Start with an image or a series of images and have students speak about them in the foreign language (using those newly learnt grammatical skills!)
  • The students can be added to the teacher’s Voicethread identity and everyone takes turns to talk about the image or set or set of images.
  • The students can login and add their own comments or storyline to the images.
  • Other students and parents can record comments on the final product.

If you have ever read this blog, you will know that ToonDoo is one of my favourites! We have our own school toondoospace, which is a secure, private version of the online comic creator. These were the ideas that came up in today’s session for using ToonDoo to practise language skills:

  • Students can choose one panel to create a scene illustrating new vocabulary.
  • They can use 2-3 panels to create a story, adding text bubbles, incorporating new vocabulary and grammatical constructs.
  • Several toons can be combined to create a toonbook.
  • The teacher can create the first scene of a cartoon story and save with the ‘let others redoo’ option. Students can then continue the story.
  • As above, except the teacher gives the middle panel and the students create a beginning and end to the story.

4 thoughts on “Making foreign language learning more engaging.

  1. Thank you for sharing the student example of the Toon Book, it is a lot of fun to see how students use the tools for learning. Excellent ideas for building vocabulary and fluency in any language.


  2. These are such practical and fun ideas for foreign language classes! I will definitely pass these ideas onto our modern language department! I like having students make cartoons also because it makes them think about how a conversation flow. (Have diacritics become problems on some of those sites?) Anyway, your ideas are fabulous!
    Thank you!



    1. Thanks Yoon! I confess I had to look up what a diacritic is! This hasn’t been an issue for us, since we teach Hebrew, which has it’s own alphabet entirely. Some sites support Hebrew and those are the ones we choose. That’s how I found Toondoo, I was looking for a cartoon site that had foreign text support.


      1. I loved using Xtranormal w/my students and then had them compare/contrast some of these sites: ToonDoo, Animasher, GoAnimate & MeMoov. It was interesting to find what “worked” for my students as these sites required different skills/ways of thinking. Anyway, I have no idea if these sites will work with Hebrew or you had already tried these sites, but wanted to share with you what my students have tried! Happy learning!


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