Tuesday, October 17, 2006

FlexLists - Online sharable lists

FlexLists.com is a Web 2.0 application brought to you by Moving Labs. It does what its tagline promises: "Create online lists, flexible, easy and fast!" I'm not sure if they had learners of English in mind when building this application, but the end result is nicely suitable for our purposes. Here are a few suggestions - I'm sure you'll be able to add your own to suit your needs:
  • The obvious: create and publish your word lists for your classes. Add definitions, synonyms, antonyms, sample sentences or more. Or add only the words and the categories you want to have and ask students to provide the rest. Note that FlexLists.com supports uploading (and downloading!) in CSV format so you can easily use your existing lists. No need to type again, just make some minor changes if necessary and you're there. You can decide if you want to let your students edit and change the page(s) you created or only view them.
  • Variation on the above: ask your students to create their own lists and share them with all the others so that they can decide who has the best definition or sample sentence for each word that they can then take and use in their lists. Remember that you can easily download their words and use them in your Hot Potatoes or Moodle exercises to give students further practice.
  • "Getting to know you" with a twist: Ask students to come up with a few questions they would like to ask others (favourite film, place of birth, why they're learning English - or you can set some of the questions or the topics, if you think it's necessary). Have students set up a new FlexList and create the categories for their questions, for example "Name - Place of birth - Favourite film - Sisters/brothers". The next step is, obviously, getting the information and filling the table with it. Of course, you can prompt students to go round and interview each other but this might be inconvenient to do in a computer room - so why not use e-mail? Ask students to create their questions and send them to you first for review - you don't want badly formatted questions to be sent to the whole group. Once the questions are OK, students send them to the group mailing list (your classes do have a mailing list, right?), or, failing that, individually to everybody else in the group. When they get the responses, they fill their lists. Then everybody studies all the lists and creates quiz questions based on them for the whole group ("How many brothers does Maria have?" "Where was Paolo born?"). This final quiz can be organised in many formats - it's up to you.
  • Create a "Bio Data Sheet" on a couple of famous actors. You can very quickly and easily get this kind of information from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) - visit IMDB.com. Then ask students to choose a celebrity from your list and write their bio, based on the data you presented. You can make the task slightly more communicative if you tell students that their writings will be published on the class website or magazine. You can also ask students to include why they chose their celebrity. This can be a very useful controlled writing task; even shy students will feel secure enough to write their stuff and nobody can say that "I can't think of anything else to write about!" Also, you have to prepare this data sheet only once (shouldn't take longer than half an hour) and you'll be able to re-use it any time later in the future.
  • Variation on the above: Instead of the bio, students make an imaginary interview with their chosen celeb.
Notes on using FlexLists.com: the text of the site contains some really elementary spelling mistakes - but until they are corrected, you can ask your students to find them. Also, make sure that your students save their lists' addresses and understand the differences between "Read only", "Read/Write" and "Full Access" when sharing their list address with others.

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