SnapChatting Assignments

SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

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I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.

The Unlimited Powers of Skitch

I really love Skitch.  So much so that I have it (and use it) on my Macbook and my IPad.  It’s a product of Evernote – – another tool that other people just go crazy for.  Skitch is essentially an annotation program.  It allows you to add text, diagrams and other notations to any blank document, map or picture from your computer or the web.  It has amazing instructional potential for teachers.

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One of my favorite things to do with Skitch is to do graphic directions.  Providing step by step instructions on something is good, but pairing that with visuals is even better.  With the IPad, you can instantly take a snapshot with Skitch and start annotating it.

I’ve seen students use Skitch consistently in math and science; taking pictures of something and then using Skitch to apply their knowledge of the concepts learned.  One teacher practicing graphing has the students take a picture of graph paper, draw their graph while showing the work and then email their work directly the teacher.  In science, young students took pictures of their little seedling and used Skitch to label the parts.  Basically anything that involved labeling is a cinch with Skitch.

I love that, from within Skitch, you can go out to the web and take a snapshot of anything.  I think this could potentially be great reading activity: take a snapshot of some text, highlight the main idea, underline key words, etc.  There are so many possibilities to use Skitch in the classroom.  I recommend you download it, play around with the features and immediately start thinking of ways to use it to make your life easier.


Recently came across TripWow.  This is a site sponsored by TripAdvisor that lets users make visually stunning slideshows with pictures including a map of the locations.  As a user, the only thing you have to do in the presentation is choose your title, find pictures, select the order you want the pictures displayed, give each photo a location and a caption.  TripWow will do the rest of the work.  What you are left with is a very professional looking product that can be helpful in Geography, History or any subject where locations across the globe are of interest.

Famous Hispanics Slideshow: Emily’s trip to 9 cities including Spain and Canary Islands (near Spain, Spain) was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!

Check out the Hispanics one I made earlier tonight (total prep time to create: 10 minutes).

Sentence PhotoBooth and Dictations

 In order to prepare for an upcoming test, I thought it would be a good exercise for my Spanish 1 students to use our important verbs and vocabulary words to build simple sentences.  I’ve done this before by giving students a large word bank and the task of writing down as many sentences as they could create on paper.  I liked that, but I felt that for a review activity, I needed to add a collaborative element in order to promote discussion.

So I thought, “How about using cut out words and having students take pictures of the sentences as they create them?”  Since I didn’t have enough digital cameras to aid my new idea, I decided to work with the built-in camera on laptops using the PhotoBooth program.  And since the PhotoBooth takes inverted images, I couldn’t just give my students printed words from a word processor.  I had to write a list of words, take a picture of those words and then flip the image using PhotoShop.  (It sounds way more complicated that it really was). So on Monday I split my students in groups of 3 – 5 students.  I gave each group an envelope with the inverted words and 20 minutes to take photos of as many different sentences they could create.  I loved watching the collaboration of holding, reordering and taking the pictures as well as the educational goal of good sentence construction. My favorite part:  when students sheepishly admitted that they “cheated” in making the sentences by only changing a verb or subject.  They would make a sentence that said, “I go to the library” and then simply change the verb to make the sentence say that “We go to the library”.  To me, it’s a great way to practice sentence construction and grammar, similar to when children learn how to put letters in front of the word “at” to make “cat” and “hat”.

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The sentence pictures turned out very well. Students made a folder of their photos and saved their folders to my folder on the school server.  They were pretty easy to grade too, although this was more of a formative assessment than a straight assessment.

For an added step, I had the students create VoiceThreads using (one of our favorite internet applications).  Students choose from over 100 of their sentence pictures and created a thread of pictures.  For each picture, they recorded themselves reading the English translation of the Spanish sentence.  This helped me assess their comprehension but was also just a nice extension activity in using their own photos.

(I can’t embed the VoiceThreads here, but please check out these examples to see the complete project:  and

The photo taking lesson was for one day and the recording also took just one class period.  I will certainly be doing this lesson again in the future.