Teaching with Moodle

Vocabulary & Moodle

John Provasnik at Moodle Moot US
Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I wanted to reach out to other teachers to see how people are integrating Vocabulary instruction/practice in Moodle.

We want our students to have more interaction with the lesson vocabulary (other than the quiz or flashcards modules).

I see there is a Quizlet plug in. I was curious what else others have used or if you could share your experiences with teaching vocab through Moodle, whether it was through 3rd party websites, plug in, etc...


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Picture of Andy Chaplin
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle

Hi John

Well, asking two language teachers about learning vocabulary will get you five opinions, but I'll throw in my thoughts on this.  (Based on teaching English as a foreign language)

Firstly, creating your own material is very time consuming but it's probably unavoidable if you are complimenting existing course materials.  I try to focus on collocations a lot and use the book activity combined with prepared glossaries.  If you add in the Game activity, you can create crosswords and other word games from glossaries and quizzes.  Using this combination, you can create a good variety of activities for learners.  If you are teaching ELT, then the Vocabulary in Use series from Cambridge University Press offer lots of ideas that can be adapted.

Although the concept is out of favour with some teachers, Moodle is good for drilling vocabulary.  With a large database of questions you can create quizzes that evolve (using random questions).  My weaker learners particularly like this, as they can practice in private which relieves the peer pressure.

Literal videos also work well.  There are stacks of them on YouTube in many languages.

I would also look at introducing audio recording for learners (I use the Poodll plugin).  This can check active vocabulary very well.

On a theoretical note, I'd recommend you have a look at Michael Lewis's book, Implementing the Lexical Approach.  It's focused on English as a foreign language, but the principles apply to all languages.  It adds considerable leverage to vocabulary learning and certainly helped me to get the most out of Moodle's potential.

Hope this helps as a starting point, and I'm sure others here have got more ideas.

All the best


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John Provasnik at Moodle Moot US
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Andy.

The Poodll is a great idea for the audio piece.

I was wrong about the Quizlet Plug in, but I did just realize that I can embed Quizlet cards directly into Moodle pages with iframes, so now I'm happy with this : )


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Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers


Here are some ideas from other instructors to get students to practice:

  • Instructor made a practice quiz with vocab with unlimited tries and shuffle questions and answers. Students tried to get their time down to less than 2 minutes and still get the score they wanted.  Then they take a separate quiz that will be counted in the grade that allows only 2 minutes.  This gave students another way to study the meanings but still have the grade as motivation. Some students are very motivated to get their times down and still get everything correct.

  • Another instructor wanted to measure actual use of vocabulary. He turned linking on in the glossary in the course when looking at forums randomly and went through and gave students extra points in the ratings if they were using the vocabulary properly.  Don't leave linking on all the time if you have the meanings in the glossary if you are using quizzes on the vocabulary or students will be able to click on link in the quiz and go to the glossary.

Hope those ideas help.


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Picture of AL Rachels
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Testers
Hi John,

Like Andy says, creating your own material is very time consuming, but Moodle makes it easy to reuse. Occasionally digging through all the add-ons available for downloading and installing, has allowed me to find and implement new ways of doing/teaching things in class via Moodle.

Over the past 9 years of using Moodle to teach 7th and 8th graders, the most fun and interaction for vocabulary instruction/practice, have come from using the Realtime Quiz, and a combination of Journal/PoodLL/Pcast.

They love Realtime Quizzes. If you use it the way I did, be prepared for noisy moans, groans, and bragging after each question and especially at the end of the quiz. I collect their writing mistakes and use them to make questions. Any included names are always changed to my made up student name I use. For example this was one actual sentence I collected and used for both vocabulary and punctuation lessons. "i like to go swimming alot ."

For one Realtime quiz version, I used the sentences such as this, as written and asked them how many mistakes they saw. (I, a lot, and the space before the period.)

I also used it to get them to tell me which sentence version was correct with it rewritten three ways using, alot, a lot, or allot. I had a whole collection of sentences that used words that sound alike that they tended to misuse, such as, cell, sale, sail, or there, their, they're.

This last year we used a combination of the Journal and Pcast activities to help improve their writing. They would write paragraphs or short essays, then make a PoodLL audio recording in the Pcast activity. Points were deducted for every difference between what they wrote and what they said in the recording as well as deducting for incorrect grammar and word usage. Since their spoken grammar was usually much better than their writing, there were lots of rewriting and rerecording at first. By the end of the year, their writing seemed to have improved to the point that they seldom had to do more than one or two recordings, to get a good grade.

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Picture of Justin Hunt
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers


There is a Quizlet plugin. Its something I wrote for Nagasaki University. 

And there is the English Central plugin that was written for Nagasaki International University. 

The Quizlet plugin handles the embed of the activity, but as you have discovered that is possible to do by hand. The real benefit is that you can import quizlet sets as multichoice and short answer questions, direct to the Moodle question bank complete with pictures. And you can rapidly create Quizlet activities that have a time based conditional completion setting. (So you can be sure your students at least opened the activity for X minutes.) Its actually a commercial plugin. But contact me anyway if you want to talk about it.

The English Central plugin is not commercial though your students would need special English Central accounts. 



Also I used PoodLL Flashcards a lot, and in different ways when I was teaching. Mostly for pair practice and not for memory style learning. I would make flashcard sets based on words / grammar we were learning, and often mixed in teachers or students names into the prompt on the card. Student loved it because it was fun and felt like a game. Each student would read the prompt on the front of the card to their partner, and their partner would have to make something from it. eg

A simple question -> answer the question

sentence in language A -> translate into language B

present tense sentence -> past tense sentence

1st person sentence -> 3rd person sentence

question answer -> make the question

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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Plugin developers

I've been asked to provide a crossword activity for practicing concepts in a second year Law course. Personally I don't find the crossword particularly effective for such a purpose. The crossing of words and the typical conversion of phrases to one lower/upper case word are more a distraction than useful cues. Flashcard activities are probably much more suitable for concept drilling than crosswords. But for various mostly irrelevant reasons it was decided to go with crosswords.

The easy route was to use the game plugin. But the game plugin doesn't seem to have a solid ongoing support. It also contains much more than may be needed, without a clean way to remove unwanted components. And so I decided to construct a minimal crossword plugin as a dataformfield sub-plugin of the Dataform activity.

The Dataform crossword uses open code by Àngel Fenoy from Arenys de Mar, Barcelona for generating the crossword structure (the same code that is used by the game plugin). It uses open js code and jquery for the crossword ui.

A typical implementation would consist of a Dataform activity with a crossword field, a view which displays the list of attempts and a view which displays a single attempt in editing mode. The concepts and definitions are entered in the field configuration as concept-definition pairs, separated by a space (as the concept is rendered as one word), each pair in a new line. Other settings in the field allow for controlling the crossword dimensions (max row size) and min and max number of words.

In a typical usage users add an entry for a crossword attempt. The crossword is generated on entry creation. It is displayed and can be solved when editing the entry. Current solution is stored when saving the entry. Depending on the number of available concepts, subsequent entries will generate different crosswords. In the attempts list it is possible to display the number of words in the attempt, number of letters, number of words solved, and completion % (number of letters solved / number of letters).

The plugin is available from git at https://github.com/itamart/moodle-dataformfield_crossword. It requires Dataform 2.8.6.

Illustration below.


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Matt Bury
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Interesting discussion... here's my €0.02:

One of the better "games" for memorising concepts that I've come across is an old favourite in EFL/ESL called half a cross word.

Half a cross word

(In my experience, I think it's better to have the instructions in writing so that learners can refer back to them at any time).

Put learners in pairs, one is A the other is B.

They both get the empty cross word:

cross word

To learner A, you give the words across, which they use to fill in their half of the puzzle. While they're doing that, they can think of the best clues they can to describe/define the words to their partner, B.

3. activity
6. construct
7. effective
8. drilling
9. purpose
To learner B, you give the words down and they do the same as their partner, A.

1. Flashcard
2. practising
4. concepts
5. crossword
When they're both ready, student A asks B for clues down to complete their half of the puzzle. And vice-versa.

Because the learners have to think for themselves about the concepts and how to describe/define them, and because it's for a social, collaborative purpose, i.e. a social game, they're far more likely to #1 - ensure that they understand their set of concepts really clearly, and #2 - remember the concepts that their partner explains to them; because it triggers particular aspects of our social, collaborative nature, i.e. we tend to be much better at remembering stuff that has social currency/value, e.g. something a friend or colleague tells us or discusses with us (Can't remember the specific research papers right now).

In my experience, most learners also find this activity enjoyable and engaging.

Implementing this in Moodle:

However, I don't think that there's an adequate module or plugin for doing this in Moodle. One suggestion: You can try the various synchronous and asynchronous communication modules that support groups or groupings so that you can pair off learners automatically. Then they can talk or write their clues and guesses to each other. If they do it in chat, then you can check what they've written. If they do it via WebRTC, Skype, etc., it's more difficult to check but the learners will probably do it well because they understand it's for their own benefit.

Alternative activity:

Another activity is the Glossary module is collaborative mode, i.e. learners can create and comment on their own and each others' entries. Having auto-linking on makes it doubly useful in that their descriptions/definitions will show up in future texts that they study on the course. The glossary module also support rich multimedia so entries can get quite elaborate if you have keen, tech-savvy learners.

I've found it helps to require learners to pick a fixed number of words/terms to define each so that everyone gets a fair share of the work to be done. You can also introduce peer-grading with a ratings system so that learners rate the definitions/descriptions their peers have written, e.g. allocate each learner 3 - 5 votes that they can give for the best/most helpful ones. Does that make sense?

You can imagine how motivating it can be for cohorts of learners to help and be helped by each other, however, not all learners are as instantly collaborative as we'd like to think and may take some persuasion and practice for them to "get it."

Note that in both activities, the learners are doing most of the work. When the learners "get it," the teacher doesn't have to do much at all.

I hope this helps! smile

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Picture of Louisa Grange
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle

Hi Matt - I like your idea about 'halving' the crossword and sharing the clues within a pair. I have been cascading my basic knowledge about how to create crosswords in Moodle to other teachers. I just wanted to share the resource I created for my session as it may be useful to you or other teachers (also I am studying for a course where I have to share my ideas within a forum!). So I hope you find this useful. Click here for the resource.  

I also need to talk about the benefits although I'm sure you're already aware of these! But for the purposes of my assignment I would like to tell you that I find the activity to be much more challenging and suitable for higher level learners than other quiz activities on Moodle. It's a good tool for carrying out summative assessments at the end of a term or a unit. In terms of differentiation a good method for doing this could be to create 3 different crosswords at 3 different levels (basic, intermediate and advanced) then direct each student to the appropriate level crossword. I like the way that Moodle picks out clues randomly from the glossary in this activity. I created about 15 word in the glossary but each time a learner opens the crossword a few of the clues differ slightly. I think that once the crossword is complete it can act as a really good visual summary of the key concepts that have been learnt which could also be useful as a reference tool. 

Many thanks.  Louisa

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Picture of Mark Stevens
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Moodle Course Creator Certificate holders
Another useful crossword tool is the venerable Hot Potatoes JCross, which can quickly create crossword puzzles that moodle handles well and integrates into the gradebook.  It's still at:  https://hotpot.uvic.ca/.  You can also have your students download Hot Potatoes and they can create quizzes/puzzles that teachers can incorporate into the course.
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Picture of AL Rachels
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Testers

There is a new question type, qtype_wordselect, being developed by Marcus Green that has some interesting potential for use in "Vocabulary instruction/practice in Moodle." It is available at https://github.com/marcusgreen/moodle-qtype_wordselect, and a demonstration course is at, http://www.questiontype.co.uk/mdl/ with a user name and password listed for use.

Some of the ways it can be used are to highlight a word, or words, in a sentence based on the directions/question, such as mark all nouns, mark all verbs, etc.. It can be used to pick words from lists that match criteria listed in the directions/question. It can also be used for word seek puzzles.

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Picture of Phuong Hoang
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Good news! Thanks AL for your useful information.

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Picture of Ricky Ponting
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle

  • Instructor made a practice quiz with vocab with unlimited tries and shuffle questions and answers. Students tried to get their time down to less than 2 minutes and still get the score they wanted.  Then they take a separate quiz that will be counted in the grade that allows only 2 minutes.  This gave students another way to study the meanings but still have the grade as motivation. Some students are very motivated to get their times down and still get everything correct.

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Picture of Peter Jackson
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle

I've had great success creating my vocab quizzes in iSpring QuizMaker, then publishing to SCORM and uploading to Moodle:


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Picture of Maria Paula Ferrari
Re: Vocabulary & Moodle

Hello everybody,

I like a lot the facility glossary of Moodle 1.9 in Argentina.

Kind regards,

Paula (1969)

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