There are a number of free generators out there on the web that allow you to place content into different formats that may be more appealing, interesting, or challenging than the usual activity or standard letter-sized handout. The three that I want to share today can be used to generate a newspaper clipping, text message conversation, and Facebook wall.
Fodey.com is a free site where you can generate a number of things, including newspaper clippings. Your text is limited in length, but it is easy to customize the name of the paper, date, headline, and story. Once generated, you can download an image to post to your LMS, include on a handout, or share with students another way.
Use content you create for reading activities or discussions. This is especially handy when working with lower level students where you may want to use authentic materials, but have a difficult time finding materials at the appropriate level. You can even turn to your local paper for inspiration and rewrite stories at a suitable level for your students. With higher level students, use authentic materials from a local paper to introduce a specific type of piece—for example, a letter to the editor—and then share the site with students for writing practice and ask them to generate similar pieces or short stories of their own. Just make sure it is newsworthy!
Another free generator is ifaketext.com, which generates screenshots of text message conversations. Just enter a name, carrier, and conversation to get a perfect screenshot. Use these to discuss the difference between formal and informal writing styles, common text messaging abbreviations (lol, brb, ttyl), and much more.
Students can also generate these easily for a short writing assignment. Ask students to create a conversation between two characters in a book they are reading for class, a popular movie, historical figures, or family members. They could turn out to be thoughtful, funny, or informative depending on the assignment and, of course, your students. It is so simple to use, that you may as well try it out to see how it goes.
The Wall Machine
Finally, The Wall Machine allows users to create fake Facebook walls, complete with posts, photos, relationship status and friendship updates, likes, and events. This site is also free and allows you to customize just about everything you can alter on a real Facebook wall. Like the newspaper and text message generators, there is a lot of potential for generating materials yourself to use with students and for students to create new things of their own.
Depending on your class size, you could have a student or pair of students create a fake Facebook wall for each character in a book at the end of a unit on a particular book. Students would really have to consider their choices carefully and connect with their characters, but could have fun with it too.
Although certainly not revolutionary, these and similar sites put a fun modern twist on reading and writing activities, which can draw students in and engage them more fully than items presented in a way they cannot relate to as easily. If these do not work for your purposes, try another generator, for example this funny newspaper generator, but if you find a better one, let us know by leaving a comment below. Also share with us if you’ve found a different way to use these sites with your students!