ePals is the social network optimized for K-12 learning. Over half a million classrooms in 200 countries and territories have joined the ePals Global Community to connect, collaborate and exchange ideas.
Mary McLaren's insight:
ePals is a global network that allows students to safely connect with other students of their chosen language from 200 different countries. It can be used for chatting/practicing language or more intensively to create collabortive projects. Emails, voice communication and visual information can be shared for free. ESL students could also use ePals to reduce social isolation by connnecting with students that speak their L1.
Students are matched up by class so this would be ideal to use for encouraging all students to practice their communication skills. Students (and teachers) are also able to Blog and share photos so improvement is not dependant on waiting for an ePal to respond.
As well as learning English, students will also learn basic digital literacy skills such as searching using various parameters, uploading photos, email and more. There are plenty of teacher resources to assist with this, for example a lesson entitled Digital Skillbuilder: Family History Email Activity All Ages.
Get WordBook XL - English Dictionary & Thesaurus for iPad on the App Store. See screenshots and ratings, and read customer reviews.
Mary McLaren's insight:
For students that are a bit more confident in English and/or older, this dictionary and thesaurus for iPad is ideal. Such a simple idea and yet it could make so much difference to an EAL student compared to a standard dictionary. Of course hearing the pronunciation of a word is paramount in learning oral language, but an even bigger plus is that the words in the definition are also hyper-linked to ensure the best chance of understanding. It would be quite common for a dictionary definition to contain other words that the user didn't understand and WordBook XL has overcome that issue.
The thesaurus element will help ESL students to expand their vocabulary and reduce the risk of only being able to share very basic ideas and concepts. It will particularly assist in the realm of academic writing, which is much more demanding than oral language.
The app costs only $2.99 and could literally be like carrying a library type dictionary and thesaurus in one's pocket, as huge numbers of younger children have iPods while masses of older children and adults have iPhones or iPads that accompany them everywhere.
One popular aspect is Words of the Day so users will continually be expanding their understanding of English. You can also shake your device to come up with random words.
A teacher in a primary school (or any) classroom could use this app to randomly introduce new words when there are a few minutes to fill.
Produced by Apple and updated in 2012. Available from the iTunes store.
Used by over 70,000 teachers & 1 million students at home and school. Studyladder is an online english literacy & mathematics learning tool. Kids activity games, worksheets and lesson plans for Primary and Junior High School students in Australia.
Mary McLaren's insight:
Studyladder is a comprenhensive online program that assists in teaching most elements of the curriculum, with a focus on literacy and maths. Most importantly, as some schools with a high EAL population have limited funding, the entire program is free.
As well as using the online reading program in class on the IWB, supplemented by printable worksheets, the teacher is able to set tasks for students to complete at home. English tasks are presented in writing, orally and with visual aides to give the most prompts for a higher success rate, while lower mathematics tasks can be accomplished without any English in some cases, so students will be encouraged to proceed through to harder activities.
Studyladder presents a structured program that ascends naturally and coincides with the Australian year level curriculum. The in-class activities involve listening to a short story and then reading it aloud as a class, much less threatening for language learners than reading orally alone in class. It also included specific practice tasks for NAPLAN, which can be very threatening for EAL students.
Studies such as this one explain the benefits of using Avatars, such as on http://secondlife.com/ , to assist English language acquisition. With a reasonable amount of instruction on using the program, students (in this case high school) were able to grasp the basics and begin using Second Life regularly.
Students were first able to overcome shyness and embarrassment issues as oral language was not needed and their foreigness or otherness would not be in the forefront with a created character.
There were found to be considerable gains in their abilities to read, write and understand English. Most students felt some level of success as they were able to transfer skills from other computer games to Second Life. There were also opportunities to reinforce online etiquette.
For older or technically more advanced students, a program using avatars could be used in the classroom so long as specific goals, tasks and deadlines were provided. Collaborative learning and team building would be another benefit.
LyricsTraining is an easy and fun method to learn and improve your foreign languages skills, through the music videos and lyrics of your favorite songs
Mary McLaren's insight:
This is an abolutely brilliant idea to make language learning fun and interactive using technology. Students choose a song and then a level of difficulty. As the song plays, the lyrics are written across the bottom with some gaps to be filled in by the learner. Beginners have to write in 10% of the lyrics, intermediate fill in 25% of the lyrics and experts fill in all the lyrics. The song fades and pauses if you do not fill in the correct word or are not keeping up with the pace of the song.
This technology would not suit beginning language learners as it requires that you have a basic understanding of the language, although you can repeat the song as many times as you want. Cleverly, different words are required to be filled in during repetitions of the same song.
Lyrics Training would suit upper primary or high school students as it requires competancy in typing and being able to read as fast as the lyrics are sung. It could be greatly improved for less competant English users by having a replay button that would repeat the part of the lyric with the missing word when the music pauses for the user to answer. The only existing option is to start the song over.
Ideally, I would like to see this idea expanded to include younger children or beginning English speakers. One way to do this could be to have a picture of the word to click on with the mouse, rather than having to type it. As well, it would be useful to include songs for younger children. For example, The Wiggles song Hot Potato could be used and the child could click on photos or illustrations depicting words from the song, such as potato, spaghetti and so on. This would still encourage listening and comprehension skills, without requiring keyboard and spelling skills.
This article is about Design and Technology for EAL students and corelates well with the Queensland Curriculum Technology learning area, having a strong focus on ideas, planning, making and evaluating. There are very clear tips on how to adapt or create design lessons for EAL students, such as pre-teaching key vocabulary, using images. assessments that do not require lengthy writing, collaborative work and using culturally relevant examples.
Explicitly teaching the evaluation process is one good idea presented, as is practicing the use of the appropriate technical language. The diagrams and charts are particularly useful in guiding the level of scaffolding that might be needed.
Although the author touches on cultural relevancy, it remains understated and tokenist, compared to its relevance as related in research papers.
This article comes from the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (naldic) website, which is the association for EAL in the United Kingdom. Amongst many useful articles on their website are the following:
Hancock McDonald is an English language teaching website updated in 2013. It contains a wealth of high quality resources, all available for free, to assist teachers with their ESL students. There are articles, lectures, blogs and so on, which are interactive to the degree that a user may give feedback.
Of particular interest are large areas devoted to motivation, classroom interaction and the specific teaching of listening skills and pronunciation. Pronunciation is something that can be taken for granted and there is plenty of material on both physically pronouncing words right and listening as a skill for pronunciation.
A very interesting map of ELT is presented that attempts to put all the small elements of teaching English into one large map to keep the bigger picture in mind. The intention is to balance the many variables so teachers don't get carried away with one aspect of teaching English. These include authentic use of English, academic requirements, what the learner knows being less important than what they can do, motivation, learner-centred classrooms and so on.
This website has been developed by the British Council, specifically for children around the world learning English as a second language. There are a variety of high quality activities such as games, listening to songs and stories, and children can write their own feedback to many of the activities. One thing that makes this website stand out is that a user can browse by activity type, such as songs, or by topics such as environment, space or sport.
There are specific areas of the website for parents to learn how they can help their child and for the children to learn how they can help younger sibllings. I particularly like that there are sister sites called LearnEnglish Teens and LearnEnglish for adults so that the whole family could learn English together or individuals can continue their learning journey over various aspects of their lives.
Importantly for educators, there are heaps of resources for teachers ranging from worksheets to online games and more. Specific tips for using these resources is available a separate website http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-kids
Teachers can set many of the activities for students to complete as homework and receive regular updates by newsletter.
Children learn English as a second language with Mingoville’s online-based course featuring fun English games, grammar, songs, and more.
Mary McLaren's insight:
Mingoville is a comprehensive website dedicated entirely to teaching English as an additional language to 5 to 10 year old children. As well as many individual learning activities, students can also participate in in depth missions and track their own progress. There are also activities designed to be used with group teaching that can be accessed on an interactive whiteboard, such as a number of children each getting a word, a few seconds to think and then clicking on the correct image.
One element that seems particularly useful is the Dictionary. It has pictures rather than definitions and the word can be listened to in English as well as 25 other languages. So unlike many programs, this one recognizes that learners have another language from which to draw on. Cleverly, the dictionary allows students to record themselves saying the words and play it back and also keeps a tally of how many words have been accessed. The Dictionary can be accessed during all of the activities by clicking on the icon for it when hovering over an object, which also brings up the object's name.
Unfortunately, there are also a number of activities with very little language learning or requirements, such as moving a boat around an island with the arrow keys and collecting five or six food items with labels. As with many educational websites, some children will gravitate towards these type of activities that do not require any effort, so this would need to be monitored.
Mingoville is not free and has various levels of subscriptions for personal and school use.
QuestGarden is an online authoring tool and hosting service for the creation and sharing of WebQuests.
Mary McLaren's insight:
QuestGarden is the premier site for creating or using webquests. Webquests can be easily custom made by a teacher to suit the abilities, needs, goals and language levels of their students. For example, any technical or unusual words can be made into a link that takes the student to a definition, image or video according to the need. Students that are not ESL will be able to use the same webquest but will not click on the links for as many, if any, words for clarification.
Webquests are very visual and allow learners to work at their own pace to achieve success, all of which are vital factors for ESL students. Being able to go over the material as many times as needed, and being directed to specific online sources to solve problems, will also assist these learners.
As students grow and progress, it may be possible for students to create their own webquests to challenge each other. This would move the learning process from problem based to inquiry based, where the students come up with the question to be solved. The output style of English needed for this exercise would be far more challenging than just responding to a pre-created webquest.
Reading Bear is a collection of free, well-made, multimedia phonics presentations. Your child can learn to read with Reading Bear.
Mary McLaren's insight:
Reading Bear is a free learn-to-read program, but because of its explicit phonics basis it would be ideal for younger English language learners. It contains hundreds of lessons that proceed in a logical order of ascending difficulty, without making any large jumps. Of particular usefulness to ELLs is that the speaker is clearly shown forming each word twice, so that the shape of her mouth can be connected to the sounds. As well, illustrations, photographs and videos are used to demonstrate every single word and are shown while the word is said and spelled.
While not an exhuastive guide to the English language by any means, all the sounds of the language are clearly demonstrated orally and in writing which will give a good basis for understanding and writing in English. This online program would be an excellent starting place that could lead on to more interactive programs that would assist English language learning, such as Lyrics Training, Story, Second Life and others.
For older (primary) students who are new to English, they could be paired with a younger student and asked to run the program technically (choosing the next sound combination, etc) and asked to question their younger peer, for example using the silent sentences or silent flashcards mode. This would allow them to gain the benefits of this program without any stigma of using a "babyish" program.
It is unfortunate that the only real person on the entire program, who speaks all the words and phrases, is a blonde white woman with an American accent. If the creators had realised the program's benefits to English language learners, as well as early readers, they may have had the foresight to use a number of different actors of varying genders, ethnicities, ages and accents. This would go a long way towards including ELLs and helping them to identify with the Reading Bear program and see it as their road to successful language acquisition.
Story is a brand new app created by Disney. It allows you to create a digital text using photos from an iPhone, iPod or iPad. As ESL students are such visual learners (Turner, 2013), this approach beginning with photos will motivate these students to learn and use the words they need to populate their stories. The Story app automatically gives the story a title based on location and date of the first photo, though this can be changed if desired.
It would be particularly useful if ESL students could work with a partner who is more knowledgeble about English to create a project to share with the class, however this would not be required. It would also be helpful for their confidence if a project could be done about who they are and where they are from, with photos of their family or home country. There is also an automatic type of text creation where the app puts the photos into a story for you, which could serve as a useful example for them to copy, even if they have very little English.
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