As technology continues to get more and more popular, classroom attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.
Times are changing quickly and ESL teachers have to hop on board before the train leaves. Keeping the attention of a student while you’re teaching may seem difficult at times, but fear not! Help is on the way!
By working with technology, using some of these apps will effectively help you add a new dimension to your teaching. It’ll also give students a break from the traditional classroom, all while still reinforcing the skills they are learning. Many of these top apps are even free of cost!
There’s no better time than the present to upgrade your teaching and try out some of the best apps for ESL teachers!
The Benefits of Using Apps in Your ESL Teaching
First let’s take a closer look at how using these apps is beneficial to ESL teachers like yourself.
Helps Keep Students Engaged
Technology is always an exciting addition to any classroom. Students typically love working with technology and prefer it over reading and writing in a traditional way. Using apps in the classroom is one great way to spice up the students’ learning and help keep them engaged in the material.
Adds a New Dimension to Learning
Using apps in the classroom adds a whole new dimension to students’ learning. It’s not news that repetition and review are essential to the success of learning a language. Apps reinforce the material and allow students to experience English in yet another form.
You can learn more about what apps and other technology can do for your students through ed2go’s Integrating Technology in the Classroom. This online course is all about helping you learn what web and mobile technology is out there and how to use it, regardless of what your goals, needs or special considerations are. It also includes course material pertaining specifically to English language learners.
With the easy accessibility of apps, they can be used both inside and outside of the classroom. Apps are so easy to use for both students and teachers, and require absolutely no prep time!
The Best Apps for ESL Teachers to Use
ESL Teaching Supplement Apps
These types of apps are not only useful for teachers when writing curriculum, but they’re also excellent for students to use during classroom activities or unstructured classroom time.
FluentU is very unique among the apps on this list.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, commercials, news, cartoons and inspiring talks—and turns them into English learning experiences. Unlike traditional apps, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease your students into English language and culture over time. They’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
How does this work? FluentU has a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. This is content that’s known internationally for its quality and entertainment value. Students get extremely excited when they see their favorite videos pop up in their English classroom.
But it doesn’t just stop with great videos. On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and come with built-in language lessons.
These videos are also carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
Worried that students might be stumped by some of the harder videos? No way. FluentU brings authentic content within reach by providing interactive captions and in-context definitions on-screen. For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
FluentU is highly recommended for teachers who have a lot of audio-visual learners or want to teach English with fun content.
2. Google Translate
Google Translate is definitely an app that anyone learning or teaching English should have on their phone. This app can translate dozens of languages into English, and it can be used in all types of activities. Encourage your students to download the app for assistance when they are working on an independent project or when they are outside of the classroom.
*Note: This app mainly functions on a word-by-word translation configuration, so be careful when translating sentences that have more than just a few words.
Many people all over the world use Duolingo for independent language instruction, and you can definitely use it for ESL teaching as well. The English learning version of Duolingo has lessons that integrate conversation, vocabulary, speaking and listening skills. At the end of each section, the user is tested on their skills, and then the results show what parts the user is excelling in and where they could use more practice.
This app can be a resource to teachers as a fun additional method of testing students in the classroom. It also is exceptionally helpful in classrooms that may have multiple students at varying skill levels. When the more advanced students finish their work early, they can stay productive by working on making it to the next level in Duolingo.
Bonus: There’s also a friendly little automated bird that hangs out with the user during all of the lessons. If that’s not a reason to use this app, what is?
4. Grammar Up
Grammar can be hard to teach, but with Grammar Up, it doesn’t have to be. Different sections of the app are devoted to different parts of speech, like adjectives, adverbs, causative verbs, conditionals and many more. Each section has the technical definition of the part of speech followed by a test for students to take in order to “Grammar Up” and reach the next level.
This is a great individual assessment that ESL teachers can use to determine which parts of speech their students understand, and which parts of speech they need to review.
5. Speak English Like an American
One of the hardest parts about learning English is getting to the point of sounding like a native speaker. The English language is filled with different idioms and expressions that often don’t translate well from other languages. The Speak English Like an American app uses various methods to teach its users common figures of speech and expressions that Americans use in day-to-day language, often without even realizing.
Phrases like “break the news” and “costs an arm and a leg” can be hard to fully explain in a classroom setting, and this app acts as vital reinforcement. Speak English Like an American is perfect for getting students comfortable enough to have casual conversation with Americans outside of the classroom.
ESL Listening Apps
It’s old news that listening to conversational English is an important part of the English learning process, but constantly creating interesting material to read aloud to students can get overwhelming. These ESL listening apps nearly eliminate the stress of finding new things for students to listen to every day.
6. English Podcasts
This app offers over 130 different podcasts for students to listen to. The app covers a variety of subject matter and even has a search filter to find podcasts with specific topics. The podcasts are played straight from the app so neither the teacher nor student has to worry about downloads taking up space in their phone or tablet.
There are so many different innovative structured activities that teachers can do with podcasts. After listening, one fun idea is to ask comprehension questions and then call on students to act out the podcast in front of the class. It’s really helpful and a lot of fun too!
7. Speak English!
In this unique app, the user listens to recordings of English speakers talking about a span of topics – like job interviews or customer service. After listening to it as many times as they’d like, the user then records themselves repeating the phrase. Finally, the user then gets to audibly compare his or her voice to that of the recording. Speak English! is a really helpful app for getting students to learn and practice enunciation.
ESL Game Apps for the Classroom
8. Words With Friends
This game is not only good for encouraging word formation, but it’s also a wonderful way to introduce a cultural integration aspect into the classroom, since thousands of Americans play Words With Friends every day. In this automated scrabble-like game, students spell words for points.
A fun way to integrate this game into the classroom is by holding a Words With Friends championship. Have students play with each other in several rounds; the students with the highest score move on to the next round and eventually there will be one Words With Friends class champion! What a fun way to practice spelling and vocabulary usage!
9. Fun English
In this app there are over ten different English learning games that help young English learners with everything from pronunciation to spelling to vocabulary. This app helps kids retain the information they’ve learned in a fun way, and also works well as an incentive for young English learners to get their work done.
10. Head’s Up!
Although this isn’t exclusively an ESL app, it can be used effectively in your ESL classroom. In this game, one person has a word that they are trying to guess by listening to the other students describe it. This game helps students build speaking confidence and encourages them to use adjectives, synonyms and antonyms. It’s guaranteed to get the giggles going while students are practicing their vocabulary.
Using any of these apps will surely provide a new, innovative dimension to student learning that will boost their language learning productivity. And while apps shouldn’t be a replacement for an interactive and well-planned curriculum, you’ll find that they’re great supplements to any ESL course. Time to upgrade!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.