Doesn’t it seem like teenagers live on technology? Literally.
It’s almost as if their phones and tablets are an extension of them.
Whether you’re an ESL instructor working with a bunch of teenage English language learners, or you’re teaching English to first-language students, it’s important you join the technological revolution.
Why? Because teenage learners are digital natives, and technology is their language.
Unlike past generations which grew up alongside technology, today’s generation has been born into a high-tech society. There wasn’t ever a time when today’s teens were without the internet.
In other words, technology and the internet run virtually every aspect of their lives.
Nevertheless, most schools continue to use traditional methods focusing on the use of print materials while restricting, if not banning, technology from the classroom altogether. This limits the possibility of utilizing smartphones, tablets and relevant apps in a meaningful way.
Today, we’re going to look at how high school teachers can embrace various apps and use them to as tools for enhancing their lessons.
6 of the Best Apps for High School English Teachers You Didn’t Know Existed
Your computer and smartphone apps are great resources for facilitating the delivery of content and planning of classes. They can be used as part of class projects, research tools or as supplemental activities for regular classwork.
By integrating apps into your lessons, you can explore new opportunities to connect with and engage your students, as well as enhance the overall learning experience. And we already know that teens love being on their phones. Might as well turn that infatuation into teachable moments.
But there are so many apps out there, where do you start?
Read on to see our six favorite apps and how you can use them in your English lessons in a way that excites and engages your high school learners.
Why it’s the app for you: Are you an ESL teacher looking for exciting, new ways to connect with your students? If so, FluentU is the right app for your classroom.
FluentU offers the perfect blend of pop culture and curriculum by using real-world material to teach English to second language speakers. Instead of drilling vocabulary words and grammar rules, you’re able to help students improve their English through popular songs, clips from English movies and TV series, commercials, news articles and more.
With FluentU, every classroom session becomes fun and exciting. Students gain deeper insight into the English-speaking cultures around the world while learning how to communicate naturally, like a native speaker, boosting their confidence and language proficiency.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that natives speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos, like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
Under the Vocab and Dialogue tabs, you’ll find words and phrases from the video and a complete interactive transcript.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Quiz Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
FluentU is also flexible. You choose what you watch, when you watch it and how much you watch. Meanwhile, FluentU’s algorithm tracks your learning to present you with questions that build on what you’ve already learned. Because of this flexibility, FluentU is appropriate for any level of language learner.
Putting it to use: One of the best features of FluentU is its adaptability. FluentU has an ever-growing library of video clips, interactive flashcards, games and activities that cover everything, including grammar, listening and speaking exercises. Access FluentU through the mobile app or website and enjoy a wealth of content suitable as standalone lessons or supplemental material for your in-class curriculum.
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Why it’s relevant: This app allows students to create simple short stories on their phones and tablets using pre-loaded images and scenery.
While it’s intended for younger students, this app can be extended to all high school students just starting to learn how to make simple English sentences. This makes My Story an excellent teaching aid for all ESL teachers.
What’s more, you can also use this app to create short stories designed to introduce specific vocabulary or grammar points. For example, if you want to teach animals, you can create a story about a farmer and his livestock.
What’s great about this app is that it provides an opportunity for students to experience creative writing in a very safe environment.
Putting it to use: Have your students create their own personal short stories using this app. All you need to do is provide them with a topic or a set of vocabulary words to include in the story, then let them do the rest. For example, you could use anything from the rooms in a house, random action verbs or any other set of words related to the topics covered in class.
For advanced learners, try providing phrases or idioms for learners to include in their stories. You’d be surprised how your five or six words can inspire students to produce a 100 to 150-word story.
On one occasion, my students had three keywords: alien, spaceship and planet. From that, they created a 100-word story about space following a short story covered in class. Their results were recorded in PDF format and then uploaded to our school’s Facebook page.
Why it’s great: While the iOS and Android apps are made by different developers, they both provide the same function: generating writing prompts. What’s more, the Writing Prompts app is excellent for getting native and second-language students to practice their writing, making it easier for them to express themselves on paper—a skill all high school students need to master before graduating.
Putting it to use: Use the app to generate one or more writing prompts for your students. Then, give them time to complete their stories. At the end of the lesson, have each student share their story with the class. Or, if you want to really get creative, use the generated writing prompts to create role-playing scripts for your students to act out—that way, you can have them practice their writing and speaking skills.
Why it’s useful: Looking for an innovative app that can enhance English lessons for native and ESL teachers? Look no further than SurveyMonkey!
SurveyMonkey is a tool used for creating surveys and even customer feedback. It can also be used to conduct classroom polls, or even get student feedback on the topics and exercises they’ve seen in class.
Furthermore, SurveyMonkey can be used to gather information on topics students might be interested in seeing in class. And it’s always useful to know what your students are currently interested in so that you can develop exciting, relevant content that supplements your usual classwork.
Putting it to use: Use this app to gather information about your students. I like to give them a short survey asking the following questions:
- What do you like about the class?
- What topics interest you the most?
- What would you like to change?
Students are then asked to answer these three questions based on their experience and expectations for the class. As a result, your learners get to practice their writing skills while providing you with a wealth of feedback you can use to enhance future lessons.
I used this activity following a reading comprehension exercise. I soon learned that my students actually liked the reading activity and wanted me to include more exercises like it in future lessons!
It was a pleasant surprise to see students actually enjoying reading tasks.
Why it’s in: Project Gutenberg is not an app in the traditional sense, but rather a digital library filled with 50,000 free e-books. The selections range from the classics to modern works on a wide variety of topics.
What’s more, each book can be downloaded and shared with students. This makes Project Gutenberg a great source for texts used as part of reading and writing assignments in ESL and native classes.
Also, the mobile app allows students to read these books on their phones or tablets. That certainly beats carrying around a heavy backpack full of books.
Putting it to use: With Project Gutenberg, you can select a text based on the various topics covered in class. From there, you can assign readings to your class and have students prepare non-traditional book reports, such as videos, PowerPoint presentations or short speeches covering the material they’ve read.
On one particular occasion, my students were divided into groups in which each group was assigned a classic novel from the app. Their final exam for that term was to recreate the main points of the story in a short video, which they uploaded to YouTube.
Why it’s neat: This app focuses on creating mind maps, which is ideal for developing visual representations of various abstract concepts. As a result, students are able to digest larger amounts of information and represent them in a much easier format.
Furthermore, teachers can use mind maps to create interactive lessons for topics wrought with details, as opposed to simply dumping information and letting students sort it out. As such, Mindmeister is perfect for all teachers looking to organize information, even non-English teachers.
Putting it to use: One way to integrate mind maps into your lessons is to use them as a presentation tool.
Assign students research topics, which they can then transform into mind maps of their own. From there, students must make out their thoughts and ideas, then present their results to the class.
This activity can be used to evaluate all four skills, especially if the source material is a listening exercise or a video.
During one history class, my students used mind maps to explain the details related to significant historical events such as the Industrial Revolution or the Discovery of America. Each student used their map to explain the events of their project.
Bringing It All Together
Technology, particularly through apps, can be used to incorporate fresh activities into traditional curriculum. Considering that teenagers live and breathe technology, integrating apps to supplement traditional content is a great way to connect with your students.
In addition, apps can be a great way for teachers to shorten class prep time and take the guesswork out of planning engaging activities.
So, what are you waiting for? Check out these apps today and turn your future lessons into a truly interactive learning experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.