Sitting still in a classroom for hours on end can be difficult for students.
Many of the kids in your English class would rather be outside playing football, or—you guessed it—playing games and checking out apps on their phones.
Of course, you can’t exactly turn English class into a football match.
But you can bring some tech into your teaching with the six amazingly useful English class apps in this post.
Why and How to Use Apps in the English Classroom
Letting your students use their devices (within reason) can help increase engagement in class. It also lets them learn with a medium that they’re comfortable with and enjoy using.
Apps can greatly reduce the stress and hassle associated with class organization and planning. They also cut down on wasteful handouts. They can even keep kids on track and stop them from misbehaving.
Of course, devices can be difficult to manage with students twitching to swipe over to Snapchat in a heartbeat. Here are some tips for using apps in your English classroom:
- Allot short chunks of time for app-use. This will keep students focused and encourage them to show results in a short amount of time.
- Divide and conquer. Divide students into groups with one device per group for much easier classroom management.
- Don’t allow tablet kickstands. Students can use them to hide what’s happening on their screen—the modern-day equivalent of a comic book hidden inside a textbook.
Take a look at these apps and sit back as the organization of your class is made so much easier, allowing you to take a breather and focus purely on teaching.
6 Time-saving English Class Apps to Make Tech Work for You
Apps and smartphones are gamifying our lives, for better or worse.
Simply put, we get a rush from notifications. It’s a powerful trick, and certainly not one that should be abused. But what primary school teacher has never used candy to motivate their students?
Class Dojo takes a reward-based gamified approach to improving behavior in the classroom, and it really works! It’s personally saved me a lot of time with its seemingly magic solution aimed at young kids.
Each student creates a personalized avatar which is then added to the main class page, which can be viewed by any student.
The class page acts as a league table of sorts, with the best-behaved students having the highest score. The teacher can give points for good behavior (e.g. doing homework, helping fellow students, etc.) and take points away for bad behavior (e.g. not doing work, being rude in class, etc.)
The app’s magic is in its simplicity: positive points result in an upbeat notification sound whereas negative points give off a similar sound to losing lives in a video game (a language young kids can understand).
For an effective boost, use this app alongside a points-based reward tally. For example, the first student to reach 20 points chooses the topic for the next class, first to 30 gets a piece of candy etc.
It’s surprisingly effective.
Much in the same way smartphone notifications are now hardwired into our thinking, just hearing the notification sounds will make students alert and immediately reflective of their behavior. They’ll know if they’re doing well or need to correct their behavior.
Sometimes you just want to teach a language class through the one true universal language: music!
In my experience, many lower-level English learners know the lyrics to whole songs in English before they can hold a conversation.
Lyrics Training allows you to build lessons around an incredibly immersive, music-based experience.
Rather than spend your time creating handouts, the app allows students to fill in missing lyrics in real-time.
This can be done with the class as a whole (using the website on a projector) or individually with students using headphones and choosing a song based on the tunes they love.
There isn’t much else to it. Let your students sign up and away they go! Allowing a song at the end of a class could also be used as a reward for students, with the best student choosing the song.
FluentU uses real-world videos that are seamlessly tailored to users’ learning goals. That’s what makes FluentU one of the best ways—barring actually moving to a new country—to become immersed in the English language.
You’ll never have to create a new movie-based lesson plan again. FluentU has you covered with dozens of plans to choose from and hundreds of videos.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are 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.
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 learning English!
Sign up for a free trial and bring FluentU to your classroom today.
(Also available in the Play Store.)
Bringing a bit of exciting tech wizardry into the classroom is sure to spike student interest, and Google Translate’s real-time camera translator feature uses the kind of technology previously reserved for sci-fi.
Simply point your camera at a text and it’ll almost instantly superimpose the translation over the words of your choosing.
Of course, Google Translate is famous amongst language teachers for not so great reasons too: Many of us have received homework writing assignments that were so clearly passed through the search giant’s translation system (no human could’ve come out with that phrasing, surely).
So this app works best as a reference and a segue to more questions aimed at the teacher.
For lower levels, Google Translate’s impressive real-time camera translate feature can free you from being a walking dictionary and allow more time for delving into grammar or idioms in class (while letting students to quickly look up single words they don’t understand).
This works best as a fun little aid for students.
Unlike teens, who still get their interest piqued by new, different apps, young kids downright expect tech to be a part of the classroom.
Quiver is great for teaching young learners vocabulary by associating each piece of vocab with images that seemingly pop out of their screens. By combining coloring with augmented reality we get a double-whammy that’s sure to keep the little toddlers engaged.
First, print out some coloring sheets from the Quiver website and give students some time to color them in.
Once they finish coloring, students can use the app by pointing their device’s camera at the screen. The app will show their colored creations in augmented reality on the screen, as though their drawings have come to life!
Use this app for more engaging vocab lessons and to really make each topic stick in your students’ minds.
Technology is increasingly taking the place of the teacher in the classroom. Believe it or not, I think this is a good thing. The teacher takes on a role as mediator or facilitator while learning and knowledge acquisition is promoted as something that isn’t exclusive to the classroom.
I also think it’s important that students know their teachers are there to help but aren’t the harbingers of all knowledge and certainly aren’t infallible.
Educreation is an extremely adaptable app that gives power to the learner by making idea-sharing extremely easy.
Teachers and students can record videos of themselves explaining any given topic and share them with as many people as they want.
Videos resemble PowerPoint presentations, giving teachers the ability to write and doodle over any slide to emphasize or elucidate their points.
Brilliant for visual learners, Educreations is also great for taking on a flipped learning approach in class. Students could take home a presentation of a speaking topic and then use lesson time for practicing conversation.
It’s even a great way to slowly get very shy students into presentations: they can record at home and talk through points in class (see it as presentation training wheels).
Lastly, not only will you be making it easier for you and your whole class to share information and knowledge, you won’t be contributing to the huge amount of paper waste accumulated in classrooms!
I hope this list shows that mobile phones and devices don’t always have to be a teacher’s worst nightmare. Improve your lessons by getting those selfie-loving students engaged by bringing the digital world into your classroom!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.