Engagement is easier when students are comfortable with their surroundings, and virtual space is an ever increasing part of everyone’s lives.
Whether it’s for helping with behavior, language immersion or even our own professional development, tech innovations are being integrated into our classrooms through new devices, applications and websites.
That’s because the modern English classroom is always changing and the best new tools are just a click away.
In my personal experience as a teacher, I’ve found technology to be a godsend during my lessons. I’ve seen more language immersion in students, found endless teaching tips and, amazingly, seen much better behavior in class—all thanks to tech innovations.
3 Hacks for Your Modern English Classroom
The key to modernizing your classroom is being able to strike the perfect balance between timeless resources and groundbreaking technology.
But which teaching aids are really set to stand the test of time?
Here are three technological innovations that have the potential of becoming a cornerstone of the modern classroom.
1. Bring Your Own Device Learning (BYOD)
Some teachers are scared of letting their kids use technology during class, fearing class time will descend into anarchy. But fear not! Allowing students some self-study time with their devices can be a great way of increasing engagement in class by giving them a reprieve from group activities—more on that in the behavior management tools section below!
Granting your students the freedom of using their own device encourages them to learn independently. The strict reliance of textbooks is now being supplemented by a wealth of online information. Here are a few resources to let your students use on their personal devices:
So many of us immediately think of English when we hear the phrase, “lingua franca.” But so many argue that the true lingua franca today is music. You’re probably thinking that makes no sense, music isn’t a language. But hear me out.
Music acts as a pathway into many cultures and languages, and it’s an easy way to get your students immersed in a language. That’s where Lyrics Training comes in.
Lyrics Training does the hard part for you. It adds gap-fill exercises to a huge selection of songs in real time. Great for those casual classroom study sessions, Lyrics Training allows students a bit of downtime to enjoy music while learning. As such, it’s a great way to get students primed and ready for your next activity.
ESL Games Plus is full of activities and games young kids can take on by themselves or in groups. All they need is a laptop or a tablet, and the site will guide them through the rest.
The site includes a variety of exercises, including quizzes, traditional games and word scrambles.
Crossword puzzles, word searches and memory games are all fun ways for students to learn and practice different vocabulary topics on their own. Interactive board games like this pirate-themed snakes and ladders game can even help young learners revise the basics of grammar with sections on nouns and adjectives.
News, with its elevated register and terminology, can be hard for language learners to understand. But E-News Dispatch simplifies the language of today’s most important scoops, even sorting segments into three different levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced.
The site is so easy to use that beginner and early intermediate students can set off on activities themselves with little guidance needed.
Best of all, the site offers something for everyone. With pop culture, amazing tech stories and current affairs being sorted into their own categories, students have no problem finding stories that interest them. Integrate this website into your classroom by choosing a story and set of vocabulary words for students to learn, or have students their articles.
At the end of the lesson, test your learners’ knowledge with a short vocab quiz on the chosen topic.
FluentU is another great resource for independent student learning on computers, tablets and iOS or Android devices, but more on that in the next section.
2. Online Video Learning
Video has been around as a classroom aid for a long time, but advancements in technology have made video-based learning easier for both teachers and students.
With the exception of traveling to a different country, video is, hands-down, the best way to immerse students in a different language and culture.
Below are a few tools that make video learning even more fun.
Teaching with FluentU makes English education incredibly easy.
FluentU makes teaching English as simple as possible by combining videos of pop culture with news clips, television shows and popular songs. Combine this with traditional exercises and flashcards, and you’ve got an all-inclusive English curriculum that’s interesting, engaging and helps students learn how to communicate like a native English speaker.
There are many different types of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it easy to watch and understand native English videos with interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see what it means, learn how to use it, hear it pronounced and more.
For example, if your students tap on the word “brought,” then they’ll see this:
They can learn any video’s vocabulary with FluentU’s fun quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word they’re learning.
The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s super easy to find the ones that work for your classroom. FluentU also keeps track of their learning, then suggests videos and examples perfect for their needs.
Not only is FluentU a fantastic modern program to bring into your ESL classroom, but it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
For the cinephiles out there, Film English has a great variety of lesson plans based around video clips to choose from.
The videos, often independent short films, offer fantastic for speaking activities that can be used to inspire debates and classroom discussions. Each video comes with a step-by-step lesson plan for the teacher to follow or adapt accordingly. The focus of these lesson plans is centered primarily on speaking and vocabulary building, with the occasional writing or grammar activity.
If you’re looking for a video that works with students of all ages, check out “In a Heartbeat”. Not only are the visuals cool, the video opens the door to a classroom discussion on “heart” expressions.
And heartwarming messages are, in fact, often the focus of Film English lessons. Another example is this lesson plan on cultural differences, aimed at getting your students to talk about how we’re all really not so different.
With its cute animations and bite-size chunks of English topics and grammar, the Cambridge English YouTube channel is a brilliant video resource that highlights the importance of video for learning.
There are great “learning chunks” playlists that delve into idioms and language nuances, including:
- This animation on idioms to get the conversational ball rolling.
- How students feel before speaking exams.
- How educators can improve their teaching skills.
Videos like these can be used in class as a way to spark some really interesting discussions on a number of topics.
3. Behavior Enhancing Apps
The way young students respond to tech and apps is staggering. It’s easy to feel left behind with new teaching tech innovations seemingly popping up overnight. In 2018, classroom behavior is becoming a bigger issue for a number of teachers. Distractions are commonplace for kids, teens and adults alike, and getting them to pay attention throughout a whole class can be a challenge in itself.
These clever applications help you keep your students engaged, well behaved and help you keep control of behavior in the classroom.
Class Dojo is incredible for improving the behavior of young kids.
As the teacher, you create behaviors that will be rewarded and behaviors that will be punished. Students gain points for rewards and lose points when they’re naughty. You also get to create a prize list, which is you’re able to hand out when students have met the minimum point requirement.
If you have a smart board or projector in the class, you can use Class Dojo at all times. Students see their performance and points in real time. Young students are almost guaranteed to respond every time a reward or punishment is given and adapt their behavior.
The concept is brilliant in its simplicity and execution. Too Noisy App allows teachers to set an acceptable level of noise in the classroom. Current noise levels are always indicated by a thermometer on screen. If the noise exceeds the set levels, the onscreen thermometer breaks letting everyone know it’s time to pipe down.
Students love the novelty at first. They also love testing how close they can get to the limit without exceeding it. But make sure that they actually adhere to your rules and don’t just use the app to see how loud they can get.
Edmodo is a secure, social learning platform that connects students, teachers and parents, making it easier to keep track of assignments. And it also puts a stop to students’ excuses for not completing assignments. After all, your dog can’t eat the homework when it’s all saved to a platform using cloud technology.
But Edmodo isn’t just about behavior, the platform even gets families involved in the learning process. Turning assignments into fun bonding activities helps students truly engage in what they’re learning.
Modernizing the Classroom
Today’s classroom is constantly changing.
Existing tools will continue to be refined, while new innovations aim to challenge what’s already established in the classroom. And you know what? That’s great for learners! By providing new and innovative ways to learn English, students can become more engaged and study more efficiently.
So, here’s to technology.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.