Did you know that there are nearly 5 million English Language Learner (ELL) public school students in the United States?
And that number is always on the rise.
With so many students of all different ages yearning to learn English, using technology is key to creating a productive and exciting learning environment for everyone.
Technology has long played an integral role in education.
Traditional pencil, paper and chalkboard teaching methods are no longer enough to captivate and educate the modern student.
While this isn’t necessarily a call to make your ELL classroom ultra high-tech, using technology for ELL students can be highly beneficial.
Language learning websites, apps, online games and visual and audio media can take your lesson plans and your ELL students to the next level. Digital resources can also save you hours during your lesson planning sessions.
Using technology for ELL students and for yourself is a win-win.
So, let’s get digital!
Why Technology Is an Effective Learning Tool for ELL Students
Technology allows students to progress and practice at different paces.
ELL technology enables teachers to create a learning environment that is conducive for all different levels of language learners. No two students are the same, and for this reason, it is often difficult to offer practice material that is effective for the classroom as a whole.
The ability to digitally track your students’ progress, strengths and weaknesses is also a useful tool when planning lessons and activities for your class.
Technology provides additional opportunities to reinforce newly acquired language skills.
Practice makes perfect! Learning and mastering a new language takes a lot of repetition. Technology for ELL students makes it easier for students to practice what they have learned in the classroom in several ways.
Technology presents real-life scenarios and interactions.
There are so many fantastic opportunities for ELL students to use technology as a means of exposure to real-life situations in English.
This could be through movies, television shows, video clips and even face-to-face interactions with apps like Skype and FaceTime.
Technology introduces challenging new concepts visually and audibly.
ELL students can only take away so much from textbooks and worksheets. Pencil and paper resources can be very limiting. When you introduce challenging new concepts using technology in the classroom, you are more likely to hold your students’ attention.
ELL technology can also help you explain difficult concepts in easier-to-understand ways using visual and audio resources.
Technology makes the classroom more engaging and exciting.
Let’s face it—the students of today have grown up in the fast pace and instant gratification era of technology. There are so many amazing ELL technology resources you can use to spice up your lessons and activities that even the most technology-savvy students will be blown away.
You have the power and the tools to make learning fun. Learning English shouldn’t feel like a chore!
Technology brings color to otherwise black and white lessons.
Learning another language opens up our big, bright and beautiful world. To be able to communicate in more than one language is invaluable. However, there are parts of every language that aren’t the most exciting to learn. (We’re looking at you, grammar!)
When lessons are dull, the likelihood that your students will retain that information is less than if they are genuinely engaged and inspired by what you are teaching them.
Technology for ELL Students: 5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Tech-savvy
1. Utilize language learning websites
There is a wealth of worksheets, lessons plans, premade flashcards, cut-outs, mini books, games and other types of ELL resources for teachers available online. Many of these resources are even free!
As an ELL teacher, utilizing language learning websites will save you so much time in your classroom planning.
Using English was established in 2002 to be a website that specializes in English language learning. This useful site is for both teachers and students alike. You will find an impressive selection of quizzes, tests, handouts, lesson plans and reference materials to use in your ELL classroom here.
Dave’s ESL Café has long been a go-to site for ELL teachers and students around the world. The “For Students” section of the website includes a help center, quizzes and student forum, as well as interactive tools for mastering English slang, pronunciation, idioms and phrasal verbs.
2. Access apps
It is astounding how many different apps are available these days! It seems like there is an app for everything, and this includes for teaching ELL students.
Apps are simple and often free tools for reinforcing lessons, topics and specific themes that you are covering or have covered in your ELL classroom. You can also use apps for warm-up and homework activities.
The most important thing: Before you plan these activities, make sure everyone in your class has a smartphone. If not, you can always pair up students so there is at least one phone for each duo.
Because most ELL classrooms are made up of a diverse population of learners, using apps is a great way to ensure that you are offering your students a diverse selection of learning tools.
Speak English Like an American (iOS/Android) is a useful app for intermediate and advanced ELL students. Learning formal English is one thing, but being able to converse informally is another.
The English language, like all languages, is riddled with idioms and slang. The Speak English Like an American app can help your ELL students take their English outside of the classroom and into friendly, informal conversations with native English speakers.
English First High Flyers (iOS) is a free app that helps your students increase and improve their vocabulary. With audio and visual support, your students will master 1,000 essential English words.
Not only will your students acquire new vocabulary every time they access the app, but they will also improve their listening and pronunciation skills.
3. Listen to podcasts
To prepare your students for the real world using their newly acquired language, you must expose them to the language being spoken by native speakers. This can be especially challenging if you are teaching in a place where the language you are teaching is not widely spoken.
Fortunately, there is a seemingly endless collection of podcasts out there.
Podcasts are highly effective listening and comprehension tools for ELL students. There are podcasts for all different interests, ages and language levels.
Part of learning a new language is training your ear. Podcasts are excellent training tools. Podcasts can be used in place of other types of listening and comprehension activities that you might use in your classroom.
You can even break podcast episodes into sections. For example, have your students listen to the first half of an episode one day and complete comprehension activities, then do it all over again with the second half in the next class period.
Voice of America: Learning English is a brilliant podcast for English language learners. These podcasts cover a wide range of topics, from technology and culture to lifestyle and health. There is a variety of programs to choose from, including “Words and Their Stories” and “Let’s Learn English.”
6 Minute English from BCC is a must-listen-to podcast for your ELL students. Each episode includes two people speaking at a slightly slower pace than a native English speaker would typically speak so that it is easier for the English language learner to follow.
The bonus of this podcast series is that each episode is complete with a transcript, vocabulary list and question of the week. The question of the week makes for a great warm-up activity for your class time!
4. Play online games
Young children and teenagers in particular love playing games on their devices. However, many adult learners also enjoy playing language learning games.
Using games is a fun way to teach and reinforce essential language skills and concepts. Games use rewards, which can make learning fun and competitive.
You can use games regularly in your classroom, or reward students for good behavior or high test averages by letting them play these games at the end of class. Games always make for excellent reward systems!
There are games to reinforce vocabulary, reading, writing, listening and speaking skill for all levels and ages of ELL students. Online games are a sneaky way to help your students practice what they’ve learned without them feeling like they are doing more work.
ESL Games is your one-stop shop for English learning games. Here you will find both online and printable games for the whole spectrum of English learners.
Pogo has well over 100 free online games for ELL students. You will find word games, puzzles, arcade games and board games on this fun website.
5. Show films and TV programs
There are few, if any, ELL students who would be opposed to watching a movie or TV show in class!
Airing films and shows in the classroom is a wonderful way to expose your ELL students to native English speakers. The visual component of a movie or TV show also helps ELL students comprehend what is being said.
Videos are carefully annotated for students. They’ll see definitions, example sentences and associated images for each vocabulary word. When you select a word, FluentU will even show you other videos that use this word! This is great if you’re teaching a few select words in a lesson and want to enforce that vocab with multiple videos.
iSL Collective has a vast collection of free movie and TV show worksheets for ELL students. If you are going to show a movie or TV episode in class, you will want an accompanying worksheet to make sure that your students are getting the most out of this learning activity. You will find 88 free movie and TV show worksheets here.
The ability to converse in the English language is a gift. As an ELL teacher, you are the giver of that great gift!
What better way to present the gift of language than by using technology for ELL students?
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She earned her master’s degree in Education in 2012 from Nova Southeastern University. She taught for four years before switching paths to pursue a full-time career as a writer. You can find samples of her work on parkerjenn.com.
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