Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

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'Students working on class assignment in computer lab' photo (c) 2006, Michael Surran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

(You might also be interested in The Best MATH Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress)

I know “The Best…” list has a very awkward title, but I couldn’t think of a better one.

In our Family Literacy Project we provide home computers and Internet access to immigrant families. Eighty percent of household members spend at least one hour each day (many spend considerably more time) on our website. Three of these seven hours each week need to be spent on one of several websites that act as sort of “virtual classrooms” — students and their family members enter them with a password and we can check online to see how much time they have spent on them.

I thought readers might find it useful to see which ones we’ve determined to be the best for kind of program. I don’t think there’s much need to use them in school with so many other options available, but they are excellent for homework. The sites we use are easy for the teacher to set-up, very easy for the English Language Learner student to sign-in, and provide a variety of engaging content suitable for all levels, including native-English speakers.

There are sites we use, and which I think stand-out when compared to similar web applications:

Raz-Kids provides a large number of “talking books” at multiple levels that speak-the-text at the same time the words are highlighted. There’s a wide range of fiction and expository text, and is suitable for Beginning and Intermediate readers. It costs $90 annually for one classroom of students.

I Know That has tons of engaging learning exercises and game. It costs $200 to sign-up for a classroom. Not only can you then monitor student progress, but they also can avoid all the annoying ads on the site.

English For All is a series of excellent captioned videos and follow-up activities related to life skills. It’s most appropriate to high school-age and above English Language Learners. is available at no cost.

I’m adding the Virtual Grammar Lab to list.  It has over 2400 grammar activities, and teachers can create a free account so that they can track student progress.

The final site I want to include on list is the newest. Unfortunately, it’s only available to California students, though teachers in other areas might want to explore it and potentially replicate it in their own communities.(NOTE: Because of California’s budget crisis, it is also no longer accepting new students, at least for now).

The California Community Colleges have developed a phenomenal website to specifically help English Language Learners prepare for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), the test that all students have to pass in order to receive a high school diploma.

It’s interactive with image, text, and audio support, and is very accessible to Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners.

Now, I don’t believe students should have to pass an exit exam to obtain a high school diploma. I think there are several other ways that are more fair and more effective in determining if a student has gained academic competency.

I also don’t believe in “teaching to the test.” I think that the fact we don’t follow that methodology and, instead, concentrate on developing life-long learners is the reason for our school’s success.

Despite those concerns, I think program, directed by Pam Thompson and free to California students, is by far the best online program out there for reinforcing academic English and Math skills with Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners.

I’m adding one more to list — PBS Kids Island. Once parents/teachers sign-up their children/students, users can practice many of the literacy activities on the PBS website and parents/teachers can monitor their progress. It’s designed for three-to-five year olds now, and will be expanding to those six-to-eight soon. It would be a good site for Beginning English Language Learners.

Here’s another “add-on”– First 55 is a website designed to teach the “first 55″ words someone is supposed to learn to read (I assume, though can’t be sure, that they chose the fifty-five most common sight words).  It allows parents or teachers to add students and then be able to check on what they’ve done.

U.S.A Learns is another addition.  Please read my post about it for more information.

Spellbee! is a spelling game where, after you register, you choose a player to compete with in a spelling contest. Each player chooses from a variety of words and challenges their opponent online to correctly spell the word that is spoken to them in the context of a sentence.

It’s a pretty neat concept and, though the text-to-speech software it uses is definitely not top-tier, it’s still a game students would enjoy playing and would be accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.

It’s quite easy for players to register very quickly. There’s also a slightly more complicated registration process that students and teachers can use in order for teachers to monitor student progress.

Kubbu was brought to my attention by Dan Sackin, an English teacher in Thailand. Teachers can easily create a number of online exercises for students to complete, and you can easily keep track of how they do. It’s free for one teacher and up to thirty students. Here’s an example of something Dan created for his students.

My Testbook looks like a great addition to list. It lets students study math, science and English.

English Central was tied for the number-one ranking in The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2009. David Deubelbeiss has posted a very thorough post about the site titled English Central – Bringing “voice” and output to learning English. I’d strongly encourage you to read it — I don’t feel any need to “reinvent the wheel.” A quick description is that it’s a free video site for English Language Learners, lets users listen to parts of the video, then lets them repeat what the characters says and compares it to the original. You get graded on how well you do. It has even more features, but you can read David’s post or check out the site directly. The other great thing about it is that the videos are all appropriate for the classroom, unlike several other ESL video sites that have come online recently. It’s now gotten even better. Teachers can now register their classes and monitor their students’ work — for free.

Zondle is a pretty darn impressive for online learning games. It has tons of content in different subjects, and, if you can’t find what you need, it’s easy to just add your own. The ingenious part is that once you pick the topic you study, you have the option of studying the info in forty different games! Plus, teachers can create their own virtual classroom and track student progress. And, it’s free.

A big thanks to Kelvin Hartell, who let me know about Study Ladder. It has impressive literacy, science and math interactives, and teachers can set-up “classrooms” to keep track of student work. Plus, it’s free!

ZooWhiz is a good — and free — Australian site with tons of interactive games and exercises for pre-school, elementary, and middle school (and for English Language Learners who are even older). Users have to register for the site, and teachers can create virtual classrooms for their students.

LearnClick lets you easily create interactive cloze (gap-fill) assessments and a virtual classroom. You can learn more about it at my post.

TED-Ed allows the creation of quizzes and monitoring of student results. Read more about it at Using TED-Ed Videos.

I’m adding two “sister sites” to list– Qwizzy’s World (for K-7) and Cram Stoppers (for 8-12). Both only provide quizzes, so they are much more limited than most of the other sites on that list. However, unlike many of the other sites I have posted about, at least the Cram Stoppers might be usable for mainstream higher grades.

Because of their limitations, however, I wouldn’t use it during the school year. I’d just include it as an option for students to use during vacations to limit the summer slide.

Duck’s Alphabet is a phonics site that’s part of WorldWorld on PBS. It’s designed for very young learners, but would also be appropriate for English Language Learners. It’s key feature is that when users sign-up, they list their parents email address and regular reports are sent to them on their child’s activity. For older ELL’s, it would seem to me that they could just put a teacher’s email address, and then teachers could see their students’ progress.

Learning 2 Spell is a new free site that provides a series of spelling tests that learners can take. Teachers or parents can enroll individual children and track their progress. There’s a limited amount of content on the site now, and there were a few bugs when I tried it, but I suspect both issues will be resolved soon.

Thanks to David Kapuler (I’d recommend you subscribe to his blog), I’ve learned about a new site called BeeClip.Edu. It lets you set-up a virtual classroom where students can create a “scrapbook” or other products using a very simple “drag-and-drop” interface. Text can also be added. One teacher with up to thirty students is free, but you have to pay if you want to add more. The teacher and other students in the class can see all the student-created products, but it doesn’t appear — at least to me — that there is any way to make links to them public. I’ve sent a question in to the site to see if I’m missing the feature. If there isn’t, I hope they’ll add it so that parents and others can view it. (I’ve learned you can’t link to the creations, but you can embed them).

Thanks to reader Michelle Anthony, I’ve learned about ScootPad. It lets teachers set-up virtual classrooms to monitor student progress in grad one-to-three reading and math lessons. And it’s free.

No Red Ink looks like a site that has a lot of potential. It focuses on grammar skills.

Power My Learning lets teachers create virtual classrooms and monitor student progress in multiple subjects.

SAS Curriculum Pathways has a huge amount of interactives in all subjects. In many of them, students complete the activity online, and then send their work electronically to their teacher (it can also be printed out).  And it’s free.

The teacher signs-up and is give a log-in name for all the students in a school. It doesn’t appear that students need their own individual log-in because they have to type in their name before beginning any activity. Let me tell you, that will make using site immeasurably easy — students won’t have to remember — or forget — individual passwords!

Since I’m teaching US History year, I mainly focused on those sites, and they looked pretty good and accessible to ELL’s with audio support for the text. The site, though, has resources for all subjects.

In my review of the US History sites, they all appeared engaging, though primarily geared to lower-levels of thinking, primarily comprehension and recall. But since I use the Web generally as a reinforcement tool, that works fine for me.

Review Game Zone lets teachers, and anyone, input academic questions and have them turned into a games that students can use for review. It’s free, and teachers can also monitor student use of at least some types of the games.

I’ve previously posted about Edcanvas. It’s now added some features that let teachers track a bit more of what students are doing on it. Here’s a video describing their new capabilities, and you can also read a post about it at Richard Byrne’s blog. I’m now adding it to list:

Sketchlot lets students…sketch and draw online. Teachers sign-up and can create a class roster letting students log-in, and drawings are embeddable. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

Wonderville just became available to the public and lets teachers (or parents) create virtual classrooms (for free) with content and multiple choice questions where children’s progress can be monitored. It’s focusing on K-5 content now. It looks like it might be one of the better sites of its kind, though it’s perplexing to me why they’d include a YouTube video as a key part of each lesson — since YouTube is blocked by most schools, that means students won’t be able to view them there. And it also seems strange they would pick a name — Wonderville — that’s already been used for years for a highly-respected science website. You can read more about new Wonderville at TechCrunch.

Brainscape lets you add images and allows you to record sound simply by clicking on the “Advanced Editor.” It’s easy to add both, and those features make Brainscape stand out a bit from some of the other sites out there. They also say that “For teachers (or even parents) there are also tools that allow you to track the study progress of your students subscribed to your subject!”

I’ve previously posted about LearnZillion and put it on The Best MATH Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress list. Since that time, they’ve added English Language Arts lessons, and are planning to also have ones related to Social Studies, so I’m now adding it to list, too.

eduCanon is a new site that lets teachers create video lessons relatively easily, along with have a virtual classroom where you can monitor student responses to questions you include in the lesson (thanks to TechCrunch for the tip).

Newsela provides several “levels” of the same newspaper articles, along with accompanying online quizzes, that students can read and take. Teachers can create a virtual classroom, assign articles and monitor student progress.

I wouldn’t say it promotes higher-level thinking but, of course, I would say the same thing about most (if not all) of the sites on list. They are, however, useful for reinforcement of certain skills at home or at the computer lab for an occasional change of pace.

One thing that Newsela does have going for it is the different levels of complexity it offers for the same article. That increases the odds of it being useful to English Language Learners.

One thing Newsela does not have going for it is that though it’s free for a “trial,” it clearly indicates that it will cost at some point but the only way you can find out the price is if you send them an email. That makes me a bit suspicious, especially since most of the other sites on my previously mentioned “The Best” list are free.

Nevertheless, at least until they start charging, I’ll be adding Newsela to list.

brainrush

I learned about BrainRush from Eric Sheninger. Right now, it only lets you create flash card activities, but it has plans in the near future for several other learning activities.

What’s really nice about the site is that you can create virtual classrooms and monitor student progress. You can assign students activities you or other users create. I personally prefer to also have students make their own interactives on sites like and then have classmates try them out.

Nanoogo is a new sort of blogging platform that lets teachers create virtual classes and approve student work before its published. It seems relatively easy to use, though it would be nice if you could use images grabbed off the web and not just uploaded from your computer. Being free is a nice feature :)

EDpuzzle Is An Innovative Video Site

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution

SchoolShape is an online “language lab” that is also worth a look. Some exercises are free, but most require payment. But it does look like an easy way for students to create online work (including audio recordings) for teacher review.

“ClassFlow” Is Live, Available & Free

Curriculet lets teachers assign what appears to be books in the public domain (though I might be wrong on that) and embed quizzes and questions into them. Here’s a video about it:

Curriculet Overview Demo from Curriculet on Vimeo.

“Thinglink” Announces Free Virtual Classrooms

Scribjab lets students write, draw and record bilingual online stories and books. In addition, teachers can create virtual classrooms — for free.

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, has just announced several new online education resources.

The one that really stands out for me is Sea Of Liberty. After registering for free, teachers can create virtual classrooms and student can make lots of online interactive posters and projects using Monticello resources.

Gen i Revolution is a series of financial games. Teachers can create virtual classes and monitor student progress. You can learn more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

Scrawlar lets teachers create virtual classrooms, lets students write and use a “whiteboard,” doesn’t require student email registration (just a classroom password and a student-created sign-in code, and is free. It’s also usable on laptops, desktops, tablets and phones.

“Booktrack” Lets You Read Books With Soundtracks & Make Your Own

It doesn’t get much better than that!

Thanks to Richard Byrne, I recently learned about Quill.

It provides well-done interactive exercises to reinforce grammar exercises and the real advantage is that you can create virtual classrooms to track student progress.

And, it’s free.

Here’s a video about the site:

ABC Mouse only provides content for pre-K and Kindergartners, though much of it would also be accessible and useful for Beginning English Language Learners. Though it charges families, teachers can sign-up for their own virtual classrooms. It’s also accessible for free from public libraries.

Vocabmonk focuses on building academic vocabulary. Teachers can also create their own virtual classrooms there, too.

Zaption Adds “Ready-To-Use” Video Gallery

CK-12 is a non-profit with an impressive list of educational partners. It has resources in a ton of subjects, and just unveiled a bunch of neat physics interactives.

But what’s particularly impressive to me is the ability for teachers to set-up virtual classes, create assignments, and track individual student progress on the work. It has lot of other bells-and-whistles that I’ve just begun to explore, including the ability to leave virtual post-it notes on many of their resources.

Straight Ace Learning lets you easily create virtual English and Math classrooms for elementary and middle-school students, and provides curriculum that they say is Common Core-aligned. The content isn’t very flashy, but I could easily see myself offering it to students for reinforcing online work at home.

It’s easy to sign-up, and then they send you registration information a day-or-two later.

They’re working with Quipper School, which has similar multilingual programs in several Asian nations.

“Write About” May Be The Education Site Of The Year

Bookopolis lets teachers create virtual classrooms — for free — where students can identify the book they’re reading (they just have to type in the title and the site automatically “finds” it) and write a review. There are a number of other features, too. It seems like a very useful site, though I’m less-than-thrilled with the extrinsic points and badges students can earn.

Books That Grow has a library of texts that have each been edited to be made accessible to different reading levels. And it has some other unique features — teachers can create virtual classrooms to assign and/or monitor what students what are reading and students can click on words that are new to them to see definitions and hear how they are pronounced. They are also planning on adding comprehension questions. The texts can be read on any device.

Everything is free for now, though they plan on starting to charge for some “premium” features in the 2015/16 school year.

You can register now on their sign-up page, and then they’ll contact you by email in a few hours or the next day with registration information. They won’t have a super-easy system in place until January for registering students in virtual classes, but they’ll do it for you prior to that time.

Hstry is a nice new online too for creating timelines. Richard Byrne just wrote a post about it, and I’d suggest just you visit his blog to learn more. As he points out, one of the particularly nice features of this free tool is that teachers can create virtual classrooms for their students.

Again, any and all feedback is welcome.

And, if you’ve found post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

13 Comments

  1. Great list, Larry. Here is a site I use: http://www.mytestbook.com
    Students complete pre-made online quizzes and the teacher receives the results. Lots of material.

  2. Very helpful listing! Thanks!

    If only we could have a 24/7 online, web-based, comprehensive basic skills curriculum that kids could take with them wherever they go.

    This might be a good expenditure of our rescue dollars. I know it would rescue a lot of learners.

    Tom

  3. Pingback: My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (weekly) | My Squirrelly View of Education

  4. I started using Kubbu a few weeks ago for word study purposes. I’m happy with it.

    PJVermont

  5. Love all the recommendations. I also use studyladder.co.nz for maths, reading and a range of other subjects…suitable for ages up to grade 6.

  6. Pingback: The Best MATH Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

  7. I love xtramath.org It is a free site that helps kids master their math facts. Initially, the student takes an assessment quiz of what they already have mastered as indicated by a response of 3 seconds or less. Each consecutive session is based on the outcome of the previous assessments. It takes about 5 minutes a day, provides corrective feedback, visuals for goal setting, and can be used for the whole class or set up at home by a parent.

  8. Pingback: The Best MATH Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

  9. Hi Larry, I love ScootPad for skills practice in “reading” and math. Nothing fancy or game-like for sure, but it serves a specific purpose very well. It’s technically for grades 1-3, but could certainly be used by many kids through 5th grade. I love the skills DNA it provides (e.g., I had no idea one student was struggling so much with possessive pronouns). Super detailed and informative. It offers badges within the site, but teachers or parents can set up other rewards if desired. While there are not bells and whistles, kids seem to get really excited about it, and they can connect to classmates, teachers can individualize units or give extra practice on specific weak areas with the click of a button. Free with no ads and you can set up and monitor classes.

  10. Noodle Tools scaffolds the research process and lets teachers track progress toward writing a research paper.

  11. Great list! Do check out SNAP Learning. http://www.snaplearning.co
    Teachers can access a dashboard with data for each student on how they have performed.

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