Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2009

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This is the third edition in this particular series of “The Best…” lists.  The first two were:

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too

The Best Fun Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2008

To introduce this list, I’m just going to quote from the first one:

These are websites that were not designed with education in mind, but which can easily be used for learning purposes — particularly, though not exclusively, for English language development. I only hope that creators of “educational” content can learn from the qualities that make these sites so engaging.

I’m not listing these sites in any order of preference.

Here are my picks for The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2009:

DANCING:

Eternal Moonwalk is a Michael Jackson tribute site where people upload short videos of them doing a moonwalk…that connects to all the other moonwalks people have uploaded. It’s almost impossible to stop watching.  You could certainly have students use English to plan their dance and then describe it. I know it’s a stretch but, as I said earlier, it’s so much fun!

OPTICAL ILLUSIONS:

In my classes I help students learn academic vocabulary. One new word has been “interpretation” and its various forms. I usually show students several optical illusions that can be found at various sites. Then, they have short conversations with other students about what they see:

“What is your interpretation of what’s in the picture?”

“It seems to me that there’s a ……”

Here are two new resources for illusions that can be used in this way:

83 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena

Incredible Illusions

PHOTOS:

Students can pick some of these photos to write about or describe, or they can be used in class as part of the  Picture Word Inductive Model teaching strategy:

Off the wall: The astonishing 3D murals painted on the sides of buildings by a trompe l’oeil artist

20 Awesome 3D Pavement Illusions

The World’s Ugliest Dog Show

Extreme Ironing: shirt-ironing the hard way

Here’s a TIME Magazine slideshow on wild human-powered flying machines.

There, I Fixed It

VIDEOS:

Fun videos are always useful.  If you have a computer projector, students can watch them using the “Back-To-The-Screen” activity (read how to do it at The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL).  Or, if you don’t have a projector, you can do a similar activity if you’re at a computer lab.  Or you can just have everybody watch the same video and write about it as a class.

Most of these videos are from YouTube (which is likely blocked by school content filters), but some of them are worth using a converter to download into your laptop or a service like EdublogsTV or Watch Now to show to students. They’re great for English Language Learners – short, engaging videos that students can then write about and discuss.

Here are my video suggestions:

Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill April 2009 shows some amazing bicycle acrobatics, though one hopes it wouldn’t give students any ideas…

The PEN Story is an incredible “stop motion” movie using thousands of photos to show a man’s life story — in three minutes.

You can also pick from 21 Stunning Examples Of Creatively Done Stop Motion Animations.

The Top Ten Odd-Looking Pets from Animal Planet are always winners with students.

Here’s a video of the most fun wedding entrance — ever!

Here are two videos — one of two “talking” cats making their actual sounds, and another of them with dubbed-in conversation. After showing students both, a fun lesson would to have ELL’s develop their own version of the dialogue.

The Flawless – Dance Act – Britains Got Talent 2009 is pretty amazing to watch.

This video of a surprise musical performance in a train station is a fun one.

This next one wouldn’t work for ELL’s because of the fast dialogue, but it would be good for advanced or native speakers. It’s called The Figurative Language Bomb, and it would be a fun introduction to…figurative language.

ART:

This strange tool lets you create a painting with your voice.  Your mouse is the brush and your voice the ink when you create an online painting.  Then send it to the site’s gallery to get a unique url address to post on a student or teacher website/blog,  and then give a description.

Just click and start making a drawing with virtual sand, then save your creation to the gallery.  Again, students can post it and then provide an oral or text description.

Create a star constellation that moves with Rule The Stars.  Then email and post the url to your creation, along with a description.

Make a snowflake, describe it, and post the link on a student/teacher blog or website.

At Connect The Dots, you can upload any photo and easily turn it into a “connect the dot” puzzle that can be shared and solved by others.  It seems to me it has extremely limited educational value — I guess Beginning English Language Learners could use it as a fun vocabulary-building activity since you have to type in the category your photo fits in.  But — educational or not — it’s a pretty neat web tool!

VIRAL MARKETING:

I’ve written how I use viral marketing tools with my English Language Learner students. Here are some of the ones that students have enjoyed the most:

You can become a talking Star Trek character.  Using the text-to-speech feature, choose a Star Trek character and have him/her speak, then post it on a student/teacher website.

You can turn into a talking potato With Spud Yourself! Take your own image or use one of the site’s pictures. By using the text-to-speech feature, English Language Learners can develop their language skills in a fun way through writing and listening. You can post the link to your talking potato on a teacher or student blog/website.

Made For Each Other is yet another weird example of viral marketing that can be used as a fun and useful language-learning tool (you can read about how I use these applications here).  I guess it’s connected to advertising to Frito-Lay in some way (though it’s hard to tell how). It’s too strange to explain, other than to say you connect two creatures to one another and then write a love note for one of them to give to the other. You are then given the link to that note that can be posted on a student or teacher website.  If you have a few minutes left to kill in the computer lab, and you want to give your ELL students a short and engaging writing task, this would certainly be an option.

Purina has created a fun little online tool where users can learn to speak…dog.  You type in words to finish the sentence “Learn how to say ‘I’m _________________’ in dog.” Then, a dog does an action showing how they communicate that feeling.  It would be a fun way for English Language Learners to practice some vocabulary if you have a few minutes left to “kill” in the computer lab.

ONLINE VIDEO GAMES:

I’ve written about how I use online video games as language-development activities with my students.

Here are a couple of particularly good ones that came out this year:

Griswold The Goblin includes audio supported text and a lot of fun. Here’s the Walkthrough.

The Ballad of Ketinetto is an online video game excellent for English Language development. Here’s the Walkthrough.

The same creators of the last game also have an excellent seventeen part series of games called Esklavos, several which have come out in the past year.   You can find the Walkthroughs to the series here.  That same Walkthrough page also has links to all the games, but because I think it’s more likely that the site featuring the walkthroughs will be blocked by school content filters, I’m going to list direct links to all the games here (except for the first one, which is in Spanish only):

Feedback, of course, is always welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

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