Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2012 — Part One

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This list focuses on sites that ELL students would use directly. Of course, many other sites on my other lists can also be used effectively with ELL’s.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2011

The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2010

The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2009

The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2008

The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2007

The Best Web 2.0 Applications for ESL/EFL Learners — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2012 — So Far:

GCFLearnFree.org is on a number of “The Best…” lists because of all its great sites and tools. They have recently updated their Career Exploration page with interactives and videos. It’s looks very good.

Speaking of  GCF Learn Free…

GCF Learn Free’s reading site has been on several “The Best..” lists for its simple reading instruction, which is excellent for English Language Learners and new readers.  They’ve kept that site, and have also added several multilingual features to specifically help ELL’s. You can visit their Learn English site here. They plan on adding many new activities there in the coming months.

ProLiteracy has quite a few very accessible interactives designed to help people prepare for the U.S. Citizenship test, and also has a lot of info for citizenship teachers.

Some, but not all, of the resources here are accessible to ELLs: The Best Resources On The Obama Administration’s Plan To Partially Implement The DREAM Act

Croak.it lets you easily record a thirty second message with a computer microphone. You then get a unique url address that you can share. No registration is necessary.

Voice Of America has long been known for its many English-learning features, especially what they called “Special English.” However, this year they dramatically redesigned and expanding their offerings. And, boy oh boy, they are terrific!

First, they now have a very attractive page where you can access all of their leveled interactive exercises, as well as their “Special English” news stories.

Their Go English site has long had specific excellent English-learning bilingual programs in Chinese, Farsi, Russian and Indonesian. But now they’ve also added Vietnamese.

The VOA Newsroom videos have all been integrated with English Central, which, in my opinion, is the best site on the web for learning English. What was particularly surprising to me, though, was that you don’t have to register on English Central in order to watch, listen, and practice speaking (and get graded on it) with all the videos. Maybe that’s the way English Central has been all along, or maybe its a new development just for VOA, but I had always assumed the speaking feature was only available once you sign-in to the site. Not having to register just makes it that more accessible.

And they also have a brand new Learning English main site.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff….

The Smithsonian, in conjunction with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has unveiled Preparing For The Oath. Not only is it now probably the best site out there for preparing people to take the U.S. Citizenship exam, it’s also just a great site to learn about U.S. History. Audio is available to support all the text, and it includes a practice exam.

Paws In Jobland is an excellent interactive site for young people to explore careers.It’s designed for younger students, and is also very accessible for English Language Learners of all ages.

The British Council unveiled a new site called Learn English Teens. It’s targeting English Language Learners who are….teenagers. Learn English Teens has some particularly good games.

The British Council has just unveiled a new feature on their site called Speak And Spell. It has lots of interactives.

Oxford Owl is designed as a support site for parents to use with their children and help with reading and math. It’s great activities, though, would make it a nice addition to work during the school day, too. It has tons of online ebooks that provide audio support for the text, along with interactive follow-up exercises. It has plenty of math games and even math ebooks.

BBC Learning For Adults is a treasure trove of very accessible resources for English Language Learners and others to learn in multiple subject areas. I’m, obviously, particularly interested in the site’s English activities, and it doesn’t disappoint. I’m especially impressed with its collection of games.

Many teachers of English Language Learners know about The Language Guide, which is an excellent picture dictionary on the Web that has audio, too (it also has versions for other languages). I’ve used it for years, but didn’t realize until a student pointed it out to me recently that each page has an “options” feature which provides listening and speaking quizzes. I’m not sure how long that option has been there — perhaps I’ve just missed it for years…

The World Stories Project is “a growing collection of traditional and new stories representing the 21 most commonly spoken languages by children across the UK. These stories can be read, listened to and downloaded in English and their original language.” It also has an extensive collection of teacher resources, including lesson plans. And it’s all free!

I’m a big proponent of the Picture Word Inductive Model as a strategy for English Language Learners to develop reading and writing skills (I describe it in detail in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership in my article, Get Organized Around Assets). It begins with the teacher labeling items in thematic photos with the help of students. The webtool Thinglink could be a great deal to help ELL’s maximize the advantages of this instructional strategy. Thinglink lets you upload or grab an image or video off the web and annotate items with the image or video super-easily. It basically looks like a photo in the Picture Word Inductive Model, just online. Here’s an image I annotated in the PWIM style (you can embed images, too) Just put your cursor on the photo (if you’re reading this on an RSS Reader, you’ll have to click through to the actual blog post):

Students can pick photos online or upload ones that are reinforcing the theme we’re studying, and label the items. In fact, you can even choose to have your photos/videos be able to be annotated by others, too!

Draw A Stickman was on The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2011 list. Here is how I described it there:

Draw a Stickman is an amazing adventure where you…draw a stick and he comes to life. You’re given instructions about what to draw and when, and then the stickman uses what you have drawn. It’s an excellent language learning opportunity for ELL’s and fun for everybody. You can also write your own message that shows at the end of the activity.

The site has  now added an Episode 2.

The quality of online translation systems is obviously dicey, but they can be very useful to teachers, students and parents. As I’ve previously posted, Google Translate (the most popular tool) has been found best for longer pieces, while Microsoft and Yahoo appear to be best for text with less than 140 characters.

Of course, none of these tools are useful for the huge number of languages that are not supported by them.

Hmong, the primary language spoken by many students and families here in Sacramento and elsewhere, has been in that list of non-supported languages.

Until this year.

Now, with a push from the Hmong community
 in Fresno, California,Microsoft Translator (also known as Bing Translator), has just begun supporting the Hmong language.

Here’s how Microsoft describes the process
 that was used to add Hmong to the system, and the ability to use a similar system to add others:

“All these years, the language has been preserved, despite efforts to eradicate it,” said Will Lewis, a Microsoft program manager who worked on the Hmong translator. “Now, the irony is that in the United States, a country where they’re free to speak it, the thing that never happened in Hmong history is happening; some children are not learning Hmong.”

The translator uses a statistical model to find patterns and assign probability to words in context. Since November, when the project started, community members and researchers have fed a computer with hundreds of documents in the two languages, as well as with entries from an online Hmong-English dictionary. Since dictionaries offer no context, community members entered sentences for each word.

A similar concept could be applied to benefit other minority and indigenous languages, most of which aren’t covered by automatic translators such as Microsoft’s Bing Translator or Google Translate, Lewis said. Less than 100 languages — mostly the dominant, widely-used ones — are currently covered, out of the more than 7,000 languages world-wide.

Though I wish they had a different name (I’m not fond of focusing attention to IQ tests and scores), Big IQ Kids does look like a good free site for students to practice spelling. It provides the word in the context of a sentence, provides synonyms, and even the “rules.” Plus, it provides audio support for all written text.

Turtle Diary is designed for very young children, and its fifteen talking stories would be very accessible to Beginning English Language Learners. It has a number of other tools on the site, but the stories really stand-out. They seem to be free, though it appears you have pay to access other premium content.

Simple English Videos was recently begun by veteran ESL/EFL teacher Vicki Hollett. You can read her description of the free site here. The engaging videos, most which appear to be movie trailers, have “clickable” transcripts.

Resources from GCFLearnFree are on more “The Best…” lists that you can shake a stick at, and today they’ve unveiled another new great one. It’s focused on Reading Comprehension, and has 140 different texts, all with audio support, along with questions related to them.

This year, it seems like the fashionable web tool to develop is one that will annotate images. I’ve posted about several of them at
The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons, and there are others that didn’t make that list.

However, Richard Byrne discovered what might be the best one of them all. It’s called Szoter. You can read about it at Richard’s blog and see a video there (however, at the time of this posting, Vimeo appears to be off-line completely).

Using the online version of Szoter doesn’t require registration, you can upload or grab images off the web (just insert its url address), and the final product looks just like an image would look like using the Picture Word Inductive Model (see my previously mentioned “The Best” list or my book to learn more about that instructional strategy). You can link to it or embed it, as I have done here (as long as you leave some white space around the image, the labels will still show up when you embed it):

http://i.szoter.com/32e80add2a641227
Students are going to love using this!

Nik Peachey sent out a tweet about a site called Voscreen. After signing-up and choosing your native language from a list of nine, you’re shown a series of very short video TV/movie video clips where a phrase is said. Then, you have a choice of either clicking “I understand” or “Show Me The Script.” If you clip “Show Me The Script,” you’re shown two versions in your native language, and you have to choose which one is correct. Click on one and it shows if it’s the right one or not and then you can move to the next clip (it’s unclear what happens if you click on “I understand” because it doesn’t appear to be working.It has other bells and whistles, but I couldn’t figure out what they were, and there is no FAQ. It didn’t appear that the video clips were from YouTube, which would be nice because that means they might get by the student content filter at our school.

Feedback is welcome.

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You might also want to explore the 900 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

9 Comments

  1. Thanks Larry ! As usual your explorations are really inspiring. Thanks for making our lives much easier. I always find something I can use…And I share your findings with many other people. I can’t pay you back so I pay forward. Hugs from Argentina.

  2. Pingback: The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2012 — So Far | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… | ESL Chiayi

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  4. I just finished taking some in-service training in Mexico City and would like to recommend 2 of the sites that were introduced: livebinders.com and prezi.com
    Both are free, easy to learn to use since they have tutoring intro videos. I’m 67 and still learning.
    Thanks for your sharing.

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  6. That was a great post.
    Some of the sites are completely new for me and will be of great help to prepare my classes. I teach English to adults in Spain and I’m always looking for interesting resources to make them more attractive.

    Thanks, Larry!

    Elena

  7. What a post! Thank you!

  8. Great help.I would like to add up one more free online English learning site http://www.youtube.com/user/twominenglish i had a great advantage from the site.I want students or learners like me make use of it to have a great knowledge.

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