One of my most popular posts is The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels.” It’s filled with free sources where you can get the similar versions of the same text that have been edited for different levels of readers. For some reason, however, I have neglected to put the modified readings from the great British Council on that list, and I am fixing that oversight now. They have a number of readings in three or four levels each. They seem to have them in two different places — stories in three levels here and four levels here.
Ways to Help ELLs Learn Pronunciation is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns. In it, Wendi Pillars, Paul Boyd-Batstone, Ivannia Soto, Judie Haynes, Diane Mora, Eugenia Mora-Flores, and many readers offer suggestions on how to help English Language Learners develop good pronunciation skills.
The online publication Quartz published a piece about an amazing new interactive ad campaign that encourages people to repeat phrases as part of an online video story. Fine, you might be thinking, so what’s the big deal? Well, the recorded phrases then go into a VoiceBank that supplies audio for people who must use a device to communicate. Can you think of many other things that could be more motivating to an English Language Learner to try to get as close to perfect pronunciation as that? All you have to do is go to the Voice of Goldivox and follow the story along. The phrases are short and very accessible. I wouldn’t use it with Beginners, but would think Intermediates and Advanced could do it with a little practice. Here’s a sample video, though you have to to the Goldivox link to watch it all and record:
NPR has been run a three-part series on how “gifted” English Language Learners, particularly Latinos, are overlooked for admittance into advanced classes in schools. Of course, that’s no surprise to most of us — it’s common that even many teachers confuse not speaking English with not being intelligent. It’s great that this problem is finally getting some public attention. We’re lucky at our school that some of us who also teach English Language Learner classes also teach courses in the International Baccalaureate program so, for instance, I recruited four of my ELL students for my IB Theory of Knowledge class this year and have twelve slated to attend next year. Why Gifted Latinos Are Often Overlooked And Underserved is the link to one of the stories.
Reader Susan recommended I check-out the Big Learners site, and I’m glad she did. It has thousands of worksheets for elementary grades that you can print-out for free with no registration required. The English ones I looked at seemed pretty decent and could certainly be used with Beginning and Low-Intermediate English Language Learners to reinforce concepts that have been initially taught in more engaging ways. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Free ESL/EFL Hand-Outs & Worksheets.
Let’s Learn English is a new course for English learners. It’s a series of 52 lessons with online resources, student printables and teacher lesson plans and is from the Voice of America.
WordSift came out several years ago as a great tool to help English Language Learners develop academic vocabulary knowledge. Mary Ann Zehr wrote an excellent description of it at Ed Week, and I put it on The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary. It was created by Stanford Professor Kenji Hakuta. Then, it seemed to disappear. I started getting requests from educators for alternatives. Now, it’s back! WordSift 2 has launched. Paste in a text, and you get all sorts of stuff in return — word clouds sorted in various categories, images of words to enhance understanding, sentences showing the words in context, word webs, and more!
ASCD’s monthly “Educational Leadership” magazine is usually great, but it was even more special in February with a special issue titledHelping ELLs Excel.Usually, I provide a brief review of a few of the articles that aren’t behind a paywall and which I think are particularly worth reading. However, I’d recommend you go and read all the ones that are freely available AND pay a few bucks to read all the others (if you aren’t already a subscriber).
I’ve been using this free app a lot in my classroom since that time, and thought I’d share a short and simple video we made in the classroom today.
We’re working on a persuasive essay and, as part of the study, have studied advertising. This particular lesson came from The WRITE Institute, and students had to find ads using six different persuasive methods.
They made a poster of their findings, and then made a short presentation. Recording them with KnowMe was so easy!
All I had to do was first take quick photos of the posters with my Smartphone. Then, I went to the app, tapped the photo, and it recorded the presentation as long as I had my finger on the picture. I took my finger off it when the first group was done; then, tapped the photo of the second group during their presentation. I then immediately emailed the link to myself and within a minute was able to show it to the class. Later at home I saved the video to my computer to upload it to our class blog and here – and no hassle with YouTube Safety Mode restrictions!
And it’s super-easy to integrate video with photos if you want to!
Here are the tech tools and resources I use most often with my students (not listed in any particular order):
I’ve called SAS Curriculum Pathways the best online ed site out there, and I continue to feel that way. It has free online interactive lessons for all subjects, and I particularly like their ones for Social Studies. Students complete the lesson and then email it the teacher. It’s super-easy for everybody to use, and very high-quality.
Lingohut is a free and accessible bi-and-multi-lingual language-learning site that my students like a lot.
Edublogs hosts all my class blogs, including ones for U.S. History, World History, Theory of Knowledge and a combination English For ELLs & Geography one (you can access all of them at the link). In some cases, they contain almost my entire curriculum, including downloadable hand-outs. Students use them regularly when we visit the computer lab. In light of the insane YouTube Safety Mode (see The Best Ways To Deal With YouTube’s Awful Safety Mode), blogs are particularly useful as hosting sites after downloading videos that would be blocked by the Safety Mode.
YouTube is a great source for videotaped student presentations and projects. Though I often don’t make the video links “public,” you can see most of them embedded at our class blog. Students watching themselves can be a great self-evaluating exercise, and the best TOK presentations function as models for future classes. I especially like using the Shadow Puppet app these days which lets students provide audio narration to a visual without the added pressure of having themselves appear on camera. I also do the same with Vine or Instagram videos and then upload them to YouTube (see The Best Resources For Learning To Use The Video Apps “Vine” & Instagram).
I’ve written a lot about the free language-learning app and site Duolingo, including their virtual classrooms. Students love it, though their English-learning levels seem to plateau fairly soon. I’d love it if they made it more useful to intermediate learners at some point.
Raz-Kids (annual cost of $100 for a 36 student classroom) provides an excellent selection of engaging books that students can see and hear, along with comprehension quizzes. They’re great for Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners.
Reading A-Z (annual cost of $100) is a sister site to Raz-Kids and provides hard-copy masters of the Raz-Kids books and more. They’re great for reproduction so you can have multiple copies of the same books for students. They’re leveled, and convenient for differentiation.
The WRITE Institute, as I’ve said many times, is the best resources out there for teaching writing to English Language Learners. You can purchase excellent unit plans for $20 a piece here here.
I really like the English In Action series as a “workbook” for students to use at the beginning of class for fifteen minutes and for homework. It covers the basics and is set-up for students to feel successful.
America’s Story is a very good “consumable” textbook for ELL U.S. History. My U.S. History class blog is organized along the books’ chapters.
ACCESS World History is a very accessible text that comes with a student workbook. My World History class blog is organized along the book’s chapters.
World View is a two volume consumable Geography textbook for English Language Learners. I like it a lot, but it appears that the publisher has gone out of business, and I’m not sure if another one is going to pick it up. I hope they do. But, just in case, I’d love to hear recommendations for other ELL-friendly Geography textbooks. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma by Richard van de Lagemaat is the TOK textbook we use. I know there’s a newer edition, but our school can’t afford it yet, and I think this version still works well.
I’ve written A LOT about the advantages of inductive over deductive learning, and how I also use both in my classroom (You can see many posts here). The British Council shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.
To Get Fluent in a New Language, Think in Pictures is from The Wall Street Journal. It might be behind the Journal’s paywall. However, if you do an internet search for the headline and click on it from the search results, you’ll gain access to it. It’s a quirk in how The Journal handles its paywall.
The Disabled Access Friendly Site is for teachers of English Language Learners and “provides teachers with free teaching material that can be used in class, for projects or examination practice, but at the same time stimulates students to put themselves in the shoes of someone with a mobility disability, for a better understanding of their needs and feelings.”
Here’s a video of a simple activity my Beginning ELL students did to learn to tell time in English. They created a poster explaining their daily schedule and then explained to the class and on video. You can see more examples at our class blog.
I learned about the free Shadow Puppet Edu (what appears to be a premium version of the more commercial Shadow Puppet app) through an article in ASCD Educational Leadership, and am very, very impressed. It has a bunch of bells and whistles that I haven’t even explored yet but, at its core, it’s an iPhone/iPad app that lets you pick photos and super-easily (and I do mean easily) lets you add audio narration to each photo and create a slideshow.
My extraordinarily talented teacher colleague at our high school, Dana Dusbiber, along with the extraordinarily talented bilingual aide Alma Avalos, teach a class of adult English Language Learners once-a-week at our school in the evening. With support from the University of California at Davis, their students have published a “must-read” book that I’m sure will be a model for ESL classes around the country and the world. And the University has made it available free! You can download an eBook version here. The stories in it are so moving and so well-written. You couldn’t ask for more engaging, and better-written, models for student-writing.
Dreamreader is a new reading site for English Language Learners created by Neil Millington, an English teacher in Japan.
Here’s how he describes it:
There are 25 lessons on the site right now and they cover a variety of topics. I’ll be updating with more free lessons on a regular basis, and by the end of the year I intend to have over 50 free readings on the site. Teachers can have their students read the articles online and do the quizzes or, if they want to use them in their class, they can just download the PDFs and print/copy them. There are also downloadable vocabulary worksheet PDFs that students can use for vocabulary study. The lessons are all graded across a wide range of levels (from beginner through to advanced) and I’ve done my best to develop them by using academic-based criteria (JACET 8000, Flesch Kincaid, etc.) and testing them out with EFL learners. I am planning on adding feedback videos to the site too, and hopefully they will be up and ready next month. I hope that students and teachers will find the site useful.
I’m quite impressed with what he’s done, and I suspect you will be, too….
FluencyTutor For Google is a web app only usable with a Chrome browser that provides a large selection of leveled reading passages that students can read, record, and store on Google Drive. Teachers can then listen at their convenience and correct and note students’ reading fluency. The reading passages provide quite a few supportive features that make them particularly accessible to English Language Learners.
Most of the features are free, but teachers have to pay $99 per year for some “dashboard” services like tracking student progress.
If I was teaching an online class of motivated adult English Language Learners, I could see FluencyTutor’s whole package as an excellent tool.
However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend a classroom teacher using it as a way to track a readers’ progress. I have the same concerns about using it for that as I have about Literably, a web tool in the same vein — having students read to us is as much about building the relationship (if not more so) than getting the data.
On the other hand, though, a site like FluencyTutor could be a super tool for students to practice on their own and compare their reading progress during a school year. It’s less about them tracking exactly how many words they read each minute and more about them seeing how their reading prosody — expressiveness, smoothness — improves. Just having the free features should be enough for accomplishing that goal.
Readers might be interested in three class blogs I maintain for English Language Learners:
Julie Goldman, the Coordinator of the great WRITE Institute that creates curriculum for English Language Learners, has written an excellent article on “Research-Based Writing Practices For English Language Learners,” which you can download for free here.
I plan on have students read this piece and respond to this writing prompt:
How does Khalil Tawil suggest the United States should respond to refugees? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? To support your position, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings.
Education Week has published one of their typically excellent special reports, and the title of this one is Next Draft: Changing Practices In Writing Instruction. It’s composed of eight separate articles, including “As Teachers Tackle New Student-Writing Expectations, Support Is Lacking,” “Remodeling the Workshop: Lucy Calkins on Writing Instruction Today,” and “Students in My Math Classes Next Year Will Do a Lot of Writing. Here’s Why.”