Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 23, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Edcanvas” Has Just Leaped To The Top Of My List Of Useful Web 2.0 Tools

I’ve previously posted several times about Edcanvass, and it’s already on a number of “The Best…” lists.

This week they added another great feature — the ability to easily record up to five minutes of audio on any image or text you pin to a canvass, and you can pin many items on one canvass.

I’m now adding it to yet another “The Best…” list — The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

March 7, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“Lesson Tracking in Edcanvas”

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

October 30, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“Edcanvas” Looks Like A Nifty Tool

I just learned about Edcanvas from Diana Laufenberg. It’s a nifty tool that lets you very easily add videos, images, website snapshots and files to create a grid canvass for students to access (teachers can also create virtual classes so that students could create their own). You can also type text on top of what you drag into the grid boxes — for example, instructions. A particularly nifty feature is that it provides a search box so you can search for videos, images and websites right from within the application.

It has multiple uses, but I think it’s especially good for creating Internet Scavenger Hunts and Web Quests, which I why I’m adding it to The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests.

March 27, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

March’s Best Posts From This Blog

 

I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

“I Wish You To” Lets You Easily Draw & Create Your Own Ecards

“Flow” In The Classroom

What Is Your Most Original & Successful Lesson?

“Student Engagement ‘Requires A Conversation’”

Koi & Classroom Management

My New Book, Self-Driven Learning, Is Now Available On Kindle

Here’s The Latest Reflection/Goal-Setting Sheet I’m Using With Students

“Edcanvas” Has Just Leaped To The Top Of My List Of Useful Web 2.0 Tools

See What The Poor Can Buy Around The World In “The Poverty Line”

Another Positive Review Of My New Book

Video: “Imagine a World Without Hate”

Our Students Are Not Supermen & Superwomen

Two Excellent Posts On Giving Effective Feedback

“Many Ways To Help Students Develop Academic Vocabulary”

Part Two Of My ASCD Article On Using Ed Tech In The Classroom

“They didn’t come in and try to say that we needed to do everything differently”

What A Great Piece In “The New Yorker” About Standardized Tests

Nice Review Of My New Book

“Teachers & Superintendents Must ‘Work To Understand Each Other’”

“Ethical & Effective Test Prep” Is Another Excerpt From My New Book

Infographic: “History of the English Language”

Response: We Need “Fewer John Waynes & More John Deweys”

Irritation Vs. Agitation

“Skype Announces Free Group Video Calling for Teachers”

“Ideas for English Language Learners | The Real Harlem Shake, Mapping Memories and More”

Chart: Useful Summary Of The Differences Between Parent Involvement & Parent Engagement

Links To The Entire Six Week Twitter Chat On Helping Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation

“Ten Elements Of Effective Instruction”

Writing Letters To Students Redux

Video: “Helping Students Motivate Themselves”

“Map Tales” Lets You Create “Map-Based Stories”

Excellent Post On New KIPP Charter Schools Study

Learning Another Language Makes Your Brain Grow Bigger — Literally

My New Article “Technology: Moving from No to Yes”

You Can Read My New Book Excerpt At This Link Without Registering….

December 11, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2012

It’s that time of year again when I start posting year-end “The Best….” lists. There are over one thousand lists now.  You can see them all here.

As usual, in order to make this list, a site had to be:

* accessible to English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users.

* free-of-charge.

* appropriate for classroom use.

* completely browser-based with no download required.

It’s possible that a few of these sites began in 2011, but, if so, I’m including them in this list because they were “new to me” in 2012.

You might want to visit previous editions:

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2011

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2010

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2009

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2008

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2007

(You might also find The Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly In 2012 — So Far useful)

Here are my ranked choices for The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2012:

Number Twenty-Nine

Infinite.ly is a pretty darn easy way to create a free website. Be sure to click “Get a Free Account now …” on their homepage.

Number Twenty-Eight

Striking.ly is a very easy tool for creating a website. I particularly like the fact that you can grab images off the Web to insert in them.

Number Twenty-Seven

Kwiqpoll lets you easily create a poll — and no registration is required. You’re give the poll’s url address, but it’s not embeddable. It has no frills, but it’s easy as pie.

Number Twenty-Six

In Focus lets you, without any registration required, literally “highlight” a section of any webpage and provides a unique url address linking to it.

Number Twenty-Five

The free web tool Inklewriter is, without a doubt, the easiest way to write a choose your own adventure story. You can read more about it at Gamasutra, New, free tools allow any novice to make an accessible text adventure.

Number Twenty-Four

Pandamian is a super-simple — and free — tool to create an ebook. Sign-up takes a few seconds, and you’re given your own url address for all your future books. Click on “create a new book” and you’re off! You can easily copy and paste images, and readers can leave moderated comments. They can also subscribe to an RSS feed if they want to be updated on newer chapters and it can be embedded.

Number Twenty-Three

Quicklinkr lets you very easily collect websites, images, videos, etc — without requiring registration. They are shown with screenshots, and you can put them into “folders.” It appears you have to register if you want to come back to edit it, or to leave a comment about one of the saved links (registration is quick and easy). Unfortunately, that comment feature appears the only way you can add a text description to any link you save. There might be another way, but I didn’t see it.

Number Twenty-Two

Edcanvas is a nifty tool that lets you very easily add videos, images, website snapshots and files to create a grid canvass for students to access (teachers can also create virtual classes so that students could create their own). You can also type text on top of what you drag into the grid boxes — for example, instructions. A particularly nifty feature is that it provides a search box so you can search for videos, images and websites right from within the application. It has multiple uses, but I think it’s especially good for creating Internet Scavenger Hunts and Web Quests.

Number Twenty-One

Kl1P lets you create a webpage without any registration required. You can paste text or images into it, and is a great way to publish student work — you get a custom url address for your page and can paste that on a student/teacher blog.

Number Twenty

Check This is the latest in a long line of tools that let you create webpages quickly, without registering, and that let you also paste images into them.

Number Nineteen

Loose Leaves lets you write or paste images and automatically creates a webpage. You’re given two url addresses — one where you can edit it again and a second where others can view it. No registration is necessary.

Number Eighteen

QikPad is a nice online collaborative writing tool that has an embedding feature.

Number Seventeen

BeeClip.Edu 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.

Number Sixteen

ikiMap lets you easily create maps and, what I particularly like, is you can insert images off the web just by using their url addresses.

Number Fifteen

Slide.ly looks good and is very similar to Animoto. You can search for photos online or use your own, and easily combine them with music to create musical video-like slideshows.

Number Fourteen

Google announced a new tool called “Story Builder.”  Without having to register, you can create a “dialogue” of sorts, add music, and end up with a link to a video-like presentation that you can share.  We were studying natural disasters in our ninth-grade English class, and students had a blast creating dialogues between people experiencing a disaster of their choice.

Number Thirteen

MentorMob lets you very easily create a slideshow. Webpages, videos and photos can be grabbed from the web and added, along with notes. It’s easy to use, very intuitively designed so just about anyone can figure it out, and attractive.

Number Twelve

Hello Slide lets you upload a PDF of your PowerPoint. You can then type in the narration and it will use a text-to-speech feature to provide audio to your slideshow.

Number Eleven

Themeefy lets you grab pretty much anything you want off the Web, and add your own materials, to create a personalized magazine that can be shared/embedded wherever you want. It looks pretty neat and simple.

Number Ten

Skqueak is a new free iPhone app I like a lot that lets you easily provide audio for photos. There are several other apps on various other “The Best…” lists,   However, I suspect that Skqueak is going to give them a run for their money. It’s very simple to use, it appears to have a very extended recording time (though I’m not sure what the time limit is exactly) and, most importantly, it makes it extremely easy to create sort of a seamless audio slideshow. None of the other similar apps have such an ability, or at least one that is as easy to use.

Number Nine

Though I’ve used clozes (fill-in-the-blank/gap-fill) for several years, this is the first time a free and easy-to-use site like LearnClick has been available (there have been other cloze-creation sites, but none that I thought were student-friendly). LearnClick makes it super-simple and free to create and post interactive clozes online so students from different classes — in fact, students anywhere — can try completing them. And they’re much more enjoyable to create, too!

Number Eight

Urlist is now my favorite tool for creating Internet Scavenger Hunts. You register, copy and paste the sites you want, easily leave comments/instructions/questions for each site (which students can see by clicking “expand,” share the link, and you’ve got your hunt. You can also “play” the sites like a slideshow, but that’s not necessary for scavenger hunt purposes.

Number Seven

Mural.ly lets you drag and drop images and links (and the links appear as thumbnail images on the screen);it lets you write on it or add speech bubbles — it’s basically a super-duper-duper Wallwisher.

Number Six

Infogr.am looks like a pretty easy tool for creating infographics that can be linked to or embedded. The selection of templates is pretty limited, but the site is still in beta. The main problem with the site is that you can only log-in using a social media site like Facebook or Twitter. That makes it usable for teachers, but, since those sites are blocked in most schools for students, they would not be able to create their own. (UPDATE: It appears that you can now register just using an email address)

Number Five

Easel.ly  is hands-down the easiest tool I’ve seen on the Web to create infographics. You just “drag-and-drop” a variety of themes, type in your data, and you’ve got a great infographic.

Number Four

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 my article in ASCD Educational Leadership, 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. Thinglink’s recently announced for educators and students that you can now annotate fifty images free, and the cost for far more is next-to-nothing.

Number Three

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.

Number Two

MarQueed is like a Thinglink  on steroids and allows collaborative annotation.  You can read more about it here.

Number One

Meograph is a cool web tool that lets you create an audio-narrated digital story with an integrated map.  You can also grab images off the web, but have to remember to copy and paste the image’s url address in the YouTube field.  Just check it out!

Feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at the 1000 other “The Best…” lists and consider subscribing to this blog for free.

February 15, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
10 Comments

The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests

'Webquest' photo (c) 2008, Néstor  Alonso - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about the definition of a “Webquest.” Bernie Dodge, who originated the model in 1995, described it like this in a comment on this blog last year:

“A critical attribute of a WebQuest is that it engages higher level thinking, the upper part of Bloom’s taxonomy. Things like creativity, analysis, synthesis. judgment…. A WebQuest is also wrapped around a single challenging task, not a sequence of separate activities A WebQuest isn’t a scavenger hunt and it isn’t a worksheet with links.”

Here’s an additional helpful comment Bernie added to this post:

“A WebQuest is centered around a challenging, doable and (ideally) authentic task. Examples of WebQuest tasks might include: writing a letter to the mayor taking a stand on whether a new landfill should be opened; writing a diary as if you were living in 1491; designing a travel itinerary for geologists visiting Italy; or creating a commemorative mural celebrating space exploration. A WebQuest is never about answering a series of questions. Even though a scavenger hunt might require some analysis or problem solving, it’s not of the same intensity of higher level thinking that a good WebQuest entails.

Obviously there’s a place for both WebQuests and scavenger hunts, but they are different places with very different goals.”

I can empathize with his desire to make the distinction clear between a scavenger hunt and a webquest.  As readers know, I was a community organizer for nineteen years before becoming a high school teacher, and I’ve been amazed at what some people will describe as community organizing when, in fact, it’s something far less.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just as an Internet Scavenger Hunt isn’t bad.  It’s just better for everybody to keep distinctions clear.

Given that, however, we all live in the real world where ambiguity reigns supreme.  So, for example, I believe that a simple Internet Scavenger Hunt can also include elements of “creativity, analysis, synthesis. judgment” without necessarily being a full-fledged Webquest.  Though I promote a lot of activities in my classroom that encourage higher-level thinking, it’s not unusual for me to quickly put together a scavenger hunt for students to use in the computer lab that functions — more or less — as just a change of pace and another opportunity for small group collaborative learning.  These kind of hunts will often include a few interpretative as well as factual questions.

I’ve divided this “The Best…” list into into a few sections. The first ones include tools to create activities that are more akin to “Internet Scavenger Hunts,” as well as some good examples ones that others have created that are a bit more involved, while the later section is focused on “Webquests.”  The resources I share about scavenger hunts specifically related to English Language Learners, while the Webquest ones are more applicable to all students.

Teachers can use the tools I share in the first section to very quickly put together an accessible group of websites where students can find the answers to a list of factual questions (for example, about the American Civil War) and get some needed background to answer more interpretative ones (If you were the President of the U.S. at the time, how would you have treated the South after the Civil War and why?).

I usually either have a list of questions on a sheet of paper that students need to complete, or have them posted on a class blog where students can then copy and paste them onto a Word document and then print-out, or put it on their own individual blog.

I can design a simple scavenger hunt in about twenty minutes. In addition, and for an even better activity, I have student groups design their own scavenger hunts that they then exchange with other student groups, particularly after they’ve done a few of mine.

You can also find additional resources on my website under Webquests.

TOOLS TO CREATE SIMPLE INTERNET SCAVENGER HUNTS:

There are several simple web applications that teachers can use to easily have a list of websites where students can go to find the answers to specific questions on a scavenger hunt.  The ones I list here are particularly accessible to English Language Learners because they provide screenshots of the websites as well as their url addresses, and they also don’t require a teacher to register to use them, either.  They include:

I just learned about Edcanvas from Diana Laufenberg. It’s a nifty tool that lets you very easily add videos, images, website snapshots and files to create a grid canvass for students to access (teachers can also create virtual classes so that students could create their own). You can also type text on top of what you drag into the grid boxes — for example, instructions. A particularly nifty feature is that it provides a search box so you can search for videos, images and websites right from within the application.

SQWORL: Sqworl is very, very similar to MinMu.

Weblist is similar to the previous four apps.

Bundlenut lets you collect several links — along with your comments on each one — and puts them all on one link.

Bit.ly, the wildly popular application that shortens url addresses, has just introduced “Bit.ly Bundles.” All you have to do is copy and paste several url address into the box on their site, click “Bundle,” and it will give you one url address that shows screenshots and descriptions of each of the url address you pasted in — in one url address. You can add your own descriptions, as well as rearrange their order. The only negative I see is that, in order to use it, you have to actually register with the site (which takes seconds). You don’t have to register if you just want to use their regular shortening service. This kind of feature makes it ideal to create Internet Scavenger Hunts, with teachers listing questions they want teachers to find on each website. It’s similar to other applications on this list that don’t require registration. Bit.ly’s advantage, though, is that it is probably more financially stable than these others and is more likely to stick around.

CITEBITE: Citebite is another tool that is ideal for English Language Learners, especially Beginning and Early Intermediate ones.  It allows you to highlight specific areas of online text and then gives you a specific url linking to what you’ve highlighted.  For example, instead of asking my students to find answers to some questions by reading an entire New York Times article on how immigrants can protect themselves from fraud (which I did last week), I can now highlight specific parts of the article for my high-beginners and early intermediate students to link to.  I could have my more advanced students still link to the entire article without the highlighted parts.  It’s a excellent tool for differentiated instruction.  You can use the url’s of the Citebite excerpts in the previously mentioned tools.

In Focus lets you, without any registration required, literally “highlight” a section of any webpage and provides a unique url address linking to it. It’s very familiar to CiteBite. The primary difference between the two is that with CiteBite, you have to copy and paste the text you want highlighted. With In Focus, though, all you have to do is drag a box over on it, which makes it a bit easier to use.

Fur.ly is a new tool that lets you combine multiple links into one.  It’s a little different from others I’ve posted about — they show you visual snapshots of each site that you can then click on one at a time. Fur.ly, on the other hand, shows you the first link in the collection and you can then click on arrows to go review each one.

Filamentality and Jog The Web are two other tools to consider (thanks to A Elloway and Alexis Cuff for the suggestions).

It’s always nice to find a web tool that can be used for a number of purposes, and David Kapuler (whom I have previously nominated for an Edublogs Award) has found one with MentorMob. It lets you very easily create a slideshow. Webpages, videos and photos can be grabbed from the web and added, along with notes. It’s easy to use, very intuitively designed so just about anyone can figure it out, and attractive.

The “stack” feature at Delicious can be a useful way to create a scavenger hunt.

Minilogs is a new web tool that lets you group multiple url addresses into one short one. There are actually quite a few others that do the same thing (and you can find them at The Best Ways To Shorten URL Addresses). However, Minilogs stands out because in addition to showing all the url addresses, it shows you a thumbnail image of the site and, more importantly, lets you write notes next to each one. It would be useful for teachers or students who want to create an Internet Scavenger Hunt.

You can also just create one on a Word document and upload it to the Web with Txtbear.

Gibbon lets you easily create what they call “flows,” which are basically lists of web resources with instructions written by the flow’s creator.

I think Gibbon has ambitious plans but, for teachers, it’s an easy tool for teachers to create Internet scavenger hunts for students and for students to create them for their classmates.

EXAMPLES OF INTERNET SCAVENGER HUNTS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS & OTHERS:

Here are some excellent examples of activities that might better fit the definition of “Internet Scavenger Hunt” instead of “Webquest.”  One of the key cautions with using these kinds of already-made activities, though, is that links quickly become outdated on the Web.  You want to check for dead links before you use these sites with your students.

Good examples include:

Michelle Henry has a great collection of these kinds of hunts — all designed for English Language Learners.

These Explorer Internet Scavenger Hunts are accessible to English Language Learners, and perfect for World History classes. Before you assign them, though, teachers should review the site carefully. In addition to creating the hunts to learn about explorers, the site’s creators have also included some “tricks” to help students learn to double check the facts they find on the Internet.

WEBQUESTS:

WHAT IS A WEBQUEST?  There are several places to learn background information on Webquests.  They include Webquest.Org, Kathy Shrock’s overview of Webquests, a Webquest Taskonomy from San Diego State University, and The Learning Power of Webquests from Tom March.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A WEBQUEST?  Quest Garden is the site created by Bernie Dodge for teachers to use for creating Webquests.  It costs $20 for a two year subscription. Zunal is a free and easy way for teachers (and students) to create webquests. Zunal also acts as the host for the webquest or scavenger hunt after its been created. Creating a Webquest comes from Education World. Webquest 101 comes from Teachers First.

WHERE DO YOU FIND WEBQUESTS?  Webquest.Org has a ton of free webquests. Another great source is Edu 2.0,  The same caution I offered early about being on the “look-out” for dead links applies here as well. A third source is the University of Richmond. The nine national museums in Great Britain have a nice collection of webquests.

The Natural History Museum has a number of webquests.

WebQuests – the best way to foster critical thinking, social skills and problem-solving? is from Teaching English With Technology.

As always, feedback is 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.

May 21, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
13 Comments

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

'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.

March 17, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
29 Comments

The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English

'Speak up, make your voice heard' photo (c) 2011, Howard Lake - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

This was one of the trickiest “The Best…” list for me to compile. As I was going through my favorites, and all of the great suggestions others contributed, I concluded that it might work best to really create two lists. The first list — this one — will highlight sites that actually have students recording their own voices in a number of different ways and post their speaking assignments online. The second list, which I’ll publish later this month and will include a number of the sites that readers suggested, will focus on sites where students have to listen to spoken examples for developing better pronunciation skills.

That next list will be called “The Best Sites For Learning English Pronunciation.”

It’s sort of an artificial division, I know, and obviously in teaching and learning a second language speaking and listening are intertwined. In fact, students can use some of the sites on this list to practice what they hear on the sites in the next list. But I do think this separation works for the purpose of making these lists.

In order to make it on this list, a site had to be free, easy to use, and accessible to English Language Learners.

You can also find these links, and 8,000 others, on my website.

Here are my picks for The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English & Pronunciation:

Blabberize allows you to upload an image, have the mouth’s image move in a comedic way, and then “speak” your voice. Students can use their own photos, or a famous person, cartoon character, etc. Blabberize can be used in the same way ESL/EFL teachers sometimes have students use puppets — students can feel more comfortable speaking when it’s not really “them” doing the talking.

A Voki is a talking avatar students can design and easily post on a blog or website. Sue Waters has written excellent step-by-step instructions on how to post a Voki.

LiveMochais a fast-growing language-learning site that has an incredible number of features. For speaking, not only can users send their recording to whomever they choose, but there’s also a social network component that lets others provide feedback. Another nice aspect of the site is that it’s structured so that users are responding directly to prompts from LiveMocha’s scaffolded teaching/learning system.

Voice Thread is well-known. Between the free unlimited account for educators, the ability to type text as well as record audio, the ability to grab images off the Web to reinforce understanding, and the great feature of being able to leave audio comments, I don’t think anything beats it.

(Editor’s Note: I’m adding another site called Chuala to this list. You can read my post about it here. )

I’m adding Voxopop to this list.  Formerly called Chinswing, it lets you easily create private voice “chatboards.”  Students can leave messages and respond to one another, or teachers can leave speaking assignments for students to complete.  It’s similar to Grapevine and to Vaestro Voice Channel.

I’ve posted in the past about how the ability to make easy screencasts — with audio– could be an excellent learning opportunity for English Language Learners (you might want to take a look at that post). The online tool Screencast-O-Matic works okay for this purpose, but seems a little complicated.

Vocaroo is a super easy way for students to record a message — of any length — and then place a link or an embed code on a student or teacher website. It’s got to be one of the most simple ways for audio recording out there — no registration is required and you just click “record.” (NOTE: Unfortunately, Vocaroo has recently announced that messages will be deleted after six months)

The extraordinary The Art of Storytelling is a site from the Delaware Art Museum that allows you pick a painting, write a short story about it, record it with your computer microphone, and email the url address for posting on a student website or blog. It’s extraordinarily simple, and extraordinarily accessible to any level of English Language Learner. No registration is required.

PodOmatic looks like an extraordinarily easy way to create a podcast. Sign-up and your class has your own channel — all you need is a computer microphone.

Woices allows the user to easily leave an audio message about a specific place. That message can then be listened to by others. Students could could leave messages about where they live now, places they’ve visited, or their native countries.

Chirbit is a new site.  After registering (which is very easy — I love sites that don’t require an email activation), you can very easily make a recording or use a text-to-speech feature to create audio.  You’re then given a unique url address for the recording.  It’s as simple as that. It has other capabilities, too, including responding to the audio message.

For students those without Internet access at home, here’s a tool worth considering:

I recently received my invitation to join Google Voice, Google’s new phone tool. You can read all about it at Lifehacker’s guide. In terms of teaching, I could see it as an easy way for English Language Learners, particularly those with no Internet access, to practice speaking “homework.” They can call my Google Voice number, leave a message, and I can then access both their audio and an automatically generated written transcript of what they said. I can then easily embed both on a classroom blog.

Audio Pal is a new tool that lets you easily record a message — either by using a phone, computer mike, or text-to-speech — and then add the embed code to your blog or website. Students can update it as often as they want, and get as many different ones that they want. It’s pretty neat. No registration is necessary, and it’s free.

A new site is called English Central. 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.

Fotobabble is a super-easy application that lets you upload a photo, provide a minute audio recording to go along with it, and then you get a link and an embed code that can be used for . It’s a simple tool students can use to practice their speaking skills. It’s very easy to use but, just in case, Russell Stannard at the great Teacher Training Videos has posted a good video tutorial on how to use the app.

Audioboo lets you easily create what is basically a voice blog. After signing-up (which is quite easy), you can make recordings of up to five minutes in length. Not only can your messages appear together on one public page, but you can also choose to embed them. People can leave text comments on the messages, but one negative is that they are not moderated. However, you do have to be registered on the site in order to leave a comment. (I talk about a great and easy way to use Audioboo in This Seems Like A Pretty Easy Way To Practice Speaking….)

David Deubelbeiss, founder of EFL Classroom 2.0, has an excellent speaking activity he uses with his English Language Learner students. He calls it Pass The Paper, and also a helpful PowerPoint.

Winkball lets you easily create a video or just an audio blog. You can also use it to send video messages. It seems to have other possibilities, too, but I’m still exploring the site. It could provide a good speaking opportunity for English Language Learners.

A teacher’s guide to using audio and podcasting in the classroom is a nice overview of applications to use in the classroom, including videos. It was created by Kit Hard.

Little Bird Tales lets you easily make slideshows where you can add text and, more importantly for English Language Learners, provide an audio narration. On nice touch is that you can virtually paint/draw artwork in addition to uploading images (unfortunately, the site doesn’t have the ability to grab photos off the web by url addresses). It’s free to use, but I’m unclear on if there will be an eventual cost to use the site. It appears to have an upper limit on the number of shows you can produce.

You can read about SMILE and CLEAR at a previous post.

SoundCloud lets you very easily record an audio message — the first 120 minutes are free — and then you can post the link or embed it where you like. They’ve also just begun a new site called Take Questions, which TechCrunch calls a “Quora for audio.” There, you can set-up your own page to take audio questions that you can then answer — in audio.

Spreaker seems like a pretty easy way to have your own Internet radio show.

Anmish lets you choose a caricature of a world leader and then lets you put words in his/her mouth for thirty seconds via a microphone. While you’re recording, you can also easily change facial expressions on your caricature by pressing a letter on your keyboard. It doesn’t appear you can embed the video, though you can a link to it. You also have access to parodies created by other users, which might make it problematic for classroom use.

Knovio might end up being one of the best Web 2.0 applications of the year. You upload a PowerPoint presentation, record a presentation with your microphone and webcam, and then it’s done! It’s free, and it is not open to the public yet, but I received an invitation about five seconds after I requested it.

Sock Puppets is a simple iPhone app that lets you easily record a student and upload it to YouTube. It can be used to briefly record a student speaking or reading in class, or even to have two or three students record a simple play (the free app allows thirty seconds of recording while for 99 cents you can upgrade to 90 seconds). One major advantage of using this for speaking practice is that it’s the sock puppet that’s actually speaking on the display, not the student. It looks like it could have potential. Thanks to techchef4u for the tip. NOTE: The upgraded version appears to be a bit buggy, so I’m only using the free app.

We’re also going to be trying out another iPhone app called Talking Wee Mee. It just allows one character, though it appears to provide a one minute recording time.

Lisa Johnson also suggested Photo Puppet Go. It’s a little more complicated than the other two I’ve mentioned, but it does have potential.

Shoutomatic is a new site that lets you quickly and easily (after a very fast registration) record a thirty-second “shout” — an audio message — that you can embed or link to…In addition, you have the option of uploading a photo to attach to your audio message, but you can’t just grab one for the Web with a url address. It could be a nice and easy way for students to practice speaking.

QWiPS easily lets you make a thirty second audio recording that you can — you can also connect it to a photo or video.

I’m beginning to take photos (and have students take photos) using iPhone apps that let you provide an accompanying audio commentary.

The best app for this kind of excellent speaking practice exercise is Fotobabble. I described the web version earlier in this post. In the iPhone app, you take a photo, provide an up-to-one minute commentary, and then can it several ways. You can email it to yourself, too, where you are provided a link to it on the Fotobabble site. You’re given the opportunity to re-record if you don’t like how it sounds on the first try, and you can make other changes to it, too. It also provides the option to embed, as I have done with this quick experiment (a photo of one of our dogs, Lola):

Another option, which was launched this week at the SXSW conference in Austin this week, is an app called Picle. It only gives you ten seconds of commentary, but you can choose to have it record at the same time you’re taking the photo or afterwards. It doesn’t offer an embed option, but you can link to it on the Picle website. It also doesn’t appear to give you an opportunity to re-record if you’re not satisfied with your first try. Here’s a sample – again of Lola.

I’d definitely vote for Fotobabble. However, since Picle is new, I assume they’ll be making lots of improvements in the future.

Record MP3 lets you, without having to register, create an audio recording that you can save on your computer and/or save on their site (a link is provided). It’s very simple to use, though I’m not sure what the maximum audio recording length is nor how long they keep it on their server. My recording uploaded quickly using Internet Explorer. However, it would never upload when in Firefox.

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

I’ve described some nice apps that let you add an audio recording to your photos and then them. enpixa is a new one that’s very similar to the others. It’s free, and you can add a thirty second recording.

You can never have too many of these kinds of sites, because you never know which ones will be blocked by school content filters.

Web Doc is/was a sorta’ blogging platform that makes it super simple to write individual “docs.” I especially like its ability to search the Web for images within your “doc” and just post it into what you’re writing. It also lets you add a speech bubble to the photo. It has tons more features, including providing an embed code. It was highly ranked on The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2011.

Recently, it “relaunched” as Urturn and added several features, including the ability to record audio. That’s a really nice feature, but I couldn’t get it to work when I tried it. I guess they were having some relaunch “bugs.” Assuming they get it fixed, though,it could be very useful.

Dubbler joins the list of several free Smartphone apps that let you record a sixty second audio caption for a photo.

I’ve previously posted several times about Edcanvass, and it’s already on a number of “The Best…” lists. They’ve added another great feature — the ability to easily record up to five minutes of audio on any image or text you pin to a canvass, and you can pin many items on one canvass.

Shadow Puppet is a great iPhone/iPad app.

Tellagami is neat iPhone/iPad app that lets users quickly create virtual characters that can speak audio that’s been recorded or use text-to-speech.

Here’s an example:

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution

Speaking Unplugged: 30 Activities for One-to-One Classes is a free downloadable eBook from Online TEFL Training.

Getting Your Students Talking is a good post from David Deubelbeiss.

Getting the whole class talking offers some good ideas. It’s from The British Council

8 fun ways to practice presentations! is from The Business English Experience.

33 ways to speak better English – without taking classes is from British English Coach.

The British Council has a Part One and Part Two on “Reluctant Talkers.”

I Learn Another Great Game For English Langage Learners From Jimmy Fallon

Chatterpix is an app for the iPhone/iPad that:

…can make anything talk — pets, friends, doodles, and more. Simply take any photo, draw a line to make a mouth, and record your voice. Then share your Pix with friends and family as silly greetings, playful messages, creative cards, or even fancy book reports. And best of all, it’s FREE!

Voxer is an app that has potential for speaking practice with English Language Learners. Joe Mazza talks about various other educational uses for it at his blog. Here’s video about it:

Interactive listening and speaking is from The British Council.

Using Pair and Group Work to Develop ELLs’ Oral Language Skills is from Colorin Colorado.

Key Strategies for Developing Oral Language is from The Teaching Channel.

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