Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 24, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

This Is A Brilliant Idea For An Online Dictionary

Embedplus is a nice tool that’s on The Best Tools For Cutting-Out & Saving Portions Of Online Videos (Or Annotating Them) list. They recently added a really neat dictionary feature called Learn how to pronounce words (and use them).

You type in a word, and it shows you multiple short clips from videos where the word is used. Jeez, so many dictionaries are next to useless for English Language Learners because they either just show the word in writing or only pronounce the word itself. Some might include a written sentence demonstrating it in context. But you can’t beat literally seeing and hearing it!

Of course, the videos are all from YouTube, which make it inaccessible for most schools. But students certainly use it at home.

I’m adding it to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners.

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January 8, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
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“clubEFL” Is A Fantastic Site For EFL/ESL Teachers & Students

clubEFL has fantastic resources for EFL/ESL students and teachers, including:

* A Picture Dictionary and a Talking Dictionary. These stand out particularly for all the additional interactive reinforcement activities they include. I’m adding them to The Best Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced English Language Learner Sites.

Several other parts of their site are equally as good, but I’m not adding it to that list because they include YouTube videos. I only include sites that most students can use on their own in that “The Best…” list and, since YouTube is blocked by most schools for student use, I can’t include them in that list. However, it has prompted me to think about creating a comparable “all-time” list for useful teacher sites. In our district, teachers can access YouTube, so these following pages are excellent to use in a whole class lesson using a computer projector. They have short video clips along with lots of interactive reinforcement exercises (students could use them at home, too):

Gogo’s Adventure with English, which I’m adding to The Best YouTube Channels For Learning English (even though it’s not quite a “channel.”

Learn English Through Movies, which I’m adding to The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL.

They have another site, also called a Picture Dictionary, that has mostly YouTube music videos and interactive exercises. I’m adding it to The Best Music Websites For Learning English.

They have two other features that I think are good, just not quite as useful as the ones I’ve mentioned already. They are:

Aesop’s Fables in English for language learners, which I’m adding to The Best Sites For Using Aesop’s Fables In The Classroom.

Very Short Stories and Verses For Children, which I’m adding to The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers.

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March 30, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Memidex Is A Great Dictionary…And More!

Memidex is a very impressive dictionary, and a lot more. Jim Burke just shared it on Twitter. It tells you just about anything you want about a word. I particularly like its word origins.

I don’t think it’s particularly useful for English Language Learners, so I won’t add it to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners. But I’ll certainly be using it, and recommending it to my Theory of Knowledge students.

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June 9, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Fotopedia

Fotopedia is a new combination photo-sharing and encyclopedia site.

You have to download software in order to upload your photos, so that part isn’t feasible for most schools. However, anybody can access the pages on the site, which combine user-contributed photos with excerpts from Wikipedia articles on the topic. It’s very accessible to English Language Learners, and it’s particularly engaging because anybody can vote on whether photos permanently become part of the site’s pages on the topic.

In some ways it’s similar to Navify, which also adds multimedia to Wikipedia text. However, once Fotopedia gets more content, I think it’ll be even better.

You can read more about Fotopedia at TechCrunch.

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June 8, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Wordnik

Wordnik, which is trying to become the “world’s biggest dictionary,” just opened to the public today.

It includes a ton of user created content from throughout the web. For English Language Learners who are trying to learn the meaning of a word, I’d say it offers too much content and they might feel overwhelmed.  Other dictionaries on The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008 would work better, I think.

However, it does offer the opportunity for users to add their own audio pronunciations and definitions, so I am adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects For An “Authentic Audience”.

You can read more about Wordnik in two other places:

Webware has a good post about it today.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a piece a couple of months ago on Wordnik’s founder.

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June 7, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

One Look Reverse Dictionary

One Look Reverse Dictionary is exactly that — a “reverse” dictionary. Here’s how the site describes itself:

“OneLook’s reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. Just type it into the box above and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.”

It could possibly be useful to English Language Learners.  However, I think the thesauruses in The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008 work as well — if not better.

Thanks to the Make Use Of blog for the tip.

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January 15, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Dictionary Added To Best Reference Sites

A few days ago I posted about a new dictionary called Shahi. Shahi is a dictionary that combines simple definitions with quite a few Flickr photos. The combination of the two makes it pretty accessible to English Language Learners.

I forgot to mention, though, that I’ve added it to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008.

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November 26, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Translate With Frengly

Frengly is a new site that allows for quick translation in twenty-four languages.

It seems to me that the quality of the translation is okay, though I’d still have to go along with Jeffrey Hill at the English Blog who rates Google’s tool as the best among the ones he has tried.  However, the visual interface at Frengly is, by far, the most attractive and accessible to English Language Learners of the translation sites I’ve seen.

I’m additing it to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008.

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November 13, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
6 Comments

The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners

I originally was going to title this “The Best….” list “The Best Online Tools That English Language Learners Might Find ‘Handy’ To Know About.”  That original list was going to only include the tools that I have on the top of most of the pages of my website. These are links to websites that English Language Learners can easily and quickly use– without having to register or sign-in (or download) — to aid them in spelling, pronouncing, learning the meaning, etc. of a word or phrase they are trying to read or write.

My students and I often find them very helpful. Having access to them provides a greater sense of self-reliance and confidence that they can find many answers (or confirmation of information they knew already) on their own and very quickly. And it dramatically reduces the number of “simple” questions I have to answer so I can focus on assisting students in higher-level learning or spend time with those who have special needs.

In addition, students can use these tools at home on their own computers or ones they have through our Family Literacy Project.

Then, as I was compiling this list, it seemed to make sense to expand it bit and make it an updated and expanded version of The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2007.

The basic criteria remains the same, though — easily accessible to English Language Learners; free-of-charge, and no registration or downloads are necessary to use the sites.

Here are my choices for The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008:

PRONUNCIATION:

There are several simple text-to-speech tools out there. All students have to do is copy a word a few sentences from something they’re reading and paste it on one of these sites. They will immediately hear the word pronounced. Students can do the same with their own writing to double-check if it “sounds” right.

All these tools are similar — they don’t require registration, you can choose which “voice” it speaks, and it’s spoken in a fairly decent computerized tone:

Cepstral

Oddcast

Voz Me

iSpeech

AT&T Labs

Expressivo is a similar free online tool that lets you type, or paste, in up to 200 characters and it then “speaks” what your wrote.  Expressivo, though, has a great feature that the others I listed do not have — it provides a link to what you typed in which you can then email or post on a teacher/bog website so that others can see and hear what your wrote.

I’ve posted in the past about more extensive text-to-speech tools that require registration. You might also want to see David Deubelbeiss’ excellent listing of his choices for the best-text-to-speech tools, some which require downloads.

For this “The Best…” list, though, I’m just trying to keep it simple.

UNDERSTANDING MEANING & CHECKING SPELLING:

This section will focus on three types of tools — ways that students can learn the meaning of English words in their native language,  ways that students can find simple English or picture definitions of the words, and the best ways they can find synonyms or antonyms.  Of course, many of these sites offer more than one of these features, so I may appear to be a little arbitrary in deciding which category they fit.

TRANSLATING:

These translating tools all work in a similar way — they let you copy and paste words or sentences, and then pick the language you want it translated into.   The translation then appears on the screen.   Some also let you translate entire webpages (Jeffrey Hill at the English Blog, though he hasn’t tested all the sites listed here, rates Google’s tool as the best among the ones he has tried– by far).

Now, though, there’s an easy way for you to make that determination for yourself.

The New York Times just published a chart titled “Putting Google to the Test in Translation.” In it, they compare several pieces of text using Google Translate, Yahoo’s Babel Fish, and Microsoft’s Bing translation system. I think you’ll agree that Google does the best job of the bunch…

Ethan Shen has just done a research project comparing Google Translate, Babelfish and Bing Translator. Here are his conclusions:

The final data reveals that while Google Translate is widely preferred when translating long passages, Microsoft Bing Translator and Yahoo Babelfish often produce better translations for phrases below 140 characters.

Babel Fish

World Lingo

Google Translate

Windows Live Translator (which now supports Hmong)

Frengly

Nice Translator is the newest addition to this list.  One way it stands out is by translating into your chosen language as you write it.  Most other similar sites require you to input everything and click “enter” before it begins to translate.

Jollo is yet another translation tool I’m adding here.  Jollo’s key feature is that, once you type or paste-in words or sentences to translate, it then shows you translated versions from multiple translation sites on the Internet.

The Oddcast Translator is different from the others in two ways — it provides audio as well as text translation, and you could only use it a few times for free before it requires to purchase the program.

The ESL Reader and the amazing Lingro operate with the same perspective. Once you either copy and paste words (The ESL Reader) or input a url address (Lingro), then all the words become “clickable.” Once you click on a word, you see the the meaning of the word in the language of your choice — English or in a student’s native language.

Tradukka is a simple translation site. It’s just a re-packaging of Google Translate, but it’s a very nice re-packaging.  The interface is more attractive and accessible.

DICTIONARIES:

There are five other dictionaries that I think are particularly accessible to English Language Learners:

For Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners, The Language Guide is clearly the best place to go. It’s easy to navigate, and has excellent images, audio, and text.

For students who are getting a little beyond the Early Intermediate stage,  I’d recommend Harcourt’s E-Glossary. It begins to introduce simple academic vocabulary with images, text, and audio.  I particularly like the fact it shows words in context, and “speaks” the sentences, too.

For Intermediate and Advanced English Learners, I think Answers.com works best.  Once you type in the word you’re looking for, click “Word Tutor” and it will provide audio to a sentence using the word in context.

Ninja Words returns your query very quickly, and provides the basic information most people need. Its simplicity makes it attractive for high Intermediate and Advanced ELL’s.

Shahi is a dictionary that combines simple definitions with quite a few Flickr photos. The combination of the two makes it pretty accessible to English Language Learners.

Embedplus is a nice tool that’s on The Best Tools For Cutting-Out & Saving Portions Of Online Videos (Or Annotating Them) list. They recently added a really neat dictionary feature called Learn how to pronounce words (and use them). You type in a word, and it shows you multiple short clips from videos where the word is used. Jeez, so many dictionaries are next to useless for English Language Learners because they either just show the word in writing or only pronounce the word itself. Some might include a written sentence demonstrating it in context. But you can’t beat literally seeing and hearing it! Of course, the videos are all from YouTube, which make it inaccessible for most schools. But students certainly use it at home.

ANTONYMS & SYNONYMS:

Lexipedia is a pretty darn impressive site. This can fit under many of the categories in this section. You type in a word, and, in an engaging visual display, shows you a ton of information about that word and lets you get the audio of the word pronounced.

Visuwords is another unique, and fun, way to find synonyms in a visual display.  It’s free, and it also functions as a dictionary.

Snappy Words is a similar tool.

Graph Words is a new very simple visual thesaurus. It’s not as fancy as some of the other similar applications out there, but I think some of them are actually pretty confusing to English Language Learners.

Word Sense

Thesaurus.Land

I don’t quite know where to fit these next two web tools, so I’ll just list them here.

Tip Of My Tongue is an intriguing “dictionary-like” web application.  You can do a variety of things to identify a word or its spelling — actions that you couldn’t necessarily take with regular dictionary. For example, if you know the first letter and the last letter of a word, you would type them in and then the page will show the words (and their definitions) that fit those parameters.

The Rhyme Zone says it all with its name. It’s an easy way to find rhyming words and their definitions.

WORLD FACTS:

I’ve posted about a lot of new sites over the past year that provide information about the countries of the world. However, the sites that were on last year’s list continue to be the best, and I am just adding two more resources.

Depending on the information students are needing on countries of the world, both Infoplease Countries is good for basic data.  I’d also add Harcourt’s The World as another place for simple and accessible data, plus it’s available in Spanish, too.

National Geographic People and Places provides a broader overview of different countries, including the United States, and includes a lot of good images, too.

National Geographic also has an interactive Vital Statistics Map that lets you compare global trends on many topics.

The second new addition is called World Info Zone. It’s similar to the others, but the language might be a bit more accessible to English Language Learners.

National Geographic Kids has very accessible descriptions of many different countries. It does have an entry for every country in the world, but it’s still a good piece of work.

FACTS ABOUT THE FIFTY U.S. STATES:

America’s Library from the Library of Congress gives a very short and accessible overview of each state.  I’d also add Harcourt’s The Fifty States as another good source for simple info.

For more detailed information, I’d suggest students visit Infoplease: States.

The Measure of America is the name of American Human Development’s website.  It has an extraordinary interactive map highlighting how states (or Congressional districts) in the United States rate in over sixty categories, including health, education, income, etc.  It might be a little tricky at first for English Language Learners to get the hang of it, but it shouldn’t be a problem with a little teacher assistance.

The British newspaper The Guardian has just published a good interactive map of the United States with a variety of demographic information (though I wished they had used the term “undocumented immigrants” instead of “illegal migrants”).

State Health Stats is amazing interactive infographic showing health statistics from all fifty states.

The United States Census has unveiled a very useful interactive sharing a bunch of demographic data from the past one hundred years. English Language Learners would probably require a little initial guidance in figuring it out, but it would be worth the effort.

FACTS ABOUT CITIES & NEIGHBORHOODS:

National Geographic has a nice section on cities throughout the world.

This year, several new web tools have also opened for business that easily allow you to find demographic information about specific cities and zip codes in the United States. I think the best, and most accessible, ones are Zip Code Census Dashboard and Policy Map.

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block is an amazing interactive from The New York Times that displays U.S. Census data from…everywhere. The New York Times Learning Network also has a simple lesson plan related to it.

You can find other similar tools on my website under Student Neighborhood Maps. I’ll also be talking about a few other comparable applications in another “The Best…” list that will be appearing within a month called “The Best Online Mapping Tools.”

ENCYCLOPEDIAS:

I know some people have issues with Wikipedia, but I’ve found the Simple English Wikipedia to be a great resource, and the most accessible to English Language Learners.  I’d also put Fact Monster on this list.

This next one isn’t really an encyclopedia, but I can’t think of any other category to put it in. I’m really quite impressed with Wiki Answers. It’s a huge and growing community composed of simple questions and their answers. All the ones I’ve checked have been accurate.

The Flowing Data blog has created an incredible infographic on world demographics. It’s designed to be a poster for sale, but there’s online zoomable version. This is their simple description:

In whole, the report tells a story of how we live and die, and the stuff in between.

Though it’s “busy-looking,” I haven’t seen any other kind of graphical representation of this amount of data, which makes it a lot more accessible to English Language Learners than most encyclopedias.

In addition, sites listed on three other “The Best…” lists — The Best Multilingual & Bilingual Sites For Math, Social Studies, & ScienceThe Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners — 2008, and The Best Online Sources For Images — should also be included here.

I have links to all these sites, and many more, on my English Themes For Beginners Page under Country & United States Information, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Thesaurus.

Suggestions are always welcome.

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

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October 17, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Tip Of My Tongue

Tip Of My Tongue is an intriguing “dictionary-like” web application.

You can do a variety of things to identify a word or its spelling — actions that you couldn’t necessarily take with regular dictionary. For example, if you know the first letter and the last letter of a word, you would type them in and then the page will show the words (and their definitions) that fit those parameters.

I can certainly see how a tool like this would be useful to English Language Learners.

I’m placing the link under Dictionaries on my website.

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September 18, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Wordia Video Dictionary

Wordia opened for business today as a combination text and video dictionary. Users upload short videos to demonstrate definitions of different words.

Many of the existing videos on the site are originally from YouTube, which means they’ll be blocked by most school content filters. However, I could see students creating their own videos defining words as a pretty fun and educational activity for English Language Learners. It would certainly be an authentic audience.

You can read more about it at this TechCrunch blog post.

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August 10, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Lexipedia

Lexipedia is a neat visual thesaurus, and more. I think English Language Learners will find it helpful, and I’ve placed the link on my website under Thesaurus.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll add it to my The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2007 (you might want to check-out that list if you haven’t seen it already).  I’ll need to “play around” with it a bit more to decide.

Let me know if you think I should put Lexipedia on the list….

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May 3, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Dictionaraoke

The blog Insights Into TEFL just posted about a bizarre, yet potentially (I’m not fully convinced yet) useful site to help students develop better pronunciation skills. It’s called Dictionaraoke.

To quote the site itself:

Audio clips from online dictionaries sing the hits of yesterday and today. The fun of karaoke meets the word power of the dictionary.

“Insights Into TEFL” highlights the Dictionaraoke version of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” as an example. (Oops, I don’t really know why you can’t hear the song when you click on the link in this post. However, if you go to Dictionaraoke’s main page you can access all their songs, including this one).

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April 1, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Rhyme Zone

Rhyme Zone allows students to type in a word and find others that rhyme with it.  It also has many other search functions, including looking for antonyms, synonyms, and homophones.

But those are just the “tip of the iceberg.”  It has a ton of other options, too.

I’ve placed the link on my English Themes For Beginners page under Dictionaries.

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February 2, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Another Encyclopedia

I recently learned about another online encyclopedia that I think English Language Learners would find helpful.

It’s called Concise Britanica, and it’s a very abbreviated version of the Encyclopedia Britanica.  The entries for each topic are very short and simple.

I’ve placed the link with other accessible encyclopedias on my English Themes For Beginners page under Encyclopedias.

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December 26, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
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The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2007

Here’s one more list I thought would be helpful to students and teachers alike.  Though my focus is on English Language Learners, I think native-English speakers of a variety of ages could find these sites useful, too.

This list, though, will be a little different from most of the others because I won’t be ranking a group of ten-or-twenty sites.  Instead, I’ll be listing one-to-three sites for each “sub-category” I’m creating under the topic of “Reference.”  I’m just listing the ones I think are best for English Language Learners (and others), but it also depends on what they are needing/looking for.  It’ll be clearer after you see the list.

Here goes:

DICTIONARIES:

For Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners, The Language Guide is clearly the best place to go. It’s easy to navigate, and has excellent images, audio, and text.

For students who are getting a little beyond the Early Intermediate stage,  I’d recommend Harcourt’s E-Glossary. It begins to introduce simple academic vocabulary with images, text, and audio.  I particularly like the fact it shows words in context, and “speaks” the sentences, too.

For Intermediate and Advanced English Learners, I think Answers.com works best.  Once you type in the word you’re looking for, click “Word Tutor” and it will provide audio to a sentence using the word in context.

THESAURUS:

Visuwords is a unique, and fun, way to find synonyms in a visual display.  It’s free, and it also functions as a dictionary.

ENCYCLOPEDIA:

I know some people have issues with Wikipedia, but I’ve found the Simple English Wikipedia to be a great resource.

WORLD FACTS:

Depending on the information students are needing on countries of the world, both Fact Monster: Countries and Infoplease Countries are good for basic data.

National Geographic People and Places provides a broader overview of different countries, including the United States, and includes a lot of good images, too.

FACTS ABOUT THE 50 U.S. STATES:

America’s Library from the Library of Congress gives a very short and accessible overview of each state.

For more detailed information, I’d suggest students visit Fact Monster: The Fifty States or Infoplease: States.

I have links to all these sites, and many more, on my English For Beginners Page under Country & United States Information, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Thesaurus.

You can find my other year-end lists at Websites of the Year.

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December 6, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Visual Dictionary

Merriam Webster has recently unveiled a Visual Dictionary Online with 6,000 images divided by themes.  I learned about it from The Teacher List.

It’s an excellent resource, and it also has “drag-and-drop” games.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a audio.  Because of that, even though it doesn’t have as many words, The Language Guide is still the “go-to” online dictionary for English Language Learners.

Both sites are on my English Themes For Beginners page under Dictionaries.

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July 7, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Wikijunior, Ancient Civilizations, & Dictionaries

I just learned about a neat site from Karen Fasimpauer’s blog. She wrote about Wikibooks, which is collaboratively developing open source textbooks online.  Wikibooks also has a section called Wikijunior, which is specifically creating online textbooks (that can also be printed-out) accessible to children.

I was particularly impressed by its section on Ancient Civilizations, which has some very well-written chapters and will be very helpful to students in my World History class next year.  It seems accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.  I’ve placed the link on my World History page at the bottoms of both the First Civilized People and Greece and Rome sections.

I understand all the concerns raised about the information in Wikipedia and projects like Wikijunior.  In my experience, though, they’ve been accurate and accessible to my students.  For example,  the Simple English Wiktionary is a great dictionary for English Language Learners.  You can find this site on my English Themes For Beginners page under Dictionaries.

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