This is the third of several year-end “The Best…” lists I’m writing. The first one was The Best Online Learning Games — 2008. The second was The Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly — 2008. As with both of those lists, I’m experimenting with a reader’s poll at the bottom of this post. The Learning Games poll closes on November 1st. The poll for the “…Easily & Quickly” list will end on December 1st. The voting for this list will close on January 1st. I’ll let you guess when the voting will finish for my next list, The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2008.
I’m not too concerned about being completely consistent with these lists. Some of the sites listed on one list could easily appear on another. A couple of sites on this list are actually older sites that disappeared for awhile and then thankfully reappeared this year. One site has been around for years and I just forgot to include it in last year’s The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2007 list, so I’m including it here. And a few began prior to this year, but I didn’t learn about them until recently.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Most of the sites on this list are geared towards student self-access, though a few are obviously teacher resource pages. And speaking of student self-access, remember that links to these sites can also be found, along with 8,000 others, on my website.
If you get a chance, you might also want to look at the nearly one hundred other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled over the past year.
The twenty-seven sites on this list are ranked in order of preference, from the twenty-seventh to the first. However, they are listed in the opposite order on the poll itself following my descriptions of all the sites.
Remember that you, or your students, can only vote once in the poll. So you should take your time to carefully review all of them since you won’t get a second chance.
(Editor’s Note: On a different matter, subscribers to this blog who use Google Reader and Bloglines to get updated RSS feeds, and who subscribed prior to January, 2008, might have recently stopped receiving new posts. If that has happened to you, you can re-subscribe using this newer Feedburner feed. This issue only relates to people who subscribed prior to January — anyone who has subscribed since then is already using the Feedburner feed and shouldn’t be having any problems.)
Here are my picks for The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2008:
Number twenty-seven is Lyrics Fly. It’s one of the best sites out there for finding song lyrics. You can also use it to find music audio and videos, but I’m primarily interested in the lyrics. The Make Use Of blog calls it “lyric search on steroids.” I’m hopeful that I will never again have to waste time trying to chase down lyrics for songs I’ll be using in our ESL classes, and not have to deal with annoying pop-up ads on other lyric sites.
Number twenty-six is MixTurtle. It’s one of those music sites that I don’t understand how they can operate legally in the face of copyright laws. All you have to do is type in the name of a recording artist or a song, and you immediately get links to hear many songs, you can then create playlists and share them with others. I typed in “Raffi,” who is always my “test” on these kinds of applications, and seemed to get more choices than I’ve found on the other similar web tools (you can see a list of them under Movies and Music For ESL on my website). If these kind of sites are not blocked by school content filters, and if, as many posts from blogs far bigger than mine are right and these sites are legally and morally defensible, they can be a source of great music for ESL instruction.
Number twenty-five is the Embedded Learning Portal in the United Kingdom. It has one hundred exceptional step-by-step literacy (and math) lessons designed for adult learners. This has been around for quite awhile, but then it changed its url address and sort of disappeared. But it’s back, and well worth visiting.
Number twenty-four is Soundflavor. It’s an intriguing and new music website. It’s basically a source of online music not unlike several others I’ve already posted about and placed on my website under Movies & Music For ESL. However, it does have one unique feature — you can search for music by subject (nature, war, peace, work, money, etc.). It looks like the results are a little uneven, but even so this kind of capability could be very helpful to an ESL/EFL teacher who’s being hard-pressed to find a song connected to a theme he/she is teaching in class.
Number twenty-three is Spelling Bee. This exercise provides text with audio support of simple passages, and then students have to type in the correct words that go into blanks. I particularly like this interactive because there are various grade-levels to it, and, unlike in most online spelling activities, this one uses words in context.
Number twenty-two is Sight Words With Samson. It’s clearly one of the best websites out there to learn sight words — for English Language Learners or younger native-English speakers. There’s audio support for text and a lot of interactive fun exercises. One of the best things about it is that it also shows sight words in the context of sentences — in both audio and text. In an ideal world it would also show an image illustrating the sentence, but you can’t always have everything.
Number twenty-one is Chuala. On this free site, which you can use without registering, you hear the pronunication of English words and you can record your own pronunciation of the same word to compare the two (assuming you have a microphone, of course).
Number twenty is CloZure. It’s an exceptional new online web application developed by Peter Shanks. Using this tool, you can create a cloze (fill-in-the-gap) online activity from a gazillion Wikipedia articles. You can adjust the difficulty level of the clozes that are created, too. Students can complete the exercise online, or you can print it out and have students do it with pen and paper. The site will also develop clozes using the Simple English of Wikipedia.
Number nineteen is Rap Happy, Singing is a less threatening way to get students to start speaking English, and many younger students in particular love singing rap. Here, they get to choose a beat, record their own lyrics, and post the url of their performance on a blog or website.
Number eighteen is Into The Book. This is an absolutely incredible resource designed to help students learn reading strategies — visualize, predict, summarize, etc. For the past couple of years it had only been partially completed. Now, however, all its exercises were finished. Users are led through the process of learning each reading strategy with interactive exercises.
Number seventeen is Grooveshark Lite. I’ve posted in the past about sites that allow you to pretty much find any song you want, create a playlist, and let you do it for free. As I wrote earlier in this post about another application, I’m still amazed that these sites are legal, but, according to a bunch of prominent blogs, they’ve apparently found a way to be legitimate. Grooveshark has a particularly attractive interface, and a huge selection of music. I was able to find a ton of songs that I use with English Language Learners (Raffi songs were plentiful). Between Grooveshark and Mix Turtle, a teacher, assuming the site was allowed by his/her school’s content filter, wouldn’t have to buy music again.
Number sixteen is Lyrics On Call. It makes it quite easy for teachers to find lyrics for songs used in class. With this site, and with many others listed on my website under Movies & Music, the days of having to endure endless pop-up ads while searching for lyrics on the Internet are past.
Number fifteen is On The Tip of My Tongue. It’s a great site from France that teaches English idioms through the use of cartoons, audio, and games.
Number fourteen is Kiz Club. It has wonderful “talking stories” for beginning readers and was off-line for quite awhile. I had thought it was going to be permanent, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they’re back.
Number thirteen is Splashr. It’s an extraordinary application that students, particularly second-language learners, can use to easily create their own picture dictionary. Write in a word, choose from a ton of different presentation styles, and you get countless images representing that word. Even better, you can email the link and create your own picture dictionary.
Number twelve is English Express It’s a site developed in Alberta, Canada, and has well-done short articles that have text with audio support. They’re specifically written for ESL students, and have articles at different language levels.
Number eleven is Talking Cards. You get to choose from a variety of designs and characters and, using their text-to-speech option, have it speak whatever you want. You can use the “free” option for the cards, and the site just says your message will include some advertising. However, the ones that I’ve tried just includes advertising for the the Talking Cards site itself.
Number ten is The Tapestry For Teachers Of English Language Learners. The Tapestry is a joint project the International Reading Association, TESOL, and a large number of other organizations are doing that includes bringing together research results on what works with English Language Learners.
Number nine is English Trailers. It has many trailers from popular movies along with comprehension and cloze activities. We just added that site as one our students can use at home in our Family Literacy Project and they love it.
Number eight is Read The Words. It lets you convert any text – from a document, blog, or website – into audio with your choice from a variety of voices. You can then embed the voice player into your site. English Language Learners can easily copy and paste an essay they’re writing to hear if it sounds “right.” They can complete a story or essay, paste it into a Jottit page, and then embed a Read The Words audio player that will speak what they wrote. The site had some technical glitches when they first began, but it seems like those have been worked out.
Number seven is Sound Guide . It’s a French site with many good English language-learning activities. I like its dictation exercises, especially the sentence and phrase ones. In these dictations, you hear a sentence from a movie, and then have to “drag-and-drop” words to recreate the sentence.
Number six is the British Council’s J@M. They have a series of excellent audio and animated stories related to everyday situations. Be sure to click on “dialogue” within the animation to see the words as they’re spoken.
Number five is is iCue. It’s a collaboration between NBC and MIT. There’s a lot to the site. It’s basically an extremely interactive way to learn about the news (and has a new U.S. History component), but that’s an understatement. It’s designed for students thirteen years-old and above. You can play games, watch videos (which all have very easy and simultaneous access to its transcript at the same time — great for English Language Learners and, in my experience, unusual on the web), save student work, and a ton of other activities. You have to register, but it’s free and easy to do so.
Number four is Beat The Clock, another British Council game. The player has to complete a sentence by choosing the right word before the timer runs out. The games are categorized by theme, and there are tons of them. They are also labeled by the appropriate English level (beginner, early intermediate, etc.).
Number three is Listen and Write. It’s a new web tool that I think has a lot of potential for English Language Learners. A user first chooses a text he/she wants to hear read to him/her. Many of the choices are from the Voice of America, and are both high-interest and accessible. Their levels of difficulty are also indicated. Then the story is dictated to you, and you have to type it correctly. You can choose the speed of the reading and how often it’s repeated. When you type only the correct letters actually show-up on the screen, and you can ask for hints.
Number two is YAKIToME. It lets you copy and paste pretty much anything you want and the convert the text to speech.You can choose the type of voice (it uses ATT technology, which I’ve had a link on my website to for a longtime because it’s so good), the rate of speed (there are numerous settings), and even customize pronunciation for certain words. You choose to see the text when you’re listening to it being spoken. And you can create private groups if you want. Most importantly, it seems to work without any technical difficulties. Plus, it’s free.
And now, my pick for the number one 2008 Best Internet Site For English Language Learners is…..Mingoville. It’s an exceptional site from Denmark designed to teach Beginning English Language Learners. There are many interactive exercises and games, it’s very colorful, and there are both listening and speaking activities, including a voice recording feature. You can experiment with it as a guest for a few minutes, but then you have to register. It’s completely free, and registration took about twenty seconds.
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As a Dane, I feel (in an odd sort of way) honored that Mingoville is your no. 1 pick for 2008. But I also feel that I have to tell you that it isn’t free of charge. It’s 30 dollars for 3 months, 45 for 6 months and 60 for one year. When it was first introduced here a few years ago, I checked out the Teacher’s Guide and was somewhat miffed to find a number of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that should have been caught before the material was published. I’ve just skimmed a few pages again – and the errors are still there. While it may seem like a small thing, I think that if you want to sell a product targeted at English learners and teachers, you have to be professional enough to make sure that your English is impeccable. And it may seem unfair, but for that very reason I have felt no inclination to recommend the system to my own students – future English teachers in Denmark. While it’s OK for “ordinary” L2 speakers to make mistakes, it’s not a luxury afforded by people who want to earn a living teaching others how to speak and write a foreign language. Having said that, I’m sure the teaching material has a lot to offer – I’m just a bit suspicious, that’s all.
Thanks for sharing your discoveries of great tools and sites. Do keep it up – many of us depend on you!
As always GREAT LIST and I’m looking into a few of the sites mentioned – not on my radar screen!
I”ve also championed Mingoville. Awesome and truly something a teacher might fully integrate as an English lab. I hope this kind of learning takes off in schools. Students learn in the lab while the teacher works with a small number of students in real “personal’ (effective) communication practice. Whole class teaching is really a dinosaur and an ineffective way for students , especially Netizens, to learn a language….
Thanks for the list! Might be great to make a diigo slideshow of these. I often do that when presenting a list of sites of teachers.
I’ll also add – I think EFL Classroom 2.0 is a great place for ELLs (no bias here :)). Despite our ups and downs, I hope to develop an English Everywhere chatroom through the new site Chatroll. Cool place and I hope other blogs/sites will embed and then we can share ONE place where learners can get real time, serious chat practice. http://chatroll.com/people/english-everywhere The problem at the moment is that all the learners are scattered, this viral, embeddable chat might work to create a community – anywhere, anytime….. So anyone, please promote this chatroom – a place where native speakers/teachers and students can gather and meet.
Larry – Thanks for all you do. I am tasked with helping two ESL students, just about entirely using the internet, so your links have been very helpful. I work for a private school with no sped, and no classes for ESL. I don’t think this is nearly enough, but it’s a start. Thanks again, Fran
I am surprised that the Daily English show doesn’t at least get a mention. I know that at least some university age students seem to love it.