I’ve created a ton of “The Best…” lists so far — nearly 170 over the past thirteen months, in fact. Based on a number of requests I’ve received from teachers, I’ve decided to review all of them and come-up with a new series of lists including “The Best Sites For K-12 Beginning English Language Learners”; “The Best Sites For K-12 Intermediate English Language Learners”; “The Best Sites For Older Beginning & Early Intermediate English Language Learners”; and “The Best Sites For Older Intermediate English Language Learners.”

I thought that lists like these might make it a little easier for teachers, particularly newer ones — newer to teaching or newer to using technology in their teaching. Then, at their leisure, they can explore all the other more specialized lists, including the ones on Web 2.0 applications.

Of course, links to all the sites on these lists can also be found on my website, along with thousands of others.

I’m starting off with one focusing on K-12 English Language Learners. In compiling this list, I tried to really focus on highlighting sites that would be easy-to-use and engaging to both a younger Beginning English Language Learner and to someone who was new to computers.  They all have audio support for text and, with only one exception, they also have visual support.  Only a couple require registration (though the top-ranked site lets you do so if you  want to keep track of what exercises you’ve done (and registration takes seconds).  Of course, they all are free-of-charge.

Here are my ranked picks for The Best Sites For K-12 Beginning English Language Learners:

Number fourteen is from Houghton-Mifflin and is called WordBuilder. It has a zillion vocabulary exercises and helps students learn both spelling and pronunciation simply in context.

Number thirteen is BBC Bitesize Literacy.  It has a number of great activities and games related to basic literacy.

Number twelve is Spoken Skills.  It provides good, clear, listening practice, and also provides users the ability to easily record what they hear and play it back for comparison.

The original number eleven site has gone out of business.

Number ten is WordBuilder from I Know That.  I think it’s the best site out there for phonics practice. And, yes, it has the same name as another “WordBuilder” site on this list. Like with all I Know That activities, when you click on it, an annoying pop-up asking you to register shows-up. Just click on “Maybe Later” and you’ll automatically proceed to the exercise.  I’m also including the Social Studies page at I Know That. It has tons of different kinds of map games that are informative and fun.

Number nine is Kiz Club, a Korean site that has a ton of talking stories on a wide variety of topics.

Number eight is Literactive.  It has hundreds of talking stories and other interactive activities.  It’s free, though you have to register (it only takes a minute to do so).  My students really enjoy this site.

Number seven is a text-to-speech tool, which my students have found very helpful in learning pronunciation.  There are a bunch out there, though I personally prefer AT&T Labs.

Number six is an easy translation site.  There are many on the Web. 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 rates Google’s tool as the best among the ones he has tried- by far. I trust his judgment, which is why I’m choosing Google Language Tools.

Number five is The Language Guide, clearly the best dictionary on the web for Beginning ELL’s. It’s easy to navigate, and has excellent images, audio, and text.

Number four 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 takes about twenty seconds.

Number three is is Starfall, the established site that is rivaled by no other in providing accessible literacy activities to Beginning English Language Learners.

Number two is Henny Jellema’s Online TPR Exercises. You’ve got to see this site to believe it. I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into creating the exercises. However, as he cautions, it’s critical to combine using his online activities with real-life Total Physical Response lessons.

And now, for my choice as the number one pick for K-12 Beginning English Language Learners is…U.S.A Learns. It’s an incredible website to help users learn English.  Even though it’s primarily designed for older learners, it seems very accessible to all but the very youngest ELL’s.  It’s free to use. Students can register if they want to save their work and evaluate their progress.  It’s a joint effort of the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), Internet and Media Services Department and the Project IDEAL Support Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.  I know they’ve been working on this for quite awhile, and it shows.

Here are some new sites for this list:

Strivney is a free new site for beginning readers (it has a special section for English Language Learners) with 1,000 interactive exercises and games. You need to register for most beyond the sample exercises, but it’s super easy to do so. The site also has printables you can use to reinforce the online activities.

ESOL Courses has a good, basic introduction to English.

Brainpop ESL has some decent activities. I wouldn’t included it on this list if you had to pay for it but, for now at least, it’s free.

English Central, of course, is an incredible place to practice reading, speaking, and listening.

I know others might feel differently about the sites I’ve placed on this list, and their ranking.  Feel free to offer feedback and make other suggestions.  I’m all ears!

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