My “The Best…” lists for 2010 continue, and this latest one focuses on sites that ELL students would use directly.
You might also be interested in previous editions of this list:
The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2009
The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2008
The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2007
The Best Web 2.0 Applications for ESL/EFL Learners — 2007
Here are my ranked choices for The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2010:
LATE ADDITION: I’d place this site higher, but learned about it after I had completed this list — Voice of America has had its great Special English section for year, offering accessible news stories for those who are learning English. But I’ve always wondered why they didn’t have more online learning activities — it seemed to me to be a natural extension. Well, it appears that they reached the same conclusion. I’m not sure how long they began their VOA News: The Classroom (it must not have been too long ago, since some of the sections seem light on materials), but they have what looks like the beginning of a nice new site. I especially like their Articles section, which has lots of interactive exercises related to engaging news articles. I’m adding this section to The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners. Their Activities section looks like it will be a nice feature when they bulk up the interactive resources they have there. I’m less impressed with their Interactive Learning feature, which includes a dictionary and idiom guide that could be more accessible and engaging. But it’s a very nice start!
SECOND LATE ADDITION: As many teachers of English Language Learners know — either through my previous posts or through their own experience — one of the best sites for English Language Learners is the Oxford University Press Student Sites page. They have a large number of sites to support each of their English textbooks, and the activities are free. It’s on a variety of my “The Best…” lists, and specific book sites are also on various lists. Some of the book have more engaging support than others. Not surprisingly, the newer the site is, the better the activities. OUP has a new support site for its Step Ahead series. I haven’t seen the textbook, so can’t say anything about it. However, its website is a real winner and is clearly one of the best sites offering textbook support on the web. I’ve added it to our Intermediate English class blog, and my students will certainly be visiting it often.
Number seventeen: Blurts lets you quickly and easily record thirty second voice recordings with shareable url addresses. You have to register, but all it requires is an email. Students can also use it to create an “audio blog” if they want.
Number sixteen: Jason Renshaw has unveiled his long-awaited “Choose Your Own Adventure” series titled “World Adventure Kids.” It’s a neat interactive video audio book, and there are going to be quite a few of them. They are on YouTube now, and he’s trying to figure out another platform to host them that would not be blocked by many school content filters. I hope he can find one, because I know English Language Learner students (and others) will love them.
Number fifteen: ABC Fast Phonics is a pretty darn impressive site for beginning readers to reinforce their understanding of phonics. I’m not a big fan of explicit phonics instruction being a huge part of a curriculum, but I do make it a part of the curriculum I use with Beginning English Language Learners. I teach it in an inductive way, though, which I describe more thoroughly in my upcoming book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work. Sites like ABC Fast Phonics, though, do offer engaging ways students can practice.
Number fourteen: “A Guide For Advisors Of Undocumented Students” is a new excellent website specifically designed for undocumented students who want to attend college in California. A fair amount of the resources would be helpful to students in other states, too.
Number thirteen: Everyday Life is an extraordinary interactive site for ELL’s sponsored by a North Carolina-based organization called GCF Learn Free. It’s on several of my “The Best…” lists. The same organization has just unveiled a new site to teach reading to Beginners. It’s design and navigation is unlike any other reading site on the Web. It has some very good activities, but I’m not sure if the navigation will be too confusing or if users will find it cool and intuitive.
Number twelve: USA Today has begun a “Voices” Project, where the paper poses a question and then people can respond in writing (via Twitter) or video.
Some of the questions have included:
How has the oil spill changed you?
What does freedom mean to you?
Number eleven: 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
Number ten: The Associated Press has unveiled the AP Timeline Reader, a visual way to see and read the news.
Number nine: The CBBC Newsround has an separate Accessible Newsreader for much of their content that is attractively designed and provides audio support for the text.
Number eight: The Cultural Orientation Resource Center has put their extraordinary collection of refugee phrasebooks online and free for download. Here’s how they describe this incredibly useful resource:
These phrasebooks are designed to supply refugees with the appropriate English phrases and supplementary vocabulary for use in the daily activities of American life (rather than simply word-to-word translations, as in a dictionary). Phrases contained in the books have been selected for their directness, brevity and relevance to the needs of newly arrived residents of the United States. Among the nineteen units included are sections on “Giving Information About Yourself,” “Recognizing Signs,” “Dealing With Money,” “Health,” “Food,” “Clothing,” “Housing,” and “Jobs.”
Each phrasebook is approximately 140 pages and can be downloaded for free. They are available in these languages: Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Cantonese, Czech, Farsi, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Hungarian, Khmer, Lao, Polish, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Number seven: ABRACADABRA is an online reading program created by researchers in Montreal. It has quite a few very accessible stories (with audio support for the test) and reading games.
Number six: Many teachers are familiar with the excellent Professor Garfield site, a joint project of the comic cat and Ball State University. The site recently added The Professor Garfield Toon Book Reader to its extensive list of features. It has a number of books that provides audio support for the text.
Number five: Learning Chocolate is designed for English Language Learners to gain basic vocabulary through many interactive exercises.
Number four: MeeGenius is a new site that provides audio support for the text of books for early readers. In addition, you’re given the option to “personalize” each story.
Number three: goEnglish.me is an online English learning resource from Voice of America. It’s specifically for Chinese and Persian speakers, but it seems to me that all English Language Learners could find it useful. It’s quite interactive, and seems engaging.
Number two: 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.
There is a tie for the number one spot:
Number one: I first read about Qwiki in Newsweek. Qwiki is described very accurately by TechCrunch:
Qwiki is somewhere in between a visual search engine and a highly interactive and entertaining Wikipedia. It assembles information on the fly for millions of topics, bringing together images and text in a truly magical way.
One thing that TechCrunch didn’t mention, and I learned when I snagged an invite, was that the text is not only very accessible, audio support for it is provided, too. Even though it’s not open to the public yet (but will be soon), I’m adding it to The Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners and making it number one on this list. Students are going to love it.
Number one: I’ve posted about the Minnesota Basic Education Site before, but it’s been quite a quite awhile. I was recently pleased to see that they had completely redesigned it, and it looks great! It has a huge amount of resources accessible to ELL’s.
Feedback is welcome.
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Great resources as usual Larry. You ARE the super filter!
Thanks for mentioning VOA’s Learning English website. You’re right that the Classroom is a very new project – it’s only a few months old – but we’re very excited about it. It builds on the traditional “Special English” broadcasting we’ve always done for non-native speakers with companion lessons and interactives specifically designed to teach American English. Hope you continue enjoying it!