3 Tips & 3 Tools for English as a Second Language (ESL) Learners

Learning a new technology and learning in a second language doesn’t have to be all Greek for students or teachers. For students of all levels of English language acquisition, even some of the brightest young students can often become lost or overwhelmed. Technology is one of the best tools we can use to bridge language barriers and allow students in any language to access learning and be part of a classroom.

When Seeking Out New Classroom Technology for ESL Students:

1. Look for tools without a lot of verbal or linguistic input

Many teachers will find great apps or products but these are near worthless if students can’t read the directions or navigate the technology because it is in a foreign language. Tools should have picture cues for directions or to navigate (for example a pencil tool for writing or a save disk icon for save rather than just the word “save”).

2. Make sure technology is visual but still age appropriate

Many tools for English Language Learner students look great and might focus on the skill that needs practice but it can be very discouraging to students when the app or program is not age appropriate. A student may need work on the English alphabet for example so the natural assumption might be to have the student work on an ABC app. While this might be great practice, technology that is too far above or below the student’s age level may be destructive and actually discourage language acquisition, especially if students feel looked down upon by their peers.

3. Use tools that incorporate recall, practice, and application

It is each to incorporate technology for ESL students considering there is so much available. Lots of apps, websites, and types of technology are available for practice but many just involve basic recall and memorization of words. This is an important part of English Language acquisition but it is important to make sure to select programs and tools that incorporate more than just memorization, or to supplement memorization only programs with different types of programs so that students are learning new content and practicing it both verbally and linguistically.

3 Tools That Meet All of These Needs for ESL Students

  1. SMART ampThis technology allows students to access learning at any language proficiency level, students can type, draw, add pictures, and even videos based on their current language output ability. Additionally the software is not dependent on words so students can quickly use and navigate all the tools to participate without having any knowledge of the English language. This is especially helpful for getting students to communicate with peers when they are in their initial “silent period” in a new culture or language.
  2. TalkingTomThis is an app that is amazing for having kids practice the verbal component of their instruction. Students can see how words are pronounced and practice in real time with a safe and fun character so that they are practicing English speaking in a non-threatening and non-invasive way.
  3. Voxy : This is an interactive subscription based website that allows students (especially those who are older) to participate in real world reading and learn new vocabulary through application and practice. Some of the readings include current world news events and articles.

The world is becoming increasingly global and as a result the number of people learning more than one language is becoming increasingly prominent. In order to meet the needs of students in the classroom who are learning a second language, teachers can integrate different kinds of technology to help bridge gaps and allow all students access to the curriculum. Through careful consideration of technology and tools and the benefit they will have, teachers can give all kids an opportunity to participate and learn material regardless their proficiency level in English or any other second language.

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Brianna Owens
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About Brianna Owens

Brianna Owens is a teacher in New Mexico, USA. Brianna is a SMART Exemplary Educator, Discovery Education STAR educator, Golden Apple Scholar Award winner, and most importantly a teacher on a mission to redefine what learning looks like on a global scale one student and classroom at a time.

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13 thoughts on “3 Tips & 3 Tools for English as a Second Language (ESL) Learners

  1. I’m a cat lover and I have several Talking Tom apps on my phone and ipad. I usually use it just for fun. I never thought of using it in the classroom. I’m going to use it specially with those reluctant students.

  2. Learning English as a second language is becoming really popular these days because of the growing importance of learning it for various purposes. This post about the tips and tools would be very helpful for the students.

  3. My friend just recently became a United States citizen and although his English skills are pretty good, he is wanting to become an expert English speaker. I like that you mentioned that finding a program that utilizes the recall, practice, and application would be very beneficial. I will make sure to tell him to look for something that includes this model.

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