How are you using online sites and other technologies to help your ELL students?

Please share your ideas for using online sites, collaborative/project sites like ePals, and other technologies for helping ELL students, both in and out of the classroom.


As one example, teachers go to to find a classroom of English speakers. Two classes can team up as a class, or better yet, individual students can each have a pen pal to write to.

When you are doing the unit on "my home" and students learn the words for various rooms of the house and desk, chair, table, sofa, etc., almost everyone has them write a paragraph about their house. Instead of writing that paragraph to turn in to the teacher, the student can write the paragraph and then send it to the pen pal. The pen pal can write back can comment, ask questions, or write about his own home. This is authentic language practice.


If you have more technology available, your students could record their voices to send to another class, or make a video, etc.


Another recommendation is to have students look at particular movies at home, and to turn on "closed captioning" so that the English words also appear on the screen.


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In class whenever we watch a film, I always have the closed captioning option active. It not only helps their listening skills, but also adds more vocabulary for the writing activities that will follow.

I also use News For You ( which has an online option to hear a news story read to them as they read along. This is not a free service, but it is very inexpensive. Those with internet at home use it with their parents and therefore become "language teachers."

In the classroom, we also use document cameras which allow every student to share work if they wish to (for points). Even the shy ones don't mind putting their work under the camera since our classroom has a safe risk-free environment.

There are also many websites they work with which are free and highly engaging ( Bottom line is that we need to use the tools that students like otherwise they won't fully benefit from any lesson we deliver.

Denise, thanks for the great thoughts and suggestions!

I am a university student and that site, epals, sounds like an excellent way for students to practice their conversational English. I also think that the IRIS Pen 7; is a wonderful technological tool that can be of great use in my classroom. Many other professionals use this device for children with dyslexia or as a shortcut to typing information into a computer. However, it has multiple other uses as well.This pen when scanned over books will say the word out loud along with a brief dictionary definition of the word. This device will be used when they simply do not understand a word in the context of their reading passages. I believe that  it should primarily be used outside of the classroom when the teacher is not able to help them understand the meaning of the word. This device also aids in translation; it can translate into over thirty different languages some of which include: German, Portuguese, Korean, and Chinese. I believe this device would be very useful inside of a classroom, because many of my students grow very frustrated when they do not understand a word and have to spend a considerable amount of time looking it up. 

When I taught in South Korea in 2008 and 2012, I made great use of Western movies with accompanying subtitles; this not only exposed students to real-time English, but it also exposed them to Western culture, which was part of my mandate.  I'd also give them review sheets with viewing/reading comprehension questions to be turned in after the movie to ensure they were paying attention.  It was fun for them and easy for me!

These days, I am teaching an older set in a community college, and since they are paying to be in my class, I don't waste their time with movies.  The first semester I taught the class, I used very little technology while I was getting familiar with the material; now, I do a half-flipped classroom.  Each Unit takes about two weeks, the first being dedicated to in-class reading and review of the chapters; homework that week is to read and complete the exercises for the remaining two chapters and check their answers to a PPT to be found on their Blackboard.  For the second class session of the Unit, we make use of Quizlet.  Quizlet is an online study site which is used by our Language Department to provide students the opportunity to interact with their vocabulary content anytime.  The words for each chapter (in their verb, noun, adjective, and adverb forms) are pre-loaded into sets, each set giving students opportunities to spell the words, define them, use them in sentences, and quiz themselves on their progress, which I, too, am able to track in real time.  My students love using Quizlet, as it's a much better way to learn, study, and use their new words than talking to themselves!  Quizlet changed the whole landscape of my class, and things have never looked better as a result.

Another way I am using digital technology in my ESL classroom is through the use of Google Apps.  Though many of my students prefer paper-in-hand, I give them the option by posting study materials and assignment directions online in my Google Drive and making the link available via email and Blackboard postings.  This way, students have the materials on-the-go and need not worry about lost or ruined papers, as they always have a digital copy close at hand.  However, for my recent digital immigrants, I make sure to print out all materials they will need between class meetings.

Another way I use Google with my ESL students is in encouraging them to use the speech functions to hear the proper pronunciation of words between class sessions.  I obviously can't always be there to properly speak their vocabulary words, but Google can take my place 6 days a week (granted they have access).  By typing a tough or forgotten word into Google, they can hear how it's supposed to sound from a native (if not a little robotic) speaker.  Additionally, my Quizlet resources from my previous post also has several speech options across the various activities where students can be exposed to proper pronunciation of target vocabulary.



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