Looking for ways to engage and challenge your ESL students inside and outside of the classroom? Studies have shown mobile apps can be effective tools for improving vocabulary, increasing interest and encouraging involvement in the classroom. For ESL students, these findings are particularly important, as learning a new language is often difficult and intimidating.
There are apps for practicing and refining student language usage, as well as those that assist teachers looking for ways to connect with and engage students in the language-learning process. Below are some helpful apps for ESL teachers and their students:
Free Apps for Students:
- Little Bird Tales
In this app, students use multimedia storytelling to practice language skills. They can take pictures, draw, record audio and write text, all of which comes together in a video story. Excellent for scaffolding, the app enables students to play to their strengths by telling stories orally or practicing their English writing.
Availability: Free in the App Store with options to upgrade to premium accounts
- English Conversation Practice
The TalkEnglish app can help students become comfortable with conversing in English. ECP holds conversations with students to help them improve their vocabulary, correct pronunciation and construct sentences. The app's over 200 different conversation lessons consist of listening exercises, voice recordings and speaking activities.
- Monkey Puzzles
ESL students practice their English vocabulary as they play mini games with this app from Cambridge English. In this simplified, more fun and student-friendly version of Duolingo, students read and spell simple words to score points and unlock levels to progress.
Availability: App Store
- Kids Picture Dictionary
This app is less a dictionary and more like a set of words grouped together by letters of the alphabet, creating picture-based flashcards. Students simply click on letters and scroll through the pictures associated with the words. Every word has either a sentence or audio recording so students can see and hear it used. They can even repeat the words they are learning and playback their own voices to compare pronunciation.
Free Apps for Teachers:
- Shadow Puppet
Shadow puppet is a digital storytelling app. It allows both you and your students to design projects like family heritage maps, art portfolios, storytelling and news reports in slide formats that can also act as personalized flashcards. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the user.
Availability: App Store
ESL teachers use Quizlet to create assessments and practice quizzes for students. Whether you want students to study new vocabulary or review specific skills, this app offers customizable quizzes tailored to your students' needs. To differentiate, teachers can also create specific study sets for students based on individual learning levels.
Kahoot is widely used in classrooms everywhere for gamifying lesson plans and prompting class discussion. You can challenge ESL students at every level with games and surveys in math, reading, vocabulary and problem-solving activities, both in school and at home.
A popular app, Cram is easy to use and has a large collection of readymade, web-based flashcards. Teachers can use these sets or create and share their own, even adding images or recording audio to aid in pronunciation and retention.
Teachers who are serious about helping English language learners succeed in the classroom and beyond will want to consider completing Southeastern Oklahoma State University's M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction – English as a Second Language online program. Graduates can pursue roles like ESL instructor and instructional coordinator. The online format offers a convenient path to a specialized master's degree.
Sources:The Conversation: Do Mobile Devices in the Classroom Really Improve Learning Outcomes?
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