A guest post by Kathleen Berger
In this blog, Kathleen Berger shares a long list of free online resources to help you motivate and engage your ELLs. These web tools will have your students working collaboratively to use language meaningfully.
We as educators love to use technology in our classes, but it’s hard to think of new ways to use it. Out of lack of imagination, students are forced to participate in PowerPoint presentation after PowerPoint presentation. I have found that web tools are the perfect answer for this. This post gives provides links to web tools to incorporate into your classes to motivate and engage your students. I highly recommend using these tools in groups rather than having your students work alone. In this way, students get the chance to interact with others, make decisions collaboratively, and use the language in a meaningful way. What makes web tools great is that you don’t need to save your work on a flash drive; it’s stored online, accessible from anywhere with Internet.
Oh, did I mention that all of these are free?
The following are great for informational presentations, and I’ve ranked them from easiest to hardest.
- Haiku Deck is elegant and simple, making it very fun and easy.
- Emaze can be hard to customize, but it’s the most versatile in my opinion, allowing students to adjust the text, choose their own backgrounds, and add hyperlinks.
- Slides.com is by far the most difficult and should be used only with the most tech-savvy students, but done right, your students can create something truly beautiful and innovative.
Creative storytelling is not always as exciting when you present your story slide by slide like a presentation. Students need a little inspiration, which is why there are several sites that provide graphics, animation, and photos that allow students to plug their story into the art provided.
- Powtoon can be a little bit complicated to get the hang of because there are just so many options, but it is definitely exciting to watch.
- Zimmer Twins is good for lower level students, and I’ve used it to teach reactions, emotions, and action verbs.
- Story Bird is easy for the nontech-savvy groups, as there’s already a story or template created, and the students write their own words onto the images.
- StripGenerator allows students to create a cartoon strip, and, if they like, they can print it out later.
Videos are fun, especially if you have a creative group. I had the students film a tour of the city for newer students: They went outside of the classroom, took pictures, and filmed themselves giving a walking tour of the immediate area. It was not only engaging for the students, but it was fun to see what they thought was most interesting in the area. I suggest being prepared with cords to connect your students’ phones to the computers OR have them do these as group projects at home.
- WeVideo is an easy way to make free videos online. All you need to do is get the students to download the app, film their scenes, then edit on any computer.
- Another option is to use Stupeflix, which allows you to make as many videos as you want with 16 themes and the option to add photos or videos that the students can upload from their computer, Instagram, or the web (they can do a quick Google search right on the webpage). This might also be helpful for students giving an informational or personal presentation.
Students can build their own websites with Yola, Wix, or Weebly, and creating a website can be especially motivating for students in business classes, where they might spend several weeks or a semester making a business plan. Rather than present their plan directly, they could format their business into an actual website.
These days, there is no excuse to not be using technology in the classroom. If there are not resources at your disposal in the classroom, in many cases, the students can work on these projects at home or in the computer labs on campus. If you can implement even one of these fun projects in the classroom, you will find a renewed energy in the students and maybe even a new respect for your ability to give them a challenging and interesting project.
Kathleen Berger Christian got her MA TESOL from Azusa Pacific, wrote for the CATESOL Journal, presented at two conferences on native speaker privilege, and has taught at language schools in France, Hollywood, and Long Beach. She currently teaches at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.