Hello! This week’s ESL resources are two good online listening practice websites for ESL students. In the ELI, we all know about TED.com, which has thousands of short lectures. TED is great, but it isn’t specifically designed for ESL students. Here are two websites that are!
Voice of America Learning English is a free news website funded by the US government. Its stories are designed for English language learners and include resources such as vocabulary lists. The website even includes a built-in dictionary (click on a word to see a short definition).
In addition to the news stories, VoA Learning English also has series of content focused on the English language. Check these out, for example:
Over the years, many Quizlet sets have been created by ELI teachers. See them below!
Not every Quizlet set listed below is relevant for every semester. For example, in one semester, we might teach the odd chapters of a book (1, 3, 5, etc), and in the next, we might teach the even chapters (2, 4, 6, etc). However, in the list below, you can often find all chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.
If you have questions about which Quizlet sets relate to your current ELI curriculum, you can ask your teacher.
As its name suggests, typing.com is a website which helps you learn how to type properly on a US English keyboard. The website is free, and it offers a few dozen sequential tutorials that guide you from the most basic beginner-level practice (F, J, and Space) up to advanced-level full-keyboard speed and accuracy drills. Students can create accounts to track their progress and earn achievement badges.
Typing is an important skill for ESL/EFL students due to the amount of typed work they may be expected to produce in classes as well as their later careers. It’s also a necessary skill to enable students to confidently tackle standardized exams (such as the TOEFL and GRE) which require that students type original compositions under time pressure.
Socrative is a free(mium) student response system service that enables students to respond to questions using their phones or any other internet-connected device. I’ve been using the free version in my language classrooms for three years, and for the past few months, I’ve also been trying out the paid premium version, Socrative Pro, thanks to a small grant from the Robert Henderson Language Media Center.
I use Socrative in three main ways:
To collect short written work that will be shared and discussed with the class– especially for sentence-level writing practice!
To track the class’s overall accuracy on specific skills being taught
To convert “paper” activities (including items in the textbook or on handouts) into interactive digital activities
Socrative offers three question types: multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. Here’s an example of a short answer question as viewed from a student’s perspective:
Teachers see students’ responses immediately as they come in. Here are two examples of “results” screen: one for a short-answer activity and one for a multiple-choice activity.
For short-answer quizzes, teachers can click into specific questions to see a list of student answers:
Multiple-choice and true/false questions consolidate answers into an attractive bar-graph display:
In addition, teachers can choose correct answers for multiple-choice and true/false questions. For example, here is what the teacher sees in the quiz-building interface:
And this is what a student sees before and after submitting an answer for the above question. Note the immediate corrective feedback:
The way I implement activities in my classes is that I have a lecture slide template that I can quickly copy and paste into my slide deck for the day. I then make any necessary changes to the slide. Here is an example of one of my slides:
Here’s an example of a sentence-writing task. First, I display the slide to my students to help them join the activity:
Then, after all the students have joined the activity, I put up a timer and monitor student progress on the Socrative dashboard:
And finally, once time is up, we discuss answers as a class, just as you would if students had written sentences on the board:
All of the features shown above are available for free. However, Socrative also has a premium paid service called Socrative Pro. The details for Socrative Pro differ slightly for K-12 vs. Higher Ed contexts, but the differences and features are summarized below:
I’ve found Socrative’s basic (non-Pro) features to be an excellent fit for occasional use in the language classroom. In most language courses I teach, I use Socrative about once or twice per week. On curriculum evaluations, students have consistently rated Socrative activities as being one of the most helpful and useful things we do in the classroom, and it’s not hard to see why. For multiple-choice questions, students can get immediate right/wrong feedback along with an explanation of the correct answer; and for open-ended written activities, students enjoy all the benefits of sharing their work with the class and getting formative feedback, but without the anxiety many feel in personally going up to the board to write out their response by hand.
So to sum up, Socrative’s free version works wonderfully in the language classroom.
How about the paid version? To be honest, although there are some nice quality-of-life improvements in the Pro version, Socrative Pro doesn’t have any “must-have” features for my needs. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think the Pro version offers my students any added value versus the basic version. However, of the various Pro features I’ve tried, I’ve most enjoyed using the “multiple rooms” feature, which enables me to have a separate “room” for each of my classes. Rooms act sort of like folders: they keep activities and results from one class separate from those of other classes. If you’re a pretty heavy user like me, keeping your classes separated from each other can help prevent clutter and confusion when you use the website. Plus, the feature enables you (in theory) to run multiple activities at the same time (one activity per “room”). This could be useful if you want to use Socrative to collect homework activities in your classes– something I’ve never done, but which is a plausible use case.