How to Use Technology to Help ELLs Achieve Language Mastery
Today’s students are more tech-savvy than any who came before them. Having grown up with immediate access to advanced technology, they rely on it heavily for everything from entertainment to education. It plays an essential role in their everyday lives, and schools are trying to keep up.
Technology integration has become a massive effort for districts across the country, especially after the quick pivot to virtual learning in 2020. Teachers are more aware of the many benefits that technology offers them and their students, and they’re finding new ways to incorporate it into their daily routines.
But while using edtech is beneficial for all students, it’s particularly valuable for English language learners (ELLs). In this blog, we’re sharing helpful tips for how to use technology to help ELLs achieve language mastery. But first, let’s look at some reasons why you should integrate technology tools for ELLs in your classroom.
5 Reasons to Integrate Technology in a Classroom for ELLs
Although we live in the “age of technology,” many teachers are still a bit apprehensive to use technology regularly with their students.
This is largely true for ESL teachers, as it can be challenging to teach students from other countries who are unfamiliar with both the technology and the language. However, utilizing edtech offers a multitude of advantages for both teachers and their English learners.
Here are five major reasons why you should integrate technology in your classroom for ELL students.
1. Encourages Individualized Growth
No two students learn exactly the same way or at the same pace, especially those learning a new language. Fortunately, there is a plethora of technology resources for ELL students nowadays that can be tailored to each student’s individual needs. Using these educational programs and apps will allow your English learners to progress and practice their language skills at a pace that’s right for them.
2. Increases Student Engagement
Students love technology, so getting any opportunity to use it in the classroom automatically increases their engagement and motivation to learn. Technology takes them from being passive learners to having a far more active role in their learning process. So, rather than traditional lectures and worksheets, opt for more interactive digital options that make learning a new language fun!
3. Addresses Multiple Learning Styles
Each student has their own way of learning content best, which is commonly referred to as a learning style. There are four different types of learning styles:
- Visual – using pictures, graphics, maps, and other visual aids to understand information
- Auditory – using listening, speaking, and repetition as a means of gaining understanding
- Reading / Writing – learning by reading and taking extensive notes
- Kinesthetic – hands-on learning by doing and feeling
It can be difficult for teachers to develop lesson plans and activities that appeal to all four learning styles—but that’s where edtech comes in. Technology offers a multimodal means of presenting new concepts for students, whether they prefer learning visually, audibly, tactilely, or through written words.
4. Offers Differentiated Supports
Because your ELs all come from diverse cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds, they’re each going to need different supports to successfully acquire new language skills. That’s why instructional scaffolding is an essential aspect of teaching ELs.
Using edtech is a great way to provide differentiated scaffolds for your students, as there’s a wide variety of educational and assistive technology for ELLs from apps and games to translation and text-to-talk features.
5. Facilitates Communication & Collaboration
Technology can provide low-risk opportunities for your English learners to communicate and collaborate. Early on in their English language journey, many ELs don’t feel comfortable speaking aloud in class. Online forums, programs, and apps eliminate that barrier of intimidation, making it possible for students to interact with more confidence.
Translation technology also makes it easier for students to communicate with their peers and teachers while they’re still learning basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS).
Top 9 Technology Tools for ELLs
To help you get started with – or to further – your technology integration, here is a selection of valuable and convenient tools to use in your ESL classroom.
This app is essential for anyone teaching or learning English. Google Translate can translate typed text in 108 languages as well as text in photographs and offers automatic two-way voice translation. It can be used for a wide variety of classroom activities and communication needs daily.
TalkingPoints is another incredible translation tool that you should add to your arsenal. With over 100 home languages to choose from, TalkingPoints performs two-way translation of messages in real-time between ESL teachers and immigrant parents. It also offers in-app tips to help support positive relationships between school and home. By making communication a priority, you will empower your students’ parents to help their children succeed academically.
This tool allows teachers and students to create interactive, digital bulletin boards. Students can use it to share notes, display work, engage in discussions, and visually organize information—there are endless opportunities for how you can use Padlet to support your lessons.
Padlet’s free version limits you to three boards, but these can be continually edited and deleted without penalty. There’s also a bulk pricing plan, Backpack for Schools, that gives schools more privacy options and special features.
4. Read&Write for Chrome
If you’re looking for a simple and effective assistive technology for ELLs, we recommend trying Read&Write. This Google Chrome extension helps boost reading confidence for English learners by making documents, web pages, and files more accessible. It offers the following support features:
- Text-to-speech so that students can hear words, paragraphs, or full passages read aloud
- Speech-to-text to assist with writing
- Text and picture dictionaries to see the meaning of certain vocabulary terms
- Simplified and summarized text on web pages
- Voice notes
Teachers receive a free, premium subscription.
Duolingo is a free language learning app that offers engaging English lessons in over 20 first languages. The lessons are set up like a game, and students can either compete against themselves or their peers on any device. You can also tailor Duolingo to your learning objectives with customizable lessons and assignments.
Your ELs will have so much fun with this app, they might not even realize that they’re learning!
6. Voice Recorder or Vocaroo
Recording tools such as Voice Recorder and Vocaroo are simple yet valuable technology resources for ELL students. These tools are especially useful while teaching your ELs to read with prosody. Students can record themselves reading a passage or poem, then listen to the recording to analyze their pronunciation and expression. Then, they can try again.
Over time, your English learners will be able to hear how their reading skills have improved.
Quizlet is a free, digital flashcard program that you can use to help your students learn and practice vocabulary terms. There are plenty of pre-made study sets that you can use and customize, or you can create your own. In addition to flashcards, Quizlet also offers practice quizzes, games, and assessments that you can use for progress monitoring.
Technology has a way of making formative assessment fun, and that’s certainly the case with Quizizz and Kahoot.
These tools offer interactive, audiovisual learning games where students can compete with each other in real-time using a simple code on their electronic device. With Quizizz, students can work at their own pace, while everyone works at the same pace while playing Kahoot. Both platforms are great for informally assessing your EL’s vocabulary and reading comprehension in an engaging, low-risk way.
Audiobooks and eBooks are fantastic technology resources for ELL students.
Audiobooks are helpful for beginner-intermediate ELs who have a basic understanding of spoken English but struggle to comprehend the written language. Epic! offers students access to thousands of high-quality books. eBooks are also beneficial for ELs, as they’re more easily accessible than traditional books and often have assistive capabilities such as text-to-talk to aid in understanding.
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Learning how to use technology to help ELLs doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start by integrating some of the simple and effective technology tools we mentioned above–like eBooks!