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The Teaching English as a Second Language Program has been an incredible journey of personal exploration and discovery. Beginning with Jimenez (2010) building the foundation of how a second language is acquired through the characteristics of language like pragmatics, semantics, syntax, morphology, and phonology Jimenez discussed the acquisition of a second language. In later courses numerous experts in the field of education explored abundant strategies that further the understanding and the academic advancement of English Language Learners (ELL). From building background, vocabulary development, assistance with written expression to aid in reading and writing development, to cooperative learning and other strategies to support the academic and language growth in English Language Learners. One of the frequent approaches discussed involves integrating technology in the classroom. Noyes (2010) and Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) mentioned the advantage of utilizing technology to benefit second language students. Technology can be used to enhance student learning in many ways. This paper will highlight using technology to improve reading, math, social studies and science curriculum, vocabulary, and writing.
Utilizing Technology in the Classroom
There are numerous resources available online at no cost to teachers, students, or to families. This makes the internet a valuable network of ideas for teachers, a great source of assistance for students and their families, and a place that provides many opportunities for students to practice concepts and further academic progress. Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) and Noyes (2010) had many ideas of how to use the internet to aid second language students. In fact, nearly every topic from "A to Z" that Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) covered incorporated the internet, computers, or other technology in some way. Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) shared that it is vital that educators stay informed about new advancements in technology, because today's students are the leaders of tomorrow. Many examples of integrating technology in the classroom exist. The reminder of the paper will discuss some ways to incorporate technology to further the language and academic abilities of English Language Learners.
Audio Books and Books Online
Decoding text and reading comprehension is often a problem for English Language Learners (Jimenez, 2010; Noyes, 2010). A number of interactive resources exist for students to listen to both the work of well known authors' and other stories using audio books and the internet. Noyes (2010) believes that when students can experience a deeper level of understanding, through the use of audio books and pictures, they can develop a deeper meaning of the content. Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2004) agree that students not only need opportunities to practice their new language (English), but they also need ample opportunities to hear it. Listening and following along with audio books and books online provides students with this very important chance.
Storyline Online (http://www.storylineonline.net/) Students can choose from many well known books at this site. The books are read by celebrities like Betty White, James Earl Jones, and Al Gore. As the speaker reads the story the student can follow along with the words at the bottom of the page. The pictures from the book are also displayed.
Book Hive (http://www.plcmc.org/bookhive/) Book Hive is another resource for teachers and students that provides links to listen to stories. The children may not have heard of these story tellers, but they are amazingly animated. The stories include many childhood favorites like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Technology Teaching Concepts, Ltd. (http://www.techteachconcepts.com/online_stories.htm) This site was developed by a teacher and includes many interactive opportunities for students beginning to read. The website begins with animated pictures and sounds to help children learn to read. Some stories have complete audio assistance; others have fill in the blanks and students can choose which word they want to use. Popular stories include Clifford, Berenstein Bears, fairy tales, and even goodnight stories. This would even be a great resource for parents to use at home.
Kids Corner (http://wiredforbooks.org/kids.htm) Beatrix Potter is a well known children's author who has written books like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Two Bad Mice. Her books can be heard on this site in a variety of languages including English, French, German, and Japanese. Other classics like Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can also be listened to here.
Between the Lions (http://pbskids.org/lions/stories/) This is another great site that reads stories to children. Although, the stories at this site are not popular children's stories, children can follow along with the text while the stories are read aloud.
Online Math Games
Many English Language Learners would benefit from additional assistance in mathematics (Noyes, 2010). The internet offers many opportunities for students to review, practice, reinforce, and enhance their math skills. Below are a few educational and entertaining websites for students at a variety of grade levels. These websites are also a great resource for parents who may need a refresher in some mathematical theories.
Cool Math Games for Kids (http://coolmath4kids.com/) This site offers math games for students of all ages. Skills include addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, decimals, and other fun games for students. It also provides easy to follow examples that explain with pictures and text the concept being reviewed.
Funbrain (http://www.funbrain.com/) Funbrain is a website that offers math, grammar, and other educational games for students. Tailored to meet the needs of elementary aged students, Funbrain provides games to help students learn basic addition and subtraction skills, measurement, perimeter and area, geometry, and many other mathematical concepts.
Math Playground (http://mathplayground.com/games.html) This math game site offers an abundant amount of opportunities for students to practice higher level skills. Concepts include trigonometry, algebra, multiplication, and percents among many others. This is a great site for older students.
Math Games For Kids (http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/math_games.html) Math Games for Kids has many math games covering concepts from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division. There are many math flash card activities and other concepts covered. There are even some non-educational games like Super Mario, SpongeBob, and Hanah Montana that students would enjoy.
AAA Math (http://aaamath.com/) Because the math concepts covered here can be played at varying levels, students from many grade levels can benefit from this website. Each activity begins with step by step assistance of the concept. Later students press "start" and are timed as they solve a vast assortment of activities. There are too many concepts available for practice to mention.
Noyes (2010) and Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) both discussed the importance of fieldtrips. As building background is fundamental for English Language Learners, fieldtrips offer a perfect opportunity (Noyes, 2010; Echevarria et al., 2004). However, with budget cuts many schools and school districts are limited in the number of fieldtrips they can take. A fabulous alternative is taking a class on a virtual fieldtrip (Noyes, 2010). There are too many amazing ideas to mention, but a few remarkable opportunities are included below.
Virtual Science Fieldtrips
San Diego Zoo (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/kids/index.html) So many families are unable to visit local exhibits, much less take trips to nearby Sand Diego. This site offers lesson plan ideas for teachers, projects, and lots of unique ideas. For students the San Diego Zoo website offers interact games, information on animals found at the zoo, arts and crafts projects, jobs at the zoo to name a few of the numerous links found here.
Smithsonian (http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/students/) In 13 years of teaching I have never had a student who has visited this wondrous museum. The opportunities available at this website for integrating science curriculum for students of all ages are abundant. They include exploring the universe, prehistoric times, inventions, as well as games and other online interactive activities for kids.
Virtual National Park Fieldtrips
Grand Canyon (http://www.nps.gov/grca/photosmultimedia/virtualtour.htm) The Grand Canyon is another example of places that many students have heard about, maybe even seen pictures of, but I have found that very few of my students have been to the Grand Canyon. Practically located right in our backyard, the Grand Canyon is an amazing natural landmark. The Grand Canyon's website offers a virtual tour, many Podcasts, and lots of photographs. It also has links for teachers and some activities for students.
Mt. Rushmore (http://www.nps.gov/moru/photosmultimedia/index.htm) Photos and a slideshow are accessible on this website. This would be a great resource to visit when learning about presidents and national landmarks. The history of this landmark, links and resources for teachers, and activities for students can be accessed here.
Virtual American History Fieldtrips
Ground Zero (http://gunstuff.com/america-attacked.html) Far from New York City, but not far from our minds, this video tribute helps children understand, at some level, the depth of this tragic event. (Actually, this year my third grade class will be full of children born after this catastrophe.) This short video tribute offers students and adults alike a view of the events following the attack on 9-11. This is a great resource for a social studies lesson about the event, how people work together for good, and how peace trumpets over evil.
White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/july-2010-photo-day) Another asset to a social studies lesson is this White House website. It offers photos, podcasts, videos, and live steams. There are links for older students on numerous concerns facing American people today. There is information on the history of the White House, the people who work there, the branches of our government, and much more.
Vocabulary Development Ideas
Vocabulary development is important for students in all subject areas. The work of Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010), Jimenez (2010), and Echevarria et al. (2004) supports the importance of building vocabulary for second language students. Many students have been taught strategies for decoding new words. However, even though students are often able to decode words, they have no contextual understanding of them, thus they have no idea what they have read. There is a strong link between vocabulary development and academic achievement for English Language Learners (Saville-Troike, 1984 as sited in Echevarria et al., 2004). Echevarria et al. (2004) believe that vocabulary instruction needs to be done in a meaningful way to assist students who are struggling to learn a new language. Technology offers a tremendous supply of vocabulary development options.
PowerPoints Many computers, especially in schools, come equipped with software to create PowerPoints. This technology can be an asset in building vocabulary. Teachers can generate PowerPoints to introduce new words. Pictures, definitions, and sentences can be included on the slides, including fill in the blank interactive slideshows. Students can also produce their own slideshows to demonstrate that they know and understand the new vocabulary words.
Inspirations Another software addition to many schools' computers is the Inspirations program. Using this program, students can organize their vocabulary words in many ways. They can add pictures, definitions, and sentences (Blecher-Sass & Russell-Fowler, 2010).
Vocabulary Can Be Fun (http://www.vocabulary.co.il/) This website offers games and activities for students of all ages. Although, the vocabulary words at this site are not necessarily the same words that are being focused on in class, this site offers games and activities on syllables, parts of speech, compound words, homophones, root words, antonyms, synonyms, prefixes, and suffixes, and much more.
Vocabulary Games (http://eslbears.homestead.com/Contact_Info.html) Vocabulary Games is website that is actually intended to be used by second language students. It has many games and activities on subjects like opposites, past tense words, homonyms, and male vs. female words.
English Vocabulary Games with Pictures (http://www.manythings.org/lulu/) This is another website that was developed for English as a Second Language students. Although, it is not as colorful as many other websites, the activities are tailored to the needs to ELL. Students can complete a range of activities matching the words to the pictures of various animals, insects, foods, vegetables, sports, things in a house, things people wear, verbs, tools, adjectives, buildings, and shapes.
Written response is often challenging for English Language Learners (Jimenez, 2010; Noyes, 2010). Even after successful vocabulary building, students often lack the written voice to express their thoughts. Technology offers many advantages for students struggling with written expression (Noyes, 2010).
Yahoo! Kids Online Dictionary (http://kids.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/english) Students can type in a word, or part of a word using the best spelling they can. A link to the word is provided and the definitions are kid friendly. Unfortunately, if a student is really having a hard time spelling a word, this site will only offer one word as a possibility of what they are looking for. The site also does not offer pictures, thus it would be better suited for older students.
Little Explorers Picture Dictionary (http://www.enchantedlearning.com/Dictionary.html) This is a great site for students to find common words they may be having a hard time spelling or to find the definitions for common words. Pictures are available and words are organized by letter, so if a student is stuck on a word, but have an idea as to the first letter they can simply click on it.
Word Central (http://www.wordcentral.com/) Word Central is another online dictionary. If a student misspells a word a number of possible word options appear. It also offers a thesaurus and rhyming word search. This website will actually read the word, although special free software has to be downloaded first.
Guide to Grammar and Writing (http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/) This is a unique website that offers older students instructions on probably close to every aspect of writing they may need to do. Because the instruction are in English, and as often lengthy, younger students and students new to English have not benefit from this site. This would also be a great resource for students working on a paper at home to assess. It discusses sentence development, paragraphs, various types of writing, introductions, transitions, and conclusions to name only a small number of the help available here.
Time for Kids (http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/kids/hh/writeideas) The Time for Kids website is for younger students and helps to assist them with the writing process. It offers help with planning, writing a draft, introductions, conclusions, and revising. This site is a great resource for students, although, students will need to be able to read to benefit from using this site.
Story Maker (http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/make-your-own/story-maker) Story Maker is a fun website for students to develop their stories. Students are offered three types of stories to choose from, for example a fairy story, horror story, or science fiction. Pictures are visible at each step as children choose the setting, characters, and other important information. Then a story is developed for the student.
As a lifelong student, I enjoy learning new techniques and strategies for educating my students. The Teaching English as a Second Language Program has been full of unbelievable inspiration for me to assist my students who are learning English, as well as the rest of my class. One approach that has been found to be successful among many educators is integrating technology in the classroom. Blecher-Sass and Russell-Fowler (2010) and Noyes (2010) mentioned the advantage of utilizing technology to benefit second language students. However, it appears that what all of the presenters truly have in common is a passion for educating English language learners. I look forward to beginning the new school year with many new and exciting strategies that will benefit my students for years to come.