by Deborah Healey
This month's Tech Tip comes out of some workshops we did at the English Language Institute for teachers in content classes who have non-English speaking children in their classes. This was created as part of an Eisenhower grant, with a focus on math and science. Most of the sites listed here should be of interest to those who work with English language learning children in either ESL or EFL contexts, although the focus is on ESL children.
Here are a few sites from the workshop that may be especially useful to those who teach children. One that a workshop participant pointed out is the KidsClick search engine at sunsite.berkeley.edu/KidsClick! . What makes this special is that it searches sites selected by librarians for children, giving the grade level and whether or not there are images - a boon to those who want age-appropriate material and to those with slow loading machines.
Kids Domain at www.kidsdomain.com/index.html offers articles and lots of software to download, organized by age group and by topic. If you are interested in freeware, shareware, or demos, this is a very helpful site.
The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders offers some background in first language speech and language developmental milestones at www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/speechandlanguage.aspx. This is often helpful to those trying to figure out where child learners may be in their first language development, and so what they may not yet be ready for in a second language.
A lesson plan for newcomers who speak little or no English at www.everythingesl.net/inservices/september.php provides a starting point especially for those content area teachers with ESL students, but also for teachers with beginning students who have just joined your class.
You can find activities for a variety of pre-kindergarten and primary school topics at Enchanted Learning - Zoom School, www.EnchantedLearning.com/school/index.shtml. Most of these pages have lots of graphics that make the content easier to understand.
Especially useful for those teaching children ages 8 and up is Global Schoolhouse at www.gsn.org. This site has a range of communication tools, including classroom conferencing, mailing lists, and discussion boards; and a number of collaborative projects, including CyberFair,GeoGame, FieldTrips, Newsday, and the Projects Registry.
For those interested in using math and science topics as a vehicle for teaching English, some helpful sites include Discovery School at www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/ with student and teacher links to science, math, social studies, etc. activities.
If you are looking for lesson plans designed for primary and secondary grades, here are a few sites that may be helpful. One caveat - many of these are not specifically for English language learners, so may have language that is beyond the ability of your students.
While ESL teachers often shy away from translating information into the students' first language, it can be useful when trying to teach content as well as language. Pages can be loaded into Google's translation component at translate.google.com/ to get a quick and rough (sometimes very rough) translation to and from quite a few different languages. The translation tool continues to translate the links as users navigate through the translated pages. Using the translation back into their own language is an opportunity for learners to see the strengths and weaknesses of translation tools.
The real benefit of these translation engines is that they may be enough to give learners a basic idea of what they are reading, bringing it into the "comprehensible input" range. Because the translations are not very good, learners can try to improve on the translations, strengthening their first language competence. When the children come from different language backgrounds, they may enjoy looking at each other's translations and getting a sense of how languages are both similar and different.
If you have found some particularly useful sites for teachers of primary and secondary age children, please share them.
If you have questions, comments, or for more information, contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu
Last updated 13 May 2013