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It's time for another year-end "The Best…" list. This one will be sharing my choices for the best eighteen sites to use with English Language Learner students.
Some of these sites may have been around prior to this year, but since I didn't discover them until now, I'm including them on the list.
Please vote in the poll at the bottom of this post and pick your top five. I'm having my students participate in the voting too, so you might want to consider using it as a lesson with your own students.
Here are my choices for The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students – 2009:
Number eighteen: Town Me is a brand-new "Yelp"-like site where users can write reviews of restaurants, stores, tourist attractions, etc. I'm adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An "Authentic Audience". You can read more about the site at TechCrunch.
Number seventeen: Bluewalks lets you easily create a "walking tour" with text you write and images you can grab off the web. It's another addition to the "authentic audience" list.
Number sixteen: BBC Memoryshare is a "place to share and explore memories." The site has a cool-looking timeline where you can access memories that people have written — on just about anything. In addition, and most importantly for this post, you can contribute a memory (after quickly registering at the BBC). Each memory is accessible through the timeline, through a keyword, or through an individual url address.
Number fifteen: Google expanded their Google Translator Toolkit. It builds on their great Google Translate tool, which is on The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008 list. I'd encourage you to read the post at The English Blog, which gives an excellent explanation of the new application.
Number fourteen: Grapevine is an audio "chatboard" that I'm adding to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English. It's super-simple to set-up a private forum where students can listen and respond to others and don't have to be online at the same time. English Language Learners can communicate with other classes around the world, like in our International Sister Classes Project or just be given a simple speaking assignment to complete. I love its simplicity and ease of use.
Number thirteen: I've posted in the past about how the ability to make easy screencasts — with audio– could be an excellent learning opportunity for English Language Learners (you might want to take a look at that post). There's now a great tool called Screentoaster that couldn't be more simple to use, and they've just added both the ability to record audio and add subtitles. All you do after you log-in is click on a button, open up the window on your screen that you want to record, and it starts recording your screen. After that's been recorded, you can provide audio or subtitles. And it's free.
Number twelve: Users can create online animations at DoInk. I especially like what sounds like a strict and pro-active policy at ensure classroom appropriate content on the site.
Number eleven: Google also expanded its Google Books service. You can read about all the new additions at TechCrunch. The one that I really like is the feature that lets you embed previews of books into your own blog or website. I'm hoping to use this with students this year. We're going to be doing some work with other classes, and I can see them writing about their books, embedding the preview, and then having other students respond not only to their writing, but to the preview of the book that they will be able to read.
Number ten: English teacher Renee Manfroid has created many excellent activities for Beginning English Language Learners, including Colors In English. You can see all of her interactives on her main site.
Number nine: English Raven, a site begun by Jason Renshaw, has just gotten even better with a new feature called World News For Kids. Several stories with images and accessible audio are shown each week, and students can participate in an audio forum, too. All that is free. If you are an English Raven member (and it's one of only a very few sites on The Best Educational Web Resources Worth Paying For… list — it only costs $20 per year, but also has a ton of materials that are available without paying), additional great materials are provided.
Number eight: Shahi is a dictionary that combines simple definitions with quite a few Flickr photos. The combination of the two makes it pretty accessible to English Language Learners.
Number seven: Nearly two years ago I posted about an excellent site for Beginning English Language Learners called Kindersay. Then it went off-line. It recently came back online again, so I'm including it in this year's list.
Number six: Many English Language Learner teachers and students are familiar with Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab. It's provided high-quality listening exercises on the web for a longtime. It's now gotten even better with the addition of videos. Video Snapshots for ESL/EFL Students show short video clips along with comprehension quizzes for students to take.
Number five: Pinky Dinky Doo is a new site with a bunch of resources. I'd encourage you to read a post by Kevin Jarrett that gives a good overview of what it offers. I'd like to highlight one area of the site that I'm adding to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement. It's called Your Story Box, and is basically a simple cloze (gap-fill) activity where users fill-in the blanks with images that are converted into words. Audio support is also provided to the text.
Number four: Speakaboos provides excellent quality "talking stories" on video with closed-captioning — often read by "celebrities." They say they are also going to add the ability to record stories, as well as offering other online activities. You can watch the stories without registering, though it appears like you will have to sign-up (for free) in order to record stories.
Number three: Welcome To The Web is really quite an exceptional site that acts as a guide for students to learn how to use the Internet. Audio support is provided for the text and users can save their progress in the tutorial. It's super-accessible.
Number two: BITS Interactive Resources is another one of those sites that was around, then disappeared, and then returned. It has nineteen "sets" of five different excellent reading activities focusing on "signs, details, matching, gist, and gap." It's also on The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers.
And now, the number one website for ELL's this year is…a tie between two new applications.
One is Vocabsushi. It's s a neat new — and free — vocabulary learning site. It includes assessments, audio, learning words in context, and games. The only thing it's missing are photos and/or videos, but I guess you can't always have everything. Joyce Valenza has written a post that describes the site in much greater detail. I'd encourage you to read that, and then try out Vocabsushi…
The other number one site is called English Central. David Deubelbeiss has posted a very thorough post about the site titled English Central – Bringing "voice" and output to learning English. I'd strongly encourage you to read it — I don't feel any need to "reinvent the wheel." A quick description is that it's a free video site for English Language Learners, lets users listen to parts of the video, then lets them repeat what the characters says and compares it to the original. You get graded on how well you do. It has even more features, but you can read David's post or check out the site directly. The other great thing about it is that the videos are all appropriate for the classroom, unlike several other ESL video sites that have come online recently.
Below you'll see the poll. Remember, people can only vote once, and I'm asking that you vote for no more than five of them. English Central is a late-comer to the list, so even though it's tied for first, you'll find it last on the actual poll.
Feel free to leave a comment about other sites you think should have been included on this list.
You might also want to look at the other three hundred plus "The Best…" lists.
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