With No Child Left Behind raising the stakes for reading achievement, English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction also has taken on a greater urgency. Fortunately, a myriad of technologies are helping U.S. students master communication in an unfamiliar language.

To meet the demand for ESL instruction, many school software providers have issued Spanish-language versions of their products. For instance, teachers looking for the same class content in Spanish as in English can look to BrainPOP, a producer of animated K-8 educational content that now offers BrainPOP en Espanol. The site uses BrainPOP’s traditional video format to cover math, science, social studies, language arts, health, and technology-related topics in Spanish.

“BrainPOP en Español will be an essential tool for teachers in the United States striving to meet the needs of a dual-language classroom,” said Avraham Kadar, chairman and chief executive officer of BrainPOP.

LeapFrog SchoolHouse is another company with versions of its products in Spanish and other languages, and LeapFrog also offers another product, Picture Dictionary, a two-volume interactive visual dictionary that helps Spanish-speaking students learn more than 1,000 of the most common English words. Using the LeapPad and the Quantum LeapPad PLT, the Picture Dictionary presents words within the context of more than 40 familiar themes, so students can learn related words at the same time.

Students using the Picture Dictionary touch a word on the page with the LeapPad or Quantum LeapPad stylus to hear the word in English, in Spanish, and then in English again. Students can touch the picture on the page to hear a full English sentence that includes the word in context. They also can speak a word into the PLT microphone, then compare their articulation of the word to the version in the Picture Dictionary to improve their pronunciation of English vocabulary.

Science and math teachers have a new lab book, Ciencias con lo Mejor de Vernier (Science with the Best from Vernier), to help them conduct hands-on, inquiry-based experiments with Spanish-speaking middle and high school students. Published by Vernier Software and Technology, the book contains 42 lab activities covering core topics in biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, and water quality.

“The specialized terms used in science pose a challenge for ESL students, because they are trying to simultaneously master English and their class curriculum,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “So … to ensure as much understanding as possible, the book’s activities were written by science teachers and then translated by a science teacher from Latin America, giving ESL students the best of both worlds.”

The labs integrate data-collection technology with science and math instruction. Each contains background information on the experiment, the objectives of the activity, a materials list, illustrations, data tables, and step-by-step procedures. The teacher information section includes directions for setting up experiments, as well as hints and sample graphs and data. In addition, an accompanying CD contains word-processing files of student pages that allow teachers to customize any experiment for a particular lab.

Teachers are able to download sample labs from Vernier’s web site.

Also available online to teachers is a free training program from Curriculum Associates, called Topics in Education (TIE), which includes a lesson entitled, “Vocabulary Strategies for the English Language Learner.”

The one-hour online course consists of two lessons. The first examines the concept of academic language proficiency, which is the ability to read, write, and speak in situations that are context-reduced and cognitively demanding, such as long presentations with no visuals. The lesson also explains the challenges faced by English-language learners when building academic language proficiency and provides strategies for helping them improve their academic language and vocabulary skills.

The second lesson contains downloadable activities and games that users can implement with a whole class, small groups, or individual students.


LeapFrog SchoolHouse http://www.leapfrogschoolhouse.com

BrainPOP en Español http://es.brainpop.com

Sample Vernier Spanish labs http://www.vernier.com/cmat/cmv.html

Topics in Education http://www.cainc.com/professional-development/topics/ELL/index.htm