Here are reviews of four high-quality digital tools that can help teach English language skills, courtesy of Common Sense Media and its new Graphite service–a free database of teacher-written reviews of learning technologies.
1. Oh Noah!
Grade Range: K-3
What is it? Comforting character makes second-language mistakes no big deal
Pros: Videos are very short but still pack in lots of vocabulary and funny story lines.
Cons: Some games take a while to load, and some of the timed games move quite rapidly for young kids.
Bottom Line: Oh Noah! provides a solid start in Spanish while building self-confidence and relaxing kids through humor.
2. Mango Languages
Grade Range: K-12
What is it? Conversational instruction outshines many other language programs
Pros: The language instruction goes above and beyond basic vocabulary memorization; kids get realistic usage help.
Cons: The conversation-based program could benefit from more writing activities.
Bottom Line: Language instruction is presented in a digestible, yet thorough way, and kids are exposed to culture tips and other effective extras.
(Next page: Two more English language learning tools)
3. Phrasal Verbs Machine
Grade Range: 5-8
What is it? Perform grammatical acrobatics with The Amazing Phraso
Pros: Clever animation and thorough definitions make this a great resource for strong ELA students and aspiring ELLs alike.
Cons: Some idioms are more British English than American English, and the busy interface makes it tricky to navigate between sections.
Bottom Line: While the app lends itself to a drill-and-kill style of repetition, its appealing animations and extensive explanatory text make it a solid choice for boosting vocabulary.
4. Simple English Wikipedia
Grade Range: 5-12
What is it? Adapted resource can help some ELLs, with potential for other students
Pros: Topics are more accessible for ELLs and other struggling readers; the chance to create articles provides a novel activity for more advanced students.
Cons: More articles, expanded language support, and more images would make the site more useful for beginning and intermediate level ELLs.
Bottom Line: An empowering research tool for more advanced English learners, with the potential for wider, more creative applications.
(To find free, teacher-written reviews of thousands of apps, games, and websites, organized by subject and Common Core standard, go to www.graphite.org.)