kids AR ELL

AR for ELL: ‘I had students screaming and jumping up and down’

Two educators explore how AR brings fun and excitement to English language learners.

Almost 10 percent of students in US public schools are English language learners (ELLs), and that percentage is growing every year. One of the biggest challenges today’s teachers face is helping ELLs develop the literacy skills they need to keep pace with their peers. An essential first step in that process is getting their attention in class.

Here, two educators discuss how they use the engaging powers of the emerging 3D technology, augmented reality (AR), to do just that.

Hugo E. Gomez: Using AR to Engage Kindergarteners

Currently half of my students at De Escandon Elementary in Edinburg, Texas, are ELLs. That’s usually the case each year, since the Rio Grande Valley is predominantly Hispanic (as am I). When I started as a new teacher three years ago, I was looking for ways to capture the students’ attention and keep them engaged.

One tech tool that I have found effective with my students, including ELLs, is OSMO. It’s an augmented reality accessory for the iPad or iPhone that allows students to combine digital and physical play at the same time. I’ve found that it helps students develop their English and problem-solving skills. It is one of the centers that they look forward to the most, because they know they are going to be having fun while learning.

But once I introduced Letters alive, a full supplemental curriculum that uses augmented reality for student engagement, I had them! The kit includes alphabet cards, sight-word cards, and word-family cards. When the teacher places a card under a document camera, 3D zoo animals pop out.

When they witnessed it for the first time, I had students screaming and jumping up and down. To many teachers that is a nightmare, but the fact is I was getting a positive reaction. The kids couldn’t get enough of it. They were surprised that this was possible, and never imagined that an alligator or bear would be joining us for a lesson in the classroom. It was nice showing them videos of these animals, too; it was like they had their own personal zoo there in the room, and it made learning much more exciting for them. They couldn’t wait to see which animal would pop up each week.

I usually use Letters alive when introducing the letter of the week. It is how I hook the kids into the lesson and keep them wanting more. Seeing the students enjoying the lesson makes teaching much more fun.

Most importantly, though, seeing and hearing the sounds that each letter represents helps students recognize their letters and sounds, which translates to them reading. It makes it easier for them to understand. I found that after introducing augmented reality into the classroom, my ELL students increased their recognition of letters and sounds. I was so happy to see that my students were excited about learning.

(Next page: Closing achievement gaps with AR)

Lisa Dunnigan: Finding a Fun Way to Close a District’s Achievement Gaps

In the Douglas County School System, we are always trying to close the achievement gaps that exist for our ELLs and other struggling learners—while at the same time making lessons fun.

To accomplish these two goals at the same time, we use a lot of hands-on manipulatives and, because our students are digital natives, we are always looking for tech-based instructional tools. So, when I was attending the most recent National Title I Conference and saw Letters alive in action, I knew that it would be a great learning tool for all of our struggling learners.

We now use Letters alive in all nine Title I kindergarten classes during ELA instruction. Seeing animals jumping out at them gets students focused, attentive, and ready to learn! Augmented reality is especially helpful for ELL students because it is so hands-on and interactive.

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