Four favorite tools for English language learning

English-learningHere 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.)

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