TESOL 2018 Highlights: Online Tools for ELLs

Visiting the Electronic Village at the annual TESOL convention is a must for me. Even a single visit can result in the discovery of a few different resources. The title of one presentation this year immediately caught my attention: Three Powerful Online Tools for Skills Development. The presenter, Silvia Laborde of Alianza Cultural Uruguay-Estados Unidos has generously allowed me to summarize her talk.

(1) Silvia first demonstrated some possibilities with Lyrics Training. The site is built to test listeners’ ability to catch words as they’re sung or said. The number of gaps one has to fill depends on the level selected: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. The highest level challenges users to complete the entire text. There’s a wide range of genres, and my own visit revealed that the library holds more than songs. You can also work with scenes from movies and TV shows. What I like best about Lyrics Training is that there’s repetition. Once you fill in a gap, the line replays. Consider these options:

  • Silvia has used existing songs in the library and has selected multiple songs on a theme. After completing their respective texts in small groups, students summarize the ideas expressed in each song. The groups can then compare and contrast what the songs are about.
  • The site has gamified the whole experience. Your efforts are timed and your scores can make it to the leaderboard. Silvia suggests holding fun competitions. Compare results within the class.
  • The site allows you to create custom exercises for songs in the library, so Silvia has created different word gaps for the same song. This forces students to work on different language, but then they collaborate to confirm they have the complete set of lyrics.

(2) YouGlish is another free site that targets listening and speaking skills. I learned about this resource last year, and I was happy to hear Silvia’s thoughts on this wonderful tool. If you haven’t tried it out yet, do it today. You’ll immediately start seeing possibilities. Type in a word or a whole phrase. The site will generate a compilation of videos from YouTube that have the given word or phrase in context. You can filter the results for American, British, or Australian English. There’s a convenient viewing box, so you can watch the clips and fast-forward or rewind through them as you wish. You can even select a slower speed. The transcripts of each segment are listed below the viewing box. I’ve used this tool myself and taught students to use it to check the pronunciation of words, patterns in phrases (like linking and reduction), and collocations.

  • Silvia recommends using YouGlish with intermediate and advanced students. I agree.
  • She has used the tool in pairs, where one students listens and repeats, and then a partner gives feedback.
  • Individually or in small groups, students can mirror the speakers.
  • Silvia also has students copy and paste the transcript so that they can then mark it up to reflect stress patterns.
  • Finally, Silvia noted that the search results include a box of “Nearby Words” or synonyms. Use of a dictionary would help students confirm how close in meaning each suggestion is. The site allows the user to click on a “nearby word” to start a new search and hear the pronunciation of that synonym.

(3) The third tool Silvia shared was ProWritingAid. This is more than a grammar check, but Silvia forewarns that the editing tool is so robust that it’s best to use it in class so that you can focus on specific aspects of students’ writing. She uses it for students who are at the level of essay writing.

  • Because you can focus on different style issues, like repetitive wording, Silvia suggests that the teacher choose an area for the whole class. The teacher can also choose an area for an individual student. Once students are familiar with the tool, they can choose two areas based on the report generated by the site.
  • Silvia recommends ProWritingAid as a peer editing guide. However, teachers need to monitor and guide the process. Only when there’s enough familiarity with the tool will students be able to use it independently.

Thank  you, Silvia, for an informative presentation! Silvia has posted her presentation slides for other teachers on Prezi. (Click to view.)

Photo credit: Internet, Earth, Communication by The Digital Artist. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/internet-global-earth-communication-1181586/.

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