The year 2020 has turned out to be full of unexpected twists, which require fast reaction and capacity to adapt to rapid fluctuation in the world. Being a teacher who used to conduct face-to-face lessons mostly, I faced a challenge when the whole school world had to go online because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the total lockdown. Thus, the very first question which came into my mind was “What tools can help me cope with this task successfully?”. Having tested dozens of platforms, apps, and programmes I have compiled a list of things my teenage students like the most. So, now I’d like to share with you some resources and ideas which can be used to make the learning process more efficient and engaging both online and offline.
It’s not a secret that teens are sometimes reluctant to speak and share their thoughts. Fortunately, there are some tools which can solve this problem.
Story Dice Online
There are several versions of this app aka Story Cube. This is a great idea generator for storytelling – the dice format of which has a positive psychological effect on students. Firstly, they don’t have to share their life experience (which often makes teens feel uncomfortable) as they can tell a story about an imaginary character. Secondly, teens aren’t afraid to make mistakes because they take this activity as a game which helps them feel more relaxed and eager to participate in a conversation. Here are some apps to choose from:
If you need to poll your students and discuss their responses on the spot, then Mentimeter software is one of the best ways to do that. It allows creating various presentations with questions, polls, slides, and images making your lessons more interactive.
Spin the wheel and help your students speak! This is an activity which won’t leave your students indifferent. This interactive tool includes different categories, which makes it also very flexible and suitable for almost any topic of the lesson. Besides, you can modify it and create any wheel you want.
Motivation is an integral part of successful learning. All of us need sources to draw inspiration from but at the same time, we can inspire others to do great things too. As for me, these are the best platforms where teachers as well as students can share their ideas, give advice, and find solutions to different challenges.
Padlet is a great class space, which can be used for projects, collaboration, and brainstorming. You can exploit this website to create motivation boards for your students or ask them to do it by themselves. This is also a nice app to get an opinion of each student on a certain topic asking them to leave a comment after watching a video or reading an article. Note that a free Padlet version offers three dashboards, so if you want to use more then you need to pay for it.
Another collaborative platform for notes and project ideas is Miro. This software also comes with the list of templates which can facilitate your work. The design and options differ from Padlet app but serve the same aim – to collect ideas, inspire, and motivate.
If you haven’t used this app before then you’ve been missing out. I consider it to be one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary and my students agree with me.
Its free version allows you to create classes and study sets with new lexical units. You can add annotated diagrams or use translation of the new words into a mother-tongue as well as definitions in English to teach new vocabulary (if you want to use images you need Teacher version which is not free). What’s more, you can play Quizlet Live together with your students and check their results. By the way, sets created by other Quizlet users are free of charge.
Quizlet has both mobile and PC versions but the latter one includes more options and is easier to use to create new sets.
Almost all teenagers love music and can’t spend a day without it. Why not use this passion to boost their English skills? Lyrics Training app can help you with this.
Students can listen to their favourite music and practise English at the same time filling in the missing words of the lyrics and enriching their vocabulary. This programme has an individual approach and offers four game modes: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. Note that a PC version presupposes typing words to fill in the gaps while a mobile one offers multiple choice. You can also print full lyrics or use a manual selection of the blanks to create a new task for your students.
Singing songs and playing games is a fun way to learn English but when it comes to checking students’ skills level we need something different.
This is a game-based learning platform which you can use to create Kahoots (games) or search for Kahoots created by other users. It offers Player vs Player as well as Team vs Team modes. You can use this app to check grammar, vocabulary, or even background knowledge of your students.
This platform allows making interactive worksheets (or even workbooks) with pictures and audio files as well as using interactive worksheets created by others. Students do the tasks online and send their answers to you. By the by, you can convert doc, pdf, jpg, etc. files into images and add them to your interactive worksheets.
Another effective tool to test students’ knowledge is Google Form. It comes with several types of tasks including multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown, short answers, etc. The main point is to check settings such as collecting email addresses and limit to one response in order to avoid cheating.
Of course, all apps and platforms mentioned above help to grab students’ attention and make the study process more captivating. Still, we may consider them as supplementary tools while high-grade textbooks remain a key framework for successful learning. One of such top-notch courses is Gateway by David Spencer. It comes with Life Skills videos to provide teens with a clear picture of the modern world, and Flipped Classroom videos which are especially useful during distant learning as they include grammar presentations by the author. Its Student’s Resource Centre is another bonus as it comes with Class and Workbook audio, Life Skills and Flipped Classroom videos, Culture worksheets, and even a downloadable Macmillan Reader. Thus, such blending of a traditional textbook and up-to-date technology makes the study process much more effective.
In a word, don’t be afraid to experiment with your students as they are usually eager to try something new. Clearly, there are plenty of resources you can use, but remember that it’s you who knows best what your students need. So, choose what you consider to be the most suitable for your lessons and enjoy them.
About the Author
Iryna Kruk has been teaching English as an integral part of her life since she was 18. She is now a teacher of English at Lutsk Gymnasia 18, which has entered the list of 100 best schools in Ukraine. In 2019, she was a lucky winner of #TeachwithDaveCompetition – a unique event which united passionate English teachers from all over the world.