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How Technology Can Help Teach ESL Students

Students who are learning English as a second language will range in ability from those who already know a little English but struggle to keep up in a general classroom to those brand new to the United States and know no English at all. Some may be attentive and motivated to learn, while others are bored, shy or intimidated and wish they were somewhere else.

As a teacher, your challenge is to meet each student where they are academically and socially and support them as they progress.

Technology Is Customizable

While it is nearly impossible for you to assist each student individually every day to keep them engaged, technology can come to the rescue. A variety of apps and programs have been designed specifically for teaching English to English Language Learners (ELLs) and the beauty of these is that they allow each student to work at the appropriate level and pace for their individual needs. With the use of computers, tablets and e-readers, these applications offer interactive, motivating activities for all ages and abilities.

In a Common Sense Education article, writer, editor and former teacher Jeff Knutson discusses ways to find other quality ELL-friendly tools for use in the classroom. For example:

  • Texts that provide the same information or concepts but at variable reading levels provide emergent readers and ELLs opportunities to participate in whole-class activities and discussions.
  • Many programs and tools are available in both English and Spanish and feature English pronunciation as well as translation for words and passages.
  • Storytelling and video creation apps are a great way for students to express themselves while building new language skills and authentic experiences in communication.
  • Tools specifically designed for ELLs offer immersive, self-directed experiences. These tools are aimed at improving language skills from beginning through advanced levels and address a variety of literacy needs.
  • As an enrichment tool for students who have the potential to function above grade level, online language learning apps and programs can supplement the lessons in class and provide options for extra practice.

Ways to Use Technology in the ESL Classroom

Today’s students are immersed in technology in their day-to-day lives and tend to be familiar with and comfortable with the tools. Helping them find apps and activities that boost their English-learning skills is a natural way to use technology both in and out of the classroom.

Use short and feature-length videos to expose students to natural English speech. Younger students can learn from cartoons and animated movies while older students can keep up with current events through news broadcasts and documentaries.

Watching, listening to and creating podcasts or YouTube videos gives students opportunities to collaborate and interact with English-speaking peers, elevate their comprehension and vocabulary skills and practice speaking English in real-life situations.

Online games, especially word and spelling games, are both entertaining and educational for all ages. With consistent use, they increase literacy skills while providing spelling and comprehension practice.

Blogging or journaling as well as connecting with students in another state or country via email or letter writing encourages writing and reading comprehension practice and chances to make friends in the real world.

Learn How to Use Technology in the ESL Classroom

If you have a bachelor’s degree and would like to teach English as a second language, consider earning a Master of Education degree in Curriculum & Instruction with a Concentration in English as a Second Language in an online program offered by University of Louisiana Monroe. This online master’s program prepares you to teach English language learners in a variety of settings in academic or corporate roles.

You will explore current technologies and learn the practical approaches, theories and techniques for teaching English as a second language to elementary, secondary and adult education students.

Learn more about ULM’s online M.Ed. in C&I program.


Common Sense Education: How to Use Technology to Support ELLs in Your Classroom

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