Online Supplementary Materials
SM for online lessons - for teachers; Best online resources for students; Personal experience - Usama Beshara.
SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS FOR ONLINE LESSONS
In the last week’s installment of our newsletter we talked about Offline supplementary materials - all those resource packs and teacher’s guides, board games and dominos, printouts and handouts. More often than not these materials are hardly suitable for online lessons, since they were meant to be interacted with in the physical world. What can you use if you teach online then? We are going to share the best websites that we personally use, so get ready to save the links. And don’t forget to suggest your own ideas in the comments!
This astounding online platform for putting together your lesson plans does not only allow you to upload all lesson materials in one place - audios, videos, links, pdfs, ppts (yes, with full preview!), but also share it with other people! And that means that you can use what other teachers have created in your lessons as well. Simply go to the “Community” section, search materials by key words and save them to your account. Creative ideas and ready-made materials are abundant there, and more are being added by the hour. Don’t miss out on all the fun, head straight there!
Online grammar exercises
We have accumulated a great collection of websites which allow you to practice grammar online, and why is it better than a simple pdf? First of all, they will automatically check the answers and give scores, so you won’t have to spend time grading papers. Some of them will immediately provide explanation to incorrect sentences, which helps students do self-check and self-study.
1. The first one is Test-English.com, and it doesn’t only contain grammar exercises and explanations, but also reading, listening and use of English exercises, all perfectly divided by levels. You won’t find much for levels higher than Upper-Intermediate, but even then it is worth checking out.
2. UsefulEnglish.ru provides exercises on vocabulary as well, and rarely can we find such good practice on words often confused such as speak, talk, say and tell, or make and do. Make sure you look through the exercises in advance, because they are not graded by level and may not be suitable for Elementary or some Pre-Intermediate students.
3. EnglishGrammar.at and English-4u.de are both very similar, they won’t give you the right answers and can sometimes be really frustrating when you try to guess what exact wording they expect for the correct answer, but they will do for extra practice. Also, be aware of occasional spelling and grammar mistakes in the tasks themselves, but thankfully, not the answers.
The most popular boards are Miro and Jamboard, but there are, of course, more options than that. The boards will let you create interactive exercises where you can match things, brainstorm and draw spidergrams, put together profile cards and many more things. The most underused feature is group collaboration on the same slide/board/frame.
Naturally, you can go on BBC website or New York Times and find news articles there, but they will work with only the most advanced students. However, there exist websites with news articles edited to suit different levels, and even whole lesson plans designed around them. We are talking about BreakingNewsEnglish and NewsEnglishLessons, of course! The first has 6 levels and the second only three, but both provide work on vocabulary, lead-in tasks and conversation questions.
Coursebooks already have many listening activities, but sometimes it doesn’t feel enough. If your students need to work on this skill, check out esl-lab.com. It has listening exercises on different topics, also divided by levels, and the recordings done by native speakers. The quality is great, the tasks are engaging and the topics range from survival English to everyday stuff.
Youtube and videos
Did you know that you can turn almost any Youtube video into a gap-fill exercise? Tubequizard allows you to do just that. You can use it to listen to favourite songs, introduce and teach grammar, vocabulary, listening skills and anything else your can come up with. There are many pre-made exercises already, so plenty to choose from, but it is more exciting to try it for yourselves and add something to the community. Another irreplaceable resource is youglish.com. Type in ANY word and it will play a video from youtube from the exact spot where this word is pronounced, show you subtitles, explain the phonetics and give you suggestions on how you can improve your pronunciation of the word. You know where to thank us, wink-wink.
Have we missed any cool resources? Share in the comments, we will include your suggestion in the next Newsletter!
BEST ONLINE RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS
It’s a classic travel fantasy: flying to another country to learn a language through a combination of classes and swanning around, ordering meals at sidewalk cafes, shopping at street markets, slipping into darkened theaters. Yet with much of the world under stay-at-home orders, that dream may seem more distant than ever.
But it’s not entirely. After all, it’s never been easier or more affordable to get help learning a language. And while you may be doing so from your living room, you can still dive in and meet native speakers. Even better, many first-rate language tools are free, or at the very least won’t break the bank. Here are some to get you started, wherever you are.
Apps and podcasts
When it comes to choosing a language app, your perseverance may be more important than the app itself. Here are a few that may inspire you to stick with it.
Babbel. This app offers straightforward lessons in more than a dozen languages, including Indonesian, Portuguese and Turkish. A beginner level French course, for example, introduces vocabulary words and then jumps into exercises: multiple choice questions, using words in sentences, spelling and speaking aloud. The first few challenges are free, but to go beyond those you must subscribe. Prices range from approximately $13 for one month to $84 every 12 months (but keep your eyes open for sales; a recent one had 50 percent off certain subscriptions).
CoffeeBreak. Lively podcasts from Radio Lingua Network offer free lessons in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Chinese and English. Each new episode builds upon what you’ve already learned. If you end up liking the podcasts, you may want to sign up for Coffee Break Academy’s online courses, some of which will take you by video to the streets of Spain and Italy. Prices vary.
Memrise. Charming (and memorable) video clips of people speaking everyday words and phrases make the lessons on this app feel fun and transportive (especially when a video is shot on a sunny day in Spain), as do breezy multiple choice and writing quizzes. Available for French, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Polish, Russian and more. A new “Immerse” tab in the app allows you to soak up the language through streams of video featuring native speakers. You can learn plenty for free, but a subscription to the “pro” version is required to access all features and courses.
YouTube. For a lesson on turning YouTube into your virtual classroom, check out “How to Use YouTube to Learn a New Language.” The Rome-based polyglot and language instructor Luca Lampariello walks viewers through his own learning process using short foreign language videos, subtitles, repeated viewing and note taking.
Easy Languages. Among Mr. Lampariello’s recommendations is the Easy Languages YouTube channel, which produces short videos recorded in the streets of countries around the world, along with subtitles in the native language and in English. Easy French, Easy German, Easy Greek and Easy Italian are among the offerings. More tips can be found on Mr. Lampariello’s YouTube channel.
TED Talks. For longer videos with subtitles, there’s the “Great TED Talks for language practice” playlist where, for instance, you can watch the Peruvian-born chef Gastón Acurio, creator of dozens of restaurants around the world, including Astrid & Gastón in Lima, speaking in Spanish about home cooking. To explore more talks in different languages, choose the “Languages” drop-down menu.
E-books, newspapers, magazines
When learning to read in another language, magazines with photos can be particularly helpful.
PressReader. One way to scan what’s out there is through a digital newsstand like PressReader, which has publications in many languages: Chinese, Danish, French, German, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Swedish and Turkish, to name but a few. Select “Languages” from the navigation menu and tap on your language of choice to see what’s available, be it El País, Cosmopolitan Italia or Vogue Paris. It’s free to browse and read certain articles, and there are hot spots that allow complimentary access to full issues of publications (for instance, when you’re actually traveling again, you may find hot spots with free access in some hotels and airport lounges). But, in general, you’ll need to sign up for a plan (rates vary by market), be it pay-as-you-go or a subscription.
Project Gutenberg. Advanced enough to read entire books in another language? You can find free e-books in Portuguese, German, Dutch, French and other languages on Project Gutenberg.
All you need is paper and something to write with to make your own vocabulary flashcards. And you can get creative using them, too. In a TED blog post about language learning, Olga Dmitrochenkova, a translator, suggested labeling objects in your house in the language you’re trying to learn. What better time to give it a whirl than now? No one’s coming over to discover that you’ve taped an index card to your couch that says “divano.”
There are, of course, advantages to digital flashcards. For instance, the ones from AnkiApp, a mobile and desktop flashcard app, can include audio pronunciation. And the app uses artificial intelligence to help you make the most of your studies with a form of what’s known as “spaced repetition,” which involves selecting cards you need to work on, and when. You can create your own cards or download premade cards and synch them across your various devices. A deck in French, for example, has crucial words and phrases such as “Another glass of red wine, please.” (If AnkiApp sounds appealing, you may want to give Quizlet a try as well. You can make flashcards or browse language study sets with digital flashcards that are fun to flip and toss, timed matching games, writing exercises and tests.)
Brush up on vocabulary while scrolling past photos of your friends’ dogs with Instagram accounts such as French Words and Days of Deutsch. You can do this on other social media platforms like Twitter, too. But the visual nature of Instagram — in one Days of Deutsch post, figurines kiss beneath “der kuss” — makes the words from these language-learning accounts stand out, and hopefully sink in. (It’s also smart to follow foreign language Instagram accounts about subjects that interest you.)
As experts say, you have to start speaking a language to truly learn it. If you’re lucky enough to know someone who is fluent, consider using your cocktail chats on Zoom and Google Hangouts to practice.
If you’d like to find partners for a language exchange, set up a profile on MyLanguageExchange.com, where members from around the world connect to practice writing and talking with one another. Basic membership is free.
For years, Benny Lewis, the polyglot author of “Fluent in 3 Months,” has extolled the benefits of beginning to speak the language you’re studying even before you’ve developed a robust vocabulary. Writing on the entrepreneur Tim Ferriss’s blog several years ago, he busted myths and offered advice and resources for getting started speaking, including using Alexa’s top sites ranking in countries around the world to discover popular foreign language television stations, newspapers, social media sites and more. Just go to Alexa.com/topsites/countries and choose the country with the language you want to learn.
Alexa and Amazon Echo. Speaking of Alexa, forget asking her to add tofu to your grocery list. Instead, ask her to teach you a foreign language. Search the word “language” on Amazon under “Alexa Skills” and learning options turn up, including Daily Dose by Innovative Language, which offers instruction in more than 30 languages, among them Chinese, Hebrew, Russian, Korean, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian and Vietnamese. Short audio lessons revolve around spoken dialogue and breaking it down line-by-line.
Should you really want to immerse yourself, you could change the language on your smartphone. Apple’s Siri can be set to speak a different language. So can Google Assistant. And unlike humans, the assistant is available any time day or night.
Listening to foreign language radio and television programs is a time-tested way to improve language learning. And nowadays, it’s a breeze to find programming from all over the world.
Netflix. How many people have learned how to say “good evening” in Japanese thanks to binge-watching “Terrace House” on Netflix? The hit Japanese reality series that follows young strangers thrown together in a house, begins each episode with “konbanwa.” You can’t help but pick up everyday vocabulary and slang while absorbed in budding romances and soothingly slow dinner conversation.
To find a series that appeals to you in your chosen language, try Netflix’s International, K-dramas, Spanish-Language and Anime genre tabs. Or just type the language you want in the search bar — Japanese, French, Italian. You’ll find foreign-language films in other places, like Amazon Prime, as well.
If you prefer news programs but aren’t sure where to start, search the web for a particular country’s news stations and you’ll turn up sites like Germany’s ZDF Heute and NHK World — Japan, which also happens to offer delightfully engaging (and free) language resources, like downloadable hiragana and katakana tables, videos, illustrations and interactive exercises to help you learn words and phrases used in daily life in Japan. More broadly, on the BBC’s website you can explore short introductions to more than 30 languages, like Arabic and Chinese, with basic phrases.
News in Slow. Newscasters speaking a bit too quickly for you? Consider News in Slow, designed for those practicing Spanish, French, Italian and German. You can listen to streaming news and culture programming at a pace that aims to be just right, whether you’re an intermediate or advanced student. Several minutes of the podcasts and some of the online course material is available for free, but for full access you’ll need a subscription. Standard subscription: from approximately $15 to $23 a month, depending on the language.
Have we missed your favourite resources for practicing the language at home? Share them in the comment section!
Hi, I’m Usama Beshara, and I’ve been teaching English for 12 years, mainly to adults. I’ve taught English to many different nationalities with different first languages. I’m a holder of Cambridge CELTA, and I have a bachelor degree in business administration.
How do you supplement your online lessons?
My hobbies include reading, travelling, hiking in nature and mountains, writing poetry, and teaching! Yes, I consider teaching as one of my hobbies, as it’s something that I truly enjoy doing. On the top of that, knowing that you are making a positive and direct effect on other people’s lives gives you an immense feeling of contentment and joy.
As a teacher, a regular question that I’m always asked is: how to practice English? That’s a typical question that learners of English constantly have in mind. In fact, it has always been a challenge to practice your second language, but now the internet offers unbelievably ample resources to practice online. Actually, it’s overwhelmingly plentiful and vast to the extent that the real question is not where to find the resources, but how to use them and where to start.
My response to this question can be summarized in the following five points:
The first and most important thing to bear in mind in the beginning, and as you go on, is to make sure you are getting “Enough Input”, & producing “Enough Output”. Your practice must be both “receiving” the language through listening and / or reading (Input), and “producing” the language through speaking and / or writing (output). Make sure you speak, interact, chat if possible, and write (emails or even in a blog), along with listening to English and reading articles.
Make English the medium through which you understand English! Use an English / English dictionary. Most of the dictionaries are free online. This is a great practice for your brain to be totally immersed in the language, which is the first real step to fluency.
Watch English videos with English subtitles. They are everywhere on the internet! Most YouTube videos have auto‐generated English subtitles (but be careful because not all auto‐ generated subtitles are so accurate!).
Reading stories is a great way to learn. You can find tens of websites that contain graded stories for learners of all levels. Pick a story you find interesting – and suits your level – and start reading!
Practice English as part of your daily routine: read a daily English newspaper online, subscribe to a newsletter that sends you articles in English, regularly watch an interesting English video, or arrange with a friend to chat online for half an hour in English every day. Habits do matter, and do have an amazing transformation power. Will Durant once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Enjoy it while it lasts, and be patient... Results will come faster than you think!
Would you like to become a contributor and be featured in our newsletter? Let us know!
That’s all for now!