Three useful apps for ESOL students

Posted by Janet Golding on 12 June 2017

Topic: Teaching Tips, ESOL

Smartphones are a great learning tool - a classroom in your pocket. Most of your students will have one, and those who don't will be able to access one through a friend or family member.

Consolidating learning outside the classroom is crucial to your students' success. Apps are a great way to enable this. Each app on this list is free, and available on both iOS and Android.

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1. Memrise

Memrise is designed to build vocabulary and form long-term memories of words. There are hundreds of vocabulary and grammar lists to choose from, each broken down into manageable chunks. Students can even select their home language, which is especially helpful for beginners to build their confidence.

Each time a new word is presented, you're given a choice of mnemonics or 'mems' to help you to remember it. This means you may spend longer on a word, but are more likely to remember it.

Students can choose a goal for how many minutes a day they'll spend learning, or set themselves a target for how many words they want to learn. The best feature of Memrise is the competitive element.

Teachers can set up groups for each of their classes, and either pick a course for them to follow or upload their own list of words. Students then compete to get to the top of the leader board in their group.

This is a great way to motivate your students and keep track of their learning outside the classroom. Your students don't need a smartphone to access Memrise - they can simply log in using the web app on their desktop.

2. British Council LearnEnglish

The LearnEnglish Audio and Video app is great for improving your student's listening skills. Learners can access top quality video and audio resources on a range of topics such as UK food and culture, everyday life and famous stories and poems.

Extra features, such as a moving audio script and pitch-control, aid students' understanding of the podcasts. There's also a built-in glossary so that students can see the definitions of words they don't understand. A number of comprehension exercises test students' understanding of each episode.

Other apps in the LearnEnglish series include LearnEnglish Grammar, LearnEnglish Podcasts and LearnEnglish Sports World.

Learners can access all the materials a desktop computer if they don't have a smartphone.

3. Duolingo

Free and easy to use, Duolingo is one of the most popular and well-known tools for language learning. Students simply choose their native and target language, set their goals and start learning.

Duolingo is an especially motivational tool for beginners because it enables the learner to create simple sentences from day one.

The app dictates the order in which modules need to be completed, and each new module is locked until the test for the previous one has been passed. Students can go straight to the test for each module if they're already familiar with the material.

Duolingo helps students to target their weakest words at the end of each unit, and they can choose to strengthen them immediately or revisit later for revision.

The best thing about Duolingo is that it recognises the need for language learners to feel motivated. Learners choose the level of challenge they want to go for in the goal setting tool, and the virtual coach 'Duo' gives a daily update of whether or not you are on track to reach your goal.

Other ways the app hooks learners, includes the 'bonus skills' section, which enables them to earn points or 'lingots' for their efforts. If your students are competitive they will love this feature! It is good for helping learners to go beyond the basics by teaching idioms and slang.

Your language learning apps

Which apps are your students using to prepare for their ESOL assessments? What strategies have you developed to get the most out of them in the classroom? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

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