Tag Archives: ELL

4 Great Vocabulary Apps for ELL Students

by Hope Morley

vocabulary apps for ELL students

Image courtesy Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most students (and adults!) acquire new vocabulary through reading, writing, and listening. For many English language learners, that isn’t enough. Direct instruction of vocabulary can make students into better readers, writers, and thinkers. Here are four apps you can use to support vocabulary instruction for your ELL students.


Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Vocabla is available as either a website or a free iOS/Android app. The app allows you to create lists of words you want to learn, has you practice with digital flashcards, and then quizzes you. If you don’t want to create your own lists, the library has many lists ready to go. Students can choose a native language or choose “other” for an English-only experience.


Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Like Vocabla, StudyBlue is primarily an online flashcard creator. Teachers can create flashcards for the class or have students create flashcards from their own reading. There are also collaboration settings for small group work. StudyBlue has public lists of words, but they aren’t as robust as Vocabla’s library. Use StudyBlue if you want the most control over the words your students study. (Bonus: It syncs with Evernote!)

English First High Flyers Vocabulary Game

Elementary, Middle School | iOS

This fun iPad game contains both flashcard levels with audio and testing games. The audio helps students with the pronunciation of new words. The app is easy to navigate, allowing for students to guide themselves through their practice. It unfortunately doesn’t have any user options, which makes it difficult to save progress in a classroom with shared iPads.

My Words American English

Elementary | iOS ($1.99)

This app covers basic vocabulary in categories like body parts, colors, and transportation, which means it’s best for kids just starting out with English. The games and quizzes are fun, and the animations are well done. The design is aimed at younger audiences, so this app is not recommended for beginning ELLs older than fifth grade.

What vocabulary tools do you recommend for ELL students? Tell us in the comments.

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Online Resources for ELL Students

by Dagmar Ladle

The internet is full of ELL resources

Head online for lots of great ELL resources | image courtesy: stock.XCHNG

As school budgets continue to dwindle, teachers face the challenge of teaching an increasing ELL population with fewer resources. In the classrooms I have visited, the teachers who seem to be providing the best explicit literacy instruction and interactive teaching use technology to help them differentiate. Some of these strategies might assist you in your classroom when you are working with ELL students.

Images: Try to provide a digital image of key academic or content-specific words. These images should be real photographs and not clip art. Also, look for online picture dictionaries for primary students and those who need more support. Make these a part of every lesson and small group activity.

Reading: Use computer-based reading programs that allow individual students to interact with texts at their specific level. Many software programs, such as myON and Achieve3000, select texts for students based on their reading level and include topics that motivate students to want to read. MyON and Achieve3000 also have activities specifically for ELL students. These digital resources are great for differentiated instruction at school, and they also allow the family of an ELL student to participate in the child’s education and perhaps even learn new words in their second language. For older students, try Newsela, a free website that provides news articles at different Lexile levels.

Writing:  Web-based games, social media, email, and other online resources provide authentic writing opportunities for students. They also provide a framework for students to learn, work, and solve problems cooperatively. Create a class Twitter account, start a blog, or encourage older students to join English, Baby. All of these can lead to authentic experiences in critical thinking for ELL students.

Here’s a list (in no particular order) of useful online ELL resources.

Resource collections and free online tools:
Activities for ESL Students
, a project of The Internet TESL Journal
English Language Learner (ELL) Resources, the Utah Education Network
ESL Basics
Kindersay (for pre-K students)
Printable English Worksheets
ESL instructors and Students, Purdue Online Writing Lab
English Learner Movie Guides
ESL Lounge (also check out the student site)
Dave’s ESL Cafe

Software and programs:
Scientific Learning Reading Assistant
Lexia Reading, part of the Rosetta Stone company
Kurzweil 3000
MindPlay’s Virtual Reading Coach

How do you use technology with your ELL students?

Dagmar LadleDagmar Ladle is Manager of Consulting Services at Green Light Professional Development. Before Green Light, Dagmar worked for Chicago Public Schools, Promethean, and Apple. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.