Using Tech to Better ESL Classes

Ananda Costa

Big image


ESL, or English as a Second Language, is a type of class offered to students who are not english speakers. The classes are programs offered in small groups so that the students can receive individual and personalized attention. The main objective of these courses is to help nonnative speakers master the English language and ultimately reintegrate them into regular classrooms without any kind of language barrier.

According to a study conducted by the George Washington University, approximately 1 in 10 students in the public school system are English as a Second Language learners. That means that is is critically important to every classroom to be able to cater to these types of students. Therefore, it might beneficial to introduce technology into the classroom that helps bridge the gap between language and learning.


There are countless games online for students to learn English and other languages. Websites like DuoLingo and games like Fast English are only two examples in a sea filled with other software for kids to use. Some of my favorite games that I've stumbled upon can be found on, where there is a wide array of learning tools for ESL students.

But there's more to creating an open and encouraging environment for students than just playing a game on a tablet. In fact, it is an extremely difficult task to foster an environment that encourages ESL students to make meaning out of the vocabulary and grammar that they are learning. That is why new innovations in technology that utilize music, art, and other things as universal forms of language is critically important to the educational development of these kids.

Some fun and cool examples of these new innovative pieces of technology in the classroom are podcasts and digital field trips. Podcasts can incorporate music into learning topics and well as give auditory learners something that speaks to them. Digital field trips use things like virtual reality, 360 video, and online guided tours to send a student to another place (like a museum or even outer space) to learn about those things by introducing vocabulary or grammar lessons.

Bringing in other pieces of tech and software that introduce these fun elements helps transcend language barriers that can often build between students. The goal would be to use these games and tech in a way that prevent the isolation of ESL students in an English-speaking classroom. Technology can foster a connection between the learner and the topic in a way that encourages the learner to be intrinsically motivated to enjoy learning and retain information.


The three pictures above are screenshots of some of the activities that I found really interesting on one of the resources I found. The first is a picture of the Pirate Ship Battle game. In this game the player battles against a rival using their knowledge of zoo animals. There are several other versions of this game on the website that focusses on different vocabulary and topics like numbers, fruits, and school supplies. The second picture is from an interactive online crossword to help memorize insect names in English. This is just a nice mix for students who prefer this kind of work. Finally, the last screenshot is actually from a video about teaching kids how to express themselves using the verbs can and cannot. The activities shown above are only a few of the many activities offered online at


Throughout this Genius Hour Project I have come across countless resources, articles, websites, and twitter users that positively contribute to the conversation about technology in ESL spaces. Below are some of the ones I found were extremely insightful:



  • @FluentU
  • @CalicoSpanish
  • @Intercambio


  • #TeachESL
  • #ESL
  • #LangChat