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How to learn everything you ever wanted to know for free

Have you heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?  One of the most remarkable advancements in educational technology is the availablity of free courses from high quality institutions.  Check out these MOOCS:

Learn more about MOOCs on my Pinterest Board.

Beyond Rosetta Stone: Online websites for language learning

While Rosetta Stone holds the biggest market share and name recognition, I’ve never enjoyed using it.  I actually find it a bit boring to tell the truth.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I located a whole bunch of other great programs out there!  There’s no reason to pay hundreds of dollars for Rosetta Stone when there are programs of higher quality available for free (or at least much less!).

Here are a few of my favorites:

Mango Languages

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Mango is often available free through your public library (you can check if your library has it here) and offers courses in ESL and 15 other languages.

LiveMocha

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Livemocha is an interactive language learning site that rewards users helping each other in the language learning process.  Rosetta Stone owns LiveMocha, and this site shares a lot of similar features to Rosetta Stone’s software.  It’s free, and is available in 8 languages.

USA Learns (for English only)

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USA Learns is a government supported site designed specifically for adult English language learners.  It includes a full curriculum for students to work through.  Since it doesn’t start with the very basics, students should have know English in order to use this program.

Memrise

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Memrise offers courses in a wide variety of languages as well as subjects like arts, maths, and geography.  It’s very easy to navigate and uses a points system that gives users access to exercises.

If you’re looking for language learning program, be sure to check out this article reviewing language learning software as well.  (It ranks Rosetta Stone as #9!)

Designing high quality activities

When teaching, it’s important that the materials you design not only solid have solid content, but they also need to be graphically designed in a way that facilitates understanding.  Here are some tips on how to create activities with excellent content and visual appeal:

Design

  • Use SmartArt to create graphic organizers.
  • Leave plenty of white space.
  • Make the title is specific and easy to find.
  • Use bold, italics, font sizes, etc. to help draw the eye to what’s most important on the page.
  • Try to repeat the same design style for the repeating components (like directions).
  • If you use graphics, make sure they support the text.
 Content
  • Make sure the language AND tasks are written at a level accessible for the intended students.
  • Vary the type of exercises you include.  Try to match the difficulty of task to the level of student.
  • Make language as simple and straightforward as possible.

Beware of overseas teaching scams

An important issue to be aware of when looking for English teaching jobs is the existence of scams.  Susan Taylor guest-posted an excellent article on this topic on Kalinago English.  The highlights:

Beware of jobs that:

  • require upfront payment
  • look too good to be true
  • have questionable websites
  • use poor English
For more details, click on the link above to read the entire article.
Another good place to look for scams in on Dave’s ESL Cafe international job forums.  They have country specific forums which often discuss the realities of a specific location.

Graphic Organizers and English Language Learners

Graphic_Organizers_and_ESL_Students

I’ve published a fair amount here on graphic organizers – it’s no secret I’m a big fan of using them with ELLs.  Thought I’d share  a helpful powerpoint created by the Pittsburgh Public Schools on the topic…

Stages of Second Language Acquisition

Judy Haynes, of Everything ESL, a great article explaining how the states of second language acquisition appear in children.  If you’re having a hard time determining what level the students you are working with are at, this article would be a helpful place to start.

“Don’t insist on English”

Longtime English teacher in Dubai Patricia Ryan discusses her perspective in a TED talk on language death and the question:

Is the world’s focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages?  

This is a significant question with which English language teachers must grapple.  What are your thoughts on her perspective?


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