Students, teachers, and administrators all over the world have had their lives turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of being in their classrooms, they left school one day without realizing they would not be returning for the rest of the school year. Now, teachers and students are doing their best to finish the academic year online having received little to no training on how to do so. The challenges are immense, but they all are doing their best.
Struggles ESL Learners May Face with eLearning
As challenging as it may seem to a regular education student, imagine if English is not a student’s first language. ESL (English as a Second Language) learners are facing so many additional struggles with eLearning. Access to online platforms can be very confusing. When ESL learners have to navigate through it on their own because their parents also do not speak the language, their participation will be impeded.
Additionally, the lack of face-to-face interactions with their teachers inhibits comprehension of lessons. Many teachers may just post activities with only typed directions. Because of this, ESL learners may be lost right from the beginning. ESL learners need to watch their teachers explain items and have a chance to ask a question right at that moment to clarify any misunderstandings. Teachers’ body language also helps with comprehension. When all of this is missing, ESL learners are going to struggle.
Finally, teachers cannot forget about the emotional stress that ESL learners may be under due to the pandemic. The majority of ESL students still have families and friends living in different countries. They may be experiencing fear and worry for those that they are not with during this difficult time. Teachers need to reach out to these students as much as possible while not in school. Online learning is just one of the many challenges ESL students are facing right now.
ESL Resources for eLearning
To help ESL learners at home, teachers can share a variety of apps and websites for them to use. There are so many resources on the web that assist with listening, speaking, reading, writing, and culture. Providing these websites and apps to ESL learners can help them progress with their language skills and overcome struggles with eLearning.
Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab. This is a website that provides listening practice for different language levels. The activities range from easy to academic listening on so many interesting topics. The listening activities have pre-listening questions, vocabulary to practice ahead of time, and then comprehension questions to answer after a student listens. This website also provides vocabulary lessons and quizzes and even cultural activities.
Activities for ESL Students. This is a website that provides vocabulary and grammar practice. Students can choose from easy, medium, or difficult levels. Then, there are many vocabulary and grammar quizzes on a large range of topics. Students can practice how to respond to sentences with the correct phrase. They can practice vocabulary for the classroom, group nouns, even homonyms. Teachers for The Internet TESL Journal created all of these quizzes.
VOA Learning English. This is another great website that is actually a free language course. It is set up with weekly video lessons that have ESL learners practicing speaking, vocabulary, and writing. This will have high interest level for secondary ESL learners because it follows the lives of young Americans. It also provides practice for pronunciation and vocabulary. ESL learners can choose from beginner level videos to advanced. Students are encouraged to follow the videos in sequence.
MosaLingua. In addition to websites, there are hundreds of English learning apps that ESL learners can download onto their phones. MosaLingua has students choose from 14 different categories of vocabulary and then creates flashcards, dialogues, and basic English grammar to help with communication. Beginners to advanced students can find vocabulary to suit their language level. The audio clips that are also provided with this app will help ESL learners with pronunciation.
SpeakingPal. This is an app that can fill the void for ESL learners in regard to practicing their speaking and getting immediate feedback from a teacher or native-English speaker. The lessons on SpeakingPal will teach ESL students new vocabulary and will have them respond to a variety of conversations. When the ESL student speaks into the app, words will be highlighted that need better pronunciation. The app will provide the pronunciation and have the student keep practicing it until they say it correctly. The goal of the app is to help ESL students be understood when they speak.
Busuu. This is another app to improve vocabulary and grammar for ESL learners. The lessons can be personalized to the needs and level of a student. They are self-paced and also provide a social component in which a student can get feedback from native-English speakers. The native-English speakers will comment on the students writing and pronunciation.
Google Slides. Teachers can also help ESL students with eLearning by providing video explanations of tasks that need to be completed. Furthermore, if teachers are using slides to present new material, providing the video recording and captions will increase comprehension for ESL students. Google Slides is an easy way to create presentations with video recordings, and it automatically generates captions from the video recordings.
Although these websites and apps are not going to replace in-class learning, they will be invaluable for ESL learners as they are navigating the new world of eLearning. Teachers can provide lists of apps and websites to their students and encourage them to use the sites in addition to the work that is provided through their schools. eLearning can be overwhelming with the amount of information out there. So, by providing a small list of websites and apps to try, ESL students will be more likely to actually use them and find success.