Tech tools for language learning
Dawn Mills
August 15, 2017

The four basic skills of language learning are reading, writing, speaking and listening. With increased access to tech tools in today’s classrooms, attending to the development of speaking and listening skills has become easier. Here are three tips to use English Language Arts tech tools to facilitate progression in all areas of language learning:

  1. Get the right tools. Each classroom has varying needs for language learning tools. I work in a special education classroom and need my tools to address the challenges that struggling language learners face. I use LANGUAGE! Live with students because it works well in general education and special education classrooms alike. Students can practice speaking skills on the platform, which was important to me when selecting a tool. A headset, like the Califone GH507, makes speaking and listening activities simple for my students. No matter what your technology strategy is, it’s critical to consider how all components of language learning will fit into tech time in the classroom.
  2. Emphasize student accountability. It’s important that students become accountable while working independently. In my class, students are working to improve their reading skills, specifically letter sounds and fluency in reading. The students speak the sounds or sentences into the program which are then reviewed after each lesson. When speaking activities are shifted from peer-based activities to computer-based activities, students must take the initiative to complete the assigned tasks individually to earn the required credit.
  3. Use data to drive intervention.  One significant advantage of using tech tools in language learning is the access to student data. Platforms that integrate speaking, listening, reading and writing give a snapshot of student progress. If a student is struggling with a specific word group, the teacher can use that information to provide one-to-one instructional support. When a student was not able to pass the lesson on correctly reading short vowel sound words, I was able to meet with her one-on-one and go over the correct mouth positions and practice several words with her before she returned to the computer program and successfully completed the lesson. If I had not been able to hear that she was struggling with the sounds, she would have continued to be frustrated and not been able to move forward with her reading skills. Being able to hear the individual student reading is making a difference in their overall reading performance.

As schools continue to shift to digital curriculum, we’ll need to adapt tried-and-true classroom activities to take advantage of the tech tools available. With the above tips, all components of language learning can culminate in an effective and engaging classroom experience.

Dawn Mills teaches special education at Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colo. She has been in the district for 20 years, and has been a teacher for 33 years.

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