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The Best Fun Sites You Can Use for Learning Too -- 2009


Note: In order to qualify for most of Larrys lists, a site has to be

  • accessible to English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users.
  • free-of-charge.
  • appropriate for classroom use.
  • completely browser-based with no download required.


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This is the third edition in this particular series of The Best" lists. The first two are: The Best Fun" Sites You Can Use for Learning Too and The Best Fun Sites You Can Use for Learning Too -- 2008.

To introduce this list, Im just going to quote from the first one:

These are Web sites that were not designed with education in mind, but which easily can be used for learning purposes -- particularly, though not exclusively, for English Language development. I only hope creators of educational" content can learn from the qualities that make these sites so engaging.

Here then are my picks for The Best Fun" Sites You Can Use for Learning Too -- 2009:

DANCING
Eternal Moonwalk is a Michael Jackson tribute site where people upload short videos of themselves doing a moonwalkthat connects to all the other moonwalks people have uploaded. Its almost impossible to stop watching. You certainly could have students use English to plan their dance and then describe it. I know its a stretch but, as I said, its so much fun!

OPTICAL ILLUSIONS
In my classes I help students learn academic vocabulary. One new word has been interpretation" and its various forms. I usually show students several optical illusions that can be found at various sites. Then, they have short conversations with other students about what they see:
What is your interpretation of whats in the picture?"
It seems to me that theres a "

Here are two new resources for illusions that can be used in that way:
83 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena and Incredible Illusions.

PHOTOS
Students can pick some of these photos to write about or describe, or they can be used in class as part of the Picture Word Inductive Model teaching strategy:

VIDEOS
Fun videos are always useful. If you have a computer projector, students can watch themselves using the Back-To-The-Screen" activity. (Read how to do it at The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows for ESL/EFL.) If you dont have a projector, you can do a similar activity in a computer lab. Or you can just have everybody watch the same video and write about it.

Most of these videos are from YouTube (which likely is blocked by school content filters), but some are worth using a converter to download onto your laptop, or a service like EdublogsTV or Watch Now to show to students. Theyre great for English Language Learners -- short, engaging videos that students can write about and discuss.

Here are my video suggestions:

ART

  • This strange tool lets you create a painting with your voice. The mouse is the brush and your voice is the ink as you create an online painting, send it to the sites gallery to get a unique URL to post on a student or teacher Web site or blog, and then give it a description.
  • Just click to start making a drawing with virtual sand, and then save your creation to the gallery. Again, students can post their creations and then provide an oral or text description.
  • Create a star constellation that moves with Rule the Stars. E-mail and post the URL to your creation, along with a description.
  • Make a Snowflake, describe it, and post the link on a student or teacher blog or Web site.
  • At Connect the Dots, you can upload any photo and easily turn it into a connect the dot" puzzle that can be shared and solved by others. It seems to me, this has limited educational value -- I guess Beginning English Language Learners could use it as a fun vocabulary-building activity since you have to type in the category your photo fits into -- but, educational or not, its a pretty neat Web tool!

VIRAL MARKETING
Ive written How I Use Viral Marketing Tools With My English Language Learner Students. Here are some of the activities students have enjoyed most:

  • Become a talking Star Trek character. Using the text-to-speech feature, Choose a Star Trek Character and have the character speak, then post it on a student or teacher Web site.
  • Turn into a talking potato with Spud Yourself! Take your own image or use one of the sites pictures. By using the text-to-speech feature, English Language Learners can develop language skills in a fun way through writing and listening. You can post the link to your talking potato on a teacher or student blog or Web site.
  • Made for Each Other is yet another weird example of viral marketing that can be used as a fun and useful language-learning tool. (You can read about how I use these applications here.) I guess its connected to advertising Frito-Lay in some way (though its hard to tell how). Its too strange to explain, other than to say you connect two creatures to one another and then write a love note for one of them to give to the other. You then are given the link to the note that can be posted on a student or teacher Web site. If you have a few minutes left to kill in the computer lab, and you want to give your ELL students a short and engaging writing task, this certainly would be an option.
  • Purina has created a fun little online tool so users can Learn to SpeakDog by typing in words to finish the sentence, Learn how to say Im _________________ in dog." Then, a dog demonstrates how it would communicate that feeling. This is a fun way for English Language Learners to practice vocabulary if you have a few minutes to kill" in the computer lab.

ONLINE VIDEO GAMES
Ive written about How I Use Online Video Games as Language-Development Activities With My Students. Here are a couple of particularly good video games that came out this year:

If you found this article useful, you might want to check out Larrys entire Best Of series, or consider subscribing to his free blog.

Larry Ferlazzo
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

12/11/2009