Vanguard Teaching

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5 Free Apps Every ELL Teacher Needs

More learning, more fun, more evidence for parents, and less trips to the copy machine! The following mobile applications are five programs that I have used with my students in the past year. They love them and admit that they are fun and educational at the same time. Hopefully, these five apps are on both iOS and Android and will also help you get English language learners (ELL) involved in your 21st century classroom.


Duolingo Example 3

On Duolingo, students get XP (experience points) for their work on the site.  You can assign specific language tasks to groups or individual students.

Duolingo is the Usain Bolt of language learning apps right now – it is way ahead of the language learning race. The app gamifies learning languages using a fun point and XP system that gets users hooked. Duolingo helps learners’ reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills through fast-paced language exercises. Moreover, using the Duolingo schools function, you can assign and keep track of enlisted students’ progress (in my class, I use Duolingo XP points as homework; it increases subject engagement and saves the Amazon at the same time). And finally, the app is FREE! Use it for yourself so you can finally say more than just “Una cerveza por favor” in Spanish.



Edmodo Example 1

Warm-up exercise for the thematic question of improving quality of life in the city on the class Edmodo class board.  It is great to follow up with correcting punctuation together with the class.

Edmodo is the Facebook of online class engagement. On Edmodo, teachers create closed groups (excellent for privacy-minded schools and individuals ) to share posts, assignments, and helpful class material such as links. With my class, I use Edmodo for students to post responses to thematic questions, answer surveys to get an understanding of the class atmosphere, and allow them to turn in projects with the app. Easy to maneuver and kid-friendly, there are so many learning opportunities in store with this app.



Seesaw Example 1

A student’s vocabulary acquisition exercise posted on Seesaw – showing an example of the new word.

If Edmodo is the academic Facebook, then Seesaw is the Instagram. Don’t sleep on this app; Seesaw allows students to take pictures of their work and projects to create personal portfolios. Additionally, other students can comment on them (just like Instagram). A great app to keep absentee students in the know and a fabulous way to share thoughts and ideas among students. Seesaw is also closed to the people admitted by the teacher, so information stays within the class.



Google Keep

Staying on top of your notes, due dates, and checklists are essential skills for 21st-century students. Google Keep is one of the best note-taking apps available for mobile phones. The app allows you to personalize typed notes, add images and drawings, and, most


I use Google Keep for my classroom and home to make sure everyone is aligned.

importantly, permits you to send to other people and let them edit them as well. Google Keep connects and saves to your Gmail account so you can access your Keep notes on your mobile, tablet, or Gmail through logging into your Gmail.
Imagine writing an essay checklist for your ELL students and sending it to their email accounts so they can open it in their Google Keep accounts on their phones. Keep is a cool extra tool for your students’ utility belt. Google Keep is a keeper.


Peel Remote


Control projectors, TVs, and air conditioners with Peel Remote.

Peel is not a learning app; it’s an app that will help you control the classroom climate (sort of a pun). For some reason, remote controls have a way of losing themselves in my class. But Peel Remote is the universal remote that works with all the ed-tech devices in my room – projector, air conditioner, and television. Previously, my class and I were at the mercy of someone who was able to locate a remote to change the A/C (not fun wait times during 120-degree summer heat). Peel turns smartphones into more useful (and dangerous) weapons. Please keep in mind though that Peel is also the “I hope my students don’t find out about this app because they may wreak havoc during my lesson” app.


2 comments on “5 Free Apps Every ELL Teacher Needs

  1. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Tech Baby! | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

  2. Steve
    April 5, 2016

    Great info, thanks! Ive been using Duolingo at your advice and many students are benefiting. I appreciate the info on the other apps as well and see how they could be very helpful. It surely has become a tech filled world!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on April 5, 2016 by in Tips For Teachers and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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