6 Top Tech Tools for World Language Classes
See how to adapt popular apps to get students speaking, listening, reading, and writing in the target language.
When utilized effectively and efficiently, technology can enhance instruction and heighten student interest. In world language classes, a wide variety of technology tools can be used to give students practice with speaking, listening, reading, and writing in the target language. These are some of the tools I use regularly with my students.
Tech Tools for the World Language Classroom
1. Move beyond vocabulary with Quizlet: Language teachers typically create Quizlet study sets with key words in the target language and matching meanings in English. Quizlet also offers vocabulary games in which students match words with corresponding pictures. Consider trying something new: Create a study set for your students in which you incorporate maps to teach geography. This will allow you to pinpoint cities or countries in which the target language is spoken.
Or create a study set featuring key questions in the target language, such as: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you like to do in your free time? Provide sample answers, also in the target language, and have students match the answers to the correct question. This serves as great practice for novice learners, and you can do this without using any English.
To move beyond independent practice, click “Live” on your study set and you’re ready to start a friendly competition in which students work in teams to match the words or questions to their proper meanings.
2. Incorporate listening and drawing activities with Pear Deck: Pear Deck is the perfect way to make your Google Slides interactive. Try using the Pear Deck Chrome extension for listening and drawing activities: Add a Pear Deck interactive “Drawing” slide and read a description aloud.
For example, I will read the following description aloud (in Spanish) to my Spanish I classes: “The boy is tall, thin, and has black, curly hair and green eyes. The boy is feeling happy because it is warm and sunny outside. He likes to listen to music and read, but he does not like to study or play sports.”
As I read off this description, students draw what they hear. Once their drawings are complete, I ask them to restate what they drew aloud. You can also ask them to write about what they drew. Students are enthused when I project all of their drawings on the board—each student’s drawing is different and has its own style, even though everyone heard the same description.
3. Create a digital pen pal program via videos with Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a fun way to create videos. Rather than writing letters or emails to a pen pal, students can post videos of themselves speaking in the target language. Partner up with another class at the same level in a neighboring school by reaching out to world language teachers in local districts. Students can create videos, view their classmates’ or pen pals’ videos, and respond to one another with comments using Flipgrid.
You could instead partner with a school abroad where students speak the target language and introduce them to this tool, setting up an authentic digital pen pal program. You can use social media to find a partner school: If you use Facebook, try searching for professional language teaching groups. On Twitter, there are countless language educators around the world—try searching the hashtags #LangChat, #MFLTwitterati, or #FLTeach to find them. Or go the traditional route and network with your fellow language teaching colleagues—they may be able to help you contact a teacher abroad.
4. Bring music and song competitions to your class with Lyrics Training: One of my students’ favorite tools for extra practice in the target language is Lyrics Training, which allows them to view a music video and type out the lyrics according to what they hear. With Lyrics Training, you can host a competition to see who can fill out the lyrics at the quickest pace. In the process, students learn the words to their favorite songs in the target language.
There are music videos available in a variety of languages, and students can compete against other users. This is sure to get all of your students singing and engaged.
5. Host an online discussion via Padlet: Padlet allows students to view a prompt and respond on an online discussion board. If you want to engage students in a digital discussion rather than an oral one, you can have them respond with text, images, videos, or links. This can be a great tool for pre- or post-reading discussions in the target language, as well as for warm-up activities or exit tickets.
As students answer, their responses populate the online discussion board, so they can see their classmates’ responses. They can express whether they agree or disagree as an extension activity.
6. Lead a virtual field trip with Google Tour Creator: For world language classes, there’s no better way to take students on a virtual field trip to the target country than with Google Tour Creator, which allows teachers to create an exciting experience for students that will immerse them in the target language and culture.
Google Tour Creator allows you to select a city and its featured landmarks or sites. Students are able to see 360-degree views of these places and read or listen to audio narration of the history behind the featured sites. This tool exposes students to the language and culture, and may inspire them to travel and use the target language in a real-life, authentic context.
Technology is always changing and evolving—our activities should too. If you have tech tools that you already love, consider using them in different ways. As language teachers, we need to constantly design new experiences to empower our students to use the languages they’re learning.