George Lucas Educational Foundation
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One of my favorite aspects of integrating technology into instruction is the availability of resources to support students with different learning needs. Students who are struggling can benefit from the excitement and engagement offered by a tool like the iPad. Teachers of English-Language Learners (ELLs) can use technology to promote growth in their students. Developing a strong vocabulary is an important area of focus for ELLs who are building their reading comprehension. Educators use a variety of strategies to grow readers in their classroom, and there are many free iPad apps that support vocabulary acquisition.

Kids' Vocab by MindSnacks

This is one of my favorite literacy apps for all students, and it is a great tool for ELLs. Kids' Vocab by MindSnacks introduces students to Tier 3, low-frequency, context-specific vocabulary words. Each set of words is organized around a theme and built on games that keep children excited about learning. With supports and positive reinforcement, students who struggle won't feel defeated, since words are repeated as they work toward mastery. The high-quality graphics and engaging activities will grab your students' attention as they increase their Tier 3 vocabulary.

English First High Flyers

EF High Flyers is an easy-to-use game that helps students learn new vocabulary words starting with numbers and everyday objects. After studying a set of words (with audio and picture support), they test their knowledge through spelling, vocabulary listening and reading quizzes. The emphasis on a variety of skills holds students accountable for having a comprehensive understanding of how to use each new set of words.


If you're looking for a way to load your students' iPads with custom vocabulary, check out Flashcardlet by Quizlet. It allows students to access decks of flashcards you've made right from their iPads. Quizlet is a free website where you can create flashcards decks based on your own list of words. Whether they correspond to the vocabulary in a social studies unit or simply help students learn new words, you can use this app to support a variety of ELL students. I love the feature on this site that lets teachers use one of Quizlet's definitions (instead of writing their own). It even has choices of images that teachers can match to their vocabulary words. Displaying pictures next to the vocabulary word and its definition will help students working to expand their English vocabulary. The Flashcardlet app loaded on your class' iPads (or iPod Touch) will let students swipe through the cards you've created on Quizlet, identify any words where they need extra practice, and monitor their own progress.


A great game for 1-4 players, Futaba presents players with pictures of everyday items and asks them to name each object. Simple and fun, this is a game that encourages player competition to see who can choose the correct name for an item from a list of four choices. Whoever gets the most correct answers in one minute wins the round. Whether students are playing in groups or practicing solo, this game is sure to add new words to their vocabulary. Futaba also has an upgrade that offers customizable features.

Have you had success using technology to support English-Language Learners? What are some of your favorite apps?

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slash's picture

Great list! I work at an international school where all our students are technically ELL . I'm always looking for tech resources/apps to use especially with the ipads. It's crucial to focus on their vocabulary. Thank you so much for the wonderful list.

Arkayan's picture

EF High Flyers and Flashcardlet are really very helpful apps. Recently, I also came across a free Android app - Subcommune. It also helps in developing a strong vocabulary. It's great that so many English learning apps are now coming in the market.

Oliver Rose's picture

Check out the Phrase Maze game app for practicing phrasal verbs, a notorious weak point of EFL learners:

You can also import vocab/phrases/sentences from Quizlet to use in the game, and track progress!

Amparo's picture

I appreciate the helpful ideas. My district is using iPads to support student learning. I am a bilingual kindergarten teacher with 19 English learners in her class. The ELL teacher at my school and I were recently discussing ways to help our students develop new English vocabulary words. Integrating technology into instruction seems the way to go as their iPads keep them highly engaged in learning. I will even be able to do a much better job at differentiating the learning needs of the strugglers. This apps will let me address everybody's needs more rapidly. Thanks again!

VocabularySpellingCity Mayor's picture
VocabularySpellingCity Mayor
VocabularySpellingCity is on a mission to improve student reading comprehension through improving vocabulary retention. And making it fun for the students, easy on the teachers. I'm also the founder of, K-2nd science.

I think VocabularySpellingCity is the most used app and site for vocabulary building with our 35+ learning games, many of which cover or combine vocabulary, phonics, spelling, and writing. Here's two places to look:
1. The 35+ games:
2. The transition from SpellingCity in which the service was broadened:

Nancy Bishara's picture

I am studying to be an Elementary teacher and I enjoyed learning about all these great ways to use technology in the classroom. I really like this article, it seems so fascinating to learn about how technology is great for students and people who are English Language Learners. Using an I-pad seems like a great idea to help with vocab and pictures. Thank you for this great article I will definitely use this as a future educator.

Carrie B's picture

Thanks so much for sharing these Apps, I am excited to check them out! I teach middle school ELLs of all levels, and I think technology is a great way to increase motivation. I am wondering if theses are good apps for secondary students, or if there are any other secondary apps out there?

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