Not only are the following sites great for student engagement, but each of them is, in my humble opinion, well thought-out for language learning. Each one incorporates a multi-skill approach that can be a very effective way to complement your classroom teaching. They can greatly reduce prep time, and in some cases, there is no marking because the computer does it for you! From the perspective of a teacher in the UK, the following sites are best adapted to KS3 and KS4 (ages 11-16), with the exception of Textivate, which can also be used for higher levels of language learning.
Please note that the prices indicated and the features mentioned may have changed since the time of writing, so you’re best checking each of the websites for the most up-to-date info!
Teacher or student access: Teacher only on Basic account, student logins on Premium
What it’s for: creating worksheets and short, snappy interactive activities based on a text or a vocab list
Cost p/a: £25 for Basic, £50 for Premium, £120 for Group
I honestly do not know where I would be if I hadn’t found Textivate. So much of my planning begins with this website. Two of its best uses are 1) making worksheets and 2) creating short, snappy, interactive activities on the projector in class, both of which require very little preparation. It has a hugely comprehensive Textivate ‘blog’ with extensive user guides on all its amazing features – I’m probably only making use of about 50% of it right now and it’s still amazing. Below are some of my favourite uses for it:
a) Making a matching worksheet
b) Gap-fill worksheets
c) Missing letters worksheets
d) Jumble worksheets
e) All of the above but as paperless, oral activities to do on the board
f) Fun games such as snap, football, invaders, snake
g) Create sequences of activities for pupils to do individually and track progress
2. Language Nut
Teacher or student access: Both
What it’s for: games and activities for learning vocab through all four skills, exam practice, grammar practice
Cost p/a: £595 per language
Languagenut is a very engaging MFL website and app that has been designed for secondary language learning and prepare for KS3, KS4, GCSE exams and others. I tend to use it either for homework tasks or for a session in the computer room in the second lesson of a double. It has a wide range of features, but the ones I have found most valuable so far are:
a) Differentiated exam-style questions (8,000)
b) A GCSE/IGCSE revision section for Foundation and Higher, tailored to the different major exam boards (AQA, Edexcel, Cambridge)
c) Differentiated ‘vocab trainer’ exercises on all major GCSE topics, that allow students to practise the vocab through all four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking
d) Grammar section that teaches verbs in chunks/short sentences rather than just conjugations in a vacuum. Covers lots of tenses, major verbs and other grammar points
e) Leaderboards and a variety of different award systems and ‘unlockable achievements’ to motivate students
f) Sentence building tool to practise word order and collocations
g) The possibility to create your own vocab lists (with audio) to add to the vocab trainer
h) Ability to create classes, add students, assign tasks, check if students have completed the work and track progress – provides you with useful data.
One advantage of Languagenut that sets it aside from other sites is the fact you can incorporate loads of listening into the learning of vocab. As Conti and Smith have highlighted in their blogs and bestselling books (gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com and https://frenchteachernet.blogspot.com), learning vocab through listening is essential, and textbooks don’t tend to provide the resources for extensive recycling of vocab through the aural medium. On Languagenut, pupils can play games like Snap, Noughts & Crosses, Word Pop and Multiple Choice to practise recognising different words and phrases aurally. I haven’t yet tried the ‘speaking’ function, but this is also a big USP of this site, as saying vocab aloud helps to embed vocab in phonological memory and can’t always be done extensively in lessons. Another benefit of Languagenut is that I have found the customer service team to be extremely responsive and helpful whenever you’re having issues. You can also book a demo to help decide if it’s for you. They are frequently updating the site with new features to provide the best possible experience based on customer feedback.
3. This is language
Teacher or student access: Teacher access only on the most basic subscription, £2.40 per student to add student logins
What it’s for: listening videos to do on the computer from native speakers with differentiated tasks, grammar activities and worksheets
Cost p/a: £300 for 1 language, £489 for 2, £540 for 3 and £600 for 4. FREE UNTIL JUNE DUE TO CORONAVIRUS.
Thisislanguage provides unique and valuable listening experiences to your students in that the material is all authentic – this prepares them for real, authentic, unscripted language, which students can find motivational. The videos fit into common GCSE topics and have rigorous exercises. Here are its main features:
a) Videos interviewing native speakers spanning most major GCSE topics, accompanied by a set of four interactive exercises, each increasing in difficulty (Jigsaw, Video Vocab, Gap-fill and Comprehension)
b) Ability to do the above on the computer OR print a worksheet for pupils to complete at home using the video
c) Clear system of difficulty levels for each video
d) Vocab Trainer and Grammar trainer
e) Slightly wacky 2-minute grammar videos – an engaging way to introduce a new grammar point that doesn’t require student logins – simply play it on the classroom projector
f) Printable grammar worksheets
g) Ability to create classes, add students, assign tasks, check if students have completed the work and track progress – provides you with useful data
h) ‘Nutty Tilez’ vocab recall game – a realtime, multi-player game that students love
4. The Language Gym
Teacher or student access: Student access to self-marking activities and Teacher
What it’s for: verb conjugations, grammar practice and vocab-learning.
Cost p/a: £100 for an individual teacher and 120 students or £200 for 15 teachers and 800 students
This site is the brainchild of Dr Gianfranco Conti. If you’re familiar with Conti’s work which I’ve referenced in previous posts, you’ll know that every technique and activity is designed with sound research in mind about memory and second language acquisition. Vocab-learning and verb-conjugation activities are varied and target all the different aspects of what it means to ‘know’ a word or chunk. I think the gamification of verb conjugation and vocab-learning makes it a great tool for less able learners, but also the excellent range of vocabulary makes it well suited to the high achievers in your groups as well. The students can be set assignments or ‘live’ games to compete against each other. You can also print any of the ‘work-outs’ as worksheets. The site will soon be adding a listening section and a huge teacher library of downloadable worksheets authored by Conti and co-writers.
And two FREE bonus ones…
Quizlet may offer a subscription called ‘Quizlet Teacher’, but you can actually already do a lot with the free version. Here I offer some of the best Quizlet features for MFL teaching.
Languages Online https://www.languagesonline.org.uk/
I actually remember using this site when I was in Year 8… but it’s still fantastic for its grammar drills and gap-fills, practising verbs in context. On top of this, you can find lots of vocab activities on a variety of topics. It’s great for GCSE level but also has some reading comprehension and grammar that are well adapted to A-level standard. Languages online now also offers a separate subscription site called ‘Languages Online Extra’ where you can assign homework or classwork to students, track progress and reward good work.
Do you have any recommendations for subscription sites or any thoughts in response to this post? Leave a comment below! The next one on my radar is Teachvid, which has been launched by the creators of Textivate, have a look at www.teachvid.com