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10 ways home learning apps can boost children’s English learning

Home learning appsToday’s children are much more tech savvy than yesterday’s, and this has had a profound effect on the way that they learn languages! No wonder then that there has been an increasing interest in home learning technologies that support language learning at school and back at home.

Children are natural language learners. They love to seek out and soak up new experiences, and we can’t deny that they are much more stimulated and motivated when they interact with apps. Apps enhance their curiosity, spice up their learning, and keep them engaged as they make learning animated, fun and more appealing to children.

We want our children to learn on the go; learning apps engage them with opportunities to improve their listening, reading, writing, speaking and cognitive skills in an authentic way, wherever they may be. Apps can create an enjoyable learning atmosphere when they are used effectively.

Today, with little or no English at all, parents can be a part of their children’s language learning journey using home learning apps with them.

Home learning apps that are specifically designed for pre-primary children may include listening and pointing activities, games, singing songs, and listening to stories. Apps are designed to keep children on task, maintaining their interest and concentration by gradually increasing the level of difficulty and challenge. By using instructions and activities that reflect what children learn in the classroom, children can easily navigate apps by themselves. The educational value of home learning apps can be enhanced by simply watching, guiding, and sharing children’s enthusiasm as they navigate the app. Parental engagement transforms screen time into family time, and refocuses a child’s attention to the task at hand while simultaneously reinforcing their language learning.

There are thousands of language learning apps out there, and they all do things differently. So we’re basing our 10 tips on the Lingokids English language learning app.

Lingokids (available free via the Apple and Google Play stores) is an educational app that features materials from Oxford University Press ‘Jump In!’ and ‘Mouse and Me’ coursebooks. The curriculum has been designed by experts in early language learning development. The app targets pre-primary children who are studying ‘Jump In!’ and ‘Mouse and Me’ coursebooks at school, and aims to help parents reinforce their children’s English at home in a highly engaging and fun way. It immerses children with a wide range of vocabulary in meaningful contexts using cross-curricular topics. The app uses stories, songs, animations, games, letter tracing and interactive live-action videos of native English teachers introducing a variety of topics. The adaptive learning system also adjusts the level of difficulty according to the child’s performance, providing each child with a unique learning experience. There’s also a reward system in place to encourage and reinforce language!

The potential and success of Lingokids can be maximized with the support and the participation of parents at home. Here are ten activities for you to share with your parents using Lingokids to extend their children’s English learning outside the classroom.

Create a mini-story book: After watching the stories, parents and their children can work together to create mini-story books, encouraging children to retell the stories to other family members. If parents know how to write in English, they can write sentences or words that their children have said as they are retelling the stories. The mini-story books can be shared with teachers at school as well.

Dramatize the stories: Children love to watch videos over and over again. Parents can use their interest in the characters by making puppets that their children can use to dramatize the stories. Parents can also take part in this role-play.

Turn off the sound: After practicing with the app, parents can turn off the sound and view the topics that they have played again. They can ask their children to name the things that they see as they play the app.

What they remember: After using the app, parents can ask their children to recall what they remember from what they have just practiced. Children can describe and draw the things that they remember. The drawings can be displayed in the house to be referred to any time that parents would like to practice English with their children.

Create a picture dictionary: After practicing with the app, children and parents can draw and colour the words together in their picture dictionaries. If parents know how to write in English, they can even write the English words next to the pictures.

Picture cards: After practicing with the words in the app, parents can create picture cards of the target vocabulary. Children can help by drawing the pictures on the cards. Then, they can play flashcard games together. They can play a memory game, or they can put the picture cards in a bag before taking them out one by one and naming them. They can put the picture cards on the floor. As they play the app, children can point out the picture cards that they see and hear on the app.

Sing the songs: The app is full of songs that parents and children alike can sing along to. Singing along and performing the actions referred to in the song is a great way of embedding the language in a unique and engaging way.

Record: Parents can record their children as they are dramatizing the stories, playing with the flashcards, retelling the stories through their mini-story books, or singing along to the app. By listening to themselves speak, they can become more confident and more fluent in the new language.

Additional materials: Each topic has worksheets that parents can download, print out, and do with their children. The worksheets include song lyrics, more books and craft activities, and useful phrases that parents can integrate into their children’s daily lives.

Learn with them: Learning English with children helps to foster in them a positive attitude towards English. If parents use the app enthusiastically, children will imitate, encouraging and motivating them to learn English. Parents should practice with their children even if they’re proficient in English themselves, as it’ll help young learners to stay on task.

The activities above should not only help children to learn English, it’ll allow parents to spend quality time with their children, learning and having fun together. It’s a win-win situation!

Özge Karaoğlu Ergen is the foreign languages department K12 technology integration specialist, a teacher trainer and a course book writer.  She has been recognized by the ELTons Awards, ESU, MEDEA, Microsoft, and Telly Awards for her digital projects. She currently teaches young learners herself, and she has been developing digital games, animations and mobile applications with her learners for the last eight years.


Beyond the classroom… Involving parents in learning

While it is true that as teachers our main mission is to teach the students in our classrooms lots of exciting new language and skills, it’s also true that as professional educators we often invest a lot of our precious time in speaking to and dealing with students’ parents. For example, we may just say a friendly hello, offer a friendly reminder, provide a word of warning or perhaps simply give a student’s family and loved ones some feedback about their child’s progress. Whilst this may suffice for some parents, some teachers assert that this is just the tip of the teacher parent relationship. I would argue that there is so much more that could be done to encourage both parties to join efforts to guarantee that each student reaches their personal learning goals successfully.

This webinar* looked at how we as teachers can actively involve our students’ parents in their children’s school learning process. Generally speaking, by nature, most parents are interested in their children’s academic life and progress, and want to help their children be successful at school. It is also true that more often than not they are true specialists when it comes to knowing their children’s strengths and weaknesses. Yet, in many cases this natural interest turns out to be a source of frustration as it is not always channeled correctly, and rather than feeling useful and engaged, parents end up feeling lost and frustrated. They know that there is so much more that could be done to help their children, but don’t know exactly how to go about doing it.

In order to revert this, we began the webinar by discussing and analyzing how parent involvement outside school can be set up in a practical manner. This is what the webinar covered:

  1. Setting up a clear and open channel of communication between teachers and parents.
  2. Suggesting and exploring various ideas and activities to get parents started on the right track and gently guide and encourage them to become active participants in their children’s learning process.
  3. Suggesting and considering ideas like how to plan and set up a revision schedule for their children, how to choose appropriate learning resources, and how to use the Oxford parents’ website to find appropriate tasks and activities.

By the end of the webinar, you will have a fair idea of how to go about creating a game plan to apply in your school. You’ll be able to involve and engage parents to help maximize their students’ learning.

Watch the webinar button

Vanessa has been teaching English as a Foreign language in Portugal for the past 20 years. She is currently teaching at Escola Superior de Educação.  Her areas of interest are teaching Young learners, Teens and Pre-Teens. Vanessa ran a webinar on the above topic in 2016, click here to watch the webinar recording.

*Webinar recordings are available to all members of the Oxford Teacher’s Club. Not yet a member? It’s free, quick, and easy to sign up!


5 Steps to Better Parent Homework Involvement

In her first guest post for OUP, Nicole Whitehall, a “mommy blogger” and self-confessed tech geek, takes a look at how to get parents more involved with homework.

Assigning homework to students is a task in itself. You have to make sure that you haven’t assigned too much or too little, not to mention trying to get your students’ parents involved. American families are usually busy shuffling their kids from one place to another, worrying about cooking dinner, and leaving their kids to fend for themselves when it comes to homework. Here are some steps to take to make the upcoming school year a success when it comes to the involvement of your students’ parents during homework time.

1. Ask

There is no better time to give encouragement or ask for help when it comes to home learning than at the beginning of the school year. You are more likely to get your students’ parents attention at back-to-school night or using the back-to-school letters that are sent home. Invite parents to engage in your child’s learning experience throughout the year through projects, experiments, field trips and nightly homework. Let them in on what your child will be studying and explain to them how important they are in their child’s academic development.

2. Teach

Just like it took time for you to learn how to be effective teachers to your students, your students’ parents have to learn how to be effective teachers to their kids. Provide parents with a sheet of guidelines and advice on how to best help their child excel at home learning. Some tips might include: setting a regular time for homework, picking a designated place, removing distractions, and showing interest in assignments.

3. Assign

Some parents make their kids feel like they are too busy to help with homework. If there is a section of homework that is mandatory for parents, there is a better chance of parents making time to help their kids with homework. For instance, have your students ask their parents about an old family recipe that has been passed down for generations. Let your students write the steps to the recipe using sequencing (first, second, last, etc.) and share it with the class.

4. Share your observations

When with their peers, students usually open up and share their interests a lot more. This means participating in games they might not play at home and trying new things. If you notice that your student enjoys a certain game or method of learning, share it with your students’ parents at the end of the month. Explain new ways they can incorporate the teaching methods used in the classroom in their own home.

5. Give feedback

After some weeks of implementing the new changes in and out of the classroom, give some feedback! Whether it’s through a newsletter personalised for each child or a mini parent-teacher conference, let your students’ parents know what’s working, what’s not, and how each party can make your students’ learning experience even better.

So make an effort to challenge your students and parents this upcoming school year. If you’ve given it a try already, what do you find works the best? If you haven’t tried it yet, which tip do you think will make the most impact on your students’ learning?

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Picture This: A story about teaching English to 5-6 year olds

A first lesson for a group of 5/6 year olds, they’ve never had English lessons before, they’re clearly nervous and a bit worried. My goal (as their teacher), in the first few lessons is to ensure they enjoy being there and feel happy about coming back for more lessons. A few games are played, the children seem happy and relaxed – goal achieved!

The lesson comes to an end and the nervous and slightly apprehensive students that came into the class, leave the room happy and relaxed. I haven’t taught them much English, but I have started the process of building a safe, positive and effective learning environment for lessons to come.

However, this is all undone by one mother waiting at the door to collect her child. As I stand in the doorway, saying goodbye to each of the students, I hear one mother, ‘pounce’ on her child with ‘So, tell me, what did you learn today? Say something for me in English’. The child looks at the ground, and shuffles her feet a bit, but doesn’t provide an ‘answer’, so the mother then says, ‘Come on, what did you learn, you must be able to say something in English, come on, say something for me.’ The child looks more than a little panicked and upset…

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