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Using Digital Content to Teach English Language Learners

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  • 0:03 Great Content & a…
  • 1:01 Instructions Are Key…
  • 2:33 Types of Digital Content
  • 3:45 Ethical Principles
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson gives you a basic guide on how to use digital content to teach English language learners. The lesson focuses on approaches for teaching as well as some important considerations for ELL teachers.

Great Content & a Careful Approach

Susie teaches English language learners (ELLs) in a school where most of the teaching material is provided; however, Susie's supervisors always encourage her to look for new materials. Susie often finds digital content that would fit her classes. To use digital content, which includes music, videos, images, and information, Susie can either take her class to a computer lab or use devices in the classroom, such as tablets or a SmartBoard.

Learning to use digital content and use it properly is an important part of language development for ELL students. Digital content can be challenging for ELL students though because it may include a higher level of language and includes knowing how an electronic device works. This combination can make ELL students feel intimidated, which is why it is important for teachers to take a hands-on approach in helping students feel confident. Let's take a look at how to approach digital content in an ELL class.

Instructions Are Key in a Computer Lab

Before taking her class to the computer lab, Susie needs to do some preparation. First, ELL students struggle with language itself, meaning that adding technology can make class intimidating. Second, not all ELL students have the same digital literacy. Susie can overcome this with one right approach, which is to prepare very clear and precise instructions for her students.

Let's take a look at an example that illustrates explicit instructions:

  • Once students are seated at their computer, Susie makes sure all students can hear and see her. Additionally, she has multiple visual aides, such as a projector or posters for students to follow.

  • Each student then logs in and makes eye contact to let Susie know they are ready for the next step.

  • Next, Susie verbally instructs students to the website they will be using. These instructions are also on the visuals around the room. She again waits for eye contact from all students before moving on.

  • Lastly, as students work on the website, Susie walks around to make sure the page is loading properly and that all students are at ease with downloading the page.

This approach illustrates how digital content can be used to develop an ELL's skills. The approach involves instructions that are simple and that allow students to work equally, in the sense that no one stays behind. If someone in the class is not sure how to execute an instruction, the teacher can help the student overcome the difficulty. Now, let's see what types of digital content teachers can use with English language learners.

Types of Digital Content

Reading Digital Content

The same approach teachers use to teach reading to ELLs applies to digital content. This means that teachers should choose digital content that is appropriate to the class level, both in difficulty and content. Teachers should do a pre-read to get students comfortable with the content, highlight new vocabulary, and check for comprehension through discussion or questions. At the end of the reading, teachers should do a comprehension check: such as a summary, multiple-choice assessment, or project.

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