TESOL Connections

Quick Tip: 5 Ways to Break Out of Your Teaching Rut in 2017

by Kristen Lindahl

It's easy to fall into routines, especially when they seem to work. But the advent of a new year brings about many opportunities for growth and change, and that extends to your teaching practice, too! Here are five opportunities for you to innovate your TESOL pedagogy and make 2017 your best teaching year yet.  

The advent of a new year brings about many opportunities for growth and change, and that extends to your teaching practice, too! Here are five opportunities for you to innovate your TESOL pedagogy and make 2017 your best teaching year yet.

1. Learn New Things

Attend an online professional development activity via tesol.org or Twitter. The online platform makes it easy for you to connect with cutting-edge TESOL researchers and teachers (e.g., TESOL President Dudley Reynolds, Larry Ferlazzo, Nelson Flores, Judie Haynes, Diane Staehr Fenner, and Jana Echevarria, or organizations such as TESOL, WIDA, and Colorín Colorado) and learn about research-supported trends in English language teaching worldwide. To connect with other TESOL professionals, also consider following TESOL on Facebook and Twitter. Some second language scholars also host ESL chat discussions (simply type in #ellchat into the search box on Twitter), where you can tweet about language learning issues in real time across the globe.

2. Take Action

Conduct an action research project with a new technique or strategy that you learn about in one of your professional development activities. First, select a focus for your research, such as a particular grammar point, set of vocabulary words, or writing skills. Then, do some research on what scholars have already said about your chosen topic. With those theories in mind, identify a research question and write it down, such as “Does students’ vocabulary recall improve if I use more visuals during my word study instruction?” Then, collect your data—likely in the form of students’ work, notes to yourself, or test scores. Decide what these data mean—do they show an improvement on an assignment? Did anything change? Then, decide what action you should take after this. If your “treatment” was successful, you might try doing it more often!

3. Connect With a Coworker

Collaborate with a colleague to try new ideas. Too often teachers work in isolation once the door to their classroom closes, so meet with a colleague and exchange activity or strategy ideas so you can each try something you have never done in class before. Report back to each other to debrief about how it went, which will give you the opportunity to offer suggestions and/or get advice about further implementation. You might also consider providing opportunities for students in other classrooms to collaborate with each other—maybe they write letters or send emails to another class, or one class serves as the audience for another class’ presentations. Cross-classroom collaboration increases the amount of diverse language input students will produce and receive, and having a new audience can liven up interaction.

4. Think About It

Focus on higher order skills when writing your lesson objectives. Move beyond listening, speaking, reading, and writing and try to focus on the cognitive tasks and the related language forms and functions that accompany them. Current studies show that students must continually develop critical reading skills in order to accurately interpret all of the information they see and hear in any language. Memorization and recall are not enough—students need to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate in order to develop real expertise and use language in multiple ways. Place a Bloom’s Taxonomy organizer near your desk or in your lesson planning book.

5. Mix It Up!

Incorporate texts other than the textbook into your lesson plans. Textbooks, especially those focused on grammar, are often written with specific language points in mind and in a particular sequence. While they are incredibly helpful at times, the text in them is not always authentic to the ways that proficient English users sound or write, nor is it always about a topic that is of interest to your students. You may not be able to (or want to) completely abandon your textbook, but consider supplementing the lessons therein with authentic text from news publications, websites, songs, videos, novels, poems, or essays. You can often find an authentic text (i.e., one created by an English-speaking author to convey a message, not necessarily to learn a grammar point) that highlights the language focus you are working on, but in a real-world way.

The beauty of teaching is the opportunity to keep learning; hopefully, you’ll be able to adapt one of these ideas for your own context.  Remember that no innovation goes perfectly the first time, so be patient with yourself and your students as you try new things in 2017.

Kristen Lindahl holds a PhD in linguistics with a specialization in L2 teacher education.  She is assistant professor of bicultural-bilingual studies at University of Texas at San Antonio, and writes the teacher education blog for TESOL International Association. You can follow her on Twitter for all things L2 teacher education: @lindahl_tesol.

TESOL Top Content: 2016

Find out what trends, activities, issues, and educational technologies were hot topics for TESOLers in 2016. Learn something new or relearn something old, and see what your colleagues have been reading about to improve their practice and advance their knowedge of the field.  

Here is some of the most-read content from TESOL for 2016. Some of the content is new and innovative, some is time tested and reliable. What did you miss this year that you can use in your classroom, your teaching, or your professional development in 2017?

TESOL Connections

TESOL Connections publishes useful, practical articles for classroom teachers, resources for English language educators, and news affecting the association.

1. 9 Listening Strategies That Develop Active Listeners
by Rebecca Palmer

2. Lesson Plan on Slang: Speaking Legit English
by Eugene S. Lee

3. Formative vs. Summative Assessment: Does It Matter?
by Deena Boraie

4. Pragmatics: When the Unwritten Rules of Language Break Down
by Kerry Louw and Yuji Abe

5. 10 Characteristics of Highly Effective EF/SL Teachers
by Christine Coombe

6.  Working the Weather: A Lesson Plan on Small Talk
by Martha Wilson

7. Teaching Coherence and Cohesion in Writing
by Belinda Braunstein

8. Writing Strategy: Dialogue Journals
by Elena Andrei

9. Introducing Shannon Tanghe: 2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year
Interviewed by Nancy Flores

10. English Language Teaching With TED Talks
by Tara Arntsen


The TESOL Blog is written by TESOL professionals and association leaders; it provides readers with news, information, and updates on the latest research, effective classroom practices, and peer-to-peer advice on classroom technology, lesson plans, and other practical topics in the field of English language education.

1. 8 Current Trends in Teaching and Learning EFL/ESL
by Deena Boraie

2. Role-Playing the Present Perfect: A Speaking Activity
by Alexandra Lowe

3. Pull-Out vs Push-In ESL Programs in Elementary Schools
by Judie Haynes

4. 6 Websites for Learning English Idioms
by Elena Shvidko

5. Great Grammar Websites for Adult ELLs
by Alexandra Lowe

6. 8 Major Trends in the Global ELT Field
by Yilin Sun

7. 4 Strategies for Scaffolding Instruction for ELs
by Judie Haynes

8. ESL Games: What Is My Occupation?
by Marc Anderson

9. Six Strategies for Teaching ELLs Across the Content Areas
by Judie Haynes

10. Why We Still Won’t Teach the 5-Paragraph Essay
by Nigel Caplan and Luciana de Oliveira

English Language Bulletin

The ELB is a weekly update of news from all over the world that affects English language teaching

1. Where are quality instructional materials for English language learners?

2. Common Core writing and ELLs

3. Obama launches English for All
Language Magazine

4. How will ESSA rules change education for English language learners?
Education Week

5. Improve your English by practicing effectively
Voice of America

6. New K-12 law holds promise for ELLs, advocate says, but questions remain
Education Week

7. America has teacher shortage and it could get worse, study finds
Chicago Tribune

8. How the burden of testing hits English language learners hard

9. Gifted, but still learning English, many bright students get overlooked

5 Steps for Managing Your Multilevel Classroom

by Glenda Rose and Kay Vaccaro
With just a little extra planning, learn how to engage all of your students and ensure they all get what they need, regardless of their proficiency level.  

If you have even two students, you probably have a multilevel classroom. When classes start having larger numbers, however, differences between students become more noticeable. In programs where all students are in the same classroom regardless of their English proficiency level, making sure students get what they need to continue to improve their English can be challenging. The tendency is often to “teach to the middle,” but there are ways to engage all of your students, regardless of their proficiency level, with just a little extra planning.

Here is what we recommend in our workshops on managing multilevel classrooms.

1. Understand Differentiation

First, always keep in mind what you can differentiate. Differentiating means customizing your lesson to meet individual students’ needs. You can differentiate three things:

  • Content
  • Process
  • Product

That is, you can change what you teach, the activities students engage in, and the way you evaluate learning (see Tomlinson, 1995). As you are thinking through your lesson, ask yourself if you can adapt the content, or the activities, or the assessment so that all of your students will make progress toward their learning objective.

2. Get to Know Your Students

In order to decide what and how to adapt your lesson for a student’s particular needs, you really have to know the student well, taking into consideration personality, interests, readiness to learn, proficiency, and learning-style preferences. You can use formal assessments, formal and informal conversations, teacher observation, and so on to gather this information. You can also use conversation and writing activities to learn even more. Keep notes on your students’ interests and strengths so you can tap into them for lessons in the future.

3. Build a Repertoire of Teaching Strategies

Strategies include things like direct instruction, collaborative learning, and inquiry-based learning. Experiment with different instructional strategies to discover what works best for you and your students. Always start planning your instruction with a clear learning objective: What will students be able to show you that they can do at the end of class? That outcome objective may vary across different groups of students, so here is where differentiation begins. For example:

  • Level 1: Students will be able to write a simple sentence (SVO) to identify their favorite season.
  • Level 2: Students will be able to write three sentences to identify their favorite season and two of their favorite activities during that season with some descriptive detail.
  • Level 3: Students will be able to write a short paragraph stating their favorite season as the topic sentence, providing three or four supporting detail sentences, and a concluding sentence.

Once you have a learning objective (and its variations for different students/groups), develop your instructional plan. Choose a lesson planning model that works for you. We like the following two models:

  • WIPPEA+R: warm-up, introduce, present, practice (and practice, and practice some more), evaluate, and apply and reflect. (See the TEAL Center Fact Sheet No. 8: Effective Lesson Planning)
  • The 5 E’s: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate. (See Enhancing Education, n.d., for more on the 5 E’s.)

We particularly like to use the 5 E’s when creating HyperDocs (interactive digital lesson plans using Google Docs) for students to work on in their small groups. Whatever model you choose, as you work out the different stages of the lesson, consider where you might make changes to meet the needs of different students. This will likely include different grouping strategies for students. For example, you might start with a whole class activity, break into small groups, and reconvene at the end of class to reflect on the day’s learning objectives. Smaller groups might be assigned according to how they are similar (proficiency levels, interests, or language backgrounds) or how they are different (making sure students with specific skill sets are in the group, that higher-level students are working with lower-level students, or different interests or opinions are present to stimulate conversation). Every aspect of your lesson, from the objectives to the choice of individual, pair, group or whole-class activities, from the warm-up to the outcomes and all the transitions in between, should be aligned so that the students are caught up in the flow of the class rather than the structure of the class.

4. Build a Repertoire of Activities

Find and have ready to go a variety of activities that can be adapted to your students. Follow a Pinterest board for ideas (such as ESL & Language Arts, by user Jenie P), or share ideas in the TESOL communities. We recommend creating classroom Learning Centers where students can find activities to work on independently while you work with another student or small group of students. You can use file boxes to house folders that are color coded so that students know what activity is appropriate for their level. For example, in your Speaking/Listening Center, you could have different kinds of scripts, role-plays, open-ended interviews, and speech prompts. In a Reading Center, you could provide the same article from Newsela or Breaking News English at different levels with different comprehension activities. Set up Learning Centers for all kinds of content areas (math, science, social studies) and provide your students with the freedom to explore while providing yourself with the freedom to spend some one-on-one or one-on-a-few time with all your students. For more great activities, we recommend checking out Teaching Large Multilevel Classes by Natalie Hess (Cambridge University Press, 2001). It is full of great ideas that can be adapted to the needs of different students.

5. Have a Variety of Ways to Assess Student Learning

Remember that we differentiate content, process, and product. Whether you are evaluating by observation, with a formal assessment like a quiz or test, or with a final portfolio or project, you can tailor your evaluation based on the learning objectives that you set. For example, you can use different rubrics to evaluate written and oral work according to levels. Or, you can provide a different kind of product expectation for students. For example, perhaps you have some students who will create a poster, others who write a report, and still others who create a multimedia presentation. For each level, though, set your expectations high. We’ve seen many “low-level” groups produce better projects and presentations than the “high-level” groups in the classroom.

With these five steps in mind, you can work toward having a large, multilevel class become an individualized learning experience for students. Look for opportunities to adapt the content, process, or product to meet the needs of your students. Keep your students’ personalities, interests, strengths, and challenges in mind as you choose instructional strategies. Include a wide range of activities and choose your grouping of students based on your learning objectives, instructional strategy, and activities. Finally, evaluate students based on their own progress toward their targeted learning outcome. Using these steps breaks us out of “one-size-fits-all” instruction and shows students that we value them as individuals as well as English language learners.


Enhancing Education. (n.d.). The 5 E's. Retrieved from http://enhancinged.wgbh.org/research/eeeee.html

Tomlinson, C. (1995). Differentiating instruction for advanced learners in the mixed-ability middle school classroom. Reston, VA.: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children. (ERIC ED389141).

Download this article (PDF)

Dr. Glenda Rose is a professional development specialist and program manager for professional development needs assessment and evaluation at the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning housed at Texas A&M University. She specializes in teaching ESOL to adults, technology integration, and distance learning.

Kay Vaccaro has taught all levels of ESL and GED in churches, high schools, learning centers and the workplace since 1987. She is a special learning needs specialist and the current program manager and professional development coordinator for Harris County Department of Education in the Adult Education Division.

The GO TO Strategies: Teaching Tools for Outstanding Educators

by Linda New Levine, Laura Lukens, and Betty Ansin Smallwood
This primer on The GO TO Strategies—78 research-based teaching techniques—will help you incorporate them into your classroom today.  

What is an outstanding educator? In today’s schools, educators are outstanding when they are capable of using all the tools they have available to reach and teach all of the learners in their classrooms all of the time. It is rare to find a catalog of tools that works equally well with language learners, language delayed learners, ESL learners, EFL learners, children, adults, and teacher educators. The GO TO Strategies: Scaffolding Options for Teachers of English Language Learners K-12 is a compendium of tools for doing just that.

The 78 research-based strategies were compiled as a result of a National Professional Development Grant for general education teachers of English language learners (ELLs) in the North Kansas City Schools. Teachers in the project were exposed to the strategies during their coursework. They wanted to incorporate these strategies into their own classroom teaching and asked that all of the strategies be collected for their use.

Since that time, The GO TO Strategies have been available free on the Internet. They have been used in classrooms across the United States with a variety of students, used in foreign countries for EFL instruction, and taught in teacher education courses.

Because the strategies are generalized teaching techniques, they adapt to many different types of content and a wide variety of learners. Effective teachers can incorporate these strategies into specific learning situations that match the needs of their learners.

The strategies have been chosen to reflect five research-based principles of effective instruction for ELLs:

  1. Focus on academic language, literacy, and vocabulary
  2. Link background knowledge and culture to learning
  3. Increase comprehensible input and language output
  4. Promote classroom interaction
  5. Stimulate higher order thinking and the use of learning strategies (Levine, Smallwood, & Hayes, 2012)

Classroom teachers with little experience in teaching ELLs and ESL teachers who are eager to try new strategies both find The GO TO Strategies helpful in solving problems related to instruction. Does the classroom lack unity? There are community-building strategies to help resolve that issue. Do the students require more aural-oral practice around content learning? Do students lag in the development of reading and writing skills? Have students not yet learned the study skills that can make learning more efficient?  Do students need routines and structures for explicit vocabulary instruction? The GO TO Strategies contain helpful structures that can be adapted to any grade level, proficiency level, or content learning topic.

Differentiating Instruction With The GO TO Strategies Matrix

Today’s ESL and EFL classrooms present educators with the unique challenge of scaffolding instruction for learners at various levels of language proficiency. The GO TO Strategies Matrix (PDF) is a useful tool for differentiating instruction based on students’ levels of language proficiency. The Matrix allows educators to select strategies appropriate for learners at different proficiency levels within each of the four domains of language.

Using The GO TO Strategies for Planning Scaffolded Lessons

The GO TO Strategies resource handbook is divided into five user-friendly sections. The organization and formatting of the handbook was designed to allow teachers to select and implement the strategies with ease:

1. The Overview: Describes the rationale for the document and how the handbook is organized.

2. Teaching and Learning Guided by the Five Principles of Instruction for English Language Learners: Briefly defines the Five Principles and the research base for them, including five charts that list strategies that support the implementation of each principle in the classroom;

3. The GO TO Strategies Matrix: Includes a listing of strategies that scaffold instruction for learners in each domain based on proficiency level.

4. The Inventory of The GO TO Strategies: Includes a table of contents listing each strategy—labeled by language proficiency, teaching/learning purpose, and classroom grouping configuration—according to seven key teaching or learning purposes:

    • Community Building Strategies
    • Interactive Strategies
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Student Learning Strategies
    • Vocabulary Teaching Strategies
    • Reading Strategies
    • Writing Strategies

5. The Glossary: Presents the strategies (with expanded explanations, modification options, and visual examples) in alphabetical order for quick reference.

The GO TO Strategies scaffold academic language input to learners. This scaffolding is necessary for ELLs but it is also beneficial to many learners who have not yet acquired the academic school talk required for achievement in reading, writing, and testing. The strategies are applicable to all phases of a classroom lesson, thereby scaffolding language from the beginning of the lesson to the end. The following lesson plan framework is an example of how each stage of a lesson can be scaffolded. Appropriate strategies are mentioned for each phase of teaching and learning. Complete descriptions of the strategies can be found in The GO TO Strategies Inventory or Glossary sections. The Table of Contents in the Inventory section is hyperlinked for easier use.

Starting Instruction: Exploration Phase

  • The teacher activates prior knowledge, learning, or understanding
    • Stir the Class (p. 37)
    • Roving Charts (p. 36)
    • K-W-L Charts (p. 40)
  • Students engage in concrete exploration or observation
    • Graphic Organizers (p. 40)
    • Four Corners (p. 31)
  • Students begin prereading activities
    • Anticipation Guides (p. 52)
    • Language Experience Approach (p. 56)
    • Teach the Text Backwards (p. 59)

Building Instruction: Concept Development

  • The teacher directly teaches academic and technical vocabulary
    • Closed Sort Tasks (p. 48)
    • Cognates (p. 48)
    • Key Sentence Frames (p. 49)
  • The students interact orally with other learners to develop concepts
    • 10-2 (p. 31)
    • Numbered Heads Together (p. 35)
    • Round the Clock Learning Partners (p. 36)
  • The students engage in close reading
    • Guided Reading (p. 54)
    • Directed Reading/Thinking Activity (p. 54)
    • Reciprocal Teaching (p. 58)
  • The students assemble or organize data
    • Concept/Idea Maps (p. 46)
    • Structured Note-Taking (p. 47)
    • T Charts (p. 47)

Building Instruction: Application of Learning

  • The students continue to work concretely using new vocabulary
    • Dialogue Journals (p. 61)
    • Reader’s Theatre (p. 42)
  • The students use concepts in a new or more complex way
    • Text to Graphics and Back Again (p. 64)
    • Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (p. 56)
    • Jigsaw Reading (p. 55)
  • The students report and/or write
    • Content Learning Logs (p. 61)
    • Collaborative Dialogues (p. 39)
    • Report Frames/Outlines (p. 63)

Concluding Instruction: Assessment

  • Rubrics (p. 42)
  • Comprehension Checking (p. 39)
  • Snowball (p. 37)

Creating Outstanding Educators

The GO TO Strategies have been used in professional development around the world to create outstanding educators of ESL and EFL students. Program supervisors have recognized the versatility and applicability of these strategies in many different settings, and for solving a variety of problems related to the education of ELLs. Through preservice teacher workshops, tutoring programs, intensive year-long professional developments, and the like, The GO TO Strategies have addressed the needs of learners ranging from students in urban public schools to students in low incidence districts, from elementary refugee students in Missouri to EFL students in China and Bahrain.

Although receiving professional development on The GO TO Strategies enables teachers to return to their classrooms the next day and begin using the strategies, teachers can also work alone or in teams to infuse the principles and strategies into their teaching. Here are some practical ideas:

  • Teams of English language and classroom or content teachers meet weekly to conduct a self-study group on The GO TO Strategies resource handbook.
  • Teachers try out selected strategies in their classrooms (based on the strategy categories or the stages of the lesson plan format) and meet to debrief afterward in pairs, then report outcomes to the entire team. Pairs could ask and answer such questions as:
    • What strategy(ies) did I try?
    • How did it go?
    • What could I do differently next time?
  • Pairs of teachers could do peer observations of each other and debrief together. Teachers could create a simple observational checklist based on the strategies or the lesson plan format to gauge the effectiveness of implementation.
  • English language teachers could take the lead in providing professional development in their buildings based on the strategies. For example, during weekly staff meetings, English language teachers could present one strategy and explain why it is useful for the ELLs in general education classrooms.

These strategies have proven to be a valuable tool for educators in a variety of settings. How can you use The GO TO Strategies to be more outstanding in your teaching?


Levine, L. N., Smallwood, B. A., & Haynes, E. F. (2012). Listening and speaking: Oral language and vocabulary development for English language learners. In B. A. Smallwood (Series Ed.), Hot topics in ELL education. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Download this article (PDF)


Linda New Levine, PhD, is a consultant for K–12 ESL/EFL teachers. She has been an ESL teacher, a staff development facilitator, and an assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has written elementary ESL curriculum and coauthored (with Mary Lou McCloskey) Teaching English Language and Content in Mainstream Classes, Second Edition (2013, Pearson).

Laura Lukens is the ELL program administrator for North Kansas City Schools, Kansas City, Missouri. She is also a consultant and teacher educator in the field of K–12 ESL/EFL education, and delivers professional development for school districts and educational agencies in North America and internationally. Laura is actively involved in TESOL International Association, serving as the chair of TESOL’s Elementary Education Interest Section from 2010–11.

Betty Ansin Smallwood, PhD, is an ESL specialist with more than 40 years of experience, including 20-plus years as an ESL teacher, mostly K–12.  She is president of Succeeding with English Language Learners (S.W.E.L.L.) and offers consultation and professional development to educators and families of ELLs. She is also a senior fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics. She specializes in Pre-K–8, practical strategies, singable books, multicultural children’s literature, and family literacy.

5 EdTech Tools to Try in 2017

by Heather Gaddis
If you're looking for new educational technology for your classroom this year, try these five adaptable tools, recommended by a seasoned K–12 edtech coordinator.

There are so many educational technology tools that it can be impossible to separate the useful ones from those that are less effective. Here is a list of give tools that I have used in the past year and recommend for language teachers to try this year. Some are focused on particular content areas, such as vocabulary, and others can be adapted to a variety of teaching contexts and approaches.

1. Nearpod

Nearpod is a platform for delivering interactive presentations. It can be used in the homework mode or the live mode, which allows the teacher great flexibility and control over the pace of the class. Students use a code to log into a presentation controlled by the teacher. For example, when the teacher advances to a new slide, the students’ devices will also advance to the next slide. Slides can contain content, such as a website, text, or a video; and activities, such as multiple-choice questions, open questions, and others. Embedding content, such as websites and videos, allows students to access the information without leaving the presentation. The homework mode can be used for classes where students are working at their own pace and also for flipping your class. You could set a presentation as homework and then use the reports feature to view how students responded to the different questions and content.

There are a wide variety of question types you can insert, allowing for students to express themselves in a variety of ways and also for all students to participate. For example, the Draw It! Question allows students to respond to a question or sentence by drawing or adding to an image you have uploaded. This can be used to assess students´ understanding of a grammar or vocabulary item.

See a sample Nearpod lesson called “Super Digital Citizenship.”
2. Quizlet Live

You may know Quizlet as a website for reviewing vocabulary using virtual flashcards. Last year, Quizlet came out with an interactive vocabulary review game, Quizlet Live, that allows students to interact with each other while they interact with their device.

In Quizlet Live, the teacher logs in and picks a list, and then clicks on the Quizlet Live button to start the process. A six-digit code will be provided. Students need to go to quizlet.live on their phone, tablet, or computer and enter the code. They do not need an account to play the game. Once all students are in, the teacher creates the game and students are put into groups by the site. Once students are seated together by groups, the teacher launches the game.

On students’ screen, a word will appear with several definition options. Within each group, members see the same word, though the definitions for each student will differ:

(Image courtesy of Quizlet)

Students have to work with their group members to see who in their group has the correct answer. The group member with the right answer selects it, and then another term appears. If a team gets a question incorrect, then they have to start from the beginning. The teacher can watch the progress on his or her screen and encourage teams:

I have played this game with adult English language learners, and it takes them one or two rounds to get the dynamic, but then they love it. They forget that they are interacting with a technological device and focus on talking and working with their peers.

3. G Suite for Education

Google’s educational offerings are becoming better and better all the time. Many of the applications you may already use, such as Forms, have added functions so that they can be used with students. For example, with Google Forms, which is a common way of making surveys, under configurations, you can turn a form into an evaluation or quiz. You can indicate the correct answers to questions as well as assign point values. When students take the quiz, you can then see their results individually or have them put into a spreadsheet.

One Google application that is directly aimed at education is Google Classroom. Google Classroom has some of the functions of other learning management systems, but it is linked to the rest of the Google family, including Drive and Calendar, which makes it something of an educational toolkit powerhouse. You can assign students activities and homework that include videos, images, and Google documents. For example, students could write collaboratively and then turn in their work through Google Classroom.

4. Socrative

Socrative is a platform from which you can launch quizzes, space races, and exit tickets. It can be used as a website or application that students download and install on their device. Like Quizlet, students do not need an account, but teachers do. Once students and teachers go through the easy setup, Socrative can be used to carry out traditional summative assessment or quick diagnostic assessments. For quizzes, there are a number of configurations to make the quiz fit the purpose for the evaluation. For example, you can have feedback delayed or provided immediately after answering the question, or the pace can be student or teacher controlled.

Space races repurpose quiz questions as a competition between students. I have used the space race activity in class as a way to introduce students to a topic as well as to get an idea of their background knowledge.

In English language classes, it is a great way to spark interest in the lesson topic. Finally, I have seen teachers use the polling feature on Socrative to get student feedback or opinions on a topic, which can be done anonymously.

5. Screencast-o-matic

For teachers looking to flip their classrooms and make their own videos, Screencast-o-matic is a great option for the recording and editing of videos. As with many web-based services, there is a free version and a paid version. In this case, the paid version allows for longer videos and more editing capabilities, such as adding audio and slowing down footage.

Once you download the plugin, all you need to do is log into your account to start recording. I have used Screencast-o-matic to record narrated PowerPoint presentations as well as tutorials. The ability to narrate a process while I am showing it on the screen is very helpful for users, especially those who may have trouble relying solely on spoken instructions, which may be the case for many English language learners.

In addition to being easy to use, I picked these five technology tools because of their flexibility. They can be used for a variety of levels and contexts. I encourage you to pick one or two and experiment with them in your classes this year to learn how you can adapt these excellent tech tools to your particular teaching context.


Heather Gaddis is the coordinator of educational technology at a private K–12 school in Queretaro where she helps teachers integrate technology into their teaching.  She also has been involved in English teaching in Mexico since 2009, with experience as an English coordinator, Cambridge oral examiner, materials writer, and teacher trainer.