by Ann Shlapobersky
Many sites on the Internet are either not appropriate for the our students language level or too childish. Searching for sites our students can use can be time consuming. In this article I provide a list of sites and ways teachers can find sites students can use and enjoy reading.
You've just found a great text for your students to read or you're preparing to read a text from your course book and want some more information on the subject, author or theme. Where do you look? Today the obvious answer is the Internet. But wait; your students are EFL learners not native speakers of English. Your students may be 10, 12 or 15 years old, but their language level maybe range from a 2nd to a 5th grader in L1. Almost every site you find the language level is too high or there is just too much text on the page. How do you narrow your search to find an appropriate site for your students? What material is appropriate for mature students with a lower language ability level?
Who is your audience? In Israel most students begin their formal English language training in grade 3 or 4 and complete it in grade 12. Their EFL programs begin with an oral/aural program then proceed to teach reading and writing. Though their maturity level naturally rises at they reach junior and senior high school, students' language level splits into different abilities and levels. Some students reach age 14 or 16 still reading at a foundation level, while others read proficiently enough to read news articles in L1 newspapers. The former aren't immature students, just weaker language learners.
They'd like to read CNN, but they can only read Internet sites appropriate for children of ages 6 or 8 years of age.
What are EFL teachers looking for when they search the Internet for materials for students? It could be more reading comprehension texts related to the course book or independent themes. Maybe it's background information on an author, painter or celebrity. Teachers could be trying to guide students on finding additional information for a task or project. Maybe teachers are searching for additional short stories, poems, or songs. Some teachers search for additional grammar exercises and print out the worksheets.
What is the problem when searching the Internet for appropriate sites? There just aren't enough sites that are appropriate for EFL learners of school age level. Though there are thousands of sites though language level appropriate are designated for children and kids, most of the these sites are too immature, childish or linguistically inappropriate for EFL learners. The language, reading and maturity level is mostly for students from grade 6th through 12th, while EFL students need sites that have a language level of K-6 (kindergarten to 6th grade). I once suggested giving 10th grade 4-point students TimeforKids texts on 4-6th grade level and it worked. If teachers want students to enjoy what they read and not have to translate every other word, they must try to find sites that are not only language level appropriate, but also have a high interest to the students. This isn't easy. To compensate teachers usually try to adapt activities or add questions to prevent students from reading through the entire site or text.
Is there a solution to the finding age and language level appropriate sites? I must admit that it's not always easy. But here are a few suggestions that may make it easier for you.
1. Limit your searches to kids search engines:
2. Use education websites specifically for younger students:
3. Use articles from newspapers and magazines for pupils
What if you've searched for hours, using the right nouns, adjectives and verbs, the right Boolean terminology and checked every kids search engine and still can't find the appropriate site. Don't be embarrassed to get help from other teachers. Search the Internet for lesson plans or activities already prepared by teachers, especially elementary school teachers. Many teachers have class web sites with theme based activities that already provide sites for students, especially for younger pupils or students. They've done the research; they've used the sites with their classes, so why shouldn't you check them out.
When all is said and done, I hate to say it but there are really no secrets, promises, shortcuts, or science to searching the Internet for EFL language level and age appropriate sites. You need lots of time, patience, endurance, hope and of course luck.