“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
‘Tis the season to give and show kindness and compassion! Technology gives our students the opportunity to help others and learn at the same time. When we tie learning to making a difference, we intrinsically motivate students. The following ideas and resources will provide you with a variety of ways to motivate students of all ages to practice and develop their English fluency. Some of the ideas require only a little bit of technology and time if you have limited resources. There are also ideas for longer projects that enhance all four skills—speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Free Rice is an online game where students answer multiple choice questions in a variety of categories, including English Vocabulary and Grammar, Math, Science, Geography, Chemistry, Languages, SATs, and Humanities. For each correct answer, Free Rice donates grains of rice to the World Food Programme. No registration is required. I recommend first introducing students to the World Food Programme and letting them know that they actually do feed people. Once my students learned this they spent hours at home answering questions to increase the amount of rice they could donate.
Free Kibble is an online game where students only answer one trivia question a day related to pet care and 10 pieces of kibble are given to animal shelters to feed hungry cats and dogs. Students can actually answer two questions a day, one question to donate for dogs and one to donate for cats. The trivia can be used as a writing or class discussion prompt. You can ask students to write down what they believe is the right choice and to explain their answers to a partner. You could also access several past trivia questions on the website for more learning.
Uplift with Digital Greetings or Ebooks
Check with an organization to see if there is an email address to send digital greetings created by your students. Your students could design digital greetings thanking firemen, policemen, or troops. They could send digital greetings to uplift the spirits of people in nursing homes or children or others in cancer wards or with terminal diseases. Students can use the following free websites and apps to design their egreetings: Buncee, Red Stamp, Ink Cards, Canva, Magisto, Pic-Collage, 123Greetings, or Chatterpix Kids app.
If you have more time and access to computers or Chromebooks, then students can design digital books to teach younger students the alphabet, basic math, grammar or other topics. The best part is to get them to read their books aloud to others. You could also partner with a nursing home and get students to create a digital book to read and show to an elderly person. This enhances their literacy and also uplifts others. Students can use the following free websites and apps to design their digital books: Storybird, My Storybook, Buncee, Storyjumper, Google Slides, ToonDoo or the Book Creator app.
Donate with Photos
Get your language learners to visualize their learning and build vocabulary by taking photos. You can provide students with topics or vocabulary each month to focus on. Students can then donate these photos to raise money for charities or help scientists with important research.
The free Donate a Photo (iOS and Android) app allows you to share photos to raise money for a charity you choose. For every photo shared Johnson & Johnson gives a dollar to a cause. Older students can download this app for free on their devices and begin taking photos of the vocabulary, phrases or topic you assign them. If you teach young learners, download the app on a specific device and allow a few students each week to take photos around the school or school grounds. You can also encourage parents to allow students at home to take photos of the vocabulary and topic then email you the photo to add to the collection.
With the free iNaturalist (iOS and Android) app students take a photo of the plants, bugs, and species around them and share what they observe. The questions are simple and students learn so much vocabulary and grammar just by entering the data. These photos and observations are shared with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use it to advance their research and discoveries.
Citizen Scientists and Archivists
Researchers and archival organizations need help from people around the world to collect and sort data. Students can volunteer their time to advance all kinds of research projects. Some projects ask students to investigate photos or maps and write down what they observe or locate specific species or occurrences. Other projects involve recording sounds, taking photos, playing online games, answering surveys, or translating old handwritten documents.
Scistarter is a free database to help you find the right project your learners can get excited about. Some projects can be completed online and require no registration.
The Citizen Archivist Dashboard does require free registration with an email. Once the account is created, learners can begin joining projects where they get to study important literature, writings, historical documents and logs from the past that are handwritten. The goal is for students to create a digital copy by transcribing what they read.
Help the Blind
Students with advanced speaking skills can use their English to help a blind person complete a task with the free BeMyEyes app. I downloaded the app and let my classes know that at anytime a blind person might call us and we need to be great at giving specific directions to help the person. I first showed them the BeMyEyes video so they would know how the app works. This was a great way to encourage them to learn how to give specific instructions. You could have them practice by pairing them up, blindfolding one student, and asking the other partner to help that student find a marker you’ve placed somewhere.
Websites like Donorschoose, Pledgecents, and GoFundMe allow students and teachers to create an online campaign and raise money for a local need or the school. If you need ideas, you could get students to raise money to provide blankets to a shelter, buy shoes for the homeless, or purchase gifts for the poor. They may also be able to raise money to help those impacted by natural disasters or fires. Students can design videos or digital posters to spread news about the campaign and also to enhance their English vocabulary and the four skills.
3D Printing Projects
If you have access to a 3D printer, get students to design projects they can sell to raise funds that help provide a need or to give as gifts. Tinkercad is a free website with many easy projects for beginner coders. Students follow very simple and brief instructions in quick tutorials to design rings, name tags, and more. Students build their English fluency and learn important design skills and coding. Students and teachers must register for a free account using email.
In what ways do you or your school tie language learning to helping others?
If you want to see more of Shelly’s tips for online resources for teaching English, check out her past posts!