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Nina MK, Ph.D.
One of the sites I visit practically every day is The Free Dictionary. I share it with students of all ages and levels, and they love it too. One can choose their own Difficulty Level; we can use Easy with younger or lower level students, Hard with higher levels, and Expert with professionals. There are daily updates for Word, Article, Birthday, Quotation, Idiom of the Day and This Day in History Entries. Students can read new materials regularly and then browse the web for more data if needed or when they are interested in the subject. Several games like Hangman, Match Up and Mismatch, WordHub and Spelling Bee provide relaxation and are fun to perform. When one performs several tasks correctly, they get a virtual Bronze Badge; it’s a good stimulus, especially for younger children. Numerous links to various language dictionaries and reference sites make any search process fast and flexible. The web page is visually attractive; the audio materials are excellent. There are plenty of topics to discuss and develop all the four skills while working with this wonderful modern resource.
* WorldWideWords created a number of years ago by Michael Quinion is a great resource to use with students who like to read and write, to find out where the words and expressions come from. Any single entry provides enough material for a student’s report or term-paper. It is a great resource for professionals, and for anybody who is fascinated by etymology, unusual and weird words and expressions, reference books and dictionaries. Once you start using it you become hooked.
* Any site like Giphy.com works well when you want to develop speaking skills. Younger pupils would enjoy looking at their favourites like Sailor Moon or Winx. Teenagers love sports and action. Adults may browse through gifs from numerous TV shows and films. In short, there is something for everyone. I have noticed that gifs work better than stationary images; they give us more scope to include verbs of motion or facial expressions into the traditional descriptive sentences.
• YouTube seems to be an endless resource for both visual and audio aids. It provides not only clips from any sphere of life but also authentic teaching aids like lessons of English, problems in ELT and materials for country studies. However if you need to help your students master their hearing skills and then work at their own pronunciation, it is perhaps better to choose an online resource which is specifically orientated towards teaching and learning. The only problem here is an abundance of information! How do we choose one site out of millions? Here is what works for me. I choose a site which is specifically orientated towards certain topics, my students’ individual needs, and which I find congenial and easy to use. Listening to professional actors, writers and public speakers with good elocution read aloud some literature, deliver a lecture or a speech helps develop both listening and speaking skills. OpenCulture.com is a great resource.
• At lessons of scientific translation I use Scientific American.com.
• With advanced students we read the articles close to their field of study and learn how to translate them. The most difficult construction I have to explain again and again is a string of nouns in which several nouns may act as adjectives: “Major Cell Phone Radiation Study”. In Russian, the phrase would be, “The major study of radiation emitted by cell phones”.
• With school pupils, I use the link to the magazine’s Education section. It has several sub-divisions, like Bring Science Home designed for kids aged 6-12.
Actually any major magazine now offers at least some educational materials. We can also use online glossy magazines for long discussions of fashion and celebrities, though these usually only work with teenage girls. Sports and Cars are good for boys.
When choosing several online resources to work with and to introduce at my lessons, lectures and seminars, I take a good mental look at my audience first. What are their interests, their needs? How do I find something fascinating and absorbing for each one of them, yet something which fits into the curriculum requirements? Our positions are different in that we teachers have some freedom of choice whereas students have to follow our lead. We are the ones who can picture the term and the school year as a continuous process while they may see only a lesson at a time. When chosen with great thought and care, online resources can make our life easier, and the whole educational process may become a joy for both the teacher and the students.