Below are seven apps that I have recently downloaded and think have potential, either for English language teachers in the classroom, or for teachers writing lesson plans and bloggers. I hope you find them useful too.
Tiny Games “is a smartphone app that enables you to play fun, social games in the real world. You tell the app where you are, who you’re with and what’s to hand, and it supplies a game to fit.” It can definitely be modified for use in the classroom and could provide some interesting and language rich contexts for your students to practice in.
The free version of the game includes one setting, ‘home’, in which you’ll find the following options:
As an example, I chose ‘Lounge’. You then select the number of players, from 1 to 5+, so there’s lots of flexibility depending on your teaching context.
It will then ask you a question to find out your mood. It’s up to you how seriously you take it and if you decide to share this vocabulary with your students!
It will then start to set up the game by seeing if you meet the conditions it requires, for example:
And then the game begins. It’s very helpful with classroom instructions!
What I particular like about this app is that the games are very simple and easy to adapt to your classroom and students. And if the app is in the hands of your students, not only are they responsible for choosing the game, they also have to run it effectively too, freeing the teacher up to sit back and pay attention the language they produce in order to give them feedback after they have finished.
The Tiny Games app is free on iOS with paid upgrades for added environments, including ‘walk’, ‘road’, ‘queue’ and ‘pub’! At the time of writing it is only available on iOS. There is also a kids version developed for Sesame Street called Family Play:
This app is designed to help you make decisions by taking it out of your hands and leaving it to the spin of a wheel. With the wheel below the students could complete the question “Should I…?” with their own language before spinning the wheel and getting their answer.
Not only do they have to fill in the gap in the question, they will also want to respond to the answer they get, and they’ll learn some interesting vocabulary along the way (“why bother?”, “no way!”, “forget it!”, for example).
There are plenty more wheels to choose from, some more useful than others:
Perhaps the best feature is that you can make your own wheels. Here’s a one I made for my students to practice the present continuous. They have to tell me what they are doing by using the verb that the wheel selects for them.
Was That You
This app is an old fashioned parlour game, 21st century style. There are instructions to follow and the game seems quite fun, but I prefer the idea of using at a way of asking unusual, interesting and possibly funny warmer questions at the beginning of a class. For example:
Although some of them you might want to avoid…
Was That You is available for free on iOS. As far as I can see, at the time of writing it is only available on iOS.
This creative writing app, designed to help you get over writer’s block, can give your students help with story writing. It starts by giving you the opening fragment of the first sentence of your story:
You continue to write until inspiration dries up. You can then ask the app to help you by pressing the thunderbolt icon at the top of the screen. It will then give you a random question or statement to encourage you to think in a different way, hopefully giving you the kickstart you need to continue.
It would be interesting to try this as a group writing activity in class. You could give all the students the same beginning sentence, and after one minute you could give them their first piece of inspiration, followed by another a couple of minutes later and so on. It would be interesting to compare how their stories develop in different ways.
Prompts is available for £1.49 on iOS. At the time of writing it is only available on iOS.
The following apps are for bloggers or teachers seeking a creative spark.
Oflow describes itself as “the only app of its kind to offer hundreds of proven creativity techniques”. It does this by giving you a variety of techniques and ideas to look at what you are creating, whether it’s a piece of writing or a lesson plan in a new way.
Oflow is available on iOS for £1.49. At the time of writing it is only available on iOS.
Originally created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975 as a set of cards, they “are intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.” Although at times, they are a little, well, oblique, they can also provide you with a new perspective and a moment of inspiration when you need it.
A special mention…
This app transforms your spoken words into written texts, which you can export to use however you wish. I had used it in the past, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with it, as it seemed to have great difficulty in translating my clear English teachers voice into accurate text. I was recently tempted to try it again, and it seems to have improved considerably.
I wouldn’t, however, recommend it for students. You still need to use a slightly unnatural rhythm to make it understand you, and it will still struggle if you attempt to speak naturally with words blending together and the errms and errrs that we should automatically produce. So the model of speech that the app encourages is not one that I would recommend for learners, but for writers I think it can be very useful and time-saving.