In class today, we had a discussion about some of the problems students’ face in their writing assignments. We were talking about the relationship of the spelling of the words and their sounds. The students were complaining that English does not follow the same rules that most of them have in their own languages where the letters are directly related to the sound that they make (I avoided the discussion of diphthongs for the time being. I will address that later with them) and how difficult it was to figure out how a word sounds and how it is spelled in English. I asked them how often they read in English for themselves and how often they listen to something other than conversational English on their own. For the vast majority of them, the answer was almost never. I encouraged them to use some online tools, which I shared with them, to read AND listen in English. There are a number of good sites that have the text and the listening available on a variety of topics and genres. The reason for this is simple: there is a direct correlation between spelling and reading and, I would also add, a relationship between hearing a word and seeing how it is spelled.
Here are some sites that provide both the text and the audio together:
- Lit2Go: This is a site that has a number of stories and poems that are organized by author, books, genres, collections, and readability levels. You can read the story and listen to the text online or you can download the MP3 and PDF. They are visually beautiful and the listening is really easy to listen to. This is a great site and safe to share with students.
- VOA Learning English: This is a popular news site that has the news article and listening available online. You can also download the MP3 to listen offline. One unique feature is that you can double-click on words in the text and the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary opens up to the definition. Readers can also comment on an article. Stories are categorized by topics along with classroom activities and articles.
- ManyThings Listen and Read Along: This is a site specifically designed for ELLs. Each listening uses a unique player that has three panes: one on the left and one on the right for things coming and past, and one in the middle for the part that is being read at that moment. You can also choose how many times it will read over the text in the middle. There are also reading with clickable teleprompted text. This is mostly for lower level students.
- British Council LearnEnglish Listen and Watch: The British Council has a number of interesting things on their site including stories and poems, a drama series, a news magazine, and a section on UK culture. Some of the items have tasks that students can do on their own. A well done site designed specifically for ELLs.
- California Distance Learning Project Adult Learning Activities: This site is designed for ELLs and has a number of stories and articles listed by general topics. The stories are divided into basic and full texts, both which have a listening file as well. Most have activities and some even have videos (Real Player files). These topics are designed for adult learners so should be more relevant for older learners.
- Spotlight Listen and Read: This site has a large number of interesting articles that also have audio files that you can play on the site or download. Readers can also comment at the bottom of the article. Teachers can also print the scripts to read and listen in class as well.
- LoudLit: This site as a shorter list of stories, poems, children’s stories, and historical documents that can be read while listening. This can be done online or the listening can be download as an MP3 file. Mostly for higher level ELLs.
- LiteracyNet Story Archives: This is an older site that hasn’t been updated in quite a while. Regardless, there are a number of news articles divided into categories that has an abridged story, full story, and outline and also has the audio recording to go with it (Real Player files).
- StoryCorps: This is one of my favourite sites. It has real stories and interviews done by real people. They are about people’s lives and the other people that have influenced them. My students love these. If you click on the transcripts, you can listen and read along. You can also subscribe to the podcast as well. Great natural listening for higher levels ELLs.
CNN Student News: This site wasn’t designed for ELLs, but is quite good for higher levels. Go to the transcript section to get the video and the transcript to follow along. It is updated each day with current content.
I would be interested in hearing what sites you use for listening and reading. I am especially interested in places that have the text with the listening so students can read along. Please add your favourites to the comment section below, send me a tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact form on this website. Thank you!