18 How-To Websites to Use in the Classroom

This week, my class is working on writing instructions. In the past, I have used a couple of different sites to demonstrate what I would like them to eventually create. I have also had students edit a Wikipedia page as part of the project. I want students to be able to work on something relevant and authentic as part of this activity. In my search for new and interesting sites to use, I found (or re-discovered) these websites:


How To Do Things http://www.howtodothings.com/ : This site is written by “experts, knowledgeable hobbyists and enthusiastic amateurs” and features short articles, mostly in point form, on a variety of topics. You can search for topics or find them by category. There doesn’t appear to be any videos or pictures, but the text is well written and easy to read.



eHow http://www.ehow.com/ : eHow is another site written by experts in their particular field. The major difference is the length of articles and the quality of the product. eHow has much more in-depth articles and uses visuals such as photos and videos to illustrate the steps or the final product.



wikiHow http://www.wikihow.com/Main-Page : The main difference between wikiHow and many other how-to sites is in the name itself. This is a wiki based site which means anyone can write and edit articles with some moderation happening to make sure things are kept on track. The articles are mostly step-by-step instructions with a short introduction and simple photos to illustrate. Many also have short videos at the bottom and links to more information.
Wired How-To Wiki http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Main_Page : This another wiki site from the major internet site Wired. Many of the topics are quite unique, if not a little weird, but are sometimes fun discussion starters. Since it is a wiki, anyone can edit or contribute. Most have picture and are longer in length than the wikiHow articles.
Lifehacker How to News, Videos, Reviews and Gossip http://lifehacker.com/how-to/ : Along the same lines at Wired, this site has some unusual topics and come from a variety of sources. This is not a wiki site, so many of the stories come from the network of websites under the Gawker banner.



Howcast http://www.howcast.com/ : This is one of my favourite sites and has the best selection of how-to videos that I could find. It has a set of videos made by professionals on a variety of topics, but others are also allowed to produce videos following their set template. Short and easy to follow videos make this a plus in the classroom.



Instructables  http://www.instructables.com/ : One of my favourite how-to sites. It approaches things from the creation side of things. People display photos and step-by-step instructions on how to make things from a variety of sources. Many of these tips are designed to use everyday objects and give them a new purpose, often saving you money.



Wonder How To  http://www.wonderhowto.com/ : This is a site that uses a team of writers to create nice, short how-to articles, m
any based on current topics. Well written articles and the ability to comment and follow specific topics makes this a great site.



Videojug http://www.videojug.com/ : Another site that uses videos to teach on a variety of topics. I have found some of their videos to be quite good, while others are not as professionally done. I also have found some of the ‘experts’ to not be as trustworthy, although this has been great in the classroom as a critical thinking exercise.



Make Magazine http://makezine.com/ : This is the online site for Make Magazine and includes very short snippets of information on and links to a variety of topics found online.



MonkeySee http://www.monkeysee.com/ : Here you can find a series of how-to videos based on a topic  written by experts or businesses. You can also find the transcripts of the videos and they can be downloaded for offline viewing.



wiseGeek http://www.wisegeek.com/ : Categorized articles created by a team of writers. Most of the articles are quite short and they also allow for commenting.



FindHow http://www.findhow.com/ : This is more of a search engine of how-to articles. You can do a search or can find by categories.



Bukisa http://www.bukisa.com/ : This site has a very similar look and feel to wikiHow, but without the ability to edit someone else’s article.



Mahalo http://www.mahalo.com/ : Nice site with articles and videos made by experts. A nice feature is the ability to post questions and have them answer them for you.



5 Min http://www.5min.com/ : This is a video site that gathers material from a variety of other websites and categorizes them. Lots of good material from a number of sources all in one easy to search site.



SuTree http://www.sutree.com/ : SuTree is another site that gathers videos from various places online. The one notable difference is the ability to create online ‘courses’ that can combine these items and can be a virtual classroom including an online blackboard.



How to Get Rid of Things http://www.getridofthings.com/ : This unique site focuses on how to get rid of things. All of the articles are written by experts and is verified before posting. Another interesting part to this website is that a portion of the revenue from advertising goes towards keeping children in Thailand safe from sexual exploitation.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any comments or additions, please add them to the comment section below or send me a tweet @nathanghall

Alberta Learning Information Services: Mountains of material

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The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) is a website designed to give assistance to people wanting to find job or career advice. Since it is entirely funded and run by the Alberta provincial government, the advice is targeted at people wanting to work in Alberta, but a majority of the material is useful for anyone. This website is loaded with documents, videos, and electronic databases that would be very helpful for the ESL classroom. I decided to isolate a few of them here to showcase what could be possible for teaching English.

Publications: You can search for documents for download by name or by category. For lower level students, try “low literacy” as the audience or “easy reading” as a category. There are a few documents that are specific to Alberta labour laws, but some that are fantastic as workbooks in any location.

There are also a number of publications not meant for lower language skills, but are still within the understanding of higher level students, especially those in business English classes.

There are also a number of ‘Tip Sheets‘ that can’t be downloaded, but are viewable online.

There are also a few PowerPoint presentations that go together with the publications.

What could be the best material is the video section. Here there are 214 short videos that each introduce a different occupation. These are fantastic! You can combine these with the Easy Reading Job Profiles listed above to help teach vocabulary and encourage discussion in the classroom.

There is much more here, but it would take too much time to go through it all. One last thing that may be of interest is the CAREERinsite interactive section (registration required). I haven’t had the time to do it yet, but it looks quite good.

Have you used any of this material before? Where do you see it fitting in your curriculum?

Cambridge University Press ELT Teacher Support

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Have you discovered the Cambridge University Press ELT Teacher Support page yet? It has a number of free booklets written by familiar names in ELT such as Jack Richards, Judy Gilbert, and Michael McCarthy. There is also a presentation from Jack Richards as well.

Each booklet has valuable tools based on solid research that will help teachers at all levels. I would recommend spending some time going over this material. It may just help you in your lesson preparation.

Have you used this material before? Was it helpful? Do you have any other links to add on pedagogical material that may be helpful?

TV411: A Great Resource for Adult English Language Classes

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TV411 is a collection of resources for teaching basic adult educational skills such as reading, writing, and finances. The extensive use of video and written material combined with teacher resources make this an excellent resource for instructors working with immigrants or ESL students.

Students will enjoy the engaging videos and will learn life skills while acquiring literacy skills a well. I would recommend this as a great resource for ELT.

The Times 100: An Excellent Business English Resource

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The Times 100 is a fantastic resource for anyone teaching business English. While a lot of the material is for more advanced learners, quite a bit of it could easily be adapted for intermediate level learners.

The focus is on business case studies. Categorized by topic, each case study focuses on one aspect of business such as communication, morale, ethics, and so on. Within the teaching resources, there are PowerPoint presentations, word searches, crossword puzzles, readings, listenings, and more. All of the case studies are centred around a UK or international business and uses authentic material to support its case. Unbelievably, all of this is free to use and is constantly updated.

For anyone teaching business English, this is a solid resource.

Have you used The Times 100 in your business English class? How did it work out? Did you have to adapt the material?