How to Effectively Use Online English Language Development Tools in the Classroom, Part 1

Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 21 seconds

We’ve never experienced a greater need for effective instructional tools for our English learners than right now. With administrative and teaching staff stretched to the max, it’s critical that you have tools actually make a difference in helping English learners progress. To that end, we’ve created a two-part blog to show you how to effectively use online tools in the classroom during Designated ELD time. We'll cover:

  • The importance of multi-sensory learning approaches
  • Scaffolding directions
  • Previewing key questions and concepts
  • Opportunities for productive language

In Part 1 of this blog, we'll go over the brain science behind multi-sensory learning approaches and explain why using these techniques will help your students make more learning connections and increase retention of information.

To demonstrate the topics above, we’ll use examples from the Language Tree online program. The Language Tree Online ELD programs use multi-sensory techniques, including video, audio, images, self-recordings, and interactive exercises to teach and reinforce language skills. We offer two programs specifically designed for secondary English learners at the beginner and intermediate levels:

  • ELD Level 1 is designed for secondary newcomers and beginning ELs who have been in-country for approximately two years or less and…
  • ELD Level 2 is for intermediate-level learners and LTELs.

First, let's explore the importance of using multi-sensory approaches to support language development.

The Brain Science Behind Multi-Sensory Learning Approaches

To understand the brain science behind why multi-sensory approaches help learning and retention, let's go over the key parts of the brain that relate to multi-sensory input.

Most of our traditional instruction is done through the auditory level of the brain, which is processed in the temporal lobe. Unfortunately, it’s the least effective part of the brain for retaining information.

The temporal lobe has a limit of two to three minutes of input, and then that information is forever lost. So most auditory information communicated to students goes in one ear and out the other!

A good example of this is when you’ve been introduced to someone at a party and you learn their name. A couple of minutes later, you have to introduce this person to somebody else, but you can’t remember his or her name.

It’s the same with somebody giving you directions to a place. If they’re telling you where to go but you’re not writing it down or making a visual connection, you’re not likely to remember it.

This is exactly what happens to English learners trying to study the English language. When they are given too much auditory information too quickly, they are not likely to remember everything. To have students better retain information, you need to engage the occipital lobe.

"The Occipital Lobe Processes Visual Input, and it Functions Internally and Externally."

Internally, the occipital lobe works with memory and experience. Anything that we’ve seen or done before, we tend to create mental pictures in our brains. Think of it as a movie reel or watching a movie. Thus, the occipital lobe helps students visualize information.

It helps students to experience color, design, and organization. Here’s an example of the occipital lobe in action. In helping students prepare for an exam, you may have posted visual information, like a poster, on a wall of your classroom. You take down the poster, but it’s still there in the student’s minds. During the exam, you may see students looking at the parts of the room where the information used to be. This is because they’re attending to that occipital lobe. They’ve seen that information both externally on the wall and internally in their minds.

Thus, teaching to engage the occipital lobe activates the most effective parts of the brain for retaining information. Let’s discuss one more additional part of the brain.

The parietal lobe processes language and reading input. It helps us make sense of language. It helps us create our own understanding of what we just read or saw using language. This is also another highly effective part of the brain to create those contexts to make connections with language and experience. How can you engage the parietal lobe?  By having the students actively interact through language - by reading, speaking with others (not just repeating words), and writing about what they have seen or learned.

Creating experiences for your students that engage the occipital and parietal lobes allows students to learn more effectively. Seeing and talking about what is being learned helps fire synapses that create long-term and higher cognitive connections. This helps store key pieces of information in the frontal lobe.

In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll provide some examples of how you can use multi-sensory digital tools in your own classroom


"Creating experiences for your students that engage the occipital and parietal lobes allows them to learn more effectively!"

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