Published: Jan. 23, 2020

By Karen Barkauskas-Goering (IA), Deb Beaton (CO), Elizabeth Caspari (MO), Nathalie  Ettzevoglou (GA), Tasha Hagerman (CA), Sherri McCusker (MD), Alicia Newton-Hamill (OR),Charlene Ritten (Calgary, Canada), Erin Sunday (OR), Sara Villa (NY)

Encouraging language learning outside of the classroom is key to helping students advance their proficiency and taking charge of their own learning. Below is a list of suggestions that students generated as part of a discussion assignement in the Technology Tools in Practice course (LGTC 5030, Fall 19). LGTC 5030 is a core course in the Graduate Certificate in Language Teaching with Technology (University of Colorado Boulder). You may customize and share this GoogleDoc with your students (File > Copy). For best results, you will probably want to incentivize the process by using tools such as class Dojo, choice boards or gamification strategies. Consider offering XP points, rewards or stickers to students who provide you with evidence of having accomplished certain tasks (screenshots of their phone, summaries on Padlet, chat transcripts, etc). 


Set your Phone to the Target Language


Students can change the language of their phone to the TL for a limited period of time. iPhone users can also set Siri to the TL. It is a good way to practice simple commands. Siri will tell jokes, give the time or the weather and let users set up alarms and reminders for example.  


Follow Current Events


When discussing current events, encourage your students to follow news coverage in the target language. Here are some examples: France24, le journal en français facile, BBC en español, Deutsch WelleRTV.ES. Students are more likely to do this if you recommend a specific channel, newspaper or article. 


Get a Language Partner

  • If your high school class has a partner class/school abroad, help students find a partner with whom to communicate via text or social media. Parents will need to be notified and provide permission. A safe alternative would be to pair higher level students with lower level students.

  • FlipGrid now has a feature called #GridPals.  Teachers can find a classroom from another country and pair up their students for extra language practice.

  • Encourage students to text each other in the target language.

  • With parent permission, introduce your students to services such as the  Mixxer (free language exchange), Happy World Foundation (also free),  TalkAbroad or Boomalang (paid service with vetted partners and recorded sessions) or Conversify (paid service or system of tokens).

Note: Motivating students to follow through can be challenging in the absence of a grade. Consider giving out “practice cards" similar to the ones band teachers give out, or any other incentive.


Watch TV in the Target Language


  • Netflix/Hulu offers foreign films and cartoons in original languages. Students can watch them with the TL subtitles. 

  • Encourage students to watch a movie they know really well but in the target language.

  • Encourage students to watch a telenovela, a sporting event, or a series in the target language.

Notes: Consider making a list of age appropriate shows/programs.


Follow Celebrities on Social Media


Encourage students to follow famous (or non-famous) people on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.  If they love sports, they can follow a famous soccer player or athlete. If they like traveling, they can follow a travel blogger. Actors, singers, authors, politicians, activists and influencers have a strong social media presence.  


Create a Playlist on Spotify

Spotify allows you to create and share playlists. Create a playlist with your favorite songs in the target language, or create a playlist with songs on a certain topic and share it with students. Spotify will help you discover other artists based on your selection. 


Apps and Websites

Apps don't replace good teaching but they can be fun and provide students with extra practice. Here are just a few: 


Class Hashtag

Create a class specific hashtag (like #fueradelaclase) and post photos, news, recipes relevant to the topic of the week with a comment in the target language to a class Instagram or Twtter account. Encourage students to do the same.


YouTube Playlists


Create a YouTube playlist with clips in the target language on the topic you are covering in class. YouTube will suggest similar artists or videos (although the suggestions are not always relevant or appropriate). Share the playlist with students.  


Involve the Parents


Consider creating a social media page or inviting parents to follow your Google site. Then post updates, videos and songs you are using in class, recommend movies, so that parents and students can watch them together. This is especially useful if you are teaching in a bilingual/immersion context. 

Read in the Target Language

Go on Raz Kids (Reading A-Z) - Students have their own account and are able to access books online.  The books are leveled and available in English and other languages. Students can listen to each book being read, read it themselves, and answer comprehension questions.   There are several books at each level (and other books under different themes). Children earn points/stars for each task (listening, reading, answering questions) and can use those points to build and customize either a robot or a rocket. They also level-up. There are various languages available. 

Check out  EPIC! Books (Spanish).  Some of the books read to them.  There is also a gaming element of badges and points.

Duolingo stories: available in Spanish, French, Portuguese and German, there are reading comprehension questions. Students can also level up. 

Connect with the Local Community


Attend some target language cultural events that take place in your community. There are some great festivals, concerts, etc. that students/families can get passes to. There are also musicians that sometimes perform at family friendly venues. Join your local chapter of the Alliance Française to receive notification of upcoming events.


Podcasts rule! Check out  Radio Ambulante And News in Slow French. Transcripts are provided which is helpful for students who need support.