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Role of modern technologies in teaching English to young learners

M.A. Olga Korczak

Monnet International School – PSP no. 95 in Warsaw


Short biographic entry about the author.

Olga Korczak, graduate of University College of English Language Teacher Education and Journalism and Social Communication at Warsaw University, currently a teacher at Monnet International School in Warsaw.


Short summary in English

Article about using modern technologies in the primary English classroom with the emphasis on CLIL lessons. Examples of activities and lessons with interactive boards, computers and tablets for different subjects. All tasks have been conducted in the classroom by the author. Practical advices for new teachers or teachers who start their adventure with modern technologies.


Key words:

modern technology, CLIL, interactive board, tablet, I pad, computer, English, educational apps



Nowadays modern technologies are surrounding us. We need to use a touch screen machine if we want to buy a bus ticket, send a postcard or do the check-in at the airport. In the library all the catalogues are computerized, when we go to the doctor we get our medical examination’s results on a CD. Even such everyday activities like grocery shopping, paying bills or booking holidays we do online, using different devices. It is even difficult to find a kindergarten or school without a website or facebook profile. What is more the enrollment to those institutions is online as well. All those examples show us that if we, as teachers, want to educate future citizens we should not avoid modern technologies. Now, a computer or tablet is the same as a notebook and a pen 20 years ago. The questions in how to do it reasonable, which devices we should choose, when and how much time students should spend in front of the screen. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) opens even more opportunities to use modern technologies as a tool to learn different subjects.


Asking whether technology can improve education is like asking whether experiments can improve science education. Everything depends on what kind of technology is introduced, how it is used, its design and how teachers are supported to use it.[1]


Modern technologies – definition

It is very difficult to define modern technologies and probably if we would like to make a list of those technologies in half a year it will not be valid any more. I looked for the definition on the internet and that is what Macmillan online dictionary says:



  1. relating to or belonging to the present time,
  2. using the most recent methods, ideas, designs, or equipment,
  3. using new styles that are very different from the styles of the past,


information technology

  1. the study or use of computers and electronic systems for storing and using information.


I also asked my students to draw what they think modern technologies are, and these are the results:



It shows that a nine years old boy, when he hears modern technologies, thinks about tablets, CDs, DVDs, cars, interactive boards, computers and TV. Some of those are tool we can definitely introduce in a classroom.


For our purposes we can define modern technologies as most recent computers and other electronic devices that can be used in the classroom as a tool to teach different subjects, not only as an equipment to master computer skills.


How much time we should spend using modern technologies – that is the biggest concern of teachers and parents. Our kids spend too much time in front of TV, computer, tablet or smart phone screens. That is why each minute more should by justified, we as teachers have to plan our “using modern technologies time” carefully. Children like modern devices, so it is highly motivational for them. In their language we can say ‘cool’. And that is the hope for teaching different subjects, especially in English because there are more sources in this language, using technologies. I observed that my students work faster, remember more, are more motivated to revise at home, show their parents or brothers and sisters their works made on a tablet than in a notebook. There is no good answer for a question: how much time? The youngest the child the less time they should spend in front of a screen, but we know our students best and we should decide. Sometimes can happen that the whole month we work in our notebooks and activity books, but later we have three lessons with a tablet in a row.


I completely understand teachers who are a little scared of using modern technologies, our concerns are mainly due to unsatisfactory computer skills. We are afraid that something will go wrong and we will not be able to solve the problem or that our students are more fluent than us. This is due to the lack of sufficient support from schools, superiors and proper courses. That is why in the rest of my article I would like to show some simple ideas, internet sites and applications that can be used for different subjects. All of the examples come from my teaching experience.


Interactive boards

These days interactive boards are quiet popular at schools. So probably most of the teachers already have their favourite ways how to use it. I will try to show some ideas and sites that are useful for me.


First of all an interactive board is perfect if we want to show something to the whole class at once. We can listen to stories, watch presentations or educational films or play class games.


One of the best games sites is ESL Games Plus, it offers interactive online games for learning and teaching English as a Second Language. The learning games are mostly suitable for teaching ESL kids and teenagers. There are activities for teaching and practicing English grammar, vocabulary, sentences, listening and pronunciation skills. It is helpful for CLIL lessons about countries because we can find there a lot of games with capitals, flags and continents, which are perfect for 10-minutes revisions.


Very good reading site is Oxford Owl – an award-winning website to help support children’s learning, both at home and at school. Here we can read stories and information books for free, and what is more for those books are prepared interactive activities which are checking understanding.


If we are teaching Math in English there is a perfect website MyMaths, which is unlimited source of ready-made lessons, online homework, assessments and games. Very useful for classroom and home. The teacher can assign homework and check if it was done and how many points the student scored.


In my classroom I like to use websites of zoos, museums and different organizations. For instance NASA has got a perfect site for kids about climate:


Here we have sections like: weather&climate, air, oceans, fresh water, carbon’s travels, energy, plants&animals, technology. On each topic you can watch climate tales, presentations, read articles, do activities or play games. All teachers who teach Science in English should check out this address.


Young children usually like animals, we can use this and teach them about Aussie animals on Sidney zoo’s website: There is a section Meet our Australian Animals, where you can find all types of animals living on this fascinating continent.


For History lessons I like using BBC site:, here students may become mummy makers, solve the quiz about William Shakespeare or dress the Victorian and Tudor women. Those activities may be done individually on computers as well.



Computers can be used for instance for Art classes.


Paint is a program used to draw, color, and edit pictures. You can use Paint like a digital sketchpad to make simple pictures and creative projects or to add text and designs to other pictures, such as those taken with your digital camera.’[2]


If we have the program installed in English that’s perfect if not we can use oral instructions in English. It is never-ending source of colours, shapes, adjectives etc. and commands like: cut, draw, paint, paste, colour, fill in and many others. To make it more challenging and fun lately in my class we asked students to design a new logo for their school. Before we talked about logos around us and that some logos of cars, fast food restaurants, airlines, football clubs are known worldwide. Children got really involved in the activity, they worked individually. They have learned what is a logo, how to design one, new English vocabulary and they have revised Paint skills. Below I show some works of 7 year olds:




Tablets or Ipads are my favourite tools because of their unlimited opportunities. Below I will present quiet few applications with their opportunities. Use of some of them later will be shown in a lesson plan. I will also try to write if the app is free or how much is it, which is an important aspect.


Planning a lesson with a tablet it is good to consult IT teacher at school and try all the procedures ourselves before. If we need some pictures we can save them on our device and send them for example by Bluetooth to our students, it is always safer than letting them search the internet, especially young ones. It takes a lot of time and it is difficult to control them.


SimpleMind ‘Free for Android is a mind mapping tool that turns your android phone or tablet into a brainstorming, idea collection and thought structuring device. The Free version comes with basic but powerful Mind Mapping features.’[3]


This app is extremely useful in CLIL lessons. It can be used for brainstorming with the whole class, groups or pairs as well as organizing thoughts individually. It is very clear and intuitive in use so we can propose it to younger and older students. Below two examples of using SimpleMind is shown, one easier and one a little bit more complex:




FarFaria offers thousands of storybooks, songs, and nursery rhymes for children. New stories are released every week. FarFaria will help students to develop a love for books and will encourage them to read.


In this app except from storybook we can find a lot of information books about animals, nature, universe etc. Those books are advantageous during our CLIL units. Children can listen to books and follow the text or can read themselves. A teacher can choose a book in advance because it is easy to find if by title when needed. It can be a perfect homework introducing or  summing up the topic. One book a day is for free and to me it is sufficient, if we want to read more we need to pay. It is also very attractive visually, because pupils are searching books by islands. Below there are some pictures of this app:




Puppet Pals  – This is fun and simple animation app. For free, you are provided with a limited collection of ‘puppets’ or cartoon characters and some backdrops.  You can then act out scenes, move them around, record audio. The completed scene can then be exported to the camera roll. The extended version costs 5.99$ for I pads. For Androids there is an equivalent app called Puppet Theatre, but I haven’t checked it with children jet.


This app is great for History lessons, children can act out for example Ancient or Medieval scenes as well as some legends of folk tales. This can teach them fluency and encourage reluctant public speakers present to the class. Children can use their imagination and it is highly motivating. From my experience children liked this app so much that during weekends they were preparing plays with their families to show it in the classroom later. That is perfect for ESL students practice their fluency and language skills. To make the movie attractive sometimes they have to repeat the same scene over and over again, as well as the language.


Scribble Press, ‘with the tools provides, kids can draw and write their own books, either for fun or for class projects. Scribble Press for iPad includes 50 story templates, over 500 drawing tools, stickers, your own photo library, and book layout tool. They can share the finished books via email, or iBook, which will give them a real sense of accomplishment. Not many creative apps offer so many options. With so many tools available, kids can let their imagination go wild, and create professional looking products they will be proud of.’[4]


This app unfortunately is available only for I pads and costs 3,99$. When I was working in a classroom where each student had their own I pad it was my favourite app. I usually used it during the whole unit, which lasted around 6-7 weeks. Every few days we were writing one page and in the end we had a book. Children loved it, we were printing the books and they were reading them to their families and friends.


For example during unit about vehicles – one page was about different types of transport from the past, one – from the present, one- from the future. Another pages were for example about number of wheels they have, another about place they can move – air, water and land. Below you can see exemplary pages from a book about animals:




In the end of my article I would like to present a lesson plan of one of my classes with 2nd graders of primary school. All the apps were familiar to children, still some of them needed help, because they could not switch the tool, colour or they forgot how to erase or use a sticker. There were 16 of pupils and at some moments it was difficult to work alone, it is good if there is a possibility of teacher’s assistant or IT teacher may support during the lesson.



Topic: Eggs and birds

Time: 45 min

Age:  8 years-old

Number of students:  16

Materials: interactive board, Apple TV, tablets, white board, poster of a parrot, flashcards with body parts

Apps: Simple Mind, Far Faria, Scribble Press

Aims:  to learn life cycle of a bird, to revise body parts (of a bird), to practice listening, reading, speaking and writing


Lesson steps:

Type ofActivity: Description: Time: Moderntechnology
Warm-upIntroduction  Children listen to the story: Lucy’s Pretty Eggs. After each page teacher ask questions to check understanding, e.g. How many?, Why?, Is she happy/sad? What do you think will happen next?  8 min One tablet and interactive board/Apple TVApp: Far Faria
TPR after reading activity After reading teacher says sentences if the statement is true children clap their hands, if its false they step their feet. E.g.:•              Farmer Smith has got a small farm.

•              Lucy and Millie are hens.

•              Millie has got perfect eggs.

•              Lucy has got perfect eggs.

•              Katie doesn’t like drawing pictures.

•              Katie paints Lucy’s eggs.

•              Now, people like Lucy’s eggs.

•              Lucy is very happy now.


5 min
speaking Teacher asks children what happens with an egg, eliciting that a chick hatch from it and later it grows into the bird. On the board the teacher writes and children draw:Egg à chick à bird



5 min
writing Students in application Mind map write a life cycle of a bird. They can do you in two languages, both Polish and English. Teacher monitors and helps students.  7 min Tablet for each studentApp: Simple Mind
Speaking, reading – revision Teacher show students a big poster of a parrot. Children need to name as many body parts as possible (e.g. head, wing, beak, eye, tail) Teacher may ask What is yellow? What colour is its tail?Later children come one by one to the board and glue flashcards with words to the proper body part.


7 min
writing  Now students chose one picture of a bird (chosen by the teacher) and need to label body parts. They can type it or handwrite it. They can use different colours and labels. It will be one page from a book about birds.   8 min Tablet for each studentApp: Scribble Press
Summing up In the end of the lesson some students can clone themselves to the Apple TV and show their works in Simple Mind and Scribble Press apps. The rest of the class may asses if there is done what was asked by the teacher.  5 min Interactive board/Apple TVtablets




  1. Coyle, D., P, Hood and D. Marsh. 2013. CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge: CUP
  2. Żylińska, M. 2013. NEURODYDAKTYKA Nauczanie i uczenie się przyjazne mózgowi. Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika
  3. ICT in Primary Education, Analytical survey; UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education; 2012




[1] R. Noss, Director of Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme (in “UK Science & Technology”, issue 3)




Published: 2015-06-19