Google Tools for EAL/ESL Teaching & Learning

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Google Have you ever tried to google the word “Google”? You’ll get more than 12 billion results (as of October 2, 2013) and this number dramatically increases every single day… Why is it so? Google’s search engine is the world’s largest web search engine, as well as the world’s most popular. Google provides a lot of convenient tools and services. None of them were designed for language learning, but they can be adjusted for EAL/ESL purposes. So, why not to use Google tools approved by billions of people all over the world for your classes? First of all, your learner might use Google in his/her everyday life and feel quite comfortable about that. Secondly, Google tools might contribute to making your sessions more fun and interactive, and thus more productive.

Google Search

Everyone knows Google Search, but not all language learners, however, realize how important Google can also be in checking grammar, idioms or common word combinations (collocation). In fact, Google is the largest corpus of text.


Google Search has built-in spelling correction system based on what other users have entered. It is very helpful with misspelled words. If you enter a misspelled word in a search Google will ask you if you meant to spell the word correctly or at least differently.

Google built-in dictionary

Check out Search tools –> All results –> Dictionary to get the word’s pronunciation, definition, synonyms , sometimes images, usage of  this word in the context + option of translating it into learner’s native language.

Word collocation

Non-native speakers usually have problems with the appropriate combinations of English words. Have you ever thought of that we talk of a beautiful woman and of a handsome man, of high mountains and tall trees, of quick meals and fast food? It might be really challenging to a language learner. Try to type in “quick food” and you’ll get 0.5 million results, while “fast food” returns more than 100 million results. If searching for a specific phrase do not forget to use quotation marks.

Google Books Ngram Viewer

As an alternative to Google search in terms of word collocation is Ngram Viewer. It analyzes text content and returns a graph that represents the use of a particular linguistic item (a word, a phrase, etc) through time. The corpus Ngram refers to is comprised of books Google has scanned in from public libraries to populate their Google Books search engine.

How does it work?

  • Go to Google Books Ngram Viewer;
  • Type in any phrase or phrases you wish to analyze. Be sure to separate each phrase with a comma;
  • Press the Search lots of books button.

Google images

Google Images is a search service owned by Google which allows users to search the Web for image content.

How can we use Google Images for EAL/ESL classes?

  • to define/introduce unknown vocabulary;
  • for speaking/writing: create the story behind the picture;
  • as a pre-reading/pre-listening activity: make predictions.

Play with Google images search filters (Google Images –> Search Tools –> Size, Colour, Type, Time)!

What about communicative activities and task-based learning? Google does have a couple of tools!

Google maps

As far as many of  EAL/ESL learners in Canada are newcomers, the ability to ask for directions and give directions can be vital for them in a new city. You can easily use Google Maps to create real-life task-based activities. You can create your map, set up a route and save this map by copying the link. Each time you edit a map, Google creates a new link for it. So, when your learner opens this link he will see the same map. See the example.

Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. You can explore any city’s neighbourhoods, do (online!) sightseeing, you can introduce new vocabulary or even prepare your learner for a driving test!

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is a free time-management web application offered by Google. The most interesting (for EAL/ESL teachers and learners) collaboration addition of Google Calendar is the Appointment Slot feature. It lets users designate certain blocks of time to select a time and book an appointment.

How can we use Google Calendar for EAL classes?

  • Practice time, days of the week with CLB 1-2 learners
  • Speaking: making appointments with CLB 3-6 learners
  • Writing: taking notes

Want to impress your learners and boost their vocabulary? Show them 3D Warehouse, the largest repository of free 3D content in the world. Don’t forget about Google News to practice reading and YouTube to work on listening skills.

Besides, you can use Google to boost your teaching skills, to motivate and involve your learners and to safe your priceless time and efforts.

  • Google Calendar lets you schedule your classes and send friendly reminders of upcoming sessions to your learners;
  • Google Schemer, a service for sharing and discovering things to do, lets you set learning goals and evaluate your learner’s progress;
  • Google Drive, a file storage and synchronization service, enables file sharing and collaborative editing on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and more. You can easily share your handouts and work on them collaboratively;
  • Google Voice, a telecommunications service by Google, provides free PC-to-phone calling within North America, and PC-to-PC voice and video calling worldwide between users;
  • Google URL-shortner makes your links substantially shorter. The main advantage of a short link is that it is, in fact, short, and can be easily communicated and entered without error. Besides short links look nicer and they are less confusing to a learner;
  • Google Search is a good plagiarism checker. Copy and paste a paragraph from your learner’s writing assignment, hit Search, and you’ll see whether it’s a case of obvious plagiarism or not. Don’t forget to share with your learner a link to search results page and to discuss with him or her that plagiarism is not tolerated in Canada and it can result in penalties and get your learner into a trouble.

Thank you and see you online!