(reviewed Fall 2008)
Reviewer: Beth Silverstein
Recommendation: Recommended with Reservations
The site has an informative About this Site section, which provides a brief history. We learn the site is solely funded by Isabel Perez herself, who is teaching at the secondary level. The Web site itself is in both English and Spanish. This could prove useful to students with Spanish as a first language; however, it may be too confusing for others. There are several program areas at the site: WebQuests, My Workshops, The Happy Verby Gang, Web-Based Activities, Web Learning Tube, Grammar, Voc & Culture Exercises, TESL Links, Holidays & Other Topics and CLIL [Content and Language Integrated Learning (the two taught simultaneously)]/AICLE (Spanish version).
The Web site is in both English and Spanish. This is both a strength and a weakness. Good for the self-learner and the bilingual teacher. It’s a little confusing if you speak just English (or Spanish I would imagine) as the translations are not always in order. In other words, sometimes the English comes first, sometimes Spanish, or they are intermingled. Once you acclimate to the language duality, there are benefits to be gained from this site. There is, however, quite a bit of frustration with exercises that don’t prove so useful and links that lead to many commercial Web sites. The other thing to know is that this site seems more European in target. From the best I could gather, its origins are in Spain. The exercises can still be relevant for a broader audience.
Evaluation (Teacher Use)
I give this site a recommendation with reservations for teacher use. Its links to other useful sites are nicely stored for convenient use. However, some of these links are to commercial Web sites. The site is somewhat weak, however, on the home front. Many of its exercises seem quite rigid in the answers they accept. (It’s not clear at times who authored the exercises.) These seem most useful if you and/or your students are working with English and Spanish.
For a first look at the site from the teacher’s perspective, I looked at the CLIL [Content and Language Integrated Learning (the two taught simultaneously)] button and found it to be European-oriented. Apparently, this is some sort of hot topic up for discussion there. Next, I took a look at My Workshops. Some of these seemed to be only in Spanish, and I set those aside for this venue. I looked at Creating Free Materials on the Web and found it to be primarily examples of materials already created. I wasn’t able to find any instruction, but then did find a reference to a TESOL site to help with this.
A look at Quizzes--I showed the Matching Game to be confusing and outdated in terms of Web links (connected site not accessible). The Memory Game(s) were a good idea, but a bit confusing in that the instructions were not always clear. This activity involved a concentration type card-flipping game. (It was not clear whether this information was original material to this Web site or not.)
A useful section for teachers was accessed using the TESL Links button. Links to other sites that teachers can use to download resources from are included in such categories as reference Web sites, dictionaries, encyclopedias, news, music, film, sports as well as other sites and Web pages offering design, free images, sounds, etc. These referenced sites were clearly organized and had live links that could be tested.
Evaluation (Student Use)
I started by trying to get to the Web site. I had several failed attempts and then finally got on. I don’t know where the fault lies. I started by clicking on About this Site to get to a more user-friendly page. From there, I chose the friendliest looking link, The Happy Verby Gang. This section is further sectioned off into Simple Present, Past Progressive, etc. I tested out the Simple Present section first. One of its exercises proved frustrating in that it was rigid in the answers it would accept. When I matched subjects with different sentence endings in a logical fashion, it turned them incorrect. Apparently, the computer had in mind something quite precise and would not accept say the “wrong” gender playing football, for example.
The Past Continuous Form Exercise--I gave as feedback what portions of the answer were correct. But it did not give the complete answer, which I think would prove frustrating for students doing the exercise, as it was for me. Again, there was rigidity in what it accepted, rejecting for example, “at the beach” for only “on the beach.”
The Holiday section let to a Thanksgiving story; however, there was just one story and not a tiered grouping by level as one might expect and certainly appreciate. Further investigation led to loosely related or irrelevant Web sites. The Puzzles section under Thanksgiving linked up to other Web sites, but just the homepages and not puzzles themselves. Again, frustrating the user. A link from the Mayflower led to Mayflower hotel booking information, hardly relevant.
Web-based Activities/Treasure Hunts & Reading Comprehension, a new section of the site, led to a mix of other independent sites. Some of these proved more fruitful than others. For example, in the Clothing section, the linked site might include pictures and words to match, but with no obvious way to move them around and match them up. Another link would accompany the vocabulary with pictures or have a game to play. There were also general questions asked, but with no answers given. There were many options a student would have to weed through. This task could be made easier by the editor of the site being more selective about links.
Note that the site was quite slow at times, both in terms of getting onto it and making links. Also, the author said she funds the site; however, many links to commercial sites exist. I don’t know if there is profit to the site from these links. Also worth noting is that I ran into a number of links that were no longer available. How much this can be avoided is probably only answered by how many resources and how much careful concern are present.
Subject Headings: ESL teachers, ESL students, ESL Web resources