14 Resources for Meaningful Student Dialogue

Part of the Cool Sites series

If you teach English language learners in their native countries, then finding opportunities for them to use the English they learn outside the classroom can be challenging. In reality, I cannot cover all the language skills they need to learn in an hour and a half class period. The students need to explore opportunities to use English in different contexts limited by my classroom walls. They need to step beyond the classroom and use English in the real world. That is how one learns a language. I am quite fortunate that my institution provides numerous free English speaking events for the community. However, I have noticed that many of my students do not attend these events. My students want to attend these events, they just are busy and probably lack some motivation. For this reason, I have found integrating technology into homework tasks very beneficial. Yes, it takes work! I have wikis to maintain for two children’s classes, three adult classes, and a teen class. However, the students seem to like the outside work and many do the work even though it is not required or graded. The tasks are all optional. Therefore, I am sharing with you my favorite sites for helping English language learners practice dialogue outside the classroom. It is not better than real world experience, but my students will actually do these activities when they will not attend free events.


There are several chatbot sites that are great for English language learners. Simply, the student types in the dialogue and the chatbot will respond.

  • BELL– A female chatbot that responds to messages typed in by children and adults.
  • ESLFast– Students can speak with Tutor Mike, a male bot, or the female shopping bot. There are many dialogue examples on the right side of the website. English language learners can listen and read the various dialogues for various situations.
  • Elbot– This is a robot that chats with students. Click on the red button on his stomach to chat with him.

Language Learning Communities

Students have opportunities to speak with English teachers or other students for free. Many more online language learning communities exist, but I only list ones that are free for my students for more than one lesson.

  • Livemocha– Students register for free and have access to free interactive lessons and the ability to chat and speak with native English speakers or others learning the language.
  • Edufire’s Free Classes– Students register for free to have access to plenty of free English classes for students with real teachers. This is through live video and chat. A group of students learns at once.
  • ESL Online Talk Community– Students who like to use instant messenger to talk will love this website. All they do is join the community for free and add other members’ emails.
  • Teach You Teach Me ning– Students have the opportunity to teach another member their language and that member will teach them English in exchange. This occurs on Second Life, which is one of the best tools for learning a language if your students are willing to join.

Dialogue Generators

The following websites are best when students are paired with others to create meaningful dialogue for specific contexts and situations. Usually, I do not assign these as homework until I have adequately taught the students how to use them in the classroom. Then students can practice creating dialogues on their own.

  • Voki– I have one for each of my wikis. It is an avatar that talks. You can add your own voice or type in text that the avatar will say. You can choose from a variety of characters. For adults, I use a lifelike avatar but for the children I use animals to greet them by their names. I also have students type in what they will say to the voki. See the examples below of two people having a conversation about the Super Bowl. One is my natural voice and the other is one of the voices you can choose from. Click on the arrows to hear the characters talk.

  • Xtranormal– Students select characters, the scene, and create the dialogue they hear aloud. This is one of the few sites where students get to hear the dialogue they have created. I wish the voices were more life like.
  • Classic TV– Students create movies by editing sequences and adding dialogue to scenes. I learned about this site from Russell Stannard.
  • Dvolver– Students select characters, scenes, and type in the dialogue. I live the various ethnic characters, but some of the items may not be appropriate for all students. The students see the words in their movies.
  • Overstream– Add English subtitles to old movies, which are usually spoken in foreign languages. You can haveg students find a movie scene in their own language and writing the subtitles for the movie and introducing it to others or have students use films in different languages and write the script. I learned about this from Lindsay Clandfield.
  • Larry Ferlazzo’s Students’ Movies– see many movie making sites and examples by Larry’s English language learners.


Test out one of these tools to see how you can use it to encourage your students to use the English they learn in the classroom.

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Do you have any great lessons you use with one of these tools?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. Hi Shelly,

    You may want to add Jabberwacky to your list. Jabberwacky has two very popular chatbots, one is George and the other is Joan

    George: http://www.jabberwacky.com/george
    And some BBC interviews with George http://news.bbc.co.uk/nolavconsole/ukfs_news/hi/newsid_5300000/newsid_5303700/nb_rm_5303754.stm

    Cleverbot: http://www.cleverbot.com/

    Joan: http://www.icogno.com/joan.html

    George in particular can come up with the most unexpected remarks!

  2. This is the rub for learning a different language in a classroom setting, there often isn’t ample time to practice, and the practice can fall short where authentic conversations with native speakers would be helpful. I love the sites and ideas that you are introducing your students to. They are all so lucky to have you!

  3. I feel that I don’t have enough time to teach my English students how to use correct English and it’s their first language!

    We have ESL students in our building and I plan on forwarding this along to their teachers to share with the students to help them along. Nice find and thanks for the share.

  4. Its fun to organize a dinner or different events and invite a lot of English speakers and tell them to only speak English. That way they can get that experience without having to leave the classroom.

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