Learn how reading and dictation accessibility tools can be used to break down barriers in language learning, with Jérôme Nogues.

In the last 20 years, I have always used technology to enhance learning in my language lessons. One of the ways that technology can help is through accessibility tools that support students with different learning needs. These tools can make language learning more engaging and effective for all students, including those students who struggle with reading or writing.

Immersive reader

One of the accessibility tools that has made a significant impact on language learning is Immersive Reader, which is a feature built into Microsoft Office applications such as Word, OneNote and Edge. But you can also find it in a great number of applications such as Wakelet, Code.org, Thinglink and many more. If you do not use the Microsoft ecosystem, there is a Google Chrome Extension which can be used too.

Immersive Reader is a tool that can help students improve their reading comprehension. It provides students with the ability to customise their reading experience by adjusting font size, colour, and background, which can reduce eye strain and can help students focus. You can divide words into syllables and use the grammatical feature to highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Additionally, Immersive Reader can read aloud text, which can benefit students who have reading difficulties or learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. Immersive Reader also has a built-in translator that can translate text into over 60 languages, which can assist students who are learning a new language and need to understand the meaning of words or phrases. It is absolutely perfect to practise an unknown poem, for example. I have always recommended its use when schools have entered my global foreign language poem recitation competition, Poésíæ.

Reading Progress and Reading Coach

Two more tools that work well together to enhance language learning are Reading Progress and Reading Coach. They offer personalised reading support by assessing students’ reading levels and creating tailored exercises to help them improve their reading skills. It provides students with immediate feedback on their progress and offers strategies to help them overcome their reading difficulties.

It was originally built for learners of English, but I saw an opportunity for my pupils, and it quickly become a hit for all.

They enjoyed practising specific texts with targeted phonics elements we had worked on in the sentence builders we studied. Both reading apps started in Microsoft Teams and are one of the key features of the education version, but once again, you can access Reading Coach in Immersive Reader. However, instead of getting the feedback saved automatically, the pupil or their teacher has to take a screenshot to get a copy of the reading record. I have created a YouTube video showing how it works if you want to see it in action.

Dictation tools

Dictation tools allow students to convert their spoken words into written text. This feature can be especially useful for students who struggle with writing or have learning difficulties that make writing challenging. They can use dictation tools to practise their pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence structure. It is also very useful for adding accents onto letters much more easily.

I like challenging my pupils and depending on their level, I get them to practise a list of new words found in the sentence builder we studied, full sentences or even sometimes full paragraphs. This is mostly set as a short activity for independent learning or homework. These tools are very much widespread across multiple platforms and devices with a plethora of languages available to suit everybody.

Incorporating accessibility tools into language learning can provide significant benefits for students.

For example, students who struggle with reading may be discouraged and disengaged from learning a new language. However, with the help of the likes of Immersive Reader, Reading Progress and Reading Coach, these students can improve their reading comprehension, which can lead to increased confidence and motivation. We must obviously bear in mind that comprehension tasks must have 90 to 95% comprehensible input (i.e., they should be familiar with most words and structures.) Additionally, dictation tools can help students with writing difficulties overcome the frustration of not being able to express themselves in writing, which can also lead to increased motivation.

Author

  • Jérôme Nogues

    Jérôme has taught for over 22 years in London and in Shropshire. He has been head of MFL for over 15 years. He is now head of digital technology and innovation in a small school near Telford. Jérôme is also the creator of Poésíæ, the global MFL poem recitation competition.
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