Wednesday, September 17, 2008

British council**** and appendages

As a departure from my norm today I am going to feature three sites together, because of their inter-relatedness. As it may be a long post, I am refraining from chit chat just now, but there is no guarantee that you will be spared the post scripts!

Today's featured site - Brtish Council's
Learn English Kids is meant specially for parents in non-English speaking countries. As per the mission of British council the games, songs, stories and activities are focused entirely on teaching English in a playful fashion. The screenshot below is about their songs, since that is usually where we start from, but it is easy to navigate from menubar on the top.

The animation and quality, while uniformly good, is not great and would not appeal at the first glance to toddlers. (Hence the need to start to with songs!) Some open in a separate window; but all the games, songs or stories are small sized. No full screen versions here. On the flip side, they are all quick to load. The site has all its offerings grouped by themes as well, eg. toys, or time, or animals - check under topics. The listen read write section has links for listening games (at the site itself), reading about books eg. reviews, and writing - just for practice, or creative writing. A middle grade child interested in books may like to explore this by himself.

The games are in three categories - just for fun, play and learn, and for kids. The level of the games is variable; not all the games are suitable for young children. Telling the time, or the alphabet game are easy for preschoolers to handle; others will need a little help from parents while still others will appeal to the elementary to lower middle grade age group because of their video game like appearance. Teachers may find that age group and fluency in English are not always concordant, though I don't know how many schools the net as a teaching aid will be catering to that population.

The nursery rhymes and songs are in four categories - easy, not so easy, traditional and for little kids. You'll find it best to explore all four to find songs your child likes, because the melody doesn't always appeal. Older kids who do understand all the lyrics may be turned off by some overtly 'message bearing' songs like those about the environment because the packaging is not that 'neat'. All the songs are read along, with the option of having text on or off in the subtitle box.

The stories are again divided as short, longer, stories for little children, and fairy tales. Remember that if yours is not an English speaking household, they will not hold interest for the younger kids unless translated. The Council has made special efforts to include non British characters in all the features, more so in stories section, to make it appealing to a diverse population.

The url for Learn English Kids -

The British council also has two other sites - one with Arabic translations, and the other based in China, that are worth peeking into at the same time. The former is called go4English. The section fun for kids has songs, games and stories. At first glance this page doesn't look like much, but click on the more link just above and to the left of each of the subsections to go to their archives. They have all the songs and games as the Learn English Kids site as far as I can make out, and then some more. I confess that I have compared only the songs in detail - the rest is just a cursory glance.

The url -

The second one is the British Council's site in China - its forums and discussions were closed down during the Olympics. The section that interests us is 'language games' under 'Learners'. The games are good, and increase fluency in idioms as well. This section, however, is meant for those looking to increase their vocabulary, and are not for young children. I have included it here just for the sake of completeness. On the same page there are a few listening exercises as well. Nothing great.

The url -

P.S. I can't believe I have run out of post scripts! But just for now, I have. Expecting guests at short notice :)

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