NULU Languages is a new website (still in Beta) that allows students of Spanish to read articles from regular newspapers which have been slightly adapted. If you hover your mouse over the article’s words, students can see an English translation (or a Spanish definition, the teacher can set that up). At the end of each article, students have a comprehension quiz. Articles are also read by native speakers, so students can listen while they read. It has some other features as well. Students can add words to their set of Flashcards by just clicking on the word, and they can also review the Flashcards they have created. There is also a Discussion Board area, which allows the teacher or the students themselves to write about the articles they have read. Last year, NULU sent me an invitation and I tried it for one week with my students. They seemed to really like it, so this year I’m giving it a more thorough trial. It is still free. I’m using in my conversation course, the one which does not have a textbook anymore.
This is what I’m asking my students to do with it:
- Read three articles a week of their choice.
- Complete the five question quiz at the end of each article (the teacher can select the number of questions, 3 or 5, and the level of the questions, beginners or intermediate/advanced).
- Pick four words to add to their flashcards.
I decided not to use the Discussion Board area, because I prefer students discuss the articles during our class time or in Twitter. NULU has an area for teachers where you can see how your students are doing. We have now been using it for about two weeks and these are my impressions so far.
- I like that students can choose from a variety of topics. The articles cover many areas, US and international news, business, science and technology, sports, entertainment, etc.
- I also like that comprehension quizzes are available for every article.
- The flashcards are useful, but I find that they are a bit difficult to use. Students cannot see a list of every word they have added, but instead, have to go one by one reviewing them.
- I do feel it saves me lots of time as an instructor, as I don’t have to look for news, record them, create activities, etc.
As it is in beta, I do hope some things are improved in the final version. For example, I cannot see which articles my students have read or what words they have chosen (so, I had to create this Google Form to have that information). I also cannot see what grade they obtained in the quizzes unless I look at it right on Sunday night. When a new week starts, the counter for students’ activities goes back to zero. Arghh, frustrating. In addition, I would definitely like to see some more flexibility with the Flashcards, like ability to print the list of words.
All in all, I do believe it is a great tool and, being free, I truly cannot complain. The students really love it, because, having the translation hovering on top, makes it much more enjoyable. This is another feature that the teacher can modify. You can choose whether they see a full sentence translation, a word translation, or a Spanish definition (which I think it is not implemented yet). I have chosen “word” for now. As I was saying, students also like that they can choose the topics. So far, I am giving them freedom, but the teacher also has the option to assign specific articles. I may do that in the future, as I think I may prefer that they read a bit more about Spain or Latin America.
I also would like to mention that there is a similar site which is also free and does include more activities, Practica Español con EFE, although students have to use it on their own. The news are presented with sound and activities at the end of the articles, and the students can also click on the words to find their definitions, but this time the option is only in Spanish. The news are divided by levels, A, B, or C, and are often accompanied by grammatical notes.
Are you aware of another service like these two? What kind of reading activities do your students complete now? Thanks for letting me know!