Tell Me About It! 15+ Fun Apps and Tools to Get Children Speaking

“Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” – Hermann Hesse

When I first began teaching children, I struggled with providing opportunities for all to voice their learning equally. Often, the most vocal students answered questions or took charge in games or group work. The shy students remained silent. With web tools and apps we now have the ability to ensure all our students get to voice their opinions and reflections about the content. With these tools, kids can tell stories, practice vocabulary, or tell us about themselves. Many allow kids to create videos that can be posted on a class website, wiki, or blog or sent to parents and friends. These recordings allow parents to see the learning taking place and evaluate their child’s growth throughout the year. Additionally, many make it fun for even the shyest student to want to participate. Below are a few free tools and apps created with kids in mind.

Web 2.0 Tools

With these free web tools, students can create stories, practice vocabulary, sing songs, or pretend to be the characters they read about. They can work with their peers and practice role-plays or dialogues that they are learning. Kids can also send fun greetings to friends and family, because many of these tools have templates and backgrounds to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and other holidays.

  • Voki - Kids can add a voice to avatars that come to life. They can choose to record their own voices or use the text-to-speech feature with many accent options. They can choose from a variety of characters, including animals, cartoons, and famous people. Voki provides several free lesson plans and an education account.
  • GoAnimate - Kids record a movie. They can work with their peers, add voice narration, or choose text to speech. They choose the characters, background, and props. The school version is not free but offers filters and offers safe content for kids. The regular version is free, but be aware it does have some content that may not be appropriate for very young learners.
  • Blabberize allows kids to add mouths to their drawings or pictures. They can make the characters sing, tell a joke, describe themselves, or tell a story.
  • Fotobabble is a simple tool where kids can narrate a picture. There are many backgrounds for various holidays. Check out Rosco the Pug’s example here. Fotobabble also has a free app for IOS devices.
  • Picture a Story allows students to choose characters, backdrops, and narrate the story. They can move the characters. Students choose from different genres ranging from horror to comedy.
  • Little Bird Tales is a way for kids to create a storybook with images, voice, drawings, and more! Available for IOS devices for $2.99 but the web tool allows for the creation of free stories.
  • Voicethread - Access it through your browser or on the iPad. I have my students upload their drawings for collaborative storytelling with another class. Others can comment through doodling, text, video, or audio. Check out my Diigo bookmarks for lesson ideas.

Mobile Apps

Try any of these free, fun apps to get your learners speaking with their mobile devices. Additionally, they can use some of them to send fun greetings to each other for the holidays instead of cards.

  • Yakit for Kids (IOS) – This app allows kids to upload or take a picture with their mobile device and make it come to life in a very humorous way. They can add stickers, googly eyes, and other fun props. They can create mouths and narrate the characters. There are also many props and templates for various holidays.
  • Chatterpix for Kids (IOS) – Kids can upload, take a picture, or draw with their mobile device. They draw a mouth and add the voice to make the character speak. They can add text, stickers, filters, and props. Check out Rosco the Pug’s example here.
  • Tellagami (IOS) – Kids choose an avatar, pick a scene or create their own, and narrate the avatar.
  • Puppet Pals HD 2 (IOS) – Kids create an interactive puppet show. You can pair them up. They can choose the scene, props, and characters, and then provide the voice as they move them around. It records a short video. Great for role-plays or taking a discussion from a book and making it come to life.
  • Sock Puppets (IOS) – Kids create an interactive sock puppet show. You can pair them up. They can choose the scene, props, and sock puppet characters, and then provide the voice as they move them around. It records a short video.
  • Tell About This (IOS) – Students respond to photo prompts using their voice.
  • Piiig Talk (IOS) - Kids can use this digital walkie-talkie to send voice messages to each other. They can also add voice effects.
  • 30 Hands (IOS) – Students create a slideshow of their photos and add narration and effects.
  • Narrable (IOS) – Students create a slideshow of their photos and add narration and effects.
  • Talking Tom (IOS/Android) – There are many talking animals and characters available for free. Kids speak and the character repeats what was said. Kids love these talking creatures because they have funny voices and do funny things. For pair activities and getting learners to pretend they are newscasters, try Talking Ben and Tom News Reporter.
  • Educreations (IOS) – Students create a nine-minute video of them drawing or teaching on an interactive whiteboard. It acts as a screencast. Draw, add images, and record audio. Watch an example here. Kids can teach each other about a topic or use this app to brainstorm. There is also a browser version available.
  • StoryKit (IOS) – Students create an electronic storybook by drawing on the screen, uploading images, recording sound effects and voice, laying out the elements of the story (text boxes, images, paint, and sound clips) freely by dragging them or pinching to resize, reordering pages, and uploading to the StoryKit web server. A private link is provided.

What kind of speaking activities do your students do with web tools?

For more speaking resources, check out Sprout English’s conversation lessons and worksheets in the Conversation Station and the Discovery Center.

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects Edchat, the ELTON nominated ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference, and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and shares regularly via Teacher Reboot Camp, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/shellyterrell, and Google.com/+ShellySanchezTerrell. She's the author of Learning To Go, Byte-sized Potential, and The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Routledge. She has taught toddlers to adults English in various countries including the US, Germnay, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece.

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