Connecting Language Learners to the Curriculum through Digital Media

Lindsay Hopkins, DEN California Team Manager, presented the 1:00 session Connecting Language Learners to the Curriculum live from Oregon.
Geared toward learners whose first language is not English, Lindsay’s presentation and resources are excellent for all learners.
Contrary to most opinions, research shows that vocabulary should be introduced at one level beyond (NOT below) the learner’s linguistic competence. Discovery Media filters allow you to select appropriate levels. Additionally, using audio-visual aids such as photos, gestures, sounds etc. allows students to cement new vocabulary and understandings.
To build contextual information show quick video, snapshot or image of a new idea or concept. In addition to visual aids, look for speaker or interview-based resources.

Closed Captioning

Many Discovery resources have editable closed captioning files. You can use the filters to search specifically for videos that have captions. These are beneficial not just for language learners, but also for learners with hearing impairments, addressing multiple modalities, and struggling readers. Through closed captioning, you are able to emphasize grammar and vocabulary. Research has shown that children who watch videos with closed captions significantly improved their vocabulary and oral reading fluency.

Beyond showing videos with closed captions, you are also able to edit the captions! You are able to open the .smi file and edit the font size, color, and family. You do NOT need to be a super-techie star to do this. The quick and dirty instructions are to:
1. download the video.
2. open the .smi file with notepad
3. Change the text4. Done!
If you need more detailed instructions, search the “Help” within DE streaming section for closed captions and you’ll find step by steps with instructions.

In the spirit of the late-night infomercials, “But wait, there’s more!” You can also use Notepad to change the actual text! Consider adding important reminders for your students.
“Make note of this!”
“Are you paying attention here?””This WILL Be on the test!”

Songs and music are a fun way to increase vocabulary and set a positive learning environment. Lindsay explained that songs and music “bundle” a culture – the vocabulary, the sounds, the grammar.Discovery has OVER 45o educational songs from multiplication rap to the famous Homophone Blues. A great idea from Lindsay was to create a personal playlist for students to listen to on an iPod. Songs can also be inserted into powerpoint presentations.

I learned something brand new today about Discovery…they have sound effect sounds! Not only do they have sound effects, they have 3,088 sounds from a large dog barking to a Dodge Neon trunk opening!! Sound effects for digital storytelling, powerpoint presentations, and classroom plays…What ways can YOU think of to use sound effects in your classroom?

Lindsay shared ideas for using images with the language learner. Normally when we use an image, we select the medium size. This size works well on documents or presentations. I never really could think of a reason to use the large size image in a classroom. Well, thanks to Lindsay, I learned something else new today! An image selected as the “large” option can be used as a poster. Another phenomenal idea is to zoom in on one segment of the picture and have the students discuss predictions for what the image is. You now have a natural conversation with student interaction. I can imagine the vocabulary that students would use naturally with this image, “fish, whale, tomahawk, blue…” After a discussion, you simply unclick the zoom and then discuss the image.

Using text as an image is a popular tool today with sites such as,, and If you search Discovery resources for speeches you can often find a pdf transcriptof the speech in the related materials section. Copy the transcript and paste into a word cloud generator. Can you think of a way to use this with your students??

Consider using digital storytelling and project-based learning as a way to align instruction and materials with a student’s culture. It is so important to validate and respect a student’s native culture as a way to connect them to a new language and culture. Using tools such as moviemaker, photostory, imovie, anijmoto, and glogster allows for personal expression and voice. The technology allows the learner to transcend the language.

See Godslaugh

Did you know that Discovery has resources in foreign languages? I knew they had a lot in Spanish, but if you do an advanced search under languages you will see that they also have resources in Chinese, Cantonese, Arabic, and Polish to name just three.

Finally, (I have no idea how she shared all this is one hour!) Lindsay shared the uses of the Student Center. If you have not yet explored Student Center it is time to do so! If you need assistance setting up Student Center, Lindsay recommends contacting Discover via the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the Discovery page, or call them – they have real, live people who are great and will gladly help you get started!


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One Comment;

  1. RJ Stangherlin said:

    I am sending our administrator of special needs students the link to your post. You did an excellent job of capturing this presentation, Wonderful access for all of us who (like me) could not attend this session. THANK YOU so VERY much. Awesome job!!!

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