5 ideas for teaching about the topic of transport using apps and mobile devices


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Here are some ideas for teaching words for transport – or about the topic of transport – using apps and mobile devices. The ideas are aimed at the EFL/ESL young learner classroom but can be adapted to other contexts.

1. Learn transport vocabulary
Younger learners might enjoy ABC Go. ABC Go is a flashcard app with a difference. The app presents an A-Z of more than 60 different types of transportation, from ambulance to camel to unicycle. Touch a word – camel for example – and you see a high-quality photo, hear the word, and see the word spelled out; in this way it’s a useful app for learning and practising vocabulary. But many of the words also link to interactive activities which have simple instructions (Can you fix the police car?), or to youtube videos suitable for children (note that you need to be online to access these). The app is US focused.

App: ABC Go
Platform: iOS
Cost: £1.99/$2.99

Word Carrot is an app that will help learners of all ages spell ten basic words for transport. Learners see the word, hear the word, and choose the right letters to spell it. You could use it as a game to play on the IWB, or students can use it to practise words outside the classroom. Here is an activity you can print for learners to practise the words further.
Transport Worksheet

App: Word Carrot
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

2. Buses – sing a song
Wheels on the Bus
is a popular children’s song, and this app presents the song in five different languages: English, Spanish, German, Italian and French. Children can sing along, and the animations will help them to understand what the lyrics mean (there are some fun extra verses on this app, such as ‘The bubbles on the bus go pop, pop, pop’ – and children can pop the bubbles on the screen.). Extras include a record facility, and also the chance to hear the song played on a violin, cello, piano or kazoo. Once children are familiar with the song, they could perform actions as they sing (similar to the actions on the screen); or even together you could invent some new verses of things that might happen on the bus (“The children on the bus can play a game, play a game, play a game…”)

App: Wheels on the Bus
Platform: iOS
Cost (iphone): £0.69/$0.99
Cost (ipad): £1.49/$1.99

Platform: Android
Cost: £1.27/$1.99

3. Helicopers – fly a helicopter taxi
This is a rather different – and fun – app for children. It turns an iphone into a helicopter taxi. You are the pilot, and you have to pick up passengers and take them to different places. Move the iphone to make the helicopter fly, and lay it on a flat surface to pick up and drop off passengers.  What’s great about this app is that children can move around, and also that it uses the camera on the iphone to create an augmented reality effect – the helicopter flies wherever you are, in the classroom, in the playground, in your bedroom…

There is no language in this app, but if you are lucky enough to have a class set of ipads then this could be great for developing language in young learners (and not just the littlest ones). Sue Drouin has some fantastic ideas for using this app on her blog CommuniK-9. The ideas are for a different context, but could easily be adapted for EFL/ESL learners. Read her ideas here:

Just a note: you may want to make sure that a device has a sturdy cover before it’s turned into a helicopter!

App: Helicopter Taxi
Platform: iOS
Cost: £1.49/$1.99

4. Planes – make a paper plane
How to make paper airplanes
is a free app with written instructions for making paper planes. Users select a plane (Concorde for example), read the instructions and watch the diagrams. It is a simple app, but could be useful for older learners, especially when learning about the language of giving and understanding instructions in English. Learners could follow the instructions to make a plane of their choice – or could read and watch the instructions on an IWB. Children could vote for the best plane, or could test them out and see which plane performs best. If learners enjoy the activity, they could perhaps design a paper plane of their own, and write the instructions for making it in English – or perhaps film themselves making a paper plane, and add written or spoken instructions.

App: How to make Paper Airplanes
Platform: iOS/Android
Cost: Free

5. Cars – create a car
Create a Car
is an app that lets users design a fantasy car. Children can choose from a wide range of vehicle parts, including fins, wings, jet engines and time travel devices – to make their own car which they can save and store in the garage. In the garage they can start the car, and watch it kick into action (but they can’t take it out unfortunately). Children could design a car together as a whole class group, or if you have a number of devices, then they could design cars in groups. 

This is a very creative app, and could encourage lots of rich language use. For example, there is an information screen where users can name the car, write a description, and track its special features. You’ll find ideas for using the app for language development on Jenny’s blog: Speech/Language? There’s an app for that! The ideas could be adapted for the ESL/EFL classroom.

App: Create a Car
Platform: iOS
Cost: £0.69/$0.99

Kim Ashmore, Director & Co-Founder, LearnAhead Ltd

That’s five ideas. Share any others that you have here. We’d love to hear about them.

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