Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary


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Use magic to teach and learn academic language in my new NY Times post that includes a student interactive and teaching ideas.

Enriching Academic Vocabulary: Strategies for Teaching Tier Two Words to E.L.L. Students is the headline of another one of my posts for The New York Times. It’s a pretty lengthy one – filled with ideas, downloadable hand-outs and links to additional resources.

This is latest in my “The Best….” series of lists. Like the resources on most of the others, the sites on this list can be helpful to both English Language Learners and native-English speakers alike. Certainly, all my mainstream students need assistance in developing a mastery of academic English.

One way this list is different from the others is that I don’t rank them in terms of which ones I like the best. They’re all pretty good, and I’ll leave it for you to decide which one works better in your situation. Most of the online activities are accessible to either high-intermediate or advanced English Language Learners, though teachers can use the information on the sites to develop their own classroom activities accessible to students with a lower English proficiency.

You might also be interested in The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.

Here are, in my opinion, The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary:

An Academic Writing Module: Paragraphs is designed for student self-access, and has many interactive exercises.

Using English For Academic Purposes has a lot of good online activities. I found it a little confusing to navigate, though. This page has a lot of direct links to exercises. Also, you’ll find a more accessible index for this site on another entirely different site called Free Online Academic Reading and Writing Exercises. You’ll also see a number of other links to other resources there.

One of Sacramento’s own, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, also has developed a nice interactive tutorial with a long name: Constructing The Paragraph: A Tutorial and Self-Testing Program For American English In Academic Settings.

Carolyn Zierenberg, a talented teacher at our school, put together a simple multilingual (English/Spanish/Hmong) glossary of academic vocabulary. She’s given me permission to share it on this blog and website.

This Glossary Of Commonly Used English Academic Vocabulary — English/Spanish/Hmong. took an incredible amount of work to complete.

Of course, a list like this is only effective as a supplement and follow-up to multiple classroom activities where these words are used in a meaningful way in context.

An article in Education Week talks about a program called Word Generation that researchers in Boston developed to help middle school students learn academic vocabulary. The program is comprised of a series of daily fifteen minute lessons, and they all appear to be freely available on their site.

They seem like decent lessons, though I’m wary of “parachuting” daily lessons into a classroom that are not connected to the ongoing curriculum. I’m more inclined to using a standard template for short lessons that can be easily adapted and connected to the thematic units that are being used in class. It’s on my “to do” list to write more in-depth about our academic vocabulary lessons in a future post, and it’ll certainly be in a book I’m writing (with my colleague Katie Hull) that will be coming out next year. That said, however, I also can’t blame busy teachers who might want to use what appears to be a high-quality series of free lessons that are all set to go. The Word Generation site also has some other useful resources, including a page on Twelve Myths of Word Learning.

Kate Kinsella is well-known for her research on helping students learn and use academic vocabulary. The California Department of Education has put a series of her videos and materials on their website.

The videos don’t at all capture her dynamism that you see in person, but downloadable “apply the concepts” materials are worth their weight in gold! And, they’re free.

One New Activity I’m Doing To Help ELLs Learn Academic Vocabulary – & Practice Speaking It

Here’s a great Academic Vocabulary List from Jim Burke.

When To Teach Vocabulary

Academic Vocabulary and Haiku Deck is from ELL Teaching 2.0.

Art and Science of Teaching / Cognitive Verbs and the Common Core is by Robert Marzano

Common Core Ratchets Up Language Demands for English-Learners is from Ed Week.

Kate Kinsella has a collection of hand-outs to assist in academic language instruction. Here are more. And one more batch.

Academic Language for English Language Learners is from Colorin Colorado.

8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language is from Edutopia.

Here are a bunch of downloadable resources from Kate Kinsella about academic language (thanks to Judie Haynes for the tip).

Vocabulary Exercises for the Academic Word List

My colleague and co-author, Katie Hull Sypnieski, and I just published a post over at Edutopia titled English-Language Learners and Academic Language.

ELLs’ Literacy Improved Under Popular Instructional Model, Study Finds is from Education Week.

The Vocabulary of Test Directions is from, and provides links to help students learn the academic vocabulary list that Jim Burke has developed.

Lex for EFL has created some interactive academic vocabulary activities that are useful.

U.S. Department Of Ed Releases Useful Guide On Teaching Academic Language To ELLs

Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know is from Colorin Colorado.

Mary Ann Zehr shared an interesting article on How To Start Academic Conversations. I got tired just reading about what the researchers were having the teacher do in the classroom, but I was intrigued by their ideas of students learning simple hand gestures to reinforce academic conversation prompts.

Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners is a website collecting all the resources, including PowerPoints and materials, from a big conference on this topic in July, 2014.

Teaching Academic Listening (and transferral to the General English classroom!) is by Lizzie Pinard.

New video series: Engaging ELLs in Academic Conversations is a Colorin Colorado post about a useful Teaching Channel resource.

How To Start Academic Conversations is a useful article.

Teaching academic vocabulary: a guide for beginners is an exceptional post by Adam Simpson.

How Using First Language Supports Can Propel Academic Content in English is from Teach Learn Grow.

Purposeful Partner Talk to Close the Academic Language Gap is from ASCD.

Academic Language Function Toolkit is from the Sweetwater School District and looks very useful.

A Simple Game Using Academic Language

Other Academic World Lists By Grades/Subject:

Grades K-6 Tier II Vocabulary Lists – Hyde Park School District

Academic Vocabulary – Berkeley School District

Academic Word Lists by Subject and Grade – Tennessee Department of Education

Tier Two Vocabulary List for High School

Here is a great series of Quizlet online exercises for the New Academic Word List.

Cognitive Verbs and the Common Core – a list by Robert Marzano

15 Academic Vocabulary Resources is from TESOL.

Interesting Study On Teaching Vocabulary



WordSift Is Back & It’s Better Than Ever!

Tier 3 Words: Teaching Content-Specific Vocabulary is from Empowering ELLs.

The Backseat Linguist has speaks some truth about a new study: Academic Vocabulary Instruction: Does Word Generation Really Teach You Two Years’ Worth of Words in 22 Weeks?

Academic Vocabulary Instruction II: Learning 1 Word in 5 Hours Shouldn’t Count as a Success is from The Backseat Linguist.

Here are some nice collections of printable academic sentence-starters:

26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom is from Teach Thought.


Sentence Frames is from Miss Hultenius.


Another school district’s downloadable list.


Dangers of (starting with) definitions is from The Science Teacher and offers helpful advice about vocabulary instruction.

Introducing the New Academic Word List is important information from ATLAS.

8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language is from Todd Finley.

Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for adding to this list, or what you think about the ones already there.

Also, drop me a line if you have ideas about other topics for future “The Best…” lists.

If you’ve found this post useful, you might want to subscribe to this blog for free.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. The internet-based vocabulary curriculum, Word Lab, also provides interactive actitivities with The Academic Word List as well as other high-frequency word lists and literature-based lists. Review and try it out at (teacher created and research-based).

  2. Thanks for including my site, Larry!–
    I’d also mention the online concordancer, The Compleat Lexical Tutor, , by Tom Cobb, which has many dictionary/thesaurus and look-up functions in addition to instant concordancing based on Brown and other Academic Word lists.
    –Elizabeth HS

  3. Larry:
    This looks very helpful. Thanks for all the work you put into making good lists for the “little people,” in the classroom. But I am wondering – do you ever sleep? I’m doing a Poster Session this Friday at CATESOL on Phonics. Please come by if you have time.

  4. Larry, flashcards are an excellent way to learn vocabulary. provides an excellent way to learn vocabulary and then test yourself in various ways. I’d love to get your feedback on it.

  5. You guys should try word smith from it also provides excellent way to lean new vocabulary.

  6. Pingback: Sites October 25th-October 30th | Footnotes of a Retired "Teckie Teacher"

  7. I used a program called “Anki” ( to teach myself Japanese vocabulary. You can register for free and use it online or download a desktop version for free.

  8. Pingback: TESOL 2011 Convention: Resources and Links on Teaching Vocabulary and Innovative New Media to Engage ELLs

  9. Pingback: Developing Academic English Skills | str17

  10. This free website has got three good ways to keep you remember new words.

  11. excellent help for novice researchers on vocabulary

  12. Reading is good “Passive” way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is “Active” method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.

    Improve Your Vocabulary – VocabMonk is an active learning tool which is personalized and makes sure you grasp the learnt words by applying it. It is lot of fun too as you can play vocab challenges with your friends.

    Give it a shot!

  13. Check also our English vocabulary games at We have already two games: True or False and Word Guess. Our word database contains over 2800 words in 90 categories.

  14. If you want to explore and build up your vocabulary in an interesting manner, then you should visit this awesome website . This has really helped me a lot in building my English Vocab.

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