Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Sites For Grammar Practice

| 11 Comments

''Go look like you're teaching'' photo (c) 2010, Quinn Dombrowski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I haven’t been a real big fan of putting a lot of time into direct grammar instruction. I generally believe, and I know some research has shown, that students can develop grammar skills through reading, and prioritize helping my students find high-interest reading materials. In addition, I use concept attainment (I’ll write more about this instructional strategy in a future post) to help students learn grammar concepts inductively.  And I just hate “drill-and-kill” grammar worksheets.

A number of our ELL students who have gone on to community college have been telling us they wish we had put more time into direct grammar instruction.  Now, I can’t say for sure exactly what our other teachers have been doing related to grammar in their classes.  And I’m not necessarily convinced that some of the community college classes aren’t making a mistake by placing so much of an emphasis on grammar.

However, I am reflecting on if I should make any changes in how I help my students develop grammar skills.

One very small change I am making is having students spend a little more time on grammar practice when we go to the computer lab — but spending it strategically on common challenges I have identified through their writing.

In the process of reflection, I’ve identified which grammar sites that I think are most engaging and useful to students, and thought I would share them in another “The Best…” list.

You can also find these links, and links to others that didn’t make this list, on my website under Beginner Grammar and Intermediate Grammar.

Here are my choices — not in order of preference — for The Best Sites For Grammar Practice (and that I think are accessible to English Language Learners). I’ve divided them into two sections — sites that are best for Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners and ones more appropriate for Intermediate and Advanced:

BEGINNERS & EARLY INTERMEDIATE

Grammar Gold has a number of different exercises and provides audio support for its text.

Grammar Practice Park is a similar Harcourt site.

BBC Schools Bitesize 1 and Bitesize 2 also has many exercises and games.

Road To Grammar Jr. has many interactive grammar quizzes.

I think the use of Oxford University Press’ series of Phrase Builder exercises can help develop grammar, as well as listening, skills.  Here are links to several of them:

Phrase Builder
Phrase Bank
Intermediate Phrase Bank
Upper Intermediate Phrase Bank

Ventures Arcade from Cambridge has some excellent reinforcing exercises for grammar.  Their more advanced editions won’t be out until January, so for right now only exercises for Beginners and Early Intermediate are available.

Touchstone from Cambridge also has similar activities.

INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED

Grammarman offers online comics, with audio support for the text, that teach grammar topics.

Road To Grammar (different from the “Jr.” version) has a number of interactive quizzes.

Touchstone from Cambridge also has good activities if you go to books “3″ and “4.”

Classzone’s Grammar Arcade has many engaging games that reinforce grammar concepts.  The link is a little strange — sometimes when you click on it you first get directed to Classzone’s main page.  If that happens, just click on “California” and then click on “Go.”

Brainpop has a large collection of movies related to grammar.  They’re closed-captioned, and also have quizzes.  However, you do have to pay for a subscription.  You can get a free trial, though.  This is only one of two sites that I have reviewed on this blog that charges and that I recommend.

The British Council has a ton of grammar games.

I’m adding the Virtual Grammar Lab to this list.  It has over 2400 grammar activities, and teachers can create a free account so that they can track student progress.

Center For Education and Training’s Flashed ESL site.

Interactive ESL Grammar Games comes from ESL Games

Animated Grammar tutorials from Great Source.

Movie Segments To Assess Grammar Goals is a blog by Claudio Azevedo from Brazil. The blog shares grammar exercises connected to…movie segments. He has online video clips embedded in the blog along with the exercises. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely his blog’s host, blogspot, is going to make it through many school content filters, but it would be easy enough to get the videos through Netflix or upload them to a site like Edubogs TV so they can be seen at school.

English Grammar Lessons has tons of engaging activities. Click on the grammar lesson you want on the left side of the page and, then, when you get there, click on any of the exercises that will be on the right side.

English Grammar Secrets has many good grammar interactives.

Focus On Grammar appears to provide online support to a grammar textbook. In order to access it, you just have to type in your email address. It’s not flashy at all, but I think it’s surprisingly good.

Grammar Snacks are a series of animations about…grammar, followed by interactive exercises.

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar is from The Atlantic.

Thanks to Richard Byrne, I recently learned about Quill.

It provides well-done interactive exercises to reinforce grammar exercises and the real advantage is that you can create virtual classrooms to track student progress.

And, it’s free.

Here’s a video about the site:

4 fun and motivating grammar activities for beginner classes is by Adam Simpson.

As always, feedback is welcome — both about sites and your thoughts about how to help students best learn grammar concepts.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

Print Friendly

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

11 Comments

  1. Addressing your sense that all grammar can be acquired indirectly. Especially for older learners, a lot of research has shown that past a certain point, there are grammar structures that are not acquired without explicit instruction.
    One good book that includes research on this topic:
    New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms
    edited by Eli Hinkel and Sandra Fotos
    Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002)
    ISBN 0-8058-3955-0

    Many well-known ESL figures have contributed to the book: Rod Ellis, Jack Richards, Michael McCarthy, Diane Larsen-Freeman, Marianne Celce-Murcia…and more…

    It’s worth knowing what they have researched and how, even if you don’t agree.

    • Karen,

      I appreciate your comment on my blog, as well as all your thoughtful emails on the TESL listserv.

      I actually did not say that all grammar can be taught indirectly. I believe, however, that teaching grammar inductively and through the concept attainment strategy that I mentioned in my post are very effective ways to help guide learners to understand grammar.

      Larry

  2. Sorry to have wrongly interpreted your comment. I agree that inductive learning can be useful, but not necessarily the only way or even the best way to reach concept achievement in all cases.

    As a language learner, *some* grammar items I would just as soon have taught to me directly. After that, I can notice them in the language.

    Sometimes I come across puzzling things in French or Spanish – such as the use in Spanish of the subjunctive (much more widely used than in French). I could NOT figure out some of the patterns. It helped a *lot* to have someone explain it to me. It doesn’t mean I can use it with any great skill, but at least now I can make more sense of it when I see it or hear it, and that will help me incorporate it more rapidly.

    Using an inductive approach to figure out the uses (in English) of present perfect would be difficult, since the tense is very complex – and, since it has poor perceptual salience, much of its use in spoken English goes unnoticed by non-native learners.

  3. Karen,

    You make some excellent points. Our dialogue is a good example of the on-going debate about grammar instructions.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to look at it as an either/or situation.

    Larry

  4. Pingback: The Best Sites For Grammar Practice | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… | Learn English Online With Me

  5. Thanks for the lists of sites. I always found grammar instruction very useful as a language learner (French) but without going into learning styles, I do think students have different backgrounds and approaches to grammar, which makes them learn it in different ways.

    For example, it seems to me that the students who get the most out of a “direct grammar teaching” approach often have good and explicit grammar skills in their native language.

  6. I’m back — I had picked up this link from Twitter and hadn’t noticed it was such an old post!

    I was actually mainly wondering about the correlation between explicit grammar skills in a student’s native language (explicit in that they can not only understand but also explain its grammar) and how they approach grammar in a second language. I’m sure there’s been a lot written about that (as with everything) but it doesn’t seem to come up often in the ongoing “what to do with grammar” debate.

  7. I think you’ll see a correlation between being able to apply abstract principles to real-life situations and being able to use explicit grammar rules.

    Let’s take math as an example. I suspect that people who apply grammar rules well are also people who understand a lot about not just how to *carry out* a math formula as a formula, but how to take that understanding of math and determine when and how to use it in their daily lives. Conversely, I would think that the people good at this aspect of math, if they learned a language, would also do better at applying grammar rules to language production.

    Mostly though, as with math, I think you not only have to learn the rule but practice using it before you get good at applying it.

  8. Pingback: Sites From Today’s Surfing! (weekly) « Swimming in the River

  9. These are wonderful recommendations. Thank you so much for posting them!

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.