Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 17, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Aardvark’s English Forum

Aardvark’s English Forum is one of the many websites out there with grammar and vocabulary exercises for English Language Learners. I’ve had a link on my website to it for several years.

I’m writing a post about it here, though, because it has a number of exercises that offer a slightly unique twist that some students might like. When they take some of the interactive tests, like this one on animals, there’s a place for them to type their name in. Then, after it’s completed and had the computer check their answers, they can print out the sheet — with their name on it — and keep it for future study.

Yeah, I know, it’s not that big of a deal to be able to type a name on the sheet. However, having it printed out with their name on it and then being able to show their teacher and parents can indeed be a benefit to some students. It might seem a bit more “legitimate” than just writing their name on it.

Print Friendly

March 2, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Additions To “The Best…” Lists On Grammar & Women’s History

Here are some new resources I’m adding to a couple of “The Best…” lists:

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. I’m adding his blog to The Best Sites For Grammar Practice. Thanks to Life Is A Feast for the tip.

Milpitas Chat shares a number of good online ESL lessons related to Women’s History.  I’m adding the link to The Best Sites For Learning About Women’s History. Thanks to U.S. Citizenship Podcast for the tip.

Print Friendly

February 11, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Virtual Grammar Lab

I’m adding the Virtual Grammar Lab to two “The Best…” lists — The Best Sites For Grammar Practice and The Best Sites Where Students Can Work Independently & Let Teachers Check On Progress.

It has over 2400 grammar activities, and teachers can create a free account so that they can track student progress.

Print Friendly

January 25, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Sections On My Website

I have nearly 9,000 categorized links — all except for a few accessible to English Language Learners — on my website.

It’s designed for self-access by students. Many classes at our school use it, including our daily after-school ESL computer lab. My understanding is that classes throughout the world use it, too.

You can read a more extensive description of each page here.

I’d also encourage you to read articles I’ve written that describe how, in my opinion, computers can be most effectively used with English Language Learners and other students.

I have approximately twenty separate pages on my website.  Links become obsolete pretty quickly on the Internet, so I verify links on my site about twice each year.  My “system” is to verify links on one page each week and, then, when I’ve gone through all of them, start again.

I thought it might be useful  to create a “The Best…” list highlighting what I think are the most useful sections of my site. After all, nine-thousand links can be an intimidating number to both students and teachers alike.

Here are my choices of The Best Sections On My Website (not in order of preference):

I have less than one hundred links under Favorite Sites. These are the ones that I think — out of the 9,000 — are the best for English Language Learners. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Most are best for Beginning and Early Intermediate ELL’s, though many are also suitable for Intermediates.

I also like the substantial Citizenship section. You can find many accessible links related to government and civics that are very helpful to students at any language level preparing to take the U.S. Citizenship test.

You can find links to literally thousands of “talking stories” for Beginning English Language Learners under Stories.

Writing is another good section for Beginning ELL’s.

The links under Health are appropriate for any level of ELL, though a small number might not be suitable for very young students.

Word and Video Games is filled with English-learning games for all levels. You might want to read about how I use the online video games that are listed there as a language learning activity.

You can find a ton of tools and examples of how students can easily create their own online projects at Examples of Student Work.

Students enjoy a lot of online Geography games.

There are also a lot useful links on the Teacher Page.

I began to create a The Best Websites page adapting all of my “The Best…” lists.  However, I found that it was just as easy for my students to access them directly from my blog, especially since I had them all organized in one place.  After putting versions of twenty of the lists on my website, I just couldn’t bring myself to do 170 more.

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

December 7, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
11 Comments

The Best Sites For Grammar Practice

''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

November 19, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

Common Grammar Errors By Hmong ELL’s

Ya Po Cha, a talented teacher of the Hmong language and of science at our school, recently prepared a short PowerPoint describing The Most Common Grammar Mistakes Hmong Students Make (he gave me position to post it here).

I think it’s helpful to anyone who teaches Hmong English Language Learners.  This presentation also shows that it’s useful for teachers to get a similar understanding of how the “rules” governing student native languages can affect their learning of English.

Print Friendly

September 12, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Free Rice Has Just Gotten Better

Thanks to the Langwitches blog, I just learned that Free Rice, the great English vocabulary game that pioneered the now-popular idea of having advertisers make a contribution to a worthy case for every correct answer to a learning game, has gotten even better.

It now has questions related to grammar, geography, art, foreign language and math, too.

Besides the social contribution students make by the playing the game, I particularly like it because the questions change depending on the success of the player — if they’re doing well, the questions get harder; if they’re getting a lot wrong, the questions get easier.

Free Rice was listed in The Best Online Learning Games — 2007.  You can also find it on my Best Websites page, which is designed for student self-access.

Print Friendly

August 21, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Explicit Teaching of Grammar

Periodically on various ESL/EFL listservs there will be a flurry of messages about grammar. Some will speak strongly for the importance of spending a lot of time teaching the grammar rules and correcting grammar errors. Others will quote Stephen Krashen and question the pedagogical value of a whole lot of explicit teaching of grammar rules and correction. I’m definitely in the second group.

Dave Kees, an EFL teacher in China, often writes very insightful messages about language-teaching topics. He wrote a great story about the teaching of grammar that I think is worth reading.

And if you aren’t already on some of the key ESL/EFL listservs, you can learn about them by reading The Best Resource Sites For ESL/EFL Teachers.

Print Friendly

August 18, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Mia Cadaver’s Tombstone Timeout Is A Great Game!

Mia Cadaver’s Tombstone Timeout (helluva’ name, eh?) is a new, and great, game from the BBC. It’s very similar to another BBC game that is a favorite of my students called Gut Instinct, which is ranked very high on my The Best Online Learning Games — 2008.

Both of these games ask questions related to Math, Science and English, and you can choose which subject you want to use.  One of the improvements that Mia Cadaver has over Gut Instinct, though, is that Math and Science are divided into levels of difficulty.  That makes it more accessible to a larger number of students.

But the big selling point for both of these games is that, within seconds, you can create a private “virtual room” where only your students compete against each other.  Everybody just types in the name you’ve given the room, and the questions begin.  After each question is answered the screen shows the overall ranking of everybody in the room.  Students love it!

I often have classroom games with students participating in small groups.  An ongoing challenge with this is to make sure everybody is engaged and no one is “coasting.”   There are certainly strategies to maximize student participation, and I use them, but that’s certainly not an issue when everyone is playing a game like Mia Cadaver or Gut Instinct — even when they’re doing it in pairs.

Your students will have fun playing and learning!

Print Friendly

March 14, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Thank Goodness For Stephen Krashen!

Last week I read an article in The Oregonian newspaper that shared that test scores had dramatically increased this year for English Language Learners.   That’s good news, right?

Then why was I so discouraged by what I read?  Because the article quoted a bunch of people attributing the success to schools focusing on explicit grammar instruction.  Ugh…

Thankfully, Stephen Krashen did a little further digging.  He discovered that the state used a different test this year.  It’s certainly not good science, he points out,  to claim there is a connection between different teaching methods and a change in test scores when you use a different form of measurement!

I’d certainly recommend reading his analysis, which includes a summary of the research critiquing the effectiveness of focusing on explicit grammar instruction with English Language Learners.

Print Friendly

February 11, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Sentence Scrambles

I’ve placed a link I call More Sentence Scrambles on my English For Beginners page under Sentences.

It’s a series of well-designed exercises  by Josefina Herrara Cides using Hot Potatoes software.  Students have to put the words in order to compose correct sentences.

You can see quite a few other kinds of activities she has created  using Hot Potatoes just by clicking “Index” on the Sentence Scrambles page.

Print Friendly

December 11, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Say What? Grammar

Say What? Grammar Quizzes are, if you want some simple interactive exercises to reinforce some grammar rules, fairly engaging. 

I personally think there are a lot better ways to teach grammar than through these kinds of activities, but I also know that sometimes students want grammar practice.  In those situations, you could do a lot worse than these activities.

I’ve placed the link on my English For Beginners page at the bottom of the Grammar section.

Print Friendly

October 14, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

What Is A Sentence?

What Is A Sentence? is another game/activity created by the BBC.  In the game, which provides audio and text support, students identify mistakes in sentences shown on the screen.  As far as learning grammar goes, it’s one of the less painful ways to do so.

I’ve placed it on the Grammar category of my English For Beginners page.

Print Friendly

October 5, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Road To Grammar

Road To Grammar and its companion site, Road to Grammar Jr. , are good places for students who want some reinforcement on English skills.  I never use “drill and kill” in class, and have serious reservations about spending much classtime doing explicit grammar instruction, but some students seem to like doing this kind of work on the computer.

The best part of the site, in my opinion, is a section called Rhyming Words.  It’s a game using audio and text where students have to pick the words that rhyme with a central word.

I’ve placed Road to Grammar on the bottom of the Grammar section on the Intermediate English page.  I’ve placed a direct link to Rhyming Words on the Grammar section of my English For Beginners page.

Print Friendly

July 9, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Grammar Sites

I’ve been asked to write a guest “post” each month on the Learning With Computers blog about the topic of the month.  Learning with Computers is a group of ESL teachers who are experimenting with the use of technology in the classroom.

Last month the focus was on grammar, and I thought I’d share what I wrote there with readers of this blog.

There are a ton of sites that focus on grammar. Many of them are mind-numbing lists of exercises and are almost as bad as the useless grammar worksheets that many textbook publishers put out.

Today I’d like to highlight two sites that I think are the best, especially for beginner English Language Learners. They stand-out for both providing text with audio support, and also provide a variety of different activities. My high school students here in Sacramento, California, seem to like them, too.

One is Grammarman Comics, which teaches grammar through the use of attractive online………comics.

The other is Grammar Gold, which provides a series of fun exercises that teach and provide opportunities to practice English grammar.

For more grammar sites accessible to Beginner students, you can go to the Grammar section on my website’s Beginner’s page.

For grammar sites appropriate for Intermediate or Advanced English Language Learners, check-out the Intermediate Grammar category on my webpage.

I hope these are helpful links.

Print Friendly

June 7, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

English Exercises

English Exercises was developed by an EFL teacher in France, and has a long list of…… exercises.  I particularly like the “Story Building” ones near the bottom of his site, where students have to “build” a story by choosing from a variety of sentences.

I’ve placed it on the English For Intermediate and Advanced page at the bottom of the Other category (there are such a variety of activities I couldn’t think of a better place to put it).  However, many of the exercises would also be accessible to High Beginners.

Print Friendly

April 5, 2007
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Great Exercises

Faculty at Vancouver Community College have put together a series of excellent exercises for Beginner and Intermediate English Language Learners.  These include ones for vocabulary, grammar, and sentence “scrambles.”

Some include audio, and many have images.

I’ve placed the link under the Favorite Sites section of the English Themes for Intermediate and Advanced.  It’s called “VCC Exercises.”

Print Friendly