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 (see posts near the bottom of The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching) 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.
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
Road To Grammar Jr. has many interactive grammar quizzes.
Oxford Practice Grammar Student’s Site
Cool English has a number of nice student interactives.
INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED
Road To Grammar (different from the “Jr.” version) has a number of interactive quizzes.
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.
Interactive ESL Grammar Games comes from ESL Games
English Grammar Secrets has many good grammar interactives.
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.
Teaching grammar inductively – Catherine Walter is a video from The British Council. You’ll catch the most useful info if you just watch the last five minutes
Four strategies for grammar instruction is the title of a post I wrote for Teaching English British Council.
Planning a grammar lesson is from The British Council.
“GrammarFlip” Might Have Potential For Reinforcement Of…Grammar Skills
Statistic Of The Day: Explicit Teaching Of Grammar Is Not A Winner – What Do You Think Is?
Nine major shortcomings of L2 grammar instruction and how to address them is from The Language Gym.
Does Bad “Grammar” Instruction Make Writing Worse? is by Patricia Dunn.
Grammar review using drawings is from ELT Planning.
Teaching grammar through Listening is from The Language Gym.
Teaching grammar through listening (part 2) is from Language Gym.
Grammar: The Skunk at the Garden Party is from Edutopia.
Think “Makerspace!” for Your Grammar Studies appeared in Middleweb.
Elena suggests LingBase as a nice online site for grammar exercises.
Sound Grammar provides lots of free videos, along with student handouts, on grammar. It seems to be a newer site (at least to me!) created by the same people behind ELLO, which has been an excellent site ELL site for many years.
I received a number of useful replies to the question I asked in this tweet. Here are a few of them, along with a few other comments I’ve made (I’m adding them to The Best Sites For Grammar Practice):
What’s a good link to a grammar sequence you would teach to ELL Newcomers? Yes, yes, I know it’s important to flexible and focus on communicative strategies. But what basic sequence outline do you like to keep in mind when teaching?
— Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) May 3, 2021
I use materials from @ESLlibrary and they have a teaching order that I follow. Great materials that include a highly scaffolded writing prompt where I’ve seen some of my students’ best writing after explicit instruction on a grammar point
— Christina Terranova, M. Ed. , S. Ed. (@ESLswood) May 4, 2021
By the way, you can see the ESL Library sequence here.
All past using DID in front of verb
Present as is
Future using WILL in front of verb
HS Ss & adults are SO appreciative of this method especially when u use content in context of school & their jobs!
Then introduce CAN.
— Dorina Ebuwa (#Emotional_IntELLigence4Teachers) (@Dorina_BELIEVE) May 3, 2021
Don’t have a link, but basic English sentence is Subject + Verb + Object. Pro tip: When a new verb is introduced, teach present AND past AND future tenses simultaneously. Lack of past tense mastery can prevent Sts from progressing.
— Maria Cruz (@DrCruzerman) May 3, 2021
I do the following:
Verb to be
Future – going to.
ALL OF THE ABOVE USE THE VERB TO BE
After this I jump to present simple and at this point, they have seen enough grammar to be able to deal with the next ones.
This is just me.
— Víctor Mejía (@vicmejia13) May 3, 2021
Nouns, pronouns,simple verb tenses, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs, past participle, present Progressive, ect … articles are usually introduced at the very beginning.
— Maria A. Grajales (@mamegr17) May 3, 2021
I like this resource for grammar https://t.co/fs1Tt9YdaH
— Denise Recarte (@denise_recarte) May 3, 2021
I agree with Denise’s recommendation – it’s a very useful site!
A couple of other useful sites are:
How to Teach Grammar to ESL Students: the Sequence by Simply Ieva and GrammarBank.
Seven Strategies for Grammar Instruction is the headline of one of my Education Week columns.
THE THREE-LEGGED STRATEGY I’M USING TO TEACHING GRAMMAR IN MY ELL NEWCOMERS CLASS – HELP ME IMPROVE IT!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for sharing!
These are wonderful recommendations. Thank you so much for posting them!
Well, this is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!
So many grammar resources to check out here! Thanks, Larry.
English learners and teachers around the world enjoy using EnglishClub’s free grammar reference pages and quizzes, too.
I want to say that I find you blog extremely useful and interesting for me, I just finished my major in teaching English and during this time I read about metacognition because my thesis was focus on that topic, so it was very useful for me, So now, that I´m starting teaching English, I have to tell you that your blog has given to me many resources for preparing my classes. I really really appreciate it.
Andrea, Glad you’ve found it helpful!
You might like to add http://linguapress.com/grammar/ to your list. It has plenty of clear explanations of the main points of English grammar
I find this a helpful site as it has lots of quizzes to practice specific grammar points
Thank for the list and the links! I’d add https://lingbase.com/ to it. It’s a new resource for online grammar learning. There are hundreds of interactive exercises (6 types of them all in all), each has a pool of randomly chosen questions. All problematic topics like tenses, modal verbs, articles, prepositions are covered. There’s a built-in short grammar reference in each exercise, quite handy. You can choose from an elementary grammar course and a pool of topics (explanation + exercises). I find it a good tool to practise English grammar.