Great Grammar & Academic Writing Resources for Advanced ELLs

In my last blog post, I offered a quick overview of six grammar websites that I have found consistently helpful to high-beginners and intermediate students looking for additional grammar practice outside of class. This week, we’ll look at several websites that offer grammar and writing assistance for advanced ESL students, including students who are preparing for college-level work in the United States. We’ll also take a look at a new textbook that integrates grammar and academic writing in intriguing new ways.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, is perhaps already familiar to many ESL writing teachers. It offers detailed pointers on both the writing process itself and academic writing, as well as links to refreshers aimed at correcting the kinds of grammar errors to which many writers—ELLs and native speakers of English alike—are prone.

In addition, I have recently discovered several less well-known sites that are worth the attention of advanced students as well as their instructors. Like many writing websites, Hyper Grammar includes helpful suggestions for writing a paragraph, a topic sentence, and a thesis statement. However, in my opinion, its most useful features are its step-by-step guidelines on building essays from the ground up, with clear and helpful explanations on how to build phrases, clauses, and sentences. Its explanation of why different sentence structures matter is particularly cogent.

Dartmouth’s Institute of Writing and Rhetoric has a special section geared to multilingual writers. It includes an excellent cross-cultural explanation of how writing in American universities differs from that in other cultures as well as outstanding and clear pointers on such challenging topics as writing strong thesis statements. This site’s list of resources for multilingual writers is also worth exploring.

Capital Community College’s Guide to Grammar and Writing allows students to practice some of the advanced grammar and writing skills in a controlled way with a series of writing quizzes on topics such as combining simple sentences and achieving essay coherence. These are challenging activities that will really make students (and their instructors!) think hard about their writing.

Finally, a new textbook that integrates grammar and academic writing for ELLs crossed my desk recently. It is Grammar & Beyond (4A & 4B) by John D. Bunting, Luciana Diniz, and Randi Reppen (Cambridge 2013). The textbook’s sample essays address thought-provoking topics—corporate, environmental and consumer social responsibility; immigration; privacy in the digital age; and cultural perspectives on business etiquette and the role of women in society—that are designed to stimulate both pre–writing class discussions and additional writing activities.

Grammar relevant to each different category of essay (narrative, cause and effect, compare/contrast, persuasive, and problem-solution) is not relegated to separate chapters but incorporated into the essay chapters themselves, giving students the grammar tools needed to write different kinds of essay effectively. And for students who need to acquire college-level vocabulary, each chapter’s essays are studded with words from the academic word list (AWL). Indeed, the AWL is reprinted as an appendix, with cross-references to the chapters where those words are used in sample essays.

These aspects, combined with the text’s corpus-based “Data from the Real World” and “Avoid Common Mistakes” features, make this an intriguing new entrant into the world of English for academic purposes textbooks.

What resources do you turn to in your academic writing classes for ELL’s?

About Alexandra Lowe

Alexandra Lowe
Alexandra is an ESL instructor at SUNY Westchester Community College, where she has taught Speaking & Listening in the Intensive English Program, English for Academic Purposes, Business English, Accent on Fluency and a wide range of ESL levels. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she brings to the classroom the experience gained from years of creating workshops for judges, lawyers, physicians, social workers and journalists. Her primary interests are bringing authentic materials into the ESL classroom and self-directed learning strategies that students can use outside of the classroom to accelerate their learning and enhance their speaking skills.
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