My recent blog post, “Unearthing the Secrets of Successful Adult ELLs (Part 2),” explored some of the secrets of successful language learners. Two things are clear: (1) successful language learners don’t depend exclusively on their classroom teacher to master English grammar and (2) they seek out every possible opportunity to fill their ears with the sound of authentic English. In this blog post, I will explore some of the remarkable grammar resources available for free on the Internet. Next time, we will look at Web-based listening resources.
There are, of course, dozens of websites that ELLs can use to hone their grammar. Many are free. Others aren’t. There is no need for students to pay to practice English grammar. Here are a few of my favorite sites—all free and available to any student with access to a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop or a PC.
Learn American English Online
One of my highly motivated students introduced our class to this website this semester. It includes seven color-coded levels of instruction. Each lesson is introduced by a short, explanatory video. These homespun videos are followed by examples and quizzes that students can use to practice the grammar point. The short videos are a big draw: By hitting “replay,” students can listen to an experienced ESL teacher explain a troublesome grammar point over and over again. The site contains additional links for learning American expressions and slang.
Perfect English Grammar
This charming British website offers very lively and clear grammar explanations, and is especially helpful for understanding the usage of the different verb tenses. The explanatory text for each verb tense is divided helpfully into separate sections for “form” and for “use.” These are followed by grammar exercises that students can select for self-study. I especially like the fact the site focuses on the negative, the yes/no question, and the information question forms of all verb tenses, and provides ample opportunities for students to practice these nettlesome facets of our grammar. I routinely assign this site’s grammar exercises for homework to supplement the classroom textbook and for in-class controlled practice.
The most valuable feature of the Anglo-Link website, in my opinion, are the videos that help students understand when to choose one verb tense as opposed to another. Confused about when to use the present perfect vs. the simple past? Minoo (the narrator of the Anglo-Link videos) makes things much clearer. The final section of each video entitled “Common Mistakes” is also very helpful.
English With Jennifer
Another great source of instructional videos are the ones posted by Jennifer on YouTube. If you go to her website, you will be directed to a playlist of her YouTube videos that offer in-depth explanations and examples of almost every conceivable grammar point. There are 65 video lessons for beginners and an almost equal number of videos with detailed grammar explanations and practice for intermediate and advanced students. Jennifer is careful to include many real-life usage examples in her videos, which tend to be longer and more detailed than the other videos mentioned on the above sites—a plus for students who are aficionados of formal grammar instruction.
Useful mainly for high-intermediate and advanced students, this site offers detailed written explanations of the finer points of English grammar that go well beyond many ESL textbooks. For students who like clear charts and are good at noticing and appreciating subtle differences in usage, this site provides a plethora of self-study opportunities. Its quizzes are excellent and often involve intriguing, real-life factual situations drawn from the news. The “feedback” feature of the quizzes offers not only corrections but, in some cases, explanations of why an incorrect answer is wrong.
ESL Games World
Sometimes, even adult students like to play games, and the section of this website entitled Grammar Games and Exercises offers links to dozens of online games. Their Verb Tense Jeopardy and Snakes & Ladders are perennial favorites. I often use them at the end of the semester as part of a general review and I encourage my students to play them at home with their English-speaking children.
Which grammar websites do you and your students enjoy using?