Friday, May 17, 2013

Best Grammar Sites For Teaching English to Beginner Level Students

This month I did a big review of different grammar websites that work well for teaching and recommending to ESL students (English language students).

This post is the first of 4 posts on this topic of 'best grammar sites'.

Of the 21 sites I reviewed,  only 6 fit the category of being best for beginners, and I would really only recommend 5 out of 6 of the sites listed below, as noted.

NOTE: I gave each category a score out of five point for each of these categories: 
  • How easy the site was  to navigate
  • Whether it had a good ´look up list´of grammar topics
  • Grammar lessons
  • Clear explanations or just cryptic 'dictionary like' explanations
  • Lots of examples
  • Interactive exercises and quizzes
1. University of Victoria ELC Study Zone (My ranking 29/30)

2. Grammar Monster (geared to kids and teens) (My ranking 29/30)

3. Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online (My ranking: 28/30)

4. Study and (My ranking: 25/30)

5. Manythings- Interesting Things for ESL Students (My ranking:19/30 )

6. English ( My ranking: 12/30--Not recommended)

Here is a review of each of my top 5 recommendations in more detail:

1University of Victoria ELC Study Zone (My ranking 29/30)

Great site!
I love how it is easy to find grammar topics  by level, including a basic introductory level (upper beginner level). Easy to navigate and use. 

You have to be able to read some English, so it would be best for false beginners.
There is a lot of white space. It`s  intuitively laid out. 

There is a very natural and useful progression of grammar topics. If you start clicking on the top menu link, this is a good place to start learning English.

I like that this site has grammar lessons and exercises as well as an index with quick look-up topics that were made with ESL students in mind, and organized in a way that it would be very easy for students to find their level and begin learning.

This site would be great for intermediate level students too, but shines as a beginner grammar site since it is so clean, clear and easy to navigate by level, starting with an introductory level of English.

2. Grammar Monster  (My ranking 29/30)

This site had everything I was looking for, except it was geared towards kids and not adults.
It would work well for low beginners who happen to be adults if they weren`t turned off by the cartoon character images which makes it appealing to kids. 
It was clearly laid out and easy to navigate, although I would have preferred that the parts of speech were listed on top instead of punctuation. 

I really like the simple design of the site and menu lists. The clear and simple definition for each grammar point is easy to spot and understand as a result of the intuitive layout and font sizes, and there are a lot of simple examples to help students understand the definitions. I liked how they separated the sub-points of a grammar topic, so it`s easy to know what is the important point to learn first. I also really like the interactive quizzes at the bottom of each page.

3. Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online (My ranking: 28/30)

This site is a very comprehensive grammar site perfectly suited to the ESL language learner.

Although best suited to German students because of the occasional translations to German,  the simple and clear layout would be easy for any language student to understand and be able to learn from if they could read some English to start with (false beginners).

The main downside to this site is that the site is cluttered and the ads on the homepage make it difficult to know what is content and what is advertising, and where to begin.

Tip: Scroll down the left menu to find beginner English topics. There are simple definitions, a lot of examples, and an impressive amount of interactive exercises and quizzes to help students master each grammar point.

There is a ton of content on this site, so I´d recommend Look way to the bottom, for the ''Exercises - Levels'', to find things organized by years of English learned ( so, this is where to find things for beginners, intermediate and advanced students). Send the students the direct links to these pages rather than the homepage since the homepage is so difficult to navigate.

4. Study and Exam

I really like how simple and clean the layout is and the way it describes grammar points. The only things missing from this site are interactive exercises and quizzes.

Students would need to know how to read basic English to use this site,  so it is best suited to false beginners who can read some English, but it includes many ''beginner'' topics and grammar and writing topics that a lot of grammar sites don’t include (kinds of sentences and the parts of speech) as well as the finer points of English (all the different types of nouns, determiners, and adjectives) using a simple, straightforward format.

 Although it’s very comprehensive, the clean layout and very  short, simple examples of each point would not overwhelm beginning students as much as wordy, condense sites written for native speakers of English.

Because of its comprehensiveness, it would also be really useful for intermediate students and advanced students. It includes more complex topics, like the difference between phrases and clauses and subordinate clauses, indirect speech and narratives. I`ve listed it here as a great beginner site because it includes basic, ''beginner'' topics and has such a clean and easy to understand layout.

5. Many -

This site didn`t meet a lot of my criteria as a grammar ´look up´ site, and the ranking is low as a result, but it has a lot of really useful content for true beginners, including grammar (indirectly) so I decided to include it.

It would almost be best to think of this site as a 'pre-grammar' site well suited to learners with 0 English and a poor understanding of the parts of speech in their own native language. It is very well set up to introduce adult learners, and true beginners, to English.

I love the simple and intuitive layout, with ' Easy things for Beginners' so prominently displayed on the homepage. There is also a 'grammar' menu option at the top, which has a couple of very useful options that are perfect for true beginners.

For example, under the 'Grammar' menu at the top, there is  an amazing directory of 'Bilingual Sentence Pairs' phrases in 44 languages. Using this tool,students could figure out the nuts and bolts of the English language  in comparison to their own through learning common sentence patterns, and so be more prepared to dissect and understand the mechanics of the parts of speech in English.

Another useful too is here:   -- ''Fun, randomly generated sentences'', geared to helping students  learn the parts of speech.

There are also excellent audio exercises to help students learn pronunciation and improve their listening and comprehension skills.
A fine site, with unique content, and truly innovative. It is one of my favorite sites for low level ESL students.

That wraps up my reviews and top recommendations for great grammar sites for beginners.

Have I missed a grammar site that is great for beginners?
Let me know and I`ll review it and add it to the list!

Next month´s post will be ' Great Grammar Sites To Recommend to Intermediate Students'

I reviewed 21 grammar sites in total. I have broken my reviews of these sites into 4 posts, with good grammar sites for:

1. Beginners (true beginners and false beginners)
2. Intermediate students (intermediate and  upper intermediate)
3. Advanced students and teachers (those studying to get into university abroad, and teachers   who need quick, concise grammar lookup sites)

4. The fourth post will be a  summary with a 'Grammar Site Chart' - a chart  with a breakdown of my rankings, as well as a full and annotated list of all grammar sites reviewed.

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