English grammar practice on the Web

We know some SLA authors say explicit grammar teaching is not the most efficient way to help our students learn a language. However, many teachers believe that specific grammar work is needed in order to deal with some difficult grammar points or structures and some students, especially those who are older, want to have grammar explanations and practice because they prefer to learn the rules before attempting to use the language in communicative situations (or because they need it to pass their exams). Anyway, many teachers and students demand grammar practice exercises and we can find a lot of them on the Web. As Levy & Stockwell (2006:185) have written:

"Despite this general movement away from drill-based grammar instruction, it is perhaps ironic that many people new to the field consider this type of activity to be the essence of what CALL is. Drill-based activities most certainly still have their place in the language curriculum."

The main ESL directories have wide grammar sections which include links to sites with grammar tutorials, exercises and activities.

Some of the websites which offer good repositories of grammar quizzes and exercises in their servers are the following:

  • About.com : With quizzes for different learner levels and grammar topics.
  • Activities for ESL Students : Grammar Quizzes about Places and different levels (Easy, Medium and Difficult).
  • Basic Grammar : For lower levels and review.

  • Clicknlearn : Multimedia activities for Spanish Secondary Education students.

  • E.L. Easton : Grammar section with links and exercises related to different parts of speech (Adjectives, Articles, Conjunctions, Nouns, Prepositions, Pronouns, Verbs).
  • English4U : Alphabetical classification and level rating.

  • English-Hilfen : Excellent German site with tutorials and related exercises. You can subscribe to their newsletter with the latest news.

  • ESLGold : From low beginning to advanced.

  • Learnenglishfeelgood.com : English grammar tests that focus on topics that ESL students often find difficult to understand.

  • Manythings.org : Some of the quizzes you can find here are also at the A4ESL site.

  • NonstopEnglish : If you register and login you can see which tests you have done and how successfully.

  • Road to Grammar : More than 300 interactive exercises and a section for younger learners.

  • World English : Exercises and tests covering the main areas, including a diagnostic grammar test.

Other sites with grammar games and other activities are the following:

  • Grammar Safari : Suggestions for "hunting" and "collecting" examples of specific words and structures as they are used in documents accessible to anyone on the Internet.
  • Netgrammar : Lesson plans on grammar contents with explanations, exercises and skills practice.
  • Tenses : English tenses tutorial.

Now that you have visited all these rich grammar practice sites, you should forget about them according to Steve Kaufmann's language learner's manifesto.

Of course, grammar games and tutorial exercises are not the only way to learn grammar with Web resources, there are more possibilities, just in case grammar should be taught at all. Levy & Stockwell (2006) see three main types of grammar instruction with computers:

"Grammar teaching in CALL generally takes one of three forms: grammar tutorial exercises, learner-centered grammar instruction, or communicative grammar instruction...

...(Learner-centered grammar instruction) places greater emphasis on the learners to deduce the rules of the target language for themselves. One means of doing so that features regularly in the literature is the use of concordancing and corpora...
...The only way in which learners are able to have access to 'unlimited' language input is through authentic communication, be this with native speakers or with other learners of the language. The choice of the appropriate form of computer mediated communication is a difficult one, and different types of CMC allow for emphasis on different aspects of language learning.

With regard to grammar learning in Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) activities, Chapelle (2005) comments the following:

"Whereas much grammar learning might best be carried out through explicit grammar teaching, we have seen that CMC tasks offer a wealth of opportunities for learning through language practice that is not directed specifically at the teaching of any particular grammatical point... CMC provides a mechanism for valuable communication, but shaping the mechanism into valuable opportunities for learning is the pedagogical challenge. Here the research is very difficult to interpret because researchers have studied a variety of phenomena, but the overall finding is that teachers need to plan for good CMC exchanges."