Grammar Quizzes: Comprehensive Resource for ESL

 

Don’t let the name fool you. Grammar-Quizzes.com offers more than just quizzes.

Starting in 1998 Julie Sevastopoulos started compiling ESL resources and posting them on the web under the name “Grammar Check”,  and to this day she’s still at it, updating and adding new English Grammar material under a new domain, “Grammar Quizzes”.

The layout of the  is free of bells and bullhorns. Its strength lies not in cutesy characters or flash-based animations, but in the huge breadth of the material she covers, giving the user hours of systematic language practice with feedback.

The content is tailored to intermediate students, and although it seems that it was made with adults in mind, it does not seem inappropriate for younger audiences.  I found the content to be useful to both non-native speakers of English, as well as native students trying to get a grip on some of the more nuanced verb patterns, or for anyone trying to improve their writing skills.

Some of the areas covered include:

adjectives, adjective clauses, noun clauses, modals, gerunds, infinitives, participles, adverbs, sentence agreement, articles, connectors, present, past, present perfect, conditional and passive tenses, and writing introductions and creating thesis sentences.

Each area is broken down into a thorough lesson, with various examples, links and technical language for the instructor, and practices to self-evaluate.

Some lessons even begin with a diagnostic, which can be very useful for a teacher to introduce the topic. In fact this site lends itself well to both individual practice, say in a computer lab setting, or for direct instruction with the use of a Smartboard and/or projector. The site also lends itself well to note taking and scaffolds the information in a way that is easy to follow.

Overall, Grammar-Quizzes.com The provide an excellent resource for the ESL/ELD educator implementing a blended learning model.

Breathe Some Humor into Your Drab Routine with Pixton Comics for Education

Pixton comics has been around for only a few years now and it’s no surprise that they have won many ed-techy awards in their short lifespan. But it took just a half an hour before I  became instantly hooked.

Pixton allows students and teachers can create their own highly-customizable comic strips with unlimited options, scenes, characters, poses, props, and backgrounds. The uses for these strips are manifold, but Pixton does a great job of making them user-friendly and purposeful. They provide a community where users can submit their comics to showcase learning, comment on , and remix other strips.

Teachers can make their own (as seen below) and assign students projects based on the strip. Students can remix them, or make their own. They can add panels, re-edit an already published strip, work collaboratively, and get approval from their teacher once their project is complete.  Teachers can also monitor student progress and manage their classes, assignments and grades.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pixton also allows users to print, download and (thankfully) embed their creations. For ELL’s the potential here is truly exciting. Students in groups or individually can add appropriate dialogue, even record their own audio tracks to correspond to each panel, or type content into speech bubbles to illustrate real-life scenarios, for example.  Ideas like these keep bubbling  like effervescent bursts of inspiration when one plays with Pixton.  Give it a shot here for a trial period.

Yeah, the downside is that it costs money. But It’s not out of this world, and one teacher could afford to make one account that allows up to four users. These could be set up as teams of students. The above strip will be part of a CELDT practice module that will soon be available for download.

 

iBooks and English Language Learners

Apple’s recent announcement of a “gamechanger” in education arrived with much fanfare and generated mega decibels of buzz around the world because the Cupertino, CA tech giant was again attempting, to either  A) help revolutionize how we consume and create content, or B)  to gobble up yet another industry.

The past few days have produced many posts and tweets, many critical, many outraged, some cynical and  others truly awed and excited about the possibilites iBook Author offers. With all the questions regarding content ownership, portability, collusion with mega publishers aside, we at Zacatechista wanted to drop our own thought droppings on eTextbooks and iBook Author specifically.

 

Here is a screenshot of our current project–and the reason for this post:

We should disclose that we have been working for more than a year now on a set of English Language Development games and apps for the iPad called elDcoder, and while the project is still under construction, the prospects of being able to extend its boundaries  into the textbook realm offers new possibilities.

First, as content creators we look forward to adapting and extending the content of elDcoder,  which is currently much more geared to gaming and testing English listening, reading, writing skills, and porting some of that over onto a sequential textbook series that can accompany the app, or vice versa. And its clear after only one weekend of playing with iBook Author really makes this process easy. This should come as no surprise, coming from the same company that puts out Garage Band and iMovie, both of which were used to build the content for the first chapter of elDcoder’s (Beginner level).

Getting the hang of it was no problem. Knowing how to best take advantage of the features and to better streamline your job will require more tinkering. Discovering the versatility of working with Dashcode also contributed to the prolonged sense of tech-arousal inherent in these interactions. Now a textbook can be embedded with anything we can dream of, as long as it is not Flash.

As for what this means for English Language Learners? Well, anyone that teaches ELL students knows that ELD curriculum is not always the top priority of most schools or districts. The requirements are there, but ELD, at least as it is practiced in California is a reality often found on paper, but with so many curricular and other constraints, it often goes untaught or folded into the traditional English Language Arts, leaving many students with profound language gaps in both the forms and functions of English which prevent them from every reaching Fluent English Proficient Status, permanently relegating them to a secondary LEP  status, thereby  not graduating, or amounting to anything, and dying a cold and lonely death.

OK, hyperbole aside, It should also be noted that while explicit English Language Development is very important, not just for newcomers, but for those students with years in the system, there often is very little invested in terms of materials for its instructions, leaving many teachers to make up their own curriculum.  This is where iBooks author comes in. All of us who are in the trade of educating English Language Learners in all of their manifestations and who have been for years developing our own curriculum where there was none now can come together and start building the next generation of textbooks, as open and free in many cases, and under Apples restrictive ownership agreements in others.

The goal for us ESL teachers, authors and content providers  should not be whether can get rich making textbooks, as the mega-conglomerates are happy to do, but to offer schools the most authentic, constantly updated, classroom-tested textbooks at the lowest possible price in the name of education. If we must partner with the Giant Apple that is now doing the gobbling in order to do so, then we must deal with them with the best interest of our students constantly in our mind.

If you are interested in contacting us about possible collaborations or if you have further questions, please leave a comment below. We will be launching a more formal collaborative effort with the aims of producing a collaborative eTextbook series for English Language Learners in the coming months and asking other interested educators to share their lessons, materials and other resources for inclusion into the elDecoder series.

 

 

 

 

 

Idioms Until the Cows Come Home

There are more sites to learn idioms that you could shake a stick at. Finding a good one, however, can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  During the past few days I have been searching for the best ones to share with my group of Early Advanced ELD students who still can’t seem to make heads or tails out of some pretty basic idioms– idioms that for an native speaker are easy as pie to understand.  BrainPOP has by far one of the best lessons on this, except you need an account. Actually you just need a user name and a password, which is easy as pie track down if you know how to use Google. Oops, I guess that let the cat out of the bag, however ZapaTECHISTA does not officially condone nor promote the use of such illegitimate passwords that some districts are careless enough to post on public websites, and can therefore give access to the great content that BrainPOP and BrainPOP ESL  provides without having to pay the piper.

Enough beating around the bush. Here is a list of the best ones, and some decent runners-up.

Idiom site:  A bare bones list of idioms with definitions. Alphabetized for convenience- Not the holy grail, but not too shabby either.

Vocabulary.co.il has a few line-match games based on idioms. They have a lot of good vocab games as well. Look under the game for more  games. Kids will enjoy checking their guesses at the end.

UsingEnglish.com is another no-frills site, that includes “3,498 English idiomatic expressions with definitions” and counting. Not the prettiest site, but impressive in its breadth and scope.

The Idiom connection: These guys put together another impressive list, with quizzes, and categorized by topic. They also put together a list of the 100 most commonly used idioms in the English language.

Read-Write-Think has a decent page on idioms, and while it is limited to a few, it is more interactive in that it asks students to type out the metaphorical meaning, and then use them in a sentence.

The Children’s University of Manchester idioms page is a flash based lesson/game  based on a few color idioms.  Highly recommended along with the rest of their content. If you don’t live in the UK you might find yourself doing some learning as well, as a few of the idioms are particularly “English”.

Idioms Bite the Dust: A PowerPoint – centered site with some good lesson ideas and worksheets.

Quia: not usually the best site, but this Jeopardy-style game actually asks you to submit a guess without the multiple choices.

To CELDT or not to CELDT?

Despite widely known issues with the reliability and validity of the California English Language Development Test, as well as other standardized tests that assess English language proficiency throughout the nation, California continues to determine the future of 1.5 million English Language Learners according to its results.

Brush up on your knowledge of the issues:

Stokes-Guinan, K. & Goldenbery, C. (2010).  Use with Caution: What CELDT results can and cannot tell us. CATESOL Journal. Retrieved by http://www.stanford.edu/~claudeg/publications2009-2010/StokesGuinan&GoldenbergFINAL.pdf

Would you like more?  Let us know.

Enjoy!