Helpful Resources for Students

Helpful Free Resources
Free Games To Practice English

One of the most frequent requests I get from students, especially now that I’m teaching mostly adults, is for resources they can use to practice English on their own. Understandably, since they are paying a fair amount of money for classes and books already, my students are most interested in free resources. In early 2021, I shared some resources I’ve made for students in the posts Student Reference Tools and New Resources for a New Semester. I brought most of these reference links and downloads together into two posts, each with the resources specifically geared toward the curriculum we use (Pathways by National Geographic, Listening/Speaking and Reading/Writing). This week I’d like to share with you two of the resource lists I use for more general requests. These lists are not tied to any specific curriculum and are broader in their application. The resources included in these lists would be appropriate for upper elementary through adults, with a few being applicable to lower elementary as well. You can see previews of each resource to the side here and the link to download the PDF file is below each image. Let’s get into some details about each file.

Helpful Free Resources

This compilation contains links to ten different resources for all different types of helpful sites.

  • Word Hippo–an extremely helpful online dictionary/thesaurus (also an app) that also includes pronunciation, translation, and word form options
  • Khan Academy–not just for math anymore, there’s a great section for grammar learning and practice
  • DuoLingo–a free website/app for learning English, particularly helpful phrases and basic vocabulary
  • KnightCite–helpful for citing references in MLA, APA, or Chicago format while writing
  • ESL Cyber Listening Lab–listening activities with comprehension exercises
  • Read & Write–an extension that will read websites and online documents aloud in the Chrome browser
  • Creating Recordings–two different options for when students need to create a recording or video
  • YouTube Channels–three different channels great for learning and reviewing grammar, vocabulary, and more

Each of the ten resources includes a link to the website, links to the app in the Google Play and Apple stores (where applicable), a brief description of why it is useful, and a logo or picture to help students ensure they’re in the right place (especially when they can’t use the direct link for some reason and try to locate the site by name).

Free Sites to Play English Practice Games

Practicing anything is more fun if it can be done in a game format. There is also a growing amount of research supporting the idea that we learn more through play than study alone. It is no surprise that my students prefer to play games rather than complete workbook style exercises, so I’ve compiled this set of eight sites to allow them to do just that. Some of the sites are geared more towards younger learners but my students haven’t minded. We have a good relationship and they know from our time in class that I respect them. Once again, each of the eight sections provides a link to the website, links to the app in the Google Play and Apple stores (where applicable), a brief description of the site (including if it is geared toward children), and a logo or picture to help them identify the correct site. The included sites are:

  • Jeopardy Labs–Jeopardy games to practice just about anything
  • MES Games–games aimed more towards children for practicing vocabulary and basic grammar
  • Educa Play–great for older learners to practice vocabulary and grammar
  • English Club–organized into sections for grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation and geared toward older learners
  • Review Game Zone–more difficult to navigate with older style games but still free and useful for practice
  • ESL Games+— definitely aimed at children with games for basic vocabulary and beginning grammar
  • Quizlet–make your own vocabulary sets or use the premade ones, also an app
  • Free Rice–practice English and help feed the world’s hungry through a partnership with the World Food Program, also an app

Conclusion

Since students need to be able to click the links, distributing paper handouts wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as providing the PDFs digitally. For this reason, I place them in our Blackboard class (or Moodle, Google Classroom, Padlet…) so my students can download the files for use whenever they need. My students have really appreciated the PDFs and tell me they’ve enjoyed being able to practice on their own. They were frustrated by not knowing if they could trust the sites they found to be accurate in the information and answers they provided and this relieved that stress. While there are many other excellent free resources in existence, I chose to keep the lists short so as not to overwhelm students and these are the ones I found myself recommending most often. I hope your students will find it as helpful as mine have. Happy teaching, everyone!

Phrasal Verb Reference

For native speakers, phrasal verbs are so common and “easy” we don’t even realize we use them (or even that they exist). While the structure and grammar of phrasal verbs is relatively easy to teach and grasp, the meaning and usage of them is not. There are just so many of them that do not mean what you would expect by simply considering the meaning of the verb and particle alone! My students are always asking for more practice with them, and I try to oblige, but games were just not enough, and I was starting to struggle to even create some of them.

I do have various references I point my students towards for looking up phrasal verbs and their definitions, (One of the ones we use the most is the Oxford Phrasal Verbs Dictionary for learners of English.), but even this wasn’t enough. Sometimes students wanted to be able to quickly check if a word pairing was a phrasal verb or not. I also found myself wishing I had a chart that listed all of the phrasal verbs by both verb and particle. I tried searching for one but never found exactly what I what I needed. Finally, I gave up and decided to create my own.

I used all of those reference lists I’ve been pointing my students to over the years, and especially the Oxford Phrasal Verbs Dictionary for learners of English, to create an Excel spreadsheet. I listed the verbs down the first column and the particles across the top row. If a verb and particle can be combined to form a phrasal verb, I put an X in the intersecting cell. The first tab of the spreadsheet is a complete list with all 1,135 included verbs. Following that is a tab for each letter of the alphabet so students can quickly look up a specific verb. Does the chart include every phrasal verb in the English language? No, but it does contain quite a few!

I learned a lot of interesting things while making the chart. For example, did you know that up is the most common particle? I found at least 388 verbs that pair with it! (Out is a relatively close second with 356 verbs.) Or that come and go are the most common verbs? Come pairs with 30 particles and go with 32!

The Phrasal Verb Chart is a nice digital reference for my students (it converts well to Google Sheets, if you are a Google school), and it’s been very helpful for me as well. It is yours to use as well, just click the download button above to get your own copy of the Excel version. I did password protect each of the tabs to prevent my students from accidentally making changes to it. The password is ESL2022#. If you need to unprotect a sheet, simply right click on the desired tab and click “Unprotect Sheet.” Type in the password and click OK. To reinstate the protections, right click on the tab again, click “Protect Sheet,” enter your desired password, click OK, reenter the password, and click OK. I hope it’s as helpful for you and your students as it’s been for me and mine. Happy teaching, everyone!


Interested in some of those games I’ve developed to practice phrasal verbs? Here are the links:

Or you can get all five phrasal verb games in a single bundle and at a 20% discount! The bundle includes the PowerPoint version of Jeopardy.

Student Reference Tools

Pathways Listening and Speaking 1 Review Menu
Pathways Listening and Speaking 1 There’s A Video About That
Helpful Free Resources for Students

English Skillology (level 1level 3) wasn’t the only new resource that I tried, and experienced success with, this past semester. I had three other new resources that I trialed, all of which received rave reviews from my students, so I decided to use them again.

The class I’m teaching next semester is listening and speaking, level one. We use National Geographic’s Pathways series for our listening and reading courses, so the first two resources I’m going to describe are aligned to those books. It is not necessary to be using the Pathways books in order to use these resources, but it does guarantee that all of the topics will align. 

Review Menu
I’m sure my students are not unique in their lack of confidence when it comes to grammar. Every time we work on a new grammar topic they ask about more practice they can do at home. I agree with them in that the book is never enough. I try to bring as much practice into the classroom as I can, but there never seems to be enough time there either. 

Enter the Review Menu. This slide deck has a table with all of the grammar topics from our textbook (Pathways Listening and Speaking 1). Each topic is followed by two links, one to an explanation slide, and one to a video and practice activities slide. The linked slides’ contents are exactly what they sound like. The explanation slides have short explanations for the named grammar topic. The video and practice slides have a YouTube video about the topic and links to various free practice activities on the web.

My students mentioned that this menu was very convenient, and they liked having all of the explanations in one place. It also came in very handy at midterm and finals time as I had all of the topics I needed to review with them in one place. 

There’s A Video About That
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that,” at one time or another. And it’s likely most, if not all of us, have found a video on YouTube to help us learn something at least once. Inspired by those occurrences in my own life, I created There’s A Video About That for our text’s grammar topics.

The resource is a Google Drawing with a table. Each cell lists a grammar topic and holds a video relating to that topic. To insert the videos into the drawing, I first had to insert them into a Google Slide deck, copy them, and paste them on the Google Drawing. The videos are quite small on the drawing, but after pushing play you can make them full screen.

My students again remarked about how convenient it was to be able to find everything they needed in one place. The videos are all different from those in the Review Menu, so students were given yet another explanation of the grammar topic. As teachers we know that different explanations will resonate with different students, and I wanted my students to have several different opportunities to hear the information. The various videos also exposed my students to different accents, something that is important as they are learning.

Helpful Free Resources
The final resource I am using next semester is the exact same as this semester. Helpful Free Resources is another Google Drawing, this one curating links to free sites students might need. The links include an online dictionary, language explanation and practice sites, listening practice, reading help, YouTube channels, and more.

This resource was popular not for the grammar help it offered, but because it helped to narrow the search for what my students needed. Google is great, but trying to choose the best link from a list of millions of hits, in a language that you’re not fluent in, is very difficult. This table saves students from trying to find the best site, or getting caught having to pay for something that may or may not be what they need.

Hopefully my students next semester will find these resources as helpful as this semester’s. All of them are free to download, simply click on the links above (or click on the pictures and buttons at the top left). I hope they are helpful for your students as well. Happy teaching, everyone!

New Resources for a New Semester

There’s a Video About That
Review Menu
Review Menu Explanation
Review Menu Video/Games
This semester I, like many teachers, will be teaching primarily online. Due to scheduling conflicts and lower than normal enrollment, I’m currently only scheduled to teach our level 3 (high intermediate) listening and speaking class. My school uses National Geographic’s Pathways Listening, Speaking, and Critical Thinking 3 text for the class.

Every semester I have students ask me what they can do and where they can go to practice the grammar concepts we learn in class further. This semester I wanted to give them easy references so they could quickly find what they need on the internet. The result of this desire was the creation of There’s A Video About That and Review Menu.

There’s a Video About That is a Google Drawing (that I will publish to the web for easy access) with embedded videos for each grammar concept from our text. I pre-screened all of the videos so students can be confident they won’t waste their time or get the wrong topic. 

Review Menu is a Google Slide deck (again, I plan to publish it to the web) that starts with a table listing all of the grammar concepts from the semester. Students can then click links that will jump them to slides with outline explanations and examples or a video and links to  online practice games and activities. 

I would love to create a similar resource for each of the classes in our program. My plan is to create a There’s a Video About That and Review Menu for each course I teach in a semester. Hopefully the process won’t be too overwhelming that way and I can eventually have a complete library for my students.

Want the resources for yourself? They’re free! Just click one of the picture links above.