Online dictionaries for language learning

While dictionaries have always been crucial in the process of language learning, online dictionaries are introducing a whole new world of accesible information!  Complete with forums, idioms, thesauri, and even encyclopedias in a variety of languages, these sites are a one-stop shop!

Here are a couple of my favorite that are particularly useful for English language learners:

The Free Dictionary

My favorite feature of The Free Dictionary is it’s industry specific dictionaries – it has medical, legal, and financial dictionaries.

Word Reference

Don’t let it’s plainness fool you – this is a powerful tool!  With dictionaries in 15 languages, this is great for a multilingual class.  It’s language forums are also very useful in dialogging about word meanings with native speakers.

Best Flashcard resources for ESL students

Flashcards are a great tool for language learning, and can be used in far more interactive ways than simply flip and recall.  Why spend money on pre-made flashcards if you have paper and a printer?  There are some GREAT websites that offer free flashcards for English language learners.  Here are a few:

ESLFlashcards.com.  All flashcards are free and come in 3 sizes.  Art looks like clip-art.   The site offers over 2900 flashcards!

ESL Flashcards for Kids.  Flashcards come in different sizes, with and without the word describing the picture.

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Creative ways to use flashcards with ELLS

Flashcards can conjure up images of boring, repetitive, kill-and-drill activities.  However, they don’t have to be used this way!  Flashcards are a GREAT tool for the esl/efl classroom, and can be used quite effectively cooperative and interactive learning.  Here are some ideas:

  • Around the world:  A classic competitive game which keeps students on their toes!  Follow basic directions here for around the world, except substitute vocab for spelling.  Show students flashcards to elicit the word in the target language.
  • Conversation starters:  Pass out flashcards and have students discuss the pictures with a partner.  Have them ask and answer questions about the picture.  This could be a timed activity where pictures are rotated and students discuss new pictures as they go around the class.
  • Memory: Have students match word to picture.
  • Writing prompts:  Give each student a flashcard and have them journal, freewrite, or brainstorm about the picture.
Like these ideas?  Here’s a whole HUGE list of more!!!

Best English language grammar reference sites

So just because you teach English may not mean that you understand it, especially if you are a native speaker and don’t have special training in teaching English.  Here are some great sites to look up all sorts of  rules and guidelines for the English language:

About.com: ESL:  includes charts, quizzes and other related resources which review and introduce grammar.

The Basic Elements of English:  Guide to better understanding parts of speech, sentences, punctuation and word use.

Grammar Bytes:  Contains a wide variety of terms, exercises, handouts, presentations, tips and rules addressing English grammar.

Guide to Grammar and Writing:  Breaks down topics by word/sentences, paragraph, and essay levels

Oxford Dictionaries Online:  Good for teacher and student alike, this includes a dictionary, a guide for better writing, and puzzles and games.

Purdue OWL Writing Lab:  Containing a HUGE variety of resources for writing teachers, this site is packed with information for teachers, tutors, and students.

WordReference:  a multilingual (15 languages!), interactive, online dictionary.  The best thing about this site is the forums where you can ask specific questions about word use, etc.