I believe practice is central to learning a language. Not only does practice build proficiency, but when monitored, can lead to insights about problem areas we may need to discuss in another class. Therefore, I try to get my students to practice often.
A great resource for practice are online practice sites that provide feedback, such as grading. These sites enable students to practice at their own pace, and are often engaging enough that once a student is on, the student stays for the whole time, not taking breaks, not looking bored, not even asking questions. I take engagement as a very good sign.
Here are some of my favorite practice sites. All but the last one are free, but the last one has some exercises that can be used for free.
Randall’s ESL Listening Lab: This site is pure gold, and is my go-to for practice. It has it all — listening comprehension, text completion, unscrambling sentences (for grammar practice), vocabulary matches and more. There are tons of sections for a variety of levels, although not every section supports every task. What’s more, the sections are tied to specific topics, which I think is especially helpful.
Web ESL: Another solid site with a ton of great exercises, and it even includes some lessons students can take before doing exercises. This opens the door to it being a self-study site. Includes things like language on the job, filling in sample job applications, dictating sentences and more.
A4ESL: Lots of great practice quizzes for things like articles, countable vs. uncountable nouns, prepositions, and even checking if a sentence is grammatically correct.
EyeSpeakPro: The only commercial site on this list, you can use some of it on a trial basis. I included it here because it’s the only site on here that allows students to speak into a microphone to repeat sentences, whereupon it grades them on their pronunciation, timing, etc… Sometimes, the score seems to be off (or maybe it’s sensitive to certain conditions), so I recommend having students run the same exercise multiple times and ensure they hit a solid score each time, to make sure the score is representative.
Integrating the Practice
While I enjoy using these resources, I’m haphazard about them, and have been considering a more systematic treatment. Should I restrict the online practice to subjects discussed in class? Should we have a regular lab session in which the content we discuss is practiced? How often should the lab happen? For instance, should the first half the class be a discussion with guided practice, and the second half pure online practice (an English lab, basically)?
- What are your thoughts about online practice?
- How do you integrate online practice into your class?
- What sites do you use?
- Do you know of any good pronunciation sites?