“A great resource for all students and teachers…” — Frances M., English Teachers Association Bulletin Board, Mar 25, 2005.
This page is specially for students from language backgrounds other than English — but not only! Checked and updated 14 May 2007 with a small fix on 19 September.
Visit Student Help Guide too.
1. Watch out for tense shifting. If you start in past tense, continue in past tense; if you start in present, continue in present. Look here too. Look also at what happens with passive voice. What does that mean? See: Active and Passive Voice: this Purdue University OWLS handout will suit most students. You will find a complete chart of active and passive forms here.
2. Make sure subject and verb agree.
3. Watch your articles. Should you be using “a”, “an” or “the”, or nothing at all? Related to this is knowing about COUNT and UNCOUNT NOUNS. Should you be saying “much” or “many”? And watch out for those nasty prepositions — they can really trip you up!
4. Listen carefully for the endings of words, say them carefully when you speak English, and make sure they are where they should be when you write English. See also spelling.
5. Grow your vocabulary (1). For a start, read many different kinds of English often. Listen to many different kinds of radio and television programs. Especially if you have not been speaking English for very long, visit sites like English Bites or Brian’s Common Errors in English. See also ESL Vocabulary Links.
6. Grow your vocabulary (2). Think of word families. Often learners of English tend to just take in one word at a time without seeing how it fits in with related words. When you look up your dictionary, look at all the related words such as this entry for “cooperate.” Use your knowledge of Latin and Greek, those of you studying them*, or gain some by looking at Greek and Latin roots in English. Check the Quiz links on the Links Page tabbed above for more vocabulary work.
7. Keep a journal or diary and write in it every day. You can even do this on the Internet if you want to with sites like WordPress. There are many other venues where you can write online. If you keep a journal try experimenting with different kinds of text.
8. Ask questions. No one will think you are stupid if you ask about things you are not sure of.
9. Constantly test yourself. You can use the Quiz Pages links on for this.
10. Take risks. While being careful, don’t be afraid to try something new even if you make mistakes. You have to make mistakes if your language is going to grow. Having something to say is more important than making a few mistakes. However, if you are able to, try the proper writing process: draft, revise and edit, polish and publish. give yourself time to do this. Here is a site that explains the writing process really well — but it is an Angelfire site so may not be available at school. (I can assure you there is nothing wrong with it!) As an alternative, this one is also very good.
11. Practise working out what exam questions are actually asking you to do. If you are not sure, then ask someone!
12. Never try to learn “a perfect essay” off by heart. It is almost certain it will not be an answer to the question in front of you. Instead, go back to Step 11 and practise brainstorming, planning, jotting down points, writing introductions, or even writing whole answers. Study successful essays wherever you can find them, but only to learn HOW to do things. (The Bored of Studies site is a good place to find some if you are in Year 11 or 12.) Your essay must be YOUR essay. Have a look at Georgetown University Writing Center for ESL Students — one of many sites that can help, especially from Year 10 up.
Here is another: Dartmouth College: English as a Second Language. Student pages Includes: General Remarks; The American Academic Argument; The American Thesis Sentence; The American Paragraph; The Structure of an American Essay; The English Sentence; Online Handbook; Useful Links. Don’t let all that “American” stuff put you off; this is just as relevant to academic writing in Australia or any other English-speaking country. From a great American university, and well founded in the best ESL and writing-teaching principles. Mainly for Year 10 upwards.
See also my Writing and Study Skills links in my links page..
More links for you.
Much that is here is suitable for all students. Browse freely. These sites lead to many others where you can find just about everything you might ever want!
See also the Quiz links on the Links Page: test yourself.
World English is very comprehensive.
About ESL— Excellent site; check the links on the left of its front page. There are good interactive exercises and games. There may be problems accessing from school as About.com sites are sometimes blocked.
Dave’s ESL Cafe–for teachers and students. Forum pages are interesting. Now has a great new look.
Aardvark’s English Forum–for teachers and students.
Internet TESL Journal –mainly for teachers, but has a marvellous links section including things for students, including interactive tests.
Common Errors in English This is very valuable for all students. Really clear explanations. Even just browsing will teach you a lot.
English Grammar Online: English (UK)
Guide to English Grammar: Includes essay writing. American, but well worth exploring. In fact, the best site for students especially Year 9 and higher.
Ask Oxford. I agree with this review from Learning Alive:
The Ask Oxford site bears the slogan “passionate about language,” and the enthusiasm of its Oxford University Press authors is infectious.
The home page has eye-catching tidbits of information. With Word of the Day, Quote of the Week, and links to quizzes and articles, there are plenty of good ideas for livening up an English class.
Constant features of the site include World of Words, Better Writing, Global English, Word Games, and Ask the Experts. You can find good reference articles, such as tips for writing plain English, and how to write a good letter. It’s also a good place to look for answers to common questions about word meanings, spellings and usages. In addition, there are lively topical articles, for example on text messaging and the latest new words and phrases, which pupils are sure to enjoy.
The Education section has information, links and free downloadable worksheets – designed for use with OUP’s dictionaries, but suitable for others too – which are specially directed at schools. But across the whole site there’s an enthusiasm for English as a living, changing, and sometimes funny language, and it’s this that makes Ask Oxford a great secondary English resource.
EXTRA: How to keep a reading log. — This gives you some good ideas. Think too of issues like narrative viewpoint and the role of voice in constructing that, and in constructing character through dialogue.
Some students (especially seniors) might like these Learner Tips from the BBC English Learner Program. Also see ACADEMIC WRITING from Victoria University. This is very good. It includes interactive exercises.
* At SBHS all students were given an introduction to Greek and Latin, French, German and Mandarin in Year 7. Some students continued studying languages, a keen minority doing Latin and a very small group doing Ancient Greek.