Guides to ESL Programs

This page contains a list of ESL grammar programs and software that I created. They are currently installed in the English Department's Computer Labs.
Clicking on the name of the program will link you to a description of what each of the programs looks like, and give you an overview of the program, with screen captures that duplicate what you will see should you run the programs.

For information on obtaining the programs, please contact me at the address at the end of this document.

ESL Program Guides

Compounds

In this program students learn how compound words are formed in English and gain practice in manipulating parts of compound words. Compounds are divided into "Regular" compounds (compounds that conform to the regular pattern of compound formation), "Idiomatic" compounds (compounds whose parts are not immediately recognizable as elements of a compound, or whose meanings are more than the sum of their parts), and "Measure Word" compounds (compounds involving words expressing quantity or amount, like "three-mile track.") Students use a mouse to drag parts of compounds to their proper, color-coded places to form the finished compound word; they learn to distinguish the "head" word (or most important piece of the compound) and the "modifier" word (the piece that usually precedes the head word); they gain practice in determining the (often idiosyncratic) use of a space or a hyphen to join parts, or the use of "joined" when the parts of a compound are written and spelled as one word. In other exercises students must type the compound word directly as suggested by a statement and an optional clue.

Modals

The program on Modals allows students to work on the meanings of modals --words like may, must, can, will, might, should, etc. --by grouping the individual modals into sets of "meanings" and having students explore the different shades of meaning each modal expresses for a particular sense. This represents a departure from most traditional approaches to modals, which tend to show the meanings of each individual modal: thus can has the meaning "ability", "permission" or "possibility." This program allows for that possible approach, but prefers one in which all the modals that express, say, "permission," are grouped on a scale so as to let students explore the different shades of meaning each modal exhibits.

Make Your Own Graph

In this program, students learn how to use a simplified graph program to construct bar or pie graphs from the data they themselves provide. Students can also make use of "ready-made" graphs that can be loaded into the program. Students can then use the program to analyze the data in the graphs: to determine which of the elements has the highest value, the lowest value, how to rank, and how to compare. The students must construct grammatical sentences that utilize the concepts of comparison; the program then determines if the sentences are grammatical and if they express truths about the data displayed. The students can print or copy the graph and their sentences and analyses of the graphic data.

Exploring the World

In this program, students can explore various maps of the world, identify individual countries, be tested on various grammar points (such as article use before place names, prepositions in directions, verb forms in agreement and tense), use graphs to test their ability to interpret statistics, construct sentences from graphs to test their grammar, use a query system to gather more statistics, and construct sentences resulting from their statistical queries. The program has a graphing tool and a database tool so that students can print or save the results of their analyses. The aim is to integrate content (geographical knowledge), numeracy (statistical and graphical manipulation), and grammar (article use, prepositions, verb forms, and sentence construction).

Articles

The program on Articles and Determiners works at the Word and Sentence levels. At the Word level, students can be tested on randomly selected words, or words they choose from a list. The program asks the student which Article or Determiner can be used before the word, tells the student if s/he is correct, offers graphics regarding the possible article choice, and allows the student to explore the meaning(s) of words. At the sentence level, students can work on randomly constructed sentences to see which article, the, a(n) or zero article is best in a given context of a sentence. The student can be tested on so-called Idiomatic nouns (e.g., lunch in the expression have lunch) and on Place names (e.g., America, which takes zero article, versus United States of America, which takes the).

Subject-Verb Agreement

The program on Subject-Verb Agreement allows the student to choose among certain sentence types that have proven difficult with Subject-Verb Agreement, to figure out the right form of the verb in a given sentence, to practice identifying and typing the subject and its agreeing verb, to see a moving display of the agreement process, and to actually construct a sentence and let the computer judge its grammaticality.

Commonly Confused Parts of Speech

The Parts of Speech program provides an opportunity for students to practice at the word and sentence level with words whose parts of speech (noun forms, verb forms, or adjective forms) are often confused. Students can learn to identify common roots that appear in related nouns, adjectives, and verbs. They can also learn to identify suffixes that often signal these parts of speech. Students can let the computer pick roots at random, or the students can access roots from a list by choosing their own. The computer makes up sentences and the students must determine the form of the word that is correct. A moving display showing the root and any suffixes helps to reinforce knowledge of the role of morphological information in constructing words in English. The program has access to a database of student errors in part of speech confusion, and can provide sentences for the students to edit.

Plurals

The program on Plurals or plural formation allows the student to select a singular noun from two lists (an Irregular Noun list and a list of nouns that take two plurals, called Double Plurals) and to be tested on forming the correct plural from any of these nouns. In addition, the student can type his/her own noun, and the program will (do its best to) construct its plural for the noun and test the student against that construct. Furthermore, the program will explain to the student whenever possible what it knows about the plural formation: whether it is regular, irregular, whether it is part of a pattern (for example, certain words from Latin ending in -us take -I in the plural), etc. For irregular nouns, there is the possibility of looking up the word in a "dictionary," as some words are fairly obscure. There is also a graphic displaying the singular form and the plural ending "floating" over to a plural form, all in an effort to engage the student in the rules and exceptions regarding plural formation in English.

Sentence Combining

The program on Sentence Combining lets the student practice with and learn how to determine clause boundaries, to learn and practice the use of connectors, to identify main clauses and secondary clauses, to practice and learn the differences between coordinate connectors, subordinate connectors, and adverbial connectors, and to learn the differences in punctuation each of the three types of connectors requires. Students learn that for a given concept ("result", "condition", "surprise", "disagreement", etc.) there may be different ways of expressing connections between two clauses. From a database of student errors on this topic, students can gain practice editing commonly occurring errors in clause structure

Infinitive, Root, or -ING Form

The program on Infinitives, Root, or -ING forms tests students on certain verbs in English that are followed by the Infinitive, the root form, or the Gerundial, or -ING form of the next verb. The student may select a verb from a list (or choose one at random), allow the computer to create a sentence, figure out which form of the verb follows, examine verbs that are similar in meaning to the verb selected, or examine a list of verbs that behave like the one just selected. The program has access to a database of student errors in infinitive, root, or -ING confusion, and can provide sentences for the students to edit.

Passive

The program on Passive shows students how Active and Passive sentences are related. The program asks students first to judge if a certain Active sentence can have a corresponding Passive sentence, and, if so, the steps involved in constructing such a passive sentence. There are numerous graphics with words and pictures to reinforce the relationship between Active and Passive sentences, and there is a section in which the student is asked to determine if a passive with the word get is also possible. From a large database of student errors, students can practice correcting errors in passive formation

Simple Prepositions

This program allows students to manipulate the mouse or to drag an image of a butterfly to various "locations" near a tree, and to determine, or be tested on, which preposition reflects that position.

Prepositions of Time, Place and Motion

This program features exercises on prepositions involving time, place and motion, and graphic displays comparing prepositions referring to these concepts.

Prepositionals

The Prepositionals program provides an opportunity for students to practice and learn about the prepositions or prepositional phrases that follow selected verbs, nouns and adjectives in English. Students can let the computer pick roots at random, or the students can access roots from a list by choosing their own. The computer makes up sentences and the students must determine the form of the word that is correct. A moving display showing the root and any suffixes helps to reinforce knowledge of the role of morphological information in constructing words in English. The program has access to a database of student errors in part of speech confusion, and can provide sentences for the students to edit.

-ed/-en or -ING Participles

The -ed/-en or -ING Participles program provides an opportunity for students to practice at the sentence level with verbal adjectives (also called participles). These are words that are formed from verbs in their past participle (-ed/-en) forms, or their present participle (-ING) forms and that describe completed action or ongoing activity, respectively. Students see these participles with appropriate nouns and in a context that suggests one or the other participle. One activity allows the student to "drag" the participle and the modified noun to appropriate places on the computer screen; another activity asks the student to type in the correct form; and another activity allows the student to construct a sentence involving participles and nouns from a list. Students can let the computer pick verbs to use as participles at random, or the students can access the verbs from a list by choosing their own.

Vocabulary Editing

This program tests the student on his/her ability to edit sentences containing Vocabulary and Idiom errors. Based on grammatical writing errors collected from students in previous courses, the program presents the student with a sentence in which an incorrect word or phrase is highlighted, and asks him/her to type in the correction. The computer informs the student if his/her revision is correct, and lets him/her discover possible alternative corrections, and gives him/her an explanation. S/he can copy the sentence (and the explanation) to a word processor when each sentence is finished.

Verb Tenses and Verb Forms

The Verb Tenses and Forms program provides an opportunity for students to practice at the word and sentence level with irregular verbs. Students can learn to identify the "principal parts" of over 180 irregular verbs. They can also gain practice in determining which verb tense is correct in a given context in a randomly constructed sentence. conceptual Time Line shows the students how verb tenses might be pictorially represented. Students can get information about the pronunciation and the meaning of many of the irregular verbs in the program: they can listen to these parts, and find out about the final "-s" sound and final "-d" sound in present and past tense forms, respectively. A moving display showing the root and the principal parts of verbs is also available for viewing. A student can also type his/her own verb and the computer will make its best guess regarding the formation of the present, past, -ed/-en, and -ing forms of that "made-up" verb. The program has access to a database of student errors in verb tenses, and can provide sentences for the students to edit.

Vocabulary Roots

This program tests the student on his/her ability to recognize and "decipher" words consisting of readily identifiable prefixes, suffixes, and roots. The program contains roots from Latin, French, Greek and earlier forms of English; it tests students to work through words that have roots in common. It displays the morphological structure of some words. Students can be tested on roots by meaning, form, or semantic category. There are abundant dictionary-type definitions also available.


For further information, please contact me at:

Prof. G. Dalgish, ESL Director, English Department, Baruch College, CUNY, 55 Lexington Avenue, NYC, NY 10010


E-mail me at: Gerard_Dalgish@baruch.cuny.edu