What to Look for in ESL Grammar Worksheets and Activities for Newcomers and Beginning ELs


All too often, grammar worksheets for newcomer and beginner ELs are way too similar in format to grammar worksheets for native speakers. They lack visuals and are just pages filled with language that our ELs may not have yet. Without supports, students just regurgitate a new grammar skill without applying it to exercises that they can actually comprehend. Therefore, they will not be able to carry over this new grammar skill to new applications.   

This is why it so important to find grammar worksheets that can be easily understood by ESL students. Below are 3 things to look for in quality ESL activities and worksheets.


Because ELs may not have the language yet to understand some written directions, the worksheets need to be laid out in a way that makes it very obvious what the task is.  Forms of the verb To be Printable Worksheet ESLIt can also be helpful to use worksheets that have examples of how to complete the task or the first item already done for them. 

2. ESL-Friendly Language:

It is important that the language used in the exercises is comprehensible to ELs. The words and phrases used should be common, simple phrases that a newcomer could be familiar with at the point that they are working on the grammar worksheets. For example, if working on the present simple tense, it is helpful for ELs when exercises use verbs like “go”, “read”, etc. rather than less common verbs. 

The worksheets could also include an introduction to any new language that will be used throughout the exercises.

Personal pronouns - subject pronouns matching activity for ESL Newcomers Grammar

3. Visuals:

For me, this is the key to what sets apart a high quality ESL grammar worksheet or activity. Because students may not have the language yet to understand each fill-in, question, etc. it is so important that each is accompanied with a visual/clipart.  ESL Grammar for Beginner and Newcomer ELs/MLLs Possessive Adjectives

These visuals support newcomer and beginner ELs in comprehending unknown words or phrases that they come across in the activity. In turn, students are learning new vocabulary at the same time as they are learning important grammar skills.

4. Multiple Activity Formats:

As we know, repetition is key for learning any new skill. Just having students complete tasks like a matching activity, lift-the-flap foldable, sort, or reading (the skill in context) on their own isn’t enough. Therefore, students need to practice the same skill in many ways in order to really internalize the skill and apply it in the future.  

Present Progressive Tense Worksheets Grammar ESL Printable

Other Considerations:

Depending on the type of learners you have, it can be more engaging for hands-on learners if you provide grammar activities that are more interactive. These could include printable foldables, cut and paste activities or digital drag and drop activities. 

A digital version is also a great way for students to access the same information without needing to use any paper.  In addition, Google Slides versions provide a way for ELs to access their assignments easily at home.  

If you are looking for quality grammar activities for newcomer and beginner ELs/MLLs, be sure to check out the Grammar Units Bundle! This bundle includes all of the resources that are pictured above, in both a printable PDF and digital Google Slides versions. 

Looking for more ESL teaching resources? Check out this blog post on The Power of Picture Dictionaries for ESL Students.  


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