After considering other online reviews and testing the app in my classroom for several weeks, I can endorse Cambridge English Grammar in Use: Activities as the best grammar app for iOS and Android. Compared to other grammar apps, English Grammar in Use is more authoritative and exhaustive, with 306 activities and 2,800+ questions. Educators can use this app as a tech-savvy alternative to traditional grammar assignments.
English Grammar offers the educational gravitas you’d expect from a Cambridge product, providing far more bang for the buck than competing apps. Read on to learn how English Grammar in Use works and why other grammar apps pale in comparison.
Getting started with English Grammar Activities was effortless and immediate. However, my students were not in the least entertained by the app; its overall feel is a little stuffy.
Each exercise begins with an example of how to use the chosen grammatical device, but the instruction stops there. To provide the app with real pedagogical value, teachers will need to supplement it with text or instruction.
The in-app help guide is thorough and easy to follow, but loses a point for not including an option to contact technical support.
I started the review process by downloading two highly regarded grammar apps: English Grammar in Use: Activities v. 2.5.1 and Grammar Up v. 3.7. Both apps are available for iOS and Android devices, and the prices vary by device. I purchased them both on iTunes, English Grammar for $1.99 and Grammar Up for $4.99. I installed the two apps on my phone and my classroom iPads. My 7th-grade English students used both apps for 15 minutes every day for two weeks. I then assessed the apps for their engagement, ease of use, and pedagogical value.
According to Cambridge University Press, the app’s maker, English Grammar in Use provides additional practice activities for the grammar topics presented in Murphy’s English Grammar in Use book or app. English Grammar in Use remains the best-selling self-study grammar book in the world, and the Activities app allows users to apply the principles covered in the book.
The app gears itself toward “intermediate” English learners, so I would recommend it for grades 5 through 12. The activities stem from 16 fundamental grammar principles, including adjectives and adverbs, prepositions, present perfect, and passive. Finally, my fellow English teachers will appreciate the credibility of the app — credentialed, expert authors write all of the content.
When you open the English Grammar app, you first choose a category of grammar activities. For example, selecting “passive 3″ opens up an instruction module with two sentences illustrating the passive tense. One sentence discusses “when kittens are born,” and so the module features a picture of a kitten at the top. By pressing the audio button, users can hear both exemplar sentences spoken, and they can record and compare their own pronunciation as well.
Once you’ve read through the instructions, you proceed to 10 exercises where you fill in the blank. You then receive feedback that shows your answer and the correct answer, which you can also listen to if you so wish. Because Cambridge intended this app purely as a supplement to its grammar text, the correct answer is all the feedback that users receive. At any time, though, users can consult a glossary if they encounter a word they would like defined or explained (e.g., if you look up “may,” the glossary explains when it is grammatically appropriate to use it).
The pedagogical value of Cambridge’s English Grammar Activities app depends heavily on how teachers use it. Based on the experience I had with my students’ use of the app, I can offer a few suggestions on how to get the most out of it.
First, ensure that your students don’t expect a game. English Grammar Activities has a formal tone and is devoid of any frivolous bells and whistles. You won’t see any fireworks or celebratory dancing animals upon answering correctly. I will say, though, that this app is far more entertaining than grammar worksheets, and it does an excellent job of incorporating multimedia into its presentation.
Second, the app is ideal for a flipped classroom model. In my case, I sent my students home with reading or videos to explain certain grammar principles and then relied on English Grammar Activities’ exercises to cement the concepts in the classroom. With this method, my students could ask a peer or call me over to explain when they didn’t understand the answer.
Finally, the app excels as a tool for individualized instruction in that students could choose assignments in the grammar category with which they struggle the most. The app saved me from having to rely on the ineffective, one-size-fits-all worksheet.
Another English grammar app, Grammar Up, is arguably the most acclaimed competitor of English Grammar in Use: Activities. Grammar Up is a quiz game that offers multiple-choice questions to help users develop their word selection, vocabulary, and grammar skills. Where Grammar Up falls short, however, is in its pedagogical value and lack of authority. Grammar Up is purely a quiz game; it lacks the instructional modules with which English Grammar abounds. Further, the disparity in the quality of writing between the two is enormous; it’s obvious that professionals wrote English Grammar’s material.
I had difficulty finding feedback from other educators on English Grammar in Use. Among users, however, the app performs well. In the iTunes App Store, the app has a three-star user rating out of five. In Google Play, the app has an average user rating of three and a half stars out of five.
For serious, high-quality grammar instruction, English Grammar in Use: Activities is the best app available. The app’s prestigious creator lends it educational credibility, and the thousands of grammar questions qualify the app as the most thorough of its kind. Although not the most entertaining app, English Grammar is certainly the most enlightening when paired with teachers’ guidance.
Anne Moody Elliott graduated with degrees in English and Education from Bryn Mawr too long ago to warrant specifics. After teaching high-school English for several years, she returned to Penn State to complete a master’s degree in English. She now teaches 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-grade English in Lancaster, PA. When she is not crusading to save the English language from text-message butchery and prose limited to 140 characters, she enjoys kickboxing, freelance writing, and spending time with her two Greyhound rescues. Even after 10 years together, she still insists her husband is the Mr. Darcy to her Elizabeth and always will be.