Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

This is a Canadian ESL blog for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English. Each PAGE above contains thousands of free English lessons, tutorials and practice exercises to help you learn and improve your English grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, speaking, writing and editing. Some of the resources are Canadian. Others are from around the world.

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Friday, November 9, 2018

ESL Remembrance Day Song Gap Fills

A Pittance of Time 

On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the stores PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

ESL Remembrance Day: Why the Poppy


In Flanders Field 

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row  

that mark our places, and in the sky 
the larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard  amid the guns below.

Friday, December 23, 2016

ESL Nativity Story Listening Activities


Christmas has become a fun filled holiday for people all over the world - regardless of whether they are Christian or not.  As a result many people are very familiar with the idea of Santa Claus, gift giving, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Jingle Bells and Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. 

However, some people are not familiar with the reason practicing Christians celebrate this special day. 

The following video tells the story of Christmas that comes from the Bible.  It does not matter if you believe the story or not, but IS is important to know the story itself if you want to understand Christian beliefs and culture.


Instructions
  • Try to listen to the story several times WITHOUT reading the subtitles. 
  • Then, try to answer the questions. ( Do NOT check your answers)   
  • Next, go back and listen to the story while you read the subtitles.  
  • Answer the questions again.  Check the answers. 
  • Read along WITH the speaker - at the same time, NOT after him. When you speak at the same time as the speaker, this is called shadow speaking. 





 Read about the Nativity Story 



Traditional Christmas Carols: 

I'm including some traditional Christmas carols  that focus on the real meaning of Christmas.  People have sung these carols for hundreds of years, so it is useful for you to know some of them. 

Silent Night

Silent Night ( German Stille Nach, heilige Nacht) is the best known Christmas carol in the world.  It has been translated into more than 140 languages and sung by every singer who has ever released a Christmas album.  Composed in 1818 in Austria, it was declared an intagible cultural heritage by UNESCO in March 20111. 

In 1914,during World War 1,  soldiers on both sides called a Christmas truce for one night when one side heard the other singing silent night.  All soldiers on both sides began singing the song in their own language as it was one song they all knew. That night, the enemy troops spent the evenig celebrating Christmas together singing, getting to know each other and talking about their loved ones.  The next day, they went back to shooting and killing each other. 


Silent Night and the Seven O'clock News 

In 1966 Well known singers Simon and Garfunkel  recorded two contrasting recordings: a simple arrangement of the Christmas carol "Silent Night", and a simulated "7 O'Clock News" bulletin of the actual events of 3 August 1966.




                                          
Breath of Heaven

This song focuses on how frightened Mary was and her hopes that she could live up to the responsibilities she was going to have as the mother of God. The video features scenes adapted from the 2007 film "The Nativity Story" by New Lines Productions Inc. 




O Holy Night 

This song was originally written in French and is often sung at Christian services on Christmas eve. More than 100 artists have recorded this song,  This version by Canadian singer Josh Groban is very powerful.  


Do You Hear What I Hear?

This song  focuses on what the shepherds in the field heard and saw on the first
Christmas when Jesus was born.






What Child Is This 




The next two songs focus on the joy Christmas is supposed to bring and reminds us that we need to remember to keep some of that joy in our heart even when things in our life are bad. 
 

Try to sing along with this next song as loudly as you can. Make sure you really open your mouth wide. It will help with your pronunciation, your phrasing and your speaking fluency. 



Monday, December 19, 2016

ESL: Charlie Brown Christmas Listening Speaking Activities

50 years after it was created, the animated cartoon  "A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to be one of the most beloved Christmas holiday TV specials.  

Why is it so special? According to Robert Loyd, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, " it isn't about any invented crisis in the life of an imaginary  creature. There are no elves, no reindeer, no Santa. It's just about us. 

The Spirit of Christmas 
 Charles Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts"  wrote a little fable  about how a meaningful  holiday such as Christmas has become so commercialized that it has  lost any meaning. 

The only magic Christmas now allows is the kind we create ourselves when we pay attention to someone besides ourselves.  

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" remains true to both the spirit of Christmas and to the spirit of "Peanuts."

Although it t emphasizes the need for hope and love, it still reminds us that  the Christmas season can bring anxiety and a feeling of being alone and unloved for many people

 "I know nobody likes me," sighs Charlie Brown in the animated special.  "Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree 
The sad little Christmas tree Charlie buys for the school play represents all the world's underfed, unseen, unloved, ( trees, animals, people...) .However, it can still be rescued. 

In fact, with a little love, care and attention, it can truly become something special and even magic. 

Watch the special and learn about one of the most popular idioms about Christmas that comes from the story: "A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. " 

Can you figure out what it means?



How Well did you Understand? 

Watch the film as many times as you need to. Then see how  many questions you can answer in the quiz below. 




Now, can you answer the question: What is a Charlie Brown Christmas tree?
O



VIDEOS: New

The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas  a 15 minute documentary on the story behind the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas featuring interviews with the people involved in the special.  
       
Celebrating 50 Years Canadian jazz musician Jerry Granelli opens up about recording the now-iconic score to the beloved TV special

It's Your 50th Birthday Charlie Brown  In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the beloved tale, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Kristen Bell will hosts a 30 minute TV special. which includes live performances, from the memorable music of Vince Guaraldi, to Kristen Chenoweth singing “Happiness” from the “Peanuts” Broadway hit, and a performance from Matthew Morrison of an original song, “Just Like Me.” Other guests are Sarah McLachlan, Boyz II Men, Pentatonix, David Benoit and The All-American Boys Chorus. D

ABC Celebrates 50th anniversary of Charlie Brown Christmas radio
National Public Radio ( NPR) explores what makes this ageless special endure in interviews with experts. 

READING: NEW 
Find out more about the history and little known facts about Charlie Brown's Christmas. Read opinions for its success as well as about recent controversies surrounding its "religious" tone. 

Discussion Questions

   1    What did you enjoy most about the special?

   2.    Why is it that Charlie Brown as well as ourselves feel like we should have a certain 
          type of feeling at Christmas? 

   3.   Why  is there more pressure on us to feel happy during the Christmas season than 
        at other time of year? Why is it we feel that there is something wrong  with us if we 
        don't  feel this way? 

  4.    Studies show that a lot of people get depressed during or just after holidays like

          Christmas ? Why do you think this happens?  

  5.  What should depressed people do about this " depression" or sadness?

  6.  According to Charlie Browns' friend Linus, what is Christmas all about? 

   7.  Do you think Christmas has become too commercial? Explain. How could they make

         it more  meaningful? 

   8.  Charlie Brown refused to "go along  with" ( agree with what everyone else thought
        was  normal when he was sure there was something better or more meaningful 
        available. When is it good to go "along"  with everyone  around you and when is it
        better to make your own way? 






Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ESL Christmas: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

One of the most loved North American Christmas stories of all time  is the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  

Although Dr. Seuss, a well-known children's writer, originally wrote the story for children, it has messages for young and old. 


The story and the animated video ,now shown on television every year  at Christmas time, continues to delight millions of of people whether they are watching it for the first time, or the 30th time. 


Now that we have officially entered the Christmas season, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to watch an important  piece of North American culture.  


It doesn't matter if you live in Australia, Europe, Asia or  the Middle East, you will still enjoy learning a little about a series of Christmas messages that apply to every culture or religion. 


If you plan to live in North America, or if you already live here, it is even more important  that you know about this  story by Dr. Seuss. If you can mention any aspect of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or of Who ville  in casual conversation, people will think you are  a true American or Canada, and really "get us." 

This is also a way you can get your children involved. 


Activity 1#

Pre-listening: 
Read and go through the following power point on your own, or with your children


Power Point Explaining the Basic Story and characters of  How the Grinch Stole Christmas 


Listening: 

Watch the video as many times as you need to know and answer the comprehension questions below. 










   












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1.  Listen to the song without  looking at the gap fill. Try to write down all the negative
     words that describe Mr. Grinch, for exdample: "mean" . 

2.  Listen as many times as you need and fill in the gaps. 

3.  Sing-along . This is a great song to practice enunciating. Make sure you open your 

     mouth as wide as you can in order to let your tongue get to the right place. Sing as 
     slowly as the singer. 



  

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
   Discussion and Writing Questions


1.         Why do you think the Grinch hated Christmas so much? 

2.         What role does Cindy Lou play in the story. What does she do to change the Grinch?  

3.         Why do you think the Who's reacted the way they did when they found out that all
             their things had  been  stolen? 

4.         Do you know anyone who is like the Grinch? What might some be some reasons      

            why that person acts that way?

5.         What did the people of Whoville learn from the Grinch's behaviour in the story?  

6.         If you were the Grinch's defense attorney, what kind of arguments could you make in
            his favour?  

7.         What is the message of the story?  Is there more than one message?  Explain.

8.          If you had to spend an afternoon with Grinch for the afternoon what would you do to
            get the Grinch in the holiday spirit?

9.         If you could give the Grinch one gift, what would it be? 

10.       List some differences between the Grinch and Cindy's Lou's personalities. Give                       examples. 

11.       The Grinch has a serious character flaw. He experiences a crisis and then changes               for the 
better. Describe the Grinch's character flaw at the beginning of the story.                     What  crisis changes him?  How does he change? 

12.       Dr. Seuss wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas to point out how the media and                    marketing have created a holiday focused on spending money to buy things.  
            Discuss how has the media changed holidays such as Christmas, New Years,           
            Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Mother;s Day etc. and how they are celebrated. 

13.       Would you write a different ending to the story? Explain why or why not. If yes, how               would you end  it? 

14.       Do you know anyone who had some bad personality characteristics, but who                          became  a better person after something happened to him or her. This could be                    you, or anyone you know. Tell what happened, and why this person changed. 

15.       Write a letter to persuade the Grinch why he should change his mind.   

   How the Grinch Stole Christmas Writing and Discussion Questions    Word Doc. 
     
Original Complete Script for the animated version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas



  
Readers Theatre How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This is an easier version of the story written like a small play. It is perfect for students to use as a play in the classroom. The roles are broken down so that everyone can have  one , two or even three parts.
  1. Assign roles to different students and have the practice in groups. ( If you have a large class, you could divide them into two or three groups) 
  2. Start with having them read their lines normally, but fluently, without hesitating or stumbling. 
  3. Go over the pronunciation of different words.
  4. Now, have the students put the maximum amount of expression in their voice. Practice as often as they need. 
  5.  Have them memorize their lines and be able to repeat them in the correct order. 
  6. Perform the mini play in class


http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz2478941c61d58.html

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

ESL Christmas: Five More Songs Quizzes



Love is one of the main messages of Christmas. 

People all over the world enjoy sharing their love with each other at this special time. 

But Christmas can also be a time of  loss and heartbreak - a time when people remember a love lost and the wonderfu  times they had.

Although these are not traditional Christmas carols, the following songs have no become classics because they show both the joy, the sadness and  the yearning that Christmas and the holiday season brings to people in love.   

Here are a few songs to keep you in the mood, whether you are happy or sad. Listen, play the game. Then sing along. There's lots of Christmas vocabulary here.  Try some.

All I Want for Christmas is You:

But first, let's try some some vocabulary review 

Before you watch:



1.   When you stand under this, you have to kiss someone   
2.   Underneath means ________________ 
2.   This is made out of snow and often has eyes, a nose and stick arms 
3.   We roast these type of nuts on the fire.  
4.   What do people put under the Christmas tree and open on Christmas 
       morning? 




WHAM: Last Christmas  

Have you ever experienced a sad Christmas when everything reminded you of a former love? I'm sure you are not alone. As everyone knows even people whose heart is broken still get through it. The next song is about that. 




Shake Up Christmas 

Although this Christmas pop song was only released in 2010, it has become so popular that Coca Cola has started using it for its  Christmas advertising campaign. It is easy to see why as the upbeat song  encourages people to spread love and happiness at this time of year. 





 



Mistletoe by Justin Bieber

Before you listen to the song: 

1.  Justin Bieber uses the word  "Imma" several times during the song. This is slang for  
      "I'm going to be" 

2.  Cheer is another word for joy. 

3.  What is this below?
4.  If you spend time "chilling" with someone, you ___  

5.  shawti is slang for ______________________________'

6. When you "stare" at someone, you ______


CHRISTMAS WRAPPED UP IN RED 

Many of us are afraid to tell the people we love how we feel, so we hide our feelings. Sometimes it's worth being brave and taking a chance to open up about those feelings. Who knows what could happen. Listen to the following song to see what Kelly Clarkson has to sat about it.