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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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Report Cards and Registration

Hi class, 

Tomorrow ( Thursday, March 31st) is report card and registration day. Please come to class at 9 a.m. so that I can give you your report cards and talk to any of you who want advice. Out class is allowed to register at 9:30 a.m. If you know anyone who does not read this blog, please let them know what time they should come. 


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Last Exam Finished

Hurray! A week off !
Dear students, 

So......the exams are all finished. I just wanted to let you know that everybody in  the class has passed the final listening exam. Along with your term marks, this means that all of you have passed both the Listening and Speaking parts of the course. I am still working on the courses. I am proud of all of you for doing so well.I will post you a message as soon as I find out what time you need to come to pick up your report cards next Thursday. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Tests

General Tips                                                

Use your time wisely. One of your main goals is to finish the test. If you use your time wisely, you will finish. In reading and  grammar tests, you are usually given one minute for each  question in the test. If you find one question very difficult, do NOT spend three or four minutes thinking about it.  Put a star next to the question and go on to the next question. If you still have time at the end of the test, go back and answer the questions you had problems with. It is better that you have one wrong answer on a difficult question than 10 wrong answers on questions  you were not able to answer because you didn't have enough time. 

Pay attention to the clock. Many students do badly on multiple choice tests because they do not pay close attention to the time. They always seem shocked to hear that there are only ten minutes left. ALL exams are timed tests. They are designed to see how well you can do under pressure. This means that you MUST frequently check on the time. How much time do you have left? and how far have you come on the test.? If the clock says you have 10 minutes left on your test, you should be almost finished,  with only a few questions left. You should have at least five minutes to go back  and check on difficult questions. 

Listening Tests                            

  • Do not try to understand every word every word you hear. Focus on the key points - WHAT is this about? WHO are the people talking? WHERE are they? WHEN is this happening? WHAT do they want? 

  • It is easy to lose concentration for minute,  and have no idea what the conversation is about. If you miss part of a conversation, accept that you will not be able to answer some questions. Move on to the next conversation right away. If you try to stay with the information you missed, you will not hear or understand the next conversation because you were too busy worrying about  the old one. It's okay to miss out on a few questions because your mind wandered. Even native speakers do that. 

  • Try to guess what the questions will be from the answers. If you are given both the questions and the possible answers while you listen, read them carefully. Should you be listening for a when? a where? a who? a what is the topic of this conversation question? Listen for the answers to the questions, not every word in the conversation. 
  • You are not superman, or superwoman, nor are you a computer. You cannot remember everything that someone says - especially in a second language. Write key words on the extra paper you have. Those key words can help you answer questions. Particularly in longer conversations, news and mini lectures.   Again, even native speakers have to do this, or they will not remember information. This is a basic listening strategy that native speakers use every day - especially on the telephone.

  • Nearly right is not the same thing as right. Examiners often give information that sounds correct, but is wrong in some small way. It could be two words that sound similar, for example Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes they do this with modals, or adverbs. For example in the conversation, someone says, "She may be late"  and one of the answers in the question is "she will be late." This is not an exact match, so it would be the wrong answer. It has to be a 100% the right answer.
  • Examiners will often place a word directly from the passage in a wrong answer and use a synonym in the correct answer. Check the meaning and do not rely on word recognition to get the right answer. The tester wants to know if you understood, not if you can recognize a word. 

I hope these test taking tips are helpful  
I will discuss reading tests in another post  


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Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to do well in a speaking test

 I know many of you are worried about your speaking test on Monday. You should be because you will need to show that you can say more than one or two words when you answer a question. You will also have to show that you can describe something you like or don't like and your reasons,  state your opinion about a topic and give reasons, talk about differences and similarities in various aspects of your life: schools, housing., transportation, health . Finally, you will need to show that you speak clearly enough to be understood

All of this CAN be done if your pay attention to some tips.


PRACTICE   PRACTICE PRACTICE speaking English as much as you possibly can during the weekend. The more English you speak for as few days before your interview, the more natural and prepared you will sound. Remember, people prepare for job interviews, and for any other kind of exam.
Have English conversations with your husband, wife, son, daughters, or friends. Use some of the practice questions I gave you as well as others you can make up such as what is your opinion about something.  Tell your friends and relatives you want them to correct your mistakes after you  have finished. If anyone laughs or gets impatient with you, tell them that you know you are not a perfect person. You are simply practicing to be a better speaker.

2.    Work on your oral grammar as you practice. You can be absolutely certain that the interviewer will be listening carefully to see if you can use complete English sentences properly. This means you MUST use sentences with a real subject and a real verb.that can do the action of the subject. In others words. DO NOT TRANSLATE YOUR ANSWERS.

Something else the interviewer  will be listening for is your verb tenses. Nobody expects you to be perfect. You are a pre-intermediate student. But, you should make every effort to answer present tense questions with present tense answers, past tense questions with past tense answers and future tense questions with future tense answers. Pay attention to your own speech. If you catch yourself making a mistake,  try to correct it. That shows that you are aware that you are making  mistakes and that you are making an effort to correct them.  Try not to use constant "ing" verbs in your sentences. It shows you have no control over tenses at all, 

You can also assume that the interviewer  will ask some questions that call for you to use enjoy + ing,. For example what kind of sports do you enjoy?  Other grammar she will be looking for  is comparatives (better than, worse than, more expensive than). She will also  probably  ask questions that require that you use the present perfect. " How long have you lived here? "How long have you worked at that job? 

2.   Practice speaking slowly and carefully.Many of you are trying to talk too fast - like native speakers, but this is not a good idea right. When you try to talk too fast, you eat some of  your words and syllables.  Speaking slowly and really opening your mouth to speak clearly will help your pronunciation. It will help your tongue go to the place it needs to in order to make the correct sound.  Try not to join your words all together.  This is not something that you can do ten minutes before your test, you must practice, practice, practice.

3.. Think about all the possible questions that an interviewer might ask you, and try to think of information you might use to answer those questions. You might even want to write them down in point form, but  do not write complete sentences  and  DO NOT try to memorize any speeches or answers . During the interview do NOT TRY to change the topic with a memorized answer to a different question.  The interview will know immediately. Memorized speech and natural speech are completely different.

It is okay to be nervous and to let the interviewer know that you are nervous. It is also okay to pause before you answer a difficult question. Just don't make the pause too long or there will be an uncomfortable silence. Try a few ...like "hmmm ...let me think about that for a second, or ... This shows that you have developed some strategies for difficult situations.  

The night before your test, go to bed early and get a good night's sleep. Have a good breakfast so that you will not be dizzy and light headed during the interview. 


  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early in case someone did not show up. 
  •  If you are still feeling nervous, try some deep breathing exercises. Close your eyes. .Breathe in as deeply as you can. Hold it for a few seconds. Then breathe out. Listen to your breath  and try to keep your mind from thinking. Keep doing this for five minutes. - always focusing on the breath.


  • Greet the interviewer warmly and tell her your name.
  • All through the interview, speak loudly enough for her to hear every word. Some students speak too softly.This makes it very hard for the interviewer. 
  • Try to treat this like a conversation rather than an interview.
  • Show interest in the interviewer and the questions themselves. Try to smile when  you answer. A smile changes your voice and makes you sound much better. 
  •  Be positive and enthusiastic in your answers. If you speak in a flat monotone, your tone of voice will  make it look like you don't care and are not interested. 
  • Try to show that you have a sense of humour if it is possible. It will lighten  the discussion,  create a good impression and help you to relax.
  • Make sure you look at the interviewers' face. Make eye contact .Don't look at the floor or your hands. It's not as hard as you think. It might even make you smile.
  • Listening is important. Make sure  you understand the question. If you are not sure, ask for clarification. Many students don't do this and answer a completely different question. Listening and understanding is important in a conversation. 
  • If you do not understand a specific  word,  tell the interviewer you  don't understand and ask her to explain what she means.This shows that you know how to ask for clarification.
  • Try to say as much as you can when she asks you a question. For example if she asks about your job, tell what your job is, where you work and what you actually do at work. Use action verbs.  Do not limit your answer to "I work in a restaurant.". 
  • If she asks for your opinion about the transportation system in Vancouver. Don't just say you like or dislike it. Give reasons why you like or dislike it. Give examples.Compare it to the transportation in your own city. 
  • When you limit your answers to a few words  or just one sentence, you are making the interviewer work very hard because she has to ask more and more questions to get information from you. 
  • Remember, it is very difficult for a teacher to judge or give you a mark for your speaking ability if you don't speak. 
  • Do not apologize for your English. You need go sound positive. You can say that you are trying to improve, but leave it at that.
 Finally, good luck on the test. I hope you all do well. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Listening Speaking and Earthquakes

  Hi guys,

Just a few notes on some listening and speaking sites. I have added several speaking sites on the right hand side. A couple of them are a bit difficult. Right now Learn American English on Line and Speak English Today are the two easiest ones for you. Both of them will give you the chance to heaar your own voice. You need to have a microphone in your computer. If you have a laptop, your computer will already have a microphone, but it will not be strong. You need to get a good one if you want to get serious about practicing speaking on line.

I am also including several specific listening exercises from ESL-Lab. These will help you to get ready for your final listening test.

Arches National Park    This last one is a mini-lecture so you can practice for your exam. .

It looks like the situation in Japan is still very serious. The people of Japan are in my thoughts and prayers as they go through this terrible time. I hope you can take a few minutes to think about them too.

I suggest that you go to the two following news web sites to update yourself on what is happening there.
It is an unbelievable story, and we should all be informed. The pictures say a lot.

 CTV News I    and         CBC News

Friday, March 11, 2011

The eleventh hour ----weekend Notes

So..... This is the last week before exams. Here is an idiom that goes with this clock. We've reached the eleventh hour, which means this week is your laast chance to study before exams. If you have not worked much until now. Now is the time

There is a lot of homework this weekend, but you do NOT have to do  all of it.  Work on what you are weakest in.  

On the reading side, read the article on the Inuit. Then, choose from among the others. If your reading scores were below a pass, I would suggest reading more. If your are doing find, read for pleasure , if you have time.
1.  Handouts : the Inuit, two other handouts about rock music and jazz and blues. 

2.  Reading Power 1:Vocabulary: p.94-97 - Ex. 6-8.
                                 Comprehension p.190-     Ex. 7,8,9
                                 Thinking Skills"  P. 218-218-221 - ALL                 

Grammar:  You will have your last grammar test on Tuesday 
1. handouts on comparatives, adverbs and pronouns.
2. Textbook: pp178-179 . I have already given you this homework on pronouns, but some of you obviously did
     not do it, and need to very badly. p.120 -128. 

Correct and rewrite your paragraph on your memorable childhood experience. This will help you for your final writing exam.

Listening:  and Speaking  ( You will have your last listening test on Wednesday) 

Definitely go to the ESL News web site it is in the first list on the right hand side.  
I will send some specific information later. 
If you want to leave any comments, to the bottom and look at the space that says comments. All you need to do is write your opinion. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Hi there, 

I told you I would send a few specific links for you to practice listening.  

I want to start with some fun ones  first.  The first four are songs that feature the future tense with "will" .  Each song is very different, but each song . includes the words to the song, so you can sing 
along to them, Try doing it several times. Singing in English is an excellent way to improve your pronunciation. Make sure you open your mouth nice and wide. 
Also, have a good look at how the verb "will" is used for future. I couldn't find any "going to", but if I do, I will post them.  If you have a printer bring them along to class.

So here we go with the songs  

I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU by Whitney Houston    This is a very famous song that has been sung by many  different people.

I WILL SURVIVE by Gloria Gaynor    This is also a famous song that makes you want to dance right away. Millions of women think it is their song of freedom because it is about a woman who discovers she can survive without a man, and that she will continue to do so.

WHEN I'M 64   by the Beatles   You can't possibly think of a song that talks about the future and not think of the Beatles singing this song. It talks about real life and asks a woman if she will still love him when he's 64. 

Now, I want you to listen to five English dialogues. Do the exercises. Read the script and do not move on to the next one until you get 100%. .These will help you in your listening test.


 ( This is about a 911 situation) 

(This is about sickness and health - good vocabulary practice)

         (This is about apartments - good vocabulary   practice) 

     ( This is about taking security measures)

        (This is about learning how to listen and understand radio advertisements)  

Finally,  I am  posting the calendar for the rest of the term.  When you look at it, you will see how little time we have left.


We have one week and three days , or seven teaching days  before you write your final exams. We still need to cover several grammar, reading and speaking points.  All of us
need to use our time well in class – not waste time fooling around.   

Tentative Plan. I may change the subjects as we go along.

NOTE: to Upper Beginners. Because you do not have a speaking test with another teacher,
I will give you a final speaking test, after a grammar, listening or reading test.




Speaking ( Story Telling) –test

Future Tense
Reading Practice

Reading test

Grammar: Future

Grammar: Comparatives

Listening Test

Speaking Test  Messages
(I have 2 audio labs)

Grammar: Comparatives



Speaking ;
Present Perfect


Present Perfect
Speaking practice 
Review writing
Grammar Quiz
  (Multiple choice)

Practice Listening Test











For spring session


Friday, March 4, 2011


Hi class, 

Sorry I didn't get to you earlier. As some of you know, I haven't been feeling well, so my energy levels are low. I have also been looking at a calendar. Starting on Monday, we will have one week and three days before the final exams start.

That means there is very little time left to teach important grammar points like
trhe  future, comparatives and superlatives, ,present perfect and other assorted
 points.  We still have some reading, listening, speakingf and writing points to cover. You  especially need to practrice speaking. 

All this means is you are going to have to
 hit the books" [ study much harder. }

Next week will be an action packed week. You will have three quizzes: a speaking, reading and listening . That means you are going to have to concentrate and work hard.

I strongly suggest that you do your grammar homework because I only plan to spend two days on the future tense. If you have not already done some homework, you will be lost. 

Speaking Test/ based on retelling a story you have read:
  I also strongly suggest that you read the story I gave you. There  are  four groups : A, B, C, D. You all have different stories. First, each group will work together. Then, I will put each person into another group. This new group will have four different stories. You will then, each retell your story.   This is a speaking test./ no reading

So,..... on to the official homework: 

GRAMMAR: FUTURE TENSE ( present continuous, going to, will) 
  • All the handouts I gave you. I will provide answer keys for most. 
  • Basic Grammar In Use ( your textbook) Units 26,27,28,29 - Pages 52- 59)
  •  Read the story I gave you. Make sure you understand the vocabulary, and answer all the questions.
  • Text Book ( Reading Power 1)  pronoun reference practice p.   and Thinking skills from pages 212 to 224
Finish the vocabulary in context exercise I gave you last weekend. The words are in big paragraphs. 

If you have not finished correcting and writing a second draft of old compositions, do that this weekend. 


I will send some suggestions in my next post. 

I will also send a calendar for the month of March, including exam dates etc.