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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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ten Great Halloween Song Gap Fills

Happy Halloween! 
Let's Have a Little Fun! Bring on the Music!

No Halloween is complete without music.  For your listening pleasure, here are some of my favourite Halloween song. 

Listen to all of the songsTry the listening activities.Then discuss them with your friends or classmates
  • Which one was the easiest to understand? Why?
  • Which one did you like best? Why? 
  • Which one did you like least? Why? 
  • Which one had the best video and graphics? Why? 
  • Which one told a real story? 
  • Which one will still be played in 20 years? Why?  

 # 1 :   This is Halloween
This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson is one of the few songs with the word Halloween in it.
It has become extremely popular at Halloween even though it was originally written for a movie about a Christmas Nightmare.  

#2 The Monster Mash
The Monster Mash is one of the oldest and best known songs people usually play at Halloween.  I even danced to it when I was a child. That's why we call it a "classic," or a "golden oldie"

# 3 Werewolves of London 
This song is always at the top of people's Halloween music list because  werewolves are scary creatures that people love to be afraid of. Can you howl like the singer can? Try it. It's fun. 

 # 4  Season of the Witch 
This song is doesn't have any ghosts or zombies in it, but Halloween is all about witches and strange things, so it fits the topic.  Besides, Halloween occurs during the season of the witch.   

#5:  Bad Moon Rising 
This song is more about bad things happening than about Halloween itself, but Halloween is a time when terrible things are supposed to happen, so the song is very popular at Halloween parties. Besides, it's fun to dance to. .

#6: Love Potion # 9 
This song is about magic and magic potions, so it fits under the category of things that happen at Halloween. It's  also  romantic song, and everyone needs to sing a few slow songs - even at a party. 


# 7  Spooky  
This song, which has been sung by many different artists,  is not really a Halloween song, but everyone loves a song about things that are "spooky"m, which means scary. A love song with a "spooky" theme is great to dance to at Halloween, and it's easy to sing too.  

# 8 : Don't Fear the Reaper 
 The "reaper" is a name that we often use for death, so this song fits perfectly into a Halloween theme because Halloween is all about death and spirits. 


#9  Welcome to My Nightmare  
Dressing up for Halloween, or going to haunted houses and trying to scare people is just like being in a nightmare.  This song makes nightmares fun. I hope you enjoy this one.


#10 Thriller 
Thriller is he biggest selling album, song and video of all time. The complete video, which is 13 minutes long , changed the way music videos were made. Most people consider it their  
favourite Halloween song and can even dance the dance. How about you?  

I hope you enjoy these songs and have fun with them.  Let me know which ones you liked best, or if you have any other favourite ones. 

Meanwhile,  have fun getting scared!

Great Halloween

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween is Not Just for Children

If you ever thought Halloween was just for kids, think again.  Vancouver, British Columbia,  Halloween is almost more important than Christmas, not only for children, but for every age group from 3 to 65.

Created from a mixture of  traditions, originally meant  to frighten away the spirits of the dead, Halloween is now an excuse for people to "let their hair down,"  (relax and stop acting inhibited) dress up in all kinds of wild costumes,and wander the streets of the city laughing, and acting silly.

The wonderful thing is that not one person will "bat an eyelash." look at them strangely)  Walk downtown today or tomorrow and you will see some strange and wonderful looking people dressed in anything from vampire costumes to toothpaste boxes. They will look like they are having a wonderful time, and you'll smile because their joy is contagious.

Halloween Magic 

Halloween is a magic time for many Canadians, young and old. It is one of the few times of the year when  normally reserved Canadians allow themselves to forget they are responsible, hard working people, and to remember and let out some of their childhood feelings of joy and wonder.

Canadians are not a people who wear their feelings on their sleeves, or who party in the streets, so Halloween is an excuse and an opportunity for us to do just that. In many countries, this is called "carnival", or "joie de vivre", or simply public partying. In Canada, it is called Halloween, and people have come to look forward to it the whole year long. 

Getting Ready  

Preparations for Halloween begin almost a month before the big day. From the beginning of October, schools build their entire art and craft programs around the theme of Halloween.   Witches, ghosts, bats and pumpkins appear on every classroom window.

Children read Halloween stories, plays and even poetry and write their own ghost, or horror stories.   Teachers and parents bring hundreds of children out to pumpkin patches on the outskirts for the city. Here, children all choose their own pumpkins to take home and carve.


By the first week of October, children, teenagers, "twenty and thirty  somethings", and even  parents have  begun to plan the costume they plan to wear on October 31st. Teenagers and young people between  the ages of 20 and 40,  who will be attending several parties, or night club crawls, often put together three or four costumes.

Some people put together strange pieces of clothing from their own cupboards. Others make their own costumes. any fill the aisles of thrift stores like the Salvation Army or Value Village looking for something "just right." Still others spend a large amount of money and go to costume shops. All you need is an imagination.

Decorations and Pumpkin Carving

At home, parents and children begin decorating their own homes with all the symbols of Halloween in their traditional black and orange. Nowadays, families go even further putting decorating their yards with cemetery headstones, hacked up bodies dripping with fake blood, murderous looking criminals, zombies or Frankenstein like statues glowing an eerie green in the dark,  tree branches draped in filmy, but very visible spider web fabric.

Parents and children, or entire groups of teenagers hold pumpkin carving parties. Organizations stage pumpkin carving contests with prizes. Walk around any neighbourhood with children, and you will see front steps adorned with five, seven or even 10 beautifully carved pumpkins all lit up to look as spooky as they can be.

Then, of course, there are the school parties, and the Stanley Park Ghost train, which runs for almost a month. On the weekend of Halloween itself, almost  every community centre in Greater Vancouver has some kind of "safe" family Halloween event planned with games, spooky themes, and lots of sweets.  Vancouver itself has haunted house tours, cemetery walks and even fright nights at Playland. - an amusement park. 

Trick or Treat!! 

Finally, as soon as it begins to get dark on October 31st,  children of all sizes and shapes dressed in superhero, scary, cartoon character, hero,  princess or scary costumes will go knocking on doors shouting out "trick or treat," as their parents, flashlight in hand, watch them carefully  from the gate, or the street.

These days, when people open their doors to greet the kids, they will hand out chocolate bars and packaged goodies instead of candy kisses, homemade popcorn balls, or apples.  There have been too many scares for parents to allow their children to accept anything that is not tightly sealed and packaged.

By nine o'clock, things should have almost stopped. Occasionally, a group of 12 year olds wearing nothing but a face mask will come knocking on doors with their hands out for candy. At my house, the rule is no costume, no candy.

Safety Tips for 
Trick or Treating 

For parents who are new at the process of "trick or treating" there are some basic rules.
  • Don't knock on doors unless you see at least one or more lit pumpkins. 
  • Have your children walk and knock on doors in groups as well as carry flashlights. They will be safer
  •  Kids should wear something bright and reflective. Drivers need to see them
  • If a homeowner allows children to choose their own treats, kids should limit themselves to one. 
  • If you see that pumpkin lights have been put out, the home has run out of candy. Don't knock on the door. 

By nine o'clock, the trick or treating should be all over. It's time to go home. 
So,  if you are reading this and live in North America, carve a pumpkin, put a candle in it and put out on your front porch. Buy some candy, and open the door to trick or treaters.

Get yourself a costume, dress up your children, and go out trick or treating. Attend a community centre party. Ride the ghost train, or tour a haunted house. Enjoy the party, and have fun.

Let me know what YOU think about Halloween. I would like your opinion.  Just click on the comment box. 

      Friday, October 25, 2013

      Seven ESL Activities with one Song

      I have often said that I think using songs is a terrific way to improve many of your English skills. 

      Sometimes, using one specific song can be used as an in-class activity that helps students practice all their English skills.  reading, listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and even writing. S: 

      The following song includes SEVEN different activities you can do with a group or a partner to work on a variety of your English skills.  It's also a lovely song  to listen to and sing along with. . 

      If you are a teacher, give it a try with your class. If you are an English learner, try it out on your own and then get together with a friend, a group of friends, your family members and do all of the activities.  Enjoy !  

      Monday, October 21, 2013

      Giving Poster Presentations

      Many ESL students have to give group presentations as part of the speaking component of their English class. 

      I  like my students to give poster presentations. 

      In this kind of situation, two or three students work on a health related topic such as obesity in children, diabetes,  or anorexia nervosa. Other times, the topics might relate to endangered species or environmental problems. 

      Benefits of Poster Presentations

      Giving a poster presentation allows the students to work as a group, which then gives them some practice working as a "team"  to develop group management and speaking skills.  Some of these skills include: dividing up a topic, negotiating, planning, reporting back on activities, explaining what they have done so far, taking responsibility, clarifying issues, discussing problems etc.   

      These are skills they need for the real world, for future academic classes and for work.  Non English speakers often say they have team work skills, but don't really know how to explain what that means.  Giving them the experience of preparing this type of poster presentation allows them to honestly report that they have indeed worked as part of a team in English. They can then describe what they did and how they did it. 

      Preparing to give a poster presentation requires time and commitment on the part of the group members as students need to work together both in class and out of class. 

      How it Works  

      First, group members need to divide their topic into sections with each member taking responsibility for a specific area.  The students then do research on their part of the topic and report back to each other on what they have gathered so far.  I often provide them with specific websites they can go to where they will find material on their topic that they can actually read and understand. 

      At different phases of their project, I often have students work together in class. Then I video tape them using some of the team skills they are putting into practice. This allows me to observe them interacting with each other more carefully later. It also lets me see how well they are using the skills I've been teaching them, or if I need to go over something specific such as pushing for clarification. The final part of the project involves putting the poster together. The students usually do this together. Sometimes I will use the school facilities to print out large headings for their poster, but as to the rest, they are on their own. 

      On presentation days, the posters are set up in different parts of the room, and the presenters discuss a particular aspect of their general topic, using their poster to help them with be comfortable with the content and vocabulary. The "audience," which is usually only three or four students,  move from poster presentation to poster presentation. They can go back and read the information on the posters or ask specific questions to the presenters. 

      Example of Poster Presentations: 

      Here are some examples of student posters at different levels. Some are clearly done by  lower level students. Others were created by university students or professionals.