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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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day Song Quizzes

Enjoy the following Remembrance Day Songs.

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.

Terry was impressed with the stores leadership role in adopting the Legions two minutes of silence initiative. He felt that the stores contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.

When eleven oclock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the two minutes of silence to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.

Terry's anger towards the father for trying to engage the stores clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into the following song called  work called, A Pittance of Time. 

A Soldier Cries 

Monday, November 10, 2014

25th Anniversary of Fall of the Berlin Wall

 More than a million Germans and people from around the world gathered in Berlin on the weekend to celebrate the the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The celebrations included the release of 7,000 illuminated helium balloons strung along a 15 kilometer (9 mile)  section of the former wall, which had served as a border between East and West Germany until November 9th, 1989 when the walls came tumbling down. 

Berlin Wall Built (1961
In August 1961, East German troops began to build a wall to create a border between East and West Berlin.  The 12 foot high wall eventually continued for 66 miles along with an extra 41 miles of barbed wire  fence. It separated families and towns that had always been part of a unified Germany. 
No one one either side of the wall was allowed to cross to the other side without the permission of the East German government.  Armed guards along the wall prevented any East Germans from escaping over the wall. Over the years  many people died while they were trying to cross the wall.  

Fall of the Berlin  Wall 
In 1989, more than 13,000 people in East Germany managed to escape through Hungary. They later went to West Germany and protested against the East German government. That sparked a protest within East Germany, known as “The Peaceful Revolution.” 
After several weeks of civil unrest, on November 9th, 1989, the the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto  the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory

25th Anniversary Celebrations
At the 25th anniversary ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the fall of the Berlin Wall sent, “a message of hope and that dreams can come true. Nothing has to stay as it is, even if it’s difficult.”

Most of the wall is now gone, but 2.2 kilometres of it still stands  as a monument in Germany. Some parts of the wall were sent to other countries, such as the United Nations in New York, as a monument.

Divisions still exist
But 25 years after the Berlin Wall crumbled, divisions between countries persist and there are fears of new psychological barriers replacing the physical ones. 

Watch the video as many times as you need to. Then, answer the following questions

Comprehension Questions  

1. What happened in  East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall? 2. What happened in   
     the Soviet Union? 
3. How many people lined up at McDonalds?  
4. What happened after the final euphoria died down?  How were things different?  
5. What could America have done? What did it do? 
6. What caused increasing distrust of the west? 
7. What was the disapproval rating of the U.S. in 1991?     What is it now? Why?
8. What  is replacing the sale of American t shirts and sweatshirts in Moscow these days?  Why? 
9. What new "barriers" may be built soon?

To learn more about the story of the Berlin wall watch the following videos: 


Monday, November 3, 2014

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.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields .  

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die.
we shall not sleep 
  though poppies grow 
in Flanders fields.

Why the Poppy? 
For almost 100 years, people from Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries have worn the red poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day.

This simple red flower continues to be one of most visible ways  people can show that they remember and thank the millions of men and women who gave up their lives for their countries in World War 1, World War 11 and all other wars. 

The association between the poppy and war dead goes back to the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s  when  soldiers noticed that poppies seemed to thrive on the graves of soldiers who had died in battle in Flanders, a region of northern France and Belgium.

In 1915, Colonel John McCrae, a medical officer serving in Belgium, made the same connection between the fields of poppies and  the young soldiers who had been killed in battle.  This inspired him to write In Flanders Field during a break from working with the wounded. 

The poem, one that almost every Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand  child can recite from memory, reflects what McCrae saw and heard while working to save dying and injured soldiers during a deadly battle. 

The Story Behind the Poem 

On April 22, 1915, the Germans used deadly chlorine gas against Allied troops  in a desperate attempt to create movement on one side or the other. Although they were suffering from the terrible effects of gas, the Canadian soldiers continued to fight and hold the line for another 16 days.
In the trenches where he was caring for hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers, McCrae was so deeply affected that  wrote a letter to his mother. 

The letter to his mother 
"The general impression in my mind is a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots, except occasionally. 

"In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds...And behind if all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way," he wrote. 

The day before he wrote the poem, one of McCrae's best friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a grave with a simple wooden cross. 

Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses  marking the many graves. Although he couldn't help his friend, or any of the others who had died, McCrae spoke for them in this poem.  It was the second last poem he was to write. 

Listen to In Flanders Field being read out loud. Follow along, or read it at the same time - slowly and solemnly as it is meant to be read

How the Poppy Became an Official Symbol 

In November 1918 as the armistice ended World War 1, Moina Michael, an American teacher working at the YMCA Overseas War Headquarters read McCrae's appeal   "to keep faith with the dead" and vowed that she would always wear a poppy as a sign of  remembrance. Following her two year campaign to have the United States adopt the poppy as a national symbol, the U.S proclaimed it as its national emblem of Remembrance. 

The following year, Anna Guerin a Frenchwoman, sold millions of poppies  to raise funds for rehabilitation in areas of France. She also sent women to London to sell poppies and persuaded Earl Haig to adopt  it as a memorial symbol for the British Legion.

In 1921 the Canadian Legion joined its British counterpart and officially adapted the poppy as its symbol of Remembrance. 

Why Should You Wear A Poppy? 

First, wearing a poppy is one very visible way to show respect and admiration for the men and women who  sacrificed their lives in order to help us retain the freedom and rights we take for granted.

Also  when you buy and wear a poppy, you will be helping military families, and veterans in need and their families. 

Where does the money go in Britain? 

Last year the poppy campaign in Britain raised more than  £40 m ( that's about about $70 million Canadian).  The Royal British Legion said it spends £1.7m a week on care and support for military families, including grants, employment advice and funding, emotional support, tribunal and inquest advice, care homes and family breaks. This includes  the families of veterans returning from Afghanistan. or any other area of conflict.
Where does the money go in Canada? 

Last year, the sale of poppies raised about $16.5 million in Canada. 
The legion distributes about 18 million poppies a year via its members, veterans, military cadets and through direct mailings. Assuming all are given out to Canadians, it amounts to average donations of less than a dollar per available poppy.

The basic purpose of Poppy Funds is to provide immediate assistance to ex-servicemen and women in need. This may include food, shelter or medical attention for them or their families. Also, education bursaries are granted to children and grandchildren of ex-service personnel.  

Poppy funds can be used for low-rental housing and care facilities, community medical appliances and medical research, drop-in centres, meals-on-wheels, transportation and related services for veterans their dependents. Facilities and services are often extended to the elderly or disabled in the community as may be available. 

Is the poppy relevant to the veterans of today? 

The recent role of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, and the creation of the Highway of Heroes Highway of Heroes as a sign of respect Canadians have shown for the families of the more than 160 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan would seem to indicate that the poppy is still relevant. 

Write your answer in he comment box below 

1.   Do YOU think it is still important to wear a poppy?  Why or why not? 
2.   What else should people do instead?  Explain