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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Sunday, December 20, 2015

ESL Nativity Story Listening Quiz


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. 



Friday, December 18, 2015

ESL Charlie Brown Christmas Activities


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

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 for many people around the world the Christmas season can bring anxiety and a feeling of being alone and unloved. 

 "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 he buys for the school play stands for all the world's underfed, unseen, unloved, ( trees, animals, people...) .Yet, it is not beyond rescue. 

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

Subtle, slow and quiet — absolutely silent at times — the special is remains as satisfying today as it was when it was first shown in 1965. 

In addition to the wonderful score by Vince Guaraldi's famous jazz piano score, 
the production features the voicers of real children rather than adult actors trying to sound like children. "


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




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. 

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





Now, try this song.








VIDEOS: New

The Making of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special 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? 







Thursday, December 17, 2015

Five ESL Christmas Songs with Activities


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. 














Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How the Grinch Stole Christmas ESL Listening Speaking Activities

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 in the Grinch Who Stole Christmas


Listening: 

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


1.  Listen to the song without  looking at the gap fill. Try to write down all the negative
     words that describe Mr. Grinch. 

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 did 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.   

Acting out the Story  

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

ESL Christmas Listening Quizzes and Activities

I have posted a variety of Christmas listening and speaking activities for you.  Listen as often as you need to before you answer questions. Discuss the questions in the speaking activities with your friends, families and classmates. 

If one of the stories includes the script, try to listen to the story without reading it the first time. Then, read and listen at the same time. 

 Enjoy  

Source: learningenglishwithmichelle



  

Source: learningenglishwithmichelle


Christmas in the 17th and 18th Centuries  


 Christmas is coming! - a conversation (intermediate) with :
I. Pre-Listening Exercises
II. Listening Exercises 

III. Post-Listening Exercises
Topic : Christmas gifts
Speakers : a man and 2 children
(Source: esl-lab.com)



The Christmas Gift - a narration (difficult) with :
I. Pre-Listening Exercises
II. Listening Exercises 
III. Post-Listening Exercises 
(Source: esl-lab.com)



Fred Talks about the daily routine for his family on Christmas Day in Canada   (Source: ELLLO)

 Christmas Tree Traditions  ( ELLL0)
Anja compares Christmas tree traditions with Fred  
 Source ELLLO)

Darren discusses how he feels about Christmas: what he enjoys about it and what aspects he finds stressful.  Source ELLLO  

Sharon talks about she feels at Christmas 


It's Christmas Time Listening Game

Advent  
'Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat!'

Christmas is the biggest festival in Britain and is celebrated on 25th December. The four weeks before Christmas are called Advent, and are traditionally celebrated in churches by lighting a candle each Sunday during Advent. Nowadays, many people in Britain are not very religious, but they still celebrate Christmas. (continue to listen Source BBC)
Reading Comprehension Activities PDF

At Christmas time, it's always worth remembering that there are many countries where Christianity isn't the main religion. The official religion of the UK is Christianity, but n London - one of the world's most multicultural cities - there are many non-Christians who also celebrate Christmas. In this program, Yvonne Archer finds out why this   is the case and what they like to do at Christmas time.(Source BBC)


 From Paris to Burgundy, Christmas is the stuff of dreams - where rich sounds of medieval carols abound, simple rituals are shared by families and friends, and windows are illuminated by lights. SOURCE: ESOL Courses 



German Christmas Markets
German Christmas markets are famous all over the world. This week we visit six of the oldest,most celebrated and most unusual. Today we are at probably the most famous of them all the Nuremberg Christmas Market.SOURCE: ESOL  Courses 


Every year, a theatrical group called The Washington Revels celebrates the holiday season and winter solstice with a festive Christmas production featuring traditional songs and dances. The award-winning group selects its themes from a different part of the country - or the world - every year. This year was Christmas as it was celebrated in rural England in the 1830s. SOURCE: ESOL Courses  


When Christmas is just around the corner, most people have very little Christmas shopping left to do. But it's a well known fact that on Christmas Eve, most of the shoppers on the streets are men. So is that last minute rush just a fun part of the Christmas shopping experience for men, and do they actually like Christmas shopping? Yvonne Archer goes in search of a few answers. (Source: BBC)



Poinsettias are the best selling potted flowering plant in the United States. Red poinsettias are a traditional part of Christmas celebrations, which is why almost all of them are sold in winter. Find out about the history of this colourful plant and why it is so popular in America.  (Source:  learning English TV  VOA environment and Science) 




The Million Dollar Christmas Tree







Jingle bells, jingle bells... Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Watch this video to see how a shop is getting ready for Christmas. -  Includes quiz, vocabulary and transcript. Part of  Word on the Street series. - Source: learnenglishteens.uk British Council  



If you walk into many London shops, you might find it difficult to believe that Christmas is still several weeks away. In this program, with the help of a market researcher, we find out why Christmas seems to be getting earlier and earlier. Source: BBC 


Imagine this program is an invitation to a special kind of Christmas party - not the kind you have at home for friends - but what we call 'the office Christmas party', or less formally, 'the office Christmas do'.(Source: BBC)




We've been out of the office to talk to people about their feelings at Christmas time. We've also been asking people to describe their ideal Christmas. (Source: BBC)





 Some of the many names of the short, fat, jolly old man with a long beard, wearing a red suit with white fur who delights children at Christmas | Words and Their Stories

The story of the man in the red suit who brings gifts to children at Christmas. Radio Broadcast with transcript "
(Source: : learningenglish.voanews.com)


How to Host a Christmas Dinner New
A short instructional video listing the steps needed to host a Chrstimas dionner for family and friends. Lisdten as many times as you need to and answer the comprehension questions. Source: ESOL Courses 






The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry  
Listen and Read comprehension 
A spoken version of the famous story of a very poor young husband and wife  who each give up the most valuable thing they own in order to give the other a Christmas gift.
(Source: VOA  Quiz from ESL Listening.com)







Charles Dickens' 1843 classic "A Christmas Carol" is quite possibly the most often told holiday story in the English-speaking world.

The very wealthy Ebenezzer Scrooge is miserable, while his poor employee Bob Cratchit is a contented man with a virtuous disposition and family.

Scrooge, a hardened, greedy man who undergoes a great emotional change one Christmas Eve through the assistance of three ghosts. Each ghost represents some form of loss. The Ghost of Christmas Past represents the lost innocence and kindness Scrooge endures in a difficult childhood and young manhood. The Ghost of Christmas Present represents the love and fellowship Scrooge is losing in his current life.
Scrooge experiences a change of heart while he reviews Christmas memories and once again discovers what it is like to feel and live in the spirit of love, kindness, and giving..
(Listen and read the classic tale of Scrooge)    (Source ESL Bits.com)



Trailer for the Movie A Christmas Carol 

Listening Quiz for the trailer to A Christmas Carol : Source ESL Video.com

Now that all the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten and the Halloween costumes have been put away, everyone is getting ready for Christmas! It’s supposed to be a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but somehow it’s become a huge commercial holiday and the most important time of year for retailers.  (SOURCE: Podcast from Melanie ESL)

The Christmas Cuckoo  
A long time ago, there was village in the North Country. All its inhabitants were poor, because their fields were barren, and they didn't have much to sell; but the poorest of them all were two brothers called Scrub and Spare. They were shoemakers. Their shack was very small. The door was low and always open, because there was no window.Continue here  
(Source:John Robinson's ESL Listening.com   



Chatty Santa (chattysanta.com)   

"Type what you’d like Santa to say to a particular person, and Chatty Santa will say it. Then send it to the designated person..." (SOURCE: Larry Ferlazzo)



Christmas Greeting from Santa  
Send your friends and relatives Christmas greetings from Santa by clicking here 
(Source:  Teflteacher's blog)





Christmas Speaking Activities