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

This blog is for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English. Each PAGE above contains thousands of free English lessons and practice exercises to help you learn and improve your English grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, writing and editing. On the right hand side, is a list of links of resources grouped by category. Although I am constantly checking on the links, please let me know if you find any that don't work.

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NOTE: To leave a comment, click on the word "comment" at the bottom of the page. A comment page will pop up.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ESL Reading: Canadian History Week

144 Things Canada Has Given the World
A Skimming and Scanning Activity 

Canada might not be very old, but during its 147 years, it has made a number of contributions to the world.

In honour of Canadian History week, here's a Canadian trivia reading quiz to test your knowledge.  First, try the pre-reading activity to find out how much you know already. Then, see how many questions you got right.  

Later, discuss and write about some of the most important inventions ever made. Would your life be any different without them? 

From Anne of Green Gables  to the zipper, hockey to the hydrofoil hydrofoil, here's a list put together by The Hamilton Spectator. Some things that are precious to Canadians may cause others to scratch their heads.

You may not have eaten poutine unless you’ve traveled to Quebec or Ontario, while Timbits  and double doubles  may sound like gobbledygook  outside our borders.  Have a look.

Read more 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love Letters to Canada on Canada Day

Most Canadians have their own unique reasons for knowing how lucky they are to live in Canada.  All of us have our own  "Canadian  moments" - moments when truly experience what it is to be Canadian. That's when we realize that we have won the jackpot.

Yes, like any other country in the world, Canada is not perfect. It has its flaws. But, it is still the best country in the world to live in - high taxes or not.   

Every year on Canada Day, I write a post on the many reasons I love Canada.... and there are too many to count.  Here is my post from last year on  Why I Love Canada
147 Reasons we Love Canada
This year,  I'm letting others do the talking.  They all have something important to say - things I often feel in my heart, but am unable to voice. 

Sit back and enjoy reading some of these love letters to Canada. You'll be happy you did, AND if you are a new Canadian, or thinking about moving here, you might learn something. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Can You Sing All the Words to O Canada?

adapted from Huffington Post 

You might remember the Canadian beer fridge from this year's Winter Olympics, the one from Molson that only opened if you scanned in a Canadian passport. 

Now it's back in Canada just in time for Canada Day, July 1, but this time, they're really making people prove their national love.

Just in time for Canada;s 147th birthday on Canada Day, Molson Canadian has created a   a fridge that makes Canadians sing out Canada's praises in return for a free beer.   

The catch is that you have to sing O Canada  perfectly - all the way through. If you miss a word or two on the more difficult parts of the national anthem, the fridge makes a noisy buzzer sound and the door stays locked.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Five Great Songs and Activities for Mothers Day

Many people don 't completely appreciate just what a mother is and does until they become parents themselves.  

Over the years many songs have been written to celebrate and praise mothers for the major roles they have and continue to play in our lives. 

Here are five songs  that focus on the different roles mothers play in our lives. All of them include a variety of listening, reading, writing, and discussion activities. Some songs even include a few grammar activities.  Enjoy them on your own or with your class.  

Mother's Day By the Numbers

A Reading/Scanning Activity 

Mother's Day has been around for a long time, so it has generated a lot of numbers over the years.  The following infographic contains many interesting facts and details about mothers and Mother's Day. 

Scan through the information to see how quickly you can find the answers to the questions below.  Remember, this is a scanning activity - not a reading one. 
Go to the bottom, read the questions and find the answer. Time yourself to see how fast you can work.   GOOD LUCK!  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Idioms of the Heart for Valentine's Day

 Happy Valentine's Day! 

 wrote this last year, but idioms don't change over a year, so enjoy!! 

Valentine's day is a day when lovers wear their hearts on their sleeves, so I thought it would be fun for you to learn a few idioms of the heart so that you could tell your loved one that your heart skips a beat every time he or she walks into the room.  

Of course, not all idioms with the word "heart"  send a message of love. In fact, sometimes the meanings can be very surprising.
wear your heart on your sleeve: When you wear your heart on your sleeve, you show your feelings about someone, or something very openly. . 
Example:  Everybody knew that Tom really wanted to go out with Maire because he wore his heart on his sleeve every time he was around her. 

pour your heart out ( to someone)"When  you pour your heart out to someone, you tell them them all your problems, fears, hopes or dreams.  You have a very intimate conversation. 

Example:  My daughter poured her heart out to me when she broke up with her husband. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Improve your English with SMART Goals

Last year I posted an article about how ESL students can achieve their goals more successfully.

Today, as a new year AND a new term begin for many of you, I want to re-post that article because I think many of you could really benefit from reading it. 

You CAN be successful.  BUT, you need to be very clear about to WHAT specific goal you want to achieve, how realistic it is and how you actually plan to do it.  This article can help you start start the process. 

Reaching Goals the SMART Way

If I asked you what your goals are for this term, many of you would say: " I want to improve my English."  Others would try to be a little more specific and say, " I want  to be more fluent."  or I want to improve my grammar." 

What do these  vague  goals actually mean?  How do you know how to achieve them, or when you have actually achieved them?  

So... what's the answer?

It's important for you to have a dream, a destination you want to reach.  However, if you truly want to reach that destination,  you can't just hope it will happen by saying you want to improve. You need real strategies  that will help you get what you want. 

Instead of having vague, undefined goals, you need to set realistic targets for yourself - targets you can actually hit or reach.  

Business experts and psychologists have proven that setting SMART goals will help you get to your destination much more efficiently and effectively. They will also allow you to measure and see the progress you have made.


'Watch the following video on SMART goals. The speaker has an accent, so, play the video several times and listen carefully.

VIDEO # 2: SMART GOALS for language learning  

So what does this all mean?

One way to think about  SMART GOALS is to think of them as a series of smaller,  easy to accomplish action steps towards achieving your bigger goal. 

If you use this method, you are more likely to move one step closer to your final goal instead of always being disappointed with yourself and your progress. You are also more likely to develop the self-discipline to do the required work, and the belief that you can eventually achieve your bigger goal.

S= Specific

  • Make your goal(s) specific, not general. 
  • What do you want to accomplish? Saying you want to improve your English grammar is general. It doesn't really mean anything because you don't really know what you really want, or how to measure it. 
  • On the other hand, if you are an advanced level student, start with something like " I want to be able to write with only a few verb tense mistakes by the end of the term,  or I want to understand and use prepositions properly 80% of the time."   
  • Don't say you want to improve your communication skills.Try something like this: I want to be able to comfortably carry on a ten minute conversation with a stranger. 


  • Make your goals measurable.  For example, if you want to make fewer verb tense errors in your writing, start working towards that goal by learning which tenses to use in your writing. 
  • Start proofreading and editing  your writing. Finally, count the  number of verb tense errors your teacher has marked. Are you making fewer errors each time? Don't give up after one or two tries. Keep doing this over a period of time, and measure the improvement. 
  • Are you getting closer to your goal? If you do reach your goal- extend the goal,or develop another one.
A= Attainable:
  • Make sure you can achieve your goal within a realistic amount of time. 
  • Don't set too many at the same time. For example, if you are not comfortable speaking English out of class, don't think you will be fluent and comfortable at the end of three months. Instead, decide that you want to be comfortable speaking in a few non-survival situations.  Then, make a plan and stick to it.
  •  If you never speak English outside of class, decide to join a church, a club, a meet-up group, or a sports team. Do this regularly, and as often as possible. Participate, become engaged rather than sitting back and letting others do the talking. Become as comfortable as you can with that particular group. 
  • After a few weeks, try to determine if your comfort level has increased. 
  • Continue measuring it. Are you now using your English spontaneously with strangers, at work?
R= Realistic or Relevant 

  • Make sure you goal is relevant to your needs. 
  • Focus on areas you are weak in  rather than on stronger skills.  For example, if your  pronunciation is OK,  leave it alone. 
  •  Decide what you DO need to work on now. How about your vocabulary? Do you still use simple words like bad, good nice, interesting, have, be, and do instead of better words that show you are not a beginner.  
  • Determine the  kind of vocabulary you want to be able to actively use correctly in three months. 
  • Make sure these words are useful ones for your life - NOT  the kind you will only use once on a TOEFL test. Then, make a plan as to how you intend to accomplish this. Make your plan specific, measurable and realistic.
T= Time Bound (Creating Deadlines)
  • Set a time frame, or deadline within which you want to achieve your small goals.
  •  Remember. There is no magic. Your English will not be perfect in three months. It takes time. 
  • But, you CAN make fewer mistakes in your writing and speaking. You CAN improve your ability to listen to the news, or understand more complicated instructions at work. You CAN  start feeling more comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone and speaking to English speakers. 


Think about how some of these strategies could be  used to help you set "real" goals for different aspects of your English learning. 

Think of some specific goals YOU would like to achieve this term.  Follow the guidelines above to make them specific, measurable, attainable or achievable, realistic and time bound.l   

Then, think about some of the steps involved in setting and most importantly keeping SMART GOALS.

Some of the steps include choosing your goal(s). writing them down, assessing them and getting specific, creating a plan and executing it by developing  habits and making changes  in your life to  make time for your actions, staying motivated, tracking your progress and being accountable. But, virtstk  

  What do YOU think about this?    All comments and suggestions are welcome. 

 To leave a  comment, click on the  blue word comment or no comments.