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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Monday, November 9, 2015

Poll: Youth don't Appreciate Veterans Enough

Canadians overwhelmingly find Remembrance Day as relevant today  as when it began nearly a century ago, but are split on whether younger generations properly appreciate and honour the country’s veterans, according to a new survey released days before the ceremony.
The poll commissioned by Historica Canada found that 82 per cent of Canadians believe the annual tribute is as important now as it was shortly after the First World War. 
Only slightly more than half (54 per cent), however, feel today’s youth “do a good job” of honouring veterans, and slightly fewer than half (46 per cent) think young people understand the sacrifices of those who have died in conflict.
Even those under 35 are torn, with only 54 per cent saying young people recognize veterans’ sacrifices — in itself a sign of engagement ,Historica Canada’s president said.
“When the answer among youth themselves is split as to whether they sufficiently care or not, if you’re saying ‘Yeah, I don’t actually know if I care as much as I should,’ in effect you’re really saying, ‘I do care because I’ve taken the trouble to think about that,’” Anthony Wilson-Smith said.
Overall, the importance Canadians attribute to the Nov. 11 commemoration has risen slightly in the decade that Historica Canada has been polling on the topic, Wilson-Smith said.
“The further that we get from (the Second World War) . . . the more reason there would seem to be for interest to lessen , but actually I think there’s a tremendous awareness among all Canadians that our veterans from that war in particular are now generally in their 90s.It's an open question as to how much longer we will have them and their memories and the ability to celebrate them while they’re here.”

How  People Commemorate Remembrance Day 
Wearing a poppy remains the most popular way for Canadians to mark the event, with 79 per cent of respondents saying they will wear one of the traditional pins.
More than 77 per cent say they will observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. on Remembrance Day, and 32 per cent say they will attend a service.
But many say they would support other ways to pay tribute to those who have fought for their country. Eighty per cent say Canada should build a memorial similar to the Vietnam War monument in Washington, D.C., which would bear the names of all Canadian military personnel who died in combat during modern times.
And the vast majority (91 per cent) believe Canada should do more to honour its veterans.
Support for making Remembrance Day a national holiday has remained steady since 2012 at 85 per cent. While it is currently a federal statutory holiday, only six provinces deem it a day off.
But some believe the switch would turn Remembrance Day into another holiday spent shopping or socializing and detract from the date’s significance.
One thousand Canadians were interviewed online by Ipsos Reid between Oct. 22 and 26. The sample’s composition was weighted to reflect the country’s adult population according to Census data.
The poll is accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20 had all Canadian adults been surveyed.

  • Do you think young people honour and appreciate veterans enough? Why or why not?
  • Do you think it's important to honour veterans with a special  day? Why or why not? 
  • Do you personally do anything special to pay tribute to veterans? What do you do? 
  • Should Remembrance Day/Veterans Day be a national holiday? Why or why not? 
  • What other object(s) would be good symbols of remembrance?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

ESL Song Quizzes for Remembrance Day

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 

Remembrance: The Importance of 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 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ten Spooky Halloween Song Activities

Halloween is almost here. Now that you've put up the decorations and prepared your costume for a "scary" night out, it's time to put on some spooky music to add to the atmosphere. Here are ten "classic" Halloween hit songs that never seem to get old. 

Whether you are having a party or just singing on  your own, these tunes should give you an extra scary shiver or two.  You can learn some new vocabulary, practice your listening and even learn a little grammar ( if you feel the need) 

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  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.

 # 2    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.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Five T.V. Halloween Listening Quizzes

The Big Bang Theory characters wearing "Flash" costumes.
Many regular television situation comedies  have a complete Halloween episode where the whole story revolves around some kind of Halloween theme. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are meant to be spooky, but they are usually entertaining . 

Thanks to the existence of long running TV series you can watch, enjoy and and practice your English with listening quizzes from The Big Bang Theory , Modern Family , How I Met Your Mother,    Friends and Frasier . 

 All of these TV shows have something to offer in helping you to improve your listening skills - especially if you watch short clips several times to get used to "fast English" English speaker.   

Tune in tomorrow for more clips from another Friends episode, the Simpsons, Glee, Family Guy and Buffy. 

Watch as often as you need to. Then try the quizzes to see how well you understood.  

The Big Bang Theory 

The characters in the Big Bang Theory love Halloween because of the parties, the "tricks" they can play on each other, and simply because it is an excuse for "dressing up. One of the most popular television situation comedies in the U.S. The Big Bang Theory is a pleasure to watch because even if you don't understand everything, you understand enough to have a good laugh.  For more information on the what the show is about, and its characters go to The Big Bang Theory  
Modern Family 
In this Modern Family episode, the whole family plans to frighten children who come
 trick or treating with many creatures. Watch and see how much you understand. For more information on  the show and its characters go to Modern Family 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gratitude Song Quizzes for Thanksgiving

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we received a great deal more than we give and that it  is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. " 
Dietrich Bonhoeffe

One of the best ways to express our gratitude to the people, places and things in our lives  is in song. Here my three favourite songs expressing thankfulness. 

Grateful: A Song of Love to the World  

" Musicians Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod brought together dozens of people from around the world to create this beautiful, heart-opening melody. Inspired by the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge, the song is a celebration of our spirit and all that is a blessing in life. For the 21 Days, over 11,000 participants from 118 countries learned that “gratefulness” is a habit cultivated consciously and a muscle built over time. As a famous Roman, Cicero, once said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” This soul-stirring music video, created within a week by a team of volunteers, shines the light on all the small things that make up the beautiful fabric of our lives.”  See more at karmatube.org 

Thanks A Lot by Raffi


Thank You by Dido


Sunday, October 11, 2015

20 Gratitude Questions for Thanksgiving

Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course.  Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
--Albert Schweitzer

It can be challenging to create rich and meaningful family conversations about gratitude.  I know I’ve felt disappointed when my “What do you feel thankful for?” questions are met with quick, predictable responses that bring the conversation to a close soon after it’s begun. 
This Thanksgiving season, I’m taking a different approach by coming up with 20 gratitude questions to help enliven our sharing.
May these questions help to spark the spirit of Thanksgiving! 

1)     What teacher are you most thankful for and why?  What did you learn from him or her?

2)      What season are you most thankful for, and what is your favorite part of each season?

3)      What electronic device are you most grateful for, and what does it add to your life?

4)      What musician or type of music are you most thankful for?

5)      What are you most grateful for that brings beauty to your daily life?

6)      What form of exercise or physical activity are you most thankful for?

7)     What foods are you most thankful for?

8)     What local store or restaurant are you most grateful for?  How does it contribute to
         your quality of life?

9)     What book are you most grateful for, and why?

10    What act of kindness has made the greatest difference in your life?

11)    What challenging experience has ended up changing your life for the better?

12)    What form of art are you most thankful for: music, acting, writing, painting, drawing .  
         something else?

13)    What place do you feel most grateful for and why?

14)    Name three days in your life that you feel especially grateful for.

15)    What color do you feel most thankful for—is there a color that you can’t imagine living  without?

16)    Is there a personal limitation or flaw that you’ve come to appreciate?

17)     What vacation are you most grateful for?

18)     What philanthropic cause or organization do you feel thankful for?

19)     What product do you use on a daily basis that you most appreciate?

20)     What, from this year, do you feel most grateful for?


Feel free to borrow these questions or come up with your own. 

Download the what are you thankful questions as question cards   and invite family members or friends to each choose one for everyone to answer.

This article has been published with permission. Karen Horneffer Ginter is co-founder of the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness and the author of 'Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul When Life’s Just Too Much'.