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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Sunday, December 21, 2014

ESL Christmas 2014: The Nativity Story

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.

  • 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. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

ESL Christmas Song Activities and Quizzes Part 1

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.

But first, let's try some some vocabulary review 

All I Want for Christmas is You:

Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey

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 

Winter Wonderland by Rod Stewart and Michael Buble

Before you watch: 

1`.  A meadow is a place ___________________
2.  What kind of person is a "parson"?  (clue) he can legally 
      marry you with someone
3.   What does Santa ride in the sky with reindeer pulling?

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 ______

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. 

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. .

Thursday, December 18, 2014

ESL Christmas Listening Activities, Quizzes

I have posted a variety of Christmas listening activities for you.  Listen as often as you need to before you answer questions. 

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

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)

The 11 Million Dollar Christmas Tree

Video Quiz from ESL Video.com

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

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

'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. ( Source BBC)

At Christma 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 here in 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)
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)

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

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)

                                                         People and Places at Christmas 

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)

The story of the man in the red suit who brings gifts to children at Christmas. Transcript of radio broadcast: 19 December 2009

"Santa Claus is someone who will remain in the hearts of children forever...
Santa Claus also has some other names: Saint Nicholas, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Pelznickel."

(Source: learningenglish.voanews.com)

The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry  

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)


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If you enjoyed this post, invite your friends and family to join in the fun, or post this to Facebook or any other social site you belong to   

What are some of YOUR favourite Christmas songs that you would like to see here? Why do you like them?  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ESL Christmas Vocabulary, Reading, Grammar and Games

How many words do you know about Christmas? 

It's important to know some Christmas  vocabulary if you want to understand  some of the symbols and traditions of Christmas. 

Understanding some of the most common vocabulary will also help you enjoy the Christmas carols you listen to and sing along to during the holidays.

Here are a few vocabulary flashcards, quizzes, games and activities to help you learn and remember some of the important Christmas words you should know. 

This first item is actually a reading, but it is an interesting one that I hope you will enjoy. 

  • Mistletoe, the kiss of Christmas"It's a vintage year for the legendary mistletoe berries..
    In Britain’s mistletoe-growing regions, a branch would be brought inside at Christmas to protect the house. Any woman walking underneath
    could not refuse to be kissed, or she would remain an old maid. After a kiss, she would pick a berry from the branch."


Easy Quizzes 

 Christmas Reading Activities  

 (by learningenglishwithmichelle)

  • Christmas and New Year's Vocabulary Vocabulary ( BBC) A  lot of Christmas vocabulary can be used with or without the word ‘Christmas’ in front of it. For example we can talk about ‘Christmas crackers’ or just ‘crackers’:   lot of Christmas vocabulary can be used with or without the word ‘Christmas’ in front of it. For example we can talk about ‘Christmas crackers’ or just ‘crackers’: 
    - with a QUIZ

Presents for Xmas (and the rest of the year!)

Matching - Flashcards (Java / non-Java) - Concentration - Word Search
  • - with a list of terms used in these activities (with pictures)
  • Activities created by: Renée Maufroid

    Share the love ! 
    If you enjoyed this post, invite your friends and family to join in the fun, or post this to Facebook or any other social site you belong to    

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    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    ESL How The Grinch Stole Christmas 2014 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#

    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


    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. 

       Activity #3: Speaking and Writing Questions: 

    1. 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. 

    2. What role does Cindy Lou play in the story. What does she do to change the Grinch? 

    3. 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? 

    4. What is the message of the story? 

    5.  Would you write a different ending to the story? Explain why or why not. If yes, how 
         would you end it? 

    6.   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. 

    Check back Tomorrow  when I will include more activities you can do with the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Part 2 Story with friends, your classmates or your children.