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.

The resources on this Canadian blog are all free, and I spend a lot of my time working on it, so please consider becoming a SUPPORTER. I appreciate all the support I get. It is the fuel that keeps me going.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011


Hi students,

Here are a few bits and pieces that you might find fun and useful.

The first two links below are beautiful songs by a singer called Michael Buble . He is from Vancouver, but has become an international star. Both of these songs have all the words on the scree, so they are very easy to sing along with. This is very good for your pronunciation and the songs are great too - not too fast and very emotional.   You might want to think about the meaning.

Michael Buble Lost with the words

Before I talk about the next group of links, look over at the top of the right hand side. There is a poll ( a survey) with a question for you to vote on. Please vote and let m,e know what you think.

Also, I have added more links to the side, including a whole section on  how to videos. These are not ESL videos. They are just fun and useful

So, below are a few links to help you study for your grammar test. Don't fortget, I will be testing you on compound sentences (and, but, so , or ) 
The next group of links are to help you practice for your grammar test. The first one is about time clauses and has an answer key.

The next few are  practice and explanation with modals.  The final ones are from YOU TUBE. You Tube has some excellent teaching videos and I will be adding a few.




CONJUNCTION JUNCTION    ( A fun way to remember conjunctions and what they do)

It’s gonna take awhile, 

but you can do it one step at a time!

Standing at the bottom and looking up at the steps to success can be an intimidating experience. Thank God they are steps though! When you focus on each step one at a time it suddenly becomes possible!

One of my mentors always used to say "That’s how you eat an elephant, one bite at a time"
And that is so true. To one man standing there looking at an elephant sized goal it’s just an impossible dream, but to that same man looking at a single step that single step is easily done!
That's why it's a good idea to remember that learning and improving English is a step by step process, but you do have to take the first step. 

That's why tests can be a good idea for some people. It gets them focused on taking the necessary steps.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


A few notes on homework:


I forgot to mention one thing I absolutely want you to do:  Correct and re-write the compositions that I have returned to you. The only way you can improve your writing is to go back, look at what you have written. Look at the correction symbols, correct The mistakes and write a second version.

The way you learn to improve your writing is to correct and rewrite as many times as you need to. If you never rewrite, you will probably keep making the same mistakes. You will probably not improve very much. Remember, professional writers often rewrite their stories 15 or 20 times. Nobody gets it right the first tine, especially when they are writing with time pressure   in class.


Grammar:   As you know, you will have a grammar test on modals (can, could, must, have to, should) ,       time clauses ( when, while, before, after)  and other connecting words: because, and, but, so, or. I should probably include count and non-count nouns etc. , but I will save that for later along with articles, and other words like some, many, much, any, a few, a little etc.

I gave you a couple of grammar handouts. Try working on them I will also try to put some exercises on modals, time clauses and coordination on the Grammar links.

By the way, just to give yourself a break go to the Real Canadian Song Book, scroll down to Gordon Lightfoot and listen to the song  Four Strong Winds. You can see the words, and do a little quiz. It is a great way to practice English.

  •  Read a story in the book you chose. Try to write down the main points. What was it about?
  • What happened in the beginning, after that, etc. at the end. Make sure you keep it in the past tense.
  • Telephone your partner and tell each other your stories. A good idea is to try and write down a few notes. Remember. Keep it in the past tense. 
  • You will probably do something like this in class for marks quite soon. Look at this as practice.                        .

 Look at the poll on the right hand side. Put in your vote.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back to Normal

We live in a beautiful province. This is the lake at the top of Diamond Head Park. It is a great hike in the summer if you are fit.   This is up past Whistler. My husband tool this picture.  

So, I'm back in class and we only have three weeks left of class before final exams. This means you're going to have to work hard - especially on your speaking, listening and writing. Having a speaking partner can help you to practice outside of class. 

Also I strongly recommend that you try out some of the links on the side on the right hand side. The You Tube links are fun. The listening links will give you lots of practice with many kinds of listening. Also, both the reading and the listening links will allow you to read and listen at the same time. In this way you can read out loud yourself. I am trying to put a recorder on the blog that will allow you to speak and hear yourself.  I will also explain a few specific sites in another post. 

I would really appreciate if you wrote a comment to the following question. 

What do you think we should concentrate on for the next few weeks?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day. Smile at everyone you see today. It will make both of you happy. 

Daily Quotation:
"Love is the best medicine, and there is more than enough to go around once you open your heart."

Valentine's Day 
Valentine's Day is a very old holiday. It goes back to the times of Ancient Rome. One of the characters we often see on Valentine's Day is Cupid. He was the son of Venus, the goddess of love. He shoots people with arrows of love. When a man and a woman are hit by his arrows, they will fall in love.
Today people celebrate Valentine's Day on February 14. Men and women who are in love give each other gifts. The most popular gifts include flowers (especially roses) and chocolates. Couples may also go to a restaurant for a very nice dinner or plan something else romantic.
In the Canada and the United States, Valentine's Day is not just for lovers. Children make special Valentine's cards for their classmates. Families and friends may give candy, especially chocolate, or other small gifts to each other. It can be a fun day.

ancient- very old
bow and arrow- used for shooting (like the picture on the left)
shoot- make something fly through the air (Shoot a gun. Shoot an arrow.)
character- a person (but usually not real) like a person in a book or in a movie
fall in love- begin to love another person
celebrate- do something fun (like a party or something special)
romantic- something that shows the feeling of love

Check out  Valentine's Day Vocabulary on You Tube

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hello from Snowy Ontario

Hi class,                                    

As you can see,  the weather in Ontario is quite different than it is in British Columbia.  There is much more snow in Ontario and the weather is much colder. Right now, it is -35 C in the town where my mother lives. That is much, much colder than Vancouver. You must wear much warmer coats, boots, hats, gloves and scarves.

The sky is much bluer though here and we can see the sunshine almost every day. It reminds me very much of my childhood when we used to have such terrible snowstorms that we had to ski to school, or even better, the schools were closed.

The pictures below show the severe snowstorm Ontario had last week. Ontario is having a record snowfall this year, but B.C. is mainly having rain. I think snow looks better, but the people who live here are working very hard to reach their cars and to be able to drive in general. .

Still, all this snow has had a positive result too. A lot of different kinds of people are having fun playing in the snow, or snowmobiling, which is a very popular activity here. Ice fishing is another popular activity

My mother has begun to improve. She
 has "turned the corner" as the doctors' say.
She is going to live. All of my brothers and
sisters who have all been up here with me
felt much better after we heard this. Now,
some of us will stay for a little while to help
her get better. The others, who live in
Ontario,  will come back after my mother
goes home from the hospital.

     I hope you are enjoying your time with Nikki.

      If you look at the bottom of this post, you  will   see a will see a comment box.  I would really   appreciate getting a few comments from some of you, just to tell me how things are going.


In case, you are wondering, these are snowmobiles.
Racing trhese machines in the snow on lakes, mountains and through forests is very popular in the colder, snowy parts of Canada. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homework for the weekend

Homework for the Weekend Feb 4th

  You will have a present/present continuous grammar test on Monday.  
    Review  with handouts I gave you. 
   Use some of the grammar links on the right to practice. I will try to post more.      
 Also practice writing compound sentences  ( and, but, so , or)
READING: Basic Reading  Power
     Part 1 p. 12-13-14,  Part 2 p.75—78., Part 3 P.182-184, Part 4, p211-213  

   Handout-  A Cheap Piano                                                                                                                                       
LISTENING:   ESL NEWS                                                                                                                 
Randall’s ESL Lab (link on the right)  Do at least five exercises until you have 100%.Do   ALL the exercises. 

Writing:     Correct ALL the mistakes in your paragraph about a family member. Then, rewrite it and hand in a good second copy. 

Have a good few weeks.I will post updates while I am gone. 
Check to see if I have anything to say.  

Post some comments of your own.                                           

Friday, February 4, 2011


Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit 

Happy New Year to all my Asian students who may all be celebrating in a different way - even on skype as they talk to or bow to their families. As we all know , Chinese New Year,  also known as the "Lunar New Year" or the "Spring Festival"-- falls on a different date each year, ranging from late January to mid-February (based on the second new moon after the winter solstice.) Unlike our western New Year, celebrations aren't tightly focused on one date. The big day itself may be February 3 2011 but festivities often occur on weekends before or after that date.

Here are some of the ways you can celebrate Chinese New Year (the New Year begins on February 3rd in 2011. It is the Year of the Rabbit):
  • Clean House - Before the New Year arrives, the Chinese consider it very important to give the house a thorough cleaning, sweeping away any bad luck that may have accumulated over the past year.
  • Decorate! - Doors and window panes are also often painted red, considered to be a lucky color. In addition, people like to hang papercuts on doors and windows. (Paper cutting is an ancient Chinese art form dating back to the Han dynasty).
  • Don't clean for the first few days of the New Year - if you do any sweeping during this time, you risk sweeping away your good luck.
  • Offer a Sacrifice to the Kitchen God - Many families have a poster of the Kitchen God in their kitchen. The custom is to offer a ceremonial sacrifice to the Kitchen God, to make sure that he gives a good report on the family's behavior when he returns to heaven. Sticky Cake (Nian Gao) is popular, or children may rub honey on him.
  • An important tradition on New Year's Eve is for families to gather together and spend the evening preparing Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi). According to Chinese Culture Guide Jun Shan, it is common to hide a coin in one of the dumplings. Whoever gets the dumpling with the coin will supposedly have good luck in the coming year.
  • Give out money packets - On New Years day, children receive leisee - red packets decorated with gold symbols and filled with "lucky money".
  • Serve festive foods - Throughout the New Years season, certain foods are served because they symbolize abundance and good fortune. Besides preparing special dishes, tangerines and oranges are often passed out to children and guests, as they symbolize wealth and good luck.
  • Prepare a Tray of Togetherness - This is a circular or octagon-shaped tray with eight compartments, each containing symbolic foods such as lotus seeds and lychee nuts, that provides a sweet beginning to the New Year.
Given the importance of food in Chinese culture, it is not surprising that food plays a major role in Chinese New Year celebrations. "Lucky" foods are served through the two week Chinese New Year celebration, also called the Spring festival.



Symbolic Chinese Foods


What gives a certain food symbolic significance? Sometimes it is based on appearance. For example, serving a whole chicken during the Chinese New Year season symbolizes family togetherness. Noodles represent a long life; an old superstition says that it's bad luck to cut them. Both clams and Spring Rolls symbolize wealth; clams because of their resemblance to bouillon, and Spring Rolls because their shape is similar to gold bars.
On the other hand, a food may have special significance during Chinese New Year because of the way the Chinese word for it sounds. For example, the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune, so it is very common to serve a lettuce wrap filled with other lucky food. Tangerines and oranges are passed out freely during Chinese New Year as the words for tangerine and orange sound like luck and wealth, respectively. And let's not forget pomelos. This large ancestor of the grapefruit signifies abundance, as the Chinese word for pomelo sounds like the word for "to have."
Fish also play a large role in festive celebrations. The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year's Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
And what about the sweet, steamed cakes that are so popular during the Chinese New Year season? Cakes such as Sticky Rice Cake have symbolic significance on many levels. Their sweetness symbolizes a rich, sweet life, while the layers symbolize rising abundance for the coming year. Finally, the round shape signifies family reunion.
So if you missed the fireworks and celebrations on New Year's Eve, don't worry - you'll have another chance to celebrate. Chinese New Year falls on February 3rd in 2011. It is the Year of the Rabbit.


Rabbits are private individuals, a bit introverted and withdrawn. People e born into this sign would rather work behind-the-scenes instead of being the center of attention in any situation. Do not misunderstand…the Rabbit is not a recluse. In fact, he is a reasonably friendly individual who enjoys the company of a group of good friends whether at a business dinner or a holiday party. Rabbits just like to be a part of the gang as opposed to the leader of it.
Years of the Rabbit
Rabbit Years are fourth in the cycle, following Tiger Years, and recur every twelfth year. The Chinese New Year does not fall on a specific date, so it is essential to check the calendar to find the exact date on which each Rabbit Year actually begins.

Rabbits, like their animal counterparts, are quite calm people who do not exhibit aggressive behavior and will avoid confrontation at all costs. When angry about something, a Rabbit will approach it calmly and considerately, hardly ever raising his voice or becoming visibly annoyed. Because of their serenity, Rabbits seem to miss things, whether they are confrontational in nature or not. However, the Rabbit is quite keen and pays close attention to the situations developing around him. He is intelligent and quick and can talk himself in or out of most situations with no problem.
The Chinese Rabbit is one of the most stylish creatures of the Chinese Animal Signs and finds interest in different cultures. He is classy and sophisticated, and can be found adorning one of the latest fashion magazine cover looks. Rabbits also like artistic ventures, such as painting and music and are generally quite present in these worlds. They love top express themselves, which is evident when joining them at home for a function or a cup of coffee.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit share certain characteristics. The Rabbit Sign is an abbreviated way of characterizing that individual’s personality. Following are features associated with the Sign of the Rabbit.
Fourth in order, Chinese name-TU, sign of peace
Hour—5am-6:59am Month—March
Western Counterpart—Pisces

Keen, Wise, Fragile, Tranquil, Serene, Considerate, Fashionable, Sneaky, Obsessive