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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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cherry Blossoms, Homework and Useful Links for the Weekend

 Dear Students, 
 Don't we live in a gorgeous city!!  This could be the view right outside my bedroom window! 

It's cherry blossom time in Vancouver. This is a short, but beautiful event. Vancouver now has a cherry blossom festival web site and map which gives locations of all the best cherry blossom viewing areas in the city. Cherry Blossom Festival Map

As you know next week is a short week. We will not have as much time to study the things we need to.It is therefore necessary, that you do  all of your homework. 

  • Keep reading your novel: 30 minutes a day. I hope you are keeping track of new vocabulary. 
  •  Read the hand out Scott' s Expedition to the South Pole.Answer all the questions.
  • Read pages Pages xx abd   in More English Reading Practice 
  • Go to the Reading For Understanding Site   RFU 2 ( It is in the reading links), but I will   
      include it  here, once.You will notice that there are three versions of each number (A, B,C).
        That means that there are ctually 300 practices. Start at the number I told you to and do at
        least five exercises. Work as quickly as you can. Follow the instructions on the site 
        regarding yStudents who did not take the assessment test,our scores.  Print out a      
       score sheet.I will give you a separate one in class on Tuesday.  should simply start at # 
       #  30.   If you  make more  than 2  mistakes, go to a lower number. 

  • Go to the Frankfurt Reading Exercises link ( also in the Reading links) and do Exercise 1 . Fill in the gap. This is good for prediction and vocabulary practice.


You will have a vocabulary test on Wednesday. All of the words you should know are on a previous post, and on my Moodle page in the Upper Intermediate section 

  •  Do the verb review handout on the present tenses.  Also review past tense.  Do verb exercises in your green grammar book that deal with present, present  continuous, simple past, present perfect and present perfect continuous. You have an  answer key. 
  • If you want more practice with verbs go to some of the websites in the links page that have  verb tense practice.

  • Do the exercises on compound sentences using both and,  but, so conjunctions and, the  adverbial  conjunctions: however, therefore, in addition etc. 

  • Try to do the practices on Run On Sentences using the coordinators ( joining words) as  ways to repair the problem.

1.      Rewrite your paragraph on Reasons My Sister Stays Fit
2.     Write your Partner Paragraph  if you have not done so already. 
I apologize to those of you who have already handed this in. I corrected them a week ago, but forgot to put them back in your folders. They stayed in mine. I'll give them back to you on Tuesday. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to Access my Moodle Site

Dear class. 

Before I talk about homework, I am going to give you the access to my MOODLE site at school. Click on the link below and you should automatically  be able to get into MICHELLE'S ADVANCED CLASS on my MOODLE site at VCC. 
      So,  what's the difference between this blog and the Moodle site? Why should you use both? This is an excellent question. The answer is that my Moodle site has information on a variety of grammar, reading, writing, listening and speaking topics that I have created myself. It also has worksheets, listening tasks and other information that this blog does not have because it is not a web site where I can post documents of my own.
             On the other hand, this blog probably has more and better links for various practice areas in all skill areas. It also allow me to give  direct advice and tips on a variety of topics.Therefore, both the Moodle site and the blog are useful - just for different things.  Just click on the link underneath and you should get to MOODLE. I will post homework and other announcements on both this blog and on MOODLE a little later on. I will also add a bunch of answer keys to various bits and pieces of homework. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Practicing Grammar and Vocabulary in Sentences

Here are 50 words that we are studying. Write sentences with at least 15 of them. Try writing more sentences, just to practice.  Use some of the verb tenses I indicated: simple present, 
present continuous, simple past, past continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous. 

If you are having problems, answer some of the sentences below, using exactly the same tense and part of the sentence itself in your answer. Don't make the sentences too long. What you are aiming at is perfect sentences with a variety of verb tenses and vocabulary 
Make sure you use the actual word in the sentence, even if you are answering one of  the questions below.

Here are the 50 words 

Vocabulary Power 2: Chapter 3 Handout
1.         Accurate, accuracy                                                    26.   opportunity
2.         Classic                                                                     27.    tremendous, tremendously
3.         Critic/critical/ or criticism                                           28.    stabilize, stable. unstable,
4.         Encourage, encouragement, (be)                                29.     household
5.         encouraged, encouraging                                           30.     remain
5.         Exhibit (as a noun or a verb)
 6.         Firm, firmly                                             Vocabulary from Living to an Old Age        
7.         Label, to label                                                           31.   to enable
8.         Prejudice or (be) prejudiced                                        32.   diagnose, diagnosis, diagnostic
9.         Proceed                                                                   33.   forgiveness, forgive, forgivable 
10.       Tempt or tempting                                                     34.   inheritance,  inherit
                                                                                           35.  urban, urbanize
Changes in the Family                                                        36.  industry, industrialization,   
11.       Consists of                                                                    industrialize, industrial, industrious
12.       Grow up. (be) grown up)                                              37.  survivor, survive, survival 
13.       Blended family                                                           38..  intention, intend, intentional  
14.       Extended family                                                         39. a  reward, to reward, rewarding
15.       Relatives                                                                    40.   remarkable, remarkably
16.       Task                                                                           41.  contribution, contribute,contributing
17.       Socialize, society, social or socially                              42. moderate, moderately
18.       Majority                                                                      43. environment, environmental  
19.       Afford or affordable                                                       44. foreign 
20.        (un)controllable                                                           45. estimate, estimated 
21.       Separate, separable                                                    45. pressure,pressuring
22.       Limit, limited, or unlimited                                           46. factor
23.       Depend, dependence, dependable,                              48. genetic 
             dependably                                                              49. isolation, isolate, (be) isolated 
24.       Finance, financial, financially                                                                     
25.     Emphasis, emphasize



1.         How much prejudice  have you seen  or experienced in Vancouver since you moved here?  Give one example.

2.         What do you usually do when someone says  something about you that is not  

3.         When a teacher is trying to help you improve, should he or she be firm, or gentle

4.         When was the last time someone criticized you for something? What was it for?

5.         What are the washing instructions on the label of the shirt or pants you are  wearing

6.         Are you cooking a classic  meal from your native     
              country tonight? What is it?
7.         Did you parents encourage you to read or   
           improve  your skills when you were a child? 
             How  did they encourage you?

8.         Is your former country making any changes to the driving
                                                                 process  involved in getting a driver's license?
9.         Is there anything trying to tempt you away from studying or doing your homework this
            weekend?  What is it?

10.       When is the last time you went to an art exhibit in Vancouver , or your own country? 
 What   was showing?  What did you  think?

11.        Do you think children have been growing up too quickly recently? Why? 

13.       Do you think the government should build more affordable housing in Vancouver? Why?

14.       How long should children depend on their families financially? Why?

15.       What should I be emphasizing in this class?  Why?

16..      What factors contribute to an unstable marriage or family?  

17.       What kind of household tasks did you have to do when you were a child?  Are your
             children doing the same kind of  tasks as you did?

18.       If you had an unlimited amount of money to spend , what would you buy?                                 
19.       Blended families have become very common in Canada. Are they becoming more   
            common in  your native countries?

20.       Do you think teenagers often feel isolated from their parents? Why?

21.       What are the most useful methods students can use to enable them to improve their     
            vocabulary and remember it? List as many as you can?

22.      What is the most remarkable thing you have observed or heard about in your life?

23.      Have you ever been diagnosed  with a serious disease?

24.      How much pressure do parents in your culture put on children?  Why?

25.     What kind of  living environment   is the most suitable for raising a family? Explain.

26.      Have your ever  survived something terrible? Explain.    

Weekend homework

Dear class, 

Here is your homework for the weekend. I will include all the vocabulary words from last week and this weekend in a separate posting. They will also be available on my ADVANCED  MOODLE site. Since you have already registered, you should have no problem getting in to the site. 

By the way, I have now discovered the problem on the Upper Intermediate site, but I can't register you until I have either your birth date, or your password. 

 Reading:         Handout   Changes in the Family
                            More Reading Power Textbook: --p. 166-167
                            Novel – 30 minutes/day as usual
 Vocabulary:    Handout – Vocabulary Power 2

 Grammar:    1.            Word Order handout
                        2.         Study irregular past Tense list – you will have a test next week. 
3.         Mixing grammar and vocabulary: Write 15-20 sentences with vocabulary from last week and this weekend. You can choose your own words. Do not copy sentences. Write your own. (There is a list in a separate document) .
Use the following verb tenses at least once. Simple present, present continuous, simple past, past continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous.
Writing:          1.     Perfect Sentences: para 18,19,20 – Answer the questions exactly the way         you saw in the example. Turn each shortened version into a paragraph.
                         2.  Correct and rewrite partner interviews – type your rewrite. and email it to me
                              at  atomick1@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Finding my recommended dictionary:

Go to there dictionary links on the side. Choose the one that says Your Dictionary - My favourite. This is the dictionary that has wonderful example sentences in which you can see how specific words are used and what other words they are used with. 

Below you will see that I am asking a few questions with your new vocabulary. See, if you can answer them in writing in the comment box. 

In order to post a comment,  go to the very bottom of the post. If you see a box that says comment, simply post a comment. 

If you don't see a box that says comment. Look at the very end of the post where you will see a few words. Click on the actual word" comment"  and wait for a box to pop up

The comment section is not as obvious as it should be.  

I    What factors contributed to your decision to move to Canada?  

2   Are there any Canadian actions or behaviours that are foreign to you?  What are they? 

3.  What is the most rewarding activity you have ever done?

4.  Do you prefer an urban lifestyle or a rural one. Why? 

5. What kind of study environment works best for you? Very quiet, a little noisy, the kitchen   
     table,  a quiet desk in the corner? 

6.  How much homework do you intend to do this term? 
7.  Do you feel isolated from the mainstream (local) Canadians as an immigrant, or are you 
    beginning to  adapt and interact with them?

Funny Lady

I am sending you this you tube video because it is very funny, I don't know how well you will understand it, but it is an old woman  who is supposed to be saying a prayer at a senior's home.

Her prayer turns into something entirely different - very funny comments on turning old.  See if you can understand any of the humour. If you can, good for you.

Funny Woman

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vocabulary Lists vs Useful Words You Can Use Frequently

Hi. It has been a little while since I have posted. I know that we have set learning new vocabulary as one of our primary goals this term - both to help in writing and reading. Now there are many ways to learn and retain vocabulary, but one of the least successful is to simply memorize vocabulary from lists. In order to really learn a new word, you need to use it a minimum of seven to ten times very shortly after you learn it. 

Using new vocabulary does simply mean repeating it, or writing it out seven times. It means using it within a context that helps you to "internalize" it.   I am discussing this because I know some of you have wanted "lists."  There are a number of "lists" out there. There is the Academic Word List, AWL , GMAT list, The SAT list the GE.list, etc. Some of them are set up in groups of 20 for your learning pleasure. Some of them go by word family. Feel free to look at them, but be careful about simply memorizing lists and words. One thing you can do is what I showed you in class yesterday. Determine if it is likely to be useful for you to use in your speaking, reading and writing. 

For example if you see the word "stipulate:" on the list, try to find out if this will be a useful word, or whether it will simply a word to memorize for a test. You can go to this dictionary site, or to something called a concordancer which has almost every word used in print put into a data bank and analyzed by how it is used.  The dictionary site I used is    www.yourdictionary.com/

To stipulate means: "to make a demand as a condition as a requisite in an agreement" . Now, does this look like something you might want to use in your writing, or actively need in your reading. With the same dictionary, go to the "example sentences" button.Click it and see what you get.You will get a whole list of sentences like this in which the word  stipulate is used as a verb, an adjective or a passive word, with half sentences after it. 
  • stipulates a deadline for delivery for each possible type of agent efficiency.
  • stipulates who the bank will and will not finance, as directed by customers.
  • Answer 1: No. Law 7 clearly stipulates that each half must be of equal periods of time.
  • stipulate in the constitution charter additional benefit consisting of work or personal services of the partners.
  • stipulated residence limits.
  • stipulated which product they want.
  • stipulated by the manufacturer " .
  • stipulated in paragraph 36 of the Schedule.
Look at the list, read the sentences and determine whether you can use it with many words, and would actually use it. Then, learn it and use with those specific expressions..

Now take take the word envrironment, which is on our list this week.
A "new" word wall in a class room
Most of you only know this word in relation to the word pollution and clean up the environment. However, it is frequently used in many other ways, for example work environment, learning environment, historic environment, natural,. or safe environment, healthy / unhealthy environment, supportiveunsupportive environment, family environment, relaxing, helpful, calm, quiet or noisy     environment, business environment, economic environment, etc. etc. If you looked at a r environment, eal collocations dictionary, you would find that this is a very high usage word which is often used with a specific adjective in front of it , specifying what kind of environment you are talking or writing about.  

Knowing that you can use a word in many different ways, in many different contexts makes it very obvious that tthis would be a useful word to learn in ALL its contexts.  This means learning it as phrases. Saying as phrases as often as you can, working it as phrases, also as often as you can. Looking for the phrases in whatever you read. Once you have determined you are going to learn a phrase - and learning phrases or chunks is much more useful and helpful than learning words in isolation ( see, that is one of our words this week). You are more likely to actually remember phrases much better than a word alone. 
  • still, in today's work environment you need a notebook.
  • We need to protect the environment for the next generation.
  • Highway authorities are required to protect the historic environment from the worst effects of traffic.
  • The virtual learning environment must be approached by learners equipped with far more than a belief in serendipity.
  • The superb natural environment at Newton Park lakes, streams, grasslands, woods provide a unique base for study.
  • You are under an obligation to provide employees with a safe working environment.
  • Secure by design: a UK police initiative designed to help create safer, more secure environments.
  • The nursing team offer a friendly and relaxed environment in which to gain skills and fully develop as a cancer nurse.
  • They are a safe, caring and supportive environment where I have opened up and shared, without feeling judged.
  • The NVQ in Administration is designed to give people the required skill to work in an office environment.
  • This could either be in the form of reducing bills or further schemes to improve the environment.
  • The virtual learning environment must be approached by learners equipped with far more than a belief in serendipity.
  • They have been designed for high usage business environments.
So..... go to and check it out. Also, have a look at what this specific online dictionary offers you, a thesaurus, grammar, ESL stuff, answers to many questions and much, much more. 
In my next post, I want to ask you some questions, using the vocabulary words we are learning this week?


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some Listening and Reading Suggestions

Just a little note about some of the links. I know some of you plan to challenge the listening test, or simply want to improve your listening on your own. There are some excellent listening links on the side. Randall's Listening Lab is a particularly good one. It has easy, medium and more difficult conversations. Also scroll down the page and you will see even more.  Each conversation has a pre-listening activity, the listening with a five question multiple choice quiz and sometimes another practice activity. You can then look at the script. Difficult, or unsual vocabulary is explained.  Don;t look at the script until you have achieved 100 % and don't move on either - even if you have to do the listening two or three times.

Another excellent lisstening site is English Lab Online. Here you will hear a variety of real people from many different countries talk about a wide variety of different topics.This is real english - not read from a script, but real people talking real English.  Several other listening sites are aslo excellent. Try all of them to get a feel for them. I will be adding more.

Now, the first five reading sites are very good for practicing specific skills. I will be talking about Reading for Understanding in class tomorrow. It has frequently made a huge difference in student's ability to do critical thinking, predict, infer and all that good stuff. Soon I will be putting on readings that you can listen to as you read along with me, or just after me. This is designed to help your pronunciation and your reading fluency. Also, many students simply enjoy reading while they listen.

In the grammar section, I would advise trying out some of the sites that explain and let you practice the verb tenses. All of them are good for practicing. I will be adding more specific comple grammar sites soon.

I will have more comments later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Term New Goals

Welcome to the new spring term here at VCC. This time, we are adding an entirely new group of students to this blog: Upper Intermediate students. Since they will need some higher level grammar, reading and writing links, I will be adding many of those and may even separate higher and lower level practice in a variety of skills. Hopefully that will make it easier for everyone.

I want to invite everyone to subscribe to the blog and to begin writing comments to different postings. I will try to ask a variety of questions that should get a response, or write a post on a topic that is useful to all ESL students and  that deserves a comment.

My small question at this point is:  How does it feel to be back in English class? Are you excited and motivated?or do you feel like it's taking forever?  Attitude is very important. The better you feel about the process, the more you will learn. The more you realize that English is a living breathing language that we use everyday, for absolutely everything we do -- not just a classroom subject with a multiple choice test - like math, the more you can accept that you cannot and will not learn it in one term, or even a year.

Learning English is a step by step process. If you set achievable goals instead of unrealistic ones, you CAN  reach those goals with some hard work. If you continue to have unrealistic goals that fall into the "wish" category, you will constantly be disappointed with yourself and the process. Wouldn't you rather feel good about achieving your goal than upset and disappointed at failing yet again?  Try setting those achievable goals. Write them down. Tell me, or your teacher what they are.Don't just say "I want to improve my English.."  Be more specific. " I want to be able to control my past tenses in all my writing. I want to write compositions that have no sentence fragments or run ons. Do the same kind of thing for your reading, vocabulary, speaking and listening.  You will see how good that feels, and you can check on how your are doing throughout the term.

Let me know  what you think. Just go to the comment box at the end of this posting and add your comment. You don't even have to use your name, but I would certainly appreciate it if you did.