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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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Listening Quiz: RCMP Bullying Problem

Just as Canada  was getting ready to celebrate anti-bullying day, the head of an RCMP investigation committee  issued a report saying the federal police force has a serious bullying problem. 

The RCMP stands for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are often called "mounties."   
These are the people wearing red coats and hats that you see riding horses in parades and whom you often see on postcards from Canada. 

But their role is much bigger than simply riding in parades. The RCMP is Canada's federal police force  and has 19,000 members.  

Currently, 20 per cent of those members are women, and  this year a number of them have accused the RCMP of wide scale sexual harassment. 

Listen to the  story as many times as you need to. Then, answer the questions. 

Take the quiz: Online interactive video quiz 

The High Price of Bullying

 Bullying can cause devastating results that range from making children feel lonely, unhappy and frightened to causing them to commit suicide.  

It can make them feel unsafe and think there must be something wrong with them. 

Children can lose confidence and may not want to go to school anymore. It may even make them sick.

Some people think bullying is just part of growing up and a way for young people to learn to stick up for themselves. But bullying can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. 
Some of these include:
  • Withdrawal from family and school activities, wanting to be left alone.
  • Shyness
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches
  • Panic Attacks
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Sleeping too much
  • Being exhausted
  • Nightmares 
Children who learn they can get away with violence and aggression continue to do so in adulthood. They have a higher chance of getting involved in dating aggression, sexual harassment and criminal behaviour later in life.

Bullying can have an effect on learning 

Stress and anxiety caused by bullying and harassment can make it more difficult for kids to learn. It can cause difficulty in concentration and decrease their ability to focus, which affects their ability to remember things they have learned.

Bully Related Suicide

Bullying is painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and shamed. If the pain is not relieved, bullying can even lead to consideration of suicide or violent behaviour.

In recent years, a series of bullying-related suicides in the US and across the globe have drawn attention to the connection between bullying and suicide. Though too many adults still see bullying as "just part of being a kid," it is a serious problem that leads to many negative effects for victims, including suicide. Many people may not realize that there is also a link between being a bully and committing suicide.  

The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming: 
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it. 
  •  Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying 

  • A new review of studies from 13 countries found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied, and suicide. (Yale School of Medicine)

  • Suicide rates among children between the ages of 10 & 14 are very low, but are "creeping up." (Ann Haas, Director of the Suicide Prevention Project at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
Amanda Todd Suicide 
The recent story of Amanda Todd, a 13 year old Vancouver girl who committed suicide in November 2012 after being bullied, brought international attention to the problem . 
Before she died, Amanda's posted a video on You Tube in which she used a series of flash cards to tell of her experiences of being blackmailed, bullied and physically asssaulted.  The video went viral after her death,  and resulted in an international discussion about the issue and potential laws to deal with it. 

In response to the death, the premier of British Columbia made an online statement of condolence suggesting a national discussion on criminalizing cyberbullying.

Also, a motion was introduced in the Canadian House of Commons to propose a study of the scope of bullying in Canada, and for more funding and support for anti-bullying organizations. Todd's mother, Carol, established the Amanda Todd Trust, receiving donations to support anti-bullying awareness education and programs for young people with mental health problems 

More Resources on Bullying from Michele Henry:

  • Student bullying - infographic
    "The statistics show a student is bullied every seven minutes in the U.S.A., and that most of the time, bullying occurs on playgrounds.
    77% of students are bullied and cyber-bullying is rapidly approaching this percentage as well."

  • The high price of bullying in the US "A global report on school violence identifies bullying as the biggest problem in US school playgrounds...
    It's a short walk from schoolyard bullying to school violence."

 Roles in Cyber Bullying: The story of a boy ( ESL Video)

Lady Gaga and Oprah Lady Gaga and Oprah Tackle Bullying ( an entire reading and listening lesson) 

Canada Safety Council: School Bullies

The True Effects of Bullying

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bullying: It Has To Stop


Bullying has become a major problem in our classrooms, playgrounds, workplaces, and over the Internet.  But an increasing number of people and organizations have begun to fight back in order to educate as many people as possible about the devastating effect bullying can have.   


February 27th is anti-bullying day in Canada - better known as Pink Shirt Day - a day set aside to bring awareness to bullying issues and the devastating effects it can have. 


What is bullying? 

Bullying is a form of repeated,and aggressive behaviour directed at children, teenagers, or adults. The behavior is intended to cause fear, distress, or harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation.  Bullying usually involves an imbalance of power. 


Bullying can come in a number of different forms 


Verbal bullying: name calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to a person's culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments. 

Social bullying: mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down. 

Physical bulling: hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching. 

Cyber bullying: using the Internet or text messaging to intimidate, put down, lie, spread rumours or make fun of someone. messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone. 


How common is bullying? 

According to the National Education Association, it is estimated that 160, 000 children in the United States miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.  

1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a  bully or a victim of bullying
56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
  • 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.

  In Canada
  • Approximately one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25% of children in grades four to six have been bullied. 
  • A 2004 study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics found that about one in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying. 
  • Studies have found bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.
  • In the majority of cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.
  • Students are most vulnerable to bullying during transitions from elementary to junior high school, and from junior to senior high school.
There is a correlation between increased supervision and decreased bullying. Bullies stop when adults are around.  

To find out more about bullying: 

Words in the News: Cyber Bully
  • "The Daily Mail leads on a mother who has won a landmark legal case against Facebook after being sent death threats by so-called internet ‘trolls’." Full story

  • Bullying (Wikipedia)
    "Bullying is the act of intentionally causing harm to others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation..."

  • One in five children is bullied online
    "One in five children aged eight to 11 is a victim of cyberbullying attacks, a new report from charity Beatbullying has found...
    The bullying prevention group surveyed over 1,500 primary school pupils, finding that 21 per cent had been "deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group" using technology  


A  PSA is  a public service announcement, a type of commercial about important social issues. PSAs are meant to educate people and make them aware of the problems these social issues can cause  

How does bullying affect people?   Read my next post

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spread the Word: Acceptance Vs Bullying

Last month, 2,000 students from 17 Vancouver schools came together at a Vancouver Giants game to spread the word of acceptance in honour of anti-bullying. 

This is the 3rd Acceptance Project using social media to spread a positive message. February 27th 2013 is anti-bullying day, but acceptance should happen everyday. 

Send this post to your friends, your Facebook page or any other social media you belong to. 

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Just go to the right hand side at the top of the page and sign in. 

It's free!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Canadian Anti Bullying Video Goes Viral

Wednesday, February 27th, is anti-bullying day in Canada, better known as pink shirt day

Before reading any other posts on the issue of bullying,  I strongly encourage ALL of you to watch the following video.

Shane Koyczan, a well known Canadian spoken word poet was bullied a lot when he was a child.  

Recently, he took that pain, wrote a powerful poem, narrated it, and worked with animators and motion artists from around the world to create the  “To This Day Project”

Since  it was uploaded on You Tube days ago, the To this Day Project video has received more than 4 million views, and the word is still spreading    

If you need to read the words while watching the video, click on the   the lyrics of To This Day. 

 "Facing the problem helps" 

In a post about his poem, Shane said, his experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout his life, but added that "standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways." 

Says Shane: "I wrote “To This Day”, a spoken word poem, to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.

"Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. We can give them a starting point… A message that will have a far reaching and long lasting effect in confronting bullying." 

Extraordinary Effort 
 Shane stressed that the video was the result of of a group of individuals coming together and binding their talents in an expression of solidarity and compassion." 

"I am humbled by the extraordinary efforts of those who selflessly gave their time and committed themselves to bring out this message in such a beautiful way." 

In a interview in the  Huffington Post   Koyczan  said that to him, bullying started at the kindergarten age when he first thing children learned was to call each other names.

"Something so small can be so long lasting in someone's life, he stressed. 

In terms of what he hopes people take away from his video, Shane said, "Just that sense of connectivity. As much as you may feel alone in this, you're really not. There';s people who go through this every day. In a lot of ways, there's more of us than there of them." 

He added that people needed to be "more assertive" in how they dealt with bullying 

 We Need to Come Forward 
 We also need to get better at coming forward when we see it.  Now, it's our turn to make a difference in our communities. 

Koyczan has received a lot of positive responses including one emotional letter from a parent  who revealed that her 9-year old is bullied at school and has even contemplated suicide. 

" The great hope with this piece is that people will find that light or even find that piece within themselves to see their beauty to celebrate their differences, Shane said. 
"Because their differences ultimately are what make them beautiful." 

Find out how you can help the collaborative effort at ToThisDayProject.com.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day: Idioms of the Heart

 Happy Valentine's Day! 

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"  mean love. In fact, the meanings can be very surprising.

a heart of gold: When people have a heart of gold, they are extremely kind and generous. 

Example:  My grandmother had such a heart of gold that every time she saw someone in trouble she always tried to help them.

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. 

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. 

get to the heart of the matter When you get to the heart of the matter, you understand the most important thing about something. 

Example:  It took a long time, but we finally got to the heart of the matter about the problem in the office, and were finally able to discuss it. 

heart is in he right place: Your heart is in the right place  when you have good intentions even if there are bad reults. 

Example:   Tom's gifts are always unsuitable, but his heart is in the right place, so I don't weant to hurt him by telling him he bought me the wrong thing. 

a bleeding heart  is someone who feels too much sympathy for people such as poor people, criminals or drug addicts. 

Example: My father is such a bleeding heart that he gives money to every bum on the street who asks for it even if they don't have a good reason.

heart goes out to (someone): You heart goes out to someone when you feel sympathy or sorry about something bad that has happened to them.  

Example:  My heart goes out to  all the people who lost family and friends in the recent eaerhquake.  

lose heart:  If you lose heart, you feel discouraged because you have failed, or you have lost hope about achieving a goal. You think something is too difficult and you want to stop trying. 

Example:  My friend lost heart when she failed her driver's test for the third time. 


take heart:  When you take heart, you start to feel more hopeful and confident. We often tell people to "take heart" when we are trying to encourage them or make them feel better about something. 
Example: House owners can take heart from the news that housing prices are on the increase again. 

break someone's heart :  When you break someone's  heart, you make them feel sad or hopeless       (usually because of love or a similar loss) 

Example: My father broke my mother's heart when he told her he wanted a divorce because she still loved him.

have a heart! We tell people to have a heart when we want to say " don't be unkind or do something mean or cruel."

Example:   The students asked the teacher to have a heart when she told them they would have  homework during the Christmas holidays. 


 heart skips a beat: Your heart skips a beat when you are startled or excited from surprise, joy or fear.

Example:  My heart skipped a beat when I realized  that I might win the lottery since I had five of the six numbers that I needed.

heart is not in (something): When your heart is not in something, it means you have lost interest in it.  

Example:   John is not working very hard on the project becausee his heart is not in it. He would prefer to be doing ssomething completely different. . 

a change of heart : if you have a change of heart, you change the way you feel or think about something, or you change your mind. 

Example:  I refused to let my daughter go to the dance.But, when I realized that the teachers would be supervising, I had a change of heart and decided to allow her to attend. 

a heart to heart talk: When you have a heart to heart talk with someone, you have a deep, sincere and intimate talk with someone about personal feelings or problems. 

Example:  My girlfriend and I had a long heart to heart last night after whether or not she should break up with her boyfriend after he cheated on her. .

heart sinksYour heart sinks at the moment you become disappointed or discouraged. 

Example:  Jane's heart sank when she opened the letter and realized that the university had rejected her application.   

a heart of stone: When someone has a heart of stone, they are cold and have no pity or sympathy. 

Example:  The man who murdered his wife and children had a heart of stone.

learn something by heart: when you something by heart, you learn learn it perfectly so that you can 
repeat it by memory. 

Example:  I had to learn many poems by heart when I was a young girl. Today, young people don't do this. . 

heart stands still: your heart stands still  when you are very frightened about something.

Example:  My heart stood still when the car almost hit my daughter as she was crossing the street. 

heavy heart: You have a heavy heart when you feel very sad, or feel weighed down with sorrow or sadness.

Example:  We waved goodbye to my friends and family with a heavy heart because we didn't know when we would see them again. 

 heart is in your mouth: Your heart is in your mouth when you are very frightened or terrified . 

Example: Tom's heart was in his mouth  and his heart was beating loudly as he ran away from the two  men who were tryhing to steal his wallet.

have your heart set on something:  When you have your heart set on something, you want something very badly 

Example: I was very disappointed when I did not get the job as manager because I had my heart set on it

How well do you know the idioms?  Try the quiz below  

Quiz #1 : Idioms of the Heart

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Celine Dion Welcomes Lunar New Year 2013 in Perfect Mandarin

Last night, Canadian Singer Celine Dion helped more than a billion Asians welcome the Year of the Snake at the Chinese Lunar New Year Gala in Beijing. 



Although Lunar New Year officially starts on February 10th, on Saturday night millions of extended Chinese families gathered to eat a traditional New Yea's Eve feast and to watch the annual Lunar New Year's gala.  

More than a billion people watched the state broadcaster CCTV's  Lunar New Year gala - a major spectacle that features some China's biggest name performers. . 

But, this year was a little different. For the first time in its 53 years, a foreigner was was the headliner  in the gala.  

Canada's Celine Dion sang the traditional folk song "Jasmine Flower" as a duet with Chinese Soprano Songh Zuying in flawless Mandarin. 
She also performed her international hit "My Heart Will Go On." from the Hollywood blockbuster blockbuster Titanic

Although some people might wonder why a billiion Chinese citizens might want to listen to a 44 year old singer belt out a song from a movie released 15 years ago, it shouldn't come as complete surprise.  
If you ask  a Chinese person to name two English songs they can sing, it will be My Heart Will  Go On and  Happy Birthday, songwriter Gao Xiaosong told the China Daily. 

Last year Hollywood released a 15th anniversary 3D version of Titanic. Although North Americans mainly ignored the new release, the film brought in more than $156 million in China. .
"Big Honour to Be Asked to Sing"  
In an interview in the Telegraph  44 year old Dion said it was a "big honour" to be asked to sing for the New Year's gala because she knew it was an important celebration.
When asked if it was difficult to sing the music of another language, Dion said music transcends boundaries.

"I had wonderful people in the studio with me helping me understand the meaning of the song. But even in between the lines, between what you're singing, you have to feel the music. 

You have to feel the passion," she said. "It's every difficult to pinpoint passion. It's very difficult to pinpoint emotion. This is something that is around us. And I think it lives through music." 

Dion acknowledged the differences between herself and her Chinese counterparts, but added that the passion for performance goes past language and culture.

"We have different Cultures, different ways of singing, and at the end of the song, at the end of the day, we both mean the same. We both want to do our best," she explained.

"We want to both serve the music, and celebrate the New Year, and wish people the very est of health and the very best of luck and wonderful time in the new year to come

Here is a gap fill song activity for all of you who love, Titanic,  Celine Dion and the song My Heart Will Go On. Enjoy it.  Gong Xi Fa Cai to all my Mandarin speaking students, and Gong Hey Fat Choy  to my Cantonese speaking students. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy Lunar New Year 2013

Welcome to the Year of the Snake

More than a billion people around the world have ushered in the Year of the Snake with lively, noisy celebrations, fireworks, parades, parties, prayers and a general feeling of joy and hope for a prosperous year. 

Lunar New year, often called Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is celebrated at a different time every year because it is based on the Chinese Lunar calendar.  

This year,  Lunar New Year which is the biggest and most important holiday  for Chinese and other Asians around the world in Asia began on February 10th. It's a celebration that last for  15 days, ending with the Lantern Festival on February 28th. 

Each year is associated with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. This year,. the celebrations  marked the arrival of the Year of the Snake, which took over from the year of the Dragon. 

Although the Chinese zodiac says the year of the Snake is considered a lucky one and has many positive features, it has a mixed reputation in China. While people associate it with wisdom and beauty, it also has connotations of pride and anger.

Neither Lucky nor Bad 

The Snake is one of the less popular of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac and many perceive it negatively. 

However, in an interview in The Telegram, Dong Yilin, a traditional fortune teller from Beijing, said he believes 2013 will be neither lucky, nor bad. 

"2013 is the Year of the Snake. For people who were born under this Chinese zodiac sign, we cannot predict a very auspicious year, or a year of bad fortune.

Dong Yin admitted that the Year of the Snake is"perceived as being a  bit negative.  

"Perhaps because snakes like to be in the water or in the mud, people normally do not view it as a very auspicious sign. Another reason is that it has poison and can harm people, "
he said. 

Some people choose  to postpone their weddings and put off having children or making other big decisions to avoid them falling in the year of the Snake.

Financial Picture More Promising 
But, all is not doom and gloom. Dong, believes  financial markets will finally start to improve this year. 

"In terms of finances and stocks  this year will be more bullish than 2012. Globally, for the whole world, 2013 will be a better year financially, he said."

Chinese Astrology on Those Born in Year of the Snake 

The Chinese zodiac calendar - known as Sheng Xiao - is divided into 12 cycles. cycle last 12 months and each cycle is  represen- ted by one animal. The snake is the sixth symbol  of the Chinese zodiac  

Traditional Chinese astrology believes  being born during the year of he snake is a auspicious   omen  because it means nobody will ever go hungry in the household. This could be taken to mean that a Snake could never have a problem with his family starving because he is such a great mediator  which makes him good in business.

Overall, people born in the Year of the Snake are considered lucky. They are also considered to be intelligent, but materialistic, and blessed with a graceful personality.  They are keen analysts of any situation and compulsive achievers. Their materialistic nature also keeps them surrounded by luxury. 

Health and Anxiety Problems  

Unfortunately, the ancient scrolls predict bad news for a person's mental health this year and predicts a stressful year, with too much noise, which may lead to anxiety and tension.

Business ventures started by people of the Snake zodiac will usually be rewarded in the form of financial perks  and recognition. However, the fact such people often display a lack of concentration may lead to fatigue and job hopping. The best career choices for those born in this sign are: astrologer, scientist, painter, sociologist, jeweller and dietitian.

Famous female Snakes include: Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Hurley, Audrey Hepburn, Liv Tyler, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Grace Kelly, Oprah Winfrey and Linda McCartney. Famous male snakes: Bob Dylan, Art Garfunkel, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum, Brad Pitt, Mike Oldfield.

For more information and resources on  Lunar Year check out the following:  

            -  the 15 day celebration of Chinese New Year 
             - traditional New Year Foods
            - Chinese New Year Decorations

            - Taboos and Superstitions of Chinese New Year

  •  Chinese Horoscopes  This activity from National Geographic allows students to find their birth year animals and their related characteristics.
  •  Chinese New Year: This site offers information about current and past Chinese New Years, as well as information about the Chinese zodiac, how the dates for the holiday are determined, and more.
  •  Chinese New Year  listening, reading and vocabulary activities from ESL Holiday Lessons.com