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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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chris Hadfield: Space Superstar

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has made space "cool" again. For the past five months Hadfield, the Canadian commander of the International Space Station, has tweeted, snapped stunning photos and regularly contacted folks back home.

On Sunday, hours before his planned return to earth, he left orbit in style tweeting a video of himself as Major Tom in a remake of David Bowie's  classic hit , " Space Oddity." 

The video, shows Hadfield singing a "revised" version of Bowie's song aboard the International Space Station while floating in space, looking out the window at the earth,

The first music video ever shot in space was sent to earth via twitter and quickly went viral.
Since it first appeared on You Tube on Sunday, it has been viewed more 6.9 million times.

David Bowie, who released the original song  in 1969 when astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first walked on the moon, was among thousands to tweet it. 

“Hallo Spaceboy,” he wrote, recalling a song from his album, Outside.

The video and the reaction  has gained around the world has been a musical climax to  mission in which Commander Hadfield has attracted a global audience with updates from 240 miles up.

Hadfield, who is already a Twitter sensation with more than 800,000 followers, has posted incredible pictures of the world from space, including of Africa and war-torn Syria.He has also  posted dozens of videos demonstrating everything from how to  brush your teeth, and wring out a cloth  in weightless space to what happens to tears. 

His poetic tweets, photos and videos have changed the way many think about space, 44 years after he was inspired to go there as a nine-year-old watching the Moon landings at his parents’ Ontario farm.

To learn more about Chris Hadfield and why he is so popular click on any of the following links. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

ESL Mother's Day Songs and Activities

Happy Mother's Day!  

I am both a mother and a daughter, so I thought I would put together a few songs that convey how different people feel about their mothers. I hope that one or more mean something to you. 

1.  The Mom Song:   

Several years ago, Anita Renfroe, a suburban mother from Atlanta Georgia wrote down all the things she catches herself saying to her children every day. 

She arranged them into a long list, made them vaguely scan and rhyme, and set them to the music of Rossini's William Tell Overture. Finally, she performed the song at her church on Mother's Day


Before you listen: 
  • Make a list of all the things your mother told you to do and not to do when you were a child.  For example:" " Don't eat with your mouth full." 
  •  If you are also a mother, make a list of all the things you have told your children to do and not to do. 

 While and After You Listen: 
  •  Listen to the song and read the lyrics several times.
  • As  you listen, think about which of these expressions or words sound familiar. Which ones match the ones on your list.
  • Write down the specific words or expressions your own mother said to you 

Do you think mothers from different cultures are the same or different?  Why? Discuss what they have in common and what might be different.

I have used this version, sung by Patty Harshley instead of Anita Renfroe's original version because the words are clearer when she sings it. Here is the original link for Anita Renfroe's version. .

All of the next songs include gap fill and other activities. 
Scroll down the right hand side. 

#2 : Mama by B.J. Thomas 

When I was growing up, this song by Bl,J. Thomas was very popular, particularly around Mother's Day.   The slide show on the video represent what the 1950s and 1960s  looked like in North America so well that they could be about my own childhood. 

I have included several activities for this song: a listening gap fill, a vocabulary exercise, a grammar activity and discussion questions.  Enjoy.   

#3:  The Best Day by Taylor Swift 

Taylor Swift is a famous country singer who became a major success at the age of 15. At the age of 16, she wrote this song as a love letter to her mother, Andrea Swift, who usually traveled with her while she was on tour. 

Swift  told CMT Radio that wrote the song while she was traveling on the road and that she kept it as a secret from her mother until Christmas. 

As Swift explains: " In the first verse, I was talking about being 5 years old, so as a writer it was really fun to go back to that place of the way I used to talk when I was 5."

Taylor said that when she played the song for her mother on Christmas  Day, " my mother had no idea it was me singing for the first half of the song. But, she just broke down crying when she realized I had done the whole thing to surprise her. It was a really cool moment." 

Taylor can no longer play this song when is on tour because her mother always breaks down in tears backstage every time she plays it. 

#4:   A Song for Mama by Boyz to Men 

This is a very sentimental song about the importance of mothers.  Do any of you feel this way? 


5: Good Mother by Jan Arden 
The video from this song is different than the others. Listen and watch. Then answer the following questions with a friend, member of your own family or a group. 

  1. How does this video along with the song make you feel? Why?
  2. Why do you think Jan Arden chose to use this particular video to illustrate this song?
  3. What message is she trying to communicate?
  4. Does it work? Explain.
  5. What message is Arden communicating in her song?  

A Few Thinking or Discussion Questions: 

  1.  What do each of the songs have in common?  Give examples.
  2.  What are some of the differences between the songs? Give examples?
  3.  Which of the songs best represents what a mother is for you? Explain.
  4. .Which of the songs did you like best? Why? 
  5.  Which of the songs did you like least?  Why? 
  6.   If you could write a song for or about your mother what would it say?