Sunday, December 22, 2013

StudyCom Update

Dave Winet at StudyCom: We have a new classroom at but the old room also works (

Last week we had 12 students! Please join us for an exciting and educational class experience.

Teacher Dave,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

English Online - Articles in Easy Understandable English for Learners

This website is specially designed for learners of English.The articles are carefully chosen and rewritten, so that they can be more easily understood. Each article has a vocabulary list at the end. Presently there are a few hundred topics and special news articles in various categories.  

English Online - Articles in Easy Understandable English for Learners

Julie's Daily Writing Tip

Julie's Daily Writing Tip

Quick Links

Here's today's writing tip!

Writing tip of the day:
Direct personal experience = flowing vocabulary.
A common occurrence in freewriting is for the student to hover over the page, writing about generalizations (talking about gymnastics or video games in general, to no one). To help engage more deeply, suggest your child "drop down" or "sink into" the lived experiences he or she has had in those arenas. Retell ONE swim meet experience or describe the thrill of beating a specific level in a specific game. When a child accesses direct personal experience, the vocabulary flows and there's less chance of feeling disconnected to the writing.

Useful Resources

Here are some resources that might be of interest to you... Get a FREE curriculum idea every day from my good friend Diane Flynn Keith if you subscribe to her ezine. Explore her archives for hundreds of ideas from previous issues of her ezine on her website. 
A-Z Home's Cool: One of the most comprehensive websites for homeschool-related information. Sign up for her "Ask Ann" ezine and receive Ann's list of free Reading Level Assessment tools, the
Why Homeschooling ROCKS from Homeschool Buyers Co-op and also receive The Science Activity Video Series & Guidebook from Supercharged Science. The most comprehensive homeschool curriculum review website. You can get the "Learning Styles" chapter from Cathy's latest book -- 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum -FREE if you subscribe to her weekly newsletter. Regardless, her website has the most comprehensive set of product reviews anywhere. 


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Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Practice: Journals

…keeping a journal and writing in it regularly is another good way to practice your writing. Journal writing is less formal and more relaxed. It can also be more formal when used in a writing class. This post is about a writing journal for an English but has useful tips for and kind of journal writing. Don't worry about mistakes. Just write but try to be clear and make sense. 

Writing correctly does matter though and helps you write more correctly. Later, you can think more about being correct. Getting feedback on your writing - even journals - is important. I'll write more about that and journals another time.
There are many sites with plenty of topics for your journal. Here are three:
  1. Can Teach
  2. Journal Topics
For many students, writing a journal is a daunting task. When given a completely clean slate, they wonder what in the world can they write about. Topics generally drift to the mundane:
Today I got up. I really didn’t want to get up, but I had to. I went to school thinking I wouldn’t survive it. English was horrid: Mr. Scott talked about journals and I just hate this thing. Math was okay: Mrs. Merck was in a good mood. Science was fun and social studies was pretty interesting, so all in all, it was a decent day.
One way you can improve your journal writing is to add some details: use literary devices, sensory details, and action verbs to add depth. Next, try adding some background details. Ask yourself, “Why?”; then answer that question. A simple sixty-six word entry, with some thoughtful (re)writing, can actually become much more.

Journal | Our English Class

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Writing Practice: Basic Parts of a Letter - just writing - is the best way to improve your writing. Letter, journal and online writing are all more comfortable ways to practice writing than formal essays. Get used to expressing yourself writing in English. Then worry about essays.  

Review this and write us a letter. We promise to answer (unless it's spam..)

What is a LETTER?

Letter - a written message addressed to a person or organization, company or an institution. It could be a formal letter or a informal or friendly letter.

What are the Basic Parts of a Letter?

1. Date
The date line is used to indicate the date the letter was written. However, if your letter is completed over a number of days, use the date it was finished in the date line. Write out the month, day and year two inches from the top of the page.

2. Salutation
Also called the Greeting. Use the same name as the inside address, including the personal title. If you know the person and typically address them by their first name, it is acceptable to use only the first name in the salutation (for example: Dear Lucy:). In all other cases, however, use the personal title and full name followed by a colon. Leave one line blank after the salutation.

If you don't know a reader's gender, use a nonsexist salutation, such as "To Whom it May Concern." It is also acceptable to use the full name in a salutation if you cannot determine gender. For example, you might write Dear Chris Harmon: if you were unsure of Chris's gender.

3. Body
The body is written as text. A business letter is never hand written. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.

4. Conclusion
The conlclusion summarizes the body of the letter. Most formal letters have a conclusion, while some informal letter usually doesn't have a conclusion.

5. Closing
The closing begins at the same horizontal point as your date and one line after the last body paragraph. Capitalize the first word only (for example: Thank you) and leave four lines between the closing and the sender's name for a signature. If a colon follows the salutation, a comma should follow the closing; otherwise, there is no punctuation after the closing.

Other commonly used closing:
Sincerely, Sincerely Yours, Yours Truly, Respectfully Yours, and others

6. Signature
Type or print your name. The handwritten signature goes above this line and below the close. The signature line and the handwritten signature are indented to the same column as the close. The signature should be written in blue or black ink. If the letter is quite informal, you may omit the signature line as long as you sign the letter.

Basic Parts of a Letter - Level B - Teacher Aisa

Monday, August 26, 2013

Computers Language Writing

Daily online articles and links about ESL, writing, English language learning and teaching. Subscribe to mail updates. Today's issue includes articles about ESL TV, the language education crisis in higher education, apps, games, videos and more.

Computers Language Writing

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Games & Interactive Exercises Online

…because all work (study) and no play makes a dull day. Games are not just for kids either. None of us is ever too old to play!

The ESL Games World web site has a variety of interactive games and exercises for total ESL fun. Free games here for kids, teachers, classrooms, in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, math and more include: Snakes and Ladders, Hangman, Spelling games, Wheel of Fortune, TV Games (Betting Game), Mazes, Memory Games, Matching exercises, Sequencing exercises, Picture Quizzes and many other games. Follow the links on the website. Printed PowerPoint and board games too.

Check them out on Free ESL Fun Games & Interactive Exercises Online…and the rest of these games pages for learning and practicing English.

Monday, July 01, 2013

10 Simple Tips for Self-Editing

…for intermediate and advanced writers…from a professional editor, re-posted from Writing Forward. This is also good advice for editing what you write in your first language as well as for working with friends and other students in a writing group. Let's think about this last idea and how you might get started. It would be a challenge and more work than for a "native speakers" writing group since you would all need to do more looking up. 

writing tips self-editing

Editing Your Own Work

I spend most of my work hours editing other people’s work and self-editing my own writing. In fact, I spend more time on self-editing than I do on writing. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite writing tips for self-editing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Reflections on e-dventures in an online writing course from Coursera and that high intermediate to advanced writers might want to consider taking. This course will run again in September. I follow reviews of courses that might suit study group members and wrote earlier about the Duke composition course. Although that one was "ESL user friendly," this one seems even more suitable. 

Retrieved June 20, 2013 from here
Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade is another amazing adventure that I have just completed on Coursera. It was offered by Mt. San Jacinto College, and instructed byLorrie Ross, Lawrence (Larry) Barkley, & Ted Blake. The course was broken into five weekly units with each unit spanning one week. Each weekly unit had the following items: video lectures, in-video quizzes, readings, journal writings, discussion forums, peer reviewed writing assignment, and weekly quiz....

In general, I enjoyed this course so much considering it as a staring point for being an effective and creative writer. To grow and move forward, I only need to increase my vocabulary base and expose to a variety of writing styles. This can be done by reading more short stories and analyzing their genres to know more about the writers' voices and purposes. I think that there should be another adventure of writing that is coming soon!

Read the complete article at Azhar's Reflections: My e-dventures of Writing

Monday, June 10, 2013

meaning and context: use clues to improve your reading

Problems with reading comprehension? Here are some suggestions and a useful link to help you figure out for yourself what a passage means. Always try to do that  BEFORE you ask someone to explain the meaning:
  • Ask yourself what the writer's purpose is and who the intended audience (reader) is: why is he or she writing and to whom.  
  • Look up words and even whole phrases you are not sure about. 
  • If you know the name of the author or title of the work, look it up. Knowing more about the work, who wrote it and why will help you figure out what it means. 
  • Try a Google string search on short passages. 
  • If you still need to ask for help here or on the StudyCom Help Board, be sure to include information you have about the writer and the work. That is part of the context. You may be able to answer your own question that way.

How to Use Context Clues to Improve Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

Learning how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words is an essential reading strategy and vocabulary-builder. Identifying context clues in reading is made easier by looking for the key context clue categories within the context of an effective step-by-step strategy. So, here's the strategy:

When you come to an unknown word, apply the steps of the FP'S BAG SALE strategy in the following order until you get a good clue about the meaning of an unknown word.
Read the rest of  How to Use Context Clues to Improve Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

Monday, May 27, 2013

Study Group Scoop

Blogging English news flash: introducing EFI Study Group on I'd say, "check out the resources, " but the page is still unfurnished. Do you have a favorite ESL learning resource to share? Come by the page and submit suggestions. There are alos many other ESL/EFL/ESOL teaching and learning pages on we'll be "scooping" from those too

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Organize Your Writing in English

…here's hoping that posting the entire newsletter won't call for too much html editing once posted…
About ESL

From Kenneth Beare, your Guide to ESL
This week features a number of resources to help organize writing in English. There's also a look at the resources on the site dedicated to English for visiting the doctor or dentist. Finally, due to the popularity of last week's article on learning proverbs, there are three new proverb definition pages to help you learn proverbs appropriate for your level.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade

Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing. Next Session (5 weeks) starts May 13th 2013

Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing. By dedicating yourself to the craft of writing, you will learn to develop the four basic sentence types into a well-organized, detailed paragraph. This course is designed for anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you need to write more clearly for work, prepare for a placement test for a college, or improve your skills for current writing projects, this class will definitely be beneficial.

  • Students will be able to identify and correct some sentence level grammatical and punctuation errors.
  • Students will be able to develop four sentence types: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex.
  • Students will be able to combine sentences using all four sentence types.
  • Students will be able to develop a clear topic sentence.
  • Students will be able to write a well-organized, detailed paragraph.
Why would you want to take this course?  There are a variety of reasons: 
  • As a pre-Assessment activity
  • As a petition for English placement
  • As a brush-up for students while in writing classes
  • As a brush-up for students who don’t/can’t enroll in an English class
  • As a resource for flipped/blended classrooms
  • To become a better writer

Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade | Coursera 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Listen & Read Along


About ListenAndReadAlong

Friday, April 05, 2013

Using and Advice Column in Class

…how would you use advice columns for your own personal self study plan? Take a look at the lesson plan for ideas. Think about other kinds of advice columns too. There are columns for investing, home repair, cooking, healthy eating, job hunting, hobbies, and more. Not all are advice either. There are columns about sports, movies, music, and more. Find one about something that interests you and read it regularly,

Dear Abby is one of the world's most popular advice columns. Abigail Van Buren provides sound advice in this column which serves as a wonderful source for discussion and practicing a wide range of English skills. This Dear Abby lesson plan takes upper level students through reading, writing, vocabulary extension, pronunciation and listening skills to finally provide advice in conversation. It's a motivating lesson which encourages students to use their English in an integrated manner.

Using and Advice Column in Class

Monday, March 25, 2013

“Like” Serves Nouns and Pronouns, Not Verbs

a useful article by Daniel Scocco on usage, particularly for the high intermediate and advanced ESOL writer. At the same time, it is clearly enough written and explained for the intermediate writer. 

Like is associated with various uncouth usages — “They were, like, all over the place”; “I was, like, ‘Really?’” — common in speech but easily avoided (except for comic effect) in writing, but many people are unaware that another widespread usage is considered improper in formal writing. 
As a preposition meaning “similar to,” like is associated with nouns (“She entered the room like an empress”) and pronouns (“I don’t know anyone like him”). However, when the word connects one clause (a segment of a sentence that includes a subject and a verb) to another, it impersonates a conjunction: “He started dancing like his pants were on fire”; “I arranged the furniture like it had appeared before.” 
Note, though, that this usage, though ubiquitous in conversation and in informal writing, is not considered acceptable in formal writinglike should be replaced, respectively, by “as if” (He started dancing as if his pants were on fire”) or as: (“I arranged the furniture as it had appeared before”). Replacing as with “the way” is also acceptable: “I arranged the furniture the way it had appeared before.” 
(But beware of hypercorrection or over correcting)

Read the rest of “Like” Serves Nouns and Pronouns, Not Verbs

And while writing about writing, let me remind you again about the free online course in college level writing from Duke University, Composition I: Achieving Expertise (hastag #dcmooc). I decided to take the course myself to see how it works and whether to keep recommending it. So far, I am very encouraged. There are many ESOL writers in the course and the atmosphere is very welcoming. 

Even if you are not working toward university in an English speaking country, this course is good writing practice. Don't worry about being able to finish the course either: take it for the practice. 

In the meantime, I'll be blogging about my own experience in the course at Computers Writing Language. Here is my first #dcmooc post, also our first writing activity. Not all related posts will be course activities or assignments: some will be my reflections on the course and teaching/learning writing online. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

Thinking about higher ed in an English speaking country? Preparing for TOEFL? Or just want to improve your English writing skills? Take a look at this free online course from Duke University. 

You will gain a foundation for college-level writing valuable for nearly any field. Students will learn how to read carefully, write effective arguments, understand the writing process, engage with others' ideas, cite accurately, and craft powerful prose. We will create a workshop environment.

About the Course

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Getting More Out of Blogging

How blogs are usedDo you blog? Blogging in English is great way to practice your writing. If you have a blog, send your link to or post in comments. We can start a study group blog roll. 

Have you thought about blogging but have doubts or aren't sure about how to get started. Read the article cited and linked below for more about blogging. 

Commenting on other blogs is a good way to start: a beginner's guide to commenting on blogs and lessons in commenting skills. Grammar Girl has a good post on how to write great comments and reminds us that "there are many more places than blogs that you can leave comments these days: on Facebook walls, news articles, photos, videos, and more."

The different blogging approaches used:

About ESL newsletter: review prepositions & more

From Kenneth Beare, your Guide to ESL
This week's newsletter has review materials for prepositions, as well as the basics of English. For more advanced learners, there are review materials for using reported speech.

Read the rest of About ESL

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fun With Words: Collective Nouns

One of the craziest oddities of the English language is that there are so many different collective nouns that all mean "group" but which are specific to what particular thing there is a group of: a herd of elephants, a crowd of people, a box of crayons, a pad of paper, etc. There is great diversity of collective nouns associated with animals, from a sleuth of bears to a murder of crows Visit the page linked below for a list correct terms to describe groups of various types of animals.

Fun With Words: Collective Nouns

What is your favorite fun with words?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Movies for Learning English

…are an effective way to build listening comprehension and vocabulary ~ and entertaining too. Sadammu recently wrote asking about movies:
My Dear Teacher Vanessa  
Sorry for my not writing to you for a long time. Though I didn't e-mail to you these days, I had read your post on Facebook. So I know you are in high spirits.  
By the way, you taught us many resources before. I'm now interested in watching movies. I looked for it on my PC. But I couldn't find it. I missed it. Would you tell me resources for free movies which you showed us?  
Regards, Sadamu

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reading Sage: Reading Boot Camp

…reading is the key to learning grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and writing. The "reading boot camp" described here is for a classroom but can also be adapted to self paced study. If you teach, think about trying it. If you are in a class, ask your teacher about trying a reading boot camp. You could also form a reading a group based this model. 
Reading Boot Camp uses the Finnish model of cooperative learning structures, collaborative teaching, enrichment, and active student learning! 
Putting great literature, poetry, games and books in children’s [and any readers'] hands is the foundation of Reading Boot Camp, not predigested workbooks, endless photo copies, and needless busy work. Reading Boot Camp is back to basics with a common sense sledge hammer to the outsider. Students find it rewarding and fantastic! Why implement Reading Boot Camp? 
The real answer is kids love reading and learning! The administrative answer is, 95% of all students that attend Reading Boot Camp make over a years growth in reading. 90% of all students including NES, ESL, and special education students pass state reading test in some of the poorest Title I schools! Reading Boot Camp is the same Education model that is used in Finland with amazingly the same results!
Reading Sage: Reading Boot Camp 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Is English Easy for You?

Chances are you can't give a yes or no answer to the question: "Is English easy for you?" Perhaps a better answer would be: "It depends." The use of the phrase it depends can take a number of different forms:
It depends on the class.
It depends if I have enough time to study.
It depends on what type of English class it is.
This guide to the use of 'It depends' will help you use this form to give more complete answers depending on the situation.

Is English Easy for You?

Monday, February 04, 2013

VOALearningEnglish Video

…I keep tagging posts from the VOA Special English's Learning English YouTube channel to share but not getting around to it. You can also subscribe to video updates on the YouTube channel, as well as following on Facebook, Twitter or both.

Add the links to your personal learning network ~ your own personal collection of pages and tools to help you learn English. I haven't posted about that for a while. The topic is overdue a return revisit. Have you have been working on your own PLN?  If you have it online, please share the link with us.

VOALearningEnglish has uploaded Income Inequality Seen as World's Biggest Risk Over Next 10 Years.
Income Inequality Seen as World's Biggest Risk Over Next 10 Years
From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report in Special English. The World Economic Forum says the most likely risk facing the world over the next 10 years is a big difference between rich and poor. The estimate was made in a new report called the World Economic Forum's Global Risks 2013. Food availability and the spread of terrorism are noted every year. But new risks, especially technological and economic ones, are getting more attention. The report was based on surveys of more than 1,000 experts from around the world. They considered the likelihood and impact of risks should they become reality. Sharp income disparity was considered the most likely problem to take place in the next 10 years. This is the second straight year that a wealth gap was named. Next was what the report called "chronic fiscal imbalances," or the failure of governments to deal with heavy debt over time.The risk said to have the biggest possible impact was a major failure in the world financial system...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ESL Newsletters

…The #elt Daily , shown below, is not just for teachers…DIY/SRL learners too. DIY = Do It Yourself. SRL = Self Regulated Learning. Developing your own collection of learning materials is part of taking responsibility for your own learning and becoming an independent learner. ESL newsletters are one source. Subscribe to newsletters about learning English and others on topics that interest you (in English, of course).

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