Breaking News – News Sites Useful for ESL Students

A great way to improve your English is to read newspapers or listen to the news. However sometimes the level of English in news can be challenging.  Keep current on news using these sites:

  • Breaking News English –  A new lesson every two days based on stories currently in the news. There are 7 learner  levels available, from elementary to advanced. There are reading, listening and other learning activities available.
  • Times For Kids –  Don’t be mislead by the title – it’s not kiddie stuff. Current national and global topics are discussed. You have the ability to dynamically change reading level of an article by using a pull down menu selector at top left of article page. Try this article that explains the recent  Facebook data breach .
  • Smithsonian Tween Tribune – has articles on  current events, history, art, culture and science.  You can filter articles by grade level. However, while looking at an article you can adjust even more  the reading level  you want, making it a bit easier or more challenging. 
  • News in Level – articles are available in 3 different reading levels. Actual news videos are often attached at highest level. 

New Writing Section and Links


Please check out our newest section of links, “Writing” on the right hand side of the blog. It’s toward the bottom so don’t miss it.  There many exciting links that can help you with punctuation, writing styles, common writing errors AND even help you write a resume.

Writing is a difficult skill even for native Americans but it’s a very important one. Use these links to improve your writing.

Weather on the Mind

We’ve had some crazy weather in January.  If you want to  talk about the weather with others, use the blog for some activities that will help your with your vocabulary, speaking and listening skills.

Screen shot by M.Yanez


First, click on “Online Resources” on the top menu bar under the English Blog Header

Then  click on “Practice Sites”  – a page that has activities for MANY topics





 Finally scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the “Weather” heading   and then try some of the items there. 




If you like learning using  videos, click on “Fun Stuff” on the top menu bar. 

Then click on  “Great Video”s. 



Again scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the “Weather” heading. 

Learn English with Wonderful Interactive Books

I’ve recently found a new site that has some wonderful interactive books that help you learn verb tenses and other English topics.

The website, Let’s Have Fun with English, is hosted by Mrs. Haquet, a British teacher, so there is a bit of a British (UK) feel to the spelling and grammar but the American (US) version is also given. Here are the current Interactive books.

Basics Verb Tense + Topic Holidays
Numbers Present Be and Personality
Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives Present Simple Have /Have got
Adverbs of Frequency and Chores Present Simple (Be and Have) and Physical Descriptions St. Valentine’s Day
Comparatives Present Simple and Time and Daily Routines St. Patrick’s Day
 Prepositions of location and Places in Town Present Simple (like, love, hate) and Hobbies Halloween
Rooms in a House Present Simple vs Present Continuous Thanksgiving
Can (Talents) Present Simple /Present Continuous and Jobs Christmas
Must and Mustn’t Present Simple /Present Continuous and Clothes
Simple Past and Dates
Present Perfect  and  Countries
4 Verb tenses and Asking Questions

Be sure to try out the interactive vocabulary exercises too!

The link to this website can always be found on  under English Lesson Online, More English Online page.

Just a Cold

I was sick this week but let me tell you about it using those pesky idioms or phrases that are so hard to understand!

First of all, I was fit as a fiddle (feeling healthy) on Sunday when I had friends over for dinner.  I did notice that I had a little frog in my throat (difficulty speaking because  throat feels dry) and I had to clear my throat several times (cough lightly to regain normal voice). I thought I was just laughing too much but it was the first symptoms of my cold.

On Monday, I woke up feeling under the weather (not feeling well). I had a hoarse voice  (raspy sounding) and a sore throat. I was definitely coming down with something  (the start of an illness) and it turned out that I caught a cold  (get a cold). I started coughing but it wasn’t too bad at first.

That night, the cough kept coming back and waking me up.  I woke up on Tuesday with a stuffy nose. I kept needing to blow my nose  (attempt to clear nose) all day and I started to sneeze too.

On Wednesday , I took a turn for the worse (get sicker) and by Thursday I was as sick as a dog (extremely unwell). I had a racking cough (a dry, frequent, violent, cough) that didn’t let me sleep and knocked me out (made extremely tired).

I kept trying all sorts of remedies, cough drops, cough syrup, hot teas with lemon and honey, aspirin, lots of fluids and of course Mom’s chicken soup. I ate quite a bit of spicy Chinese food in an attempt to feed a cold and stave a fever .Finally some maximum strength cough suppressant and sudafed turned the tide (made a change).

Finally, I’m on the road to recovery (feeling better) and soon I will be the picture of health (example of good health). 

I hope my cold helped you understand some of these health idioms a bit better.

Take care of yourselves… there is a bug going around (infection being passed)

Did You See that Super Bowl Commerical? Let Me Tell You About It.

All this past week, people have been talking about the Super Bowl. Some people talked about the football game and some about the Katy Perry’s half-time show. Others talked about the commercials (the ads). Since sooooo many people watch the Super Bowl, companies spend a lot of money to make a commercial that people will remember and want to talk about. Some commercials are like a little story and often people “tell” their friends who haven’t seen the ad the whole story.

Retelling a story that you have read, a TV show or just an commercial you have seen is a great way to practice your English.

Let’s look at a series of commercials that Budweiser ( an American company that makes beer) has made for different Super Bowls. In each of the ads, we see Clydesdales, a special breed of horse that Budweiser uses as a symbol for their company. Clydesdales are strong, beautiful, intelligent horses with white shaggy hair on their lower legs.

The first commercial for Super Bowl 2013 is called “Brotherhood”. It’s about a man who raises Clydesdales for Budweiser. “Raise” means to bring up a child or animal from babyhood to adulthood. As you watch, think about what happens in this commercial. What is the man feeling? What is the horse feeling?

Now …. let’s “retell” the story.

We first see a barn and inside a man caring for a baby horse (called a foal). The mother is missing and it’s the man that feeds the foal with a bottle . The foal follows the man around, surprises and plays with him. The man is always caring for the foal and watching after him.

When the horse is sick, the man calls a vet (an animal doctor) and stays with the animal all night long until he is better. The foal grows into a colt (think “teenage” horse) and gets bigger and faster but he always follows the man. Finally he is an adult horse  and a Budweiser truck comes to get him. The man is sad and misses him.

Three years later, the Clydesdales are visiting Chicago and the man travels to the city to see them in a parade. He waits excitedly and recognizes his horse right away. We see his pride in his horse and maybe a bit of sadness at losing him. At the end of the parade, he gets ready to drive back home.

But guess what? The horse also recognized him and remembered him. As soon as he can, he gets away and races back to the man. The man is shocked and pleased that the horse has come back to him. He hugs him full of emotion. Awwwww … what a nice story.

Now watch the commercial Budweiser made for Super Bowl 2014 called “Best Buds” about a friendship between a curious puppy and a Clydesdale.

Can you “retell” the story in this commercial? Maybe answering these sentences can help.

  1. A woman raises ________ for adoption.
  2. One puppy ____________ under a fence and _________ a horse next door.
  3. The __________ and puppy become friends.
  4. The horse man brings back the ________ to the _____________.
  5. The puppy _____________ again and again.
  6. Another man comes and ___________ the puppy.
  7. The puppy ____________ want to go. He _______ and then the horse _______.
  8. The horse and his friends ____________________ to rescue the puppy.
  9. The man with the sunglasses  is ____________________  when he sees ______________.
  10. The puppy and the horses____________________.
  11. The man who raises the horses decides_____________________________.

Here is the latest 2015 commercial called “Lost Dog”.  That curious puppy gets into trouble. Will his friends help him?   Enjoy watching it and then PLEASE retell this story to your family and friends.

New Year and New Apps to learn from

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great break.  It’s the start of a new year – 2015 and a new semester at Wake Tech.

Many of us start a new year by making “resolutions” – usually self improvement goals that we want to meet ( like losing weight ).  Did you make one about improving your English? maybe speaking more English?  Using these apps on your phone or IPad may help you to make your resolution a reality.

Otterwave Screen Capture by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Otterwave Screen Capture by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

English Pronunciation – Otterwave uses “speech recognition software”to help you with your pronunciation. Huh? What does that mean?

  •   First you select a common  sentence from different topics ( like a telephone conversation or a travel situation). You listen to the sentence being spoken.
Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

  • Next, you use your phone or IPad microphone to record the same sentence
  • Right away, the app compares how your speech to the sample. It compares how you pronounced the words and the timing of your speech. Often students can pronounce words but have trouble linking sounds together or getting the rhythm  of English. This gives you a visual comparison using sound waves of any part of the sentence.
Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

  • You can repeat and practice your pronunciation as much as you would like.

Another app that you can use to improve your English is ” Help with Words and Sentences” by KKR Software. It’s focus is on words (spelling, meaning ) and  sentences (structure and comprehension) .

You can choose 7 levels of difficulty. If you choose to work with words, you can pick exercises to help you spell and recognize words.

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

If you chose to work with sentences, you will need to supply missing words, structure the words for a correct sentence, and check if you understood the sentence’s meaning.

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Try using these apps and improve your English ( and maybe complete your resolution for this year).

GCF – A source of learning

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

GCF Learn Free website is a fantastic source of information on computers, English, daily activities and so many other things. It has interactive lessons, interesting videos and fun ways to learn a subject.

Its section on Learning English has programs in different languages (Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese and  Korean). It also has wonderful  grammar lessons  that help us with contractions,  run-on sentences  or fragments  and reading activities to help us with comprehension and sounds
Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

Photo by WTCC Instructor M.Yanez

But GCF can teach us English while teaching us other skills we need in America

It also has a wide range of Technology lessons

Everything is FREE!  – Check it out now and learn something new today