Help with Syllables

Need a little help pronouncing words?

Understanding how to break up words into syllables can help you.  How Many Syllables  can quickly help you identify the syllables in a word, show you how to pronounce it and give you words that rhyme with it.   

Click on the Syllable Rules link to learn syllable patterns and rules to count out syllables, 

You can always find How Many Syllables quickly by looking at the Class /Textbook section in the right sidebar 

All About Winter


Photo by M.Yanez

Officially the winter starts on Friday, December 21st, 2019.  However this early snow storm has definitely kicked off the winter season here in Raleigh! 

If you are staying warm in your home and looking for a way to practice English, take a look at these older posts in our ESL blogs that are about the winter season.


Winter Season



Besides the following blog entries, don’t forget the “Holidays” Page on the top menu bar – it has videos and activities for all the holidays in the Year (including Christmas  )


Use the Library to Improve Your English

Libraries are wonderful resources that help all learners but especially those learning English.  With a library card you can check out books  and audio books, use their computer resources and participate in their community programs. 

Here is information on how to get a library card and some of their services.

How Do I Get a Library Card and What Can I Do with It?

Wake County Library cards are available to all residents of Wake County.

To get your library card:

  1. Find your nearest library branch at
  2. Apply in person for your library card. You will need:
  • Any official photo ID (Wake Tech Student ID, North Carolina ID card, North Carolina Driver’s License, US Passport, International Passport or International ID Card)
  • IF Your ID does not include your address: You will also need a piece of mail with your name and your Wake County address printed by a computer (water bill, credit card statement, power bill etc.)
  1. The librarian will give you your card and you will choose a PIN. Hang on to your card and remember your PIN, you’ll need it to access services!

Using the Library in Person:

  1. Borrow books for 2 weeks at a time to take home with you. Find books for you and the whole family! (You can renew books for 2 more weeks, but don’t return them late or else you’ll have to pay a fine!)
  2. Read reference books in the library
  3. Read magazines & newspapers in the library
  4. Use the computers with internet for free
  5. Use wifi on your personal computer or smartphone for free
  6. Print items inexpensively in black and white or color
  7. Participate in free events for adults and children in the library. Check the calendar at:

Using the Library’s Digital Services:

  1. Look up book availability before you go, and manage your loans with the Library Catalog at:
  2. Find research and academic articles in the library databases at:

Using your Smartphone to Borrow eBooks and Audiobooks:

  1. Download the application Libby by searching for it in the App Store or Google Play Store
  2. Or Download the application through the weblink
  3. Select your library “Wake County Public Library” or enter your zip code
  4. Log in using your library card number and your PIN
  5. Search for and borrow eBooks or Audiobooks that are currently available, or place a hold to wait for a book that will be available in the future.
  6. Use the app to read eBooks or listen to audiobooks!

Welcome Back From Summer Break and Hello Hurricane Florence

Our sites are just starting to welcome students back and suddenly Hurricane Florence changes all our plans! However it is a good time to learn some more about hurricanes and tropical storms.  

First, thanks to teacher, Jess MacDonald, who provided so much of this information.


tropical depression: a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 38 mph or 62 km/hr or less.

tropical storm: a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 39 mph or 63 km/hr to 73 mph or 118 km/hr.

hurricane: a severe tropical cyclone with maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 74 mph or 119 km/hr or more, heavy rains, enormous waves, and subsequent flooding that can damage buildings and beaches. It is an area of low pressure around which winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. The term hurricane is used for Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclones east of the International Dateline to the Greenwich Meridian. The term typhoon is used for Pacific tropical cyclones north of the Equator west of the International Dateline. The term cyclone is used for Indian Ocean tropical cyclones.

Eye- the center of the hurricane, which can be calm in the surrounding storm

FEMA– Federal Emergency Management Agency

Flooding: a large amount of water covering an area of land that is usually dry

Flood zone: an area that is lower or close to a water source, that can be likely to flood during heavy rains.

inland flooding: While the storm surge is related to the winds of the hurricane, inland flooding is more often a result of rainfall. Often during a hurricane, the storm will stall over an area resulting in enough rainfall to flood inland areas.

storm surge: The storm surge is the water on the coast that is pushed in by hurricane winds. This water exaggerates the normal tides, so that the water level can rise as much as 15 feet or more. The storm surge can cause coastal flooding. The amount of the storm surge is determined by the slope of the land offshore, as well as, the strength of the hurricane.

hurricane hazards: Hazards created by a hurricane including storm surge, heavy rains and high winds.

hurricane preparedness: a plan or action to ensure safety and maximize comfort in hurricane conditions.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale- a scale of 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage.

Voluntary evacuation- when the government requests that you leave the area where the storm will hit, but you are not required to leave

Mandatory evacuation– when the government requires you to leave the area where the storm will hit because it will be very dangerous for you to stay where you are

State of Emergency- When the government declares that there are conditions that could require emergency support and action to help people.  This allows the government to spend money and send personnel to assist citizens, but it does not necessarily mean that there is immediate danger.


 Hurricane Preparedness




  1. What supplies do you have at your house already to prepare yourself for a hurricane?
  2. What supplies should you purchase today or tomorrow for a hurricane?
  3. How familiar are you and your family with emergency plans?
  4. What are your employer’s expectations about you coming to work in a storm?  
  5. Where can you go to ask for help if you need it after a hurricane?  Who can you call?

Are you signed up for Wake Tech Warn to receive emergency phone updates from the college?

Summer Homework!

The blogs are going on vacation for the summer. **** I’ve  refreshed an earlier post with great ideas for  your summer homework. Click on the blue links to learn and practice until we return with new lessons in the fall!

Confusing Word Choices

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In these blogs, we teach you the differences between two (or more) confusing words or phrases. Click each one to learn more.


In these posts, we teach you how to pronounce or say something.


Here are the answers to some of the most common questions I hear from students.

Practical English

These articles will help you with the English you need every day.

Summer Homework!

*** Refreshing  an earlier post that has some ideas for homework to do  over the summer. There is one activity per week. In July, explore the blog — look at these links or these sites to practice your English online!


Level       Week 1     Week 2      Week 3       Week 4
1 & 2  Learn Signs  Practice months and seasons  Practice body parts with your kids  Practice Pronunciation
3 & 4  Practice Simple Present vs. Continuous  Practice colors  Practice the weather Practice irregular past tense verbs
5 & 6  Practice Pronunciation  Learn to Complain  Read a Recipe  Practice past tense pronunciation
ERV  Read more!  Take a vocabulary test  Practice your spelling  Stay abreast of current events

Have a great summer! See you in the fall!

Online Listening Practice for All Levels

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Sometimes, students say to me, “Teacher, I learned grammar and writing in my country, but I never practiced listening and speaking. I don’t understand Americans. How can I practice more listening?” Of course, you can watch TV or listen to the radio. You can also sign up for Crossroads Cafe at your site. It is an excellent program for improving your English.

However, if you want more listening practice at home, I have several ideas for you!

For ALL Levels

These websites have lessons for all levels. You can choose the level that is right for you!

Talk English – This site has free listening courses for all levels. On the main page, they also have vocabulary and grammar lessons!

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab – Scroll down for listening activities and quizzes. You can choose easy, medium, difficult, or very difficult listening activities.

Breaking News English – On this site, you can choose your level at the top of the page. Then you choose the story you want to read and hear. You can also choose the speed of the listening. You can listen to it very slowly or at normal speed.

VOA English News – Voice of America English News has short news stories that you can read and listen to. The site has three levels. On the site, “Level One” might be good for you if you are in a level 3 or 4 class at Wake Tech.

For Advanced Students

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Do you know what a podcast is? Imagine people on TV talking about a topic. Now turn off the picture so you are only listening to them. That is a podcast. It is an audio (listening only) recording of people talking about a topic. You can find podcasts about all kinds of topics. These podcasts are about English.

English Class 101 – Some episodes are for intermediate students, and some are for advanced students, but they are not organized so that you can choose your level. You can sign up for a free account on the website or listen on iTunes.

ESL Pod – This site offers some free lessons, and you can listen to episodes on iTunes, or you can pay for an account for more practice.

All Ears English – Two women talk about American English. You can find this free podcast on the website or on iTunes. You can also download a transcript (written version) of each episode if you want. Click here for the the transcripts.

American English Pronunciation – Listen for free on the website or on iTunes to learn about American English pronunciation rules.

The next two resources I want to show you are NOT made for ESL students. Many Americans enjoy listening to them because they talk about a wide variety of interesting topics. You might enjoy some of them as well!

How Stuff Works – This website is FULL of information on so many things! You can read articles and listen to podcasts about almost anything. You can find information about all of the podcasts here, and I will tell you about some of them as well. You can find all of them on iTunes.

  • Car Stuff – Two men talk about cars
  • Stuff of Genius – A podcast about some of the greatest inventions in the world
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – History lessons you probably didn’t learn in school
  • Brain Stuff – Science in the world around us
  • Stuff You Should Know – A general information podcast with each episode focused on a different topic
  • Tech Stuff – A podcast about technology
  • Stuff Your Mom Never Told You – Two women talk about women’s issues

TED Talks – TED is a conference where people come to share ideas about technology (T), entertainment (E), and design (D), but people talk about almost everything. You can watch videos of the speeches from the conference online. Go to the website, and search for a topic you find interesting. You can even choose the duration (length) of the video. If you want to watch a short video, search for 0-6 minutes. If you want to watch a longer one, you can choose a different duration.

Lessons on States

Here is a map of the United States of America. We are going to use this map for several different lessons. Find the lesson for your level, and let’s get started!

image by Wikimedia Commons user:Wapcaplet, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Levels 1 and 2 – Prepositions of Place

Next to” and “beside” are the same. They mean “on one side” or “to the side of.”

  • North Carolina is next to Tennessee.
  • North Carolina is beside Tennessee.
  • Tennessee is next to North Carolina.
  • Tennessee is beside North Carolina.
  • Illinois is next to Indiana.
  • Indiana is beside Illinois.
  • Colorado and Nevada are next to Utah.
  • Nevada and Arizona are beside California.

Between” means “in the middle” (side to side OR up and down).

  • Utah is between Colorado and Nevada.
  • North Carolina is between Virginia and South Carolina.
  • Iowa is between Missouri and Minnesota.

In” means “inside.” The states have borders (lines where one state stops and a different state starts). Cities are in states.

  • Raleigh is in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina is in the United States.
  • We live in the United States.
  • We live in North Carolina.
  • We live in Raleigh.

Practice with a partner. Person A will ask a question. Person B will answer the question. Take turns asking and answering.

  1. A: Where is Durham?
    B: Durham is in North Carolina.
  2. A: Where is Oklahoma?
    B: Oklahoma is next to Arkansas.
  3. A: Where is Montana?
    B: Montana is between Idaho and North Dakota.
  4. A: Where is New Jersey?
    B: New Jersey is beside Pennsylvania.
  5. A: Where is Hawaii?
    B: Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean.
  6. A: Where is Alaska?
    B: Alaska is next to Canada.
  7. A: Where is Alabama?
    B: Alabama is between Georgia and Mississippi.
  8. A: What is next to Massachusetts?
    B: New York is next to Massachusetts.
  9. A: What is beside Missouri?
    B: Illinois and Kansas are next to Missouri.
  10. A: What is between New York and New Hampshire?
    B: Vermont is between New York and New Hampshire.

Talk with your classmates.

  1. Where do you live? (I live in __________.)
  2. Which state do you want to visit? Why?
  3. Do you like to travel? Why/Why not?

Levels 3 and 4 – Compass Directions

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

A compass shows the direction you are traveling. There are four main directions on a compass – north, south, east, and west. When we compare the locations of two places, we can use the compass directions and “of.” Here are some examples:

  • Virginia is north of North Carolina.
  • California is west of Nevada.
  • Texas is south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is east of Pennsylvania.

In those examples, the states are touching, but they don’t have to touch. Look at some more examples:

  • California is west of North Carolina.
  • Florida is south of New York.
  • Minnesota is east of Washington.
  • South Dakota is north of Texas.

If you want to show clearly that the states are touching, you can use “just” with the compass direction.

  • Virginia is just north of North Carolina.
  • California is just west of Nevada.
  • Texas is just south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is just east of Pennsylvania.

If a place is not exactly north, but not exactly east, we say it’s north-east. For example, Kentucky is north-west of North Carolina. Here are some more examples:

  • North Dakota is north-east of Wyoming.
  • Texas is just south-west of Arkansas.
  • New Mexico is just south-east of Utah.

Talk with a partner. Look at the map, and take turns asking and answering questions.

  1. What is just west of Georgia?
  2. What is east of North Carolina?
  3. What is just north of Florida?
  4. What is west of Oregon?
  5. What is just north-west of Missouri?

Now practice asking your own questions. Your partner will answer.

Levels 5 and 6 – Abbreviations and Internet Research

Study the easier lessons to make sure you understand. Then search the internet for the answers to these questions.

  1. Where is the Grand Canyon?
  2. Finish this sentence: Barstow, CA is ___________ miles ____________ of Wilmington, NC on I-40.
  3. Where was Abraham Lincoln born?
  4. Where are the Great Lakes? What are their names?
  5. Where is the biggest state? Where is the smallest state? (Don’t just say their names. Describe where they are.)

Every state has an abbreviation that is used for sending mail and writing the name of the state in a short way. Each abbreviation has two letters. We write them with capital letters and no periods. Here are all the state abbreviations.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

When we read a state’s abbreviation out loud, we usually say the full name of the state. For example, when I see “Portland, OR,” I will say, “Portland, Oregon,” NOT, “Portland, O-R.” This is especially important when you are talking about Louisiana. If you say, “L-A,” people might think that you are talking about Los Angeles, CA. Read these cities and states out loud to practice saying the full name of the state.

  1. New York, NY
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. New Orleans, LA
  5. Raleigh, NC
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Detroit, MI
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Las Vegas, NV

This, That, These, and Those

This week, we are going to learn about 4 words:

  1. this
  2. that
  3. these
  4. those

We will begin with an easy lesson, and then we will continue to some more difficult lessons. You can choose your lessons.

Lesson for Levels 1-3

Look at the chart, and read the explanations for each word.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

THIS – Use for 1 thing close to you.
**Example** I am touching a book, or I can touch it because it is near me. It is only one book. I say, “This book is good.”

THAT – Use for 1 thing far away.
**Example** A book is far away. I cannot touch the book because it is far from me. I point with my finger and say, “That book is good.”

THESE – Use for 2+ things close to you.
**Example** I am touching 4 books, or I can touch them because they are near me. There are many books. I say, “These books are good.”

THOSE – Use for 2+ things far away.
**Example** Four books are on the book shelf. I am not near the book shelf. I cannot touch the books because they are far from me. I say, “Those books are good.”

Your Turn

Write a short sentence with each noun. If the noun is singular (near), add “this.” If the noun is singular (far), add “that.” If the noun is plural (near), add “these.” If the noun is plural (far), add “those.”

Example 1: table (near) – This table is tall.
Example 2: tables (far) – Those tables are old.

  1. cup (near)
  2. dog (far)
  3. sofa (near)
  4. babies (near)
  5. buildings (far)
  6. jacket (far)
  7. toys (far)
  8. bags (near)
  9. shirt (near)
  10. pants (far)

Lessons for Levels 3-6

First, make sure you understand the easy lesson. Now I will add some more information.

Lesson #1
Some things are near or far in space. For example, I can touch something because it is close to me, or I cannot touch something because it is far away.

Things can also be near or far in time. For example, I am listening to music. The music is playing now. “Now” is close to me in time, so I can say, “this music” or “this song.” When the song is finished, I will probably say, “that song” because it is not so close to me in time now. Here are some more examples:

  • I am watching a movie with my friend now. I say, “This movie is exciting!”
  • I watched a movie with my friend yesterday. We are talking about the movie now. I say, “That movie was exciting!”
  • I am at a party. I say, “This party is fun!”
  • I am planning to go to a party on Saturday. I say, “That party will be fun!”

Lesson #2
When we introduce people in English, we usually say “this” or “these.” We do not usually say “he,” “she,” or “they.” I know it’s strange because we usually use “he,” “she,” or “they” for people, but in the case of introductions, we use “this” or “these.” For example:

  • These are my parents, Don and Sheila Mosby.
  • This is my friend Kyle.
  • This is Ashley.
  • These are my sisters, Michelle, Angela, Shelley, Kathryn, Rebecca, Denise, and Lisa.

Lesson for Levels 5+

This is an advanced grammar lesson. First, make sure you understand the easier lessons. Now I will give you some more information.

Lesson #1
This, that, these, and those are called “demonstratives” in English because they demonstrate (show) which thing/things we are talking about. We can use these words as adjectives or pronouns.

  • When a demonstrative is an adjective, it has a noun after it. – this book, these people, those rooms, that song
  • When a demonstrative is a pronoun, it includes the noun, so it does not have a noun after it. – That is my coffee. This is your shirt. These are our plates. Those were my friends. – You don’t have to say, “This shirt is your shirt.” It is only necessary to say “shirt” one time.

Maybe you noticed that we use demonstrative pronouns when we introduce people.
– This is my friend Kyle.

You can also use a demonstrative adjective in an introduction if you add a noun.
– This man is my friend Kyle.

In general, Americans speak very efficiently. We say things as clearly as we can with short sentences and words. If your sentence is clear with a demonstrative pronoun, it is not necessary to use a noun with a demonstrative.

Lesson #2
When you use a demonstrative adjective, you never need these words:

  • a/an
  • the
  • my/your/his/her/our/their/its

Your Turn

You can practice using “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” on this website. Click an exercise to take a quiz. Have fun! I hope THIS lesson helps you!

Health Problems: Part 1

When you are sick, can you explain your problems? This is important! When you go to the doctor, you must give correct information. This week, we will learn different ways to talk about common health problems.

Head Pain


By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When you feel pain in your head, you can say:
– I have a headache. (Pronunciation: /hed-eik/)
– My head hurts.

A doctor might ask you:
– Did you hit your head?
– Did you bump your head?
(“Hit” and “bump” are the same.)

Stomach Pain/Discomfort

stomach ache

By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are different kinds of stomach pain. If you eat too much junk food, you can say:
– My stomach is upset.
– I have an upset stomach.
– My stomach hurts.
– I feel sick.
– I have indigestion.

If you feel like you need to vomit, you can say:
– I’m nauseous.
– I feel nauseous.
– I feel queasy.
– I am queasy.
– I feel like I’m going to throw up.
– I’m going to be sick.
– I feel sick to my stomach.
(We have many ways to say “vomit” – throw up, puke, hurl. Ask your teacher for more words and expressions.)

If you have a strong pain in a specific place, you can point to the place and say:
– It hurts here.
– I have a strong pain here.
– I feel a sharp pain here.

A doctor might ask you:
– What have you eaten recently?
– When was the last time you ate?
– On a scale of 1-10, how much does it hurt? (If you have only a little pain, you say 1. If it is the worst pain of your life, you say 10.)
– Have you had any diarrhea? (Diarrhea is very watery – liquid – poop.)


We always say:
– a cold
– the flu

I don’t know why we always use “a” with cold and “the” with flu, but we do. Always. Usually, you have a fever with the flu. You probably do not have a fever with a cold. The other symptoms are similar.

This means that you have mucous in your head, nose, or lungs. If there is too much mucous in your sinuses, you might get a headache. If there is too much mucous in your nose, you will have trouble breathing. If there is too much mucous in your lungs, your chest feels tight. When the mucous comes out of your nose, we call it mucous or snot. When the mucous comes out of your lungs, we call it mucous or phlegm (pronunciation: /flem/).

You can say:
– I have sinus congestion. (In your head)
– I have chest congestion. (In your chest/lungs)
– My nose is stopped up.
– I have a stuffy nose.

Runny nose
When snot comes out of your nose like water, you have a runny nose. When you push snot out of your nose with air (into a tissue, usually), you are blowing your nose.

You can say:
– I have a runny nose.
– My nose is runny.
– My nose is running.

When your body wants to force mucous out of the lungs, you cough. You also cough when you are choking.

You can say:
– I have a cough.
– I’ve been coughing.

A doctor might ask you:
– When did you start feeling bad?
– What color is your mucous/snot/phlegm?
– Is your cough productive or dry? (Productive = mucous comes out. Dry = nothing comes out.)
– Have you had a fever?
– Are you feeling any chills (like you are cold)?
– Do you have any pain?
– Any nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea?