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  )


All About Fall


(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Over time, the ESL blogs have posted many interesting posts about the fall season and recurring events that happen in the fall.  Each of them teach you something about fall but also help improve your English. 

Please take a look. 


Fall Season 

Seasonal Events

Fall Holidays 

Telling the Date

For all ESL levels

Americans write and say dates differently from people in other countries. Do you know how to write and say dates correctly?

How to Write the Date

Americans always give the month first, the day second, and the year last. There are several different ways we can write it.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

  • March 27, 2016
  • March 27th, 2016
  • 03/27/2016 or 03-27-2016
  • 3/27/16 or 3-27-16

You can use a slash (/) or a hyphen (-) between the numbers. There is no difference. When you write the name of the month, you must use a comma (,) after the date.

Sometimes, you will see instructions for writing the date that look like this:


The M means month, the D means day, and the Y means year. If a website or form asks for a date like this, you should use two numbers for the month (01, 09, 11, etc.), two numbers for the date (07, 10, 29, etc.), and four numbers for the year (1982, 2016, etc.).

Sometimes the instructions look like this:


Do you see the difference? In this case, you only use the LAST two numbers of the year – 82 (not 1982) or 16 (not 2016).

When you write the date in _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _ format, it is VERY important that you write the MONTH first and the DAY second.

How to Say the Date

Americans usually do not write “st,” “nd,” “rd,” or “th” (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) on the date, but we ALWAYS say it. If you write, “3/27/2016,” you say, “March twenty-seventh, twenty-sixteen” (you can also say, “two thousand-sixteen”). Here is how we write and pronounce all the dates.

**We only add -st, -nd, -rd, and -th to the pronunciation of numbers in dates.**

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

  1. first
  2. second
  3. third
  4. fourth
  5. fifth
  6. sixth
  7. seventh
  8. eighth
  9. ninth
  10. tenth
  11. eleventh
  12. twelfth
  13. thirteenth
  14. fourteenth
  15. fifteenth
  16. sixteenth
  17. seventeenth
  18. eighteenth
  19. nineteenth
  20. twentieth
  21. twenty-first
  22. twenty-second
  23. twenty-third
  24. twenty-fourth
  25. twenty-fifth
  26. twenty-sixth
  27. twenty-seventh
  28. twenty-eighth
  29. twenty-ninth
  30. thirtieth
  31. thirty-first

When we say years, we usually say the first two numbers together and the last two numbers together. If the year is 1982, we say the first two numbers – nineteen – and the last two numbers – eighty-two.

  • 1980 – nineteen eighty
  • 1776 – seventeen seventy-six
  • 1430 – fourteen thirty
  • 2016 – twenty sixteen

If there are zeros in the middle of the year (2002), the rules change a little. Here is how we say 2000 years:

  • 2000 – two thousand
  • 2001 – two thousand one
  • 2002 – two thousand two

Here is how we say other years:

  • 1903 – nineteen oh three
  • 1409 – fourteen oh nine
  • 1207 – twelve oh seven
  • 1804 – eighteen oh four

Your Turn

Write and say the answers to these questions (search the internet or ask your teacher if you don’t know):

  1. When were you born?
  2. When did the United States become an independent country?
  3. When did Princess Diana die?
  4. When was Barack Obama born?
  5. When is Thanksgiving this year?
  6. When will Americans elect the next president?
  7. When is the last day of your class?
  8. What is today’s date?
  9. What is an important date in your life (wedding, birth of a child, when you moved to the U.S., etc.)?
  10. When was the last time you took a vacation?

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.

New Year’s Resolutions

It is January. It is the start of a new year. Many people make resolutions (promises) to themselves in January. Some people want to lose weight. Other people want to quit smoking. Others want to learn something new, like cooking or a new language.

Do you have a resolution for 2015?

Pope Francis has 10 suggestions for having a good year. Let’s look at them:

Resolutions (photo by Wake Tech instructor Jaimie Newsome)

Resolutions  (photo by Wake Tech instructor Jaimie Newsome)

These 10 ideas are helpful for most people.

If we ignore #5, we see that all of the sentences begin with verbs. These verbs are called imperatives. Imperatives are commands. Some examples are, “Stand up,” “Sit down,” and “Write your name.”

Imperatives are verbs with no –s. They usually begin the sentence. The subject is “you,” but we don’t write or say it unless we are emphasizing the command. We understand “you” without saying it.

“Please come in,” is a polite imperative. “Come in, please,” is also OK. “Please” comes either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence, but not in the middle.

“You shut your mouth!” is an impolite imperative. “Shut your mouth, you!” is also impolite, and more emphatic.

Let’s look at the imperatives from the picture. The imperatives are underlined.

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)

1. Live and let live: Live your life, and allow other people to live their lives. It’s OK to be you. It’s OK to think what you think. But don’t try to change other people. Allow other people to think what they think.

2. Be giving of yourself to others: Help other people. (Notice “be” is the imperative form. Other examples are, “Be happy” or “Don’t be sad.”)

3. Proceed calmly in life: “Proceed” means “go.” Don’t rush. No hurry. Be calm.

4. Keep a healthy sense of leisure. “Leisure” is “free time.” “Keep” here means “have.” Have free time. Have time for yourself and for your family. Don’t work 24 hours a day. Don’t play 24 hours a day, either. Work some, and play some. Both are important.

5. Sunday is for family. There is no imperative here. The day of the week is not important. Saturday is for family, too. Maybe Wednesday is for family. But create some time to be with your family. Family is important.

6. Create dignified jobs for the young. “Dignified” means “deserves respect.” A dignified job deserves respect. Young people need good jobs.

7. Take care of nature. Protect nature. Preserve nature. Don’t litter. Recycle. Be nice to the earth.

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)

(photo by WT instructor Jaimie Newsome)

8. Let go of negative things. “Let go” means “release.” The opposite of “let go” is “hold on to.” It is important to release negative things in your life. Hold on to good things. Let go of bad things.

9. Respect other people’s beliefs. Allow other people to be different than you. It’s OK to be different. Respect differences.

10. Shout the call for peace. “Shout” is to talk loudly. Use every opportunity to promote peace. Be vocal.

Do you think these are good ideas for having a good New Year? What can you add to the list?

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Oh students, this week I have something WONDERFUL for you! It’s a vocabulary and pronunciation lesson about Valentine’s Day, which is on February 14. At the end of this post, you will find a video. The video is a rap song about Valentine’s Day. You can listen to it while you read the words. Then you can practice with the music at the end of the video. Before you watch, though, there are some words you will need to know.

  • sweetie pie – a person you love Example: My sweetie pie gave me flowers for Valentine’s Day! He’s so sweet!
  • honey – a person you love Example: I’m going out of town with my honey for Valentine’s Day.
  • gal – girl Example: Did you see the beautiful gal I took to the party?
  • guy – boy Example: Did you see the weird guy at the party who wouldn’t leave me alone?
  • the apple of your eye – the most important person in your life Example: Lauren’s son is the apple of her eye. She loves him more than anything else in the world.
  • main squeeze – the person with whom you are in a romantic relationship Example: Angelina is
    Brad’s main squeeze
  • soulmate – the perfect person for you Example: When Andy met his wife, he knew that she was his
  • a good catch – a good person to be in a relationship with Example: My husband brings me flowers every week and tells me I’m beautiful every day. He’s a really good catch!
  • chemistry – strong feelings people have for each other when they get along very well Example: Kelly thought that she would like Eric a lot because they had many similar interests, but when they met for
    dinner, she discovered that they didn’t have any chemistry.
  • catch a movie – see a movie in a theater Example: Are you busy this weekend? Maybe we can catch a movie on Saturday.
  • matinee – an afternoon show or performance (before 5:00 p.m.) Example: I’m busy on Saturday night, but we could catch a matinee.
  • to have a crush on someone – to have a romantic interest in someone Example: Katie has a crush
    Jason, but Jason
    is interested in someone else.
  • to ask someone out – to ask someone if they want to go on a date Example: Jason is going to ask Phoebe out.
  • to play hard to get – to pretend you are not interested in someone when they ask you out Example: When Jason asked Phoebe out, she played hard to get because she wants him to work harder to get her.
  • to turn someone off – to make someone uninterested in you Example: Phoebe’s love games turned
    Jason off, so he asked Katie out, and she agreed immediately.
  • to turn someone down – to refuse someone / to tell someone “no” Example: Phoebe asked Jason out, but he turned her down because he was dating Katie.

Now you’re ready!

Watch the video as many times as you want. Practice with the rapper, and then
try it on your own. Have fun, and happy Valentine’s Day!

Black Friday Vocabulary

Thanksgiving is coming soon (we’ll talk about that next week), which means that right now, you are probably seeing and hearing advertisements everywhere for Black Friday sales events. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and it is the busiest, craziest day of the year for shopping in the United States.

Black Friday is the day when many people start shopping for Christmas presents, and since most people have a long weekend for Thanksgiving, everyone has free time to go shopping that day. All the stores compete for customers on Black Friday, so they all have special prices and deals (low prices). In the TV and radio commercials, you have probably heard some special words that explain these deals, but you might not know what they mean. Here is a guide to some of the words you hear and see in Black Friday advertisements.

BOGO – Buy one, get one. Sometimes, if you buy one thing, you can get another one for free. If an ad says BOGO 50% off, that means that if you buy one, you can get a second one at half price.

Cyber Monday – the Monday after Thanksgiving. When the weekend is finished and people go back to work, stores want to continue making money, so they sell things on their websites. Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year. It’s the day when people spend the most money shopping online.

cyber sale – low prices only available online. You must buy things from a store’s website to get cyber sale prices. The prices are higher in the stores.

doorbuster deal/doorbuster savings/early bird specials – low prices for people who shop early. If a store opens at 8:00 a.m., the store might have extra-low prices until 9:00 a.m. These low prices early in the morning are doorbuster deals. Listen to commercials closely to find out the hours when you can get these low prices.

exclusions – things that do NOT have a lower price while other things do. Some ads say things like, “40-60% off everything in the store!! Some exclusions apply.” This means that some things are not on sale even though everything else in the store is.

lay-away – the process of paying for something little by little while the store keeps it. If you buy something with credit, you take it home immediately and pay for it later. If you put something on lay-away, the store keeps it until you pay for it completely. When you have paid 100% of the price, you take it home. Not all stores do lay-away. You should ask if you want to buy something expensive.

limited quantities – not enough for everybody. The new PlayStation 4 came out on Friday, and they were all gone from every store before the day was done because quantities were limited. Sometimes stores will give you a free gift when you spend a certain amount of money, but they don’t have enough gifts for everyone, so when all the gifts are gone, you can’t get one no matter how much money you spend.

night owl deals/specials – low prices for people who shop late. Stores want to have shoppers shopping all the time, but they know that people are tired after work and just want to go home. They have night owl deals so that people have a good reason to go shopping late at night when they’re tired and just want to go to bed. Listen to commercials closely to find out the hours when you can get these low prices.

price match – Stores will sell something to you at a lower price if you can prove that another store is selling it for the lower price. If you see a toy at Wal-Mart for $50, but you get an ad in the mail from Target that says the same toy is $45, you can take the ad to Wal-Mart, and they will sell you that toy for $45. They are matching Target’s price.

rain check – buying something at a lower price after the sale has ended. Let’s say you want to buy a toy for your son. You see an ad that says the toy is on sale. Normally, it costs $50, but this week only, it costs $35. You are excited. You go to the store, but they don’t have the toy because other people have already bought them all. They had limited quantities of the toy, and now they are sold out, and the store won’t have any more of that toy until next week (after the sale is over). Ask if you can have a rain check. A rain check is a note from the store’s manager that gives you permission to buy something at the sale price after the sale is over. You can go back to the store next week and buy the toy for $35. Many stores, especially during Black Friday sales, will not give you a rain check.

red dot clearance – low prices on items with a red circle. Sometimes, a store needs to sell all of an item to make room for something new. They will sell these items at a very low price because they want people to buy all of them. This is a clearance sale. They might put a colored sticker on the clearance items so you know which ones they are. Usually this sticker is red, but sometimes a store will have different colored stickers for different discounts. Maybe a blue sticker means 30% off. Maybe a green sticker means 40% off. Maybe a red sticker means 75% off. Each store is different, but there are usually signs that explain the different colors.

sold out – The store has sold all of something. There are no more.

steal – a very good deal (a very low price). Normally, “steal” is a verb that means to take something that is not yours. In this case, a steal is a deal that is so good, a price that is so low, that it feels like you are stealing it (but you aren’t). If you buy a new, 40-inch, flat-screen TV that works perfectly for $75, that is a steal.


Halloween Phrasal Verbs, Idioms and Expressions

With Halloween just around the corner (coming soon), here are a few spooky sayings you might like to know.

bats in the belfry – A belfry is a part of a building (possibly a church) where bells are located. The belfry is located at the top of the building and represents the head or mind. If a person has bats in the belfry, it means that he is very strange or crazy.

Example: My uncle Robert has bats in the belfry. He came to my wedding in a clown costume.

to believe in – to believe that something or somebody exists

Example: Do you believe in ghosts?

to dress up – to wear costumes or clothes so that you look like someone/something else

Examples: Last Halloween, I dressed up as Madonna.

Beth as Madonna

photo by ecparent

a ghost town – a town or place where there are no people because they have all left

Example: When the factory closed, everyone moved away, so now Cedarville is a ghost town.

to hand out (or hand something out) – to give something to each person in a group of people

Example: The teacher handed out candy to all of her students on Halloween.

to makes someone’s blood boil – to make someone angry

Example: When I hear about drunk drivers causing accidents, it makes my blood boil.

a night owl – a person who likes to be awake and active at night

Example: I’m a night owl. I hate waking up early in the morning, but I like to stay up late at night.

to scare the pants off someone – to frighten someone very badly

Example: That horror movie scared the pants off me!

scared stiff – frightened so badly that one cannot move

Example: Alan was scared stiff when I jumped out of the closet at him in the dark.

skeleton in the cupboard (or skeleton in the closet) – something that might bring embarrassment or shame to a person (or group of people, like a family) if other people found out about it

Example: Before I married my husband, I asked him if he had any skeletons in the closet.

witch-hunt – a search for people with unpopular opinions, usually with an aim of punishing them, because they are believed to be dangerous to the community

Example: Roger was the victim of a witch-hunt and was fired because of his radical ideas.

Halloween Happenings at CHOC!!

Level 1 & Level 2 display their Jack-O-Lanterns!  (photo by LUribe)

Level 1 & Level 2 display their Jack-O-Lanterns! (photo by LUribe)

We had a very exciting day at  CHOC during the week of Halloween!!  Our terrific Level 1 and Level 2 classes demonstrated that they are not only outstanding ESL students, but they are  also outstanding pumpkin carvers!!  Lisa and Michelle (the dynamic duo)  combined their classes.  They had a lesson on  Jack-O-Lanterns and then taught their students how to carve a Jack-O-Lantern!!

(photo by dkirkland)

(photo by dkirkland)

When all the Jack-O-Lanterns were completed, Lisa, Michelle and the Level 1 and 2  students transformed Lisa’s room into a haunted room with scary Halloween music, creepy sounds and a mechanical talking witch.  The lights were off. The room was pitch black except for the glow of all the Jack-O-Lanterns.   Then all the other classes were invited to enter the haunted room to see the creative and incredible Jack-O-Lanterns!!

(photo by dkirkland)

(photo by dkirkland)

It was a wonderful Halloween treat for everyone at CHOC.  Thank you so much, Level 1, Level 2, Lisa and Michelle for making our Halloween so much fun!

The excitement of Halloween continued as Dan visited the CHOC dressed as an Angry Bird!!!  Everyone enjoyed seeing him on Halloween Day!!

Dan is ready for Halloween!!     (photo by dkirkland)

Dan is ready for Halloween!! (photo by dkirkland)

Vocabulary List

transformed – to make a great change in something (past tense of transform)

haunted – ghosts or spirits live there or visit there

creepy – giving you an unpleasant and frightening feeling

mechanical – operated by machinery

pitch black  – very very black glow – to give a steady low light (example: light from a candle)

creative – having new ideas and using your imagination