Reading is wonderful!

I’m working with my students to just read for enjoyment because there is so much that you learn about language when it is just you and words that all go together.  Here is a wonderful story about how a homeless teenager became a world-famous author because he wandered into a library and began to read.richard-wagamesebig

Richard Wagamese has had a successful career as a journalist and author, and his books, including Indian Horse and Medicine Walk, have earned him accolades across Canada.

But Richard may never have become a writer, were it not for the kindness of a group of librarians in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he stumbled into the public library at the age of 16, seeking shelter and refuge from a life on the streets.

Richard talks to Candy about books that shaped him as a reader and a writer, and gives an update on an upcoming movie based on one of his books.

//“>How a library helped Richard Wagamese become a writer


By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

Tips on selecting effective authentic reading materials

I’m working with some of my high beginner students to practice reading for enjoyment so I’ve been reading a lot about reading! Here’s one of the blogs about teaching reading with “authentic texts”: real reading material, not material that is written just for ESL learners.


Many teachers like to use authentic materials in class, and they can obviously be a wonderful source of language. Over the next few weeks, I’d like to offer some thoughts and tips on how you might go about selecting and exploiting these materials, to maximise their benefit to students.

Nunan (1988) defines authentic materials as those ‘which have been produced for purposes other than to teach language’, so that might mean emails, blogs, statistics, timetables, advertisements, instructions, labels, menus etc as well as articles from newspapers and magazines.

Relevance and interest

Have you ever done any research into the literacy practices  of your students? In other words, what they actually read (and write) in their daily lives, in their first language as well as in English. Ask students to keep a note of everything they read, including cereal packets etc, for a couple of days. You may be surprised, and…

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By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

Two nights in Manila

If you can visit another country, you should do it! I had the chance for a very short visit to Manila in the Philippines and it was really interesting. My friend and I visited Guam Island for a week and we transferred planes in Manila so it didn’t cost any more money to stay there for 2 nights.  We stayed at a hostel near the airport and we arrived pretty late in the evening. The next day, we spent the whole day looking around Intramuros, an old Spanish walled city, the museum and main park, as well as Mall of Asia (a lot like West Edmonton Mall)!  We travelled by jeepney, which was very cheap, to get around the city. We saw very poor areas and we also took a train to visit a big mall with very expensive stores. There was a lot of history in the city and there were also many American businesses. I was very surprised to see so many guns because every business and building had guards with guns. For a short trip, I saw a lot!

The Refugee ‘Welcome Kit’ Nods to a Kinder Canada—and a Harsher World ·

This is a long and lovely essay about Canada’s greeting to refugees.  It was written before the inauguration and the dramatic rise in refugees walking or swimming across the Canadian border. The federal government has stayed pretty silent on how to handle the recent changes in policies, south of the Canadian border.

Parkas, art, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms embody an aspirational vision for our country

Source: The Refugee ‘Welcome Kit’ Nods to a Kinder Canada—and a Harsher World ·

Glenn Kubish: Inside Coffee Outside

I’m not sure exactly when I started drinking coffee outside with these crazy humans but I started marking it on my calendar in April/2015.  I was a summer cyclist at that time and I was just starting to heal from my second fracture out of 3 in 10 months.  I was curious about meeting other cyclists to drink coffee outside.  Being part of this little community has changed my life for the better in so many ways!  Sometimes I’m alone in the dark but sometimes, I’m almost crying with laughter!

Sometimes, we meet for a Friday beer and a lot of laughter.

Sometimes, we meet for a Friday beer and a lot of laughter.

Doc Darren got a pizza oven that he could bring by bicycle so we had breakfast pizza outside one wintry morning!

Doc Darren got a pizza oven that he could bring by bicycle so we had breakfast pizza outside one wintry morning!

Sometimes, we meet on the southside to accommodate cyclists from the other side of the North Saskatchewan.

Sometimes, we meet on the southside to accommodate cyclists from the other side of the North Saskatchewan.

This community has so much diversity and zest for life. Once two or more of us are gathered, the passionate discussions begin.  It’s astonishing how much ground you can cover in a half hour or so, early Friday morning.  Hanging out with our crazy bike gang has motivated me to become a winter cyclist on all but the very worst days. Various members have enjoyed winter and summer bike races of various kinds.  A couple of us share a canoe.  Our age and career range is pretty wide.  If you have the opportunity to join a magical little community like this, grab it with both hands!!

The video:

Source: Glenn Kubish: Inside Coffee Outside

Northern Cree prepare for their return to the Grammy Awards – Home | q | CBC Radio

Many Canadians are really not familiar with the traditional music of this nation but the members of Northern Cree have been drumming for round dances and pow wows since 1982!  According to their webpage, “the group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation but is made up of members from the Treaty 6 area, most notably the Frog Lake Cree Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Cree Nation, and the Poundmaker Cree Nation.”  All of the members have full-time jobs and other activities that keep them busy, like raising their families but the group is frequently present at round dances in the winter, pow wows in the summer, and award shows when they are nominated.  Tonight, they will be opening for the Grammy Awards, after being nominated for an award for the 7th time!  Take some time to listen to some of their contemporary and traditional music, as well as the CBC interview with Steve Wood (very slow and clear English).

Northern Cree’s Steve Wood discusses his group’s Grammy nomination and their upcoming performance at the ceremony’s pre-show.

Source: Northern Cree prepare for their return to the Grammy Awards – Home | q | CBC Radio

Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’? | Atlas Obscura

When I travel to various places, people often identify me as a Canadian as soon as I say “eh” at the end of a sentence.  I sometimes wonder what people from other countries do, without “eh”!  It’s a very useful interjection or tag, as this article indicates.  The closest thing I’ve heard is “la” in Singapore, which is used far more than our “eh”!

The story behind Canada’s most distinctive verbal tic.

Source: Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’? | Atlas Obscura

By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

Do you want to be happy on Blue Monday?

It’s Blue Monday again (third Monday of January). This time of year, it’s harder for many of us to improve our energy and mood, but it’s possible. Read more to find out what you can do!

ellen's esl teaching blog


Somebody decided that today is the most depressing day of the year. I think it was a travel agent who wanted to sell winter vacations, but possibly someone thought that it’s very difficult to survive the winter, and people are very impatient by now.  In my opinion, today is a fantastic day.  As you can see in the picture above, the dark part of the day is already much shorter, since the sky was turning red at 0630 hours.  I exercised with friends before starting the day, walked to work, and my students are full of good news today!  These are 2 great stories that I saw about happiness today: one video, and one article.  What’s something that you can do to be happier about your life?  One thing that I recommend is to try to see new stresses and challenges as opportunities for learning and getting stronger.  When we…

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By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

The Game of Life: Six Calgarians chose to reinvent themselves after losing their jobs | Calgary Herald

Many people start to study Engish when they are making a big change in their lives. Maybe a partner is taking more education, a parent has remarried and moved, home feels too dangerous, or your marital status has changed.  This is a great article about 6 people from Calgary who had to make job changes.  Your identity changes a lot, along with your employment status and where you live.  Read for some good ideas about how to “reinvent” your life.

We talked to six Calgarians up to their necks in the messy, but necessary, business of professional transformation.

Source: The Game of Life: Six Calgarians chose to reinvent themselves after losing their jobs | Calgary Herald

Somali refugee becomes MP and now Cabinet Minister of Immigration

Many new Canadians arrive here as refugees every year.  For some, it is a continuing struggle, but for many, Canada is the land of success and dreams come true.  Ahmed Hussen arrived in Canada from Somalia and refugee camps in Kenya when he was only 16 and went on to become a lawyer, a Member of Parliament, and now, the Minister of Immigration.  This video was made when he was first elected last year, and the speaking is pretty slow and clear.

Here’s a newspaper story about his appointment as a Cabinet Minister, the person in Canada who is responsible for immigration.



By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

Colorful Golden Globes

North American people come from many different parts of the world.  They have many backgrounds, religions, stories, and colours.  However, most of the people we see the most are one colour: white.  Especially in politics and entertainment, advertising and in the upper parts of the business world. Almost all white, and usually male.  Last night’s Gold Globe awards were an interesting change.  Many of the winners and presenters were not white, and most of them had something to say about that.  If you have the time and interest, watch and listen to some of the speeches and comments.

The female winner for a comedy was Tracee Ellis Ross for her role in the show “Black-ish”:

Tracee Ellis Ross Dedicated Her Golden Globe to Women of Color

The winner for best movie was Moonlight:

Viola Davis won best supporting actress after 5 nominations for her performance in “Fences”:

Dev Patel and his young costar Sunny Pawar introduced their movie, “Lion”. based on a true story about an Indian boy who was adopted by Australian parents. He didn’t speak any English when he began filming the movie.


Donald Glover won as the creator and as the star of a TV comedy, Atlanta.






By elleninedmonton Posted in esl

Funerals ESL vocabulary

Today, I attended a wake for a wonderful woman who was my supervisor a few years ago.  She passed away on January 3.  Her funeral will be on Monday, but I won’t be able to attend.  I realized that funerals are things that don’t happen very often so the vocabulary might not be familiar.  I’ve highlighted a lot of the words about death but haven’t included definitions. There are some good resources available on the internet though!

The picture above is of the hearse, a long car, like a limousine, which is used to carry the coffin or casket away from the funeral home.  The family members standing behind the hearse are called the “pallbearers“, usually 6 close family members or friends, who carry the coffin for short distances.  In some cases, other friends and family are called honourary pallbearers.  They won’t actually carry the casket.  The family is holding a wake for the next 2 days, which means that some people will stay awake through the night, and friends and family will stay together with the deceased until the funeral and burial are complete on Monday. They will have an open casket for people who want to view the deceased.  At some funerals, there is a closed casket ceremony, which means that the coffin stays closed and there isn’t a viewing.

In my family, most of my family members were cremated, which means that their bodies were burned, and their ashes were placed in an urn or another small container.  Most of my family members have had memorial services, which are like funerals but there is no coffin present.  After a funeral, there is usually a burial service at the cemetery.  When there has been a cremation, this might be several weeks or even months afterward. Later, a headstone or marker may be placed above the grave. Some of the guests may bring flowers or condolence cards to any of the different ceremonies above.  Often, they will hug the bereaved family members and share some special memories about the person who passed away.

Often funerals and memorial services can be sad times because people have lost someone who was close to them.  However, there is often a lot of laughter and love at these times, as people share their good memories and they encourage and support each other.

Here’s a listening passage, with vocabulary:

Cemetery: Remembering our Dead (Daily ESL)

Here’s a short video for listening practice, including dictation and captions at the end.

By elleninedmonton Posted in esl