The Word Vine

The Word Vine is an addictive interactive puzzle created by Chris de Carteret.  The player gets a list of words which can combine together to make compounds. For example, grapevinegrapevine, and cherrypitcherry pit.  The player also gets a graphic of a vine, with nodes leading off in one or more directions. For example, at the basic level, the word list might be apple, sauce, and tree, which can be combined to make apple sauce and apple tree. At the “hard” level, there are more words and more ways to combine them: bone, cake, check, dog, egg, fly, fruit, grape, guide, list, pound, salad, vine, wish, which can be combined to make compounds like fruit fly, pound cake, egg salad, fruit salad, wishbone, grapevine, checklist, wish list, dog bone, and so on. Making a list of compounds may be easy, but the words (shaped like leaves) can only fit on the vine one way! It’s a race against time as you try to figure out how to organize the leaves on the vine.

Learn English with Jennifer

Jennifer Lebedev, materials writer, Pearson blogger, and teacher extraordinaire, has several series of instructional videos on YouTube. All of them are thoughtfully constructed, carefully done, and interesting to watch. Jennifer’s latest series (which she is still adding to), “Learn English with Jennifer,” shows Jennifer teaching her friend Natasha English from the very beginning. (Natasha lives in the United State,s but she had never studied English formally; she and Jennifer always communicated in Russian.) These lessons include both vocabulary and grammar, and they focus on the spoken language.  They teach and/or reinforce the basics. They are great for beginning students!

The first 52 lessons are listed and linked below:

Lesson 1 Greetings

Lesson 2 More Greetings

Lesson 3 Greetings Throughout the Day

Lesson 4 Useful Expressions

Lesson 5 More Useful Expressions

Lesson 6 Introducing Yourself

Lesson 7 The Alphabet

Lesson 8 Writing the Alphabet

Lesson 9 Spelling

Lesson 10 Let’s and Don’t

Lesson 11 Do and Don’t

Lesson 12 Counting from 0 to 10

Lesson 13 How many?

Lesson 14 Counting from 10 to 20

Lesson 15 Counting from 10 to 100

Lesson 16 Hundred, Thousand, and Million

Lesson 17 Present Forms of BE

Lesson 18 Subject Pronouns

Lesson 19 Forming Sentences with BE

Lesson 20 Negative Forms of BE and Questions

Lesson 21 Review of BE and Saying Goodbye

Lesson 22 The Weather

Lesson 23 Fruits

Lesson 24 What’s this?

Lesson 25 Articles: aanthe

Lesson 26 What are these?

Lesson 27 That and those

Lesson 28 Colors

Lesson 29 Do you have…?

Lesson 30 Plural Nouns

Lesson 31 Irregular Plural Nouns

Lesson 32 Forms of HAVE (have, has)

Lesson 33 Negative Forms of HAVE

Lesson 34 Family (How many…?)

Lesson 35 How old are you?

Lesson 36 Months and Birthdays

Lesson 37 Seasons

Lesson 38 Leap Year

Lesson 39 Ordinal Numbers

Lesson 40 Dates

Lesson 41 Days of the week

Lesson 42 Weekday and weekend

Lesson 43 Questions about the calendar

Lesson 44 Whose? (myyour…)

Lesson 45 Past Forms of BE (was, were)

Lesson 46 Questions with was/were

Lesson 47 Possessive Nouns

Lesson 48 Rooms in the House

Lesson 49 Verbs in the Simple Present

Lesson 50 Yes-No Questions in the Simple Present

Lesson 51 Question Words

Lesson 52 Information (Wh-) Questions

To find lessons beyond 52, go to YouTube and search for Learn English with Jennifer and the number of the lesson that you want.

Some Good Websites for Reading Practice

There are several related websites that offer short stories and articles for extensive reading practice:

For each short reading passage, there are some simple exercises (such as cloze–fill in the blank–and scrambled sentences).  After you try the exercise, click on CHECK to see if your answers are correct or not. If you don’t know the answer, click on HINT.

English Online has longer factual articles which intermediate students can practice reading. At the end of each article, there is a list of words which learners might not know, with simple definitions. You can choose from many different topics, such as Travel, People, Government and Politics, or Environment, or read articles about current events (News Articles). You are bound to find something to interest you here!

American Stories for English Learners features the written text and an accompanying audio recording of 57 short stories by famous American writers such as O. Henry, Mark Twain, and Jack London. The stories are simplified for English language learners, but you will probably need at least a low intermediate proficiency to enjoy them. The audio recordings feature slow, careful speech.

Vocabulary (and) Spelling City

Vocabulary and Spelling City is a fabulous site! I’ve been using it with my beginning class recently. I have a premium membership, so when I create a spelling list for my class, all the activities are available to my students. However, as a student, you can create your own list by typing the words you want to learn into the yellow notepad on the home page. Then SpellingCity will model the words’ pronunciation, spell the words aloud for you, and create spelling tests and vocabulary, writing, spelling, and alphabetizing games as well as printable handwriting exercises, The games vary from very easy (e.g., Missing Letter) to more difficult (e.g., Sentence Unscramble). Feedback is immediate. You can play the games over and over again until you really know those words. If you want, you can use Find a List to search for my spelling lists under the username nliakos; but remember, they are for beginners, so depending on your level, they might not be very useful to you.

Watch the video “Getting Started” on this page of the website to see how you can create your own spelling lists or use some of the many lists in Teacher Resources, such as  capitonyms (words that change their meaning when they are capitalized, like turkey/Turkey), compound words, or (for advanced students) analogies.

Nik’s Daily English Activities

Nik Peachey, an educational technology consultant, writer, and teacher trainer based in Morocco, has an absolutely wonderful blog similar to this one only much, much better because Nik, unlike me, updates his blog constantly (several times a week, in fact; Nik, how do you do it???).  There are already more than 100 posts with wonderful suggestions for all kinds of activities English learners can do to improve their English in fun and interesting ways.  You are sure to find many ideas that you will want to follow up on at Nik’s Daily English Activities. The most recent post, for example, recommends that people who love football (or soccer, I would say, being an American!) join an online social network for football lovers around the world.

Reading Aloud on Voxopop

Chinswing has now become Voxopop!  “Perspective,” a Japanese user who has started several different conversations, has now begun several threads for reading aloud which are wonderful for improving your listening, speaking, and reading skills!  The first one I found is devoted to short stories by O. HenryO. Henry, whose real name was William Sidney Porter, lived at the turn of the 20th century and wrote many wonderful stories about people in New York City.  The first story in the thread is one of my favorites, “The Last Leaf.”  It is about two young artists, Sue and Johnsy, who live together in New York.  Johnsy is dying of pneumonia, and she has decided that when the last ivy leaf on the wall outside her window falls, she will die.  The story of how Johnsy survives will bring tears to your eyes.

At the beginning of each short story in the thread, there is a link to the story on the web.  Each participant in the thread reads a few paragraphs of the story.  You can read along as you listen to English learners from many different countries read aloud.  O. Henry’s vocabulary is challenging, so this thread is best for advanced learners, who will find plenty of challenging new words in the stories.

Perspective has another thread dedicated to the short stories of Oscar Wilde, Angl0-Irish author and playwright of the Victorian age. Wilde’s language is easier than O. Henry’s, so intermediate learners may prefer this thread.

The most recent read-aloud thread begun by Perspective is English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.  These stories also feature easier language than the O. Henry stories, but many of the words are archaic (old and no longer used in modern English), and there is non-standard grammar in the speech of the characters.

Reading and listening to literature is a great way to expand your vocabulary and hone your listening skills.  You can also contribute to the threads by reading a part of a story.  If you are an English learner, I’d recommend that you look up any unfamiliar vocabulary first to get the correct pronunciation.  Then practice reading the passage you have chosen a few times before you record it.  Speak clearly and with feeling!  Reading aloud is wonderful speaking practice.

Online Dictation Practice

Listen and Write is a site which offers spoken texts at various levels, many of them from VOA Special English, so they are very clear and don’t use much difficult vocabulary.  You select a text and listen to it.  At any time, you can start typing what you hear in the box.  The program checks each word individually, and it won’t let you proceed if the word is not correct.  There is a “Hint” button, but when I tried it out, it didn’t just give me a hint; it provided the whole word.  Therefore, before you hit the “Hint” button, give it your best shot–what have you got to lose?

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