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.


Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is a great site for advanced students who are curious about grammar.  The site owner, Mignon Fogarty, has created podcasts about a variety of grammar topics and accompanied them with the full text on site, so you can read along as you listen.  A lot of topics concern punctuation, such as comma splices and hyphens, or tricky word pairs, such as effect and affect.  Advanced students can improve their listening and hone their grammar/writing skills at the same time!

Double Entry Reading Journal

Keeping a double-entry reading journal is a great way to improve your reading skills while increasing fluency and accuracy in your writing. When I have my students keep these journals, I collect and respond to their entries, correcting their grammar and spelling and answering their questions; but even if you don’t have anyone respond to your entries, this is a great way to improve your English.

Here’s what to do:

    • As you read, mark any passages (of any length) which interest you, puzzle you, please you, or displease you in some way. Copy them out word for word. This forces you to slow down and notice the details you normally don’t pay attention to when you are reading, such as punctuation, capitalization, grammatical structure, and spelling.
    • Beneath the copied passage, write your comments, questions, interpretations, thoughts, or ideas about the passage. What you write can be either longer or shorter than the passage you copied. This develops your writing fluency and forces you to express your thoughts about what you read.
    • You can either hand-write your journal or type it on a computer, but don’t photocopy or scan the text you select. The act of copying, while tedious, will actually help improve your writing, while scanning or photocopying will have no effect on your writing.

      That’s all there is to it!

      Tip: Remember that different kinds of writing (academic papers or articles, newspaper articles, fiction, poetry…) have different rules. In particular, modern fiction (both novels and short stories) tolerates a lot of rule-breaking, such as sentence fragments. Dialog is written to reflect the way characters actually speak, which may be ungrammatical, and writers sometimes misspell words to represent regional pronunciations. If you need to write for academic or professional purposes, it is probably wiser to choose passages without much dialog!

      ESL Blues

      ESL Blues‘ main page has lots of quizzes and exercises for low-to-high intermediate level students. Most of them concern grammar, but there are some links to reading and vocabulary exercises and quizzes as well. There is also a section called “Common Errors Explained” which focuses on topics like do vs. make and adjectives ending in -ed and -ing, which even advanced students still struggle with.  The quizzes supply the correct answers if you make a mistake; sometimes, you are given the rule as well. My personal favorites are the “double quizzes,” which combine grammar quizzes and trivia quizzes. Do you want to know which English king died on the toilet? Take the first Pot Luck double quiz and find out!

      Dave’s ESL Cafe

      Dave’s ESL Cafe is the grand-daddy of ESL/EFL websites. Dave Sperling was experimenting with ways to use the internet to teach and learn English when most of us still didn’t know what email was! The ESL Cafe is a vast site with many pages of interest to both students and teachers of EFL/ESL. If you click on STUFF FOR STUDENTS at the top of the homepage, you will find pages devoted to various types of quizzes, slang, phrasal verbs, idioms, and more. There are forums where you can pose a question about English, and two chatrooms, one for teachers only and one for students and teachers (you will have to register if you wish to participate in chat). There is a podcast to listen to, over one thousand ESL/EFL links, and lots more. It would take a week just to explore everything that is here.

      Reading for Pleasure

      Reading is the best way to improve many things: reading comprehension and speed, certainly, but also grammar and vocabulary. If you read modern novels with a lot of dialog, it also helps you improve your speaking. If you “read” audio books, you can even improve your listening by reading! (If you live in the U.S., it is best to borrow audio books from the public library; the ones that you can buy in a bookstore are usually abridged, or shortened, versions of the paper books, so if you are reading as you listen, you may get confused when the audio book skips something.)

      You can read anything that interests you: newspapers, magazines, novels, short stories, graphic novels, children’s and young adult books, biographies, history and other nonfiction, and websites are all good! If you start something but find it too difficult or boring, stop and choose something else. Remember, this is reading for pleasure. If it isn’t pleasant, don’t do it.

      Your reading material should not have so much new vocabulary that you need a dictionary to understand every sentence or paragraph or page. If you have to look up too many words, reading will not be a pleasure, and you will not want to continue doing it. Choose materials that are easy enough for you to understand the main ideas without your dictionary, but which have some words that you don’t know. You will begin to learn these new words naturally, even if you don’t look them up in the dictionary, as you encounter them in different contexts. It’s okay to use your dictionary occasionally, but it’s not necessary. You are not going to take a test on what you read, so if you don’t understand every detail, it doesn’t matter. Remember: this is reading for pleasure.