Giving + Learning

English for You

One of our learners is using English For You videos. I haven’t watched many, but they look like they have a lot of potential. Let us know if you use them.

JenniferESL provides a similar video approach–a one-person show with supplemental materials.

Review: Unite For Literacy Website/App

Unite For Literacy gives an assortment of reading material for ESL learners to use as another resource for reading practice. This is a free computer site and an iPad/iPhone application, so this will more easily accessible for all types of classrooms.

They have a wide variety of genres that they base their reading material off of. From their list, they offer books on animals, plants and food, earth and sky, technology, health, family, friends, community, create and play and know and learn. They then give the option for the stories to be read out loud from a narrator, offering 30 different languages.

The reading level is set to beginner and can be useful for school age ESL students, as many of the pictures relate to their age range; however, it also can be helpful for adult learners to begin their first steps into reading, as well .


Overall, this is a great website to pair with specific lesson plans or for using it as an extra guide to reading. Check out their site for more information on the Unite For Literacy organization and their interactive reading material!

Today’s Tutor Tips

Do you use a computer while teaching your ESL classroom? Over at “Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… For Teaching ELL, ESL & EFL,” blogger, Larry Ferlazzo found some great resources for ESL teachers and tutors to create their own online learning games.


The list that he found combined a number of sites where one is able to create a online video game focused and centered on developing the English language. He also suggests that these video games can be created to cover some of the content that is taught in class, as a source of homework or review.

He ranks these sites based on accessibility to the English Language Learner, being free for use and a good tool that creates variety in content.

If you are interested learning more, head over to Ferlazzo’s blog post found here and here to get more information on creating online learning games for your classroom!

Today’s Tutor Tips

Today’s Tutor Tips brings about the discussion of using warm ups prior to the lesson during one’s class time. For this topic, I looked at Heads Up English’s blog post entitled, “The Importance of Warming Up Students” found here.

After reading their thoughts, I gathered together some of the main ideas on the importance of warm ups and how they can be used within the ESL classroom and listed them in the following:

1. Warm ups can set the tone for the class time. Instead of the learners becoming bored of the main lesson, Heads Up English believes that a warm up activity should be used in order to proved an exciting activity that will get the learners engaged in upcoming lesson plan.

2. Warm ups can serve as a springboard into the topic or target language of the lesson. This can be true when one is presenting new material during that class, but wants to ease into it in a fun and easy way.

3. Warm ups can be used as understanding daily conversations. By using warm ups before class, it can give the learners an opportunity to practice their conversational skills with each other.

Ultimately, by using warm ups prior to class, learners are able to understand their upcoming lesson or new material in a more enjoyable and applicable manner. Heads Up English also ends their blog post with some final comments on the logistics of a warm up. For more on that, check out their page here.

Let us know if you have any experience in using warm ups in your ESL classroom!

Review: LearnEnglish Grammar App

Recently, we have looked closely at a few iPad applications that would help assist ESL learners and teachers through the process of teaching the English language. After more research, I gave British Council‘s LearnEnglish Grammar (US Edition) a try to illustrate a preview for future use.


In beginning this application, one is able to Practice, Test or Purchase Grammar help through an Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced level packages. The grammar help ranges from simple past tense to present perfect. Each set of questions covers 12 grammar topics, with over 20 activities per topic. This is a free application and offers a few free activities and tests; however, it does ask for you to download more questions for a fee as you continue using the application.

Despite that, there are some positive attributes to this application, found in detail on the British Council website, and I recorded in the following:

This app will help learners ranging from beginner to expert. By giving the option to chose what level they want, a teacher is able to better assist all of their learners appropriately.

This app will help learners to achieve better grammar accuracy. This app will not only give you a variety of multiple choice questions, but also fill-in-the-blanks, reordering words and labeling activities. Ultimately, learners won’t feel like the learning is repetitive and instead advance in their grammar knowledge.

This app provides in-app help. If you or the learner is having trouble answering a question, there are help files for each activity type and is supported by multiple languages.

Overall, as being a free application for both iPhones and iPads, I think that this app is useful for any ESL classroom. The only downside is having to pay a fee for extra activities and tests; however, if learners are enjoying the application and one does not mind paying a little extra for more help, then it would ultimately be a successful application to use.

Today’s Tutor Tips

In continuing our ESL program this summer, I have been researching ways to appropriately teach a mixed-level class, so that each learner is able to work towards their specific goals.

I came across the literacy resource webpage and blog called Heads Up English, where they reviewed ways on troubleshooting this type of classroom. Here is are some tips of advice that I received from their blog post:

1. You should teach to the intended level of the class. If the class is geared or advertised towards one specific level, then material and lesson plans should be targeted similarly. If there is still a variety of levels there, one solution that Heads Up English suggests is to have a set themed lesson plan for the class time but offering students a variation based on their literacy level. That way, it is easy for the teacher to meet the learners’ needs without exceeding his or her time on preparing the class.

2. A Word about Pairs and Groups. In having a mixed-level classroom, my first thought was to separate the learners in order for them to work more closely on their appropriate literacy level. However, Heads Up English offers how combining different literacy level learners together will help advance both.

  • For beginning learners, it would make the “mastery of the language [feel] more tangible, because its’ a peer who possesses the improved ability/skill.”
  • For more advanced learners, it will allow them to help teach which will allow an experience for “monitoring for mistakes, offering advice, and even providing brief explanations on grammar, vocabulary, or other points.”

In suggesting this, Heads Up English advices to use this only for a portion of the class, pairing it still with large group and individual work.


Overall, these points will be of use when encountering a large number of mixed-level learners. I am eager to incorporate these tips into my next class in hopes to better use my time and advance the skills of the learners!

Getting Outside of the Classroom

As I research for more information on lesson plans and ESL activities, I always question how I can incorporate new ideas to keep the learners expanding their cultural and English knowledge, while also keeping them interested in coming to school.

I then stumbled upon the ESL Literacy Network’s blog post entitled “Personalized Stories and Field Trips” found here and read about their thoughts on the issue.

They say that incorporating field trips and getting outside of the classroom is a “great way to make learning more meaningful to ESL Literacy learners.” They believe that it “promotes reading and writing through the use of personal experiences and oral language.”

They then close with related links to other classrooms and organizations who have had a success with that type of teaching.

I am excited to give this a go in the upcoming classroom this summer and next fall!


Today’s Tutor Tips

Today’s Tutors’ Tip includes activities on how to promote thinking out loud to ESL learners. The Minnesota Literacy Council encourages to use common day reading texts such as a “brochure, advertisement, street map, or assembly instructions” in order to fulfill this activity and then uses the following steps:


1.     Select one of the texts and project it for the class to see.

2.     Model how to preview the text by looking at its parts, graphics and so on. As you do so, out loud, say what you know and don’t know about the text.

3.     Describe any connections you make to your background experiences.

4.     Read the text out loud and pause when you are confused.

5.     Explain out loud what you are doing to try to address your confusion.

6.     Describe any problem-solving processes you use as you read.

7.     Continue reading.

8.     After you finish reading, ask students to turn and talk to a neighbor about what they saw you doing.

9.     Select another text and repeat step 2. Then ask students what they know and don’t know about the text.

10.  Repeat steps 3-6 for the first section of the text. Ask students what they are thinking about as they along with you.

11.  Invite a student to read the next section and think aloud.  Ask this student what she is thinking and doing as she reads.

12.  Repeat step 11 by inviting other students to read each section of the text.

13.  Assign pairs of students.

14.  Give the class copies of the text. They take turns reading it aloud again in pairs, using the think aloud strategy as they do so.


Today’s Tutor Tips

“Adult ESL literacy is a learning-centered classroom – learning to learn is crucial for success of the learners with the literacy needs!” 

When teaching adult learners, we want to encourage and provide progress in their literacy. Here are a following list of teaching tips directed by Teaching2LearnESL Blog that will help us do just that:

1) “Choose tasks that provide opportunities for collaboration.” Allowing learners help teach other learners is a beneficial tool for the ESL students to both understand and progress in their education. Include activities where learners of either similar or different literacy levels work together. That way, both are able to learn more from each other!

 2. “Before introducing written text, make sure that there is a lot of oral practice: drill, chant, sing, clap, move the bodies as much as necessary.” Repetition via word of mouth is another tip when tutoring ESL learners.
 3. “Select tasks that allow for heterogeneity, that can be easily adapted to different levels of complexity to support learners with lower literacy and challenge those who are self-directed.” This will help lower the work load on the tutor, while also allowing the learners to learn on a similar playing field.

Engineer Turned Cabbie Helps New Refugees Find Their Way : Goats and Soda : NPR

Engineer Turned Cabbie Helps New Refugees Find Their Way : Goats and Soda : NPR.

Fabulous story about a community organizer in Clarkston GA.