Category: Web sites or web pages FAQ – certificate / letter for the TOEFL

The question: Hi Jim, I’m a foreign nursing graduate from the Philippines and I submitted applications to take the licensure to some states like Nevada but they required me to take ESL class before I could take a TOEFL exam. Is there any chance you could help me achieve that requirement. I know you help so many people by your site. I would really appreciate a reply from you. I’m looking for a free ESL class or teacher that will provide me a proof document/letter or certification that i attend a English class. Thank you and God bless.

My answer: Hi there! All study materials are online. The idea is to use the exercises at, than practice on the forums at . When I see your language on the forums, I can reply with corrections and suggestions.

That’s how the learning happens. I can write a letter once I’ve seen enough of your language, but I don’t know the TOEFL requirements so I can’t promise that my letter will entitle you to take the TOEFL.

I hope you decide to study with us at (though you may want to check the requirements for that letter for the TOEFL) and I wish you luck on your journey.

Website review: Drew’s fluency lessons

Drew’s fluency lessons is brought to you by an ESL and Spanish teacher in Austin, TX. The purpose of the sites is to “focus on every day expressions used in daily situations” and to that end the home page features an “expression of the day.”

I like word of the day type things for inquisitive students but please keep in mind that reading about a word is not the same as learning it – it’s just the first step of many and students have to expect that it will be a while before they really “know” the word. Students should try to encounter the word some more in the extensive reading I hope they’re doing and they should look for opportunities to use the word.

The site also has some good tips that focus on encountering language (like reading) or producing language (like using chat rooms).

For teachers, we have a few lesson ideas. I like the the description exercise, especially for beginners. In this exercise, Drew has students describing three famous people they choose. For more advanced learners, instead of having students choose whoever they want, you might cut out say 20 pictures of male models’ faces and assign 1 to each group. Students then describe their face to the other groups who have to pick out that 1 face out of 20.

American shopping malls

Mall of America images:

The mall I went to as kid: Bridgewater Commons and the Phillipsburgh Mall:

Sopranos clips for ESL conversation / discussuion classes

It’s tough to find Sopranos scenes for classroom use. But it’s fun looking for them and I want to use scenes from the best TV show ever…

This one has no cursing and students can work on telling the story / describing what’s going on here:

This one has Bobby buying a train set and getting murdered. I don’t think I’ll use it but it’s not impossible:

This is another murder scene – more graphic than Bobby’s – that ends with sh*t. Lots of great stuff for students to describe: Phil talking to his grandkids, Phil getting shot (makes sense to use passive here), The car moving with the babies still inside, the car running over Phil’s head, the guy puking…

This is a pretty good one. I didn’t hear any curses. There’s some action to describe, It should be funny rather than disturbing. If you want to teach “bloody nose” it’s perfect…

Here’s another funny fight scene from acting class:

North American humor

Some jokes to share with students. I think I managed to pick relatively clean clips but with so many dirty jokes out there you never know. Actually the one with a collection of jokes about McCain / Palin definitely gets a bit dirty.

Canadian high school debate format

Mace Debate: This style of debate is arguably the most prominent in Britain, with the national schools competition undoubtedly the most prestigious of its kind. Two teams of two debate an affirmative motion (e.g “This house would give prisoners the right to vote,”) which one team will propose and the other will oppose. Each speaker will make a seven minute speech in the order; 1st Proposition, 1st Opposition, 2nd Proposition, 2nd Opposition. After the first minute of each speech, members of the opposing team may request a point of information. If the speaker accepts they are permitted to ask a question. P.O.Is are used to pull the speaker up on a weak point, or to argue against something the speaker has said. However after 6 minutes, no more P.O.Is are permitted. After all four have spoken the debate will be opened to the floor, in which members of the audience will put questions to the teams. After the floor debate, one speaker from each team (traditionally the first speaker), will speak for 4 minutes. In these summary speeches it is typical for the speaker to answer the questions posed by the floor, answer any questions the opposition may have put forward, before summarising his or her own key points. In the Mace format, emphasis is typically on analytical skills, entertainment, style and strength of argument. The winning team will typically have excelled in all of these areas.

We do see some differences in the Canadian high school debate championship: 8 minute speeches rather than 7 minute ones and as far as I can tell from the videos, there are no questions from the floor.

Proposition 1

Opposition 1

Proposition 2

Opposition 2

Opposition and Proposition reply speeches

Debate class homework assignment

Wath these Youtube videos. Submit a written report explaining the format and content of the debate.

Speaker 1:

Speaker 2:

Speaker 3:

Speaker 4:

And finally…

Do your students understand American humor?

I’m still waiting for replies to this story about getting toes run over by a friend’s truck (very American) – it seemed like humor that many could appreciate, but since no one is replying I’m not so sure…

But we do have an English learner using humor in this thread about Korean women being mistaken for lesbians (read the one where they pretended to be lesbians to avoid men).

New vocabulary lesson online

Just a quick announcement – I published a new class on ESL go. I think this class which uses vocabulary items in an interesting context – the popularity of computer games in South Korea – should be interesting for a lot of students. The language should be authentic though it may be a bit formal (like a newspaper).

Let me know what you think?

Funny dirty commercial for English language school

Warning: foul language and sexual content. Sounds strange for an English school commercial but there you go.