Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Writing Assignment

Las year I asked the class to write about their learning goals - New Year's Resolutions for learning English. I wanted everyone to think about their long and short range goals and how they would achieve them. Unfortunately, the "resolutions" were too vague and generalized to be effective writing or even useful as a study plan.

This year I want you to write and post a short holiday letter. Your letter should touch on the highlights of the past year and close with your plans for this coming year, briefly stated but specific. Imagine you are writing a friend or family member that you have not seen all year or been in touch with.

Here are some links to pages about writing holiday letters:
10 Yearly Holiday Letter Writing Tips
  1. Know your audience – What you write in your holiday letter and how you write it should be determined by who's going to be reading it. Is it only going to family members that you talk with every day? Or to old friends that you communicate with only a few times a year? Your letter should entertain the people who aren't intimately familiar with your daily happenings without boring those who are.
  2. Don't exaggerate - There is a tendency among some holiday letter writers to try to make every daily event sound as if it's the discovery of the Holy Grail. Don't embellish the truth. The events will speak for themselves.
  3. Write like you speak – For some reason, people often feel the need to include "big" words in their holiday letter that they’d never use in real life. Stick to words you use in your everyday English.
  4. Avoid unnecessary adjectives - This is a follow-up to rules #2 and #3 above. Now repeat after me: not all nouns must be preceded by an adjective. Excessive use of adjectives that you'd never use in everyday conversation is a common pitfall for many Yearly Holiday Letter writers. Avoid sentences such as, “My beautiful wife Jane and I took our wonderful kids to the fabulous city of New York and spent exciting hours visiting the incredible museums." Keep the adjectives to a minimum.
  5. Keep it short – Try to focus on the highlights of your year: the best things that happened to you, the funniest events, the most important changes in your life. In most cases, your letter shouldn't exceed one or two typed pages.
  6. Choose a format - Your letter can be arranged in a variety of ways. Many are written chronologically, listing events as they happened throughout the year, while others detail each person's accomplishments individually. You can also choose a theme, such as hope, new beginnings, tough times, etc., and interweave people and events to highlight your theme. Whichever method you choose, pick one and stick with it.
  7. Make it visually appealing - Your letter will be more interesting if you include photos, clip art, or other images.
  8. Be creative - An annual holiday letter doesn't have to be a letter at all. Look at creative letter ideas for fun ways to give your annual holiday update a fresh new look.
  9. Add a personal note - A quick handwritten note at the bottom of each recipient's letter will make the update feel more personal and less like an anonymous form letter.
  10. Have fun! - Remember that writing an annual holiday letter is an opportunity to have fun and keep others up to date about what you and your family have been doing all year. It shouldn’t feel like a chore to write your letter - or to read it. If it does, you’re doing something wrong.
I look forward to reading your letters. Don't forget to comment on one another's letters too!

Happy New Year 2007

Hi Vanessa and everyone!

Each-year each-month each-week each-day
Don't thinking about second is pass very fast
Whole happiness, troubled and sadness all mix together

If I can pick out, I choose to fly always...
Don’t have any obstacle, fall and roll on the ground, scramble rocky mountain
Because of have many troubles, fall down and scramble up again.

Impossible if we're can fly same like” BIRD”
- and fly to see around the happiness, fly pass over suffering...

It is impossible the old story from last year is it "experience"
This time New Year coming again, we're grabbing and take precaution.

I belive everybody explores happiness.
I want to say “Happy New Year"
I wish everybody is succeeding for New Year and next year...

Combining Sentences

“What makes a sentence a good sentence?”

“What are the characteristics of a good sentence?”

You might answer: “Sentences are good if they are descriptive,” or “A sentence is a good sentence if it contains a complete thought,” and finally, after thinking about and remembering past lessons, "Short sentences are good sentences."

Sometimes the best sentence for the purpose is a short sentence. Also, a short clear sentence is better than a long, confusing one. However, research shows that as students progress, their sentence length grows in direct proportion. Beginners write very short sentences, intermediates write longer sentences, and advanced students and skilled native speakers write even longer ones. Professional writers writers the longest sentences of all.

But how are those mature sentences structured?

Professionals use what are called sentence modifiers like verbal and appositive phrases, and adjective clauses. These descriptive modifiers allow writers to develop the complete thoughts but to do it in a way that makes writing flow with a rhythm that engages the readers’ attention and keeps readers from getting lost in clause.

Working with a variety of structures has the additional advantage of helping you work through grammar and syntax problems that convince many teachers to counsel students to simplify their lives by chopping up their sentences.

Research shows that sentence combining is the most effective technique to teach sentence level maturity.

In brief
• Too many short sentences in a paragraph will make it sound choppy and keep the ideas expressed in the paragraph from flowing properly.
• Too many clauses combined using coordinating conjunctions, such as and, but, and so, can make your paragraph repetitious. Over-coordinating might also result in the grouping of too many unrelated ideas.
• To fix these problems, use a variety of sentence combining techniques.

About Sentence Combining
(some with exercises)

  • Sentence Combining Page (comprehensive!)

  • Combining Sentences for Variety and Clarity

  • Sentence Combining Slideshow

  • Sentence Combining Patterns and Exercises

  • Sentence Sense

  • Examples of Sentence Combining

  • Non-interactive exercises

  • Sentence Combining Activity

  • Printable Sentence Combining Exercise

  • Interactive Exercises

  • ESL Matching Quiz

  • Combining Quiz #1

  • Combining Quiz #2

  • Combining to Improve Style
  • Friday, December 29, 2006

    Stephen Krashen's L2 learning theories

    Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) is a noted linguistics expert. His research specializes in how we learn languages and develop reading, speaking and writing skills. Much recent research is about non-English and bilingual language acquisition. However, he has also researched grammar acquisition in both native and non-non-native speakers. During the past 20 years, He has published over 100 books and articles and has been invited to deliver over 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada.

    Following is a description of his widely known and well accepted theory of second language acquisition. Krashen's work has had tremendous influence on second language research and teaching. As a result, the "prescriptive" (rule learning & memorization) approach has largely been abandoned in favor or "descriptive" (competency and producing meaning) approach.

    Krashen's theory of second language acquisition consists of five main hypotheses:
    • the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis
    • the Monitor hypothesis
    • the Natural Order hypothesis
    • the Input hypothesis
    • the Affective Filter hypothesis.

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    Input - listening practice

    Remember our discussion about learning and the importance of "input" (taking in language by reading and listening) for acquiring vocabulary and basic structures (grammar)? I am working up a long post explaining Krashen's theories about language learning.

    In the meantime, someone at the EFI instructors' discussion group recommended for leaving and listening to voice messages - a voice discussion forum that you can listen to.

    First steps in using Chinswing
    About Chinswing

    If you check it out, please tell us know what you think - good or bad. It's new, so there are bound to be at a few bugs to cope with.

    PS - don't forget to post your introductions and respond to other introductions if you have not yet done so:

    If you have just reading (and commenting) privileges, you can post your introduction as a comment to "Getting to know one another." Read the other introductions and comment on some.

    If you are listed as a "Contributor," you can introduce your self in either a new post or as a comment to "Getting to know one another."

    Here are Nandita's and Sadamu's introductions.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2006

    Beginner Resources for Studying English

    Although some in this class are closer to intermediate level, the class is also for beginners. Many students in the class and subscribed to the blog are beginners. We should not forget them or overlook their learning needs.

    Besides, review never hurt anyone. Sometimes, you can more from reviewing easier material than from making your head hurt with harder material.

    Do you have a favorite study site that you would recommend to less advanced learners? Please share it in a comment on this post.

    QUIZZES (most of the sites listed under other categories also have quizzes)

    • Wacky Web Tales - fill in the part of speech and write your own wacky web tale
    • Pizzaz! People Interested in Zippy and Zanny Z-scribbling. PIZZAZ! is dedicated to providing simple creative writing and oral storytelling activities with copyable (yes, copyable!) handouts for use with students of all ages. Permission is given to use these resources for in-class, non-profit use only.
    • Computer Assisted Sentence Production Interactive guided-writing exercises. Learners provide data and short answers that the program uses to generate several correct versions of sentences and paragraphs. To enhance speed, the site excludes graphics, sound, or animation. Link to language games
    • Short writing topics
    • Writing informal letters

    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    Holiday Greetings!

    I hope you enjoy this traditional Christmas story. The page includes comprehension questions based on the story:

    'Twas The Night Before Christmas: Reading Comprehension, Reading & Glossary

    'Twas The Night Before Christmas: Reading Comprehension Quiz

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Imitate English phrases. Don't learn English grammar?

    I saw the article 'Imitate English phrases. Don't learn English grammar' on The Linguist. I wonder it is really helpful if we can learn a new language by imitating only. He mentioned mirror neurons which is spontaneous reflection helps people to learn language. I am not sure if it is true. If it is true, why we still learn grammar. We are not English native speaker. We are not young children as well. I think that it is necessary to learn grammar because it can let us understand this language more easily. Dear all what do you think?

    Merry christmas and happy new year 2007

    hello everyone,
    This Christmas I wish every one will be enjoy this christmas and happy new year 2007 :)

    Best wish

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Content suggestions, anyone?

    In "How this works," I wrote, "I'm open to suggestions - but not bound to following them." I meant suggestions about content. What kind of materials, resources, writing prompts would you like to see here? Lessons? Readings? Links? Of course there will be links: that goes without saying.

    At some point, I will try out Blogger Beta's new editing and design features. Frankly, I am not in a hurry since upgrading the template will lose ALL the changes I made in to the template html. At least this is a new blog so losses won't be that hard to replace. Needless to say, I am extremely reluctant about changing older blogs with more template editing changes.

    So here's my question for you: what content do you most want to see here? What topic or language points should we address first?

    PS: Notice that I wrote we - not I.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Introduce Myself

    Hi All,

    This is my first post in this blog I like to inroduce I to all the classmates of teacher Vanessa. I am thirty years old Indian lady who is living USA right now with her family .I have a daughter who is five years old and my husband is a computer engineer. I had done my master in History. Knowing different culture and history of different country is one of my hobbies. Another hobby is cooking. I love doing different things doing same thing make me bore that is why I love to try new new recipe not only indian recipe I love mexican, chinse, and thai food so I try to make them too. I play with my daughter and we make origami, craft, drawing, painting with finger prints and differrent vegetables etc. I have studied in varnacular media so from my childhood I always wanted to learn english for that I tried to read english books watched english movies whenever I got chance I spoke english (oviously wrong english).After coming USA I faced so many problem because of not knowing english so I decided I will have to learn this language and after long searching I found a really good site for all level english learner. I am so lucky that I got a teacher like Vanessa and now there is no question about not learning english perfectly. After reading about her in her blog I am so inspired the way she is managing the blog that it is amazing. God bless her.

    I am also learning computer to get a better job here and English as well. Calendrula is one of my favourite flowers and I love the name that is why I used that name. My good name is Nandita. Thanks a lot to teacher Vanessa she is helping us to give so many good study materials and suggessions.


    Monday, December 18, 2006

    The hundred commonest English words

    Hi Vanessa

    I visited the web which you told us on our class. I thought that Oxford dictionary had been doing very good works. I was very interested in this study.

    I was impressed by following sentenses;

    The commonest adjectives are 'good', 'now', and 'first'.
    'Bad' is unexpectedly low at 23, is this because we have such a large choice of synonymies abailable for expresing bad things.

    I don't think that I know English well as I can understand above sentenses. However I wonder whether we can say a same thing in my language.

    Thank you very much for your post. I get wiser now.

    ESL Blogroll

    A blogroll is a collection (or roll) of blogs, so an ESL blogroll would list blogs about learning (and/or teaching) ESL. Some blogs are, like ours, for classes. Others are teachers blogging materials, lessons, handouts, and about their experiences teaching

    See, we're not alone. The list is not complete by any means, so I'll be adding to it as we go along. Including as many links as possible is tradition in blogging. In fact, early blogs were often little more than a way to share link collections.

    In particular, I recommend The Linguist. It has a lot of useful learning tips.

    Don't forget: if you have a blog or web page, be sure to let me know so I can add it to our list of links on the right hand side of the page.

    Also consider looking for blogs in areas that interest you personally or professionally (law, computers, cooking, health care, science, sports, etc)

    Don't forget (#2): you are supposed to be posting - comments and, if you are a full member, original posts. If you have reading access but are not yet a full member, you can still post comments. It's an ongoing writing assignment. Don't be just a lurker. Also, when someone comments on your post or comment, answer them.

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    My self introduction (1)

    Hi All

    I'm 67 years old now. I'm a Japanese male and I live in Japan with my wife and a son. I have a daughter who lives in Tokyo. She has a cute child 2 years old.

    I live on my pension and I'm still working on odd jobs. I had finished my monthly payment for my house loan three years ago. As I became to be richer than before, I bought a personal computer. Many things happened from then.

    One of them is my learning English on EFI. A friend of mine advised me to have it. I could join Vanessa's class. I've been learning English at her class for three years since then.

    At the beginning my purposes for learning English were as followings;
    a) I'd like to write a letter in English.
    b) I'd like to read news paper and books in English.
    c) I'd like to understand what radios say in English.

    She gave us three instructions at the beginning of the class. They were as follows;
    a) write your journal every day.
    b) remember 5 words a day.
    c) read many writings in English.

    I tried to keep them. However I could keep only writing my journal.
    Thanks to Vanessa, I think I made a big progress in learning English. However I am still on the way to my purposes.


    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    How do good readers understand what they read?

    How do good readers understand what they read? Reading researchers Pressley and Wharton-McDonald identify the following cognitive or thinking processes used by skilled readers.

    Before reading:
    • Good readers have clear reading goals.
    • Good readers overview the text in order to determine whether the text is worth reading, identify goal-relevant sections of the text, and develop a reading plan.
    During reading:
    • Good readers generally progress from beginning to end of the text.
    • Good readers give differential attention to information that is relevant to their goals.
    • Good readers sometimes jump forward and backward to find particular information and to clarify confusions as they arise. They are aware of confusions because they monitor as they read.
    • Good readers anticipate what might be said, updating their predictions and hypotheses as they read.
    • Good readers relate prior knowledge to the ideas in the text and relate ideas in the text to one another. They revise old ideas and make inferences during reading.
    • Good readers sometimes use strategies as they read, for example, to determine the meanings of unknown words or to remember particular ideas.
    • Good readers demonstrate passion for certain ideas presented in the text.
    • Good readers construct interpretations and conclusions as reading proceeds.
    After reading:
    • Good readers sometimes reread or re-skim the text just read.
    • Good readers sometimes attempt to restate important ideas from the text. If notes might help later recall, they take them.
    • Good readers continue to reflect on the text after they have finished reading.
    In summary, the authors describe skilled readers as strategic, metacognitive, and motivated, and present evidence that these more active readers understand what they read better than less active readers.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    My new English-English dictionary

    I studied webs for dictionaries and I decided to buy an American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. I ordered it to today. I expect to have it by this Christmas but I'm not sure. Now I'm ready to start for learning English again.

    Parts of Speech

    Three little words you often see
    Are ARTICLES: a, an, and the.

    A NOUN's the name of anything,
    As: school or garden, toy, or swing.

    ADJECTIVES tell the kind of noun,
    As: great, small, pretty, white, or brown.

    VERBS tell of something being done:
    To read, write, count, sing, jump, or run.

    How things are done the ADVERBS tell,
    As: slowly, quickly, badly, well.

    CONJUNCTIONS join the words together,
    As: men and women, wind or weather.

    The PREPOSITION stands before
    A noun as: in or through a door.

    The INTERJECTION shows surprise
    As: Oh, how pretty! Ah! how wise!

    The whole are called the PARTS of SPEECH,
    Which reading, writing, speaking teach.

    The follwing list is by no means comprehensive. Consider it a start - to be developed as we go along. Do you have your own favorite pages about parts of speech? Please share them with us.

    Reviews, handouts, study resources

    Quizzes (many including reviews)


    What is the difference between parts of speech and parts of the sentence?

    Saturday, December 09, 2006


    Bilingual dictionaries are necessary but not your best learning or reference too. Most, especially the small paperback version do not distinguish between different meanings and best usages. Nor do they provide examples. As soon as possible, start using an English-English dictionary. Not all dictionaries equally suitble for ESL learners. A category referred to as learner's dictionaries is designed for use by non-native speakers

    Here are some useful dictionary choices. A number include audio files for correct pronunciation. Browsw them to see which one best suits you. You should also purchase your own paper copy of a good learner's dictionary. When you are further along in your studies, buy a GOOD English-English dictionary.

    Dictionary activities
    As part of reading/vocab development, use on-line dictionaries from this list (& search for more if you wish) to find multiple sentences using assigned target words. In the past, I've asked students to write original sentences, but there are too many errors this way, and the sentences are often too vague to show a clear context. Be “warned” that many samples are only phrases or sentence fragments. You will need to be develop the sample phrase into a complete sentence.

    A good online biligual dictionary
    Or search "dictionary + english + [your language]"

    While you are looking through the online dictionaries, I'll be thinking about interesting target words for the activity I described above.

    Post a comment to let us know what you think of these resources and which one you would recommend.

    Update on invitations & move to Blogger Beta

    The move to Beta version of Blogger is also complete. We will continue to use as the e-mail address for this class - lessons, individual emails to and from students, etc. However, I intend to move more class functions to the blog. More (but not all) writing assignments will be on to the blog. Handouts, class letters, study resources, and un-numbered lessons that I send everyone at the same time will be posted here rather than sent by e-mail.
    1. Introduce yourselves in a comment posted to the previous message, " Getting to know one another."
    2. Post a comment to this post. Ask a question or make a request for study materials on a specific topic, or make a suggestion about how we can use this blog in the EFI Beginner Class.
    As of now, four class members besides myself are members with full posting (writing) permission. I had to re-invite several students because they did not accept their invitations before the move. I also invited a couple of the more active class members not in the discussion group. One class member has joined as

    Then I changed the permission settings to make the class blog private. It is no longer open to anyone who finds it on the internet. No one can read it unless invited. I was very glad to see this feature in Blogger's Beta version because I had been worrying about the privacy. After making that change, I sent everyone in the class a "blog viewing invitation." and changed "Comments" setting to allow any readers to comment on posts

    I've also been giving a lot of thought to course management. Inactive students have always been a problem in any online class. Do I drop them or keep them on the class roster and let them lurk? Sending reminders and notices is time consuming, yet inactive students should not be allowed to remain in a class indefinitely, especially when "tending" them takes course administration time away from the students who are participating.

    On the other hand, I am 100% in favor of making learning opportunities as available as possible. The blog is my solution. Inactive students can follow the blog and make or not make commentsm but they won't be on any class mailing lists or receive any e-mail lessons or study materials.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Getting to know one another

    As Tai recommended, we - or at least you - need to get to know one another. I may know you from lessons and e-mail, but you don't really know each other. Even those who have posted and read one another's introductions in the discussion group would benefit from "renewing" acquaintanceships.

    You can introduce yourselves in new posts or as a comment to this post. You can also complete your profiles to include more information if you wish. The downside there - it's more public. I have a few student introductions in a .doc file and can pull more from the students folders. Gosh that sounds like unnecessary work, doesn't it? I'd much rather you introduce yourselves.

    Even though you know me and I have introduced myself many times, I'll set an example by going first. Besides, we change over time so our introductions should too.

    Now 63, I still live in Mountainair NM - in the same house in the same small town. I am not the town and the town is not me but my continuing to live here may say as much or more about me than my interests or even my reading habits. Louisiana and California seem worlds away now ... and the overseas haunts of my youth further still, as though in another quantum continuum.

    The population of Mountainair grew since my first introduction and then lost population. No one here can agree on whether the town is booming or dying. The demographics have shifted somewhat just since I moved here almost six years ago. That is bound to affect the character of the town. The "old timers" are closely split between Hispanic and Anglo. Both groups are very insular and suspicious of change. Some new comers are retirees looking for cheaper land and who grew up in small towns and now want to retire to one. Others are somewhat younger, more prosperous, and fleeing urban areas. Most of these I would say are from California.

    I chronicle all this on my blog, my web page and the Chamber of Commerce web page that I maintain. The Mountainair Vanessa used to teach college - face to face at UNM Valencia (actually a 3rd rate community college masquerading as a branch campus of NM's flagship university) and then courses at for-profit online colleges. I am pretty burnt out with that teaching. The pre-Mountainair Vanessa used to teach horseback riding in Lafayette, Louisiana and then comparative literature at the University of California. The current Mountainair Vanessa has a couple of local, part time sources of supplementary income but wrote the first draft of a novel last month (the third in as many years) as is now trying to spend more time writing. I have thought about substitute teaching at the high school and may still have to do it, but I would not be able to pace myself . Working a full day without control over pacing invariably leaves me wiped out for the next 2-3 days.

    I live by myself and have two ponies, a dog, and a clutch of outdoor cats (the numer varies). My daughter lives in Albuquerque. She has a baby - my first grandchild - and got married last month. She also works full time as a lawyer on the NM Labor Board and usually so busy that I do not get to see as much of either her or Deacon as I would like.

    These days I rather feel as though I am in yet another transition period. I do not know where it will end up but doubt it will take me away from Mountainair.

    Now it's your turn...

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    How this works

    How this works is for now and could change: I'm open to suggestions - but not bound to following them.

    To post or even comment on posts, class members have to join what refers to as the "team" and become blog members. Feel free to start your own blog and link to the class blog.

    Your role and participation expectations:
    Posting is optional but encouraged. Expect me to nudge you with exhortations to post and participate. However, I do expect you to comment on posts. This does not require a lot of writing. Often a sentence or two will do. Your comments should be relevant, well thought out, and contribute to discussion.

    What you will see here:
    My rambling essays - some on learning English and other language learning in general, others on literature, reading, or whatever strikes my fancy. Consider it reading practice.

    Questions that I expect answers to and comments on. I'll try to close even essays with a question for you as I did with "Getting Started."

    Getting Acquainted - I know each of you (some better than others) but you do not know each other. So post intorductions and take the time to get acquainted. I may post a questionnaire to facilitate the process.

    Learning related topics - metacognition, linguistics, how the brain processes language, learning styles, cognition, study skills, learning practices as culturally determined.

    Language topics - literature, reading, poetry, and so forth

    Links - learning, reading, ESL, lessons, activities - but not just that. Post links about your home, your country, your interests, and so on.

    Topical subjects - avoiding, of course, extreme positions while maintaining openness to discourse on a wide variety of topics.

    And more - post on anything you want

    Needless to say, we will observe basic netiquette

    Getting Started

    Once more into the breach - I leap into blogdom again. The operating principle is to use the blog as a teaching tool for my online ESL class for EFI. I was at the point where I have to try something new or cancel the class.

    But blogging English is not just about learning (or teaching) English as a Second (or other) language. It is also about the language itself and the apparent fascination it holds for me. If the blog is only about ESL and the class, then I will only get frustrated when none or few participate. My students no doubt have their own feelings and frustrations about English. They can vent them here, either as original posts or as comments.

    I will blog resources, links, lessony stuff - write some posts in language more accessible for beginner readers. On the hand, they can also work on stretching their reading skills.

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