Monday, October 29, 2012

Learning English with Edmonton CBC

I heard about Edmonton CBC's Learning English pages at the TESL Canada conference but then I forgot about it. Fortunately, one of my colleagues mentioned it just now. There's lots of good stuff here with very clear, slow, simple English along with transcripts, well developed lesson plans, and extensive materials, all linked to the CLBs.

The materials are covered by CBC's copyright, but permission is granted to reproduce for educational purposes. It's regularly updated, and very professional. CBC Manitoba does something similar. I just wish CBC Toronto did.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Humber News

Humber College runs a journalism program with a YouTube channel called Humber News. Humber News is produced by the final year journalism students at Humber College. It is a Toronto newscast broadcast three days a week. Its main mandate is to cover the community, including the college and surrounding area, as well as breaking news of interest to that community. It airs on Humber's internal television channel and on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This site primarily seems to use YouTube videos, the quality of which, obviously, vary greatly. They seem to have been graded, but it's not clear how the grading works or how accurate it is. The exercises are also mostly of dubious value. Overall, if you find something useful, that's great, but perhaps the best part of this is the ability to make your own exercises. It requires a login, but the account is free.

Cambridge Student Arcades

Cambridge University Press publishes many ESL textbooks, and they're putting a lot of the related audio on the web for anyone to download. They also have specific listening exercises for many of the chapters. Go to their Student Arcades page and select one of the textbooks and then the book level (most of the books would be for lower-level EAP classes.) Next, either download self-study audio, or click on "sort by activity type". The listening exercises are called "What do you hear?"


Dictation is a good way to focus students on the details of language form rather than meaning. Of course, looking at form without understanding meaning impoverishes language learning, but an unrelenting focus on meaning can distract attention from form and slow learning. One site that provides dictation practice is Listen and Write. It requires students to create an account and log in, but it is free.

It has a number of levels and a level test. The levels test is in beta, and I was placed in level 6 of 10 (based on the graph) despite doing the test in earnest (Also, confusingly, the audio seems to go up to level 22). I think the problem may be that I was hitting punctuation where none was expected and then barrelling on past the error with each keystroke counting as a further error. I'm not really sure though.

Another thing to be careful of is that not all of the tracks are English, so look at the language label. Also, the audio quality varies. All in all, it's may be a good idea to vet a number of dictations yourself before sending your students to the site.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


For those who like TED talks but whose students might not be ready for a full-on 18 minute lecture, TED Ed is a good alternative. Many of the talks are shorter, often about 5 minutes, and they are supported with animation that helps convey the meaning. They also come with a number of multiple-choice comprehension question, two or three "think" questions, and a "dig deeper" suggestion for research.

Unfortunately, most of these are not really aimed at language learning. Fortunately, though, you can "flip" the video, which means you can make your own questions, which would be associated with a unique URL which you can give your students. TED Ed also provides tools to track the viewing of and responses to your flipped video. More info here.

When you flip the talk, sadly, you cannot edit or add multiple-choice questions; you can simply include or exclude what is already there. The "think" and "dig deeper" sections are editable, though.

Unlike TED talks, a transcript isn't provided on TED Ed, but many of the videos will have a CC box, which, if clicked, will provide closed captions.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012