Monday, November 02, 2009

A request for reading

It has been a long time since I wrote a post to this blog. At present I don't have a class of my own, but work at the Learning Centre. I see and help students from all over Otago Polytechnic.

A day or so ago I was visited by a student studying English. Although at the Learning Centre we do help students with their English (among other things) we generally don't help with their course content directly. That is why we generally leave the teaching of English to the English teachers!

But I have taught English for many years, so I wasn't about to turn a student away. This post is to help him, maybe his classmates . . . and I'll forward it to his teachers just to let them know what I suggest.

What I suggest is for him to explore this blog for material about 'Reading'. A starting point could be this link that takes you to the British Council IELTS speed reading site.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's go exploring

Welcome to another week. Thank you for your hyperlinks a few weeks ago. I'm still waiting on Leo, Luna and 'Grumpy' for your contributions.

I would like to to do some exploring. Click on the hyperlink 'William's English Links'. You will arrive at my Delicious account (Hadashi05) with all the sites I have tagged with 'English' displayed. There are currently 78 of these.

You won't have time to look at the all. But I would like all of them looked at. Here's what we will do.

  1. Everyone gets a random number between 1 and 8 (Pariya, would you allocate these?)
  2. Go to the foot of my Delicious links, and you will see that there are 8 pages
  3. Click on the page number you were given, and look at the 10 sites that you arrive at
  4. Spend the rest of your time exploring the best one (in your opinion) of those 10 sites
  5. During the hour, get up and have a look at everyone else's selected page
Oh, and congratulations to Pariya for starting her own blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


If you have gmail you can send messages to me now

What do you think is delicious? Food and drink, of course. But it is also a delicious feeling to find something that you thought you had lost. I think that this is the reason that the social bookmarking site Delicious has that name.

You have used it before. Or rather, you have used my delicious links. It is good to make use of what other people have discovered, but is also good to make discoveries on your own.

Why do I use the word 'discoveries'? That is the name that I give to useful web addresses that I stumble across. They are the sites that you find when you surf. You want to be able to find the good ones again, and not by manually writing down their addresses. That is too time-consuming. And it is far to easy to make mistakes.

You work today:

  1. On my blog, click on William's English Links

  2. Scroll down to TED Talks, and come back in 10 minutes

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Let's hyperlink today

Hi everyone

Are you all settled in yet for term 2? As Pariya told us, this term will be like the end of the year for us. Our course finishes at the end of the semester, so this is our last opportunity to really become independent learners. As Christine said, "We are going to hold your hands."

This course of study is better than just holding hands. Look, you now have the benefit of three teachers' ideas! What could be better?

As well as ideas from three teachers, you also have each other--your classmates--to learn from and be inspired by. That brings me to the topic of this week's post: hyperlinking.

You already use hyperlinks all the time. Whenever you use the Internet and click on a word to take you to another page, that is a hyperlink.

Today I am including all of our (first) names: three teachers and nine students (and maybe one or two guests). All of those names are going to be hyperlinks. When you click on a person's name, you will be directed to a 'Very Useful Page' that that person recommends. It may be the last useful page (about learning or using English) that you remember, a favorite site, or an address that you enjoyed visiting. All you need to do is tell me that address--verbally, on a bit of paper, or in an email []. I shall do the rest.

Please enjoy hyper-travelling to these addresses and seeing what is there.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

IELTS Sampler

A few days ago, I was asked by the Home Tutors Association if I would prepare a short IELTS test that their New Zealand tutors could try to see what the IELTS test is like. I completed it this morning, and gave it to them. I am also giving it to you.

At the front of the classroom there are two sheets. They are for you to keep. You have tried the listening already, and you have looked at one of the writing tasks (yesterday). But you could try the reading--together maybe. And you could also plan the writing task about the pie graphs.

That is what I would like you to busy yourselves with this afternoon between 1 and 3.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Breaking News English

Today I'd like to introduce you to a new site. That is, it is probably new to you. But I have used it in previous years. The work we did about Slum Dog Millionaire came from there.

The site is called Breaking News English. You may go there by following the link at the foot of this post, but only after you have read this post first!

The site has been operating for several years. You can search its archives by month and year. It makes English lessons based on current news stories (breaking news). You can practise many skills here. You can choose stories that you are actually interested in.

Very well, now that you have read what I have to say, do go on to . . .

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


After talking about the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire, several times in class , I remembered a documentary I once video-taped. It shows a true-life case of cheating on the program, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Below is an embedded link to the first part of that documentary on Youtube.

I don't know what language the subtitles are though!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Housitting answers

Hi class

The answers to questions 11 to 20 are:

11 - 1989
12 - Internet
13 - one month
14 - pets/cats and gardens
15 - pay any bills/expenses
16 - home owners
17 - privacy
18 - $375
19 - the agency/company or Contented Homes
20 - insurance

After that, can I leave it up to you to keep yourselves busy doing self-directed study? You may work outside the classroom. If you choose to remain in the classroom, please be considerate and don't disturb or distract each other. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top ESOL sites from Delicious

I know, I know--I recommended that you stay with one site only, so that you don't feel overwhelmed. But in case you have the urge to check out other sites, below I've listed the top ESOL sites that pop up when I search for the term in Delicious.

  1. Activities for ESOL students
  2. BBC Learning English
  3. Interesting things for ESL students
  4. Dave's ESL Cafe
By the way, you can search for ESL as well as ESOL. Some extra sites show up:

  1. ESL podcasts
  2. Randall's ESL cyber listening lab
  3. YAPPR (this is new for me)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Japanese Tourists in Australia

Hi All (five of you today)

This afternoon, I'd like you to work on an IELTS writing exercise. I would like each of you to try it. Just before 3, I will come by and collect your work--so please don't head off early!

Raj has already attempted this assignment on his own. However, I feel that he may not have understood the main points in the information, so . . .

  1. Copy the task onto the whiteboard
  2. Discuss what is the main information that the data shows
  3. Decide how you will begin writing
  4. Individually complete the task
After that, you are welcome to work on whatever you wish.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Continuing . . .

Hi All

By now you should have decided which site you prefer for learning English (for now). Please work on that for the first 30 minutes or so. But then check this post (by refreshing the web page). Today I want to introduce you to about 5 sites that you may also enjoy.

  1. Online dictation is a good technique. Here is a good place to begin.
  2. Here is Radio New Zealand. It has podcasts to listen to.
  3. Speaking of podcasts, you may listen about Iceland's economic collapse here. This comes from The State We're In, a Dutch radio site that produces weekly broadcasts.
  4. In the past few days, I mentioned 'minimal pairs'. You can practice those here.
  5. Finally, you can practice word order at this site.
  6. World English might be good for you to look at also.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Top ESOL Site Selection

Afife has just reminded me that AM3 class are interested in online ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). She told that they would like to join us in the computer access suite this Wednesday from 1 to 3.

"What would they like to do?" I asked her.

"Anything and everything," she replied.

So today I am spending an hour looking through my archives to find some good sites. I recommend that you try the following:

  1. BBC Learning English
  2. VOA Special English
  3. ESOL online for students
  4. Adult Learning Activities
  5. Breaking News English
  6. IELTS on youtube

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday afternoon - week 3

As usual, I shall be working at the Learning Centre this afternoon, but I shall try and come by to see you.

Here is a list of work for you

  1. Have you given me your report about rubbish recycling?
  2. Prepare a timetable for what you plan to do during the next 10 hours of self-directed learning
  3. Browse through the June 1996 Reader's Digest magazine (Ahmed N.B. Chess!)
  4. Finally, if you have time, you might like to read the Sleep Advice article in the plastic green folder.

Topic sentences

Hunting on the Internet, I discovered this resource. It gives you practice in finding topic sentences. Why don't you have a go? Good luck!

(p.s. The exercise comes from a very comprehensive page for French students to learn academic reading and writing skills.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Try to correct these sentences. In each there's an easy mistake.

  1. Imagine planet orbiting a star.
  2. They eventually managed persuade Robert to seek hospital help.
  3. I was found a nest with an egg in it.
  4. A profession pilot was planning to take a radio-show host aloft.
  5. The russian did pay my fare and my Hotel to go to vienna.
  6. Do you spend too much time at work on tasks you hates?
  7. Three-fours of the white population of the South was of Celtic descent.
  8. We were surprising at how bright the light was on the snow.
  9. Every day for seven month the Polish farm girl came to feed him.
  10. A tiny piece of a victims bone can send a killer to jail.
  11. He visited his doctor first thing at Monday morning.
  12. Olympic flag consists of five interlinked rings.
  13. “Mum’s got a boyfriend, the elder sister whispered.”
  14. Gum passes through the digestive tract vitually unchanged.
  15. Could a single donor liver saving them both?
  16. For three days the two didnt speak.
  17. They flew across frigid seas with out radar.
  18. Chess it good training because it makes you sit and think.
  19. A smiling doesn’t cost anything.
  20. She lived to a ripe old aged.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Self-directed Study Options

Study Options

1. Get a notebook.
2. Commit to attainable goals
3. Keep a record of the hours that you spend on various activities

For your Individual Development Plan (IDP), you and I will decide what you need to do e.g. by the end of the term read 3 books, complete 5 chapters of Murphy's Grammar, dictate for 2 hours.

Sorry, no 'instant' results

Speed reading: 10 articles in the green folder from the book More Reading Power
IELTS online: Try this site
Goal reading: Record how many pages/hours you read, and write reviews
RD generic question sheet: Complete this sheet for Reader's Digest articles
Reading log: Make a list of all books you’ve read/rejected with thoughts about them

Student accounts: You need 3 things: Backbone, Wishbone and Funnybone. Read these accounts and write one yourself.

Goal writing: Set a goal for number of pages you will write within a time period
Journal: Keep a journal or daily diary
IELTS writing: Try exercises from IELTS material in the class
Create a blog: Go to and begin
Write to my blog: Respond, ask questions, explore links and archives of my blog.

Pair dictation: Dictate sentences to a partner
Record yourself: Record and listen to your voice on tape
Minimal pairs: Practice hearing and producing the correct pronunciation here.
Imitation: Listen to and then imitate a recording of someone whose voice you admire

Diagnostic test: Complete a diagnostic test to decide which grammar points to revise from a text book such as Murphy
Online drill: Use an online site to practise. Here are some.
The ‘X’ files: Keep a file of errors you’ve made (both the errors and the corrections)

Academic word list: Familiarize yourself with the 571 words on this list
Basic spelling: test yourself by levels, the first 1000 or the second thousand words
Online spelling: Use online spell testing. Here are some links.
Notebook: Keep a notebook of words you have spelled incorrectly
Context collection: Highlight 5 new words per RD page

Insight into IELTS: Work your way in the class (and at home) through this text
Strategies for Study: This is another excellent book to use as a resource.
Online IELTS: This is only one site but there are several

Headphones: Obtain a pair to help you listen in peace on any computer
Tape cassettes: Listen to tapes (we need this gear in the classroom)
Talking books: Borrow these from the library
Online listening: There is a wealth of material on the Internet. Start here.
Lectures: Listen to recorded lectures. Sit in on actual lectures. Also work with the textbook Study Listening

Assistants: You could take part in Conversation Hour with AM3
Jabberwacky: Improve your response speed here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apologies for this morning

Hi everyone

Thanks for commenting on my blog yesterday. Could you please do the same today?

I must apologize for not being here in the morning. I have an appointment in town that I need to attend. I shall arrive in class before lunchtime.

In your self-directed study time, therefore, please do the following:

  1. Spend no more than 45 minutes doing a Diagnostic Grammar Test. (Look for the 9 sheets in a plastic pocket, pages 301 to 309.) Please do not write on the sheets (please check no one else does either). Work on separate sheets in any order, and exchange with other people when you are done.

  2. Spend up to 45 minutes working through Reading Unit 1 in 'Insight into IELTS'. I shall check this when I come to class.

  3. Don't encourage Ahmed to distract himself playing chess on the computer, unless it is to show you the IELTS speed reading site that he discovered on the computer yesterday (Leo is familiar with it too).
I should be back by 11 a.m. but if not . . . There is a library tour arranged for our class and for AM3 today at that time. After morning tea please join with Pariya's class. You are well prepared to learn more and to ask questions from the library staff!

Otzi the iceman

In class last week we listened to an IELTS task about an iceman. His name is Otzi. You may read about him at this website. Here is a podcast that is worth listening to. And here is a longer one.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday's assignment

photo by Leigh Blackall

Welcome to the afternoon. I am sending you these instructions from F121. Find me there when you come to Step 4.

Step 1: Sketch a simple map of the interior of the Bill Robertson Library. Don't forget: there are two stories--floor one and floor two. This should not take you more than half an hour.

Step 2: Divide the floor area up into exactly 20 sections. It is up to you to decide how to do this, but every space should contain resources. For example, the children's section, the audio-visual section, the periodicals section etc. Label each area.

Step 3: Now I want you to rank these 20 sections into order from the most interesting (1) to the least interesting (20). There are no wrong or right answers. It is only your opinion. (And your ranking is not likely to be the same as anyone else in the class.

Step 4: Visit me individually in room F121. I will then give you the last instruction. You must allow half an hour for the last task, so see me before 2.30 pm.

Later: I will give you a random number from 6 to 15. Look at your ranked list. What is that section in the library (it may be journal about nursing, it may be NZ fiction . . .). THEN, I would like to to take out a book (or whatever) from that section. You will need an ID card. If you don't have the idea card, then just make a note of the title and the author. Next Monday we see if you were successful.

Okay, good luck. Help one another like a true team. I am with you in spirit.

Have patience!

photo by Vecchia Betty

Remember (or learn) the expression: Rome wasn't built in a day.

Some of you--make that a lot of you--are eager to improve your English. Great! I'm glad you've started this year with good intentions.

But do relax. Do take your time. Do give me a chance to think about how each of you, and how each of you may best improve. If we rush thing now then we may not end up spending our time most efficiently.

Thank you for the first needs/preferences evaluations on Wednesday. Excellent! That gives me a base on which to build (your English houses). I'm working on it--them.

Why don't you follow the link to the photographer of today's picture? If you join Flickr then you can write a comment about her and other people's pictures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rio found this page

Nobody likes this animal, because they bite.

Rio found this page. Thanks for that, Rio. It is for advanced English students. Why don't you try it? Lipika, it has a reading room. Gulchella and Ahmed, it has a listening lounge.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Welcome to 2009

Welcome to all students! My name is William, and I welcome you to my class (AM4), to Otago Polytechnic, and maybe even to Dunedin. It's going to be a good year.

I'm going to use this blog to communicate with you throughout 2009, and perhaps even after. You will be able to access this even after you complete your course. So keep in touch. Drop me a line--maybe as a comment--from time to time.

I'm going to use this post to clarify for you (and for me) what we'll be doing this first semester. All we English teachers will be following a new Programme Document; we won't be teaching you exactly how we've taught in the past. As for me, I'm returning to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) after a year of working at the Learning Centre. I did not have my own English class last year, though I did help Pariya's class with online learning.

This is the first year that level 4 ESOL is being offered by me, or by us. It will be a step up for all of us. I did once run a course called English for Further Study when I began working for Otago Polytechnic, back in 1997, up at Tennyson Street up from the Octagon. So I am not a complete beginner, and I'm sure you're not either. (Otherwise we wouldn't have put you in this class!)

Let me now say a few things about the new teaching philosophy, scheduling, course content, assessment and so on. But keep tuned. Watch this spot. Don't turn that dial!

Philosophy of teaching:

The main change that former students may notice is that from time to time you'll be working on your own--or in pairs or groups--without constant direction from any teacher. This is a deliberate push to train you to become more independent learners. The aim is for us to train you ideally to become your own teacher. That way you will have the skills to be able to continue to improve after your semester (or year) ends. Think: 'Lifelong Learning'!

Something else we are going to do more of is to tailor our teaching to your needs. All students are not the same, and they are not at the same point. It is important to work out where each student is before being able to decide where to proceed. To facilitate that, we need to work out what your needs are, and what your preferences are concerning your learning style. Evaluation will periodically be carried out . For each of you we will draw up an IDP (Individual Development Plan) used to determine what work you could include in your portfolio and how best you could work on self-directed study.


Our room for most of the week will be H112. However, on Wednesday afternoons another class will be using that room, so from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. we will move to D201 in Semester 1 (H208A in Semester 2).

On paper we will be working through these 'courses':
  • FN401001 Read extended information texts (Term 1)
  • FN308001 English exam preparation (Term 1)FN402001
  • Write a discussion (Term 2)
  • FN403001 Identify the ideas expressed in extended speech (Term 2)
I have yet to decide how to divide up the courses between morning and afternoon class. On one or two days a week--perhaps Mondays and Wednesdays--IELTS preparation classes will run from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. Attendance then is optional for full-time students. IELTS content will be provided earlier also so that no one misses out.

Traditionally, classes have conversation assistants come in for an hour per week. I will check with you, but I thought it would be better and more relevant to have graduates from previous years come in to talk with you (not to you) about what they are doing now perhaps at university or in the work force.

Course content:

Our entire programme will certainly be integrated. You shall be practicing all skills concurrently, not confined to one part of the programme or day. That includes Speaking, even though it isn't included as a separate 'course'.

There is no one textbook for our semester of work. I shall select material from a range of many textbooks. We will be using a wide range of authentic materials including magazines, newspaper articles, books, blogs, podcasts, tapes, documentaries et cetera. You will be asked to help select these. The worksheets that you will be asked to do may be generic, and be able to be applied to various texts.


Early on I shall provide you with a short list of dates when assessment will take place, approximately twice a term. In addition, all students will need to keep a portfolio of work. I shall tell you more about that in due course. To achieve a pass, students will need to meet performance criteria for both the assessments and and the portfolio.