February – a busy month for reading material!

February is a busy month for events which come with a lot of reading material, from the serious to the fanciful. Valentine’s Day (February 14th) is probably the most well-known and commercially celebrated date in February, with numerous articles available online (click  here for one with cloze tests, comprehension and spelling exercises).

Chinese New Year’s day falls on February 19th in 2015 and again, there are numerous articles online (click here for the Sydney website for Chinese New Year’s celebrations). 2015 is the year of the goat, also known as the year of the sheep and/or the ram, and there is plenty of reading material available via Google.

World Cancer Day falls on February 4th (click here for a link) as does Pancake (Shrove) Tuesday (click here). ‘Darwin Day’ – celebrating Charles Darwin and his contributions to science and the study of evolution – falls on February 12th (click here).  On a much less serious note, National Tooth Fairy Day falls on February 28th (click here to find out all about it).


Happy New Year!

Wishing all our tutors and students a very Happy New Year, and all the very best for 2015. May it be a rewarding and productive year for everyone. For an article on New Year Resolutions – and how hard it is for most of us to keep them! – click here. 

Introducing another tutor resource

With thanks to Google search engine and Ron C. Lee PhD for the website, here is a new resource for tutors to explore!

All of the content on Dr Lee’s website is free to download and/or print (courtesy of some fairly annoying, pop-up advertising).

In the For Beginners section, you’ll find Super Easy Reading passages, plus audio and exercises, as well as Easy Reading passages and Easy Grammar exercises. Some of these are aimed at children, but not all – you’ll be able to tell by the listed titles/topic sentences.

In the For Intermediate Learners section, click on the English for ESL/EFL Intermediate Learners (1) and (2) for over 400 more short stories (again, titles are topic sentences) as well as audio and exercises for each story.

Note: This English as a Second Language resource website is US based, so the spelling is American as is quite a lot of the content.

Halloween is just around the corner…

All Hallows’ Eve, otherwise known as Halloween, is coming up on October 31. Whether people in Australia choose to celebrate it or not, most have at least heard of the day via a series of horror movies! Now widely celebrated  in the USA, the festival originated in the UK – it has both Celtic and Gaelic roots. For an easy-to-read article on Halloween, go to ESL Holiday Lessons on the Breaking News English Homepage, or click here.


Introducing another resource: English Language Partners New Zealand

Introducing a new resource: English Language Partners New Zealand

This organisation is the equivalent of the adult migrant home tutor program in Australia and its website is worth exploring. To do so, click here.


You’ll see a red ribbon tab running across the homepage below the organisation’s logo. Click on the first heading, LEARN ENGLISH and scroll down the drop down tab to the second last heading, WEBSITES FOR LEARNERS. I had trouble accessing quite a few of the sites listed – ‘page not found’/ ‘page redirect/reload’ responses – but found the ESL News New Zealand site both accessible and potentially very useful. It has some interesting articles (basic to intermediate levels of difficulty) plus podcasts, on a variety of topics. The most recent articles are listed on the right hand side of the page, as well as categories to explore with one easy click.


The second heading on the homepage tab, TEACH ENGLISH, has a list of TUTOR RESOURCES on its drop down menu that are also well worth exploring. You’ll find lots of worksheets on any number of topics, as well as useful pictures and some very practical suggestions.


Many thanks to Fiona Vatiliotis for bringing this website to LN’s attention.


Spotlight on BBC Skillswise


BBC Skillswise offers a wealth of information, tips and exercises aimed at improving an adult’s literacy skills. It’s one of the links available under Tutor Resources, and it’s well worth a look.


Once you’ve accessed the website via the Tutor Resources link, click on the ‘English’ box to view the headings for all the resources – Fact Sheets and Work Sheets – available. (One small caution: since the origin of this resource is the UK, all videos feature people speaking with English accents.)


The beauty of BBC Skillswise as a resource is that it is suitable for absolute beginners as well as more advanced students. Each section – Reading, Writing, Spelling, Word Grammar, Sentence Grammar – has options from ‘Entry 1 & 2’ for beginners, to ‘Level 1’, described as an ‘essential level for many jobs’. At every level, there are Fact Sheets with clear explanations and tips, as well as Work Sheets for practice and reinforcement. All Fact Sheets and Work Sheets can be printed by clicking on the printer icon, top right hand corner of each Sheet.


If you can, take the time to really explore this resource. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Breaking News English

 Breaking News English is one of the biggest resources available to tutors. Once you’ve clicked on the Breaking News English link, via Volunteer Tutors then Tutor Resources on the Literacy Network Homepage, you’ll find over 1,800 lessons and counting on anything and everything. From’Twitter in Turkey Court’ (April 5, 2014) to a ‘Toilet Theme Park in South Korea’ (November 11, 2012), politics, natural disasters, celebrities, forks which can apparently help people lose weight, Nobel prize winners to Academy Award recipients, sporting triumphs and debacles, royalty and romance, bullying in classrooms and cyberspace – the range of topics is enormous.

The most recent lessons are on the Breaking News English homepage: to scroll through the other 1,800 plus topics, click on the SEE ALL option to view more titles. If those don’t grab your attention as something that will interest your student, scroll down to the list of months and years (going all the way back to 2004) and keep clicking, month by month, for hours of enjoyable reading while you find something to inspire your student.

Lessons are graded ‘Easier’ and ‘Harder’, each comes with a two page MINI lesson download as well as a 26 page PDF, audio downloads (for MP3 players), and extra reading, grammar and spelling exercises (for which you’d ideally need the use of a computer/ipad during lessons, although you can print some of the extra grammar exercises straight from your computer screen). The 26 page PDF download includes the reading passage plus a variety of exercises: Phrase Match, Synonyms, Listening exercises (gap fills), Comprehension questions (with either multiple choice answers, full sentence answers, or both), Spelling, Punctuation and Guided Writing/Free Writing.

Breaking News English is a very handy resource, well worth the time you’ll take exploring it and all its topics.

Using BBC Learning English

You’ll find the link to BBC Learning English via the drop down menu on the Literacy Network homepage: click on Volunteer Tutor tutor resources, then scroll down to online resources and click on BBC Learning English.

The left hand column menu on the BBC Learning English homepage offers a variety of choices, from General and Business English to Downloads; however, not everything offered on the menu is actually available to download and quite a few options haven’t been updated for over a year. That said, there are still a few sections you may find very useful, as long as you have use of a computer/iPad during lessons. Note: Since this is a BBC service, all speakers on the podcasts have English accents.

If you click on the first option, General and Business English, you’ll find a number of subsets. The first of these, 6 Minute English, is regularly updated. Each ‘episode’ – and there is a huge number of them to choose from, as well as a wide variety of topics, so there’s every chance you’ll find something to interest/suit your student – has a script (text) and audio, both available to download. Level of difficulty is moderate. If you’re having difficulty downloading anything, you can click on the Downloads option on the BBC Learning English homepage for help.

The next option, English at Work, could also be very useful. There are currently 66 episodes listed to choose from, covering a wide range of workplace scenarios. Episode 1, which deals with interviewing for a job, is geared towards beginners, and the level of difficulty rises very gradually with each ensuing episode.

The fifth option under General and Business English, Talking Business, is similar to English at Work in that it deals with workplace scenarios, but at a slightly higher level of difficulty. For instance, Module 1Telephone – deals with everything related to telephone skills and extends Episodes 14-15 of English at Work. In all, there are 4 Modules, each with audio (podcast) to download, as well as text – ‘useful phrases and transcripts’ – to download/print out.

The rest of the left hand menu options are worth exploring if you have time (the How to… option under Grammar, Vocabulary and Pronunciation could be very useful for students wanting to improve their speaking skills, and each How to… module has a script available to download.)


Anzac Day, April 25

This year marks the 99th anniversary of Anzac Day. There are so many stories about Anzac Day, it makes another great reading, writing and discussion topic. As with April Fools’ Day, you’ll find the link to a Holiday Lesson on it on the Breaking News English homepage. You’ll also find a wealth of stories and images of Anzac Day on the internet. Stories of courage, tragedy, stories which put the human face on what is often described as the most important day in the military histories of both Australia and New Zealand, the tradition of  the Ode as well as the history behind the events which led up to the attack on April 25, 1915.

If you’re using web pages as the basis for your lessons, a reminder that Literacy Face to Face  has some helpful ideas on how to do that. The link to Literacy Face to Face is available via the drop down menu on the Literacy Network homepage: Volunteer tutors – Online Resources.