Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Listen and Read Along Stories on Many

One of the most painless and effective ways that  I have found for students to improve their English quickly is by ´listening and reading along'. It helps them:

- expand their vocabulary
- remember common word collocations and phrases
- forge a link between how a word is spelled and how we say it in English

One of my favorite websites with this kind of free content is

Below is a screenshot of what students see - it´s pretty intuitive to click the play/pause button and watch the words scroll  by as they are spoken.

listen and read along - the Tell Tale Heart  

There are two ways to get to the part of the many things website with  the long list of examples of articles and stories with audio. (see screenshot below)

1. Go to the homepage for  

2.Click on  the top menu button, '' Reading (with audio)''
3. Click on ' listen and read along' from the drop down menu options.


1.  Go to the homepage for 
2. Look on the far right side for ' listening' and click on it
3. Select ' Listen and Read Along ' on the next page you see.

Some of the stories are on ' you tube', and they display the words that you hear in  karaoke - like, slow scrolling fashion, with the words being read appearing in highlighted form. Very easy to follow. But often blocked in private schools and in some countries, or problematic if the internet connection drops a lot.

 Other stories, like the one shows in the screenshot above, are done by 'telepromter' which is a lower tech version of the same thing. The sentence(s) being read show up at the bottom, and disappear after having been read.

 Here´s the direct link to the full transcript of the story --- useful for the activities suggested below ---page on

that  you can do with the trancscript and audio of a 'listen and read' story:

- black out some words to challenge the students to listen and fill in the gaps
- cut the story into sentence strips that need to be organized into the original story
- list words on the board that the students my listen for and check off if heard
- give a list of synonyms for words and ask students to find words with similar meanings in the text.
- prepare the definitions for some words found in the text and ask students to match them to the term they describe that can be found in the text.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fast and Easy Crossword Generator - on

Here is the best free crossword generator tool I have found to date:

Here´s the breadcrumb: > printable worksheets > puzzle worksheets > crossword maker

And in plain English: Go to
and click on 'printable worksheets', then ' puzzle worksheets' and then ' crossword maker'.

What I like about it is that you can whip up crosswords in just a few minutes with this tool, and that they look nice and polished, like a professionally designed worksheet you spent hours preparing. This tool also automatically creates an answer key.

I also like that you don´t have to sign up for a user account with Teachers corner. You can just type, print, and go.

I recommend going directly to the 'crossword puzzle maker '. To do this, scroll or look far down the page, and look for this link:

This takes you to a new page. Scroll down the page to the form with blanks where you can enter your terms and clues.

The program takes care of organizing everything into an attractive crossword puzzle layout with clues divided between 'across' and 'down' in a printable worksheet for students (and a second puzzle of the same worksheet with all the answers filled in for teachers.)

I have not had luck using the ' save' options, which I found confusing to understand anyway. But you don´t have to ' save' to continue and generate a crossword puzzle on the fly.

After you enter your terms and clues, scoll down the page and look for the link to ' Make Crossword Puzzle' (you will find this at the very bottom of the page). Clicking this starts the process to generate your puzzle. Once generated, you can  print a copy using your browser options (or save as adigital pdf file if you have that option with your printer software). Once generated, the puzzle is ´forgotten' by the website and generating tool. It only ' lives' in your browser´s memory.

This means that you can´t go back another day in the future and re-print the same crossword puzzle, so make sure it´s perfect and prints out as you like before you quit your browser session ( don´t just save the file to print out later).

On my Mac, one of the options during the print process is to save the printout as a pdf file, which is handy for creating a master copy that I can re-print later on. But I noticed that some PCs and printers don´t offer this option, so you may just have a paper printout as your master copy to use later.

By the way, the answer key prints out on a new page automatically, even though it doesn´t look like there is a page break when you look in the print preview screen.

I have found that 18 or less terms using the choices in Georgia font, in the small or medium sized font, makes a nice, full page crossword puzzle. Anymore clues than that, or a larger font size, and you risk having the crossword spill over onto two pages. Of course, a lot depends on your printer, so do a test run and print out a copy BEFORE you close out of the sessionon or close down your browser, so you can go back and make changes and re-generate the puzzle as needed. This will save you from having to type in all the terms and clues again just to fix a typo or print layout issue.

Class Activity Ideas: 

This is really useful as a way to review vocabulary, and verb conjugations using gapfill sentence clues.

I like to do it as an in-class warm up activity when I know there will be a lot of late-comers to class, or as a fill- in activity to keep students busy when there is a quiz or test or writing activity that I know some students will zoom through while others take a long time to finish. Of course, it works as a fun way to do homework too!

I have used it successfully as a whole class activity, getting the students to come up and write the answers to each number across and down on the whiteboard, to give students who are poor at spelling another opportunity to practice. We corrected the mistakes using peer review. It was surprising how many spelling mistakes some students still made, despite knowing from the crossword puzzle layout how many letters each word had!

I hope you find this crossword generator as useful as I have!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Course Hero Flashcards and Interactive Quiz Tool

Course Hero The free flashcard tool on this site is really useful for teaching English either in - class (if you have a steady internet connection) or to email students a link to your flashcard set(s).
You need to register, but it´s free. And afterwards they system saves your flashcards so you can reuse them at will. I really like the simple, clean layout of the flashcards, and the intuitive 'quiz' options. There is an option to set up a timer, and clock the time taken to answer the questions that are randomly generated using your flashcard set, so it works as a classroom race activity ( if your internet connection is fast and reliable). There is no way to print the flashcards out, or embed them in a website or email, which are major drawbacks in my opinion. What I like the best is the clean, attractive layout of the flashcards and the incredibly easy and intuitive layout of the flashcard part of the site and quiz options.

Word Reference Translation Dictionary

This is my favorite translation dictionary because it is fast, free and easy to use, and is very comprehensive. I use it as a regular dictionary as well as for a quick verb conjugator look-up tool.

The basic and essential information is listed at the top and more detailed information is listed further down the page.

There are a lot of examples of how to use the word in a sentence, and common phrases using that word, near the bottom in the forum section. The forum is very active and a great place to post a question if you can´t find what you need in the dictionary from other people who speak that language fluently.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quizlet Online Flashcard Generator


Quizlet is a free online flascard pr ogram that lets you make and share sets of flashcards. This is a super language learning tool. This is one of the few online flashcard programs that I have come across that lets you print out flashcard sets for free, (creating a re-usable pdf file along the way).

 Or, you can embed flashcards in a website, like the example below.

I love that you can add photos and images to one side of the flashcard if you wish ( using free images in the Creative Commons associated with Flikr), or stick to text for both sides.

Here is how the embedded the flashcards (´learning' option)  look on a website:

You can share your flashcards, or other people´s sets, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media resources, or embed sets into your own website very easily (just copy and paste the code like a widget).

There are some games included in Quizlet, but I am not fond of the layout and my students found them to be cluttered and confusing.

The ' learn' and 'test' features are much more straightforward and easier for students to instantly understand and complete. I have used both of these features as a competitive game between two teams, and they were very successful as long as the internet connection remained steady. The students were bored of how the test always presented new vocabulary in the same way, so this interactive activity perked them up.

I didn´t like the 'export' feature - the layout was not attractive in my opinion- so I always use the 'print' options and save  the PDF file to my computer to show in class instead of print them out.There are a nice variety of print options available. You export the flashcards to your computer as a pdf file that you can print anytime you want.

Or, you can use other people´s flashcards.

Here is an example of a set of flashcards:  1000 basic English words, part 1:

Making drill practice fun!

This site is a dictionary with a twist, perfect for language learners.
It is a fast dictionary that helps you learn words you didn´t know before.

It is a fast and comprehensive dictionary, with explanations in everyday English instead of dictionary /textbook talk.

Also, it´s  a great word learning tool. The system somehow figures out your language level quickly, using fun multiple choice 'pop quizzes' that automatically appear once you arrive on the homepage.

Then it shows you words appropriate to your level thereafter, an easy way to expand your vocabulary.

The 'Vocabulary Lists' Section is very useful for teachers.

Teachers can set up a vocabulary list ahead of time and then use the ''spelling bee'' feature ( as homework or as a game in class if you have a steady internet connection) for a quick, interactive game.

I like how quick and easy it is to choose a definition appropriate for your class.

You can copy and paste list list of words (or words and definitions) into an email to send around to your class.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


This site is primarily for the teachers
at the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano y Cultura in Valparaíso, Chile, but all ESL and EFL teachers are welcome to use and comment on posts on this site.

And if you have a web tool or site to suggest, great! Please add a comment to let me know.

Marianne Graff
Site Creator
Librarian and ESL Instructor
(MLIS Librarianship, BA English Literature, CELTA designation)