Category Archives: Writing

The Hemingway App


Elisa started using The Hemingway App with some of her MA TESOL assignments, and thought others might find it useful.  Just click on “write”, copy and paste your text where the grey sample text is, and click “edit”.  It’s quite accurate, I found.

This would be useful if you have a story that you want to test with your students, or if you have a class that’s not following the curriculum normally.  You could also check the students’ writing so they can see what level they’re at (though I’d only recommend this for Levels 4 and 5).

As for writing like Hemingway… well, why in heaven’s name would you want to do that?!  Timothy Findley: we all want to write like Timothy Findley. 🙂

Hemingway App


Choose Your Own Adventure


Michelle found this site for writing your own “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.  We’re test-driving it.  If you want to test-drive it, too, let us know when your stories are finished so we can let our students check it out!

Fastcompany Choose Your Own Adventure Books

Learning Chocolate: Vocabulary Website


I’m not sure the kids will prefer it to chocolate, but Stephanie found a great site for practicing vocabulary.

Learning Chocolate has the typical vocabulary groups (weather, animals, clothing, action verbs) but it also has more advanced vocabulary such as hairstyles, Greek god symbols and internal organs.  Most of these advanced categories could be used to introduce vocabulary to the higher-level students, and then be used as speaking and writing prompts.   The best thing to do is to go to the main page and check it all out.

On the first page of each category is a list of about 10 words, with pictures and written words (go ahead and work on the students’ spelling).  There are also three “games”, the second of which usually doesn’t involve audio.  In any case, there’s also a cloze exercise (“fill in”) to do.

P.S.  If you end up with very difficult students (read: adults) who are floundering, you can also change the language at the top of the page: switch “use” to Chinese and “learn” to English.  We really don’t recommend doing this unless it’s absolutely necessary to get the student to understand, though.

David Suzuki’s “Connecting With Nature”


David Suzuki’s website offers a free .pdf download (176 pages) for educators.  You do have to hand over an email address, but the booklet is useful enough that it’s worth it.  You can get the booklet here.

Teachers with higher-level classes can use many of the pages as is for vocabulary, reading, discussion and writing.  Teachers with lower-level classes may have to adapt the activities and reading.  As well, some of the activities just won’t work for online schools.

The students are being taught a lot of this information in school; they will probably be the generation to make the most environmental changes in China.  A few of the older students are becoming quite passionate about the environment and enjoy heated discussions about one’s personal responsibility to the environment.

P.S.  Occasionally, there is an issue with Mr. Suzuki’s heritage.  I try to breeze over the matter by mentioning the multiculturalism of Canada.  If that doesn’t work, I point out that his family has been here for many generations (Wikipedia complies by providing such information).  This matter has only come up once or twice with older students, though.

K12 Reader


This is one of those websites that makes me grit my teeth; unfortunately for me, not all my students like the chaotic creativity that I do.  For my exceedingly pragmatic class, I needed a straight-forward (read: positively medieval) reading site.  I found one.

K12 Reader has all those things that no-nonsense people like: word lists, phonics, grammar, and rather unexciting reading passages with comprehension questions.  Grade One focuses on phonics and letter blends; the other grades focus on scientific and math vocabulary (and get rather in-depth by Grade 4).  The writing prompts are very clear, logical prompts that are used in the English classes in China: they’re also very good for oral speech prompts, to prepare for a GESE or the like.

If your students are looking for something basic, ordinary and straight-forward, this is the place to find it.  The site would be excellent for beginner classes, students with certain learning disabilities, or those who just don’t want anything too way-out-there at such a late hour of the evening.



I love having lunch with you guys…

Here are some of the websites that were mentioned yesterday:

Spelling City

British Council

North Pole (a Christmas site)


We were also talking about the music the kids like.  If you can get videos to work, you can play these things on YouTube; if not, you can just help them understand the lyrics.  If they know the song, even just reading the lyrics will help them with syntax, etc.

Michael Jackson – Kids of all ages listen to him: he’s a musical deity in China.  Try the popular ones like Thriller, Beat It, Man In The Mirror.

Avril Lavigne – Teenagers like her (but be careful with some of her lyrics).  Alice is a safe bet.

Justin Bieber – if you have a girl in your class, she’s probably a Belieber.  The boys like him, too.  Try Baby, Eenie Meenie and Never Let You Go.

Thousand Foot Krutch – they’re not overly popular in China, but one of my students got into them, and now the whole class likes them.  They’re a Christian group, so a couple of the songs might have one-too-many references to God but there’s nothing otherwise offensive.  Try Art of Breaking.