Entries Tagged as 'Summer Activities'

13 Personal Projects Ideas for English Language Students

Personal projects are on the minds of so many students:  they are great for learning new skills, building up a college application, and beating summer boredom.  If you are studying English, here is a list of ideas that will promote your academic and cognitive growth and enhance your English skills simultaneously!

  1. Develop a scrapbook.  A page of programs, movie tickets, notes from friends, and logos that you like…that’s just the beginning of scrapbooking.  If you want the English practice, annotate your entries!
  2. Create a photo journal.  Make sure you take the time to describe your pictures.  Otherwise, it won’t be very good English practice.
  3. Write book reviews or summaries of poetry from English speaking authors.  This will expose you to different styles of writing, new vocabulary, and depending on the poetry, rhyming words to help with your pronunciation!
  4. Write a children’s book in English.  In the process, you could do research by reading some children’s books and learn vocabulary for popular kids’ games.  If you’re an artist, you can also illustrate it!  Double fun!
  5. Make a cookbook!  Translate your favorite hometown recipes into English.  Depending on your location and audience, make sure the measurements are in the right measuring system (English or Metric).
  6. Keep a travel diary in English.
  7. Design a vocabulary collage that tells a story.  RSA Animate has some videos for inspiration.
  8. Keep a Funny Tumblrof jokes you learn in English.  Tumblr is easy to use.  Just remember, it’s public so everyone can see what you post.
  9. Watch movies and write summaries and reviews of them.
  10. Organize a yard sale.  The more extroverted of you can organize a neighborhood yard sale.  This involves talking to people and describing the objects that are for sale.  Go the extra mile and really try to sell something by using persuasive language.
  11. Make hand-written cards and mail them to all of your English speaking friends.  Lots of people type fast and don’t care about their errors on social networks, but when you put ink to paper, you’re committed to what you write.  You will be more likely to take extra steps to make sure you are writing and spelling accurately.
  12. Volunteer. Have you ever heard that it’s better to give than to receive?  Give some of your time.
  13. Develop a campaign to educate the public about an issue.  You could tie this into the yard sale by taking the proceeds from the sale and donating them to your cause.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope it’s a success.  At the very least, these opportunities will increase your exposure to English, and that’s the real goal!



7 tips to brush up on your English after a long break

Somehow I doubt you’ve been studying all summer.  Losing track of your studies can happen to all of us.  Just make sure that you don’t lose any progress that you made before you went on break.  Here are some ways to brush up before the next semester:

  1. Organize last semester’s paperwork.  In doing so, review all your most recent class notes.
  2. When reviewing your notes, highlight and research what you may have forgotten.
  3. Visit some ESL websites and practice with online activities.
  4. Download English songs, and listen to them actively.  Sing along if you have to!
  5. Call your English speaking friends and ask them out to lunch or coffee.  I really mean call them – don’t just text.
  6. Rent all those movies you wanted to see this summer, but never did.  Practice listening independently – without subtitles.
  7. Try to obtain a copy of the new syllabus for the upcoming semester.  Even if the teacher hasn’t written a new one, a syllabus from a previous semester will give you some insight into what you will be working on.

In order to maximize your effectiveness in English communication, find a balance between verbal communicative English (speaking and listening) and the written word (reading, writing, texting, or clicking), and you’ll be up to speed in no time.

Awesome Resume Writing Tips

I’d much rather be gardening and planting that writing this post, or a resume for that matter.  Just as you may have just graduated and need to leave the nest, or lost your job and need to work hard to keep your nest egg, from wherever you are coming into the job market, it’s important to keep updating your resume.

I recommend the following:

  1. Resumes are like gardens that need constant tending.  Don’t let the weeds grow.  What might have been relevant experience 5 or 6 years ago might need rewording.
  2. Add annuals to your garden of experience.  Don’t lie, and don’t embellish, but what might have seemed like a one-time project can really add depth to your job description.  It’s not always about how long you did a job, but how successful your performance was.
  3. Be trendy.  Documents are like fashion…the trends change.  Don’t just update the content (what you have done/are doing);  make sure your style, font, and organization of information is in line with modern resume styles.  This is especially true if you have been in one place for a long time and are looking for something new.  It’s also important if you are older and looking to compete with a younger generation.
  4. Use the most accessible format for your document.  For example, I once sent a document in a PDF to New Mexico and was told to reformat it in Word because they “didn’t have that program.”  If you’re sending your resume to a different country, the standards for formatting might be more behind or more advanced than yours.   It might be worth looking into.
  5. Edit!  Please edit.  If u leaf at two you’re spill check, yule bee sari.

To the guy who inspired me to write this, and you know who you are, keep your spirits up!  The right job is right around the corner!

An all around good tool for English learners

I have always interpreted this song as it might pertain to students learning English, especially the younger ones.

I am posting this song for those of us who need an uplifting start to one of the last weekends of summer as the new school year looms in the near distance.  Sometimes you have a blank page before you, but you have an assignment to complete.  Where does your inspiration come from?

Open up the dirty window, feel the rain on your skin…are just a few of the suggestions from Natasha Bedingfield as she explains that this upcoming year or school year is the beginning of whatever you want your life to be.

If you like studying English in non-traditional ways, I recommend going back to the lyrics of the song and listen for the variety of verb tenses presented here.  How many can you hear?  The song also contains the passive voice, complex sentences, and English phrases that you adopt as your own:

  • Can’t read my mind
  • I’m just beginning
  • Staring at the…
  • Open up the…
  • Reaching for…
  • in the distance
  • So close…
  • you can almost…
  • No one else can …
  • Only you can…
  • The rest is…

If you really want to challenge yourself, go back and read the lyrics and count the missing apostrophes!

Have a great weekend!

4th of July Fireworks in Richmond, VA

The activities are family/child oriented, and there is usually a wide variety of things to do and see.  You can show up early for the party, or you can just attend the fireworks display (which is what I usually do).

This is a good list of fireworks locations in Richmond to find a display near you.  In case the link breaks:

  • DOGWOOD DELL: July 4th at 5 p.m. –  Byrd Park Carillon area – free.
  • FIREWORKS AT THE DIAMOND: Fireworks: July 1st, 3rd, and July 4th. Game at 7 p.m., fireworks after.  You can watch the fireworks without going to the game.
  • BRANDERMILL FIREWORKS: July 3rd –  Fireworks  – Sunday Park at the Swift Creek Mill Reservoir: 9:15 p.m.  Free.
  • THEME PARK FIREWORKS: Kings Dominion – July 3 and July 4. Busch Gardens – July 2 through July 4.
  • POWHATAN FIREWORKS: Hugenot Fire Department – July 3rd. Gates open at 5 p.m.
  • CHESTERFIELD FIREWORKS: July 4th – Gates open at 5 p.m., fireworks after dark.
  • FORT LEE FIREWORKS: July 4 –  Gates open at 2 p.m. Fireworks: around 9:35 p.m.
  • COLONIAL HEIGHTS FIREWORKS: July 4 at 9:15 p.m.

For fireworks information near Midlothian, try this link.

Richmond.com also has a detailed list which tells more of what to expect.

Happy Earth Day!

April 22 is Earth Day!  If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint in Central Virginia, and you’d like to start recycling, it’s easy!  Click here for a list of all the drop-off recycling locations in the area.

Here’s a list of other things you can do to help protect our planet:

  • plant a tree
  • use less water
  • walk or use your bike
  • throw trash in appropriate receptacles
  • recycle glass, aluminum, and cardboard
  • reuse plastic bags and bottles
  • use a computer to take notes
  • carpool
  • buy used furniture and other goods

Read this website for more ideas!

7 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

Here are some tips to follow as you work on your listening skills.

Listen:  7 Ways Listening 1&2

  • Download news or stories from the internet.  Keep them on your MP3 player and listen to them until you can summarize what you have heard.  Take it on a walk or listen while doing household chores.  Surround yourself with the language.
  • Listen to music.  Ballads are great for catching the sounds of English.  You’ll become familiar with stress patterns, how sounds are linked together, and how vowels are pronounced.  Singing along won’t hurt either.  You can also build your vocabulary by searching for the lyrics to any particular song.

Listen: 7 Ways Listening 3&4

  • Join a group.  Don’t just join a language group.  Join a hobby group (like cooking, dancing, or painting).  This way, you can practice English in a context that is unfamiliar.  Unlike joining a speaking group for ESL students, the instructor or group leader is not trained in ESL, and will, therefore, not accommodate your language needs.  Instead, you will be forced to pay attention (YIKES!).  You can still ask people to repeat if you are truly lost.
  • Find a sitcom and turn off those subtitles!  Sitcoms are great because the characters are more active and animated.  Also, this will give you a chace to connect words and phrases to images and situations.  If you read subtitles, your eyes are doing the work.  To train your ears, turn the words off!

Listen: 7 Ways 5, 6, 7

  • Go shopping!  I know you love to shop online, but eventually, you will actually need to go to the grocery store or Walmart.  The next time you go, practice your listening skills by choosing something to search for in the store.  Then ask an attendant where you can find that item.  “Where can I find lipstick?” or “Can you tell me where the pimento stuffed olives are?”  Listen carefully to the response.  Test yourself by seeing how fast you can actually find your way to that item.
  • Listen to lectures.  Local colleges often have lectures that are free and open to the public.  Visit one sometime and listen to the organizational patterns of speech (transitions, main ideas, support details, introductions and conclusions).
  • Join an exercise class.  At least three days per week, you will hear the same words over and over again.  This will also give you a hands-on opportunity to connect words to gestures or actions.  Repition is key.

After a month, you’ll look and hear better!

The Objects of Prepositions

Click here to listen.

Whether you’re learning English as a second language in a class, self-studying, reviewing grammar concepts, or studying in middle school, you need to know these little facts about prepositions…

  • Prepositions are a part of speech (examples include in, at, on, to, around, above, with, etc).
  • In sentences, they appear in phrases (aptly called prepositional phrases).
  • Prepositional phrases also contain a noun or noun phrase.
  • The noun that follows a preposition is called the object of the preposition.

You should know these facts for many reasons:

  • Objects can’t be subjects;
  • Objects of prepositions can’t be subjects;
  • Prepositional phrases might appear at the beginning of a sentence; and
  • No part of the prepositional phrase can be considered the subject of that sentence

Now, test your knowledge.  Decide which two of these sentences are correct:

  1. In the summer rains a lot.
  2. In the summer, it rains a lot.
  3. On the stove simmers my noodles.
  4. On the stove, my noodles simmer.


  1. In the summer rains a lot.  (Incorrect)
  2. In the summer, it rains a lot. (Correct)
  3. On the stove simmers my noodles. (Incorrect)
  4. On the stove, my noodles simmer. (Correct)

How did you do?  Just remember:  your verb will never agree with the object of a preposition because objects can’t be subjects, and verbs only agree with subjects.

Happy 4th of July

Click on this link for a fun site where teachers and parents can find so many crafts, projects, history lessons, and quizzes that help children develop and understanding of the 4th of July while celebrating it in a meaningful way.

Things to do in Richmond, Virginia this summer

There are many activity options for Richmonders, native and newcomers alike, this summer.  Try this list for some ideas…

Have fun, and if you see me there, stop and say Hi!