Editor's note: Susan Gaer was a professor of ESL at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education. She has been helping students and teachers use computers and the Internet since 1994. You can visit and participate in her web projects at http://www.otan.us/webfarm/emailproject/email.htm
Selections from the column archives
Collaborating on the Internet - October 2011 issue
Halloween is around the corner. It is one of my favorite holidays. If you follow all the steps here, you will be ready for a great Halloween. First learn about the origins of Halloween, and pumpkins at History.com. Watch a couple of videos there as well.
After learning about the history of pumpkins, you will want to buy one, and try carving it. Learn how to buy the perfect pumpkin at the following website.
The best day to buy a pumpkin for carving is one week before Halloween. I usually carve my pumpkin two days before Halloween. This way the pumpkin doesn't go bad.
So once you buy the pumpkin, the second step is to carve it. You will want to get a pumpkin pattern to help you carve the best pumpkin. Find templates and instructions for carving at
Now that you have your pumpkin, it is time to decide what you want to be for Halloween. The Costume Idea Zone has lots of ideas for making a low cost costume.
Finally after you have done all your research, read and learn vocabulary associated with Halloween from Pro Lingua.
Don't forget to buy candy so that you can treat the kids on Halloween night.
After you finished all these activities, see if you can answer these questions about Halloween.
1) What is the name of one Halloween costume? _________________
2) What is your favorite pumpkin template?______________________
3) What does the pumpkin symbolize? _________________________
Answers: 1. Varied 2. Varied 3. Human skull
Other links from October 2011 issue:
You can see the time-lapse video of Connecticut's largest pumpkin. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/24/giant-pumpkin-breaks-state-record_n_978404.html
To "carve" a pumpkin online, see http://www.onlinepumpkincarving.com/
DVD Review, page 7
King Memorial, page 8
Sports, page 8
March 2007 - About Clip Art
When you find a picture on the Internet, it is not always copyright free. What is copyright? Copyright refers to the legal right granted to the author so that others cannot copy that person's work. Most pictures on the Internet have a copyright and so legally you can not copy them to use on the web. There are pictures on the internet that are copyright free and you may use them on your webpage or other papers you write.
Awsome Clipart for Educators http://www.awesomeclipartforeducators.com/ has coloring pages, holidays and fonts.
School clip art: http://www.school-clip-art.com has clip art ranging from African American Clip art to Wrestling.
How do you use clip art? Once you find a picture you like, just right click on the picture and either Copy Image or 'Save Image as'. If you copy the picture, you can paste it into your word processor. If you save it you can use it in 'word' or on your web page. Just make sure if you save it to use, save it to a place you can remember.
When you use clip art on your webpage that is copyright free, please make sure to credit the location where you got it from. You can do this by adding a link to your page.
February 2007 - Making Games for Learning English
Playing games are lots of fun to practice English. Making games can be more fun and really help you learn English. One of my favorite game-making sites is http://www.quia.com. Although this site is only free for 30 days, many schools have purchased a year subscription for only $49.99. If your school has a license, you can probably use it to make your games. Ask your teacher.
Students of all language levels can make games on Quia. Here are the instructions to get your 30 day free trial. You must have an email account to sign up for the free trial.
1) Go to http://www.quia.com
2) Click on get a Free 30-day trial
3) Enter the information. Please be careful to make a password you can remember. Make sure "Instructor" is selected.
4) Click on Create my Account and you are ready to start making your games. You will see the following tabs: Classes, Quizzes, Activities,
Surveys, Files, Preferences
5) By clicking on the different tabs, you will be able to see different things to do. The games are in the Activities tab.
6) Click the Activities tab.
7) You will see an arrow for a drop down menu. Click on the drop down menu and you will see choices.
To see a list of games that my students have made, visit http://www.quia.com/pages/beg1.html
License: an official paper giving you permission to use something
Type a list of at least eight vocabulary words. Make sure you type each word twice. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Done
You now have made a game. You can either click on the Play Game Button or on the address link. Be sure to write down the link address for your friends to play. It is good for 30 days.
Many countries have a harvest festival. The festival in the United States is called Thanksgiving. It is a time to thank family and friends for having food and good health.
There are many interpretations of Thanksgiving. One interpretation of Thanksgiving is done as a short movie at http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/news/white/0,6258,551655,00.html Because this movie is on the computer, you can pause it, play it, or replay it just like on your VCR or DVD player. This allows you to listen to the movie many times. After you listen to the movie, you can take the quiz and see how well you understand it. If you don't understand it, listen to the movie again. You can even try using it as a dictation and write down what the movie says.
There is a nice website which also gives you a cultural history of Thanksgiving. http://teacher.scholastic.com/thanksgiving/
If you click on daily life you compare and contrast the life between the pilgrims and the Native Americans. There is also a tour of the Mayflower and a slide show about the first feast.
Send an E-card
Because Thanksgiving is a time to thank family and friends for everything, it is nice to send a greeting card. You can buy one to send through the mail or you can send one free electronically. All you need to send an electronic card is an email address. The following are popular electronic card sites:
Sending an e-card is just like sending an email. You have a TO: address, a FROM address and then you say something like Happy Thanksgiving in the MESSAGE. Try to send a greeting card to your teacher.
Thanksgiving is a time to eat. Do you know what to eat on Thanksgiving? There are many ways to find recipes on the Internet. My favorite Thanksgiving site is http://www.butterball.com If you click on Recipe, and type Turkey, you will get many Thanksgiving recipes.
I hope you now have many ideas to work on your English during the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you and your family have a healthy Thanksgiving.
Using the News Online
Learning how to understand the news in English is an important skill. There are many places on the Internet where you can learn how to understand and listen to news.
BBC Learning English: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/index.shtml) Although this site is in British English, it has news articles along with listening scripts so you can read and listen to the news at the same time. They provide vocabulary definitions and explanations for the language of authentic BBC news reports. There is a big archive of stories going back to 2001 and there are three new stories published every week.
ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/) CNN (http://www.cnn.com) and USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com) have videos and current news. There are lots of pictures and remember to use an online dictionary to look up words you don't know at Merriam-Webster.Com (http://www.m-w.com).
If you are interested in your local California news, you can find your local newspaper at http://www.usnpl.com/canews.html (for cities that start from A-M, for example Alameda) or http://www.usnpl.com/canews2.html (for cities that start from N-Z, for example San Francisco)
Four things you can do using the news to help you learn English:
1) What is the top news today on CNN, USA Today, ABC? Is it the same news or different?
2) What is the top news today in your local paper?
3) Pick one news story from one of the sites listed above, read it, and tell a classmate what you understood. Answer the following questions about it:
a. What is it about?
b. Where does it happen?
c. When did it happen?
d. Why is it news?
4) Watch a video and write down five words you hear. What is the video about?
August/September 2006 - Podcasting
by Susan Gaer
Vocabulary for PodcastingPodcasting: the downloading of audio broadcasts to the iPod, other MP3 players or your computer.MP3: audio common on the Internet. It can take larger audio recordings and make them very small. It is a very common with a lot of free players available online.Lyrics: words for songsDownload: to copy a file from the Internet or another computer to your computer.Stream: listen to the file on your computer but you don't download it. You need a fast Internet connection to do this.
Did you know that you can listen to ESL right from your ipod or other MP3 Player? There is a large listening lab available right on your computer. Many ESL teachers are podcasting English lessons on the computer. I am going to share my favorite ones with you.
Do you like songs and singing? At http://www.manythings.org/songs/. Charles Kelly has a "Learn a Song Podcast". On this site are songs and their lyrics that many native speakers of English know. You can listen to the songs as many times as you want.
If you want to learn jokes, Charles also has a site called Jokes in English http://www.manythings.org/jokes/. Again, the jokes are both written and spoken.
You can also read and listen to Archie comics at http://www.archiecomics.com/podcasts/. Download the learning guide to follow along with the podcast.
If you want to learn idioms and slang, visit http://www.englishcaster.com/idioms/. This site is for the more advanced learner and it is updated about once a week.
Read and listen to current news at http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/podcast.html. There is a new lesson each day and it is focused on the news for that day. You can download both the written and audio files to practice over and over again.
The Voice of America (VOA) has a entire site at http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/programs.cfm based on "Special English". You can either download or stream agriculture, economic and education news as well as listen and read American short stories and American culture. All this is done with a 1500 word vocabulary and read at a slower pace than regular news stories.
If you want to improve your English, make a regular schedule to listen to one of these podcasts a week. There are many to choose from. Have fun listening to English.
June 2006 - Collaborating on the Internet
Welcome! My name is Susan Gaer. I teach beginning ESL at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education and also teach teachers around the
For this first column, I would like to introduce you to my own website that I have used with ESL students from 1996. I have activities for beginners as well as intermediate language users. See http://www.otan.us/webfarm/emailproject/email.htm
Home Remedies Project: http://www.otan.us/webfarm/emailproject/rem.htm
Intermediate: Virtual School Project: http://www.otan.us/webfarm/emailproject/school.htm
Editor's note: Susan Gaer is a professor of ESL at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education. She has been helping students and teachers use computers and the Internet since 1994. You can visit and participate in her web projects at http://www.otan.us/webfarm/emailproject/email.htm