ESL Education — Resources for Teaching ESL

    In 2009, I wrote this for students in our ESL Class for Chinese grad students & professors:  If you want to improve any skill, practice is essential.  No matter what we do in a class, our time is limited.  Therefore, if you want to improve your English a good strategy is to do “homework” that is designed to develop your own skills of self-observation so you can “give feedback to yourself” on your own speaking.  Similarly, for listening you can find strategies that will help you learn how to understand others during the typical fast-paced conversations you hear in America.

    some things written by Craig Rusbult (editor of this page) are:  Strategies to Improve Your Speaking (with details & summary on left & right sides) and handouts for Conversation Skills and A Problem-Solving Approach to Pronunciation to help you learn Pronunciation Skills plus...
    Temperature Conversions from Celsius (Centigrade) to Fahrenheit, and vice versa
    American Football Explained with a 1-page handout.     { It's useful to explain football in the context of a “story” that shows why Americans find this game so exciting, and why I think that (compared with all other sports) football requires the most intelligent research-and-analysis in order to plan strategies and to make decisions in the battles of offense-versus-defense. }

    Here are a few of the many resources available on the web:
    Word-Pair Practice for Speaking and Listening: choose a lesson (24 are available), click Start-arrow, then Practice (listen and then you SPEAK) and take the Quiz (LISTEN, then choose which word was said).
    ESL Videos by Jennifer (with "English Pronunciation Lessons" and four other categories in Playlists) are very high quality.
    video about two types of TH (unvoiced and voiced)
    a pronunciation drills-page from Encarta

I.O.U. – These resources, and those below, were found during a quick-and-rough search that, even in 2009, was inadequate.  Later, I will do a search that is more thorough, to find resources that will supplement and/or replace these.

    CONVERSATION TOPICS — If you ever wonder “what can I talk about?” (in English or Chinese), LOTS of interesting ideas (in 140 categories, so there is something for everyone!) are at Conversation Questions;  and many other interesting ideas (for lessons, games, jokes,...) are in their top-of-page navigation bar.

    WRITING CENTER for U of WISCONSIN — high quality help from experts at UW: homepage & sitemap with information about classes (arranged by topic) & individual instruction (with 3 links to click + an Overview).

    DVDs:  Use these for practice so you can watch and LISTEN at a faster conversational speed.
    types:  entertainment (fictional drama), documentary, educational, ...;  movie reviews (of older “classics” with varying quality) not new modern releases.
    where:  Madison Public Library, UW Libraries (College or Memorial?), Netflix, retail stores, ...
    tips:  use subtitles in English, not Chinese, so you can connect what you know about reading English with what you're trying to learn about hearing English (and speaking it)  [but if you use subtitles, be sure that you depend on LISTENING to get the meaning, that you use the subtitles only for feedback, to check whether you are hearing correctly];  use the Pause and Rewind/Replay options [this can be useful if you listen and then, after a brief reversal-for-replay, check the subtitles to see if “what you heard” matches “what you see” in the subtitle-text;  or you can reverse this order by reading first and then listening;  these DVD features (subtitles, stop-and-replay) are advantages of DVD (or internet resources), compared with TV or radio.

    INTERNET RESOURCES FOR LISTENING:  a strategy of listen-and-read (or read-and-listen) also works when using Text-and-Audio with lessons (intermediate & with quiz & slow/simple & phrases for conversation) plus news stories [[these web-resources were moved, or removed, so later (iou) I'll find other sources for news stories]].

    Quiz about two types of TH (is it voiced or unvoiced?) -- but this is the only “pronunciation quiz” they offer;  it can help you understand the distinction between the two types of TH.
    When should you use the two types of TH-sounds? (voiced and unvoiced)
quoted from Doctor English"The difficulty however, is knowing when to pronounce the voiced or the unvoiced “TH”.  This depends on the position of “TH” in the word.  In the initial position, the TH is voiced in function words such as pronouns, articles, and demonstrative adjectives (they, them, etc.).  In the medial position, it is voiced when followed by "er" or a final silent "e" (feather, mother, etc.).  In the final position it is voiceless with one exception: "smooth". [or "breathe"]"






on paper



often scholarly * ;  visual (see with eyes)

through air



oral conversation;  auditory (hear with ears)


goal is to

goal is to
be understood

* scholarly reading/writing can be in journals or internet forums;
  and reading/writing is also used for conversation, as in emails


    comments, by Craig Rusbult, about sources of knowledge:  The ideas in my two handouts (re: pronunciation & conversation) come from a variety of sources;  ideas in PRONUNCIATION SKILLS are mostly “common domain” knowledge from a variety of internet sources (many saying the same basic things) plus my own ideas in the Problem Solving Approach to Improving Pronunciation;  CONVERSATION SKILLS contains “general knowledge” plus my own ideas, and it also summarizes many ideas from Barb Christensen (check her links above) as in her explanations for WHY it's useful to speak slowly.

This links-page for ESL (written by Craig Rusbult) is