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English Detective #66 More Test Prep & Back to School, 8-2-16
August 02, 2016

I want to cover two topics this issue: the rest of my recommended IELTS and TOEFL links, and a couple of back-to-school writing activities for teachers with English learners in their classes. (See below the picture.)

In addition, I would like to mention a (temporary?) newsletter change back to one issue every two weeks (shorter, but with more vocabulary practice links than I have included lately-- after this issue.) There’s also a link to my page on best vocabulary strategies and a few questions about your experience studying it.

I’m so glad to be able to type normally again! The last issue was short, but it did have some useful links. Today I want to add a few more.

The official websites for the IELTS & TOEFL tests are linked from the English Language Test Prep page (at the very top of the IELTS & TOEFL sections). Here’s the link to it.

I recently found two highly recommended sites-- one on each test-- with lots of good free practice materials, videos, and explanations (in addition to personalized help for a fee.) If you are thinking of taking one of these tests, you might want to check out the relevant site.

IELTS Advantage has all the usual advice and practice pages (see top of page links), but I love THIS page. It suggests that the best way to get a high score is to read, write, watch, and talk about things you love-- in English-- as much as you can. That’s my experience too.

Notefull has great videos and explanations for the TOEFL test.

An Answer and Some Questions about Studying Vocabulary:

Several of you have written to me asking about ways to learn vocabulary, especially the academic vocabulary needed for tests like the IELTS, TOEFL, and SAT (and for university study and professional life in general.)

I plan to discuss vocabulary more in the next issue but wanted to add a useful link now. 10 Vocabulary Strategies gives a list of simple ways to increase your vocabulary. (You may have heard some of them mentioned in English Detective.)

If you are interested in more detail about studying vocabulary, please check it out.

The mid-August issue should have more about vocabulary study-- and some practice, finally.

Here are two ideas for teachers to introduce a mixed skill (reading/watching, discussion, and/or writing) activity to your new classes, from the New York Times’ Learning Network. The first might work with middle school up, the second (an op-ed) with older students able to disagree without too much heat. (Both would need some scaffolding for many ELLs.)

The first, on scientific study of odd animal friendships, has a cute video and slide show as well as an article. Partners or small groups could try to remember some of the animal pairings, and you could help them with the text about what scientists hope to learn.

Preview the second before using it. However, if you have fairly mature students concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement, Anger Has Its Place (2009) argues that angry black protests are the only hope to change the situation. He claims whites will just ignore police arrests and violence against even non-offending minority young men.

Students could have a debate or write argumentative papers about whether they agree or not. (Scaffolding could include phrases for argument like “I agree/disagree with the author because... In addition,/Besides,...” or “I partly agree because... However,...”)

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