How to Pick a Good Novel When Learning English As a Second Language

Learning English through reading novels and books is one of the most rewarding methods available today. In a world filled to the brim with all sorts of literature, there really is no better resource to use. But you may now be wondering what makes a book the best choice for students who want to learn the English language.


A suitable ESL (English as a Second Language) book is both accessible and entertaining at the same time. The book must be both interesting yet easy to read, otherwise it will not be enjoyable for the student.


What Makes A Book Suitable For ESL Students?

It’s important to know and understand what qualities a book must have for it to be accessible and useful to an ESL student. The goal is to provide a novel or text that is easy enough to read, but also expands their vocabulary and their understanding of English. You also have to be aware of any slang, dialects, and cultural references made in the novel as well. For instance, a novel based in today’s modern world would be much easier to read than a story set eight hundred years in the past.


Here are a few qualities to keep in mind when selecting a book to read:

  • Choosing the right dialect

Deciding which dialect of English to use is one of the easiest mistakes to make. Depending on where you’re teaching English, it may be more valuable to the students learning to use American texts as opposed to British. For instance, if you’re teaching English in eastern Europe, it makes sense to use British English due to the proximity of Britain. However if you were teaching in South or Central America, it makes sense to use American English.

  • Consider the setting and background

You should also take into consideration the setting and style of the novel. Contemporary novels are much easier for intermediate ESL students and beginners due to their modern settings. The similarities between the novel and the real world will make it much easier for them to understand and follow the text. Historic fiction and fantasy books are recommended for advanced ESL students, due to their requirement of comprehension and imagination.

  • Does it have a movie version?

Choose a novel or book that has had a movie or television adaptation made out of it. Not only will the film make the text easier to understand, but it will also encourage conversation and discussion about the book.

  • Choose a real page turner!

Finally, choose a novel that is exciting! There’s nothing quite as bad as trying to finish a book you’re simply not interested in. If you’re learning English and the book you’re reading is boring, how are you expected to put the work in? Make sure the book is exciting and enjoyable, and it will become much easier to read and learn.


Some Suggestions For ESL Books

Now that we’ve covered what makes a book suitable for an ESL student, let’s look at a couple of examples for different levels of readers.

  • A Fault In Our Stars by John Green – Recently made into a movie, this book is set in a modern setting and is quite a simple book, while still being challenging enough to allow the reader to expand their vocabulary. An intermediate level ESL student should find this suitable, especially when accompanied by the movie.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B White – A classic story of how Fern helped save Wilbur from his fate with the help of a friendly spider. This is a great story that will keep younger/less advanced ESL students entertained and learning.
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl – Another classic, this book pushes the imagination a bit and does mix a small bit of fantasy into reality, yet the easy reading style is perfect for anyone learning English. Suitable for experienced beginners and intermediate ESL students.

Fluency in Reading Aids Comprehension

Green, pig, tree, pink – If you understand exactly what is meant by these four words even though they aren’t in the correct order, then you are able to comprehend what you are reading. By association and through memory activation, you know that green tree and pink pig is the logical order. Somewhat unconsciously, you have separated color from objects and linked them correctly. You understand what each represents, you know exactly what is being communicated, and you can create a clear picture in your mind of a green tree and a pink pig.

However, for some people who are in the early stages of reading development these associations are not automatic.

When you understand what you read, you are considered to have mastered reading comprehension. It sounds easy enough, yet can take years to master. Through deliberate learning and continual practice, the process of your engagement with a text will increase.

Without reading comprehension, words have no meaning and information cannot be processed or absorbed. Reading comprehension is one of the necessities of life required to help individuals get on in the world, as you need to master the ability to read and understand what is being communicated through the written word, as well as being able to speak it.

There Are Three Requirements Needed For Reading Comprehension

Three actions must occur simultaneously for comprehension to occur:

  1. First, a person engages with the sound pieces in a language.
  2. They then connect the letters and sounds to words.
  3. And finally, the person interprets meaning from the words they have read. This third component is the most difficult to master.

It is through active and long-term practice that a person learns to comprehend from reading and become literate, as they must learn to associate text with vocabulary. This journey of learning is rarely undertaken alone, and for optimal results will nearly always require support. From when a child is an infant, their parent is the primary educator and establishes the foundation that will be the critical building block for their reading ability and comprehension. School and university teachers continue to help children and young adults throughout their reading development stages.

Over the course of time, teaching more words with increased difficulty is the process that improves reading comprehension. This usually occurs as a natural process as individuals are faced with new words through education, courses, hobbies, and employment.

Fluency Is An Important Factor In Reading Comprehension

A fluent reader is a delight to listen to. They are capable of reading with ease, intonation, and expression, and at an appropriate speed. Many children and adults lack fluency in reading. It is difficult to improve this on your own, as you do need a role model to guide you in the correct pronunciation and inflections associated with the text. One of the most effective modes to teach fluent reading is to have someone else read fluently aloud, and then the other person mimics what has been spoken. Whether it is a teacher or through a learning tool such as audio books or online, there are many tools and strategies that can encourage fluent reading.

Seeking a guide for oral reading is the best way to obtain feedback from skilled readers. And the cycle of hearing, reading, and gaining feedback has a direct and positive impact on reading fluency.

Studies have shown that readers who are highly fluent even at the fourth grade level demonstrate their ability to group words into meaningful structures and read with expression. By contrast, low fluency readers at the fourth grade level fail to see sentence structure. Instead they group two or three consecutive words, and cannot make any connection or interpretation from them. They have no or little comprehension of sentence structure.

There is a definite link between reading and comprehension when meaning is taught, practiced, and these associations are made and locked into memory. Comprehension is required for an individual to fully function in our modern society, and so is an essential part of every child’s education.

Does Reading Make You Happier

What is the immediate image that comes to mind when someone says “Are you reading a book?” You see yourself lounging on the sofa or in bed, feet up, relaxed with book in hand. A few hours pass while you’re taken on an adventure to another world. Everything else stops, and reading becomes a form of meditation in itself. Time seems to stand still. Hours pass by as you simply relax, immersed in your reading. You like where you are, you feel calm, at peace, and happy.

Picturing this image is easy. Now ask yourself – when was the last time you did just that? For some, reading is a daily pastime. For others, it is a hobby that they never seem to find the time to enjoy.

There are so many reasons to read. For fun, adventure, pleasure, knowledge, to learn new skills or start new hobbies, for business, and education.

If you consider that reading is an experiential pursuit, then it’s time to make reading a new priority. Why? Because experiential items have been proven to increase your happiness over material possessions. An abstract published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology earlier this year summarises the results from three studies:

“Study 1 and Study 2 demonstrate that experiential products provide similar levels of well-being compared to life experiences, and more well-being than material items. Study 3 replicates this finding for purchases that turn out well. In addition, Study 3 shows experiential products, when compared to life experiences, lead to more feelings of competence but less feelings of relatedness, which explains why these two purchases result in similar levels of well-being”.

How Reading Makes You Happy

Reading takes you out of your daily routine, and away from chores and lists of what needs to get done. Rather than just taking 5 minutes time out, give yourself at least half an hour to get away from it all. Spend the whole weekend reading, and observe how much more relaxed and rested you begin to feel.
Reading takes you to another world – whether it be a place of adventure, romance, travel, culinary delights, or any other genre. The words stimulate your memory and imagination and take you elsewhere.
Your brain stretches as you go on your reading journey. You create images in your mind, or start thinking of new ideas and ways to apply the new knowledge to your life. As you learn about new topics, new memories and associations are stored in your brain
Reading is fun. You do not have to be reading serious or educational texts all the time. Every once in a while, choose books that are fun. Give yourself permission to play with your inner child, and reward yourself by simply being young at heart and reading for fun
Reading improves your literary and auditory skills. Your reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills will improve as a by-product of reading. Without even trying, your depth and breadth of certain subjects will increase. You will have more knowledge to engage in conversations and share what you are reading
Increasing your competencies in subjects such as art, literature, and history, you will boost your confidence and may find niches in which you would like to become an expert
Autobiographies, travel, and hobby books can inspire and change your life

Give yourself an inexpensive experiential gift – buy a book. The whole journey can be an adventure in itself. Visit your local bookstore and simply see which book jumps off the shelf at you. The smell, sight, and visual experience in the bookstore will already lift your sense of wellbeing. Take this exciting book home and allow your happy journey to begin.
If you can’t afford to regularly buy new books, then visit your local library where you can read and borrow books for free.

Make reading a new routine in your life and feel the difference. Take the time to observe your mood after and before reading, and see how this changes over time. Regular experiential gifts added to your life will improve your wellbeing. Stop doing, and start reading again.

Debunking Common Reading Myths

There are a lot of myths surrounding reading, and it’s time to bring the truth to the fore and settle these reading myths for good!


Myth #1: We read naturally – Reading is a learned behavior. It needs to be taught with deliberate intention and understanding in order for someone to attain the result of reading comprehension. It is a complex process with systematic learning used in conjunction with a fluent reader as teacher. Assigning meaning to reading is the most difficult learning of all. Leaving a child to read on their own with no assistance will not result in their ability to read or comprehend.


Myth #2: Once is enough – For fluent reading, repetition is required. When a child is learning to read they are bringing letters, sounds, and words together. They bring this together having been guided (taught) by a role model, usually a parent or teacher. They then associate words together, learn punctuation, and add tone for fluency.  The mentor helps them learn to assign meaning to the words and phrases, which needs to then be committed to memory. In early childhood development this process takes repeated effort.

Like most skills that become natural, practice makes perfect. As adults we can look back and think this is simple, forgetting how long it took us to learn as an infant.


Myth #3: Children understand if they can tell you something about the story – Engagement of any sort is a positive step forward. However, the question and answer technique can prove to be limiting. It is critical not to assume a child has full comprehension of a text because he or she can answer one or two questions. Opening a true dialogue for discussion is better than a Q&A technique to understand if they have reading comprehension.


Myth #4: Fluent reading = good comprehension – This is a definite myth. Too often a parent thinks their child has good reading comprehension when in fact what they have is the ability to read the words on the page. The hardest step of all is to assign meaning and extract information from text. Many children have learned to ‘get away with it’ because their reading sounds fabulous, if not advanced.


Myth #5: The words are too hard for my children – No they are not. The active child brain is a great problem solver. Exposing children to difficult words will add to their vocabulary in the longer term.


Myth #6: Word lists work – This old-school teaching method required that students find the definitions of a list of words and learn them. Each week a new list arrived.  However, out of context this method of learning provides limited to no value for a child. Learning and development methods today realise that words in context are required to provide association, and to move them into short and then long-term memory.


Myth #7: There is no fun in learning words – Gamification of learning is one of the best ways to help children – and adults – learn. Scrabble, Pictionary, crossword puzzles etc. all bring fun into the learning environment. The more fun a child is having, the more likely they are to remember the principles of the lesson.


Myth #8: My child is a late reader, but I don’t have to worry – Not true. Studies have found that of the children struggling with reading in Year 1, around 88% will still be struggling in Year 3. The consequential impact can be debilitating as they fall behind and poor reading performance starts to impact other areas of their life. Losing confidence or being shamed takes its toll. Early intervention is required to ensure a child has no medical reason for a learning development problem e.g. ear infection, deafness etc. Most difficulties in a child’s reading are directly linked to a lack of understanding of phonemes and phonics.


The first three years of school will be the most critical, and what has occurred at home prior to this will set the foundation for childhood reading comprehension. If a child has not had reading experience at home, good teaching in these first three years can slowly overcome the impact of this but it can be a difficult road for your child.

Breaking Down The Reading Process

visually and auditory

Students in the classroom take in information in two primary ways, visually and auditory. Listening to a teacher talk is auditory information, and reading is visual information. As information is received, students are required to process it. They need to hold on to the details, follow the sequence, get the main idea and exercise higher order or critical thinking skills (including drawing conclusions, making inferences and making predictions). Then, to convey that this processing is happening, they need to talk or write about it by answering questions or having a conversation. 

The information coming in auditory (listening to the teacher) is called receptive oral language. Information coming in visually (through reading) is called receptive written language. The information going out is either expressive oral language (communicating by speaking) or expressive written language (communicating by writing). This is the learning process that is expected of students all day long in the classroom. Students are assessed by how well they are able to take in information and how well they are able to express their understanding, either orally or in written form.


Breaking Down the Reading Process

If we break down the receptive written language process (reading), we find that there are several parts of the brain functioning at the same time. Scientific studies have been conducted where people who are good readers have been given fMRI scans of their brains while reading. It was found that several areas of the brain were consistently lit up, including auditory, visual and language specific areas. The same scans were done on people who struggle with reading and it was found that one or more of those same areas of the brain were not lit up. This means that people who struggle with reading may have issues with auditory processing, visual processing or language processing, all of which are needed for decoding written language.


Auditory Processing/Phonemic Awareness

When we say auditory processing what we are really referring to is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to discern the sounds and sequence of sounds within a syllable or word. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound, usually represented by one letter (e.g. /t/). Phonemic awareness is slightly different from, but related to, phonics in that phonics teaches the sounds that correspond with each letter, or letter-sound association. Some students might know their phonetic alphabet, yet still have phonemic awareness issues. For example, they might know that the letter ‘l’ says /l/, but can they discern or hear the sound /l/ in the word ‘split’?



Auditory processing or phonemic awareness issues affect decoding or what is sometimes called word attack. Word attack is what we do with a word we’ve never seen before. We need to separate the word into its phonemes, and then blend them all back together in the right sequence to read the whole word. This is called ‘segmentation’ and ‘blending’. A student with poor phonemic awareness and auditory processing may see the word ‘stream’ but read ‘steam’, omitting the sound /r/. If you point to the letter ‘r’ and ask what letter it is they’ll be able to tell you. Further, if you ask them what sound it makes, the student will also be likely to tell you /r/. But when you ask them to read the word again, they’ll still omit the sound /r/, because they don’t perceive that they’ve omitted that sound. The types of mistakes students with phonemic awareness issues include: 

  • Adding sounds that aren’t there – i.e. reading ‘sand’ for ‘sad’
  • Omitting sounds that are there – i.e. reading ‘steam’ for ‘stream’
  • Substituting sounds – i.e. reading ‘fell’ instead of ‘fill’
  • Switching sounds – i.e. reading ‘gril’ instead of ‘girl’

With phonemic awareness issues, students will inevitably resort to guessing within their vocabulary. So, for example, a student may see the word ‘complication’, but incorrectly switch letters in the middle syllable to ‘pil’. They therefore read the entire word as ‘com-pil-ca-tion’, and knowing that it isn’t a real word, they will guess a word they do know and may come up with ‘completion’ or ‘compilation’. Unless they have enough context to help them guess correctly, guessing will not only change the meaning of what they’ve read, it is also a lost opportunity for gaining new vocabulary. 

Another strategy students may attempt is to memorize every word. And as long as they have good visual processing skills, this will work well up until about 4th or 5th grade, when curriculum and vocabulary begin to get more sophisticated with more multi-syllabic words. Poor word attack skills at both the single and multi-syllabic level will slow down a student’s reading, thereby causing them to lose or forget information they’ve already read. So often we see students who on the outset have “comprehension” issues, when really their comprehension is being affected by their decoding errors, especially at the multi-syllabic level. 


Visual Processing/Sight Word Recognition

In order to develop fluency when reading, we begin to recognize words by sight, which means we don’t need to decode words every time we see them. Rather, we can recognize whole words and even phrases by sight. The way this memorization works is that we see a word a few times and it gets imprinted in the visual processing part of our brain. Then, when we see the word again, we have something to compare it to and that is how we recognize it. 

Students with visual processing issues have a difficult time with word recognition and memorization. The way this shows up is that a student will read a word in a paragraph but when they see the very same word even as soon as the very next sentence, it is like they’ve never seen it before. For a typical reader it takes 10-20 exposures to a word before it is recognized effortlessly, but for people with visual processing issues it may take more like 50 to 100 exposures.

Poor sight word recognition slows down reading fluency, because more often students are needing to sound out, or decode, a word. When reading speed is too slow, comprehension is affected because information is forgotten. Poor sight word recognition and visual processing also impacts the way a student spells, because without that visual representation in their mind of how a word should look, they have no way of self-correcting.

Sight word recognition is the basis behind the rote learning approach to teaching reading which is a memorization technique based on repetition. The downside of strictly memorizing words is that when a student gets to a word they’ve never seen before, especially long words, with no one to tell them what the word sounds like they may not have adequate word attack skills to figure it out for themselves.


Language Processing

When we’re reading text, there is a context to what we are reading. Understanding that context can help us self correct when we misread something. For example, if we read, “The dog ran out of the horse” we would know that this doesn’t make sense because of our vocabulary and the context. We infer that the word ‘horse’ should be ‘house’, thereby self-correcting. Essentially we are using our vocabulary and the context of what we are reading to help us read, which is fine if we only stumble over one or two words. 

This is the basis for the whole language approach to teaching reading. Whole language focuses on meaning and strategy instruction. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you read every single word correctly or not as long as you are getting the meaning. The problem with this approach is that if students are not recognizing several words because of poor sight word recognition, or they can’t sound out words because of poor word attack skills, there isn’t enough understanding of the context to help them self correct and their comprehension will be seriously compromised.


Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly and with good prosody. This in turn aids our ability to focus on the reason we read which is understanding or comprehension. It is clear that reading fluency is optimized when auditory, visual and language processing skills are all used simultaneously. When we have good word attack skills, can quickly recognize sight words, and can use our vocabulary and the context to help us, we are on our way to fluent reading. 


Another Important Element In Reading – The English Language

Along with all the processing needed to be able to read, there is another element – the difficulty of the English language itself. English is difficult to learn to read because many words are not pronounced the way they are spelled, and there are many exceptions as there are spelling rules. 

Find out how Readable English develops the key reading skills while addressing the underlying issues of the English language.

Are You Sure You Know How To Spell?

How often do you question your ability to spell? And do you question if you got it right, but then not bother to check?

There are some common mistakes that people tend to make when spelling, and we’ve decided to clarify a few of them here.

To vs Too vs TwoTo is often used in conjunction with a verb or as a preposition, e.g. I was going to be late.

Too means to be in addition, e.g. I ate too much?

Two is the written form of the number 2, e.g. I need two ice creams.

Lose vs LooseLose is when something you have is gone e.g. it was sad to lose my job.

Loose is something that has a lot of room around it, e.g. my pants are very loose since I lost all that weight.

Weird vs Wierd – It is weird to spell weird, weirdly. The reason for this is that most people apply the widely-known rule of ‘i before e except after c’. Weird is one of the exceptions to this rule, but it’s still a common mistake.

Chose vs Choose – Choose is the present tense of the verb ‘to choose’, e.g. you often hear children asking each other “which lollies will you choose?”

Chose is the past tense of ‘to choose’, e.g. he chose to stay behind and look for his dog because it had gone missing.

Seize vs Sieze vs CeaseSeize means to take or grab e.g. they went to seize his passport when he got caught smuggling drugs. This is another exception to the ‘i before e except after c’ rule.

Cease means to halt or stop something, e.g. they were going to cease operations when the summer was over.

Effect vs Affect – The general rule is that effect is a noun, e.g. the effect was mesmerising.

Affect is a verb, e.g. his absence was affecting everyone’s ability to finish the project on time.

Definitely not Definately – There is definitely no “a” in definitely.

Weather vs Whether – One describes the weather outside when it is raining, sunny, stormy or hailing etc.

The other whether is used to describe a decision or comparison, e.g. I wasn’t sure whether to have salmon or beef for dinner.

Then vs ThanThen is used when writing about time, e.g. we went to the shops and then out for lunch.

Than is used to compare objects, e.g. his car had better fuel consumption than mine.

Moot vs Mute – This is a common mistake that makes people cringe when they hear or read it. The saying is “it’s a moot point”, not “it’s a mute point.

A moot point is up for debate or discussion because there is something unclear about the impact of it.

A mute point would technically be no point at all because mute means to turn off, refrain from speaking or muffle sound, or someone who is unable to speak.

Rein vs Reign vs Rain – As a noun, a rein is the strap that is attached to a horse’s bit. E.g. the rein on the horse still had to be tightened. As a verb, rein means to guide a horse by pulling the reins, e.g. he reined in his horse.

To reign is to hold office or rule as a monarch, e.g. the king held reign over England.

Rain is what falls from the sky, e.g. I can see the rain falling from the clouds.

Three examples in spelling that indicate contraction and possession:

Their, They’re and ThereThey’re is a contraction of ‘they are’, e.g. they’re late again. Their shows possession, e.g. I have their best interest at heart.

There is used when referring to a destination or an idea, e.g. I am going over there to buy a coffee.

It’s vs Its – The two rules here are that when you contract the words ‘it is’ you use it’s, e.g. it’s a pain to drive you home from work every night.

When you indicate possession you use its, e.g. its body was long, white, and powerful.

The reason this is confusing is because usually to indicate possession an apostrophe is used, e.g. the dog’s bone.

You’re vs Your – The two rules here again show contraction or possession.

You’re is used to shorten ‘you are’, e.g. You’re terrible.

The second example of your is the possession, e.g. your dog ate my dinner.

4 Common Writing Mistakes ESL Students Make

Everyone makes a few mistakes when learning to write English as a second language, and there are four errors that the majority of ESL learners make (even native English speakers are guilty of these).

Learning to spot and correct these mistakes will help your writing look more polished and natural.


1) Misuse of Articles

An article is a word that combines with a noun to show what reference is being made by the noun. There are only three articles in the English language: “a,” “an,” and “the.” There are two types of articles: indefinite and definite.

‘A’ and ‘an’ are indefinite articles. These are used when referring to anything that is not specific or known to either the reader or the writer. Indefinite articles are also used when referring to a noun for the first time in a sentence.

  • ‘A’ precedes nouns that begin with a consonant sound (e.g. a ball). Another example is that even though the word ‘university’ begins with a vowel, the ‘u’ sounds like a ‘y’, and since /y/ is a consonant sound you would say ‘a university’.
  • ‘An’ precedes nouns that begin with a vowel sound (e.g. an orange). Another example is that even though the word ‘hour’ begins with a consonant ‘h’, it is a vowel sound so it would be referred to as ‘an hour’.

‘The’ is a definite article, and is placed before a noun or adjective that is known to both the reader and the writer. It is also used when referring to something familiar to everyone in the conversation, e.g. when playing basketball, you would ask your friend to ‘pass me the ball’ instead of ‘pass me a ball’, because you all know that there is only one ball being used.

‘The’ can be used before a noun anytime after it has first been introduced with ‘a’ or ‘an’. E.g. Sam bought a hat while on vacation. He then wore the hat on his flight home.

‘The’ can be used in front of a singular or plural noun (e.g. ‘the bird’ and ‘the birds’), and in front of an adjective (‘the beautiful bird’ and ‘the beautiful birds’.)


2) Incorrect Capitalization

The first letter of the first word of every sentence should be capitalized, and the use of ‘I’ as a pronoun is always capitalized no matter where it appears in the sentence.

Common nouns such as ‘dog’, ‘car’, or ‘hat’ should not be capitalized unless they are part of a title or are at the start of a sentence.

Proper nouns are capitalized as well. A proper noun is more specific than a noun, and gives the real name of the person, place, or thing. They include:

  • Holidays e.g. Christmas
  • Books e.g. War and Peace
  • Companies e.g. Microsoft
  • Religions e.g. Hinduism
  • Languages e.g. Chinese
  • Institutions e.g. Oxford University
  • Titles e.g. Prime Minister
  • Names e.g. Sarah
  • Geographical areas e.g. Queensland, Australia.


3) Poor Punctuation

Punctuation marks include commas (,), periods (.), apostrophes (‘), question marks (?), exclamation marks (!), colons (:), and semi colons (;).

Punctuation marks always come immediately after the last letter of a word and are followed by a space. E.g. We went to a movie, followed by a late dinner; I had the steak and my date had the pasta. It was delicious!

  • The comma (,) is used to separate different grammatical components of a sentence, and is also used to sometimes indicate a pause in a sentence if it was spoken out loud.
  • The period (.) is used to signify the end of a particular sentence.
  • An apostrophe serves three purposes in the English language:
  • To show possession of a noun, e.g. the woman’s hat.
  • As a plural indicator for words ending in ‘s’, e.g. the boys’ night out.
  • In contracted words to show where a letter/s are missing, e.g. do not to don’t.
  • A question mark is used to show that a question has been asked, e.g. Why use a question mark?
  • An exclamation mark is used to signify excitement or or to show an interjection, e.g. Amazing!


4) Improper Order of Adjectives 

An adjective is a word that describes a noun, e.g. ‘purple flower’ or ‘nice house’. Adjectives are always placed before the noun, not after.

There are eight different types of adjectives for describing a noun: opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, and purpose. This is also the order they must be listed in when describing a noun. E.g.

  • ‘The cute (opinion), small (size), young (age), fat (shape), gray (color), mountain (origin), furry (material), therapy (purpose) rabbit is popular with the children at the hospital’.
  • ‘The big, gray horse’ is correct. ‘The gray, big horse’ is incorrect.
  • ‘The cute, young puppy’, as opposed to ‘the young, cute puppy.’

This is one that even native English speakers commonly misuse. In fact, not many even know the proper order of the types of adjectives other than as an instinctual use of the terms. Memorize the correct order as they are supposed to appear, and you will be miles ahead of them.


Be on the lookout for these common errors in your ESL writing, and you’ll be a pro at correcting them in no time!

Can Teaching Aids Help Students to Learn English?

To teach any language course, there must be five main components; students, a teacher, teaching materials, teaching methods, and some form of evaluation. Teaching materials include all kinds of resources that can be used to get the information across to the students, from traditional textbooks to a whole range of supplementary aids, including video and audio tapes, visual aids, computer software and games, to name a few.

Teachers will also use a selection of evaluation tools to check and assess learning, and provide feedback to the students. With such a great range of teaching aids available, never before has there been so many options for creative language learning, so there’s no longer any need for teachers to stick to the old fashioned method of only using a textbook.

When a teacher is making a decision about the kind of teaching aids to use in their classroom, they are usually faced with several options, from choosing a suitable published course, adapting an existing course, or making their own aids. While many courses still rely on the tried and tested method of delivering lessons with set textbooks as the basis of their language programme, teachers will usually adapt the content to make it more personal to their particular students by using teaching aids that have been commercially produced, produced by the institution in which they are teaching, or even by the teacher themselves.

A number of benefits have been identified for using teaching aids to supplement textbook learning, the main benefits of which are listed below.

  • Teaching aids make lessons more enjoyable, and encourage learners to participate more

By using a range of teaching aids, such as audio and video tapes, online news broadcasts, flash cards or computer software programs, learners are encouraged to immerse themselves in the language rather than just see the language as a subject to be learned from a book.

  • Teaching aids can be easily adapted to meet the needs of specific students

Sometimes the content of a course textbook will need to be modified as it’s not well suited to the current learners, perhaps because of their age, gender or their religious, social or cultural background. By choosing to use teaching aids to supplement textbook learning, the course can be more easily revised or adapted as the need arises.

In addition, aids can also be adapted to address the specific needs of a particular group of learners, such as helping learners who are experiencing problems with pronunciation.

  • It’s easy to expand the course or add additional material

Sometimes it may be necessary to expand on the course content contained in textbooks. When this happens, supplementary materials can be very useful, especially to provide additional practice to improve grammar, vocabulary or to enable the students to become more familiar with taking certain kinds of tests, such as multiple choice questions.

  • Aids can enable the teacher to link the lesson to the locality

Most textbooks are very generic. However, by using teaching aids teachers can modify the lessons to reflect the locality and its particular concerns and issues, making them of more relevance to the students.

  • Content can be easily re-organised

Rather than follow the exact syllabus in a course book, teaching aids give the teacher the opportunity to reorganise the order in which the course is delivered, and to arrange it in a more suitable sequence for their particular students. Equally, the teacher may choose to substitute some of the learning activities of a particular unit with some of their own, based on the teaching aids they have available to them.

  • Tasks can be modified

Teachers may want to modify some of the exercises and activities contained in traditional textbooks. For example, a listening activity can be created very easily using audio or video tapes, which the student can then download onto their computers or smartphones. These listening activities can be used in different ways to focus on a different aspect each time, or they can be used for personal practice.

  • The teaching aids can be made to be more directly relevant to the needs of the students

Teaching aids which are produced by a specific language institution or by the teacher themselves are more likely to be directly relevant to their students’ needs. Such aids are more likely to reflect local content, issues and concerns, while helping the staff who deliver the lessons to develop a greater understanding of what makes an effective learning aid.

While many text books can be used without the need for adaptation, most learners find it beneficial to have access to a range of learning mediums when learning a foreign language. By using teaching aids, it’s possible to give the students a more realistic experience of learning a language, thus helping them to acquire fluency much more quickly.


Get Ready for Your ESL Test with These 7 Study Tips

Studying for an exam or test can be intimidating, particularly if you’re an ESL student. Taking a test in another language is tough, but luckily there are plenty of ways to make sure that you really  know the material for the exam. Teaching yourself how to study and building good study habits are some of the best investments you can make, as we’re learning every single day.

Here are our 7 most helpful study tips.

1. Create a study plan and stick to it

When you’re facing something intimidating, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and useless. One of the easiest ways to get around this is by breaking everything down into smaller tasks, and the same thing works with studying. Break down everything you need to know into manageable study periods, and you’ll be able to accomplish everything you need to do before the exams.

Use a calendar to create day plans for studying, and make sure you stick to them. Habits are only created through repeated action.

2. Reward good work

When studying, it’s important to take breaks and give yourself a reward. If you know that you have a snack or a video at the end of the work period, you’ll find yourself motivated to work harder so you can finish the job and get the reward sooner.

This simple trick will help turn you into a studying machine. And if you keep your snacks healthy, you’ll be learning and taking care of yourself at the same time.

3. Use a timer

One of the more popular time management methods is called the Pomodoro technique. This method requires you to use a kitchen timer and work hard for 25 minutes. At the end of the work period, you can reset the timer for 5 minutes worth of free time, which acts like a reward. These 30 minute periods also work well with dividing your time between tasks.

4. Avoid distraction

This is the number one thing to avoid when studying. Distractions like cell phones, Facebook, television, and your friends can really hurt your work and studying efforts. It’s important to separate your study time and social life so you can get work done. So turn off all your devices, find a neutral location like a library, and get studying.

5. Answer practice questions

If your exam is question based, then you may be able to get practice versions of your tests. By working your way through mock and past exams, you’ll be able to see what kind of questions they are able to ask and how they want you to answer them. You’ll also be able to see what you need to work on.

6. Study with a group

If you’re struggling to keep yourself accountable, why not try studying in a group? If you’re all working on the same subject, you can discuss ideas, ask questions, and test each other’s skills. However, you do have to make sure that you’re with people committed to actually studying, otherwise you’ll find yourself easily distracted and off topic quickly.

7. Study tools

Make use of some of the best study tools available. For example, when learning English definitions you could create flash cards that have the word on one side and the definition on the other. Shuffle the cards and then work your way through them, pronouncing the words, defining them and then checking your answers. It’s the perfect way to memorise words and phrases.

When recapping subjects, chapters and lessons, create a summary page. A summary page is where you summarise everything that you learned during that period with only the need to know information. This way you’ll have a reduced amount of learning to do as you’ll only need to memorise the important things on the page.

So remember to study hard and make sure you do well on your tests and exams. Follow our study tips above and stick to a plan, and you’ll be doing well in no time!


Stress and the Flight-or-Fight Response

The body uses many instinctive mechanisms designed to keep us alive. One of the most impressive is the ability to quickly become supercharged in times of extreme danger. Our ancestors would have regularly dealt with life-threatening situations, like being attacked by a large animal, and would have benefited greatly from this survival mechanism.

When our brain detects danger, it floods the body with a hormone called cortisol. This generally prompts the body to respond in one of three ways: we attack (fight), we run away (flight) or we remain completely still (freeze). These days we don’t come across life-threatening situations all that often, but the brain isn’t good at differentiating between sensations linked to an extreme physical threat and sensations linked to an extreme emotional threat. When we experience stress, shame, fear, anger and other negative emotions, our brain can interpret this as extreme danger. 

Everyone knows that strong emotional reactions can pop up in any situation, including the learning setting. A student might feel intimidated and afraid if a task is too difficult, embarrassed if a mistake is made in front of the class or frustrated if a new concept is hard to understand. They might even become enraged if they put effort into a learning task and still can’t grasp it.

Any of these experiences can trigger a flood of cortisol throughout the body. While this mechanism enables fast, effective action when there’s no time to stop and think, it produces an utterly ineffective response when the exact opposite is needed. In this state, taking the time to stop and think clearly is very hard to do. Research shows that high levels of cortisol can impede our ability to learn.

When a student finds it difficult to read, they’re likely to experience emotional distress. This can produce a stress reaction before a class has even started, further hindering the capacity to learn, and a vicious cycle forms that stops some students from learning to read. They fall further behind their peers and catching up can seem an impossible task.

It’s crucial to structure learning experiences in a way that avoids triggering this unhelpful cortisol reaction. Given the inconsistencies and complexities of the English language, and given struggling readers might have low self-esteem around their reading ability, it’s no simple task to support students toward becoming fluent readers without activating a stressful response.

This is an excerpt from a short book written by the founders of Readable English, Ann Fitts and Chris Stephen, titled “Readable English: Why Learning To Read English Is So Hard And How To Make It Easier”. You can access the entire book from the Readable English website.