Online resources for high-level English language students

Level: Advanced, CAE, CPE, CEFR levels C1 and C2.
Scope: late teens to adults.
Type: resources for self-study or homework.
Skills: listening; reading; summarising.
Language focus: vocabulary and grammar specific to the different resources.

Notes: I usually hand out copies of the list of online resources below to my higher-level students when they join my class. It allows them to choose their own homework and in-class activities based on materials they are interested in (as they choose which materials to work with from quite a wide range), and is thereby hopefully more motivating. The aim of the list is to preserve the students’ interest in English as a communicative medium, develop their vocabulary and grammatical ability through exposure to self-selected texts, and help encourage independent and self-directed study, so they can take their English where they want to.

Below, I suggest some activities for your students to choose from (though they may suggest many other worthwhile tasks) and list some online resources my students have enjoyed working with. All the website names are clickable, so you can see where they lead. I’ve also included the URL address after each one, so you can simply print this post out for your students.

Some ways to use the online resources below

Introduction

The ideas below can be used for self-study or in class. I also recommend starting a folder of online sites your students have found, together with their own responses to them, which could take many forms, such as:

  • comprehension questions they have devised for other students to answer (make sure they include an answer key on a separate side of paper!)
  • reviews of the site, or of particular pages they enjoyed reading or found useful or important
  • summaries of articles
  • critical responses to websites or particular articles, stories, essays, or poems
  • recommended online resources for further reading or investigation
  • stories, poems, dialogues, emails or letters inspired by or responding to the websites or some of their contents
  • emails or letters sent to the authors of some of the online content below, together with any responses your students or class may have received
  • recommended activities to use in conjunction with the online resource

You could organise this folder yourself (perhaps into themes or types of resource, as below) or in conjunction with your students; and you should make this folder available for your students regularly to get ideas from and to use, either in-class or for homework.

Seven ways of using these online resources

1. Summarising

Your students could produce a summary of any of the articles or interviews below. For an extra challenge, you could set a tight word-limit (of, say, 250 words) in which to summarise the main points. This summary could be written up and handed in for marking by a teacher (see here for some notes on marking students’ written work), or simply take the form of notes for a subsequent in-class discussion or debate.

2. Reviewing for other students

Your students could look at a few pages or posts on a particular website. They could review the site for other students (their review should go in the resources folder discussed above), perhaps based on questions like these:

  • What looks the most interesting or useful for language learners?
  • Are there any problems with the site layout or its design?
  • Are the articles easy to read or quite challenging?
  • Are the opinions given intelligent or quite childish or facile?
  • Do you recommend the website as a whole, in part or not at all? Why or why not?

3. Making activities for other students to do

This can be done with any article or interview. It’s worthwhile asking your students to draft an activity first, before getting feedback on it from you. Once completed, the activity should again go in the class online resources folder, for other students to try out, and leave written feedback on.

Such activities could include:

  • writing comprehension questions for their peers, based on the article
  • creating a crossword puzzle or wordsearch grid using words from the articles and definitions provided by the student
  • creating a writing task based on words or collocations from the article
  • creating a story-writing task based on characters in the article or interview

and so on.

4. Conducting further research

If an article or story is particularly interesting, your students might like to conduct further online research on the topic or writer. It is usually more motivating to have a specific aim for this research. The purpose could be:

  • to give a presentation on the topic or writer to other students in-class
  • to write about the topic or person for a class blog or magazine
  • to write about the topic or person for a private, English-language scrapbook or journal
  • to introduce both sides of a controversial topic for a class debate (though check the topic of the debate beforehand with your student, and make sure your class are all happy to discuss the issue!)
  • to portray a character in a class drama project
  • to (co-)direct a class dramatisation of a situation from the news or from history

5. Changing genre

Your students could rewrite the poem as a news article, or the news item as a radio play, etc. Or you could use the original material as inspiration for a short story, essay, and so on.

6. Writing a personal response

With opinion pieces or news items, you could ask for your students’ personal responses to them. These could take the form of opinion essays, poems, stories, or plays, questions or points to consider for a class debate, a comic strip, even a drawing or painting (as long as your students are able to explain what different aspects of their composition represent, either verbally [perhaps as part of a presentation to the class] or in writing).

7. Dramatisation

Your class might like to create scenes or even whole plays based on a particular text, or theme encountered via the resources below.

List of online resources for advanced English language students

Academic

Intute (links to lots of specialised and useful websites in various academic disciplines) – http://www.intute.ac.uk/
iTunesU – download iTunes then go to “iTunesU” or “podcasts” and browse their large selection of free online lectures in various disciplines.

Arts and Culture

Interviews
The Interview Online (audio and video interviews with authors, playwrights and other creative artists) – http://theinterviewonline.co.uk/
Voices from the Archive (BBC Interviews) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/audiointerviews/

Poetry
The Poetry Archive (contemporary/20th century poets reading their own works) – http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/home.do

Reviews
Time Out London (reviews, etc) – http://www.timeout.com/london/
Time Out New York (reviews, etc.) – http://newyork.timeout.com/

Short Stories
Classic Short Stories – http://www.classicshorts.com/
Short Stories at East of the Web – http://www.short-stories.co.uk/
The Short Story Library at American Literature – http://www.americanliterature.com/ss/ssindx.html

Books Online

Bibliomania (“more than 2,000 classic texts” to read online) – http://www.bibliomania.com/bibliomania-static/index.html
Google Books (to read online or sometimes download) – http://www.google.co.uk/books
Lit2Go (free audio books) – http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/author/authors.html
Project Gutenberg (out-of-copyright “classics” to read) – http://www.gutenberg.org/

Cambridge and IELTS Exams

Canada Visa surprisingly offer some free, online, practice IELTS tests here – http://www.canadavisa.com/ielts/free-practice-tests.html
Flo-Joe (general Cambridge Exams practice) – http://www.flo-joe.co.uk/
Academic Listening (advice from the BBC) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/talkaboutenglish/2009/04/090427_tae_al.shtml

Economics and Finance

Biz/Ed (business education) – http://www.bized.co.uk/
Economics eJournal (quite a bit more specialised than The Economist [below]) – http://www.economics-ejournal.org/
The Economist – http://www.economist.com/

Essays and Essayists

Arts and Letters Daily (some of the best new essays, reviews and articles from the English-speaking world; site updated daily) – http://www.aldaily.com/
Casket of Dreams (Nichola Deane’s essay, story, poetry and politics blog) – http://nicholadeane.wordpress.com/
Christopher Hitchens (Anglo-American polemicist and essayist) – http://www.dailyhitchens.com/
Clive James (Australian essayist) – http://www.clivejames.com/essays/
Clive James’ “Guest Authors” page (essays by various writers, selected by Clive James) – http://www.clivejames.com/guest-writers
George Orwell – http://www.george-orwell.org/
Lost In Showbiz (Marina Hyde’s excellent column for the Guardian newspaper) – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz

General and Business English

BBC Learn English – http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/
British Council Learn English – http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/

Music

boomkat (reviews and recommendations of more experimental contemporary music) – http://boomkat.com/
NME (UK-based music reviews and interviews magazine) – http://www.nme.com/
Resonance FM podcasts (London-based experimental radio channel) – http://podcasts.resonancefm.com/
Rolling Stone (US-based music and politics magazine) – http://www.rollingstone.com/
Spin (music reviews and interviews magazine) – http://www.spin.com/
Tune into English (downloadable worksheets and resources; requires log-in) – http://www.tuneintoenglish.com/

News

BBC Words in the News (news stories for English language learners) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/
British Newspapers Online – http://www.wrx.zen.co.uk/britnews.htm
Private Eye (UK-based satirical & sordid news) – http://www.private-eye.co.uk/
The Onion (US-based satirical and surreal “news”) – http://www.theonion.com/
Slate (US-based news and culture magazine) – http://www.slate.com/
Time Magazine (US-based international news magazine) – http://www.time.com/time/
World Newspapers in English (organised by continent and country) – http://www.world-newspapers.com/

Philosophy

Jonathan Glover, A Philosophy Website (well-known British philosopher’s personal site, for general reading) – http://www.jonathanglover.co.uk/
Philosophy Bites (“podcasts of top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics”) – http://www.philosophybites.com/
The Philosophers’ Magazine (interesting non-technical articles, very interesting games and activities section) – http://www.philosophersnet.com/
Philosophy Now (non-specialised articles from this magazine) – http://www.philosophynow.org/

Politics

Harry’s Place (“old left” blog) – http://hurryupharry.org/
The New Statesman (UK-based left-/centre-left magazine) – http://www.newstatesman.com/
Prospect Magazine (UK-based centre-left mag) – http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/
The Spectator (UK-based right-wing mag) – http://www.spectator.co.uk/

Science and Technology

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (US promoter of “scientific inquiry”) – http://www.csicop.org/
Scientific American (US-based, general interest science magazine) – http://www.scientificamerican.com/
TED (“riveting talks by remarkable people”) – http://www.ted.com/
The New Scientist (UK-based, general interest science magazine) – http://www.newscientist.com/

Sports

football365 (UK-based magazine) – http://www.football365.co.uk/
footymad (fans’ coverage of football news and issues affecting all pro and semi-pro UK clubs) – http://www.footymad.net/
Sport Magazines at world-newspapers.com (links to myriad sports mags) – http://www.world-newspapers.com/sport-magazine.html
Sports Illustrated (US sports magazine) – http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/

Travel

Lonely Planet (global news, reviews and travel advice) – http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
National Geographic (beautiful pictures, news and articles about animals, the environment, world travel and adventure) – http://www.nationalgeographic.com/
TimeOut Worldwide (find out what’s happening now in various cities around the world, read reviews of restaurants, plays, nightlife, etc.) – http://www.timeout.com/

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