Category: updates – A Writer’s Secret Weapon


In my 30+ years of teaching, I have only recommended a few products to teachers and students, and is one of them. I even use it myself. It is simply the best writing, grammar, and spell-checking tool to improve one’s your writing skills. I can save teachers AND students time in the writing almost anything: email messages, social media and blog posts, and academic paper. It can catch both basic errors (“they’re” instead of “their”) and advanced writing mistakes with vocabulary, tone, and plagiarism.

In the end, it can help people write faster and produce better papers (and better grades), and it can help teachers with their own projects, presentations, and class lessons.

Some of the best features of Grammarly is that it offers a Chrome browser extension so it checks your writing on the Internet (email, social media posts, etc.), and it can check your writing within Microsoft products such as MSWord.

The basic version is completely free and well worth using. Of course, if you need more features and advance writing feedback, then you can upgrade to their premium service which provides feedback on:

Writing fluency and vocabulary suggestions (if you are using the word “really” way too many times)

  • sentence variety so you are not just using simple sentences
  • common spelling and punctuation mistakes
  • the tone and formality of your writing generally need for academic purposes
  • plagiarism so you can make sure you are not copying the writing of others (a real plus for students)

So, which Grammarly should you get (free or the premium)? Well, I always encourage to sign up for the free service to test things out, and if you are really serious about saving time and improving your writing to the next level, then the premium service is well worth it. I have used the premium service myself, and I am a native speaker.

For complete transparency, I receive a financial incentive if you sign up for the service through the links on my site, and this is one way that I can support my work on my Web sites and Facebook Live broadcasts which are completely free to learners around the world. In the end, whether you use the service or not, I am happy that you have found my free Web sites useful since 1998.

Web Site Update – March 2021

Hi everyone,

Well, I don’t any of us anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic would still be a part of our everyday lives into 2021, but here we are. As I have done since the middle of 2020, I have continued to interview teachers from around the world on how to make the most of online teacher and learning, and that is my plan for the foreseeable future. It is just exciting to meet so many engaging and top-notch teachers who are making a difference in their classes.

After this broadcasts, I usually use the video to create a language-learning activity out of it. You can see some examples HERE.

In this broadcast, Elaine Oliveira and I talk about how to speak more effectively in front of the camera.

Web Site Update – February 2021

With the pandemic still raging around the world, it was difficult to predict how the first month of the year would unfold. Fortunately, I have had some deeply meaningful conversation with a number influential educators in the field of language education, and I enjoyed presenting at the Bolivia English Teachers’ Association International Convention.

New friendships have formed, and a whole host of ideas have blossomed.

Here are some of the broadcasts that I have done since the beginning of the year, and I will continue to create new content for my Web site based on this great interviews. I also produced a fun-filled episode with a teacher and her students from Tunisia, and I would love to do similar interviews in the future.

You can see all of my interviews on my YouTube channel HERE.

Web Site Update – January 2021

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Whew! We have finally moved on from the chaotic year of 2020, and I look back on the year with mixed feelings. In this video, I discuss what I have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic period (which still continues with us today), and outline some of my goals for the coming year.

Web Site Update – July 2020

Hi everyone,

June was a roller coaster filled with changes—mostly exciting and fun-filled moments.

On the negative side, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take is toll on the world, and people are suffering everywhere. My heart continues to feel pain for those who have experienced loss of life, health, jobs, educational opportunities, and the simply job and living.

That said, I have been busy working on some engaging projects in which I am trying to build new learning communities and opportunities:

1. I have started producing Facebook/YouTube Live broadcasts as a means of sharing ideas on language learning and teaching, and this includes bring on guests who have specialized in certain areas of the profession. You can see more about this HERE. These broadcasts give viewers an opportunity to comment and share ideas in real time as we learn together and build new online friendships and communities. Contact me if you would like to be on as a guest.

2. I have also started a new section of video activities based on these videos to give learners opportunities to practice their skills with longer, unscripted discussions and presentations.

3. I continue to build my Facebook and YouTube channel where viewers can find all of this new content in a familiar place.

4. I created a video presentation to help viewers learn how to control the playback speed of online video, including of content on my site, YouTube, and even Netflix, and this video discusses how to control the video window to make it easier to see as you scroll down Web pages.

This summer will certainly hold more surprises. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride.


Web Site Update – June 2020

Hi everyone,

I hope you are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic  in your personal, professional, or educational life.

One of the newest projects that I have been working on is creating live broadcasts through Facebook Live and YouTube. Keep an eye on my Facebook page HERE for upcoming events.  You can also see one of my latest broadcasts on my personal and professional life here.

Web Site Update – May 2020

As we move into late spring, the world is still battling the effects of COVID-19, and this continues to impact educational institutions at all levels around the world. The University of Utah where I teach will continue to hold classes online throughout the summer, and what might happen in fall is unclear. For my part with my Web sites, I invite and encourage teachers and students to make use them, for they never close. Open 24/7.

I wish everyone well.

Guest Posts on Online Teaching

In part of response to COVID-19, I have invited teachers around the world to share their experiences in teaching online. My hope is that such stories can help other educators see the possibilities in extending their teaching beyond the walls of the everyday classroom. In some posts, teachers have incorporated my sites into their lessons; in other cases, other online services and tools are used.

Feel free to send me your ideas if you would like to share.

Jose Montoya, Costa Rica

I have been working as a call center coach for about twenty years, and I also made my way up to ESL teaching about ten years ago. It was then that I found out your website; in fact, I’ve followed you ever since. I have used your dialogues and audios once and again with my students who are from all over the world. I love working with your site as all I have to do is to invite my pupils to enter one of the assigned pages so we start learning on it.

You might want to know how I lead learners within. Well, I created my own learning program called Immersion English (IE), and it is based upon the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Learners), applying CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) techniques and encouraging my students into critical-thinking principles. My learning strategy involves a sequence divided into stages that focus on pronunciation-Intonation, vocabulary review, listening and speaking, and finally writing and essay structures.

Your material is highly valuable at this point. I have my students reading the dialogues, playing roles, and then I drill out the texts to improve intonation and accent reduction. Then, we revise applied vocabulary, including those idioms, phrasal verbs coming into your scripts.

In general, your material has been quite useful and effective and fits in to my learning process. Thank you very much, Randall. On behalf of my pupils I want to express my gratitude for your wonderful work.

People like you is what the world needs.

Web Site Update – April 2020

Hi everyone,

Wow! It has been a significant period of uncertainty, anxiety, and loss–of life, employment, and security—as nations, communities, friends, and family struggle with the realities of COVID-19. For my part, I am committed to sustaining and enhancing my Web site during this period so teachers and English learners can find opportunities to improve their teaching and language skills. Here is my COVID-19 response to the situation in my area:

COVID-19 Response


May you find opportunities to support those who are most in need of food, shelter, friendship, and so many other daily necessities.

I have also received a number of questions about adding links of specific pages of my site within a content-management system like Canvas.
In other words, many teachers are now teaching online classes during the current pandemic of COVID-19, and as part of their teaching, they want to refer students to other online learning materials. Teachers often want to create lessons, and in those lessons, they want to point to a specific listening activity to which students can go outside of Canvas to practice their language skills.
This idea of posting direct links to my site is perfectly fine, and I give teachers permission to do this. In other words, teachers are not downloading my content and uploading to their Web sites or Canvas, but are simply putting a link in lesson to an activity on my site for students to do.
I also might suggest teachers review my Self-study Guide with organizes my listening activities by topic.
If you have an questions regarding this, please let me know.
I also would suggest talking a look at my other listening sites for more content:



Web Site Update – March 2020

Hi everyone,

As we move into the Spring here where I live, it reminds me of new life and growth, and soon, I will be working outside in our garden. Besides that, I’m seeing new renewed growth in some of the listening activities I have been working on with the help of family recently. My daughter, Emily, and I did some humorous recordings recently, and it seems like I always take the part of the man who never thinks carefully about the consequences of his choices. Oh well, someone has to take that role. These activities will roll out on my site in the future.

At the beginning of April, I will be presenting at the International TESOL Convention in Denver, and I will be giving a number of presentations, including one on improving listening skills. I will post notes about the session later on.

Finally, if you know of people who could benefit from my Web sites, please pass on the word. Even though I have been doing this for 22 years, I am always pleasantly surprised when I hear from someone who has just discovered my sites. I’m happy they have been of use to many people over the years.



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