Monday, June 30, 2008

Randall's Cyber Listening Lab

Another good listening resource is Randall's Cyber Listening Lab. These short conversations are organized into Beginning, Medium, and Advanced levels and each conversation includes a quiz. Scroll to the bottom of the main page and you will find even more vocabulary activities and quizzes. Here are some conversations keyed to the N-400 (most are Beginning Level).

Before the Interview
Introductions and Small Talk Quiz
Conversation Starters and Small Talk

N-400 Part 1 Name: Tell me about yourself

N-400 Part 2 & 3 Eligibility & Birth: Where are you from?

N-400 Part 4 Addresses & Phone: Phone Message

N-400 Part 5 Physical Appearance: Personal Security

N-400 Part 6 Residence & Job: Job Hunting

N-400 Part 7 Travel: Immigration and Customs

N-400 Part 8 Marital History: Wedding Anniversary

N-400 Part 9 Children: Family Activities

N-400 Part 10 Additonal questions: Traffic Ticket

Also check out Randall's other ESL sites:
Train Your Accent: ESL Accent Reduction Training
Daily ESL: Conversation Starters for English Students
EZ Slang: Speaking Effective English
Randall's ESL Blog - For ESL/EFL Teachers and Students
Study Abroad: Tips For ESL Students

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My students constantly ask me for more listening exercises. In my opnions, is one of most valuable sites on the internet. Checkout the ESLPod's Blog (especially the Life in the United States entries) and ESLPod's English Café, an audio series posted on Wednesday which covers current topics. You can download the mp3s or subscribe to ESLPod's podcasts for free. There are more than 300 ESLPod episodes, but here are a couple keyed to different parts of the N-400.

Before the Interview
ESLPodcast 28 - Small Talk About the Weather
ESLPodcast 44 - Making a Good Impression
ESL Podcast 300 – Arriving for an Appointment
ESLPodcast 94 - Nervous at an Interview I

N-400 Part 1 Name: ESLPodcast 95 - Nervous at an Interview II

N-400 Part 2 & 3 Eligibility& Birth: ESLPodcast 93 - Diversity at Work

N-400 Part 4 Addresses & Phone: ESL Podcast 246 – Understanding Addresses

N-400 Part 5 Physical Appearance: ESL Podcast 169 - Describing People’s Looks

N-400 Part 6 Residence & Job: ESLPodcast 92 - Types of Work

N-400 Part 7 Travel: ESL Podcast 191 – Changing Money

N-400 Part 8 Marital History: ESL Podcast 303 – A Traditional Wedding

N-400 Part 9 Children: ESL Podcast 136 - Having a Baby

N-400 Part 10 Additonal questions
ESL Podcast 364 – Filing Taxes
ESL Podcast 143 - Fighting a Parking Ticket
ESL Podcast 172 - Legal Problems
ESL Podcast 334 – Hiding from the Police
ESL Podcast 367 – Going into the Military

Saturday, June 28, 2008

VOANews: Learning English Podcasts and Videocasts

Special English TV
Each Sunday, five of our short features are broadcast on satellite television. Each feature is about four minutes long and has captions

15 Minute Features
People in America (Sunday), This Is America (Monday), Science in the News (Tuesday), Explorations (Wednesday), The Making of a Nation (Thursday), American Mosaic (Friday), American Stories (Saturday)

4 Minute Features
Development Report (Monday), Agriculture Report (Tuesday), Health Report (Wednesday), Education Report (Thursday), Economics Report (Friday)

5 Minute Features
In the News (Saturday), Words and Their Stories (Sunday)

Special English Radio: 30 Minutes of News and Features
Special English news and feature programs use a limited vocabulary and are read at a slower pace than VOA's other English broadcasts.

You can see more VOANews podcasts and videocasts here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

VOANews: The Making of a Nation Series

Every Thursday, Voice of America Special English News (VOANews) broadcasts a fifteen-minute program entitled, The Making of the Nation, a radio series about American history. You can read the transcipts and listen to the broadcasts here. Recent episodes have focused on different aspect of Thomas Jefferson's Presidency.

There is a special episode dedicated to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, perfect for Independence Day, the Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 26, 2008 Videos and More!

One of the best Citizenship resources on the internet is Christine Niven's There are photo essays, slide shows, videos, and puzzles keyed to the USCIS History and Government Questions.

Here is's new Fourth of July Fireworks video. Say the name and state of each city. Find each city on a map of the United States.

You can see all the ELCivics videos here. Congratulations to Christine Niven on another good job well done!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Don't Use Fireworks!

Many people celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks. Fireworks, however, are illegal in many communities. Check with your local police department whether it is legal or illegal for you to use fireworks.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the current Governor of California, is asking people not to buy or use fireworks. Read Gov. Schwarzenegger's 06/25/08 comments here and watch the 2007 video below.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dictation Sentences 96:01-10

USCIS S96:01-10

Here are ten sentences for reading and dictation. These sentences are based on answers to the USCIS 96:01-10 Questions. Instead of phrasal responses, the answers are given in complete sentences.

1. The colors of our flag are red, white, and blue.
2. There is one star for each state.
3. There are 50 stars on our flag.
4. The stars on our flag are white.
5. There are 13 stripes on our flag.
6. The stripes on the flag represent the first 13 states.
7. The stripes on the flag are red and white.
8. There are 50 states in the Union (the United States).
9. We celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July.
10. Independence Day celebrates independence from England.

You can use the S01-10 Dictation Handout when you listen to the S01-10 mp3.

Practice reading the sentences aloud, then ask a friend to dictate the senteces to you. For fun, read the answer first, then try to remember the questions. Asking questions is an important skill for Citizenship.

Get the complete set of the sentences here.

Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Champaklal and Savitaben Nakrani for the dictation idea.

Thanks to Teleen Santillan from the Colusa County Office of Education and to Thomas Donohue from Santiago Canyon College for reading the dictation sentences.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Humankind: A Union of Citizens

The USCIS revised the US History & Government questions (new USCIS 100) for many reasons. The two most important reasons for the revision are: 1) To make the test more relevant; 2) To inform new citizens of their rights and responsibilities (USCIS 100:48-57).

One of the most important questions of the new USCIS 100:

55. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?

The USCIS lists 10 possibilities (vote; join a political party; help with a campaign, etc), but there are as many ways to participate in the American democracy as there are Americans.

HumanKind, a radio show on National Public Radio (NPR), recently aired two 30-minute programs entitled, "A Union of Citizens." The show begins with the Oath of Allegiance and gives many example of how Americans participate in their local community. You can listen to a free 6 minute sample of the show; or you can pay and download the entire hour.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flag of U.S. Immigration: America's International Roots

While I was doing research yesterday, I came upon this most amazing flag from The Flag of US Immigration incorporates the flags of immigrant's countires, the number of immigrants from each country, plus further comments about immigration. Click the flag two or three times to see the flag full-sized.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spring 2008 Naturalization Ceremonies

USCIS hosted a special naturalization ceremony at the Home of George Washington. Acting Director Jonathan Scharfen administered the Oath of Allegiance and offered congratulatory remarks.

Black Anthem: Troops in Afghanistan Take Citizenship Oath Story

Boston Globe: Big Papi, pride of Sox Nation, joins US as a citizen Story Gallery Video

Cedar Rapids Gazette: A new chapter for 60 new citizens Story

LA Times: LA welcomes 18,000 new citizens, a city record LAtimesBlog AP Story

Mayor Many Diaz (Miami): Naturalization Ceremony The Mayor's Blog

Naples News: Collier hosts first naturalization ceremony in 25 years Story Gallery

Pittsburgh Tribune Review: 253 sworn in as citizens as part of Pittsburgh's birthday Story

San Jose Mercury News: Hundreds become U.S. citizens at Campbell ceremony Story

Santa Barbara Independent: Goleta’s New Citizens Just-Minted Citizens Cast a Vote for the First Time Story

USCIS: First Military Spouse Takes Naturalization Oath Overseas Story Gallery

USCIS: USCIS Welcomes New Citizens at the Home of George Washington Gallery

Washington Post: Judge Offers Lesson In U.S. Citizenship With Arlington Cemetery As a Backdrop, Ceremony Takes on Added Meaning Story Gallery Soldier's Mind MiliBlog

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The highlight of the CASAS Institute (for me) was three workshops led by different officers from the USCIS, with futher comments from CASAS representatives.

Big USCIS News
  • Available now: Scoring Guidelines for the English Portion of the Naturalization Test.
  • In July, the USCIS will be publishing new USCIS 100 Flashcards and supporting Quick Civic Lessons, with supplementary audio CD.
  • Also look for "The Revised Naturalization Test: Teaching Objectives: A Guide for Adult Education Civics and Citzenship Teachers of Immigrants Volume 1" (No document number yet--but downloadable soon).
Big CASAS News
  • CASAS is updating 963/964C US History & Government tests in support of the new USCIS 100 Questions.
  • Teachers: if you have already been teaching the new USCIS 100, contact your CASAS Field Representative about been a pilot site for the revised 963/964 test.
  • Plans are being made to make the revised 963/964C test available as an eTest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Citizen: My Sister-in-Law!

New Citizen: Guadalupe Gagliardi de Rios
Congratulations to my beloved sister-in-law, Guadalupe, on becoming a U.S. citizen! Guadalupe is originally from Mexico City and came to California in the early '90s. She married my brother, Gene, in 1995 and gave birth to their lovely daughter, Carmen, in 2000. Guadalupe, Gene, and Carmen now live in Oceanside, and I went out to dinner with them after the CASAS Institute. Guadalupe is pictured here with her US Citizenship papers and her new truck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Nation, Under CASAS

The US Flag flying over the CASAS Summer Institute at Town & County, San Diego

Greetings from the CASAS Summer Institute in San Diego. I attended a day-long workshop entitled "CASAS: Beyond Implementation for ELL/ESL". The workshop leaders talked about the relationship between CASAS Competencies (updated June 2008)and Basic Skill Content Standards for Reading and Listening.

Although the workshop focused mostly on ESL classrooms, the workshop information can be applied to Citizenship classes.

For example, when a Citizenship student takes the 973S (Citizenship Interview Test) and correctly responds to a question about their eligibility for Citizenship, they are demonstrating the CASAS Competency 5.3.6: interpret information or identify requirements for establishing residency or obtaining citizenship.

This Competency is further re-inforced when they take CASAS "Life and Work" tests (27R-187R) in which they identify various forms of ID from Social Security Numbers to Driver Licenses to Green Cards to a sign about Fingerprinting to a long narrative about voting (see sample tests).

Furthermore, the student is demonstrating the Basic Content Standards of interpreting simple (R4.6) and complex form (R4.7) and comprehending single-step instructions (L5.4).

Althought it wasn't discussed during the workshop, the CASAS Competencies and Basic Content Standards can be further strengthened if a school participates in CASAS EL Civics program, particularly COAPPS 40.6: Respond to questions about the history and government of the United States in order to be successful in the naturalization process. This COAPPS includes a mock Citizenship interview--a TREMENDOUS amount of work--but all the ESL students really benefit from interview preparation during which they must quickly master multiple language skills.

Although, it seems that the only thing more boring than taking a test is talking about a test, the information was quite interesting, especially the info about the new listening tests and etests (computerized tests)--no more bubbling, just click,click,click!

After the workshop, I wandered over to the Resource and Technology room. I was very impressed by the The CASAS resource QuickSearch lists more than 2000 print, audio, visual and computer-based instructional materials, and correlates them to the CASAS Competencies. I also reviewed the updated CASAS Bibliography of Citizenship Materials and took an CASAS etest. But I really got excited about the Reading for Citizenship Tests (951R/9512R,951RX/952RX) and will try to convince our school CASAS administrator to adopt these tests (see pg 28 in the CASAS Catalog).

I am really looking forward to Thursday when an USCIS officer from Laguna Niguel talks about the new 100Qs. If you have any questions, email

Final question: What does the acronym C.A.S.A.S. mean?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Marital Status: Bliss!

Gene & Elinor Gagliardi display an Anniversary Greeting
from the President and the First Lady,
given in honor of their fifty-first anniversary.

Over fifty years ago, my parents Gene and Elinor Gagliardi met at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana. They graduated on June 15, 1957, got married on June 16, and drove for the next four days across the country so that my father could accept his naval comission on the USS Hancock. Fifty-one years and five children later, they are still going strong.

Because I knew I would be out of town on their anniversary (I'm in San Diego for the CASAS Institute), I wanted to do something special for their anniversary. The White House sends special anniversary greetings to couples who have celebrated over fifty years of marriage. My father particularly admires George W. Bush, so I thought he would apppreciate this present. The White House also sends greetings for the birth of new babies, birthday greetings to people over eighty years old, and weddings greetings. See White House Greetings for further info.

It is also interesting to note that today, same-sex couples can legally get married in the State of California.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Good Idea!

Mr. and Mrs. Champaklal and Savitaben Nakrani practice for their Citizenship Interview everyday. They really enjoy practicing dictation and asked for an expanded set of dictation sentences. Their request inspired the creation of Answers in Complete Sentences to N-400 and USCIS 96 Questions.

If you have any good ideas for Interview practice, please share them with your teacher so that your fellow students can benefit from your great idea!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Answers in Complete Sentences to N-400 and USCIS 96 Questions

School's out! Here are some sentences for reading and dictation.

There are two sources for these sentences: the first set is based on routine responses to common N-400 questions; the second set is based on answers to the USCIS 96 Questions. Instead of phrasal responses, the answers are given in complete sentences.

Practice reading the sentences aloud, then ask a friend to dictate the senteces to you. For fun, read the answer first, then try to remember the questions. Asking questions is an important skill for Citizenship.

I will post an audio version of these sentences next week. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Milpitas Mayor Congratulates New US Citizens

On June 11, the VESL, GED, and Citizenship programs of Milpitas Adult School held a joint graduation program. Close to seventy-five students obtained Citizenship during the 2007-2008 school year. Here are some of our new citizens with the Mayor of Milpitas, Jose Esteves (far left). Several of the students had actually voted for him during the June 3 election.