ESL Listening Activities,

ESL Listening Activities, how to improve your TOEFL or TOEIC score?

“The TOEIC Listening & Reading Test is a two-hour multiple-choice test consisting of 200 questions evenly divided into listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Each candidate receives independent scores for written and listening comprehension on a scale from 5 to 495 points. The total score adds up to a scale from 10 to 990 points. The TOEIC certificate exists in five colors, corresponding to achieved results…”


On Reading for the TOEIC & TOEFL Test

Many students find that their reading speed is too slow for a timed test.

Most students don`t try to read quickly in English. When they do read they read for pleasure or trying to comprehend the English. Improve your reading speed in a few months by buying some easy graded readers by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press or others. They are available in bookstores in Japan like Yurindo, Kinokuniya and others. Just ask the store staff about easy books in English. Then choose a book you would like to read and read it without a dictionary.

Try to understand as much as you can without looking up words. After finishing the book, go back and learn the vocabulary with your dictionary. Write down the new words. There seems to be a connection between your brain, memory and the act of writing down new words.

On a timed test like the TOEIC or TOEFL test, you don`t have much time to read. You need to read and guess the meaning. Or hopefully read and understand the meaning quickly. If you need a lot of time to read a passage, you will not be able to answer many of the questions on the test.

For tests like TOEFL and TOEIC, the questions are for all levels of students. So some questions will be too difficult for you. When you see those questions, skip them until later, then go back and guess at the answers. You need to spend as much time on the questions that are easier for you to be sure you get the correct answer on them. You can always go back to quickly guess the answer for the difficult TOEIC or TOEFL questions.

ESL Listening Activities – Using English has a number of good exercises for improving your TOEIC listening:

Improve your TOEIC score

ESL Listening Activities – Alex Case suggests in 100 ways to improve your TOEIC Score:

“Study for exactly the test you are doing. Not only do you need to study slightly differently if you are doing the computer based test, but there is a chance that you could have to take the test as it was before the 2007 changes or the new style test- depending on whether you are taking the test in your company or in a test centre. Please double check before you buy an exam practice book and start doing practice tests. However, the differences between the versions of the exams are small enough that if you already have some materials for another version that you want to use before spending more money, that is no problem. ”

–Alex Case on Improving your Score

Why teach Listening and Speaking?

There are many reasons for focusing on listening and speaking when teaching English as a foreign language, not least of which is the fact that we as humans have been learning languages through our ears and mouth for thousands upon thousands of years, far longer than we as humans have been able to read. Our brains are well programmed to learn languages through sound and speech. This is not to say that reading and writing are ineffective, far from it, only to highlight the value of listening and speaking and point out that many studies have suggested that language learned through sound and speech is more readily acquired.

–Alistair Graham-Marr, Abax Ltd.

Learning English through Songs

Students love music! Learning English through songs is a great idea! If you play an instrument, you can sing and play and do a listening-close activity. Or simply you can play a CD.

Students can learn a bit of vocabulary, grammar, culture, while improving their listening comprehension.

Anytime you can make a practical activity fun, go for it!

To ESL Discussion

On Learning English

How to Improve your English?

How to be Bilingual?

We offer classes for the Eiken Test and TOEIC

Our Guest Houses

How to Study English

How to Study English

How to Study English while living in Japan

“For toddlers, learning one language is no more difficult than learning another…Even if the child doesn’t continue in the language, learning so young clearly stimulates brain activity.”

-Francois Thibaut, Founder of The Language Workshop for Children and a pioneer specialist in Early Childhood Education

Here is some advice for your students, or for you if you are a student studying English. (Note that at the bottom of the page there is a link to this same article in Japanese.)

Learning English while living in Japan is a very difficult thing to do. However it can be done. When learning English one must remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It takes a very long time to be able to speak well. Learning English is more like learning Classical piano than it is like learning how to ride a bicycle or how to swim. With swimming lessons you can see the results very quickly.

How to Study English

After only a few months or less, you can swim. English is very different. It takes years of English classes to become fluent. Arguably, English is the most difficult language in the world to learn, comprising the largest vocabulary in the world, and possessing a system of grammar that often leaves students and even teachers dumbfounded.

(Photo of prayer cards in Japan by Ian Griffin)

so that it’s interesting, informative and


English Lessons for You

Is a solid resource of content for English Lessons and valuable strategies for EFL Students, EFL Teachers and Childhood Education Learners. Video Tutorials, Plans, Worksheets and interesting information to enhance

EFL learning and teaching.

How to Study English

I digress, but in many ways Japanese is actually much easier to learn than English, the grammar rules do not change very much, whereas English grammar has many exceptions to the rule. If you are lucky enough to go and live in an English speaking country for a year, and study hard, speak everyday, and avoid having many Japanese friends while there, you will come back to Japan as a fluent English speaker.

How to Study English

Why is this so? Well if you simply add up the hours of English speaking practice–let’s say 8 hours of English speaking and listening per day, multiplied by 365 days, that comes to 2,920 hours of English for the year! Wow! If you go to a typical English conversation school, and you are a very good student and do homework each week, study each week, watch English movies, listen to English music, and read English books, and sometimes think in English when you are on the train or walking home, then perhaps you experience English for 8 hours a week, multiplied by 40 weeks (excluding holidays, sickness, class cancellations etc), and this comes to 320 hours of English per year.

How to Study English

To equal a year of living abroad, you would have to study at a conversation school and at home for almost ten years. This is probably pretty accurate. Language school students who do stay for 4 years or more, tend to be very good English speakers. The ones who have stayed 7 or more years are approaching the level of students who have lived abroad. I do not want to discourage students from studying English at a language school! It is a very good thing to do if you want to learn English and cannot live abroad.

How to Study English

It is also necessary if you are going to go abroad for a trip or to live. But you must realize that you cannot study for a few months and be a great English speaker. It just isn’t possible. Learning to speak English is more like an art, one which took native speakers a long time to master. Even North American children frequently make mistakes when they speak. Frankly, so do many adults!

How to Study English

Hopefully you are still reading this, and haven’t run away from the computer screaming about all the money you spent on English study! There are some students who learn English very quickly and become very good speakers, and even fluent in a short time. Just like the person who becomes very good at tennis, they practice. You do not need a fantastic tennis coach to be a very good tennis player, you do need to practice. The same rule applies to English study. Here are some habits of Japanese who speak English very well:

How to Study English – Advice

1. PARTICIPATE: When you come to class, speak up. Try to talk as much as you can. When asked a question answer more. ie) “What did you do on the weekend?” Answer: “Nothing.” Not only is this a terrible answer, you obviously lead a very boring life, and need to get out more! Better answer: “I went shopping in Odawara with my friend.” Also the teacher can’t correct you, if he or she can’t hear you. Speak up! Come to class on time, try to come every week. Borrow English study software, videos, and books from our libraries. Read English newspapers and magazines, especially magazines about the hobbies you like.

Try to really get into English, and make your home into a little Canada as much as possible by watching English movies, and using the English study software on your computer. Get Wow Wow or PerfecTV and watch as many English TV programs and movies as you can. I have mentioned this many times all ready, and that is because it is so important to becoming a good speaker and listener. In your car, listen to English cassettes which you can borrow from our schools, or listen to FEN radio AM 810 or InterFM, FM 76.1, both of these radio stations have a lot of their programming in English. Also, don’t give up! Our teachers would be glad to recommend study software for you, or a good listening cassette or book from our libraries. For Junior High School Students: Some of you need to leave the negative attitude at the door. Try to have fun, your teacher is.

You may not realize it now, but English is going to be very important to your future. If you plan to travel anywhere outside of Japan, then English really is a necessity. English is cool! If you can speak well, you will have so many opportunities that others will not.

It really is the world’s language, so you can learn it now, or you can learn it later; when it will be more difficult as you will be very busy working, and perhaps have children and other responsibilities. See below…. Listen to English music!

How to Study English

2. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME: When you come to class speak English. You can speak Japanese at home. Never use Japanese during class, and remind your classmates of this as well. When you finish a pairwork activity, this is a good chance to do free talk in English. Don’t waste your time by doing free talk in Japanese. Your Japanese is all ready very good! If you don’t know the English word, describe it or use gestures. Be creative! Do your homework EVERY week! Study the important points in your textbooks every week. For every hour of class time, you should spend at least one hour of home study to prepare for class. So three hours of classes per week equals three hours of study at home, plus you must do the assigned homework each week. No one said it would be easy! You can of course study much more than this, and this will increase the speed at which you become a good speaker.

How to Study English

3. PAY ATTENTION: Listen to other students talk. You can learn just as much from them as you can from the teacher. Look at the student who is speaking. Also, make eye contact with everyone when you speak, not just your teacher. It is rude to just concentrate on one person when you speak, you should make eye contact with everyone in the class.

How to Study English

4. THINK IN ENGLISH: By answering quickly you can train yourself to think in English. If you translate everytime, your English will be very slow, and your grammar will be bad. It is difficult to translate from Japanese to English and speak well–the languages are so different. Answering quickly will prevent you from translating into Japanese.

5. RECORD your English lesson and listen to it later.

6. PERSEVERE: Students who become good English speakers don’t give up. They continue to study until they master English. This may take a long time. But so do many things in life.

7. TRAVEL to English speaking countries whenever you can. It helps you to practice and it spurs you on to study more.

8. JOIN us for our school parties and events, and join some of the international societies in Odawara, Yokohama, and Tokyo. You can meet many people from other countries and practice your English. If you go to Kinokuniya Bookstore, they have many magazines in English. The Tokyo Journal and Tokyo Classified, advertise many international societies which you can join and meet others from other countries. You shouldn’t join just to practice your English of course. You should join a society in which you have a genuine interest.

9. JOIN our Kevin’s English Schools Online Community, it’s free! You can ask questions about English, post messages and have discussions in English. The more you practice your English either by speaking or by email the better!

10. MUSIC: Listen to songs sung in English. Sing English songs when you go out for karaoke. Above all, do your best to enjoy your studies, that way you will persevere and study longer.



246 Kamiasao, Asao Ku,

Kawasaki, Kanagawa 215-0021

Tel. 08010095581

Assistant Wanted to Help in Children’s Classes

Assistant wanted to help in children’s classes


To check homework, help with activities, deal with any emergencies, and help students during the classes.


1 Free English class per week.

By helping with our English classes you can study English for free!

Contact Us!

About Shinyurigaoka English Teacher, Kevin Burns

About Shinyurigaoka English Teacher, Kevin Burns

Kevin`s English School in Shinyurigaoka



246 Kamiasao, Asao Ku,

Kawasaki, Kanagawa 215-0021

Tel: 08010095581



My name is Kevin Burns, I am originally from Vancouver, Canada. But I have taught English in Japan for almost 30 years now. I look forward to teaching you English, and sharing some of my experiences in Japan and Canada. I look forward to hearing of your experiences in your life!

“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

– Confucius

I`ve enjoyed being an English teacher in Japan, and I have learned a lot about myself, Japan and Canada too. You learn so much from living and working in another country.

My three children are bilingual. I`m proud of them! I too speak Japanese, but wouldn`t label myself as bilingual. But I bumble my way through many situations, and manage.

At about seven years old I got the idea in my head that one day I had to go to Japan. I`m not sure why exactly, but I think I had been watching a documentary about Expo in Japan or the Olympics in Tokyo.

Life always seemed to lead me in the direction of Japan. My brother brought a very good Japanese friend home one day, her name was Kumiko and she was great! She was very kind to me I remember.

At 12, I played in a local tennis tournament and in the final I beat Ken Iwasaki, a Japanese-Canadian. He and I became best friends and I often visited his home, which was an oasis of Japanese culture. I enjoyed looking at their raven hair, and deep brown, almond eyes. I tried Japanese food and enjoyed looking at their souvenirs and furniture from Japan. It was all so different from my house.


I had always prided myself on being funny. It was who I was I felt. I dreamed of one day being a famous comedian like one of my idols, Steve Martin or a comedic actor like Michael J. Fox (also from the Vancouver area).

After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor`s degree in Theatre (minor in History), I pursued my dream of comedy dominance. I performed at Punchlines and Yuk Yuk`s in Vancouver, I was interviewed and did a little comedy on CBC radio and I made my (drunken) friends laugh!


Kevin Burns as an extra, in the movie, “Love is Never Silent”

I came to realize however that it was very difficult. At 24 I envisioned a career as a stand up comedian, traveling from city to city, performing in various comedy venues and making around 2,000 dollars a month. It would not have been enough for me.

I was a glutton for punishment. I founded the comedy club that went on to become The Tokyo Comedy Store when I was in my late 20s. But I got tired of the infighting of theater and comedy, and chose to concentrate on managing my English schools and teaching. The Tokyo Comedy Store continues until this day, giving English speakers a comedic break from daily life.


Pictured: Kevin`s Guest House, near Hakone

What I really wanted was a home (with a white picket fence), a kind, caring wife and children. I didn`t want to be out on the road all the time for work. I wanted a home. I also wanted the time and money to be able to travel when I wanted and where I wanted.

My wife and I built a Canadian house near Hakone, Japan. It is located in Minamiashigarashi, and we rent it as a guest house now with Airbnb. We also have another guest house in an American style cottage, also near Hakone.


Pictured: Merry Lue`s Guest House, near Hakone

I thought Japan would be a great base for my life and a good safe, place to raise children. Making my living in a pleasant, interesting and financially powerful country, and use that highly valued currency to travel in other countries, has allowed me to see and learn many things. I am blessed to have lived most of my life in Japan.

I find it puzzling though, that, although I speak Japanese, and I have lived in Japan longer than many people, – 29 years now. I am still called: “gaijin.”

Although there is ethnic profiling by the police at times, and some racism here and there- mostly comments about “how foreigners smell.” There is nothing violent fortunately. Japan is generally a great place.    Most Japanese don`t mind non-Japanese, and some love foreign people.

Teaching has been great in many, many ways. I have a good income and a lot of freedom to travel. I enjoy Japanese culture.
I love the architecture of old Japanese buildings, and many of the new buildings too. I love the subtle art of much of Japanese culture, for example: tea ceremony, or ikebana.

I also like the more astounding artistic aspects like kimono or yukata, and some of the amazing paintings Japanese artists have done.

I enjoy Japanese food too!  The food is good, healthy and even looks nice!

As for literature, I love Haruki Murakami. But I want to read many more books by Japanese authors.

This may sound strange to you, but I really like the cleanliness of Japan and Japanese people.   Japanese tend to bathe everyday, they dress nicely, they take off their shoes at the door, and they value keeping things neat and tidy.  I admire that.

While working for Columbia College during the summers off from  university, I had the pleasure of getting to know hundreds of  Japanese students. I found them charming and again Japan kept calling to me.

I talked with everyone I knew who had ever lived and taught in  Japan. I got to know as many Japanese as I could in Vancouver, and then at 25 I decided that I would go to Japan and teach for a year. But I never left!

I taught at St. Mary`s College in Nagoya, ECC in Shibuya, Hon Atsugi, Fujisawa and Machida.  I also taught at the Machida YMCA.

One of my tenets through life has always been to try as much as possible to work smart. What I mean is, work hard but do not only live to work. Maximise your time at work and at play. As well, I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed my job. So I feel lucky to be an English teacher. And a guest house owner/manager.   That is why I started Kevin`s English Schools.

Teaching ironically is full of comedic opportunities. So now I am paid to be a funny teacher. I really enjoy it! I try to be funny when I write too. I have taught at Keio SFC. Now I teach at Komazawa Women`s University (Komajo), and I have taught at Tokai University for many years now.

I am a fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer and he has always striven to have more and more freedom in his life. Freedom in what he chooses to do, and financial freedom. That is the reason I started Kevin`s English Schools, Kevin`s Guest House and Merry Lue`s Guest House. I hope to make money from YouTube as well.   My friend Eric Berg, is doing just that, making money from his YouTube channel EricSurf6.   I admire him!

Teaching in Japan can be quite lucrative once you are here for a while. It is also very lucrative in terms of giving you a good life and free time for yourself. But a caveat: Certainly not lucrative like a doctor or a lawyer. But it is lucrative in time off I would say. Especially if you teach at a university, you can be blessed with time to enjoy life if you choose to be a part-time teacher.

Our fast paced, fast food society is so time-demanding. I look all around me and see many people working overtime at jobs they don`t really like. Does this sound like you? I hope not!

Some have stated either you can find a way to enjoy your job (if you don`t), or you can find a job you love. Some say follow your passion. Others, follow your skill. I guess we each have to decide which is the best philosophy for ourselves.

It is a tough call that everyone has to go through. I think I will always be looking for new challenges.

I love writing, and I love helping people. I enjoy being funny and I can do that when I write or teach. I love teaching, and meeting many different people while teaching English.

I look forward to meeting and teaching you in Shinyurigaoka, Machida, Minamiashigarashi or Odawara.

Kevin Burns