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Scott Dreyer

Scott Dreyer

A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 01:19


This blog post is dedicated to all the brave souls who made D-Day a success on 6-6-1944, especially those who never returned home. 


Yorktown. Gettysburg. D-Day. 


These are some of the most famous and revered in American history. Yorktown is in Virginia, where the Americans basically won their independence from England. Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania; the battle was the turning point of the Civil War and helped the North eventuall win. D-Day was fought across the Atlantic Ocean from the US, in France, but it is a key time in both American and world history.  In fact, some have called D-Day, June 6, 1944, the single-most important day in the 20th Century. Why?


Where does D-Day fit into the "Big Picture"?


You have surely heard of World War II, that titanic struggle between the Axis and Allied forces from 1939-1945. The war began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked its innocent neighbor, Poland. The movie The Kings Speech is set at this time, when King of England had to tell his empire why Britain was going to war for the second time in twenty years.) Poland surrendered within a few weeks, and the next spring Hitler quickly took over Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and what had been considered a world power, France. The movies Darkest Hour and Dunkirk are set at that terrible time, May 1940, the time of the Fall of France. For about one year, Britain and its Empire basically stood alone, holding back the tide of the Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan. On the other side of the world, Japan was brutally attacking its neighbor China.  During most of 1940 and 1940, the Axis Powers took over more and more of the world. A turning point, however, came on December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, thus bringing in the United States and its great might into the war on the side of the Allies. Learn more about Pearl Harbor in our blog. However, victory was still far off.  With both the US and the USSR in the war on the Allied side, the tide gradually began to turn. The Russian Red Army was slowly pushing the Nazis out of the USSR. Still, most of Europe was solidly under German control. The Russians lost a staggering 20 million dead. The Allied leaders knew a second front had to be opened somewhere else in Europe, to relieve the Russians and start liberating Europe from the West. Since England was just across the English Channel from Nazi-held France, war planners decided to organize a sea attack across the Channel. D-Day was the code name for June 6, 1944, the day when that attack on the beaches of Normandy, France would begin and thus start the liberation of Europe from the West. 


What actually happened on D-Day?


Twelve nations participated in the D-Day landings, although forces from the US, Britain and Canada provided most of the effort.


The Supreme Allied Commander overseeing D-Day was US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who ironically had a German last name. It is hard for us to imagine the pressure he was under. Right before June 6, the weather in the area was very bad, with high wind and rain. Weather forecasting them was primitive compared to what he have today, but forecasts did indicate the weather might get a bit better. Some of Eisenhower's advisers suggested he postpone the attack, but others urged him to stay with the schedule. The Allies could not attack France any time they wanted: the landings had to be carefully timed to be a new moon (when the night was totally dark) and the tides were just right.  So, if Eisenhower had postponed the June 6 landings, they might have been pushed back into July. After hearing the contradictory advice on what to do, Eisenhower stepped outside his headquarters, looked at the sky, and made the fateful decision: attack as planned. In his two pockets he prepared two letters: one announcing that the landings had been successful, and the other announcing a failure. He would later decide which letter to release to the public, based on how the landings went. 


Ironically, the bad weather helped the Allies. The German commander at Normandy was Erwin Rommel, the so-called "Desert Fox." He had been away from his wife for a long time, and with the bad weather reports, Rommel did not think the Allies would attack then. So, he left his forces and went home to see his wife for her birthday; he wanted to surprise her with shoes he had gotten in Paris. (Paris was then under Nazi control.) So, when he got the news that the landings had begun, he was far away at home, in Germany. By that time, the Allies had controlled air superiority so Rommel was afraid to fly to Normandy. Instead he had to drive small country roads across North France to get his headquarters at the front, arriving at 10:00 pm on June 6. This is one of those fascinating "What Ifs" of history. What if Rommel had been on the scene on the morning of June 6, to coordinate the German counter-attack. Might the Nazis have succeeded?


While it was still dark in the early hours of June 6, many Allied soldiers parachuted or flew silent gliders into France, short distances behind the beaches. Their job was to band together on the ground to improve the chances for the soldiers to land a few hours later. Imagine the courage of those young men, parachuting or gliding into enemy lines. They knew if the landings failed, they would be stuck in enemy territory with no way to escape. There are stories of the paratroopers flying over the English Channel to France. They were so airsick and scared, many of them were vomiting into their helmets, and the planes stank. Many died as they fell behind enemy lines. Those who survived used little metal clickers that made a chirping noise like a cricket. Obviously the men had to band together after landing to improve their chances of survival, but they couldn't yell out in English "Hey everybody, I'm over here!" So instead they were to click their clickers to quietly help them identify each other and group up.



At 5:30 a.m., shortly after sunrise, Allied ships in the English Channel begin a heavy naval bombardment of the Nazi-held beaches. Seven battleships took part in the bombardment, including the USS Nevada. The Nevada was severely damaged in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese thought it would never see service again. On the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack, the navy band aboard the Nevada was playing The Star-Spangled Banner as they did their daily flag raising-- just as the bombs began to fall. That ironic moment is shown in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! Also, some 13,000 aircraft based at 70 airfields in Southern England flew missions across the Channel to bomb Nazi positions and cover the Allied landings. The Allied pilots feared what they called "the 4 F's."  They were Flak (ground-based anti-aircraft fire), Fighters (enemy planes), Fear, and Fire (if their planes were hit.)


There were a total of five beaches where the Allies forces made landings that day: code-named Utah and Omaha beaches were where the US forces landed, the Brits landed at Gold and Sword beaches, and the Canadians were responsible for June beach. See the map.  Soldiers crossed the English channel in ships, then moved into small landing craft like this. These small boats were to get within 50-100 yards (meters) from the shore, drop their front door, and let the men out. The men jumped from their boats into cold sea water that was waist- or even neck-deep. When you consider they were wearing heavy uniforms and carrying heavy guns and equipment, you can see why many foundered in the water and drowned before even hitting the beach. Once they hit the beach, many had to run across 100 yards or more of open sand to get to the sea wall or small hills of sand. The Germans were dug-in with concrete pillboxes and emplacements.


It is hard to imagine the courage those young men faced, on those open landing craft nearing the beach, under heavy gun and artillery fire, and then as the boat door swung down, they all had to scramble out, get across 50 yards or more of sea, then 50 yards or more of open beach, all while being shot at. And do you think many of those young men spoke French, understood French culture, or had relatives in France? Almost none! They obeyed the call to serve because they loved their country and the cause of freedom, and were willing to sacrifice their lives, not to conquer, but to liberate -- in their case, liberate total strangers. 


You can see an excellent timeline of key D-Day events here.


Some 4,413 Allied troops lost their lives on that single day, although historians still debate the total death toll.



 Why are there only a few photos from D-Day?

Robert Capa, a Hungarian-born photographer for Life magazine, went ashore with the first waves of soldiers at Omaha Beach. Amazingly he took over 100 photographs and sent them back to England for developing. Sadly, however, a nervous technician botched the job and ruined almost all the photos, so only about 11 faint images exist from the early landings. Read more here.  




How does D-Day relate to me?

Do you value your freedom? Do you live in a free country? Do you value freedoms of speech, religion, the press, voting, or bearing arms? We enjoy those freedoms and so many more, thanks to the brave souls who fought in World War II and at D-Day. No wonder those people are now called "The Greatest Generation." We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.  I may be wrong, but I think many of us Americans and people in the Free World are very naive about the reality of human evil. When we live in free countries based on the rule of law, representative democracy, individual liberties, etc., we are usually shielded from the worse excesses of human evil. Add to that the Judeo-Christian ethic that has helped create the moral framework that is a key basis of the Western World, and all this has helped create the wealthy, free world many of us enjoy today. However, these liberties have not always been enjoyed in human history. In fact, when you look at history, you will see that wealth and liberty are very rare. In 1981 I visited Europe for the first time, on a family trip to meet up with my brother who was on spring break from his Junior Year of college in Scotland. We visited the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, where the Nazis killed more than 41,000 innocent people, many at the hands of inhumane "medical experiments." In June 2019 friends in Nanjing, China took my wife and I to see the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. Many Americans have never even heard of the "Rape of Nanking," a months-long bloodbath when the Japanese army entered what was then the capital of China and committed untold acts of evil, but we need to know our history. As I often tell my stories, World War II and the Holocaust were not ended by a peace conference, a treaty, or a letter-writing campaign. It ended when brave soldiers and others gave their all to stop Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan by force. 




Why is the National D-Day Memorial in tiny Bedford, Virginia?


During World War II, the War Department often created military units from men from the same town or area. However, this had a huge risk. If one particular unit was in a dangerous place, then many of the men would be killed or injured and one small town would suffer a huge loss. That is why today, units are made up from soldiers from across the country, to spread out the risk. Company A lost 103 men on Omaha Beach on D-Day, 19 of them from Bedford. Another Bedford man was killed in Company F elsewhere that day. There were 32 Bedford men involved at D-Day, and over half of them perished. So, one one day, the tiny town of Bedford, Virginia with a population then of some 3,000 lost 20 men. As a ratio of population, Bedford had heavier losses than any other American community on D-Day. So, to honor that loss, the National D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, only a 30-minute drive from the world headquarters of  I still remember when the Memorial was being built: there were many fundraisers and many restaurants in Southwest and Central Virginia had a small box at the cashier so people could make contributions on the way out. The Memorial was opened and dedicated on June 6, 2001, and President George W. Bush gave the opening speech.  There was a huge push to build and finish the Memorial, because by that time, the D-Day veterans were in their 70's and many were leaving this earth. Visit the Memorial's website to learn much more about their work and D-Day.



How was the 75th anniversary of D-Day celebrated, and why is this year especially important?

June 6, 2019, the day I am writing this post, is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.  It is sad but true, the D-Day veterans now are at least 93 or older. This year's commemoration was called "The Final Salute," because this will be the last major anniversary where many survivors will be present. I watched the service online today. Remarkably, there were over 100 WW II vets at today's program. Near the end of the service, they came forward to receive a medal and handshakes for their service. Their name and places of service in WW II were called out. Many were in wheelchairs or with canes or walkers. Surprisingly, many though were able to walk well by themselves, despite being in their 90's.


It was an important event. US Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech. One of my sons called me about 9:45 from Bonsack, Virginia, saying he has been caught in traffic. At first when we saw all the police cars, 5 helicopters and stopped traffic, he thought something bad had happened. Then, he learned it was Vice President Pence's motorcade.  


Today's event case carried live by WDBJ Channel 7 and sponsored by F&S Construction, a  successful Roanoke, Virginia-based business with a strong commitment to positive community involvement. Thank you WDBJ and F&S Construction

Learn more:

Bedford Boys Hometown Tour how many casualties?


7 Surprising Facts

CBC News Learning Resources 


 Thank you for reading! May we never forget D-Day and the sacrifices of the heroes. Contact me if you'd like to know more or want to improve your English skills via online classes.

Thursday, 30 May 2019 12:44

Biographical Sketch: Change of Focus

In our Advanced Writing class, we are working on writing a biographical sketch. The textbook* gave us a list of several key events in the life of American pioneer Daniel Boone. However, writing an interesting biographical sketch is not just writing a boring "laundry list" of events. (Doing that can make it sound like you are writing an encyclopedia.) Instead, the challenge is to make the story engaging and readable, and one way to do that is to pick a FOCUS. The textbook* suggested one of these four themes to focus on:

  • Boone as a soldier
  • Boone as a hunter/explorer
  • Boone as a family man
  • Boone and the Native American tribes                                 


* Writing with Skill, Level 1, Susan Wise Bauer, p. 258.


Take a look at what this student wrote. He took the list of events from the life of Daniel Boone and wrote two sketches. Look carefully; which of the above four themes does Essay 1 focus on?  Essay 2?


Essay 1

Daniel Boone. A legendary man. A soldier and pioneer who left behind boundless legacies and served as an inspiration for many. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young boy, he was already familiar with firearms, having received his very own rifle at the mere age of 12. Time would prove how crucial his early mastery of firearms was to his later successes.

As time passed, it seemed he was born to be a soldier. As a young man, he had grown to become a man of remarkable stature-- broad chest, muscular arms, and a strong frame. He fought numerous battles and war, having actively participated in the French and Indian war and fought against the “Cherokee Uprising.” It was also during this time he married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan, and settled on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. For the young Boone, his life was full of nothing but hopes and aspirations.

However, during the aftermath of the Cherokee uprising, Boone was forced to leave North Carolina. Indeed, it was a difficult moment, leaving his house and past behind to face the daunting unknown. This turn of events, however, seemed to have presented new opportunities. In 1769, Boone decided to embark on a two-year expedition into Kentucky, which was then a land of wilderness. A true pioneer, Boone started a settlement. He was met with fierce opposition from the Shawnee tribesman, who deemed his action a transgression of the sovereignty of their land. After a lengthy conflict, Boone and his fellow colonists finally prevailed, allowing them to establish settlements for other American pioneers to reside in.

His troubles did not end after he established his colony, however, as Boone and other colonists still faced constant aggressions from the Native Americans. After the US gained its independence, the Shawnees allied with the British empire to attack Boonesborough, Kentucky, Boone’s settlement. During this fight Boone was shot in the leg, yet survived. With sheer grit and determination, the colonist once again prevailed.

Boone, in his middle age, was still keenly interested in adventure. He was promoted lieutenant in his local militia and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War. The American hero published the stories of his adventures in 1784, a culmination of his unique experiences. He later moved to Missouri, famously stating, “Too much crowded-- too much crowded-- I want more elbow room.” It was in Missouri where this legendary adventurer and brave man who seemed to defy all odds finally succumbed to father time. In 1820 he died at age 85. His legacy will live on forever.

-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan






Essay 2


When talking about legendary American adventurers, one cannot help but think of Daniel Boone. However, what most people do not know is that Boone was also a loving father and a considerate husband. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young lad, he had all kinds of dreams of exploring the unknown. Later, the determined Boone, a step at a time, fulfilled his childhood dream, traversing thousands of miles, fighting against different enemies, and most importantly, fulfilling his own destiny.

Boone was a man of remarkable appearance-- a handsome man with a muscular frame, always donning his favorite hunting attire. Despite his unprecedented achievements as a pioneer, soldier, and adventurer, surprisingly, Boone never neglected his role in his family. In 1756, Boone married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan and settled in North Carolina. He and Rebecca were eager to start a family. Not long after, they were blessed with their baby son James. Unfortunately, the eruption of the “Cherokee Uprising,” which ultimately resulted in Boone’s exile from North Carolina, signified the shattering of his dream of stable home life. However, Boone never gave up. Never did. Eager to find a new home for his family, Boone moved to Kentucky, an undeveloped land, but also, a land of infinite possibilities.

The start was difficult as Boone and his fellow explorers were met with hostilities from the Native Americans. Boone was determined to settle on the land with his family. During this period of time, Boone never faltered to care for his family and children. He, a wild spirit, “was compelled to take extended trips in his search for less-frequented places…. As early as 1764–65 Boone was in the habit of taking with him, upon these trips near home, his little son James, then seven or eight years of age. . . .Frequently they would spend several days together in the woods during the

autumn and early winter.” As a father, he was eager for James to grow to become a great man. His adventures with James culminated a powerful father-son relationship that transcends bounds.

Boone’s family was never short of challenges, but again and again, Boone seemed to defy all odds and helped his family overcome them. The single most challenging obstacle came at 1776, which is, ironically, the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence. Native Americans, furious at the colonists’ transgression of their hunting ground, decided to kidnap children, one of which was Boone’s daughter Jemma. A man of mettle, Boone did not back down, nor did he falter. He chased the Natives relentlessly and captured the girls back, saving them from a fate that might be too horrible to describe.

Boone, the legend, the explorer, moved one last time in his exhilarating life of adventure to Missouri. It was there where he finally passed away. Beloved by his family, admired by all, Boone closed his eyelids for the last time, at age 85, knowing that his legacy would live on for eternity.


-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan




Do you see the shift of focus? Essay 1 is based on "Boone as soldier." Tim tells us that in paragraph 2 sentence 1. Essay 2 is based on "Boone as family man," as we see in paragraph 2 sentence 2. 


Do YOU want to improve your English writing skills? Learn more here or contact Scott today to find out how!

Friday, 10 May 2019 22:52

Extended Metaphor

  • You are my sunshine.
  • He roared with laughter.
  • Variety is the spice of life.


What do these three have in common? They are METAPHORS. These, along with similes, are a great way to spice up your writing. (Actually, "spice up your writing" is a metaphor too!) A metaphor is a comparison between two people or things, without using the words "like" or "as." (In contrast, a simile uses either "like" or "as." English teachers will tell you, remember the "S" in "simile" and in "as," and that will help you remember the difference between the metaphor and simile!)


In a recent Advanced Writing class, the students and I looked as what our book called a "governing metaphor," or what some other people call an extended metaphor.  That is, instead of a single comparision, this is a metaphor that is referred to many times throughout the text. A famous example is one of the most widely-loved passages in the Bible: the 23rd Psalm, of David. Take a look: can you find the extended metaphor?


Psalm 23    New International Version (NIV)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


(Read it in Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese)



Can you see it? The extended (governing) metaphor is that of a SHEPHERD. 


Since our writing class was held just a few days before Mother's Day, I asked the students to write something loving and respectful for their mothers, using an extended metaphor in it. One student wrote a poem while the other wrote prose, but both were excellent. These young men attend a prestigious bilingual school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park, and they have also studied writing with for many years; their hard work shows!  Take a look: can you find the extended metaphors?


Mother is a gardener, who gave us the gift of life.

A quiet and caring figure, always with a tender smile.

Humble and persistent, she always thought for us first.59791957 10218968536142321 8811906825503899648 n

She meticulously cared for our well-being and fertilized us with knowledge.

And with a caring hand, she guided us forward in life.

She gave us the ability to blossom.

She gave us the power to thrive.

Enduring many hardships, windstorms, hail, and cyclones.

Never gave up. Never did. Always there, patiently, caringly.

She pulled out the weeds and killed the pests, all to ensure

That we live a peaceful life.

Always tender and caring, her smile,

Melts the bleakest of winters.

As years flew past,

And the saplings grow into trees.

She smiles, tenderly.


-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan

 10446521 10152312865267819 2815041895792496546 n 150x150



While calm and seemingly boring on the surface, the ocean holds limitless possibilities beneath. Not only does it produce the best proteins in the world for people like me, it also provides humanity the very basic resource of water for survival. But I think the ocean is much more than that: it holds the world’s richest source of information. The ocean’s deepest parts reveal our ancient past, and its shallow shores reveal our current desires. From this viewpoint, the ocean seems to understand everything; it has existed for our entire life, it exists unconditionally, and will always be acknowledged by us — but not necessarily appreciated.

Just like how we may see our mothers, we recognize her existence, but do not always care for her. She provides unconditional love, yet we fail to reward her with reciprocal support. She holds the experience of a sage, yet we fail to seek her counsel regarding our decisions. It’s mother’s day. I love you mom!


-- Aaron in Hsinchu, Taiwan 


Do you want to know more about Mother's Day and how we celebrate it in the US? Read our blog post.  Do you want to improve your English writing or vocabulary skills? Contact Scott today to find out how! 


Saturday, 27 April 2019 18:22

Sure vs. Unsure Language

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Recently a member of our DreyerCoaching teacher team and I were working with a Chinese professional man and his American supervisor. We were working on helping the Chinese man write better emails in English. One big issue was: expressing certainty and uncertainty. This is important, because you need to tell your reader (or listener) how sure you are about something.

Take a look and you can use these words and phrases in your communication:


 I am sure that....  I think ....   I believe....
 We have already ...  We could ....
 We do have ...  We might be able to ....
 It is clear that...  It is possible that....
 Clearly  Possibly
 Surely  I am not sure that....
 There is no doubt that...  There is some doubt that...
  Maybe / Perhaps
  I suggest...
  In my opinion...


Do you want to improve your communication skills in English? We can help you with your SPOKEN and/or WRITTEN English. Contact Scott today to find out more!



Thursday, 04 April 2019 00:35

Describe Classes

Recently I taught one of our Advanced Writing classes--the students attend the prestigious middle school in the Hsinchu, Taiwan Science Park where I taught from 1992-1997. The students have been working on description essays, so as homework, I gave them this prompt: Describe what it is like to attend a writing class with


Here are their answers. Wow! I am SO thankful and impressed.



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Learning and practicing English with DreyerCoaching has significantly improved my grammar and the ability to produce more lucid, advanced writing. Through the years of taking DreyerCoaching classes, I recognize that my English skills have escalated into a much higher level. Though improving English is the main benefit of taking this class, there is much more. Being able to learn with sophisticated and qualified teachers without the need of leaving your house, being able to connect to the teachers anywhere and anytime, and being able to personally have conversation with the CEO of the online class are boons of DreyerCoaching that most other extracurricular classes do not offer. During the classes, students are free to ask questions at any time, and the classes are relaxing because the teachers are friendly and convivial. Because there is little stress when taking the class, students (for example, me) enjoy it and can learn more effectively. In conclusion, taking DreyerCoaching is the right choice and I encourage everyone who has a chance to take the class to apply for it.




Learning with DreyerCoaching is an experience like none other. Usually, to learn English in Taiwan, one would have to leave their house and drive for at least ten minutes to arrive at the designated teaching location. However, with DreyerCoaching, it is incredibly convenient; turn on your laptop, connect to the meeting, and you are all set! The learning experience is entirely different with DreyerCoaching compared to the average extracurricular class. With the advanced curriculum and knowledgeable teachers, one can learn much more effectively… at home. This is by far the best feature about DreyerCoaching that you can not get anywhere else. If you are struggling with time and scheduling issues, DreyerCoaching can help ease the problem by allowing you to connect right from your desktop, phone, or tablet, and still learn English!




Usually, when people think of English classes in Taiwan, they think of cram schools, tutoring, or other conventional methods of teaching. However, DreyerCoaching has ways of teaching English that are entirely different. Not only does it utilize the technology of the 21st century by teaching over the internet, it provides a further reach of the services it offers, and allows more diversity in students and teachers alike. Along with that, DreyerCoaching also offers interesting and engaging topics to teach the students. For example, students can write their own pourquoi stories, learn about what happens on the ocean floor, and create historical narratives. These topics allow students to engage, therefore making learning more enjoyable. During the classes, students also improve their writing by discussing sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. Students can go over their writing in class with individualized attention, making it a wonderful learning environment for students.













Do you want to know more about our online writing classes? Click here!  Or better yet, contact Scott directly to find out how to register!






Thursday, 14 February 2019 18:32

Valentine's Day

February 14 is Valentine's Day in the US and many other countries.


This page tells you more about Valentine's Day in simple Englislh.

Learn more about the history of this holiday here. (native-speaker level)

Friday, 01 February 2019 15:49

Before & After Writing

During a Chinese New Year 1 on 1 class, our student Nicky in Hunan Province, China had this writing assignment:


If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), who would they be and what would you ask them?


She was creative and wrote this essay below. I particularly like how she added the idiom "let the cat out of the bag," a saying that her teacher taught her. It means "to tell or reveal a secret." (To learn more English idioms, visit our blog post.)



I think they would be vampire, zombie and skeleton. Because they are not usual things. We all know vampires suck blood. But can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is : Why are you afraid of the garlic? I think garlic is a nice food. Why vampires have to be afraid of them?

 The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interesting in it. And I also want to know why zombies can no bend their knees .They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?

 I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. The second question is very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody wants to know the answer.

 These are my thoughts. And I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’ know I will let the cat out of the bag or not. But I think if I can have dinner with vampire, zombie and skeleton, I will have a good time.




Nicky did a fine job with her first draft, then her teacher, Mr. Woodson, read it with her, discussed it, and gave her some suggestions to make it even better. For example, he revised the first sentence to be: a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton.


Here is Nicky's revised essay, with smoother, more polished English:


I think they would be a vampire, a zombie and a skeleton because they are unusual things. We all know vampires suck blood, but can they accept all kinds of blood? So this is a question I want to ask him. The second question is: Why are you afraid of garlic? I think garlic is a nice food, so why do vampires have to be afraid of it?

 The first question I want to ask Mr. Zombie is: What do you usually eat? I am interested in that, and I also want to know why zombies cannot bend their knees. They just jump and jump and jump. Aren’t they tired?

 I’ve always been curious about how skeletons eat and drink. This is a question that I will ask the skeleton. My second question is also very interesting. Why don’t skeletons fall apart? I think everybody would like to know the answer.

 These are my thoughts, and I know the answers to these questions are secrets. I don’t know if I will let the cat out of the bag or not, but I think if I can have dinner with a vampire, a zombie, and a skeleton, I will have a good time.




If you read both versions of this essay, you will see how Nicky was able to improve the flow and smoothness of her essay. Do YOU want to improve your English writing? We have classes available! Contact Scott today to find out more, and read this page also. Hope to see YOU online soon!



Friday, 25 January 2019 23:08

Birthday Club!

In America, birthdays are a big deal, and there are lots of different ways to celebrate. Friends and relatives who are far away might send a birthday card in the mail, and in today's high-tech age, wish you "happy birthday" on social media, or by text, or with a call. In the Dreyer family when our kids were young, we would often take them out to eat for breakfast on their big day, or if that would make a school morning too busy, maybe on the nearest Saturday morning. We would usually have a family dinner that night complete with cake and candles. Grandma and Gramps would usually join us too, plus other relatives if they were close by. Then there would be cards and gifts to open. After we ate the dinner and the cake, we would go around in a circle and each person would say something they appreciate about the birthday person. That is a tradition we keep even till today!


At, we value the Gift of Life and the gift that each person is, so birthdays are big here too! For several years we have sent a hand-writtten note and small gift to each person on their birthday, so they have a hand-addressed card to open from the USA! Many of our students tell us they never get printed mail any more so they never check their mailboxes, so before their birthday I try to remind them: check your mailbox!


In November 2018 I mailed Christmas cards with a small gift to all our students. One student in Baotou, Inner Mongolia got his card around Valentine's Day 2019 -- three months later! This is what the student's dad wrote about getting a card from the US:

就是的,时间长短不要紧,最主要的是我们收到来自大洋彼岸的心意,谢谢您,祝您及家人一切顺意  (Yes, the length of time does not matter, the most important thing is that we received a kind message from the other side of the ocean, thank you, I wish you and your family all the best.)


Starting in January 2019, we are adding a new piece to our celebrations! A Free 1 on 1 class! We couldn't figure out a way to send a birthday cake by zoom, so we are sending a class instead!  In addition to giving the free class to our student, we also hope to chat with at least one parent too during that time. Birthdays are times to look back and look forward, so we would like to know how your English classes are going, how they are helping you, what your goals are, and how we can better help you in the future!


When a student's birthday approaches, watch your email. You should get a link to let you pick a time convenient for you, for your free class and parent chat.


THANK YOU for choosing!


Cici and mother and Scott



Thursday, 24 January 2019 12:56

Word Choice

It's all about word choice.


Recently a friend in Sunday School told our class, "My wife says I'm tight...but I tell her I'm thrifty."  We all laughed.  Why? 


Because they are saying basically the same thing: my friend is very careful with money. However, "tight" is a negative word while "thrifty" is positive.


Or how about this one I heard from Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll:

Solitude is life-giving, but isolation is deadly.


Huh? Since "solitude" means "being alone" and "isolation also means "being alone," what does this sentence mean? Is this a contradiction? Is it saying "Being alone is good, but being alone is bad"? Furthermore, both words even have the same word stem, "sol," which means "one/alone." (As in: "solo" or "solitary.") (Note: the stem "sol" can also mean "sun" as in "solar energy, so one stem can sometimes have more than one meaning.)


This is another great example of WORD CHOICE. Yes, both mean "being alone," but "solitude" is usually positive: it has the sense of pulling away from the busy hubbub of life and finding a quiet place to think and reflect on the deeper things of life. In contrast, "isolation" is almost always negative. It implies being shunned, cut off, cast out, removed from others. When people have a highly contageous disease they may be put in isolation, or an anti-social person lives in isolation by avoiding contact with others.

Sample sentences:

  • Jim is usually so busy with his work and family, he loves to go hunting in the fall for a few precious days of solitude-- just him in the great outdoors.
  • Many men get sick and die within just a couple of years after retiring: it seems the isolation cuts them off from their relationships, sense of meaning, and identity. 



I told the students in my Advanced Writing class that story when we worked on this task in the excellent text book we use, Writing With Skill Level 1, by Susan  Wise Bauer.   


Bauer begins:


Begin by reading carefully through the following description of the great scientist Isaac Newton, drawn partly from the writings of his admirer John Conduitt. John Conduitt married Isaac Newton’s niece Catherine; Newton lived with the couple towards the end of his life. Read with pencil in hand, and mark each word or phrase that seems to be slanted. The first one is done for you. (1)


He always lived in a very handsome generous manner . . . always hospitable, and upon proper occasions gave splendid entertainments. He was generous and charitable without bounds. . . . He had such a meekness and sweetness of temper, that a melancholy story would often draw tears from him. . . . He was blessed with a very happy and vigorous constitution; he was of a middle stature, and rather plump in his latter years; he had . . . a comely and gracious aspect, and a fine head of hair, as white as silver, without any baldness. To the time of his last illness he had the bloom and colour of a young man. . . He retained all his senses and faculties to the end of his life, strong, vigorous and lively. He continued writing and studying many hours every day till the period of his last illness.  (2)



Bauer then asks students to replace the POSITIVE words with NEGATIVE ones. For example, instead of saying Sir Isaac Newton was "generous," say "he wasted money."


This is how a student of mine, a grade 11 young man in Hsinchu, Taiwan rewrote the passage:

He always lived lavishly like a mogul; his wastefulness is breathtaking. Among the worst of things, he has almost no sense of financial management. Oftentimes, he gave away his money with no apparent reason. Such carelessness greatly diminished his character. Also, he is histrionic and overly dramatic-- breaking into tears at the smallest sorrows-- and especially gutless-- undetermined and weak. He is a showoff who is overly obsessed with his looks. He is also a tryhard who lived a life as a recluse.


Spending habits handsome, generous manner, hospitable, charitable without bounds lived lavishly, wastefulness, no sense of financial management
Personality  Meekness, sweetness of temper  spineless, wimpy, overly-emotional, he wore his heart on his sleeve, crybaby, histrionic, overly-dramatic
Energy level blessed with a happy and vigorous constitution too happy, hyperactive, ADHD, fidgety, can't sit still, ants in his pants, driven
Body build rather plump, big-boned, well-nourished  fat, overweight, obese
Hair a fine head of hair, as white as silver, without any baldness an unkempt mop of hair, as white as a ghost
Skin complexion the bloom and colour of a young man, ruddy, healthy glow, tanned flushed, red-faced, feverish
Mental powers  He retained all his senses and faculties to the end of his life, strong, vigorous and lively. Bright, engaged, informed, intelligent, sharp, insightful, focused bookworm, know-it-all, smarty-pants
Work habits  He continued writing and studying many hours every day, diligent, focused, active, productive, fruitful workaholic, all work and no play, driven, doesn't know when to stop, 
??? Can you think of more examples???  



Now that we're all in a good mood, let's take a look at President Trump. Does this description present a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE view? How can you tell?


Essay 1:

There has never been another president like Donald J. Trump. With his overweight, orange body and shock of yellow hair, he looks like the clown he is. He struts with a swagger, showing all his tremendous conceit and narcissism. He obviously has problems with sleep and physical energy, because he always seems crabby and sends out tweets at all hours of the day and night.

His speech and behavior are vile and offensive. His talk is bombastic, divisive, hateful, and self-centered. His words and behavior all send the message: "It's all about me." From his ludicrous denial of Climate Change to all his other outrageous comments, he is obviously a moron. How can someone with such a low IQ be our president? Trump's personal and family life are a shambles: he has been divorced twice and has been caught on tape boasting about taking advantage of women.


His political views are as distasteful as his personal life. His hateful "America First" jabber is jingoistic, nativistic, and reeks of White Supremacy. His reckless trade wars threaten to not only destroy the US economy but have the potential to send the entire world economy into a fireball. However, his hatred of foreign trade makes sense when you realize how he hates all foreigners period. His childish insistence on getting "his wall" at all costs exposes him as a xenophobe and hater of the rich, diverse cultures that we value in America. But his theatrics are not directed at other nations only.  In Washington he has been an absolute wrecking ball. With no sense of decorum, tradition, history or honor, Trump is the proverbial "bull in the china shop," wrecking order and sowing discord and divisiveness with all he says and does. It is questionable if life in Washington will ever return to normal again, after this disaster that is the Trump regime.


And all this brings us to perhaps the worse part of all: Trump's supporters. With such a sterling candidate as Hillary Clinton, how did America place the boorish, backward Trump in the White House instead? The obvious answer must be, his voters are boorish and backward too, so uneducated and unsophisticated to be unable to appreciate Clinton's outstanding virtues but easy prey for Trump's lies and propaganda. Look at the election map: the wealthier, more sophisticated coastal and urban areas voted for Clinton, while the poorer, more rural, less sophisticated regions pulled for Trump. If there is a silver lining, it is that Trump won the ridiculous, outdated Electoral College but lost the popular vote handily. At least there are some smart people left in the USA.

Do you see? This is clearly a negative portrayal of the 45th president.

The essay is organized by these themes:


  • physical appearance & bearing
  • Speech, behavior, intelligence & personal life
  • Political beliefs, views of foreigners, & how he relates to Washington DC
  • His supporters


Now read this passage. How is like Essay 1? How is it different?


Essay 2:

There has never been another president like Donald J. Trump. With his imposing build, tanned complexion, and full head of blond hair, he looks like the leader he is. He has a bold, confident walk that tells all who see him: I am in charge. Even for a man in his 70's, he obviously is full of energy and vitality, as he is always ready to scrap with  those who attack him and he sends out tweets at all hours of the day and night.

His speech and behavior, though clearly unorthodox, are what attract so many to him. Unlike the other "politically-correct" mealy-mouthed politicians of both parties, Trump says what he means and he means what he says. You always know where he stands. His words and behavior all send the message: "I will fight for the forgotten man." Some call him a clown and a moron, but if that is so, why is he so fabulously wealthy and sitting in the White House now? Some point fun at his intellect, but he is clearly a genius. Trump obviously believes in family: even his own children work on his team. Others criticize his personal life, but as the Democrats and media taught us in the Clinton 90's: "personal life is irrelevant; all that matters is getting the job done," and Trump is getting the job done. 


His political views speak to the millions who feel disgusted with "business as usual" America. Instead of always sending out money and jobs to other countries, Trump promotes  "America First."  That is, with all policies and decisions, what will best help the hardworking American families? Take for example his trade policies. For years other countries have taken the US to the cleaners with unfair trade deals. Finally President Trump is putting an end to all that foolishness, and we see the US economy and manufacturing bouncing back.  Some say he hates foreigners, but if that is so, why have two of his wives been foreign women? What many call "his wall" is in fact a common-sense addition to enhance border security and reduce drug and human trafficking.  In addition, his new style are creating positive reforms here at home too. Since so many hardworking Americans are sick and tired of a dysfunctional Washington DC, they loved his promise to "drain the swamp," and he has gone at that job with all the energy and gusto of a wrecking ball. Of course Trump is the proverbial "bull in the china shop."  That is why he was hired! The American people hired him to upset the status quo and make American Great Again. It is questionable if life in Washington will ever return to normal again, after all the positive reforms of the Trump administration.


And all this brings us to perhaps the best part of all: Trump's supporters. With such a deeply flawed candidate as "Crooked Hillary," we can now see how so many voters chose Trump's fresh, "outside the Beltway" message.  Long dismissed as "Flyover Country" by the condescending "coastal elites," the forgotten men and women of America rose up, from Florida to Alaska, to Make America Great Again. People across our great land don't need talking heads in New York or LA to tell them what to think or believe. They can think for themselves.  Thank goodness we have that gift from the wise Founding Fathers, the Electoral College. Hillary ran up huge margins in left-wing California and New York, but our current system guarantees a political voice for smaller states and rural areas.   At least there are some smart people left in the USA.



Do you see the difference? How does WORD CHOICE matter? 


Now let's take it one step further, into the "real world" of daily new reporting.

Here is a February 28, 2019 article from CNN about Pres. Trump's ex-lawyer giving testimony to Congress: This is CNN.

Here is an article from the same date, on the same topic, but with a very different slant. This is Fox.


How are the two articles different? How is the word choice different? How are even the titles different? 




1. Susan Wise Bauer, Writing with Skill Level 1 (Peace Hill Press, 2012), p. 229-230

2. George Godfrey Cunningham, Lives of Eminent and Illustrious Englishmen: From Alfred the Great, Vol. 4 (A. Fullarton & Co., 1833), p. 402.

Friday, 18 January 2019 16:46

Pourquoi Stories

"Pourquoi" means "why?" in French. Therefore, a Pourquoi Story is a short fictional story that tries to explain why something is the way it is, especially something in nature. These legends, also called "Origin Stories" or "Creation Myths," are common in folklore.


Mrs. Armistead, an excellent teacher of a Writing Class, has been teaching this to her students, and then asked her students to write their own! They did such a fine job, here they are for you to enjoy. These are middle school students in Hsinchu, Taiwan,   


A long time ago, when human civilization began, crows were covered in feathers of snowy whiteness. Their feathers glimmered in daytime and illuminated in nighttime, but they were all greedy for food. Whenever they saw food, they tried to devour it. People got annoyed by the greedy crows that always attempted to steal their food. One day, a group of hunters gathered up and discussed about the issue. “We can bait the crows by cooking food, then burn them with fire,” one man spoke in eagerness. During the night, the group of men placed a pig on the crackling glow of red and waited for the presence of the crows. The captivating aroma of the roasted pork caught the crows and dragged them to the hunters. Just like before, the sly crows sneaked around the hunters and snatched for the food, but instead, the sound of sizzling accompanied with screams reverberated through the vast plain as their feather were charred to complete pitch-black. They flopped their burnt wings and flew away. Ever since, crows are coated with dark feathers.


-- Ian Lin



The Sun was constantly bored. As others have said, “it’s hard to entertain him and he pushes things away.” So, the Sun decided to prove others wrong. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Neptune. Neptune had the blue colors of the ocean and entertained the Sun for a very long time. However, the Sun realized that they weren’t meant to be together, they were of different colors. The Sun kept Neptune very close, to prevent judgment from others.


The Sun decided to find another form of entertainment, maybe a different color this time. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Uranus. Uranus was colored light blue, slightly different from Neptune. The Sun grew ferocious, thinking that the gods have cursed him and can only get blue kids. The Sun aligned his blue kids together and decided to try one last time of finding a non-blue kid.


The Sun, infuriated with the lack of cooperation from the spirits of the universe, decided to try one last time to find another form of entertainment. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Saturn. This time, what came to the Sun impressed him dearly. Not only was it larger than both Neptune and Uranus combined, but it’s no longer blue! Additionally, the planet also has rings around it, making it distinct from the other ones. Finally, the Sun was bored and decided to hopefully, get something special again.


The Sun called out to the universe, hoping to receive something out of the ordinary. The Sun gathered his strength. POW! There was Jupiter. The Sun was disgusted by the huge mud and sandy ball the appeared before him. This was a deviation, sent from the gods in humiliation. The Sun grew extremely angry.


The Sun grew extremely furious, more than all of the anger combined. Then he forged his anger with his hopes. BOW! Something with fire and red came before him. It was Mars. It appeared fire red, which probably came from his anger. The Sun felt that the anger was unneeded and decided to be positive as he was the father of the planets.


The Sun, again, gathered his inner strength and concentrated into making something extremely special. BOOM! There came Earth. Earth was made up of two major colors, blue and green. Something special indeed. Despite its differences, the Sun eventually lost his interest in the new planet. He left it aside to play with in the future.


The Sun forbade himself from his failures, he just couldn’t accept it. He needed something to entertain him, fast, before he released his anger against the universe. Something just the right size, not too big, not too small. POW! There came Venus, the orange-red planet. “Boo hoo hoo,” The Sun muttered, “This was not what I wanted. Just once more, just one good planet, and I’d be done”


The Sun grew calm, called his inner soul to help him with his final mission. Please. Just. Help. Me. For. This. Once. KAPOW! There came Mercury- the one-colored bland planet. “This was exactly what I wanted. Great!” The Sun exclaimed in happiness. Just stop. It’ll be another millennium before I get this lucky again. Just stop.


-- Alex Chen 




Why are fake tears called crocodile tears?  


A long time ago, the crocodile was known as the meanest creatures you would ever see. He made baby antelopes cry, and he teased crows for their raspy voices. Along with that, he also liked to eat baby animals, and he was the most hated creature in town. He also liked to prank others, and therefore making everyone avoid him.

When he came crawling out of the swamp, birds flew away, rabbits stayed shivering in their burrows, and snakes slithered away into the tall grass. He was always on the lookout for new victims.

One day, the council of elder animals decided that they were going to trap the crocodile in a makeshift jail at the edge of the swamp, so he would not bother the new family of otters moving in the next morning.

They placed a piece of tasty food in the trap they created and waited for the crocodile to crawl in and take the bait.

The crocodile crawled in as planned, and the elders shut the door on him. The crocodile was furious, thrashing and wailing inside the trap.

“Let me out!” he cried, throwing himself at the sides of the trap.

“I’ll never eat another baby animal-I'll do everyone’s chores for them….”

The council of elders decided to leave him in there until sundown and left for their midday meal.

The otters moved in as planned, and just before sundown the little otters decided to go exploring in their new home.

“Be back before sundown!” yelled the momma otter.

The two little otters found the crocodile, trapped in the cage wailing.

He was crying. “Please let me out,” he cried. “I haven’t done anything wrong and they shut me in here. Help me!

The two little otters decided to take pity on them and they let him out, and once he was out, SNAP!

He gulped down the two little otters at once, and the tears disappeared.

They were fake tears, and the two little otters were gone. The tears were fake, but it was too late for the little otters. Now whenever someone cries fake tears, it’s known as crocodile tears. Another lesson was learned- to never trust crocodiles.


--Katie Chen

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