Steps to Success

Steps to Success

i-Learner’s close connection with parents is vital to our teaching success. When students receive consistent support at home and in their lessons, they can master their learning goals and improve their confidence. To reach this goal, our teachers share articles weekly on a wide range of topics. These are students’ steps to success! See our Overseas Admissions articles for more from i-Learner. Learn about getting the best overseas education for your child.



Encouraging Children

How personal journaling enhances students’ ability to express their thoughts and ideas more naturally.

Journaling has always been a space where I can express my feelings and thoughts openly without judgement. It is a place where I feel heard and as an educator I believe it to be beneficial, especially to younger students, to start journaling to find their voice in English. I started journaling when I was in Grade 2 as a result of my difficulty… Read More

How can we encourage independence and self-reliance in children?

As an experienced educator who has worked with children of various ages, I have encountered students who, to varying degrees, require attention and assistance for even the simplest tasks. These students often exhibit a lack of belief in their own abilities, which can stem from a lack of experience or a fear of failure. While the desire to dote on our children is… Read More

“My child doesn’t like reading – what do I do?” Encouraging Children to Read

Reading is SO Important You already know that reading is important. But did you know that studies have shown that reading for pleasure (when a child chooses what to read based on their interests) improves classroom performance not only in reading and writing, but also in mathematics? However, knowing how important reading doesn’t necessarily help you to engage your child in reading if… Read More


How We Communicate

The Impact of Technology on the English Language

The advancement in technology has facilitated truly global communication, connecting people from different linguistic backgrounds all over the world. English has become the lingua franca of the internet and various digital platforms, causing both positive and negative effects on the language itself. The changes brought about via technological development can be broadly categorised into three groups; vocabulary expansion, language… Read More

Sticks And Stones May Break Our Bones, But Formal English Can Never Hurt Us

We pull all kinds of faces and show all kinds of reluctance, on hearing the need to use formal English. Formality, rules, constraints, they are the enemy of a carefree life. These frequently boring appeals to formality are common but if you’ll allow me a question, how much do you know about informal English usage? Growing up in Hong Kong,… Read More

Creating Opportunities through Communication and Networking

During our school careers so much emphasis is placed on academic results and demonstrating our technical skills and subject knowledge under exam conditions. It is understandable that we tend to focus on these hard skills and performance metrics as the key to success in our careers and lives. However secondary school students can also start to think about building connections as an important foundation for… Read More

Kongish and English Learning

“I need to go to Mong Kok tomorrow but will people mountain, people sea. So hoi sum.” “You add oil la! It not big problem geh. The place always so many people. Just blow water with your fren while you wait.” Can you understand what these sentences mean? If you have lived in Hong Kong for a while, these… Read More

Thinking and Feeling

Autism in the Media: Why Children Need to See Themselves

The Centres for Disease Control and prevention define autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. It can manifest in children in many different ways and as someone who has studied the history of medicine extensively I find it fascinating and uplifting how quickly we as a society have advanced in our treatment of those children and… Read More

How Attachment Theory Affects Young Children’s Development

Attachment theory is a psychological theory first proposed by the British psychiatrist Mr. John Bowlby in 1969. Attachment theory emphasizes the vital role of early relationships in shaping a child’s development. The theory explores how different attachment styles impact young children’s emotional, social, and cognitive growth. Understanding different attachment styles allows parents, teachers, and caregivers to recognize and respond appropriately to their child’s… Read More

The Relationship Between Personality and Learning

Personality plays a significant role in shaping how individuals approach the learning process. Two common personality traits that impact learning are introversion and extroversion. Understanding and acknowledging these personality traits can greatly enhance the effectiveness of learning for children.   Understanding Introverts   Introverted children tend to be more reserved, preferring solitary activities and quiet environments. They often require time alone… Read More


Preparation for Top UK Universities

My Cambridge Experience

Get a real-life taste of UK student life on i-Learner’s Oxford study tour. Take a look at the brochure and video for more details of the 2024 tour. I studied Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge, having previously considered taking medicine. A short summer camp for students contemplating medicine before I applied convinced me I wasn’t sure enough about the subject. Choosing Natural… Read More

The Craft of Writing

Get Started with Story Arcs

In my previous article on writing, I gave an overview of the novel-writing process. Hopefully, that inspired you to start your own work, and you’re creating longer stories than you could before. One area that enthusiastic young writers often struggle with is the story arc, so let’s dive into that topic today and learn to keep our work… Read More

Shakespeare the Wordsmith

Whatever your level of exposure to the plays and poems of William Shakespeare, you are using his language every day, perhaps without even knowing.   During his lifetime, Shakespeare coined thousands of words, over 300 using the prefix ‘un-’ alone; here are a few examples of words we use every day that we wouldn’t have without the Bard:   Unchanging… Read More

How to Craft Compelling Characters

A lot of focus is placed on characterisation in creative writing. However, developing the relationships between characters takes this to the next level. You can give your characters more depth and make them realistic and relatable by considering how they connect with each other. Take a look at the tips below on developing this aspect of your writing. Start by determining the nature of the… Read More

Travels Through English

Why Language Is the Best Way to Learn about Culture, History and Human Experience

Learning a language will undoubtedly be an advantage in our careers and help us enjoy our travels, however language is far more than a tool for communication. One of my teachers at university described the study of language as the most finely-contoured map of the world available. When he said this, I think he meant that language can tell us so much about the culture,… Read More

English Is the Key to Your Future

English is the lingua franca (common language) in fields such as international business, computer science, academia, and medicine. More than half the websites in the world are in English. Whether you travel to another country or not, you will have noticed the prevalence of English. If English isn’t your strongest subject, it is worth putting in the effort to boost your fluency for the reasons… Read More

Key British History for Levelling Up Your Literature Grades or Preparing to Move to the UK

When students are preparing to move to the UK for school or university, they dedicate lots of effort to preparing academically in English, Maths and any other required subjects. However, an area often neglected is History! Whilst it is unlikely a school will set a history-based entrance test, having a basic understanding of key historical events and periods will help students in three key ways:… Read More

When in English Speaking Countries, Speak as They Do

Uncertainty can feel scary, and we even experience this in situations without real danger, such as talking to people in a different language. When travelling, we may baulk at speaking with strangers or investigating a new culture because we don’t feel sure of our language skills. However, wonderful surprises, improvements, and growth can also be on the other side of the veil, so it’s worth… Read More



Learning from and with Mistakes

Mistakes Overlooked in Reading

At its most basic, reading is something we first learn to do, then next, we use the skill to learn other things. There’s always a pressure to be reading more complex texts in order to keep up with exam requirements, but this race to trickier vocabulary and longer books can mean we miss important skills. Sometimes, it can be helpful for a student to read… Read More

Making Failure Your Friend

After completing my undergraduate degree at Oxford University, I applied for an MSt program there. Unfortunately, I was not offered a place, but I took the opportunity to make failure my ally. Here are some tips to help you do the same: Stigmatising failure discourages trying In Ancient Greece, the punishment for a merchant whose business failed was to sit in the marketplace with a… Read More

The Importance of Adults Accompanying Children’s Learning

When it comes to children’s learning, the role of adults cannot be overstated. Whether it’s parents, teachers, or caretakers, the presence and active involvement of adults in a child’s educational journey plays a crucial role in their overall development. Let’s explore the reasons why adults accompanying children’s learning is vitally important. Firstly, adults provide guidance and support to children as they navigate the complexities of… Read More

Spontaneity in the Classroom

Spontaneity is a great way to stimulate interest in learning, add excitement to a lesson, and provide opportunities for students to be creative and proactive. Here are some ways I’m spontaneous in the classroom, which can be applied to learning anywhere: Let students make decisions When students are given agency in the classroom, they are more motivated to actively participate in the lesson. This can… Read More



How I Achieved Top IELTS Grades

To study in an English-speaking country, you often need to take the IELTS Academic test, which examines your reading, listening, writing and speaking abilities. There are minimum eligibility scores, which can be very high for top universities, and a good IELTS grade will greatly boost your chances of entering your dream school. As an achiever of top grades in IELTS several years ago, here are… Read More

Mastering IELTS Writing Requirements

Writing is one of two surprisingly tricky papers on the Academic IELTS test. For an overview of the test and its harder elements, read our article on succeeding on IELTS. You can also get some top tips on the essay task in the writing paper here. Today, let’s take a look at task 1 on the writing paper, the shortest element, but by… Read More

IELTS: Preparing for the Speaking Test

The speaking section of the IELTS test can be one of the hardest parts of the exam. It isn’t surprising that even native speakers are unlikely to get a good score without preparing. However, that doesn’t mean a good score is unachievable. Follow the tips below to prepare for the speaking section. Know the test It is important to remember the specific content and criteria… Read More

IELTS General Training vs Academic: What is the difference?

If your child is preparing to study overseas in an English-speaking country, you will have probably heard about IELTS (International English Language Testing System). You will also have come across it if, as an adult, you are preparing to emigrate to an English-speaking country such as the UK or Canada. There are two forms of the test: General Training and Academic. Both tests are composed… Read More


Adventures in Reading

Reading for Understanding

There are many ways to connect with a book, and at times, all we want to do is flick through the pages and explore. This can be especially fun with books aimed at young people, which have pictures and other graphic elements. We shouldn’t discourage young learners from flipping through books, especially those that are too difficult for them currently. These children are taking an… Read More

Reading Aloud with Children: Benefits and Building the Habit

Reading aloud with children is a core part of their early exposure to books and stories. For many, it is also a big part of the nighttime routine that enables them to relax and have a screen break before bed. In research conducted in 3000 primary schools in England, daily storytime (reading aloud) increased children’s reading age by 13 months in just one term (Farshore,… Read More

Poetry about Family

Poetry is a captivating form of artistic expression that allows individuals to express their feelings and experiences in a deeply personal way. Family is at the core of human experience and therefore has always been an important theme in poetry. ‘Eden Rock’ is a favourite of mine, and it expresses the feelings of nostalgia and relief as the poet, nearing his death, finds solace in… Read More

Modern Retellings of Classic Literature

Classic literature has long captivated readers with its timeless stories and enduring themes. However, there are also many who feel intimidated by the stories’ complex language and distant settings. Modern retellings of classic literature are able to breathe new life into these beloved stories. There are several benefits of reading modern retellings of classic literature. Relatability and relevance  Modern retellings can make classic literature more… Read More


Learning Through Interactions

Learning through Social Media

Many parents can feel hesitant to let their children use social media. However, with the right channels, social media can be beneficial to language learners. Personally, I find social media to be a very convenient tool, and I have been using it since secondary school. Here are a few benefits of utilising social media for language learning: Good Use of Commute Time The content on… Read More

Humans as Resources

Learning, as a concept, often calls to mind the scholarly image of poring over volumes in hushed libraries or, in this day and age, being glued to a laptop screen. However, I’d like to draw attention to the arguably underestimated power that lies in people, who can be valuable learning resources. From learning a handful of languages to becoming an educator myself, I’ve had the… Read More

Video Games for Language Learning

Like books, films, and music, video games are an incredible medium for artistic expression and storytelling, and are therefore great tools to improve your language learning. I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember, playing everything from big Japanese and Western AAA games to indie gems from all over the world. They’re a great way to connect with friends and get… Read More

Responding to Writing Feedback

Feedback can be a helpful way to understand what changes could improve our writing. For example, a teacher may offer advice that will help you get a better score on a test, exam or assignment. They do this so you can tailor your writing according to the specific requirements of that task and do as well as you possibly can. However, this doesn’t mean you… Read More

Emotional Wellbeing

How to Manage Stress During Exam Preparation

Students often work so hard preparing for their exams that they forget to take care of themselves properly. High stress levels actually hamper our ability to perform well, meaning overpreparation can be just as bad as under preparation. It’s important to monitor and manage stress levels during exam periods, and here are some tactics for doing that. Sleep is an excellent stress buster, and even… Read More

Dealing with Difficult Responses from Children

As a tutor, one of the challenges I face is dealing with difficult responses from my students. It is frustrating at times when children become uncooperative or show unruly behaviors. From my own experience, as well as advice I have gathered from colleagues, the best course of action involves composure, active listening, clear communication, using positive reinforcement, and modeling good behavior. Composure The first… Read More

Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter allow us to connect, share and stay updated with the latest trends and events. However, there is a phenomenon called Fear of Missing Out, or FoMO, which can affect our well-being. It can also add to the peer-pressure younger people feel to act a certain way, which distracts… Read More

The Importance of Addressing Young Learners’ Emotions

Emotional wellbeing plays a pivotal role in the overall development of young learners. Recognising and addressing their emotions is essential for creating a positive and productive learning environment. By acknowledging and dealing with their emotional needs, educators can foster healthy emotional growth, enhance academic performance, and promote long-term wellbeing. Emotional Development Young learners experience a wide range of emotions, including joy, sadness, fear, and frustration. Read More


Learning Through Play

Learning English Through Movies

Learning a new language can be intimidating for children, so it’s great to find a fun and engaging way to improve their English. Watching movies builds listening and comprehension skills while children listen to dialogue and follow the plot. Aside from that,  movies also provide entertaining experiences that can provide stimulating variety to the language-learning toolkit. Here are a few ways to help children learn… Read More

The Benefits of Reading

I started reading in kindergarten and love both physical and digital books. I always encourage my students to read as there are so many benefits to this free and easy activity: We can teach ourselves a lot by reading. Without moving an inch, we can access the world through these portals into other cultures and their food, language, education, religion, etc. Reading can also improve… Read More

Learning Phonics Through Games

Phonics is the fundamental skill that enables children to read and write. It involves teaching children the sounds associated with each letter in the alphabet, and how these sounds can be blended and segmented to form words and read them. With strong phonics skills, children are able to decode words to improve reading fluency and spelling accuracy. Here are some phonics games we can play… Read More


Secondary School Application

Choosing the Right Type of Secondary School

Choosing the right type of secondary school can be a daunting task for both parents and students. With a variety of schools to choose from, it’s important to understand the differences between them to make an informed decision. Below is a list of the different types of secondary schools in Hong Kong: School Type: Government schools Funding and Fees: Fully funded by the government. Curriculum:… Read More

Changing Secondary Schools

While many parents can be hesitant to uproot children from their existing school, sometimes change is necessary to find the best fit. When considering whether to change school, parents and students should think about the following factors carefully: Are the school’s vision and curriculum in-line with the family’s education beliefs? Are the school environment and its facilities able to cater to the learning needs of… Read More

Preparing for Secondary School Interviews

Preparing for the interview is an integral step in securing admission to the secondary school of your choice. Here are some tips for parents and students to get ready for the interview: Research the school(s) beforehand. Look up the school’s mission and values. Make sure its educational philosophy suits your learning needs. Research the offered academic programs and extracurricular activities. Get information on school culture… Read More

Preparing for the School Application Process

Preparing for secondary school applications in Hong Kong can be challenging. With competition for limited spots in top schools, it’s important to understand the process and requirements. In this article, we will provide tips on how to prepare for the secondary school application process in the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) System, including key dates and admission procedures. Eligibility Being a Hong Kong resident Studying… Read More


Stretching Ourselves

English is Everywhere

When I ask my students what they’ve read recently, they often say they’re too busy to read for fun. They can only tell me about the textbooks or comprehension passages they skim for school. However, we live in an international metropolis, and English is everywhere around us, waiting to help us learn in new and interesting ways. If my students say they’re too busy to… Read More

Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection

In today’s society, there is often an intense pressure to be perfect, which can lead to anxiety, stress, and even mental health issues. However, striving for excellence is a healthier and more sustainable approach to personal growth. What are the differences between these two approaches, and how can we strive for excellence without getting caught up in the pursuit of perfection? Striving for excellence and… Read More

New Hobbies, New Habits

As a teenager, I had a busy schedule of extracurricular activities, from fencing and choir to Girl Guides and Venture Scouts. It was fun and easy to pack my calendar with these things, especially since my parents paid for and drove me to the after-school sessions and weekends away. As an adult myself, though, it can feel like I’m busy enough simply going… Read More

Reading Outside of Your Comfort Zone

One of my favourite things to do is read a mystery novel in one go. Mystery is my favourite genre, and the familiarity of the set up and solution of the puzzle is very comforting – even though the plot is new each time, I still know what to expect. This year, however, I’m challenging myself to read outside my comfort zone. The first thing… Read More


Education Around the World

Strange School Rules from Around the World

Anything unfamiliar to us can feel bizarre, no more so than when it concerns the familiar childhood setting of school. Learning about the reasons behind these differences is part of our lifelong education. Take a look at some school rules that may be very different to the ones you’re used to. Would you like to try out these classrooms? England Mounts Bay Academy in Cornwall… Read More

Succeeding at IELTS for Overseas Studies

People wanting to study overseas commonly take a test called IELTS (pronounced ‘eye-elts’, and short for International English Language Testing System) to prove their English competence. There are many similar tests, which range in popularity around the world, with IELTS being the gold standard in the UK, where the test originates. There are actually two types of IELTS test: General Training and Academic. Those applying… Read More

Types of Schools in the United States

The United States offers a diverse approach to education. While schools are usually divided into elementary, middle, and high schools according to age, there are many types of schools within that, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Having grown up in America, I’ve experienced many different approaches to education, so I can share the main categories and their typical advantages and disadvantages. Public Schools*… Read More

Successful Educational Approaches from around the Globe

Education is often a deciding factor for families seeking a life overseas. We often think of the UK or USA when considering where to move, but there are other excellent education systems well worth considering. Take a look at these examples: Singapore Home to the highest-ranking students in the world, Singapore is considered one of the most desirable cities in Asia to immigrate… Read More

Independent Learning

Taking Ownership of your Learning Journey

I work with many students at key transitional stages, including those moving from primary to secondary, those relocating overseas, and those preparing for university. Students encounter many different transitions in their education careers, which often come with changes in expectations and their level of responsibility. Increasing responsibility and ownership overlearning helps students build key soft skills such as organisation, time management, deadline management, and goal… Read More

Overcoming Setbacks and Learning From Your Mistakes

As a student progressing through school to university and beyond, you will inevitably face setbacks and make mistakes. Whether it’s getting disappointing exam results, performing poorly in an interview, or not winning a competition, you are bound to encounter some form of setback. It’s a natural part of the learning journey, and if you can respond positively, you will develop resilience and grow, keeping you… Read More

Being an Autodidact

What is an autodidact? Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jimi Hendrix, Leonardo Da Vinci, Alan Turing, Caroline Herschel, Albert Einstein, Malcolm X, and Bill Gates are all famous examples of autodidacts, or people who learn without the guidance of masters. Generally, autodidacts choose the subjects they will study, identify their own materials, and choose the rhythm and time that they work. The individuals on this list were… Read More


Sleep and Learning

The Importance of Sleep for Learning

Did you know the longest anyone has ever stayed awake for was 453 hours? That’s almost 19 days! It was achieved by Robert McDonald in 1986. It’s definitely not recommended though. Children should aim to get about 8-12 hours of sleep per night. If we stay up later, we start to notice our mental capacity is reduced almost immediately. We can no longer focus on… Read More

Maintaining Good Sleep During Exam Season

Teenagers have busy schedules with school and homework, which becomes even more hectic during exam periods. For many, exam times are defined by high stress, poor diet, and terrible sleep habits as students pull all-nighers in the hopes of cramming more studying in. However, to get top exam scores, sleep is the key. Poor sleep negatively impacts our memory, creativity, and logical reasoning. This means… Read More

Bedtime Routines for Primary School Students

A bedtime routine should be made up of consistently repeated activities. This helps prepare children to get ready for sleep by relaxing and winding them down. A bedtime routine for young children should consist of 3 or 4 activities. Such activities usually include having a light snack, brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, and reading a book. These activities should always be followed in the same… Read More


How I Write

How I Write…and Keep Going

Writing is a huge part of who and why I am. I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember, and have shared my written work online since tweenhood. It can be challenging to keep going at times, but I always look for ways to carry on telling the stories I wish to tell. My work is a reflection of my own… Read More

How I Write: Structuring a Book

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, but it took years before I was able to complete anything that I was happy with. As a child and teenager, I started new projects regularly but didn’t know how to shape them into a novel. I stuck with fragments and short stories for a while, always wanting to create something longer. Undertaking a Creative… Read More

How I Write: Finding Inspiration

Our sources of inspiration are often linked to the reasons why we write. I enjoy writing mysteries because I am a very curious person. If a mystery hasn’t been solved in real life, I can’t stop asking myself questions about it, and often those questions turn into a story. For example, when I was seventeen, I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany. While I was… Read More

How I Write: My Life as a Poet

My poems have been published online and in print for at least the past twelve years, but I started writing even further back. I will continue to write for a long time I hope, simply because I enjoy it. This is basically why I write, and of course, enjoying any activity makes it easier to keep going and to improve. With regards to inspiration, my… Read More

Comprehension Skills

Tips on Tackling Reading Comprehensions

While many Hong Kong students excel in grammar exercises, they can find reading comprehensions relatively daunting because of unfamiliar themes and challenging vocabulary. Drawing on my teaching experience and observations of countless students, I can share a few useful tips on helping students excel in comprehensions: Reading sequence While some students are taught to strategically read the questions then scan the text to look for… Read More

Tactics for Guiding Young Readers

It’s a magical moment when a child is able to blend words and read. However, that’s not the end of their reading journey. The next stage is to fully understand what’s on the page, and there are many ways parents and teachers can help them do this. Take a look at these five essential steps to guide a child’s reading: Building on existing knowledge In… Read More

Own Your Learning

What are your strongest and weakest school subjects? What if I narrowed the question down to your strengths and weaknesses in English? Can you specify a skill to improve to get a higher grade in reading comprehension exams? Not many people can. Many students depend on teachers to tell them what they need to learn and help them pinpoint exactly where to improve. Very rarely… Read More

Advanced Phonics for Older Students

Phonics is a tool we focus on when first teaching students to read, but that shouldn’t be where its use stops. Phonics isn’t just for kindergarten. It remains crucial to reading and spelling. Often, we know the sounds of words but don’t recognise them because we can’t pronounce them on reading and therefore don’t associate them with a word we already know. Encouraging older students… Read More


International Literature

Studying a Poem as a European Language Learner at i-Learner

Studying a poem in a European language can be a great way to test and develop your linguistic skills. It also offers a chance to explore literature further and learn more about the history and culture of different places. Reading these poems may seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, here are some tips to get started on the road to success: Find a translation:… Read More

Children’s Literature from Around the World

Reading children’s books is more than just a fun pastime, although that is an important reason to read more. Children’s literature introduces young readers to different social issues and bigger themes, which helps them develop their critical thinking skills. As children are exposed to other cultures through stories, they learn to see the world from other people’s perspectives. This fosters children’s ability to empathise and… Read More

Reading Poetry Around the Globe

Most of us are familiar with gushi from Chinese classes and Shakespearean sonnets from English Literature lessons. But did you know that cultures all over the globe have their own poets and poems that are equally worth reading? Reading writers from around the world opens your eyes to many more forms of poetry. For example, French villanelles have five three-line stanzas and a final four-line… Read More

Fables from Around the World

Fables are short stories passed down from one generation to another to teach moral lessons. Why fables have continuously been passed down is because they are not only entertaining but also crucial for developing a sense of shared cultural heritage.  Throughout my years of teaching at i-Learner, I have often come across parents asking for book recommendations. Read More



Exam Expertise

Handling Unknown Words in Exams

No matter how much effort you put into learning vocabulary, reading comprehension questions in exams will always contain some unfamiliar words. This is normal – exams are designed to test how far you can go. Even so, how should you deal with these unknown words when they arise? First of all, don’t panic. Even if you don’t know the meaning of the word, you might… Read More

Quirky Ways to Improve your Language Skills

Had enough of memorising endless vocabulary lists? Or going through repetitive grammar drills? Or even completing dry comprehension questions? While some of these exercises can help you build up a foundation for your second language, you should know there are other ways – some of them weird and wonderful – to improve your skills. I still recall when one of my French professors at Oxford… Read More

How to Deal with Exam Stress

Exams cause some people a great deal of anxiety, which can impact their results significantly. Since we have to deal with exams throughout our school lives, and often beyond, it’s important to take time to develop skills to manage that stress. Below are some tips to help get through your exams and show yourself in the best possible light: Timetable Make a clear… Read More

Exam Tips and Grammar Checklist

Careless mistakes can be the bane of a student’s life at exam time, often resulting in significant point deductions and disappointing grades. Students with the potential to get over 90% find themselves surprised to get closer to 70%. Here are a few tips to avoid mistakes and boost grades: Always leave time to double check your work Leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the… Read More


Self Improvement

Building Mental Strength and Coping with Change

When facing stress, I take the opportunity to build the mental strength needed to cope with change and uncertainty. Three techniques that have helped me through challenging periods are: Exercising the body and the mind  Physical exercise Building physical and mental strength through exercise can reset our mind and quash anxieties. Exercise is known to improve focus and cognitive function, allowing for clarity and… Read More

Strategies for Solving Student Phone Addiction

Numerous studies have drawn negative correlations between screen time and children’s cognitive and behavioural development. Most parents are aware of this and see first-hand the impacts of phones on their child’s ability to learn social skills, focus their attention, and regulate emotional responses. If you share the same concern, read on for the tips on breaking phone addiction: Use apps that limit screen time If… Read More



Easy Steps to Phonics Foundations

There is a wide variety of phonics teaching schemes, such as Jolly Phonics, Musical Phonics, and Letters and Sounds, and parents can struggle to know which is best. The good thing to know is that all these different programs come down to a similar set of steps. The guide below shows the key principles and tips to learning phonics foundations. As long as your child… Read More

Teaching Reading with Systematic Phonics

Reading is an essential life skill as it helps us learn everything else. Phonics instruction is now a key part of learning to read, but that wasn’t always the case. As an Indian born and raised in Hong Kong, I studied English as a second language in school. I didn’t enjoy it much since we learned from long, complex textbook passages and nightmarish weekly dictations. Read More

The Importance of Learning Phonics

Phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds. It involves the recognition of sounds of individual letters and letter groups, as well as the skills of blending and segmenting letter sounds and sound clusters. It is important for English learners to study phonics from a young age since it serves as a fundamental building block that enhances their all-round abilities in English. One key way… Read More

Adult English

Learning Through Language Exchange

Have you ever felt inspired to learn a new language? If you’re like most people, maybe you downloaded an app like Duolingo and made great progress at memorising vocabulary … for about a week. The hardest part about language learning is finding the motivation to persist and building up enough confidence to converse with others. That’s where language exchange comes in. In language exchange, you… Read More

The Benefits of Reading Newspapers

I‘ve spent most of my career as a journalist, working for newspapers and magazines in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong. Journalism teaches you many important things, two of which are highly relevant to students of English in Hong Kong. Firstly, it’s extremely beneficial to read newspapers and magazines regularly, and secondly, simple, easily understood language is vital. I’ll focus mainly on the first point… Read More

Lifelong Learning

Learning More Languages

If you’re reading this, you, like many i-Learner students, are probably very good at English. So with all your extra activities, there’s no need to learn other languages, right? Wrong! Studies show that learning additional languages not only improves your memory and critical thinking, enhances your decision-making ability, and boosts your empathy, it also helps you become more successful in our globalised society. As a… Read More

The Wider Benefits of Hobbies

With a demanding school or work schedule, it’s easy to fall into the habit of only doing things you have to. However, developing other interests helps you understand yourself and your values better. This can be important when making good decisions about your future, such as what subjects to study or what job suits you best. Often, people stick to their comfort zones, even when… Read More

Learning English Through Netflix

Learning English can be a tough task for second-language speakers. However, what if I told you there was a fun and easy way to do it? What if, in fact, you could improve your English by watching Netflix and other streaming platforms? Copious research shows that watching movies and TV shows helps people learn languages. Most research participants find that watching English media improves their… Read More

University Applications

Choosing American Universities: Tips for International Students

The United States is one of the most popular destinations for overseas studies. Having recently graduated magna cum laude from California State University, I’m very happy with the choice I made. I hope you’ll find my tips useful when considering your American options. Types of Universities An important thing to note when choosing where to apply is the distinction between state and private universities in… Read More

Directed Reading for Your Personal Statement

Why it’s important: Your personal statement is a key part of university applications. It demonstrates your interest in, suitability for, and value to the course and university to which you’ve applied. A great way to show your enthusiasm is by discussing any relevant wider reading you’ve done. This not only shows your knowledge of an area you’re particularly interested in, but it proves you’ve taken… Read More

Learning How to Think for an Interview

Succeeding at a university interview is all about getting the correct answer, right? Wrong. Many students have the misconception that doing well at an interview means responding correctly to the interviewers’ questions. However, spending three years on a College admissions panel at the University of Oxford showed me that tutors are much more interested in how you think, rather than how much you know. They’re… Read More

Listening Skills

Free BBC Listening Resources to Boost English Skills

BBC Sounds is available for free worldwide and has excellent content that can boost the skills of all English learners. The app is a great addition to the learning tools on your device (you can also listen through your browser here), and I’d recommend starting with the following programmes: BBC Learning English Drama Great adaptations in clear English and engaging language. It’s particularly… Read More

Sources of Good Listening Materials

When you’re learning a language, one of the hardest skills to acquire can be good listening skills. Being able to listen, decode and understand a language spoken at a natural pace can be extremely challenging. For this reason, having a good supply of interesting, clear, and easy to understand things to listen to is a great help. Here are some great places to find listening… Read More

Developing Active Listening Skills

In education, we often focus on developing a student’s speaking skills, but rarely do we focus enough on developing good listening skills. Communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking, and good communicators are not only excellent speakers but also active listeners. They are actively paying attention to the words being spoken, the tone of voice and the body language of the… Read More

Listening, Looking and Phonics

Growing up in England, I wasn’t taught phonics. The ‘whole word’ approach to reading was popular when I was young, which left many of my classmates with spelling and reading issues that remain to this day. These early experiences informed my approach to teaching, and I’ve been happy to find that it’s never too late to teach phonics. I’ve taught many primary and secondary students… Read More


Story Writing

Effective Short Story Plotting for Students

Many students come to me with excellent vocabulary, an imagination packed with fantastic ideas, and an ability to organise their writing into paragraphs. However, they still score poorly on creative writing assignments. The problem isn’t that they’re weak writers; it’s often the exact opposite. These students can develop whole worlds in their minds and give characters a fascinating flaw to overcome in a way that… Read More

Creating a Story Setting

Setting – the place and time in which the story takes place – is a vital element in creative writing. A well-crafted setting builds a vivid picture in readers’ minds, helping them feel as if they are in the story. Setting also influences the atmosphere, for example, in this extract from The Hobbit, in which JRR Tolkien establishes a cosy, lighthearted feeling with this description: … Read More

The Benefits of Derivative Writing

Whether you love creative writing or not, I’m sure you’ve been inspired to give alternate endings to a favourite story. Perhaps you’ve imagined what you’d do in a character’s position. This means you’re on the first step towards derivative writing, which loosely defined, means writing that is based on ideas from other sources. There are some who see derivative writing as imitation work or laziness,… Read More

Breathing Life into Characters

Without characters, there is no story. A character’s motivations and growth give stories direction and meaning; therefore, it is essential that characters are given depth. To breathe life into characters, follow these steps: Firstly, illustrate details of characters’ appearance, habits and behaviour that relate to their personality and role in the story. For example, a brave warrior wears many medals of honour and always touches… Read More


Past Perfect Tense

‘Why is this room so messy?’ asked Mum as she glared at Matthew. His room looked like a hurricane had swept through it. ‘I told you to make sure it was clean before I came back, didn’t I?’ ‘I cleaned it, but-’ Matthew explained. ‘You call this a clean room?’ ‘I cleaned it, I did!’ Matthew’s eyes watered. ‘First you disobey me, and now you… Read More

Tenses in Story Writing

When writing a story, the majority of students are able to come up with creative plots and vivid characters. But when it comes to the actual writing, students can struggle with using the correct tenses. This takes some practice, especially when stories move around in time a lot. For example, a story set in the past might have a character who speaks in present tense,… Read More

Understanding Subject-Verb Agreement

As a native Cantonese speaker, I used to find subject-verb agreement confusing. There isn’t anything similar in Chinese, so I had to work hard to learn how to use this grammatical feature. It’s very important in English and has a few strange rules, but it’s actually much simpler than it used to be. In the past, there were more verb endings than we have now. Read More


Leadership Skills

How to Teach Leadership Skills in the Classroom

Although some children are said to be born leaders, I believe leadership is learned throughout our lives and that we should nurture children to be leaders whenever we can. The classroom, in which children have their perceptions shaped constantly, is an excellent context for developing leadership skills. Here are some ways we teach leadership skills at i-Learner: Allowing students to take leadership roles Children are… Read More

Developing Your Child’s Leadership Skills

Schools often encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities like participating in fundraisers, and it’s not just for fun and the satisfaction of helping others. These activities help develop students’ leadership skills alongside their teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills. During their time at school, students should take advantage of these opportunities to prepare for their future. Why are leadership skills important? Leadership… Read More

Instilling Leadership Values at Home

Leadership skills are one of the most important assets that parents can teach their children, especially during tough times. It is important for the growth of the child, makes them independent and gives them a boost of confidence in their work. Here are some ways parents can practise leadership skills at home: Work on focus and attention: This can be done by assigning an individual… Read More

Better Self-Esteem, Better Leadership Skills

Leadership and self-esteem are very dependent on each other. A person with high self-esteem will not feel threatened by other ideas. They empower and encourage themselves and others around them. They bring out the best version of the team. However, a person with low self-esteem can be controlling and disrupt the growth and opportunities of the whole team. It is crucial to work on self-esteem… Read More

Chinese Writing

考試策略: 修辭辨識


Reluctant Readers

Why Read Books in One Sitting?

Binge watching TV is a common pastime for people wanting a break at the end of a long day or week. We can also apply this intensive style to our reading. Check out these 5 reasons for diving into a book and not stopping until we reach the last page. It trains our focus. The modern world is obsessed with multi-tasking, so it takes effort… Read More

A Stepping Stone to the Broader Horizon

Children can often be fixated on a single series or story. They genuinely enjoy it and love to talk about it, but they refuse to read a new book, even if it’s similar. Though this can be frustrating to parents and teachers, who want to encourage reading and trying new things, it’s understandable that someone fully immersed in a world they love doesn’t feel enthused… Read More

Chinese Character

New Cultures

Counterculture and Literature

The counterculture movement of the 1960s and 70s is widely considered to be at the forefront of many important social changes in the Western world, which in its aftermath rippled across the globe, impacting people even to this day. The word counterculture explains itself: it is essentially an anti-establishment/mainstream cultural phenomenon. There have been many countercultural movements throughout history, but the one that still has… Read More

Communicating Without Words in Different Cultures

While many students join i-Learner to improve their verbal and written skills, 70-93% of our communication is in fact, body language, and we often learn that without even noticing. We are fortunate to have teachers from many different countries, and your interactions with them will help you become a global citizen who can communicate wherever you go, even without words. What exactly is body language?… Read More

Appreciation for Differences and Similarities

The world we live in is vibrantly colourful. Every day, we get the chance to meet different people, eat different cuisines, and speak different languages. Yet with the spread of globalisation, these differences are blending into our lifestyle, becoming part of our own culture, and generating similarities between us. I used to teach Cantonese to non-native speakers as a volunteer. I had the chance to… Read More

Learning about Different Cultures at Home

Having been deprived of the freedom to travel since the outbreak of the pandemic, you must thirst for a getaway from the boredom and numbness of the everyday routine. Forced to stay home, you can still spend quality time learning about different cultures without physically visiting those places. Virtual Tour This tops my recommendations because my i-Learner students love it the most! A virtual tour… Read More

Exam Skills


Making Lessons Fun

When it comes to focusing on a task, we all have limits to our attention spans. It varies from person to person and task to task. Children tend to have naturally shorter attention spans, so when facilitating their learning, it’s important we make lessons engaging and challenging. If we succeed, the result is fun. Fun is a byproduct of an active mind. In this article,… Read More

Humour in Children’s Literature

When we hear the term ‘literature’, thick, serious books spring to mind, often ones laden with melancholy. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, and if we look for them, there are plenty of great books to tickle our funny bones. Humour is important to the development of critical thinking skills, which is especially crucial for young, developing minds. After all, humour relies on… Read More

Creative Writing

Jumping from Page to Pen

Have you ever found yourself inspired by a story but too afraid of copying it to write something similar? There are many ways to be inspired by a story without copying it directly. Let’s take a look at a few. Instead of thinking about the whole story, look for specific details that touch you. If you like a certain character, think about what they experience… Read More

Using Prompts for Creative Writing

Finding inspiration Maintaining a good flow during creative writing tasks doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it’s a great thing to practise. Choosing a good stimulus can be helpful when avoiding or overcoming writer’s block. Here are some great online resources you can look to for inspiration. First lines – continue the story by adding the next action, detail, or thought. This website has… Read More

Writing Using the Senses

Take a slice of lemon and taste it. If it had a sound, what sound would it be? Perhaps someone dragging their fingers down a chalkboard, or an old fashioned alarm clock ringing. If the taste were a feeling what would it be? Maybe an electric shock, or the prick of a thousand needles against your skin. If the taste had a shape, what would… Read More



How Science Helps Your Child Succeed

When I moved to Hong Kong, I was very surprised to learn that science is not a core subject for younger students. In my UK primary school, we were encouraged to observe the world around us and get hands-on with experiments. This developed a love of science that never left me, and even led to me studying Biomedical Science at UCL. Throughout my time studying… Read More

Bringing Science to Life

As a student of mechanical engineering at university, I loved creating designs, building new structures, and understanding the mechanics of why things work the way they do. My interests ranged from optimising fans for turbine construction to automating medicine dispensers for the elderly and disabled. While my enthusiasm knew no bounds, my work was often very design-centric and didn’t fully explore the deeper possibilities of… Read More

Science and the Wider World

I studied engineering at university. During my time there, I gained many practical skills in my engineering mathematics courses and my tortuous thermodynamics modules. However, one of the most important skills I learnt was to look at and analyse the world critically with a scientific lense. There’s no escaping science and engineering in the real world. We’re all affected daily by news stories involving the… Read More

Reading Across the Curriculum

In Hong Kong, many English classes have Reading Across the Curriculum projects. As part of this, students read books about science, history, art and more. The Let’s Learn About… series from i-Learner Publishing is used by some classes for this, and it has a great range of fiction and non-fiction books on different topics. Reading Across the Curriculum is an excellent way to explore… Read More


Classic Literature

Reading Classic and Postcolonial Literature

What immediately comes to mind when ‘classic literature’ is mentioned in an English lesson? Perhaps wistful Victorian orphans or spurned women running across a heath. The texts we find in the literary canon are almost entirely Western, and that should not come as any surprise: English is a ‘Western’ language after all. But against the backdrop of a postcolonial and globalized Hong Kong, it is… Read More

Classic Children’s Books

Most contemporary bookshops have a vast children’s section, offering everything from middle-grade adventure stories to young adult dystopian fiction. With so many exciting new titles published each year, it can be easy to ignore older texts, which may seem outdated and difficult to understand. So why bother with children’s classics at all? First off, these books have had an enormous impact on our culture, imprinting… Read More

Classics and Vocabulary Building

As the key developer of Overseas Education materials for 11+ and 13+ examinations, I have spent a lot of time thinking of strategies for students to expand their vocabularies. A strong and broad vocabulary is the best weapon you can have in a Verbal Reasoning, Literary Analysis, Reading Comprehension, or Writing assessment; not only because of the words at your fingertips, but also… Read More

Critical Thinking

Questioning Sources

‘Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.’ – Voltaire Does unlimited data at our fingertips mean we’re better informed than we’ve ever been? Unfortunately, it can bring us closer to misinformation as well as the content we need. Accepting data without questioning it is like drinking without first looking into the glass, so it’s important to develop the right critical thinking… Read More

How Critical Thinking Classes Improve Outcomes in All Subjects

The term critical thinking refers to a process of objective analysis that is used to reach an informed judgement. The more that students practise this process, the more of their potential they will unlock. Many i-Learner courses, such as Critical Reading and Writing and our summer special course Olympian Critical Thinking, train students in critical thinking and equip students with skills that will be… Read More

Fostering Critical Thinking at Home

We all know that critical thinking is a crucial step to success. But how do we get better at it? At what age can your child start to think critically? Can we allow them to just develop this skill naturally, over time? Research has suggested that explicit instruction is the most effective way to foster critical thinking skills. In other words, teach it! And be… Read More

Chinese Punctuation

Poetry Analysis

Visualising Poetry

When I studied English at University, I learned to read a text closely, paying attention to words and their meanings, and to try to visualise these words as I read. Visualising words when we read can make the meaning of a poem much clearer, and allow us to understand it in a new way. These tips will help you practise this too, so you can… Read More

Appreciating Poetry from Diverse Backgrounds

Poetry is an artform employed to explore the deepest human truths that are otherwise almost impossible to get hold of via day-to-day prose. Its musical qualities and relative brevity mean that it has been created by writers from all sections of society, regardless of culture and class, giving us incredible insight into diverse lives. It would therefore be remiss of us to only pay attention… Read More

Understanding Poets’ Backgrounds

Many courses, such as IB English, require us to not just read poems but also understand the context in which they were written. Why is that important? Surely, the words on the page are the significant thing, so what else can we understand by learning about the poet and their background? Knowing a poet’s historical background is often essential to understanding the deeper meanings of… Read More

Rhyme and Rhythm

Essay Writing

Exam Essay Essentials

In exams, we’re often asked to write essays on unfamiliar topics. Some students feel panicked at the prospect of this as they can’t research support for their ideas. This is especially the case in subjects such as English, when the essay topics can’t be studied for in advance. The key to these essays is understanding the planning process. The main thing to remember is that… Read More

Writing with Structure

Writing an essay is like building a house. First, you need to lay a firm foundation with a strong introduction; then, build the storeys with your body paragraphs, and finally, use a conclusion to complete your essay just as a roof covers the entire house. Without structure, the reader will find it hard to follow the essay’s logic and make sense of arguments. Every Part… Read More

Three Steps to Synthesising Information for Essays

Over my years of teaching essay writing, I’ve encountered many students who struggle to find things to write about. They can write well when their teachers or classmates feed them points, but that isn’t a good strategy for long-term success. Nobody will whisper in their ear during exams, so it’s important for these students to learn to think for themselves. Needless to say, great ideas… Read More

Practising Proper Planning

We have all been there – sitting under stressful exam conditions and having to produce a piece of clear and concise writing. Sometimes, we panic and start writing immediately, only to get to the end and realise that it’s not as coherent as we would like. Maybe we didn’t even answer the question properly! By practising proper planning, the essay-writing process (and stress levels) becomes… Read More

Fluent Speaking

The Importance of having Meaningful Conversations with your Child

You might think that speaking to your child is a fairly simple concept. But did you know that the way you do it impacts their language capabilities and vocabulary? Two Stanford psychologists conducted a study that found: The number of words that children hear from their surroundings and adults makes a huge difference in their language capabilities – the more words they hear, the higher… Read More

Organizing and Presenting Ideas

Speaking fluently is one of the most important language skills; it helps us share our ideas easily and with confidence. Fluent speaking isn’t just about knowing the right vocabulary and grammar though. We also need to organize and present our ideas clearly. This may sound draining, but it simply takes practice. When you can do it, your ideas sound clear, systematic and logical, helping people… Read More

Building Confidence in Speaking

We all know the benefits of speaking a second or third language, such as creating international connections and increasing our communication skills. But what if we lack the confidence to practise our skills? How can we improve if we feel too embarrassed to even try? There are plenty of ways to build confidence! Try these tips to find the ones that work for you: Breathe… Read More

Practising Speaking with Tongue Twisters and Poems

An easy way to become a fluent speaker is to practise speaking often. At the beginning of our Global Speaking Passport lessons, i-Learner students practise their enunciation, tone and pacing with different phrases and tongue twisters. Besides improving reading fluency, practising with different phrases and tongue twisters helps students learn how to convey a message or feeling through their speaking, as well as learn… Read More


Learning Vocabulary through Reading

I have always loved reading. As a child, I would devour one book after another. Gradually, I realised that my vocabulary was expanding without me consciously making an effort to grow it. Reading is a fantastic way to expose ourselves to a wide variety of vocabulary. Through reading fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings, we can learn words such as ‘kingdom,’ ‘curse’ and… Read More

Reading Time with Family

Reading with students is one of my favourite activities when we have free time because it brings so many benefits. This is why I particularly enjoy teaching Love to Read and Critical Reading and Writing – these courses explore amazing books and deepen the enjoyment of reading. Reading outside of the classroom is also very helpful, and reading as a family brings additional… Read More

Fun with Idioms

Idioms are colourful phrases with secret meanings! They are a fun way to spice up your English, so I always make sure my students learn and use them whenever they can. Here are three tips to help you get the ball rolling with idioms! Be all ears It may be difficult to wrap your head around idioms at first because their literal meanings are rarely helpful at all. Instead… Read More

Expand Your Vocabulary with Ease

I was green with envy yesterday after my brother told a white lie and my mother gave him a candy. Today, out of the blue, my mother saw red when I repeated the white lie! White lies are such a grey area for me. Speaking of which, is the use of colours in English a grey area for you? Did the idioms in the previous… Read More

Classic Chinese Learning

Exam Preparation

How to Shine in Exams

It can be very frustrating to see your child do exercises perfectly at home but get bad grades in their exams. Parents often ask me what the problem is, and there are a few causes. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to these, which I use regularly to help students reach their potential. Try the tips below to find the ones that help your child shine:… Read More

Exam Strategies for School Exams

2021 has been a tough year for everyone, especially students. This year, exams are even more challenging as students have been learning in an unprecedented mode. As part of the exam practice team, I’ve helped many i-Learner students prepare for their school exams both online and in person. Although hard work is the key to academic achievements, effective exam strategies are also as important. Read More

Improving Your IELTS Writing Grade

Writing is one of the most challenging tasks in language tests, and Task 2 of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is no exception. Having worked with both young and adult learners, I have developed three steps to helping anyone improve their band score in IELTS Writing Task 2: Fast and furious  Unlike other exams that test endurance through long essays, IELTS writing is… Read More

Preparation Tips for Cambridge PET Exams

Certificates for well-known exams are a great way to boost a student’s profile. The Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) is a very popular exam for students in Hong Kong, and for good reason. This B1-level qualification proves you have the English-language skills needed for everyday use. Many i-Learner students take this four-skill exam, and I’ve got some simple tips for improving grades: Do Past Papers… Read More

Tutorial Classes

Nurturing Curiosity, Critical Thinking and Creativity through Tutorial Classes

Tutorial classes are one of the best ways to nurture intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and creativity, all at the same time. It’s well known that students at Oxford and Cambridge do particularly well with their studies because they can engage closely with their professors in small tutorials. As a former graduate tutor at three Oxford colleges, I’ve seen first-hand just how much students can learn… Read More

How Tutorial Classes Add to School-based Learning

Education is a powerful tool through which to nurture growth, unleash potential, form perspectives, and achieve dreams. Hong Kong has an excellent education system, but the government estimates that 50-75% of students flock to tutorial centres for extra classes after school. What are they looking for? Top marks! In our highly competitive education system, parents and students know the importance of high grades. School… Read More

The Importance of Learning Beyond the Curriculum

During my time at Oxford, I learned the importance of interdisciplinary study and intellectual curiosity. My tutors encouraged me to expand my interests beyond the limits of the curriculum, developing a passion for learning and an engagement with the subject that stretched me to my full potential. Similarly, i-Learner teachers introduce students to texts that are not part of their school courses. This is especially… Read More

Boosting your Grades with Tutorial Classes

Tutorial classes are a popular, and to many people, essential, part of the Hong Kong education system. Parents and students know the importance of good grades, and tutorial classes can give these a great boost. While i-Learner’s ultimate aim is to create passionate, engaged learners, helping our students reach their test and exam goals is also a key part of our role. Having run the… Read More


Overseas Education

Multiculturalism in UK Universities

What are your impressions of the UK? Do you picture Victorian buildings inhabited by people looking prim and proper and speaking the Queen’s English? You might be surprised, but the UK of today is a country of diverse cultures, one quite unlike that portrayed in older books and films. My time studying at the University of St Andrews granted me a small but invaluable window… Read More

Preparing for Entrance Exams

One of the most difficult things about preparing for entrance exams is the fact that there is no one single model of a school admissions test paper. One school may ask you to respond to a creative writing task about a childhood memory, while another might require you to analyse an eighteenth-century poem. Over the years, I’ve helped many students prepare for Common Entrance exams… Read More

Preparing for Admissions Interviews

Admissions interviews can be nerve-racking for many students, but you’ll be able to increase your confidence if you understand the process and what the interviewers are looking for in a candidate. Whether for admission into a top school or university, interviews are designed to allow teachers or professors to see if you would be a suitable fit for the school and whether you would benefit… Read More

Why Study in the UK?

The UK has long been a popular destination for Hong Kong students. However, in the past, only those who could afford independent-school fees were able to attend. With the recent changes in BN(O) regulations, many more people are considering education in the UK. As an education consultant with i-Learner Overseas Education Services and someone who has studied in the UK, I am always eager… Read More

Exam Practice

Celebrating Online Learning

How i-Learner Keeps Online Lessons Engaging

To help students make consistent progress, most i-Learner classes are 70 minutes long, even for our youngest students. Teachers are experienced at checking facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and responses to make sure students are engaged. If anyone seems tired, teachers are great at adapting activities or even getting students moving around the classroom to keep up the energy. However, when we started… Read More

What Students Learn from Online Lessons

i-Learner students have been attending online lessons for a year now, and we’ve been amazed at what they’ve learned! Not only have our writing students become better writers and our reading students become better readers, but during this difficult year, these young learners have developed a wide range of useful skills. Our teachers have put together a list of the top three skills that students… Read More

How to Fight Online-learning Fatigue

i-Learner has been teaching online for a year now, and we’ve learned plenty of tips and tricks to keep our lessons exciting. If you’re struggling to focus in your online classes, read on to find out what our tutors recommend.   Be Engaged When we feel tired, we don’t usually want to go for a run. But getting our blood pumping and our heart rates… Read More

What we Love about Online Teaching

We’ve been teaching online for a year now, and though it’s not something we ever expected to do, we’ve found a lot of amazing benefits. To celebrate i-Learner’s online-teaching anniversary, our tutors have chosen their favourite aspects of virtual lessons.   Online Teaching is Flexible and Adaptable It should come as no surprise that in this year of change, we’ve loved the tools that help… Read More

DSE Essentials

Taking Paper 3B to Another Level

Like you, I’m familiar with the trials and tribulations of the HKDSE; I was a candidate myself just a few years ago. Since preparing other students for their exams, I’ve found Paper 3B to be one where candidates often lose marks unnecessarily. It may seem like a mad scramble to copy down everything from the data file, but there is more technique to this exam… Read More

The Extended Modules of DSE Mathematics: Making a Wise Choice

Being one of the first batch of candidates for DSE Mathematics, I’ve studied and taught the extended modules for over a decade. Many friends and students have sought advice when considering their choices, and there are a few key points to consider. One main reason to study an extended module is to increase your chance of university admission. More than 80% of UGC-funded bachelor programs… Read More

Questions types to be aware of in the DSE Reading Paper (Paper 1)

Isn’t DSE Reading just locating information in the passage and copying it? If you think this, the chances are that you’ve missed some of the most important skills for this paper. Like many of my newer students, you may have underestimated paper 1, which is not known for being straightforward. From my years of marking students’ work, here are the main question types where people… Read More

Exam Skills

Engaging Early Learners

Early Learning Through Fun and Games

Some people believe learning only happens when children are sitting still and listening to a teacher. They feel that games waste classroom time. Actually the opposite is often true, especially for younger learners. In my years as a teacher, I’ve found that learning through fun and games builds skills in three essential areas:   Physical  Early learners explore their surroundings through touch. It is important… Read More

Spelling Tips for Early Learners

Your child can speak fluently and read confidently, but they make constant mistakes in their spelling. Is this scenario familiar? It’s one I’ve seen many times during my time at i-Learner, and I’ve found three key tools can make a significant difference: 1. Phonics Early learners of English need to use two systems to read – phonics and sight words. If… Read More

Preparing for the Trinity GESE Grade 1

Trinity’s Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE) are popular exams taken by kindergarten and lower primary students. They are excellent for demonstrating a child’s English speaking and listening abilities, and good results are important when applying to top primary schools in Hong Kong. The exams test whether a child can have a conversation with a native English speaker, and they’re a great way for children… Read More

Early Learning Through Discovery

Like all parents, mine have always wanted the best for me. When I was young, they gave me stimulating toys to play with. If I got upset looking for a certain Lego brick, they found it for me. As a tutor, I can see how natural it is to want to help children, but this can remove an important aspect of the learning journey. Recently,… Read More

Prose Reading Skills

Student Success Stories

How Understanding my Student was the Key to his Success

In one of my favourite Pre School English L4 classes, there are five little five-year-olds. They’re wonderful students. One little boy, who I’ll call Sammy, always struggled to focus on our lesson materials, he could gaze attentively at the cars and people outside. He sometimes counted the number of vehicles and named their makes, models and colours; he even commented on what the pedestrians… Read More

The Learning Journey in Action

Ben joined my Critical Reading and Writing L1 class when he was in Primary 1. On his first day, he walked through the door with his school bag half-open and books spilling out. During class, when I asked him to read passages aloud from the workbook, he stared at me blankly. I wasn’t sure if he would fit into the class, which had five… Read More

Wider Reading

Engaging Weaker Readers in Wider Reading

In my years of teaching Love to Read, I’ve come across many weak readers who struggle due to insufficient vocabulary and a lack of motivation. For these children, there’s a risk that the purpose behind reading becomes blurry. Reading isn’t the goal itself, but a tool through which to explore and learn other things. It’s important to love reading if you’re going to use… Read More

What Reading Non-fiction Teaches Us

Young readers are drawn to stories as they help make sense of the world. Fiction teaches us many important reading skills too, such as prediction, characterisation, and connecting cause and effect. It also exposes readers to a great range of interesting vocabulary and important language features such as idioms and literary techniques. However, fiction isn’t the only thing we should read. It’s important for readers… Read More

Learning through Comics and Cartoons

Comics, graphic novels and cartoons are great ways to get your child learning English. Students of all ages can be put off by too many grammar exercises, so it’s great to use a range of tools to keep them engaged. Even students who are reluctant to speak or write in English are excited by comics and cartoons, and their dislike of English can soon be… Read More

Get to Know the English Classics

Selecting English classics to read means you’re selecting some of the finest English literature written in history. When I was a student, I enjoyed exploring classics as they are timeless and have common literary themes that are the foundation of many modern pieces of writing. Later, when I did GCSE and A Level English Literature, I discovered that my earlier interest in reading was useful… Read More


Encouraging your Kindergartener to Converse in English

Learning to converse in English is beneficial but oftentimes frustrating for kindergarteners since they may not be able to communicate their thoughts effectively. With proper guidance and encouragement at home, kindergarteners can develop their conversation skills and become more fluent speakers of English. This will ensure success in their primary school interviews and speaking exams like Trinity GESE. To be able to converse… Read More

Speaking Slips to Watch Out For

When a child is learning English as a second language, they may make mistakes due to translating from Cantonese to English, mixing features of the two languages, or from lack of exposure to spoken English. Try spotting some of these common mistakes in your child’s speaking to help them improve: Subject-Verb Agreement A child may forget subject-verb agreement when talking excitedly. He have a cat! … Read More

How to Excel in DSE English Speaking

Paper 4 is the ten percent of their overall DSE English grade that people tend to underestimate. Very often, even schools do not provide sufficient training to their students, leaving them to think: Hey, it’s just talking, right? I talk all the time. However, acing this paper requires a few more techniques than you may have anticipated. Elaborate on your ideas It’s easy to begin… Read More

The Beauty of Chinese Characters


Expanding Vocabulary through Parts of Speech

Most Hong Kong primary schools teach vocabulary from readers or textbooks, and this means students may know many words in specific areas (e.g. sports or household items) but be missing lots of common words. Many students struggle with reading because they haven’t acquired enough vocabulary items to comprehend a whole text. It is only when they’re asked to cram vocabulary lists in secondary school that… Read More

Making Tenses Fun!

I teach grammar to students of all ages, and the one thing uniting them when they first start classes is a hatred of learning tenses. Students see tenses as a monster that’s both scary and boring! In school, they’re often taught long strings of rules, which they practise with repetitive exercises. As a grammar teacher, I personally enjoy teaching tenses a lot. The rules… Read More

Great Grammar Games to Play

I’ve been teaching grammar for several years and I’ve seen many students who consider grammar to be a set of rigid rules they have to painfully memorise. In fact, your natural use of grammar in everyday English isn’t proportional to the effort you put into cramming grammatical rules. It’s better to get a strong feeling for accurate grammar instead. Playing games is a great way… Read More

Chinese Teachers' Childhood Favourites

Four Classics in Chinese

Those Names in Classical Chinese Literature

Four Seasons

Chinese Poetry

Learning Chinese Online

i-Learner Recommends

Online Educational Games

Educational games are a great way to keep kids learning and having fun too. There are plenty available, teaching everything from letters and numbers for little ones to chemistry and journalism skills for older students. Take a look at the selection below, all tried and tested by i-Learner teachers. For Kindergarten students… Read More

Virtual Field Trips

Our students are doing so well studying from home. They’re working hard in class, doing their homework, and learning lots even during this difficult time. Did you know, students can not only go to school at home, but take a field trip there as well? Go to the zoo, visit a museum, or even fly through the universe, all from the comfort of home! Check… Read More

Free Online Reading Resources

As well as reading lots of books, i-Learner teachers also love to find stories, poems and articles online. We’ve put together lists of our favourite free resources to keep you learning wherever you are. Take a look and find something new today! For Kindergarten students For Lower Primary (P1-3)… Read More

Wider Reading Suggestions

i-Learner teachers love reading. Books are a fun way to engage with languages and to jump into new and exciting worlds. We’ve put together lists of the books we love for students of all ages. Take a look and find your new favourites! For Kindergarten students For Lower Primary (P1-3) students… Read More


The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

As parents and educators, we can encounter occasions when a child refuses to perform a certain task, like reading a book, cleaning their room, or doing homework. Through my work with a range of different children, I’ve come to understand the importance of positive reinforcement in situations like these. It’s both simple and effective!   What is positive reinforcement? Positive reinforcement is the method of… Read More

Reducing Stress for Learning Success

What causes stress for students? Tests? Presentations? Expectations? All of these? As educational demands become more rigorous, so too do students’ stress levels. We all know that stress can have a negative effect on student performance, inside and outside the classroom. It’s important to help students manage this in order for them to have stable, happy, productive lives. For our own well-being, we work hard… Read More

How to Motivate your Young Learner

Most children have an innate motivation to learn and explore. However, like adults, children can get worn out and unmotivated from time to time. In such cases, parents and educators can use a variety of techniques to motivate them. As an English tutor at i-Learner, I’ve had lots of hands-on experience with motivating children in the classroom setting, and I’d like to share some tips… Read More

How to Create a Positive Learning Environment for Young Learners

Positive, engaging learning environments are keys to students’ academic and social success; therefore, creating such learning environments for students is always my top priority here at i-Learner. Below are some techniques that you can deploy to establish an effective learning environment for your child. Build rules collaboratively One key step to creating a positive learning environment is to develop a set of mutually agreed… Read More


Developing Ideas from Spark to Story

As someone who loves reading and writing stories, I often find myself inspired by an amazing idea. Sometimes, it’s a vivid scene in my head, or an amazing back-story for a character. I love to think about these and develop the thought into a full story spark! Yet, no matter how clear the idea, developing it into a story is a completely different challenge.  I’ve… Read More

Why Write poetry?

Writing poems can be a great way for kids to express how they feel and think, and to discover the possibilities of language. My own interest in poetry has stayed with me from childhood; I have now published two collections of poems, and there are more to come. Poems can be any length and can take as much or as little time to create as… Read More

Writing Prompts to do at Home

Students often find writing to be a challenge. ‘How do I start?’ or ‘What should I write about?’ are just some of the questions that come to their minds. However, the best way to start may just be to put pen to paper and get writing. Practising with writing prompts at home can help remove the pressure of getting the ‘perfect’ essay or story down… Read More

Learn Chinese with Your Kids


Every Child is an Artist: Ways to Nurture Young Artists

From a very young age, children display a desire for creative expression. Put them in a room full of crayons, watercolours, paintbrushes, coloured paper, and even recycled products, and you can be sure to see them having lots of fun creating amazing artworks. But many children lose interest in art as they grow up, thinking that they are just not one of the blessed, talented… Read More

Increasing Creativity in the Home

Research has shown that creativity is crucial for children’s cognitive and social development. Creativity trains children to think and solve problems in unique ways. It allows them to express themselves freely while also reducing stress and anxiety. It is also an important component of school interviews and English language exams! During my classes, I always make sure that my students are not only working on… Read More

Imagination Building in Primary School

Little children are full of imagination. The stories they tell are wild rides that connect together a thousand different ideas and never want to end. However, once students reach eight or nine, this freewheeling creativity often comes to an end. Children want to find the right way to tell a story, or they are so focused on spelling, grammar and punctuation that their imaginations are… Read More

The Craft of Storytelling

What is the difference between writing and creative writing? Today, I woke up at 7 pm. I brushed my teeth in the bathroom. I ate breakfast in the dining room. Then I left home and went to school. I went to school by bus. I went to class. Classes started at 9:00am. At noon, I ate lunch. I ate spinach and pork with rice. It… Read More

Chinese Speaking

Maths and Science

STEM Resources to Explore at Home

Just like my students, I once had to study for my exams. Some people learn well by repetition and memorising. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. For me to be able to answer questions on a topic, I have to experiment until I fully understand it. There are lots of learners like me, who do better by learning a subject deeply rather than quickly. Read More

Boosting Basic Mental Maths Skills

As a Maths tutor at i-Learner, parents often ask me how to improve their child’s calculation speed and accuracy, and a good mental Maths ability is the answer to that. However, it’s not as easy as diving straight in to practising these skills. In my experience, the key is to stimulate learning motivation first, and then think about the skills. It can be frustrating not… Read More

Chinese Reading Comprehension

Reading Skills

The Importance of Reading the News

There are many benefits to reading the news, and it’s great to get kids into the habit early. Find out the hows and whys of news reading below: The Benefits of Reading the News: Expanded vocabulary – Teachers and textbooks choose the most important words for a child to learn. However, if you want your young learner to go beyond these, newspapers are… Read More

The Path to Becoming an Engaged Reader

During my five years of teaching young learners, I have often been approached by parents struggling to help their children read. Parents are well aware that learning to read is a crucial step towards reading to learn, and they are eager to help their children become independent learners. I’ve found some useful tips which parents can use at home to support reading and ensure their… Read More

Correcting Common Reading Mistakes

In my Love to Read and Phonics classes, students often make the same mistakes repeatedly when reading aloud. Children in Hong Kong can be under a lot of pressure to read from an early age, and teachers and parents can be tempted to let small mistakes slip by in order to encourage faster reading. However, I make sure to always correct the repeated… Read More

Thinking Skills

Building Critical Thinking Skills

What is most important in your child’s education? Grades? Extra-curriculars? Sports? All of these are, of course, relevant in a child’s school career. However, in our rapidly changing world, it is hard to deny the importance of educating a generation of life-long learners who can think critically and independently. Critical thinking skills are what set top students apart. This means being able to think themselves,… Read More

Boosting Critical Thinking through Games

Critical thinking helps learners analyse new information and solve difficult problems. It’s the key to long term educational success. When I help my students prepare for their exams, parents often ask me: ‘Why can’t my child learn from their mistakes?’ This is a great question, and understanding the answer makes it clear why critical thinking is so important to students. Often, children are overwhelmed with… Read More

Develop Higher Order Thinking Skills through Reading

When children start reading, they begin with the alphabet and then move on to phonics, blending, sight words, etc. Many people see fluent independent reading as the end point of this journey. However, for me, the main reading skill of a child at this stage is still developing, which is the true story-engagement that comes with higher order thinking. Once children are confident with building… Read More


Managing Emotions

Emotion management has been shown to correlate closely with academic performance. When a student is over stressed, he or she is unlikely to perform at his or her best. In extreme cases, exam stress can cause physical symptoms, such as stomach upsets and headaches. Helping your child manage their emotions well can be the key to their future success. One of the most important ways… Read More

What Negative Behaviour Really Means

Unlike adults, children often express their needs through behaviour rather than through their words. Therefore, the emergence of negative behaviours can be a signal of unsatisfied wants. As a tutor of small groups, I often get to witness a variety of different behaviours from children, and I always endeavour to find the root causes of any negativity. Look out for these key issues in your… Read More

Ocean in Chinese

Chinese Exam Preparation

Exam Tips

Working On Your Kid’s Weaker Skills

As part of the team which works on school specific exam practice, I have regular conversations with parents about their child’s progress on school tests. One question which comes up often is: ‘Why doesn’t my kid’s hard work seem to pay off?’ Parents find it understandably frustrating to see their child studying hard for exams but still getting low grades. This can be especially… Read More

Memory Techniques for Exams and Tests

Have you ever been afraid of your mind going blank when you sit an exam? I have. And many of my students tell me they worry about this too. It would be a nightmare if this really happened, but fortunately, studies show that it’s actually very unlikely. Usually, your memories flood back once you pick up a pen and start answering questions. However, the worry… Read More

Grade boosting tips for struggling students

In my five years working at i-Learner, I’ve helped countless struggling students make fantastic progress and come out of their exams with good grades and a smile. In my experience, if your child is struggling with their exams and revision, the measures to take can be split into short-term and long-term strategies. If your child is having difficulties and their exam is next week, try… Read More


How to Get the Most from Doing Homework

Doing homework can be rewarding if it is done effectively and efficiently. It is a chance for your child to refresh his/her memory of what they learned at school, and a way for you to find out which part your child’s understanding of that material needs a little work. I’ve helped many students improve their study strategies in order to get more from doing their… Read More

How to Structure Revision Time

Preparing for exams should not be a last-minute rush of activity. If you think of it like self-organised homework, this helps you be more productive, get better grades, and feel less stressed. I often help my students prepare for their exams, and it’s always the ones who are organised and structured in their preparation who do best. During my own studies, I learned several useful… Read More

Creative Ways to Get Kids Studying

As parents and educators, we know that sometimes, it can be tricky to get children studying or doing their homework. Throughout my time as an English Tutor, I have found that kids respond best to entertainment and creativity as a tool to engage them in their studies. Here are some of the most effective ways to get them working: 1. Play games Games that… Read More

Plant Symbols in Chinese Literature

School Application

Making the Transition from Primary to Secondary

Having taught at i-Learner for around five years, I have seen countless students make their journeys through primary school and onto secondary school. From this experience, I have been able to observe the specific ways in which students can best prepare themselves for the jump, ensuring that they adapt well and get the most out of their studies from S1 onwards. 1. Consolidate your primary… Read More

Boost your Application to Top-Tier Secondary Schools

Applying to top-tier secondary schools can be a daunting prospect for P6 students and their parents. To secure a place in a well-regarded school, many parents target its Discretionary Places (DP) instead of crossing their fingers and waiting for the results of Central Allocation. Having coordinated the school-specific exam practice for more than three years here at i-Learner, I have helped numerous parents and… Read More

Making your Kindergartener’s Application Stand Out

A portfolio is an essential tool for showing target primary schools the incredible things your child has to offer. As a teacher at i-Learner, I’ve reviewed many student portfolios. Sometimes, these are stuffed full of certificates, reports and photos, and they look like an encyclopaedic history of a child, however there is nothing in them which particularly catches my eye. As you apply to primary… Read More

Chinese Festivals


How to Get 5** in DSE Maths

Maths can be a very divisive subject – students either love it or they hate it! But I’ve found that everyone can do well in maths if they just learn a few key strategies. I developed these when studying for the DSE myself, and have honed them through my teaching experience. Here are the three main things I focused on to get 5** at DSE:… Read More

Steps to Ace DSE English Paper 3B

The significance of DSE English paper 3B might surprise you. However, it can have a remarkable effect on your overall grade. Strong candidates can go from a 5* to 5**; weaker candidates can use this paper to make a significant jump in their grades. Success in this paper is well within your reach. If you can tackle part B2, then by following a few simple… Read More

Dealing with Uncooperative Candidates in DSE English Speaking

The DSE English Speaking exam feels daunting to a lot of candidates. I felt the same when I took the exam myself some years ago. The exam seemed very hard to prepare for as I knew my performance could easily be affected by circumstances beyond my control. I worried about uncooperative candidates who would perhaps interrupt, dominate or steer the conversation in irrelevant directions. However,… Read More

Common Mistakes in the DSE Writing Paper

You have memorised lists of vocabulary. You’ve done so much writing that your arm is going to fall off. You’ve followed the format of sample essays. You have even picked a topic you’re familiar with. Then why aren’t you getting the grade you deserve in your DSE writing paper? Unfortunately, EVERYONE has done those things to prepare for the HKDSE exam, so you need to… Read More

Early Learners

Why Preschoolers Need Active Learning

You are probably already familiar with the concept of active learning – learning through play and hands-on activities. This can take the form of exploring different materials, learning through guided group activities and crafts, and interacting a lot with classmates. But with the pressures on academics that the Hong Kong school system creates from a very young age, activity-based learning can sometimes get left behind. Read More

Reading Story Books with Early Learners

Reading story books is an essential part of a child’s development. It not only establishes necessary language skills, but also stimulates a child’s imagination and creativity. Having taught many preschoolers here at i-Leaner, I have found reading story books to be an excellent way to encourage these little ones to develop and share ideas. It also helps adults and children to develop a creative bond,… Read More

Teaching Sight Words through Games

As Miss Lucy discussed in last week’s article, sight words, or high frequency words, are those which appear frequently in English writing. Being able to spot them can definitely help a child’s reading speed and fluency. These words can seem very easy to learn (some are only 1 or 2 letters long), however, they can be difficult for young learners since they can have… Read More

Tips for Chinese Learning

Public Speaking

How Parents can Boost Speaking in the Home

As English is a global language, it is important for children to master the art of verbal English communication. This allows them to broaden their minds by sharing thoughts, ideas, and opinions with people from different parts of the world. Here at i-Learner, we strive to improve speaking skills by having conversations with our students and encouraging them to express their thoughts and opinions. In… Read More

7 Fun Discussion Topics for the Family

Parents are great at finding ways to make sure their children are engaged with learning English. From my experience, though, the best results come when parents join in with their children! Speaking English at home is highly beneficial, especially when your child is still young. This makes the language feel stress-free and fun, rather than a chore they need to get through at school. Over… Read More

The Importance of Warming up Before Speaking

Students face a variety of situations in which they need to put their best voice forward: from their very first interview to in-class presentations and speech competitions. A well-prepared voice can make all the difference and help disguise nervousness as confidence. Developing good vocal warm-up habits from a young age will help students grow into confident speakers. From my experience in drama, I have… Read More

Speech Festival Success

Every year, I’m excited to see the poems, prose extracts and drama pieces which are chosen for the Hong Kong Speech Festival. The texts are always full of interesting feelings, which are a lot of fun for students to experience as they read. I have been training students for the Speech Festival for many years now, and I’m always so happy to see my students… Read More

New Hobbies, New Habits

New Hobbies, New Habits

New Hobbies, New Habits

As a teenager, I had a busy schedule of extracurricular activities, from fencing and choir to Girl Guides and Venture Scouts. It was fun and easy to pack my calendar with these things, especially since my parents paid for and drove me to the after-school sessions and weekends away. As an adult myself, though, it can feel like I’m busy enough simply going… Read More