Introducing -- Make your words count!

iWordcount tools from are now free at! is the free and easy way to count the words that you read or write. Just paste in your text and get your word count data. There are other features, too.

You can input your reading speed and get the reading time of your text. Reading data also shows you the *Reading Ease and the Reading Grade of your text.

If you sign in (it’s free!), you can track your words on your My Information page, just like at and are helpful for learners and teachers who do extensive reading.

Readers can track word counts for books on the Log a Book page. Just input the Title, Publisher, and Total words in the book, and click “I read it! Honestly!”

Readers can also click “Search a book,” and our database will give you the Title, Publisher, and Total words of graded readers.

If you can’t find word count data for a book, use the WolframAlpha tool to estimate word counts. (1) Input the pages you read or will read. (2) Input the lines on one full page. (3) Input the number of words in three full lines. And (4) input the page space without text (pictures or blanks) in the first 20 pages of the book.

You can see a list of the books you read on your My Books Page. And with a free teacher’s account, teachers can track word counts for groups of readers. Contact support (at), and ask for a free teacher’s account for or

Make your words count at! Brought to you by, with over 1,500 stories for learners of English, and where English learners read big!

*Reading Ease and Reading Grade are based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores. Word counts for stories are only available at

Doing Extensive Reading with SCRUM

scrumTo promote extensive reading, we show how teachers can use Scrum (Sutherland & Sutherland, 2014), an established method for efficiently managing projects. Our preliminary results show that Scrum may markedly help students increase the amount they read, possibly contributing to a 60% increase in reading word counts.

First, we outline a 10 step process for using Scrum to promote extensive reading. (1) Pick the General Scrum Reading Manager (the teacher). (2) Make teams of 3-4 members who will meet for a weekly Scrum. (3) Pick Reading Scrum Masters for each team. (4) Using post-its, each group makes a “Book Pile” of books that they want to read. (5) On their post-its, each member estimates how long a book will take to read. (6) Students set Reading Sprint Goals for the week. (7) Students make work visible, using the Scrum Board. (8) During Weekly Scrum, group members ask each other the three key Scrum reading questions. (9) Every 2 weeks, groups Report and Review their progress to the class. (10) At each Report and Review, groups reflect on how to improve.

During a period of four weeks, 27 students did a total of four reading Scrums. We then compared student reading word counts between the four week period before they did Scrum and the four week period while they did Scrum.

The results were encouraging. During the four week period before Scrum, each student read an average of 28,670 words. During Scrum, each student read an average of 46,919 words. This is nearly a 64% increase in reading amount.

At this point, we cannot claim that Scum will greatly increase student reading amounts. There are other variables that may have contributed to the increase for our students. However, this study does show the potential of Scrum for helping students read more, and we suggest that other teachers and researchers try Scrum in more rigorous experiments to see if it really works for promoting extensive reading.

This paper was presented at the 9th Annual Extensive Reading Seminar held at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan on October 1, 2016. The original title was “Applying Scrum Principles to ER Instruction,” by Joseph Poulshock and Douglas Forster. Click here for a PDF of the talk.

Sutherland, J., & Sutherland, J. J. (2014). Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. New York: Crown Business.

Little Carpenter (for Ukulele)

The Little Carpenter goes into work in the morning. His work starts slow. But as he works on, he gets a rhytym and a groove. He slows down for lunch, but then he gets back to work, working fast, and finally finishing his day with a flourish! After the work is done, he packs up and walks out the door, closing it with the flair of an artisan.

Songs as Spice in Language Classes

People all around the world enjoy music and song every day. Because songs are universally enjoyed and often memorable, language teachers often use them to spice up their classes. But how can we use songs not just to fill up the time, but to provide students with valuable opportunities for meaningful input and output? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Use High Frequency Language. Choose songs that feature high frequency vocabulary and grammar, especially for lower levels. Find texts at the right difficulty level for students. Learn to profile the texts at: lextutor. Help students understand and use the high frequency language.
  2. Focus on Parts. If parts of the song are difficult, you can focus only on easier verses. Often it’s good if the students can understand the chorus because it’s usually the most memorable part.
  3. Make Meaningful Connections. Introduce the song with a little story, example, or a question that helps students make meaningful connections to the song. Don’t just start by saying, “Today we are going to listen to Let it Be by the Beatles.” Rather say something like, “Have you heard of the Beatles?” What songs do you know and like? How many records did they sell?” If you make meaningful connections when you start, the song will be more memorable.
  4. Make Song Activities Interactive. You can give the students a print with the lyrics, or you can give them a song activity template with blank lines for the song and a set pattern for dealing with songs. See the “Song Template.”
    1. To get the words for the song, students can do “running dictation,” writing the lyrics down in the bank lines on the sheet.
    2. Leave the title blank. Students guess the title or make up titles.
    3. Do fill in the blank activities with variations. From Let it Be: “in times of ______,” “in times of tro______,” or “in times of tro__ __ __ __.”
  5. Use Song Topics for Output. Songs often touch on interesting topics, and they often deal with universal human problems and experiences. You can use these topics for output activities in language classes.
    Do problem solvers that have clear outcomes, such as “list, rank, choose, suggest.” In response to Let it Be, pairs or groups do these tasks:

    1. (1) What worries or troubles do people often have? Make a LIST of 5. (2) RANK the troubles from easiest to hardest. (3) CHOOSE one trouble or worry. SUGGEST a solution. In other words, answer: “How can I help someone solve this trouble?”
    2. Dialogs. Make simple dialogs based on song topics, and have students practice them in pairs. From Let it Be:
      1. A: I’m really worried about the test.
        B: Did you study?
        A: Yes, I studied hard.
        B: Then relax. Just let it be.
  6. Limit Language-Focused Activities. Practice pronunciation, speaking and repeating lyrics with students. Students make word cards for the high frequency vocabulary in the songs. Quiz them on the vocabulary. Focus on grammar points with examples. From Let it Be: Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom. Santa came, bringing gifts. Mary arrived, wearing a beautiful dress.
    1. Don’t spend too much time on language-focus. It goes against the “natural reason” we listen to songs, and “teaching too much” doesn’t get results. Instead, help students “notice” grammar and language points as they enjoy the songs.
  7. Plan Spacing and Retrieval. Return to the song in later classes. Have students quiz each other by practicing retrieval of the lyrics or individual words with word cards. If appropriate, sing the song with students, eventually from memory.

The above talk was given on February 26, 2016 at the “Charlie Zemi” for MGU future teachers. 

Can You Learn Language in Class? II

In case the Moodle download is not working, here is the PDF for my lecture on learning language in class (Part 2). JP-in-class

We can promote SLA through interaction, negotiating for meaning and creating comprehensible input (i + 1). In this process, we may or may not be ready to acquire some grammar points. We possess this readiness or teachability because we acquire grammar points in predictable sequences. As we acquire through i + 1, we can deliberately focus on grammar at the end (inductively) after using it in real communication, and lastly we can acquire language as we focus primarily on meaningful messages through content-based instruction.