English Language Learning

Group of students talking and laughing while sitting at a table

English Language Learning (ELL) supports all undergraduate Arts & Science students who are seeking to improve their English language skills, including reading, writing, speaking, critical thinking and listening. ELL has a friendly atmosphere and welcomes students of all ages, backgrounds and levels of English. ELL is designed for:

  • International students
  • Students whose first or primary language is not English
  • Students who find formal, academic English challenging

Our courses are designed and taught by U of T professors — and they are free!

ELL Mini Courses
Students seated in a row in a seminar room

Mini courses are free, non-credit courses that take place over three to six days. Courses are offered in the Fall, Winter and Summer terms. 

Fall/Winter Courses

Summer Courses

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about ELL programming, connect with us online or via email. 

You are eligible to receive a Co-Curricular Record (CCR) validation upon completing our courses. The CCR produces an official record that highlights your experiences and skills developed in opportunities beyond the classroom. This can be useful for future academic and workplace applications.

Fall/Winter 2023-24 Courses

Communication Café Intensive

  • February 20 – 22, 2024 (in person at UC183 and online synchronous)

The Communication Café is a series of workshops on communication topics relevant to university work and beyond. Our topics this year will include Building a Better Vocabulary, Critically Analyzing Images, Clarity in Science Research Writing, Elevator Pitch Practice and more. There will be seven different topics offered over fall and winter reading weeks. 

If you attended fewer than six Communication Cafés in Fall 2023, you can complete the CCR validation by attending the rest of the Cafés this term! A total of six cafes over Fall/Winter is required for the validation.

Registration links and details for each session can be found in the accordion below.

The Communication Café Intensive will be held in-person on the U of T campus, with additional sessions held synchronously on Zoom. The Intensive is open to all Faculty of Arts & Science undergraduate students. You may register for only one Café, or for as many of the Cafés as you wish. There is no fee.

CCR validation: Students must attend a minimum of six Cafés. You may earn the CCR validation by attending six Cafés in the Fall term, six Cafés in the Winter term, or a combination of Cafés during both Fall and Winter Reading Weeks in one academic year (for a total of six).

In-Person Sessions

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Wednesday, February 21

Zoom Sessions

Note: You will need a U of T email address and a U of T Zoom account to register for the Zoom sessions. The registration will not work with any other type of Zoom account, only U of T.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Professional Writing

  • March 4 – 22, 2024 (online asynchronous)

Learn how culture interacts with professional writing, write three real-world documents that present a positive image and improve the clarity and persuasiveness of your writing with feedback from ELL writing instructors.

This course is entirely online and asynchronous (you do not have to login at a particular time). Total time commitment: 6 hours (2 hours per week). There is no Quercus site. Students will receive materials and MyMedia links via email. 

This mini course consists of several “mini talks” on professional writing as well as 3 real-world writing tasks (a personal statement; a networking email or job application letter; and a resume). Participants will get detailed feedback on their writing from ELL Writing Instructors.

The course will begin with an examination of how culture impacts the way we present ourselves in writing. Students will be encouraged to consider the approaches they may bring to professional writing from the various languages and cultures that form their identity, and to think through how they can best present themselves. 

We will also discuss issues of honesty in professional writing and will look at how to be authentic while maintaining a positive image. We’ll look at how to make the most of the experience you have — even if it isn’t a lot — and how to translate university experiences into evidence of workplace skills.

Our ELL Writing Instructors will give you feedback on your formatting, organization, word choice, level of detail, and grammar/sentence structure, as well as on the overall persuasiveness of your approach. You will also reflect on your learning.

This course is free and non-credit. It is open only to undergraduates in the Faculty of Arts & Science, St. George campus.

CCR validation: Students must complete all writing assignments. 

Register for Professional Writing


Oral Presentation

  • This course will be offered again at a future date

In this small class, students will learn strategies to generate language, structure ideas and perform dynamically within various academic speaking situations. Learning in this course happens mainly through practice. Class time will involve improvisational activities, small-group collaborations and multiple opportunities to speak up in public.

Join us to practice and learn how to:

  • Get over anxiety and enjoy public speaking
  • Speak with appropriate, dynamic expression
  • Use Design Thinking to target a presentation to its audience
  • Structure a speech into a unified whole
  • Design effective visual aids

This course will take place in-person or synchronously on Zoom for two hours per week, for four weeks. Section 1 takes place in-person, while Section 2 takes place synchronously on Zoom. For both sections of the course, students will also put in about 1.5 hours of online work between scheduled classes. The course is free and non-credit. It will not affect your GPA. 

During each meeting of this course, short instructor-led lessons will introduce students to principles and practices that they will then immediately apply in structured, small-group activities.

One of the first goals of our work together will be to build an atmosphere that is friendly and encouraging. The overall course objective is to boost your confidence in speaking. You do not need to speak English extremely well to take this course. 

CCR validation: Attendance and full participation at 3 of 4 class sessions.


Reading eWriting

  • This course will be offered again at a future date

Meet with an ELL instructor online to work on your reading and writing! Reading eWriting offers you the opportunity to write a series of six emails to an instructor in response to either popular articles or assigned readings from your academic courses. Since there is no grade, the method enhances your ability to develop ideas more rapidly without feeling blocked. Try it and see! 

You will spend a total of six hours (two hours per week for three weeks) writing six emails to a writing centre instructor in response to your assigned readings. Your instructor will respond to your concepts and reasoning and give you advice on language use. You are encouraged to let your instructor know which aspects of reading and writing you want to work on.

CCR validation: You must complete all six emails to receive the CCR validation. Separate CCR validations are given for each session during the academic year as well as for each summer intensive.

There are two types of Reading eWriting programs to choose from when you register:

Popular Reading eWriting 

What will I read for Popular Reading eWriting?

You will be sent links to high-quality, popular articles before each due date, along with a list of key vocabulary. Popular Reading eWriting is helpful for learning more colloquial English and for gaining a range of background information.

What will I write for Popular Reading eWriting?

In addition to popular articles, you will also receive some prompts to get you thinking and writing. You may decide to write in response to one or both prompts.

Scholarly Reading eWriting

What will I read for Scholarly Reading eWriting?
For each assignment, you’ll choose material from the assigned reading for one of your courses. You may choose reading that is difficult for you, or you may choose easier material. Ideally, choose a course reading that interests you, so you’ll be motivated to write about it. You may use the same reading for more than one of the writing assignments if you wish.

If you are not taking courses with much assigned reading, we will be happy to send you interesting scholarly articles to work with, on a variety of topics. 

What will I write for Scholarly Reading eWriting?

You will write the following six short assignments, one for each due date (about 300 words each). Directions will be shared for each writing before the due date.

  1. A reflection on your use of reading strategies
  2. A summary of the section you read
  3. An active reading response
  4. An account of your close reading
  5. An argument or analysis based on the reading
  6. A revision of one of the first five writings

    You may register for one or both sessions (the reading material will be different for each session). For each session in which you register, you may choose either Popular or Scholarly Reading eWriting for that full session. You will need a U of T email address to register. 


    Woman sitting in the grass using a laptop

    Summer 2024 ELL Courses

    Popular Reading eWriting Intensive

    • This course will be offered again in Summer 2024

    In this free five-day intensive online course, you will work on reading and writing using popular articles. You will receive valuable feedback on your work and learn how to improve your reading and writing skills. Many courses assign popular articles for reading and analysis, so your learning will benefit your academic performance. 

    • Write online every day for one week, in response to high-quality popular articles.
    • Get feedback from ELL Writing Instructors on your ideas, style, vocabulary and grammar.
    • Learn useful strategies for reading, summarizing and more.
    • Become more familiar with writing styles in online media.

    What will I read for the Popular Reading eWriting Intensive?
    We will send you an interesting, high-quality popular article each day of the intensive.  

    What will I write for Popular Reading eWriting?
    Each day, you will write about 300 words in response to prompts based on the article for that day’s reading. The prompts are designed to help you practice the following:

    • Identifying an author’s main points
    • Expanding vocabulary and background knowledge
    • Evaluating an author’s argument
    • Using critical thinking to develop your ideas
    • Writing clearly and concisely

    How much time should I spend on Popular Reading eWriting?

    • Read for 45 minutes (minimum)
    • Write for 45 minutes (minimum)
    • Write a total of about 300 words

    How should I format my emails to my instructor?

    • Use your U of T email
    • See the introductory email from your instructor to find out whether attachments are okay or not
    • Label your subject line with the # of the writing, for example, Reading eWriting #1
    • Greet your instructor (Hello, Instructor). End with your name (Thanks, Your Student)
    • In your first email, introduce yourself and tell your instructor what you want to work on
    • In your first email, also give your instructor your UTOR ID for the CCR validation

    CCR validation: Students must complete all five writings.

    Scholarly Reading eWriting Intensive 

    • This course will be offered again in Summer 2024

    In this free five-day intensive online course, you will work on reading and writing using scholarly articles on a variety of unique topics. You will receive valuable feedback on your work and learn how to improve your reading and writing skills.

    • Write online every day for one week, in response to interesting scholarly articles
    • Get feedback from ELL Writing Instructors on your ideas, style, vocabulary and grammar
    • Learn useful strategies for reading, analyzing and more

    What will I read for the Scholarly Reading eWriting Intensive? You will receive an interesting scholarly article on a fun topic each day of the intensive, along with some prompts to get you thinking and writing. 

    What will I write for Scholarly Reading eWriting?

    Each day, you will write one of the following five short assignments (300 words each).

    1. A reflection on your use of reading strategies
    2. A summary of the section you read
    3. An active reading response
    4. An account of your close reading
    5. An argument or analysis based on the reading

    How much time should I spend on Scholarly Reading eWriting?

    • Read for 45 minutes (minimum)
    • Write for 45 minutes (minimum)
    • Write a total of about 300 words

    How should I format my emails to my instructor?

    • Use your U of T email
    • See the introductory email from your instructor to find out whether attachments are okay or not
    • Label your subject line with the # of the writing, for example, Reading eWriting #1
    • Greet your instructor (Hello, Instructor). End with your name (Thanks, Your Student)
    • In your first email, introduce yourself and tell your instructor what you want to work on
    • In your first email, also give your instructor your UTOR ID for the CCR validation

    CCR validation: Students must complete all five writings.


    Student Testimonial

    "As a student who speaks English as a second language, the English Language Learning mini course guided me to practice and develop my reading and writing skills in first-year university and was also an excellent opportunity to meet new friends. Later, the Scholarly Reading eWriting course helped a great deal because it taught me how to find the thesis in my readings. I plan to repeat this helpful course." — Sonie, Art History


    Frequently Asked Questions

    No. ELL has no connection to your academic record. ELL is co-curricular. You are entitled to a Co-Curricular Record (CCR) validation upon completing our courses, but the validation is not mandatory. Most students do want the validation, but if you prefer that ELL not appear on your CCR, let us know.

    Yes. However, please let us know if your plans have changed and you will not attend or if you need to withdraw. We often have long waitlists.

    Maybe. If you feel you’d benefit from practice and feedback in scholarly reading, academic writing and academic speaking/presentation, you will likely find some of our programming useful. Feel free to register, participate in a session and see if we are a good match for you. If not, you don’t need to stay. 

    Don’t worry. You probably won’t feel embarrassed in ELL activities. We have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. There are no grades, and there’s no competition. Our activities are designed for students working at different levels.

    Yes. We try either to use materials that will be helpful for students in any discipline and/or to vary materials for students in these three major areas. Our Scholarly Reading eWriting program can also be customized to your courses, in that you may base the writing practice on readings from your own program.


    Connect With Us

    For information and updates on ELL programming and events: 

    Meet Our Instructors

    Leora Freedman is the coordinator of the ELL program and Associate Professor in the Teaching Stream. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from the University of Arizona and has taught many college and university courses in English as a foreign language, English literature and rhetoric and professional/ technical communication. She is currently a member of an international research group studying the role of reading in students’ experience of higher education. Her chapter based on teaching at U of T recently appeared in What is College Reading? (Horning, Gollnitz, & Haller, eds). Leora is a novelist and short-story writer; her most recent novel was a finalist for the 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Award in the US.

    Daveeda Goldberg is the developer of the ELL program's oral presentation courses, through which she has helped hundreds of students gain the confidence to speak up in their classes, tutorials and labs. She is also the digital developer of Teaching in Our Multilingual Environment, an online project supporting teaching assistants and faculty across the Faculty of Arts & Science. In addition to her position as ELL Specialist, Daveeda works as a Writing Instructor at the New College Writing Centre, volunteers as a tutor for under-served high school students and, in her ongoing doctoral work, researches and writes about the cultural production of ethics and affect in late modern Europe. Daveeda holds an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College and a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Brandeis University.