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The Pelican
School of American English & Culture

Advanced ESL for International Professionals

Our Mission

The Pelican School of American English & Culture specializes in

advanced English language studies for international professionals living

in the United States and abroad. We use leading American newspapers as our instructional texts.

English newspapers for use in advanced English study


The Pelican School of American English & Culture offers ESL courses for global professionals who must communicate effectively in spoken and written English.

Mastering the ability to speak English fluently is key to thriving in an international career.

Our courses feature prominent American newspapers as source material for instruction: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Our students read, analyze, and discuss news stories in class, perfecting their command of the language while honing their ability to express complex and nuanced ideas in English.

Students also enhance their English skills by writing

 news stories, opinion pieces, and obituaries in English.

Students are expected to have a strong foundation in English before studying at The Pelican School of American English & Culture. Our courses are designed to bring you to fluency.

Our Courses

Summer 2024 Courses


American News: The Times and The Journal


Schedule: This course meets once a week for five weeks. It is offered in two separate sections, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Monday classes meet at 6 pm Pacific Daylight Time. Wednesday classes meet at 10 am PDT. There are two summer sessions. The first session starts May 27 and ends June 26The second session starts July 8 and ends August 7

Course Profile: Immersion in American print journalism, with study of two preeminent newspapers: The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Course Goals: Improve reading comprehension and conversational fluency. Vocabulary acquisition. Practice expressing complex and nuanced ideas in speech and in writing. Perfect pronunciation and reduce accent. Deepen knowledge of contemporary American culture, with a focus on geography, history, politics, and the arts.

Format: Each week students will read two or three news articles as homework. In class we will read and analyze one story in depth, and converse on the topic. We will also focus on mastering new vocabulary, and understanding word usage and meaning. If they wish, students may improve their writing skills by completing writing assignments, to be reviewed by the instructor.

Writing Assignments: Students may choose to write a news article, feature story, opinion piece, or obituary.

Course Materials: The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The instructor will send students the news stories by email weekly.

Topic Schedule (subject to change, depending on events):

​​First Session

    Week 1) International News

    Week 2) Art and Music

    Week 3) Politics

    Week 4) Editorial and Opinion

    Week 5) Science and the Environment

Second Session

    Week 1) U.S. Foreign Relations

    Week 2) Business, Economics, and Finance

    Week 3) Obituaries

    Week 4) Crime and Criminal Justice

    Week 5) Health and Well-Being

All classes take place remotely on Zoom

Summer 2024 Schedule

Summer 2024 Schedule

All classes take place remotely on Zoom.

First Summer Session: May 27 to June 26

5-week courses, with one class per week.

Monday night classes are 90 minutes,

Wednesday morning classes are 60 minutes.

Summer 2024 Schedule

Second Summer Session: July 8 to August 7

5-week courses, with one class per week.
Monday night classes are 90 minutes,
Wednesday morning classes are 60 minutes.

Book a single Monday class: $35

Book a single Wednesday class: $25

Sit in on a class for free.

Check out a class with The Pelican School free of obligation. That way, you can sample our coursework!

Scholarships & Referrals


Refer a friend, family member, or colleague to The Pelican School and receive a 25% discount on your tuition.


Based on need, The Pelican School offers a variety of scholarships to students who are unable to afford our regular tuition. Please email us with your scholarship request.


My great appreciation to The Pelican School of American English and Culture for offering the online course of American Newsstand that has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a wide variety of news articles from American newspapers.

Not only have I enhanced my English language abilities, I have also gained invaluable insights about the culture and history behind the articles through Bret's articulate and informative sharings. 

I have particularly enjoyed studying in a small group setting with like-minded people from all over the world. Bret has created a friendly and open environment where we feel safe to learn and our thoughts and ideas are appreciated. 

Every week after our class ended, I always felt an enormous sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

Eugenia Fujita, Taipei, Taiwan

I stumbled upon Mr. Putnam's class on Eventbrite. Before the class, I had almost given up on this kind of "formal" English learning.

Having acquired a vocabulary of 10,000, there are less and less unfamiliar words in my daily life, so the logical next step should be to open a GRE vocabulary book and start cramming those opaque words that I may not get to encounter even once in my daily life, which seems like too big a burden for me.

Mr. Putnam's class has proven to be much more painless and completely rekindled my interest in language learning. Surrounded by a community of kindred spirits, I have got to truly connect with the content of these news articles and meanwhile enhance my language skills.

The discussions that I have had during these classes have also made me more aware of the current social issues in the U.S. and around the world. I would recommend this course to any ESL learners who, like myself, are interested in further advancing their English but are in dire need of assistance.

Richard Che, Tianjin, China

I really enjoyed the American Newsstand sessions. They were quite useful and gave me a lot of knowledge and ideas that I have not known before about the American life in different aspects.

Each session's article was challenging and I loved it because in that way we could learn something new, which might be difficult to understand without a native American teacher who has the patience for explaining their culture in depth and willing to give extra information if it’s required, and that was the most distinguishing feature of this course!

Teacher Bret was brilliant and such a good hardworking teacher. I really appreciate his time and the chances that he gave us to improve our writing skill as much as he could.

These sessions gave me the chance to understand and discuss each article we were reading and the amount of the vocabulary that I learned is just wonderful.

Thank you for giving us this opportunity and hope for many different courses to come!

Layan Alrayes, Saudi Arabia

I am one of Mr. Putnam's students of the Newsstand class via zoom. I have been studying English for more than 10 years, still facing pronunciation problems.

If you would like to learn more about American history, geography, political status, study with Mr. Putnam definitely will be the best choice for you.

After I took 10 classes with Mr. Putnam, I improved my pronunciation, intonation and reading in English.

Bret is much more than an English teacher for us, he is wise and familiar with history, and was a journalist in the past. How cool to learn English and American history, especially if you have the American dream in your mind?

Tracy Lam, Hong Kong

The best thing about classes with Bret is that they are always very exciting, engaging, often fun and never boring.

I like an unusual approach to learning through discussions of paintings and books. And to be honest, I always look forward to a new class because after all, Bret is also an interesting talk partner full of entertaining stories.

I've noticed big improvements in the things I've chosen to work on. These are pronunciation and more active use of different tenses and grammar in everyday conversations at work.

Bret helped me solve several "stuck" problems with pronunciation. I definitely recommend Bret if you are looking for a creative approach to learning English.

Mikhail Shatilov, San Francisco, U.S.A.

American Newsstand is definitely one of my favorite classes so far. The classes have offered me not only a chance to enhance my English but also fascinating insights into American culture to broaden my horizon.

On top of that, by reading a wide range of articles and engaging in optional assignments, I also could build my vocabulary as well as hone my writing skill.

Last but not least, Mr. Putnam is a supportive teacher, and he is always listening to our questions attentively to give us sensible answers in every class. Time was flying by so quickly since I really enjoyed the classes, and I can’t wait to see everyone next week!

Charlotte Ng, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Bret Ivan Putnam


Bret has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. He has taught English at Changsha University in Hunan Province, China, and at private language institutes in Hong Kong, New York City, and Santiago, Chile.

Bret has worked as a photojournalist at Costa Rica's La Nación newspaper, and as a reporter for newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bret has a B.A. in History from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Bret Putnam Portrait.JPG

Statement of Purpose

The Pelican School of American English & Culture was established to help international professionals succeed while living or working in America. Our unique curriculum enables students to master spoken and written English while deepening their understanding of American society through the study of journalism, geography, history, and art.

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The Pelican School of American English & Culture

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