4 Important Questions to Ask When Sharing a Documentary with Students

If you’re in a position to select authentic materials for upper level students, you’ve likely shared videos of various kinds. Have you worked with any documentaries? Good documentaries are designed not only to inform, but also to provoke thought. Prompting language production is what we want, but of course it must be done with care,…

Teaching Syntax: Helpful or Hellish?

Seeing some students struggle to build clear sentences has made me reflect on what information might help to guide them. I’ve posted videos on types of sentences according to purpose and structure. But understanding the difference between a statement and a question or the difference between a compound and complex sentence doesn’t always eliminate doubts…

5 Common Mistakes with Adjective Clauses

I like to create short grammar reviews for upper level students. As a private instructor, I have the luxury of designing each lesson based on the student’s current needs. For example, we might have covered conditionals a few months ago, but review and reinforcement is necessary from time to time. The same may be true…

7 Poems That Build Proficiency

Every so often I work poetry into my instruction. Since poems are meant to be read aloud, they lend themselves to listening and pronunciation practice. They can help students grow accustomed to reduced sounds in the flow of speech, and they can help students improve linking and rhythm. Although we don’t speak like poets in everyday…

Word Order with the Prepositions FOR and TO

Prepositions are a grammar topic that require a degree of focused practice. Exposure to correct structures and acceptable uses is not usually enough for mastery. Recently I helped students understand when and why more than one word order is possible with indirect objects. We discussed phrases like giving someone an explanation and giving an explanation…

Comma Craze 2: More common mistakes with commas

Although one could argue there are more important writing skills to master, neglecting to teach the use of commas could result in very unclear writing. I’m not perfect with punctuation, but I champion the usefulness of standardized patterns. Clarity and effective communication go hand in hand. We might be more flexible in our texting, but…

Tools That Empower: Vocabulary Profilers

I’ve highlighted vocabulary profilers before. Many are familiar with the wonderfully user-friendly resource offered by the University of Hong Kong. More recent discoveries for me include VocabKitchen and EnglishProfile: The CEFR for English, both of which have advanced features worth checking out. Have you heard about Laurence Anthony’s AntWordProfiler? I learned about this freeware tool at TESOL 2017….

More Tech Tools for Building Vocabulary and Reading Skills

It’s often amazing how much information teachers are able to share within their short presentations at the Electronic Village at TESOL each year. Back in Seattle, I was fortunate to sit at the computer station with Bridget Green of Gonzaga University. Through her talk Focus on Vocab and Reading with Profilers, Sizers, and Rewordify I learned about several…

2 Apps Generating Some Buzz about Assessment

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? So when there’s buzz, there’s likely something worth looking at. At TESOL 2017 one buzzword in the Electronic Village seemed to be formative assessment. Why is it valuable? How can we do it well? Three teachers from Universidad de Los Andes (Trujillo, Venezuela) reviewed the basics during their talk…

Shadow Puppet: A solution for shy speakers

The interesting thing about shadows is that you can’t have them without light. Too little light will leave a room in darkness. Too much light can be blinding. For some ELLs, classroom presentations are the equivalent of standing in the spotlight with no opportunity to retreat to the comforting shadows. But if these reserved students…