How and Why We Sugarcoat Our Speech

An advanced student and I recently explored ways Americans soften their spoken speech. In the world of ESL, there’s a good amount of material on hedging devices for academic writing, but it’s been an interesting challenge to see how much of it can apply to conversation. The goal in any exchange is not just to…

Celebrate Women’s History Month

We’re only at the halfway point in March, so with two weeks left to go it’s not too late to observe Women’s History Month if you haven’t already. Discuss an article, assign mini reports, or include any of the unofficial anthems for International Women’s Day. There are plenty of playlists online showcasing “songs empowering women.”…

Teaching Sensitivity to Cultural Differences at Christmastime

As I was leaving the post office the other day, I realized I had just responded automatically to the holiday wish the postal worker gave me: Merry Christmas! “Merry Christmas to you too!” I replied. Later that evening at my daughter’s winter concert held at the local public school, I found it interesting that those on…

Holiday Music: Going Beyond the Songs

Everyone has their favorite holidays and their favorite traditions. Do you have a favorite way of bringing some holiday music into your December lessons? My use of songs and carols with private students depends on their interests and language goals. For someone currently working on a business report or academic paper, there may be no…

Getting Fired Up for the Fourth of July!

If you find yourself teaching in the month of July, you may wish to highlight the celebration of U.S. Independence Day. Here are some ideas to consider. 1. Write an acrostic poem about freedom. Templates like this one are available online. You can start with a model based on another word, or you can show…

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,…

A Different Approach to Teaching Culture

I don’t often write about culture and how to teach it, but if you’ve read some of my older posts, then you know my basic belief. There’s always a cultural context in language instruction. Our examples, our choice of topics, our resources, and our teaching styles are all connected to culture. A well-timed lesson on a host…

July Fourth: Fireworks, Flags, and Other Fun Topics

Not everyone is on vacation during July. If you’re teaching during the week of July 4th, there are a number of ways to tie the U.S. Independence Day into a language lesson. 1) The latest lesson in my vocabulary playlist focuses on idioms based on the colors red, white, and blue. A short interactive quiz is…

Love Lines: More Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Love is still in the air, and I’ve come up with more ideas to choose from. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to create a tutorial on terms of endearment. Students can increase their familiarity with variations and reinforce their understanding of usage by taking an interactive quiz. For those with enough time in…

Warming-Up to Valentine’s Day

As the month of February approaches, you may want to consider a few short, easy tasks you could make use of in the classroom. Do you know a good Valentine’s Day warm-up activity for adult learners? Feel free to share. Here are some possibilities:   1.  Candy Hearts. Use candy hearts or another substitute, such…

New Year’s Celebrations around the World

One of my female cousins lived right across the street from my grandmother and the two were very close, but on January 1 my grandmother never let her great-niece visit until a male relative had come in the house first. I was relieved when I found out that many others in the world have the same…

New Holiday Traditions

My children were dismayed to find that they were among the few who still did not  have an Elf on the Shelf toy doll this holiday season. Apparently,  groups of children begin their day at school by sharing news about their elves at home. What elves? Are you as clueless as I was? Elf on the…