Modals for Beginners

Modals find their way into grammar lessons at all stages of learning English. At the lower levels, it’s wise to present modal verbs in small doses, allowing time for practice and feedback. With one of my beginners, Natasha, I decided to teach “Would you like…?” for polite requests and invitations. (See beginner video lesson.) That…

Practice with “That” Clauses

I know that… I think that… I’m happy that… We use such sentences all the time with and without “that.” Some of your basic level students already form sentences with that clauses, not knowing they’re using complex sentences. Well, there’s no need to bog them down with terminology. However, raising awareness of sentence patterns can…

4 Variations on a Speaking Task

Do you struggle to increase student production during a speaking task? Sometimes it can be a matter of choosing the format that students feel most comfortable with. With lower level students, you also need to be sure they have enough language support to complete the task. I sometimes use templates to facilitate speaking. The templates…

Simpler, Livelier Tasks With Comparative Adjectives

I recently shared a Basic English lesson on comparative adjectives that form with -er. As simple as this topic seems, plenty of practice is always called for. Inevitably, production requires accuracy with other grammar elements. I found my students still struggling with subject-verb agreement and singular vs. plural nouns. (Bananas are better than cherries. And…

Accidents Happen: 3 tasks to practice the past progressive

Here’s an easy, engaging way to springboard into a grammar lesson on the past tense. Write three sayings on the board. (See below.) Ask the students to vote for the one they like the best. If you wish, invite them to explain their votes. The winning statement can become a banner for a day. Simply…

3 Activities to Practice the Simple Past

What communicative activities have you used to help students gain accuracy and comfort with the simple past? My two basic level students (see YT playlist) have been practicing the future with will and be going to. After this, I plan to shift to the simple past. Since we’ve already practiced was and were, I’m actually…

The Fate of Fairy Tale Heroes: The Future With ‘Will’

I have a some old favorites when it comes to presenting and practicing verb tenses and verb forms. Like many other teachers, I’ve talked with students about the distant future so that we can form sentences with will. Far away times, like 2029 or even 2049, usually spark the imagination. Will cars fly? Will people…

Ambivalence About Ambitransitive Verbs

Having addressed ergative verbs for advanced learners, I feel it’s logical to follow-up with a discussion of verbs in general that have both transitive and intransitive meanings.  Life would be simpler if all sources used the same terminology and agreed on the definitions, but sadly that’s not the case. However, with a clear definition of…

Two Good Reasons to Know About Ergative Verbs

When I first heard the term ergative verbs, I thought to myself, What?! I worried that perhaps I didn’t know something every other ESL/EFL teacher knew. Well, although I wasn’t a new teacher by the time I discovered ergative verbs, it turns out that I wasn’t alone in my lack of familiarity. Since then, I’ve met other ESL professionals…

3 Simple, Fun Activities to Practice WHY & BECAUSE

Why would I create a whole lesson devoted to why and because? Because answers to why vary. ‘Cause pronunciation varies. Cos informal variations in spelling are used as well. I created a whole lesson devoted to this topic because two of my students needed to build confidence asking and answering questions with why.  This lesson on why and because was shared on…

3 Fun and Easy Warm-Ups

My basic level students, Andreia and Flavia, are gaining comfort with me and with the whole experience of filming for YouTube. (See my Basic English playlist.) They start each lesson with smiles and willingness, but it certainly helps to warm up, and so I’ve had a fun time doing simple speaking tasks to get us…

TESOL 2019 Highlights: The Grammar(s) We Should Teach

Attending a session in Atlanta made me reflect on how my understanding of grammar has evolved. In the beginning, I was like a kid with a Lego set who followed the instructions and gained satisfaction from seeing my final construction perfectly match what I saw in the manual. I didn’t realize how much there was…