Tools for Generating Discussion About Generations

Something funny happens when the topic of generations comes up. People come together to discuss their similarities and differences. Those from the same generation bond over a common sense of identity. Those from different generations are interested in making comparisons. With the right atmosphere, such discussions can be positive and productive. The goal of my…

Homelessness: A tough topic, but a productive talk

As part of my video series on current issues, I’ve decided to address homelessness. My upcoming video will focus on the present crisis in the U.S. However, homelessness is a problem in many countries around the world, which makes the topic familiar to many English language learners. Anytime we allow learners to tap into their…

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…

Setting Students Up for Successful Conversations

Don’t you love that feeling right after you finish a productive conversation with students? I’m excited and proud when I know students stepped up and managed to engage in a conversation on a new topic. I’m even happier to know that they’re aware of their solid performance and they took pleasure in the experience. Is…

Tackling Divisive Issues With Sensitivity

In the past, I met requests for videos on conversation skills with lessons teaching speech acts, such as complimenting and expressing agreement. The request for current issues was and still is much easier to meet in the context of a private or group lesson. However, this fall I’m testing the waters with edgier discussions on…

Figuring Out Figurative Language

The worrisome aspect about publishing a video is that you’re really putting yourself out there. You’re sharing your content with a potentially large audience that will evaluate and react to your work. If I let the fear of making a mistake or receiving criticism stop me, then I wouldn’t have a single video online. In…

Teaching Basic English: A Second Chance

It’s been seven years since I last decided to create a series of online lessons for beginners, and I clearly remember the challenges I faced the first time. (See 2012 post.) Apart from the physical challenge of trying to find a place with a board to write on, I had to decide how to teach…

TESOL 2019 Highlights: Bringing Art Into the Classroom

I attended two sessions on the use of artwork in the classroom. Both gave good take-away. Monica Maxwell-Paegle of Georgetown University presented the poster session Using Artworks in Building Language and Analytical Skills. First off, here’s a rich resource: the National Portrait Gallery. Monica noted that besides browsing through the many portraits, you can search…

TESOL 2019 Highlights: Ludicrous Lawsuits That Engage Learners

TESOL is in full swing, and I’ve attended a number of informative sessions. I’ll do my best to share valuable take-away over the next few weeks. Let’s start with the well-thought-out approach to listening and speaking presented by Takako Smith of University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Takako teaches within PIESL (Programs in English as a Second Language).  In…

Is There a Place for Profanity in the Classroom?

  Last month I made the decision to offer a YouTube lesson on swearing in English. I managed to say quite a lot in a 15-minute lesson without saying any strong curse words. So what exactly did I teach? Alternatives. It’s more a lesson on how not to curse. There are quite a lot of online lessons that…

What Does It Mean to Be Polite?

This month on YouTube I continue to explore topics that boost conversational skills, such as expressing surprise and giving compliments, and I find myself asking whether everyone has the same definition of polite. The concept of good manners can vary from culture to culture, and even from one social circle to another, people’s understanding of…

6 Tips for Teaching Conversational Expressions

I received a persistent request on YouTube for more lessons on conversation, so I decided to hold off on my plan to cover more modal verbs and offer a series of short videos in which I present and explain conversational expressions. Usually I offer such suggestions during my live lessons with private students because teachable…