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…

3 Voice Typing Activities on Google Docs

A private student reminded me about the Voice Typing feature on Google Docs, and since then I’ve been considering effective ways to use it as a learning tool. Do you know how to find it? Open up Google Docs and create a new file. Go under Tools and select Voice Typing. Then click to turn…

Using LEA to Build a Bridge to Self-Expression

The Language Experience Approach intrigued me the first time I read about it. I’ve always liked the idea of using student-generated content as the basis of language practice. The LEA was developed to build literacy in L1, but ESL teachers have successfully brought it into L2 classrooms. I suggested a spin on the original approach…

Using ‘OF MINE’ in Conversation

In my previous post, I explored differences between of mine and my. Making the choice to use (noun) + of mine constructions will become more comfortable if students are given the chance to hear the grammar in context. One suggestion I have is to take some of the collocations I noted earlier and do a search…

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…