Words That Even Teachers Mix Up

Catching a student’s error with sweet and sweat is simple enough because I don’t mix up those words. They don’t sound alike to me and their meanings are very different. However, I’ve caught myself saying further when I meant farther, and vice versa. Perhaps the closer words are in meaning, the harder it can be to differentiate…

Learning the Different Times of the Day

This week I decided to exploit more of my personal photos from a trip I took to Las Vegas. I was inspired to create materials to practice time words, specifically words we use to talk about time periods within a day. I created images similar to the one you see below. I never realized how…

6 Sets of Seemingly Similar Words

What kinds of questions test you as a language teacher? Grammar-related questions usually generate the most challenging Student Stumpers for me, but that doesn’t mean other queries don’t give me pause. Synonyms or words that appear to be very similar test my knowledge about register and collocations. I respond to the best of my ability…

Getting a Handle on a Common Verb

How many meanings does the verb get have? Hmm. Quite a lot, right? I had to consult a dictionary to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any. A student on Facebook asked me about the many uses of this verb. Actually, first he asked about the different meanings and then he asked about usage. If the verb…

Tricky eVocabulary

While correcting a student’s text yesterday, my attention was drawn to how vocabulary has developed around computers and the Internet. Words like cookies and sleep have new meanings. Also, today we need to be clear about our request for an address; we may need a street address, an email address, or a web address, depending on the…

Globetrotters: Practice with nationalities

Learning the names of nationalities in English is challenge…even for an ESL teacher. I just spent considerable time trying to learn what someone in Northern Ireland might be called! A while back, I offered some practice with geography and nationalities. (See post from 2013.) The topic is still in demand, and so I’m back with…

How to Have a Happy Leap Year

I’ve been reading about superstitions surrounding Leap Year, and it seems that some folks associate the day with bad luck. I think Friday the 13th has already claimed the title “the day of bad luck,” so why not treat February 29 as a day of fun and opportunity? Here are some suggestions for making leap year…

Word Jugglers: Learning the Uses of -er

A learner asked me why we add the suffix -er to existing prepositions to form words like insider and inner. What a wonderfully curious question! I love how this person’s mind works. Talk about a teachable moment. I responded with an explanation about the versatility of -er and called attention to the parts of speech we can build…

Just Like New!

The topic of new things is perfect either before or just after New Year’s Day. It could also be timely for the start of a new school year. There are a lot of expressions and idioms using the word new. Here is a short list if you’d like to teach some: brand-new as good as new new…

Secrets to Learning Vocabulary

Different students have complained to me that they can’t seem to remember the words they need when they talk in English. I’m not sure there are really secrets to learning vocabulary, but I do think that each learner needs to discover what study practices work best for him or her. Perhaps the key is to…

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…

Spring Has Sprung: Season-related Ideas

Whether you are in a climate with four seasons or two, the topic of weather can always work its way into the classroom. For basic level students, an entire lesson might focus on vocabulary, from sunny to freezing. Check out my Seasons.BASIC_handout for more ideas. For intermediate students, a group-generated word cloud, like the one  I made on the left, is…