Smooth Sailing with Vocabulary

Sometimes students will reveal an interesting combination of strengths and weaknesses, so it’s up to us to design lessons that meet their unique needs. I’ve mentioned that I have one advanced student with strong mastery of academic vocabulary, but less familiarity with general words and idiomatic expressions. In a previous post, I explained how I…

Teaching the Value of Passive Vocabulary

This morning I was scrolling through a news briefing, and I came across a word I didn’t know: excoriate. A senator excoriated President Trump for not conceding the election. I commented to my son about learning a new word. Then and there I looked it up in the dictionary to make sure my guess from…

Learning about the U.S. Government

It seems that election years prompt me to test my own knowledge of how things work within the U.S. government, and the result is a new YouTube video. About four years ago, I decided explain our political parties and the U.S. Presidential elections. Earlier this year I talked about Super Tuesday. More recently, I described…

Practice with Suffixes

I recently shared a trio of video lessons on suffixes, and I chose to target word stress patterns based on the endings:-ious/-eous-ize–ityThe patterns will have a much better chance of sticking if students have the opportunity to put them into practice. I’d like to share a set of 12 discussion questions that require students to…

Words Easily Confused…and How to Keep Them Straight

One of the most common types of questions I get every week is about the difference between two words that sound similar and/or have similar meanings. I’m asked about words such as rely vs. depend, affect vs. effect, capable vs. able, will vs. be going to, recent vs. current, among others. This week I had to…

Practice with Paraphrasing

Students learn to paraphrase for different reasons. In the academic world, students must avoid plagiarism, so to refer to a key idea in a written text they have two choices: include a quote or restate it. In the ESL classroom, we regularly paraphrase to make unfamiliar vocabulary understood. We offer explanations such as, “If you…

Fun, Effective Ways to Teach Geography

Who wouldn’t benefit from a review of geography? My latest YouTube lesson on the U.S. states and capitals put me to the test. I covered this material back in 2008, but a request came for an update, and I felt I could extend and improve my presentation. First, I had to remember everything. The last…

10 Ways to Explore and Expand the Topic of Personality Types

In a recent video lesson, I presented vocabulary for talking about the range of personalities a person can have. It leans towards pop psychology, and that’s the fun of it. Few of us have any credible background in psychology (the handful of courses I took in college do not equal a degree!), but we’ve all…

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…

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…

TESOL 2019 Highlights: Ideas and Questions to Consider

Many TESOL sessions deserve a full summary, but the sheer volume of take-away is too much to capture in the context of this blog. At this point, I’d like to give a shout-out to knowledgeable presenters who made sure attendees walked away with at least one golden nugget to apply to their teaching. I thank…

Using More Colorful Vocabulary: 5 Tips

Have you ever caught yourself using the same word too often? I remember in grade school my classmates and I played a prank on a teacher that capitalized on her overuse of “okay.” We were fond of her, so our actions weren’t done in cruelty. Chalk it up to spring fever and youth. For one…