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…

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…

Flashforward: Flashcards in 2018

  Some digital tools are really fun to explore. I was delighted with the discovery of Google Slides as a student resource when I attended an Electronic Village session at TESOL 2018 in Chicago. Since then I’ve had two of my own students collaborate using Google slides: they’ve done joint a presentation and they’ve co-created…

Why Teach Foreign Words in English?

In my latest vocabulary lesson on YouTube, I teach eight foreign words used in English. The lesson was partly inspired by a conversation I overhead at the hairdresser’s. One woman called out to the other as she was leaving, “Call me sometime next week. We’ll have a tête-à-tête.” It’s not the first time my ESL-attuned ear…

3 Tips for Teaching Basic Vocabulary

I had the pleasure of Skyping with a group of teachers in Costa Rica last month. Although the focus of our live session was on pronunciation and speaking skills, we had time for Q&A at the end. One teacher asked me for ideas to make learning basic vocabulary more fun. I gave some tips off…