Two Important Guidelines for Choosing Writing Topics

  Students usually tell me their goal is to speak better English. I like to emphasize how skills can develop together, and if I have the chance to work with a student privately, then I encourage some form of writing. Even the student who wants to improve pronunciation can benefit from writing a short assignment…

Getting Fired Up for the Fourth of July!

If you find yourself teaching in the month of July, you may wish to highlight the celebration of U.S. Independence Day. Here are some ideas to consider. 1. Write an acrostic poem about freedom. Templates like this one are available online. You can start with a model based on another word, or you can show…

Comma Craze 2: More common mistakes with commas

Although one could argue there are more important writing skills to master, neglecting to teach the use of commas could result in very unclear writing. I’m not perfect with punctuation, but I champion the usefulness of standardized patterns. Clarity and effective communication go hand in hand. We might be more flexible in our texting, but…

4 Ways to Learn from Headlines

A learner asked me about the grammar in news headlines. Indeed, it can be confusing when words are omitted: Prison Escape Fails — Did it already happen? Why is the verb in the present tense? Mayor in Hot Water — Is this happening now? Where’s the verb? Local Team Gets New Coach — Can they write…

Flashback and Flashforward: Using Sequence Words

My latest YT video presents sequence words and other useful phrases for describing a process. Intermediate students could either write down the steps for some of the processes shown (how to make hot chocolate, how to wrap a present, etc.) prior to watching or after watching the video. The former would be a matter of…

Building Writing Skills

On a daily basis, I engage in more written correspondence than I do spoken exchanges. It’s the nature of my teaching. I provide more asynchronous instruction than synchronous. This is probably one reason why writing skills are a big focus in my work. Even the students I meet for live instruction usually submit written assignments between…

8 Election-related Activties

In the final weeks before the U.S. presidential elections, ELLs will likely find it hard to avoid hearing or reading about the candidates and their campaigns. Whether students are in the U.S. or not, having the opportunity to engage in election-related activities will bolster their understanding of current events and make them feel more connected to the…

5 Ways to Make Feedback on Writing a Positive Experience

Online teaching is not always done in real time. Some of my private instruction is now given through written assignments. Students submit drafts and I provide feedback. We don’t schedule live lessons, so that mainly leaves us with written communication: email, comments, and track changes on documents. You may wonder how effective this instruction can be and…

Teaching How Less Is More in Writing

Words allow us to build beautiful creations. Particularly in writing, which affords us more time for consideration, we put our thoughts together like a jeweler. The artist picks and chooses elements and strings them together. We do the same with words, hooking them together with grammatical structures. In the end, both the jeweler and the writer make a statement….

Greetings and Closings: When simple phrases seem rather complex

A YouTube viewer asked me about the choice of closings in email. Indeed, if words are heartfelt, you’d think they’d be appropriate for a loved one, but if your significant other signed a message with “Heartfelt regards,” wouldn’t you be taken aback by the formality? In my video series on email, I’ve taken the time to…

Email Templates: A good or bad tool?

Writing email is a wonderful skill to master in today’s digital world. After I posted my first video tutorial on this topic, a viewer commented that the good old days of business letters are gone. There may be less communication arriving in white paper envelopes, but templates are still in use. In fact, you can find apps now…

How to Master Email

I’ve finally decided to move forward with a series of lessons on how to write email. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to address for some time. I’ll start posting my video tutorials next week on YouTube. Even a great set of video lessons won’t be enough for a student to master the art of emailing. The…