Student Stumper 52: “Earlier” vs. “Before”

QUESTION: What’s the difference between “earlier” and “before”? Is there any difference between “I saw him before” and “I saw him earlier”? ANSWER: There can be overlap in meaning, but first let’s find the more obvious differences. First, we can use “before” as a conjunction to form an adverb clause of time. It’s in direct…

Student Stumper 51: “Kind of” vs. “Kinds of”

QUESTION: Can I use “kind of” with a plural noun or do I have to use “kinds of”? ANSWER: Yes, you can use “kind of” with a plural noun, but first consider the difference in meaning between “kind of” and “kinds of.” “Kind” refers to a type. If you’re referring to one type, then use…

Your New Juggling Act Requires Healthy Practices

Most adults have to juggle several responsibilities. I’ve been perfecting my own juggling act for over a decade. If you ever want to know what goes on between filming social media videos, hosting live streams, and giving private lessons, just picture me running up and down the stairs as I keep up with endless loads…

6 Conversation Games for Online Learners

Many language learners right now are in lockdown conditions, just like many of us teachers. The good news is that we can all meet online, and language studies can continue. To date, I’ve had two large public live streams that have focused entirely on conversation games. All 200+ students seem eager to put aside worries…

Painting a New Picture as Online Teachers

Our lives are changing quickly, and at different moments over the past week I’m sure we’ve all been more grateful than ever for the Internet, our computers, and our mobile devices. In trying times, it’s important to stay connected and find sources of support. As many of you move completely online for ESL/EFL instruction, you’re…

Have You Become an Online Teacher Overnight? Get Tips and Tricks!

In the space of a very short time, many of us have seen our daily lives altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Coronavirus” appears in most headlines and conversations these days. For hundreds of teachers, online classes will become the new norm. Some teachers already have experience giving webinars or meeting with students through videoconferencing, so…

3 Fun Ways to Practice Future Time Clauses

A grammar lesson is certainly less scary, less aggravating, more meaningful, and more memorable if you inject some laughter into it. Basic level students often struggle with confidence, so gradually increasing their output rather than putting them on the spot to deliver big contributions at the start of a lesson would also help. That was…

4 Listening Tasks for Accurate Pronunciation

Recognizing sounds is an important step toward achieving more accurate pronunciation. My pronunciation lessons often have a good balance between listening and speaking. If students can’t hear sounds accurately, how can we expect them to produce the sounds successfully? Words are combinations of sounds, and the most logical way to divide those sounds is by…

Top Tips for Accent Reduction

How can you help over two hundred learners with pronunciation in real time? This was the fun challenge I faced at my latest live stream. These public events are very large, and I can only invite a handful of students to join me on camera one at a time. Nevertheless, I get a sense from…

Should We Talk About Romance on Valentine’s Day?

One doesn’t have to talk about romance on Valentine’s Day. I find the topic makes some feel uncomfortable, so you have to consider how best to approach it if you’re going to approach it at all. I just hosted a live stream with a couple hundred learners, and I invited them to build a story…

Can Anyone Hear Me? — Erasing Confusion Over Indefinite Pronouns

I recently shared a handout to help basic English students with indefinite pronouns that refer to people. See my earlier post. It turns out that more practice is needed, or so I discovered after I met with less success than expected during a recent lesson. Some of your students may also have some lingering doubts,…

The Perfect Aspect: Replacing confusion with comfort

Do we need the perfect aspect in communication? It seems like we have quite a number of ways to avoid it. I’ve discussed the challenges in understanding aspect in an earlier post. (Click to view 2017 post.) One thing that confuses students is the frequent use of the simple past instead of the present perfect…