Brushing Up On Phrasal Verbs

Posted January 9, 2015 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Grammar

I’ve decided to take on phrasal verbs again. I published four video lessons as an introduction to this grammar topic a few years ago, but of course, mastery of phrasal verbs is something that many learner still desire. I’m trying to follow my own set of Dos and Don’ts when it comes to teaching this topic. I think the most important factor is limiting the number of items presented and practiced at one time.

In my new series on YouTube, I’m going to present only twenty phrasal verbs. I intend to offer adequate practice and review. If you’re interested in helping students master the same twenty, you might like to have my Brushing Up_handout, which targets the first ten. I’ll come up with another activity for the second half of my list.

Happy Holidays!

Posted December 23, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Announcements

Tags: , ,

5307525503_b777cc6ea4_qThis will be my last post in 2014. Enjoy the holiday season! May the jingle of bells fill your days with cheer. I encourage you to make the kind of resolutions that matter for the coming year.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to consider my ideas and activities throughout the year. I offer my warmest wishes for a healthy, productive, and joyful New Year! See you in 2015!


Photo credit:

“A Safe,Happy and Prosperous New Year to All” by John Stratford.  Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.

New Year’s Celebrations around the World

Posted December 19, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Conversation

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3155595645_0917b748d0_mOne of my female cousins lived right across the street from my grandmother and the two were very close, but on January 1 my grandmother never let her great-niece visit until a male relative had come in the house first. I was relieved when I found out that many others in the world have the same custom. It wasn’t something my superstitious grandmother had made up. There’s actually a name for this custom of welcoming the first male guest on New Year’s Day. It’s called first-foot.

Memories and stories like these are fun to share, especially in an ESL classroom. What traditions are followed in one’s family or one’s country? Where did these ideas come from?

Perhaps you’d like to try a fun activity on the first day you meet with students in the New Year. Let me help you prepare. Please take a look at my New Year’s around the World_handout in PDF. (Or if you prefer a Word document, then use this copy: New Year’s around the World_handout.) A little preparation now will allow you to breeze into the first class in January!





Photo credit: 

“New Year’s Eve at Borovets” by Klearchos Kapoutsis. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.

New Holiday Traditions

Posted December 12, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Classroom Tips, Vocabulary

Tags: , , ,

11471837784_55ab7479e5_qMy children were dismayed to find that they were among the few who still did not  have an Elf on the Shelf toy doll this holiday season. Apparently,  groups of children begin their day at school by sharing news about their elves at home. What elves? Are you as clueless as I was?

Elf on the Shelf is a storybook that is also sold with a toy elf. The elf supposedly reports back to Santa each night about the children. Were they naughty or nice? Then the elf has the rest of the night to have fun. Each morning the kids race around to find the elf doll in a new place. Often these mischievous elves are found in silly circumstances, for instance, surrounded by late night snacks or with a video game remote control in hand.

I broke down a few days ago and decided to buy my children their own elf, whom they named Benny. Benny ends up in a different spot each morning. Today they found him in the kitchen with a paintbrush. There was some red paint on the brush. It seems he had been painting.

Whether you choose to have an elf, a toy snowman, or some other holiday figure, you could have some ESL fun this month! In each new class, ask your beginners where the little guy is. He or she will be in a different spot each time. Practice your prepositions of location: on the shelf, next to the board, etc. On sites like Pinterest you’ll see many shared photos posted by creative parents. You can ask your intermediate level students either what the elves are doing in the photos or what they had been doing. Advanced students can speculate what the elves must have been or could have been doing at night.

My next Language Notes lesson will be on homophones, homographs, and homonyms, my attention has remained on this topic since last week. If you’d like to tie this topic to the holiday season, please consider my Produce Some Produce_handout.


Photo credit:

“When Will Santa’s List Be Digital?” by Kevin Dooley

Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr



A Portrait of the Artist: Practice with Prepositions through Art

Posted December 5, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Grammar

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As I continue to discuss prepositions on YouTube, I find myself really searching for areas of confusion. Which prepositions do students confuse? In what contexts? How are some prepositions similar and what can I tell students to help them see distinctions?

I decided to study by, in, of, and with mainly in the context of art. In the video and in an interactive exercise, I explore other contexts. If you think your upper level students would enjoy returning to the context of art, I offer this: A Portrait of the Artist_handout. My suggestions make use of famous art and literary works. Other activities could easily extend from my handout. For example, students could be invited to read the works mentioned (Thurber’s “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”)

ConTENT with the CONtent: Homographs, Homophones, and Homonyms

Posted November 25, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Vocabulary

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As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I think of my relatives scattered across the country. In my youth, we gathered in large numbers around this time of the year. I remember how my cousins would jokingly call this holiday “Turkey Day.” Now thanks to the many postings on the Internet, I see that other families use the same expression.

While “Turkey Day” makes sense to my American ears, I realize that for those learning the language, that phrase might cause confusion, especially out of context. After all, turkey can be meat from a bird, but there’s also the country Turkey. Perhaps an ELL might think that Turkey Day is somehow connected to another nation and culture. How confusing!

There’s a name for this kind of confusion. Did you know that turkey and Turkey are capitonyms? A simple change to a lowercase letter, and presto! – we got a new word. Similarly, we have march – March and may – May. Do your students ever get confused about first names like Rich and Mark? Perhaps some think there are connections to wealth or smudges on a paper.

English can be confusing because there are words that look similar or even exactly the same, but they can be said differently or mean something entirely different. There are long lists of homographs, homophones, and homonyms on the Internet. If you’d like to expose students to these types of words, but limit the exposure and make sure all study is done in a meaningful context, please consider using my Content with the Content_handout.

I’d also recommend these free resources:

  •  YourDictionary has a clear explanation of homographs and other confusing types of words. A list is provided.
  • Al Aloisi created a whole site devoted to homophones. Although he comes from the fields of data processing and finance, he has created a very user-friendly site for people from all backgrounds. You can browse his alphabetized entries, see defintions, and even share entries via email and social media sites.
  • ABCTeach also offers a list. Theirs focuses on homonyms.
  • The folks at VocabularySpellingCity also offer explanations of homophones and other confusing words. The graded word lists will help ESL teachers find the right level of difficulty for their students. Free exercises will help students practice recognizing and spelling homophones.

How-to Lists: Understanding and Using Parallel Structure

Posted November 20, 2014 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Grammar, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

Certain instances of parallel structure are easy to understand. Compound subjects or objects, for example, are often the first types students put into use. A beginner can say, “Soup and pasta are my favorite foods.” or “I like TV and books.” Lists, either within a sentence or in bulleted form, tend to pose more challenges. I’ve often seen an incorrect mix of gerunds and base forms of verbs in a list of skills on resumes, for instance. Then come the correlative conjunctions, such as either…or. These structures are put into use at the intermediate level and above, and key to using them is understanding parallel structure.

Recognizing the need for exposure to and practice with parallel structure, I’ve created my How To_handout. It’s a writing activity that is designed for classroom use, but could easily be adapted for private lessons. I hope your upper level students will find it enjoyable to use.


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