Love Lines: More Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Posted February 6, 2015 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Conversation, Writing

Tags: , , , ,

3657889982_6143a52cc9_mLove is still in the air, and I’ve come up with more ideas to choose from. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to create a tutorial on terms of endearment. Students can increase their familiarity with variations and reinforce their understanding of usage by taking an interactive quiz. For those with enough time in class to give some practice with these kinds of words, I created a  Love Lines_handout.

Other fun tasks to increase familiarity with terms of endearment in English:

Name that tune (or the artist).  You or the students can collect excerpts of popular lyrics and challenge the class to name the song title and/or the artist. Some suggestions:

  1. “My loneliness is killing me. I must confess I still believe…” Answer: Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears Other possible songs:
  2. “”All my loving I will send to you. All my loving, darling, I’ll be true…”  Answer: All My Loving by the Beatles.
  3. “Baby, you light up my world like no one else. The way you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed.” Answer: What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction.

Lost in Translation? Have students meet in small groups to discuss equivalents of terms of endearment in their native languages. What are common categories for such terms? Foods? Animals? Is social etiquette the same for using such words?


Previous posts with holiday ideas:

Photo credit: 

“Hearts (Explored!)” by QThomas Bower. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.


Warming-Up to Valentine’s Day

Posted January 30, 2015 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Conversation, Vocabulary

Tags: , , , ,

16317995822_f23087f3eb_mAs the month of February approaches, you may want to consider a few short, easy tasks you could make use of in the classroom. Do you know a good Valentine’s Day warm-up activity for adult learners? Feel free to share. Here are some possibilities:


1.  Candy Hearts. Use candy hearts or another substitute, such as foam or felt hearts from a crafts store. Ask each student to take a small handful as a bag is passed around. For every heart, students can do one of the following tasks:

  • Write down words associated with Valentine’s Day. Then have students pair up to compare lists. Have the pairs create a sentence with at least one word from each list. They can share their sentences with the class.
  • Write down words associated with Valentine’s Day. However,  you must assign a part of speech to each student. They must list words using only the assigned part of speech. Have students form pairs or small groups with those who have a different part of speech. Challenge them to come up with as many sentences as possible using the words they listed.
  • Create a sentence with the same number of words as there are pieces of candy. The sentence must be a line that could be used in a love letter. The fun conclusion could be to compose a love letter using everyone’s suggestions.

2. On the Spot Plot. Challenge the class (or small groups) to come-up with at least three film plots in five minutes. You can provide some prompts. See suggestions below. Plots must be 1-3 sentences long. Let students know that even silly ideas are welcome. The goal is to come up with a basic story for each film title. At the end of five minutes, have students vote on the best plot.

  • Title: An Ocean Divides Us. A couple is divided when…
  • Title: Out of This World. In an alien world, love is alive. Two creatures…
  • Title: Then There Were Two. A crazy love triangle results when…
  • Title: On and Off Again. This is a love story that started years ago…
  • Title: Deep in Danger, Deep in Love. Even criminals fall in love. Meet Jess, a lonely…

3. Survey Says. Assign a love-related question to each student. They will have five minutes to survey the class. See suggestions in my Survey Says_handout.


Photo credit:

“Candy Hearts” by Paul Cross. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.


Learning Phrasal Verbs: What You Need to Go Over

Posted January 21, 2015 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Grammar

Tags: , , ,

I try never to ask more of others than I do of myself. Creating a 20-day phrasal verb challenge is putting my stamina as a content creator to the test. I’m inviting learners to follow a series of short lessons for twenty days. That means I have to come up with a daily lesson for twenty days straight. We’re at Day 14 now. I’ll be relieved when I get to the homestretch.

Learners are doing a great job keeping pace, and a good number are creating their own examples or using the phrasal verbs in their comments. I can’t stress enough the need for multiple encounters and practice with feedback. I’m also placing strong emphasis on review, and in each lesson we go over meanings and forms. I think some students make the mistake of just learning the meanings, but then they struggle to use phrasal verbs correctly because they didn’t study forms or common contexts.

To help with the first half of my list, I already offered my Brushing Up_handout. Now for those who wish to cover the second half of the list with their students, here’s a similar activity: Going Over Phrasal Verbs_handout.

The Future of English and Our Profession

Posted January 16, 2015 by englishwithjennifer
Categories: Professional Development

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John H. McWhorter published an article earlier this month with lots of food for thought, especially for ELTs. It’s being shared through different sites at this point, but it was originally posted on The Wall Street Journal under the title “What Will the World Speak in 2115?” 

I’d encourage you to read the entire post. It’s packed with points to reflect on. Here are some of my thoughts and reactions.

  •  Is English truly easy to learn? McWhorter observes that English is being given preference as a global language because of its relative simplicity. He prompts us to ask, “Why use an invented language like Esperanto when we already have a real one being used for universal communication?” I agree that English spares language learners from having to master additional forms because we don’t have gender or cases. Nevertheless, if one’s native language has such features, then learning to communicate with their absence can be a challenge in itself, right? Also, the English alphabet has fewer letters compared to the Cyrillic alphabet, for example, but at least Russian is phonetic. English makes speakers grapple with multiple spellings for the same sound.
  • Will English threaten the existence of other languages? I certainly hope not. McWhorter also seems to appreciate the richness of linguistic diversity, but he predicts that English will become more widespread, and while it won’t be the sole language on the planet, thousands of other languages will die out. This trend is not entirely connected to the rise of English. It’s a matter of numbers, too. There are increasingly smaller populations of people speaking certain tongues.
  • If everyone is speaking English, what will happen to cultural identity? McWhorter didn’t explore this question, but it’s one that came to my mind as I read his post. The use of English will continue to strengthen, but I don’t believe cultural identity will follow suit in becoming streamlined. McWhorter wrote: “The spread of English just means that earthlings will tend to use a local language in their own orbit and English for communication beyond.” He assured us that the Japanese will still speak Japanese. So, we’ll still hear Russian in Russia and Italian in Italy. Furthermore, those cultures will continue with their customs and lifestyles. However, I suppose there will be more borrowing and adapting among cultures. The optimist in me predicts more common ground and increased tolerance on the global scene without the need to chip away at a particular country’s cultural core.
  • Could there ever be only one universal language? We already have variations and dialects of English. That won’t change. In fact, we will likely see more. Just as we now have American English and it’s distinct from British English, there will probably be more Englishes…and more deviations from so-called standards. McWhorter predicts continued simplification of all languages, but I see the lines of adaptations diverging according to geography. Our job as teachers will be to promote acceptance of variations, but adherence to enough standards so that we don’t live out the confusion that surrounded the Tower of Babel, a story McWhorter alludes to when he advocates universal comprehension.
  • If everyone is speaking English, will we be out of a job? First of all, McWhorter is talking about 2115, so you and I won’t be around to deal with job market demands at that time. Second, there will always be work for English language teachers; we just have to continue to adapt. In 2115, ELTs will be teaching mostly young beginners, while intermediate and advanced students will largely be adults. Perhaps as the changes continue to unfold around us, we’ll be focusing more pragmatics to facilitate the universality of English words and structures. If that’s the case, we might be doing more collaborative teaching to help bridge gaps, like the online class I co-taught last fall with my UK colleague. We touched upon differences in form, but also spent a good amount of time discussing similarities and differences in perception.

What are you predictions for the future of ESL?


McWhorter, J. H. (2011, January 2). What will the world speak in 2115? Retrieved from

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.


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