College Tuition: A Hot Topic to Debate

Several topics are trending in U.S. news, somewhat due to the recent presidential debate. The views and proposals of different candidates are making people in the U.S. think more about certain issues, such as the cost of college tuition. ELLs should be welcome to weigh in with their own personal opinions without fear of language…

Student Stumper 50: “Last” vs. “Past”

QUESTION: What’s the difference between “last” and “past”?  Can I say “the last year” and “the past year”? Do they mean the same thing? ANSWER: We can use both of those phrases, but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Anytime there are similarities, we must figure out where exactly there’s overlap. Structurally, the phrases…

Creating an Inclusive Celebration of Christmas

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are officially listed on U.S. calendars. With many schools and businesses closed on theses days and with special holiday events scheduled in abundance at this time of year, it’s pretty hard to ignore the importance of Christmas in American culture. Whether you’re in the U.S. or not and whether you…

A Realistic Path Toward Accent Reduction

I’m not a big believer in accent elimination. A successful pronunciation lesson of mine doesn’t guarantee a 100% “native-like accent.” I support progress towards accent reduction. The end goal is clear, natural, confident pronunciation. Reducing one’s foreign accent in English is about targeting a model closely enough so that variations don’t confuse or distract the…

Thanksgiving Wishes (and one activity!)

This week I’ll take a short break from blogging. I’ll need some extra time to bake my pumpkin pies and stuff the 13-pound turkey that’s currently thawing in the fridge. To all who are celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, I wish you a warm and peaceful holiday. May your plate be full, may conversation be pleasant,…

Student Stumper 49: “Another” vs. “Other”

QUESTION: What’s the difference between “another” and “other”?  They’re very similar. ANSWER: Indeed, they’re similar, so the challenge is to find and remember the differences. A learner’s dictionary can help us identify rules and patterns. Then comes the hard part: we need to commit all that information to memory. Parts of Speech First, let’s look…

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…

Student Stumper 48: Does the house need painting or need being painted?

QUESTION: I know I can say a house needs painting, but why can’t I say the house needs being painted? ANSWER: It’s not always easy to give a satisfactory answer to grammar questions. Sometimes a standard pattern simply must be followed, no exceptions. You learn the acceptable pattern, and like a dutiful soldier you follow…

Homelessness: A tough topic, but a productive talk

As part of my video series on current issues, I’ve decided to address homelessness. My upcoming video will focus on the present crisis in the U.S. However, homelessness is a problem in many countries around the world, which makes the topic familiar to many English language learners. Anytime we allow learners to tap into their…

Practice with “That” Clauses

I know that… I think that… I’m happy that… We use such sentences all the time with and without “that.” Some of your basic level students already form sentences with that clauses, not knowing they’re using complex sentences. Well, there’s no need to bog them down with terminology. However, raising awareness of sentence patterns can…

4 Variations on a Speaking Task

Do you struggle to increase student production during a speaking task? Sometimes it can be a matter of choosing the format that students feel most comfortable with. With lower level students, you also need to be sure they have enough language support to complete the task. I sometimes use templates to facilitate speaking. The templates…