Street Talk vs. Standard English: What do we teach?

Most English language learners are studying English for academic or professional reasons. With their goals in mind, we teachers focus on the language structures and vocabulary that we know they’ll need. We create tasks to build necessary skills. We present graphic organizers for essays, we share model email messages, we turn to high frequency word…

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks with Musical.ly

In the digital world, you can’t get too comfortable with the same set of apps for too long because there will always be new ones to check out. If you don’t look around, you may miss out on a cool tool that packs instructional potential. I’ve known about musical.ly for a while (Android users click…

Subject-Verb Agreement: There’s still more to talk about!

Students’ questions are very informative. Their queries tell us what topics interest them and which aspects of a topic they need to study. An intermediate student recently asked me about There is/There are statements. A short, simple sentence is easy to construct: There is a car. There are cars. “But what about a string of nouns?”…

Taking Another Look at Plural Nouns

After tackling tricky points about uncountable nouns in a recent YouTube lesson, I’m now thinking of the challenges that plural nouns pose for intermediate and advanced students. If only it were as simple as adding -s to every singular noun! Spelling rules present the first challenge. We also can’t avoid using irregular plural nouns. Child-children…

Continuing the Conversation about Count and Noncount Nouns

Is a noun countable or uncountable? Students still have doubts even after a number of explanations. I find a balance between explanations and practice helps build comfort with this topic. Students need to develop awareness of the meaning differences in order to use nouns accurately. Success with subject-verb agreement depends heavily on whether students understand…

From pictures to words: How was your summer vacation?

My most recent YouTube lesson about summer vacation could be a springboard for different age groups at different levels of proficiency. Would you like your students to talk about their summer vacations? Do you want to share some common ways to ask how a vacation was spent? This could also include a review of question…

Time Out: Let’s practice correlative conjunctions!

Just as in sports, we need time-outs in language learning. Students can learn a lot by playing the game, so to speak, but circumstances can call for a brief pause. The teacher observes the performance on the “field” and recognizes when explicit instructions are called for. I recently understood that a private student has never…

Simplifying Complex Prepositions

A quick task on Facebook revealed some confusion over complex prepositions, meaning prepositions that are more than one word. Not all students were able to identify “due to” and “other than” as a single unit that functioned as a preposition. Instead, they identified only the more common simple prepositions “to” and “than.” This is a…

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…

Understanding Uses of Reflexive Pronouns

My Student Stumper category began on this blog back in 2009, and my first post was about reflexive pronouns. A private student recently asked about the different uses of these pronouns, and I felt it was best to create some practice activities to illustrate the different meanings of these words. If your upper level students…

From Student to Master: Learning how to learn

For a good number of reasons, I think it’s important for adults to open themselves up to new learning experiences. Learning boosts both personal and professional growth. Even something that seems completely unrelated to your field can lead to interesting parallels and insights. In the past, I shared my thoughts when I returned to roller-skating…

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…