Basic Grammar: Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Some grammar topics are introduced at the lower levels, and students continue to study the intricacies as they become more proficient. The topic of countable and uncountable nouns is a good example. A recent video lesson shows how I challenged my basic English students to identify nouns as countable or uncountable and correctly use the…

Gaining Comfort with Levels of Formality

In a recent YouTube video, I challenged upper level students to find more formal or less formal variations of ten statements. Watch the lesson. Such tasks are open-ended because there isn’t one right answer. Ideally, the viewer should do my exercises with at least one other person. Two heads are better than one, and discoveries…

Understanding Other ELLs: An Overlooked Listening Skill

With so much attention on understanding fast speech in movies, TV shows, and other authentic sources, there’s an area of listening comprehension that may not receive the attention it deserves: the speech of language learners. Students tend to focus heavily on listening to native speakers and non-natives with advanced proficiency. As a result, they may…

Setting and Reaching Goals

I recently shared some best practices that I learned from students over the years. (Watch video.) These aren’t specific study habits, but rather approaches and attitudes one can develop in order to have a more successful language learning experience. In the past, I’ve proposed a learner’s pledge for students to consider and (hopefully) adopt. Click…

Pronunciation and Parallel Structure

In my latest YouTube lesson, I present parallel structure as an advanced grammar topic, and I mention the value of parallel structure in both academic and professional writing. However, it would be misleading to overlook how parallel structure plays a role in rhythm and intonation. A series of items, for example, breaks into small thought…

Allowing for Laid-Back Grammar

In a recent lesson on YouTube, I decided to teach and practice agreement with the informal responses “Me too” and “Me neither.” (Watch Basic English Lesson 106.) I had seen some online discussion about the correctness of such phrases (or the lack thereof), but I decided that if I hear it and I personally use…

7 Tips for Targeting Consonant Sounds

It took me long enough, but I finally decided to create an overview of the 24 consonant sounds in English. The YouTube lesson is just over 15 minutes, and I include some insights and additional resources for learners at the end. I had created a whole playlist for American English vowel sounds back in 2011,…

Words Easily Confused…and How to Keep Them Straight

One of the most common types of questions I get every week is about the difference between two words that sound similar and/or have similar meanings. I’m asked about words such as rely vs. depend, affect vs. effect, capable vs. able, will vs. be going to, recent vs. current, among others. This week I had to…

12 Best Practices for Writing Quizzes and Exercises

If you weren’t using online quiz makers before, you likely started using some soon after the outbreak of  COVID-19 when everyone went into lockdown. Even prior to the big migration to online learning, many teachers were already experimenting with quiz tools in and out of the classroom. At the 2013 TESOL convention, Susan Gaer demonstrated…

Practice with Paraphrasing

Students learn to paraphrase for different reasons. In the academic world, students must avoid plagiarism, so to refer to a key idea in a written text they have two choices: include a quote or restate it. In the ESL classroom, we regularly paraphrase to make unfamiliar vocabulary understood. We offer explanations such as, “If you…

Exposing Students to Ellipsis

Using ellipsis confidently and appropriately in speaking comes with practice. I decided the first step to helping students was to call awareness to the practice of omitting words. My video lesson goes through about a dozen patterns. Some should already be familiar to intermediate students. My hope was to show learners how some patterns have…