Figuring Out Figurative Language

The worrisome aspect about publishing a video is that you’re really putting yourself out there. You’re sharing your content with a potentially large audience that will evaluate and react to your work. If I let the fear of making a mistake or receiving criticism stop me, then I wouldn’t have a single video online. In…

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…

How to Have a Happy Leap Year

I’ve been reading about superstitions surrounding Leap Year, and it seems that some folks associate the day with bad luck. I think Friday the 13th has already claimed the title “the day of bad luck,” so why not treat February 29 as a day of fun and opportunity? Here are some suggestions for making leap year…

July Fourth: Fireworks, Flags, and Other Fun Topics

Not everyone is on vacation during July. If you’re teaching during the week of July 4th, there are a number of ways to tie the U.S. Independence Day into a language lesson. 1) The latest lesson in my vocabulary playlist focuses on idioms based on the colors red, white, and blue. A short interactive quiz is…

Spring Has Sprung: Season-related Ideas

Whether you are in a climate with four seasons or two, the topic of weather can always work its way into the classroom. For basic level students, an entire lesson might focus on vocabulary, from sunny to freezing. Check out my Seasons.BASIC_handout for more ideas. For intermediate students, a group-generated word cloud, like the one  I made on the left, is…

A Lucky Day!

St. Patrick’s Day gives us a wonderful occasion to talk about luck. You could have a lesson on vocabulary, a lesson about superstitions (great for real and unreal conditionals), or a class discussion about cultural traditions. For more ideas, see an older post published in honor this March holiday. In an upcoming video lesson in my Language…

Hitting the Books: Learning Idioms about Books and Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve posted materials on idioms. The interest in conversational expressions remains strong among online learners, however, so I recently decided to pick up the camera and talk about idioms and sayings related to books. This time around, I changed my approach in teaching this kind of vocabulary. In the past I…

Scratching Our Heads over Idioms and Common Sayings

I find that students love to ask about idioms and common sayings they come across. Idioms especially lend themselves to fun lessons, but where exactly should they fit in? How should we teach them? Idioms are common in conversation and they appear quite often in the news, so encounters with them outside class are inevitable…

Situations and Sayings: A communicative activity

Click here to listen to my introduction to the activity “Situations and Sayings”. Click to view my Situations and Sayings_handout. I wanted to offer a fun way to learn a small set of sayings about similarities and differences. They should be easy to understand because of the contexts they appear in, and I hope the…

The Color of Money: An activity with finance idioms

Later this week I plan to publish a video about Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the U.S.  The very name of this day along with its significance in the retail world makes me think this is a good time to share money-related idioms with students. I’ve selected five that not only relate to finance,…

Fab Five for Idioms

I’ve posted a new video on YouTube, and my focus is on three idioms related to teeth. I’ve been questioned why I choose to present only three expressions at a time. Part of the answer is the time limit. Within 10 minutes, is it really productive to cram in 10 idioms? Even a half dozen seems a bit…

Redefining Live Instruction: Real-life Vocabulary Activities

In a recent vocabulary video lesson, I chose to highlight idioms and other conversational expressions, from window shopping to something speaking for itself. I do believe that ELLs need a steady diet of general and academic words, but I also think their vocabulary studies should include exposure to informal words and expressions. It’s not that…