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…

Modals for Beginners

Modals find their way into grammar lessons at all stages of learning English. At the lower levels, it’s wise to present modal verbs in small doses, allowing time for practice and feedback. With one of my beginners, Natasha, I decided to teach “Would you like…?” for polite requests and invitations. (See beginner video lesson.) That…

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…

Setting Students Up for Successful Conversations

Don’t you love that feeling right after you finish a productive conversation with students? I’m excited and proud when I know students stepped up and managed to engage in a conversation on a new topic. I’m even happier to know that they’re aware of their solid performance and they took pleasure in the experience. Is…

Simpler, Livelier Tasks With Comparative Adjectives

I recently shared a Basic English lesson on comparative adjectives that form with -er. As simple as this topic seems, plenty of practice is always called for. Inevitably, production requires accuracy with other grammar elements. I found my students still struggling with subject-verb agreement and singular vs. plural nouns. (Bananas are better than cherries. And…

Accidents Happen: 3 tasks to practice the past progressive

Here’s an easy, engaging way to springboard into a grammar lesson on the past tense. Write three sayings on the board. (See below.) Ask the students to vote for the one they like the best. If you wish, invite them to explain their votes. The winning statement can become a banner for a day. Simply…