TESOL 2017 Highlights: The Take Away from the Top

As usual, the convention has been one exciting whirlwind. I attended some very useful talks and took plenty of notes, so it will take a number of posts to share my highlights with you. Let’s start at the top…meaning the keynote speakers. Dudley Reynolds, our 2016-2017 TESOL President, spoke on Professional English Language Teachers in…

TESOL 2017: Seattle Here I Come!

Are any of you heading to Seattle for the TESOL convention? It’s an exciting time of the year. I enjoy seeing old colleagues and meeting new ones. The annual convention is a chance to hear about current trends, learn new tips and tools, and discover what projects everyone is engaged in. I have two presentations…

Words That Even Teachers Mix Up

Catching a student’s error with sweet and sweat is simple enough because I don’t mix up those words. They don’t sound alike to me and their meanings are very different. However, I’ve caught myself saying further when I meant farther, and vice versa. Perhaps the closer words are in meaning, the harder it can be to differentiate…

4 Ways to Learn from Headlines

A learner asked me about the grammar in news headlines. Indeed, it can be confusing when words are omitted: Prison Escape Fails — Did it already happen? Why is the verb in the present tense? Mayor in Hot Water — Is this happening now? Where’s the verb? Local Team Gets New Coach — Can they write…

Even Though vs. Even If

She’s determined to search every inch of that machine (even if/even though) it’s dangerous. Which words complete the sentence? Both choices work, right? So then what’s the difference? I recently discovered just how tricky it can be to distinguish between even though and even if. I’ve always seen the even though as a way to express…

3 Things I Learned from Students

Interacting with students is both rewarding and stimulating. I receive frequent reminders that there’s more for me to learn about the English language. Here’s what students have taught me over the years: 1. Their eyes and ears  work for me as well. Students are very observant, and they are likely to repeat the language they hear…

A Getting-to-Know-You Activity to Practice Gerunds and Infinitives

Mastering combinations with gerunds and infinitives comes with practice. Here’s a straightforward activity for upper level students: gerunds-and-infinitives_handout.  A sorting task quickly moves into a production task that prompts writing and speaking. Students can learn more about one another by sharing their answers. Enjoy! Here are some related activities I shared in years past: Story…

The Whys and Wherefores: Using the Relative Pronouns WHY, WHERE, WHEN

As follow-up to my discussion about wh- clauses looking like relative clauses, I’ve decided to create a handout that targets combinations of head nouns with why, where, and when. If you have upper level students who’d benefit from practice with these relative pronouns, please check out my whys-and-wherefores_handout. After a quick sorting task, students are encouraged to create…

Getting a Firmer Handle on Word Order

In an effort to help an advanced student avoid awkward wording, I’ve been reviewing standard word order in our lessons. Some rules have been easy to state and reinforce, like putting the subject before the verb in statements and embedded questions. Other patterns are easier to recall only in the process of correcting a student’s writing. If…

A Clue as to Why Wh- Clauses Are So Tricky

Here’s the thing. Wh- clauses can be complements in noun phrases, and in this position they can look quite a lot like identifying adjective clauses with the relative pronouns where, when, and why. …Is that too much terminology in one sentence? Did you follow my line of thinking? Well, that’s part of the problem. We…

When Differences in Aspect Aren’t So Simple

It’s usually easy to explain why we need a verb in a certain time frame: We use the past tense for past actions (I studied law) and the present tense for present actions (I study law). A future time frame allows for more choices, but with sufficient practice students pick up on how to use…

Learning the Different Times of the Day

This week I decided to exploit more of my personal photos from a trip I took to Las Vegas. I was inspired to create materials to practice time words, specifically words we use to talk about time periods within a day. I created images similar to the one you see below. I never realized how…