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…

3 Tips for Writing Online Instructional Posts

Happy New Year to one and all! It’s 2017. How will this year be significant for you? Each year serves a marker in some way. For some, 2017 will be their first year of teaching. For others, it may their twenty-fifth year in the field. As for me, 2017 will mark my tenth year teaching…

Flashback and Flashforward: Using Sequence Words

My latest YT video presents sequence words and other useful phrases for describing a process. Intermediate students could either write down the steps for some of the processes shown (how to make hot chocolate, how to wrap a present, etc.) prior to watching or after watching the video. The former would be a matter of…

Building Writing Skills

On a daily basis, I engage in more written correspondence than I do spoken exchanges. It’s the nature of my teaching. I provide more asynchronous instruction than synchronous. This is probably one reason why writing skills are a big focus in my work. Even the students I meet for live instruction usually submit written assignments between…

Teaching Intonation: Rising to the Challenge

Like many of you, I’ve begun to give some thought to 2017. I’d like to continue my practice of starting each new year with a special video challenge on YouTube. A 20-day Fast Speech Challenge marked the start of 2016. I kicked off 2015 with a similar 20-day Phrasal Verb Challenge. Presently, I’m toying with the idea of…

Student Stumper 47: Can’t Have and Couldn’t Have

How could I have thought there wouldn’t be another tricky question about perfect modal verbs? Modals and their many meanings stump us teachers from time to time. It’s easy enough to explain the basics, but part of the challenge is understanding where there’s overlap and where there isn’t. I addressed one question regarding perfect modals…

Perfecting Use of the Past Perfect

The truth about most grammar lessons is that one lesson is never enough. One lesson may be enough for a language learner to start trying out a new structure, but accuracy only comes with time…and feedback. Advanced students in particular might have reached a level of fluency where very few situations challenge their ability to communicate,…

If We Could Turn Back Time

Oops! Look at all those broken eggs! …Well, if they hadn’t stacked the cartons so high, this wouldn’t have happened. Right? And if shoppers didn’t have to open each carton to check for broken eggs, they could just take a carton from the top. A good photo can prompt a number of conditional sentences, especially…

As If We Had Covered Everything!

Perhaps you thought that after Student Stumper 46, I’d have nothing else to say about as if and as though. On the contrary, I’m still thinking about this grammar structure! First of all, some of you might appreciate a short worksheet to review the grammar with students. Check out the as-if-as-though_handout. It’s formatted to work in…

Student Stumper 46: “As if” and “As though” Revisited

I initially addressed this topic a few years ago in Student Stumper 35. However, some recent questions opened the can back up, and out came some worms  that I couldn’t ignore. Not having clear answers to grammar questions makes me squirm in my seat! QUESTION: Can I use the present tense after as if and…

6 Sets of Seemingly Similar Words

What kinds of questions test you as a language teacher? Grammar-related questions usually generate the most challenging Student Stumpers for me, but that doesn’t mean other queries don’t give me pause. Synonyms or words that appear to be very similar test my knowledge about register and collocations. I respond to the best of my ability…