September 21, 2009

Twenty Questions

To inspire discussions or writing for English learning students, I have found open-ended questions to be a good place to start.

I have found that a little introductory discussion can help a student with a context and a framework to continue developing...

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July 18, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Those of us who study language have realized that there are two approaches to language; how it should be used correctly - and of course....

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May 25, 2009

Tell me a Story

Everybody like to hear stories - and when learning a language, there is nothing better than HEARING a story to learn how native speakers not only speak....

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February 27, 2009

British VS American English

Learning a new language is always a daunting challenge. The English language is difficult enough to learn even without the usual differences in accents and regional variations. And then there is the never clear, and always confusing set of differences between British and American….

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February 13, 2009

Happy New Year!

All around the world we have just celebrated the coming of a new year. In the Chinese calender, we have just entered the year of the ox. This is a perfect metaphor for the language learning experience. The ox does its work slowly but steadily.

This is the time of year to reflect and look forward. Where have we been? And where are we....

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February 08, 2009


If you are learning English American-style, you are likely to run into words like this.

This particular word just came to me but....

Continue reading "Twigglethicket"

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February 03, 2009

Voices From The Past - Abbot & Costello and Bono to Lincoln

All of us as learners of any language learn from those who came before us. We absorb words and ideas from every singer, writer, friend or neighbor we encounter.

So what can we learn from historical figures? From comedy teams to political leaders we can learn....

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January 28, 2009

Keeping inTouch

Being in a foreign place and far from friends and family can be stressful enough without a worldwide financial implosion impacting everything from job security, the price and availability of food and of course, personal safety and security. What to do?

I don't think I'm alone if ...

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January 25, 2009

Finding Your Voice


Most students of other languages lack confidence in public speaking of the new language. Shyness is a major barrier to making a language your own.

In essence, the main principle is practice, practice, practice.

But what is a safe and practical way to to do this?

Thanks to the internet there are . . .

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January 17, 2009

Simple Does Not Mean Easy

Hello Friends,

In many ways, English is a very “simple” language. But simple does not mean easy. The English language has only 26 letters. You'd think a language with so few characters would be easy to master. ...

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November 23, 2008

Tips and Tricks - The Right or Wrong Game

Hello Readers,

Most good ESL teachers have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to warmers and games they can use in their classrooms. But even the best of the best teachers can get stuck in a rut. So, let's take a look at another game you can use with your English students...

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September 19, 2008

Tips and Tricks - Photocopiables

Hello readers,

For many EL teachers, having photocopiable resources readily available to them would be considered a treat. Having original photocopiable resources might then be considered unthinkable.

If you've ever had to make a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy ...

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August 03, 2008

Teaching Tips - How to involve students in correcting mistakes

Hello Readers,

If you're interested in making your classroom more learner-centered, you may have already thought about placing more responsibility on your students in regards to error correction.

Here's a simple way ...

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May 05, 2008

Tips and Tricks - Vocabulary Notebooks

Hello Readers,

Do your students have a hard time remembering all the new words that they learn in your class? Are you students constantly confusing certain words for other similar words? What can you do about it? Well ...

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March 14, 2008

Tips and Tricks-Minimal Pairs

Hello Readers,

Do your students have a difficult time distinguishing between two similar sounds? (If you don't know what their pronunciation problems are, start compiling a list in class. Spending a few minutes each day focusing on their pronunciation would be a good start.) Perhaps they confuse the sounds p and b, l and r or s and z. If this is the case, then a quick and regular minimal pairs exercise could eventually improve ...

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January 22, 2008

Tips and Tricks- Setting the Scene

Hello Readers,

Imagine the scenario. You've gone through a few exercises in your course book with your students. The first few exercises were difficult, so you weren't surprised when they seemed to be confused. But then you realize that they really don't get it. They're frustrated. You're frustrated ...

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December 01, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Using color

Hello Readers,

A few weeks ago, we explored some of the different learning styles that have been identified. This week, let's take a look at one particular strategy that works especially well with visual learners, which is using color ...

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October 21, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Alternative Forms of Feedback

Hello Readers,

Do you ever find that going through the answers of an exercise with your students takes up too much of your valuable class time? Do you find that giving the students the answers to a task in the traditional manner is ineffective? Would you like a more interesting and efficient method for doing this? Well, look no further. Here are three...

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Posted by crueckert at 12:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Logging Your Lessons

Hello Readers,

Most ESL teachers who have been around for a while have a few tricks up their sleeves for impromptu lessons and for extra time at the end of classes. New teachers, on the other hand, might find that they are constantly searching for material to use in their lessons. Either way, one thing that all teachers should be doing is...

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August 13, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Learning the Phonetic Alphabet

Dear Readers,

Chances are that your students use a phonetic alphabet to learn English. So when your students ask you questions about it, are you able to answer? Do you dismiss it as something unimportant? Have you made learning the phonetic alphabet a low priority? If so, then...

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July 10, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Using the Internet in the Classroom

Hello Readers,

When you think about using resources in the classroom, what do you think of? Perhaps you think about using movies, pictures, or flashcards. But what about using the internet? Though you may not have access to computers in the classroom, your students are more than likely to have access to the internet at home...

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June 06, 2007

Teaching Tips and Tricks- Mind Maps

Hello Readers,

Back when I did my CELTA course, I remember how eager teachers were to show that they could present vocabulary in an interesting way to the students. Some of the trainees spent hours coming up with riddles about key words and phrases to help elicit the words from the students. While I find elicitation to be an effective method for vocabulary teaching, there are quick ways and incredibly time-consuming ways to do this.

It is well-known that it is easier to remember a set of words that have something in common than a set of random words. While the key words in a text may not always belong to one common group, ...

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May 05, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Giving Feedback

Hello Readers,

Towards the end of a PPP lesson, students are meant to be given time to practice the language that was taught in the lesson. Some believe that it's most beneficial for the students if the teachers let them get on with their activity rather than interrupting them with corrections during the activity. One reason for this is that if you interact with some of the students while they're supposed to be practicing the language on their own, it can be distracting for the other students. Another reason is...

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April 07, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Open Ended Questions

Hello Readers,

Let's say you're talking to your students about different learning strategies. Which of the following questions do you think would be more interesting for your students?

When some successful language learners find a word they don't know in a text, they _______ the meaning of the word from the context.
a. guesses b. guessed c. have guessed d. guess

When some successful language learners find a word that they don't know in a text, they guess the meaning of the word from the context. What are some other learning strategies that you could use if you don't know the meaning of a word?

While closed questions, like the one in example 1, ...

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Posted by crueckert at 06:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Giving Clear Instructions

Hello Readers,

Few of us can say that we never give long, complex and confusing instructions to our students in the classroom. When observing other teachers, it's easy to see the negative effects of such instructions (namely- utter confusion!), but can you recognize it in your own classroom?

Here's an example: "Ok, everybody, are you ready for the next activity? Ok, well, to start with, I'd like you to all take out a piece of paper from your notebooks. You can tear it out, don't worry about the edges...

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February 02, 2007

Tips and Tricks- Turn-taking

Hello Readers,

Teacher: What do you do in your free time, Martha?
Student: ... (10 seconds pass)... I ... like ... to ... go ...swimming.

Have you ever wondered what you can do to help students like these- students who take a long time to think about how to answer a question? While students like Martha think, the other students in the class get impatient. When the other students get impatient, students like Martha may feel even more inhibited to speak. So, ...

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December 29, 2006

Tips and Tricks- Handing Out Papers

Hello Readers!

Have you ever thought about when you should distribute your worksheets to your students? I know my teachers in school used to always pass them out while giving instructions on what we were meant to do with them. It may have saved some time...

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November 24, 2006

Tips and Tricks- Setting up a Roleplay

Hello Readers,

Chances are, you've probably had your students work on a role-play at some point in time. Do you know what your goal is during the activity? Do they run smoothly? Do you know what you should be doing before, during and after a role-play? Do you have any resources to help guide you through a role-play or other fluency activity?

If you can't answer the above questions on your own...

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October 27, 2006

Tips and Tricks- Picture Resources

Hello Readers,

Have you ever sat in a classroom and thought about how much easier it would be to teach your students a word if you just had a picture to show them?

No doubt you have. If you work for a private school, you may have access to a picture file. But if you work freelance or for a state school in a third world country, chances are...

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Posted by crueckert at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 13, 2006

Tips and Tricks- Gestures

Hello readers!

Perhaps the idea of teaching a room full of true beginners (students with absolutely no English background) is about as appealing to you as having a mouth full of cavities filled in at the dentist's office without any anaesthesia.

If so, then you might be surprised to learn that it can be done- with your sanity in tact. Here's one technique that can help you a great deal: it's the use of...

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June 29, 2006

Tips and Tricks- Keeping Your Students Still

Hi all!

To keep with the theme of summer camp, let's talk about student behavior. Now I'm all for making students feel comfortable, but I do think that there is a time and place for everything. Be it young children or mature adults, students of all ages like to fiddle with things and move around. For young children, perhaps it's to get attention, and for adults, it might be a way to keep themselves awake. Regardless of the reason, you need your students to sit still. So what do you do? Do children and adults react the same?

In my experience, I've found that the best thing to do is...

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June 05, 2006

Tips & Tricks - A Personal Touch

Hello Teachers,

The-new-teacher-in-town theme is a recurrent one so let’s talk about getting to know students. How well do we really know our students? I’m not talking about being able to call them by name or identifying what level student they are. I’m talking about discovering their interests, what topics they get heated about and what makes them laugh. All the above (and much more!) can be used in the classroom and help give a personal touch to your ESL lessons. In other words, learning what makes students tick and implementing that information into your lesson plans can help prevent cookie-cutter classes . . .

Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - A Personal Touch"

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May 01, 2006

Tips & Tricks - Teaching Idioms

Hello Teachers,

Grammar, as you know, can be tricky to teach. As for teaching idioms, I have used two approaches. One way is to introduce idioms that are familiar to us. A few of these might be:

  • up and running

  • beat around the bush

  • beats me

  • bent out of shape

  • call it a day
  • You can see lots more of these at:

    Another approach that seems to work better and is generally more fun (but also more difficult since you have to improvise – plus you probably won’t know all of them) is to have your students bring idioms that they hear in songs or movies . . .

    Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - Teaching Idioms"

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    December 23, 2005

    Tips & Tricks - Troublesome Phrasal Verbs

    Phrasal, Shmasal. Is this the reaction you get when you try to teach verb usage?

    Hi all,

    I've mentioned this probem on this forum once before but since I got such little feedback on it, I thought I'd bring it up for review once again.

    Do your ESL students have a difficult time grasping the concept of phrasal verbs? If so, here’s a great exercise to get them past that “mind block.” I have found that my ESL students hate the idea when I propose it, but are always thankful afterwards because they finally “get it!” . . .

    Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - Troublesome Phrasal Verbs"

    Posted by msimmons at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

    November 25, 2005

    Lesson Planning - Using Halloween for ESL Class: Anytime!

    ESL Halloween.gif

    "There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world." ~Jean Baudrillard

    Continue reading "Lesson Planning - Using Halloween for ESL Class: Anytime!"

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    November 24, 2005

    Lesson Planning - Impromptu ESL Teaching Demonstrations

    "It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech" ~Mark Twain

    Hi friends,

    Have you ever been asked to give an extemporaneous speech or to perform on the spot? How embarrassing is this if you don't feel prepared?

    Presently, this is exactly what's happening in some ESL schools when job applicants are "invited" to an employment interview. Like the ESL students who are often asked to demonstrate their English language abilities (so that they can be properly placed), potential ESL teachers can also be expected to be held to a similar standard by demonstrating their teaching ability. Plus, if the ESL school has organized these interviews wisely, they could theoretically charge students for a pre-semester session of ESL classes while getting some free labor from their ESL instructor applicants (let's hope that schools aren't really doing this!) . . .

    Continue reading "Lesson Planning - Impromptu ESL Teaching Demonstrations"

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    November 17, 2005

    ESL Vitas, Reference Letters and You!

    ESL CV Submission.jpg

    "It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles." ~Niccolo Machiavelli

    Continue reading "ESL Vitas, Reference Letters and You!"

    Posted by lhobbs at 04:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (2)

    November 14, 2005

    Lesson Planning - Encouraging ESL Students to Talk

    "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names" ~ John F. Kennedy

    Hello everyone,

    Ever wonder what to do on the first day of class? Nervous about remembering new students' names? Well, the first day of class is the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of these apprehensions.

    In the last newsletter (here), I offered one of the first-day-of-class lessons I like to use in the ESL classroom . . .

    Continue reading "Lesson Planning - Encouraging ESL Students to Talk"

    Posted by lhobbs at 04:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (4)

    November 06, 2005

    Workplace Issues - ESL & PowerPoint Presentations

    "Professors known as outstanding lecturers do two things; they use a simple plan and many examples." ~ W. McKeachie

    Dear Readers,

    If my memory doesn't fail me, it seems that the business types latched on to this technology first, the publishing field being no exception. The administrative branch of the school system used it to “preach” their new policies to the faculty branches.

    When their use first became prevalent in teaching, I thought that they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I still use them a lot, not only for course lectures but also for conference presentations, etc. If you suffer from stage-fright, it certainly gives your “audience” something to look at besides yourself! Even more importantly, as the quote suggests, they keep any “lecture” you feel compelled to impose upon your class "simple" by sticking to a planned outline and even entertaining with the ability to use graphics, examples and even “quotations” as writing prompts. I shouldn't even have to make a comparison to the expense or making (and trouble of making) overhead transparencies, the older method.

    Apparently, students are now being prepped to . . .

    Continue reading "Workplace Issues - ESL & PowerPoint Presentations"

    Posted by lhobbs at 02:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (2)

    September 09, 2005

    ESL Teachers - Plan for Free Time

    Does this sound like you? You race to prepare your lesson one hour before class, and then rush in breathless just in time to meet your students.

    Continue reading "ESL Teachers - Plan for Free Time"

    Posted by msimmons at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    July 15, 2005

    Tips & Tricks - Boost Your Salary!

    Hello everyone!

    Ready for those interviews? Here are five tips that may ensure that you walk away with a higher salary!

    1) Make sure you are properly certified . 2) Choose a country that is known for paying well.

    Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - Boost Your Salary!"

    Posted by msimmons at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

    June 27, 2005

    Can Your Students Teach?

    Good morning!

    I've heard from a few of you telling me that you appreciate my teaching ideas that help get shy students talking. Well, I have one tactic that I use a lot, but be warned--it won't work for everyone! (You know your classes and your students, so you'll have to determine if it will work for you.)

    Continue reading "Can Your Students Teach?"

    Posted by msimmons at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    June 14, 2005

    Are You Connected?

    Hello everyone!

    Have you used the Internet in your classroom yet? If not, you should know that here are some simple things you can do to incorporate it into your teaching. Here are a few suggestions:

    Listening: There are tons of sites that are especially designed for the ESL student. Your students can listen to poetry, short stories, radio programs or even music to hear other “voices” and practice their listening skills.

    Continue reading "Are You Connected?"

    Posted by msimmons at 12:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    April 13, 2005

    Tips & Tricks - Getting Shy Students To Speak!


    Have you ever had one of those classes when it seems that silence is the rule of the day? Or maybe you just have a class that is full of shy students, and some days you feel as if you are pulling teeth just to get them to speak!

    You know how it goes:

    "So, Josie, How was your day today?" "Fine." "Tell me what you did in the morning." "Ate breakfast." "Okay, how about this afternoon?" "Ate lunch." "Did you eat anything interesting?" "No."

    See what I mean? Luckily, there are . . .

    Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - Getting Shy Students To Speak!"

    Posted by msimmons at 01:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

    March 09, 2005

    Tips & Tricks - A Great Teaching Aid

    Hi Readers,

    Here's a quick tip for improving your student's listening skills.

    Many times students become accustomed to their teacher’s voice and accent, and have a difficult time understanding other people—even though they may do great in class. That’s why it’s vital to expose them to different styles and variations of speech. That can be difficult to do if you teach in an area where English is rare.

    One great solution to this problem is . . .

    Continue reading "Tips & Tricks - A Great Teaching Aid"

    Posted by msimmons at 08:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)