New Holiday Activity

I am having way too much fun uploading worksheets out of 60 Positive Activities for Kids on to our Teachers Pay Teachers Store (Click on Build Positivity to find all the worksheets!) One of the things I’m really enjoying is that it gives me a chance to think deeply about how to use the resources in the classroom. As I was uploading this awesome New Holiday Activity I realized that this could be a one-off creative worksheet as the authors intended. But it could also spark a discussion comparing holiday traditions. You could even use it as the beginning […]

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Plays as the Ideal Group Project

Thunder claps, lightning strikes, and rain begins to fall as Ajax and Magnus approach the bus stop. They are two students: one a model child with good grades, the other a bit of a misfit who doesn’t clean her room or get her homework done on time. But as an ordinary autumn rain turns into a natural disaster, the issue what kind of people we’ll really need in the future is called into question in a new way. This is the setting for Rising Water, a play written by Alice Savage for the ESOL classroom that uses the story […]

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My Teacher Manifesto

Why am I sharing my teacher manifesto? I discovered some old blogposts from my now-defunct personal blog recently on professional development that I think stand up and are worth reposting. The best ones were inspired by the 30 Goals Challenge by Shelly Terrell. This was a brilliant professional development idea that had teaches around the world sharing ideas, activities, lesson plans, support, and art! So I’ll be reprinting them here from time to time, with light editing. I’ve included links to Shelly’s website and book in case you want to try out some challenges of your own. Tag me […]

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Prosody over Accent

I hear it from students all the time. “I need to get rid of my accent” or “I need a real English accent.” There’s even a whole cottage industry of people “teaching” real accents. The argument for a “real native English accent” is easy to refute. Start with the fact that a lot of those “real native accent” videos are taught by people who aren’t technically native speakers. So which is it? Do you want a “real native accent” or not? I was just watching a video series by a Nigerian gentleman with so many comments about how he […]

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Writing Outside the Box: Building Students’ Creativity

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students tell me that they don’t know how to be creative. They think creativity is a talent that you are born with or not. While it’s true that some people seem to be better at creativity than others, I really think being creative is more of a skill that can be practiced and honed. And not all our students need to be super creative all the time. However, creative thinking is a great life skill that helps with problem-solving. And in writing, even academic or professional writing, being able to […]

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Elements of Effective Instruction and the Art of Mario Brothers

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing with my son lately. I love to draw and I always have, but I don’t think I’m incredibly good at it. A lot of my art in high school was pretty bad. But I think I’ve come a long way in the past couple of years. And so has my son. We love to draw freely, but sometimes we try to copy Pokémon characters from his books or Mario Kart Drivers from the Internet. And sometimes we do a guided video to learn to draw something new. We particularly like Art for […]

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Those Students: Deictic Expressions and Real-World Communication Skills

I’ve been doing a lot of presentations on pragmatics recently and thinking about how to teach students real-world communication skills in English. The problem is that in the classroom we often communicate at a very literal and direct level. Outside the classroom, we don’t! We leave things unsaid, assume knowledge on the part of the listener, even exaggerate or outright lie! We also use idiomatic language, fixed expressions, and deictic expressions, language that take their meaning from context. And maybe the hardest group of deictic expression is “insider expressions” when we talk to people. These are expressions that people […]

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How to do Social-Emotional Learning Prompts for ESL

Sometimes the best classroom activities come out of the simplest things. Case in point, these Social Emotional Learning prompts for ESL students created by Teresa X. Nguyen and illustrated by Tyler Hoang and Nathaniel Cayanan. Each worksheet has a written prompt and an original hand-draw illustration, simple stuff but designed to work for students at any level. These positive activity prompts, many focusing on social-emotional learning (SEL) are so much fun, that I couldn’t sharing some of my own ideas for filling them out, and for ways to implement them in the class room! Links to the worksheets in […]

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Merge Data from Excel to PowerPoint

Looking for an easy way to create a PowerPoint presentation from Excel? This method works great to merge data from Excel to PowerPoint. It’s a simple way to create flashcards, award certificates, project reports, any kind of presentation where you want to create multiple slides with the same kind of information on each. I also talk about using the Master Slide View to create your own PPT themes and formatting. Watch the video to learn how to Merge Data from Excel to PowerPoint Step by Step: Merge Data from Excel to PowerPoint 1. Create an Excel document and create […]

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Scary House Story Starter

I love this story starter by Taylor Sapp. Also called unfinished stories or stories without end, or even story prompts, a story starter is a creative writing prompt in the form of the beginning of a story. Students read and then finish the story! What makes them so great is that they give students a lot of support, more than a traditional one sentence prompt. A story starter creative writing prompt has a setting, characters, the beginning of a plot, maybe even a theme. So there’s a lot to work with. Even reluctant writers or students lacking confidence will […]

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Best of the Year!

I feel like this is the year that we are less looking forward to a new year, as looking forward to saying goodbye to the old year! But there were definitely some highlights of the year. I’m amazed at how so many teachers found ways to survive and even thrive in 2020. It meant adapting to new tools and situations, but we did it. Even if it was a very small success, we managed to pull it off. So below find our top posts of 2020, best-selling books, and our most desirable authors (ok, the authors whose archive pages […]

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Teaching Pragmatics with Memes

I recently discovered these wonderful communication-fail memes, such as the one above. But beyond being peak comedy for linguists, language lovers, teachers, and language students, this meme and others like it point to a really important point: communication happens far beyond grammar and vocabulary. So here are some of my ideas for teaching pragmatics with memes. Cultural rules play a huge role in communication. In the above picture, the flight attendant is asking a question, with most of the question left unsaid. What she means is, “Would you like coffee or tea?” Now the first part of the question […]

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