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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Easy Office Furniture in Minecraft

It’s fun to create modern buildings in Minecraft sometimes. Here are some ideas for office furniture in Minecraft, including easy ways to make computers, desks, printers, bookcases, and file cabinets. You can use them in Minecraft skyscrapers, cities, or even your house! Share your own ideas for office furniture in Minecraft in the comments or even show how you used my ideas here! Chairs An easy way to make a chair is to use a stair. Try different kinds of stairs. Each one looks different. Do you like oak wood stairs or birch wood stairs? They are light colors. […]

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What does “I was, like…” mean?

In the spring, I had the great pleasure of seeing a bit of David Crystal talk at the 2020 Digital Hay Festival. (By the way, if anyone is looking to for a great Christmas present, his latest book looks amazing!) and I was rather pleased to hear him, as a well-known and respected linguist, defend teenspeak/Valley Girl with words such as “like”. In fact, he did a wonderful example of “I was, like,” and do a shocked face. It reminded me of the first 5 seconds of this clip reminded me of the first 10 seconds of this clip […]

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Embodied Mind: The Dancer and Dance and Grammar

“How can we know the dancer from the dance?” Yeats famously wrote. And in the dance of human communication, the body plays a role. Language is more than word choice or grammar, and even more than prosody. Gesture, body language, facial expression are all tools of meaning-making. This is why study of the embodied mind, how the mind and body are not separate, has been informative for linguistics and education. Alice and Colin, authors of the forthcoming 60 Kinesthetic Grammar Activities, have written about ways to use the body in teaching grammar: Embodied Mind in the Grammar Classroom: Research […]

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Warmers for Online ESL Classes

In our new-to-many online learning environments, icebreakers, getting-to-know-you activities, and other warmers are perhaps more important than ever. Starting a class off on the right foot is a great way to help students feel comfortable and safe. So, I’d like to share some of my favorite online warmers. There’s a getting-to-know-you activity, a get-to-know-the-teacher activity, a set-the-tone activity, and a way to do the syllabus or class rules interactively online! Some of these work best on the first day of a new class or new term. 3-2-1 Introductions This is an activity I learned from Shelly Terrell and it’s […]

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Easy Kitchen Furniture in Minecraft

Whether you build a cool house, castle, or tower in Minecraft, you need furniture and decorations to make it look nice. Here are some easy furniture ideas in Minecraft. You can put them in your house! Share your best furniture ideas in the comments or show how you used my ideas here! Chair An easy way to make a chair is to use a stair.You can also put two chairs next to each other. It looks like a couch. Or make an armchair.Put down a stair with a stair.Put two signs on the sides of the char. Don’t write […]

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Set Your Roleplay to Music

Looking for a way to make your roleplays more engaging and also help students explore communication tools more effectively? Try music. We all know the power of music to set a mood. Television shows and movies exploit this all the time. You probably know the famous theme from the film Jaws: Duh-duh…duh-duh…duh-duh,duh-duh,duh-duh-duh! It builds suspense even when nothing particularly frightening is happening on screen. The music alone tells you something bad is about to happen and evokes a mood that makes the appearance of a deadly shark even more terrifying! Soundtrack to Life Or think of a man and […]

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Resources for Distance Learning

We know we aren’t the first and we probably won’t be the last people you hear from to talk about our resources for distance learning (or that work well teaching online). But we assume if you’re reading this blog, or getting this email that means you like what we do. And we certainly like what we do and think they’re pretty useful. Now when I say resources for distance learning, I mean a few different things. First, it could mean resources that are well-suited for online learning platforms like Zoom or Google Classrooms. Some of our resources are on […]

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