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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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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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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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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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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Get Students Writing and Talking!

As more and more teachers are turning to online teaching and distance learning for the forseeable future, and students may be considering self-study options, I’d like to introduce our free prompt generating tool, English Prompts, with three different kinds of prompts: creative writing, speaking, and role-plays. The first, Stories Without End, generates a random short story prompt that ends on a cliff-hanger. The genres vary from horror to comedy to sci-fi to realistic fiction, so there’s a broad range of topics. Don’t like the story? Click “New Story”! Here are some ideas to use it with students: Have students […]

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Kinesthetic Grammar Activities: Getting Grammar on the Move!

We’re thrilled to be publishing a book on Kinesthetic Grammar Activities from Alice Savage and Colin Ward. Kinesthetic grammar is a great way to practice language dynamically. The benefits are many: Vary the pace of the classroom Help teach nonverbal language and gesture in communication Activate embodied mind and improve the memorability of target grammar Build classroom community! I’ve included an excerpt from Alice and Colin’s wonderful blog post. I highly recommend checking out the full post, which includes some example activities. Then come back here and check out the book, 60 Kinesthetic Activities! We often talk about “grammar […]

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