Is it advice or advise? Awesome Repository of Confusing Words in English

I always tell my students English is easy.  When they hear me say that, those who have been with me for two or three years just roll their eyes and say: “Teacher, you always say that!  For you, everything is easy!” But hey! What’s the point of saying ” Careful here!! This is very difficult!”

I am sure you see my point.

 

Anyway, the thing is that when learning a foreign language not everything is a breeze. Unfortunately.  There are hundreds of words that can be easily confused because they have a similar spelling or a related, but different, meaning.

Today, I want to share with you a website Writing Explained that is really helpful in clarifying differences or similarities in the meaning of hundreds of confusing words. For example, do you know when or how to use  Altogether and All together? Some day versus Someday? Elder and older?

Why do I like this site?

  • Though the list of confusing words is not exhaustive and new sets of words are added every day, it is just perfect for the average students.
  • The words are in alphabetical order so it is very easy to find what you are looking for
  • It is explained in clear everyday English
  • Differences are always explained in 5 steps and I love the Summary. This is the one I would read if I knew the difference and just wanted to double-check.
  • I also like the idioms dictionary on this website. Why?  Because it not only explains the meaning of the featured idiom but also gives its origin and uses the idiom in a clear context.

Check it out! You’ll love the site!

Note: Fromm my enthusiasm describing this website, you might think that this is a sponsored post.  It is not. 😉

The Secret List: A Non-Prep Vocabulary Revision Game to Kick Off the Lesson

I always start my classes revising what we learned in the previous lesson. I do it for many reasons: it allows students who have missed the previous lesson to catch up and not fall behind, it gives students the opportunity to clarify meanings or pronunciation they haven’t quite grasped, and also it encourages retrieval practice that, in my opinion, is the way to learn.

I really think that the first 5 minutes are really important as it sets the mood for the rest of the lesson. That’s why I  am always designing revision activities that add variety in my lessons and, if possible, fun.

This one I will call The List. It’s quick, fun and effective.

Context: I have been working with the topic Language Learning and my students have been learning some new vocabulary. Time to revise it!

Procedure: Ask your students to write a secret list of 10 words, collocations or expressions they learned during the previous lesson. Ask them to keep it secret.

Pair students up. Tell students they will have 1 minute to try to guess the words on their partner’s list. Say Student A starts trying to guess the words on Student B’s list. As B listens to the words, he crosses the ones Student A has guessed. Ask them to change roles. Let students compare lists and have a look at the ones they could not guess. You might want to write them on the board to revise and reinforce.

Award 1 point for each guess. Need a timer?  Here

Done! Easy peasy!

 

Learning Languages: my Fave Videos to Spark Discussion

Hello March!

Kicking off the month with one of my favourite topics of conversation: languages learning. This is a lesson I feel I could entirely teach based on videos from the internet and conversation questions.

I always like to introduce a new topic with some visual aid that either sparks discussion or puts a smile on my students’ faces. This time, I might have gone too far and used not one but four videos. Ohh, but they are so good!

These are the videos I have been using over the years and that have never failed me!

TO PUT A SMILE ON THEIR FACES

I normally play this video at the very beginning of the lesson and ask them to guess our next topic.  Believe it or not, although I have seen it a thousand times, I still laugh my head off.

Useful Vocabulary:

  • translator, interpreter, to translate from Spanish into English, native speaker,  to be fluent, to speak a language fluently, to be proficient in (English); to speak like a native speaker, to be bilingual, lingua franca.

Discussion Questions

  • How many languages do you speak?
  • What is the most difficult language to learn in your opinion?
  • Have you ever tried to learn a language and given up because it was very difficult?
  • Do you think that in the future there will be just one language in the world?
  • Nowadays English is the lingua franca; do you think this is going to change any time soon?
TO BOOST THEIR MOTIVATION

Before playing the video, ask students:

Why are you learning English?

Useful Vocabulary:

to do a course, have a chat, standard English, slang, take a message,  widely spoken, mother tongue, make mistakes, pronunciation issues, to make an effort, to sign up for a course, to learn a language online, a complete beginner.

Discussion Questions

  1. How old were you when you started learning English? Do you think it is a good age?
  2. What motivated you to start learning English?
  3. What are the advantages of learning a foreign language?
  4. Are there any similarities between English and Spanish? Does Spanish have many loan words from English?
  5. When you are speaking in English, do you try to be accurate or do you just talk and not worry about making mistakes? Which way do you think is better?
TO HELP THEM GET BETTER AT ENGLISH

 

Useful Vocabulary:  to switch between two languages, to put into practice, to feel frustrated,   a conversation partner, to memorize vocabulary, to improve your grammar, speaking skills, to have a good range of vocabulary.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think it is possible for a non-native speaker to speak the language like a native?
  • What do you find most difficult to learn in English?  Why do you think is that?
  • What is the best way to speak a language?
  • What do you do on your own to improve your English?
  • What techniques do you use to learn new vocabulary?
TO SPARK DISCUSSION

 

Useful Vocabulary:

translator, interpreter,  context, translation fails, to come in handy, accurate translation,  basic conversation, translation app, a translation device.

Controversial Statements

On the board, write these two statements and ask students to choose the one they agree with.  Form two groups depending on their choice. Allow them to discuss their reasons to support the statement and then pair up students from different groups to try to convince each other to change sides.

The statements:

  • There is no point in learning a foreign language when Google Translator can do it for you”
  • “Translation technology is good but should not replace learning languages”

You,  as a teacher,  want to agree with the second statement. Here are some reasons against the use of translation apps and in support of the second statement  I have found to convince my students to keep on learning English. Do you think I’ll manage to convince them? Translation apps:

  • They cannot understand context or  translate pronouns correctly
  • Cultural references are lost
  • They don’t produce high-quality translations
  • Accuracy depends on your accent  or on background noise
  • You cannot use it for long  and involved conversations
  • It is not good at recognising proper names and names of cities
  • Your data is not safe

Modern Taboo with a Twist

Is there anything students love more than a good game? The Taboo Game is an oldie but goodie and I have yet to find a student who does not like it.  Playing and learning? It’s always a win-win.

Playing games in class is something that I often do. Well, not this year. I have been on sick leave for 2 weeks and it is taking its toll on my lessons. I feel like I am always in a  hurry trying to make up for lost time. It might be working. I might be finally catching up with the syllabus but I am not having as much fun this year as in the previous ones. And this needs to stop. Right now.

So, to give my students a much-needed respite, we have revised the relative sentences using the Taboo game.

GUIDED PRACTICE: RELATIVE SENTENCES
  1. Before playing, I wrote the beginning of a sentence and asked students to provide the relative pronoun. This is the best time to correct potential mistakes.
  • It’s a person… WHO/THAT
  • It’s something … WHICH/THAT
  • It’s  a place … WHERE
  • It’s a time … WHEN

2. I wrote the word  DOG on the board and asked students to define it using the correct relative pronoun. (for ex, it is an animal that barks).

3. Then, I wrote TEACHER in capitals and under the word TEACHER, I wrote 4 taboo words they were not allowed to use in their description of the word. For example: teach, students, subjects, school. Their definition could be something like ” it is a person whose job involves using the board a lot and helping people learn  English or maths”.

Tip: if it’s a B1 class, I would use only 3 taboo words instead of the 4 you have in this game

SEMI-GUIDED PRACTICE: MODERN TABOO

Once again, to create this game I have used the flexible multipurpose Spark Adobe ( honestly, I cannot go without it).

Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative from each team to come to the front of the class and face away from the board. Decide which team is going to start.
  2.  Player A faces their team A.  Display the presentation below. Team A describes the word at the top of the slide, without using any of the words below it (taboo words). If they use any of the taboo words, they will lose 1 point for their team and a new slide will be displayed. When Player A guesses a word, the team gets 1 point and a new slide is displayed.
  3. Team A continues to describe words for Player A for 1 minute. The game continues with teams and players taking it in turns to describe and guess words. The team with the highest score at the end of the game are the winners.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t use all the words on the presentation below. You will need at least 4 for a variation od the Taboo Game you can do at the end of the game to practise questions.

Taboo

FREE PRACTICE

Once each team has had their turn, I have put them in groups of 4 and given them paper cards to continue playing. This time, Player A describes the word to their Team. One player from Team B is allowed to see the card to make sure none of the words on the card are used. You can get plenty of Taboo cards on IslCollective. Bear in mind, you will need to register to download content.

You can also download the traditional Taboo Cards here (B1-B2)  and here (A1-A2)

THE TWIST: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

To wrap up the activity, ask a representative from Team A and Team B to come to the front of the class. Ask them to face their team and away from the board.  Display a word. The team will have to ask questions so that Student A guesses the word; again, they cannot use any of the Taboo words in their questions.

Remember our example?TEACHER? This could go like this…

Team A to Student A

  • Who helps you learn English?  Who is standing right next to you? Who writes your school report?

I hope you have enjoyed the activity! Have fun teaching, have fun learning!

8 Engaging ESL Activities for Teaching about Travelling

Engaging ideas and activities revolving about the topic of travelling coming right up!

These are some of the activities I have been doing with my upper-intermediate students. I thought I might share them with you, in case it saves you some time.

I have split the activities into two days as some of the activities in Day 2 require studying the vocabulary introduced in Day 1.

DAY 1

Activity 1: Tapping into students' previous knowledge with  Half a Crossword

As my students are upper-intermediate, it is not the first time they study this popular topic.  Therefore, to revise some of the words I thought they knew, I used the website Half a crossword. I wrote about this useful website here.

Activity 2: Introducing new vocabulary

Addicted to using technology in my class, as I have confessed time and again, I have used Genial.ly to create some flashcards.  The flashcards were initially used in class and then shared with them to encourage revision outside the walls of the classroom.

The flashcards contain common collocations related to travelling, but some words are missing. Before flipping the card, students try to guess the hidden word(s). The initial letters are provided to make guessing easier for them.

Note: click on the 3 dots to enlarge the presentation.

 

Activity 3:  Using their own pictures.

Think about it: how many pictures are stored on our mobile phones? What could engage students more than talking about what is real for them, about their own experiences, about their own trips?

Ask students to take out their mobile phones and ask them to choose their favourite picture from their last holiday. Allow some minutes for this part. Ask students to work in pairs or threes. Ask them to show the picture to their partners talking about it and sharing the story behind the picture.  Encourage the use of the collocations in the exercise above.

DAY 2

Activity 4: Flexible seating using cards with common collocations and their pronunciation

This “flexible seating” strategy is quickly becoming one of my favourites to pair students with different partners. I explained the strategy here

For this exercise, I sellotaped to the back of the chairs of the classroom the phonetic transcription of the collocations studied in the flashcard activity. This way, I killed two birds with one stone as the exercise helped me to revise the collocations and ensure they pronounced the words in the correct way.  To transcribe the collocations, I used a website I have been using for years. Check it out here.

Cards here

Activity 5: Speaking: conversation questions

Using a presentation with some conversation questions I created on Spark Adobe some years ago, I asked my students to discuss the questions trying to use the collocations studied in Activity  4.

Every two questions, I gathered all the cards containing the collocations, shuffled them and redistributed them. This meant, standing up and finding the matching card with the corresponding pronunciation and then, sitting on that chair and talking to a different student.

Off the Beaten Track

Activity 6: Speaking: Ethical Dilemmas

Groups of 4 students.  I displayed the first dilemma and asked students to pair up within the group and discuss for some minutes what they would do.  Then, I asked them to share their ideas in their groups and finally, we had a whole-class discussion.

 

Activity 7:  Gallery Walk with Posters and Vocabulary on Cards

I created some posters using Canva.com and put them on the walls of the classroom. To form groups, I numbered them off and asked all number 1s to form a group, all number 2s to form a group, …etc. This way, I made sure they worked with different students.

Before the class, I put the 5 posters up on the walls of the class. Next to the posters, I also put 3 or 4 cards containing common collocations from Activity 4.

I instructed the groups to choose a poster and discuss the question in the poster trying to use the vocabulary in the cards.

I did not set a time for each poster, I gave them the freedom to discuss as much as they wanted but encouraged them to do at least three posters. I dedicated 25  minutes to this activity.

Posters here

Activity 8:  Using Google Maps Street View for Virtual Travelling

Giving your class a touch of modernity can’t get any easier. Ask your students to choose a city – any city in the world is at your fingertips-, and ask them to give a short speech about that city.  Just open Google Maps, write the keywords in the search box, drag the Pegman and enjoy the virtual trip. For more details, click here