Category Archives: Grammar

Reading, Reading, Reading. Why it’s so important!

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I was talking with a colleague, Lisa, during lunch break the other day. At our school, the students have a  1-hour class with a pronunciation instructor once per week. Lisa was suggesting  the merits of having a similar intensive lesson every week on reading.  After our discussion, I began to consider the importance of reading versus the other skills. I am beginning to wonder if reading is the key skill to developing English proficiency.

Don’t get me wrong – Teaching pronunciation is one of my favourite classes to teach. I guess I like the focus of language use and playing with the sounds, the stress, intonation and inflection. Many students have expressed that it is important for them, as well.

Anyway, back to reading.  Continue reading


I Came, I Saw, I Had to Teach Verb Tense

Grunge background with old watch. Time concept. Retro clocks on the wall. Old antique clock on aged red brick wall background. Vintage clocks.
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I’ll put it out there, I’m a grammar geek! I love it, honest. Growing up, I learned a lot of languages, and I loved the days when we would create verb charts for conjugation or parse sentences. I’m also a very visual person, so as soon as the teacher would write a new verb on the board, I whipped out my pencil case and started picking out my pencil crayons and ruler. I was like a language archeologist categorizing, sorting, and analyzing, and I find that this has helped me when approaching verbs with students. Continue reading


Teach verbs with animated GIFs and Quizlet


Teaching verbs can be accomplished through a combination of miming, games, worksheets, video clips, discussion, lecture, translation, and perhaps a host of other strategies.  Reinforcing the meaning of many verbs by providing a video clip can help with retention. Flashcards can also assist with vocabulary acquisition.  Quizlet’s flashcards deliver still images or animated clips online. Animated clips can accelerate acquisition through motion in context. Quizlet’s ability to include animated GIFs makes it a useful tool for language students learning base verbs.

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Round-up of Classic Classroom Activities

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Do you have some go-to activities that you use for multiple teaching points?  I have a few.  I think it’s reassuring for students to see activities they recognize.  They feel confident when they know what to do, and they can focus on the point being taught instead of learning the rules of a new game (ahem, I mean “learning activity”).  It also doesn’t hurt that reusing ideas and materials reduces teacher prep time.  For these reasons, here are three of my favourite flexible activities.  Continue reading


Word Order Makes It in Kahoot’s Jumble Game

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Have you tried Kahoot’s new jumble game? It’s fun!

If you are an avid reader of TESL Ontario blogs, you would know Nadeen wrote about it in October 2015 – so yes! Kahoot has been around for a long time. You can read her blog here: Use Kahoot to spice up your lesson.

Now for the newness, which soon will be ‘the has been’ since technology moves faster than a speeding bullet (sorry . . . Superman).

Pick from an existing activity

The new Jumble game is great for students at any level who need to practice word order or any other type of sentence structure. Continue reading


Preparing Great Grammar and Pronunciation Lessons

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We all want our teaching to be interesting and effective.  I regularly reflect on my teaching practice, and try to consider each of the following aspects of lesson planning*, particularly for grammar and pronunciation lessons. Let me share some tips that help me improve my lessons, and perhaps you will find an idea you could use.

Presenting the point

First, remind yourself of the scope of the lesson; know the needs and abilities of your students, and the time frame and focus of your class session.  Aim not to overwhelm your class with too much information, but also not to under-interest your students with too little challenge. Continue reading


Learning English through Music

Music items doodle icons set. Hand drawn sketch with notes instruments microphone guitar headphone drums music player and music styles letterig signs vector illustration isolated
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No matter what language you speak, music has a universal tongue, wouldn’t you agree? Its power in bringing people together, no matter what language they speak, is priceless. So, if music has the ability to unite us, why not use it in the classroom to help your students learn English?

I have my kids to thank for inspiring this post, partly due to their love of watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood every day. You find inspiration everywhere.
On the show they sing the lesson of the day repeatedly throughout each episode. It sticks in your head and is really catchy, and the nice thing is that the lessons are useful for children in helping to problem solve or deal with certain emotions that may arise out of unpleasant situations.  Continue reading


Solve the Question

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I’m privileged to have been teaching newcomers for the last few weeks. It’s definitely been an interesting class, more so because of the extreme level differences in learning. Having a multilevel class can be quite challenging because you want to ensure that no one is bored and everyone is engaged.

Forming questions to match answers is a great way to challenge your students at any level. (Although I wouldn’t recommend this to first time English language learners). I’d say it works anywhere from from a high CLB 2 or low CLB 3 and up.

The usual Q & A

I’ve been working on getting my students to think about asking and answering questions, and up until last week, it’s been the usual — I ask and they answer – the same concept applied on their worksheets. They read the questions and answer accordingly. Continue reading


Say It With Confidence!

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When we are submitting a cover letter to a perspective employer, we want to showcase our skills and to communicate the fact that we have confidence.  In work preparedness classes we promote the idea that confident vocabulary and sentence structure is essential to having our cover letter read.  But where is the line between confidence and over confidence, and how do we teach that to our students?

I once received a homework assignment that was a sample cover letter written by a student.  The format was good, the sentences well formed, and there were no spelling mistakes. However, a few lines made me wince:  I am brilliant.  I am the best person that your company could hire.”  This surely was confidence, bordering on hubris, that may in fact have the same effect as grammatical error on the reader of the letter.  If I were the hiring manager, I’m not sure I would have read much further. So, where do we draw the line? Continue reading


Who are you? Really?

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Teaching grammar is a challenge. Making grammar fun is the real challenge, especially when deep questions about existence emerge during a lesson.

One of the things I do as an ESL instructor is to try to find a fun application for a grammatical point I am teaching.  Recently, I came up with a great idea for teaching punctuation.  After I finish teaching a class on punctuation, I ask the students to imagine that they are a punctuation mark and pick which one best defines them.  I prompt them to say: “If I were a punctuation mark, I would be…” This exercise is not only fun (there are a lot of giggles when I introduce this), but helps reinforce the students’ knowledge of the role of punctuation and use of the conditional.  Students say things like: “I would be a period because I like things to be clear and definite” or “I would be a question mark because I have a hard time just accepting things. I want to know why.”  Although I could usually predict what punctuation mark a student would select, there were times when I was completely flummoxed.  Usually, it was Continue reading