Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Yes, it’s summertime and many students and teachers are on vacation. August is the time to relax. No stress. No problems. But you and your students don’t want your English to disappear. Here are six relaxing ways to study English in the summer.

Watch TV TV is a great way to learn English. Find a show you like in English and watch all the episodes. Normally, you should turn off the subtitles, but this is a relaxing way to learn, so keep the subtitles on and watch all the episodes of your favorite show.

Watch Movies And movies too. Good movies, bad movies, any movies. Use the extra time you have in the summer to watch all the movies you want to watch during the school year.

Go to a bar (or a coffee shop) Making friends who speak English is always the best way to learn and practice. It’s hard, but go to the bar (or coffee shop) in your area where the foreigners hang out. You don’t even need to say hello, you can just relax and listen. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and meet a new friend.

Make some food But do it in English. Search the internet for recipes of a food you want to try. Get the ingredients and make yourself a great summer meal.

Read an easy book OK. So reading a book isn’t very relaxing if it’s hard, but it doesn’t need to be hard. Go to the bookstore and choose a really easy English book. Children’s books can be fun and interesting. Young adult novels are cool too. Don’t worry about challenging yourself. Just pick a fun one.

Sing a song Do you like to sing? Sing at home. Sing at karaoke. Sing while you walk. All in English, of course.

And above all, have a great summer!

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , | Leave a comment

Business English Role Play Cards

Business English Role Play

These role play cards will help you practice some business English expressions.

Click here to get the role play cards. Find a partner. You should talk to each other as different people. Use the expressions on the cards. When you have used all three words/expressions, switch to a new card.

After you’ve used these cards, you can make some new ones using the blank cards at the end of the second page.

Here are the words with brief descriptions and examples.

  • Well received: Something that that people liked
    • My report was well received. I got lots of compliments
    • The new boss was immediately well received. All the employees really liked her.
  • Ill received: Something that wasn’t liked.
    • I made a new design and I thought it looked great. Unfortunately, it was ill received, so I should try again.
    • They didn’t really like it. It was ill received.
  • Input: Ideas that should help something like a project
    • My boss is great. He always asks for input.
    • You shouldn’t give input unless you have good knowledge. You might just look stupid.
  • To execute: To do something that requires skill and careful effort.
    • He executed the marketing strategy quite well. Sales of the new product are good.
    • Don’t execute these new policies right away. Let’s review them more carefully first.
  • Stressed out: To feel anxiety.
    • I’m so stressed out because I’ve been working a lot.
    • Don’t get stressed out over the new program. You’ll make some mistakes but it’s normal. Don’t worry.
  • Dark ages: Times that are not modern
    • Our managers are really in the dark ages when it comes to technology. Did you know the CEO doesn’t use a computer?
    • The hotel’s system is from the dark ages. They still use tape drives!
  • Up-to-date: Current, modern, new
    • My training is up-to-date. I understand how everything works now.
    • If we get all the computers up-to-date, we’ll save a lot of time and money.
  • Extensive training: A lot of training. Much education on a topic.
    • I have extensive computer training. I won’t have problems.
    • You need extensive training if you want to be a doctor.
  • I’ve been working at my job for ____ years.: How long you have worked somewhere.
    • I’ve been working at the hospital for 12 years.
    • I’ve been working at Nike for a year.
  • Just a number: Not important at all.
    • I’m really just a number here. As long as I do my reports, no one notices me or cares about me.
    • When I started I was just a number, but now I’m a senior manager.
  • Routine tasks: Normal work, things you often do.
    • I’m in HR. These days my routine tasks include doing payroll and training new employees.
    • Every day is different for me! I think my only routine task is turning on my computer.
  • Daily basis: Everyday
    • On a daily basis, I read more than 100 emails.
    • I can’t have meetings with you about this on a daily basis. You need to be more independent.
  • Modern: Current, up-to-date, not old
    • The modern office design is often very open. You can see what everyone is doing.
    • I don’t really like all this modern technology. What’s wrong with using a pencil?!

Business English Role Play Cards

Cut these cards up. Students should take the card and speak as the person on the card until they’ve used all the words/expressions.

You are the CEO of a company that exports strawberries. Use the following words/expressions:

  • To execute
  • Stressed out
  • Dark ages
 You are an IT specialist at a marketing agency. Use the following words/expressions:

  • Up-to-date
  • Extensive training
  • I’ve been working at my job for ____ years.
You are a management consultant with more than 10 years of experience. Use the following words/expressions.

  • Input
  • Just a number
  • Well received
You are a nuclear engineer. Use the following words/expressions.

  • Routine tasks
  • Daily basis
  • Ill receieved
You are an executive assistant. Use the following words/expressions

  • Well received
  • Daily basis
  • Extensive training
You are a farmer. Use the following words/expressions.

  • Extensive training
  • I’ve been working at my job for ____ years.
  • Modern
You own a car dealership. Use the following words/expressions.

  • Input
  • Stressed out
  • Routine tasks
You are a human resources manager for a large company (like G.E.). Use the following words/expressions.

  • Ill received
  • Well received
  • Input
 You are an ___________________ at a ___________________. Use the following words/expressions:
You are an ___________________ at a ___________________. Use the following words/expressions:
You are an ___________________ at a ___________________. Use the following words/expressions:

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Studying Strategies, Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Culture: Songs and Purposes

American Culture Songs and Purposes

Do you want to learn more about American culture? Here are five songs that can help.

Green Day “Jesus of Suburbia” This song is full of references about life in the American suburbs during the last ten years. Lyrics are here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/greenday/jesusofsuburbia.html

Billy Joel: “We didn’t start the fire” This song references events from the 1950s into the 1980s. Go here for more information: http://www.teacheroz.com/fire.htm

Don McLean: “American Pie” This song is about America from the late 1950s and 1960s. Go here for more information: http://understandingamericanpie.com/index.htm

Woody Guthrie “This Land” A song that describes many traditional parts of America. Full lyrics here: http://www.arlo.net/resources/lyrics/this-land.shtml

Ice Cube “It was a Good Day A song that describes common activities and concerns for many black men in Los Angeles in the 1990s. Lyrics here: http://artists.letssingit.com/ice-cube-lyrics-it-was-a-good-day-fzcs8pw

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Night Before Christmas

Here’s a great poem about Santa Claus. Each stanza is explained in simple language.

Students: Just read and enjoy.

Teachers: You might like to print off these worksheets. Give all of the students the whole poem, but give different explanation sheets to different students. Have them talk with each other to get a full understanding of the poem.

By the way, other people have also put together materials for this poem. Check out these links!

http://esl.about.com/od/holidayresources/a/r_twas.htm

http://www.musicalenglishlessons.org/christmas/poem.htm

http://www.eslcafe.com/idea/index.cgi?display:1008456831-13603.txt

http://www.headsupenglish.com/minilessons/nightbeforexmas.pdf

English Gateway

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

  • Twas means it was.
  • A creature is anything that’s alive.
  • Stockings are like socks.
  • A chimney is the thing above a fire in a house. Smoke goes out through the chimney.
  • St. Nicholas is another name for Santa Claus.

So…it was December 24th and the house was very quiet. No one was moving. Even mice (mouses) were asleep. The stockings (or socks) were put by the chimney because Santa Claus comes and puts presents in stockings. “In hopes that…” means they put their stockings by the chimney because they hoped Santa Claus would come and give them a present.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

  • Nestled all snug means very comfortable because their blankets are tight over them.
  • Visions are images (here, it means dreams)
  • Sugar-plums are a kind of candy
  • Mamma means mom
  • A ‘kerchief is a piece of cloth.
  • Cap is a hat.
  • To settle down is to relax, or to become calm
  • Nap means sleep. These days it means short sleep, but in the poem it just means sleep.

So…The children are sleeping and they are very comfortable. They are dreaming about candy. Probably on Christmas, they will get candy. The mom is wearing a piece of cloth on her head, and the dad is wearing a sleeping hat. They just got into bed and were about to fall asleep, but…

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

  • A lawn is the grassy area around a house.
  • Clatter is noises.
  • Sprang means jumped (The verb is To Spring, Spring-Sprang-Sprung)
  • Flew means to go very fast (The verb is To Fly, Fly-Flew-Flown)
  • A flash is a quick light. Lightening flashes, for example.
  • Tore means to break apart, here it means open. (The verb is To Tear, Tear-Tore-Torn)
  • Shutters are doors on a window.
  • Threw means moved something quickly. (The verb is To Throw, Throw-Threw-Thrown)
  • A sash is a piece of cloth that hangs in front of a window, like curtains, but it goes up and down.

So…He wakes up and jumps out of bed because he hears lots of noises outside the house. He quickly goes to the window, opens the window doors, and moves up the cloth, which is covering the windows.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

  • Breast means top (but we don’t use breast like that anymore).
  • Lustre means light.
  • Mid-day means noon.
  • Wondering means to think carefully, with interest; to be curious
  • Miniature means very small.
  • A sleigh is a vehicle for going over snow.
  • Tiny means very small.
  • Reindeer are animals. They have similar bodies to horses, but they’re smaller. They have antlers (like sticks coming out of their heads).

So…When he looks outside, there is a lot of light because the moon is shining on new snow. He says the night is as bright as the middle of the day. He looks with wonder and sees a sleigh. It’s small because it’s far. He also sees reindeer. The reindeer are pulling the sleigh.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

  • Lively means energetic.
  • In a moment means very quickly.
  • St. Nick is another name for Santa Claus.
  • Rapid means quick.
  • Eagles are big, fast birds.
  • Coursers are things that pull a sleigh (here it means the reindeer).
  • To whistle is to make a high noise with your lips. For example, people often whistle to make a dog come.
  • To shout is to speak loudly.

So…He sees the driver and knows it is Santa Claus. He knows because he looks energetic. The reindeer are pulling the sleigh and going very quickly. Santa Claus whistles and says the reindeer’s names loudly.

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

  • Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixex, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen are the reindeer’s names.
  • To dash means to go fast.
  • To dance is to move your body to music.
  • To prance is to walk with high steps.
  • A vixen is a female fox (a fox is like a small, red dog).
  • A comet is a ball of ice that flies through space.
  • Cupid is the Greek god of love.
  • Donder and Blitzen aren’t English words. They are English spellings of Dutch words. Donder means thunder. Blitzen means lightning.
  • A porch is a place for sitting in front of a house.

So…Santa Claus is saying the names of his reindeer and telling them to go quickly to the top of the house.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

  • Leaves are the green things that grow on trees.
  • Wild means not controllable.
  • A hurricane is a strong wind.
  • An obstacle is something that stops something else.
  • Mount means to go up.

So…The reindeer are pulling the sleigh with Santa Claus and lots of toys. When they get to the house, they go straight up the side of the house and onto the roof. Imagine if a wind is blowing a leaf near a house. The wind will push the leaves up the side of the house.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

  • A twinkling is a very short time, a moment.
  • The roof is the top of the house. The roof covers the house.
  • Prancing is walking with high steps.
  • Pawing is moving a foot (or a hand, or a hoof, or a paw) along something, rubbing it, scraping it.
  • Drew in means brought back to the original place. (The verb is To Draw, Draw-Drew-Drawn.)
  • A bound is a big jump.

So…he hears Santa Claus and the reindeer on the roof. He brings his head in from the window and Santa Claus comes down the chimney.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

  • Fur is warm clothing made from animal skin. Foxes are popular animals for making fur coats.
  • Tarnished means dirty.
  • Ashes and soot are what’s left after a fire. The wood burns and becomes ashes and soot.
  • A bundle is a package with cloth around it.
  • Flung means thrown. (The verb is To Fling, Fling-Flung-Flung)
  • A peddler is someone who goes from place to place trying to sell things.
  • Pack is like package. It’s very similar to backpack.

So…He sees Santa Claus. Santa is wearing fur and he’s dirty because he just came down the chimney. He has toys in a package. He is holding the package with his hand, but it is laying on his back.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

  • To twinkle (for eyes) is when eyes seem very happy. Twinkle also is about light. When light hits a diamond. The diamond twinkles. Stars can twinkle too.
  • Dimples are on a smiling face. They are two spots that are pushed in on the cheeks. Merry means happy.
  • Cheeks are the area on a face to the right and left of the mouth.
  • Roses are a red flower.
  • A cherry is a small red fruit.
  • Droll means funny but a little strange.
  • Drawn up like means made to look like
  • A bow is when a string or a ribbon is tied in a knot with two round parts and two loose parts. For example, girls sometimes wear a bow in their hair. A present sometimes has a bow on top of it.
  • A beard is the long hair on man’s face.
  • A chin is the place on a face below the mouth.

So…Santa Claus looks very happy. He has a happy face (twinkling eyes, merry dimples, rosy cheeks, a cherry nose, a droll mouth) and a white beard on his chin.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

  • The stump is the end of something.
  • A pipe is used to smoke tobacco.
  • To encircle is to make a circle.
  • A wreath is a round decoration. You make it by taking branches from a tree and making them into a circle.
  • Broad means wide.
  • Belly means stomach.
  • Shook means moved. (The verb is To Shake, Shake-Shook-Shaken)
  • Bowlful means a bowl that is full (full means no extra space).
  • Jelly is a soft food made from fruit and sugar.

So…Santa Claus is smoking a pipe. The smoke is making a circle around his head. His face is wide and he’s a little fat. When he laughs, his belly shakes.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

  • Chubby and plump both mean a little fat.
  • Right means total, definite, for sure
  • Jolly means happy
  • An elf is a human-like creature with long ears.
  • In spite of myself means I didn’t want to, but I did.
  • A wink is when you open and close one eye.
  • A twist is a turn.
  • Gave me to know means let me know.
  • To dread is to fear.

So…Santa Claus is a little fat and funny looking. He laughs at Santa Claus even though he doesn’t want to laugh. Santa Claus winks and turns his head to let him know not to be afraid.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

  • Straight to means directly to, no waiting.
  • A jerk is a quick movement.
  • A nod is when you move your chin up.
  • Rose means went up. (The verb is To Rise, Rise-Rose-Risen).

So…Santa doesn’t talk. He puts presents in the stockings then turns quickly. He puts his finger on his nose, nods, and goes up the chimney.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

  • Sprang means jumped. (The verb is To Spring, Spring-Sprang-Sprung).
  • His team are his reindeer.
  • A whistle is a high noise made with your lips. For example, people often whistle to make a dog come.
  • Down is the seeds of an old flower. It is white and the wind blows it off the old flower.
  • A thistle is a type of flower, it has sharp points and a purple flower.
  • To exclaim is to say, like in a speech.
  • Ere means before.

So…Santa Claus goes into his sleigh and whistles so the reindeer know to go. They flew away quickly, but before Santa Claus is gone (can’t be seen), the man hears him say “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies, Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking about Technology

This is another speaking topic for students. Click here to read the introduction to the series.

Students, remember, you can only speak English while you do this activity. Don’t speak your native language for at least one hour. You can do it!

Teachers, you can adapt these for lessons, or give them as homework.

Topic: Technology

Objectives: After the discussion, you should be able to technology

Materials: Six devices (for example, iPod, cell phone, remote control, camera, laptop, toaster, GPS, etc. They can be anything.) A computer with an internet connection would also help for the last activity.

Grammar: Imperatives, present simple questions

Expressions

Listen and repeat these expressions.

How’s that work? Say this when you want to understand how something happens.
What’s that do? Say this when you want to understand what something does.
First, you should… Say this to explain how to start doing something.
Next, you should… Say these to explain the middle steps of a process.
Now, you have to…
Then, you…
Finally, you… Say this to explain how to finish a process.
First, you should get some bread. Say these to explain how to make toast
Next, you should put the bread in the toaster.
Now, you have to wait a minute or two.
Then, you take the toast out of the toaster.
Finally, you put butter on the toast and enjoy!

Vocabulary: device, first, next, now, then, finally

Vocabulary Practice Do a Google image search for each word and discuss the pictures with your partner. (You can also draw pictures of each word and discuss the pictures with your partner.)

Your Devices Look at your six devices. Answer the following questions about each device:

  • Why do people like it?
  • Is it popular?
  • Could you live without it?
  • How often do you use it?
  • Do your parents use it too?

Describe how to use things Think of three devices. Write directions for how to use them (follow the toaster example). Share your directions with your partner

Answer Questions Discuss the following technology questions

Is technology important to you?

What are the most important technologies in the world?

Do you like learning how to use new things?

Do your parents like learning how to use new things?

Are people who play video games better with new technology? Why?

Are you good at explaining how to use technological devices?

Your Questions Now write five technology questions of your own. Discuss them with your partner

Web/Field Trip Go to a website or a store with lots of technological devices. Find ten things you want to buy and explain why you want to buy them

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Speaking, Studying Strategies | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Use Google to Study Vocabulary

Using Google To Learn Vocabulary

Students, how do you study vocabulary? Most students have lists of words that they study. Often, they try to memorize the translation. This isn’t bad, but sometimes it’s hard to remember the new words. If you can connect the new words with something, then it’s easier to remember them. For example, if you learn a new word and see a funny picture at the same time, then your brain has two memories: the word and the funny picture. That’s why you’re more likely to remember the word.

So, how can you create connections? One great way is to use Google. Do a Google search for the word you want to learn. First, you get a definition of the word. You can also see (1) websites that use the word, (2) pictures of the word, (3) videos of the word, and more.

Here’s a new word: Strenuous. Click on the links below to see the Google searches for this word. Can you guess what it means?

Regular Search

Image Search

Video Search

News Search

Shopping Search

Pretty cool, right? 😉 (~^)

October 16, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , | 1 Comment

Just Listen

Just Listen

Students, is it easier to study English in California or Poland? How about England or South Korea? Australia or Brazil? Well, of course it’s easier to study in countries where everyone speaks English, right? But why?

Let’s look at three students.

Lesya from Ukraine Lesya lives in Los Angeles and studies English. Every day, she goes to her school and studies in the morning. Then, she often goes to a coffee shop in the afternoon. When she goes home, she likes to watch TV. On the weekends, she meets her American friends and they hang out.

Ji Young from South Korea Ji Young also lives in Los Angeles and studies English. She’s in the same class with Lesya. But, after class, she usually goes home and surfs Korean websites. In the evenings, she likes to watch TV too, but she watches downloaded Korean shows. On the weekends, she meets up with her Korean friends and they hang out.

Thomas from Germany Thomas lives in Berlin and studies English. After he studies in the morning, he likes to listen to music with his friends. They always listen to English music. When Thomas walks, he listens to English music on his iPod. On the weekends, he meets up with his German friends and they hang out.

Which student has the best English? Well, probably Lesya. But the person with the second best English is Thomas. Ji Young lives in California, but it doesn’t matter. She listens to less English than Thomas.

Do you think Lesya understands everything her American friends say? No. Do you think Thomas understands all the music he listens to? No. Just listening helps. You don’t have to understand for it to help. Many students live abroad and don’t improve their English. Many students don’t live abroad and have great English. Which do you want to be?

October 9, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , | Leave a comment

Busy People

A post written for Business English students, but the advice is good for everyone.

Five ways to for busy executives to practice their English

OK. So you’re a really busy person, but it’s important to improve your English. Don’t worry. You can do it. Here’s how.

Ten Sentences Really busy? Just write 10 sentences in English every day. It’s more helpful than studying vocabulary or grammar because you’re working creatively with the language.

Listening on the go Driving? Walking? Eating lunch? You can listen to Business English Pod lessons. Go to www.businessenglishpod.com to download lessons. There are hundreds to choose from on many different topics. Each lesson is about 20 minutes. They start with a short conversation (about 5 minutes) and then slowly review the conversation (about 15 minutes).

bbclearningenglish.com also has a great Business English series (amongst many great series you might enjoy).

TED.com TED has videos on hundreds of fascinating topics. You can always watch with subtitles in English and often with subtitles in your language. You can also read a transcript in English or your language. The videos are just 3-20 minutes long. Watching the same video once a day for a week will really help you a lot.

What I wish I would have said… What do you do when you’re writing an email in English and don’t know how to say something exactly? You usually don’t have the time to make it perfect, so you send it and hope it’s good enough. Use those moments to get better. Create a file on your computer where you save your bad sentences. When you have free time later, go back and make them better or ask someone to help you.

Help Google Go to translate.google.com and type sentences in your language. Check how well Google translates them into English. They’ll be close, but you’ll see mistakes. Can you make them better? Click on the “Contribute a Better Translation” button.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond Practice Tests: Vocabulary Questions

Beyond Practice Tests: Vocabulary Questions

Vocabulary questions give you a word and four definitions. You should choose the correct definition. Of course, if you know what the word means, then it’s easy. But, if you don’t know what it means, it’s still possible to guess. The test makers always include hints.

The normal strategy for getting better at vocabulary questions is to learn more words. Books that give lists of vocabulary words for a test are very popular. That’s OK, but you can do more. Here are some strategies for improving at vocabulary questions. Some will help you learn new words and some will just help you guess better.

Guess, guess, guess Read an article and underline all the new words. Without using a dictionary, try to write definitions of the words. Also, include any clues or hints you see. For example, you might write this for the word “hint” in the previous sentence.

Hint: Something that helps with guessing words???

Clues: “Clues” next to hints. You should include them with the definition. “Try to write definitions” means you can’t know for sure, so “hints” should help.

Write Definitions Practice writing definitions for new words you learn. By writing practice definitions you’ll get used to seeing the hints that come with new words.

Write Test Questions After you learn a new word, write a practice test question for it. Can you think of three other words that are related? How are they different?

Thesaurus Are you already really good with vocabulary? For students who want to take their score to the highest level, use a thesaurus to learn all of the words that are related to a new word you’ve learned. Then, learn how they’re different.

Hints When you learn a new word, instead of writing a translation, write three words that will help you guess it. For example, if you learn the word “Ocean”, you might use “Big, blue, waves” instead of a definition or a translation.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies, Test Prep | , , , , | 1 Comment

Beyond Practice Tests: Inference Questions

Beyond Practice Tests: Inference Questions

Inference questions are hard. You can’t read the answer. You can’t hear the answer. You just have to know it. But how is it possible? How can you know something that no one writes or says?

Well, it’s not so hard as all that. We do it every day. For example, imagine that you’re at a party and the time is 1:00a.m. Your friend says to you, “Wow, I’m so tired. I woke up at 6:00a.m. today and drinking makes me sleepy.” You can guess that your friend wants to go home. You infer that your friend wants to go home.

This is inference. Inference is when you guess something because of other things.

Other things: Your friend is tired. Your friend woke up at 6:00a.m. It’s 1:00a.m. now. Your friend has been drinking.

Inference: Your friend wants to go home.

Let’s look at another example.

Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin, USA. It’s not a very big city, but there are many activities. There are lots of concerts by the lake in the summer. In the winter, you can enjoy ice-skating downtown. At anytime of year, you’ll find friendly people who will welcome you into bars and restaurants, parks and museums with a friendly smile.

From this reading, we can infer that the author…

  1. a. thinks you would enjoy a visit to Milwaukee.
  2. has lived in Milwaukee for many years.
  3. often goes ice skating in the winter.
  4. think Milwaukee is the best city in America.

The answer is A because the author gives many reasons you might enjoy Milwaukee. It’s not B because the author might have learned these things from just visiting. We don’t know how often the author goes ice skating (C) and the author doesn’t compare Milwaukee to any other cities (D).

Here are seven strategies for studying inference questions:

20 Questions Do this one with a friend. Think of a person, place, or thing. Your friend should ask you questions in order to guess what you’re thinking of. They can ask at most 20 questions. For example:

Is it big or small? It’s medium sized.

Is it hard or soft? It’s hard.

What’s it made of? It can be made of wood or metal.

Is there one in the room now? Yes, there are many in this room.

Is it a chair? Yes, it’s a chair!

20 Hints Just like the 20 Questions, but a little easier. One person just says things until the other person can guess. For example:

It’s usually blue, but it can also be black, red, or gray. It’s really big, and it’s everywhere. The sky!

Pay attention During the day to try to spot things you infer. It’ll keep you practicing all day long. What can you infer from the guy who smiled at you?  Your teacher asked you to come answer the question? What can you infer? Why did she ask you?

Lists of Inferences After you read something, make a list of ten inferences and the reasons for them.

Just the first paragraph Read just the first paragraph of something and make a list of inferences/guesses about the rest of the article. Then, finish reading the article and see if you were right.

Scavenger Hunt Think of different beliefs and try to find articles with someone who believes them. For example, try to find an article about someone who believes in aliens, someone who loves France, or someone who likes to swim. You might not find the exact support you want, but can you find good inference material?

Using Practice Test Answers Take a practice test and remember which questions were inference questions. Learn which answers are wrong and write sentences to make them right. What is missing in an article so that you could infer the wrong answers?

For the example above about Milwaukee. (B) would be right if you added “Since I was a young girl, I’ve loved my city.” (C) would be right if you added “Like many people in Milwaukee, I love ice-skating.” (D) would be right if you added “No place in America offers as many nice things as Milwaukee.”

September 18, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies, Test Prep | , , , , | Leave a comment