Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

Website Review:

In short: Lots and lots of games for your class. They’re organized by Level, Aims, Grammar, Time, and Materials. Not sure where to begin? This game, this game, and this game are all great.

For students: You can play these games with your friends. Also, check out this article. It’s about learning Japanese, but there is lots of good advice for learning any language.

For teachers: The authors of these games make them fun to read about and easy to understand. You’ll enjoy games that start like this: “Have the students remove their shoes to prevent bloodshed…”

Note: This is the main site, but most of it isn’t interesting for teaching and studying English.


January 24, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Present Perfect

This is a series of grammar lesson plans. For an introduction to the series, please click here.

Name: Present Perfect

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: Time to gather the materials

Materials: You and the students should bring some pictures of places you’ve been. Come prepared with some copies of a map of the city you teach in. The students that don’t bring any pictures can use the maps.

Primary Objective: Teach the use of present perfect for events that started and ended in the past (this lesson is not about for and since).

Other Benefits: Discuss past travel


First Exposure (15 minutes) Show the students several pictures from your past. Describe them with present perfect. (e.g. I’ve been to… I’ve eaten… I’ve danced at… I’ve visited…)

After you’ve said five facts, ask various students questions to prompt them to use the present perfect. (e.g. Where have I been? What have I eaten? Where have I danced? What have I visited?)

Now, say another five facts and ask another five questions. In total, try to use 30+ examples. At the end, ask random questions from everything you said.

Identify the Grammar (5 minutes) Ask the students these questions. Ask follow-up questions as needed to solicit the correct answers.

Which verb tense am I using? Present Perfect

When did these events happen? Sometime in the past, but we don’t know when exactly.

Does it matter when these events happened? No, it doesn’t matter. We’re just interested in the event, not when.

Controlled Use (15 minutes) Have the students complete this worksheet. Then review it.

Explanation (5 minutes) Now, explain to the students that present perfect is have/has + the third form of the verb (usually –ed, but sometimes different like eaten of eat-ate-eaten). We use it for situations that happened in the past, but we don’t know, or we don’t care when.

For example:

A: I’ve baked a cake!

B: When?

A: Who cares!? Let’s eat.


A: Do you want to see The Matrix?

B: No, I have already watched it.

A: When?

B: Hmm, I don’t remember when I watched it.

If we say “when” then we can’t use present perfect to talk about past events.

For example: “I have eaten dinner at 7p.m.” is wrong because we know when.

Free Use (20 minutes)

Finally, with the students’ help, write 5-10 present perfect questions on the board. They should discuss them in pairs, but give more than one-sentence answers. Tell them to just discuss the questions normally and see if they have a chance to use the present perfect. Switch partners for time. Here are some questions you might use.

Where have you traveled?

What have you done that you are really happy about?

Have you ever told a lie?

How have you changed as a person?

What are some good movies you have watched?

Extension: Students should look at each other’s pictures and ask questions in the present perfect. “Have you eaten at this restaurant?” “Have you swum in this lake?” etc.

Homework: Ask the students to write a short essay about their favorite place. They should use present perfect five times in their essay.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Grammar Lesson Plans, Lesson Plans | , , , , | Leave a comment

Running Dictation

Running Dictation

Imagine: It’s a beautiful day out. A day that, by all rights, should be reserved exclusively for picnics and frolicking. You walk into your classroom and it’s clear the students feel the same way. Here’s an activity that the students will remember for years.

First, you need some bit of text—a paragraph from a reading in your textbook, a dialogue on the theme, or something else.

You’re going to go outside, but before you do, explain the rules of the game.

Students will be in groups of three. The playground will be divided into three sections. The first student can only move in the first section. The second student can only move in the second section and the third student can only move in the third section.

The first student should read the text and tell the second student. The second student should tell the third student. The third student should write it down.

The first team to correctly write the whole text is the winner.

Notes: If that’s clear, you can stop reading, but here are some additional notes:

Before you go outside, you might draw something like this on the board

Book/Sun Hee–>


<–Sasha/Paper and Pen



<–Makiko/Paper and Pen


<–Hye Young–>

<–Pavel/Paper and Pen

Etc. Etc. Etc.

If you take a few chairs outside with you, then you could put the books and papers/pens on the chairs and insist that they stay there.

You might stay by the students with the paper and pens in order to say when they’ve finished or tell them if it’s not correct yet.

Or, you could make them just hand it in to you. If the first finishers have any mistakes, then they won’t win. The winners are the first ones to finish without any errors.

This was inspired by part of this lesson plan at the British Council’s fabulous site. Thanks!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Website Review:

In short: Lots of links for teachers (and some in-house material). You’ll find handouts and lesson ideas that you’ll surely be able to use. Some of the links are really awesome, others are just OK or may not work in an ESL classroom (e.g. the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s site). But, that might be being too picky. It’s really great that they link to stuff that wasn’t just intended for the ESL classroom, and what one teacher can’t see the use for another might turn into a golden lesson. Some of the links are broken and a lot of the stuff is old, but the broken links aren’t distracting and the old are still good.

For students: This is really a site for teachers, but you might enjoy printing off some worksheets for extra practice on many topics.

For teachers: The organization of the site is quite good (if just a little messy at times). Follow the categories or use the search function to find just about anything you’re looking for.

August 9, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Stories

Liberty Meadows

This is another one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here. Enjoy.

Name: Love Stories

Prep Time: None

Materials: Clear white paper

Primary Objective: Discuss dating

Other Benefits: Improve sequential storytelling skills (First, then, after that, finally)


Pre-Speaking (20 minutes)

On the board draw a big box with nine square in it. Like this:










In the first square, draw stick figures of a boy and a girl meeting. Ask the students to describe what is happening.

Now, have a student come to the board and draw what happens next in the next square. Again have the students describe what is happening.

Repeat the process until all nine squares are filled.

As appropriate, write key dating vocabulary and expressions on another part of the board. For example, you might end up writing words such as: boyfriend, girlfriend, going dutch, to dump, to cheat, to get married, etc. It depends on the story.

When telling the story, emphasize words like “first”, “second” “after that”, “next” and “finally”.

Now, pass out a piece of paper to each student. Tell them they should create a box with nine squares and a place to write important vocabulary and expressions.

Speaking (30 minutes)

Have each student draw a picture in their first square. They should then show it to a partner. The partner should describe what’s happening. They should write any key vocabulary and expressions.

Then, they should pass their paper to their left. That person should draw the next frame and show it to their partner again. The partner should, again, describe what’s happening. They should, again, write any key vocabulary and expressions on the page.

Pass the papers around until all nine squares are filled in.

Post-Speaking (10 minutes)

Have the students come to the front and present whole stories to the class.


Give the students new sheets of paper. Repeat the process, but this time, instead of doing things chronologically, have the students fill in random squares.

Extension #2

Have the students discuss these questions:

Is it important for your boyfriend/girlfriend to have a lot of money?

Is it important for your boyfriend/girlfriend to be sexy?

Is it important for your boyfriend/girlfriend to be funny?

Is it important for your boyfriend/girlfriend to be smart?

What is the most important thing for your boyfriend/girlfriend to be?

Where is the best place to go on a date? Why?

What is the best age to get married? Why?


Ideas for Homework: Have the students visit They should search until they find a comic about dating, print it, and bring it to the next class.

Modification for Lower Levels: At the beginning, ask the students for things that can happen when dating. On the board, write: You meet. You go to a restaurant. You see a movie. Ask them for more suggestions. Then have each student write ten more things on their own. Then, ask for more suggestions and write them on the board. They can use these when deciding what to draw and how to describe it.

Modification for Higher Levels: Bring in some dating comics at the beginning. You can find them by browsing Discuss their meanings and why they’re funny.

Modification for Small Groups: The post-speaking won’t really work because everyone will have seen everything. Just be ready to do the extensions.

Modification for Private Lesson: Before the class, make a complete comic on your own as an example. With your student, create two comics, trading squares back and forth.

Modification for Different Themes: Just make sure you can tell a story around your theme. It’s easier to do this if the students can draw easy things (like stick figures). Themes like dating work best. But, travel could also work well. Anything is possible, but something like nature might be tricky.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Conversation Lesson Plans, Lesson Plans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment