Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

Teaching English British Council

Website Review: Teaching English www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

In short: The best site for English teachers on the internet. If you only have time to visit one site a day, this should be it. What do you need? Activities for you classroom? They got ‘em.  Training to make you a better teacher? Oh heck yeah. A worldwide community to bounce ideas off of, get help from, and have fun with. Si. Da. Nae. Hai. Tak. Yes. Yes. Yes.

For students: This site is mainly for teachers, but if your teacher isn’t using it, you might tell them about it. Also, check out their sister site for students: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en

For teachers: If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they also have links to tons of other sites. Oh, and make sure to like them on Facebook…

http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Unstressed

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Unstressed

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: It depends on how much you already know about word stress. You may have to learn a little more before starting.

Materials: This Worksheet

Primary Objective: Improve Word Stress Skills

Other Benefits: Become familiar with some money expressions

Plan:

5 Minutes Review what word stress is. Explain that today, instead of focusing the stressed words, you’re going to work on noticing the unstressed words.

15 Minutes Pass out this sheet. Read the full sentences from the answer sheet. Make sure to say the missing words with minimal stress. The students should try to write the missing words. Review the answers.

20 Minutes Put the students in groups and ask them to add to the list of commonly unstressed words. Ask them to try to make groups of similar words. Demonstrate by making a list of helper verbs (e.g. have, do, etc.) on the board.

Then, each student should come to the front of the class and write one commonly unstressed word on the board. Demonstrate the groups of words by circling the prepositions, underlining the helper verbs, and putting a square around the pronouns.

Write an example sentence on the board with one word from each group.

5 Minutes Have the students practice reading the sentences on the sheets in pairs.

15 Minutes Have the students write their own sentences. They should leave out or erase the unstressed words. Finally, they should read the sentences for their partner. The partner should try to fill in the missing words.

Extension Practice reading the sentences a final time, but use physical movements to reinforce the stressed/unstressed words. For instance, have everyone stand up. When there is a stressed word, they should jump. When there is an unstressed word, they should duck.

Notes: Just because a group of words is commonly unstressed, doesn’t mean they are always unstressed. Of course, lots of prepositions, pronouns, and helper verbs are stressed sometimes. This is all just a guideline.

Ideas for Homework: Students might watch a short clip of something and rewrite the transcript. They should underline the stressed words. (For example, they might watch a video like this, open the interactive transcript on the right and choose one paragraph for them to do).

Worksheet—Unstressed Words

These words are not usually stressed

Have Are Do Is
The A Lot Not
That It This In
For Of On At

Listen to your teacher read these sentences. Use the words above and other words to complete them.

 

1.  I __________ never saved __________  __________  __________  money.

2.  Don’t __________  think that __________  too expensive?

3.  How __________ __________ usually spend __________  money?

4.  This __________ __________  good price. You should think __________  getting __________.

5.  __________ __________ usually find __________  good deal?

6.  How much __________ __________ pay __________ __________ dress?

7.  Who handles __________  money __________ __________ family?

8.  He asked __________ __________  new loan, but they denied __________.

  1. A: __________ __________ want __________ go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford __________  buy __________  more clothes.

Answers

 

1.  I have never saved a lot of money.

2.  Don’t you think that is too expensive?

3.  How do you usually spend your money?

4.  This is a good price. You should think about getting it.

5.  Do you usually find a good deal?

6.  How much did you pay for that dress?

7.  Who handles the money in your family?

8.  He asked for a new loan, but they denied him.

  1. A: Do you want to go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford to buy any more clothes.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , | 2 Comments

eslplans.com

Website Review: eslplans.com

In short: As of today there are 200 plans on this cool site. Some are simple fill-in-the-blank worksheets and others are more detailed and exciting activities. All the plans are submitted by users. There’s a nice community feel to the site. Everything is excellently organized and super easy to use. Refreshingly few ads and no clutter at all really create a nice experience.

For teachers: This site is a great idea, but still feels a little empty. Why not submit one of your plans and encourage those around you to do the same. If this site goes viral, everyone wins.

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

efl247.com

Website Review: efl247.com

In short: A community site that’s just getting started. The idea of a bunch of teachers and students sharing material is great, but there’s nothing really there right now and it’ll need some spark if it’s going to grow.

For students: Why not join and start posting in the forums? If everyone starts, it’ll be great.

For teachers: Use the search feature to try to find the materials you’re looking for. Right now, there’s not much, but check back and who knows?

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Ways to Practice Stress

Five ways to practice stress

Two weeks ago, we discussed word stress. Here are five ways to teach it.

First off Start by giving them a handout of, say, ten sentences. Write the first one on the board and underline the stressed words as you read it out loud.  Then, move towards having them do it on their own. Ask the class to discuss which words are stressed. Then, they can do it in groups. Finally, they can try it alone or even take a quiz.

Quizzes Nothing like a quiz to get students motivated. Ask students to listen to something and then underline the stressed words on a transcript.

Just the Stress Read something and only say the words you would stress when saying it. For diminished words, ask the students to fill in the blanks. (See this lesson plan.)

Music Listen to songs that have the same lines again and again. In a song, stressed words are often even more obvious. They’re louder, longer, and the pitch changes to boot. Here’s a song you might use. Here’s another.

Throw Your Hands in the Air Use physical gestures. Read sentences with the students. The more stressed a word is, the higher everyone’s hands go while reading.

Focus on Reductions Rather than focusing on the words that are stressed, point out all the unstressed words. Often, these words get said like one word. For example “Jawanna” = “Do you want to” and “I’m going to go” = “I’m gunna go”. Teach common ones so the students know which words usually aren’t stressed.

Beaker Method Beaker was a character on The Muppet Show (popular in the U.S. in the 1970s). He could only speak making “Meep!” sounds. He communicated entirely with word stress, timing, and intonation. Have your students try the same. Here’s a lesson plan to help.

 

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow-up Questions

Follow-up Questions

Time: 30 minutes

Materials: This Handout (or see below)

Objectives: After this lesson, students will be more comfortable asking follow-up questions.

This is a great 30 minute lesson to use at the beginning of the term. If students are good at asking follow-up questions, it’ll make every discussion go better. After they know the skill, you can just shout “follow-up questions!” to make any discussion go longer.

Pre-speaking (1) 5 minutes First off, present the common types of follow-up questions and generic example questions:

More information: Could you tell me more? Why do you think that?

Disagreement: Don’t you think that…?

Change the topic: What about…?

Pre-speaking (2) 15 minutes Then, pass out this handout (or see below). The third line should always be another question. Do the first three together. Students should complete the rest on their own. On the second page, they should create the entire dialogues.

Speaking 10 minutes Have the students practice their questions with a partner.

Extension Play a game where two students come to the front. One should see how many questions they can ask. Then bring another two students forward. The student who asks the most questions wins.

Follow-up Questions Worksheet

A: How old are you?

B: I’m 18 years old.

A: Are you a student?

A: Where are you from?

B: I’m from Japan.

A: __________________________________________________?

A: Do you like to play any sports?

B: No, not really.

A: __________________________________________________?

A: Do you like to play any sports?

B: I love to play badminton.

A: __________________________________________________?

A: What kind of music do you like?

B: I like ballads.

A: __________________________________________________?

A: What do you want to eat for dinner?

B: How about sushi?

A: __________________________________________________?

A: What’s your favorite animal?

B: My favorite animal is a monkey!

A: __________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

A: ___________________________________________________?

B: ____________________________________________________

A: ___________________________________________________?

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Sentences

This is part of a series of lesson plans on word stress, timing, and intonation. Click here to read a short introduction.

Name: Ten Sentences

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Materials: Personality Adjectives (Click to download or see below)

Primary Objective: Improve Word Stress Skills

Other Benefits: Practice Personality Adjectives

Plan:

10 Minutes

Print and present the Personality Adjectives with personality adjectives. (Or write everything on the board.) Have the students fill it in as best they can.

15 Minutes

Now, read the sentences out loud for the students. They should listen and repeat. Pay careful attention to make sure that they are stressing the correct words. If you’d prefer, you can play this track for them instead.

5 Minutes

Now, students should look at their sheets and underline the stressed words.

5 Minutes

Next, read the sentences out loud and have the students repeat them again.

10 Minutes

Walk around and give specialized help as the students practice reading in pairs.

5 Minutes

Finally, have the students listen and repeat one more time as a class

10 Minutes

Review the meanings of the personality adjectives. Ask the students to choose four words and write new sentences with them. They should underline the stressed words in their sentences.

Ideas for Homework

Ask the students to find examples of some of the personality adjectives in real English materials. (They can search for them on the internet.) During the next class, they can present the sentences.

Words

Lazy, Happy, Funny, Interesting, Quiet, Witty, Sweet, Demanding, Hardworking, Carefree

Fill In The Blanks

I envy her. She’s always smiling. She’s a really ______________________ person.

Isn’t she an ______________________ professor? I just love listening to her lectures.

She’s always writing songs for me. When I first met her, I thought she was just a ______________________ girl, but now that I know her, I think she’s super ______________________.

I like my boss, but he’s too ______________________. If we don’t relax sometimes, we’ll go crazy!

Sometimes I wish I could be more ______________________, like my brother. Nothing bothers him.

If you want to be successful, the most important thing is to be ______________________.

Why are you always so ______________________?! Clean your room! Do your homework! Do anything!

Why is Jake my best friend? You know, he makes me laugh. He’s ______________________. That’s really important to me.

I wish I were more ______________________. I never think of good things to say until hours later.

Answers

I envy her. She’s always smiling. She’s a really happy person.

Isn’t she an interesting professor? I just love listening to her lectures.

She’s always writing songs for me. When I first met her, I thought she was just a quiet girl, but now that I know her, I think she’s super sweet.

I like my boss, but he’s too demanding. If we don’t relax sometimes, we’ll go crazy!

Sometimes I wish I could be more carefree, like my brother. Nothing bothers him.

If you want to be successful, the most important thing is to be hardworking.

Why are you always so lazy?! Clean your room! Do your homework! Do anything!

Why is Jake my best friend? You know, he makes me laugh. He’s funny. That’s really important to me.

I wish I were more witty. I never think of good things to say until hours later.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

iteslj.org

Website Review: iteslj.org

In short: One of the five best ESL sites on the internet. They have everything. They’ve been putting out great material for 15 years and let’s hope they never stop. Their own menu bar says it all: Articles, Lessons, Techniques, Questions, Games, Jokes, Things for Teachers, Links, and Activities for Students.

The site is organized perfectly. There’s no distracting advertising. If you have a slow connection, this site will still load quickly. What more could you want?

For students: The “Activities for Students” button will take you to this site a4esl.org, There, you’ll find many fun things you can do to improve your English.

For teachers: You can learn from the articles and use the lessons, techniques, etc. Why not contribute as well? See if you can get an article published. You’ll learn a lot while preparing it and give a little back to the community of teachers and students around the world.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

esl.about.com

Website Review: esl.about.com

In short: A large amount of pretty good teaching and studying strategies. Click on the tabs at the top to access materials for beginner students, intermediate/advanced students, and teachers. You’ll then see all the categories. Ken (the author) has written a huge amount over the years. The material isn’t incredible, but it is good—like a professional athlete that’s good enough to play for 15 years, but never becomes a star. The site suffers from too much distracting advertising.

For students: Sign up for one of the free English E-Mail Courses. Reminders to study in your inbox are very helpful.

For teachers: In addition to all the teaching strategies, make sure to check out the recommended books and classroom materials.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment