Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English


Praat is software that analyses your speech. You can see things like tone and rising and falling intonation. This software is designed for linguistic students. You’ll have to study how to use it, but everything is explained simply and anyone should be able to learn how. Visit their website to learn more. Or you can see some practical applications here and here.


March 11, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | 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


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

Website Review:

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, 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

Website Review:

In short: Many things indeed! And each thing is educational and will work quickly on any computer—even slow computers, even computers with slow internet connections.

To begin, there are hundreds of vocab lists and more than 20 games to play with each one. For example, you can do crossword puzzles or match opposite words (e.g. fat-skinny).

But, that’s just the start of the site. Students can practice listening to sounds that are similar (minimal pairs), work with English proverbs, match definitions to words, browse links to YouTube videos, listen to jokes, learn songs, read English signs, read/listen to news stories, and many more.

The Flash Quizzes for ESL Students will make you say “wow.” With all the grammar practice you’ll become an expert. Heck, you can even learn all about American history.

Above all, everything is high quality. The word lists are strong. Definitions are short and good. It all works easily and quickly.

For students: Go to the Random Sentence Generator page. After you learn a new verb tense, use the page to see thousands of examples.

For teachers: Have the students visit it and find three activities they think look cool. At the start of the next class, have them share what they found in pairs, or just write them on a slip of paper for you to check.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this: A Sustainable Fridge by Adam Grosser

How to listen to this talk: A Sustainable Fridge by Adam Grosser

Before listening Discuss these questions with a partner (or write short answers to them on your own).

What things do you keep in a refrigerator?

Could you live without a refrigerator?

What medicines should be kept in a refrigerator?

Listening Listen to Adam Grosser discuss his sustainable fridge.

Listen to it twice.

If you didn’t understand everything, listen two more times with subtitles. (Click “English” in the box below the video.)

If you didn’t understand everything, read the transcript. (Click “Open Interactive Transcript”. There’s a box to the right of the video. In the top-right of the box, you can click the button.)

For any difficult parts, click on the words in the transcript. Then, you can listen to him say those parts again.

Now, if you’re really having trouble, you can listen with subtitles in your language. After you’ve listened with subtitles in your language, listen again in English.

Comprehension Questions Did you really understand this talk? Try to answer these questions. (Answers are below.)

At the beginning, there’s a slide show presentation. What problem does it present? What solution does it suggest?

What did Ferdinand Carre invent in 1858? Why couldn’t he build anything with it?

When was the Icyball invented? How did it work?

What problem did it have?

What is “psi”?

What is “computational work”?

Why was it important to find “non-toxic refrigerants that worked at very low vapor-pressures”?

What’s a rig?

What did they build?

How do you use the device to cool things?

What’s a prototype?

How big of a volume can it cool?

Will it work if it’s very hot outside?

How much will it cost if they build a lot of them?

How much will it cost if they don’t build a lot of them?

Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.

What do you think of this product?

This video is from February 2007. Do you think these fridges have become popular?

What are some things people could do to make these fridges more popular?

Below the video on the TED site are many comments. Read some of the comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?


At the beginning, there’s a slide show presentation. What problem does it present? What solution does it suggest? The problem is that because 1.6 billion people don’t have refrigerators (or the fuel to use a refrigerator), they can’t keep medicine or food that needs to be cold. This makes their lives worse because, for example, there is more disease. The solution is a way to have a refrigerator that works without electricity, fossil fuels, or anything that you can’t get again easily.

What did Ferdinand Carre invent in 1858? Why couldn’t he build anything with it? He invented “absorption and refrigeration” which is a process that makes things colder by heating a gas. (Click here to learn more about it.) He couldn’t build anything with it because, in 1858, he didn’t have the right technology.

When was the Icyball invented? How did it work? It was invented in 1928. It works by heating ammonia and water. The Amonia moves through a tube to another container. When it cools, it comes back to the water and makes everything cold.

What problem did it have? It exploded because heating the ammonia created too much pressure.

What is “psi”? Pounds per square inch. It’s a measurement to say how powerful the air is pushing against its container. A container explodes when the psi is too powerful (like when a balloon explodes).

What is “computational work”? Basically, it means doing a lot of math.

Why was it important to find “non-toxic refrigerants that worked at very low vapor-pressures”? The problem with ammonia was that it exploded and was toxic (poisonous). For people to use the product, it couldn’t be poisonous or explode.

What’s a rig? Usually, it means the back part (trailer) of a truck. Here it just means a test item. It’s their first attempt at building the refrigerator.

What did they build? A low-pressure, non-toxic refrigerator.

How do you use the device to cool things? You heat it over a fire for 30 minutes, let it sit for an hour, and then put it inside something. Whatever you put it inside will get cold for 24 hours.

What’s a prototype? A common term for a test item, not the finished product.

How big of a volume can it cool? 15 liters.

Will it work if it’s very hot outside? Yes. It can work if it’s 30 degrees Celsius.

How much will it cost if they build a lot of them? $25

How much will it cost if they don’t build a lot of them? $40

July 26, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fun with Photography

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

Name: Fun with Photography

Prep Time: None

Materials: None for you, but at least one in every three students should have a cell phone with a camera

Primary Objective: Discuss technology

Other Benefits: This a nice lesson for practicing giving details on a given theme


Pre-Speaking (20 minutes)

Write the word “Technology” on the board. Ask the class to give you some examples of different technologies. Write a few on the board.

Now, have the students each make a list of ten different technologies.

Next, have them share their lists with the students around them. Ask some of the quieter and lower level students to share some of the things on their lists. Write those things on the board too.

Now, ask the students to raise their hand if they have a camera on their cell phone. If everyone has a camera, then there is no need to create groups. However, if someone doesn’t have a camera, they’ll need to get into a group with someone who does. Create as many groups as are necessary (but no more).

Finally, explain to the students that they should leave the classroom and take pictures of five different technologies with their cameras. Tell them they have ten minutes to return to the classroom.

Speaking (30 minutes)

While the students are gone, write the following questions (and sample answers) on the board:

Is your technology big or small? It is big. / It is small. It is medium-sized.

Is your technology old or new? It’s new. It’s old.

When was your technology invented? It was invented about XX years ago.

Do most people use your technology? Yes, most people use this. / No, most people don’t use it.

When the students return, put them in pairs (or pair up the groups). Without showing the pictures, they should ask each other questions that will help them guess what the technology is. (Like twenty questions.) After the item is guessed, they should show their partner/other group the picture and do the next item.

(Before they start, model the activity with a couple students.)

For example…

A: Is your technology big or small?

B: It is small.

A: Is your technology old or new?

B: It is pretty new.

A: When was your technology invented?

B: It was invented about 30 years ago.

A: Is it a computer mouse?

B: Yes! Here, look at the picture.

After the students finish, have them switch to a new person/pair and repeat the process.

While the students work on this, write the following on the board:

Look at your pictures. With a partner discuss these questions:

Which technology is your favorite? Why?

Which technology is the most important? Why?

How often do you use each technology?

Some technologies, like typewriters, aren’t used very much anymore. Which of these technologies is the most likely to disappear in the future?

Who uses these technologies more: younger or older people?

After the students finish, have them switch to a new person/pair and discuss the questions again.

Post-Speaking (10 minutes)

Now, ask the questions above to a few students and ask them follow-up questions as well. The rest of the class should listen.

Finally, go around the class and ask each student to say one thing that they learned during this activity. It can be anything, but everyone should say something.


Have the students draw a pictures of a future technologies. Then, they should get in groups and ask each other the first set of questions above before showing their pictures to each other. For time, have them draw several pictures.


Ideas for Homework/Another Extension: Have the students take more pictures of technology, but make it a scavenger hunt. For instance, tell them they have to take pictures of at least one technology that is: older than 100 years, less than 10 years old, bigger than a house, smaller than a cell phone, colored blue, etc.

Modification for Lower Levels: You’ll have to adjust the questions so that your students can handle them and probably do a lot more modeling than is suggested above, but the basics should be OK.

Modification for Higher Levels: Add discussion questions that force a bit more complex thought/complex grammar/complex vocab (e.g. How did people get by without this technology? How could this technology be improved? etc.) And/or have the students write some more technology discussion questions of their own.

Modification for Small Groups: For small groups, you can still do everything, but everyone will need a camera. Also, you should probably just discuss everything as a class. Finally, you’ll likely need to do the extension activity.

Modification for Private Lesson: It might be awkward to send a lone student out of the room, but you could take a walk with the student. Take the pictures together and discuss them on the way. You might also go straight to the homework idea above.

Modification for Different Themes: Instead of having the students take pictures of different technologies, have them take pictures on your theme. Amongst many others, food, transportation, and clothing would all work. You’ll have to adjust the questions for your theme.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Conversation Lesson Plans, Lesson Plans | , , , , | Leave a comment