Thursday, December 11, 2014

50 Group Discussion Questions

Here is a set of 50 group discussion questions:

www.whaddayaknowabout.com/ponder

You can project a random question on your smartboard or you can create a customized question list.

The questions are designed for critical thinking classes, but would be good for Intermediate - Advanced ESL classes too. Remember that thinking about and discussing problems analytically really helps to strengthen students' English.




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Updates to Road to Grammar Jr

Road to Grammar Jr - the Road to Grammar site for younger learners - has finally been updated:

  • works on mobile
  • more modern layout
  • activities are updated


Screenshot:


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Have you ever noticed the grammar of newspaper headlines?

Have you ever noticed that newspaper headlines have a grammar all of their own?

Consider these two examples:
















In the first one, it is proclaimed that a great earthquake kills 1000 people, while in the story below, we can read that a fearful earthquake killed 1000 people.

The second newspaper announces 'Hitler Dead'. Shouldn't it be 'Hitler is dead.'?

In fact, newspaper headlines follow their own particular set of rules. Let's try to decipher some of them:

1 The Present Tense is used for something that happened in the past:


Example:

Newborns die after paramedic delay

In a paragraph, we would say the newborns died or the newborns have died.

2 We omit the BE verb:

Example:

Sun's P3 girl ad banned for sexism

In a paragraph, we would say that the Sun's ad was banned for sexism.

Samaritans Twitter app investigated

Again, we could say that the Twitter app is being investigated.



3 We use TO to designate a future event.

Example:

Catalonia to hold independence vote

In a paragraph, we would say that Catalonia is going to hold an independence vote or that Catalonia will hold an independence vote.


Conclusion:

It's a confusing world for learners of English. Newspaper headlines are just one more thing that doesn't seem to make sense when you are trying to master your grammar. As a teacher, a little knowledge of how they work can help you to clear up the confusion.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Manly Language

Let's look at some 'manly' language! In fact, we can start with the word 'manly'. Don't let the -ly fool you; manly is an adjective.
Chuck is a manly man.
So we know that Chuck is a pretty tough guy.


For a more formal and sophisticated phrase, we could use 'masculine'.
The blue and charcoal colors give the room a masculine feel.

We also have a phrase imported (according to Google) from Mexican Spanish. This word is macho and we use it in a slightly negative way. Think of a guy with a hairy chest and a moustache.
Jake probably thinks he looks so macho riding around on his Harley.



Very occasionally, people use the word machismo too. It means 'masculine pride'.


Lastly, we have a phrasal verb to examine: man up.

We generally use this as a piece of advice. Telling someone to man up is telling them that they need to be tougher, more macho... less of a wimp.
Timothy, if you're serious about joining the marines, you'd better man up!

You'd better man up if you want to be a macho man like Chuck Norris.








Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spoken Punctuation

"We don't need punctuation when we speak, so why do we need punctuation when we write?"

This is what someone asked me the other day. Actually, we do have punctuation when we speak - in a way.

The basic unit of spoken punctuation is the pause. Where we would insert a comma in written English, we insert a tiny pause when we speak:

   When I reached home, I made a cup of tea.

Where, in written English, we would add a full stop, we add a slightly longer pause when speaking.

In a formal situation, such as a speech or presentation, we add an even longer pause as a 'paragraph break' or to signify the beginning of a new point.

Interestingly, there is not a good way to signify inverted commas in spoken English, which has given rise to the air quote:



Another interesting crossover from written to spoken punctuation is when people say 'period' out loud to punctuate a particularly strong point, one which is the last word on the matter.

   I don't care what she said to you. It's wrong to hit girls, period!

Monday, October 13, 2014

X-Word Grammar

Here is an interesting site: www.xwordgrammar.com/

The site covers an alternative way of examining grammatical structures, which was developed by Dr Robert Livingstone Allen in the 70s. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Livingston_Allen)

What I found most interesting was not the methods for examining grammar, but the simple way that X-Word Grammar approaches sentence structures.

The site uses the terminology trunks, shifters, linkers and inserts to describe the way sentences are constructed.

A trunk is the main segment of any sentence, usually with the Subject-Verb-Object pattern:

Danny ate some cheese.

A shifter is a part of a sentence that can move about without affecting the meaning:

Before lunch, Danny ate some cheese.
Danny ate some cheese before lunch.

A linker connects two trunks together or two sentences:

Danny was eating lunch. Meanwhile, Penny was doing laundry.

Finally, an insert is used to insert extra information:

Danny, a big fan of brie, decided to buy some more cheese.


The basic concepts could be taught reasonably easily to an intermediate level class and would encourage them to think about the way they put sentences together.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ESL Video: Brian Tracy's Communication Skills

Here is the final video in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_10_commskills/

Brian Tracy gives three tips on improving your communication skills. Brian uses relatively simple languages and sentence structures in his speech. He provides a good model for students to follow.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

ESL Video: Google Nose

Here is the ninth in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_9_googlenose/

Google has a fantastic new technology for searching smells... but will your students sniff out that it's an April Fools prank?




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

ESL Video: Are You Human?

Here is the eighth in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_8_areyouhuman/

It's based on Ze Frank's Ted Talk in which he explores what makes us human.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

ESL Video: The Power of Quiet

Here is the seventh in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_7_powerofquiet/

It's an explanation of why we should appreciate introverts more and how they form great partnerships with extroverts.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Friday, October 03, 2014

ESL Video: Facts about LEGO

Here is the sixth in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_6_legofacts/

It's video of factoids about everyone's favourite toy.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Monday, September 29, 2014

ESL Video: How to Sleep Better

Here is another ESL video for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_5_bettersleep/

It's a list of tips for getting a good night's sleep.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Friday, September 26, 2014

ESL Video: Meet the Freegans

Number four in our series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://www.roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_4_thefreegans/

This video talks about 'freegans', who live off the food discarded by supermarkets




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ESL Video: Too Much Stuff!

Here is another ESL video for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_3_lessstuff/

It's Graham Hill's fascinating TED Talk on living without many possessions




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ESL Video: Is Coffee Harmful

The second in the series of ESL video practice pages:

Is coffee harmful?

http://roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_2_iscoffeehealthy/



ESL Video Lesson: Try Something New

Here is the first in a series of ESL videos for upper int/advanced level classes:

http://roadtogrammar.com/videoesl/video_1_trysomethingnew/

It's Matt Cutts' inspirational TED Talk on taking up 30-day challenges.




This would be great to project on the board as a class activity (I do this all the time with my classes). There is an intro, a video, vocab, a quiz, a discussion and some learning points.

The page works on mobile devices.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Site Improvements

I've made some improvements to the Road To Grammar main site:

1 Notes and PDFs can be accessed directly from the main page

2 Quizzes are slightly bigger when viewed on a desktop or laptop (good for smartboards, too).

3 Quizzes have an infobar so you can see the title of the quiz

4 A few simple cosmetic changes

* The site works on mobile devices
* Ads are kept to a minimum


Screenshots:




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three Confusing Negative Words

Priceless

From looking at the word itself, you might think that priceless means FREE.

In fact it means exactly the opposite. If something is priceless, it is so valuable that you cannot attach a price to it.

The museum has a collection of priceless Ming Dynasty vases.


Infamous

Does infamous mean not famous?

No, infamous means famous for something terrible! The word notorious has the same meaning.

The infamous bandit Lucky Luke has struck again!


Invaluable

Not valuable?

No,  if something is invaluable, it is extremely useful.

Maria gave me some invaluable advice before I opened my new cafe.

French Connections in English

French has had a massive impact on English vocabulary.

I have put together a slideshow showing how French words have influenced English words that would be great for advanced level ESL learners.

View it on Road to grammar: www.roadtogrammar.com/frenchconnections

Slideshare (you can download the powerpoint file): http://www.slideshare.net/roadtogrammar/french-connections

Or YouTube (with music): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mr2AqgULhpU




Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Present Perfect Tense

Road to Grammar's unit on the Present Perfect Tense has been reworked in HTML5 so that it will work on any size screen, including smartphones.

The unit can be accessed at: http://roadtogrammar.com/presperfect/

The unit features:


  • over ten pages of notes
  • ten exercises with plenty of questions and immediate feedback
  • a mobile-friendly layout
  • simple navigation system
  • a smartboard-friendly layout - teachers can use it in a class with a smartboard or projector

Screenshots:




Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Critical Thinking Activity

whaddayaknowabout.com has an activity which would be useful in a critical thinking skills class. You identify premises and the conclusion by dragging and dropping them into place. Works on mobile.

URL: http://whaddayaknowabout.com/criticalthinking/premiseandconclusion/

Friday, June 27, 2014

Free ESL Class Unit: Health

I have just completed the second in a series of ESL units; this one is on the topic of Health.

The unit has eight activities, including discussion, vocabulary, reading, listening, grammar and writing. It would cover over three hours of class time.

The materials can easily be projected onto a classroom board or downloaded as a pdf. Teachers are free to copy and distribute the materials as they wish. It can also be viewed on a phone or tablet.

The audio clip for the listening can be played directly from the web page. Exercises have an 
'answer' button which will reveal the correct responses.

The unit can be found at the link below:

www.roadtogrammar.com/units/health




Thursday, June 26, 2014

ESL Trivia Game for classroom use

I have taken the question bank from the game Fluent (roadtogrammar.com/fluent) and put them in a format where they can be projected easily in a classroom.

It's simple to use: just go to roadtogrammar.com/trivia and click or tap away. There's a section at the bottom of the page where you can enter team names and track the scores.

It works on mobile, too, so you could have students test each other using their phones.

Screenshot:



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Discussion Topics and Worksheets

The site whaddayaknowabout.com has some interesting worksheets entitled 'Topics for Big Thinkers'. They are aimed at high school/college classes, but could be good for advanced ESL classes as well.

The current topics are: subcultures, conspiracy theories and left/right wing politics

The URL is: whaddayaknowabout.com/bigthinkers


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Summary of TESOL Methodologies

The Grammar-Translation Method
In the Grammar-Translation Method, emphasis is placed on written work. Students translate sentences and answer grammar questions. Both written and spoken instructions are given in the students’ first language.
Example:
Translate the following sentences into your language. Circle the verbs.
John loves his cat.
Mary rides a bicycle.
Ali wears a hat.

The Direct Method
In the Direct Method, emphasis is placed on oral drill and repetition in the target language. Visuals and objects are used to stimulate discussion. Grammar is not taught. The Direct Method is carried out in small groups, which made it unpopular for use in schools.
Example:
Look at the picture. This is Mary. Who is this? What is Mary doing? What is she buying? Why is she there?

 The Audio-Lingual Method
The audio-lingual method emphasizes repetition of target language structures, often with slight variations. The content may be arranged by grammatical structure, but grammar is not taught explicitly. The language model is provided by the teacher or sometimes via an audio recording in a language laboratory.

 Example:
Repeat after me:
1 Tony is hungry. He wants to eat.
2 Tony is thirsty. He wants to drink something.
3 Tony is dirty. He needs a shower.
4 Tony tired. He needs to sleep.
Now complete these sentences:
1 Tony is hungry. He wants ___________
2 Tony is thirsty. He wants ___________
3 Tony is dirty. He needs ___________
4 Tony tired. He needs ___________

The Natural Approach
The Natural Approach relies on the skills of the teacher to create a comfortable and stress-free classroom environment. The teacher guides the class using comprehension activities and the students are allowed to take their time to progress, especially in spoken English. Mistakes go uncorrected and grammar is not taught.  Students are given topics where they can express themselves freely and share opinions.

The Communicative Approach
The Communicative Approach emphasizes that language is a communication tool. For this reason, incorrect grammar and mistakes are acceptable as long as the message gets through. Classroom activities are based on topics that require communication—such as ordering food in a restaurant.  The topic is presented through a listening or reading activity, then practiced through drills or written activities and finally produced via a roleplay or group activity.
Speaking is the most important activity for a student and the time each student spends speaking in a class should be maximized.

The Functional-Notional Approach
Using this approach, language is broken down into situations, functions and notions and an English course is designed to reflect this. A situation may be ‘at the supermarket’. A function could be ‘showing agreement’ and a notion is any word or phrase used to convey meaning, such as ‘a fantastic bargain’.

The Dogme Movement
The Dogme Movement is based on the Communicative Method, but teachers are not to use a coursebook or even any pre-planned materials. The teacher’s role is to set up situations or discussions for the students and to facilitate the ‘emergence’ of useful language.
Task-Based Learning
Task-based learning is often called project-based learning. The approach is to give learners a task or a project and use this as a platform for practicing English. As the learners carry out the task, they may find gaps in their language abilities that need to be filled, with the help of the teacher. Learners usually enjoy this methodology since they are able to have fun and work in groups.
Constructivism
The focal point of Constructivism is that “humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas”.
Hence, a class with constructivist principles must be ’student-centred’ and not ’teacher-centered’. The content should be meaningful to the students and allow them to explore and learn what they can do with the language.  Learning should be an active process driven by the student and not the teacher, who is a ‘guide on the side’ rather than a ‘sage on the stage’. The change in terminology from ‘teacher’ to ‘facilitator’ reflects this.
‘Show and tell’ would be a good example of a constructivist activity. The student brings to class an object of personal value and practices English by presenting it to the class. The teacher’s interaction consists of guidance and feedback rather than direct instruction.
Constructivism is a concept in general training, not only in TESOL.

The Flipped Classroom
On a traditional course, instruction takes place in the classroom and practice is done at home (in the form of homework). In a ’flipped’ class, students go through the content at home (typically by watching a video) and the practice is done in class with the help of a teacher or other students. The aim is to make class time more valuable and to allow students to explore the content at their own pace. The increase in instructional videos beginning in the late ‘00s has helped to make the flipped classroom concept much easier to implement.
The flipped classroom is a movement in the wider world of training, not only in TESOL. 







Language Discovery
This is my own approach and I just wanted to describe it here. The teacher's role is to cultivate a love of English in the students and a desire to explore and learn more about the language. Listening and reading materials are approached with the question, 'What can I learn from this?' Learners are encouraged to analyse any language that they come across and find examples of sentence structures, grammar or vocabulary that they can learn. They are encouraged to use and try out new language items, both in class and in the outside world.


Eclecticism
Eclecticism simply refers to making use of any of the various methodologies as the teacher sees fit. As we have seen, there are many methodologies that have been created throughout the years and they each seem to have pros and cons. Some are more suited to beginners and some are more suited to advanced learners. With the vast amount of content now available online, why not be pragmatic in your approach to language instruction?





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Globalization ESL Discussion Worksheet

I've finished and uploaded a conversation worksheet on the topic of Globalization.

This worksheet would be suitable for upper-intermediate to advanced learners, recommended age 16 and above.

Feel free to use and distribute it as you wish.

URL: www.roadtogrammar.com/dl/r2g_globalization.pdf























For other conversation worksheets, go to www.roadtogrammar.com and click DOWNLOADS



Salmon and Often

Salmon and Often I've often noticed that speakers of English as a second language mispronounce salmon. It looks like it is st...