Monday, December 1, 2014

English Video Discussion - #AmeriCAN - Racism

In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown and the chaos that has ensued, many Americans are asking questions about race, the police, education, and power.  While looking to find a good video that showed both sides of the story on the shooting, I found that there were really no great sources that sufficiently showed enough detail for both sides at the same time.

Therefore, I looked to a fiction story that really helped to send a message about race that hits home no matter which side of the fence one may be sitting on with this issue.  Please consider using this in your discussions for your ESL class.

This discussion focuses on facts, inferences, and unreal conditionals.  I believe that a video like this can help to open up interesting and helpful conversation where there are usually only inflamed rhetoric and emotional judgments.

CAUTION: This video is quite emotional and may be difficult for some students to watch. You should absolutely pre-watch this to ensure its appropriateness for your class. 

I recommend that each class/person WATCH the video first, then look at the question sheet, so there are no spoilers!

#AmeriCAN Downloadable Worksheet

Pre -Discussion:

  1. What is racism?
  2. Why does racism exist?
  3. What makes people dislike each other?
  4. In your opinion, how can the problem of racism be solved?

#AmeriCAN - Short Film from #AmeriCAN on Vimeo.

Post Discussion: Use the worksheet for post-discussion.

#AmeriCAN Downloadable Worksheet

I recommend that each class/person WATCH the video first, then look at the question sheet, so there are no spoilers!

Please leave a comment on the video below! Start a discussion here on the ESL Commando!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Movie Trailer ESL Grammar : Mockingjay - Prepositions

This is a beginner prepositions exercise for ESL. Mockingjay will be the 1st part to trilogy that completes the hunger games. See how you do on this fun Mockingjay ESL grammar exercise. Also, be sure to check out all of my other Hunger Games and other movie trailer activities.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Search Multiple Sites for Free, Reusable Digital Content with This Site...

Image Credit: Free Content, Matthias Mehldau

Want to make a project without the headache of copyright infringement?  Welcome to a great site that allows you to search through multiple sites for creative commons license digital media such as video, music, pictures, and more! Great for teachers and students alike.

Try This Trick to Get Rid of All Facebook Game and App Invites...

Image Credit: Freedom/Libertad by Jesus Solana

The only thing that annoys me more than fingernails on a chalkboard and seagulls pooping on my car is getting all those wretched game invitations on Facebook ( forgive me gamer friends). Here's how to end the tyranny of invites to be a crime boss, harvest virtual carrots, or crush weird jelly bean-like candies. 

1. Go to settings

2.  Go to "blocking"

3. Either block invites from people or from apps. I find that apps works better, so that way no one can send you an invite for those particular games. Facebook auto finds as you type, so pick the invites you get the most and type away!

4. Dance in the freedom you now possess as the shackles of gamehood fall to your feet and your notifications are liberated.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Youtube English Class Lesson - Simple Present verbs - Optical Illusions

Use this optical illusion video in the classroom to discuss in the simple present.

  • What happens in the video that is surprising?
  • Why are you surprised by what happens?
  • Name 3 things that change in the video. 
  • Example :  "The man moves closer to the picture..."
  • What happens when you look at things from different angles?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free US Streaming World Cup on College and Military WiFi Networks

The World Cup is a great chance for students to practice listening to English and watching a sport they love. The fervor amongst foreign students is palpable, and ESL teachers would not be wise to ignore the possibilities that the World Cup offers for English training and practice.

Today, I was using my iPad on the university WiFi, and I was able to log in and watch ESPN's coverage of the World Cup without logging in through a cable provider. The network seems to also allow free coverage through military WiFi as well. Why not create a class activity or fun recreational activity around the game on campus? In the student lounge?  At the campus cafe?

Click  to watch the World Cup streaming coverage.

This link may work for other places as well, but I only know that it works on educational institution and military networks. It also seems that they have made available previously played games to watch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

YouTube English Class Lesson - Noun Clauses - Sight

This is one of my favorite short films for the classroom (it does have a short curse word) in it, but this can be skipped pretty easily. I will also paste the edited version if you prefer. It's wonderful for the discussion of privacy and can be used easily to teach noun clauses. Here is the classroom download worksheet for Noun Clauses- Sight.

Remember, the download will look correct when you download it, but might look weird in Dropbox.

Click Here for Edited Version (without curse word)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Movie Trailer ESL Listening - How To Train Your Dragon 2 - Modals (Can)

Use this cool clip to teach modals. Classroom worksheet for Modals of Ability - Can download here.  You can get 3 sheets out of one for discussion for class.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

YouTube English Class Lesson - Adverb Time Clauses- Take The Bus Commercial

For these Youtube English Lessons, I will include a short video and a 5-10 minute discussion prompt you can use for the ESL classroom.

Watch the video and complete the sentences below verbally or on a sheet of paper with a partner.

  1. While the penguins were waiting on the iceberg,...
  2. After the whale hit the iceberg,....
  3. When the lightning bug was alone,....
  4. When the lightning bugs worked together,...
  5. Before the anteater could eat the ant,.....
  6. After the ants worked together,....
  7. Since the crab was alone,...
  8. As soon as the seagull reached the crabs,....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

YouTube English Class Lesson - Question Grammar - Nike Football: The Last Game

For these Youtube English Lessons, I will include a short video and a 5-10 minute discussion prompt you can use for the ESL classroom.

Students watch the video and then create 5 questions, and discuss by seeing if other students can answer them:

As you watch the video, create 5 grammatically correct questions:

1 What question 
1 Who question
1 Where question
1 Why question
1 How question

YouTube English Class Lesson - Unreal Conditionals - Past: Huvr Board

For these Youtube English Lessons, I will include a short video and a 5-10 minute discussion prompt you can use for the ESL classroom.

Watch this video and respond to the questions below using the same grammar format as the questions.This is a video for the hover board call HUVR. Do you think it's real or unreal?

  1. If the huvr board had been real, why would have happened? "If it had been real,..."
  2. If you could have bought it, how much would you have paid?  
  3. If the commercial had been lying, how would you have felt?
  4. If you had been there, would you have tried the huvr board? Why or why not?

Monday, June 9, 2014

YouTube English Class Lesson - Unreal Conditionals: One Wing Landing

For these Youtube English Lessons, I will include a short video and a 5-10 minute discussion prompt you can use for the ESL classroom.

Discussion:  Classroom Sheet for Unreal Conditionals - One Wing Landing
Come up with 3 sentences for each statement -
  1. "If I were the pilot,..."
  2. "If it were real,...
  3. "If I were able to land that plane,..."
  4. "If the plane really lost the wing,..."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

For New Teachers: Teaching is Not a Sprint. It's a Marathon

I'm sure that this has been said somewhere else before, but I believe that it's true.  I have met some new teachers who are constantly dogged by the feeling that they are not good at the craft because they have had lessons that don't go over well, or they have a difficult time connecting with students, etc.  Some of these teachers even wonder if they are in the right field or not.  There are times when teaching may feel like a chore and not a joy, or when we would be more than willing to flip burgers if it meant never having to develop another lesson plan.

First of all, if you have felt this way, you are not alone.  I think that most teachers have had days where it seems like they were not cut out for this kind of job. However, I feel that those feelings are what make us better as teachers. They don't break us. Without these feelings of inadequacy or difficulty, we would never improve or grow as teachers. On those tough days is the time when we take a look at our strategies, our planning, our lessons, and we re-evaluate.

For example, if I have a bad day in class, the students are bored, they don't participate, and they give me that "When will this be over?"  look the whole class, I know that I need to make some changes immediately. I need to spend more time thinking about how the students can accomplish a task more than what the students need to accomplish.

I think that we need to allow ourselves to have those difficult days,  not that we plan them that way, but we allow them to help us re-adjust, not destroy our self-worth as teachers.  Everyone in every profession has off days. Some have off years.  Just ask a professional athlete.

This is not a call for mediocrity or laziness, but it is a call to realize that we are humans, and humans don't get it right every time. If you are not failing at all, you are probably not trying anything new, and may not be growing as a teacher.  So, don't be afraid of the off days, just dust yourself off and do better the next day. Your students will thank you for it. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tongue Twisters - S and Th

  1. Thelma's thick thistles need therapy.
  2. The thoughtful mouse's mouth is something else.
  3. The sickening thickening soup was thoroughly soppy.
  4. Sam's third thalamus is thoughtful.
  5. It's easy to stick it to thickets. 
  6. Thickets don't think about getting sick. 
  7. Thunder sunders thick sticks. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tongue Twisters - R and L

Here are some tough tongue twisters that use R and L. Be sure to listen to the audio below to hear how to say these tongue twisters. 
If you want to practice with the tongue twisters below or use them for the classroom and your students, please download the TONGUE TWISTER R AND L worksheet that has beginner, intermediate, and advanced practice options with a key. (This post contains affiliate links)

You can also improve your pronunciation by traveling more  and practicing your R and L sounds with native speakers. Here is a link below that will save you money on traveling:
Save up to $55 USD on lodging around the world with AirBnB.

  1. Jerry's jelly berries taste really rare. 
  2. Rory's lawn rake rarely rakes really right. 
  3. A really leery Larry rolls readily to the road.
  4. The road's load is lessened lightly.
  5. Lassie Lilly likes Ronny's rulers.
  6. Lad Larry rarely loves lyres. 
  7. Lessening levels of lead really lures lily pads.
  8. Revelers revel in leveling levels. 
  9. Barry's Belly riles with bile. 
  10. Billy and Lilly pile pyres for file fires.

If you liked this activity, please try out the ESL Commando's new resource: R and L Tongue Twister Lessons. This is a fun, interactive slideshow that helps learners to improve their pronunciation of the R and L sounds through challenging and fun tongue twisters, using clickable audio clips and vibrant, beautiful, full-color photos. Each word is clickable so that learners can go at their own pace. Below is  an example of the slideshow. 

If you'd like to try out the new resource, just click the link and enter "0" in the payment box for a FREE PREVIEW DOWNLOAD. If you enjoy the preview and want the full powerpoint lesson, ESL Commando readers can get the FULL DOWNLOAD  at a  special discount by using promo code "off" for $1 off your order.

Please also check out my list of Best English Listening Websites for more fun practice. Also, check out one of my ESL Discussion Videos for fun listening practice.

(This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure here)


Tongue Twisters - P and B

These sounds tend to be tough for Arabic speakers, as there is no "p" sound in that language, at least that's what I  have been told by my students. Please feel free to add any you know to the comments.

  1. Perry's Berry's make peanut butter better. 
  2. Buy pie pans before you buy butter plates. 
  3. Pat's bat played with Benny's penny. 
  4. Purely poor people need to perfect their power. 
  5. The prince and the pauper play ping pong poignantly. 
  6. Printed papers under pressure make pens prickle.
  7. Pickles and pennies take proper preparation.
  8. Ben's prefers pens to bought pots. 
  9. The poor boar pours batter over his putter.
  10. Bob's pop popped primarily because of  pointed pressure.

And of course, the classic(not my own):
Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How To Engage All Students In The Classroom Simultaneously

In the video below, I describe a method in which I am able to get all students in the class participating and interacting with each other.  This method can be used in all kinds of classes, not just ESL classes.

 Here are links to the boards and erasers if you are interested in purchasing them.
  NEOPlex Student Laptop Dry Erase Marker Board - Set of 30
The Classics Magnetic Whiteboard Dry Erasers (12), 2 x 2 Inches, 12 Pack, Yellow/Black (TPG-355)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Best iPad Apps for ESL Teachers #17 - Box

Click to Download
What can I say about this app?  50 GB... that's right, 50 GB of free storage in the cloud (at the time of posting).   Many of the same, if not better, features of Dropbox with 50 GB of storage when you download the iPad app.

It also has the same desktop app you can download, link creation, sharable docs, compatible with many formats, etc.

Download it now, as the 50 GB deal may go away soon.  Dropbox only gives you 2 GB of standard storage, causing you to badger your friends and family to sign up so you can get 500 MB at a time. Box just gives it to you.

So, do yourself a favor and give yourself a place to store video files, photos, etc. that you couldn't when you were just using Dropbox. Don't get me wrong. I like Dropbox, but anything larger than doc files tends to overrun it.

Once the promotion runs out, I believe that the standard GB is 10, but that's still pretty good.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to deal with cellphones in the classroom

Smartphones are an amazing tool that benefits us in so many ways, but sometimes they can be a distraction for our students.  I am trying to incorporate more technology in the classroom, but I find that in an ESL setting, we also need times when students are writing with their pen to the paper.  (I actually prefer the use of laptops over smartphones in my ESL classroom, due to the fact that they offer the collaborative benefits of a smartphone without the texting/messaging distractions.)

I find that unless I have a scheduled task in which technology (cell phones) is used, they tend to become more of a distraction than a help.

For that reason, I have started using the system in the picture below to stow cell phones during class. Note: This system could also just be used on certain tasks like tests and major assignments in which cell phones are not necessary.

I don't claim to be the first to use this method. I saw it on a meme site recently and thought it was a great idea.  Here I would like to also tell you how I use the system. 

At the beginning of a session,  I tell all students that stowing their cell phones will be the policy at the beginning of every class. I also have them put names on their slots so that I can take attendance. No cell phone in the slot, no credit for attendance. 

In addition, students know that if I see them pull out an additional cell or iPod during class, they are already in the wrong and will lose participation credit. If it is a test, they will get an automatic zero and an academic dishonesty write up. 

Now, students simply drop their cell phones in without question every class. No arguing, no constant reminders or unpleasant exchanges between the students and myself.  They just know to put them in at the beginning of class. 

These shoe organizers can be purchased through Amazon through the link below or at your local department store for $10 or less. 

Imperial Over the Door 24 Pocket Hanging Shoe Organizer

To the reader, please remember that I am in an ESL setting where students need to learn the English writing system, and I am in no way condemning the use of cell phones in the class for FOCUSED activities. However, cheating, plagiarizing, and taking pictures of secure testing materials has caused me to rethink just how lax I want to be in allowing cell phones during general class time.

I hope that this solution will help some of you in your quest to balance the use of technology with traditional instruction.  Proposing a  balance to a completely "cell phone free" zone, I want to include this link to a site that describes all of the ways that cell phones CAN be used in the class.

Let me know your thoughts on this issue.  I know that my opinion is evolving.

 "Do you think we should fully embrace the use of cell phones in the class? Should we do so but cautiously?  Should we fully reject their use and stick to traditional methods of instruction?"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movie Trailer ESL Listening - X-Men: The Last Stand (Reported Speech Noun Clauses)

Phew. That was a long title.  Anyway, please try this very difficult (advanced) grammar and punctuation listening exercise for X- Men: The Last Stand. This uses noun clauses in reported and quoted speech.

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