The English Project:

November 16, 2008


*[Hello in Kitchen Table Lingo from South Africa]

A friend and fellow teacher, Prof. Edilson, has recently sent me this link to the English Project. I found it interesting enough to post it here. Their aim is:

…to promote awareness and understanding of the unfolding global story of the English language in all its varieties – past,  present and future. Our style is designed to be intelligent, entertaining, inclusive and interactive way so as to enrich people’s lives and enable them to make more of the exceptional cultural and communications phenomenon which is English. We intend to reach a broadly-based audience, globally, socially, ethnically and by age amongst English’s two billion speakers worldwide (that’s as a first or second language).

I found the section on Kitchen Table Lingo especially interesting, it deals with the fact that almost everyone loves playing with words and language in a way similar to what Lewis Carroll did in his JABBERWOCKY poem:

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

I know the concept of creating new words might not be particularly fascinating to elementary level learners, but hopefully it’ll be interesting enough to both teachers and higher-level students alike. I’ve envisaged a lesson on the reading subskill of deducing meaning from context: students would write a sentence (or a short paragraph using invented lexical items and the class (or small groups or pairs) would try and work out their meaning from context. For instance:

“Johny was looking for his school uniform in his floordrobe.”

Wait! It’s just occurred to me that this idea could very well be used at elementary  levels as a confidence builder and a way to increase their vocabulary: Students would write a short sentence or paragraph  using invented terms for the words they didn’t know. Then they would read their texts and collaborate towards a conventional English version.

I remember there was a friend at school whose English was terrible, so whenever he lacked an English word to express himself, he would make do with his own invented version. His hilarious utterances would sound somewhat like this:

“Do you pod me pass that kannett please?”

(Can you pass me that pen, please?)

Godspeed, everyone!

Fernando Guarany Jr


Writing in English – modal verbs

November 14, 2008

I’ve subscribed to a newsfeed from the excellent writing site: – they post short, pithy articles about writing in English.

This is a copy of one I read this week and useful for those of us committed to teaching our modals correctly! This is copied straight from the site (I hope they don’t mind).

Use Modal Verbs With Care

English, like other Germanic languages, makes use of a special class of verbs called modals: can, dare, may, must , need, ought, shall, will.

Modals serve useful functions in expressing various tenses, moods, and conditions, but they can have an insidious effect on one’s writing.

The topics I write about most–English usage and education–are modal minefields.
It’s difficult to express opinions about these topics without falling prey to words like must, should, need, and ought.

Ex. Politicians must do this. Teachers ought to do that. Speakers should say this.

Modals tend to cut off discussion. They close the subject. They create resentment and hostility. Consciously or unconsciously the reader wonders, Why must I? Why should I? Why ought I? Few people enjoy being told what to do in an imperious manner.

Modals leap onto the page when we feel strongly about a subject. The challenge to the writer is to find words that will convey the importance of an idea without hitting the reader over the head with modals. Instead of telling your readers what they ought to do, look for words that lead them to embrace the ideas you are presenting.

Conclusion: Writers should avoid modal verbs in their writing.


Writers achieve greater clarity and offend fewer readers by avoiding modal verbs in their writing.


November 13, 2008

Think on a character, any. Ok? I can´t guess who they are, but this guy can. It´s amazing: he found out my Batman in 11 questions and my Sponge Bob in 9!! Try it out with your sts or to yourself, omg I am SCARED!

Punctuation Predicament

November 7, 2008

I found this online today… Here is a letter with no punctuation after the greeting at the start. Ask your students to add punctuation to the letter. The only problem is, they could create a love letter or a hate letter! (see below for solutions).

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior I have no love for other men I hope for you I feel nothing when we’re apart I can be forever happy will you let me be yours Gloria

Good Version
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. I have no love for other men. I hope for you. I feel nothing when we’re apart. I can be forever happy—will you let me be yours?

Bad Version
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. I have no love. For other men, I hope. For you, I feel nothing. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

to assess the grammar topic “Will” for predictions: Pocoyo!

November 6, 2008

Based on the ideas of Mr Azevedo and his lovely website, I planned an activity to practice the topic “making predictions” with my P1 sts. I don´t know what happens, when I think of a simple and enjoyable story, I think of Pocoyo :). Here goes the stages and for the worksheet, just click here ->will-predictions-pocoyo-future .

Pocoyo: to assess the grammar topic “will” for predictions:

1- Read out loud the header to sts and tell them to make their predictions about how Mr Octopus will cheer them up.

2- Check the names of the characters, the words “bad mood”, “cheer up”, “feather”, “tickle”.

3- Ask Sts to share their predictions;

4- Play video once;

5- Sts in pairs check if their predictions were right.

Video session: Pocoyo!

Pocoyo and his friends are in a bad mood today. That´s so sad =( . But there is someone who can make them laugh: MR. OCTOPUS!

1- What will Mr octopus do to make Pocoyo laugh?

2- Elly?

3- And Pato?


November 6, 2008

There are probably myriad ways to encorporate the recent American election into your lessons, but here is a good resource from the BBC website.

The complete transcript (2000 words) from Obama’s victory speech is available here. Even for lower levels, students seem to be quite interested in seeing the authentic English of a political speech. You could use a chunk and dictate it? use it as a listening with you as the reader?

Linked to the BBC page is a fascinating little graph they’ve been producing through the election. It takes the main words (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs) and presents them by size according to how frequently they are said. If you find a McCain speech you’ll find some startling differences compared to Obama! Here is the Obama one from his victory speech… Lots and lots of potential for higher level discussions, vocab activities based on these charts.