Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Want to spice up a dull food-and/or-restaurant-related unit with your Intermediate/Upper-Intermediate students?  Or you want to set up a unit related to language for making complaints?  Or perhaps you just want to give your tourist-industry class a quick laugh and have a little discussion.

If any of the above are true in your case, then I heartily welcome you to the Burgundy Loaf:



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You may have noticed I’ve changed “themes” on the blog.  I’m not 100% convinced, but it’ll work I think.  Opinions from the peanut gallery?

In the interest of starting off the “new season” of $4MT with something simple, here’s a little something that occurred to me in a pinch in one of my one-to-one classes which after using it a few times seems like a decent way of doing a little tense review.  It’s very similar to another activity which I like to call “Why? Why? Why?” which I posted a while ago.

Give the Ss (on a piece of paper or on the board) some sentence heads using negative verb structures, i.e.:

I don’t

I didn ‘t

I can’t

I’m not

I haven’t

etc., etc.  This can obviously be used for an enormous variety of structures (modal verbs, future forms, conditionals, etc.) Or even for discussing a recent story or text by substituting the name of a character for “I”.

The students all write sentences.  Then in pairs, they take turns reading the sentences to each other, and the other asks “Why not?”  The other student has to explain the reason why.  The other can then ask “Why?” again.  (You may want to demonstrate this with one of your students before you start them asking and answering.)

I’ve found it to be a pretty decent and useful filler type thing.  Maybe you will too.

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My god, it’s been ages since I posted anything here.  Almost a month.  Christ almighty, where is my motivation?

Well, I guess part of it can be chalked up to that seasonal syndrome of motivational dysfunction known as “spring fever”.  Maybe it’s really a physical, neurological/endocrinal phenomenon related to the change in season.   (Maybe one of you reading in this in the tropics or Southern Hemisphere can clear me up on this?  Do the months of May and June also correspond to this particular sort of malaise?) (more…)

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Wow!  Look!  There’s a new post on $4MT that doesn’t make reference to any sort of controversial subject matter whatsoever!  My lord!

No, nothing too revolutionary, but this was just something that occurred to me out of the blue in the middle of a First Certificate class I do.

I had on hand my bag of phrasal verb cards which I use to play phrasal verb reversi, and I realized that, out of luck, a few of the sentences I’d pulled from the bag could conceivably be part of the same story.

” It turned out that Bill and Mary had met before…”

“…She offered to drop him off at the station…”

“…He was so tired that he dropped off for half an hour on the train.”

So, on a lark, I gave the students the sentences, spaced out so as to imply “gaps” in the story.  Then I told them to complete the story, working together to fill in the gaps in the narrative.

In addition to providing a context to review and reinforce the meanings and forms of the phrasal verbs in question, it’s also decent practice of narrative tenses, etc.

All told, a quite easy collaborative speaking exercise that allows for review of phrasal verbs and can be extended with a writing exercise for homework.

Other possibilities for the phrasal verb story outlines:

“I came across an interesting article on the internet the other day…”

“…The police are looking into the matter…”

“…The president has promised to bring about a change…” (good ones for “newsy”, “current-events” type lessons)


“Some people find it difficult to face up to their fears in life…”

“…He came up with a solution to the problem…”

“…They carried on with the meeting as usual.”


“I bumped into Jill the other day at random in the street.”

“…I didn’t want to bring up such a sensitive subject…”

“…but he didn’t let the bad news get him down.

If you get the notion, you can suggest some other possibilities in the ol’ Comments section.  (It helps to have maybe a proper name (ie “Tina”, “James”) and then some loose pronouns in the others.)

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Nothing really special to comment on here.

A couple of pairwork activities which may or may not be useful for certain classes of an elementary or pre-intermediate level.

One is a dice-game for making sentences with comparative adverbs.  I’d suggest filling in the boxes for people, verbs, and adverbs as a group and then distribute the dice and what not.  Click on the link below for the worksheet.


The other is for practicing superlatives.  Students fill in a chart and discuss their opinions on who is the most famous football player, which is the most beautiful city, etc. etc.  Then they create their own chart based on the first one and play a sort of “secret choice” game.


Gotta get back to work, hope this comes in handy for some of you.  Peace!

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In a previous post concerning using the story of the Titanic to teach past continuous, I mentioned an activity at the end that used cards and pictures of little stickmen doing various activities and actions and things.

The idea was to provide visual input for students to develop sentences and mini-stories and in so doing so practice the past continuous / past simple distinction: by giving them one hand pictures showing actions which can clearly be done over a period of time, and on the other hand actions or events that clearly happen in an instantaneous fashion, students will practice and to some degree begin to internalize the distinction.

And since, in some other classes, I’ve been having to work at this distinction with various groups of various ages, I’ve made some pictures for this very purpose.  I thought I would be a good idea to share so, here goes:


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Seems like my lag time between posts is getting longer and longer…I suppose I’ve been busier than usual, cooking up some really hyperspecialized material for my students none of which I imagine would be of any use to anyone else out there.  But now that I’ve got a minute I figured I’d share something that’ s been pretty useful in a variety of settings. (more…)

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