Thursday, 29 September 2011

Truth or Lie: Activity for any classroom

Chiew on iasku Blog Challenge truth or lie

I recently responded to a blog challenge by a video recording of myself - you can see it by clicking here. Most EFL teachers are probably aware of the activity where students are asked to say some things about themselves, and the others are to guess if they're true or false.

I suggested taking this a step further and have the students bring video recordings of themselves saying those things.

But, you can take it yet another step further. Although this activity is popular in the EFL classroom, there's no reason why it can't be used in the other classes, too. The topic doesn't need to be personal; it could be on anything. Examples:
  • What is a tangent, or an apex? (Geometry/Art)
  • They could describe an animal or an ecosystem. (Science)
  • They could talk about the rules of rugby. (PE)
  • They could talk about countries, or climate. (Geography)
As you can see, the limit is the extent of your imagination! Try it and let us know!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Blog Challenge: Compare & Contrast

Chiew's ELT ESL EFL CLIL Blog Challenge
This challenge has been suggested by Anne & Brad.

Although there are many personal photos in my collection that I can choose, I decided on these two, which weren't taken by me. And that's all I'm going to say about them!

What can you say? Add your comments below.

Chiew's ELT ESL EFL CLIL Blog Challenge

Monday, 26 September 2011

Best Grammar Blog 2011

Best grammar blog 2011

I'm very pleased to be able to say that a cLiL to cLiMB has made it to the finals of's Best Grammar Blog 2011 competition. Voting lasts for three weeks, from today, 26th September until 17th October. The winner will be announced on or before 27th October.

Of course, I will be chuffed if you were to vote for me (thanks to those who voted to ensure that I made it to the finals), but even if you don't, have a look at the terrific list of finalists.

Good luck to all finalists!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Adjectives with -ed and -ing endings, but how about relaxed and relaxing?

ELT ESL EFL CLIL Grammar Adjectives -ed -ing

Most learners very quickly grasp the concept of the difference between adjectives ending in -ed and those ending in -ing. They would have been told that adjectives ending with -ed describe our feelings and those ending with -ing describe what cause the feelings in the first place.


We were bored out of our minds in today's class.
Today's class was terribly boring!

Suzanne was terribly interested in what Pedro had to say.
Pedro was saying some very interesting stuff.

I was all right until he started explaining about learning theories, then I got totally confused.
I found his explanation of learning theories very confusing.

More often than not, these adjectives describe emotions and feelings. For more examples and activities, click here.

However 'relax' sometimes generates doubts.

Although we can say "I feel very relaxed working in here; it's got an extremely relaxing atmosphere" to mean I'm relaxed working in here because the atmosphere is relaxing, a relaxed atmosphere and a relaxing atmosphere can actually mean two different things.

Relaxed could mean informal, comfortable, cozy, lenient, easygoing, free from tension, calm while
relaxing refers to a feeling of physical or mental rest.

So, a relaxed atmosphere doesn't necessarily mean a relaxing atmosphere. Imagine a scenario where you work in an office where it's generally very relaxed - you can dress how you wish, working hours are flexible, managers' doors are always open, etc, but you may be an odd fish and actually find this way of working contrary to your perception of work, and, as a result, don't find working here very relaxing!

Do you agree? Can you think of other adjectives like this?

You might also like this:

Monday, 19 September 2011

What is the difference between "used to" and "would"?

ELT ESL EFL ELL Grammar problems would vs used to

I was asked this recently: What is the difference between "used to" and "would"? Let's take a closer look at this.

When we talk about repeated actions or events in the past, especially when they no longer happen, we can use "used to":

I used to bang the pillows with a pair of drumsticks.

Most grammar books actually say you can use "would" instead of "used to" in this context, but take this example:

I would bang the pillows with a pair of drumsticks.

I wouldn't say it. Why? It doesn't sound natural. But, I would say this:

When I was a child, I would bang the pillows with a pair of drumsticks.

In this example, both "used to" and "would" sound perfectly natural. The difference now is that there is a time reference attached to the action.

More examples:

I used to write poems. Not: I would write poems.
I used to/would write poems when I felt lonely.

Sheila used to go for long walks.
When Sheila was living in Sydney, she used to/would go for long walks when the weather was good.

It is worth mentioning here that we often use would to talk about annoying habits:

I would bang on tables with my bare hands everywhere I went and that would drive everyone up the wall!

Note, however, that in questions, we won't use "would":

Did you use to play the drums when you were a teenager? (Answer: yes, I did -> I was in a band)
Not: Would you play the drums when you were a child?

The same rule applies to negatives:

Rob didn't use to sing much when he was younger (suggesting that it wasn't a habit he used to have).

Rob wouldn't sing when he was younger. (This implies that he refused to sing.)

When we talk about past states, we don't use "would":

I used to live in London, and I used to own a convertible.
We used to be computer programmers.
This building here used to be a fantastic cinema.

Complicated? My advice is to stick to "used to", and you won't go far wrong. Just remember that "would" means the same sometimes.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Try + and + verb or Try + to + verb?

Following a link on a recent tweet, I found myself on an interesting web page called English Language FAQ. Followers of this blog know that I have, in the past, posted a few FAQs myself, usually in response to students' queries. Grammar rules often intrigue me, and drive most of us up the wall because for every rule, there are one, or three, exceptions.

The post I was reading asked this question:

ELT Grammar Rules
Well, I thought...curious? Perhaps not so. There are a lot of anomalies between formal and informal speech, and this is one of them. To be pedantic, one can argue that 'try to + verb' is grammatically correct. But if 'try and' is used so often in informal speech, why is it incorrect?

My answer to Jay's question went like this:

ELT Grammar Rules

If you follow the comments, the subject of Google Fight came up. Although it's an interesting idea, the results are to be digested with a pinch of salt. To further demonstrate this, and the fact that there are other peculiar forms of speech, I told Kieran, the page's editor to Googlefight 'she do' and 'she does'. In any case, here are the results of that and also that of 'he do' vs 'he does'.

ELT Grammar Rules

Actually, if you look at it carefully, it's rather peculiar. 'He does' display 103 million hits, and 'he do', 2.45 billion, but yet, 'he does' is shown as the winner.

In the case of 'she', 'she does' gave 591 million hits, and 'she do', 958 million, but again, 'she does' was proclaimed the winner.

Talk about anomalies...

ELT Grammar Rules

In any case, what I wanted to show was that there are many grammar rules that aren't exactly followed in informal usage, the third person singular form being one of them. Of course, popular usage doesn't make it right, but if something is used often enough, sooner or later, it creeps into mainstream use, and then, what?

Can you think of any other examples?