Saturday, 12 November 2011

The indefinite article - a/an

The indefinite article - a

The indefinte article is the a is the same for all genders.
a boy, a girl, a cat
The indefinte article has no plural form.
a boy - boys
We use an if the following word starts with a vowel.

the following word starts with a consonantthe following word starts with a vowel
a boyan aunt
a schoolan old school
a girlan American girl

Mind the pronunciation of the following word.

a unitan uncle
This u sounds like a consonant, so we use a.This u sounds like a vowel, so we use an.

Use of the indefinite article a/an

- before phrases of time and measurements (per week/weekly)

We have English 4 times a week.
I go on holiday twice a year.
Our car can do 220 kilometres an hour.
Tomatoes are $2 a kilo.

- before phrases of jobs

My father is a car mechanic.

- with a noun complement

He is a good boy.

- before phrases of nationality

Bruce Springsteen is an American.

- half/quite

We need half a pound of sugar.
This is quite a good story.

The definte article - the

The definite article - the

The definite article the is the same for all genders in singular and in plural.
the boy, the girl, the cat, the computers
If the following word begins with a vowel, we speak [], if the following word begins with a consonant, we speak [].

the following word starts with a spoken consonantthe following word starts with a spoken vowel
the girlthe English girl
the bookthe blue book
the schoolthe old school
the unit
Here a [] is pronounced at the beginning of the word.
the uncle
Here a [] is pronounced at the beginning of the word.

We have listed some examples in the following table. There you can see when we use the definite article and when we don't.

without the definite articlewith the definite article
Life is too short.
I like flowers.
I've read a book on the life of Bill Clinton.
I like the flowers in your garden.
Peter and John live in London.
Aunt Mary lives in Los Angeles.
The Smiths live in Chicago.
Mandy doesn't like school.
We go to school by bus.
Some people go to church on Sundays.
The school that Mandy goes to is old.
The bus to Dresden leaves at 7.40.
The round church in Klingenthal is famous.
Germany, France;
Mount Whitney, Mount McKinley;
Africa, Europe;
Cairo, New York
the United States of America, the Netherlands; the Highlands, the Rocky Mountains, the Alps; the Middle East, the west of Australia
Corfu, Bermuda, Sicilythe Bahamas, the British Isles, the Canaries
Central Park, Hyde Park;
Lake Michigan, Loch Ness;
42nd Street, Oxford Street
the Statue of Liberty, the Tower (of London), the Isle of Wight;
the Atlantic (Ocean);
the Mediterranean (Sea);
the Nile, the Rhine, the Suez Canal
The weekend is over on Monday morning.
July and August are the most popular months for holidays.
I always remember the Monday when I had an accident.
The August of 2001 was hot and dry.

We use the seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter) with or without the definite article.
in summer or in the summer
The American English word for autum >fall< is always used with the definte article.

Sometimes we use the article and sometimes we do not. It often depends on the context. Watch the following example:
The student goes to school.
The mother goes to the school.
In the first sentence we do not use the definite article, in the second we do. The student goes to school for its primary purpose, so we do not use the article.
The mother might talk to a teacher, for example. She visits the school for a different reason. That's why we use the definite article in the second sentence.

Comparison of adjectives

clean - cleaner - (the) cleanest
We use -er/-est with the following adjectives:

1) adjectives with one syllable


2) adjectives with two syllables and the following endings:

2 - 1) adjectives with two syllables, ending in -y


2 - 2) adjectives with two syllables, ending in -er


2 - 3) adjectives with two syllables, ending in -le


2 - 4) adjectives with two syllables, ending in -ow


Spelling of the adjectives using the endings -er/-est

largelargerlargestleave out the silent -e
bigbiggerbiggestDouble the consonant after short vowel
dirtydirtierdirtiestChange -y to -i (consonant before -y)
shyshyershyestHere -y is not changed to -i.
(although consonant before -y)

difficult - more difficult - (the) most difficult
all adjectives with more than one syllable (except some adjectives with two syllables - see
2 - 1 to 2 - 4)

muchmoremostuncountable nouns
manymoremostcountable nouns

Some ajdectives have two possible forms of comparison.

commoncommoner / more commoncommonest / most common
likelylikelier / more likelylikeliest / most likely
pleasantpleasanter / more pleasantpleasantest / most pleasant
politepoliter / more politepolitest / most polite
simplesimpler / more simplesimplest / most simple
stupidstupider / more stupidstupidest / most stupid
subtlesubtler / more subtlesubtlest
suresurer / more suresurest / most sure

Difference in meaning with adjectives:

furtherfurthestdistance or
oldolderoldestpeople and things
eldereldestpeople (family)

3rd-5th Contraction Memory Match

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Punctuation Games for Kids

Check out this great punctuation game for kids. Have fun completing grammar practice exercises that help students learn about important English language punctuation such as the full stop, question mark, comma, apostrophe, exclamation mark and inverted commas. Read the sentences, aim the target and fire the correct punctuation where you think it should go in the sentence. Use the proper punctuation in the right location and you can move on to the next challenge, keep going and see if you can complete this interactive activity.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

You can probably guess from the title what this ESL activity is all about. Split your classroom into groups (I use 4 groups of 10 but it can be easily changed to suit how many students you have) and then have them take turns answering true or false questions until they choose to stop and 'bank' their money or until they get a question wrong and lose everything. If you have a full class of 40 (4 x 10) then write the following prize money scale on the whiteboard (if there are only 32 (4 x 8) then take out maybe the $500 and $500000).

Ask the first student a question (usually very easy) and if they get it right then move on to the second student in the group and ask if they would like to continue or 'bank' the $500, the questions I use slowly get harder but in general they are relatively easy (it's more fun that way, plus they're 50/50 so they always have a chance). During these questions they aren't allowed any help from other students (unless they're using a lifeline, which I'll get to soon).
A few examples of the easy questions I use (for Japanese students learning English):
Doraemon has no ears - True
There were 5 members of the Beatles - False
Anpanman's weakness is water - True
I have 4 arms - False
We live on the moon - False
The sun is hot - True
I have around 50 ready to ask them but I don't find it hard to think of new one's on the fly if I run out during the lesson.
To add to the fun, give them 2 lifelines that they can choose to use at any stage during their team’s turn (they can only use each lifeline once per round).
Phone a friend - Call someone else in the team and ask them for help (feel free to make them pretend that they're actually talking on a phone for laughs).
Ask the group - Let the team discuss what they think is the best answer.
That basically wraps it up, with 4 groups it takes around 15mins to get through 1 round. Keep track of how much money each team puts in the bank and you can add it up to see which team wins.
I've had a lot of fun with this game as the students really get into it, they put pressure on each other to try just one more question and it’s always funny when they play it safe and 'bank' money rather than taking a risk. hAVE FUN!


Classroom Scrabble Activity

This classroom English activity is based on the classic board game called Scrabble, once you've made the tiles it's a really simple and fun ESL game to play.
I made around 100 tiles (7cm x 7cm paper squares, 1 per student is fine though so you might want to make less than I did) with letters and points on them. I used almost the exact same points scale as the board game:
0 points: Blank tiles x 15 (normally only x4)
1 point: E ×12, A ×9, I ×9, O ×8, N ×6, R ×6, T ×6, L ×4, S ×4, U ×4
2 points: D ×4, G ×3
3 points: B ×2, C ×2, M ×2, P ×2
4 points: F ×2, H ×2, V ×2, W ×2, Y ×2
5 points: K ×1
8 points: J ×1, X ×1
10 points: Q ×1, Z ×1

I increased the number of 'blank' tiles (which can be used as any letter but are worth 0 points) to 15 as they are exciting for the students and make the game more interesting (I also drew stars on them because kids love that kind of thing).
I split the students into groups of 8 to 10 and give each student one tile. Using their tiles as a team they try and make a word (just 1 word) that has the most points possible (1+3+2+1+8 = 15, you get the idea).

I give them a few minutes to think about it before asking for their words (keeping track of the points on the whiteboard).

After each round I take the tiles the team used to make their word and replace them with new ones. For example if their word was 'CAT', they get 3+1+1 = 5 points and I take the letters C, A and T and give them 3 new tiles to work with.

They can also choose to change all their tiles for new ones at any stage of the game, with the downside being that they get 0 points for that round (not usually worth it but if they're really unhappy with their letters then it gives them an option).

I usually get through around 5 or 6 rounds in 25 minutes. To spice it up a little I make the second to last round double points and the last triple.

The importance of pronunciation

• pronunciation (noun) - the way in which we pronounce a word
• pronounce (verb) - to make the sound of a word

About pronunciation

One of the most difficult problems facing non-native speakers of English is pronunciation. It is usually the largest obstacle to overcome when trying to achieve fluency. Many non-native speakers have studied grammar for many years but are unable to speak like native speakers due to their inability to pronounce the sounds of words properly. This page is designed to provide techniques to help you pronounce the sounds of the English language.

Your pronunciation is the first and most important thing native speakers notice during a conversation. Knowing grammar and vocabulary are important but useless if you are unable to pronoun those structures or words correctly. Also, native speakers are more likely to understand you, even if you make grammatical mistakes rather than if you make mistakes in pronunciation. Even the simplest words misspoken will keep you from effectively communicating with native English speakers. Achieving good pronunciation should be your main goal. You already know the grammar…probably better than native speakers…and the vocabulary will come in time.

Many people, especially those who have not studied a foreign or second language, are easily irritated if they cannot quickly understand what non-native speakers are saying. This is sad but often true. The importance of good pronunciation can be easily realized by visiting a predominantly English speaking country and talking to the native speakers. If they constantly reply to your statements with “what?”, ”huh?” or ”could you repeat that”, then you know your pronunciation needs work. Going to a foreign country is the best way to assess your speaking skills. Keep in mind that your friends may be from the same country as you and make the same pronunciation mistakes. For this reason they cannot accurately judge your speaking abilities. If you should visit another country, go out and talk to people. You may want the comfort of speaking in your native language but to become a better English speaker, you have to talk to native speakers.

Pronunciation and accent

Pronunciation teachers usually agree that there are three basic levels of English pronunciation.

• People usually don’t understand what you are saying.
• People usually understand what you are saying but you may have to repeat your statements for clarification.
• People understand what you are saying the first time. This level is the goal of most English language learners.

Many non-native speakers worry about having an obvious accent when they speak English. This is unavoidable and depends on where you study English. Realize that the English spoken in England, Australia or Canada is different than the English spoken in the United States. Even within these countries there is a wide range of accents. People from New York speak different English than people from California. Realize though, that if your pronunciation is good, you will be understood anywhere you go. To achieve a “standard accent” in any country, listen to news broadcasts to get an idea of what typical native speakers in that area sound like.

Pronunciation tips

• The most important thing to remember is practice. Learning English takes time but if you practice often you will soon improve and be able to pronounce words like a native speaker.
• Practice pronunciation in front of a mirror. You have to train your mouth to move in new ways in order to make new sounds. Watch your mouth as you speak.
Think about each word before you say it. Try to imagine the position your mouth needs to be in to produce the sound.
• What you see is not always what you get. Remember that the spelling of words and their pronunciation are often different.
• Recognize that the English language has many different dialects depending on the country and the different regions within a particular country.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Learn English - Children's English tutorial (shapes and colors)

Explore English: shape

Learn the Shapes

There are two different ways of making sentences about shapes. You can use a shape as a noun or an adjective. Play the recording to hear the proper pronunciation of the shapes. Then read the example sentences and take the quiz.

triangle circle rectangle




heart square oval




star diamond octagon




1. The roof of a house is shaped like a triangle (noun). The roof is triangular (adjective).
2. The clock on the wall is shaped like a circle. The clock is circular. (or The clock is round.)
3. The table in the room is shaped like a rectangle. The table is rectangular.
4. The necklace I wear is shaped like a heart. My necklace is heart-shaped.
5. The picture on the wall is shaped like a square. The picture is square.
6. The rock in the garden is shaped like an oval. The rock is oval.
7. The nose on the pumpkin is shaped like a star. The pumpkin's nose is star-shaped.
8. The ornament on the tree is shaped like a diamond. The ornament is diamond-shaped.
9.The stop sign on my street is shaped like an octagon. The sign is octagonal.
Can you guess the name of another shape?
Octa means 8. An octagon has eight sides.
Penta means 5. What is a shape with five sides called?