Is it 13 or 30?

Today let’s look at a very simple mistake which some of my students kept making for a very long time.

Many people mispronounce numbers that end with -teen or -ty. They read numbers like 30 as thirteen and 13 as thirty. Today we’ll try dealing with this issue by looking at why the numbers between 13 and 19 end with teen:

I tell my students that when we talk about people that are between 13 and 19 years old, we call them teenagers. So, when we say their age, it always ends with -teen.

Let’s practice this by doing a short activity below.

For many people, their teenage years are the happiest years in their lives.
What about you? What’s your most vivid memory of your teenage years?
Leave a comment below and have a great weekend! 🙂

What’s he like or what does he like?

Today let’s take a look at the word like and how it changes its meaning.

We use like in the following cases:

1) To talk about the things we like

This one is pretty obvious, I like animals, I like meeting new people and I like you 😉

2) To ask for information about something or someone

Quite often, when you want to find out more about someone, you can ask “What’s he/she like?” and the answer to that will be a description of the person’s appearance, personality and what they feel about this person.

You could also ask a friend who’s in another country “What’s it like in Berlin?” and find out what they think of the place they’re in.

3) To point out similarities

My friend looks (just) like Enrique Iglesias.

When you say that someone or something looks like someone or something else, you’re pointing out the similarities between both objects.

4) To give an example

This is common in spoken English.

Some people, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, worked hard to become who they are now.

5) A filler

Like is often used as a filler.
A filler is a word we use when we want to buy time to think about what to say.

Here’s an example from a guy who’s moved to Amsterdam and wants to share what he likes about the city:

And also, like… going to Paris is only 3 hours. So if you want to go to Disneyland – 3 hours and you are there!

Let’s practice the different uses of like with these exercises below:

First, choose the right answer to the questions.

Here are two more exercises to give you a better challenge:

If you want to further improve your English, here’s a challenge for you:

Write down your answers to the questions you’ve made and leave a comment for us to know.

That’s all for today. I hope you enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Double letters

Today let’s take a look at some common spelling mistakes and how we can avoid them:

When you’ve got words in which the vowel (a, e, i, o, u) is followed by a consonant in the end, you have to double the last letter of the word when you’re comparing things.

Let’s take a look at some examples below:

Big – Bigger – The biggest
Thin – Thinner – The thinnest
Slim – Slimmer – The slimmest
Hot – Hotter – The hottest

If we add -ed or -ing to the words that have only one syllable, but end with a consonant, followed by a vowel and another consonant, we also double the last letter:

Admit – admitted
Forget – forgetting
Sit – sitting
Stop – Stopped

There’s an exception to the rule: if the last letter of the word is w, x or y then we don’t double it.


If you have a word that ends with the letter L after a vowel then, depending on the English you’re studying (British or American) you could double the letter or not for some words:

WordAmerican EnglishBritish English

Let’s try to practice these by doing a few exercises:

That’s it for this week and I have a question for you:
Which word was the hardest one for you to spell properly?

Let us know in the comments section and have a good weekend! 🙂

Nothing to Declare

Let’s look at a lesson I’ve made to help a student talk to border control officers.

Note: I’ve shown these specific parts of the video to my students:
00:38 – 01:31
01:31 – 03:02
03:02 – 03:34
05:51 – 06:53
06:53 – 07:58
07:58 – 08:52

Here’s the video in question and below it you can find my lesson plan:

1) Start the lesson by asking some simple questions such as
Have you gone on vacation this year? Where have you been to?
What was your best and worst trip ever?
How many times have you traveled abroad?
What countries would you most like to visit?

2) When the students are done answering the questions, ask them if they’ve ever been stopped at the airport customs. If they answered yes, you can ask them why they were stopped, otherwise, ask them if they know anyone who’s had a problem at the customs. Ask them why customs officers question passengers at the airport and what kind of crimes they think passengers mostly commit.

3) Ask your students to work in two groups and think of as many questions they’d expect customs officers to ask as they can in 5 minutes. Tell them that they won’t get points if each group has the same questions.

4) Watch the first part of the video and ask your students what made the man suspicious.

5) Before watching the second part of the video, ask the students to predict where the man is from and what he will say to the officer. Then, have them watch the second part and see what the man says. After finishing watching the video, ask them which questions the officer asked the man before checking his bag.

6) Then, give the students the questions below and have them watch the second part again to find the answers for them
Which country did the plane come from?
Where did the passenger start his trip from?
What did the sniffer dog find out about the passenger?
Which items can you not bring to the UK?
Which board game did the passenger carry with him?
What is the passenger’s profession?
What suspicious object did the officers find in the man’s suitcase?
Why does Officer Fitts not trust the passenger?

7) Before watching the third part, have your students try to answer the questions below:
Why did the passenger carry the passport?
Will the officers carry any extra searches on the man?

Then, have them watch the video and compare their answers to the truth.

8) Before watching the fourth part, ask your students what Swab test means and explain it if needed. Also, ask your students what the officers meant when they said “He could be a swallower”. Then, ask your students a few more questions:

What did Officer Turney find out about the passport?
What did the officers find when they searched the passenger?
What did the officers swab test?
What did they find in the passenger’s clothes?

9) Before watching the last part of the video, ask your students what they think will happen to the passenger and what the officers will do with the passport. Then watch the last part and compare their answers to the facts. Ask them if they were surprised with what happened and explain what contamination means, if needed, using an example.

10) As a follow-up activity, give your students the following questions to discuss together and get their answers once they’re done:
1) Do you think the passenger knew that he shouldn’t carry someone else’s passport to another country?
2) Why do you think the officers questioned the man?
3) Do you think it was really difficult for the officers to communicate with the passenger?
4) Do you think the officers were unfair to the man based on his country?
5) What do you think customs officers pay attention to (e.g. body language, appearance) before they stop people at airports?

11) After the discussion, ask your students to work in small groups and think of which restrictions there are when people travel to a foreign country. You can give them a hint by writing the following things on the board:

• Alcohol
• Tobacco
• Medication
• Firearms
• Pets
• Food
• Money
• Gold

Ask your students to write down their ideas below each of the suggested questionable things.

12) When your students are done, you can make them role-play in pairs as a traveler and a customs inspector. Give them the questions below and tell them that one will ask the questions and the other will answer them. Tell your students that the customs officer suspects the traveler and has to choose one of the restrictions they’ve made note of before to ask additional questions to the travelers and that the customs officer must then choose whether to let go or arrest the traveler. Make your students swap roles (or partners). The questions you can give them for starters are as follows:

Welcome to our country. May I see your passport please?
Where are you coming from?
What is the nature of your visit?
How long are you planning to stay?
Where will you be staying?
Have you ever been to this country before?
Do you have anything to declare?
Do you have anything in your pockets – keys, cell phone, loose change?
Do you have any luggage, other than hand luggage?
Did you pack your bags yourself?
And have you left them unattended at any time before or since arriving at the airport?
Are you carrying any firearms, liquids or flammable materials?
I’m going to need to check your bags, could you open them for me, please?

13) Get feedback by asking the students what they were stopped for and what the end result was.

For homework, you could ask your students to choose one country that your students have traveled to or want to travel to, look for information online and make a list of things that people should know about when they go through customs inspection to share with the class on the following lesson.

That’s it for this week. I hope you and your students enjoy this idea and I’d love to know one thing:

Have you ever been stopped at a border control? If so, what happened to you?

Leave a comment below and see you next week! 🙂

Happy Easter

Due to internet problems, there won’t be a lesson plan this week but I just wanted to wish the people reading this blog a happy Easter.

Stay tuned for next week’s update and instead of practicing with me, I have a suggestion for both teachers and students:


Share a link with us for something you’re interested in.
I can’t promise anything, but it could become your future lesson 😉


Please leave a comment with a link to an activity you’ve recently done with your class.
After all, sharing is caring 🙂

I hope to see you next week and I look forward to your suggestions.

Round and around

Today let’s take a look at how we can use around (and round) with verbs and get a whole new meaning.

1. Ask around

When we ask around, this means that we ask different people about something. We can use it to finish our sentence:

If I don’t know something, I can just ask around and find out the answer.

2. Come around

Come around is often used to say wake up after losing consciousness or being in a coma.

After the operation, the patient didn’t come around for 2 hours

Luckily, the patient survived, but it took him 2 hours to wake up.

The second meaning of come around would be change someone’s mind and start to agree with something that you find hard to accept.

3. Keep around

When you keep something around you keep it close to you so you could use it.

I always keep my phone around in case somebody calls me.

4. Poke around

When people poke around, it means that they’re searching for something or investigating.
This phrasal verb has more of a negative meaning.
For example, you wouldn’t want someone poking around in your personal life (Or would you?)

5. Run around

You can say that you’re running around when you’re busy and have a lot of things you need to do.

6. Round up

Last but not least, let’s look at round up using an example.
Quite often, when we look at the price for something, we can see that it costs, say, €9.99. In our mind, however, we often round it up to €10.

How much would you pay for 1 kilo of olives? 🙂

I know you didn’t come here for the long lecture, so how about we find a use for these phrasal verbs with this short activity?

There’s a saying which goes “what goes around comes around”.
Have you ever had a situation when you felt like you deserved what had happened to you?
Let us know in the comments section and see you next week! 🙂

Time expressions

Today let’s take a look at some time expressions and when we use them.

AgoPast Simple
Since, for, yetPresent Perfect
ByFuture Perfect
WhilePast Continuous

How about we clarify them with some examples?

For example, we use ago when we talk about the past, however, we need to state how long ago something had happened.

I met my best friend 10 years ago.

If we look at the example above, we can change it to:
I’ve known her for ages.

I can also say that I’ve known her since I was 15 (Which was 10 years ago)

Yet, which means up to now is mostly used in negative sentences.
If you asked me whether I saw my best friend today, I could say:
No, I haven’t seen her yet.

By is used to say that something will be done before a specific time in the future.
So if I don’t meet with my best friend today, I will have met her by the end of the week.

We use while to say that something happened during the time we were doing something something else.

While I was talking to my best friend, a girl came up to us and asked us for the time.

Let’s try using these in a few simple exercises.

By the end of this month, I will have been to Germany. What about you?
Leave a comment and share what you will have done by the end of the month.
And I’ll see you next Saturday! 🙂

Time and time again

Today let’s take a look at some words we use together with time and what they mean.

1) Waste time

Spending time doing something means that you’re doing it for some time. On the other hand, when you waste time this means that you’re spending time badly. When you say that something is a waste of time, you mean that what someone’s doing is useless and that they shouldn’t do this.

Don’t waste your time trying to fix what you broke!

2) It’s about time

Contrary to what you’re thinking, we don’t use this phrase to say what we’re talking about. The meaning of it’s about time is Finally. If you’re waiting for a friend to show up and he comes one hour later, you can start your conversation by saying: It’s about time you showed up!

3) To make time for

When you’re very busy but somebody wants to see and talk to you, you can tell them that you will try to make time for them. As we get older, we also have less free time and we have to learn to make time for our hobbies and the things we care about. Here’s a tip from the co-founder of the Blue Man Group:

4) Kill time

Kill time is similar to spend time. The difference is where we use it. When you kill time, this means that you are doing something to spend the time you have before you do something you’ve planned. For example, when I’m on a train or a bus, I listen to music to kill time.

5) Take your time

One of my favorite phrases, this phrase means don’t hurry. I don’t rush people and I understand that my students may need time to think before they can say something and I tell them to take their time. 🙂

6) Hard time

Hard time has different meanings:

1. Having a hard time means something is difficult for us to do:

I’m having a hard time doing homework. Can you help me with this exercise?

2. Hard time can be a difficult period in our lives.

Since he was admitted to the hospital, Summer’s been a hard time for Jacob.

Let’s see if you can handle using time by doing a quick exercise:

It seems as though I’ve run out of time.
I’d love it if you could share what you do to kill time.

Leave a comment for us to know and see you next Saturday! 🙂

What are your arguments?

Today let’s take a look at some ways we can develop an argument.
I’m not talking about arguing, mind you. 😉
What I mean is showing and defending your ideas.
This can be useful both in writing and speaking.

1. Sharing your own opinion.

You can start talking about what you think by saying “In my opinion”, but here are a few alternatives:

1) As far as I’m concerned…

We can start with as far as I’m concerned when people ask us how we feel about the situation or a certain someone. It’s a signal that our opinion could be different from other people’s opinions.

2) The way I see it

Similarly to in my opinion, we use the way I see it to indicate that this is just an opinion of ours.

2. Using reason

When we want to say what exactly made us do something, we can use

That’s the reason I…

When I started teaching English, I didn’t think that so many people had problems with it, but after seeing how people struggled with it I wanted to help them. That’s the reason I started making my own materials.

When writing about an issue, another way to support your ideas is by giving reasons for this issue.

There are several reasons for this: 1) … 2) … 3) …

Or, if you only have one reason, here’s another way to express yourself:

The main reason for this is…

3. Using argue

Yes, I remember that I said we weren’t going to argue, but if you talk or write about something and want to present an idea that not everybody supports, one way to do that is to start with:

Some people argue that

If this idea is something you don’t agree with as well, you can give reasons why it’s wrong by using but or however (in writing).

Alternatively, you can change people to it:

It is argued that…

Let’s see if this is easy to understand by doing a few exercises:

I left a few questions for you in the second activity.
I hope you’ll share your opinion with us in the comments section and I’ll see you next week! 🙂

The Wizard of Wikipedia

Often we, as teachers, make lessons about famous people. We focus on celebrities, entrepreneurs, people who inspire us to do better.

Today, I wanted to focus on a person who may not be saving lives or making tools that we rely on, but who has left an impact on many of us without us even knowing it. So let’s focus on a man who has edited over 30% of all the Wikipedia articles that we can find: Steven Pruitt!

Self-portrait by Steven Pruitt. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Self-portrait by Steven Pruitt. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Here’s what I’ve done and what you can do with your students:

1) Start the lesson by asking where they find out the latest news and any information that’s interesting for them. Write down their answers on the board. Ask them which of the sources they’ve given they trust the most and why. Then, ask them how this has changed over the years.

2) Give your students the following questions to discuss:

1) Which websites do you visit to read about different things?
2) What kind of random things do you like finding out more about?
3) What do you think about Wikipedia?
4) How often do you read articles on Wikipedia?
5) Do you trust the information you find there?
6) Who do you think contribute information to Wikipedia? Why?

3) After getting feedback from your students, tell them that they’re going to watch an interview with a person who contributes to Wikipedia. But before watching the video, print out these questions for your students to discuss. Ask them to make notes about their partner’s ideas.

1) What kind of people do you think contribute to Wikipedia?
2) What motivates these people to contribute to Wikipedia?
3) What do you think people earn when they add information to Wikipedia?
4) How many articles do you think the top contributor to Wikipedia could have written?
5) How much time in a day do you think people devote to editing Wikipedia?
6) If you’ve met a person who constantly edits Wikipedia, what would you think about this person?

4) Get feedback from your students by asking what they disagreed about and why.

Note: I would suggest cutting out the following parts of the video and my plan follows these edits:
00:00 – 00:31
01:31 – 01:58

04:14 – 04:20
04:29 – 04:42

5) Before playing the video, have your students look at the man pictured on the TV in it (Not the host) and ask them what they think about this person. Then, have them watch Steven’s interview with CBS and ask them to compare their answers to the 6 questions above to what they will hear.

5) After watching the video for the first time, get feedback on what the answers to the questions were and ask your students what surprised them the most about Steven. Ask them if their opinion of Steven has changed after watching his interview.

6) Give your students the 8 questions below to check their understanding of the video. Ask them to complete as many of the questions as they can. Then, have them watch the video for the second time to check their answers.

7) After completing the questions and watching the video twice, ask your students if they’d want to find out more about Steven. Give them the extract below and ask them to find facts which they haven’t seen or heard in the video.

During the workday, Pruitt is part of the records and information governance team at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C. One thing his team does is help the agency’s offices transfer records to the National Archives. And while he does his Wikipedia work for free on a volunteer basis, Pruitt believes it helped get him the job three years ago.
Alla Pruitt says that her son would spend a lot of time around grownups when he was a child. “For some reason that I still don’t understand, wherever we lived, there were no kids of his age,” she says. “As I keep telling him, we ruined his life because we would always take him to museums and concerts and operas and different countries. Since the age of 1 or so, he’s been traveling all over the world.”
What does his mother think of his Wikipedia work?
“I have to confess, I’m wrong. At first we didn’t want the computer because I knew it’s addictive and time-consuming. Then his teacher said the child needs a computer.”
Steven was in third grade at the time. “I think I was the last kid in my class to get a computer,” he says.
“He did a lot of Photoshops and pictures and silly things. And then he started on Wikipedia. I said, ‘What is Wikipedia?’. My attitude always was, ‘Why do you waste all the time? Why don’t you read a book instead?’ But then, I realized he’s doing something valuable and important.”
Was she surprised when the Time magazine article came out?
“It was kind of unexpected. But it makes me very proud as a parent.”
Despite spending countless hours in front of a computer screen, Pruitt is far from antisocial. His friends describe him as outgoing, likeable and adventurous.

8) After getting answers from your students, ask them to discuss the questions below with their partners:

1) If you could ask Steven any question, what would you ask him and why?
2) Do you think what he is doing is changing the world? How so?
3) Which Wikipedia articles are your most favorite ones? Why?
4) Do you think the people who contribute over a million edits to Wikipedia are crazy?
5) Would you ever consider doing any free volunteer work? Why/Why not?
6) Wikipedia is considered as a bad source for any academic work. What are the reasons for that? Do you think this could change in the future?

9) While they’re discussing the questions. Write down 2 sentences from the article on the board:

Alla Pruitt says that her son would spend a lot of time around grownups when he was a child.
We would always take him to museums and concerts and operas and different countries.

If you don’t have the time to get feedback for each question you’ve given them. Focus on the first one and get ideas from each pair.

10) Tell your students to look at the sentences and ask them which sentence talks about a finished habit and which sentence describes typical past behavior. Ask CCQs about the topic, such as:
Are we talking about the past, present or future?
Does Steven often travel now?

11) Ask your students what they can use instead of would. Check what they know about used to and would by giving them these 3 questions.

12) Check their answers and focus on the fact that changing used to to would when you have a finished state gives the sentence a different meaning. You can give them an example, such as I used to like chocolate and ask them if we can change used to to would and what the second sentence would mean.

13) Give your students these facts about Steven Pruitt and ask them to rewrite these facts using would if it’s possible.

14) After they’re done and you’ve finished checking the answers, ask your students to make 6 sentences true for them about their past habits and typical behavior using used to and would. Ask them to share their sentences with their partners and ask extra questions about each fact. To get feedback from your students, ask them which fact about their partner surprised them the most and why?

15) Give your students a sheet of paper with the following task:
Think of how Wikipedia has changed our lives and our education using used to and would.
Write about how and where we looked for information, which sources we used, how accurate they were.
Do you think these changes are good or bad? Why?

You can ask your students to write an essay on the topic and collect them after the lesson or, alternatively, ask them to make notes to help them talk and then get feedback from each student.

I hope your students will love this lesson!

If you have any ideas on how to make it even better, leave a comment and have a good weekend! 🙂