British vs. American English             

I used the following discussion topics and handouts (please see link and information below) as intros for American vs. British English language themed classes. The level was advanced to intermediate. I prepared these documents (articles, explanations and summaries) (see link – British English vs. American English(1))

Sources were from The Guardian, Oxford English Dictionary and                                                                


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Discussion 1

Answer the following questions. Write your answers, maximum three lines.

One of your classmates will read your answers so you can remain anonymous if you wish.


  1. In your opinion, how important is the English language?
  2. Why did you decide to study English?
  3. Have you ever thought about whether you use American or British English?
  4. Do you think this is important?
  5. Have you ever misunderstood an English expression or word because it was American or British English or any other type of English (for example Irish English)? Can you list any typical British and/or American English expressions or words?

Once completed, one of your classmates will read out your answer and will state whether they agree or disagree with you, whether they had any similar responses, whether your answer is making them think of other examples; their general response.


 Discussion 2 pg. 2-3


After reading the article, respond to the following questions in groups. Reflect on what you have read and use examples from the article to support your response.

When writing your response, write in a formal style but one which can be used to discuss (to speak). 

  1. Taking into consideration what you have read and the many examples given about different British and American English expressions, do you think it is a lot more difficult that it seems to learn English? Give examples.
  2. Do you agree that literature, television programmes and media sources can contribute to a language? Equally, can this vocabulary be sustained in a language? Reflect on the article and your opinion.
  3. The final line, pg.3: “In the UK, the use of Americanisms is seen as a sign that culture is going to hell.” Do you agree, based on your reading of the article and your own experience as an English student?


Written task

300-350 words

Respond to (a) or (b)


  • “Learning a language is difficult anyway, we should not have to worry about certain variations in vocabulary, accents and expressions depending on where it is spoken”.

Respond to this statement from the point of view of a student learning a foreign language and/or English.


  • “There’s a lot more to the English language than British or American English and confusion and misunderstandings because of certain expressions and vocabulary”.


Agree and/or disagree with and respond to this statement and respond to this statement. Convince and persuade the reader to take your side.

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Peer/Self-Assessment and Word Bank

Questions to Consider

I have used the questions below for students (intermediate to advanced levels) for self and/or peer assessment.  Students can write a short answer to each question.

  • Does the writer explain their argument clearly?


  • Was there anything that was confusing? If so, what was it?


  • What details does the writer include?


  • What is good about the writing? Why is it good? Are there any errors that need to be corrected?


  • What are your specific suggestions for improvement? E.g.: vary sentence length


  • Are the arguments and points clearly expressed in each paragraph? Is there one idea for each paragraph?


It’s important for students to vary vocabulary particularly in academic writing style. I have found it very helpful to go through word banks and teach the importance of using diverse vocabulary especially for academic and formal writing styles. It’s always a helpful reminder before exams!

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Task: Write another word with the same meaning






 Word Bank for above task

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This was a great find from a former colleague for descriptive, narrative and personal writing:

Image result for as a writer this has proven to be a valuable chart

source: imgur, pinterest



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Memorizing Vocabulary Tips

Can be applied to any language. I’ve used this for all levels, French and English.

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  1. Be realistic – brain can only learn so much!
  2. Dissect – look at the structure of a new word: améliorer(to improve) (er ending –verb) enregistrer (to save) (register – idea of saving) emporter( to take away) (idea – emport/export. Porter in French to wear or to carry)
  3. Read Read Read: – revisit new vocab-> go over each week. Reading Comprehension will help you recognize words in new context (this applies to grammar/verbs too!). It takes time and patience.
  4. Visualize – the word as you learn, draw or visualize image of/scene that goes with the word. What does the word sound like to you? Depends entirely on the person. éviter
  5. How can you use the word? Can you use it in a sentence?
  6. Similar meaning in English? Be careful for false friends (faux amis!)
  7. 8. Short-term to long term- recycle. Monday’s vocab: check tonight..three nights a month…in two months
  8. Rewrite lists alphabetically or according to adjectives or verbs or what you know or smallest to largest word.
  9. Rewrite vocabulary five-ten times as a revision aid instead of saying aloud.

Some helpful Youtube links:

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Oral Exam Preparation

The following was used to help intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) level students prepare for their English oral exam presentations.

They were assessed using the following criteria: Introduction and conclusion, development, communication and clarity, grammar, vocabulary and originality


General Tips

  • Use more formal language.
  • Use short, simple sentences to express your ideas clearly.
  • Pause from time to time and don’t speak too quickly. This allows the listener to understand your ideas. Include a short pause after each idea.
  • Speak clearly and at the right volume.
  • Make your opinions very clear.
  1. Structure must be organized and clear which makes your presentation easy to follow

In your introduction state the purpose of your talk. If you are using a document, present the document (title, author, where it comes from, date), your THESIS STATEMENT and an outline of the major points you will cover.

PRACTICE: Choose 1 topic. Prepare your introduction. Do not write full sentences, just notes. Then, take turns sharing with your partners.

Explain what your presentation is about at the beginning:

I’m going to talk about …
I’d like to talk about …

The main focus of this presentation is …

Use these connectors to order your ideas:

First of all, …
Firstly, …
Then, …
Secondly, …
Next, …
Finally, …
Lastly, …
To sum up, …
In conclusion, …


  1. Introducing and connecting each argument in a way that is clear

Introduce each argument in a way that directly shows how it relates to your thesis statement and the main purpose of your talk. State how your new idea fits in with what you have just talked about (does it further your point? Is it a counter example?). Use transitions and connectors to help you achieve this.

PRACTICE: Outline the body of your presentation, organizing it around your major arguments. Use as many connectors and transitions as possible to make your speech fluid and to make the   progression of ideas explicit. Then, take turns sharing with your partners.


  1. Volume, pace, tone

Speak clearly, enunciate, make sure to speak loudly enough, do not speak too quickly or too slowly, pay attention to rising and falling intonation

PRACTICE: Give your complete speech again, this time focusing on your volume, pace and tone.


  1. Body language

Try to make as much eye contact as possible, smile, sit/ stand up straight. Look comfortable and relaxed!

PRACTICE: Give your complete speech again, this time focusing on your body language. Try to make as much eye contact as possible!


Youtube advice:


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Two Minute Discussion Topics

When I used these, I cut them up and gave all topics (under headings) to students who were already in groups and let students choose topics at random.  These students were adult ESL advanced level.  

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What would you do if someone accused you of a crime you didn’t commit?

What would you do if you got lost in an unfamiliar city?

If you could change one major historical event, what would it be?


You broke your friend’s car. What do you say?

You forgot your best friend’s birthday. What do you say when you see him/her?

You unknowingly insult a friend’s cooking. What do you say when they overhear you?


Describe an interesting neighbour you have had.

Describe something you could never give away.

Describe a place you will never forget.

Describe someone you respect deeply.

Describe the nightlife in a city you are familiar with.


Tell about one of your fondest childhood memories.

Tell about a time when you lied to your parents, boss, or teacher.

Briefly tell about a movie you saw recently.


Tell how to feed family members who drop by unexpectedly.

Tell how to dump a boyfriend/girlfriend because the other person ran over their pet cat.

Tell what to do in an earthquake.

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Academic Essay Writing

The following is the outline of a lesson plan for essay writing which I used with an advanced group of ESL students.  It could be adapted for any level.


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What justifies good writing style in a second language?

  • Correct spelling
  • Transitions between paragraphs-link
  • Correct vocabulary and context
  • Plan writing which provides direction for the reader
  • Clear sentences helps structure
  • Precision of vocabulary which expresses main ideas
  • Examples to explain and justify argument
  • Include goals in your plan


An essay must have a purpose, be coherent, clear and easy to read.

Essay titles:

  1. Being a student is a lot more difficult than it seems.
  2. France is the friendliest country.
  3. Challenges and obstacles force us to refocus our goals.                                                          i) Come up with a single sentence for each which encapsulates your essay.



Introductions should be clear and precise. They should indicate what the essay is about. They should answer the question. At times it may be appropriate to analyse certain words in the question and reformulate accordingly.

An introduction should make it clear to the reader what to expect. It should be brief, saying only what is necessary and no more.

Essay title:

Can we really learn from the past?

  • Write the introduction
  • Once you have written the introduction, rewrite it using fewer words (20 less) but with the same meaning.



Conclusions should summarize what has gone before. They should never contain new material. That is, anything which has not been dealt with in the preceding text.

A good conclusion draws together the writer’s ideas to form a coherent paragraph.

An average essay can be raised by a strong conclusion; a good essay can be destroyed by a bad one.

Essay title:

Real music no longer exists.

  • Write two conclusions.
  • Compare and contrast with neighbour.
  • Choose your best Why did you choose it?

**It is important to consider redrafting and re-reading your work.


Essay 300 words

  1. Being a student is a lot more difficult than it seems.
  2. France is the friendliest country.
  3. Challenges and obstacles force us to refocus our goals.
  4. Can we really learn from the past?
  5. Real music no longer exists.

Choose one essay. Write:

  • The introduction and conclusion
  • Three opening sentences to link with three main paragraphs.
  • Pay attention to purpose, clarity and coherence.
  • Pay attention to all grammar aspects, tense, vocabulary, word choice and everything discussed in class today!



  • Keep writing style and tone formal.
  • Keep grammar and vocabulary formal; do not use slang, do not, could not.
  • Think of sentence structure and syntax.
  • Have your ideas and arguments clearly organized before writing. Rough plan!
  • Be conscious of your sentence length and structure.
  • Introduction (P1)Arguments (P 2, 3, 4, 5,)Conclusion (P 6)
  • Choose whether to agreeor disagreeoragree and disagree.



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Review of Writing: Questions to Consider


  • Does the writer explain their argument clearly?
  • Was there anything that was confusing? If so, what was it?
  • What details does the writer include?
  • What is good about the writing? Why is it good? Are there any errors that need to be corrected?
  • What specific suggestions for improvement can you make? What advice could you give? What worked for you in the past ?
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Dealing with Complaints Vocabulary

Complaint Scenarios

shipment never came

got the wrong order

goods were broken

expensive delivery charges

bad customer service

not the same as in the ad

no instruction manual 


Key Vocabulary

customer service representatives (reps)
gather information
resolve the problem
deal with complaints
not our policy

Key Phrases

What seems to be the problem?
What happened exactly ?
I’m afraid it’s not our policy to …
I promise you I’ll/I will …
Did you read the instructions that came with the …?
How were you using the …?
I understand you’re upset.
I’m just trying to understand the problem.
We’re sorry that you’ve had a problem with this product.

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