Are your students fluent in Two Truths and a Lie?

When I saw this question on Walton Burns' website, it made me pause and reflect on what it must be like to be an ESL student, and how as teachers, we may contribute to our students' boredom. I had the pleasure of interviewing Walton who is an experienced teacher, materials writer and the Chair of the Materials Writer Interest Section of TESOL. Find out what happened when a brave student piped up about Two Truths and a Lie.

Here is my interview:

Thank you for doing this interview Walton. Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

At the moment, I do some freelance tutoring mainly for international students or adults living in the area New Haven area of Connecticut, USA but I’m currently doing more materials writing as it allows me to spend time with my son.

How long have you been teaching?

I began teaching in 2001 when I traveled to Vanuatu in the Peace Corps and I started writing materials professionally in 2007.

Can you describe a typical working day?

After breakfast, I...

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How sticky are your lessons?

As teachers, we spend hours planning lessons. However how much consideration do you give to the end of your lessons or to a closure activity? In the last few weeks, I have come across several articles about how to end lessons so I wanted to dig a bit deeper. 

As you probably know, I am a big fan of starting a lesson with warm-up activity but how we end our lesson is also important for student learning.

Here are some reasons why teachers should use closure activities:

·        to check for understanding and gather feedback

·        re-state and emphasize important information from the lesson

·        tie up loose ends

·        correct any misunderstandings or confusion

Closure is also important for students because it can help them to:


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How `Plain Language`landed me a trip to Guyana

A few years ago, I enrolled in a half day workshop on Plain Language. I had no idea what Plain Language was and my curiosity got the best of me. Little did I know that the content in that workshop would land me 2 week assignment in Guyana with CESO

CESO is a Canadian organization that sends senior-level professionals from the public and private sector who are passionate about sharing their skills and expertise in different countries around the world. When I saw the request for a trainer to teach report writing and presentation skills, I was intrigued. (I was in Guyana 20 years ago and was interested in both the project, and returning to the country). I was very excited when I was chosen for this assignment.

The training assignment was for three different groups at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana who are responsible for writing reports, briefs and/or speeches. I introduced Plain Language and it was very well...

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How Teachers Monetize their Professional Skills

This is the first Fall in 20 years that I won’t be teaching English in a classroom setting.  When I told a friend that it seemed strange, she asked “strange in a good way, or bad way?”  My answer is most definitely strange in a good way because I have successfully made the transition from teacher to teacherpreneur in the past year. 

In case you are wondering what a teacherpreneur is, the definition that I like to use is from Kiana Porter-Isom (2015):

“A classroom teacher or school based leader who is both educator and entrepreneur; an educator who works a flexible and/or freelance schedule; and/or an educator with a “side hustle” that supplements their income”.

In the past year, I began experimenting with different ways to monetize my transferrable/professional skills as a teacher.   Besides teaching online courses for a local university and college, I have also

  • designed and developed a 10 module online course for...
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What does Michael Jordan have to do with teaching English?

Absolutely nothing but his quote about “never say never” applies to everything in life.

When I left ESL teaching last December after 20 years, I believed that I would never ever return.  I felt that I lost my passion, creativity and to be honest, felt unchallenged.  It was better to move aside and make room for teachers who felt the way I did years earlier.

At the end of July, I finished teaching two online post-secondary level courses.  Then in August, I realized that I was bored.  It seemed like a long wait until September before my new courses would start.  Even though I had a few things to do (like getting my son ready to go off to university, and preparing for a 2 week assignment in Guyana), I was restless.

A few weeks ago I read a guest blog post by Chris Rush   Chris wrote about the great success he has had by teaching online using a platform called italki.  My...

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20 Ways to Learn Students' Names

Do you struggle to learn your students’ names?  The largest class that I have ever had in Canada was 46 students.  I know in many parts of the world, class sizes are much larger than this. In a few weeks, I will be heading off to Guyana to teach report writing and presentation skills.  There will be 3 different groups with more than 50 per group!  I will definitely need to use some of the techniques below to learn participants' names.

I believe that it is very important to learn students’ names for several reasons.  Think about a time when someone acknowledged you by name, or got your name wrong.  I have been called Patrick or Patricia many times over the years.  I have to say that I do appreciate it when someone gets my name right!

Getting to know the names of our students quickly is important so that we can develop a rapport.  Knowing and using students' names helps to establish a more comfortable, less formal atmosphere in...

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Do you have the courage to try new things?

Today I did something that I have never done before.  I was a webinar presenter on!  I presented a one hour webinar called "Planning Your Professional Development".  In the last few years, I have signed up and watched many webinars but I have never been in a presenter role.  Was I nervous? Yes, but I was more excited than nervous. Why? Two reasons - confidence and courage.

When I decided to leave classroom teaching after 20 years last December,  I neededconfidence because I had to believe that I could make a living using my skills outside of teaching ESL.  There is a certain comfort that comes from doing a job for many years but the downside for me was that there were few opportunities to challenge myself or have a creative outlet.  So trying new things as a teacherpreneur (e.g. learning how to use social media, write and market e-books, and blog on MailChimp to name a few!)...

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20 Ways to Use Photos to Teach English

SuOn College in Toronto, Canada organized a two month training program for English teachers from China.  There are 3 groups of teachers (about 130 teachers in total) who are interested in learning about Canadian teaching methodology.  I had the pleasure of working with a group of 46 teachers this week.

Most of the 2-day training session that I was responsible for focused on demonstrating the Communicative Approach. Teachers had an opportunity to try out several warm-up activities, Information Gaps, a Jigsaw Learning activity and reporting back using a gallery approach (for more on reporting back after brainstorming, read this past blog post   One of our activities looked at how to use photos creatively with our students.  I had blogged about this several months ago, and thanks to my teaching colleagues from China, I have more ideas to expand the...

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12 Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Warm-up Activities (they are more than just fun & games!)

Do you use warm-up activities before you start teaching?  Warm-up activities are more than just “fun and games”!  My most popular download is my free Top 20 Warm-up Activities so many teachers are interested in using warmers as part of their lesson. (Vol 1). 

 Here are some comments from teachers who have downloaded this FREE resource:

"Thank you so much !! They are great to use in my class and very creative! :)" Gabriela

"Thank you for sharing. It means a lot when an ESL/EFL teacher is willing to share ideas. These especially help new teachers and those who have exhausted ideas or keep repeating the same activities over and over again." Rashida

"Thank you for sharing this material. Amazing. I really appreciate it." Andriati

"This is EXACTLY what I need! Thank you so much Patrice! I am so impressed with this resource!!!" Adrienne


What is a...

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Bilingualism : A Teacherpreneur's Advantage

For the past few months, I have been interviewing English language teachers with a passion for projects outside of classroom teaching.  Interviews with these successful teacherpreneurs have been included in my blog - Weekly Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches 

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alberto González.  I am always inspired by teachers who spent countless hours working on time-consuming projects outside of their teaching hours.

Patrice: Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

Alberto: Sure, I have taught in an international language institute in Wisconsin and Florida, USA.  Also, I have tutored in colleges and have provided freelance services to college and high school students.

P:  Tell us about your teaching experience.

A: I started working in the educational field as a faculty assistant in college after finishing my studies. I spent many years living in...

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