{January 2, 2014}   Birthday words

Which words originated the year you were born? My year-word is chill pill – a pill used, well… to calm or relax a person 🙂

I found this link very interesting to work with my students, to motivate them to learn new words, so why not sharing it here? It’s great to use as ice-breaker when you still don’t know your students (of course, it works better if you have an Internet connection  at school, and if you have multiple ages groups, but you can also work with important dates in history, or with family member’s birth years.


{January 2, 2014}   Updating our vocabulary

Hey, Happy New Year!

As I promised, I am here to stay, and today, I want to share with you some VERY interesting links about vocabulary – worth sharing with students, too.

Finally, a must read article if you work in multiple contexts:



{December 5, 2011}  

Sometime ago I shared this list of easily confused words and phrases in the forum, but I forgot to share it with you. All the credit goes to

Here’s a quick guide to alleviate (or is it ameliorate?) your suffering:

1. a while / awhile: “A while” is a noun phrase; awhile is an adverb.
2. all together / altogether: All together now — “We will refrain from using that two-word phrase to end sentences like this one altogether.”
3. amend / emend: To amend is to change; to emend is to correct.
4. amount / number: Amount refers to a mass (“The amount saved is considerable”); number refers to a quantity (“The number of dollars saved is considerable”).
5. between / among: The distinction is not whether you refer to two people or things or to three or more; it’s whether you refer to one thing and another or to a collective or undefined number — “Walk among the trees,” but “Walk between two trees.”
6. biannual / biennial: Biannual means twice a year; biennial means once every two years.
7. bring / take: If it’s coming toward you, it’s being brought. If it’s headed away from you, it’s being taken.
8. compare to / compare with: “Comparing to” implies similarity alone; “compare with” implies contrast as well.
9. compliment / complement: To compliment is to praise; to complement is to complete.
10. comprise, consist of / compose, constitute: Comprise means “include,” so test by replacement — “is included of” is nonsense, and so is “is comprised of.” The whole comprises the parts or consists of the parts, but the parts compose or constitute the whole.
11. connote / denote: To connote is to convey (“Air quotes connote skepticism or irony”); to denote is to specify (“A stop sign denotes the requirement to halt”).
12. continual / continuous: Continual events are frequently repeated, or intermittent. Continuous events are uninterrupted, or constant.
13. credible / credulous: To be credible is to be authoritative; to be credulous is to be gullible.
14. deserts / desserts: If you eat only cake, pie, ice cream, and the like, you eat just desserts. If you have it coming to you, you get your just deserts as well. (However, the connotation is negative, so hit the gym.)
15. different from / different than: The former phrase is preferred in formal writing; but “differently than” is always correct usage.
16. discreet / discrete: Discreet means “subtle”; discrete means “separate.” (“He discreetly reminded them of their discrete meanings.”)
17. each other / one another: “One another” is preferred in formal writing when more than two of something are being discussed.
18. economic / economical: Economic refers to the science of economics; economical suggests frugality.
19. elemental/elementary: What’s elemental is essential or integral to nature; what’s elementary is basic.
20. ensure / insure / assure: To ensure is to guarantee, to insure is to indemnify, and to assure is to comfort or convince.
21. epidemic / endemic / pandemic: An epidemic is the outbreak of disease in a limited place and time; an endemic disease is a recurring one peculiar to a place or population; a pandemic is pervasive over a wide geographical area.
22. forgo / forego: To forgo is to go without; to forego is to go before (and is generally used only in the forms foregoing and foregone, which are themselves rare).
23. gibe / jibe / jive: To gibe (soft g, as in gym) is to taunt or insult (though jibe is an alternate spelling), to jibe with is to coincide or fit, to jive is to deceive.
24. historic / historical: Something historic is remarkable for its impact on history; something historical is simply an event in history.
25. home in / hone in: To home in is to close in; to hone in is to confuse one word for another. (“Hone in” has no meaning.)
26. jealousy / envy: Jealousy is resentment; envy is covetousness.
27. lay / lie: Lay is transitive, associated with a direct object — “Lay that pencil down.” “Yesterday, I laid that pencil down.” “That pencil has been laid down.” Lie is intransitive, not so associated — “Lie down.” “Last night, I lay down.” “It was my plan to have lain down already.
28. leach / leech: To leach is to dissolve by percolation; to leech is to remove blood with a leech or to exhaust; as a noun, it means a parasitic worm or the human figurative equivalent, or the edge of a sail (also spelled leach).
29. libel / slander: Libel is written defamation; slander is the spoken equivalent.
30. may / might: May refers to factual or possible; might is appropriate for the hypothetical or counterfactual.
31. nauseous / nauseated: To be nauseous is to cause sickness. To be nauseated is to feel sick.
32. notable / noticeable / noteworthy: Something notable is worthy of note. Something noticeable is capable of being noticed. Noteworthy is a synonym of notable, though the former implies the unusual and the latter the commendable.
33. partly / partially: Partly means “in part”; partially means “incomplete” or, rarely, is an antonym for unfairly.
34. peak / pique: To peak is to reach the pinnacle; to pique is to arouse interest or to bother.
35. people / persons: People has assumed primacy; persons is reserved mostly as a synonym for bodies (“those belongings carried on their persons”).
36. persuade / convince: To persuade someone is to motivate them to do something; to convince someone is to lead them to understand or believe.
37. predominantly / predominately: Both forms are correct, but predominantly predominates.
38. purposely / purposefully: What’s done purposely is done on purpose; what’s done purposefully is done with a purpose.
39. regrettably / regretfully: Regrettably is a synonym for unfortunately; regretfully means just that — full of regret.
40. repetitive / repetitious: Both terms have acquired a negative connotation, but the former retains a more neutral meaning.
41. sensual / sensuous: Sensual has an erotic connotation; sensuous refers more neutrally to what is pleasurable to the senses.
42. since / because: Informally, these terms are interchangeable, but in formal writing, since should be used only to refer to time.
43. stationary / stationery: To be stationary is to stand still; stationery refers to letter-writing materials.
44. that / which: That is used restrictively (“The pencil that is sharp” — among more than one pencil, the one with that characteristic); which is employed nonrestrictively (“The pencil, which is sharp” — one pencil alone, possessing that characteristic). The distinction is rarely observed other than in American English.
45. tortuous / torturous: A tortuous experience is a winding one; a torturous one is painful.
46. transcript / transcription: A transcript is a thing; a transcription is the process of creating it.
47. verbal / oral: Verbal refers to both written and spoken communication, but oral is useful for distinguishing the latter from the former.
48. while / although / whereas: Informally, while is a synonym for the other two terms, but in formal writing it should be reserved for temporal connotations.
49. wreak / wreck: These terms do not share etymological origin; you wreck a party, but you do so by wreaking havoc.
50. whether / if: Both words are correct in expressing a choice, but the former is more appropriate in formal writing (“I can’t decide whether to go”), whereas the latter is better reserved for reference to possibility or probability (“I’ll go if you do”).

{February 3, 2011}   How to learn vocabulary

1. Read. Most vocabulary words are learned from context. The more words you’re exposed to, the better vocabulary you will have. While you read, pay close attention to words you don’t know. First, try to figure out their meanings from context. Then look the words up. Read and listen to challenging material so that you’ll be exposed to many new words.

2. Pay close attention to how words are used.

3. Learning a word won’t help very much if you promptly forget it. Research shows that it takes a minimum of 10 to 20 repetitions to really make a word part of your vocabulary. It helps to write the word – both the definition and a sentence you make up using the word – perhaps on an index card that can later be reviewed. As soon as you learn a new word, start using it.

4. Make up as many associations and connections as possible. Say the word aloud to activate your auditory memory. Relate the word to words you already know. Create pictures of the word’s meaning that involve strong emotions.

5. Use mnemonics ( memory tricks). Also, find out which learning style suits you best. Everyone learns differently!

6. Get in the habit of looking up words you don’t know. If you have a dictionary program on your computer, keep it open and handy. If you don’t, just type: “define: WORD” in google, and you will come across with definitions of the WORD you need.

7. Play with words. Play Scrabble, Boggle, and do crossword puzzles. There are a lot of free online games to play with vocabulary! (there is a post about that in the vocabulary section).

8. Diversity of topics is important. Read some natural science stuff. Then read some applied science stuff. Read some contemporary literature. Then read some Shakespeare. Comb through a pop psychology book and then consume a humorous work. Varied reading will sharpen both general and subject-specific vocabularies.

9.Try out your new vocabulary in speech and writing.

-Are you a teacher needing ideas to work on vocabulary? Here you can find a lot of ideas! (I came across the site via google)

(I also shared this on

{February 3, 2011}   Taboo! Game for your students

Have you ever played Taboo!? It’s a very entertaining game to practice vocabulary with your students.

(picture taken by myself)

Imagine you got a card saying “teacher” Below, you got three words that could be really useful for a definition of “teacher”. What if you couldn’t use those words to explain your word?

Well, Taboo! game is, basically, what I described above. Here you can find some templates and here there are some ready to print games (and you can also download the rules) Oh! And here you can play Taboo! online.

{November 8, 2009}   Want to learn word sets?

I came across this site which I found very helpful to revise vocabulary, since there are many vocabulary lists in alphabetical order, oriented to different exams preparation.

{July 6, 2009}   Teens and English

Now that I started talking about my private students, one of the things that surprises me most is the progress made by teen students when activities fit their interests.

I have 2 teen students, coming to private classes twice a week. Each of them has particular interests and hobbies, and their interest in learning English is different, too. One of them is finishing her high school studies, the other one, started university this year. Their 2 years’ difference make them really different students.

The first one, loves working orally, specially on topics she chooses (fashion, make up, nightlife, etc). She finds really difficult to concentrate on written activities and she gets distracted every 5 minutes. The second one is the exact opposite. She loves written activities and does them with no effort, but finds really difficult to produce oral pieces of discourse.

They both like working on their computers, so I selected a few links they – and you too –  may find useful:


HowJSay -> a very useful tool when you don’t know how to pronounce a certain word.

The Visual Dictionary -> a picture dictionary for everyone!

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

One Look Reverse Dictionary -> provide the definition… it will give you the word!


English Club

English the Easy Way

OM Grammar


{July 6, 2009}   Social Issues at School

How do you deal with social aspects of life with your kids? I started thinking of working with something about “Swine Flu” with my teen students.

We had worked with illnesses in general some weeks ago, and they were pretty anxious when I presented the topic of our last class (classes have been suspended here due to Swine Flu)

I’ve provided transcripts of  a podcast on Swine Flu and students scanned the text for familiar words related to health and medicine. Then, we brainstormed words on the topic, and I taught some new vocabulary items.

Students then created a big poster to share their knowledge on the topic with the rest of the school.

Where I got material on the topic:

Challenges 3 – Module 3: Health. Longman

Lesson Planet



Swine Flu

{May 14, 2009}   Slang

For those interested in Slang, here you have two great must-check websites:

London Slang

UK Slang Dictionary

(1) The word “news” is not the plural of the word ´new. ´ The word “NEWS” came from the first letters of the words North, East, West and South. This was because information was being gathered from all different directions.

(2) The idiom “it rains cats and dogs” originated in 17th Century England. During heavy downpours of rain, many of these poor animals unfortunately drowned and their bodies would be seen floating in the rain torrents that raced through the streets. The situation gave the appearance that it had literally rained “cats and dogs” and led to the current expression.

(3) The saying “all roads lead to Rome,” goes back to the fact that the ancient Romans built an excellent system of roads. This saying means that no matter which road one starts a journey on, he will finally reach Rome if he keeps on traveling. The popular saying also means that all ways or methods of doing something end in the same result: No method is better than another.

(4) The origin of the word “quisling” comes from the name of Major Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian who collaborated with the Germans during their occupation of Norway. The word “quisling” now means “traitor.”

(5) The word “set” has the largest number of definitions in the English Language: (192 definitions according to the Oxford English Dictionary

(6) The study of insects is called entomology, while the study of word origins is called etymology.

(7) “Rhythms” is the longest English word without the normal vowels, a, e, i, o, or u.

(8) No word in the English language rhymes with the words “month, orange, silver, and purple.”

(9) A bibliophile is a collector of rare books. A bibliopole is a seller of rare books.

(10) A hamlet is a village without a church and a town is not a city until it has a cathedral.

(11) “Bookkeeper” and “bookkeeping” are the only words in the English language with three consecutive double letters.

(12) “Underground” is the only word in the English language that begins and ends with the letters “und.”

(13) The word “queue” is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.

(14) The word “queueing” is the only English word with five consecutive vowels.

(15) The only three words in the English language that begin with the letters “DW” are Dwarf, Dwell, and Dwindle.

(16) There are only four words in the English language which end in “-dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

(17) Strengths (nine letters long) is the longest word in the English language with only one vowel.

et cetera