The word of the year: from 2018 to 2019


To revisit the tradition I started on this blog one year ago, I’m looking at the word of the year from the world experts.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s toxic.

Cambridge: nomophobia

Merriam-Webster: justice

Collins: single-use misinformation

Which of them could be your words of the past year?

And, perhaps more importantly, which words would you like to make your own in 2019?

P.S. Incidentally, there’s a nice article about choosing your word of the year if you’re into this kind of thing – I’m still thinking about mine!

P.P.S. Happy New Year, everyone!


New Year at my home


Tic tac toe with living things


Here’s an entertaining take on the age-old game: ‘human’ tac toe for vocabulary revision. Cristina was inspired by the video of a game show and created her own version for the classroom. The rules only seem complicated when you read them first, but the video makes things much easier. If you have students write their own questions, it will become low-prep and high-yield – what’s not to like?


The fun of misnegation


“The author never fails to disappoint” – can you imagine that a phrase like that ended up on the cover of a book? And yet it happens, and there is an explanation for it in this post by Stan Carey about the issue with several negatives in one sentence and how our brain sometimes fails to process them correctly. It can be particularly useful when you’re teaching students with a negative-concord native language – though I suppose words similar to ‘overestimate’ and ‘understate’ can be tricky regardless of how many negatives your language allows you to have in one sentence!


PicLit: in for a picture


A screenshot of a PicLit picture I made with their word prompts

Here’s another teaching tool to bookmark. Yes, of course, you can always do a Google search for a nice copyright-free picture, add some words to it in Photoshop – but why all the hassle if there is a website where somebody has already done it for you? There are lots of pictures to choose from and type on, but I would recommend trying out the drag-and-drop wordlist: it’s a great timesaving and learning feature. You can also read the teaching tips, see what others have created, and save your own pictures with a link that can be sent to the students.

How can it be used? Well, writing and speaking prompts come to mind first;  vocabulary revision; flash reading – everything is better with a picture 🙂

Teaching with a twist


Marc from TESOL TOOLBOX has started an interesting series of ‘oldies-but-goldies’ with a twist, where he describes a well-known ELT activity and suggests modifications to it. Here is, for example, a twist on a typical brainstorming activity which makes it even more engaging for students because the teacher introduces a competitive element into it. Another activity he writes about is jigsaw reading – but did you know you could slightly ‘sabotage’ it to your teens’ delight? Definitely something to check out if you are looking for fresh teaching ideas.

The unbearable figurativeness of language


The wonderful Sue Swift recently wrote about teaching (or not teaching) figurative language. It’s a great article in its own right, covering the linguistic challenge of differentiating between types of figurative language like similes or metaphors, the importance of context and learner’s needs (are they going to use figurative language productively, or it’s enough for them to understand it). A lot of factors to consider!

But what I particularly like about this post is how Sue says: “When I first asked that question, my gut reaction was no – but then I rethought.” She doesn’t go just by her intuition, but finds time to do a bit of research, actually counts figurative expressions in original texts that students would be likely to read, and changes her initial thinking – and this is what makes her advice so valuable.

Let’s verb our nouns and chocolate


Another linguistic gem from Stan Carey for Friday reading: apparently, functional shift (I was taught that it’s called conversion) is still very productive, and it’s ok to move a word from one part of speech to another if it suits your needs.

The author also links to a quiz about the history of converted words (whichever came first) and says,  ‘Let’s chocolate and chat!’ I love to chocolate in the morning, and coffeeing is my second job – what about you?