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September 30, 2008  


A new email went out to students this morning. The featured lesson was the present tense. This is important for beginning level students to learn well; it’s also important for intermediate level students to review–especially those who live outside of the U.S. and don’t get a chance to practice their English very often. Well, I can tell a lot of people weren’t happy about getting what they must have thought was an easy lesson because several unsubscribed from receiving email soon after they got it.

For those who follow this blog and have been receiving emails lately, you know that the month of September was to be focused on the Blue Level. In early October, I’ll move on to the Red Level. If anyone has ideas for lessons or videos, just send them to me. After one recent suggestion from a student, I’m trying to figure out how to do podcasts, so that I can add an audio track to each of the lessons. So I’m pretty open-minded if you have ideas like that.


September 27, 2008

Post-debate analysis: Obama won. If not on substance–because each side has good reason to say that his caididate did well in that area–than certainly on style. Obama was calm, knowledgeable, and his answers were well-organized; McCain often strayed from the questions that were asked and his answers seemed to drift into whatever canned response he had rehearsed that week with his trainers.

The next debate will be between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

September 26, 2008

Will the debate scheduled this evening between Barack Obama and John McCain still take place. As of this Friday morning, it’s still uncertain. Many observers think it would be foolish for John McCain to miss it while claiming that it’s more important to work on the financial mess that we’re all in. But it’s only a 90-minute debate, and both men have jets that get them places very quickly. Something doesn’t seem right here. The Republican Party is very good at playing tricks in order to win elections. Is this a political trick?

trick = an attempt to fool, to cheat, or do something with a negative result.

September 25, 2008

Prepositions: in, on, at.

Use in for cities, states, and countries: I live in Minnesota. We live in Minneapolis.

Use on for a street: She lives on Main Street. They live on 88th Street.

Use at for an address: She lives at 3443 W. 88th Street.

Also, "at" is used for the place where you live. He’s at home. But it’s not always necessary to use "at when describing where a person is. He’s home.

September 24, 2008

Capitalism in America gets a black eye with the recent housing crisis and the impact it has had on banking institutions. Someone was asleep at the wheel and not paying attention closely enough. Now we will all suffer the consequences for many, many years to come. It’s all incredibly embarassing.

asleep at the wheel = This is an expression we use in English to say that someone isn’t doing his or her job properly. If you are asleep at the wheel of a car or a truck, you will crash.

September 23, 2008

If you are here because of the email I sent recently, scroll down and you will see how I made an apple pie. What kind of food do you like to make? Send me a picture and/or a recipe for making it and I might post it here on the blog.

September 21, 2008

There’s a new video lessons page. I think this is much better than the other one. It’s organized in such a way that a student can click through all the pages in order and develop a better understanding of English grammar.

September 20, 2008

Does anyone want to talk about the spectacular failure of the Bush administration over the last eight years? It’s so hard for me to believe that Bush was elected as President in the 2000 election, yet eight years of our national nightmare bear witness to the facts. And what will come next? Almost everyone I know wants Obama to be President. We should be so lucky. The Republican Party is very good at winning elections. It’s just about the only thing they’re good at.

Keep your fingers crossed!

September 19, 2008

This video is for all the Sarah Palin fans out there. The vocabulary is nice and easy —



September 17, 2008

Students are reading about the Great Depression in my intermediate level class today. This is a good time for a little history lesson considering all the problems that the United States is having with its financial institutions and the economy.

September 16, 2008

Today I’m asking my intermediate level students to discuss these questions in class:

1. What is the difference between a fact and an opinion?

2. When you want to find out if something is a fact, where do you go? Name at least four sources for factual information.

3. When you hear someone repeat a lie, what is your response?

4. How do you know when someone is telling you the truth, whether it’s on TV, in a newspaper, on the radio, or in person?

You can go to my other blog if you’d like to post a response. Click here.

September 15, 2008

Today is the middle of the month. There are 15 more days in the month of September after today.

September 14, 2008

Yesterday I made an apple pie from some apples that grew on an apple tree outside of my house. Here’s how I did it:

apple tree
I picked some apples.I needed six or seven apples. A few of them are shown above.I got all my ingredients together for the dough: flour, sugar, salt, shortening, butter, and water.I measured out the ingredients using measuring spoons and measuring cups.
I mixed the ingredients together to make a pastry dough. After refrigerating the dough for 20 minutes, I rolled it out with a rolling pin.I put the dough into a pie plate.I peeled the apples and then cut them up.I mixed the cut apples with sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, and some flour. Then I put them into the pie plate, rolled out some more dough, and put it on top of the apple filling.
The pie turned out pretty good. If you want to make one yourself, go here for the recipe.
I baked the apple pie in the oven for 55 minutes at 400 degrees.I gave the pie to my kids and they ate it.


September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike is probably going to create a spike in gas prices around the U.S., so you had better fill your cars today.

spike = a quick increase, sometimes followed by a decrease

September 12, 2008

I think I’ve responded to about my millionth email. I might have to ask some of you to take it easy on your teacher with the email. I just can’t keep up with all of them, I’m sorry. I’ll continue to respond as well as I can, but there really is a limit to my ability to respond to the number of questions that pour in from around the world.

September 11, 2008

John McCain’s campaign is "making stuff up" about Barack Obama. That’s what Barack Obama said yesterday in reaction to an accusation against him from his opponents. There will probaby be many more things said about Obama in the next couple of months that aren’t true or are distortions of what he said. The Republicans will do and say just about anything to get elected.

make stuff up = lie

September 10, 2008

Are you using the word "there" when you speak English? When I listen to my students speak English, I often find that it’s missing when it should be used. Put it at the beginning of the sentence to report facts and opinions:

There’s a lot of water in his basement.

There are many reasons to save energy.

There isn’t a baseball game on today, is there?

There aren’t any more potatoes in the pantry.

There are many special days marked on the calendar. Tomorrow is one of them. It’s the seven-year anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. in New York and Washington. September 11 is always a somber reminder of how much the United States and the world have changed. In the back of everyone’s mind remains the fear that another big terrorist attack will happen somewhere in the world and the consequences will be tragic. Perhaps over time this threat will go away, but right now it feels as if it will be with us for quite awhile.

September 9, 2008

Here are two videos that show how to make contractions with the verb "be" in the present tense.

affirmative: subject + "be"
negative: subject + "be" + not

If you want more practice with this, you can go to the first two lessons in the Blue Level.

This quiz is for making the verb "be" negative.


September 8, 2008

Students should use a notebook with this website and write out answers by hand. Some have asked me why they can’t type answers into quizzes. It’s because I want you to write instead of type. Writing helps to improve memorization. Clicking is not a good way to remember something. After you have written your answers in a notebook, you can review what you have learned. Be sure to put the date into your notebook at the top of the page.

Below is a video for "there." This one word is very important because it introduces things, people, and ideas. Many of my students forget to use "there" when they speak English. Don’t forget to use it! It usually appears at the beginning of the sentence.

Click this link to go the lesson for "there."


September 4, 2008

To learn how to make a question with the verb "be," click here.

The next few days will be kind of busy. My next post will be on Monday, September 8. If you have time before then, complete Lessons Four, Five, and Six.

For intermediate level students: We’ll be studying the verb "be" for the next week or so. Now is a good time for you to review the passive voice and learn how the verb "be" is used here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

September 3, 2008

To make the negative for the verb "be" add "not."

I am not
We are not
You are not
You are not
He is not
She is not
They are not
It is not

Most Americans use contractions — put the verb "be" and "not" together:

I am not
We aren’t
You aren’t
You aren’t
He isn’t
She isn’t
They aren’t
It isn’t

It’s also possible to contract the subject and the verb "be" instead:

I’m not
We’re not
You’re not
You’re not
He’s not
She’s not
They’re not
It’s not

Both are good.

Here’s a new quiz

September 2, 2008

The verb "be" is the most important verb to understand in English.

Click here to go to Lesson One in the Blue Level.

Write what you see. Do the exercise. Watch the video.

Click here to go to August 2008