Monday, April 29, 2013

PENCIL BINGO - ESL Vocabulary Game

Hello & Happy Monday!

I'm so glad you could make it this week! I want to take a moment to thank you for visiting my blog. The response has been very good and, honestly, I'm so honored. I've always loved creating activities and worksheets for my students. My colleagues seem to like using them. Yet, to have so many people you've never met read and download your stuff, for a new blogger like me, it's a little humbling and sort of marvelous in a way.

Color Pencils

This week's worksheet is a Bingo Game. I call it Pencil Bingo because it doesn't use bingo chips. Using chips means having to make the game boxes bigger, which takes up more space. It also means having to remember to bring Bingo chips with you to class. To keep it simple, I have students circle their guesses right on the worksheet.

(A variation is to use semisweet chocolate chips, but this works better with adults! Trust me when I say this does not always work with kids.)

Students play Pencil Bingo and review vocabulary related to things you would find in the city & parks & the home & kitchen.

This worksheet requires no preparation, but you'll need to take a minute to explain the activity to them.

How to Play Pencil Bingo

1. Tell students how to play Bingo. 

Tell them what "getting Bingo" means. They must get all 5 items in a row, be it across, up, down or diagonally. I usually draw lines on the board to show them what I mean.

2. Hand out the worksheets.

3. Students work in pairs. 

Half the class gets one worksheet and the other half gets the other. Students use only their worksheets. There's no cutting out. 

A Bingo Game Card looks like this:

Blue & white Bingo game card for ESL vocabulary Bingo game

Student A reads the written clues out loud from his sheet while Student B circles his guesses.

4. Students  switch roles.

Students switch tasks, but they keep the same worksheet.

If you have candy on hand, you can give out a piece of candy to any student who gets Bingo. One year, I was teaching kids and I gave them clementines. The kids were absolutely ecstatic. I had to toss the rest of the lesson because they were so wired, and because they took time peeling their clementines, but it was worth it!

Chocolate Candy Assortment

I hope you and your students enjoy Pencil Bingo. Enjoy your Monday, and have a great week!

Thank you
Thank you for visiting!
Faiza Raintree

To download the worksheets for this lesson, click below.

Pencil Bingo PDF Worksheet Thumbnail

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mel's Diner - Quick Vocabulary Review

Mel's Diner

American Diner - Round Counter with Red Booths

I hope your students enjoyed this Monday's worksheet on American DinersHere's a quick vocabulary review activity for it. 

diner                    restaurant
casual                  popular
employee             typical
stainless steel      exterior
booth                  stool
counter               shipped
owner                 menu

Directions: Fill in each blank in the story with the word that fits best.

Emma and Chris were married on the first of May. The next morning, Emma and Chris decided to go out for breakfast. Chris asked Emma where she would like to go. Chris enjoyed fancy _____. He wanted to take Emma to a fancy _____ for breakfast. However, Emma wanted to go someplace _____. She was tired from a late wedding. Also, she did not want to dress up too much. The couple decided to go to a nearby _____ for breakfast, called Mel's Diner.

Mel's Diner Video Case

Mel's Diner was a _____ restaurant near the couple's new house. When Emma saw the diner, she was nervous. She remembered a TV show about a diner called Mel's Diner. The people in the show were funny, but the food was awful. No one liked the food at Mel's Diner. Chris said that a diner in real life was probably not the same as a _____ on television. Emma agreed, and so they went in.

Plate & Silverware

Emma and Chris walked in and liked what they saw. The _____ of the diner was typical, but the inside was very nice. The entire diner was red with shiny _____  trim. There were red counters with red _____, and beautiful red booths. The waiters, _____ at the diner, smiled at Emma and Chris when they walked in. There were only three visitors in the whole diner. All of them were at the _____. The booths were all empty. Emma and Chris chose a small _____ by a window.

window seat at a diner on a rainy day

While Emma and Chris were reading the _____, a waitress came by. She and Emma talked. Emma told her that they were newlyweds, married only the day before. The waitress looked happy and smiled at them. She told the owner of the diner about the couple. The _____ came out and smiled at them. He told them that his name was Melvin, but people called him Mel. Mel and his wife were also married on the first of May, thirty years ago. Mel and the couple spoke for a few minutes.

Suddenly, Mel said to Emma and Chris, "Wait a minute. I'll be back."

Mel came back with a basket of flowers. He put them on a large table and moved the couple to the table.

Basket of Flowers Illustration

Mel said, "These flowers were _____ from California, and came this morning. I'm so happy that you came to my diner for your first meal! Your breakfast is on the house. We'll make you a very special breakfast today!"

Pancake Breakfast

Mel made a lovely breakfast for the couple: bacon, eggs and fluffy pancakes. There was also orange juice and sparkling grape juice. For dessert, Emma and Chris shared an ice cream sundae with whipped cream on top. When the couple got up to leave, Mel rushed over and gave them the basket of flowers.

Mel smiled and said, "Enjoy these on your first day as newlyweds!"

The couple was surprised and pleased. They could not have wished for a better start to their new life!

Discuss & Write 
Tell about a time when someone did something unusually nice for you, or you did something for someone else. What was it? How did you feel?

To download  this activity & answer key, click below.
Mel's Diner Worksheet - PDF Link

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Monday, April 22, 2013

American Diners - Monday Morning Worksheet - Cook wearing apron and holding a ladle

Welcome and Happy Monday!

It's good to be starting a fresh, new week. This has been a difficult week for many Americans, and being bombarded by media images and articles hasn't helped in the least. I've tried to maintain my sanity by re-reading my Ngaio Marsh mysteries, turning off my computer, and spending more time with my kids. Meanwhile, at work, I'm still responsible for making sure we're moving ahead. Teaching is one of those jobs where we do have to keep ourselves together, while making sure our students learn something. 

I wanted to something a little lighter this week, to set a happier and more positive tone than last week. I've done a very short reading on American Diners, what they're about and when they started. I've included some questions on diners, a menu with activities and an essay question. There are enough activities to last up to two class periods, but teachers can easily choose to do enough for only one class. 

Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

I've added a vocabulary cheat sheet for the teacher and a printable one for students (6 copies on a page.). I do not like to overuse our photocopier (it's slow, anyway), so I try to do activities that don't require too much copying. 

You can do any of the following with the vocabulary words.
1.) explain the vocabulary words orally
2.) copy the definitions on the board; or 
3.) give out the cheat sheet for students. I make my students get glue sticks and, when necessary, have students glue this sheet to the back. This saves having to copy an extra sheet for each student. 

I do hope  you enjoy this Monday Morning Lesson! I would love to hear your comments about how it went or what you did with it. The posted lesson is similar to the worksheet, which can be downloaded below. 

I hope you enjoy your Monday. Have a great week!

Small American Diner Vector - Off White with Bright Pink Trim

American Diners

diner is a special kind of American restaurant. Diners are casual restaurants that serve American food. They are popular, and are often open very late. Diners are often visited by travelers, truck drivers, employees and people who enjoy typical American food. 

Terry's Coffee Shop in Brooklyn close to Marcy Ave station

Most diners have a stainless-steel exterior. The insides have booths and stools with counters. When diners were first started in 1872, they were small. They would first be made and then shipped to the owners. 

Fast Food Diner with Stainless Steel and Red Counter and Stools

Today, there are many kinds of diners. Some are small; others are very large. A few are quite famous. Some diners do not even look like diners anymore. However, you can still tell a diner by its menu.

Classic Looking Large Diner. Blue Stools and Off-White Countertop

1.  What is a diner?
2.  When did diners first start? How were they made?
3.  How can you tell that a restaurant is a diner?
4.  What does the inside of a diner look like?
5.  In your opinion, what are some reasons for diners becoming popular?


The menu below is a typical menu for a diner. 

1. Scan the menu quickly. What foods have you tried from this menu?

Monroe Diner Menu

2. What are some items that you would have for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Dessert?

3. Imagine that you opened a new restaurant. Make up your own menu with prices. Include headings for each part of your menu.

4. Writing Topic: Some restaurants do very well. Others do not succeed and must be closed down. What makes a good restaurant? What makes a restaurant successful or not?

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing - ESL Reading Lesson

Staying home to take care of my two youngest children, I didn't hear about the Boston Marathon bombing until much after the fact. It's a terrible tragedy, and one can only imagine what kind of person would want to harm so many innocent people, including children. The picture of little Martin Richard smiling so brightly brought tears to my eyes; my heart goes out to the parents of this little boy. I have a nine-year old daughter myself, and I would not want to imagine my life without her.

Using News Events
A marathon is a rich topic for any teacher, including ESL teachers. Like it or not, the bombing makes the Boston Marathon a topic of further interest for students. I do want to discuss the event with my students, but not in a way that will inflame or depress them. Rather, I want to teach them something about marathons and give them an opportunity to talk about what's happened. 

Teaching Sensitive Topics to ESL Students
At the same time, as an ESL teacher, I need to keep in mind that many foreign students are sensitive to comments related to such tragedies. Some find themselves targets of offensive comments and may feel defensive. This may also be a good time to briefly discuss how such students feel. I hope this ESL lesson on the Boston Marathon teaches students about the day in a positive and constructive manner. 

For anyone who also teaches younger students, I tried to design this lesson so that it can be used for sixth and seventh graders who want to learn more about the Boston Marathon and the tragic bombing. 

I hope you and your students benefit from this lesson, and come away with something at the end of it.  

The Boston Marathon Bombing

Boston Marathon Runner John Funk Competing in Race in Blue Shirt and Black Shorts

Have you ever run in a race? The Boston Marathon is one of the world's most famous races. It has been in the news many times, for example, when Kenyan runner Geoffrey Mutai set a world running record in 2011. This year, the Boston Marathon has been in the news more than ever.

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon. It takes place every year in the Boston area. It is always held on the 3rd Monday in April. The Boston Marathon was first started in 1897 by the Boston Athletic Association. This same organization still runs the event. To complete the race, one must run a distance of 26 miles and 385 yards.  

The Boston Marathon has grown each year, so that it is now one of Boston's biggest events. Starting with only 18 people in 1897, the event now brings more than half a million fans each year to the race. More than twenty thousand people also run in the marathon each year.

Anyone who qualifies can run in the Boston Marathon. In fact, runners from all over the world come to Boston each year to compete. A runner must be over the age of 18 and have completed a marathon before. Many different kinds of people compete in this race. For example, people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities participate and can also win prizes.

It is not easy to run a marathon. Yet the Boston Marathon is one of the hardest. There are many hills to run through. Also, Boston can be cold and rainy in April. Runners must complete the 26-mile race, no matter the terrain and weather.

The Boston Marathon has always been a joyous event celebrating health, fitness, and sportsmanship. Families come to support runners. People of all ages enjoy being a part of this famous race, and celebrating with the winners. The winners are awarded large prizes. The first man and woman to complete the race receive $100,000. There are also prizes for 2nd and 3rd place, and for winners with disabilities.

This year, the Boston Marathon started out as a happy event as usual. However, it tragically turned into a terrible event. Towards the end of the race, this year, two bombs exploded near a crowd of spectators. The bombs were placed in pressure cookers hidden in backpacks. Two Americans and a Chinese man died in the explosions. Among those killed was an eight-year old boy named Martin Richard. More than 150 people were also injured. Several people who were hurt had to have arms or legs amputated. People are not sure how or why this happened. Everyone is looking for answers as to who could have committed such a terrible crime.

Americans are believed to be unusually optimistic and good at "bouncing back". They will always remember this tragedy. Yet, one can expect Bostonians and Americans to remain committed to maintaining the tradition of this famous marathon. And who knows? It may be that next year will bring more runners than ever before.


1. What is a marathon?
2. Why is the Boston Marathon so popular?
3. For how many years has the Boston Marathon been held?
4. How was this year's marathon different from marathons in past years?
5. What is meant by "bouncing back"?
6. After what happened this year in Boston, would you run next year if you could? Why or why not?
7. How will the Boston Marathon be different next year than this year, in negative and positive ways?
8. Draw a line under every simple past verb and a double line under every present perfect verb.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Computer Icons - Monday Morning Worksheet - ESL

Welcome! I'm glad you could make it today!

This first Monday Morning Worksheet is about Computer Icons. Students read a short text about icons and then try to guess the uses for various icons. This can be done in pairs. I've also included a few activities that students can do as a class or independently, including an essay topic. I hope you enjoy this worksheet and your Monday! 

Have a great week!

Computer Icons

Computer Icons for Computer Screens & Mobiles

When you first turn on your computer or cell phone (mobile phone), what do you see on the screen? In most cases, you see pictures, not words. Most computers and cell phone screens show pictures, or icons. Icons are small, simple images. They are used as shortcuts to computer files and programs. Icons look different for each program or type of file that we use. Popular programs have similar icons. The icons may look a little different, but are used for the same thing. An example of this is Internet Explorer.

Computer Icon Vocabulary Words

1. Study the icons in the box above. What do you think each icon is used for? Use the words below to help you decide. Work with a partner if you have one.

2. Which icons do you use most, on your phone or computer?

3. Why do you think programs use icons instead of words?

4. What are some problems caused by using icons instead of words?

Computer Icon Worksheet PDF

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to Make Mondays Your Best Days

Manic Monday

Just another Manic Monday! How many of us sing that to ourselves on Monday morning? I used to hum it to myself on Monday mornings when I was young.

I used to hate Mondays!

When I first started teaching, years ago, I dreaded Monday mornings, more than anything. Fresh out of school, and used to sleeping in, I found this new Monday morning work routine agonizing. On top of this, I had little second graders and was quite young myself (I graduated from college at 19). Honestly, if my classroom hadn't been directly across from a secretary's office, I would probably have put on a documentary and dozed at my desk! As it was, I had enough trouble keeping students busy on Mondays while I got myself together.

Things got better.

Over time, thankfully, I've learned to plan better, and have developed some strategies to make Mondays as good as any other day (at least for students!). 

Here are some things I do to help myself & my students thrive on Mondays.

1. Plan Mondays & Tuesdays on the Friday before.
This includes having all copies made and placed in a special folder on your desk. Ideally, we would have planned the whole week, but plans change as the week progresses anyway, so it's not always feasible or possible to do this. In any case, I've found that planning Mondays and Tuesdays gets me to Wednesdays even, much of the time, since I don't always accomplish everything I've set out to do.
2. Keep your Substitute Folder well-stocked.
I like to keep at least 5 copied activities in my Substitute Folder. This is great for emergencies, like when you have to be absent unexpectedly, or are out of commission mentally (this seems to happen most often on Mondays!). 

Substitute Folder

3. Learn about a few simple games and activities that you can use.
Choose activities that don't require making copies. Sometimes I'll use a page from a textbook as a guide, for example using a page of adjectives to have students guess synonyms & antonyms. Students can then write a describing paragraph using these words. Another game students enjoy is playing 20 questions in pairs, using class dictionaries. Or, try these activities from Teaching English with Minimal Resources.

4. Have a Monday Morning Folder
Get a colored manila folder and, yes, label it Monday Mornings. Also, create a folder on your computer Desktop labeled Monday Morning. When you come across a simple, high-quality language activity that your students enjoy, save a copy of it in this folder.

To Really Make Your Monday Mornings Shine:

Visit my blog! I plan to have something for you here, on my blog, every Monday morning. Each Monday post will feature a quality ESL activity suitable for the first morning of the week. You can use this activity first thing in the morning, or for any day you feel like doing something a little different, but still easy. Hopefully, you'll like the activity enough to save it to your own Monday Morning folder.

Monday Mornings Folder

All activities posted on Monday fulfill the following criteria:

1. They require no preparation except copying a single page.
2. They take at least 30 minutes to complete & can be extended to 50 minutes.
3. They build language

I hope you'll look for my post & worksheet first thing tomorrow, Monday morning! 

Thanks for reading, and see you tomorrow!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why I Love Worksheets!

workbooks on display in a teacher supply store
I love worksheets! 

As an ESL teacher, I don't know what I'd do without them. Like many teachers, I have a whole bookshelf of workbooks that I use for my classes.  Of course, I also have tons of worksheets, on file, on my computer.

My favorite worksheets are grammar worksheets that are simple and effective. I like to use Betty Azar's grammar books, but I haven't found anything I really like for testing. Really good grammar quizzes are hard to come by, so I usually make my own. An hour's work, properly filed away (the keyword here being properly!), saves me time & effort down the road.    

I use these two grammar quizzes as a pretest and post-test. Each takes about 10 minutes. The verbs are the same for both tests. 

I like pretests for two reasons:  

1. They help me to see where students are. 

2. They help students to see where they are! 

I always have a few students who are over-confident and think they know everything. This is not always a bad thing, but in this case it usually means the student turns smug and stops paying attention!

I'd be happy to post more grammar worksheets.

The quizzes can be used as practice or homework worksheets, as well.

I've only posted the pretest below, but both quizzes are available in the PDF file.

A. Simple Present - Regular Verbs

A. Write the correct form of the verb, for each sentence. (1 point)
1.     I _____ my mother in Texas every summer. (visit)
2.     Jane _____ a blue pen for tests. (use)
3.     My teacher _____ us when there will be a test. (tell)
4.     Most people _____ three meals a day. (eat)
5.     My children _____ at 8 o'clock. (sleep)
6.     I _____ to school with my dad. (ride)
7.     My mother _____ pancakes for dinner on Sundays. (make)
             Pancakes with butter & syrup on a red-checked tablecloth
8.     I _____ where Fred went! (wonder)
9.     Karen _____ French with her mother. (speak)
10.  I _____ in my diary every evening. (write)
11.  Larry _____ by airplane when he goes to Mexico. (travel)
12.  Jim fell and _____ his knee. (hurt)
13.  The printer _____ more ink. (need)
14.  My sons _____ their new toy! (love)
15.  Hercule Poirot _____ hot cocoa every morning. (drink)
16.  They _____the news every evening. (watch)
17.  After dinner, Fred and I _____ the dishes. (wash)
18.  It _____ every winter in New York. (snow)
19.  Both of us _____ French classes. (take)
20.  My alarm clock _____loudly at 5 o'clock every morning! (ring)

B. Write one sentence in the simple present. Choose from the verbs listed above. (5 points)

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Thieves of Time

Outdoor Bath House Pool and Arches Leading to It

Here's a quote I read today:
Things are thieves of time.        

It's a quote by Nathan Gardels. 

What do you this mean to you? How can things be thieves?  How can things steal?  How can things steal time?!  

We have so much more stuff than people in the past. My grandfather had only 2 suits. He wore one for several days and then the other.  That was it.  My father has more than that.  My brother has even more!  

Why do we have so much more stuff today? How has it changed our lives? I've been thinking about this for some time now. Why?  

Because I recently moved to a new home, and I'm still unpacking my things!  Still trying to find my things. Still arranging things.  And I don't even have that many things! So this has got me thinking about things.  

We spend so much time saving up to buy things, shopping for things, storing things, and fixing our things.  And we have to spend time cleaning our things, dusting our things, and moving our things.  We also spend a lot of time worrying about our things. It's almost as though our stuff has taken over our lives. 

How do we get out of this problem?  

I'm reminded of a very famous quote by William Morrison:  

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful,or believe to be beautiful. 

This quote has helped me get rid of many of my things.  

I hope I remember these two sayings while I continue to unpack! After all, I want to enjoy my things, not feel like a prisoner of my possessions

Here's to having fewer things and enjoying what we have!

Close-up of Pink Peony

Thieves of Time - Language Lesson 

I want to enjoy my things, not feel like a prisoner of my possessions. 

In this sentence, you say what you want, then follow it with what you don't want.
I want _____, not _____.

For example: I want the salt, not the pepper.Practice making sentences like these with the words below.
  1. (chicken, beef)
  2. (white paper, pink paper)
  3. (the red pen, the blue pen)
  4. (to go to Morocco, Mali)
  5. (to go skiing, sit at home all day)

[Language Level - High Beginner]

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Back to Bed!

Once, many years ago, I got ready to go to work after staying up late the night before. It was snowing badly and I really didn't want to go. My mother-in-law was visiting that week and I wished that I could spend the day with her instead. (I have this really wonderful mother-in-law. Don't know how I got her, but there it is.). Anyway, when I got to school, I was the only one there. It was a snow day and I hadn't heard. This story reminds me of that day.

LEVEL: Beginner 

1. Do you go to school, or do you have a job?
2. How do you get to your school or job?

Ted is a student. He does not have a car. Ted goes to school by bus. Ted waits for the bus at the bus stop.
An empty bus stop with a bench near a company

Sometimes the bus comes late. Most days, there are a lot of people on the bus. When there are a lot of people on the bus, Ted must stand. Ted likes to sit so that he can read his book on the bus. Today, there are only a few people on the bus. 

A man sitting on a near-empty bus on the way to school

Ted is surprised. Why are there so few people on the bus? Ted sits and reads his book. When Ted gets to school, there are no students! 

A college teacher on an empty campus, walking to a university building

Ted sees his teacher Mr. Ames. 

Mr. Ames says, "Hello Ted, what are you doing at school today? There is no school for students!"

Ted forgot that there is no school today! Ted goes back to the bus stop and waits for the bus to go home.

Ted says to himself, "When I get home, I'm going back to bed!" (163 words)

A young college student looking sleepy and surprised

Complete the graphic about Ted, below. List the effect of each causeUse information from the story.

Graphic organizer describing cause & effect


Read each question and answer it.

1. Does Ted have a bicycle?

2. Does Ted like to sleep?

3. Where does Ted's bus go?

4. How many people are on the bus?

5. Where does Ted wait for the bus?

6. Is Ted’s teacher surprised to see him?

7. What does Ted do, when he gets home?

 To download & use as a worksheet, click on the icon below. 
PDF Link to Back to Bed! Worksheet

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