Category Archives: English Lessons

On Nouns Becoming Verbs in English

… In English we can take a noun and change it into a verb and the sentence still makes sense. I saw an example recently. There was a sushi restaurant on First Avenue near St. Mark’s that had a great box lunch special. For around […]

Robert Frost reads Acquainted with the Night (a closer look at the present perfect tense in English)

… Acquainted with the Night I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his […]

Poetry Lesson: Fog by Carl Sandburg

… What follows is an ESL lesson I use with Fog by Carl Sandburg. I present it from the point of view of a teacher talking. The objective is to get the student writing, and that process is divided into three parts. Students first examine […]

Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson: A closer look at and a lesson for an ESL teacher

… I love and yet have mixed feelings about a poem by Emily Dickinson, but it doesn’t stop me from using it in a poetry lesson for students who are learning the English language. I let the class memorize the first stanza to exercise their […]

The Rabbit and the Turtle: ESL Lesson Four: Writing a Story and Using Correction Marks

… Introduction: If we want students to write well, it’s good to emphasize correction marks. When students use them, it helps them to focus on the writing and to think about punctuation and syntax. All correction marks are pretty similar. I’ve borrowed some of mine […]

The Rabbit and the Turtle: ESL Lesson Three: Discovering Parts of Speech

… Introduction: Adjectives and adverbs, and shortening compound sentences with neither, either, so, and too The first four lessons in The Rabbit and the Turtle are pre-reading, designed to get students used to working together writing, talking and thinking about language and syntax. In this […]

The Rabbit and the Turtle: ESL Lesson Two: Writing Simple Sentences

… Objective: Students will understand the simple structure of a sentence by writing four kinds of sentences using the completed Venn diagrams from Activity One as prompts: affirmative and negative sentences, and Yes/No and explanation questions. Students will write explanation questions of their own, ask […]

The Rabbit and the Turtle: ESL Lesson One: Similarities and Differences

… Introduction: Because a fable like the Rabbit and the Turtle deals with essential human truths everyone understands, it’s a good place for ESL students to start to work together. This lesson is geared toward High Beginners/Low Intermediates, but it can be ratcheted up or […]

The Storm: Creation of a Poem

… In Wuhan, China, summer of 2008, one stormy evening after my poetry workshop, Richard, a young scientist majoring in Physics, offered to walk me back to the hotel sharing his umbrella in the pouring rain as we made it up the steps built into […]

Bernadette Mayer’s Tomorrow: writing in the future


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… I admire a poem by Bernadette Mayer called Tomorrow. It’s from a book of hers called Scarlet Tanager. The poem is a good prompt to get my ESL students writing about the future and the conditional. In the poem Bernadette moves at an impossible […]

Forget: Beautiful thoughts simply expressed

… Beautiful thoughts aren’t always pretty and neither are beautiful words. At the poetry workshop this summer at Wuhan I’d show two short poems by Alice Notley that were simple to understand. Here is one of them. After Tsang Chih I was brought up in […]

Exquisite Corpses: Wuhan Poetry 2010

… The six photos above were picked at random. I first picked 13 because 13 is one of my favorite numbers, then I flipped a coin, tails (odds) and heads (even) to eliminate either 6 or 7 of them. It came up heads so I […]