Category Archives: Teaching Grammar

Teaching Vocabulary to ELLs


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Always good to know parts of speech that we use everyday!

Miss Cathie Blogs

partsofspeech - intro

What is a part of speech?

part of speech is a group of words that are used in a certain way. All words in the English language are divided into eight different categories and each category has a different role or function in the sentence. Remember that in the English language many words are used in more than one way. This means that a word can function as several different parts of speech. Each part of speech explains not what the word is, but how the word is used. In fact, the same word can be a noun in one sentence and a verb or adjective in the next. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.

It’s crucial that you remember these 8…

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16 Fantastic Words That Can’t Be Translated Into English

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The Grammar saga continues! Here are some Friday afternoon funsies for all you grammar lovers out there!

Here is some information from John Langan and Janet M. Goldstein’s English Brushup, 5th edition

 Chapter 21- English Brushup- Numbers and Abbreviations

Guidelines for writing numbers:

  1. Spell out a number only if it can be written in one or two words
  2. Spell out any number that begins a sentence
  3. Be consistent when writing a series of numbers. If one or more numbers in a series need to be written as numerals, write them all as numerals

The carpenter bought 150 nails, 12 bolts, and 2 drill bits.

  1. Use numericals to write dates, times, addresses, percentages, portions of a book, and exact amounts of money that include change


Typically want to avoid using these in papers written for class. Here are some that are okay to use in formal writing:

  1. Titles that are used with proper names

Mrs. Richardson, Dr. Bell, Prof. George Smith

  1. Initials in a person’s name

Edgar A. Poe

  1. Time references (A.M., P.M., A.D., etc.)
  2. Organizations, technical words, and trade names referred to by their initials. Usually written in all caps and without periods


Chapter 22- English Brushup- Usage

Incorrect and correct expressions

Incorrect Correct
anyways, anywheres anyway, anywhere
being as, being that because, since
can’t help but, cannot hardly, cannot scarcely can’t help, can hardly, can scarcely
could of, may of, might of, must of, should of, would of could have, may have, might have, must have, should have, would have
had ought ought
irregardless regardless
kind of a kind of
nowheres nowhere
off of off
suppose to, use to supposed to, used to
sure and, try and sure to, try to
the reason is because the reason is that
ways (meaning distance) way

Chapter 24- English Brushup- More about Subjects and Verbs

 Sentences with more than one subject

A sentence might have a compound subject- in other words, more than one   subject.

Ex. Ellen and Karla have started their part-time business.

Sentences with more than one verb

A sentence may have a compound verb- in other words, more than one verb.

Ex. They plan parties for other people and also provide all the refreshments.

Sentences with more than one subject and verb

A sentence might have both a compound subject and a compound verb.

Ex. In the last two weeks, Ellen and Karla arranged a wedding reception, catered a retirement dinner, and earned more than five hundred dollars.

Chapter 25- English Brushup- Verb Tense, Voice, Verbals, and Irregular Pairs


Refers to time

Tells us when the action took place

There are 12 major tenses in English

Present (now or habitually)

Past (already happened)

Future (going to happen)

Present Perfect (began in past and now completed or continuing in present) (has looked)

Past Perfect (happened before another past action) (had looked)

Future Perfect (is going to happen before some other future action) (will have looked)

Present Progressive (in progress) (is looking)

Past progressive (was in progress) (was looking)

Future progressive (will be in progress) (will be looking)

Present Perfect Progressive (was in progress and still is) (has been looking)

Past Perfect Progressive (was in progress until recently) (had been looking)

Future Perfect Progressive (will be in progress until a set time in the future) (will have been looking)


Active voice- action of the verb is done by the subject

he takes the child home.

Passive voice – the action is done to the subject

– the child was taken home by him.


Formed from verbs, are used to describe people, places, and things

Infinitive- to plus a verb

            – the children began to cry

Participle – present = verb + ing, past = verb + ed or irregular

the crying frightened the child.

Gerund – verb + ing

– crying is sometimes very healthy.

Troublesome irregulars:

-Lay / lie

-Sit / set

-Rise / raise

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More grammar funsies! Mixed Constructions…

Here is some information from John Langan and Janet M. Goldstein’s English Brushup, 5th edition

Chapter 23 English Brushup- Mixed Constructions

These are sentences whose parts do not logically fit together

 To correct one, try the following:

1.  Turn the first part of the sentence into something that can be the subject

Mixed: By practicing six hours a day helped Sasha become a champion skater.

Corrected: Practicing six hours a day helped Sasha become a champion skater.

2.  Turn the second part of the sentence into a complete statement.

Mixed: Just because you got your learner’s permit does not automatically give you permission to drive the car.

Corrected: Just because you got your learner’s permit, you do not automatically get permission to drive the car.

There are 3 word groups that lead to mixed constructions:

-is when

-is where

-IS (along with other forms of to be) is a linking verb so it needs to be followed by a subject complement (a noun), and not a dependent word like where, when, or because.  It’s really just best to avoid using is when oris where altogether in definitions or when giving examples

Mixed: An approach-avoidance conflict is when someone is both attractedto and repelled by the same goal.

Corrected: An approach-avoidance conflict is a situation in which (or occurs when) someone is both attracted to and repelled by the same goal.

-reason is because

-To correct reason is because, eliminate reason or because

Mixed: The reason Tanya was promoted is because she is a hard worker.

Corrected: Tanya was promoted because she is a hard worker.

This must be a bear for ELLs as I know it is tough for many a native English speakers.  I use mixed constructions often and probably will continue to do so if not paying attention when speaking.

Practice activities:

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Spelling, Pronouns, Parallelism, Adjectives and Adverbs- Get Grammar Done!

Here are some additional grammar concepts as conveyed from my classmates and based on topics from English Brushup by John Langan and Janet M. Goldstein.  Included are various websites and activities ideal for English Language Learners.  Enjoy!


Hints for spelling better:

  1. Use aides- dictionaries or spell check on computers
  2. Keep a spelling list of all misspelled words. Show what is the correct spelling, and then give a clue or reason why it should be that way.
  3. Learn the most commonly confusing words and memorize them. (where / were, to / too, its / it’s)
  4. Apply basic spelling rules
  • I before E except after C, or when sounded like an A, as in neighbor and weigh.
  • Silent E rule: drop the ‘e’ before adding an ending- guide –ance = guidance
  • Y rule: change the ‘y’ to an ‘I’ when the last 2 letters of the word are a consonant plus ‘y’, OR the ending being added begins with a vowel or is ‘ful’ ‘ly’ or ‘ness’
    • Fly +es = flies
    • Try +ed = tried
    • Plenty + ful = plentiful
  • Doubling rule: double the final consonant of the word when
    • The last 3 letters of the word are a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant (CVC)
    • The word is only one syllable
    • The ending being added begins with a vowel
      • Stop + ed = stopped
      • Begin + ing = beginning
      • Red + est = reddest

–        Spelling in English is quite difficult. I can see how a student who is learning English would struggle with these spelling rules. As a high school teacher, I see many native English speakers who still struggle spelling correctly.

–        A fun spelling practice site –


Pronouns! Pronouns are tricky, especially for new language learners. Remember, there are different types of pronouns:

1. Subject pronouns

2. Object pronouns

3. Possessive pronouns

4. Relative pronouns

5. Demonstrative pronouns

6. Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

7. Interrogative Pronouns

8. Indefinite pronouns

Essentially, there are tons of pronouns to learn! Are you confused it? And in actuality, they are not that difficult to classify. For example, indefinite pronouns refer to a pronoun that does not identify a specific object.


Parallelism “Two or more equal ideas should be expressed in parallel, or matching, form. The ideas will then read smoothly and naturally.” (p. 174)

“Faulty parallelism is jarring and awkward to read. “ Ex. The bowel was filled with crisp apples, juicy oranges, and bananas that were ripe.

The above sentence could be changed to: The bowel was filled with crisp apples, juicy oranges, and ripe bananas.

When To Use Parallelism:

1. A series of items

2. Offering choices

3. Making a point

Here is a little more info on teaching parallelism: (For more advanced ESL students)

This article is a little more basic and has a link to a worksheet to practice parallelism.  The worksheet has a nice answer key with explanations that students may be able to use on their own to check their work.


As we all know by now, adjectives describe nouns; that is, people, places, or things

-Found in two places

-Before the word it describes (a stinky dog)

-After a linking verb

-May be the verb be (I am stinky)

                                    –Or others such as feel, look, sound, smell, taste, appear, seem, grow, remain, and become (I feel stinky)

Adjectives are often used in comparisons and change form when they do so

-Add –er to shorter adjectives (one syllable ones) comparing two things

-Add –est­ when comparing three or more things


No need to change form of adjectives with two or more syllables.  Instead, use more to compare two things and most to compare three or more things

Another note:

Never use –er ending and more; same goes for –est and ­most

And another note:

Certain adjectives have irregular forms

  Comparing 2 Comparing 3 or more
bad worse worst
good, well better best
little less least
much, many more most

Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

-Most end in ly

                        –The clerk spoke to me rudely

                        –The clerk spoke to me very rudely (very is the adverb describing the adverb rudely)

Adverbs (and not adjectives) are used after an action verb


Important to pay attention to words like good and well

          -Good is an adjective that indicates “talented” or “positive”

-Rufio is a good barker

-As an adverb, well often means “talented” or “positive”

-Rufio runs well

Another note:

As an adjective, well means “healthy”

-Are you feeling well?

Adjectives and adverbs can be tricky for ELLs for many reasons.  For starters, there are irregular adjective forms that don’t follow standard rules for modifying adjectives.  Additionally, adjectives in English aren’t necessarily pluralized as they are in some other languages.  In French, for example, adjectives agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify.  Adjectives in French typically follow the noun they describe (with a few exceptions of course!), whereas Enlgish adjectives typically go before.

For example:


a green book (un livre vert)

green books (des livres verts)

Although a tad bland, teachers of ELLs can try some of these with their students:

Since adjectives often come after linking verbs like feel, smell, taste, etc. a fun lesson might include the use of these senses.  Teacher and students can both bring in various food items, fabrics and textured items and describe them

This site has some good lessons to incorporate adjectives as well

Another site for adjective and adverb hands on lessons

And for adverbs

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Grammar can be tough, but you can be tougher!

Grammar can be tough but you can be tougher!  Here are some fun, interactive activities to share with your students.

Subjects and Verbs

A classic—School House Rocks Subjects and Predicates:

 BrainPop Subjects and verbs:


Subject Verb Agreement



Here is a fun video that simply and slowly explains how to form complete sentences and stray away from run-on sentences. This is for young children.

 For slightly older children, you could use this video that goes more in depth.


Comma Splices and Run-ons

This link is an interactive quiz on how to fix comma splices





To check comprehension:

Students can even exchange their work and check it for correctness. 

Children can also read texts from their own favorite books, identify the commas and do their best to explain the logic behind each.

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