Writing Prompt Wednesday


Level 1: What do you see in this picture? Who is there? How many? What season?

Level 2: Write 3-5 sentences to describe the scene.

Level 3: Write a short story about where these people are, how they feel, and what they are doing.

Creative Writing: Imagine that these people are making plans for tomorrow. Write a story about this conversation.

Academic Writing: Write a how-to essay that explains either 1) how to start a fire, or 2) how to dress warmly for snow.

Bonus: The people are probably eating s’mores and drinking hot chocolate. Write a journal entry about these snacks. Have you had them? Do you like them? What are your preferred campfire snacks?


Photo Credit: Mt. Hood Territory on Flickr


Resource: Everyday Conversations

I came across a great resource!

It’s called Everyday Conversations. Here is a screenshot:


The intended audience seems to be older children – maybe 11 years old. They are posting short audio (with written transcripts) of a family visiting all 50 states in the USA. I think some of the stories are reasonably interesting for adults, too.

For example, here is a link to their story about visiting the Great Lakes in  Michigan.

This is part of a bigger website at share.america.gov – a program by the US State Department. It has a lot of interesting articles, including videos, about culture, geography, politics, environment, etc.

Here is a screenshot:



Writing Prompt Wednesday


Level 1: What do you see in the picture? Name the things and their colors (for example, brown floor).

Level 2: Describe the room. What is in it? How does it feel? Try for 5 sentences.

Level 3: Write a real estate ad for this house. Use the information available in the picture. Make up additional information. Talk about the heating, floors, bedrooms, kitchen, etc. For examples, look at a website such as Zillow.com.

Creative Writing: Imagine and write a short back-story for at least three items in this room. Where were they, and how did they get here?

Academic Writing: Write a compare and contrast essay about different ways to stay warm during the winter.


Photo Credit: Moon Angel on Flickr


2317183342_0be0a151acHave you ever heard of metacognition?

It means “thinking about thinking.”

It goes back to my very first post of advice on this blog: you are your own best teacher.

My deepest advice that I will post on this blog again and again is to think about your learning.

And then act upon those thoughts: change how you study, or ask some questions, or enroll in a class, or listen to English radio when you drive to work. Don’t wait around for a teacher to tell you.

Here are some ways to use metacognition to learn English better:

  • Think about how you study. Do you think it’s effective? Why? What is one other method you could try? When will you try it?
  • Think about a time you learned really well. What did you do? How did you feel? How could you do that again?
  • What are you good at? How can you use those skills to help yourself when you struggle?
  • Think about a topic in learning English that is hard for you. Now, imagine that a friend of yours is a teacher. S/he knows all about teaching and also knows you very well. What advice would s/he give you? Would you try it?
  • Imagine your life a year from now. What do you hope you can do better then? What can you do today to take one step in that direction? Can you make a plan to take another step every week? What about every day?
  • Examine a piece of your writing or English practice. Make sure it is at least a week old. Look for your errors. What types of mistakes did you make? Do you see any patterns? What do these patterns tell you you should work on next?

Do you see how much you can do yourself? You don’t need a syllabus to tell you what’s next.

Good luck!

Listen to Emily read this post. (I recorded using Vocaroo.com. It will open in a new tab.)

Photo Credit: Crystal on Flickr


Writing Prompt Wednesday


Level 1: What do you see? What people? What sport? What clothes? What things?

Level 2: What are they doing? How is the weather? Write 3-5 sentences.

Level 3: Write a paragraph about popular winter activities.

Creative Writing: Write a short story from the point of view of one of the skiing polar bear statues.

Academic Writing: Discuss the modern and traditional elements in this picture.


Photo Credit: Alistair Young on Flickr

Tip: Pronunciation Meets Grammar

10657116415_e22814da5eToday I am going to write about two examples of English pronunciation that affect English grammar.


The only reason that “an” exists is because of pronunciation. It is easier for English speakers to say “an apple” than “a apple.”

Here, the grammar follows the pronunciation. This makes the grammar rule tricky to summarize. Sometimes people say that we say “a” before a consonant and “an” before a vowel. However, this is not 100% true.

The real rule is this: we say “an” before a word that starts with a vowel sound. It doesn’t matter how that word is spelled. It matters that we want to link our words without stopping our voice.

So when you’re doing a crossword puzzle, you might know there’s “an H” in a certain square. It doesn’t reflect that H is a vowel or that our rule is inconsistent. It reflects that when we say the letter H, it begins with a vowel sound.


Similarly, the only reason that some plurals (or third-person singulars in Simple Present) end in -es instead of just -s, is for pronunciation.

It’s not that we’re in love with having another weird spelling thing. And it doesn’t secretly thrill us when “box” has one syllable while its plural, “boxes,” has two. It’s that we want to hear the whole root word plus its ending. We could have made the plural sound like “boxsss,” but that’s not what we do.

We add a syllable to make sure we can hear the plural.

So if you’re not sure if it’s -s or -es, I recommend saying it out loud to yourself. Does the main word end with a syllable that hisses or shushes? /s/, /sh/, /zh/, /ch/, /j/. If so, it’s -es.

But remember this is not really a spelling rule, and it’s not really a grammar rule.

It’s a pronunciation rule that causes the word to change this way.


There are other English rules like these ones – can you think of what they are?


Listen to Emily read this post. (I recorded using Vocaroo.com. It will open in a new tab.)


Photo Credit: Sarah Clark on Flickr

Writing Prompt Wednesday


Level 1: What do you see? Use some prepositions: on, over, etc…

Level 2: Describe the picture. Write 3-5 sentences.

Level 3: What does it mean to “get organized?” Write a paragraph describing several examples.

Creative writing: Imagine what the rest of this room looks like. Describe it.

Academic writing: Write down a process for getting organized. Make sure it is worded clearly and written in a sensible order.

Bonus: Describe how to build that shelf.


Photo Credit: Alison Headley on Flickr