Warm-up Activity using For & Since

I use this activity as a warm-up when talking about the present perfect and using “for” and “since.”  This works well as a follow up review activity for lower level classes or a refresher for those who are more advanced.

Briefly explain why we use both “for” and “since” in the present perfect.

For:  a period of time in the past (5 days, 6 minutes, 20 years etc)
Since: a point in time in the past (2004, yesterday, last week, February etc)

Once they have a decent understanding of the rule write FOR and SINCE on the board. Above the word “FOR” write “STAND” and above “SINCE” write “SIT.”  Explain to them that you will call out either a period of time or a point in time and depending on what they hear they must either sit down or stand up. Go through a few practice rounds with them.

What you do from here is up to the specific class itself. If I have a lot of confident students who are good friends with each other I turn it into a race and the last person to stand or sit has to create a sentence using the period or point in time I gave.

I don’t do it this way if the class is mixed level because I don’t want to single out any one student who may not understand so I let them know that the first half of the class to sit or stand correctly is safe but anyone else could be called upon to make a sentence. That way I can control a little better who has to speak.

It’s fun to trick the students by sitting and standing with them for the first few and then doing the opposite of what they expect when I call out the period or point in time.

This activity is a lot of fun and is great as a warm up or closer activity to get the students moving around!

5 Years Later: Joey Goes Global on ABC News!

Somali Civil War Tank

Somali Civil War Tank

It’s been 5 years since my last big adventure. Before embarking on my teaching career in South East Asia I backpacked through the horn of Africa and explored the northern Somalian state of Somaliland. I learned a lot about a unique part of the world after studying about it during my degree work.

On February 22, 2011 that the story ran and it’s a reminder for me to start planning my next big trip. I’ve still got a little time left before I graduate but I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to the African continent within the next couple of years for an even bigger adventure!

Enjoy the article!

Revolution Chasers Redefine Adventure Travel

Survival (teaching the infinitive)

Deserted Island

Survival on a deserted island

I absolutely love this lesson because it is a great way to get students working together and having fun while getting the hang of an important grammar point. The infinitive form of verbs.

to + verb
to cut, to start, to help, to protect etc.

I also like this lesson because it’s easily adaptable to levels and you only have to change the expected outcomes between beginner and advanced students.

Materials: One worksheet (which I will upload in a couple of days)
Time: Approximately 80 minutes

I start this lesson by doing a simple brainstorming activity to get the students thinking about the types of items they would want with them to survive on a deserted island. How you do the warmer is up to you but I like to be a bit direct and to the point with this as other parts of the lesson will take up more time. (students will undoubtedly mention things like, tent, knife, flashlight, blanket and other items they associate with camping)
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ESL Lesson Plan: Relative Pronouns (no preparation)

This is an activity I like to use when teaching relative pronouns. It can be adapted to any age group or level just by changing the difficulty of the examples and expectations of the students. The best part is it requires NO materials or preparation and is great when you need to come up with a lesson quickly.



I usually start this lesson by walking into the classroom looking confused. I say to the students, “I FORGOT!” then, “What’s that woman called who teaches math and has three daughters and is really nice?” at which time they’ll name the teacher. Then I’ll shout again, “I FORGOT!” What’s that place called where you can quickly go inside and buy snacks or drinks but it’s not a supermarket?” (mini mart) … again, “I FORGOT!” by the third time they should be shouting “I FORGOT” with you and laughing along at your silliness. Use as many examples as you’d like to get the students excited about the lesson.

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Wake up Mr. Joe, time to write!

There’s a big hole in my website between when I settled down in Indonesia until now. For some reason I can never keep up the motivation for writing when I’m sedentary. It is so much easier to write when I’m on the road sitting at a guesthouse in some strange city. The one thing I didn’t anticipate about living abroad is that eventually it becomes normal life. You wake up, take a shower, go to work, maybe you have breakfast maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re late but you need to stop for gas. Some days you have to go to the doctor, some days you have to pay your internet bill. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement is still there but at some point life just starts becoming normal. It’s in those moments when the motivation to write is really difficult to find.

So here I am, writing something. Anything, even if it’s just some words and thoughts. This is partly due to a school assignment involving the internet in education and maintaining a web presence but in reality this has been a long time coming. So here it goes…

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Why tourists are wrong about Medan

Don’t head the warning

It all starts with the Lonely Planet guidebook for Indonesia. The writer paints a bleak picture of Medan by telling the reader that it is “consistently at the top of the worst cities in the world list,” among backpackers. To be fair, the writer does go on to defend Medan by saying if you give it some time it does have its charm. By this time the trip planner has already gotten it in their head that they should expect the worst.

Indonesia itself is not necessarily a part of the main backpacker trail of South East Asia. With it being such a sprawling nation of islands of various sizes it doesn’t usually come on the radar as a budget destination since it will take a few flights in order to get a proper feel for the country. The ones that do make their way to Indonesia generally stick to the tourist hot spots of Bali and Java.
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Responding to the “You’re so lucky!” comments

When I tell people I am teaching English in a foreign country many people respond with, “Wow, you’re so lucky!” They are right, but for the wrong reason. They assume that somehow I luckily happened upon a lottery in which the winner gets to travel the world and live anywhere they want. Well, no… that part just took a little hard work and determination. Both attributes everyone can have and does not require chance.

Lake Toba Young Learners

I'm lucky to be a native English speaker!

The luck came in 1980 when I was born in one of a few countries where English is the native language. The world population was about 4.4 billion in August of 1980. The population of all the native English speaking countries was roughly a combined 330,000,000. That left me with a 7.4% change of being born into one of those countries. That’s luck. That’s chance. And a day does not go by that I don’t thank the universe for the opportunity to be able live the dream.

So, if you’re sitting at home reading this and you are also a native English speaker, don’t call me lucky. Stop making excuses and get off your ass and join me! Your lucky chance came the day you were born.

ESL Activity: Superlative Olympics

This is a great activity to get the students engaged through interaction and competition. Let’s face it, there is very little interesting about grammar so I’m always trying to figure out a way to get them to understand the topic with out realizing they are learning. It’s called the Superlative Olympics but you can also use the comparative to compare students with each other. The students will compete in several events to win gold, silver and bronze medals based on their performance. I’ll explain in more detail in a moment.

Superlative Olympics
Set up
After just a brief introduction to comparative and superlative adjectives it’s time to set up the activity. Divide the class into groups of about 3-4 students. Let them choose a country they are going to represent in the Olympics. Try not to be offended if no one chooses your native country. Next, hand out a prepared work sheet that should include a table with four columns. First column will have the events and the other three will be for the names of the gold, silver and bronze winners in each category. For each event each team will elect one student to participate and they will come to the front of the class and either sit or stand depending on what the event calls for.
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ESL Activity: Have you ever…? (Present Perfect)

It seems like I’m teaching the past perfect every week in at least one of my classes. Since I love to incorporate geography into my lessons it can often be interesting to find out where students have been and also get to talk about my travels with them.

Here are the rules:

Set up:

You can split the students into small teams or do this individually depending on the dynamics of the class. I write a number of categories on the whiteboard such as food, cities, shops, countries, activities etc. Have them list 5 things from each category that they can say they’ve had experience with. Encourage students to choose more unique things such as strange foods or adventurous activities.
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