Interactive PowerPoint Games for ESL Students

So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

Hello everyone! It has been a while since my last real post. I’ve been quite busy since the start of the semester in March, and haven’t had much time to write.

That aside, recently I have found a number of fun and interactive PowerPoint ESL games. I was browsing the Internet for some fun games to help my students review vocabulary or concepts.

The templates you can download have different themes such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Doraemon, and more. They are full of fun images and some even have music from the game/series to keep your students engaged.

The templates are blank with instructions on the first slide about how to add questions, or change images, etc. I’ve tried them out with a couple of my classes, and the kids love them! If you’re looking for a fun activity for your students to do, as well as review content, look no…

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The new £5 note has a major grammar blunder…But have you spotted it?

Bank note 
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney inspects the new plastic £5 note but does not spot incorrect grammar CREDIT:  JONATHAN BRADY

Britain is living in a “post-punctuation world”, academics have warned, with the Bank of England named as the latest major institution to ignore the correct use of the English language.

The Bank has been accused of “dumbing down” after choosing to remove punctuation from a quote by Sir Winston Churchill printed on its new £5 notes.

In its concept image for the new polymer £5 notes the Bank correctly included double quotation marks around the former prime minister’s famous saying: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

However, it has emerged that it quietly dropped them from the final design, something it is understood has attracted complaints from keen-eyed members of the public.

The National Literacy Trust has backed their cause advising that the quote is grammatically incorrect in its current state appearing without a full stop or quotation marks.

£5 note 
The new £5 note featuring a Winston Churchill quote with no full stop or quotation marks   CREDIT: BANK OF ENGLAND 

It is likely to further fuel a national debate over whether proper use of grammar and punctuation is being devalued by society and follows a number of local councils sparking public outrage by banning apostrophes from road signs, after national guidelines warned punctuation could “confuse” emergency services.

Some reversed the decision after members of the public resorted to using marker pens to fill in apostrophes missing from signs.

Prof Alan Smithers, head of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, said: “We are living in a post-punctuation world created by big institutions. Some people may dismiss omissions as pedantry, but they have lost sight of the fact that precision of expression reflects precision of thought.”

Speaking about the £5 notes a spokeswoman for the Trust, which aims to improve literacy levels in the UK, said: “If you are referencing a quotation word-for-word, use double quotation marks at the start and end of the quoted section. Place full stops and commas inside the quotation marks for a complete quoted sentence.”

Concept design 
The Bank of England’s original concept design for the new £5 note, which included double quotation marks around Winston Churchill’s words CREDIT: BANK OF ENGLAND 

The Bank had originally included double quotation marks in its concept image for the new polymer £5 notes but quietly dropped them from the final design.

Last night critics suggested the note’s designers had sacrificed “correct” punctuation for the sake of creating an aesthetically pleasing design. A spokesman at the Bank declined to comment.

New polymer £5 notes were introduced in October last year and there are now around 400 million in circulation.

Dr Tara Stubbs, an English lecturer at the University of Oxford, said such omissions were “condescending” and accused the Bank of trying to dumb down grammar.

She said: “It is a bit peculiar because it looks like its the Five Pounds that’s speaking and not Winston Churchill. There should be quotation marks and full stop, definitely. It also doesn’t have the Oxford comma after ‘tears’. To take that stuff out is condescending and I find efforts to dumb down like this just irritating.”

A street sign in Cambridge with apostrophes added in marker pen by a member of the public  CREDIT: BEN KENDALL/PA

Prof Smithers also suggested the Bank’s designers “had a poor grasp of grammar”, adding that they were “more concerned about shapes and patterns”.

But the Bank’s scant use of punctuation divided academics and literary experts, with some choosing to defend its decision.

Prof Geoff Pullum, a grammar expert at the University of Edinburgh, dismissed claims that the notes are grammatically incorrect as “a silly myth”.

He said: “The general principle that a full stop is required applies to connected prose. Quote marks would be serving no purpose on the note as its obvious that the quote belongs to the Great Sir Winston.”

And Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the Royal Society of Literature, suggested that the absence of quote marks and a full stop would not have bothered Winston Churchill, were he still alive.

She said: “The eminent Winston Churchill might have wondered why he was on a mere five pound note and not something a little weightier. I don’t know, orator that he was, whether he would have noticed the missing punctuation.”

‘Grammar vigilante’ correcting street, shopfront signs in London

‘Grammar vigilante’ correcting street, shopfront signs in London

Self-proclaimed “grammar nazis,” or those who habitually correct improper grammar, are all over the worldwide web and social media these days.

But one individual took it to the extremes, making it his life’s work to correct bad punctuation in the streets of London.

One unidentified man has been roaming around communities in Bristol at the wee hours to correct improper grammar in street signs and shopfronts, BBC news reported.

Armed with a broom handle, two sponges and a number of stickers—which he calls his “Apostrophiser”—the man has been placing missing apostrophes on shop banners for the past 13 years.

“I’m a grammar vigilante,” the man who wished to remain incognito told the news outlet. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing. I have felt extremely nervous. The heart has been thumping.”

The self-proclaimed grammar police also shared his recent adventures, correcting an errant apostrophe in a local motor shop named “Cambridge Motor’s garage.”

Store owner Paul Cambridge reportedly caught him in the act, but decided to let the man do his work. “We put up a sign and I caught him at the front attempting to scrub off permanent marker,” he said in a separate Telegraph report. “I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘You’ve got a rogue apostrophe there.’”

However, not all store owners were particularly fond of his doings.

Although his hobby is seemingly harmless, some considered it “rude” that he would alter signs without the owner’s knowledge. Others complained about the supposed permanent damage to their signs, which cost a substantial amount to replace.

Authorities in the area, meanwhile, said they received no complaints regarding the man’s actions.

Demise of English Grammar teaching

Johnson: Talking past each other

University programmes should do more teaching of language, not just literature

SOME advice is worse than useless. A short list of bullet points from eHow, a website, that is passing around social networks purports to show “how to write good.” (Each rule was jokingly broken in explaining it.) Unfortunately, it will not help most people write good. Two of the rules explained not to split infinitives or end sentences with a preposition. But both “split infinitives” and sentence-ending prepositions have been native to English, used by the finest writers, for centuries. The rest of the eHow list included the injunction that “the passive voice is to be avoided”.  But sadly, many writers, even professionals, cannot recognise the grammatical passive voice. (Here is a compendium of examples of writers calling out others for using the passive, when no passive has been used.)

The public understanding of grammar is in bad shape. There is blame to go round, but the simplest approach is to look at the teaching of the subject known as “English” at schools and universities.

Many schools have downplayed grammar teaching, so much so that pupils often first encounter words like “past participle” and “subordinate clause” in a foreign-language class, not in English. Traditional sentence-diagramming, though flawed, at least once taught students to break a sentence into its syntactic parts. Systematic grammatical analysis is now as hard to find as an inkwell in a school. Schools focus—rightly, as far as it goes—on getting students to organise their thoughts into essays. But they have de-emphasised the art of organising words into phrases, phrases into clauses, and clauses into well-crafted sentences. Many school-leavers in English-speaking countries cannot even say what a clause is. How are they supposed to systematically craft good ones?

But the problem goes deeper, to teacher training. Many English teachers struggle as much as students with phrases and clauses. They can correct common mistakes (“don’t confuse ‘effect’ and ‘affect’”) and teach punctuation (“it’s” versus “its”). But many could not confidently and correctly break the words of a complex sentence down by function. This seems to be due to a divorce long ago between the study of language itself and what college departments teach future teachers in the “English” departments.

In short, university English departments teach literature, not language. In Johnson’s brief look at the English-major requirements for five top American universities, not one requires a course on the English language itself. The picture is similar in Britain and elsewhere.

English majors become English teachers. They have spent years learning how to analyse poems, stories, novels and plays—but, in the average case, not a single semester analysing sentences. This is reflected in schools’ curricula: designed by former English graduates, they often require year after year of literature, but not a single focused course on the language itself. Many teachers must squeeze grammar teaching in where possible. Of course many good English teachers understand, and teach, English grammar well. But it is too often despite, rather than because of, their own university training.

The study of language itself has fallen to a separate academic field: linguistics. Unfortunately, linguistics and English departments have little to no interaction. Linguists have learned much about English grammar in the past century, but since linguistics became its own discipline, it has focused on its own narrow internal debates, with little of the influence that (say) psychology or economics have on the wider world, even though language is a topic of intense interest.

As a result of the divorce of language and literature, linguistics has developed an entire hoard of basic terms to describe sentences that are utterly unknown to English teachers. Take “determiner”. This is a basic class of words that includes the, a, an, three, this, that, my, his, many and many others. The reason linguists talk about determiners is that they all play the same kind of syntactical role, and are quite different from adjectives, the category they’ve traditionally been crammed into. Many other basic terms of syntax, like “complement” and “adjunct”, are virtually uknown outside the field, though they’re crucial for understanding how English grammar works.

The upshot is that those responsible for teaching English in schools pass on rules they memorised in high school, rather than a university-level understanding of grammar itself. It would be as though chemistry teachers taught “don’t drink mercury”, “hydrochloric acid is corrosive” and “burn this and it will yield a blue flame”, but had only a fuzzy understanding of particles, atoms and molecules.

Therefore, a small proposal: English departments should require an interdisciplinary class with linguistics on the grammar of the English language. Literature departments should cultivate more scholars who focus on language itself rather than literature alone. (Their academic research could focus on historical changes in English; how literary writers employ grammar devices; data-driven analysis of great English writing; the use of dialect and non-standard English; and so on.) In exchange, linguistics departments should require their students to take an English department class, to let those scientifically minded students broaden their horizons with the close reading of literary texts.

This should then pass through to schools. Linguistics and English departments should talk at conferences about how to improve pupils’ and students’ learning of language analysis, with a view to reviving and modernising grammar in schools. The upper years of high school should include a course focused purely on the language, rather than squeezing grammar teaching into literature courses.

Telling students not to split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions is wrong. But it would be only a small improvement to teach: “Split infinitives and end sentences with prepositions.” It would be much better to teach what a preposition really does, and how an infinitive really behaves. Understanding is tougher than memorisation. But on the bright side, students would come away not just with a memorised list of “do this, don’t do that,” but with a real appreciation for the intricate clockwork that is English grammar.

Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overtime pay

An overtime case that will delight language nerds everywhere hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma

Vampire Weekend, who made their disdain for the Oxford comma clear in song.
Vampire Weekend, who made their disdain for the Oxford comma clear in song. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Never let it be said that punctuation doesn’t matter.

In Maine, the much-disputed Oxford comma has helped a group of dairy drivers in a dispute with a company about overtime pay.

The Oxford comma is used before the words “and” or “or” in a list of three or more things. Also known as the serial comma, its aficionados say it clarifies sentences in which things are listed.

As Grammarly notes, the sentences “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty” and “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty” are a little different. Without a comma, it looks like the parents in question are, in fact, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

on the one hand I love the , on the other hand these sentences truly are SO GOOD

In a judgment that will delight Oxford comma enthusiasts everywhere, a US court of appeals sided with delivery drivers for Oakhurst Dairy because the lack of a comma made part of Maine’s overtime laws too ambiguous.

United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit, No. 16-1901 (March 13, 2017), Judge Barron:

The Oxford Comma is important.

The state’s law says the following activities do not count for overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.

The drivers argued, due to a lack of a comma between “packing for shipment” and “or distribution”, the law refers to the single activity of “packing”, not to “packing” and “distribution” as two separate activities. As the drivers distribute – but do not pack – the goods, this would make them eligible for overtime pay.

Previously, a district court had ruled in the dairy company’s favour, who argued that the legislation “unambiguously” identified the two as separate activities exempt from overtime pay. But the appeals judge sided with the drivers.

Circuit judge David J. Barron wrote:

We conclude that the exemption’s scope is actually not so clear in this regard. And because, under Maine law, ambiguities in the state’s wage and hour laws must be construed liberally in order to accomplish their remedial purpose, we adopt the drivers’ narrower reading of the exemption.

AP style fans, we know you’ll appreciate an about Oxford commas. You can write, count and share, too. 

The Oxford comma ignites considerable passion among its proponents and opponents. In 2011, when it was wrongly reported that the Oxford comma was being dropped by the University of Oxford style guide, there was uproar.

“Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” opens one Vampire Weekend song.

The Guardian style guide has the following to say about Oxford commas:

a comma before the final “and” in lists: straightforward ones (he ate ham, eggs and chips) do not need one, but sometimes it can help the reader (he ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea).

Sometimes it is essential: compare

I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling


I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling

From Seaspeak to Singlish: celebrating other kinds of English

From Seaspeak to Singlish: celebrating other kinds of English

Dialects that blend, bend and offend the rigid rules of traditional grammar can be a delight

A poster in Singapore advertising a comedy album in Singlish. It roughly translates as ”buy our CD, it’s very worthwhile and will make you laugh till you fall over”
A poster in Singapore advertising a comedy album in Singlish. It roughly translates as ”buy our CD, it’s very worthwhile and will make you laugh till you fall over” Photograph: Ed Wray/AP

It was recently reported that the government is being urged to create opportunities for Britons to learn languages like Polish, Urdu and Punjabi, in order to effect more social cohesion. According to Cambridge professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett, language learning, and indeed social integration, should not be a one-way street; rather, the onus should also fall on British people to learn community languages.

For me, this idea of a two-way street taps into a wider question about linguistic influence and evolution. There is interest and joy to be had not only in learning the languages of other cultures, but also in appreciating the effect they might have had on English.

Part of that process is ceding British English to the prospect of change, noting the ways in which ethnically marked forms of English, such as Bangladeshi and African-Caribbean varieties, have played their part in shaping how new generations across the country will speak: take Multi-Cultural London English, the dialect that has almost completely replaced Cockney on the streets of the capital.

Outside the UK too, creoles and dialects have bent, broken and downright flipped the bird at the rules, offering not only musicality and freshness, but new ways of conceiving of language that staunch protectionism doesn’t allow for.

Grammar rules have their place, of course, insofar as they offer a framework for precision and comprehension. But rules can be learned to be broken, leading to the formation of identities, cultural protests and unique means of expression.

Not persuaded? Then consider these examples of syntactic rule-bending and linguistic intermarriage that have taken English into intriguing and delightful new directions.

Irish English
Otherwise known as Hiberno-English, this refers to dialects spoken across the island of Ireland. Frank McCourt immortalised West and South-West Irish English in his memoir Angela’s Ashes, with its liberal use of the definite article (“Do you like the Shakespeare, Frankie?”), and the unbidden musicality that comes with inverted word order (“Is it a millionaire you think I am?”).

Some of my friends from Northern Ireland will plump for the past simple form of a verb where a past participle is usually required, saying things like: “They’d never have did it had they knew.” Rule breaking at its most ballsy: and it’s music to my ears.

Short for Colloquial Singaporean English, a creole language for which English is the lexifier (meaning it provides the basis for most of its vocabulary) plus words from Malay, Tamil and varieties of Chinese. The Singaporean government rallies against it at every turn with Speak Good Englishcampaigns, to the detriment of some extremely interesting grammatical structures.

Take Singlish’s being topic-prominent, for example: like in Mandarin, this means that Singlish sentences will sometimes start with a topic (or a known reference of the conversation), followed by a comment (or some new information). For example, “I go restaurant wait for you.” Grammatically, it’s worlds apart from “I’ll be waiting for you at the restaurant,” but it’s evolved in a region where that kind of sentence structure is the order of the day.

Belizean creole (Belize Kriol)
Another English-based creole language, similar to Jamaican patois, which offers some compelling takes on tense. The present tense verb does not indicate number or person, while the past is indicated by putting the tense marker mi in front of the verb (“ai mi ron” – I ran), but this is optional and considered superfluous if a time marker like “yestudeh” (yesterday) is used.

Basic English
Basic English was invented by CK Ogden in 1930. Designed to allow language learners to acquire English quickly and communicate at a very basic level, Ogden managed to reduce the language to 850 words, including only eighteen verbs!

A controlled natural language (CNL) based on English that provides a lingua franca for sea captains to communicate. First conceived in 1985, the premise is simple, grammar-free phrases that facilitate comprehension in often fraught and dangerous situations. It has now been codified as Standard Marine Communication Phrases.

Ultimately, English grammar has always been in flux: both in its native land and abroad. When it comes to ‘offshoots’ of the language, whatever label we apply – be it dialect, patois, creole or CNL – each exists as a yardstick for linguistic evolution, and ought to be celebrated as such.

How Aussies developed that annoying accent

How Aussies developed that annoying accent

Ray Meagher's character Alf on Home and Away is famous for his signature Aussie one liners. Photo / Getty
Ray Meagher’s character Alf on Home and Away is famous for his signature Aussie one liners. Photo / Getty

“G’day how youse goin’?”.

You can tell an Aussie the minute they open their mouths, however not all of them don the full bogan like Paul Hogan.

In the documentary, The Sounds of Aus, the Australian accent is seen as the most significant identifier of the Australian cultural DNA, and is arguably the most Aussie thing about our mates across the ditch.

The doco looks at the story of the Australian accent: How it came about, how it has evolved over two hundred years of colonial and cultural history, and how and why they speak the way they do.

In an article for, Nadine Hayes writes:

I never thought too much about this subject until a Swedish friend of mine said she imagined our vernacular was concocted by a bunch of drunk sailors. I hope she wasn’t referring to Captain Cook, I can’t imagine him standing with a bunch of tinnies in his budgie smugglers shouting, “Ahoy mates there’s Botany Bay, reckon that’s a great place for a barbie!”

Captain Cook and the First Fleet actually brought with them, in sober fashion, settlers with a mixture of English and Irish accents.

It’s thought the settlers’ children were the ones that created the unique accent we recognise today.

Some find the Aussie accent amusing, others find it downright annoying. I mean why is it that our inflections go up at the end of every sentence? Is it because we’re too insecure to make that statement? Perhaps we’re looking for affirmation? Are we trying to be inclusive? Maybe in our Aussie bizarreness, it’s all of these things.

I know – it’s because the sun’s too bright.

And what’s with asking questions that don’t need answering, like “how great was the weather today?” People just look at you like, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?

We’re a pretty laidback bunch, and this is reflected in the laziness of our language. We often forget Rs and Gs at the end of words, like ‘rippa’ and ‘fishin’. Let’s face it, we don’t open our mouths much and that’s not to avoid eating the flies.

There is no such thing as the perfect Australian accent, and our accent doesn’t vary as greatly from state to state the way it does in other countries.

We do as a nation tend to abbreviate just about everything though, with a little ‘bogan speak’ thrown in.

If you don’t believe me here’s some of our faves …

G’day – hello
Reckon – absolutely
Tradie – tradesman
Snag – sausage
Sanga – sandwich
Trackies – Track suit
Boardies – board shorts
Vegies – vegetables
Rellies /rellos – relatives
Barbie – barbecue
Bogan – unsophisticated
Fair Go – be fair
Accadacca – ACDC
Arvo – afternoon
Servo – Service Station
Agro – aggressive
Preggers – pregnant
Mozzie – Mosquito
Sunnies – Sunglasses
Sickie – sick day
Exxy – Expensive
Chook – Chicken
Dunny – toilet

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