Unprecedented Times


So I was just thinking through what’s been going on in the world with the COVID virus, and figured I’d share a few thoughts from an ESL teacher’s point of view.

I figured I’d start with my family’s story first.  My wife is Chinese, and she took time off from work to go visit her family in China during the Lunar New Year.  Unfortunately, she arrived in the country just as the coronavirus began breaking out.  Her experience in China is that everything shut down completely, and people were afraid to leave their homes for fear of contracting the disease.  This was compounded by the fact that many people were traveling to their hometowns during the holidays, so you never really knew who had been in contact with someone from a quarantined area.  My wife and her family sat in front of the TV most of the day, just looking for news about what was happening.

Thankfully, she was able to return to the United States on her scheduled flight.  She was able to fly out of China pretty much the day before all outgoing flights were shut down.  We were very thankful to receive her back home safely.

Then things were quiet for a little bit, on the virus front…people in China were still dealing with it, but it hadn’t spread much across the ocean.  My wife’s family was all safe, but she had to take a mandatory two weeks at home to make sure she hadn’t contracted the virus herself.  Nothing happened, and we were all fine and dandy.

Then the coronavirus started picking up in the United States.  After several messages stating that the school systems would not be shut down, my state’s governor made a press announcement one day that schools would be closed for two weeks.  This left all of the teachers and administrators in a tizzy, as we tried to figure out what was going to happen.  Do we get lessons ready for next week?  Do we bunker down at home?

Guidance from supervisors was minimal…and I don’t blame them for that.  I mean, they had pretty much the same information that I had.  They came up with a plan to implement home-learning packets to  support “continuity of education.”  That’s great, and makes a lot of sense for Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts teachers.  I was a little less sure of my role in that, since I’m more of a specialist and I have students of varying ability and academic levels.  Many of my students cannot read the directions for their work and know how to handle it themselves, and moreover, their parents do not necessarily know how to read in their native languages enough to translate it.  On top of that, administration requested that teachers leave student names off of the learning packets so that they could be distributed easily.  So I was left with the question of how my English Language Learners would receive their specific language-practice packets.  In the end, I managed to scramble together some learning materials to be given out, although I know they weren’t all appropriate for the students.  (On a sad note, I later learned that the ESL materials weren’t even distributed to any of my students anyway.)

I don’t mean to place any blame or fault on anyone.  It was all unprecedented, and everyone was scrambling to come up with some sort of plan.  I completely understand why it was a mess, and I don’t know if there was anything better that could be done.  Everyone was frustrated.

Back to the story, though.  Next, all of the teachers were tasked with making pacing guides for when students returned from school.  We would have to make up for the missed time as best we can.  A template was given, but again, it didn’t really match up with what the ESL program does (the ESL classes have never had a definitive curriculum, but usually serves as language support for students to succeed in their other core subjects).  Oh well–I just did my best and muddled through it again.  I was still working on the pacing guide when word came from the state that all schools would now be closed for the rest of the school-year.

So now we have been instructed to hold off on finishing the pacing guides.  I assume that I will be asked to provide some sort of distance education or online component for learning, but I have no idea how that is going to work out logistically (I know for a fact that many of my students do not have Internet access at home…and most of them will not do their work if no teacher is standing right next to them anyway.  Sorry if that sounds pessimistic, but it’s also realistic.  I wouldn’t be very good about doing my schoolwork either unless someone was making sure I did it).

Well, here we are in unprecedented times.  I wish I knew how things would work out.  I’m not really afraid of the virus, but it would be nice to have a clearer picture of what my role in all of this mess is supposed to be.

Also, I hope this might give some other people a clearer insight into what’s going on behind the scenes in the school systems.  Teachers, administrators, service staff, and supervisors alike all have little clue about what to do.  So if you are a student or have some at home, just hang on.  We’ll try to figure it out.  Because we’re teachers, and we are here to teach, in whichever form that ends up taking.


Table Tents

In my classroom, I have proudly displayed on my wall some posters that look like these:

They are meant to give students quick reference guides to functional language, such as compare and contrast indicators or cause and effect conjunctions.  Whenever we do any activities that involve using these language functions, I draw students’ attention to these anchor charts, and encourage them to use the words and sentences up there as examples.

…and most of the time I get kind of disappointed when my students don’t even look up at the posters, and then don’t display any of the target language in their work.  I mean, I pointed it out to them right before we got started!

Well, a colleague suggested that I try table tents instead of anchor charts.  A table tent, in case you don’t know, is a sheet of paper with the target language on it that can be folded up like a tent-shape in front of the student.  This lets it stand up right next to each student for quick reference, and then they can even carry it with them to use outside of class.  What a smart idea!

Here are a few samples of table tents that I have created for use in the classroom.  I have them sorted into lists of related words and target language that fulfill certain functions in writing and speech.  Just have students fold the paper on the dotted line to set it up like a “tent.”

Sequencing Words Table Tent

Cause and Effect Table Tent 

Compare and Contrast Table Tent

Sentence Starters for Academic Discussions

I started using these table tents in my class, and students were a lot more engaged with using the target language.  I think that having the document physically in their hands made them more willing to use it.  Also, my students liked that they could write notes on the table tents and take them to other places after class.

Just a few notes on using them:

First, students need to be coached on understanding what the charts show and knowing how to use the example sentences effectively.  This is where a lot of the focused practice in your lesson will come into play.  Students can use the examples on the table tents as fixed models to plug-and-play new vocabulary and make new sentences.  You won’t be able to just hand them the information and expect them to know what to do.

Second, you need to encourage students to try more than one form of the language, and push themselves out of using the same framework sentences over and over again.  For example, it is easy to use the word “then” repetitively when telling sequential events.  However, I make sure to draw students’ attention to what I call “Level 2” and “Level 3” words.  So I would encourage them to use other formations, such as “following this” instead.

Let me know if these are helpful tools for your own students.!

Scaffolded Instruction for Peer Editing

I found this to be a great summary of strategies for getting students to peer review.  It’s hard to get them to give quality editing sometimes!  Check out the full link for more details.

Last week, I described several factors that make editing a particularly difficult task for ESL students. Today, I’m going to offer some ideas for scaffolding editing in an academic writing setting. They’re based on my own experiences (including some from this semester in my lead teacher’s classroom), advice that’s been given to me, and my […]

via Scaffolding Editing — Learning to Teach English

Sense and Nonsense

Ever had difficulty explaining the difference between similar words, like meet and encounter?  Here is an activity that can help students understand specialized meanings of words in context.

I wanted to share a vocabulary activity that I use a lot, especially for upper-level students.  It is an idea that I have adapted from vocabulary squares, and it involves students using their knowledge of a vocabulary term’s meaning to test the semantics, or correct meaning, of a sentence.

Basically, students will be given some sentences that contain recent vocabulary words or phrases, which they will have to read and analyze.

Here are two examples:

Directions:  Read the sentence and circle whether it makes sense or is nonsense.  If it is nonsense, then change the sentence to make sense.

Sense or Nonsense

1.  John was surprised to encounter Frank in the store, since they hadn’t seen each other in years.

Sense or Nonsense

2.  Frank anticipated meeting John, so he was very surprised, too.

This tests the student’s knowledge of the word meaning on several different levels:

  • First, they have to know what the what the word means, both in a general sense and in specific ways.  For example, the word encounter (v.) is a general synonym for “to meet,” but it also contains the idea of a surprise or unexpected situation.
  • Next, students need to be able to understand the context of the sentence, and how the vocabulary word is being used in relation to other words or ideas.  Then, they will need to see if the sentence context matches with the meaning of the vocabulary word.  For example, the word anticipate (v.) carries the meaning of pre-planning, and so it does not match with being surprised very well.
  • Sometimes, students will start seeing reasons for a sentence to be nonsensical when it is supposed to make sense (or vice versa), which is a good opportunity to provide feedback and correction on misunderstandings.  This can be a good test to see if students have a general misunderstanding, or if their mistake is more localized.
  • Finally, students will need to be able to make edits on sentences that are nonsensical.  This checks to see if students can pinpoint the exact reasons why a sentence does not carry meaning correctly.  For many students, it is easy to tell when a sentence seems “off” for some reason, but looking at it more specifically to be able to tell why helps shed some light on the nuances of meaning in more difficult vocabulary words.  For example, “Frank anticipated meeting John, so he was very surprised, too” should be changed to something more like “Frank anticipated meeting John, so he wasn’t suprised as much.”  This shows the relationship between anticipate and surprise.

This activity has many benefits for students, and even includes some amount of communicative practice with their vocabulary words.  The downside of it, though, is that there aren’t many resources that have “nonsense” sentences prepared for vocabulary words.  Therefore, you, as the teacher, will need to come up with these sentences yourself, which can be time consuming.  However, you should be able to adapt this activity to any set of vocabulary words.

Just for fun…

See if you can figure out the sentences below on your own:

Directions:  Read the sentence and circle whether it makes sense or is nonsense.  If it is nonsense, then change the sentence to make sense.

Sense or Nonsense

1.  Becky’s job was very collaborative, and she worked in an office all by herself.

Sense or Nonsense

2.  When I asked my teacher if we would have a test, he gave an ambiguous answer:  “We’ll see…”

Sense or Nonsense

3.  Ian moved to a new city, and it took him a long time to adjust to all the new transitions.

Sense or Nonsense

4.  Gina doesn’t like to follow patterns. She does what everyone else does.

Sense or Nonsense

5.  Julie’s schedule is very fixed, so she never knows what days she is available for meetings.


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Vocabulary Squares

I wanted to share a very simple, yet effective tool for helping students build vocabulary skills.  Vocabulary Squares are a way for students to record new vocabulary terms, explore their meaning, and begin using them in communication.

When a student is introduced to a new vocabulary word or phrase, they can record information about it in a page like the one below (feel free to click on the link below the picture to open up a downloadable version).

Here’s how they work…

I generally have students record the following information in their vocabulary square:

  1. A good definition:  This may or may not be the “dictionary definition.”  See my post on Keeping it Simple to see some helpful tips on giving good definitions to your students.
  2. A “Sense” Sentence and a “Nonsense” Sentence:  Either give the word in a sentence for context, or have students come up with their own sentences (make sure to check what they have written for accuracy!).  The “Nonsense” Sentence can be a bit tricky, and I usually only do it with upper-level students (lower-leveled students would just have a “sense” sentence).  Here, students should write down a sentence where the word is used with an incorrect meaning.  For example, with the word impossible, students might have a nonsense sentence like:  “It is impossible for me to come to school because my car is working fine.”  Students can create their own sentences, or take an example given by the teacher.  These nonsense sentences help students understand a broader range of the word.
  3. Synonyms and Antonyms:  Students can use themselves, a thesaurus, or other resources to look up related and opposite words to give them a more concrete idea of the vocabulary term’s meaning.
  4. A picture:  As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  In this case, pictures are excellent for helping students to understand new words and be able to review them quickly.  I usually have students draw a picture that helps represent the word; for example, for the word humongous, I might have a picture of an elephant next to a mouse, with an arrow pointing to the elephant.


Additional Ideas…

One of the best things about Vocabulary Squares is that you can quickly adapt them as needed.  As I said before, “nonsense” sentences are difficult for low-leveled learners, so they can either be dropped or switched out for negative sentences.  Students can either record their information as guided notes, or fill in their charts with their own answers–or even work in small groups.  Also, instead of just synonyms or antonyms, students can also work on related parts of speech (i.e. quick (adj.) and quickly (adv.)).  Lastly, it can be very useful for students to keep track of their vocabulary worksheets in a notebook or binder.  That way, they can be reviewed at intervals throughout the class.

It really only takes a short time to edit the vocabulary square worksheet.  What ideas can you think of for using it in your classroom?

Culture Shock

There’s a major psychological problem that many ESL students and teachers face:  Culture Shock.

John Macionis and Linda Gerber, in their book Sociology, describe culture shock as:

…an experience a person may have when he/she moves to a cultural environment which is different from his/her own; it is also the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply transition to another type of life.

Macionis, John, and Linda Gerber. “Chapter 3 – Culture.” Sociology

In layman’s terms, culture shock is what happens when people experience living in a new culture.  It is actually a process that can be charted out over time:

  1. When someone lives in a new culture, they first enjoy the opportunity to try new things, and they feel excited to learn about their new way of life.  This lasts for a few months.  (The “Honeymoon Phase”)
  2. Around 3 months or so, the novelty of living in a new culture wears off.  The person begins to miss their native culture.  Language barriers become more frustrating and challenging.  In this stage, people often go through forms of depression or even anger at their new host culture.  This can last for up to a year or more.  (The “Negotiation Phase”)
  3. Eventually the person begins to adapt to their new culture, and even learns to accept it (at least in parts).  The person may even begin to prefer parts of the new culture over the original culture.  (The “Adjustment Phase”)
  4. At last, the person feels truly bi-cultural, and can understand the new culture without difficulty.  It all seems natural.  (The “Mastery Phase”)

How to help our students…

Each time I begin teaching a new group of ESL students, I always start the term with a lesson about dealing with culture shock.  As a class, we spend time talking about how it feels to be in a new country.  Each student has had different experiences, whether good or bad, and has different insights on how to deal with culture shock.  Some students may be completely new to the host culture, while others are in later stages of the culture shock process.  Everyone has something to contribute to the discussion.

Through personal experiences and through hearing about my students’ stories, I have come up with a few practical ideas for overcoming culture shock in a new country or environment:

Find your favorite food in the new country:


MSG can be crucial to cultural acceptance

 Interestingly enough, a content belly can mean a content mind.  When the new country and culture seems overwhelming, it is nice to be able to sit down to something that you can enjoy.  When I lived in Korea, this “comfort food” was Shin Ramyeon (신라면).  It was not the healthiest of foods, but it sure could hit the spot.  It was also an opportunity to show part of my new culture to other foreigners.  Remember, “If you can love the food, you can love the country.”

Be patient:

Maybe this one seems obvious, but it does take some time to get to the acceptance and mastery phases of culture shock.  Take things one day at a time.  When a stressful situation happens because of cultural problems, getting a good night’s sleep about it will often make the stress go away.  It is useful to have a place to “escape” to.

Talk about your problems…while staying positive:

The great thing about ESL classes is that they are safe places where students can communicate with each other without feeling ashamed or worried about others’ opinions.  Students can talk about their difficulties, and will often find comfort, advice, and friendship, which are all important factors in adjusting to a new culture.  Plus, giving students the chance to talk about these issues can lead to some great conversation classes!

The flip side of this, though, is the danger of painting everything in a negative light.  Culture is just culture–it is usually not “good” or “bad,” just different.  So don’t complain about everything that is “wrong”…instead, talk about how things are different, and why they might be so.  You may even come up with some aspects of the new culture that you prefer over your original culture.


This is a huge shame in Korea

When I lived in Korea, where respect for age is extremely important to the culture, it sometimes seemed hard for me as an American to be on equal terms with my co-workers and neighbors.  Sometimes I found it difficult to let my elders make all of the important decisions for the workplace, social events, and long-term planning.  However, it was also a very good aspect of the society, since seniors were always shown respect and were well-cared for.  Korean people will almost always give up their seat on the train or bus in order to let an older person sit down.  Americans could probably learn a thing or two about how to take care of their elders with more care and respect.


Our students are going through a lot.  They aren’t just learning a language, but learning a culture and reacting to it.  By giving them some advice on how to stay positive and adjust, it will help our students succeed in life, which is more important than just succeeding in the classroom.

For others who have dealt with culture shock, is there any more advice you can offer? Any other practical strategies for adjusting to a new culture? Feel free to leave any comments below.

American Slang Words

Here is a FREE ESL vocabulary lesson for you to use or adapt for your class.  This is a vocabulary lesson designed to introduce ESL students to common slang words.  It emphasizes some popular stereotypes that are found that are found in American culture, and introduces students to some common spoken words that are not in the dictionary.

Click the two links below to check out the lesson plan and vocabulary presentation PowerPoint:

American Slang Words PDF File


American Slang Words PowerPoint File

This is a great lesson to use in your class when you want to spice things up a bit or interject some more culture into your teaching.  When I have used this lesson in the past, students really enjoyed getting to use some of these vocabulary terms that they hear all the time, yet could never understand.  Students also find it really interesting to see some of the differences between American culture and their own (for example, many countries do not have the idea of a “geek.”  In fact, many people might say that stereotypical “geek” clothes are a good fashion style!).

Hopefully you can use this to make your planning a little easier.  Feel free to provide any feedback on how to improve the lesson even more!

The Alligator River Story

Here is a FREE ESL conversation lesson plan for you to use or adapt for your class.

I recently posted about my difficulties with preparing conversation lessons for ESL students, so now I wanted to share one conversation lesson that I have had great success with.

This is a lesson I adapted from the Leadership and Responsibility Package, found on Tiffany Morey’s blog, Leadership, Learning, Service & Research (check it out, it has lots of cool activities and ideas that can be adapted for ESL group-work activities).

The Alligator River Story

It includes a small story reading component, but it is not overly difficult, shouldn’t require any pre-teaching, and should only take up about 10 minutes of the class.  The story itself includes several controversial characters, who make debatable moral decisions.  Students are asked to talk about the characters and relate the story to their own lives.  Once the students have read the story, they will be asked to evaluate the characters’ values and decisions.

In my personal experience, this lesson works great for generating interest in the class, since everyone can bring their own perspective into the group discussion.  In one class where I used this lesson, students who I had difficulty getting to participate in discussion activities suddenly were excited about expressing themselves and disagreeing with other students.  Later, they told me, “The story is just like a TV drama.  It was a lot of fun to talk about!”

The lesson can also work well for younger students, although you may choose to adapt the story a bit (it includes a couple situations more designed for adults).

Hopefully you can use this to make your planning a little easier.  Feel free to provide any feedback on how to improve the lesson even more!

The Art of the Conversation Class

One of the most difficult things for me as an ESL teacher is to plan out a conversation class.  I am not naturally a chatty person, and I see the job of preparing for an hour or more of “small talk” with my students to be a high mountain to climb.  It can be a big challenge to use the conversation class time to its fullest.  I’m always a little bit afraid of planning a conversation class for the following reasons:

  1. I’m always afraid that I can’t plan out the course of a conversation class, since natural conversation does not necessarily follow a strict schedule of activities or events.
  2. bored

    For a teacher, this is horror.

    I’m afraid that the conversation will just fall flat, instead of being engaging and interesting for the students, and we’ll all be left staring at each other for a long time.

  3. I’m afraid that the conversation class will not really be all that useful to students for improving their English.
  4. I’m afraid that I’ll end up being a “moderator”, and that the “conversation” will devolve into a session where I ask a question, and each student answers in order.  This kind of class is not an authentic conversation.
  5. I’m always afraid that the topic I choose will be uninteresting for my students.
  6. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to think fast enough to keep things going.  For conversation classes, I need to be quick on my feet.  I need to be actively thinking about the direction of the conversation, in case I need to guide it out of a lull.  I also need to be actively listening to my students’ speech, to monitor and provide feedback on errors or ways to improve.

In short, I sometimes get bent out of shape when I’m preparing for conversation classes.  But here are some things that I do to raise the chances of a better conversation class, and maybe they can help you out, too.

  1. Think about your students when choosing a topic.  What is interesting for them?  What are they dealing with in their everyday lives?  What will they be comfortable talking about for a long period of time?  Good topics can be a great motivator for students to participate.
  2. Think about ways to mix it up, rather than just asking questions to the class.  Have students prepare their own questions in advance.  Start with a questionnaire that students can fill out and ask to each other.  Choose topics and questions that will stir up some controversy (within limits, of course), so that students even argue a little bit.
  3. Think about target grammar or sentence structures that can be a natural fit for your topic.  For example, if you are talking about good and bad luck, conditional if sentences work perfectly as a grammar point (“If I break the mirror, I will have seven years’ bad luck”).  Then, monitor student speech, and help them use the target structure when they are conversing.
  4. coffee.jpg

    One of my mantras as a teacher, especially come late afternoon…

    Drink a cup of coffee before the conversation class.  The caffeine can perk up your brain enough to be actively thinking about the course of the conversation, as well as listening to student speech.

  5. Relax.  Sometimes the best conversation practice takes place when things go “unscripted.”  Students are a lot more forgiving than we give them credit for, as well (though that’s not an excuse to be lazy), and they may gain something out of a lesson when you, as the teacher, thought it was a flop.  I remember one conversation class that I was having which seemed to be dragging on and on to me.  At the end, though, all of the students looked surprised to see that time had gone by so quickly.  They were really engaged in the topic, even though I couldn’t tell!
  6. Remember, one of the main benefits of a conversation class is to get your students willing to talk and use their language skills.  They may not gain any specific new knowledge of a particular grammar point, but they did get the chance to actively listen, speak, and express themselves communicatively, which is a whole language workout in and of itself.

Vocabulary: Keep it simple

A few years ago, I was teaching an intermediate-level ESL class made up of a pretty diverse group of learners:  Hungarian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Korean, all in one class.  We were learning about different health problems, and practicing some new vocabulary in preparation for roleplaying a trip to the doctor’s office.  The vocabulary list included words like congestion, stomach ache, bruise, and cavity.  Suddenly, one student jumped up and proudly proclaimed, “A cavity is a small recess in a flat surface!”

Well…yes…I suppose that’s a correct definition…


Look at my small recess!

But is it the most appropriate definition?  In a class where students are learning English for communication purposes, and need useful vocabulary for everyday life, a better definition for cavity might be something like “A cavity is a hole in your tooth that sometimes hurts.”  This definition is easier to understand, and relates more directly to the students’ everyday lives.  If their tooth hurts, they need to describe the problem to a doctor with the right word.  It is not likely that they will need to describe a “small recess in a flat surface” anytime soon.

Here are a few vocabulary-teaching tips to keep in mind:

1.  Only teach vocabulary that is appropriate for students’ levels and needs.  One invaluable tool is the General Service List of the most commonly used English words.  If a word is not on the General Service List, it is probably too obscure for anything below advanced-level students.

  • The word practice is a great word for beginner students, but way too easy for advanced students
  • The word parthenogenesis is a great word for biology students, but really unnecessary for most ESL learners, even advanced ones.

2.  Give clear and precise definitions–Make sure that students can get a good idea of the meaning of the target word, and make sure that they cannot confuse it with another word.  Also include the part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, idiom).  This can be a big help to students as they practice their words, and connect similar words together.

  • BAD EXAMPLE:  sofa-n. a piece of furniture

This definition also describes tables, beds, cabinets, etc.

  • GOOD EXAMPLE:  sofa-n. a large, soft chair, usually in the living room

This definition is more precise, and excludes other furniture

3.  Give easy-to-understand definitions–Avoid using “dictionary” definitions, especially for lower-level students.  Instead, try to use simple, understandable definitions that do not include unlearned vocabulary terms.

  • BAD EXAMPLE:   practice-v.  perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency
(from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

This definition is very complicated, and words like “proficiency” are beyond most students.

  • GOOD EXAMPLE:  practice-v.  to do something many times to get better at it

This definition tries to be less complicated, and avoids difficult  or confusing language.

4.  Always give an example sentence–Make sure that you help students understand the meaning in context.  Make sure your example sentence is a natural use of the word, and not contrived or confusing.

  • down payment-n. a large amount of money

Ex.  My new car cost $20,000.  I made a down payment of $10,000, and I will make small payments on it each month.

5.  Show a picture–A picture is worth a thousand words.  Instead of trying to describe the difference between a t-shirt and a blouse, a lot of time can be saved by showing a picture of each.  Studies have shown that using pictures and multimedia presentations can help students associate ideas better, as well as retain vocabulary better.

Shirt and Blouse

6.  Describe related words–Talk about antonyms and synonyms of the target vocabulary.  These similar or opposite words can help clear up a lot of confusion about word meanings.  It is also a great chance for students to provide their own input during the vocabulary introduction stage.  Students can try to come up with their own lists of antonyms and synonyms, and it is a good opportunity to use the thesaurus in class.

  • obvious-adj. easy to see or know
  • Antonyms:  hidden (adj.), secret (n., adj.), unclear (adj.), tiny (adj.), small (adj.)
  • Synonyms:  clear (adj.), visible (adj.), bright (adj.), unmistakable (adj.), large (adj.)

Vocabulary is such a huge part of language learning, and is the basic foundation of any language instruction.  When we provide strong vocabulary teaching, it helps our students communicate better, prepare for everyday life, and fine-tune their language abilities.  Therefore, I suggest focusing on a small, select list of 8-10 vocabulary words in a given class period.  Oftentimes, I find that just introducing new words, definitions, and example sentences can take up to an hour.  Then, I would spend a significant part of time on practicing the vocabulary in use.  As the saying goes, “Teach a little, use a lot.”  We want our students to be able to understand, retain, and later be able to use their new vocabulary for authentic communication.  That is why we put so much effort into providing the best instruction that we can.