General Writing and Grammar Help/First ESL Lesson


QUESTION: Hello Ted,
I passed the first phase of a teacher ESL test to work for English Culture (an EFL school here in Brazil). It consisted in writing a min. of 200 word essay on a topic they gave me. It was pretty easy.

The second phase which will take place next week will consist in the candidate (me) on teaching an ESL lesson. I believe I will teach it to the admninistrators who are teachers themselves.

I was wondering if you could give me any ideas on what topic I should teach on. Maybe a part of speech or something else. Also, what are the common mistake students make when learning `X` topic.

Thanks again Ted,

ANSWER: Dear Nathan:

Congratulations on passing your first test!

For your upcoming teaching presentation, I can't give you any suggestions without knowing a few things:

1.  How much time will you have?

2.  What level of English will your audience be expecting?  Beginning, intermediate, advanced,etc.

3.  Can you do a COMPARISON, instead of just focusing on one thing?

For instance, I have a regular questioner at Allexperts who has problems with differentiating gerunds from participles.  In fact, he doesn't understand the difference between a PRESENT and a PAST participle.  In order to explain the difference between these two, your audience has to know the difference between a noun and an adjective.

Give me some guidelines and I'll send you a lot of topics.  Then, it'll be up to you.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The audience will be expecting a basic to intermediate lesson. So I would go with both basic and intermediate. Plus, I like the idea of explaining subtle details such as the difference between a present and a past participles. In that example, I would be showing my audience I dominate the lesson and that I am capable of helping ESL learners with those subtle mistakes and details.


Dear Nathan:

I am listing below some possible topics that may fit your needs:

1.  What are present and past participles and how are they used?

2.  Explain the uses of the semi-colon and the colon.

3.  Explain "misplaced" and "dangling" modifiers.

4.  Explain why "it" and "this" are weak sentence subjects.

5.  What is the difference between a direct object and an indirect object.

6.  There are two main types of verbs, transitive and intransitive.  What is the difference between them?

7.  Explain the three "cardinal" errors committed in formal writing:  the sentence fragment, the comma splice, and the run-on [fused] sentence.

8.  What is the difference between a gerund and a participle?

9.  What is the difference between a conjunction and a conjunctive adverb?  When conjunctive adverbs are used to join two independent clauses, what are the proper marks of punctuation?

10.  Define these types of sentences:  simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

Nathan, after you have chosen a topic, outline what you intend to say, and send me the outline, including your major points of emphasis [examples].

I can help with all of that.


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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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