Faster, slower, louder, quieter…

These girls have a great collection of videos online. Just like the Baby Brain Play videos, these are excellent chants / songs to do with small children. They have repetitive action that engages all of the child. The chants are easy to learn so parents can learn them too and repeat at home.

Once we’ve learned our Opposites, we then can move to these comparative words. Basically adding (-er) to the ending of adjectives we already know:

  • bigger
  • smaller
  • faster
  • slower
  • louder
  • quieter

I use these throughout the lesson. No matter what we are doing, the student can repeat a word back to me, and then I say, Say it LOUDER! When we are building something, I say Build it BIGGER!

It’s very easy then to show using just my hands and voice:

  • taller
  • shorter
  • higher
  • lower
  • happier
  • sadder

And we can add sticks (or in my case, pencils) for more hands-on fun.


Pronunciation practice – th

english pronunciation th sound

The Russian language, like many languages, doesn’t have the th sound. This sound is difficult to learn for foreign speakers.

Once my student has learned the demonstrative adjectives we begin th practice.

There are two forms of this sound, voiced /ð/ and unvoiced /θ/.

Both sounds are made by sticking your tongue out and between your teeth.


three, thank you, and Thursday are unvoiced
The sound is air moving between your top teeth and tongue. Don’t be lazy and make a /f/ or /s/ sound.

this, that, these, and those are voiced
Air is pushed between the gap between the top teeth and tongue. Don’t be lazy and make a /z/ sound.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Repeat the demonstrative adjective words.

Repeat while standing in front of a mirror.

Repeat while recording ourselves, and then playing it back.

Repeat the th sounds from various lists of words. For example…

This sound alone is a major reason why foreign speakers struggle to speak without an accent.

Why do pigs oink in English, boo boo in Japanese, and nöff-nöff in Swedish?

Why do pigs oink in English, boo boo in Japanese, and nöff-nöff in Swedish?

It’s not just pigs, the onomatopoeia we apply to most animal sounds varies delightfully across different tongues. What does this reveal about our relationship with language?

Read more @

This, that, these, those – demonstrative adjectives


Following our basic questions, What’s this? We can add these other demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those). In the beginning I always use what’s this regardless of where something, or how many, or if it’s a thing or person. Once they get a handle on this question then we change this to the correct word.

Again, I teach the concept by ad nauseam, not necessarily by explanation. I use whatever is around the room. I ask the question and point. Then I answer using the same word I used in the question.

What’s this?  While holding a book
It’s a book.
What’s that? Pointing at a book
That’s a book.
What are these? Touching books
These are books.
What are those? Pointing at a bookshelf
Those are books.

Then repeat with just the demonstrative adjective.

Then I ask the question, and the student repeats the question. I answer.

Then I ask the question, then the student answers.

Then the student asks the question, with guidance.

This lesson is more important than just teaching these four words. From this when can practice pronouncing the difficult th.


I don’t like homework.


My students range in levels and ages, but one thing is consistent. Everyone hates homework. Adults are busy, teenagers are unreliable, and small children are busy being small children.


Without daily practice, we lose the knowledge we’ve worked hard to learn. So what to do?

Be honest

Be honest about how much work you will really do outside of the classroom. Be honest about what interests you. Be honest about what you want to learn.

I think most students begin lessons with the best of intentions. Dreams of studying diligently and filling out their vocabulary notebooks. It quickly becomes apparent that homework is an unrealistic goal. Instead of doing the 2 pages of exercises every night like they had hoped becomes nothing. Then they feel guilty for doing nothing, and soon stop coming to lessons.

Instead, it’s better to set realistic goals from the beginning. In the very least I ask my students to reread the material we covered in class.  No exercises, just read. And even this is a lot to ask.

So the more practical approach is to find something that interest my students. TV shows, movies, music, video games, hobbies. We then find a solution together so they can incorporate English into the thing they are already doing in their spare time. They can download the lyrics to their favorite songs and read along.


Download English subtitles to read while they watch movies.


Switch a game over to English language and muddle their way through. I’ve done this several times in Russian out of necessity.

Finally, be honest about what you want to learn. Grammar is important for understanding a language completely and to sound educated. If a student is only looking to understand and be understood, grammar might not be that important. The more time that’s spent on the boring parts of the language might discourage further learning.

It takes time and creativity to come up with homework that will fit a student’s honest needs, but it will be more advantageous for them.

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