Muzzy – I’m… Have a…

I’m often asked what’s the difference between British English and American English. In this exercise, you will see British English. They often use the phrasing “have + noun” for everyday tasks. In American English we might use “take + noun” or a completely different format all together.

This exercise is very easy to do by the pictures alone. This is a great time to practice reading and pronunciation. I read this with my student and make sure they go slow. Especially on words like hamburger which students often try to pronounce like the Russian гамбургер.



Describe the Scene 2

Here are Autumn / Fall, Halloween, and holiday scenes. These are great for any level of learner, and for any language. Test yourself. How would you describe what you see in a foreign language. If you are a beginner, focus on pronouns such as he or she + a verb. If you are more advanced, think of a story that comes out of this picture. Try to be as imaginative as my children who do this exercise.

A continuation of Describe the Scene






Futurama – Prisoner of Benda


I love cartoons. I don’t like homework. Apparently, I’m not the only one.

Just like I use Muzzy for the young children, I use Futurama with my older children. It’s funny, and it’s something they already know. The episode The Prisoner of Benda, season 6, episode 10 is legendary. It’s the only cartoon I know that created a mathematical theorem.

In my lesson, we watch simultaneously the episode in English and in Russian, always with English subtitles. I haven’t decided which way is better: first Russian, then English or vice versa. So I flip back and forth. I have the printed transcript (see below) that we compare to what we watched. The student won’t understand everything they read in English, but they’ll remember what they watched in Russian and through context will identify the English analog. And without ever having to open a dictionary.


Futurama – The Prisoner of Benda transcript – 14 pages

This is a great technique that you can use with any show / movie. A great way to get the transcript is to download a subtitle file. You can do this by searching for the name of the episode/movie and .srt (the subtitle file extension). Click here for an example.

A .srt file can be opened with any word editor, but it is formatted to be read by a video player. It has time stamps and lines are separated. I used Subtitle Edit to export just the text out of the .srt file.





More Fun with Word Lists


My teaching style comes from my own experiences of learning a language. In school, I enjoyed learning German. I was good at it. Learning new grammar or new words was a breeze. I can still recite off my accusative and dative prepositions. I thought maybe I was lucky and was born with a gift for languages.

When I came to Russia, I thought that Russian would be just as easy for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Daily living involved a lot of pantomime. Whether I was trying to tell the shop keeper which item I wanted from behind the counter, or trying to give directions to a taxi driver, I did a ridiculous amount of hand waving.

I became very good at charades. When you have a limited vocabulary, it takes a great deal of creativity to express a thought. Or to use gestures to describe an abstract idea. Example, how would you use play charades for the word “hotel”? This creative task exercises the language center of the brain and builds memory associations for new words (the student will remember the time they learned the word monkey when they were jumping up and down like a crazy person).

How to play Charades AKA Крокодил

I have jars with my cut out my words from my word lists.  I keep the difficult words separate from the medium and easy words so my students are playing with the appropriate level. We take turns picking a word and acting it out. The student has to guess the word. If they know the word, just not in English, I let them guess in their native language. Then we discuss the English word and it becomes a vocabulary word to learn. When it is their turn and they pick a word they do not know, they can either pick another word, or we will play Hangman.

Describe the scene

I enjoy this lesson.  We look at an image that has lots of things going on and I ask the student to Describe the Scene. If they have a low level of English, they might simply say, “Woman shopping. Dog running.” If their level is a bit higher, they might have fun saying, “Woman talk on phone. Woman hits man’s head.”46ced3afc97ee6d3f8b05c56c3a58b4c

I enjoy this lesson so much that I scour the internet looking for more scenes. I like absurd pictures that require my student to use their imagination to explain what is happening.  This is great for adults too.

A few of my favorites:

beach-scene cc72b2c48be13705bff6245189717117 a8360cf7ff6ef263db18530ea170fe09 10153157_1401961486744798_2376708504235710686_n 688cc2e5cbedb94b126522be9e0b2a90 e0d39d3f11283af03747c1a1896c5333

This idea came from BuzzFeed. 50 Completely Unexplainable Stock Photos No One Will Ever Use. The question is, why would someone need this picture?


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