Commonly Confused & Misused English Words: CC&MEW 4!

The doubling of a letter, the inversion of a letter, or an extra letter or two – BAM! The meaning of the word has changed.

For all English learners alike, knowing the difference between these nearly identical words will make your writing exponentially clearer.

Here is a short list of some of my favorites, enjoy!

For a full resource on common confused English words, be sure to check this out!

What is the best ESL level to teach?

With the summer here, and the uncertainty of what I’ll be teaching in the fall, I find myself asking this question pretty often.

Over the past few years, I’ve taught English at all levels. From 1 year old babies, to senior citizens illiterate in their native language, and mid level adults, to teenagers studying high level academic English. Read on to see some pros and cons of teaching different ages within the pre-school to grade 12 system.

Young children (beginners)

Pros: They are like sponges. Children are able to absorb what they learn, and produce the language with excellent fluency. As a teacher, you don’t need to be able to explain the intricacies of English grammar, or create intense assessments or tests. If you like singing, dancing, and playing within a structured schedule, this is the ideal level to teach.

Cons: The fatigue is real. Children are able to learn at lightning speed, but also, everything else they do is at lightning speed. Just keeping up with them is a challenge, let alone coming up with endless different activities to keep them engaged. Classroom management can sometimes be an issue, especially if you have 40 three-year-olds running around.


Older children (beginner to intermediate)

Pros: Similar to young children, they are still able to catch on to many things quickly. They can think more complexly, so you are able to teach them some more interesting topics. Songs, games, and fun should still be incorporated, but usually they are mixed in with some ‘serious’ work, as well as independent work. Instead of being go-go-go the entire time (like with young children), there are short respites where children can work on their own.

Cons: Some older children may have difficulty in learning the more complex aspects of English. For some children, how they perform in school is very closely tied to their self esteem, so if they are unable to keep up, it may result in unfavourable behaviour. There is more pressure to ensure you’re meeting the needs of each student. With younger children, they may not be aware that they are not learning as quickly as other students, and tend to have less learning anxiety. As children get older, this learning anxiety can become more prominent.


Teenagers (intermediate to advanced)

Pros: At this level, you can have discussions and conversations with your students. Learning can be more student centered, and you can take more of a facilitator role compared to teaching children. Games are still highly effective at this age, as long as they are age-appropriate. Individual and group work are great at this age.

Cons: More than any other age, self esteem and social issues play huge roles in how students learn. At this age, students are building a picture of who they are, and how they relate to their peers. Teachers need to be aware of the particular issues with this age, and especially be careful with how they give criticism. On the flip side, you need to also be firm so that you don’t get walked all over. Having a successful teen class requires a fine balance, but the pay off of having their respect is well worth it.


However, this is only half the picture. There is also a huge percentage of adults who are learning English, and they also come to you at different levels. Stay tuned for my next update about teaching different adult levels.

What is your favourite level to teach?

Facilitating vs Teaching

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I’m either over-teaching, or over-facilitating. Balance is tough.

A bit of background: I teach a full-time (M-F all day) ESL course to adult learners.

Some days, I get the perfect balance. I give a great lesson (teacher-centered) which is peppered with facilitated activities (student-centered). However, this is not usually the case. Some days, I have days where I feel like I’m droning on and I forget that my students can even speak (over-teaching). And other days, I feel like I haven’t taught them a damn thing and just sat by while they researched, discussed, wrote, etc (over-facilitating). I know for a fact that my students much prefer the teacher-centered lessons, since that is what most of them are used to when it comes to school. So I feel bad when I have a primarily student-centered lesson. I can see their dread and fatigue at having to acquire the information themselves. But, I know it results in deeper learning. I also know that it’s not possible for me to make every lesson 100% exciting every single day.

However, summer is right around the corner! I’m hoping to do more research and try to learn more methods that will help me with my teaching/facilitating balance.

Does anyone have any tips to help create balanced lessons? I’m always in the market for more ideas!


How to motivate adult ESL students?

For the past week or so, I’ve been teaching a new (to me) classroom of adult ESL students. Most of them have been in this level since September, and they are getting a bit weary from being in full time English school. Not to mention, I’m the third or fourth teacher they’ve had this year, due to changes in the program.

They have already learned everything in the regular curriculum, so I’ve decided to teach Canadian history and culture to prepare them for the Canadian citizenship test. I did not think through the fact that history can be… dry. So how can I motivate my students who are tired, and are learning something that is not particularly useful for daily life?

That’s where crafts and competitive activities come in. I used to be of the mindset that adult learners want serious activities and learning only. That was foolish. Of course, serious activities have a place in adult learning, especially in business contexts. But for general ESL, there is no reason not to include activities you might consider juvenile.

After going through a brief history of Canada, I assigned a chunk of dates to several groups of students and had them make a timeline on large paper. I brought out coloured paper, pencil crayons, glue, stencils, rulers, etc. I wasn’t sure how they might take to doing crafts, so I simply said those items were there if they wanted to get creative with their timelines. And boy, did they ever take to it! Not only were they solidifying their knowledge of the historical events in Canada’s history, but they were also freely using their knowledge of English to speak and collaborate with classmates in a creative way. There’s something about crafts that can bring out a lightheartedness that can sometimes be missing in adult education.

Competitive activities are also great to make a boring task into a highly engaging task. For example, it is quite important for Canadian citizens to be able to spell the names of all the provinces correctly. So why not have a spelling relay (with two teams, where 1 person in each time is told a word to write, and the first to spell it correctly wins a point for their team)? Not only will they learn the correct spelling, but they will have a good time doing it!

What do you do to keep your adult students motivated and engaged?

Disinterested Vs Uninterested: CC&MEW 3

Today’s commonly confused and misused English words are tough. They’re tough because uninterested and disinterested can be used interchangeably sometimes, but not always.



Both disinterested and uninterested share the following definition: not interested, or not being engaged. However, disinterested has an additional definition: no selfish motive, or unbiased (Merriam-Webster, 2018).

In order to make your writing as clear as possible, disinterested and uninterested shouldn’t be used interchangeably. If you mean something or someone is simply not interested, used uninterested. For example:

Olivia was uninterested in learning English.

The meaning is very clear: Olivia had no interest in learning English. However, let’s switch the adjective around.

Olivia was disinterested in learning English.

Sure, one interpretation is that Olivia simply had no interest in learning English. A second interpretation also exists: Olivia was unbiased when it came to learning English. It may be a bit obvious in this example which meaning was intended, but it may not always be so evident.

As your students’ vocabularies grow, encourage them to frequently consult dictionaries, to ensure their meaning is as clear as possible.

Happy teaching!