Tips? Who and how much?

Tipping is a part of American culture. Most of us know to leave a tip for hair stylists, waiters, massage therapists, pizza delivery people, and valet parking? But, what about other services, such as movers, hotel housekeepers, and take out food? What’s the standard? Who should we tip? Along with vocabulary and grammar in a lesson on tipping, you’ll also be sharing in American culture with your students. Take a look below for lesson plans and resources.

The information here is for teachers. Students can use the link on the Civics/Culture page at

Lesson Plans and Resources for the Classroom

Video with recommendations for tipping:


Schools, Parents, and Children

Today’s post focuses on schools, parents, and parent/teacher conferences. The resources in this post address the following topics:

  • Types of schools in the USA
  • Places in the community (including transportation around town)
  • Wake County Public Schools Parent Academy
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences

VOA Special English on  This video gives an overview of the types of schools in the United States. It’s in a “read along” format, with each word highlighted so students get both the audio and visual of the word.

Many This site includes a drop down list of activities to use with the vocabulary list. You can practice these as a group or individually in a computer lab or with the i-pads.

Types of schools:  Also, for more practice about Community Buildings and Places: Schools, go to the Civics and Community Blog at is a great site for lower level teachers! It has complete lesson plans and worksheets. This link will take you to a lesson on places in the community and transportation. Check out the site for lots of lesson plans!

Parents and Their Children: Parent Teacher Conferences Students always seem to want information about how to have a successful parent/teacher conference! Here are a few resources to consider, which you can modify for NC.

Parent Toolkit. A comprehensive toolkit for any parent. An ESL teacher could use the information from the toolkit to help prep students for the conference, all the while working on new vocabulary and grammar, not to mention American culture. This document is rich with resources and possibilities. The material is presented by grade level, and includes checklists and questions to ask the teacher. It’s produced by Education Nation and NBC.

Color in Colorado. Relevant and informative. A complete lesson plan on parent-teacher conferences is included.

From Arlington public schools:

ESL  Listening practice: dialogue between parent and teacher. For higher level students.

Wake County Public Schools Parent Academy.  Although this isn’t a place in the community, per se, it’s full of info that our students are interested in.  There are workshops “to provide families with strategies that have a positive effect on the education of children”. Information on the site is in both English and Spanish. Super informative!

Community – Government Buildings

permission creativecommons SA3.0

permission creativecommons SA3.0 BZrca8

In the next few weeks we are going to have some coordinated posts with the Civics and Culture blog! You will get two posts; one will be for students, and the other for the teachers. When teaching your lessons about places around town, prepositions of place, or just strictly “community places” vocabulary, make sure to also check out the Civics and Culture blog. You’ll find practice materials for your students on that site!

Today’s post is about government buildings in Raleigh. Use the links on this site to help plan your lessons. You can also direct students to the Civics and Culture page for additional practice. There are follow-up questions on the site that your students can do as homework if desired.  Here’s the link to the Civics and Culture page:

Government Buildings in Raleigh:

  • City/town hall-offices for government officials
  • Municipal Building-similar to city/town hall, with many offices and different gov. departments
  • Courthouse-where legal issues are managed, such as criminal and civil trials, marriage, divorce
  • Capitol Building-the governor’s office is located here.
  • Legislative Building-where NC laws are discussed and processed
  • Downtown Raleigh map

List of places to see in Raleigh:

What are some ways to use this information in your class?

What other ways can you use this information? What do you teach your students about government? Do your students know the government places downtown?

Everyday Conversation: Going to the Post Office

Mailing_LettersElectronic communication is the default mode of communication for many, however “snail mail” is still widely used for lots of things. There are a variety of resources available for both students and teachers. Here are a few of them you can use in the classroom, or with lesson planning.

African American female US Postal Service employee selling stamps to teen girl in post office, Oakland, California

from Wikimedia/photo by Migdale

Conversations at the post office:

  • Video
  • Conversation Questions
  • Phrasal Verbs
  • Vocabulary:  nouns, adjectives, and verbs

Additionally, Youtube has some videos that model typical post office conversations.

For a student focused lesson on mailing a letter and using the post office, please go to Beth’s Civics and Community blog and read her “How to Send Mail” post! It’s super informative and has lots of good practice on it!

What are some ways you can use this material in your class?

Free Lesson Plans and Activities

If you are searching for lesson plans you might want to visit the ESL Virtual Library of Lesson Plans. It’s a collection of plans and learning activities created by teachers at North Carolina community colleges.

Who can use the site? Anyone who teaches ESL!

What can you find on the site?

  • Lesson plans
  • Civics lessons
  • North Carolina Curriculum Guide (includes lesson plans and activities)
  • Citizenship Preparation
  • In My Own Words (students’ stories about coming to live in the United States)
  • Links to Literature (student activities to link literature to American history and civics)
  • Participatory Learning in ESL
  • Living in America (addresses civics and culture)
  • Salud Latina (health lesson plans)
  • Technology (lesson plans focused on civics/incorporating technology)
  • The House I Live In (civics, housing, and the American Dream)

Can I use these materials in my class? Yes, of course! That’s exactly what the site is for! Use the materials for lesson planning and classroom activites. There are worksheets, activities, lesson plans, videos, audio collections, and games.

Who created this content?  Most of the lesson plans were created by instructors at North Carolina community colleges. Each lesson plan includes the creator’s name/community college.

What is best about this site? It’s full of lesson plans and activities. Once you choose a topic you’ll find multiple levels of information. You just have to start looking around!  It’s very easy to navigate.

What levels are the lessons intended for? The majority of the lessons are appropriate for beginner and intermediate level students. As with most lessons, you can simplify or expand the lesson to accommodate the students in your class.

What is challenging about the site? As a user, I want to know the credentials of the authors, and also the sources and reasons behind a post. At times it’s not clear to me the purpose of a post, or the source of the information. But, that wouldn’t stop me from using the site! It has tons of information!! Take a look!

Preparing for a parent/teacher conference

pic by Sean Drellinger

pic by Sean Drellinger

There are some good resources on the web to assist us and our students with this quest. Of course, if you have a homogenous class of students who are all parents, you could dedicate some significant class time to this topic. However, that’s not usually the case, so having these resources for home use, small group study, or reinforcement of introductory lessons, could be helpful. In this post we have:

  • Tips for Parents
  • Preparing for a parent/teacher conference, including a lesson plan
  • A listening activity about parent/teacher conferences
  • Vocabulary used in parent/teacher conferences
  • Suggestions from WCPSS on successful conferences
  • A video showing a short parent/teacher conference (good for lower level classes-very simple)
  • A link to We are New York, an English language learning video series that students can access from home. This on is not specifically about PT conferences, but is a good message about the importance of education, and how to advocate for your children and be an involved parent.

Successful Parent/Teacher Conference Tip Sheet. This is from Harvard Family Research Project. It includes information for both educators and parents. Parents’ information begins on page seven.

Preparing for a parent/teacher conference.  This is a wonderful site with an actual lesson plan for ESL teachers and activities for students to learn and practice the English needed for a parent/teacher conference.

ESL Pod Listening Activity about a parent/teacher conference.

Vocabulary for a parent/teacher conference.

Parent Teacher Conference Tips suggestions from WCPSS.

Video from WCPSS about parent/teacher conferences.

Example of a parent/teacher conference. VERY simple video appropriate for lower levels:

We Are New York episode about helping students to stay in school.

How can you use this information?

  • Show a video and discuss it with the class
  • Introduce new vocabulary and practice using it in multiple ways
  • Work with students (the parents) to prepare for the conference (  has some great materials, just click on the link under the Preparing for a parent/teacher conference by scrolling up the page)
  • Students create a parent/teacher dialog
  • Role play a parent/teacher conference
  • Discuss cultural norms and expectations by the educators during a parent/teacher conference.
  • Sequencing activities related to the conference.

How would you use this information?

Talking about News and Current Events in the Classroom

ESL students are just as interested in news and current events as everyone else! As ESL instructors we can provide them an environment to access and understand this information using English. Multiple websites provide news for English language learners, and some even provide it in levels, from beginning to advanced. Here are a few, with some key points about each one. What sites do you use? Please let me know, in the REPLY section, and I’ll post it here! Thanks!

ITESLJ.ORG  ITESLJ is not a news source per se, but it is a clearinghouse of information of all types.This first link includes information about different ways to use news and current events in the ESL classroom. It includes a sample lesson plan, and references the VOA website as its source.

Breaking News English.  One of the more well known sites, it has extensive topics and lesson plans. It offers a “mini-lesson” as well as very inclusive, in depth lessons. Provides information as docs, mp3s, and PDFs.

VOA News.  International news, sorted by topic or level. Provides audio, video in addition to news articles. There is an “English in your Language” section too. Additionally, the audio is slower paced for easier listening.

News in Levels.  This site has common interest stories as well as more serious news. It is organized according to topic and level. There are transcripts for the videos. Easy site to use.

The Times in Plain English.  This site uses the NY Times as a reference for their information.  It is not affiliated with the Times. It’s similar in appearance to the Times though, albeit much simpler and accessible articles.

CNN. On, CNN has a weekly student news video. Students can watch the video multiple times. When ready, they can follow the link, on the youtube page, for some vocabulary practice! This is a great resource for the higher level students! So, here is this week’s video, along with the link for practice! Click this link for the vocabulary

These next two sites are a little more Eurocentric, but there might be some lessons you could use if modified for American English. Or maybe just get inspired by something you see?!?


iCivics Website – games, resources, lesson plans

Here is a Civics website that we recently discovered, with some excellent resources, as well as lesson plans and interactive games.

There are two parts to the site:

  • one called “Play”, which seems to be primarily for students, but could give you teaching ideas, and
  • one called “Teach”, which has lesson plans, curriculum units, support materials (including teacher guides for discussions, etc.).

You can use the materials that are available right on the site – or you can register to get a free account and access additional materials.

Here is the link: