Author: movingenglishlessons

toefl academic discussion board task

5 Tips to Get a High Score on the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board Task

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a widely recognized assessment of English language proficiency. For those aspiring to study in English-speaking countries, a high score on the TOEFL can open doors to prestigious institutions and better career opportunities. 

One of the most critical sections of the TOEFL iBT is the Academic Writing Discussion Board Task.  You have only 10 minutes to write 100+ words.  In this blog post, we will delve into five essential tips that will help you achieve a high score in this demanding task.

Tip 1: Provide a General Statement about the Topic

The first step in completing the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task is to start with a clear and concise general statement about the given topic. This statement sets the stage for your response and helps the reader understand the context of your argument. Your general statement should be well-constructed and relevant to the topic at hand. 

Here’s an example:

“Global warming is a complex and pressing issue that affects our planet on multiple levels, including the environment, economy, and public health.”

By beginning your response with a well-crafted general statement like this, you provide a strong foundation for your argument, which is crucial for scoring well on this task.

Tip 2: Write a Variety of Kinds of Sentences to Support Your Opinion

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s no different in the world of academic writing. In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, it’s essential to exhibit a range of sentence structures to demonstrate your command of the English language. Mix simple, compound, and complex sentences to keep your writing engaging and effective. 

Here’s an example of how to incorporate variety in sentence structure:

“While some argue that stricter environmental regulations may hinder economic growth, I contend that they are essential for preserving our planet for future generations. Furthermore, the long-term benefits of sustainable practices far outweigh the short-term costs.”

By employing different sentence structures, you not only showcase your language skills but also make your response more engaging and convincing.

Consider writing sentences using the following structures:

Opinion+ example

Opinion + reasons

Listing (Firstly…secondly…)

Argument + counter argument

Tip 3: Show Contrast to What Others Have Said and Provide a Counterargument

In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, you are often presented with a topic that the professor introduces along with two different student viewpoints on a topic. To score well, you need to demonstrate your ability to critically analyze and synthesize these perspectives, but most importantly, defend a unique and new argument. One effective way to do this is by showing contrast and providing a counterargument.

For example, if Samuel suggests that environmental regulations are crucial for protecting the planet, you can incorporate this contrast into your response:

“While Samuel emphasizes the importance of stringent environmental regulations for safeguarding our planet, I firmly believe that it is essential that each citizen take small actions to recycle and plant trees.”

By acknowledging the differing viewpoints and providing a counterargument, you showcase your ability to critically assess complex issues—a skill highly valued in academic settings. 

Even so, it isn’t at all necessary to cite what others have said to get a high score.  In fact, you can simply be persuasive and argue your own point without mentioning what the others have said.  The key point is to back up your ideas with reasons and examples and provide a strong argument to ADD to the discussion. 

Tip 4: Work with a Teacher for Feedback

One of the most effective ways to improve your TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task performance is to seek feedback from a knowledgeable source. Engaging a teacher or tutor can provide invaluable insights into your writing skills and help you identify areas that need improvement. They can evaluate your responses, provide guidance on structure, grammar, and content, and suggest ways to enhance your writing.

Additionally, working with a teacher can help you understand the TOEFL scoring criteria and how to meet them effectively. They can also help you fine-tune your timing and test-taking strategies. Having a mentor or teacher is like having a personal coach to guide you toward success in the TOEFL.

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argument and counterargument

Tip 5: Improve Your Grammar

Grammar is the backbone of effective communication in any language. In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, grammatical errors can be a major roadblock to achieving a high score. Your writing should be clear, coherent, and error-free.

To improve your grammar, it’s essential to practice regularly. You can start by identifying common grammatical mistakes you make and working on them. Online resources, grammar books, and grammar-checking tools can be immensely helpful. 

Additionally, consider taking English courses or workshops specifically designed for TOEFL preparation. These resources can provide you with targeted grammar exercises and assessments to strengthen your skills.

Remember to proofread your response before submitting it. Correcting grammatical errors not only improves your score but also makes your writing more precise and persuasive.

In conclusion, the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task is a critical component of the TOEFL iBT, and mastering it requires practice, strategy, and dedication. By following these five tips—providing a general statement, using a variety of sentence structures, showing contrast, seeking feedback, and improving your grammar—you can significantly enhance your performance in this task and work towards achieving a high score on the TOEFL. With persistence and the right approach, you can open doors to a world of opportunities for academic and professional success. Good luck!

Resources for self-study:

TOEFL IBT Writing Guide by Michael Goodine

TOEFL Resources blog and website with sample essays

toefl writing guide
Buy this book on Amazon


Watch Josh McPherson’s latest Youtube video about the new Writing task

Practice the Academic Discussion Board tasks on the ETS website

Use the Powerful Website, My SpeakingScore.Com to practice 

Practice Paraphrasing

Sign-up for my TOEFL Power-Up Speaking and Writing Course


Speak Your Way to Success: 5 Tips for Acing the TOEFL IBT Speaking Section with Technology

If you’re a TOEFL IBT test-taker, you may be nervous about the speaking section of the exam. This is a normal feeling, but with the right strategies and preparation, you can improve your chances of success. In this blog post, I’ll provide you with 5 tips to succeed on the speaking section, and show you how technology can help you improve your speaking skills.

1. Practice, practice, practice

One of the most important things you can do to improve your speaking skills is to practice speaking as much as possible. You can practice speaking English with friends, family, or classmates, or even record yourself speaking and listen back to it. There are also many online resources available that offer speaking practice exercises and opportunities to connect with other English learners. I would encourage you to try using to practice since it provides over 15 unique TOEFL speaking exams. 

2. Time management

The speaking section of the TOEFL IBT exam is timed, so it’s important to manage your time effectively. You will have 20 seconds to prepare your response to each question, and 60 seconds to speak. Use the preparation time wisely by brainstorming ideas and organizing your thoughts. When you start speaking, try to stay focused and on topic, and avoid rambling or going off on tangents. If you pause too much, you will lose points. 

3.  Stay calm and focused

It’s normal to feel nervous during the speaking section of the TOEFL IBT exam, but it’s important to stay calm and focused. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve prepared for this moment. Avoid negative self-talk or dwelling on mistakes, and instead focus on doing your best on the next question. 

4. Use technology to improve your speaking skills

Technology can be a powerful tool for improving your speaking skills. There are many apps and websites available that offer speech recognition software, which can help you practice your pronunciation and fluency. You can also watch videos or listen to podcasts to improve your listening skills and learn new vocabulary. You could try using:, Elsa Speech Analyzer, and Chat GPT with the Google Chrome Extension Talk-to-Chat GPT. Ask Chat GPT to generate TOEFL IBT speaking questions. Record your response and ask for feedback and for ways to improve your response. 

You can analyze your responses and clearly see what your weak areas are and where your strengths are. Then, you can target those areas to improve your speaking scores. In Fact, one of my students went from a 24-scoring response to a 26 by improving her vocabulary and by increasing her speed.


5. Pay attention to your body language and tone

Your body language and tone can have a big impact on how you come across during the speaking section of the TOEFL IBT exam. Make sure you sit up straight and maintain eye contact with the computer screen. Speak clearly and confidently, but also try to vary your tone and pace to keep speaking at a quick pace.

In conclusion, the speaking section of the TOEFL IBT exam can be challenging, but with the right strategies and preparation, you can succeed. Remember to practice as much as possible, manage your time effectively, stay calm and focused, use technology to your advantage, and pay attention to your body language and tone. Good luck!

➡️If you’re serious about acing the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT, then join the waitlist for my upcoming speaking and writing intensive in May. This program is designed to help you improve your speaking skills, build confidence, and learn strategies to excel on the test. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your speaking skills to the next level. Join the waitlist today!

There are many websites that offer free TOEFL practice tests online for students preparing for the exam. Here are some options:

ETS TOEFL website: The official website of the TOEFL exam offers a free practice test for students to familiarize themselves with the test format and question types. The test is available online and can be taken on a computer or mobile device. URL:

TOEFL Resources website: This website offers a variety of free TOEFL practice tests, including full-length tests and section-specific tests. The tests are designed to mimic the format and difficulty level of the real exam. URL:

TST Prep: This website offers amazing speaking practice, video tutorials, PDFs, and tips for test-takers.

Magoosh TOEFL blog: Magoosh offers a free full-length TOEFL practice test on their website. The test includes all four sections of the exam and is designed to provide students with an accurate representation of the exam. URL:

TestDEN TOEFL practice tests: TestDEN offers free practice tests for the TOEFL exam that are designed to simulate the real exam. The tests include all four sections of the exam and provide students with a score report and detailed feedback. Test Den

BestMyTest TOEFL practice tests: BestMyTest offers a variety of free TOEFL practice tests, including full-length tests and section-specific tests. The tests include detailed explanations for each question and provide students with a score report and feedback. URL:

It’s important to note that while free practice tests can be a helpful resource for TOEFL exam preparation, they may not be as comprehensive or accurate as paid practice tests or official exam materials. Students should also be cautious of websites that claim to offer “official” or “real” TOEFL practice tests, as ETS is the only organization that creates and distributes official TOEFL materials.

Practice with Paraphrasing

•When you paraphrase, you write or say something that someone else has written or said, in your own words.

•Paraphrasing is an important skill for you to practice because it shows your ability to express the idea of another person using different words, without copying the exact text or speech.

•When you paraphrase properly, you avoid plagiarism, which is a form of academic theft that is considered unethical.

•Paraphrasing can be done in the following ways: by substituting keywords with synonyms, by changing the sentence structure, and by transforming the parts of speech of certain vocabulary words in the sentence.

•Regular practice paraphrasing helps you build your overall ability to use a range of vocabulary and practice varying your sentence structure.

•Paraphrasing improves your ability to restate the gist of the passage, which helps you better grasp the meaning of the passage.

•You become a better speaker and writer because you practice playing with grammar, sentences, and words.

Is the HERD framework hitting home with you? Herding wild horses! Think of the HERD strategy when you need to quickly paraphrase an academic text.

I’m in the midst of designing some free paraphrasing lesson plans for teachers at varying levels. Let me know if you or your students need practice with this skill.

Here are some paraphrasing tools you can use: Quillbot, an online paraphraser, Thesaurus, online dictionaries, Grammarly, and wordreference.

Get your free Paraphrasing practice lesson!


Additional Resources:

UW Madison’s Writing Center

Purdue on Paraphrasing

How your TOEFL Essay is Scored

Body Paragraphs in your TOEFL Independent Essay

Let’s talk about writing essays and the structure of the body paragraph. In my HS English classes, I teach the idea of an “argument sandwich” for the body paragraph…they make a claim (topic sentence), provide data (examples are fine), and provide a warrant (explanation).

Nonetheless, the TOEFL independent essay doesn’t necessarily follow that model. In a high-scoring TOEFL essay, the personal example dominates the body paragraph and the paragraph could even end with the example rather than a concluding sentence that explains the example. Is anyone else bothered by this?

How the E-Rater Scores TOEFL Essays

Michael Goodine clarifies how the independent essays are scored by an e-rater software and that human raters spend very little time reading them. Therefore, he mentions that the sophisticated features and nuances that are rewarded in IELTS essays aren’t necessarily rewarded in TOEFL essays. He shows how language and grammar are more important than an eloquent style, perhaps.

The Essay Structure

Of course, you need an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A thesis statement is vital and arguments that correspond with the thesis statement in a logical manner also are key. Additionally, it is helpful to include transitional phrases and sentences that introduce personal examples.

Check out this fascinating series of blogposts where Michael Goodine explains how the TOEFL independent writing task is graded by the e-rater: He does state that adverb conjunctions could increase the essay score, which is why I’ve included the visuals in this post.  Also, he mentions that collocations also help increase the essay score.  Here is a link so some verb collocations and here is a link to a list of collocations.  What is your opinion about the e-rater?

An Unforgettable Harry Potter Vocabulary Quiz

Harry Potter Hogwarts express
Illustrated by Jonny Duddle
get lost in harry potter this summer

I literally couldn’t put Harry Potter down when I was reading it because the pages were full of suspense, magic, and mystery. I was transported to another world and it felt like a great escape, where the creative twists and turns literally blew me away.


To get a full sensory experience of the books, consider also listening to the audio books on audible; the American version is read by Jim Dale and The British version is read by Stephen Fry.  In addition, there is a fun, quirky band called, Harry and the Potters, which plays music about the book and has brilliant lyrics that are entertaining. I also highly recommend the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated version.

One huge Potter fan named Helen Haggerson, grew up in California reading the books, watching the movies, and listening to the audio books. She tells us all about her experience in a heart-warming interview, which you can listen to on youtube at the link below.

In this post, we’ll be looking for advanced vocabulary in context from the Harry Potter books.  I’ll provide the word, the definition, the sentence in which J.K. Rowling uses it with the page number of the book that it comes from. 

rap on the door definition
  1. Rap= (verb) strike (a hard surface) with a series of rapid audible blows, especially in order to attract attention.


“Up! Get up! Now!”

Harry woke with a start. His aunt rapped on the door again. (The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 2)


sallow definition
  1. Sallow=(adjective) (of a person’s face or complexion) of an unhealthy yellow or pale brown colour.


“Professor Quirrell, in his absurd turban, was talking to a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.” (The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 7) 


  1. To Waft=(with reference to a scent, sound, etc.) pass or cause to pass gently through the air.

“On Halloween morning they woke to the delicious smell of baking pumpkin wafting through the corridors.” (The Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 10) 


brandish definition
  1. Brandish=(verb) wave or flourish (something, especially a weapon) as a threat or in anger or excitement.


“Read it!” he hissed evily, brandishing the letter the owl had delivered.  “Go on–read it!” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets-Book 2, pg. 21). 


haphazardly definition

  1. haphazardly=(adverb)in a manner lacking any obvious principle of organization.  


“Mrs Weasly was clattering around, cooking breakfast a little haphazardly, throwing dirty looks at her sons as she threw sausages into the frying pan.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets-Book 2, pg. 35). 


  1. raucous=(adverb) making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise.


Harry ate breakfast each morning in the Leaky Cauldron, where he liked watching the other guests: funny little witches from the country, up for a day’s shopping; venerable-looking wizards arguing over the latest article in Transfiguration Today; wild-looking warlocks, raucous dwarfs, and, once, what looked suspiciously like a hag, who ordered a plate of raw liver from behind a thick woolen balaclava. (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p.52)


  1. Ominously=(adverb) in a way that suggests that something bad is going to happen.


“Uncle Vernon swelled ominously.  His sense of outrage seemed to outweigh even his fear of this bunch of oddballs.” (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix-Book 5, p.766)



  1. Pompous= (adjective)believing oneself to be grand and important, conceited.


“Teachers and Percy Wesely [were] tailing him everwhere like an extremely pompous guard dog. (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban–book 3, p. 175)


  1. Euphoria=a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.


“Harry’s euphoria at finally winning the Quidditch Cup, lasted at least a week.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban–book 3, p. 334)


  1. fervently= (adverb) passionately 


“Yeah,” said Harry fervently, looking over at the Ravenclaw table.  (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix-Book 5, p.50


Harry Potter Advanced Vocabulary Quiz

In this quiz, you will test your overall ability to use these advanced words from Harry Potter in sentences.


Top 3 Reasons To Master Phrasal Verbs

What are Phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are phrases that have a verb and another element, typically either an adverb, as in break down, or a preposition, for example, sleep in, or a combination of both, such as break up with.

What kinds of phrasal verbs are there?

There are four different kinds of phrasal verbs. Some of them have prepositions or adverbs that can move and change position, falling right after the verb, or at the end of the sentence. In addition, some phrasal verbs require objects while others do not. 

Examples of Phrasal Verbs in Sentences: 

(preposition moves around)

  • I called up Joanna/ I called Joanna up.  To call up, means to give someone a ring or to call someone, but in an informal way. 
  •  I handed in a paper/ I handed a paper in.  To hand in a paper means to submit a paper to a teacher or a professor.
  •  I checked out a book/ I checked a book out. To check out means to take a book from the library for a scheduled period of time.

More Examples of Phrasal Verbs in Sentences:

(preposition doesn’t move around)

  • I bumped into Jim. (To bump into means to meet someone by chance on the street). 
  •  She got over the illness quickly. (To get over means to recover from).
  • He picked on me about my strange outfit. (To pick on means to make fun of).

3 Reasons to Master Phrasal Verbs for TOEFL

Phrasal verbs are a useful tool to use on the TOEFL speaking exam because they often provide students with a much more efficient, exact way to communicate their opinion about a topic or to clearly express an idea.  

Reasons #1 For Using Phrasal Verbs on TOEFL 

phrasal verbs help you communicate more efficiently and accurately

  • Phrasal verbs are more efficient and express ideas with greater precision. 

Sometimes, when you say something in English without using a phrasal verb, it could take 5-6 words to say it, while a phrasal verb could express the same idea in merely a few words. 

Let’s look at some examples: 

First, let’s analyze a sentence without a phrasal verb: 

One of the most disappointing experiences of my life was when my partner decided to finalize our relationship.

We can create the same sentence with a phrasal verb: 

One of the most disappointing experiences of my life was when my partner broke up with me.

The sentence with the phrasal verb expresses the idea much more efficiently and in a more exact, natural way.  The sentence with the phrasal verb is also shorter and expresses the idea faster. 

Let’s study another example: 

A sentence without a phrasal verb:

  • I enjoy being with my friends so that we can talk about what we have been doing and share our experiences with each other.

The same sentence with two phrasal verbs:

  • I enjoy hanging out with my friends and catching up with them about their recent adventures. 

There is nothing wrong with the first sentence, but it takes longer to express and doesn’t sound as natural and fluent as the second sentence.  

Since you only have 45 seconds on the first part of the TOEFL speaking exam, it is important to express yourself and provide details and reasons to support your arguments.  Therefore, the more efficient and natural you sound when you give your reasons, the better you will score on the exam.  If you try to say something using a long complex sentence, sometimes it takes you too long to communicate your idea, you waste time, and then your score drops because you didn’t have enough time to justify your argument. 

Reason #2 for Using Phrasal Verbs on TOEFL Speaking

Phrasal verbs help you expand your vocabulary and improve your ability to communicate with a wide range of words.  

When you learn another language, it is useful to study vocabulary, synonyms, and phrases.  

For the TOEFL speaking exam, your score will increase if you paraphrase what the professor explained in the lecture.  You can use a wide range of phrasal verbs for academic purposes to do this.  

Here are a few examples:

The professor points out that stink bugs invade homes over the winter months.  (To point out means to clarify or show).  This is a phrasal verb that you could also use in your writing and TOEFL essays because it is used in academic papers and in more formal English.  

Another example of a phrasal verb is, “to consist of,” which means to be formed by or made up of.  To describe a study that a lecturer mentions, you could say, “The investigation consisted of a series of trials with a control group of rats.” This phrasal verb is also commonly used in academic English, which is truly the kind of English you need to hone for the TOEFL speaking exam.  

Also, when you describe research, you can use “carry out,” a wonderful phrasal verb that is used consistently in academic research papers.  For example, “A team of scientists carried out a study in Norway about global warming.”

So, therefore, the greater variety your response is in terms of rich, academic vocabulary, the higher you will score.  Therefore, it is important to study phrasal verbs used in academic contexts and also collocations for research and writing reports. 

Here are a few collocations (words that naturally fit together and that are commonly used together) you should be aware of when it comes to talking about research:

  • To carry out research (to DO research not Make)
  • Research indicates that….(research shows that…)
  • The professor provides a full explanation of the historical account of the battle (a complete explanation)
  • The professor provides a rationale for his argument (a justification for his argument)
  • The lecturer makes the case for his new theory of environmental protection (defends their position)

Reason #3 for Using Phrasal Verbs for TOEFL Speaking

If you want to sound as natural and as fluent as possible, it is a great idea to incorporate phrasal verbs into your spoken English.  

Although they are tricky, you can’t run and hide from them because they will inevitably find you and you eventually will find them. 

So, take some steps forward to start using them in your day-to-day conversation.  

Set up a routine to review phrasal verbs and how they are used in sentences.  You can use the Anki application for reviewing phrasal verbs with spaced repetition, a brain-based learning methodology. 

The first thing to do is download the Anki application to your desktop.  Then, you can download some phrasal verb decks to study.  Once you see this screen, click on “Get Shared Decks.”

Then, you can find popular decks by searching for “Phrasal Verbs.”  If you want exam prep specific decks, you can find “TOEFL Barron’s” or “Essential TOEFL IBT vocabulary.”

Then, you can download one of the decks that has great reviews and that has sample sentences so you can study the phrasal verb in context.  Some of the decks even have audio to practice pronunciation. 

Then, you can begin studying some common phrasal verbs on a daily basis while waiting for a bus or while riding a train or even while going to the bathroom.  Instead of opening your social media apps, you can open the Anki app and study for 5 minutes a day.  

Another great option is to take my phrasal verbs email course. You will feel much more confident expressing yourself and will find yourself sounding more natural as well.  The course has a video, where I explain what each phrasal verb means and I give you a few example sentences so that you can practice pronunciation.  Then, I give you an audio dictation to practice the phrasal verb.  The course is a fantastic way for you to improve your fluency and your ability to use phrasal verbs effectively.  

which phrasal verbs do you know?
Common phrasal verbs you should know for TOEFL


these are some useful fluency tips

5 Useful Fluency Tips

Do you feel like your speaking skills are getting rusty?  Are you looking for some fluency tips to help you sound more natural and confident when you speak the language you’re studying?  I am going to give you some examples from my own study routine.  

As many of you know, my first language is English and I am learning Spanish and Galician and I also speak Portuguese, so fluency is something I work on regularly.  When I don’t practice, I feel my speaking skills become weak and it quickly becomes tough to remember words and have good pronunciation.  Here are some tips I’ve come up with that you might benefit from. 


repeat the pronunciation of a native speaker
Repetition is key to improving your pronunciation


#1 Repeat Quickly to Improve Pronunciation 

Repetition is essential when you are learning new words.  You need to repeat the word and say it many times before you become able to remember it and use it in conversation.  

Listen to a native speaker say the word and then practice saying it slowly, then speed it up to mimic the intonation of the native speaker.  Try to repeat the native speaker’s musicality.  You can do this with audio books, podcasts, TV series, or with the audio that comes with language textbooks. 


For instance, I recently took a 1v1 Skype Spanish class with one of my Spanish teachers on italki, Salvador in order to practice vocabulary for an interview.  After the class, my notes looked like this: 

write notes from a 1v1 lesson and then listen to the audio to practice your speaking skills.
Ask your teacher to make an audio for you to listen to and practice during the week.

I was staring at my notes the next day and realized that it wasn’t going to be too useful to study these notes in order to improve my speaking.  So, I asked the teacher if he could make an audio for me in order for me to practice the sentences and possible answers on my own.  

That way, I could practice the sentences while I walk the dog and keep listening to the sentences over and over again.  I listen to a sentence, pause the audio, then repeat, first slowly, then more quickly. The technique was effective, efficient, personalized, and highly motivating because it applied to my situation, my level, and my needs.  My friend Shayna offers wonderful courses to improve your pronunciation on her site, Espresso English. 

speak with native speakers and non-native speakers
Speak as much as possible with as many people as you can.

#2 Speak with Native Speakers and Non-Native Speakers

I recently spoke to a student who told me she didn’t like to practice speaking English unless it was with a native speaker.  I truly disagree with this mentality because, despite who we are speaking with, we learn by speaking. 

So, the more you speak, whether it be with a native speaker or a non-native speaker, you will improve your fluency.  You may be surprised that you learn more from non-native speakers than from native speakers because they understand the language from a different perspective. In my opinion, we should copy the intonation and pronunciation of native speakers, but when it comes to practicing our skills, it is best to practice with anyone you can, as often as you can. 

A young girl came to live in my city in Spain from the United States and she wanted to speak Spanish with me, instead of English because she wanted a true immersion experience and really wanted to improve her speaking skills in Spanish.  I thought this was a smart decision on her part because most people would speak with me in English if that was their first language.  

So, I came to this realization while participating in a Spanish-speaking club.  In the club, we speak with a partner in Spanish and practice weekly vocabulary about a theme we are focusing on.  While working with partners, I got to speak with Alex, a guy who lives in the United States, but who speaks Spanish very well.  So, I actually became even more inspired by speaking with him because I realized you can become fluent even if you don’t live in a Spanish-speaking country. 

One thing to keep in mind, though is that you might find yourself comparing yourself to other non-native speakers.  If someone speaks much better than you, you might find yourself getting down on yourself and feeling frustrated because you wish you spoke that well.  Before you start getting stuck in that mentality, you have to realize that comparing yourself to others only impedes your language growth.  You don’t know how long that person has been studying that language or what their situation is.  Try to cultivate an energy of hope and of positivity.  Look at the person and think to yourself, “That is awesome and they speak so well!”  Then, envision yourself speaking the language really well and getting compliments about your speaking abilities.  It is better to think about how much you have grown and on your own goals.  Think about what steps you need to take next in order to improve your language goals. 

write first, then speak
Writing can be an entry point into practicing speaking with more confidence.

#3 Write first, then Speak to Improve Fluency  

I’ve written a long blog post about the “Write Speak, Speak Right” method that I’ve coined from working with one of my students.  The method helped my student break through the C1 barrier to reach the C2 level. She has been able to process information through writing and translate the words to her spoken English.  She told me that the writing method we used gave her time to think about how she wanted to express herself. Our focus during class was on writing, but she also said the sentences out loud and noticed an impressive jump in her fluency.  Writing can be an entry point into clear, effective communication.  

The “write first” method can be especially useful when it comes to exam preparation because you have a chance to brainstorm vocabulary from a variety of topics that will surely help you on the speaking and writing sections of your exam under pressure.  

You can write a paragraph response based on a writing prompt, potential ways to respond to questions at a job interview, or practice telling a story in your target language.

read comics out loud
Since comics have natural language, they are useful tools to practice speaking.

#4 Read Comics Out Loud for Greater Fluency

Reading comics out loud is a brilliant language learning tip that you probably have never thought of.  Comics show real dialogue and the characters use slang, common expressions, and authentic language. If you practice reading what the characters say out loud, your fluency will see a big leap forward. 

I thought of this while working on Galician.  I have a book that shows some natural, colloquial dialogue between characters in comics.  I started reading the sentences out loud and I realized how nice the method was to improve my Galician fluency skills.  Then, I tried it with Spanish and Portuguese and I found a comic in English and looked in the speech bubbles and mimicked what they were saying.  I started using this skill more with students in my English classes and it worked incredibly well. My students started feeling emotions while they read because comics show sadness, happiness, joy, anger, and surprise. 

netflix can help your fluency and speaking skills
Watch series in your target language, pause the audio, and repeat phrases and sentences with better intonation and pronunciation.

#5 Pause the Audio on Netflix, Repeat

 Recently, I got a great fluency trip from a friend who uses an approach that seems obvious, but that few people actually use.  He said he watches his favorite show in Spanish, La Resistencia with subtitles, pauses the audio, and practices saying the expressions out loud.  I find this to be extremely motivating and brilliant. I started trying it in my target languages and realized how effective it is because, first of all, you’re learning real expressions that are commonly used. Secondly, you’re repeating the intonation and pronunciation just like native speakers.  Thirdly, it is a fun way to improve your fluency because it is pleasurable to watch Netflix. Below, you will see a recent Reel on instragram I made using this method!


These five tips will help you move towards speaking more naturally and confidently in your target language.  Don’t forget that you actually have to open your mouth and speak to improve your fluency.  Listening isn’t enough.  In fact, think of ways you can transform a listening activity into a speaking activity or a writing activity into a speaking activity.   Finally, try to design your study routine where everything you do leads to speaking. 

language learning integrating all of the skills
Make an effort to integrate the four language skills into your training and connect every activity with speaking and fluency

If you’re looking for more information about the conversation club I offer in English, you can find it here! 




IELTS and TOEFL: What Kind of Traveler Are You?


Now that it is summertime, we are all longing for a vacation and to travel. Are you going anywhere fun this summer?  Maybe we can start talking about travel plans and preferences again, even if we simply remember some of our best trips and discuss our top 5 destinations.

🇺🇸In American English, we spell “traveler” with one “l” and in British English, 🇬🇧it is spelled with two: “traveller”. In American English, “traveling” is the common spelling, whereas in British English “travelling” is the preferred spelling of the word.  This travel post is for B2 (upper-intermediate) or C1 (advanced) English speakers.  However, if you would like a lesson on travel that is designed for A1 to B1, I recommend downloading this fabulous worksheet. 

Take the Quiz to Find Out What Kind of Traveler You Are!

Welcome to your What Kind of Traveler Are You?

My ideal trip is…

More than anything, while on vacation, I love….

To find my way around when I travel, I…

When I travel, I feel most comfortable wearing…

For me, the most relaxing thing to do on vacation is….

In the evenings, I love…

I’m mostly like to travel…

When I travel I prefer…

On my journeys, I most love smelling…

When I travel, I pack…

I typically…

At night, I love…

5 types of travelers

Common Expressions about Travel:

  • To take a trip= To go on a vacation
    • Salma and Jim took a trip to Iceland last month, which was a dream come true.
  • Peak season= The high season when there are more tourists. 
    • We try to avoid traveling during peak season because the airplanes and the hotels are too crowded. 
  • To miss a flight=to not be able to catch a flight due to various circumstances
    • They missed their flight because the taxi driver was late picking them up.
  • To miss out on something=to not be able to experience or fail to take advantage of an opportunity or chance
    • We missed out on the picnic because we had to take Seth to the hospital.
  • To get away= To go on vacation and take a break from your daily routine
    • When I went to Brazil last summer, it was wonderful to get away for a while, relax and unplug.
  • To unplug= To disconnect and switch off.  This is often used when people go on vacation and want to turn off their phones, screens, and stop checking email.
    • When they traveled to Turkey last winter, they truly unplugged and took a nice break from work.
  • To have a special charm= When a place is attractive and appealing. 
    • The city where I grew up, Stone City, has a special charm because the houses were built out of limestone in the early 1900s.
  • An arduous journey= A difficult trip. 
    • The trip through the Peruvian mountains to Machu Pichhu proved to be an arduous journey because we faced severe weather conditions.
  • Unexplored territory= A place that is remote and isolated and where few humans have been. There is so much unexplored territory in the Andes mountains and we have to have a lot of specific gear to travel to those remote places.
  • pristine= perfect and in its original condition, We went to a pristine beach on a remote island. 
Grab this great lesson plan to use with your students!


Travel Reading Passage: 

A Half-Naked Trip to Iceland

Jim and Salma took a trip to Iceland last summer during the peak holiday season.  They had a few disastrous things happen to them on the journey.  First, they missed their flight because they arrived at the airport late and the security line was long and slow.  They had to wait three hours for the next flight, which, luckily had only a few seats available.  Then, when they finally arrived at their destination, they went to get their suitcases at the baggage claim and realized their bags hadn’t come with them on the plane.  They were furious.  However, they had a well-planned itinerary for their week-long vacation and they didn’t want to miss out on anything, so they decided to wear the same clothes until their bags arrived at the airport.  

The next day, they wore the same stinky clothes to visit Lake Myvatn and its charming surroundings.  For Jim and Salma, it was a euphoric experience because they saw steam coming off of the lake at sunrise while a great variety of duck species quacked in front of them.  However, they were astonished when one of the ducks approached them and actually attacked and ran off with Salma’s left flip flop.  They returned to the hotel with even fewer clothes after the duck assault. 

Their main goal was to unplug and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. So, they went to the spa in their hotel and relaxed in the hot tub.  They turned on the high-powered jets and were finally able to let go of their worries and release all of the stress from work.  The spa even had showers that gave off the smells of lavender and mint.  Although it was blissful, one of the jets was so strong that it ripped off Jim’s bathing suit.  He threw a towel over himself and ran back to the hotel room half-naked. The hotel concierge saw him and gave him a strange look.

The next day, they planned to go off the beaten track and visit a waterfall that was located 3 hours north.  They had very few clothes to wear and had to go barefoot.  Fortunately, they had a tour guide who led them up a rugged mountain with jagged cliffs and despite the arduous journey, they appreciated the peace and quiet.  As they were trekking through the lush, unexplored territory, they felt a sense of adventure.  What could they expect to find at the peak of the mountain? They were blown away when they reached the top.  They could see a gorgeous waterfall flowing down the side of the mountain.  It was the most pristine place they had ever been. Despite their bleeding toes, the hike was well worth it.




Conversation Questions about Travel

  1. Do you prefer to travel by train, car, bus, plane, or on foot?
  2. What kind of shoes do you like to wear when you travel? Flip flops, mountain boots, sneakers, or high heels? 
  3. When you travel, do you prefer to use a guidebook to help you get places and understand the history of the landmarks, or do you like to play everything by ear? 
  4. Do you love to go off the beaten track or do you prefer to visit well-known places?
  5. What is your opinion about guided tours and travel guides? Do you deepen your understanding of a place when you go on guided tours? 
  6. When you travel, do you enjoy meandering and wandering around the city streets with no particular plan? 
  7. Are you a museum lover? What kind of museums do you enjoy exploring: history museums, science museums, art museums, or cultural museums? 
  8. Do you like to sleep in a tent or a caravan and experience more rustic conditions or would you rather get a spa treatment in a 5-star hotel? 
  9. Do you like to learn the local language before you travel to a place and practice some of the words you have studied in bars and restaurants?
  10.  Are you a fan of outdoor adventure sports like hiking, rock climbing, bungee jumping, skiing, surfing, and rappelling? 
  11. Are you the kind of person who could spend an entire vacation sunbathing on the beach with a cold drink in one hand and a book in the other?
  12. Do you usually take a travel journal with you and take note of your adventures?


Sample IELTS CUE CARD Answer About Travel:

I recently visited London with a group of High School students from Spain.  We traveled by plane and the flight lasted around 3 hours.  Next, we took a train into the city and stayed at a comfortable hotel downtown.  To be honest, we had a very well-planned itinerary and visited all of the well-known landmarks in the city.  I found the London Bridge to be spectacular and unforgettable.  We tried fish and chips in a local pub, but the meal didn’t blow me away and the beer was warm, which I wasn’t used to. 

I have to admit that the British people were very friendly to us and talkative. One notable cultural difference between Spain and England is the way people cross the roads.  In Spain, cars will stop for pedestrians because pedestrians have priority when crossing the road at zebra crossings.  In London, cars stop when the lights are red.  So, one of the students tried crossing the road when the light was green, and she got hit by a car.  Fortunately, it hit her hip and she fell safely on the sidewalk without being majorly injured, but we quickly learned to follow the traffic rules carefully in London.  Despite this unfortunate event, we had an incredible time and even saw the city from the London Eye.  Overall, I found London to be one of my favorite cities of all time.


Would you like to hear a British accent? Listen to this man with a British accent speak about the benefits of travel




To sum up, travel transforms us and deeply changes our way of life, perception, and worldview.  Certainly, when we are tired, the best thing we can do is travel to a new location.  Suddenly, our focus and attitude change when we are out of our comfort zone.  Also, we can learn about our own culture by traveling.  I remember what it felt like to return to supermarkets and malls in the USA after living in Brazil for many years. It was so different and I looked at everything with a changed perspective.  In the comments below, please tell me about your favorite trip of all time.  I will comment and respond to you!

Get these fun vocabulary activities in Google Slides