Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine, an ELT Study for Arabic, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish Speaking Young Learners

It’s Valentines Day. You discover that your pet dog has a secret admirer. You start to freak out.

“Hey this is MY dog. Why should I have to compete for his affection? That’s why he’s MY dog in the first place. So I can have someone’s unconditional affection!”

That is the situation that super-sleuth Nate the Great finds himself in one morning in this short novel, perfect for celebrating that holiday dreaded by singles, couples, and married folk across the globe – Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine. 

A novel study for this book is now available for young learners whose mother tongue is one of four languages: Arabic, Japanese, Korean, or Spanish.

For more focused and useful lessons, it divides the novel into three easy to teach sections:

  • Section 1: p.7-21
  • Section 2: p.22-33
  • Section 3: p.34-44

Each section includes:

  • comprehension questions about the story with space for students to answer in full sentences;
  • a creative writing assignment where students can express their opinions about topics related to the text;
  • a vocabulary list with Korean translations of key words to save on dictionary time and reduce confusion about meaning;
  • a word search puzzle for students to enjoy some quiet time to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary;
  • a sequencing worksheet where students can identify the different components of the story; and
  • a chapter quiz so you can assess your students’ comprehension of the text and vocabulary.

There is also:

  • a crossword puzzle;
  • a clue log;
  • a make-your-own word search puzzle worksheet;
  • a make-your-own crossword puzzle worksheet;
  • a comic strip project;
  • an illustrator worksheet;
  • a summarizer worksheet;
  • a prediction worksheet;
  • a final test;
  • a book cover project;
  • a book report assignment; and
  • answer keys.

Click on one of the images below to se for yourself.




Teaching Thanksgiving on Thursday in January and Other Awkward Moments with My Pal Siri

I had a really creepy moment in the classroom last week that I feel compelled to share. I was reading chapter 9 of “Magic Tree House #27: Thanksgiving on Thursday” with my students here in South Korea  (not the best choice for January, but there were extenuating circumstances), when something utterly unexpected happened. It was Twilight Zone in nature, actually.

Those familiar with the book will know that in the story studious Jack and his utterly clueless sister Annie had traveled back to the time of the Pilgrims, enjoyed a feast with the locals, and were about to be tutored in the art of growing corn by the wise Squanto. Jack of course was apprehensive because in his words, “He feared that once they were alone, Squanto would figure out they’d never met before.”

It was after reading that last sentence aloud that Siri piped up and announced without warning or invitation, “I’m sorry to hear that. You can always talk to me, Mark.”

Everyone in the class were utterly bewildered by this intervention on the part of my ancient iPhone 5. I can only assume that Siri believed I was lamenting my own situation. Although of the dozens of novels I’ve read in that classroom I can’t for the life of me understand why she chose right then and there to voice her concern.

I screen captured it to save the moment for posterity.


If you teach this novel to students whose first language is either Japanese or Korean (Spanish will be available soon) please check out the links below to my novel studies at the The ESL Review Store.

Carl’s Car Wash – A Bold Move by Super Simple Learning to Give Disney and Sesame Street a Run For Their Money.


So I’ve noticed something about Super Simple Learning lately. They’ve grown. Like, bigly. They used to be just a group of EFL teachers in Japan who happened to have come up with some really top-notch classroom music. They’ve since relocated to Seattle and, as far as I can tell, have assumed the mantle of Disney of ELT.

I came to this realization the other day while engaged in some serious binge watching of Carl’s Car Wash with my young learners. It’s just one of several of new series by Super Simple TV, a YouTube channel which provides short and punchy, high-quality cartoons for children.

You can watch all of the episodes below:

My students can’t get enough of the show and I’m happy to oblige them – especially seeing as the last episode in particular was sheer genius. Kudos to the animators for the tin hat joke that was obviously intended for adults like me.

And the kids really do learn from the show. It’s a hoot listening to them discuss whether one of the cars on the show is just messy or super duper messy.

“Teacher’s car is super duper messy. Go to the car wash!”

Egads, they’re right!

ELT Research Bites, an Intellectual Blog for Non-intellectuals Like Me

To my discredit, I’m all about the practical when it comes to teaching English. I tend to value my own experiences above those of other teachers, which I in turn value more than theoretical tracts written by Rapunzel-like figures in ivory towers. 

If you’re familiar with the work of the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, you’ll know he half-disparagingly, half-humorously describes theoretical economics as “Greek letter economics.” That pretty much sums up my opinion about reading academic work on teaching. It just does not feel relevant to me in my day to day work in South Korea.

Admittedly, that probably means I’m just lazy.

In light of this deplorable tendency of mine, I was delighted to come across the excellent blog ELT Research Bites by Anthony Schmidt, Clare Fielder, and several other ELT professionals. Together they comb through the professional literature and summarize interesting pieces into very readable blog entries. It could easily have been titled ELT Research for Dummies.

Some of their most recent works include: 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.

Christmas in Camelot, an ESL/EFL Novel Study for Korean Students

Jack and Annie find themselves in Camelot for Christmas where they are sent on an important quest to save the kingdom. Will they succeed? Read Christmas in Camelot with your young learners to find out!

I know. It was getting onto Christmas time and you thought a Christmas chapter book from the Magic Tree House would be a great idea. That, or you were ordered to teach it from on high. You crack open the book and realize what you should have known before. At 16 chapters it’s longer than you expected, and the vocabulary is a bit more difficult than previous books in the series. You suddenly feel that you’re in trouble, big trouble. How on earth will you cope?

Never fear, The ESL Review is here with a novel study designed for use in the EFL classroom.  It comes with all the basic worksheets, handouts, vocabulary lists, and tests that you will need to teach the book effectively in your class. It will also free up your time so that you can work on the really special parts of your lesson that you know best.

Check it out.

A Growing Collection of ESL/EFL Nate the Great Novel Studies for Japanese Students

If you’re not in the know, Nate The Great is a pancake-loving, child super sleuth in the business of retrieving everyday items that have gone missing from his neighborhood. Supported by his pet dog and assistant Sludge, Nate and his motley crew of friends are entertaining for both children and adults.

I’ve recently combined my entire collection of Nate the Great novel studies into a single file that can be downloaded in one go. That’s fifteen out of a total of twenty-six novels, with more than one thousand pages of teaching supplements. At the price I’m charging it’s the equivalent of paying for ten books and getting five for free (as well as each of the remaining books that I’ll be adding over the next year).

You can see which titles are available below. Some are missing, but if you leave a message at my store or in the comments section below I’ll get to work on the book you need right away.

The novel studies below have been designed for use with students whose first language is Japanese, but this same bundle is available for Arabic, Korean, and Spanish speaking students. Click on any of the images below to check it out.




Voices in Your Head!  The TEFL Show, Intelligent Discussion About Teaching English


To unwind from work some people drink, some play online games, others practice mindfulness.  I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts. In the car, doing the dishes, going out for walks. Quite frankly it crowds out a lot of other media that I could otherwise consume. 

The thing is though that since it’s my unwinding time I never listen to work-related podcasts. I avoided them like the plague, until recently when I started listening to The TEFL Show. It had been downloading to my phone automatically for months but I would promptly delete those episodes to make space on my phone for more important things like The Film Review and photos of my wife. But then one day I began listening to it by accident while driving and got through two or three episodes before finally turning it off. It wasn’t bad, even if the witty banter didn’t quite reach the level of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.

Hosts Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert McCaul discuss a variety of issues related to the teaching of English. Some of the most recent topics include:

They have a neat blog with all sorts of tutorials for using Internet doohickeys in the classroom. In fact, don’t waste any more time reading about it here. Just go check it out.

Immersivities, the Motherload of Original Classroom Activities

I was looking for a bit of this and that the other night while laying in bed when I came across Adi Rajan’s excellent blog Immersivities. I was really taken aback. The blog is professional in both appearance and approach in a way I could only aspire to be. Rajan himself is also annoyingly prolific in his writing (no blogger wants to be reminded of the fact that they aren’t writing enough).

From what I can tell so far, Immersivities appears to combine reviewing books with introducing original activities that can be used in the classroom. While the former is of less interest to me than the latter, I can definitely recommend it as a blog that should be on everyone’s radar.

Just some of his most recent ideas for the classroom include:

Check it out when you have a spare moment.

Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas, an ESL/EFL Novel Study for Japanese Students 


Can Nate the Great find Fang the dog’s missing Christmas card before he begins to doubt his mother’s love? Read Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas with your young learners to find out! 

This English novel study is designed specifically for use in the ESL/EFL classroom with Japanese speaking young learners in mind. Meticulously crafted and easy to use for both teachers and students, this comprehensive booklet will absolutely enhance your teaching experience. It’s classroom tested, and it works.

(This novel study is also available for Korean and Spanish speakers. Arabic will also be available soon.)

For more focused and useful lessons, it divides the novel into four easy to teach sections: 

  • Section 1: p.1-11
  • Section 2: p.12-21
  • Section 3: p.22-31
  • Section 4: p.32-41

Each section includes:

  • comprehension questions about the story with space for students to answer in full sentences;
  • a creative writing assignment where students can express their opinions about topics related to the text;
  • a vocabulary list with Japanese translations of key words to save on dictionary time and reduce confusion about meaning;
  • a word search puzzle for students to enjoy some quiet time to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary;
  • a sequencing worksheet where students can identify the different components of the story; and
  • a chapter quiz so you can assess your students’ comprehension of the text and vocabulary.

There are also: 

  • student handouts;
  • a crossword puzzle;
  • a make-your-own word search puzzle worksheet;
  • a make-your-own crossword puzzle worksheet;
  • a comic strip project;
  • an illustrator worksheet;
  • a summarizer worksheet;
  • a prediction worksheet;
  • a final test; 
  • a book cover project;
  • a book report assignment;
  • answer keys.

The best thing is that this novel study unit is still growing! Once purchased, all updates are FREE! Before deciding whether to buy this product check out this amazing bundle and save $$$!

A Cheap and Easy Game for Let’s Go 4

Last week I was teaching from the latest edition of Let’s Go 4 by OUP. Page 44 introduces the verbs download pictures, practice the violin, watch a baseball game, listen to music, play a board game, and visit my grandparents in conjunction with the question “What did you do (on Sunday)?” Meanwhile on page 45 there’s this awesome table of images meant for pairs to practice asking each other with.

Here’s a pair activity that is really simple to set up and really fun for the kids. You just need two dice and the coursebook.

On the count of three, two children each roll their dice. The student who rolls the higher number asks one of the 27 possible questions to the student with the lower number, who of course has to answer the first student’s question. The student who asked the question then gets the sum of both dice for points, which they can write down on a score card.

Take the case of Tom and Jerry, for example.


Tom and Jerry each roll their dice on the count of three.

Tom and Jerry:  Three, two, one!

Tom rolls a five and Jerry rolls a three. Since Tom has the higher number he gets to ask a question to Jerry. Tom looks at the table and for no particular reason chooses the third picture from the left in the second row.

Tom: What did she do on Tuesday?

Jerry: She practiced the violin.

Tom now gets eight points, which he gleefully writes down on his score card and then crosses off the picture of the question he asked. The two of them continue in this fashion until all the boxes have been crossed off. The one with the highest total points is the winner.

I know what you’re thinking! What if they both get the same number when they roll the dice? No problem. Let the points accumulate.

Imagine Tom and Jerry each roll five. They then roll again but this time Jerry gets six and Tom gets one. Jerry of course wins but instead of getting a measly seven points he now gets seventeen points! The excitement involved is nearly unimaginable to grown ups. Give it a try next time you teach this page. You won’t regret it.

Now if you are teaching with Let’s Go 4 you may also be interested in this: