Creativity Tuesday: Mariah

Let’s dive right into (begin) Creativity Tuesday today by exploring the idea of CONTRASTS (things that differ from one another in an obvious way): Black | White. Light | Dark. New | Old. Classic | Modern. Simplicity | Complexity. What makes these contrasting … Continue reading

Creativity Tuesday: Monsoons

#tucsonsunset Search that hashtag and you are bound to see (you’ll definitely see) some of the beauty that monsoon season brings to Tucson, Arizona. This is of course assuming you’re searching this hashtag during the season, July-September (ish). Everyone talked a lot about … Continue reading

Creativity Tuesday: Burn Baby Burn + a Piano

What is a “burner”? It’s that time again, Creativity Tuesday!  I know it is way overdue (apologies for that, it’s been crazy after #ALP). If you aren’t familiar with #creativitytuesday, then you are in for a treat! Enjoy some beautiful photography, and be … Continue reading

Creativity Tuesday: Love Unites

Love is in the air, can you feel it? Welcome back to Creativity Tuesday, a new recurring post that I hope inspires your creative side through beautiful photography and art. Each Creativity Tuesday post will feature a different photographer or artist, and will … Continue reading

Free Friday: Confusing Words + Spelling help!


Thanks God? or Thank God?

The correct answer is Thank God, with no “s.”  “Thanks” is used singularly, as a short way to show your appreciation. It is never used with a direct object. Are there other common words and/or spellings that you often question? You’re probably not alone, which is why these incredible infographics exist! With the help of this colorful lesson, I hope you are taking away some very valuable information, and improve the way you present yourself through words!

Here are some commonly misused words. I would say that LIE vs LAY is at the top of the list for most misused, despite its position on the bottom of the infographic.

Try using some, and creating your own sentences.


Next on today’s Free Friday lesson: “Getting a Grip on Good Grammar” with 10 excellent tips to perfect your writing.

Did you say the word, “perfect” correctly in the sentence above? Check out my pronunciation post to double check~ Heterophomes.


Nail your spelling with this helpful post highlighting common words that often cause mistakes.


You may see some repeats in these 3 infographics, but that’ll show you how common mistakes can be! Better your English and better express yourself by avoiding these errors.

Care to show off your new skills? Go ahead…. share with English Outside the Box’s other readers, don’t be shy.

Happy Studying! ♥


Note bottom of infographics for credits and sources.

Free Friday: Writing Part 1


Hamburger WritingI know you’ve probably always heard, “don’t play with your food” but today we are going to have a bit of fun with it. Okay, so we’re not really going to play with it, but realize how useful a good ‘ol fashion hamburger can be….and how it’ll help you and your writing.

Whatever writing you’re currently doing, GREAT! Keep it up. It can be therapeutic, and a way to get things off our chest, or learn how to express ourselves. It can be personal and connect us with dear friends that are not so near, but then of course, it can be necessary for our academic and professional future. [Un]fortunately academic writing is what we’ll focus on today. We’ll start with some basics, academic writing 101 if you will, and learn some basic concepts that maybe you’re not familiar with, or just not comfortable with yet….


The paragraph is necessary in just about any form of academic writing. It can be the main substance of short/quick writes, or it can be just a small part of a much bigger essay. Learning about what makes a great paragraph will help create better structured, stronger writing assignments. So….
what is a paragraph?

a group of sentences that relate to a main subject or ‘theme’, and usually begins on a new line with an indentation

There are 3 main parts to a paragraph that we will focus on in part 1, similar to a hamburger:

Hamburger Writing(1)


 Topic Sentence:

As the first sentence, its job is important and needs to name the subject/theme of the paragraph. It will briefly state what the theme is and what the paragraph will continue to describe/explain.

  • 2 parts: topic & controlling idea
    • topic: name the subject/theme
    • controlling idea: explain what the paragraph will be about

Supporting Sentences:

The middle sentences are the details, “the meat.” [or in my case, the veggie patty♥] They are called supporting sentences, because they do just that, give support to the topic sentence and provide more details/descriptions/explanations about the paragraph’s subject.

  • transitional words help guide these supporting sentences, and explain the subject/theme introduced in the topic sentence
    • example ~ listing order: first, second, third, additionally, finally, also

Concluding Sentence:

The final sentence will conclude, or end, the paragraph. It often repeats the main idea of the topic sentence [in different words, of course], will summarize the main points, or in longer essays, will give a good lead into the following paragraph.

  • single paragraphs will use the concluding sentence to remind the reader the main point, or summarize what was said
  • paragraphs part of an essay will conclude the main idea while transitioning into the next
  • transitional words help reinforce it’s the end/transition
    • in short, finally, in conclusion, to conclude, to sum up, in summary, indeed

Don’t forget your sentence structure!

simple structure:           Subject + verb [+ object]

compound sentence:      simple structured sentence, + coordinating conjunction + simple structured sentence

connecting words to remember:

and ~ connects 2 or more similar ideas in an affirmative sentence

or~connects 2 or more similar ideas in a negative sentence  || OR || connects 2 choices/alternatives

coordinating conjunctions: (FANBOYS)

for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so


Let’s take a look at this similar paragraph example from the Longman Writing Series:

Beaches are fun in summer and in winter. In summer, you can swim and do many other water sports. If you don’t like water sports, you can play beach games or relax. In winter, beaches are less crowded, so they’re good for solitary walks. Also, on a clear winter night, nothing is more fun that a big bonfire. Indeed, a beach is a place to have fun all year.

Can you identify the topic sentence [topic & controlling idea], the supporting sentences, and the concluding sentence? [see below to check]


For your own practice, try writing some paragraphs in the comment section, or send by e-mail through the contact page. Some idea topics you can writing about:

  • introducing family
  • describing a place
  • state the reason you’re learning English
  • express your opinion about this blog
  • your favorite winter/summer activity


Happy Studying & Happy Writing ♥

I look forward to hearing from you.

Beaches are fun in summer and in winter
} topic: Beaches controlling: are fun in summer and in winter
In summer, you can swim and do many other water sports. If you don’t like water sports, you can play beach games or relax.

In winter, beaches are less crowded, so they’re good for solitary walks.
Also, on a clear winter night, nothing is more fun that a big bonfire.
Indeed, a beach is a place to have fun all year.

Never Travel.


Never Travel.

Said no one…ever.

How the travel bug is not a world-wide infectious disease baffles me. (baffle=completely confuse) However, I must keep my open-mind and accept that not everyone has the same interests and passions. I will say though, that I am where I am today, only because of the adventures I’ve taken in the past. I cannot even begin to imagine where my life would be had I not been intrigued by the idea of studying abroad when the study abroad fair was on my college campus. Luckily, the Australian application was due that same day, otherwise…maybe I wouldn’t have gone later on, in 2009, and met the hubs.

Anyways, how perfect was the idea to study abroad? Experience a new place, new culture, new food, new people, new…EVERYTHING. What better way to learn? I’ll let you in on a secret, experience is much more interesting than a book 😉 The only thing I had to do was convince my family of this amazing idea. Big THANK YOU for their support from the beginning.

San Sebastian, Basque Country (Northern Spain *sorry to anyone I upset calling it either place*) was my first real abroad experience. Well, except for the week exploration adventure in Madrid where I made dear friends and unforgettable memories. Toledo, cathedrals, museums, El Prado, Valley of the Fallen, El Escorial, Royal Palace…and those are just the places off the top of my head. In San Sebastian, I lived with Mertxe, the sweetest 77 year old woman. Immediately submerging me into the culture, as she did not speak 1 word in English. We watched movies, TV, and could eventually have long conversations over lunch and dinner. It was definitely one of the better choices to live with a host family.

Looking back, something I would have changed…and a BIG recommendation for students, or anyone else going to study abroad.

Surround yourself in the language and culture as much as you can.

Being my first time out, I will admit I spent most of the time with Americans. That said, mi espanol es muy malo. My spanish is very bad. However, no regrets!

It was there that the travel bug bit me. I loved hearing different stories and meeting new people. I loved doing things that would be impossible from my own city. I took advantage of my time in Europe, and the incredibly cheap flights and eurail passes between the countries and spent weekends visiting new places, and explored 6 weeks after my course with a backpack. Upon returning home, I finished school and was faced with a very important question: Do I continue studying, start working, or do more exploring? The answer seemed so clear. So, how does a recent graduate with no money explore the world? Easy…find a place that will allow you to work! Australia. Working-Holiday Visa.

The rest, is history. Met my man, fell in love…and since then have explored New Zealand, Thailand, and lived in Brazil. In fact, I am in Brazil right now. Spending time with my friends and family, enjoying some World Cup excitement, and really, in my mind, living the dream.

I’ve learned so much along the way, and look forward to continuing to expand my mind….broaden my perspective, and hopefully, with this post, inspire others to do the same.

So, please share some experiences with me!

Have you had any eye-opening travel experiences? Have you defeated narrow-mindedness and broadened your perspective? Where is next on your list of travel destinations? What is your favorite part of travel? What is your favorite memory? What advice can you give to someone who’s scared to take the travel leap?


Improve your English skills with Music

Love music as much as I do?

If the answer is yes, then I really hope you are using music to improve your language skills. If you’re not, or you’re not quite sure how, then this suggestion and these tips will help you make the most out of something you love.

A great way to find music in English, if you don’t already have some favorites, is to check out the Billboard Charts. Here you can find many lists, including the Hot 100 or lists by genre of music, so you will be sure to find something that you like. For a greater chance of appealing to the majority of you, I choose the Hot 100’s number 1 song right now: “All of Me” by John Legend. This is just to use as an example, and to show you some of the exercises you can do, but please feel free to use anything that strikes your fancy (interests you).

Exercises with music to improve listening:

1. Music Cloze (listening, writing/spelling, reading)

A music cloze is an activity that has blank spaces within the lyrics of a song. The goal of the activity is to listen to the song, and fill in the blanks with the words you hear. This is helpful for overall listening skills, as well as helping with your spelling and phonetic awareness through dictation (hearing & recognizing sounds). This activity also helps reading, because you’ll be following along with the words written down as you listen. You can try it here with the music cloze I created for John Legend’s “All of me”. Feel free to print and try it yourself! *NOTE: if you’d like a cloze created for your favorite song, please comment below and give me the artist and song title, and I will upload a copy to the post!*

all of me_johnlegend_cloze

2. Sing along with the lyrics (pronunciation, intonation, reading, listening)

The lyrics for just about every song are available on numerous sites across the Internet. All you need to do is do a Google search: “song name” + lyrics You will definitely find something! There are also videos available on YouTube with the lyrics in the video. Not sure of every song’s availability though, due to YT’s copyright rules. Following along with the lyrics, and reading aloud can help you identify correct pronunciation, and help with some English intonation (I know a song is different than speaking, but still helpful). In addition to this speaking practice, you’ll also practice reading and listening skills as you follow along.

3. Write about the meaning (writing, creative thinking, reading)

Practice your creative and critical thinking skills, while improving your writing, by expressing your thoughts on what the song means. The beautiful thing about music, is this art can be interpreted in so many different ways, it just depends on how you look at it! Is it about someone, or something, an experience, something positive, negative, beautiful or ugly? What do you think about John Legend’s song?

4. Learn and expand vocabulary (vocabulary, writing/spelling, reading)

Can you find last weekend’s ” Word 2 of the Weekend’s ” vocabulary word in the lyrics for “All of Me” ? 🙂 You can find many different collocations, expressions, or new vocabulary words when reading the lyrics to your favorite song. A great way to learn new vocabulary is to write down the words you can’t recognize, and look them up in a dictionary. You know my favorite is Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary! Want to expand on those words? Visit an online thesaurus, and type in your new vocabulary to learn even more ways to express the same idea. Don’t forget about identifying the different related words in the same word family: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and verbs. Knowing these related parts of speech will help you understand how to use the words correctly, as well as other ways to express them in sentences. Finally, a different way to use lyrics to expand vocabulary is to create word webs, or connections/associations. Identify your target vocabulary, and make associations with that word. What comes into your mind when thinking about it, what ideas can you connect.

Let’s look at the word: dizzy.

1st: definefeeling you’re moving in circles and going to fall, even though you are still; or, mentally/emotionally upset.

2nd: thesaurus: according to, the most related words: dazed, distracted, groggy, wobbly, shaky.

3rd: word family: dizzy (adjective) dizziness (noun) dizzily (adverb)

4th: word web/connections: when I think of dizzy, I think of sick, nauseous, fainting, roller coaster, spinning, circle, illness, etc….

Bonus exercise:

This is a great website, with MANY songs to choose from I might add, to practice listening, reading, and typing (spelling) skills. You can find this week’s song, “All of Me” here.

How it works:

It’s the same concept of a music close, but already online and with a video! You choose your skill level, beginner to expert, and then listen and follow along with the song, typing in the blanks with the word you hear. The beginner level has you fill in about 10% of the song, intermediate is 25%, advanced 50%, with expert requiring 100% of the song lyrics (good luck!)


Your challenge:

Practice your language skills using the exercises above, and use the comment section to let me know about it:

  1. Complete the music cloze. It may be easier to find it online rather than printing mine.  *Comment: how did you do?
  2. How was your pronunciation?
  3. What do you think the song means?
  4. Identify new words or phrases, or practice expanding your vocabulary with these words and expressions:
  • draw me in
  • kick me out
  • out of my mind
  • distraction
  • risk

5.  What was the word of the weekend in these lyrics?


Happy Studying, and enjoy the Music ♥

related posts:  
     * Music Idioms 
     * Learning for your Style
     * Improving Speaking Fluency