ESL Handy Phrases for Conversation

The following is a list of handy phrases that every ESL student should master. I received this list from Lingodeer+ level 3 list. Lingodeer+ along with these other apps, are great tools for practicing English.

Common Irregular Verbs for Handy Phrases

Practice on Irregular Verbs.

VerbPast Tense


Participate in the activity below by using one or more of the handy phrases you learned.

  1. Using the phrases you learned: What did you do this weekend?
    • For example (Slide : This weekend I went to the movies to see The Batman.
  2. Share with a partner.
  3. Tell your partner which of their activities are interesting to you.
    • For example:
      • A: I ate out at the Cheesecake Factory.
      • B: That’s interesting.
woman holding wine glass selective focus photography
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Celebrating the New Year/New Year Resolutions Activity

On December 31st, we get together to celebrate the New Year. Watch this video and complete the following conversational and writing activity to learn how the New Year is celebrated in the United States.

Based on the video answer the following questions:

Are you going to turn over a new leaf for the New Year?

  • Yes, I am.
  • No, I’m not.

What’s your New Year resolution?

  • My New Year resolution is __________.

Do you want to cut down on something?

  • Yes, I do. I want to cut down on ______.
    • Example: I want to cut down on sugary drinks. I want to drink them only once a month.

For more conversation practice, check out: Going to the Doctor.

Activity: Sharing your New Year’s Eve

Write about and share what you did on New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s Eve, I ________. I was with _______. I ate ________. I _____________. When the clock hit 12:00 a.m. I ___________________. It was ____________. Now, I have a New Year resolution(s)_______. I want to ____________.


On New Year’s Eve, I was at my aunt’s house . I was with my parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and godfather. I ate pozole, strawberries, and brownies. I listened to music, played card games, and charades. When the clock hit 12:00 a.m., I celebrated, hugged my family and ate 12 grapes. It was very fun. Now, I have a New Year resolution(s) night. I want to get in shape and cut down on sugary drinks.

American Slavery-Conditions and Methods of Freedom

Although slavery has been around since humanity began in agricultural communities, American chattel slavery was uniquely cruel. Slaves worked by force, under threats of beatings for disobedience. Disobedient slaves were often also mutilated or sold as punishment.

Slaves were considered property and seen as inferior because they were black. Most slaves, called field slaves, worked on cotton plantations, though others worked raising rice, corn, sugarcane, and tobacco. Rice plantations were the most deadly because of the amount of time workers had to stand in the water. House slaves did domestic services. They also worked as mammies, breastfeeding newborns. They had less privacy than field slaves.

Most slaves were fed enough food and ate a diet of cornbread and fatty meat. They sometimes had their own plots to raise food.

They were provided with minimal clothing and lived in unsanitary conditions. Slaves were crowded in up to 10 people per hut. Malaria was common and child mortality was high, up to 66%.

Slaves were bought and sold for auction and families were separated. Women were under threat of sexual exploitation. They were not allowed to read and write, testify in court, or own goods. There were some people, like Frederick Douglass, George Horton, and Harriet Jacobs who learned to read and write in secret.

Throughout the antebellum period, there was no successful slave revolt, such as the one that occurred in Haiti in 1804.

Most, if not all slaves tried resisting by working as slowly as they could get away with. Some also stole and destroyed their owner’s property.

Methods of Freedom

Around 100,000 of them ran away to the North

Committing suicide.

Writing to the Liberator to try to get the laws changed

Buying their own freedom- giving master a weekly amount. Some religious activists were able to pay for them.

Going back to Africa- The American Colonization Society sent 7,000 ex-slaves to the territory of Liberia.

After reading these notes, answer the following questions:

  1. Write down at least three examples of slaves’ living conditions.
  2. Why do you think slaves were banned from learning how to read and write?

Watch this video to get a perspective on the life of a slave and the different types of slaves.

Slave Letter Assignment:

Write a letter from the perspective of a slave. You are writing the letter to either an abolitionist, The Liberator, yourself, or the American Colonization Society. Describe your living conditions, as well as your preferred method of escape. Your letter must include at least three paragraphs. It must include:

  • Your current living conditions. What you do in a day and any challenges you face.
  • How you feel about your current living conditions.
  • The method you have decided to try to get your freedom and why you think it is the best method.
  • Sign your letter with your slave name, and include your real name.

US Bill of Rights- Short Form and Activity

As part of the Anti-Federalist’s compromise with the Federalists, the Bill of Rights was added as the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Use the complete Bill of Rights to fill out this simple version of the Bill of Rights for your reference.

Now, focus on one of the 10 rights in the Bill of Rights. For the right you choose:

  1. Copy down the right word for word.
  2. Re-write it in your own words.
  3. Explain why the right is important.
  4. Draw a picture that explains the right and color it!

Cotton Gin and Slave Suicide

Part 1. Civil War and Industrialization: The Invention of the Cotton Gin. 

Read the following information and answer the comprehension and critical thinking questions. 

On March 14, 1794, Eli Whitney was granted a patent for his cotton gin. The cotton gin is a machine that separates the seeds from the fibers of cotton. Without a machine to do this, it is an extremely labor-intensive process. The gin, which is short for engine, consisted of a wooden drum with hooks on the outside that pulled cotton through a filter. The fibers fit through the filter, but the seeds did not. The machine revolutionized the business of cotton production, both for   better and for the worse. The year the gin was invented, the United States exported 500,000 pounds of cotton a year. Seventeen years later, the country exported 93 million pounds, becoming the country’s chief export.

Which brings us to the major negative effect of the cotton gin: Slavery.

Before the cotton gin, slave labor was used mostly in growing tobacco, rice and indigo, businesses that weren’t particularly profitable at the time. Cotton wasn’t very profitable either, until the invention of the cotton gin.

The total number of enslaved African-Americans increased almost 400 percent between 1790 and 1850, despite the importation of slaves being made illegal in 1808. Because of this, the cotton gin is sometimes cited as an indirect cause of the American Civil War.

Whitney planned to build cotton gins and then go into business processing cotton for the growers. His price, was 20 percent of the total cotton produced. This high price, combined with the relative simplicity of the invention, meant knockoffs would be inevitable. In fact, Whitney spent so much money fighting patent infringement that the company went out of business three years after the patent was granted.

Whitney would go on to work on creating guns with interchangeable parts, at the time the holy grail of the arms business. His business ended up achieving interchangeability, but was not the first. He then died at the age of 58 of prostate cancer.

Lately, Eli Whitney’s long-standing claim as the sole inventor of the cotton gin has come under fire. Some historians credit a woman who supported Whitney, Catherine Greene. Mrs. Catharine Greene, the widow of a prominent general in the Revolutionary War, lived on a plantation in Georgia. She hired Eli Whitney as a tutor. Once there, he got interested in the cotton ginning problem. Mrs. Greene supported him, giving him food, lodging, and encouragement while he developed his gin. When Whitney had reached an impasse, Catherine perceived a solution. She seized a hearth brush standing at the nearby fireplace and applied it to the cylinder. Whitney was impressed. He said, “Thank you for the hint. I have it now.”

Because cotton was an agricultural product rather than an industrial product, the work involved in its production changed with the seasons: from plowing and planting in the spring to harvesting in the fall. Thus technology did not alter the seasonal nature of slave work rhythms. On the other hand, cotton was not an agricultural product that required skilled labor for its production. Slaves did not work on their own, completing specialized, skilled tasks (as they did with the production of rice, for example). Cotton could be – and often was – cultivated by gangs of slaves working side by side. They were supervised by an overseer and subject to strict rules of discipline. In this respect, the growing of cotton on plantations in the South resembled the spinning and weaving of cotton in factories of the North.

However, what distinguished southern plantations from northern factories more than anything else was the use of slave labor. Slaves had been used to garner huge profits for tobacco planters since the 17th century and were critical to the rice cultivation which developed in the 18th century. The growth of cotton as a cash crop in the 19th century meant the growth of slavery throughout the South.  

Planters defended their labor system by claiming that African Americans were an inferior race incapable of working independently or of taking care of themselves.

Many Europeans had come to the New World with racist ideas about Africans – stereotyping them as sexually promiscuous and savage. These attitudes expanded and flourished with the growth of slavery in the South. Whites commonly described African Americans as naturally docile and lazy, deceitful and foolish, childlike and incompetent. This view of African Americans as inferior – more like apes than humans – was reinforced by the legal definition of slaves which made them property. 

Here is a video that neatly summarizes the Cotton Gin and its effects.

Answer the following in complete sentences. 

  1. Who invented the cotton gin? Who do you think deserves the credit?
  2. What benefits did the cotton gin provide for the country?
  3. What new inventions would make life better today? 
  4. How did chattel slavery change with the invention of the cotton gin? 
  5. How were the individual lives for slaves in America in the 1800s? 
  6. How did slave planters defend using slave labor?
  7. A patent is a way for the maker to keep all the profits and limit knock-offs of a new invention. Do you think that patents are necessary in our society? Why or why not. 
  8. What happened to Eli Whitney in the last years of his life?
  9. What plants/crops were grown before and after the invention of the cotton gin? 

Part II Slavery Primary Sources. Slave Suicide and Death

After reading Slavery by George Horton and the collection of first-hand accounts, answer the following questions. 

  1. In Horton’s poem “Slavery,” what is the “tantalizing blaze”? How is it that the “friend became a foe”?
  2. Who or what is the “thou” in the poem? A master? God? Fate? Pity? The reader? Why is its identity left ambiguous?
  3. Why did slaves attempt or commit suicide, as recorded in the narrative accounts? From what you can infer, did the enslaved view death as a liberator? momentary escape? reward? passage home?
  4. What different attitudes toward slave suicide appear in these readings? How do you account for the differences?
  5. To what extent are the suicides or attempted suicides a form of resistance? To what extent “a very last resort”?

America’s First Census in 1790

The first U.S Census was conducted in 1790. The census categorized the population of the new nation according to liberty, sex, and age: free white males age 16 and older, free white males under age 16, free white females, all other free people, and slaves.

Below is the 1790 Census:

The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790. The census categorized the population of the new nation according to liberty, sex, and age: free white males age 16 and older, free white males under age 16, free white females, all other free people, and slaves.

Part 1. Vocabulary. Write a sentence with each of the following new vocabulary words. 

black Adjective

person of African descent.

census Noun

program of a nation, state, or another region that counts the population and usually gives its characteristics, such as age and gender.

enslaved person Noun

person who is owned by another person or group of people.

free state Noun

nation or country that outlaws slavery.

population Noun

total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

populous Adjective

containing a large number of inhabitants.

slave state Noun

nation or country where slavery is legal.

U.S. Census Noun

count of everyone in the U.S., conducted every 10 years.

Part 2. Questions. Answer the following questions in complete sentences. 

  1. According to U.S. Census data, what were the three most populous states in 1790?
  2. What were the three most populous categories listed in the 1790 Census?
  3. Which states had more than 100,000 slaves?
  4. Which states had the fewest number of slaves?
  5. Which state had the fewest “free white females”?
  6. What percentage of Georgia’s total population was enslaved in 1790?
  7. What percentage of Maine’s total population was “free white females”?
  8. What is the difference between the number of states with a greater population of “free white males 16 years and up” and “free white males under 16 years”?
  9. What percentage of New York’s total population consisted of “free white males”?
  10. What do you think “all other free persons” meant to Census-takers in 1790?

Part 3. Chart. Draw a bar graph with the x axis as the districts and the y axis being the population numbers. You must include at least 5 districts in the x axis and two data points for the y axis. 

The Compromises of the Constitutional Convention

When designing the United States Constitution, the Founding Fathers had to make compromises to appease competing differences. Below are the five major compromises of the Constitutional Convention. Source

The Great Compromise – Created two chambers in Congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives. To suit the needs of small states like New Jersey, each state has two senators, no matter the size. To assuage large states like Virginia, the House of Representatives bases its number of representatives on the size of its state’s population.

Three-Fifths Compromise-Every 5 enslaved people count as three free people in the census, helping slave-owning states gain more representation in the House.

Commerce Compromise– Tariffs (taxes on goods) were only allowed on foreign imports and not US goods. The Federal Government had power over interstate commerce. This helped Southern states, which were the states with the most exports.

Compromise on the Trade of Enslaved People– Wait until 1808 to ban the import and trade of enslaved people. Enact a Fugitive Slave Law.

The Electoral College -Citizens vote for electors bound to a particular candidate. The elector votes for the president, not the citizens directly.

For each Constitutional Compromise, write down the following:

  • Name of Compromise
  • What did it do?
  • Who supported it?
  • Who was against it?
  • Do you support this compromose? Why or why not not?

Industrial Revolution Notes and Song Activity

The Industrial Revolution was a period of great change in our production process, with changes that reverberate even to this day.

Vocabulary. Preview the vocabulary by finding the definitions of the following words and making a sentence with each one. Use the notes from TCI Chapter 16 to help you.

  • Productivity
  • Bessemer process- an inexpensive way to convery iron into higher quality steel
  • enclosure
  • interchangable parts
  • domestic system
  • mass production
  • monopoly
  • capitalism
  • urbanization
  • labor union
  • strike
  • laissez-faire

Notes on the Industrial Revolution

Great Britain led the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s. It became known as the “workshop of the world”. It became the first nation to industrialize because of its rich banks and patrons, good transportation network, no wars, and colonies for rich materials.

The Industrial Revolution could have only happened with the Agricultural Revolution. Labor resources were diverted to factories when tractors were used instead of oxen/people. Chemical fertilizer made output more efficient.

It relied on a new economic system, capitalism, which emphasized free market and competition and used money.

Other countries that industrialized were Belgium, France, and the United States. Inventions that helped were the cotton gin and Bessemer process. Coal oil was used to lubricate machines.

During this period, Japan ousted the shogun and restored the emperor in a move called the Meiji Restoration.

Before the Industrial RevolutionAfter the Industrial Revolution
Domestic System-People made their own goodsFactory System-make goods in large factories used large machines
Worked Less than 8 hours a dayWorked 10-14 hours a day
Items were one of a kind, expensiveItems became cheaper, mass-produced with interchangeable parts
long teenage years/childhoodChildren worked as young as 5. No childhood
Money was considered “childish”. Salaries were for teens.Adults worked a regular schedule for a salary

Diseases like cholera, typhus, and smallpox were common. The lack of smallpox vaccine distribution led to reoccurring outbreaks.

Answer the following questions:

  1. Would you have wanted to be a part of Great Britan’s Industrial Reovlution? Why or why not?
  2. What parts of the Industrial Revolution do you still see today?

Now, write your own song on the Industrial Revolution. The song must have at least 10 lines if working by yourself and 16 lines if working as a pair. It must reflect historical accurate information on the time period.

Here are the two songs that have been the most useful to students as they complete the assignment. Both are in the modern context but can be adapted to a historical time period.

Also thank you to one of my students for this great recommendation for inspiration:

APA US History Unit Exam

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World History Semester 1 Unit Exam

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