viernes, 31 de diciembre de 2010

Globish -English with 1,500 words

Is it possible to speak perfect English with 1,500 words. The advocates of Globish definitely think so. Funny that we are going through this debate when English is one of the languages with the most vocabulary.

Watch this video and judge for yourselves. I think a lot of viewers will be joining the ranks of Globish.

Topics for Discussion

David Deubel  presents us with this handy slideshow with his choice of general conversation topics. He offers six leading general questions about a wide variety of topics:

driving, food and eating, travel, at the movies, sports, the future, small talk, family and friends, education, clothes and fashion, the Internet, shopping, likes and dislikes, money, jobs and careers, silly questions, beliefs, favourites, health and fitness, opinions, history, current events, holidays, preferences, animals and pets.

The presentation will be especially suitable for students at Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 preparing for an oral exam, but some topics are also suitable for Intermedio 2.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and go over the topics on the slideshow. You don't have to go through everything at a sitting, as there are too many topics. Choose two or three of them and answer the questions in as much detail as possible, helping each other out with vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar problems.

You can use each topic either as a springboard to practise the monologue (the same student talks about one topic for three or four minutes non-stop by answering the questions)  or the interaction (two or three students engage in conversation about one of the topics by going over the questions and exchanging opinions).

Make it habit to return to this slideshow whenever you wish to do an oral activity, especially when the oral exam gets closer and closer.

Thank you, David.

New Year's Resolution Cartoons

Just to welcome 2011 with a broad smile, go over this slideshow from MSNBC by Daryl Cagle featuring a number of cartoons about New Year's Resolutions.

H/T to Jeffrey Hill  .

jueves, 30 de diciembre de 2010

Importance of Technology Today

Here it is another video which dwells on the importance of digital literacy. There's no voiceover on it. Just read the facts on the screen.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers

Time 50 Best Websites 2010

Some weeks ago Time Magazine published their choice of the best websites in 2010. The list provides us with a funny and entartaining way to go over unknown sites the existence of which we couldn't have imagined. All in all it makes a good read for us.

However, top of the list comes Movieclips , which is an outstanding site for English language learners. Hundreds of short video clips from movies are featured on the site. On the downside, there are no subtitles or nothing to help us understand more easily, but on occasion we want to enjoy the pleasures of watching videos in the raw.

miércoles, 29 de diciembre de 2010

New York Marathon

I just wanted to publish some stuff to read these days and I've come across this article on the New York marathon from The New York Times. I know the article is a bit dated, as the race took place in November, but it is always a good and entertaining read to keep our English afloat.

Self-study activity:
Read the article by clicking here and answer these questions from The New York Times learning blogs:

WHO were among those running in and watching the 2010 New York City Marathon?
WHAT did some of the signs say?
WHERE in the city did the marathon disrupt church services?
WHEN was a paraplegic marathon contestant named John Benedetto paralyzed?
WHY do you think people run marathons?
HOW many official entrants were there in this marathon?

Interactive Grammar Games

Esl Games World is an amazing site to practise our English. A section of the site deals with Grammar Games. So let's just put our feet up and enjoy a nice grammar game while we revise our English in a stress-free environment.

Lots of fun and lots of practice in most grammar areas for all levels.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

How to Avoid a Stomach Ache at Christmas

This video from Explania is timely for this time of the year. We know you never overdo it, either at Christmas or at any other time, but the advice may come in helpful in case you need to help some friend or relative.

Self-study activity:
Take some notes on how to avoid a stomach ache, as you may need to remember some new vocabulary. When the presentation is over, try to give the presentation yourself in your own words.

martes, 28 de diciembre de 2010

Harry Potter posters

Self-study activity:
Watch this news item from ClevverTV about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and complete the blanks in the script below with just one word.

Harry Potter fans - there are a (1) _____ more posters that you definitely want to see. Keep watching.
A big hello goes out to all you Harry Potter fans. Thanks for coming to Clevver TV for your film info. I'm your (2) _____, Dana Ward, and today we're showing you three new movie posters with each one zeroing in on one of the main (3) _____.
We get to see Harry, Hermione, and Ron, each in an extreme (4) _____ dark, serious, and stylized (5) _____ along with key Deathly Hallows info, stating HP7 Part 1, 11.19, The End Begins.
As always, we want to hear from Harry Potter fans what do you think about these new movie posters? Let us know and also be sure to subscribe to our ClevverTV YouTube channel for more HP (6) _____ as the Deathly Hallows gets closer to its two debuts.
I'm Dana Ward at the studio, thanks for watching.

1. bunch; 2. host; 3. characters; 4. close-up; 5. portrait; 6. updates

Education change challenge

It's this time of the year again, yes. 2011 is just round the corner and somehow everybody is looking back on what they've accomplished throughout 2010 and what they intend to achieve in 2011.

I know some of us are still enjoying the Christmas break, but here it is this video to give all educators (and students) some food for thought about what might be one of our goals this coming year.

H/T to Free Technology to Teachers.

Office parties

Through Julia, from Author Steam, I have come across this timely presentation about the don'ts at Christmas office parties.

Christmas office parties are really not in fashion in Spain, but you never know how helpful this advice will be one day. In the meantime, revise the negative imperative.

Should the presentation not come up straightaway, click on the title right below here, please.

lunes, 27 de diciembre de 2010

Holiday Misgivings

A few days back Jeffrey Hill published this interesting infographics about the true nature of gifts in this gift-giving time of the year.

I quote Jeffrey: "How much money is lost in gift cards each year? How often are gifts regifted, returned or left unopened? Whose gifts are valued the most? Group payment system WePay has put together the infographic above to illustrate the answer to those and several other questions pertaining to holiday gift-gifting."

He also explains the word misgivings:

"The infographic title features a play on the word 'misgiving'. If you have misgivings about something that is being suggested or done, you feel that it is not quite right, and are worried that it may have unwanted results. And there's the idea of mis-giving, i.e., making a mistake when giving a gift (though this is not an actual verb)."

Treasure Hunt

I think it was in October this year that Daniela Tomasi published Treasure Hunt together with her colleague Daniela Becchio in The Machine Goes on. For some unknown reason, I have been lazy to try this activity until now.
I'm still a bit dazed at Daniela's and her friend's imagination to implement this idea: music, vocabulary, reading, listening, almost everything thown in for a fun activity suitable to students of all levels.

Thanks very much, Daniela.

You can do the Treasure Hunt and submit your answers to

domingo, 26 de diciembre de 2010

Escape from Santa Claus

It is difficult to come across engaging online computer games that can be beneficial for the English language learner.

Escape from Santa Claus can be one of them. Once again Christmas needs saving, and here we are, all ready to accomplish the task.

While playing the game, we'll get plenty of opportunities to practise our reading skills and vocabulary as well as having lots of fun. On the minus side, we might take a bit long to find out the ins and outs of the game, but after all, it's Christmas time and most of us seem to have a bit more timem on  our hands. Read the walkthrough, though, to get to know the basics of the game and some tricks and short cuts.

I hope you enjoy the game.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

New Year around the World

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and watch this video. You will be learning the way the New Year is celebrated around the world together with some vocabulary.

Later on tell your friend or relative the way you celebrate the New Year and the way New Year is celebrated in your area or town in general. If you have nobody to work with, perhaps you could record yourself or talk to yourself.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo

sábado, 25 de diciembre de 2010

Artic Blast Chills Europe

Self-study activity:
Watch this news item about the weather in Europe and do the activity below.

Say whether these statements are true or false, according to the report.
1 Everybody is unhappy with the Artic blast.
2 Gatwick airport was closed for three days.
3 Dozens of people have died in the UK as a result of the cold.
4 Changes in the rain patterns are to blame for the cold.
5 Southern Europe has escaped the effects of the weather.

You can read the script here.

All the statements are false.

Year in images -New York Times

All the media are going through a summary of the year at this moment in time. Here it is the selection The New York Times has come up with.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative or record yourself if you have nobody to work with. What do you know about each of the news items? How important do you really think they are? Did any of them make an impact on you?

viernes, 24 de diciembre de 2010


With Christmas around the corner it is difficult to imagine that some other cultures are going to celebrate these days differently.

Watch this short video from Geobeats where the history of Kwanzaa is illustrated. The video is suitable for lower level learners. Even Básico 1 students can have a go at it, as some of the vocabulary is displayed on the screen.

Here it is the full script of the narration.

The celebrations of Kwanzaa are relatively recent.
The holiday was founded in 1966 as an African equivalent to Christmas and Hanukkah.
There are many different reasons for celebration incorporated into this holiday.
Reconnecting the life, community and culture are a large part of what this holiday embodies.
Freedom, Justice and Equality also play an enormous role in the meaning behind the festivities.
The holiday lasts one week and is celebrated between December 26 and January 1st.
The actual celebration include lighting candles on the kinara, feast, gift giving and traditional African dress.
The central meaning behind Kwanzaa is to reconnect to one’s African roots and meditate on the world and joys of life.
Appropriately the official greeting of this festive holiday is “joyous Kwanzaa!“

How to wash your hands

Interesting article from the Mayo Clinic about how and why we must wash our hands.

jueves, 23 de diciembre de 2010

Tree in New York

Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip about a Christmas tree which has been put up in New York and complete the gaps in the transcript below.

Once again, the video offers a great opportunity for lower level students to do listening comprehension activities with authentic materials.

In New York’s Rockefeller Center, sounds of the season. This is the base of the (1)_____-ton, (2)_____-foot-tall (3)_____ spruce that will soon delight scores of holiday visitors in New York. The tree is from a family in New Jersey, growing outdoors since (4)_____ - its arrival's drawing the curious as workers started the slow job to stand it up.
This is wonderful. I am thrilled to be here to watch this.
With ropes, a crane, and some muscle, the tree is moved into place, and decorators start to dream about turning bare (5)_____ into holiday (6)_____.
Lee Powell, The Associated Press

1. eight; 2. seventy-two; 3. Norway; 4. 1931; 5. branches; 6. wonder

New Year Resolutions

In the British culture, before a new year starts people usually make New Year Resolutions. That is, they promise to change something in their lifestyle. The reforming of this 'bad' habit will be beneficial for them and, sometimes, for the people around them. Typical New Year Resolutions include health (quit smoking, drink less alcohol; lose weight); finances (save money); education (improve marks at school, start learning a new language); improve self (reduce stress, better organization).

Outnumbered is an excellent BBC comedy about a couple and their three children. In this clip, Karen, one of the couple's children, reads out to her mum the list of New Year Resolutions for 2011 she has drawn up.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and see how many of the resolutions you can actually understand. What's the problem with Karen's resolutions in her mum's opinion?

New Year Resolutions also help us to illustrate the use of the future auxiliary 'will' in English:

- To make promises and threats:
In 2011 I'll stop eating chocolate.
Stop talking or I'll send you outside the classroom.

- To make offers and suggestions:
I'll help you with your homework if you wish.

- To express certainty about the future:
They will announce the result at 9 tomorrow.

- To make predictions about the future (going to is possible here too).
Real Madrid will win the league.
Real Zaragoza will not be relagated to 2nd division in the end.

Self-study activity:
Make some New Year Resolutions for 2011. Remember to use will or won't in all your resolutions.

These are the resolutions Karen makes. Her mum doesn't like her resolutions because she has made lots of resolutions for other people, when you can only make resolutions for yourself.
I will not poke my fingers in the butter.
I will not chew my duvet.
I will not call people idiots.
Mummy will stop nagging me.
Mummy will stop giving me cabbage.
I will eat less biscuits so I get more thinner.
I will learn Italian.

Many thanks to Mike J. Harrison for the idea on this entry.

The year in review

Amazing interactive review of 2010 by The Guardian. You have the choice of viewing the events month by month or day by day. You also have the option to build your own review of the year by adding a story per month. When you click on any event, it allows you to see a short summary of it or, if you hit the space bar, the story unfolds to the full and you can read a whole article about it.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend and roll over the mouse on some of the news stories. What do you know about them? If you need some reminder, click on the news item to read a short summary. Do you remember the news now? Can you expand on it? If necessary, hit the space bar and let the full article come up on your screen.

You can also create a customised review of the year, as many of the most outstanding news in Spain do not turn up on this interactive.

All in all, lots of oral and reading practice for you.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Hill for this link.

miércoles, 22 de diciembre de 2010

Top 50 moments of 2010

Time Magazine offers a review of 2010 by showing the most outstanding moment of each of the weeks of the year.

Enjoy the aesthetic value of the pictures and practise your English by reading the captions that accompany each of the photographs.

Communication problems

Self-study activity:
Watch the beginning of the Fawlty Towers episode Communication Problems and think about the different techniques Polly, the receptionist, uses to deal with Mrs Richards.

If you wish, you can  activitate the English subtitles on the YouTube video.

What would you have done in Polly's shoes?

1) She tries to be reasonable and polite; 2) she gives in to Mrs Richards' demands; 3) she ignores her; 4) she's ironic and involves another guest in the argument; 5) she gets rid of the problem by referring Mrs Richards to Manuel.

martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010

Christmas activities

Oxford University Press offers us a collection of activities around the topic of Christmas that we can download and do on our own or with friends.

Self-study activity:
Download the Christmas activities pack and get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and do some of the activities. You will be able to do -either on your own or if working with friends- activities such as About Christmas, where you will be practising question-building or Half a crossword, where you will be practising oral definitions and vocabulary.

Been vs gone (present perfect)

The verb go has two participles, gone and been. The use of gone or been depends on the meaning of the sentence.

My brother has gone to London – My brother is in London now.
My brother has been to London – My brother has visited London, but he’s not in London now.

Pay attention to the fact that been is followed by the preposition to in this use. It is the use of present perfect to talk about experiences, which is similar to Spanish (He estado en Londres=Conozco Londres).

The English You Need blog has published the activity below to help you discriminate between been and gone.

On a future entry we will be dealing with the difference in meaning between been to and been in in the present perfect.

lunes, 20 de diciembre de 2010

Jennifer Aniston gives David Letterman a present

Self-study activity:
Watch this clip from the David Letterman show, where Jennifer Aniston is interviewed, and answer these questions:

1. What present does Jennifer give David?
2. Who's Jennifer dating?
3. How did they meet?

To check your answers you can read the script here.

The best photos of Time 2010

This is an infographic of Time Magazine with the best photos of 2010.

Just enjoy the pictures for their aesthetic value and practise your English by reading the captions.

English language and usage

English Language and Usage is like a question and answer of English grammar. The site has a huge collections of questions that people have sent in about aspects of English grammar, usage and idiomatic expressions.

You do not need to be registered to ask questions.

I learnt about this site from Nik Peachey.

domingo, 19 de diciembre de 2010

My pain is my motivation

Self-study activity:
We have already commented on the fact that lower level students can start getting familiar with authentic English. I think the activity below is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Watch this Michael Jordan ad and complete the gaps in the sentences below with only one word.

Maybe it’s my own (1) _____ .
Maybe I led you to believe it was (2) _____, when it wasn’t.
Maybe I made you think my highlights (3) _____at the free throwline and not in the gym.
Maybe I made you think that each shot I took was a game winner, that my game was (4) _____on flash and not fire.
Maybe it’s my fault that you didn’t see that failure gave me strength, that my (5) _____was my motivation.
Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God-given gift, and not something I (6) _____for every single day of my life.
Maybe I (7) _____the game.
Or maybe, you’re just making (8) _____.

1 fault; 2 easy; 3 started; 4 built; 5 pain; 6 worked; 7 destroyed; 8 excuses

The huge driver's test online

This internet driving test consists 100 questions that will certainly put our driving skills to the test. More importantly, it will be a good way to learn and revise vocabulary which has to do with driving and modal verbs of obligation.

Just beware of the fact that the driving rules are not 100% the same in the UK and Spain.

Learning from one's mistakes

In her talk at TED teacher Diana Laufenberg shares what she has done and she is doing in her everyday practice and what her students have learnt. She also expresses her views on what it means to teach in a world where information is freely available to everyone almost everywhere.

Diana's English, although she talks fast, is not difficult to understand. If necessary, you can activate the English subtitles to check comprehension.

I learnt about this video through Free Technology for Teachers.

sábado, 18 de diciembre de 2010

The cinematic state of things in 2010

Time movie reviewer A. O. Scott took a thematic approach to this year's movies, coming up with 10 categories to group many of the top 2010 films.

The article is loaded with links to trailers and additional information about the actors and main issues under discussion.

Larry King's farewell

This week Larry King bade his final farewell as a CNN TV cable host for twenty-something years. Watch this report about the man, his work and what his retirement really means for the TV world.

You can read a transcript of the clip here.


Here it is another site where you can look for a song of your liking and sing along, as the lyrics are shown on a display window on the right.

viernes, 17 de diciembre de 2010

Emma Watson to quit Harry Potter?

Watch this short clip about the problems the actress Emma Watson is having to continue acting in the Harry Potter films.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Warner Brothers didn’t want to renew Emma Watson’s contract.
2 Emma Watson didn’t love her character enough.
3 Emma finally decided not to do her university exams.
4 Warner Brothers are now looking for another actress.

Note: If you get the 411 on something, you get all the information about it.

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

Phonemic chart

This is the new phonemic chart of the British Council site. You can listen to the pronunciation of all the sounds and some example words.

jueves, 16 de diciembre de 2010

Present finder

Do you find it difficult to choose the right present for your family and friends? Are you fed up with always giving the same presents? Have you been critisised for giving money as a present? Now that Christmas is round the corner lots of questions like those above will keep nagging you.

Put at an end to the excruciating task of present-choosing with The Present Finder, which will provide you with lots of original ideas for gifts for everybody.

Self-study activity:
Get together with some English speaking friend or relative and decide on a present for someone you both know, or for different members of your family, explaining the reasons for your choice.

A chat with Mark Zuckerberg

Time Managing Director Rick Stengel interviews Time's Person of the Year: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Hill, from The English Blog, for bringing my attention to this video.

miércoles, 15 de diciembre de 2010

Teach Parents Tech

Google has launched a new site today,, with the aim to help those members of the family who find it harder to understand the new technology come to terms with it.

The site lets you send a sarcastic email to the person in your family you think needs extra help with basic tech tasks, along with a link to watch the video you have chosen.

For English students the site offers 50+ one-minute videos in English that is within the grasp of Básico 2 students. To top it all, all the videos are subtitled.

Self-study activity:
Choose one video of your liking and watch it without subtitles. Watch it for a second time with the subtitles on to check your comprehension and deal with any difficulties.

As an example, here it is how to set up an email auto-responder.

Just so Stories

Just so Stories by Rudyard Kipling is accessible and downloadable to everybody. How the Whale got his Throat and eleven more stories can be read online or downloaded on our computer.

To make things even better, I have come across The Cat that Walked by himself on You Tube, so we can also listen to the narration of this story.

martes, 14 de diciembre de 2010

Language lessons

Some authentic material is well within the reach of lower level students, as the following clip from Fawlty Towers, the world-famous British series, shows.

This clip presents the misunderstandings between Basil Fawlty, the hotel owner, and Manuel, the Spanish waiter, who finds it difficult to understand and make himself understood in English.

Just enjoy the video, and see what happens when there are communication problems.

Season's Greetings

Jeffrey Hill's entry on his blog about the controversy in the US over whether it is preferable to wish someone a "Merry Chrismtas" or something more generic like "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" is worth reading because it mirrors the ongoing debate in many places about the changing nature of these celebrations. He gives a lot of background information about the issue and offers a lot of links to go deeper into the roots of the controversy.

The cartoon below by Clay Bennet was published on the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mr Bean Chritsmas

From David Deubel comes this Mr Bean activity.

Self-study activity:
Watch David's presentation and follow his instructions. The activity is meant to be done in class, but I think you can manage OK if you are working on your own or with someone who speaks English. You'll get to learn some Christmas vocabulary, develop your oral skills and have lots of fun.

You can watch the video here:

If you liked the first part, you can watch the second part here and the third part here.

lunes, 13 de diciembre de 2010


Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, was released in Spanish cinemas over the weekend. This is a videoclip on which, together with some scenes of the film, you can watch snippets of an interview with Christima Aguilera and Cher.

Self-study activity:
Complete the gaps in the extracts of Christina Aguilera's and Cher's interviews.

CA: I’ve been (1) ______ about uh, actually accepting a (2) _____ in the first place, uhh… because I wanted it to feel (3) ______ about it, and I really wanted it to be the right fit. The, uhm, essence of, do you know…just how the whole burlesque club feels and how (4) _____ it i it’s like no other musical that has ever been done before, and I think that it holds its own ve- quite nicely.

CHER: I was working; I wasn’t thinking about it; I – I mean, I, I’d, I never thought that I went – oh my God, why haven’t I done a movie lately? There just was nothing. I – there was one movie that with Meryl, Mamma Mia!, but I couldn’t, ‘cause I was (5) _____. And then this guy came up.

CA: That very same day that she was putting my (6) _____on, we sat on a couch and they had to drag us to set because it was like, it’s one in the morning, we have a scene to (7) ______ , and because we were just in heavy, girl-talk mode, and, uhm it’s nice to leave this movie having found – actually, a, a great (8) ______ through Cher, in this movie.

CHER:  I tried to be there to (9) ______ her. You know? That was my (10) ______ , was to be there to (9) ______ her and if I could help her in any way, that’s what I tried to do.

KEY:1. reserved; 2. role; 3. passionate; 4. specific; 5. on tour; 6. make-up; 7. shoot; 8. friend; 9. support; 10. goal

14 actors

Javier Bardem, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Jesse Eisenberg, Chloë Moretz, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Lawrence, Noomi Rapace, Vicent Cassel, Anthony Mackie, Robert Duvall, Leslie Manville, Tilda Swinton have made a one-minute video creating 14 classic acting moments, where the art and energy of their performance is revealed.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend, a classmate or a relative and discuss the feeling that each of the actors is conveying on each clip. Try to tell the visual story in your own words, describe what you are seeing on the video but figure out what happened before and will happen afterwards.

The 14 Decisive Moments may come in handy when studying the modal verbs for speculation:
Javier Bardem must be going through a crisis. He may not have been give a part in a film.
Tilda Swinton must have received very bad news.

Animated alphabet

Through The Spelling Blog I have discovered the Poison Rouge Animated Alphabet. You can hover over the letters to see a word and image for that letter as well as listening to the pronunciation of the word. What's more, if you click on an image a little animation or a game comes up.

Self-study activity:
To practise the English alphabet with Poison Rouge you can do the following with all the letters of the alphabet.
 / ʤeɪ / for jug.
/ a: / for rocket.

If you want extra practice, you can spell all the letters in a word:
jug / ʤeɪ /   / ju: /   / ʤi: /

If you need to revise how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced, try this Sesame Street video. It's good fun and makes the task easy.

domingo, 12 de diciembre de 2010

Royal Couple attacked!

Watch this Newsy video about the attack on Camilla and Prince Charles by a group of violent students protesting for the rise of university fees.

You can read the transcript here.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

English Attack!

English Attack! is a real find. On this site you have access to videos for different levels, ranging from 'easy' to 'advanced' which come complete with an activity pack: Listening comprehension questions, vocabulary tests, transcript, and so on. In short, there's lots of work on each of the videos, most of which are film clips. They are also quite short, somewhere in the region of 3-5 minutes.

Another interesting asset of English Attack! is the vocabulary section of the site. Vocabulary items are presented in fields, and we can listen to the pronunciation of words and read sentences in which the items are used.
The only minus is that you have to register to gain access to the site, but I think it is worth it.

A Christmas Carol

This is a completely type of activity that I have found on Michelle Henry's website. It is a webquest based on A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

The activity is meant to be done in four groups of students, but I think that if you are working on your own, you can do it all the same, although it will take you longer and you won't be able to do the collaborative final stage, where all the information is shared among the people who took part in the webquest.

sábado, 11 de diciembre de 2010

Listen a Minute

Students at Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 level may find this site really interesting: Listen a Minute by Sean Banville. The site has many interesting features: Short listening stories (one minute), the possibility of downloading the audio file, listening comprehension and vocabulary activities which we can also download on a pdf.

The Genesis of a Theme Park

The New York Times article about a project for a new theme park based on a replica of Noah's ark.

Read the article and answer the following questions, which I have taken from The New York Times learning blogs:

WHO plans to create a theme park based on a replica of Noah’s ark?
WHAT are the planned features of the park?
WHERE will the theme park be located?
WHEN is the theme park expected to be completed?
WHY has the idea raised questions about constitutional issues?
HOW many people do the developers expect to employ?

The Story Home

Amazing site created by Sharon and Alan Scofield where we can listen to lots of children's stories and traditional tales. We can even download them as a podcast.

The only 'but' is that no transcript is available, but a lot of the stories are well known and they are read in a very emphatic and theatrical way, which makes comprehension easier.

Self-study activity:
Listen to one of the stories on the web and try to retell the story later on in your own words.

viernes, 10 de diciembre de 2010

Reese Witherspoon with David Litterman

Self-study activity:
Watch part of the interview of Reese Witherspoon on the David Litterman show and say what the phrases below refer to.

3 years; Academy Award; having to give a speech; wonderful actresses; two kids; my daughter

For self-correction, you can read the transcript here.

Give peace a chance

David Deubel let me know about this Lennon's song with lyrics. I think it is a good tribute for the man shot in the back 30 years ago.

jueves, 9 de diciembre de 2010

Nobel Prize video

On 10 December the Nobel Prize Laureates will receive their prizes at an Award Ceremony. In preparation for this event, you can watch this animated CBS video from their Fast Draw team where the history of the Nobel Prize is told to us.

I hope you enjoy it.

miércoles, 8 de diciembre de 2010

30 years since Lennon's death

John Lennon was shot to death by Mark David Chapman when he was on his way home after 10.30 pm on 8 December 1980.

The New York Times has created a thread where readers express their views on this event and remember what they were doing when they found out that Lennon had been killed.

Discussing what someone was doing at momentous historical times is a classic conversation topic. In the English speaking world people used to talk about John F. Kennedy's death in Dallas on 22nd November 1963, or about Apollo 11's first landing on the moon on 20th July 1969.

More recently, these events have also had great relevance:

- Franco's death on 20th November 1975.
- Tejero coup on 23rd February 1981.
- The fall of the Berlin Wall on 3rd October 1990.
- The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on 11th September 2001.
- The announcement of Prince Philip's engagement to Leticia on 1 November 2003.
- The terrorist attack in Madrid on 11th March 2004.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and discuss what you were doing when you were told about any of the above-mentioned events or other momentous events you can think of.

As well as conversation practise, the activity will be good revision to practise the past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Example:

When I found out about the 11 March attack in Madrid I was driving on my way to work. I had dropped my daughter at school and was heading for work. I decided to tune in the radio to keep me company and there was this talk show on the station that came on. In the beginning I could make no sense of what they were talking about...

Shopping Glogster

Daniela Tomatis, from The Machine Goes on, has released a new glogster (interactive poster), about shopping this time.

Here you can practise vocabulary and listening with has to do with shopping.

The vocabulary part is suitable, in my opinion, for Básico 1 and Básico 2 students, whereas the listening component is aimed at Básico 2 (the 'Listen to the conversation' part) and Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 the videos.

No arms, no legs, no worries

Join the 13 million plus group of people who have already watched this motivational video by Nick Vujicic, where he explains the way he has overcome all his disabilities and constraints in life.

I hope you find his example inspiring and encouraging.

Terry Shell from the Teacher Boot Camp blog brought the video to my attention. I have obtained the transcript and the explanation of vocabulary items through Multimedia English Classroom.

martes, 7 de diciembre de 2010

Talking yourself into an MA

Article from The Guardian about the benefits and advantages of doing an MA.


Students at lower levels must start getting familiar with authentic material. This i-phone ad is suitable for Básico 2 learners.

Self-study activity:
Watch the ad and complete the gaps in the text with only one word.

What's so great about having the Internet in your (1) _______ ? Well, then you can see the trail map when you're on the (2) ______ … find a good place to eat in (3) ______ when you're hungry… and change your (4) ______ when you’re just not ready to go (5) ______ . That’s what’s so (6) ______ .

1. pocket 2. mountain 3. town 4. flight 5. home 6. great

lunes, 6 de diciembre de 2010


The pronunciation of the modal verb would gives Spanish people a lot of trouble. People mispronounce would in many different ways. They make:
/ bud / or
/ gud / or even
/ ud /.

All these pronunciations are wrong. The correct way to pronunce would is /wud/.

Let's listen to a teacher from Tarle Speech and Language giving us advice on how to pronounce this word.

She mentions three basic rules:
- Round your lips as much as possible to make / w /.
- Pull your lips back a little bit to make /ə/.
- Make the sound very short.

So we must round our lips almost fully, more even than to pronounce / u: /. I said 'almost fully', because if we round our lips completely, the sound / b / will come out. Practise first with some words starting with / w /. This is no problem for Spanish people:
when, where, why, which, what, wet

Now the biggest difficulty for Spaniards, when / w / is followed by / u / or / u: /, as in would, wood, woman.
The English / w / here is quite similar to Spanish u in words like huevo or hueso.

As I said before, we round our lips as much as possible without closing them completely and pronounce / w / with energy and quickly, and move on to /ə/.

Listen to more native speakers pronounce would in the great Forvo online pronunciation dictionary.

And also check this entry from the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, which offers lots of examples.

domingo, 5 de diciembre de 2010

Writing on the net

Through Blog&Tech I have come across Protagonize. It is a site meant for people who want to write and share their stories with others.

Collaborative stories also have a place here. You can start with an introduction, write the first chapter, and invite everybody else to carry on with the story.

All in all I think that Protagonize can be a very interesting site for people who want to write on a regular basis to practise their writing skills and read stories written by others.

Rap for reviewing news

The ESOL activity blog is one of the best blogs on the net for students to practise English on a regular basis. Here you can find everything: grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading, songs, authentic material, everything, for a wide variety of levels.

The activity they presented today is a song, a rap, in which they review this week's main events. Enjoy the rap, and then click here to do a multiple choice activity which tests comprehension.

Ah, don't forget to bookmark The ESOL blog. It is great practice  on a regular basis!

The Week in Rap - Dec 3rd from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

sábado, 4 de diciembre de 2010

Lonely Planet's top 10 regions for 2011

The travel guide Lonely Planet has published this slideshow to present their choice of tourist destinations for 2011. Enjoy the aesthetic value of the pictures and have a good read in English while you give a thought to the destination for your holidays next year.


A 'lifeline' is a rope used for saving people in danger, especially at sea. It is also something which someone depends on completely.

The people who talk on this clip claim that the unemployment benefit is their lifeline, and demand its duration to be extended by the US government.

Beyond the dramatic personal and social situation of the video, so much so for its universal value and relevance in today's crisis-hit world, the video may help us get familiar with some vocabulary to do with unemployment:

to be laid off (=to lose one's job); to be out of work; unemployed worker, unemployment benefit, unemployment rate; the benefit will run out (expire)

It is also good to practise figures and get to know the names of jobs and people's everyday bills.

Anyway, if you want to understand everything, here's the script.

viernes, 3 de diciembre de 2010

Interactive laboratory

Oxford University Press has launched Step Forward Online, an interactive sited aimed at lower levels like Básico 1 and Básico 2. It offers work on grammar, vocabulary and skills, including lots of listening activities on a wide variety of topics.

All in all, the site offers upwards of 300 activities and games of a really high quality.

2010 in review

Yahoo has published this infographic about the most important events of 2010. Enlarge the image by left-clicking on it.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend and share the information you know about these events.

You may also find of interest the information Yahoo publishes about the top 10 searches of the year.

jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010

Good oral practice for the monologue

It is quite hard to come across interesting material which fits the needs of EOI or That's English! students. Sometimes, however, we strike lucky and find a gold mine.

Dominic Coles IETLS Blog is, as we can work out from its name, a blog that aims at preparing students for the IELTS exam, which is beyond our scope, but which has lots of resources that we can use to our advantage.

By clicking on the image below you will be directed to an entry in Dominic's blog which can come in very handy to prepare the monologue part of the oral exam from Básico 2 up to Intermediate 2 students. As well as very useful advice and a standard oral exam topic ("Talking about a childhood friend") we can hear a student perform the task.

But there is much more to it. On this link you will find a list of topics with further practise.

Should we drink bottled water?

Interesting infographic from Term Life Insurance which shows lots of reasons why we shouldn't drink bottled water. It may give rise to an interesting discussion about health, spending habits and the environment.

miércoles, 1 de diciembre de 2010

Fastest text message

Self-study activity:
Watch this You Tube video from a British TV entertainment programme which shows an attempt to break a Guiness World Record and answer the questions that follow.

What do these figures refer to in the clip?
About 2,000 a month
Peak to 4,000

You can check your answers by reading the script here.


From The Machine goes on comes this presentation about the topic of school. It is very good practice to learn and review all the vocabulary associated with school life, and students at several levels may benefit from it. Vocabulary items are presented visually and orally, so learning is much easier and effective.

There are also some videos showing what school life is like in the 21st century compared to the past.

You will definitely enjoy the latest Glogster by Daniela Tomatis.