martes, 31 de mayo de 2011

The science of toilet paper orientation

This post is absolutely serious, as the orientation of toilet paper is the subject of heated controversy and the object of research among the scientific community.

Check out their detailed infographic below from Engineering Degree, complete with Jay Leno's take on the issue and scientific equations to impress your postmodern nerd friends.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo

Moving continents

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video on the formation of Europe and answer the questions below.

1 Where were England and the Low Countries when Europe was on the move?
2 How deep underground is the flowing rock that moves the continents?
3 How far do the continents move every year?
4 What pastime is the formation of Europe compared to?
5 How long ago was Europe on the equator?
6 What was the weather like?

You can read the transcript here.
1 near the Antarctic Circle 2 80 kilometers 3 a few centimeters 4 a jigsaw puzzle 5 300 million years ago 6 warm and wet

lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

80 things we wished we knew before we started travelling

"Hindsight is 20/20, right? Well, foresight can be near to it when you have the expertise of some seriously savvy travelers at your fingertips. Like the Matador team.

If you're starting out on your first trip, this is for you. Hell, even if it's your 20th trip, this is for you too. I know I learned a lot putting it together."

This is the beginning of a more than interesting article from the CNN. Here is some of the advice we can read about, but don't skip the explanations, which are even more important than the advice itself.

1. Print your entire itinerary and flight tickets/confirmations.
4. Always be patient and polite.
6. Travel in low season.
21. Sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender.
26. Understand you never have time to see EVERYTHING.
28. Get out and about as much as possible.

The science of kissing

Self-study activity:
Watch this ABC news report for the World News Webcast about the importance of kisses in a relationship and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Kisses can tell us whether a relationship will work or not.
2 Kisses can tell us how healthy a person is.
3 People unhappy with the way their partner kisses may put an end to the relationship.
4 Men show a tendency to speed up the sexual encounter.
5 The Asian American girl is in favour of wet kisses.
6 After kissing we usually feel more stressed.
7 The study shows that the romantic attitude to love is unimportant.

You can read the transcript here.

1-4 True 5-7 False

domingo, 29 de mayo de 2011

We are the World

DDeubel published yesterday this beautiful slideshow with the song We are the World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985 for African famine help.

UFO sightings

Self-study activity:
Watch this National Geographic video clip on a ufo sighting in Illinois, and answer the questions below.

You may find that understanding everything in the video is quite hard, but a good strategy is just focusing on the task, on the questions you have to answer and try not to lose your concentration and be discouraged because there are bits you don't understand at all.

1 What does Melvern Noll do?
2 How noisy was the object he saw?
3 How big was the object?
4 How many lights did the object have?
5 What shape did it have?
6 How many police officers saw the object?

You can read the transcript here.

1 lorry driver (and owner of a miniature golf course and and kart track) 2 quiet, not noise at all 3 like a football field in length 4 Three 5 Triangular 6 Five.

sábado, 28 de mayo de 2011

Language learning helps businesses compete globally

Read the article Language Learning Helps Businesses Compete Globally by Michael Schutzler from Forbes about the importance of mastering foreign languages in the business world.

H/T to Livemocha.

The Burj Dubai -Number dictation

Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip on The Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing figures.

The Burj Dubai is now the tallest building in the world. At (1) ... meters, it now beats the (2) ...-meter-tall Taipei (3) ... tower. Developer Emaar refuses to reveal what the tower's final height will be. But figures released by one contractor suggest around (4) ... meters. Other sources suggest it could end up over (5) ... kilometer high. The number of floors also isn't known, but elevator plans show at least (6) ... floors.

TheBurj Dubai has grown at a rapid pace, as these photographs show. Here, we are superimposing some helicopter shots from early May (7) ..., with shots from July taken just (8) ... days ago.

So Dubai is now home to the world's tallest tower. But the Burj Dubai might not keep this title for long. Just a few miles away, rival developer Nakheel is building the Al-Burj Tower. Some reports say it will be (9) ... meters tall.

But for now, this vast concrete spire is the tallest structure on planet Earth. Lisa Creffield, AME Info Broadcast.

(1) 512 (2) 508 (3) 101 (4) 808 (5) 1 (6) 195 (7) 2007 (8) 2 (9) 1200

viernes, 27 de mayo de 2011

First female marine pilot

Self-study activity:
Watch this short profile about Jennifer Grieves, the first woman marine one pilot, and complete the transcript below with the missing words.

To me it’s really not about being a woman. It’s just about being a Marine and I think that, I think I’ve always had that (1) ... . And I flew as a co-pilot for a couple of years and then I got qualified as a what's called the White House Aircraft (2) ...  . And then 14 months ago I got designated as a Marine One so I’ve been allowed to fly the President for a while now which has been pretty, pretty honoring.

The guys came off from their (3) ... to fly with me yesterday in the other aircraft which I thought was kind of exceptional, and it meant the world to me.

When I first flew President Bush, it was the first female who would ever sat in the right (4) ... of this helicopter so, he came on board, and he walked in and he went to shake my hand and he kind of did a (5) ...  and he said, good morning, ma’am, and I said, good morning and he smiled at me, and I knew, I kind of felt what he was thinking, and he walked back to the back, and he was great ever since. So, just like President Obama, I think the fact that they both have daughters makes it a little more special for them and, I’ve been very proud to serve for both former President Bush and currently President Obama.

He always comes on board and says hi, he’s very friendly. He came in, he said hello, he said, hello to Major Marino and then he walked back to the back. And then we flew over to Andrews Air Force Base and he walked up the front and he gave me one of his personal (6) ..., and then he said he was very proud of us. He said he’s always felt like he was always in good (7) ... with all of us. He said he’s very, very grateful for the armed services and our service.

I tried very hard not to smile, and you know, I tried to be a very cordial one and I think the moment was (8) ... and it was a very special day for me, and then he said goodbye, and he walked off and he flew to New York and he did, uh, he did his job.

1 focus 2 Commander 3 day-off 4 seat 5 double-take 6 coins 7 hands 8 overwhelming

The End of an Ophra Era

The End of an Ophra Era is the title of the reading activity form The New York Times Learning blogs about this week's farewell by the famous TV hostess.

Read this The New York Times article and find the answer to these questions.

HOW many years has “The Oprah Winfrey Show” been on the air?
HOW many episodes has Ms. Winfrey taped over the years?
HOW many people produce her show?
HOW much did some advertisers pay for 30 seconds of commercial time on Wednesday’s finale?
WHEN did the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” first begin?
WHEN did Ms. Winfrey turn away from tabloid fare on the show and begin talking, instead, about “living your best life” spiritually and emotionally?
WHERE will she host a new show?
WHY are many skeptical about her OWN venture?
WHO were some of her guests on the show on Monday and Tuesday?
WHAT are some of the most famous moments from the “Oprah” show?
If you watched it, WHAT were your favorite shows?

You can also watch a short video on Ophra's final show.

jueves, 26 de mayo de 2011

Profile: Julia Robers

Self-study activity:
Watch this two-minute video with information about Julia Roberts and say what the following figures refer to:

$25 million
$2 billion
4th of July 2002

You can check your answers by reading the transcript here.

Funny Travel Horror Stories

"There are plenty of websites filled with people's positive travel stories of beautiful landscapes, fascinating cultures, delicious food, etc.

Those sites are wonderful, but Triphap is something different...very different.

Triphap (travel mishap) was coined after realizing that often the most entertaining travel stories to read are those where things went wrong.

Whether or not the situation worked itself out in the end (the former of course being preferred), everyone can share in the hilarity of the inevitable things that go wrong when one travels."

This is the way Triphap describes itself. Lots of funny reads about situations most of us are all too familiar with.

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2011

Vocabulary game

A few days ago, Larry Ferlazzo posted a blog entry about Turn-O-Phrase, and online game to practise vocabulary.

This is the way Larry defined Turn-O-Phrase:

“Turn-O-Phrase” is a fun new game where you are shown images that give hints to common English phrases, and you need to identify that words that would go along with them. You can also get hints. You can play without registration, or you can log-in to keep track of your “points.”

Top ten tips for learning a language

This is DDeubel's presentation about what it takes to learn a language these days.

Make yourself comfortable, pick up your notebook and pen and get ready to take notes.

martes, 24 de mayo de 2011

The Burning House

The Burning House is a beautiful webpage I learn about today through the blog ESL Activities.

The idea behind the webpage is presented in just one paragraph:

"If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question."

From here tens of people have posted entries with their list of the objects they would save together with a short explanation and a photograph showing them.

So what's in The Burning House for the English student? First of all, the sheer feast of prying into so many life stories summarised in just one photograph and a list of objects. Then the opportunity to develop our reading and vocabulary skills while going over the posts.

Finally, and if we have the opportunity to get together with some other English students, the chance to develop our speaking ability by answering the question "what would you take with you if your house was burning?". We don't need to gather all the objects together. Drawing them or just naming them would be enough, but going over the objects would allow us to have lots of speaking time while we go over personal stories.

Emilio Estefan on his success

Emilio Estefan wasn't born in the US. He's not a native speaker of English, so we shouldn't have too many difficulties to understand his English. On the minus side, he talks really fast.

Self-study activity:
Watch this short video and say what the information below refer to.

15 years
where Emilio was growing
where Emilio’s dad was born
two weeks
Shakira’s English

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

English speaking

English speaking is a blog we should turn our attention to on a regular basis, as it provides us with lots of invaluable information about how to develop communication strategies. For this reason, English speaking is extremely useful for English students, especially at Elementary and Intermediate levels.

The layout of English speaking is pretty straightforward, as most of the information revolves around  functions of the language such as how to keep the conversation going, making requests, softening, showing your attitude, giving orders, talking about plans, ordering food, and so on.

On top of that, the input is fairly limited, with what we never have information overload.

There's a short introduction to each of the entries before the 'language chunks' are presented. These language chunks are also shown in a linguistic context.

I am pasting here the entry about showing interest in what another person says:

To show interest in what the other person is saying, you don’t have to say much. You can use the words like ‘Really?’ (with a rising intonation), ‘Sure’ and ‘Right’ to show that you are really listening.

‘Did you know? Jake is going out with a French girl.’ ‘Really?’
‘I don’t think reality television shows are worth watching.’ ‘Right.’

Thank you, Laura Schwartz for providing us with this extraordinary tool.

Snipers to protect penguins

Self-study activity:
Watch this short video on the mysterious death of penguins in an Australian reserve. Then answer the questions below.

1 Are humans to blame for the death of penguins?
2 What is believed to be causing the death of penguins?
3 Name two actions that have been taken to protect the penguins.
4 How many penguins are breeding in the area?
5 How many penguins have been killed?
6 How tall are the penguins?

You can read the transcript here.

1 No 2 Foxes or dogs 3 Teams of volunteers at night; baits and traps have been set; dogs must be locked; lots of public information; shooters 4 100 or 120 (50 or 60 pairs) 5 nine 6 around a foot

domingo, 22 de mayo de 2011

Online English grammar and exercises

"Are you afraid of English tenses? Or verbs? You can practise tenses in English grammar exercises with answers online for free in gap-filling, matching or multiple choice exercises. Together with grammar rules they have been written by the experienced teacher who has been teaching for more than twenty years and they have been tested by hundreds of students of a language school. Some online tests are also available as printable tests with answers in the esl worksheets section."

This is the way the Czech site e-grammar introduces itself. I think I can add very little more to it other than saying that e-grammar has been a great unexpected discovery, as it allows us to revise and practise one of the key aspects of English grammar students have most difficulty with -tenses- and all the key structures where tenses are used (conditionals, reported speech, passive).

Thank you, Mgr. Petr Kulatý.

Bill Gates house

Self-study activity:
Before watching this three-minute documentary on Bill Gates house in Seattle read the statements 1-9 below and try to predict whether the information is true or false.

1 You can find lots of groundbreaking technology in the house.
2 The situation of the house minimizes the impact on the natural surroundings.
3 There’s a lot of wood, glass and stone in the house.
4 The house was built after the Seattle Olympics.
5 Residents are all connected to the electrical gadgets in the house.
6 You can watch TV anywhere in the house.
7 The house might get a bit noisy when the house phones ring simultaneously.
8 Energy saving equipment is another key factor in the house.
9 The area where people live is not big.

Now watch the three-minute video clip and check your predictions.

You can read the transcript here.

All the statements except 4 and 7 are true.

sábado, 21 de mayo de 2011

Letters of Note

Letters of Note is a great webpage that I learnt about thanks to Learn the Net.

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos, most of which by writers, artists, musicians, politicians and celebrities.

Letters of Note is a fascinating reading experience.

Reading habits

Self-study activity:
Watch this one-minute page from Katie Couric's Notebook on CBS and fill in the the blanks in the transcript with only one word.

Unless you’ve been living under a (1) … for the last few weeks, you know that tonight at one minute after midnight the seventh and final Harry Potter book hits the shelves. So far, (2) … million books in the series have been sold (3) … , and book sellers expect "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will sell tens of millions. Parents and teachers who hope for a reading renaissance found it in Harry, but kids who were (4) … about Harry were not as (4) … about reading anything else. Beth Puffer at Bank Street Bookstore in New York told us that kids and adults have too many (5) … on their time. She said not only is it important to read to your child, but it’s important for them to see you reading to understand that reading is (6) …. So when you’re spending time with your kids, get off the computer, turn off your cell phone, and (7) … open a good book. You could start a habit that will last happily ever after. That’s a page from my notebook. I’m Katie Couric, CBS News.

1 spell 2 325 3 worldwide 4 wild 5 pulls 6 worthwhile 7 crack

viernes, 20 de mayo de 2011

Multicultural Britain

Think about the following questions:
• Have you ever visited or lived somewhere with a different culture?
• How multicultural is the place where you live?
• Is there more immigration to or emigration from your country?

This is the beginning of the speaking and listening video activity from the British Council Multicultural Britain.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer the questions above.

Then click on TASK to do a vocabulary activity.

After completing and self-correcting the vocabulary task, WATCH THE VIDEO.

Then click on TASK 2 to do a multiple choice listening comprehension activity.

You also have the option to download the movie and read the transcript.

One death provides life for many

From The New York Times Learning Blogs comes this reading activity about Julio García, a patient who died of brain hemorrhage and donated his lung, heart and liver.

Read the main article One Death Provides Life for Many and find the answer to these questions.

WHO was Julio Garcia?
WHO are some of the people whose lives he saved?
WHERE did his family and a group of recipients meet last week?
WHY, according to this article, is the world of transplants and organ donation a “charged” one?
WHY do you think many recipients and donor families choose to remain anonymous?
HOW many people are on waiting lists for transplants in the United States?
HOW many transplants were performed last year?
HOW many people are expected to die waiting for transplants this year?
WHAT are some of the things that made Mrs. Garcia agree to give her husband’s organs just after he died?
WHEN were the first operations scheduled for?

You can later on use these same questions as a springboard for conversation practice while you recap the contents of the article orally.

jueves, 19 de mayo de 2011

Seven interview questions that kill careers

It's not all difficult to completely blow a job interview: Showing up late, wearing inappropriate clothing and answering your cell phone are a few good ways to kill your chances. But sticking your foot in your mouth will do the job as well.

Many hiring managers say that on occasion, candidates that seem perfect at first get crossed off the list by saying something senseless when asked a routine interview question. Here are a few responses to some of those frequently asked questions that will be sure to kill the conversation and send you straight out the door.

That's the way this online  The Wall Street Journal article on interview questions starts. You may be familiar with most of the seven interview questions they mention.

Tell me a little about yourself.
Why do you want to leave your current your?
What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
How would your current or former colleagues describe you?
What is your goal for the short term?
Are there certain tasks or types of people you don’t like?
Do you have any questions?

Read on to find out what an appropriate answer to each of those questions would be.

Many teens fall short on sleep

Self-study activity:
This is a listening activity that may come in handy to prepare the listening paper of the EOI intermediate exam, which is just round the corner.

It is taken from a NPR radio programme on health, and deals with the sleep deficit lots of teenagers have.

Listen to the four-minute segment and answer the questions below:

What is considered a late time to go to bed?
What time do US students usually get up to go to school?
Why are teenagers irritable during the week?
How much sleep does the average student get?
How much sleep does the average student require?
Why do teenagers need so much sleep?
When do teenagers usually sleep during the weekend?
What time is recommend for teenagers to get up at the weekend?
What food should be prohibited after 2pm?
How long should the mid-day nap last?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2011

The birth of Egypt

Self-study activity:
Today's listening task is aimed at Básico 2 students (elementary) and has to do with the myth that explains the origin of Egypt.

Watch the excerpt and complete the blanks in the script with only one word.

Osiris and Isis were central to the ancient Egyptians' religion. They believed the coming of these (1) … thousands of years before the beginning of history heralded the (2) … of Egypt. The Egyptians called this the beginning of time, when the gods (3) … the river and the land and brought civilization and prosperity to the Nile Valley. But then Osiris was (4) … by his brother Seth, and the land was plunged into terror and violence. Isis gathered her husband's dismembered body and bound it in linen. Then she changed into a (5) …, transporting the resurrected Osiris to a new life among the (6) … . Together, they ruled over the night (7) … for eternity. Isis and Osiris, the god of resurrection.

1 gods 2 birth 3 shaped 4 killed 5 birth 6 stars 7 skies

Anne Frank's Hiding Place

Wander around the furnished spaces and get to know the stories from Anne Frank's diary in The Secret Annex Online. Why did the family go into hiding? Who's who in this drama? The eight people living in the annex and the five helpers. The outcome: What went wrong, who betrayed the family, the fate of those arrested, who made it back.

Lots of listening and reading stuff for intermediate students around the story of Anne Frank.

This material has a highly educational content, as it throws light on World War II and on the situation of Jews in Europe.

H/T to Learn the Net.

martes, 17 de mayo de 2011

Dylan under fire

Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip from Newsy about criticisms to singer Bob Dylan and answer the questions below.

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

1 Why was Dylan criticized?
2 How many times had Dylan played in China before?
3 What did Dylan send the Chinese government before the show?
4 Where and when did Dylan defend himself from the allegations?
5 In the priest’s opinion why is Dylan’s concert revolutionary?

You can read the transcript here.

1 concert in China 2 none 3 the songs he was going to perform 4 on his blog on Friday 5 he mentioned God in a country which has killed millions of Christians

Speaking for elementary students

A few weeks ago DDeubel published an interactive book with a selection of activities from English Central specifically aimed at developing the oral skills for elementary students.

The layout of the exercises is really simple: First students listen to a short model video. Then, they perform the dialogue themselves by personalising the information on the video. Finally, they do a short vocabulary activity to consolidate all the contents they have just seen.

This is an interesting, motivating, engaging and structured way to develop conversational skills for lower level students.

You can also download the interactive book in PDF format from here.

lunes, 16 de mayo de 2011

Discovering London

You may already know the answer to some of these questions, but not to all:

1. What is the colour of the buses in London?
2. Where does the Queen live?
3. Name three means of transport you can use in London (Add pictures).
4. What is the other name used to name the underground?
5. Write the name of three museums in London.
6. What is the name of the river you can see in London? Write the name of three bridges the river runs by.
7. What´s the colour of the telephone box in London?
8. Name two famous markets in London.
9. What is the name of the square you can find Nelson Column and four lions?
10. What is Picadilly Circus?
11. Name three parks you can visit in London.
12. What is Big Ben? Where is it?
13. Who are beefeaters? Draw one and describe it.
14. Name three typical dishes you can try in London.
15. What is the name of the British currency?

These are the questions of the Discovering London Treasure Hunt I came across on the English Can Be Fun blog some time ago .
To find the answer to each of the questions, click on the Resources tab.

Ell & Nikki

The Eurovision Song Contest was held last Saturday. On Sunday the great site Free English Lessons Online had already designed a listening comprehension activity with an excerpt of the BBC broadcasting of the event around the moment when the winners are announced.

1) Where was the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest held?
2) Which country won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest?
3) Who won the contest last year, and handed over the title to this year's winners?
4) True or false? Azerbaijan was favourite to win.
5) Which country came second in the competition?
6)What was the name of the winning song?

Watch the clip and try to answer the questions above the Free English Lessons Online team prepared. If you wish to do the activity as a multiple choice task, visit the site of Free English Lessons Online.

You can check the answers here.

If you wish to enjoy the song, watch the performance of Ell & Nikki in the contest and read the lyrics below.

Come to me, come to me tonight
Oh God, I need you, anyway
Baby, I just wanna be, be around you all the time
Oh God, I need you, oh…
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of life
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
Come to me, come to me a bit more
Oh God, I need you
There’s nothing left for me to say
So rest on me darling, stay forever more
Oh God, I need you, I need you
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of life
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
Oh, what I wouldn’t give away
To be your shelter and keep you safe
Keep you safe
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of life
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you
And I’m running
And I’m running scared
‘Cause I adore you


"Never has a hat stirred such a quall. Moments after the royal wedding, images of Princess Beatrice's spiralling Band-Aid-hued headpiece had gone viral."

This is the beginning of the The New York Times Learning blog activity where you have to complete the gaps in the text with the missing word to choose from the list provided at the bottom of the article.

You can read the complete article and check the answers here.

The main article is accompanied by a video from the series On the Street on Mad Hats.

Aesop's Fables for English language learners

A few days ago Larry Ferlazzo listed on his blog a number of internet sites that dealth with Aesop's fables.

The most interesting for me for English language learners was Aesop's Fables in English for languages learners, as it allows you to listen to lots of fables and complete listening comprehension activities by filling in the blanks in the fables with the missing words.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and do some of the listening tasks in the site. Then, discuss the moral at the end of each fable.

domingo, 15 de mayo de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this three-minute extract from a BBC documentary on werewolves and answer the questions below.

What do these figures at the beginning of the excerpt refer to?
16th century; 1603; 1989; 28

What happened while the two men were having a meal?
If you are a werewolf, what happens to your teeth and skin?
If you are a werewolf, what do you want to drink and eat?
Do patients suffering from lycantrophy pretend to become werewolves?

You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript here.

Mapping pirates

With Pirates of the Caribbean 4 being released in cinemas in May, I think that this interactive graphic from The Wall Street Journal comes in handy to find out some information about real pirates.

Captain Kidd, Francis Drake, Jack Rackham, Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Black Bart, Henry Morgan, Barbary and Maltese Corsairs, Henry Avery, Cheng I sao. Who were they? What were they famous for? Hover your mouse over the ships to find out.

sábado, 14 de mayo de 2011

Healthy breakfast

Self-study activity:
Watch this short video clip where a dietitian gives us some advice on the type of breakfast we should eat, and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

We've got some delicious items to kick-start your morning. And Joe, you're absolutely right. We cannot (1) … breakfast. We have to eat something to (2) … our bodies for the day. First, I wanna illustrate a typical breakfast to show what we might want to avoid. While this is delicious – these eggs, hash browns, bacon and biscuits, it's really high in fat, calories and saturated fat, which can lead to (3) … … . A great alternative is a vegetable omelet. You can pick your favorite (4) … . Here, I have mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Be sure to use egg substitute to cook it in. You can have some sliced strawberries to go with it, and a piece of whole-grain toast.

Another really great breakfast, actually, is cereal. You wanna stay away from the (5) … cereals and try to choose whole-grain cereals that have a lot of fiber. You wanna add some low-fat or fat-free (6) … …, and top it with some fruit. Another great breakfast item is some cottage cheese. Low-fat or fat-free, with some (7) … . You could have a whole-grain bagel with some sugar-free jelly as well.

Lastly, we have some Canadian bacon. For those of you who have to have your bacon in the morning, choose Canadian bacon. It's a (8) … …, and you can have it with English muffin, some oatmeal, and (9) … some raisins on top.

And there you have some excellent, tasteful, and healthy breakfast items.

1 skip 2 fuel 3 heart disease 4 vegetables 5 sugary 6 skim milk 7 peaches 8 lean meat

Letter Generator

Some days ago Richard Byrne, the mastermind behind Free Technology for Teachers, told us about Letter Generator, an online tool that guides us in the process of writing letters.

The Letter Generator can help us to format and write both personal and business letters and goes as far as offering templates for addressing envelopes.

viernes, 13 de mayo de 2011

Superstitions in England and America

Superstitions in England and America is an interesting interactive activity which tries to put to the test our knowledge of this cultural trait while developing our listening skills.

First match the words to the pictures on the slideshow, then listen to Emma, an American girl working as an assistant in Decize (France), who will tell you whether this superstition is lucky or unluckly.

Then do the second part of the activity to see how much you know by ticking the correct answer.

H/T to Michelle Henry.

Friday 13th

The BBC Learning English site has this interesting self-study activity on superstitions, which comes in handy, as today is Friday 13th.

Self-study activity:
As you listen to the audio file, try to answer these questions:

1. Which religion seems to have the most reasons to think of the day 'Friday' and the number '13' as being unlucky?
2. At what time was the unfortunate space craft 'Apollo 13' launched?
3. Kate mentions 3 important things that her clients wouldn't do on Friday the 13th; what are they why wouldn't they do them?

The Learning English site also makes a point of including some vocabulary task, so that students can improve their grasp of English words and expressions. The following items are explained in the activity on Friday 13th.

to be superstitious
anxiety/to feel anxious
utter dread
bad luck/to be unlucky
a coincidence
to tempt fate

You can read the transcript of the audio file here.

miércoles, 11 de mayo de 2011


A few days ago Jeffrey Hill told us about Toporopa, which looks like a fun, entertaining site to learn the English names of countries and geographical features in Europe.

This is the way Jeffrey described the site:

Toporopa provides educational and entertaining quizzes for everyone who wants to know more about Europe: countries, capitals, flags, regions, monarchies, mountains, lakes, seas, rivers, islands and other subjects.

So give the site a try to put your knowledge of Geography to the test and to improve your English vocabulary of geographical features.

The Secret Ophra

Self-study  activity:
Watch this excerpt from an interview of Ophra Winfrey on CNN the Larry King show and answer the questions below.

1 What message does Ophra have for the world?
2 When did she do The Colour Purple?
3 How many auditions had Ophra done before The Colour Purple?
4 Why did Ophra go to the farm?
5 Whose phone call did Ophra get while she was on the farm?
6 When did Quincey Jones see Ophra for the first time? Where?

You can read the transcript here.

1 You are responsible for your life 2 1985 3 None 4 She was fat 5 Steven Spielberg 6 1984, Chicago

martes, 10 de mayo de 2011

Raundy Pausch's legacy

Raundy Pausch is an American professor who passed away in 2008. He was in the limelight because of the bravery he showed when he was told about a terminal illness.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip, which shows part of a speech at his university and some extracts of an interview on Good Morning, America, and answer the questions below.

1 What do people regret on their deathbed?
2 Where should the students find passion in life?
3 How old is Chloe?
4 How many children does Raundy have?
5 How old was Randy when he got married?

You can read the transcript here.

1 The things they haven’t done 2 In people and relationships 3 Two 4 Three 5 Thirty-nine


Lingro looks like the perfect online dictionary. Russell Stannard has informed about it in his May newsletter.

The idea behind Lingro is that we write in the box the address of the website we want to read (step 1). After that, if we come across some vocabulary item we don't know, simply by clicking on them we get an online definition (step 2).

This tool can prove extremely useful when reading online articles with a heavy vocabulary load, such as some of the articles we sometimes publish on this blog.

Give Lingro a try to gauge for yourself  how useful this tool is.

lunes, 9 de mayo de 2011

Denmark, happiest place on earth

Self-study activity:
Watch this ABC video clip from the programme 20/20 In Touch about the happiest countries in the world, and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Most people would think that Mediterranean countries are the happiest.
2 Fiji ranks higher than Iceland on the list of happiest countries.
3 US comes within the top ten of happiest countries.
4 To find out the data scientists asked people how they have felt throughout their life.
5 Denmark is the country where people live longer.
6 In Denmark nobody is better than anybody else.
7 The garbage man works five days a week.
8 One of Josef’s ancestors was a Spanish carpenter.

You can read the transcript here.

1T 2F 3F 4T 5F 6T 7F 8F

Reasons for this year's wild weather

From Discovery News through Learn the Net comes this article cum video which throws some light on the weird behaviour of weather patterns this year, especially in the US with huge wildfires in Texas and a surge of tornadoes across the country.

What's going on here? Click on the picture below to find out.

You can also watch this short video which explains the methods scientists use to gauge changes in the weather.

domingo, 8 de mayo de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip on Jazzercise, a famous keep-fit dance some years back and say whether the sentences below are true or false.

1 Jazzercise started in the 70s.
2 Jazzercise routines haven’t changed much.
3 Lise Desmarais has been leading Jazzercise classes for 8 years.
4 Jazzercise was founded almost 40 years ago.
5 Judi Sheppard Missett is 64 years old.
6 Jazzercise mixes dance, music, a variety of moves and karate.

You can read the transcript here.

1F 2F 3F 4T 5T 6F (no karate)


This is a beautiful flash slideshow by D Deubel on Einstein's inspirational quotations which can help us find that extra bit of motivation for our challenges and everyday life.

Great job by David once again.

sábado, 7 de mayo de 2011

American woman wakes up with British accent

Self-study activity:
Watch this news clip from Newsy and say if the statements 1-6 below are true or false.

1 Foreign accent syndrome is more usual than we think.
2 She blames an anesthetic for the change in her voice.
3 A very small part of the brain affects language.
4 1,000 cases have been reported since the 1900s.
5 The change in a person’s accent also brings about personality changes.
6 Sufferers from this syndrome cannot return to their original accent.

You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript here.

What's in the bag

What's in the bag is an online vocabulary game I have learnt from D Deubel.

Every time we play, three words come out of the bag and they describe a mysterious object or animal. After clicking on continue, we are given a choice of three items for us to decide what the three words refer to.

We have the opportunity to hear all the vocabulary used in each question as well as the spelling, which makes the game a really interesting one to revise vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation.

viernes, 6 de mayo de 2011

What is your millionaire potential

This survey from the book Think Yourself Rich by Sharon Maxwell Magnus can be done on the BBC webpage in an interactive way, but we can use it to develop our oral skills and prepare the forthcoming oral exam.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and do the test together. As you answer each of the questions, explain and comment on the options you chose.

The five most affordable hotels in the US

Self-study activity:
Watch this MSNBC video clip with information about the best five hotels in the US their travel reporter has selected.

Four Season Hotel
The Palazzo
The Rosewood Inn
Sofitel Hotel
The Woodlands Resort

Which hotel does the following information refer to?
a) It’s not in a big city
b) You see a river from the hotel
c) Famous people go
d) Was built at the beginning of the XX century
e) You pay less than 150$
f) For lovers of the French experience
g) Near a stadium
h) If you love eclectic style and design
i) It has two very good restaurants

You can read a transcript here.

a) The Woodlands Resort; b) Four Season Hotel; c) The Rosewood Inn; d) The Woodlands Resort; e) The Palazzo; f) Sofitel Hotel; g) Four Season Hotel; h) Sofitel Hotel; i) The Palazzo

jueves, 5 de mayo de 2011

How do you use body language

"Body language is used every day by human resources professionals, law enforcement officers, teachers, and other people in positions of authority who need to make quick assessments about people they encounter. Those who can read body language know that:

55% of communication is nonverbal
The human body can produce 700,000 different signs
The fastest way to build a rapport with another person is to mirror their actions
7% of communication is verbal"

This is the striking beginning of a blog entry in the Cha Cha site, a website which answers the questions readers post.

If you read the Cha Cha blog entry you will the opportunity to find out more interesting details about what we give away with non-verbal communication and get to know about the hidden meaning of basic positions like
  • crossing our arms
  • touching our neck
  • dilated pupils
  • leaning forward
  • crossing our feet
You will also have the opportunity to download an infographic with some basic information.

Small Town news

Self-study activity:
Watch this segment from the David Letterman show where he informs about strange news he has heard about.

Complete the blanks in the script with the missing words.

Now this is from Minnesota, the Jordan Independent. Charles Whips, of Springlake Township, called to report (1) … … turkey vultures. Before a reporter, Brandon Ott, could get any closer for a picture, the birds (2) … away. Let's take a look. Oh, boy. It's true what they say: "A picture is worth a (3) … … ." "Well, what do you think? Should we go with that picture? That, uh... Yeah, let's go, let's run with that picture." Now here, Zanesville, Ohio. I think that's probably a smaller town. Zanesville, Ohio. The Times Recorder. Here's a little item. "(4) … … on Lee street. An (5) … reported seeing a (6) … with a cigarette start the blaze." Whoa, I gotta fly!

1 two giant 2 flew 3 thousand words 4 Grass fire 5 eyewitness 6 pigeon

miércoles, 4 de mayo de 2011

The ultimate consumerist guide to complain

"Every so often, the plane doesn't leave on time, a wrong part gets shipped or a bank teller sniggers at your hat. If you're disappointed and want to tell the company, these tips will help your complaint see real results."

This is one of the attention-grabbing remarks from the How to guide The Ultimate Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back from The Consumerist.

The advice is divided into three clear-cut parts:
  • The route
  • The hardball route
  • The legal route
We will get tips that range from writing a complaint letter, to recording telephone calls to claiming in court.

In short, The Ultimate Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back is a light-hearted read that can be both useful for our English as students (we will be practising letter writing and lots of reading) and useful in real life.

Sad Friday

Self-study activity:
Watch this one-minute CBS video where Katie Couric comments on the effects of hurricane Katrina eighteen months after it hit new Orleans.

Complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing word.

Hi, everyone. Three days after (1) ...    ...  it is Sad Friday, and sad every day, in New Orleans. The New York Times reported yesterday that Habitat for Humanity, which promised to build (2) ... of homes after Hurricane Katrina destroyed almost (3) ... million, built just thirty (4) ... new homes in New Orleans. The housing crisis, which as we've reported has caused a (5) ... percent increase in depression among displaced kids, is not the only big problem facing the Big Easy. Historian and CBS news consultant Doug Brinkley, who lives in New Orleans, told us that the inability of the police department to get a grip on (6) ... , the inability of the (7) ...   ... to educate students, and the inability of the city to attract private (8) ... makes a lot of us wonder: "What are we staying for?" At some point, Brinkley says, New Orleans'  extraordinary culture may not survive extraordinary (9) ...   . That's a page from my notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.

1 Fat Tuesday 2 thousands 3 a quarter 4 six 5 four hundred 6 crime 7 school system 8 investment 9 mismanagement

martes, 3 de mayo de 2011

Name the language

A few days ago David Deubel published this interesting interactive quiz in the English Central blog to put our knowledge of the world languages to the test.

Try the quiz below and see how many of the world languages you can recognise.

The financial crisis explained

What is a financial crisis? Can you explain an economic meltdown? Is there any difference between a recession and a depression? You might find it easier to understand all these terms if you understand the analogy with the process a couple goes through when they get divorced.

Watch this video and brush up your knowledge of economy and economic terms.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 2 de mayo de 2011

Men arrested for singing 'Funk Fu Fighting'

We have mention Newsy, a multi-source online video news service, on this blog several times.

I think we could make it a habit to drop by Newsy occasionally and choose some news items of our interest. The site has lots of benefits: fashionable current news; major TV stations as the source of news (Fox, ABC, BBC, CNN, and so on); a transcript of everything which is said in the videos.

Perhaps the one thing that the place is lacking in, from the perspective of an English student, is an activity to check comprehension so that we can obtain some feedback on our English level. That's not big deal, though, as listening and understanding are an aim in themselves.

On top of that, it is quite easy for us to check comprehension: Choose a news item you know very little or nothing about and after watching it ask yourself: What's this news about? If you do it with an English-speaking friend or relative, it can also give you the opportunity to develop your speaking skill.

So let's give this method a try with the news Men arrested for singing 'Funk Fu Fighting'. Watch the video and, in your own words, say what the news is about.

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

You can read the transcript here.

Deadly tornados

From The New York Times Learning Network comes this reading activity.

Go over the questions below and try to answer them by reading this article from The New York Times.

WHERE did tornadoes rip through the United States this week?
WHERE were states of emergency declared?
WHAT state seems to have been hit hardest?
WHAT images or quotes from this article do you think are especially vivid in describing the destruction?
HOW many different tornadoes were there?
HOW many people have been killed and injured in these storms?
HOW has ordinary life been upended across the region as a result of the storms?
WHO is scheduled to visit Alabama on Friday?
WHY, according to the governor of Alabama, was there “little that people could have done to protect themselves”?
WHEN have you ever experienced extreme weather?

domingo, 1 de mayo de 2011

Funny commercial

Today's video activity is suitable for lower level students.

Self-study activity:
Watch this Pepsi ad and fill in the blanks with the missing words.

As far as I can remember, I have always (1) ... with elephants. Then one day, I (2) ... I had a power over them. So I (3) ... to train them to do something special. The elephant tower! My elephant towers (4) ... bigger and bigger. I was famous all over India! But I was (5) ... about those animals. Elephants were not a good idea. I think I'm back!

1 lived 2 discovered 3 decided  4 became 5 wrong

Mother Love poem

Today is Mother's Day in Spain. A few weeks ago the day was celebrated in the UK and to honour mothers, Gavin from the language school St George International published this poem... without missing out the opportunity to help us improve our phrasal verbs.

This is the poem Gavin published, but please do visit St George International to find out the meaning of the phrasal verbs in bold and to check on some other online activities and resources they offer English students.

Mothers are there to look after and care
For you
In your life
No matter how you fare
In life
In love
The truth is
She will always be there.

When you grow up
There are things that you hate
You think of yourself
And never appreciate
Her help
Her love
Things that make her great.

You’ll always remember
That she tells you to turn down your music
Get on with your little brother
And take care of him when he’s sick.

It’s annoying that sometimes
To have to put away your clothes
Even though it’s your room
And anything goes.

She shouts “throw away things
That you don’t need”
I shout back
That I just want her to leave.

You find out you can’t
Go out or stay up late
But she’ll clean up your mess
And have dinner ready by 8.

When I’m sad or lonely
A hug is always there
You can’t take back
The love that she shared.

The older you get
The wiser you become
Look forward to seeing her
And realise
In life
In love
That there’s no one quite
Like mum.