jueves, 30 de junio de 2011

Tom Hunks with Julia Roberts

Self-study activity:
Watch this MSNBC video clip featuring Tom Hanks in Today, where he is promoting his latest film, Larry Crowne, co-starring Julia Roberts.

Say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Tom Hanks has won two Oscars.
2 In Larry Crowne he is unemployed.
3 Julia Roberts phoned Tom because she wanted to be in the film.
4 Tom and Julia met when they were 12 years old.
5 Tom did the weather on a TV programme to promote the film.
6 Tom has recently met the Queen.

You can read the transcript here.

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

miércoles, 29 de junio de 2011

R U Revising English

A few weeks ago BBC Schools announced the launch of R U Revising English, which was brought to my attention by Larry Ferlazzo.

R U Revising English is a fun way to revise vocabulary. It is particularly interesting for English Language Learners because it provides audio support for the questions.

martes, 28 de junio de 2011

Grammar challenge

The BBC has a very good website where ELT students can check about their doubts when it comes to understanding grammar issues: Grammar Challenge.

Grammar issues appear listed and with just one click you find a page where an ELT specialist gives you a clear explanation on the grammatical point you need to understand, as well as clear written examples. Explanations can be downloaded as mp3 files so that students can listen to them on the go. It is quite suitable for intermediate/advanced students.

There is also a teacher’s section with ideas to get the best of this website in class.

H/T to Blog and Teach.

lunes, 27 de junio de 2011

Most dangerous job in the world?

While some people would find it unbearable to go anywhere near the edge of a cliff, these Chinese workers are building a 3ft-wide road made of wooden planks on the face of one that’s thousands of feet high. Once finished, it is hoped sightseers will flock to here to edge along and admire the views.

Find out all the details in this Mail Online article.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

domingo, 26 de junio de 2011

Shopping with science

Self-study activity:
Watch this short BBC video clip from the programme Horizon and fill in the gaps in the transctript with only one word.

Professor Lesley Regan – scientist, doctor, and (1) … has been shopping for her perfect, scientifically backed supermarket products.

The two (2) … products she's looked at – low-temperature washing powders and antibacterial cleaners are both (3) … their place in her trolley. It's the food products that were the problem.

Well, I think what we've discovered is that we're all rather impressed by scientific terminology. And I think the food manufacturers know that. And not surprisingly, they use that to impress us and (4) … us to buy their product. Whereas the scientists, I think, were a lot less certain about what the value of these foods thus were.

There is enough scientific evidence to include cholesterol-lowering products. But Prof. Regan is rejecting probiotics – organic food. And the idea of superfoods.

So I think one of the useful things we could advise people when they're trying to (5) … whether they're gonna buy this product or that product or whether this is gonna improve their health or be (6) … to them is that when the manufacturer says 'this can' or, 'it could do something', it will be useful for them to ask the question as the buyer, Why doesn't it tell me that it's been (7) … to work? In which case, there would have to be a trail of science to (8) … that claim. So to 'can' or 'could', I think that's a bit too woolly.

1 consumer 2 non-food 3 worth 4 encourage 5 assess 6 beneficial 7 proven 8 support

sábado, 25 de junio de 2011

How do you spend your day

How do you spend your time is an infographic from The Wall Street Journal I found out through Larry Ferlazzo.

Here you have to complete your own data in saying how you spend your day. Once you have submitted the information, you can compare your data to those of the average American.

The categories you must clasify your activities into are:
Eating and drinking
Attending class
Religious and spiritual activities
Watching TV
Sports, exercise and recreation
Other socializing, relaxing, and leisure

Self-study activity:
Use the categories in How do you spend your time to have a nice little chat with some English friend or relative about your typical day and the way you sometimes break away from that routine.

viernes, 24 de junio de 2011

My Blackberry Sketch

This is the beginning of the Wikipedia entry about The One Ronnie:

The One Ronnie was a one-off comedy television sketch show that aired on BBC One on Christmas Day 2010 to celebrate the 80th birthday of Ronnie Corbett. It featured sketches between Corbett and Lionel Blair, Rob Brydon, James Corden, Jon Culshaw, Harry Enfield, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Miranda Hart, Robert Lindsay, Matt Lucas, Catherine Tate, David Walliams, Richard Wilson and Alan Dedicoat. Charlotte Church also appeared as herself.

At the turn of 2011 Jeffrey Hill included the Blackberry Sketch  below on his blog.

Michelle Henry has also included the sketch on her list of June 2011 links, adding the transcript and an activity.

I hope you enjoy everything.

jueves, 23 de junio de 2011

Second Life on BBC

Self-study activity:
Watch this short segment on Second Life from BBC news and answer the questions below.

1 How much has the city grown in a month?
2 What’s the total of the people who have created fictional versions of themselves?
3 What does Andy do in real life?
4 How do residents pay the goods they buy?
5 What problems are residents suffering?
6 Why did an old resident criticize the new comers?

You can read the transcript here.

1 By half a million people 2 One and half million 3 He’s a college lecturer 4 With real money 5 Land prices are soaring, computer bugs 6 They are just interested in making money

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011

How many households are like yours?

This is a must-read interactive from The New York Times that will allow you to identify how many people and who lives in your household. The interactive also allows you to see how many other households are like yours in the US.

Although most readers of this blog do not live in the US, the interactive gives us a great opportunity to have a look at the variety of family patterns in today's global world.

After the interactive, you can read the main article in The New York Times here.

You can also read this slideshow in preparation for the five-minute video which is embedded  in the main article. The difficulty of the video is quite high, but I think most Intermediate 2 students will find it within their grasp if they have read the article and seen the slideshow beforehand.

martes, 21 de junio de 2011

A Brief Encounter

This is the sixth and final part of this pre-intermediate video course suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Watch the four sections and answer the corresponding questions.

Section one (up to Matt: Nobody wanted to stop.)
Complete the sentences with the suitable option.

a) Matt is looking anxious or relaxed.
b) Matt is looking at the door or at the table.
c) The others ignore Matt or question Matt.
d) Matt met a girl when he was going shopping or going for lunch.
e) The girl was interviewing people or asking for directions.

Section two (up to Mel: Which kind of holiday do you usually prefer?)
Watch and number the things Mel asks about from 1 to 7.

jobs / newspaper / food / entertainment / Oxford / holidays / clothes

Section three (up to Jane: I'll be back in a minute.)
Complete Matt's story with the correct tense of the verbs in brackets.

I ... (want) to ask lots of questions, but she ... (ask) me so many, I ... really ... (not, get) a chance. After the interview, I ... (go) to buy her a coffee. But when I ... (get) back, she ... (go).

Section four (to the end)
Watch this section without sound and answer these questions. Then watch with sound. Were you right?

1 Why does Jane take Matt outside?
2 Do the others know what is happening?
3 What do you think Jane says to Matt while they are walking along the canal?
4 What do you think Matt says to Jane?

Use Twitter? Always Remember these three things

Use Twittter? Always remember these three things is an article from The New York Times Gadgetwise section, which Larry Ferlazzo drew my attention to.

This is the way it begins:

Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation on Thursday was triggered by a Twitter mistake last month that he admitted making.

The only sure way to keep electronic communications from falling into the wrong hands is not to send them at all. For most people today, that’s not a practical option. But you should always consider the risks of sending a message meant for private viewing over the world’s biggest instant-publishing medium.

And these are the three pieces of advice they strongly give:

1 Don’t send anything by direct message you wouldn’t want public.
2 Don’t presume protected tweets will stay private.
3 Turn on Twitter’s secure connection option.

lunes, 20 de junio de 2011

Vancouver kiss

Self-study activity:
Chace has it that only yesterday we posted a promotional video about the city of Vancouver and today's listening activity has to do with this Canadian city again, this time because of a worldwide-famous photo of a young couple kissing in the middle of clashes between the police and rioters. Jeffrey Hill drew my attention to this Newsy video.

Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

1 Rioters in Vancouver were protesting about the economic situation in Canada.
2 The couple is Australian.
3 150 people were injured in the riots.
4 The photographer knew he had got something big, although he hadn’t had time to look at it.
5 The couple has made millions after appearing on some TV shows.

You can read the transcript here.

1F 2F (only the boy) 3T 4F 5F

A dog's tale

This is the fifth part out of six of this pre-intermediate video course.

Watch the video without reading the subtitles and answer the questions corresponding to each section.

Section one (up to Julia: That's just what I was going to say. Thank you.)
Watch the section and complete each sentence with the correct option.

a) They are watching a horror film or a science fiction movie.
b) David thinks the film is stupid or interesting.
c) Helen think the film is good or frightening.
d) Matt thinks the film is exciting or boring.
e) Simon thinks the film is enjoyable or scary.

Section two (up to Helen: I don't know anything about it.)
Are these statements true or false?

a) Helen suggests tea.
b) Simon offers to make it.
c) David mentions a ghost in the kitchen.
d) It's the ghost of a woman.
e) Helen knows about the ghost.

Section three (up to Matt: Yeah.)
Complete the story using the correct active or passive verb form. Then watch the section and check your tenses.

Before this house ... (build), there used to be an old cottage here. An old man ... (live) in it, and he ... (have) a large black dog. And everywhere he ... (go), the dog ... (go) with him. It never ... (leave) him. The man ... (kill) in an accident. A new family ... (move) into the cottage, and the dog ... (take) away by the old man's sister. But that very first evening the dog ... (go) back to the house and ... (start) howling. The owners ... (chase) it away. But it ... (keep) coming back. Every night they ... (chase) it away, every night it ... (come) back and howled. Not long after that, the cottage ... (destroy) by fire. And this house ... (build) ten years later. When they ... (build) this house, they ... (find) the skeleton of a large dog in the cellar. And the neighbour says that sometimes, late at night, a dog ... (hear) howling.

Section four (to the end of the episode)
Answer these questions.

a) What does Simon tell Matt?
b) Why does Matt jump when Jane comes in?
c) What is Jane asking Matt?
d) Why does Matt switch the light back on in his bedroom?

domingo, 19 de junio de 2011

New rules for sunscreens

From The New York Times comes this reading comprehension acitivity about new rules and regulations in the US for sunscreens and sun lotions, with an aim to provide users with more accurate protection against sun rays.

Go to the main article here and try to answer these questions by reading it:

WHO is “thrilled” about the Food and Drug Administration’s new rules for sunscreens?
WHAT are UVA and UVB rays?
WHERE are some agents that are not approved in the United States approved elsewhere in the world?WHEN did rules for sunscreens first come under consideration for federal regulation?
WHY are SPF numbers higher than 50 largely “pointless”?
WHY can’t the new regulations address the most common problem with sunscreens?
HOW big, in dollars, is the domestic market for sunscreens?
HOW many people are treated in the United States each year for the two most common types of skin cancer?


Self-study activity:
Watch this promotional video about Vancouver, British Columbia, and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Asia is within easy reach from Vancouver.
2 Capilano Suspension Bridge is near the city centre.
3 Stanley Park is only suitable for tourists and visitors to walk about and enjoy the park.
4 The sea is 35 minutes away from Vancouver.
5 Vancouver has a great cultural offer, which includes classical music.
6 What makes Vancouver a special place to eat is the fresh food.
7 Vancouver’s nightlife revolves a specific area in the city centre.

You can read the transcript here.

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

Not working out

This is the fourth out of six parts of this video pre-intermediate English course, suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1.

Remember that the video clips are subtitled, so if you wish to check your understanding of the videos, you will have to scroll down the sidebar on your PC up to the point where the subtitles are hidden, although it will stop from you from having a full view of the screen.

Now watch the episode and do the excercises. The episode is divided into four parts.

Section one (up to David weighing himself)
Watch the section and choose the correct option.

a) Matt, Jane and Helen are still hungry or full.
b) David enjoys eating or doesn't like eating.
c) Matt, Jane and Helen are amused by David or annoyed by David.
d) In the bathroom, David is checking his pyjamas or checking his stomach.
e) David is happy with his weight or worried about his weight.

Section two (up to David: Absolutely.)
David is thinking about joining an expensive fitness club.

How much is the club each month?
How much does he have to pay when he joins?
How many days does the club offer a free-trial period?

Section three (up to Tom: Ok, let's start.)
Number the following facilities 1 to 5 as they are mentioned.

a) excercise bike
b) treadmill
c) weight machine
d) rowing machine
e) free weights

Section four (up to the end)
Choose the best option for each of the questions.

a) What is the man in the gym trying to do? Be better than David or be as good as David.
b) Why is he doing this? Because he wants to beat a younger man or because he wants to become fit.
c) How does David feel when the taxi leaves? Pleased or disappointed.

sábado, 18 de junio de 2011

A picture of health

This is the third out of six episodes in the pre-intermediate video course for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Today's episode is divided into four sections. Watch each section without reading the subtitles and answer the questions.

Section one (up to Helen: OK.)
How is Helen feeling? Watch the section and tick her symptons.

sneezing - headache - coughing - feeling sick - temperature - sore throat - body aches - shivering

Section two (up to Helen getting back into bed)
Watch the section and tick the things which Helen does after Matt leaves.

sleeps - reads a book - reads a magazine - watches TV - listens to the radio - drinks soft drinks - drinks soup - eats fruit - eats sweets - stays in bed - sits on the bed

Section three (up to Matt: The perfect cold cure.)
Watch the section and choose the correction option to complete the sentences below.

a) Helen's feeling better / worse.
b) Her throat is still sore / better.
c) She's stayed in bed / got up.
d) She's eaten a sandwich / nothing.
e) She's drunk tea / coffee.

Section four (to the end of the episode)
Watch the final section and say whether the statements below are true or false.

a) Helen isn't feeling hungry.
b) Helen wants to go to work tomorrow.
c) Helen doesn't want to see Simon immediately.
d) Simon wants Helen to get ready to go out.
e) Helen feels too ill to go out.
f) Simon agrees to take Jane to see the salsa band.

Oh, My Stars

June 14 is known around US as Flag Day, a celebration of the Second Continental Congress' adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.

Though it's not a national holiday, that doesn't mean there's no reason to celebrate. So, The Huffington Post has compiled an interactive infographic that will allow you to have some "clicky" fun with the flag.

The slideshow is also a good way of revising the names of US states and their location in the map.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

viernes, 17 de junio de 2011

A Bit of English

A Bit of English is an interesting site to learn English. You can find videos with subtitles, songs, online lessons, tips.

H/T to Just Blogging.

A perfect day

This is the second part out of six of the pre-intermediate video course we are posting these days, suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Today's episode is subtitled in English, so if you really wish to develop your listening skills you will have to scroll down the side bar up to a point where you cannot read the subtitles. You will not get full view of the movie, but you'll be seeing enough of it to follow the story and put your listening ability to the test.

Here are some activities you can do to test your comprehension of the episode.

Section one (up to Helen: Ready.)
Watch the section and choose the correct alternative for each question.

a) Who is Simon? Helen's boyfriend or a neighbour.
b) Why is she talking to him? She likes him or She likes his car.
c) What was the weather like yesterday? Very nice or not very good.
d) How did Helen feel about Simon's invitation? Nervous or pleased.
e) How did Helen feel talking to Jane? Uncomfortable or relaxed.
f) Why didn't she tell Jane about meeting Simon? It was a secret or she was too shy.

Section two (up to Matt: Ok. I'll go and get something.)
What does the following things, Jane, Matt or David?

a) Who suggests a picnic?
b) Who thinks it is a good idea?
c) Who offers to make sandwiches?
d) Who offers to help?
e) Who suggests a video camera?
f) Who offers to get some drinks?

Section three (up to Jane: It's just through here.)
Answer these questions.

How is Helen feeling while she and Simon are on the boat?
Why is Helen looking back?
How is David feeling?

Section four (up to the end of the episode)
Answer these questions.

a) Where were Simon and Helen hiding?
b) How was Helen looking while she was watching the video?
c) Why did Jane look at Helen?

Now you can watch the episode again and read the subtitles to check the answers.

jueves, 16 de junio de 2011

People who became nouns

Before there were silhouettes, there was a Silhouette. And before there was gerrymandering, there was a Gov. Gerry. It's easy to forget that some of the English language's most common words had real-life namesakes in living, breathing people.

Another example is Dr Henry Heimlich: Helping Us Breathe Easy. The American doctor created the procedure for using abdominal thrusts to eject material that's causing someone to choke, i.e., the Heimlich maneuver.

Read this Life slideshow to find out more.

A clean sweep

This is the first episode out of six of this video course for pre-intermediate students. It is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students. Watch the video and do the activities below.

Section one ( up to Helen: That does it!)
Watch the section and choose the correct option.

a) What time is it? Breakfast time or lunchtime.
b) Who is listening to music? Matt or David.
c) Who is reading? Jane or Helen.
d) Who is eating toast? David or Matt.
e) Who is drinking from Helen's cup? Matt or Jane.
f) Where is the milk? On the table or in the fridge.
g) Where is the bread? On the table or in the bread bin.
h) Where are the cups? In the sink or in the cupboard.
i) How is Helen feeling? Annoyed or cheerful.

Section two (up to Helen: Good)
Watch the section and complete the information on the rota.

Rota: 8th-15th September
Jane: - cleaning ....... + ........ at the weekend
David: - doing ...... + ....... on Friday
Matt: - cleaning ....... + ....... Mon-Wed
Helen: - ...... living-room + ....... Thur-Fri

Section three (to the end of the episode)
Watch the section and say whether these statements are true or false.

a) Helen's first rota wasn't a success.
b) Helen used the same rota for the second week.
c) Helen and Jane both went shopping.
d) David and Matt were helping each other to do the cleaning.
e) Helen destroyed the second rota.

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

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

Japanese beat the heat with Hawaiian shirts

Self-study activity:
Listen to this news report from NPR, which tells us about the latest ideas of some Japanese companies to cut costs and their effect on the workplace and dress codes.

Answer these questions:

1 Why are there power shortages in Japan?
2 How many elevators are working in the Environmnet Ministry?
3 What temperature have air conditioners been limited to?
4 How much energy does Super Cool Biz expect to save?
5 What would have happened if employees had worn Hawaiian clothes last year?
6 Are more Hawaiian shirts being sold?
7 Do administration officials approve of this new dress code at work?

You can read the transcript here.
1 Because of the tsunami and earthquake 2 Half of them 3 Eighty-two degrees 4 Ten per cent 5 They would have been fired 6 Yes 7 No

Go Go News

A few days ago Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers, informed about Go Go News.

Go Go News is a news website designed for school students. The site features many short news stories that can be read and listened to. The stories that Go Go News covers aren't hard, breaking news stories. The stories are more of an interesting and educational nature.

martes, 14 de junio de 2011

The importance of friendliness

Self-study activity:
How important is being friendly in life?

We are going to watch a short presentation about the importance of friendliness at work.

Before that, go over the list of topics below and discuss with an English-speaking friend or relative the statements below. Do you agree with them? To what extent can you apply them to your everyday life or work situation?

A friendly staff attract loyal customers
An angry boss transfers his/her mood to the others
Bosses set the tone for the rest of the people in the company
There are several degrees of friendliness in your place of work
Friendliness is a top quality
Friendliness should be a contagious disease
The atmosphere at work must be fun

Now watch the video and number the topics in the order in which they are mentioned.

You can read the transcript here.

1 Friendliness, a top quality; 2 Degrees of friendliness in your place of work; 3 A friendly staff attract loyal customers; 4 Bosses set the tone for the rest of the people in the company; 5 Friendliness should be a contagious disease; 6 An angry boss transfers his/her mood to the others; 7 The atmosphere at work must be fun

What the internet killed

It’s hard to imagine life without some of the technological innovations of the last decade. But in a world where connectivity is everywhere, there are some traditions, values, and just plain ways of life that we no longer adhere to. Here’s a sampling of casualties due to our constant mobile and Internet connections.

lunes, 13 de junio de 2011

Spelling quizzes

I have been meaning to inform about Joanne Rudling's spelling blog for some time now and today's finally the day.

Here you can find some practical tips on how to improve your spelling together with activities to put your spelling skills to the test.

Drop by Joanne Rudling's spelling blog and spend some time browsing through it and doing the interactive quizzes.

Click on the picture below to be directed to the quizzes on the site.

Two commercials

Self-study activity:
The listening activities below are both taken from English Central and are meant to be designed for elementary students (A1 and A2), but I have my reservations about it. I think their level fits in the intermediate range. Anyway, everybody can give them a go.

Watch the commercials and fill in the blanks with the missing information.

Commercial 1: Eminem -Lipton brisk iced tea

I get asked to do commercials all the time and I always say the same thing.
First, I need some hot (1) ______________________s.
Second, we film at my house so I ain't gotta go anywhere.
Third, I record my own (2) _____________________.
Bring it, cool refreshing (3) _______________________, drink it!
But once I try their products, I always hate 'em!
So I bounce.
Damn! That is pretty (4) __________________!
But I got one final demand.
No, we can't change the name to (5) _____________________, shut up and drink it.
See? That's why I don't do commercials.

Commercial 2: Adidas this is the truth

Adidas: This is the truth
This is the truth.
I'm not the (1) __________________
Not the greatest of all time.
I'm not here to shout, boast, or preach.
I'm not the (2) _____________ (3) ___________________.
I'm not there yet, but...
I'm runnin' up on you.
I'm fast because I'm (4) _______________________.
I'm (5) ___________________ and fast don't (6) ____________________.

Key to Eminem:
1 chicks 2 song 3 iced tea 4 good 5 Eminem

Key to Adidas:
1 best 2 second 3 coming 4 light 5 D. Rose 6 lie

domingo, 12 de junio de 2011

I hate my job

I hate my job is a work-related site that features lots of issues related to whatever happens in the workplace. Some of them are:

How to get a rise
Things to consider before you leave
A terrible boss
Top 10 reasons why people leave their jobs
How to reduce stress at work
5 things that would make your job better
Anger at work
Interview tips

A very interesting feature of the site is a collection of websites for jobseekers.
I hate my job should be really appealing to those interested in work-related topics. The only minus I can find is that most of the articles the site deals with have a negative ring around them, as you can check for yourself by going through the list I compiled above.

Google goes Gaga

Self-study activity:
This is an excerpt from the interview that Lady Gaga held at Google Inc. early this year. Watch this English Central clip and answer the questions below.

1 Where was Lady Gaga the first time she heard one of her songs on the radio?
2 Did Lady Gaga become an overnight star?
3 What was she going to do when she heard it?
4 How did she react?
5 When was the moment that she realized she was going to be a superstar?
6 Why didn’t Google want to be known that she was being interviewed today?
7 Why did Lady Gaga want it to be known?
8 What’s Lady Gaga’s work in any of her songs?

You can watch the whole interview with Lady Gaga in YouTube. It takes upwards of an hour and it comes complete with English subtitles.

1 Canada 2 No 3 She was about to start a show 4 She started crying 5 She doesn't feel a superstar even now 6 For security reasons 7 To promote her new album 8 She's involved in everything

sábado, 11 de junio de 2011

Big city, small world

Big City Small World is a series of listening clips related to a group of young people from all across the world who live together in London.

Every unit deals with different topics and contains different tasks which can be downloaded and printed. You can optionally read the transcript of the audio as you do the activity.

The topics are really catchy and up to date.

H/T to Blog and Teach.

Interview with Rafa Nadal

A few days ago D Deubel published this slideshow as an example of what teachers can do with the Proust Questionnaires from Vanity Fair magazine.

David thinks that this kind of speaking task is suitable for advanced students, but let me disagree. Given thinking time, even stron elementary students (Básico 2) can deal with some of the questions.

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

Also, make a point of reading this feature from Vanity Fair and read how other important public names have answered the questionnaire.

You can see the slides in full size by clicking here. And you can also listen to the questions by clicking on the loudspeaker icon on the top left hand corner.

viernes, 10 de junio de 2011

Democracy for kids

Democracy for kids is a site Larry Ferlazzo informed about a few weeks ago.

This is the way Ferlazzo himself described the site:

“Democracy Kids” is a nice series of interactives designed to teach young people about how the United States government operates. It provides audio support for the text, which makes it particularly accessible to English Language Learners. It’s sponsored by several respected civic organizations, including the National Conference of State Legislatures.

jueves, 9 de junio de 2011


Self-study activity:
Listen to this NPR news report on Sam Fuller, a sixteen-year-old Californian boy who is grateful to his parents for unschooling him, and answer the questions below.

You might find it difficult to understand everything Sam or his family says, but just try to concentrate on the answers to the questions below.

1 How many American kids are home-schooled?
2 Why did Sam learn how to read?
3 How many brother and sisters does Sam have?
4 Who is worried about this unschooling business?
5 What did Sam learn to do last year?
6 Is Sam planning to study at university?

You can read the transcript here.
1 two million 2 to play a card game 3 one brother, Nicky, 12 4 the grandfather 5 how to spell 6 yes

The Science of Hamburgers

From The New York Times comes this reading activity, which is based on an article published in the Science Times.

Read the article and fill in the eighteen gaps in the text with only one word. You can use your own imagination or, if you find this exercise too demanding, you can choose from the list of words provided at the bottom of the article.

To check your answers you can read the original article here.

You can also listen to a lengthy podcast about the topic by going to this part in the original article:

miércoles, 8 de junio de 2011

How to deal with extreme heat

The time of the year when we have to suffer schorching temperatures is getting closer and closer, so why not get ready for it?

Read this information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to learn how to recognise and respond to signs of extreme heat.

Our best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in our fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help us remain safe and healthy.

Click on the picture below to find out more.

Genetic code for monogamy

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

1 Prairie voles behave like humans.
2 There is a more promiscuous type of vole.
3 The brain of both kinds of vole was similar to that of humans.
4 Young injected a virus into the brain of the prairie vole.
5 In his experiment Young tied two male voles in a box and finally he introduced a female vole.
6 In the experiment the vole injected with a virus chose the partner he/she had mated with.

You can read the transcript here.

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martes, 7 de junio de 2011

Oceans Great Barrier Reef

Self-study activity:
Watch this short clip from the National Geographic on Australian Great Barrier Reef and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 There are more than 2,000 reefs submerged in Queensland.
2 Sharks can be found in the Great Barrier Reef.
3 The Great Barrier Reef is compared to the jungle.
4 Some corals provide food and shelter to other forms of life.
5 The video suggests that algae are more important than corals in the Great Barrier Reef.
6 Turtles will travel thousands of kilometers to lay their eggs on the Barrier Reef’s islands.
7 The Great Barrier Reef was designated as a World Heritage site in 1975.
8 The most ancient corals date back to 20,000 years ago.

You can read the transcript here.

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The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes

The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes makes a more than insteresting read from Matador. Compiled by editor Lola Akerström, it shows the ideas that famous names from the world of art and literature harbour about travelling.

Here you can read Lola's top choices:

1. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

2. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

3. “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

4. “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative, choose some of the quotes that drew your attention and discuss them.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011


Self-study activity:
Today's listening activity has been devised for lower-level students.

Watch this short clip form the National Geographic and complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing words.

Contrary to popular opinion, frogs aren’t just selective (1) …, feasting only on flies. Take the bullfrog, for example. They’ll eat (2) …, scorpions, rodents, (3) …, fish, and just about anything else that passes in front of them. But how do they manage to be such eating (4) …? Bullfrogs don’t have big claws, sharp beaks, or fangs. Yet they overcome pinchers, poisons, and spicy stingers with a mouth as big as the great (5) … . Ready to swallow just about anything.

They’ve been known to swim 20 (6) … to shore and hop an additional 15-20 feet, grab a meal, turn around, and hop back into the pond. They’ve even been known to stalk (7) … like a lion on the prowl. Eating them wing, beak, and all. And they don’t stop at their feathered friends. They’ll even eat (8) … … .

A small bullfrog that doesn’t watch its (9) … can easily become food for a bigger frog. They are quite cannibalistic. A young bullfrog must quickly learn one simple froggy fact. Eat whatever it (10) … , just don’t end up on someone else’s menu.

1 eaters 2 spiders 3 snakes 4 machines 5 outdoors 6 feet 7 birds 8 each other 9 step 10 wants

How "OK" took the world over

Interesting article from the BBC News Magazine which tries to throw some light on the story of the most commonly used word, OK.

This is the beginning of the article:

'It crops up in our speech dozens of times every day, although it apparently means little. So how did the word "OK" conquer the world, asks Allan Metcalf.

"OK" is one of the most frequently used and recognised words in the world.

It is also one of the oddest expressions ever invented. But this oddity may in large measure account for its popularity.'

Click on the picture to read on.

domingo, 5 de junio de 2011

All you need to know about Facebook

Do you use Facebook?
How often do you check Facebook on your computer?
How often do you check Facebook on your mobile phone?
How many friends do you have on Facebook?
What are the biggest concerns about the use of Facebook?
Has your usage of Facebook increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last year?
Do you see your group of friends ever leaving Facebook?

Self-study activity:
These are the first seven questions out of eighteen that 418 US consumers under the age of 50 answered about their usage of Facebook for a Bank of America survey. You can read their answers and some comments here.

But why don't you get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and use the same questions as a springboard for conversation practice around the topic of Facebook and Social Networking sites?

Customer Service

Self-study activity:
Watch this presentation about what offering good customer service means and answer the questions below.

Please, don't miss out the last minute of the presentation, as the man giving the talk reads out some webpage addresses, which can come in handy for us to learn how to do so.

1 What does £55 refer to?
2 Why did the shop assistant pick up a box?
3 How old is Mr Frankfurness’s son (the guy giving the presentation)?
4 How often do they shop in the son’s favourite shop?
5 Where does Mr Frankfurness’s son study?
6 What does the shop assistant do for 10 minutes?
7 What does the shop assistant do at the checkout?
8 What does the shop assistant do when they are outside the shop?

You can read the transcript here.

1 The difference in price between the two fax machines? 2 To read the characteristics of the fax machine 3 Eighteen 4 Every six months 5 In England 6 Establishing rapport (friendly relationship) 7 Some discount 8 He calls his son back and ask him to choose anything he wishes for free.

sábado, 4 de junio de 2011

10 Simple Steps to a Successful Garage Sale

A garage sale -or selling anything second-hand for that matter- can be a great way to clean out your closets and make some extra cash. But if paying customers can't find you aren't interested in what you have to offer, your hard work can quickly turn into a wasted Saturday morning.

Garage sales aren't complicated, but they can be intimidating if you've never had one before. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can follow to ensure that your garage sale is a huge success.

From Wise Bread [living large on a small budget] comes the online article 10 Simple Steps to a Successful Garage Sale offering practical advice on the art of second-hand sales, with tips ranging from "Sell the right stuff" to "Advertise" or "Make your sale visually appealing".

CNN Student News: End of school year

Today's episode is the last episode of CNN Student News for the 2010-2011 school year. They'll be taking the summer off and returning in the fall. Today's episode gives a run down of the top stories of the year as determined by CNN Student News and viewer comment.

In the meantime, let us remind you of the fact that CNN Student News comes complete with a transcript and that it is a more than suitable site for intermediate students to get news update from while being initiated in the process of authentic TV viewing.

viernes, 3 de junio de 2011

10 Funny Public Service Ads about Serious Issues

The Huffington Post has collected 10 videos which try to raise awareness on serious issues while presenting them in a light-hearted way.

Anyone who's ever had to raise a sensitive or difficult subject knows there's nothing like humor to break the ice. Armed with this approach, the non-profit Ad Council has, over the years, developed a number of very funny public service ads that seek to educate and inform about all kinds of serious issues -- such as obesity, cancer, and adoption.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend and discuss the issues each of the ads show. How important are they in your country? Do you personally know anyone affected by any of the problems? How effective do you think each ad is? What other ways to raise people's awareness can you think about?

Goodbye, food pyramid; hello, dinner plate

The US government launched a campaign last week to encourage Americans to fill up half their diet with fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugary drinks and oversized portions.

My Plate lines up with the government's dietary guidelines released in January, which stress:

Balance Calories
Enjoy your food, but eat less.
Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
Make at least half of your grains whole grains.

Foods to Reduce
Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals. Choose foods with lower numbers.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Read the full article on PBS.

The New York Times also published an article on the same topic a few days ago. You can read it here.

jueves, 2 de junio de 2011

How to tell someone you are angry

From The Wall Street Journal comes this extraordinary article about an effective way to show those around us that we are not happy with them. The article comes complete with a video and a radio podcast.

These are the opening paragraphs:

Darling, can we talk?

"I know you didn't mean to upset me, but you did. I'd like to clear the air so we can quickly and maturely move on to enjoying our relationship again

Sound familiar? Of course not. In a culture where it's easy to fire off a snippy email or text, most of us have a hard time honestly expressing anger face to face. If someone upsets us, often we shout, stomp off, roll our eyes, refuse to speak to the person or complain to everyone else. Or we kid ourselves that we aren't upset and subconsciously fume—until one day we explode over the seemingly littlest thing.

Computer viruses

Self-study activity:
Watch the latest video by Commoncraft, about the way computer viruses spread, the different kinds of threats a virus poses and how we can deal with them, and answer the questions below.

You may have a high degree of expertise in computers, which may come in handy to deal with the questions, even if you haven't understood what is actually said on the video. Please, only use the information provided on the video, which may be a bit general, as a complex process is explained in three-minute footage.

1 What disease is computer viruses compared to?
2 Who designs the computer programmes in the virus?
3 How does a virus reach a computer?
4 Is it possible that a worm infects a computer which is not connected in a network?
5 Where can we find trojans?
6 How can we avoid trojans?

You can read the transcript here.

1 Flu 2 Criminals 3 When we click on a file sent in an attachment or an USB drive 4 No 5 In games or software 6 By downloading software from sites we trust

miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011

Writing a restaurant review

Candice, from Epinions, gives us some clues on how to write an effective restaurant review. It all boils down to answering the following questions:

1. What type of food do you like to eat?
2. Give the details of the restaurant you are reviewing.
3. What is the dress code?
4. Describe the atmosphere.
5. Describe the menu.
6. What did you order?
7. Describe the service.
8. Price
9. Overall / Conclusion

Click on the image below to find out more details about how to write a restaurant review and click here to read an example of the review Candice wrote about the restaurant Old Glory.

Inside Liz Taylor's mansion

Self-study activity:
Margaret Russell of Architectural Digest Magazine talks about Liz Taylor’s Bel Air home in Hollywood in MSNBC’s Today.

Say whether the statements below are true or false after watching the clip.

1 The house has been listed for sale for $6.8.
2 "Architectural Digest" took photographs of the house right after the actress’s death.
3 Liz Taylor’s house had been photographed many times.
4 "Architectural Digest" took one day to complete the shooting session.
5 The house is huge.
6 The house is 70,000 square feet.
7 A lot of works of art can be seen in the house.
8 Liz Taylor was involved in charity work.

You can read the transcript here.
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