domingo, 31 de julio de 2011

How patient are you when queueing?

One of the features we intend to introduce on this blog for the 2011-2012 school year is a talking point, similar to that of it's for twitters or The Learning Network from The New York Times.

This way, a group of students can arrange to get together to discuss the talking point in question after having done some preparation for it, usually with the help of a newspaper article.

As an example of what we have in mind, here's the talking point of queueing, which I have found through it's for twitters.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and arrange a day and a time to discuss the topic of queueing.

Before your conversation session, read this MailOnline article so that you can discuss it with your friend and have some kind of springboard to fall back on.

You can also devise a miniquestionnaire to help you structure your session somehow:

Is the situation in Spain similar to that in the UK?
How often do you queue or have to wait for something?
Have you ever lost your temper in a queue?
Have you ever jumped the queue or seen someone do so?
What can you do to help you kill time while queueing up?

sábado, 30 de julio de 2011

Irregular verbs game

This is an online grammar game that I have found out through Patricia Pérez, from The English You Need blog.

It is good reading practice and good grammar revision of the irregular verbs in English with varying degrees of difficulty, but it is specially suitable for lower level students, Básico 1 and Básico (elementary).

You can play on your own or two people can play together, with what we can add a nice touch of competition to the game. We can also select the difficulty, ranging from easiest (100) to most difficult (500). The verbs are separated in groups, according to the first letter of the infinitive.

viernes, 29 de julio de 2011

Ten reasons businesses fail

Self-study activity:
Today's activity will work out far better if you manage to do it with someone else. It is suitable for intermediate students.

Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and before watching Randy Kirk's video try to come up with some ideas of your own: In your opinion, why do (small) businesses fail?

Now listen to Randy discussing his 10 reasons why businesses fail, which he thoroughly describes in his book Running a 21st Century Small Business and just note down the 10 reasons he suggests.

As an extension of the listening activity, you can try and say in your own words the explanations Randy offers for each of the reasons he mentions.

You can read a very accurate trancript of the video by activating the CC on the bottom right-hand corner of the YouTube screen. Choose 'Transcribe audio' and select 'Accept'.

1 Inadequate capital
2 the product or service isn’t needed
3 underpricing
4 excessive overhead
5 insufficient time commitment from the owner
6 bad luck or poor timing
7 a poor understanding of the business
8 a problem location
9 poor accounting controls
10 internal theft

jueves, 28 de julio de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this four-minute video about Venice from the YouTube Oxford University Channel and choose the correct answer for sentences one to six.

1 Venice welcomes about 1,500,000 / 15,000,000 tourists a year.
2 Venice is protected from the sea by a piece of land / tidal barrier.
3 The irst people in Venice were Roman soldiers / refugees.
4 There is / isn’t an industrial area near to Venice.
5 The increase in loods is due to higher tides / local industry.
6 The planned tidal gates in the MOSE project will be up all of the time / some of the time.

You can read the transcript here.

1 15,000,000 - 2 piece of land - 3 refugees - 4 is - 5 higher tides - 6 some of the time

miércoles, 27 de julio de 2011

Bye-bye, textbooks

It's no surprise that a lot of students are obsessed with their mobile devices. What may come as a surprise, though, is the fact that these digital devices may someday replace textbooks all together—and it may be sooner than we think! South Korea recently announced that by the year 2015, all paper textbooks will be replaced with digital textbooks available on mobile devices such as tablets and e-readers.

Read this infographic from and find out all the facts about the current situation of textbooks in the educational system. You will be able to read all the data on the infographic more easily by double-clicking on the picture.

Digital devices to replace textbooks
Courtesy of:

A middle-of-the road solution in the meantime seems to be the idea of renting textbooks, as Amazon recently suggested with Kindle. Click here to find out more about the idea.

martes, 26 de julio de 2011

The new London bus

Self-study activity:
Watch this four-minute video about the new bus for London and say whether the statements 1-5 below are true or false.

1 You can see the streets from the stairs.
2 The new bus is heavier than other buses.
3 The new buses are already operating in London.
4 A second crew member is at the back of the bus.
5 The name of the new bus is Boris.

You can read the transcript here, which I found on English on Target.

1T 2F 3F 4F 5F

lunes, 25 de julio de 2011

William and Kate interview in full

When did William propose to Kate?
Whose ring did William give Kate?
How did William's and Kate's families react at the news?
How many children are William and Kate planning to have?
When did they set eyes on each other?
Have they ever lived together?
When did each meet their partner's family?
Is it true that they really split up once?
Is William's mother casting a long shadow over Kate?

These are some of the questions that William and Kate answered on their BBC interview in November 2010 when they announced their engagement.

We posted a listening activity based on a YouTube clip on this blog about the event back then, but YouTube deleted the videoclip and so we were obliged to erase the activity.

Now thanks to Nadia Zaramella, from A Little Brit of Us, I have managed to spot the interview in full on the BBC site, together with a full transcript that she is providing.

The whole interview is a bit lengthy, 17+ minutes, and only suitable for strong intermediate students, but I guess we can do a number of thing to get to grips with it all:

1 Watch through and see how much you understand.
2 Watch first, read the transcript later on, and watch again.
3 Watch and read at the same time.

Whatever you do, you have tons of listening and reading material to get you through for some during the summer break.

Thank you, Nadia.

domingo, 24 de julio de 2011

200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes

Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. A few months ago he explored stats in a way he had never done before - using augmented reality animation.

In this section of BBC's 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.

There is no task attached to the video. Simply enjoy Hans Rosling's presentation and try to understand as much as you can.

You can also read the transcript here, which I found on the blog A little Brit of us.

sábado, 23 de julio de 2011

Pool's out for summer

Read this The New York Times article which explains the reason why some public swimming-pools have been closed this summer and try to find the answer to the questions below from The Learning Network.

WHY are some public pools around the United States closed this summer?
WHAT are some of the “substantial expenses that accompany public water holes”?
WHAT are some of the effects of closing public pools on communities?
WHAT photo in
this slide show do you think best illustrates this article?
WHEN, according to Bill Beckner, are budget negotiations that result in closing pools often held?
HOW have some city officials avoided closing pools?
HOW has the recession affected public services in your area?
WHO does City Councilman Ed Gonzalez of Houston imply will be hurt most by the pool closings in his area?

viernes, 22 de julio de 2011

Halle Berry and The Most Interesting Man in the World

Self-study activity:
Here are two well-known commercials. Watch them and fill in the blanks in the transcripts with the missing words.

Halle Berry and the Crispy M&M

So, you're that new crispy M&M's guy, huh?
What, are you trying to get me (1) … ?
What do you mean?
Just look at this (2) …  . I'm chocolate. I'm crispy.
I just got this feeling once word gets out.....
You know, I read (3) …  .
Give me your (4) …  .
Do you see my lifeline?
Mmm-hmm. It ends right here.
Wow, that's amazing!
With the glove and everything, I didn't think you could make out...
Oh! Could I have my (5) … back?
Not this time, little guy.
Alright! Make it (6) …  .

The Most Interesting Man in the World

People hang on his every (1) … ,
even the (2) …   .
He could disarm you with his looks...
or his hands,......either way.
He can speak (3) … in (4) …  .
He is the most interesting man in the world.
I don't always drink (5) …  But when I do,...
I (6) … Dos Equis.
Stay (7) …, my friends.

Halle Berry: 1 killed 2 body 3 palms 4 hand 5 hand 6 quick
The Most Interesting Man: 1 word 2 prepositions 3 French 4 Russian 5 beer 6 prefer 7 thirsty

jueves, 21 de julio de 2011

Green Revolution

Green Revolution is a website from the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…". It is based in Virginia, USA.

Green Revolution was created in 2010 with the idea of promoting a fresh take on cutting edge research to develop and improve the use of clean energy sources. To do so, information is presented around a series of short videos around different topics: city car; green roofs; electric vehicles; microbes; wind; solar; and so on.

All in all, Green Revolution allows us to develop our listening skills while getting acquainted with environmental topics and the new technology that will make the Earth a cleaner planet. Transcripts are forthcoming.

miércoles, 20 de julio de 2011

Pulse of the city

A few days ago, we published an entry about the Land Rover campaign Evoque. By popular demand, here is another video in the series, Daisy Lowe on London, this time for lower level students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and fill in the blanks in the transcript below.

The mood of the city is really (1) ...  . It’s really vibrant ‘cause the sun is shining and everyone’s really happy and bouncy, which is a really (2) ... for October.

I love the drive across any of the (3) ... going along the South Bank. I love driving around through that part of London like around Westminster and the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I just think it’s all so (4) ...  .

And then you get the water, too. I love being near water. I think the people in London make me the most (5) ... of the city. I think what comes out of it is such great music, and such great art, and such great films, and such great (6) ...  . I think that London it’s really a (7) ... of its parts.

When I’m ever away from my city I miss (8) ... dinners. I miss going to the park.  And yeah, I miss the spirit of Londoners when I’m away.

1 happy 2 surprise 3 bridges 4 beautiful 5 proud 6 fashion 7 sum 8 roast

martes, 19 de julio de 2011

Playing time

Here are two funny games that can help us while away these summer days and help us improve our English a little bit.

The first one is called Read your mind. Just click on the name of the game and follow the genie's intructions on the ensuing screens.

The second game has to do with pronunciation and is called Magic Shell Trick. I learnt about it from DDeubel.

Same idea. Click on the name of the game above and follow the instructions.

lunes, 18 de julio de 2011

Word on the Street

Word on the Street is a good website by The British Council and the BBC.

It consists of a series of chapters dealing with everyday situations and cultural aspects and icons of British life: Bestival music festival, cooking for friends, Loch Ness, A night out, Blackpool, Transport and travel, Oxford, Notting Hill, Snowdon , Camden.

The episodes are divided in scenes, which help learners to focus first on comprehension, where we can watch the situation. These are followed by work more focused on linguistic aspects which are exemplified with parts of the previous clip. Some brief explanations are highlighted on the screen in order to clarify those linguistic aspects that must be learnt. Finally, these clips are followed by some drills to help students evaluate what they have learnt in the episode.

The videos can be downloaded and transcripts are available.

domingo, 17 de julio de 2011

Communicating effectively

This is a really nice presentation by Allan Gillies about the art of communicating effectively.

Think about the ideas Allan puts forward and enjoy the visual impact of the pictures.

sábado, 16 de julio de 2011

Nasa shuttle era ends

From PBS Newshour comes this video activity about the Shuttle's final voyage. This is their summary of the news item:

Despite troublesome weather, space shuttle Atlantis blasted into orbit for the final time Friday with a four-person crew and a payload of food for the International Space Station. Judy Woodruff and science correspondent Miles O'Brien discuss this final mission, the end of the space shuttle era and what's next for NASA.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say what the following figures refer to.

3 decades
12 days
$100 billion

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

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

viernes, 15 de julio de 2011

How do you pronounce -ed endings?

-ed endings are a usual bone of contention among English students, and not only at lower levels. On occasion, one comes across some strong intermediate and even advanced students who grapple with this pronunciation point.

Bren Brennan from St George International School published a more than interesting pronunciation activity yesterday which gives intermediate-to-advanced students the opportunity to revise the pronunciation of -ed endings in a funny and engaging way.

Bren found the perfect excuse to come up with -ed endings to comment on the news of Harper Seven, Vicky and David Beckham's newborn baby daughter. He has also included the audio file, which is perfect for those students working on their own.

If you still need further revision on -ed endings, you can find a similar activity on St George International School about some WWII documents by clicking on the Pronunciation tag of their web.

I would also like to grab the opportunity to recommend St George International blog, as they regularly publish interesting entries and activities for both students and teachers.

Present perfect vs past simple glogster

A few days ago Daniela Tomatis from The Machine Goes on blog published a glogster (interactive poster) to explain the differences of usage between present perfect and past simple, while providing some activitities for students to practise this grammar point.

On Daniela's glogster you will find two video explanations (one in Italian, the other one in English), two interactive activities, two games, and two 'post-its' on irregular verbs, which include pronunciation work.

All in all, this glogster is an entertaining and useful tool for students to come to grips with the differences between the present perfect and past simple.

Thank you, Daniela.

jueves, 14 de julio de 2011

The Mini

The Mini is a video lesson of International Express, Oxford University Press, which is available to us through Oxford's YouTube channel.

The Mini lends itself to a nice integrated skills activity, which we can do with a friend or relative who also speaks English or on our own.

Self-study activity:
Discuss these questions with a friend, or record yourself if when answering them if you are working alone.

1 What kind of car do you own? Why did you choose that make?
2 How many makes of British car can you name?
3 Is the Mini popular in your country? Why (not)?
4 The Mini is described as a British icon, but what would be considered icons of your country?

Now watch the four-minute video on the Mini and answer the following questions below.

a Which example of British design is described as unsuccessful?
b Why did Morris want a small car to be designed?
c How long did it take Alex Issigonis to design the first Mini?
d How was the space inside the car used?
e What was the commercial problem with the Mini?
f What happened to the Mini in 2001?

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

miércoles, 13 de julio de 2011

The end of Harry Potter?

"Harry Potter's final battle with Lord Voldemort will hit movie screens on July 15 but that young wizard has already scored a decisive victory where it counts: at the box office, on best-seller lists and in the crowded arena of fantasy-driven popular culture. J. K. Rowling, a single mother when she hatched a series of magical boarding-school novels, has ascended to an Oprah-like level of wealth and influence, while Harry, with more than $6 billion in tickets sold globally, has surpassed James Bond as the top-grossing movie-franchise hero."

This is the first paragraph of The New York Times article on the release of the last film of the Harry Potter series, which includes all the trailers of the eight films, and an interesting interactive with everything related to Harry Potter from the very beginning.

But The New York Times goes far beyond, as they have compiled in The Learning Network everything which has to do with Harry Potter they have managed to find in their archives, from fill-in the blanks activities, to multimedia, to reviews, to readers' opinions, to Harry Potter web sites, to parodies. In short, the wealth of resources is endless and caters for all tastes.

martes, 12 de julio de 2011

What inspires you about your city?

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer these questions about your city.

What inspires you about your city?
What's your perfect drive in your city?
What makes you proud of your city?

These are the three leading questions of the ingenious publicity campaign Evoque by car-manufacturer Land Rover.

Now listen to one of the participants in the campaign answer the three questions about his home city, London, and try to take notes of his answers.

You can read a transcript here to check your answers.

You can listen to many other Land Rover drivers who took part in the campaign answer the same questions about their home cities on the Evoque home page.

All in all Evoque gives us an opportunity to listen to authentic, unscripted English while getting to know some of the most beautiful cities in the world.

lunes, 11 de julio de 2011

How chips are made

From Busy Teachers comes this video activity based on a Discovery Channel TV show.

Self-study activity:
Watch the four-minute video clip and fill in the blanks in sentences 1-15 with the missing information.

1. Chips have to be made with fresh potatoes in order to avoid … .
2. The brushing machine removes the … from the potatoes.
3. After the brushing machine, potatoes go to the … .
4. The peeler can peel … pounds of potatoes per hour.
5. After being peeled, the potatoes are classified by … .
6. The slicer blades can be adjusted to different thicknesses or … .
7. A regular potato gives about … chips.
8. The slices are washed in cold, fresh … for about … .
9. The oil to fry the slices has a temperature of … .
10. The slices are fried for … .
11. After being fried the potatoes receive a shower of … .
12. Chips with defects are detected by an … .
13. The chips are later sprayed with powder seasonings of different … .
14. Finally a machine … and separates the chips to be packaged.
15. The whole process from raw potato to chip takes … .

Remember you can get an approximate transcript of the video clip by activating the closed captions (cc) on the lower part of the YouTube clip. After clicking on cc, click on Transcribir audio and select Aceptar.

1 black spots; 2 dirt; 3 peeler;  4 twelve thousand; 5 size; 6 shape; 7 thirty-six; 8 water - one minute; 9 375ºF; 10 three minutes; 11 salt; 12 camera; 13 flavours; 14 weighs; 15 fifteen minutes

domingo, 10 de julio de 2011

Immigrant stories

There are three million immigrants in New York City. When they left home, knowing it could be forever, they packed what they could not bear to leave behind: necessities, luxuries, memories. Here is a look at what some of them brought, and that The New York Times is showing to us.

sábado, 9 de julio de 2011

The structure of a family tree today

Family relationships aren't so easy to explain as they used to be.
Read The New York Times article Who's On The Family Tree? Now It's Complicated to find out the intricacies of today's family and personal relationships.

In the same article you can also find the example of Mr Okun's family tree to illustrate the point being made. You can also use this family tree to revise family-related vocabulary and the use of saxon genitive.

viernes, 8 de julio de 2011

Saying good-bye to your school

As a way to say good-bye, the senior class of Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School (aka Chis and Sid) in Kent decided to make a video with students and teachers dancing to Party Rock Anthem by LFMAO.

Just play the video and enjoy the music, the dance and these guys' imagination.

Also remember that there are a number of sites where you can instantly get the lyrics for thousands of songs, Party Rock Anthem included.

jueves, 7 de julio de 2011

Television is a drug

This is a visual interpretation of the poem Television is a drug by Todd Alcott done by Vimeo user Beth Fulton.

Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

An adaptation of the very same poem was used by Jamie Keddie to illustrate a lesson on English rhythm with a group of teachers.

Here's the adapted poem Jamie used in his workshop.

Look at me!
Look at me!
Are you looking at me?
Is everyone looking at me?
No, don’t look over there.
There’s nothing to look at over there.
Look at me!
You want what?
What do you want?
You want to eat?
You want what?
What do you want?
You want to go to work?
You want what?
What do you want?
You want to go to the toilet?
You want what?
What do you want?
You want to go to bed?

Get up.
Go to the kitchen.
Make a sandwich.
Come back.
Sit down.
Look at me.
Get up.
Go to work.
Come home.
Sit down.
Look at me.
Get up.
Go to the toilet.
Come back.
Sit down.
Look at me.
Get up.
Go to bed.
Go to sleep.
Get up.
Come back.
Sit down.
Look at me.

Adapted from the poem: Television is a drug by Todd Alcott

miércoles, 6 de julio de 2011

Motivational video: Your time is now

Watch this short motivational video that writer Katherine Center made for the States Conference for Women this year and fill in the blanks in the transcript with only one word.

This year is not last year. This year is different. Time has its way of (1) … forward, and changing everything in the process, changing everything including you. The things you know. The things you want. The things you can do. This year, you can do more than (2) … … these changes happen. You can remember all that life’s (3) … have taught you about being resilient, that a beautiful promise you can make to yourself. To rebound from anything that has (4) … you. To remember that it’s not what happens to you that matters, but who you become in (5) … . To leave the past in the past. To remind yourself every day how full of promise every minute is right now.

You must not forget all the ways that you are a leader or (6) … the things that you can do. It’s so easy to think that your (7) … don’t matter or that you are not so good as you’d like to be. It’s so easy to (8) … on the ways you let yourself down.

But this year is its own new year. You can choose to believe in yourself. You can look for beauty in everything. You can be (9) … of the purpose that you bring to every single thing that matters and the (10) … that comes from that purpose. What’s different now is that you are different. You are (11) … in all the ways that time makes us wise. You are braver in all the ways that life (12) … us to be brave. That’s what’s different about this year. The things experience has taught you. The way you know that opportunity is only there if you look for it, that believing in your own strength makes it real. And that the only way to make the most of your one (13) … life is to discover what you want, and go get it.

This is the information Wikipedia cites on Katherine Center:

You can watch more inspirational videos by Katherine on her webpage here.

1 rolling 2 just let 3 struggles 4 challenged 5 response 6 underestimate 7 strengths 8 focus 9 mindful 10 power 11 wiser 12 compels 13 precious

martes, 5 de julio de 2011

Fireworks on 4th July

A few days ago Irma Walter, from the English on Target blog, published this National Geographic video from NG's YouTube Channel.

It shows the importance of fireworks for Americans in celebrating 4th July.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say what the following refers to:


You can check the answers by reading Irma's transcript here.

Thank you, Irma.

lunes, 4 de julio de 2011

4th July videos

To commemorate the 4th of July here is a pick of videos about the US lifestyle and what means being an American citizen today.

GOOD Magazine put together a video that highlights some of their favorite images of the United States of America. For them it was the Simpsons, Grand Canyon, Michael Jordan, John Wayne, Baseball, Ray Charles, Team USA, and freedom.

Citizen USA: a 50-State Road Trip is a documentary by Alesandra Perosi that HBO will be showing tonight. Here is how the HBO website describes it.

Acclaimed filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi sets out on a road trip across America to attend naturalization ceremonies in all fifty states to meet brand-new citizens and find out why they chose America as their home. What she discovers is that America welcomes them all-the disabled, the cancer patients, homosexuals, Obama- haters, Christian missionaries, Muslim imams, Jewish rabbis, Buddhist monks, scientists with Ph.D.s (trying to find the cure for all the diseases that are plaguing us), tech giants in Silicon Valley, movie directors, race car drivers, and even a wrestler with his own action figure!

Here you can watch Alexandra Perosi talking about her work:

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

domingo, 3 de julio de 2011

60 Challanges at the age of 60

Find out about Lesley Evans by reading this The Telegraph article. Lesley is a  retired librarian who at 60 has decided to find something to live for to alleviate the pain of getting on in age.

Her challenges range from renting a house for New Year to setting up a blog or having a fish pedicure.

Read the full list of 60 challenges by clicking on the picture below. You can also read the related article which develops Lesley's story and ideas here.

sábado, 2 de julio de 2011

Energy in Iceland

Self-study activity:
Watch this video from the OUP YouTube video channel and answer the questions below.

a Roughly, what percentage of the population of Iceland lives in the capital?
b How often do the geysers erupt?
c How much power can the Nesjavellir geothermal plant produce?
d What are the two ways that the switch to geothermal power helped Iceland?
e What two things still use oil in Iceland?

You can read the transcript here.

a 62.5% b every few minutes c up to 120 megawatts per second d cut fuel bills by $8 billion and carbon emissions by 37% e the majority of cars and the fishing fleet

viernes, 1 de julio de 2011

Virtual Tour of the Alhambra

Find out about the Alhambra by going on this virtual tour, where you can read and listen to the history and main events surrounding this Arab castle in Granada.

H/T to Just Blogging.