viernes, 30 de septiembre de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this promotional video of Wales and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Wales. Where land meets the sky and the (1) ... meets the ocean.
Where world class meets business class.
Where business meets (2) ...  .
Where great minds meet.
And where great nations meet to do (3) ... .
Where all paths meet. And where town meets country.
Where the past meets the present and the present meets the future.
Where man meets (4) ... and nature.
Where the (5) ..., meets the everyday.
Where culture and art meet (6) ... and technology.
Where service and (7) ... meet with the highest standards.
Where the Welsh spirit is waiting to greet you.

Wales has more to offer the business delegate than most other countries across the UK and Europe. With centres of excellence ready to cater for any size group and (8) ...   ... of every description, you can enjoy the very best accommodation in some of the most (9) ... settings in the world.
So if you're planning a conference, meeting, convention or incentive programme, Wales is the place where great things come together.
Where the (10) ... meets.

1 shore 2 pleasure 3 battle 4 machine 5 unique 6 science 7 care 8 leisure 9 inspiring 10 facilities world

Story Blocks

Story Blocks is a great site which helps prepare students to learn how to read. This is a very engaging site and has lots of videos that lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) can sing/read along to.

All the videos take around one minute and come together with their transcript.

jueves, 29 de septiembre de 2011

Fun Facts About The English Language

Before reading this Washington Post article, see if you know the answer to the following questions:

What's the pronunciation of eight and strait?
What other words besides hungry and angry end in "-gry?”
Are there any words in which the same letter appears three times in a row?
What's the longest one-syllable English word?
Are there any words that have no words that rhyme with them?
Are there any words that exist only as a plural?
What is the opposite of exceed (which means to be superior to or better than)?
Is there a word for a baby hedgehog?

Now read the article by Margaret Webb and find the answer to all the questions.

The Girl Who Hated Books

This animated short story about literacy introduces us to Meena, a young girl who hates books even though her parents love to read. Books are everywhere in Meena's house, in cupboards, drawers and even piled up on the stairs. Still, she refuses to even open one up. But when her cat Max accidentally knocks down a huge stack, pandemonium ensues and nothing is ever the same again...

Watch Meena's story on the excellent Canadian NFB. If you have any problems with comprehension, you can also activate the CC (closed captions = subtitles) by clicking on the ear icon on the bottom part of the NFB screen.

You can also develop your speaking skills by repeating Meena's story in your words.

Self-study activity:
To link The Girl Who Hated Books with your reading habits, get together with an English-speaking friend and go over the reading questionnaire below.

Which is the last book you have read?
Do you always read in Spanish or do you also read in other languages?
Which book stands out in your memory?
Do you read the classics? / Have you ever read the classics?
Where do you usually read at home?
Which book(s) do you have on your bedside table?
Do you ever read non-fiction books?
When did you last read poetry?
Do you underline books? How?
Do you write quotations from books?
Do you read aloud, in silence, with background music?
Have you ever re-read any books?
How do you order the books you keep at home? Which criterion do you keep to?
How many books do you have at home?
What do you do to get rid of books?
How much do you spend on books every month?
Do you lend / borrow books?
Do you like giving books as a present?
Are you a member of a library or book club?
How often do you go to the school library?

miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2011

Anecdotes: A film that I enjoyed

Extended speaking activities, where we try to speak for a longer period of time, are greatly beneficial for our fluency in English. In this respect, telling anecdotes based on personal stories (memories, people we know, accidents) can give us the perfect excuse to talk extensively.

However, if we want to develop our oral skills by telling anecdotes there are some strategies we must bear in mind:
- Choose a topic that interests you and on which you really have something to say.
- Allow some preparation time to collect your thoughts, ideas and the specific language you may need. To this end, having some leading questions may prove extremely beneficial.
- Try to follow a ‘model’ you have listened to before.
- Repeat the same anecdote with different people regularly.

Anecdotes became very popular as a class activity with the textbook series Inside Out. In their new edition, the publishers, MacMillan, have provided some anecdote models which students can watch on their website.

Today I have chosen the anecdote about a film you have enjoyed. First, listen to Leila talk about The Shawshank Redemption ("Cadena perpetua") and check your comprehension with the questions below.

Then prepare a similar three-four minute anecdote by answering these questions about a film you have enjoyed:
a) What’s the title of the film?
b) When and where did you see it?
c) Who’s in it?
d) Who directed it?
e) What is it based on?
f) What type of film is it?
g) What’s the main story?
h) What do you particularly like about it?
i) What was the soundtrack like?
j) What kind of ending does it have?
k) Would you recommend this film?

In forthcoming posts we’ll be publishing similar anecdote activities based on the Macmillan videos.

1 When did the film come out?
2 How many times has Leila seen it?
3 Who are the main actors?
4 What is it based on?
5 What type of film is it?
6 What’s the story in the film?
7 What’s the main topic in the film?
8 What does she like about the film?
9 Is the ending positive or negative?
10 Does she recommend seeing the film?

1 1994 2 Lots of times 3 Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins 4 A short story by Stephen King 5 A prison drama 6 The protagonist goes to prison for life for a murder he hasn’t committed 7 The friendships the protagonist develops while in prison 8 The acting, the script, the emotional journey she feels, the music (which pulls at the heartstrings) 9 Positive, ‘the film is uplifting 10 Absolutely, the film takes you on an emotional rollercoaster

martes, 27 de septiembre de 2011

90% of people don't know how to use CTRL+F

90 percent of people don't know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don't use it at all.

This is the staggering fact that Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic tells us about. To find out more about it, read his article.

Madrigal also draws our attention to the campaign, which I have been meaning to post about for some time. is a kind of daily treasure hunt that Google publishes every day with an aim to develop searching strategies among Google users.

Every day Google publishes a different question for users to find an answer to by implementing searching techniques. If you decide to take part in the game, you choose how to do it, either trying to answer the question with your own Google wit and wisdom (Race the clock) or getting some tips and help from Google itself (Play normally), with what we can learn and develop searching strategies.

The question is always published in English.

Microcar Museum

Madison, Georgia, population 5000, is annually host to more than 35,000 visitors who come to see the town's beautiful antebellum and Victorian homes as well as its lovely historic downtown commercial district. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Madison is steeped in history and beauty. The city also hosts The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum Inc.

The Museum Collection is primarily focused on Microcars in the late 1940's- pre-1964 range with Engine sizes of 700cc or less (many are 250cc and 50cc) and 2 doors or less.

The Museum's webpage gives us an opportunity to get acquainted with everything we need to know about car together with lots of facts and figures about the history of microcars that will enhance our English [car] vocabulary and reading skills.

There is also a collection of short videos which explain some of the museum exhibits. If listening is your priority, start off by taking the virtual tour to get familiar with some of the basic car-related vocabulary and then take your pick of the videos.

lunes, 26 de septiembre de 2011

I've eaten only crisps for the past 10 years

Do you consider yourself to be a healthy eater?
Do you think you need to make any improvements in your diet?
Do you have any food ‘guilty pleasures’?
Is there one food, healthy or unhealthy, that you eat more than any other?

You are going to read an article with the headline I've eaten only crisps for the past 10 years. Predict what kind of person you think this article is about and write down 5 brief facts about them.

After reading the article, think about the following:
Do you think the woman needs medical or psychological help?
What would you say to her if she was a friend or family member?

H/T to The Teacher James.

Flat Life

This is a video I found through DDeubel.

Flat Life is a silent video we can use to develop our oral skills, so everything will work much better if we can work with a friend or relative whose English level is similar to ours.

There are a number of activities that we can do with Flat Life.
  • Describe what is going on in the video, with one person describing the scene and the other with their back to the screen so that they cannot see the pìctures.
  • Watch a small part of the video and pause it. Predict what is going to happen next.
  • Make a list of some of the words and vocabulary items that come up in the video and make sure you know them in English (meaning, spelling and pronunciation).
  • Think of a different ending for the story.

domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2011

Vocabulary games

Arcademic is a site with lots of games for American primary and secondary students.

Most of these games dealt with calculations and maths, but there is also a section for language games, where we can find six games which focus on vocabulary and sentence structure.

The games are good fun for language learners of all levels, because they test our mental reflexes and wits in a competitive atmosphere. From a linguistic point of view, however, lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) will find them more challenging, as they have to revise (or learn!) basic vocabulary and sentence structures.

I hope you enjoy them.

Wedding Season

On the Street is a regular feature from The New York Times. There Phil Cunningham regularly publishes videos which show aspects of everyday life in New York.

Summer is the typical wedding season in New York, too. Phil Cunningham grabs the opportunity to discuss fashion in weddings regarding the bride's wedding dress.

Watch the video and say whether sentences 1-6 are true or false.

1 Tradition has a big influence on the choice of wedding dress.
2 The wedding in London (William and Kate's) this year has had a great influence for the choice of dress.
3 Some brides prefer to dress informally or wear a short wedding dress.
4 Children usually misbehave in the ceremony.
5 All over New York you can see similar weddings.
6 Last week there was a double rainbow over Central Park.

You can read the transcript here.

1T 2F (next year perhaps) 3T 4F (they behave well in the ceremony, although later on they release all the energy they have built up during the ceremony) 5T 6T

sábado, 24 de septiembre de 2011

Speakout elementary: Lifestyle

What do you do?
Talk about your routine.
What do you like about your daily routine?
What don't you like about your daily routine?

Listen to some native speakers answer the questions above.

Now you can answer the same questions yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

Reading and pronunciation practice for lower level students

Let me introduce you to Starfall, which I learnt about through Larry Ferlazzo.

On this site, lower level students (Básico 1 especially) will get acquainted with the basics of English.

There are four levels of difficulty, ranging from the easiest (A, B, C) to the most difficult (I'm reading). It is a site whose aim is to teach (native English speaking) children how to read, so Starfall sounds like the perfect place for those students who are starting out learning English.

As you can see in the picture below, there are also some games we can use to learn specific vocabulary.

viernes, 23 de septiembre de 2011

How OK Conquered The World

How OK Conquered The World is an article by William on his blog I spilled the beans which he posted in August this year.

In his article William throws some light on the origins of the most frequently used word in English, OK.

This is the first paragraph of the article:

It comes in our speech dozens of times every day. But how did the word "OK" conquer the world?

"OK" is one of the most frequently used and recognised words in the world. It is also one of the strangest expressions ever invented. It's odd-looking. It's a word that looks and sounds like an abbreviation, an acronym. We generally spell it OK - the spelling okay is relatively recent, and still relatively rare - and we don't pronounce it "ock" but we pronounce the names of the letters O and K.

To keep reading, click on any of the links above or on the picture below.

Pronunciation Perfection

Janet Goodwin is a professor at UCLA and coauthor of Teaching Pronunciation.
In this video interview she says, “real English is messy“. “It is so good to have a video where you are able to look with the students at what is going on…“. “It is much better preparation for students.”

She also highlights some tips for both teaching pronunciation and learning how to improve your own.

Self-study activity:
Janet's interview is lengthish, almost seven minutes, so it's going to be quite demanding for us to listen to her for a long period of time.

In the interview, Janet is going to explain her method to teach pronunciation and the great benefits she obtains from it.

Watch and listen to the interview and note down what she says about the following:

International graduate students
What jobs do they want to do?
Do they have to do an exam after the course?
What specific pronunciation work are they given during the course?

Undergraduate students
How many of them help Janet?
What do they talk about?
How long are the videos?
What specific illustration of real life language does Janet mention?

In conclusion, Janet is suggesting a really interesting way of learning pronunciation: She believes in the power of short video segements for intensive listening and pronunciation practice. She feels that selecting a short clip and imitating it results in real progress.

So why don't we give this method a try?

Graduate students
They want to be Teaching Assistants in their departments.
Yes, an oral proficiency exam at the end of the course.
They are assigned one different one-minute video segment [from the undergraduate students] which answers a specific question, then they extensively listen to it by writing the transcript and studying it. Also, Janet asks these graduate students to try and find different aspects of pronunciation that they have previously studied in class (intonation, reduced speech, word stress). Finally graduate students have to imitate the one-minute segment as much as possible.

Undergraduate students
Three or four undergraduate students that she knows.
They talk about their life, how they chose their major, what they like to do in their spare time, what they do on a typical day.
15-20 minutes.
The use of gonna, an expression that is not too academic but that the students keep coming up with.

H/T to English Central Blog.

jueves, 22 de septiembre de 2011

Wheel of fortune in English

Try your hand at playing The Wheel of Fortune in English. It is not easy but neither is the game in our own language.

I hope you enjoy it.

H/T to DDeubel.

Talking point: Your favourite movie stars

Who are your favorite film and television actors and stars?
Why do you like them?
What film stars that people admire do you dislike? Why?
Do you make a point of going to see movies and watch shows featuring your favorite actors?
Why do foreign-film stars find it difficult to succeed in the United States?
Can an actor be “too good” in a performance?
Is Keanu Reeves a good actor?
What do you know about Clint Eastwood?
Have you seen any of his Dirty Harry movies?

You may wish to read this article from The New York Times in preparation for your discussion, where Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, the co-chief film critics for The Times, respond to reader questions. In the August installment, they answered several queries about actors and stars.

You may also want to watch this video about Dirty Harry, which explains the reasons why the character became so popular in the 70's and 80's among film buffs.

miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2011

Home (song)

What is home for you?
What city, town or village would you call home?
Why is it special?
What are your feelings about the place whenever you are away for a long time?

Listen to this song about Singapore, but it could be about anywhere.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Distracted drivers

Self-study activity:
  • Have you ever driven after having a drink?
  • Have you ever talked on the phone or texted while driving?
  • If so, were you in danger of having a crash?
  • As well as talking on the phone or texting, what other activities do drivers do while at the wheel?
Now watch this The New York Times video and answer the quesions below.

1 List all the different activities mentioned that drivers do while behind the wheel.
2 If you use a cell phone while driving, how likely are you to cause a crash?
3 What’s the typical reaction of American people when told about this fact?
4 How much blood alcohol level does texting when driving amount to?
5 In the simulation driving test, what task were drivers given?
6 How many people failed the test?
7 If you are texting while driving, how likely are you to get involved in an accident?
8 Why did the last guy switch to Bluetooth?
1 Using the cell phone, lighting a cigarette, eating sandwiches, sending a text message while driving with the knee, put lipstick on, leafing through a document (a legal brief), clipping the nails, watching TV
2 Four times more than normal
3 Ignore it
4 0.08
5 Take an exit toward a rest stop while talking on a hands-free cell phone.
6 Half
7 Eight times more than usual
8 Because he was given 5 tickets for using his cell phone while driving

martes, 20 de septiembre de 2011

Daily routines

This is a nice video to revise daily routines, the times and the present simple.

It combines, both English and Spanish, so it is suitable for Básico 1 students (beginners) or for Básico 2 students whose English is a bit rusty and want to brush it up.

Simply watch the video and make a note of everything the teacher says. You may want to stop the video on occasion to note down some of the explanations.

Now, what is your daily routine? Tell someone in your family.

H/T to Samoga en Casa.

Talking point: Phobias

Do you have any phobias?
Do you know anyone who has?
What are typical phobias people have?
Is there a sensible explanation for fobias?
How can a person overcome a phobia?

Get together with your talking group and discuss the questions above. The videos below may help you for your discussion.

Now watch this video and say how you would feel if you had to walk along Camino del Rey in Málaga.

Camino del rey from British Red Cross on Vimeo.

Now, do you have any phobias?

You can watch the whole video below.

You can read some background information about Camino del Rey by clicking here.

H/T to Web2literacy.

lunes, 19 de septiembre de 2011


I think everybody is going to enjoy this video, which will help you to get familiar with the information that can be read on the information screens at airports.

This is Heathrow airport, and this is what travellers could see on the information screens last June.

The video is also a good excuse to practise our reading and survival skills.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

You may also like to visit Ogilvy, a publicity company, where you will also find some striking videos. Watch them and enjoy them and, if you wish, get together with an English speaking friend and comment on them.

H/T to David Deubel.

103 Miles With Sharks -Fill in the blanks exercise

Any day now, Diana Nyad will set out to do something no athlete has ever done: swim all day and all night, then all day and all night, then all day again.
She will swim about 60 hours in the churning sea, 103 miles across the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Every hour and a half, she will stop to tread water for a few minutes as she swallows a liquid mixture of predigested protein and eats an occasional bit of banana or dollop of peanut butter.

This is the beginning of The New York Times article 103 Miles With Sharks. Go to The Learning Network and fill in the blanks in the paragraphs with only one word.

Use your own words and phrases, or scroll to the end of the post to choose from a scrambled list of the words that were removed.

Another option? Read, the original article first here, then fill in the blanks from memory.

You can check your answers by reading the original article.

There is also a slideshow provided where you can see some photographs of Diana's feat and read comments that explain her routine.

domingo, 18 de septiembre de 2011

BBC Video Channel on YouTube

The BBC video channel on Youtube is an excellent resource we have at our disposal to peek at segments of popular BBC TV programmes.

All the video clips are on the short side, lasting two or three minutes maximum. There are also channels for specific programmes like Top Gear, Eastenders, Dr Who, BBC Food, BBC Earth, and so on which we can subscribe to.

It is true that no transcripts are available, not even the (mostly) inaccurate closed captions that YouTube sometimes provides, but by using BBC video channel we can get acquainted with real TV programmes thought out for native speakers and try to improve our listening skills by watching clips regularly.

There is something else we can do, though, to improve our listening skills with BBC video channel. This suggestion will only work if you have a study group: Individually, choose a clip you enjoy and which you mostly understand. Prepare a few listening comprehension questions (true/false questions or open-ended questions) the answer of which you are a hundred percent confident about. Then give your friends the activity to see how many of your questions they understand.

I have devised an activity along these lines below. Try and do it yourself and check the answers below. No transcript, sorry!

1 How long does the cheetah take to reach sixty (miles per hour)?
2 What is the cheetah compared to?
3 How long is a cheetah’s stride?
4 How long does the cheetah spend in the air when she’s hunting?
5 How long does the cheetah have before her muscles burn out?
6 How fast does the cheetah go when hunting?
7 What percentage of efficiency does a cheetah have when hunting?

1 three seconds 2 A Porsche 3 Seven meters 4 Half the time 5 Twenty seconds 6 seventy miles an hour 7 fifty percent

101 Marketing Quotes

101 Marketing Quotes is a presentation I discovered through Paul Emmerson.

Here we can find a list of short marketing quotes, with each slide having one strong graphic image that fills the screen. The great thing is that these quotes are all very modern, mostly having an internet/social media theme.

Self-study activity:
Go over the slideshow and choose four or five quotations that strongly appeal to you. Then get together with an English-speaking friend and discuss the quotations you have chosen.

sábado, 17 de septiembre de 2011

Speakout upper-intermediate: Annoying habits (beginnings)

Self-study activity:
What's your experience of sharing a flat with people other than your family?
Do you have any annoying habits?
What habits or qualities in a flatmakte would you find most annoying?

Now watch this short video clip from Speakout Longman and try to understand the answers the interviewees give.

You can read the transcript here.

Go over the habits the people on the video have mentioned. What is your experience of those habits? Which ones do/would you find annoying?

Food in every country

Food in every country is a website that shows us the most typical dishes of all the countries in the world.

We can get to know what the cuisine culture of each country is like while we develop our reading skills and cooking vocabulary. On top of that, we can read a short introduction about the geography and history of the country.

viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2011

What really killed the dinosaurs

Self-study activity:
Watch this short BBC clip and say whether the statements 1-7 are true or false.

1 Dinosaurs lived for about 150 million years.
2 Dinosaurs disappeared progressively.
3 To find out what happened to dinosaurs scientists began to investigate a layer of rock formed sixty-five million years ago.
4 What happened to dinosaurs is a total mystery today.
5 Big quantities of Iridium exist on earth.
6 When the dinosaurs disappeared, 10,000 iridium stones hit the earth.
7 Ten thousand asteroids must have hit the earth.

You can read the transcript here.

All the answers are false except question 3.

Curiosity Discovery

Curiosity Discovery is a website from the Discovery Channel that I found out through Larry Ferlazzo.

People send in their questions and get multimedia accessible answers in return. You can also apply to become an expert to help answer questions, too.

A lot of the entries consist of videos, many of which come together with their transcript, like this one by C. Richard Allen about the death of film festivals because of the internet.

To find more transcripted videos, simply write transcript in the search box.

jueves, 15 de septiembre de 2011


What is success is an activity that I have entirely borrowed from Suzana through the EFLClassroom 2.0 community.

Self-study activity:
What is success for you?
What successes have you had in your life?
Is your idea of success similar to other people you know?
What successes would you like to have in your foreseeable future?

Watch the video and identify the mistakes in the transcript. Perhaps it would be a good idea that you watched the video through without reading the transcript, to get familiar with this lady's accent and what she talks about.

The second time you watch the v ideo you can try and spot the mistakes.

Woman : All right. Let’s talk about sucess. I need you to write that word down: success. The only thing that you have to do when you’re talking about success is define what success is to you. Success to me might be getting an MBA. Success to you might be getting a bachelor’s degree, getting married, having a child, raising kittens. Ah, owning your own business, driving the car that you want, having a lot of money to live comfortably. There’s no limit to what your definition of success is, and everybody’s definition is the same.

When we think of success we think of ‘‘wow, you make enough money and you drive a regular car, you live in a nice house, oh, you know, you have a good career’’. But that is not necessarily your success. So I want you to write down ‘‘what is success?’’. And I want you to define it. In this moment, not yesterday, not what, you know, don’t think too far, you have to think a lot into the present, but don’t think too far in the future. In this moment, what is success to you? Because this is what we’re gonna be striving towards. So write down: ‘‘what is success?’’

All right. Let’s talk about sucess. I want you to write that word down: success. The first thing that you have to do when you’re talking about success is define what success is to you. Success to me might be getting a PHD. Success to you might be getting a bachelor’s degree, getting married, having a child, raising puppies. Ah, owning your own business, driving the car that you want, having enough money to live comfortably. There’s no limit to what your definition of success is, and everybody’s definition is different. When we think of success we think of ‘‘wow, you make enough money and you drive a nice car, you live in a nice house, oh, you know, you have a good career’’. But that is not necessarily your success. So I want you to write down ‘‘what is success?’’. And I want you to define it. In this moment, not yesterday, not what, you know, don’t think too far, you have to think a little bit into the future, but don’t think too far in the future. In this moment, what is success to you? Because this is what we’re gonna be striving towards. So write down: ‘‘what is success?’’

Fling the teacher

Fling the teacher is an online game that I have learnt through David Deubel.

In this game you have to correctly answer 15 general knowledge questions to fling the teacher. You have a time limit to answer each question, but be careful, because if you make a mistake you will have to start from scratch.

Really good fun for everybody!

miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2011

Too many questions

Self-study activity:
This activity is really demanding. First, it is a listening activity. This guy is going to try to beat the world record of answering as many questions as possible under four minutes. Watch the video and try to understand as many questions and answers as possible.

You can read a transcript here, and use the same transcript for the second part of the activity: Answer some of the 148 questions yourself, although you can expand on the answers a little bit more than Charlie.

Talking point: What made summer summer for you?

The summer is over now and most people look back on it with nostalgia or so they say. But what made summer summer for you this year?

This list may help you somehow: Barbecues, picnics, swimming, a suntan, flying, exotic holidays, change of pace of life, catching up with reading, chic fashion, getting away from it all, sports, getting fit, the beach, mountains, no work, meeting up with friends, camp, family life, adventure sports, meeting new people, life outdoors, lots of sleep.

Before you get together to discuss the topic with your friends, you may like to visit this The New York Times page to view the way New Yorkers enjoy summer. Some of the summer rituals come together with audio, so that will give you the opportunity to listen as well as reading.

martes, 13 de septiembre de 2011

Just imagine

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

How many Africans and Asians do you know?
Have you ever lived in a village or in the country?
How many disabled people do you know?
What's the religion of your friends and family?
What was life like when there was no sanitation or hygenic water resources?
Do you know any illiterate person?
Do you have a computer and an internet connection at home?
How would we manage if we had no fridge at home?
Do you have a bank account?
How much money do you spend on a daily basis?

Now watch this three-minute video from Save the World with Water and go over the answers again.

The song in the background is Mad World by Gary Jules. You may like to read the lyrics on this video.

Speed dating

Self-study activity:
Watch this short clip from Sex and the City, where Miranda is trying to get a date on a speed dating (multi-dating) event and answer the questions below.

1 How old is Miranda?
2 Why does she need a date?
3 How much does she pay for the multi-dating session?
4 How many mini-dates can she get for that fee?
5 How long does each mini-date last?
6 What's Dwight Owens' marital status?
7 What does Miranda do?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

lunes, 12 de septiembre de 2011

60 ideas to find the most suitable job

Sixty in sixty sounds like an interesting project.

This summer Michael Warshafsky, an 18-year-old from Ontario, has been going on a job shadow marathon: 60 jobs in 60 days.

Through this exploratory exercise, he has got exposure to many different occupations and then shared first-hand knowledge with his blog readers. By doing job shadows back-to-back, he has been able to contrast the pros and cons of each career path. At the end of each day, he has compiled his thoughts in a new blog entry. 

When he's done with the marathon, this blog will serve as a resource for future students in his position.

Each blog entry (ie, each occupation) is divided into seven parts: Typical day in that job; top 3 advantages (perks); job culture; qualification requirements; skills needed; the field (employment prospects and demand); and Michael's experience.

What is your online life like?

Do you use social media?
What do you use social media for?
Do you have many 'social media friends'?
How did you meet them?
How well do you know them?
Have you ever thought how odd your online life is?
Have you ever thought what could go wrong with it?

Two Boys is the latest Nico Muhly's opera and this is the YouTube trailer they have used to advertise it. The opera tries to warns us about the dangers of living our life online.

domingo, 11 de septiembre de 2011

11 September animated stories

Through Free Technology for Teachers I have learnt that Story Corps recently published three animated versions of  9/11 stories.

The level might be high for most students, but you have a transcript at your disposal here.

She was the one

John and Joe

Always a family

You can also have a look at Daryl Cagle's collection of cartoons entitled 'Remembering 9/11' I discovered through The English Blog.

First Aid videos

How would you help someone in the following situations?

someone who is choking
someone with a burn
someone who is bleeding
someone who is unconscious
someone with an asthma attack
someone with a broken bone

Now you can watch these six one-minute videos from the Red Cross and find out exactly what to do in the above-mentioned situations. All the videos are close-captioned, so you can choose to watch the videos without subtitles first for comprehension purposes and watch them with subtitles later on.

For conversation practice you can finally try and repeat the instructions in your own words.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2011

Kizclub: A great site for lower level students

Kizclub is a more than interesting site for Básico 1 and Básico 2 (elementary) students, although all language learners can greatly benefit from it. I learnt about it through Larry Ferlazzo a few weeks ago.

 The section stories and props of the site can turn out to be extremely helpful to students. The section is divided in three levels of difficulty, with level 1 being the easiest.

There, students can read and listen to short stories, where many aspects of everyday life are shown and, therefore, a lot of vocabulary and basic structures can be learnt or revised. There are some activities students can do with the stories:
  • Listen first, read afterwards: First listen to a sentence in the story, then read it yourself.
  • Shadow reading: Read the story at the same time you listen to it.
  • Vocabulary notebook: Read and listen to a story and note down any new words that come up. Pay attention to the spelling, meaning and pronunciation of each new word.
  • Listening and speaking: Listen to a story through, from the beginning to the end. Then say the story in your own words. This technique is specially suitable for intermediate 1 and 2 students with the stories in level 3.

Speakout Intermediate: Tell me about your family (identity)

Self-study activity:
Tell me about your family.
In what ways are you like your parents or siblings?
What do you know about your family history?

Watch this three-minute video clip from Speakout Intermediate, Longman, and try to understand the way some native speakers of English answer the questions above.

Now you can answer the same questions about your own family.

You can read the transcript here.

viernes, 9 de septiembre de 2011

Language Guide: Great visual dictionary for lower level students

Language Guide is a great visual dictionary for Básico 1 and Básico 2 (elementary) students, although the fact that it comprises so many aspects and objects of everyday life makes Language Guide suitable for all language students, regardless of their level.

Language Guide is divided into several sections:
Writing (the alphabet); Numbers; The body; Food; Nature; Clothing; Animals; The house; Transportation;
and Miscellaneous: The Family, Tools, School, Space, The Farm,  Electronics, Photography, Construction, Money, History, Fantasy, Communication, Art, Music, The City, Law & Order,  Shapes, Games, Military, Religion, Computers, The Office, Babies, Kids

To use it, simply click on a category and place the cursor over a picture. The spelling of the word will come up on the screen and you will hear how the word is pronounced.

You can also click on options and select the quiz mode, which will enable you to test yourself about the vocabulary items displayed.

Deaths in Yosemite National Park

Self-study activity:
Watch this news item from MSNBC about the rise in deaths in Yosemite National Park and answer the questions below.

1 How many people have died this year so far?
2 How many people usually die?
3 Who was the last vicitim?
4 How far did the three hikers who died last month fall?
5 In the rangers' opinion, what's the main reason for the deaths?
6 How many people visited Yosemite National Park last year?
7 Do rangers think the park is safe?

You can read the transcript here.

You can also read this article from The New York Times about the same topic and answer these questions about the people who have died in Yosemite National Park this year:

WHO are some of the people who have died in Yosemite National Park this year?
WHAT were the causes of some of the deaths?
WHERE is Yosemite?
WHERE in the park are some of the dangerous locations?
WHEN did three young adults lose their lives in the Merced River?
WHY is Yosemite “probably the deadliest park in the country”?
HOW many people visit national parks every year?

Key to listening:
1 fourteen 2 seven (at this time of the year) 3 a twenty-six year old woman who died last week 4 317-foot drop 5 visitors push the boundaries and do not respect the warning signs 6 Four million 7 Yes

jueves, 8 de septiembre de 2011

An easy explanation for the financial crisis

The current financial and economic crisis has been with us since 2007, but very few people are able to give a sensible explanation of what's going on here.

The Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis, by Jonathan Jarvis analysizes in some detail the causes of this crisis in an eleven-minute video. It does so in an easy way, and with so many visual prompts that even the layman will manage to undersand our current economic plights in the end.

There is some specialist vocabulary, though, which I have listed below. I don't think you need to look it up beforehand, because Jarvis's presentation is so pedagogical that most of these terms will make sense to us as we watch the video along.

sub-prime mortgages
collateralized debt obligations
frozen credit markets
credit default swaps
pension funds
insurance companies
sovereign funds
mutual funds
interest rate bust
return of investments
make a deal
default on one's mortgage

You can read a transcript of the video here.

miércoles, 7 de septiembre de 2011

Five ways to listen better

Julian Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening -- to other people and the world around you.

In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, "We are losing our listening." In this short talk, 5 Ways to Listen Better, he reminds us of the need to slow down and listen to the people and the world around us. At the end of the talk he provides a simple framework for becoming better listeners.

This TED talk may help us in our daily life and as English learners.

Self-study activity:
Watch Julian's seven-minute talk and note down what he says about the following.

Techniques we use when listening
Reasons why we are losing our listening
The five exercises he suggests to improve our listening
What does RASA stand for?

Remember that you can activate the English subtitles if you wish so. You also have the option to go to the TED webpage and copy and paste the interactive transcript of Julian's talk.

martes, 6 de septiembre de 2011

History of English: Chapters VIII, IX & X

Watch the final three instalments of The History of English, chapters VIII, IX and X, from The Open University.

For chapter IX we have prepared a fill-in the blanks listening activity, where you have to complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Remember that the vocabulary content of the videos is quite high, which together with their fast pace makes full comprehension a bit difficult. The videos, however, are funny and give us a general view of the development of English language to these days.

You can read the full transcript of the three chapters here.

Chapter VIII: American English or not English but somewhere in the ballpark

Chapter IX: Internet English or language reverts to type

In (1) ... the first email was sent. Soon the internet arrived: A free global space to share information, ideas and amusing pictures of cats.

Before the internet English changed through people speaking it, but the network brought typing back into fashion, and hundreds of cases of (2) ...   ...   ... . Nobody had ever had to download anything before, let alone use a (3) ..., and the only time someone said about a firewall it ended with a massive (4) ...   ... and a huge pile of charred wall paper.

Conversations were getting shorter than the average (5) ...   ...  . Why bother writing a sentence when an abbreviation would do, and leave you more time to block, poke, reboot when your hard-drive (6) ...  .
‘In my humble opinion’ became INHO. ‘By the way’ became BTW and if we are honest that a life-threatening accident was pretty hilarious simply became (7) ...  .

Some changes even passed into spoken English. For your information, people frequently asked questions like how can (8) ...  mean ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘lots of love’? If you’re going to complain about that, then UG2BK.

Chapter X: Global English or whose language is it anyway?

1 1972 2 repetitive strain injury 3 toolbar 4 insurance claim 5 attention span 6 crashed 7 fail 8 LOL

Talking point: Must-read novels

In summer we posted a blog entry about the best summer readings, which exclusively focused on thrillers. This week's talking point touches on the same topic to some extent, but our main concern is get you speaking English.

The following questions may help you to structure a conversation about your reading habits.

How often do you read novels?
How many novels a year do you read?
Which novel are you reading at the moment?
When do you read it?
Do you have an all-time favourite novel?
Do you have a favourite writer whose (new) novels you always try to read?
Do you think there are some novels everyone should read?
If so, which ones?

To help you with ideas, you can read this The Telegraph article about their choice of 100 novels everyone should read. How many of the titles they suggest have you read? Would you include some other novels on their list?

lunes, 5 de septiembre de 2011

An excellent site to learn English online

ETP (English Teachers' Portfolio) is a site from the British Council in Brazil we posted about a long time ago. For some reason, they changed their URL and we deleted the entry, but ETP is back on track and so are we, letting you know about it.

Here is the information ETP publishes about their English learning site.

ETP is a unique self-study language improvement programme. It is specifically designed to help [students] develop listening and speaking skills. Special emphasis is placed on:
• improving pronunciation
• developing vocabulary and grammatical accuracy
• giving practise in linguistic areas which are often difficult
• classroom English
• teaching methodology
You can listen to the material as many times as you want to and there are a variety of accents for you to copy. It has a full Key for all the exercises, which includes model answers for the speaking activities and additional ideas to help you teach the language in class.

ETP is also full of Study tips and practical pedagogical suggestions to improve your classroom practice.

The material is based on interviews with a Brazilian teacher from Rio de Janeiro. We asked her to talk about various aspects of her personal and professional life, we then created 20 'units' based on her answers.
These units progress from 'easier' to 'more difficult' and are designed to serve as models for you to be able to answer the same questions and talk about your life in detail, fluently and accurately in English.

What level is ETP?

The ETP material does not easily fall into the usual categories. That's because we focus on listening and speaking practice. Many [students] know a lot of English but sometimes lack fluency and confidence.
At first glance the ETP material may look easy. But if you listen and answer without reading, and then try to copy the models then record yourself and develop fluent answers, you will find it much more challenging and useful.

To sample the level of the material we suggest you quickly try to do one or two of the E sections from the later units, e.g. unit 10 and unit 19 of the course. If you can easily listen and answer most of the questions there accurately and with good pronunciation, and get a score over 65, the material may well be too easy for you. You may find it useful to move around the book doing only the parts that you find difficult, although it is designed to progress from unit 1 to unit 20.

In terms of lexis and grammar, the material begins at an 'elementary' level and progresses to 'pre-intermediate'. When you finish you should have a fluent vocabulary of about 1500 words and be at an oral / aural level equivalent to the Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) (B1).

domingo, 4 de septiembre de 2011

A beginner's guide to the British

Enjoy this satirical view from the British and the stereotypes surrounding them. There is no listening task. Simply try to understand as much as possible and enjoy this peculiar view of the British and their life style.

You can read a transcript here.

Irregular verbs online game

Lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) will enjoy this online game I found through The English You Need blog.

Playing the game is very easy. There are two sentences. One in the present simple, the other in the past simple. Drag and drop the letters to spell the past simple form of the verb.

sábado, 3 de septiembre de 2011

How to be successful in your business through social media

Self-study activity:
The internet and lots of social media tools can be greatly beneficial for a businessperson. That's what Jody Underhill and Eric Kurit, from Upside down Iceberg, think.

Watch their three-minute presentation on how to best use the social media to enhance a business. The video clip offers lots of visuals that help with comprehension, so today's listening task is a bit different from usual. You are going to take notes of the ideas Jody and Eric give us, so that you can summarise them later on. That way, you will be practising listening and speaking.

You can read the transcript here.

viernes, 2 de septiembre de 2011

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Friends (life)

How many close friends do you have?
What does a friend mean to you?
How do you keep in touch with your friends?
What do you look for in a friend?

Watch this video clip from Speakout Pre-intermediate and note down the answers the interviewees give to the questions above.

You can read the transcript here.

jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2011

Five tips to open a restaurant

Self-study activity:
Watch this short video clip by chef Gordon Ramsay and note down the five tips he gives to run a successful restaurant.

As an extension you can try and understand the reasons Gordon gives why each of the tips he gives is so important.

You can read the transcript here.

1 passion 2 commitment 3 (take on) competition 4 creativity and initiative 5 the customer's king

History of English V, VI & VII (with transcript)

Here are chapters V (The English of Science or how to speak with gravity), VI (English and empire or the sun never sets on the English language) and VII (The Age of the Dictionary) of The History of English.

Enjoy the videos below and try your best to understand as much as you can with the help of the images and the key words that come up in the videos.

You can read the transcript of the three chapters by clicking here.