miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2011

This bulb

Self-study activity:
Watch this National Geographic ad where Natalie Portman, Kyra Sedgwick and Chloe Sevigny explain how simply changing a light bulb can help reverse the effects of greenhouse gases.

Fill in the gaps in the transcript with the missing information.

The activity is suitable for Básico 2 students, and even Básico 1 ones can give it a try.

This bulb alights your (1) ... .
This bulb will help reverse the effects of global warming, better the lives of people and animals (2) ... , not to mention reduce your electric (3) ... substantially over time.
Oh, yeah, and alight your your house too.
If everyone in America replaced just one (4) ... bulb in their house with this little guy, it’ll be like taking a million (5) ... off the road over the course of a year.
This bulb will prevent one thousand pounds of carbon dioxide greenhouse emissions from being put into the atmosphere.
How many light bulbs does it take to make a difference? One.
This bulb will help save (6) ..., cats, water buffalo, the red wood (7) ..., polar (8) ...  .
This bulb will help save (9) ... , my fish, my baby, the (10) ... , my grandmother, my children, and you.
This bulb can help save the planet.

1 house 2 everywhere 3 bill 4 light 5 cars 6 dogs 7 forests 8 bears 9 monkeys 10 country

A thousand words

A Thousand Words is a short film I discovered through David Deubel's great EFL Classroom 2.0 about the countless opportunities we daily find to connect and communicate with other people.

A Thousand Words is a silent film, so the main benefit for the English student derives from the possibility the film offers to develop the oral skills.

This is what we did in class with it. You may come up with some other ideas. Whatever you do, it would be better you tried and work with an English-speaking friend or relative, so the activity is more enriching.

Self-study activity:
  • Play the film and stop it right at 57 seconds. Can you predict the way the story will unfold?
  • Play the rest of the film through to find out whether you guessed right.
  • Now retell the story in your own words.
  • Retell the story once again, but this time make sure you use time adverbials to sequence the events in the film:
         First > Then / Later on / After a while / Afterwards > Finally
         Initially >                                                                > Eventually
         At first >                                                                > In the end
         To begin with
         At the beginning

The story also helped us to teach / remind students of these structures:
  • forget something (the place is not mentioned)
  • leave something somewhere (the place is mentioned)

martes, 29 de noviembre de 2011

New alphabet for kids

Learning the alphabet is fun. Singing the alphabet song has got to be one of the highlights of early life. When they started school many years ago, English students had to learn the ABC. Kids still do, but the only thing that stays the same is that A still stands for Apple!
This is a good opportunity for lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) to revise the spelling of the alphabet letters, and compare the way even the alphabet itself has adapted to changing times.

Remember you can click on the Alphabet tag on the right to find a few more entries on this blog with specific work on spelling and the alphabet, some of which include sound.

Speakout Intermediate: Dream jobs

Self-study activity:
Watch this new instalment of Speakout, Longman, and note down the anwers people give to the following questions.

What do you do?
What did you dream of doing, or being, when you were younger?
Would you describe your job as a dream job?
Are you ambitious?

Now answer the same questions for yourself. Try to use some of the expressions and vocabulary the people on the video used.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2011

Writing Workshop 08: Pinning it down

Pinning it down

When we wrote about paragraphs in chapter 5 we said that the most important sentence in a paragraph is the topic sentence, which is usually the first sentence in the paragraph. The rest of the sentences, the supporting sentences, expand the idea in the topic sentence. They give evidence, explanations, reasons, examples, illustrations to support the topic sentence.

Most of the content in a composition is the support of ideas:

We use our experience and knowledge to illustrate our ideas. We call it ‘pinning down’ (determinar, precisar, literalmente, sujetar con alfileres) ideas, bringing them in touch with reality. The magic word is EQUIP, E-QU-I-P

E > examples
Idea: The restaurant was not very clean
Idea plus examples: The restaurant was not very clean. The glasses had watermarks on them and on my knife there was something which looked like dried blood but was probably old tomato sauce.

QU > quotations
Why not use a quotation? Quotations can add conviction and interest and liveliness to a composition.
Idea: My father is a real tyrant
Idea plus quotation: My father is a real tyrant. He is always telling us what to do. ‘Take off your shoes, Paul!’ ‘Julian, don’t play your music so loud!’
Obviously, you may be able to use a quotation from a book or a newspaper or the TV, or use famous quotations or invent one.

I > illustrations
Illustrations are much the same as examples, but often longer. They are illustrations because they ‘show’ vividly what the writer is talking about.
Idea: People talk about violence on TV and indeed a lot of violence of different kinds is shown.
Idea plus illustration: People talk about violence on TV and indeed a lot of violence of different kinds is shown. I once saw a film in which a man was shot, his blood splashed over the lens of the camera so that we saw it run down the TV screen. The effect was shocking. But violence is not only to be seen in action films, the news, too, constantly shows us scenes of real violence. Just recently…

P > particulars
Particulars refer to specific details. Details make it easier for the reader to visualize our message. This is a technique writers use.
General idea: She takes her holidays in glamorous places.
Detailed idea: She takes her holidays in Florida, Acapulco, Tibet, always somewhere glamorous.

General idea: He started eating.
Detailed idea: He picked up the bread and bit into it. Then he spooned the soup noisily.

General idea: He has tried all sorts of jobs but he gave them all up.
Detailed idea: He has tried being a waiter, a barman, a rubbish collector and a messenger. But he gave them all up.

Finally, when we are writing notes on rough paper, we should try and visually differentiate which notes are ideas and which notes are illustrations or examples (EQUIP). Using two different coloured pens may help to distinguish between them. This way we may also notice which ideas still need ‘pinning down’.

Once we have developed and organized our ideas –remember, we are still working on rough paper!- we should write down the frame of the composition: the three or four main points in sequence, on a list form. This will also help us see what needs illustration.

So for the composition topic A woman’s place… (about life for women in Spain these days) the framework (ie, the main ideas, the topic sentences) might look something like it is shown below, but all the evidence, all the explanations, all the examples, illustrations and details are still missing:
1 Until recently, women were not free.
2 Now they can legally do everything men can do.
3 But this ‘freedom’ is still not completely real.
4 Women must make this freedom a reality.

Also remember that although the subject of a composition is impersonal, we must never neglect our own experience (what we ourselves think and feel and have seen and read) to illustrate our ideas.

This post is a summary of chapeter 8 of Feedback, Cambridge University Press, an intermediate writing course.

Shakespeare authenticity defended

Self-study activity:
Watch this short BBC video clip about the reactions in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to the film Anonymous, which explores the theory that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, wrote the masterpieces attributed to William Shakespeare.

First, watch the news item and try to understand as much as possible.

Now watch the clip again and say whether these statements are true or false.

1) Shakespeare lived in that house before being famous.
2) The campaign the Trust has started is mainly directed to the spectators of Anonymous.
3) Diane, the Trust's Director, implies that people really don't know much about Shakespeare.
4) Shakespeare was tidy as a teenager.
5) Shakespeare had 6 brothers.
6) The boy thought Shakespeare is still alive.

You can read the transcript here.

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

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2011

Bin Thief

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video clip about a thief who climbed into a Bristol clothes recycling skip and had to be rescued by firefighters after his exploits were caught on CCTV.

First of all, try to understand as much as possible of the clip.

Now watch the clip for a second time and say what the following words and phrases refer to:
  • One
  • Red Cross
  • Security guard
  • Four hours
  • A homeless man
  • Charities
You can self-correct by reading the transcript here.

Natural Science Museum webquest

Natural Science Museum webquest is a different kind of post. It is aimed at those English students who have an interest in science.

The main task in the webquest is for the students to redesign the Mammals Gallery of the Natural History Museum. In doing so they will be exposed to lots of science-related texts, some videos and challenging tasks.

The webquest has been primarily designed for English students aged 11 to 14, which means it does not have the English student in mind. However, all the content is structured in a pedagogical way and we can develop our English reading skills and science vocabulary while getting engrossed in the task of redesigning the Natural History Museum.

sábado, 26 de noviembre de 2011

Scarlett Johansson and Dolce Gabbana

Self-study activity:
Watch this ad featuring Scarlett Johansson and complete the blanks in the transcript below.

I think the activity is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Oh I love Italy! I had an Italian (1) ... once – his mother broke up with me.
How did I know it was a lie? I read it in your newspaper.
Well, a girl has to have a private life. It keeps the public (2) ... .
Music inspired me, art inspires me, but so does the (3) ... .
Yes, I can really sing. But you’ll have to pay me first.
Ah my favorite part of my body? I like my lips for kissing and for (4) ... that start with the letter ‘M’.
Foam slows down time, but a moment (5) ... forever.
I do all of my own stunts, even the love making.
Oh, I’ve played a physicists, a nanny, a (6) ..., an actress, a canibal, and a (7) ... .
An actress is the (8) ... 'cause you never know who you are.
I’m not an actress, I just play one in the movies.
Yes, I can (9) ... on cue, but the third take that’s for real.
The smell of sunshine is the best. You know what I mean.
I’m not looking for a million things, just that one perfect thing, (10) ...  .
That’s the one.

You can also watch this short interview with Scarlett Johansson recorded while she was shooting the ad. No transcript available, though, although you can activate the YouTube subtitles by clicking on CC on the lower side of the screen. They aren't 100% accurate but you can get a rough idea of most things she talks about.

1 boyfriend  2 interested 3 wind 4 words 5 lasts 6 surgeon 7 spy 8 hardest 9 cry 10 love

Exotic animal escape

It's a long time since we published a reading comprehension post, and it's about time we did. Read this The New York Times article about a number of wild animals that escaped from an Ohio reserve, and answer the questions below from The New York Times Learning Blogs about the incident.

WHERE were wild animals including lions, tigers, bears and wolves, set loose?
WHEN did the animals go free?
WHO was the owner of the preserve on which they were kept?
WHAT were the various species that lived there?
WHAT was the town’s reaction to the escape?
WHAT animals still remain unaccounted for?
HOW did the animals escape?
HOW many wild animals were roaming the town?
WHY did the sheriff decide to shoot them?

viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

Anecdote -A challenging experience

You are going to talk about a time in your life you did something challenging. First of all, listen to Laila talk about a time she did something personally challenging and answer the questions below to check that you have understood the main ideas in her anecdote.

a) What was Laila’s challenging experience?
b) How many people saw Laila act?
c) Why was the experience especially daunting and scary?
d) Was it Laila’s first experience in acting?
e) What were Laila’s feelings about acting when she was a child?
f) What were Laila’s worries about the experience she’s describing now?
g) What problem did she have?
h) Who noticed her mistake?
i) Why is acting such a positive experience?
j) Does Laila intend to carry on acting?

Now it's over to you. Think about a time in your life you did something challenging and exciting. Use the questions below as a guideline to help you structure your ideas.

What experience was it?
Who did you do it with?
Had you done it before?
What were your feelings before trying your experience?
Did you come across any unexpected problems?
Ifo so, how did you solve them?
How did you feel afterwards?
Are you going to try and do the same thing in the future?

a) She performed in a Shakespeare play, As you like it in an outdoor production. b) 300 people a night. c) Family and friends went to see her every night. d) No. She had acted at school, primary school and university. e) She was really scared, she had stage fright because she was so shy. f) She has got better, she isn’t that scared, but she’s still worried that she forgets her words, her lines, or someone tripping up or falling off the stage. g) She forgot her words, she mixed up her words. h) The guy who was playing her love interest in the play realized immediately, but nobody else, not even her mum noticed her hiccup. i) Because of the elation you have, you feel on high, the buzz you feel, the adrenaline boost makes the experience exciting despite the fears and worries you may feel. j) Definitely. Acting is really rewarding for her. She has done it all her life. She’s acted after the experience she describes on the video, she did it before, she’s going to do it in the future.

Active Parks

Are there any parks around the area where you live?
Are the parks popular?
What activities do people usually do in these parks?
What other activities could also be done or organised?

Try to answer the questions above before visiting the website Active Parks, which I found out about through Jason Renshaw.

In Active Parks you can check for yourself the way some Australian parks are organised to make life more pleasurable for citizens. This is the presentation message on the website:

Think about your early childhood memories of family life.
Chances are it involved a park or a beach or a bush walk. Did your family go on a camping trip or picnic in the bush? Do you remember riding a bike along a trail or learning to catch that big wave or even that big fish? What about climbing a tree or skimming stones across a river? It was good fun, wasn’t it?
To encourage us all, a program has been developed to help Geelong get healthier, more active and connected to the great outdoors this Spring.
And, it’s easier than you think with the new Geelong’s Active in Parks website. We have plenty of advice and tips on great locations and activities to plan things to do.

Drop by Active Parks to develop your English reading skills and to find out more about what life in the Down Under is like as far as nature is concerned.

jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2011

Death by powerpoint

Death by powerpoint is already a classic among those who at some stage in their professional life have had to deal with the challenge of giving a presentation.

Some of the readers of this blog may be wondering what it is in Death by powerpoint  for them as English learners, as they have never had to do such a thing in their life and it's quite likely they'll never do in the forseeable future.

Anyway, I think everybody can enjoy the powerful visual message of Alexei Kapterev's slideshow and develop their reading skills and vocabulary in English by going through Death by powerpoint .

How to spot a liar

I've been meaning to post about How to spot a liar for a few weeks, but have had to wait till TED made the English subtitles available, so that this October talk by social media expert Pamela Meyer reached as wide an audience as possible.

TED gives this  précis about the talk:
On any given day we're lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lie can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and "hotspots" used by those trained to recognize deception -- and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

You may wish to compare Pamela's ideas with this clip from Videojug, How can I tell if someone is lying to me. If you are an intermediate student, try and complete the ideas below with the missing words after watching the video.

a) Little or no body movement occurs when the pressure of the lie makes the liar worry about their body language, so some will stop moving all together. This also is reflected in …………. ……………, when they probably won't be able to look at you.

b) Some liars do the opposite. They become actors and their actions and …………… get bigger to convince you they are telling the truth.

c) Lying makes people stressed and this comes across in their body language with strange gestures such as …………. and itching and shuffle (move) their …………. a lot.

d) Eyes are a great giveaway. Therefore some people will ………….   …………… at the point of the lie. Or people will replicate the innocence of childhood and widen their eyes while looking …………… at you.

e) We move our eyeballs to stimulate different parts of the brain. When the eyes roll upwards to the left, they are recalling memories and probably …………. ……………. But when their eyes roll up to the right, they are stumulating their ……………, and are probably going to lie to you.

f) When we lie, our noses do get a little bigger. It only has a …………. effect, but enough to make the nose itchy. Therefore when people keep …………. their nose, it could be a sign that they are lying.

g) This is a childish bit of body language, but some still desire to …………. their face, particularly when telling the part of the lie they are most worried about.

a) eye contact b) gestures c) scratching / feet d) look away / straight e) being honest / imagination f) tiny / scratching g) cover

miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2011

How are you feeling? How does he look?

This idea for this activity comes from a blog post from ESLChestnut.

A few verbs in English can be followed by adjective. The verb everybody knows is to be:
I'm hungry
They are old

But there are a few more. They mainly have to do with the senses: taste, sound, look, feel, smell or with our impression of something/someone: seem, appear, look, consider.
The fish tastes funny
It feels a bit rough
It smells nice
She seems (to be) a bit arrogant
They look worried

Self-study activity:
You can practise this structure with the picture below. The activity is a bit mechanical, but it will help you to learn and/or consolidate the idea that a few verbs are followed by adjective.

If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and take it in turn to ask each other the same question:
How does no 1 in the first line look?
He looks exhausted

How is no 2 in the second line feeling?
He's feeling hysterial

You can also practise the present perfect continuous by giving reasons for each person's state.
Because he's been playing football for two hours.

These mood-related adjectives are also suitable to practise and revise the pronounciation of the -ed endings in English.

To revise the way -ed is pronounced in English, click on the Regular Verbs tag on the right hand side.

Mixed races

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video about a recent study about ethnicity in today's British society. Try and understand as much as possible about the news item without bothering about the task below at all.

Now watch the video again and say what the following phrases and figures refer to.

one and a half per cent
two million
a lone parent
early 70’s
a quarter of a century later
self-confident and optimistic

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

martes, 22 de noviembre de 2011

Strategies for developing your oral skills

Students' first priority when learning another language is usually the oral skill. They want to speak the language as fast as possible so that they can communicate through it effectively. That's fair enough.

On occasion, they tackle the teacher and ask him/her, 'yes, I have to find as many opportunities to talk as possible but are there any techniques that might help me develop my oral skill faster?'.

Dominic Cole has addressed this issue on one of his blogposts in his extraordinary IELTS Blog. He suggests the 10 techniques below for the students who are preparing the IELTS exam. As Dominic has in mind students who are preparing for an exam, I think that his advice comes in handy for EOI students preparing for the Nivel Básico or Nivel Intermedio exam, although the format of the exams may be slightly different.

Click on this link to find out the way these techniques should be implemented, and a big thank-you to Dominic.

1. Record yourself and then write down your answer
2. Do it first in your own language
3. Don’t practise the whole part, do it bit by bit
4. Practise by describing photographs
5. Read then speak
6. Improve your memory – write your life history
7. Practise saying “I don’t know”
8. Talk to a mirror
9. Write your own questions
10. Improve your coherence and fluency – easy as 1-2-3 or 3-2-1

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Learning new things (great minds)

Are you learning to do new things?
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever learnt?

These are the two questions people answer in this new instalment of the Speakout videos, Longman.

Self-study activity:
Note down the answers people give to the two questions above. Then answer the questions for yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 21 de noviembre de 2011

British Airways Ad

Self-study activity:
This video activity is suitable for Básico 2 (elementary) students. First of all, watch this short ad from Britsh Airways without reading the text below and try to understand as much as you can.

Then fill in the gaps in the transcript with the missing words.

Those first young men the (1) ..., the aviators building super highways in an (2) ... sky. Leaving wife’s and children in their snug homes with just a kiss and a promise to (3)... . Roaring into the clouds to battle wind and stars. Their safety systems build of brain and (4) ... .
They landed where there were no lights. Transforming (5) ... names from tall tales into pictures on postcards home. And those next young men traveling (6) ..., faster, higher than any in history are the ones who followed them who skinned the edge of (7) ..., the edge of heaven, the edge of dreams.

And we follow them up them to live by an (8) ... promise. The same four words stitched into every uniform or every (9) ... who takes the command. To fly. To (10) ...  .

1 pioneers 2 unknown 3 return 4 heart 5 strange 6 further 7 space 8 unbreakable 9 captain 10 serve

Writing workshop 07: Style


When writing in English our style should be semi-formal, not too colloquial and not too formal and elaborate.

It is true that some of our written assignments and exam tasks will be formal: For example, writing a letter of complaint, or a covering letter when applying for a job or writing a newspaper article.  We will need specific training in these tasks and will need to learn some polite formulas that are characteristic of them, together with some general rules that are typically used in formal written communication like no contractions, no phrasal verbs if possible and so on.

Similarly we may be asked to write something like an email to a friend, where more colloquial language is expected. Unless our level of English is quite high, we will not know many colloquial expressions, but we must be aware of this and try to avoid colloquial language as much as possible, however much or little we know.

When we write is also important that we move away from writing the way we speak. When we speak, sentences are usually short and simple, there are some elements in the sentence that are omitted (ellipsis), we don’t usually use much vocabulary or complex structures.

A semi-formal style, on the other hand, is more thoughtful, more complex, better organized and uses a wider range of vocabulary and structures.

There are also some other things we should avoid:

Artificial emphasis
Never underline word(s) for emphasis or write them in CAPITALS or use rows of dots (…………) and lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!! We have to make our emphasis in some other way: We have to explain ourselves with words and be explicit.

Sloppy wording
Sloppy means careless, so sloppy wording means that we choose our words carelessly, without thinking.
  • We must try not to write in circles and repeat the same information all the time without really developing the topic.
  • We must try not to contradict ourselves.
  • We must try to avoid empty words like people, things, etc (by the way, instead of etc we’d better use and so on).
Direct translation
It is also very important that we do not translate directly from our own language, least of all idiomatic expressions. If I write I met my half orange at university, very few English speakers will know who I am writing about, unless they know (a lot of) Spanish. But if I write I met my other half... , everybody will know that I’m writing about my partner. Now it’s likely that unless my level of English is quite high I will not know the expression my other half, so the advice here is to stop playing games and write partner or husband/wife.

We should always adapt our ideas to the English we know, and keep asking ourselves: Is this English? Does this sentente/expression sound OK in English? An exam is not the moment to do experiments and take unnecessary risks.

Most of the ideas on this blog post have been taken from Feedback, Cambridge University Press, an excellent writing course for intermediate students.

To read all the posts in this series, simply click on the tag Writing workshop on the right.

domingo, 20 de noviembre de 2011

A boy falls off an escalator in Turkey

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC news video about a boy who miraculously saved his life after falling off an escalator in Turkey.

Watch the news item in the first place without reading the text, and try to understand as much as possible. Then complete the blanks in the transcript below as you listen along.

The boy was at the shopping centre with his dad, but ended up playing here. Watch the (1) ... circle closely. What probably began as a game became (2) ... dangerous, as the four-year old climbed on to the handrail a shopkeeper (3) ... him dangling from the escalator. He arrived just in time.

These (4) ... pictures show the boy falling from around four and a half metres, or fifteen feet above the shopping centre floor. His speed suggests he could have been badly (5) ... or even killed.

I noticed the child playing near the escalators. There was nothing dangerous at that time. I turned back to the store and I was told he was climbing on the outside of the escalator (6) ..., so I ran outside and saw he was about to fall down.

The shopkeeper said that he has (7) ... problems but he did everything he could to make sure he caught the little boy. The child’s name hasn’t been (8) ...  . It’s understood he wasn’t hurt and left the shopping centre soon afterwards with his father.

1 highlighted 2 increasingly 3 spotted 4 CCTV 5 injured 6 rail 7 health 8 revealed

I love going to museums

'The internet is full of surprises' doesn't sound like a very original remark. However, that's the idea that came to mind when I stumbled over I love going to museums.

 I love going to museums is an online activity which is part of an educational site of the Extremadura region in Spain.

There English lower-level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) will find dozens of online activities primarily designed for teenagers, but which can help them consolidate they study throughout the school year.

There are several components to all the activities:
  • A short video activity with optional subtitles around everyday situations.
  • Listening comprehension questions.
  • Listening to sentences and correcting mistakes.
  • Ordering the words in a sentence.
  • Vocabulary activities.
  • Self-correction for all the activities.
Drop by this Junta de Extremadura site and judge for yourself.

H/T to English Teacher.

sábado, 19 de noviembre de 2011

Word Vine -an online game on collocations

Enjoy Word Vine, an online vocabulary game I have discovered through EFL Classroom.

In Word Vine, the challenge is collocations. You have to combine a set of words in such a way that they make sense.

The game lets you know whether your collocations are right or wrong thanks to a colour code. They also keep a record of the time it takes you to come up with the right answer.

Oldest marathon runner

Self-study activity:
Watch this news item from a local Edinburgh TV station about the oldest person preparing to run the Edinburgh marathon and answer the questions below.

1 Why did the oldest marathon runner go to Edinburgh?
2 How many marathons has he taken part in?
3 When did Fauja Singh run a marathon for the first time?
4 What’s the secret of Fauja Singh’s success, according to his coach and interpreter?
5 How many people are expected to take part in next year’s race?
6 What record did he break at Meadowbank?
7 How lond did it take him?

1 To open/launch entries for the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon
2 Seven
3 At eighty-nine
4 He´s looking for the secret himself but to many it´s God´s will and when he finds it he´ll let you know.  He loves seeing the wonders of the world that God allows him to see, maybe it´s that hunger to go and see more which is keeping him going.
5 Thirty thousand
6 The oldest person to do the 10,000 metres
7 One hour 27 minutes 45 seconds

viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2011

Spelling test -how to write plurals

This a test Joanne Rudling has prepared for us. What is the plural of the following words?

1. man
2. fox
3. family
4. mobile phone
5. baby
6. person
7. radio
8. dictionary
9. teacher
10. watch
11. bus
12. fish
13. photo
14. tomato
15. woman
16. wife
17. body
18. fly
19. colour
20. mother-in-law

To check the answers, click on the picture below or on the link above, and you'll be directed to Joanne's webpage, who also offers an explanation of the rules governing the spelling rules of plurals.

The physics of high heels

Learn what high heel shoes have to do with the laws of physics. Also, what makes one high-heel shoe more comfortable than another.

Debbie Berebichez tells us all about it in this video.

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

1 Newton and Manolo Blahnicks have something in common.
2 You cannot buy a pair of Manolo Blahnicks for less than $1,000.
3 An elephant applies less pressure to the ground than a woman wearing high heels.
4 It’s not unusual that women who wear stiletto heels lose their balance.
5 A woman wearing a seven-inch stiletto heel is more likely to lose her balance.

You can read the transcript here.

1T 2F 3T 4T 5T

jueves, 17 de noviembre de 2011

Talking point: Do attractive people have advantages others don't have?

Do attractive people have advantages others don't have? was the topic in the Student Opinion feature of the Learning Network of The New York Times in mid October.

They posed a number of questions for students to think about and comment on?
  • What's your opinion on the power of makeup and the societal “rewards” of beauty?
  • Have you seen attractive people gain certain advantages?
  • If so, why do you think it happens?
  • What about the theory that it’s the confidence of the attractive people, not their looks alone, that draws people to them?
  • What do you think the makeup study’s findings in the accompanying article -Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in hand- say about our culture?
  • Does anything need to change?
  • Why or why not
Get together with your conversation group and discuss this issue. Read the article Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in hand by Catherine Saint Louis beforehand to gain some insight on the topic.

During your talking session you may need to resort to generalisations to express your ideas. You can choose some of the expressions below to do so:

In general, ...
Generally/Broadly speaking, …
By and large, …
On the whole, …
In most cases, ...
To a great extent, ...

Apart from and except for introduce exceptions to generalisations.

Fables and stories podcasts

English Club has a more than interesting collection of podcasts featuring fables, stories, the Chinese Zodiac, the signs of the Zodiac.

The podcasts are on the short side and they can be downloaded. They come complete with their transcript.

Self-study activity:
There are several ways you can work with this material:
  • You can select a podcast and check how much you have understood by reading/listening to the transcript later on.
  • You can shadow-read a story: Read the transcript while you listen to it, so that you can imitate the rhythm and pronunciation.
  • You can develop your oral skill by listening to a story and trying to retell it in your own words later on.
  • You can discuss the moral of the story with your conversation group.
H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2011

Anecdote: Dangerous situations

We continue with our series of anecdote activities based on the Inside Out idea, Macmillan.

First of all, watch these two videos where Laila and Valentina tell us about an occasion in their lives when they went through a dangerous situation, and answer the questions below to check your understanding.

a) What happened to Laila?
b) Who was Laila with?
c) Why were they in the States?
d) Why did they go to New York from New Jersey that day?
e) Why did they take a taxi?
f) How much do taxis usually cost?
g) How much did they pay?
h) What problem did the taxi driver have when they got to New Jersey?
i) What did the taxi driver ask Elton to do?
j) What did the taxi driver do when Elton got out of the car?
k) How did Elton react?
l) What excuse did the taxi driver give?
m) What time was it?
n) What did Elton and Laila do?

a) What happened to Valentina?
b) Why did she go to Brazil?
c) Why did she go to that village?
d) What time did she arrive at the village?
e) What problems did she have?
f) What did the bus driver give to Valentina?
g) Was it a good idea?
h) What did Valentina do?

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and talk about a moment in your life when you went through a dangerous situation. You can use the questions below to help you structure your ideas and to think about what you are going to say before you start talking.

Also, try and use some of the expressions you heard Laila and Valentina use in their account.

What was the situation?
When did it happen?
Where were you?
Why were you there?
Who were you with?
What happened?
How did you feel?
How did everything work out in the end?

Key Laila:
a) She was Nearly kidnapped by a taxi driver in New York b) A friend, Elton c) They went to another’s friend wedding d) To see Manhattan, have a laugh, go to some bars, and do some cabbing e) They missed their last train home. The last train was at half twelve f) $120 g) $70, because Elton haggled h) He didn’t know the way i) To ask for street directions at a petrol station j) He drove away with Laila in the car k) He ran after the taxi, and caught up with it because the taxi had to stop at a red traffic light l) He had driven away to ask somebody else for directions m) 4 am n) They paid the taxi driver and walked the rest of the way

Key Valentina:
a) She was stranded in Brazil b) She was on holiday c) To meet a friend d) Half past four e) Her friend wasn’t there to meet her and she couldn’t use her mobile phone f) His calling card so that she could phone from a public phone g) No, because the card didn't work h) She stopped a taxi, which took her to her friend’s house, despite the fact she spoke little Portuguese and she didn’t know her friend’s address

Top 10 Real Life Monsters

This is a slideshow from Time Magazine where we can observe a choice of the ten creepiest creatures in the world.

The selection includes:
  • The killer crocodile
  • The giant squid
  • The world's largest spider
  • The Portuguese man-of-war
  • The emperor scorpion
  • The vampire bat
  • The oar fish
  • The box jellyfish
  • The Burmese python
  • The Loch Ness monster
You can read a short description of each monster, and you can also read further by clicking on the links on the slides.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

martes, 15 de noviembre de 2011

The Why Files

The Why Files is a resource designed for students to learn about the science of stories in the news.

The Why Files cover stories that have connections to science concepts. Most of the stories come complete with text, images, diagrams and videos. Some of the news story on the site include:

Why continents split
Brain damage as a result of doing violent sport.
Wildfires in Texas.
How accurate are weather forecasts.
The conflict between cattle and wildlife.

I found this article about endurance sports really interesting.

Most of the material on The Why Files is thought out for school children, so the content is accessible for the layman and the design is eye-catching.

On top of that, there is a teachers' section with pdf guides and quizzes that you can use to consolidate what you have been finding out in the stories.

The Why Files could also be a good resource for English students to develop their grasp of English while learning about something else.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers.

Speakout elementary: The area where you live

Where do you live?
Do you live in a house or in a flat?
What do you like about where you live?
What don't you like about where you live?

This is another instalment from Speakout Elementary, Longman.

Watch the video and listen to some people answering the questions above.

Now it's over to you. Answer the same questions about yourself. Try to use some of the expressions the people interviewed used.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 14 de noviembre de 2011

Mathematics in movies

I learnt about Mathematics in Movies through Free Technology for Teachers a few weeks ago.

This is what Richard Byrne wrote about this unusual site which combines both science and films:

"Mathematics in Movies is a website developed by Oliver Knill, a Harvard Mathematics professor. Mathematics in Movies is a collection of video clips from popular movies and television shows in which references to mathematics are made. (...) The video clips from Mathematics in Movies could be a fun way to introduce a mathematics lesson. The clips might also be useful as a break from a traditional lesson plan for a day. Students can enjoy the clips while reviewing mathematics concepts."

Click on the picture below to be directed to Professor Knill's choice of over 150 film excerpts. The selection is accompanied by a short introduction where we are explained the kind of mathematical concept we are going to find.

If maths is not your field but you are a keen English student, you will come across lots of famous film scenes to practise your listening skill.

Writing workshop 06: Starting to write

Starting to write

Suppose this is an examination and you have to write a composition. There you are, sitting at your desk, staring at the subject. It does not inspire one single thought. You have nothing to say. You have to write 200 words about it. What do you do?

First, you don’t start writing. You will probably stop after a few lines and feel even more desperate, and you might end up writing in circles and repeating the same ideas all the time. This is the right recipe for failure.

This is what you can do:
  • Get some ideas.
  • Select the ideas that go together and throw away the rest.
  • Decide how you are going to end.
  • Start writing.
Get some ideas
To get your ideas, you have to make them accessible, you have to shake up your brain. We call this brainstorming: You throw questions and associations into your head until something comes up. The idea is simply to make links between the subject topic and your knowledge and experience. All sorts of questions and associations can help. When you need to get ideas, go through a routine like this:

1 Me and the subject: What experience do you personally have? Where does this subject touch you? What is your attitude to it? Does everyone feel/think as you do?

2 Take a position: Is the composition a question of opinion? If so, decide immediately what your opinion is. Then imagine someone you know disagreeing with you.

3 Find examples and illustrations: Think of real examples, things which you know about, things which have happened to you or to people you know, things you have seen.

4 Ask questions: Try inventing questions about the subject. Not all questions will work, but that doesn’t matter. Ask why, what, who, where, how, and answer those questions.

5 Compare: Whatever the subject is about, think about
How it is different from others.
How it was different in the past.
How it will be different in the future.
How it is different in other places or other countries.

6 Culture: Think of the subject in literature, art, films, TV and the news.

We always need a separate piece of paper for brainstorming, and most certainly you will be given rough paper in an exam to write a rough copy or write your notes. Make a point of always using the rough paper.
Also, remember that there are many different ways of thinking about a topic and putting your ideas on paper: lists, unconnected notes all over the page, diagrams. Whichever your method is, it will be good for your purpose: get ideas and select and connect the most suitable ones. Also bear in mind that nobody plans a composition in a straight line, from beginning to end.

Getting a lot of ideas is just the beginning. The purpose of brainstorming is to get a few good ideas. The others, you throw away.

Decide on the ending
Before you start writing your first draft, decide on the ending. Ending is the difficult bit, so it is a good idea to have an ending to work towards, even if you change your mind later.

Choose something good for the ending. Often writers start with their best ideas, but they should think of the ending too. The ending is the climax, it is what your readers will remember. Your ending should be closely connected with your main idea.

This is a summary of a chapter 6 in Feedback "What to say", Cambridge University Press. An excellent writing course for intermediate students.

To read the previous blog entries of the Writing Workshop, click on the Writing Workshop tag on the right hand side.

domingo, 13 de noviembre de 2011

The benefits of working as a language assistant

If you could spend one year abroad teaching Spanish, where would you like to work?
Have you gone through a similar experience or did you go through some kind of work experience stint in your field?
If so, what professional and personal skills did you gain?

English Language Assistants from the UK got together at British Council's headquarters in London in a meeting to discuss their experiences on their return and promote language assitanceship among British university students?

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and enjoy this young crowd's energy, optimism and vitality. These are the questions they will be answering:

What’s the best place to do a language assitanceship?
What’s the reason for your recommendation?
How would you describe your experience?
What professional and personal skills did you gain?

English Language Assistants - Get Involved! from British Council on Vimeo.

H/T to English Video Tweets.

Pronunciation of the -(e)s endings

The pronunciation of the -(e)s endings in English, which comprises several grammar items including the pronunciation of the third person singular, plurals and the possessive case (saxon genitive), is a difficult pronunciation point for both students who are just starting to learn English and for a minority of English learners who have managed to reach the intermediate and even the advanced level without fully grasping how to pronounce them.

English teachers very often have to revise on a regular basis how -(e)s endings are pronounced. Today's activity has been designed by Cristina Cabal , an EOI English teacher, for her elementary students.

Her presentation includes some theoretical background, an audio file and an online activity. Click on the picture below to be directed to Cristina's activity.


If you wish to do further practise on the -(e)s endings, you can visit the following blog entries:

- Plurals (from the Machine goes on).

sábado, 12 de noviembre de 2011

The way you drink reveals your personality

What are you like?
How would you define your personality?

It doesn't really matter, because people around you can get to know a great deal about you by simply observing the way you hold your drink.

All revellers fall into one of eight different personality types which are given away by their drinking techniques, a leading psychologist has concluded. These eight types include:

1. The Flirt
2. The Gossip
3. The Fun-lover
4. The Wallflower
5. The Ice-queen
6. The Playboy
7. The Jack the Lad
8. The Browbeater

Read this Telegraph online article and find out more, and check whether any description really fits you.

H/T to Vigilangues.

Flu attack!

It is this time of the year again when the weather continues to change and the flu season will soon hit us. So how is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and try to understand as much as possible of the process of how a virus invades our body.

If necessary, you can read the transcript here.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers.

viernes, 11 de noviembre de 2011

Language tip of the week: Help

The MacMillan Dictionary blog has a feature called Language tip of the week, where they offer tips based on areas of English (spelling, grammar, vocabulary) which learners often find difficult.

This week's language tip is about the verb help. Click on the picture below to find out more.

New York's 'park in the sky'

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC clip about one of the runaway hits of this past summer in New York, the park in the sky, and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 The park used to be a railway line running through the city centre.
2 The park designers always thought their idea would be successful.
3 The designers have been working on the park for over ten years.
4 The design of the park has won overall recognition.
5 The third and final stage of the park has just been finished.
6 The park has become the place for all kinds of outdoor activities in New York.

You can read the transcript here.

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

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2011

Talking point: What Five Living People Should Be on the New Postage Stamps?

Student Opinion is a regular feature of The Learning Network, The New York Times educational blog. In late September they featured this debate about snail (traditional) mail:

The United States Postal Service announced a few weeks ago that it was tossing out its rule that its stamps honor only dead individuals and will be featuring the living as well.

What five living people would you like to see honored with commemorative stamps?
Do you think the Postal Service is right that stamps featuring living people will “create some excitement and even prompt some young people to engage with snail mail”?
Do you ever mail things these days?
What would be the advantages of the comeback of snail mail?

You can read Katharine Q. Seelye's article Can I Get One Sheet of the Lady Gagas... for background information before you get together with your friends to discuss the topic.

During the conversation with your friends, it's possible that you don't understand something your friends told you. Remember some of the phrases you can use to ask them to repeat what they said.

(I’m) sorry?
(I beg your) Pardon?
Would you mind repeating that?
I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you said.
I didn't quite catch that. Could you say it again, please?

Steve Jobs's legacy

CNET News is a really interesting news channel for English students. Here you will find lots of short video clips about current affairs and information in general which will keep you posted about what's going on in the world. On top of that, a lot of the videos offer the viewer the option to activate the subtitles (CC), which often comes handy when we want to check whether we have understood correctly or something has escaped us.

Self-study activity:
Watch this two-minute video clip on Steve Jobs's legacy, and answer the questions below.

1 What date is it?
2 Which was Steve's first technological success?
3 In what computer was the mouse introduced?
4 What company did he buy in 1995?
5 When did Steve return to Apple?
6 What product did Apple launch in 2001?
7 What product did Apple launch in 2003?
8 What product did Apple launch in 2007?
9 What product did Apple launch in 2010?
10 How did Obama define Steve?

1 Thursday 6 October, 2011 2 The Apple 2 computer 3 In the Macintosh computer 4 Pixar Animations 5 In 1996 6 the Ipod 7 ITunes 8 The iPhone 9 The iPad 10 A visionary

miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2011

Why does it matter that families eat together?

Does it matter that families eat together? Answer the question for yourself, and think about as many reasons as you can in favour or against.

Now click on the picture below to see and read The New York Times slideshow of the same title and check whether any of the reasons you came up with are mentioned, while you learn about the different customs of American multicultural society.

H/T to It's for Tweeters.

Saving a school

Self-study activity:
Watch this VOANEWS report about an old schoolhouse in the American state of Georgia and say whether statements 1-6 are true or false.

By clicking on the picture below you will be directed to the Voice of America site, where you will be able to listen to the story and read the accompanying transcript.

1 The School only has one room.
2 The building fell down recently.
3 In 1953 blacks and whites went to the same schools in US.
4 Harrington school has always been used as a school.
5 Julius Rosenwald was a philanthropist at the beginning of XX century.
6 Five thousand black children benefited from Rosenwald’s generosity.

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

martes, 8 de noviembre de 2011

Adjective game

Lowe level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) can greatly benefit from the Sheppardsoftware site.

They will find in the language/art section of the site a number of online games which will help them in the process of consolidating basic grammar principles.

The main grammar areas that are dealt with in the section are adjectives, nouns, verbs, punctuation and capitalization.

The way the games are played is self-explanatory and those students wishing to try their hand at them will get the hang of it straightaway.

By clicking on the picture below you will be directed to the adjective game.

Students of all levels and ages will also enjoy the Sheppardsoftware site, as they will find at their disposal a collection of online games  of varying difficulty comprising areas like history, health, science, maths, and so on.

Speakout Upper-intermdiate: Downtime

How do you spend your free time?
How would you spend your free time differently if you had more time or money or opportunity?
What are the benefits to society of giving people more downtime or more holidays?

Watch another video from the Longman Speakout series and note down the way the interviewees answer the three questions above.

You can read the transcript here.

Now over to you. Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer the questions for yourself.

lunes, 7 de noviembre de 2011

Writing workshop 05: Paragraphing

Whenever we write, we usually notice that the text is divided into several distinct parts: Paragraphs

A paragraph is something that we can see physically.  Paragraphs are always written away from the margins.
Paragraphs usually contain several sentences that develop one main idea, although it is possible, but very unusual, to have a one-sentence paragraph.

The fact that a text –or a composition for that matter- is divided into paragraphs helps us structure and convey our written message and helps the reader follow and understand it.

It is advisable to indent the first line of a new paragraph. That way, we make sure that the reader exactly knows that we have started a new paragraph. If we don’t indent a paragraph, we run the risk of the reader confusing the start of the new paragraph with the continuation of the previous one.

The philosophy is that each paragraph is about one main idea. This is generally accepted, and in general it is true. The main idea is usually written in the first sentence of the paragraph. The sentence –usually the first, I repeat- where the main idea is expressed is called topic sentence.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph develop the main idea. They are called supporting sentences, and their function is support, expand the main idea. This is achieved through explanations, reasons, examples, a story or an anecdote.

To link sentences together within a paragraph and to relate one paragraph to the others we use connectors (or linkers or linking words), which we will be dealing with in another post entry.

The basic message here for us as composition writers is that whenever we feel we are moving on to a new point, we should start a new paragraph.

Here is a sample composition to illustrate the idea of paragraph division. In bold you will find the 'topic sentence' in each paragraph, and the underlined phrases and words are the connectors which link ideas together.

A career: image and reality
People imagine strange things about a ‘glamour career’. For example, of a business tycoon they think he is a lucky man as he can travel, he has a lot of money, a beautiful car, he lives in a villa with a swimming-pool. His life is busy with parties, galas, important anniversaries. Beautiful women fall at his feet, his friends are important people like movie and TV stars, politicians and men of the financial world. All he dreams can become reality.

This is very silly. In reality, a top business man has no private life. Reporters, journalists are always intruding on his life, the lights are always on his face. He has to work hard to maintain his power. He probably risks his wealth every day as he does business. Life is demanding: he has to be very intelligent to understand where the wind of affairs is blowing. Quite probably, the beautiful women he meets only want his money, jewels, furs, expensive holidays. He must have difficulties having normal relationships with people.

However, what constitutes the glamour of such a man is not only the reality, but the dream as well. Martinelli, in his book Portraits, says that the first money which Rizzoli managed to get for his firm was from a bank manager who believed more in the glamour of Rizzoli’s ideas than in the reality –because Rizolli had no money. So is a tycoon always tired of his glamour? I think not. I think the image of any powerful man is not simply false: it is also a part of his work and life.

Most of the ideas in this blog post are taken from Feedback, Cambridge University Press
Next week: chapter 6 of our writing workshop, 'Starting to write'.

You can read chapters 1 to 4 of our writing workshop by clicking on the Writing workshop tag on the right hand side.

How to write a CV

Intermediate English students, specially those who are preparing for an exam like the EEOOII intermediate cycle or FCE should make a habit of visiting the British Council Professional podcasts.

There they will find dozens of online listening activities about a variety of topics, ranging from technology, to medicine, to motivation and so on.

The activities have been structured in a straightforward and user-friendly way. We first have an introductory vocabulary activity, followed by the listening activity and, to round everything off, students can do some work on pronunciation.

A transcript is available, and everything -tasks, transcripts and audio files- can be downloaded.

Take, for instance, this activity on how to write a CV, which the English Weavers blog drew my attention to. You can do it online by clicking on the picture below. Or you can download the audio file from here, and download the acitvities to do them on paper from here.

If you wish to get more background information on CVs and covering letters, you may also find of interest these articles from the British Council site. If you decide to read any of the articles below, you have at your disposal a glossary of terms to help you out with difficulties in vocabulary.

CV and Cover Letter FAQ
Why a good CV and a good covering letter are important
Top tips for covering letters and CVs
Covering letters: the beginning, core and ending
Covering letter styles
Advice on covering letters
Tailoring your CV for different jobs
How to write a CV
Which CV format to use
What to include on your CV

domingo, 6 de noviembre de 2011

Driver Seat Game

A few weeks ago Digital Play informed about Driver Seat game  in their blog. This is what they said on their blog post.

Driving games can be fun and useful for practising directions, but most driving games are not suitable for class because they are too fast. Driver Seat game by the insurance company Liberty Mutual, however is different. It’s the first ‘senior driving simulator’ aimed at raising awareness of what it’s like to drive a car as you get older.

If you can play with a friend, Driver Seat game will allow you to practise street directions in English. Visit the Digital Play blog and you'll get detailed instructions on how to play.

If you are going to play on your own, Driver Seat game will allow you to develop your reading skills.

Making a first impression

We continue with our anecdote series, based on the idea of the Inside Out books, Macmillan Publishers. Today we are going to talk about someone who made an impression on us.

First of all, let's listen to a girl telling us about someone who made a big impression on her. Answer as many of the questions below as you can.

1 Who made an impression on the girl?
2 Where was the girl studying?
3 What subject did Jonis teach?
4 How old was he?
5 And the girl at that time?
6 What did he look like?
7 Who did he look like?
8 What did the girl find unusual about him?
9 What was the girl's question?
10 How did he react?
11 What did he reply?
12 What did he tell the girl in the second class?
13 How did they get on after that?
14 Why was he a good teacher for the students?
15 What does he do now?
16 When did she see him for the last time?

Now it's over to you. You are going to talk about someone who made an impression on you. Get ready to answer the questions below about the person you have in mind.

Who was it?
Where did you meet this person?
What was your first impression?
What/Who did he/she look like?
Did you notice anything special about him/her?
What did you talk about?
Did you find anything in common?
Has your first impression changed over the time?
How often do you see this person now?

1 A lecturer at university in New York, Jonis Cohen.
2 At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
3 He was the principal acting coach.
4 Thirty-five.
5 Twenty-five.
6 Casual, he had deep, big brown eyes and an infectious smile.
7 Tom Cruise, but a little bit taller.
8 How open and honest he was, telling the students about his life straightway and to interact with him, and he invited the students to ask him questions.
9 Why are you teaching and not acting?
10 He was stumped, he was surprised by the question and took a moment to answer.

11 He both liked acting and teaching, because he wanted to inspire students.
12 That he had been thinking about the question, he had been talking to his acting coach, who said ¨you´re teaching, which is an amazing skill not everybody could do that, you are being an inspiration, gaining a fresh perspective, this is an amazing thing, it´s a gift¨
13 Fine, both the two of them together and the whole class with him.
14 Inspirational, encouraging, pushing you, made the students try to improve, and he also praised students.
15 He’s still a lecturer in New York.
16 Three years ago.

sábado, 5 de noviembre de 2011

Discussions Generator

Once again EFL Classroom provides us with a really interesting and funny conversation game that we can play in class or with friends or even on our own, if we don't mind talking out loud and the people around us thinking that we are going a bit round the bend.

Click on the dice on the Discussion Generator and a random conversation topic will come up. You can set a minimum period of time, let's say a minute, you have to talk about the given topic non-stop.

After that, the people you are working with can react to what you said, or can note down some of the mistakes (if any!) you made and let you know afterwards.

Discussion Generator is great fun and will generate lots of conversation practice.