sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2011

The Way of St James

Pilgrims from all over the world have been following the Way of Saint James for a thousand years. The pilgrimage remains as alive today as ever, and many people come to enjoy the hospitality offered at every stage of the way and discover much more than a journey.

Watch this short video clip about El Camino de Santiago and learn some details about its history and its importance today. No task. Just try to understand as much as possible.

You can read the transcript here.

Verb tense tutorials

For some reason, the English verb system poses a lot of trouble to English students. Textbooks keep revising them no matter what level they are, and students keep complaining about it: It's always the same story with the books: present, past, future, active, passive, and so on, they say.

Anyway, English Page has developed a great  tool for us to study and practise the English tenses. By clicking on the image below or here you will be directed to the site, and you will find two ways you can work with the English tenses. First of all you will find a lot of online activities to practise the tenses.

However, if you need to get down to the basics and study some specific aspect of the verbs, you must scroll down to the very bottom, where you will find tutorials with explanations, the uses of each tense, timelines, examples, typical mistakes and so on.

viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2011

The white villa of Rejkjavik

Villa in Rejkjavik is an episode of Deluxe: Rejkjavik from Deutsche Welle, which I found on English on Target some weeks ago.

Check out the impressive home of Icelandic designer Olga Hrafnsdottir, who lives in a house built in the 1920s in the city's famous 101 district. The building used to be a bed-and-breakfast with four luxury guest rooms. Now it's been converted to a one-family house with six rooms, three of them for the children.

No activity. Enjoy the visual pleasure of Olga's home and try to understand as much as possible.

What happens next?

What happens next? is a video activity that David Deubel has created. I think that the title is self-explanatory. We are going to watch some video segments. At some stage the picture will freeze, and we have to predict what's going to happen next.

The activity is great to have fun and 'develop' our prediction skills. On the other hand, it can also help us to practise and revise will and going to for prediction and practise our oral English if we have the opportunity to do the activity with a friend or relative who also speaks English.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

jueves, 29 de diciembre de 2011

The Queen's Christmas broadcast 2011

This is the speech Queen Elizabeth made for Chritsmas this year.  It is quite a lengthy video clip, upwards of seven minutes, but it is worth watching: The message has a universal value -the crisis, natural disasters, solidarity, hope for the future and resembles the speeches many other dignataries make.

Students at an intermediate level can greatly benefit from it. The speech is delivered at a slow pace and the vocabulary is not difficult, except for a few words and cultural references. Watch it without reading the transcript in the first place and see how much you understand.

It can also help us develop our pronunciation: Have you ever tried the technique of shadow reading? Choose a short passage in the speech and listen to the Queen deliver it. Then, play it again and try to read at the same pace as the Queen does.

In this past year my family and I have been inspired by the courage and hope we have seen in so many ways in Britain, in the Commonwealth and around the world. We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another.

Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within. Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.

When Prince Philip and I visited Australia this year we saw for ourselves the effects of natural disaster in some of the areas devastated by floods, where in January so many people lost their lives and their livelihoods. We were moved by the way families and local communities held together to support each other.
Prince William travelled to New Zealand and Australia in the aftermath of earthquakes, cyclones and floods and saw how communities rose up to rescue the injured, comfort the bereaved and rebuild the cities and towns devastated by nature.

The Prince of Wales also saw first hand the remarkable resilience of the human spirit after tragedy struck in a Welsh mining community, and how communities can work together to support their neighbours.

This past year has also seen some memorable and historic visits – to Ireland and from America.

The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us all with hope. Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long term friendship. It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.

Of course, family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organisation or nation. The Commonwealth is a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals.

It is this which makes the Commonwealth a family of people in the truest sense, at ease with each other, enjoying its shared history and ready and willing to support its members in the direst of circumstances. They have always looked to the future, with a sense of camaraderie, warmth and mutual respect while still maintaining their individualism.

The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.

For many this Christmas will not be easy. With our armed forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home. The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival.

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin
And enter in
Be born in us today
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Garfunkel's poem for Simon's 70th birthday

Art Garfunkel, the musician, has performed the poem he wrote for Simon, his long-time collaborator. He read it on Radio 4, where you can listen to it.

When I said: "You'll outlast me, you live more carefully."
He said: "Write out what you want to."
Ok, it's hard to say I knew him well,
He was enigmatic to himself.
Which of us was more aware?
Which the elder?
I was born November fifth.
He on October 13th - a few weeks premature, you following me?
He was born three weeks before me, my dear,
But he was a premature baby.
Were we both conceived at the same instant?
February 5th 1941, the dead middle of winter,
In the heart of World War Two
Was I born at the right time?
For 70 years his arm has been around my shoulder,
He's dazzled me with gifts.
I nurtured him in his youth.
He brought me into prominence.
I taught him to sing.
He connected my voice to the world.
I made him tall.
All of our personal belongings are intertwined.
We say it's exhausting to compete,
But we shine for each other.
It's still our favourite game.
It goes on, this embrace, whether I speak for him or he for me:
Love ruled our lives.
It rules the mourners,
And the winter of longevity.

miércoles, 28 de diciembre de 2011

Shake up Christmas (song)

I came across Shake up Christmas through ESL Chestnut a few weeks ago. I also think it's high time I published a Christmas-related activity.

Here's the song, anyway. You will find the typical fill in the blanks activity below, but it is more an excuse to provide you with the lyrics. I hope you enjoy it.

Ho, ho, ho...
(1) ... up the happiness
(2) ... up the happiness
(1) ... up the happiness
It's (3) ... time
There was a (4) ... that I was told
And I want to tell the (5) ... before I get too old
And don't (6) ... it, so let's December it
And reassemble it, oh yeah

Once upon a time in a (7) ... like this
A little girl made a great big (8) ...
To fill the world full of happiness
And be on Santa’  magic (9) …

(1) ... it up, (1) ... up the happiness
(2) ... it up, (2) ... up the happiness
Come on all, it's (3) ... time
(1) ... it up, (1) ... up the happiness
(2) ... it up, (2) ... up the happiness
Come on all, it's (3) ... time
Ho, ho, ho,
Ho, ho, ho,
It's (3) ... time

At the same (10) ... miles away
A little (11) ... made a (8) ... that day
That the world would be (12) ...
And Santa would hear him say
I got dreams and I got (13) ...
I got my feet on the ground and (14) ... above
Can you send some (15) … with my best
To the rest of the people of east and the (16) …
And maybe every once in a while
You give my a grandma a reason to (17) …
'Tis the season to (17) …
It's cold but we'll be freezing in style
And let me meet a (18) … one day
That wants to spread some love this way
We can let our souls run (19) …
And she can open some happiness with me


I know you're out (20) …
I hear your reindeer
I see the snow (21) …
Your (22) … have been
I'm gonna show them
So they will know then
Then (23) … will grow in
They (24) … again


1 Shake 2 Wake 3 Christmas 4 story 5 world 6 remember 7 town 8 wish 9 list 10 town 11 boy 12 okay  13 love 14 family 15 happiness 16 west 17 smile 18 girl 19 free 20 there 21 where 22 boots 23 love 24 believe

Get more out of Google

It's the same old story, but it seems that most Google users simply don't know how to make the best of Google.

This is why the guys in Google have decided to publish an infographic which explains some of the most basic Google tools the big public is unaware of. The infographic includes:
  • How to Google, ie, how to search information.
  • Use Google Scholar for academic work.
  • Look for definitions.
  • Use the calculator and unit converter.
  • Learn a few keyboard shortcuts.
  • Access databases.

martes, 27 de diciembre de 2011

-tion, -ssion, -cian

Joanne Rudling is adamant that we improve our grasp of English pronunciation and spelling. In a November post in her The Spelling Blog she drew our attention to the way words ending in -tion, -ssion, -cian are pronounced.

She does a short 'test before you teach' activity with these words:

action, accommodation, admission, permission, electrician, politician, station

to conclude that the last syllable in all the words sounds the same, / ʃən /.

Then she moves on to gives a few examples of the most common words in English with these suffixes, to end up with a short test. All her explanations come together with an audio recording.

I hope you enjoy it.

Speakout Intermediate: Are you a practical person? (solutions)

From Speakout intermediate, Longman, comes this video podcast in which several people are interviewed about their ability to solve practical problems.

Watch the video and note down their answers to the questions below.

Would you describe yourself as a practical person?
What kinds of problems are you good at solving?
What kinds of problems are you not so good at solving?
If you could have one ‘super power’ what would it be and why?

Now it's over to you. Are you a practical person? Answer the questions about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the interviews.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 26 de diciembre de 2011

Victim meets burglar

BBC Panorama's Raphael Rowe met Clare Topcu of Bolton, who described the night in 2009 when burglars broke into her home as she and her nine-year-old son slept.

Mrs Topcu agreed to participate in a restorative justice initiative and meet one of the men responsible.

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

1 Mrs Topcu was in bed when she was attacked.
2 She lost consciousness after a blow.
3 She was tied and gagged like a mummy.
4 Mrs Topcu's son wears glasses.
5 The burglars were pointing a knife to the son's neck.
6 The burglars killed the boy.
7 Mrs Topcu is a widow.
8 The burglar was arrested in Romania.
9 Anger and vengeance were Mrs Topcu's feelings (before taking part in the restorative justice initiative).
10 The meeting was beneficial for Mrs Topcu, as her feelings changed the longer she stayed facing the burglar.
11 After the meeting, the burglar reported other members of the gang.

1T 2T (knocked me out cold, when I came round) 3T 4T 5T (a twelve-inch blade) 6F 7F (The burglars fled when the husband got home) 8F (He was sentenced to 6 years in prison, and after that he will be deported to Romania) 9T 10T 11T

Writing workshop 12: Connectors (3)

This is our last but one article on connectors or linking words. The series may help us gain an overview of this complex area where vocabulary and grammar overlap.

At the same time, it can also provide us with some kind of ready-made phrases that can come in really handy for our compositions or to express our ideas in conversation.

To make partially correct statements
Up to a point, this is true but computers will always need human input.
To a certain extent/degree,
To some extent/degree,

To express limit of knowledge
To the best of my knowledge, Canary Wharf is the tallest building in metropolitan London.
As far as I know,

To state other people's opinion 
People often claim that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness.
I've heard it said that
It is often alleged that
Some people argue that
Most people feel that
Contrary to popular belief
Some people point out that wealth will bring happiness.

To make contrasting points
It is a well-known fact that living in the city is harmful to one's health yet, however, nevertheless, but, even so, still, nonetheless, a lot of people move to the city every year in search of a better future.
Although, Even though, While it is a well-known fact that living in the city is harmful to one’s health, a lot of people move to the city every year in search of a better future.
In spite of the fact that, Despite the fact that, it is a well-known fact that living in the city ...

To express balance (the other side of the argument)
Opponents of using animals in experiments argue, claim, believe that alternative methods of testing can always be used.
While it is true to say that genetic engineering holds the key to solving many of the world's serious problems, in fact it should be viewed with caution.

Negative addition
Neither smoking nor consuming too much alcohol are considered healthy.
Smoking is not considered healthy, nor, neither is consuming too much alcohol.
Smoking is not considered healthy and consuming too much alcohol isn't, either.

To express exception
He had collected every edition of the magazine apart from, but, except (for) one.

Most of the connectors and examples here are taken from Successful Writing, intermediate and upper-intermediate, Express Publishing.

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2011

Plastic bags

Self-study activity:
Watch the ad Paper or Plastic?, where Edward Norton describes a simple easy step everyone can take to help clean up the environment, and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Sometimes it's the small things that really make a big difference for the planet. Consider your answer to a simple question: paper or plastic? How about (1) ... . They've become insidious global tumbleweeds wreaking havoc on the environment.

Each year more than five hundred billion plastic bags are used (2) ... . And because most bags never fully biodegrade, the environment is (3) ... with tiny pieces. Even tiny particles can create (4) ... problems. Within large swathes of the Pacific Ocean there are more tiny pieces of plastic than food.

But there is good news. The list of countries and cities (5) ... plastic bags is growing. And you can be part of the solution. So, listen, bag the bags... Seriously byob. Bring your own bags to the (6) ... store. One small step toward a big change.

1 neither 2 worldwide 3 loaded 4 major 5 banning 6 grocery

Easy conversations for beginners

Easy conversations for beginners offers elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) the possibility of listening to dozens of short dialogues on everyday topics.

The topics include daily life, school life, transportation, entertainment, dating, at the restaurant, sports, safety, travel, jobs, food, shopping, housing, vote and health.

I would like to suggest this way of studying:
  • Choose a dialogue.
  • Listen to it.
  • Look up any words or expressions you don't know.
  • Listen to it, paying careful attention to pronunciation, and replaying words and sentences as often as necessary.
  • Shadow-read: Try and read at the same pace as the recorded voices.
  • Read the dialogue yourself.

sábado, 24 de diciembre de 2011

A day in the life of a Sainsbury Store

Jeffrey Hill published A day in the life of a Sainsbury Store on The English Blog a few weeks ago.

As he says, Sainsbury's, which is one of the 'big three' supermarkets in the UK, is depicted in a rather idealized way, and we can observe what goes on behind the scenes in a typical Sainsbury's supermarket during the course of a day.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip and answer the questions below.

1 When does work start?
2 Is it possible to order food from home?
3 When does the store begin to get busy?
4 In what field does Sainsbury occupy the 7th position?
5 Can you buy pre-cooked food?
6 How do Sainbury's butchers and fishmongers learn their job?
7 Do all the Sainbury stores have a chemist?
8 When are the empty shelves filled again?

You can read the transcript here.

1 before dawn 2 yes 3 mid-morning 4 selling clothes 5 yes 6 in-house training 7 No, just most of them 8 In the late afternoon

50 of the world's best breakfasts

50 of the world best breakfasts is a great article from Hostel Bookers which briefly describes their choice of the top 50 best breakfasts in the world.

Apart from the cultural insterest of the article, the reading can prove valuable to the English student, as they can develop their reading skills and revise food vocabulary at large.

Jamie Olivier has published this factsheet with essential information on the importance of breakfast for a person's health, especially children.

viernes, 23 de diciembre de 2011

Six Christmas Traditions from around the World

It's a long time since we last posted a reading comprehension activity, and it is about time we did so. Six Christmas Traditions from around the World is a New York Times article which shows six ways of celebrating Christmas in different countries around the world.

The New York Times Learning Network has set the following questions that we should be able to answer if we have understood the article.

WHERE, on weekends leading up to Christmas, do two caves offer caroling sing-alongs?
WHAT traditionally weaves through the narrow streets to Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, this time of year?
WHEN is the Noche de Rábanos in Mexico?
HOW do people in Quebec City celebrate outdoors this time of year?
WHO celebrates midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome?
WHY do celebrations in Taos, N.M., blend so many traditions?

Kite-fighting in New York

Self-study activity:
Watch this The New York Times video about a group of Pakistani immigrants in New York who are preserving a traditional South Asian sport, and answer the questions below about it.

1 When did the Pakistani immigrants start kite-fighting in New York?
2 What's The Kite Runner?
3 Name one essential (key) ability you need for kite-fighting.
4 When do the Pakistanis get together to kite-fight?
5 Where did the sport start?
6 How many teams play?
7 Why do the Pakistanis kite-fight in New York?
You can read the transcript here.

1 1995 2 A novel by Khaled Hosseini, and a film 3 Patience and timing 4 At weekends 5 In China 6 Two 7 To maintain a tradition

jueves, 22 de diciembre de 2011

Anecdote: Homestay

This is the last installment in Macmillan's Inside Out series of anecdote videos. Unfortunately, they haven't published any more videos lately, so the story ends today with Laila telling us about a time when she had to stay at somebody else's home.

Remember that the idea behind the anecdote technique to develop our speaking skills is that we have to think about a specific situation in our life. To help us do so, we are guided with some leading questions. After a few minutes' preparation thinking about what we are going to say, we can deliver our story.

It is advisable to watch or listen to someone tell an anecdote in the first place, and then try to imitate them.

Here's Laila on her homestay experience. Answer the questions below to check that you have fully understood what she says.

1 Where did she stay?
2 Who did she stay with?
3 Who did she go with?
4 How long did they stay?
5 Why did she recognize her uncle?
6 What nationality is her aunt?
7 What is it like where her uncle and aunt live?
8 Which floor do they live in?
9 How many children do their uncle and aunt have?
10 What’s auntie Loli like?
11 Where was her uncle born?
12 How long did he take him learn Spanish?
13 What does Laila compare auntie Loli with?
14 What didn’t auntie Loli allow Laila and her sister to do on their own?
15 What was bad about it?
16 What job do uncle and auntie do?
17 What was the problem with their room?
18 What was the worst moment of the trip?
19 What was the problem with Loli?
20 Would she stay there again?

Now it's over to you. Use the quetions below as a guideline to talk about a time when you stayed at someone else's home.

Where did you stay?
When was it?
Who did you go with?
How long did you stay?
What was your room like? Did you have to share it?
What was the house/flat like? And the area?
Who usually lives there?
What do they do?
What did you like best about the experience? And least?
Would you stay there again?

1 In Madrid 2 Her Dad's uncle Ally and aunt Loli 3 Her sister 4 Ten days 5 He looks very much like her father (spitting image of my dad) 6 Spanish 7 Noisy, dusty, vibrant, with a lot of city life 8 On the top floor 9 None 10 A bit of a control freak, quite overbearing, she would steamroll all over everything her uncle would say 11 Iran 12 Four months, or one year according to auntie Loli 13 A puppet, as she always answers for her husband 14 Go to the city center 15 She wanted to go shopping with them and gave her opinion about any article of clothing they wanted to buy 16 They are retired, which allows them to travel a lot and have an active social life 17 It was very hot (absolutely boiling, sweltering, about 40 degrees), with no air-conditioning, they melted, they didn’t get a week of sleep 18 When they drove them to see their friends in the countryside. It was a six-hour drive along winding mountain roads. Laila got very car sick 19 She couldn’t fathom (understand) why Laila was sick, as she had never been sick in her life. She also thought Laila was pretending and just seeking for attention 20 No, but she would like to go back to Madrid (I would visit Madrid in a heartbeat)

Actual, a false friend for Spanish students

The word actual is really complicated for Spanish learners of English, as they sometimes mistake it for the Spanish word 'actual' when, as a matter of fact, it is used in English to emphasize something that is true or exact. We can translate it as 'real, verdadero, propiamente dicho'. Here are some examples:

He cited actual cases (citó casos reales)
The actual owner (el verdadero dueño)
There was no actual agreement (no hubo un acuerdo propiamente dicho)

The Macmillan Dictionary blog published an entry on actual in the section Language tip in November. You can read it by clicking on the picture below.

miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2011

2011: How the world searched

Google  Zeitgeist 2011 is Google's vision of the main events in 2011 according to Google users' searches.

Their video gives us a quick summary of their idea. You can check the transcript here.

You may prefer to read more factual information about it all. If that's the case with you, check this link or click on the picture below to find out more about the main events and most outstanding people in 2011 from Google's perspective.

Talking point: What will you remember most from 2011?

What national, international, cultural and personal events in 2011 stand out for you most? Why?
Or is it a viral Internet idea?
Or is it an event in your own life, or something else entirely?
You might even list the first five or ten events that come to mind when you think about 2011 as a whole. How would you sum up this year?
What are you looking forward to in 2012?

The New York Times Learning Network suggests the most memorable moments of the year for you as a talking point to wrap up 2011. Before you get together with the people in your group to discuss the topic, there are some things you might do in preparation, so that you can greatly contribute in the discussion.

Take a look at the New York Times 2011 News Quiz to refresh your memory. You have 34 statements with blanks. For help, you can find the missing words jumbled up after the quiz by scrolling down the screen. If your memory fails you or you find the test too demanding, you can click on each blank to be directed to the original Times source for that entry.

You can always check your answers for the quiz on this PDF.

The New York Times Learning Network also presents a video from Flocabulary where the main events of the year are presented in a two-minute rap.

The Year in Rap: 2011 from Flocabulary on Vimeo.

Here are the lyrics for the rap:

2011: We're looking back,
We ran around the sun, it's the Year in Rap.
Dictators used to run the Middle East,
Till this year when people hit the streets.
Started in Tunisia, then it moved
to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, too.
Democracy's now an Arab thing,
It's been blossoming since the Arab Spring.
US found Bin Laden in Pakistan,
And killed him, now he won't attack again.
He'd been hiding out, but we tracked the man,
Now some Pakistanis think that we should pack it in.
South Sudan is a new nation,
While Palestinians are made to stay patient.
In London, reporters hacked a phone
Of a dead girl, so a paper closed.
They nearly ran out of money in Greece,
Italy struggled too, capisce?
Disasters have been off the leash:
Japanese earthquake and a tsunami,
Damaged a nuclear reactor,
The costliest year ever for disasters.
We felt the winds of Irene blow,
And for Halloween, rain dressed up like snow.

Rep. Giffords was shot in Arizona.
Some thought she would be a goner,
But her recovery was amazing,
Her strength is an inspiration!
In the military, you can ask and tell,
And gay marriage in NY as well.
Some think economic inequality is not what it ought to be,
So they occupied Wall Street.
And then it spread real fast,
To cities but some got tear gassed.
The President and GOP can't agree,
His jobs plan? They canned it, see.
We need to reduce our debt like a fraction,
The Supercommittee couldn't make it happen.
The GOP field had more debates
than Lindsay Lohan has had court dates.
NASA stopped shuttle trips into orbit,
I guess they couldn't afford it.
Wisconsin disputes were sharp like cheddar cheese,
When the Gov. tried to cut the unions at the knees.
Bullies in NJ will get stopped,
By the tough new laws they chose to adopt.
Dirk beat the flu to beat the Heat,
NBA locked out so we missed some weeks.
In the ATL we saw teachers cheat,
And we watched when Watson won on Jeopardy.
Computers are smart and getting jacked,
It's Friday like Rebecca Black, remember that?
Sad news: Steve Jobs died,
But there are now 7 billion people alive.
2011: We did it well,
Relax a spell, see y'all in 2012!

martes, 20 de diciembre de 2011

The Denver Post has published a wide collection of pictures which summarises the most outstanding events of 2011, and some others we may not have been aware of. The collection is so large that it has been divided into three parts.

The quality of the photos is really good, and the captions make an easy, quick read. Some of the photos, though, may be a bit shocking, as they show tragic events.

The best photos of 2011 - part one.

The best photos of 2011 - part two.

The best photos of 2011 - part three.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Travel

Travel is a new installment in the Longman's Speakout series of podcasts. Today's video is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip and note down the answers people give to the following questions.

Do you like travelling?
What do you like about travelling?
What don’t you like?

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer the questions above about travelling. Try and use some of the expressions you heard in the interviews.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 19 de diciembre de 2011

CNN News end of the year quiz

Yesterday, CNN Student News aired their last episode for 2011 and bid their farewell until 2012. I thought it would be a good opportunity to remind everybody of this great learning tool that CNN offers on a daily basis during the better part of the year.

One resource added to yesterday's episode is a 2011 End of Year Quiz, which consists of a ten-question multiple choice quiz. You get instant feedback after answering a question.


You can read the transcript for the news bulletin here.

Writing workshop 11: Connectors (2)

In this post we continue working with connectors, which may help us raise our awareness of the way sentences and paragraphs should be linked together in a composition while revising some key grammar concepts and enhancing our vocabulary.

To refer to other sources
With reference to the latest scientific research, the use of mobile phones can be damaging to one's health in the long run.
According to the latest ...

To express cause
The man was acquitted of the crime because there wasn't any substancial evidence.
The man was acquitted of the crime since / as there wasn't any substantial evidence.
The man was acquitted of the crime owing to / due to the fact that there wasn't any substancial evidence.

In view of the lack of substantial evidence the man was acquitted of the crime.
Because of the lack...
Owing to the lack...

There was a lack of substantial evidence; for this reason the man was acquitted.

To express effect
There was a sudden flood; thus / therefore / so / consequently / as a result / as a consequence, he sprinted home.

To express purpose 
Due to the storm, the pilot decided to turn back, so that the flight would not be jeopardized.
Due to the storm, the pilot decided to turn back, so as to / in order to avoid jeopardizing the flight.
Due to the storm, the pilot decided to turn back, in case the flight was jeopardized.
They purchased the old mansion with the purpose/intention of converting it into a luxury hotel.

To emphasise a point
Indeed, the scheme was bound to fail due to insufficient funds.
Needless to say,

To express reality
It is a fact that smoking over a long period of time will seriously increase the risk of heart disease.
In fact,
As a matter of fact,
In practice,

To give examples
For instance, by establishing day-care centres across the country, working mothers can be encouraged to resume their careers.

For example, by providing incentives such as / like day-care centres working mothers are encouraged to resume their careers.

To make general statements
As a (general) rule, countries nearer the equator have warmer climates.
By and large,
In general,
On the whole,

Most of the connectors and examples here are taken from Successful Writing, intermediate and upper-intermediate, Express Publishing.

domingo, 18 de diciembre de 2011

Online reading comprehension for Básico 1 students

Le Précepteur has a selection of online reading activities which Básico 1 (elementary) students can find of interest.

Some of the activities have the challenge of having a time limit, so students have to work against the clock to answer the questions.

There are also different types of activities: multiple choice, fill in the blanks, build the story, and so on.

H/T to Henry Michelle.

Ikea's Manland

Self-study activity:
Watch this video about Ikea's latest idea in their stores and answer the questions below.

1 Is shopping one of the most testing things a couple can do?
2 What does Ikea's niffty idea consist of?
3 How long is a man's retail attention span?
4 Who do girlfriends and wives do while their partners hang out in Manland?
5 How many men pretend to enjoy the shopping experience?
6 What are women given when they leave their partners in Manland?
7 How long can the men stay in Manland?
8 Where did Ikea get the idea about Manland?
9 What happens if men stay in Manland longer than allowed?
10 Who benefits more from Manland, wives or husbands?

You can read a The Star online article about Ikea's idea here.

After watching the video you can discuss these questions with an English-speaking friend or relative:

Do you like the idea?
Do you think other big department stores should follow Ikea's example?
Is the distinction between men and women conveyed by the video stereotypical?
Do you identify with it?

1 Yes, according to the report 2 Manland is an area in Ikea's stores (in Australia) for men to stay and entertain themselves with games like the Xbox and watching the footy (TV) while their partners are doing the shopping 3 very short 4 they go shopping 5 some 6 a buzzer which warns them about their partners staying in Manland 7 We don't really know. They say that the buzzer goes off after half an hour 8 Ikea first created Smalland, a kind of creche where parents can leave their children while doing the shopping  9 the authorities are called 10 wives

sábado, 17 de diciembre de 2011

Christmas jokes, Christmas songs and Christmas quiz

Oxford University Press has shared a number of Christmas resources which are worth having a look at to get involved in the Christmas spirit while learning English.

Christmas Jokes

Christmas Carols

Christmas Quiz

Occupy protesters say it is 99%

Self-study activity:
How do you pronounce these figures?

120 million
1928 (year)
2000 (year)
2011 (year)
1970s (decade)

Now watch this The Guardian video Occupy protesters say it is 99% which I discovered through Larry Ferlazzo and check whether you got the pronunciation of these figures right while you learn more details about the Occupy movement in the US.

Although the level of the video is high, Básico 2 students can watch it to revise the pronunciation of numbers in English.

You can read the transcript here.

viernes, 16 de diciembre de 2011

Sleep box

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC news item about a Russian invention to make the best of our waiting time at airports.

The task is suitable for Intermedio 1 students, but Básico 2 ones can give it a go too.
First of all, watch the video clip through and try to understand as much as possible.
Then, watch the item again and complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing words.

It’s the dream of every long-distance airline passenger: A chance to escape the airport departure (1) ...  and your fellow passengers, kick back, unwind and relax whilst waiting for connecting flight. Both for tourists and business travellers in Moscow the wait may finally be over. It’s called the sleep box. And its designers say its subtle (2) ...  , bunk-styled beds, fold-down desk and luggage space provide the perfect (3) ... for so much-needed sleep.

We ourselves fly a lot and get into situations where we have to sleep on chairs and even on the floor. You don’t want to go to a hotel, of course, because it is too far away and it’s not (4) ... in a matter of minutes, so we came up with this idea.

There are of course already (4) ... rest areas at airports, but the Moscow inventors believe their design is so different in that it can be positioned near boarding gates to allow passengers the option of renting them for periods as short as (5) ... minutes, and it seems to be getting a positive response from passengers.

This passenger thinks it will be a success provided the price is right and it’ll be a lot more comfortable than an airport (6) ...  .

It’s too early to say whether or not the sleep box will help to usher in a new era in airline travel. It will be up to the (7) ... traveller if they want to get away from it all while still at the airport.

1 lounge 2 lighting 3 environment 4 available 5 thirty 6 couch 7 tired

An outsider's view of US

Benny Lewis is an Irish man with a love for languages and travelling. He's the person behind Fluent in Three Months, where he develops his theories and gives recipes to learn languages as quickly as possible.

He recently lived in the US and has come to the conclusion that US really is not the place for him.

In his blog post 17 cultural reasons why this European never wants to live in America he explains his reason. Read Benny's post, where he goes into details for each of the reasons below.

1. Americans are way too sensitive
2. Everything is “awesome”!
3. Smiles mean NOTHING
4. Tipping
5. False prices on everything
6. Cheesy in-your-face marketing
7. Wasteful consumerism
8. Idiotic American stereotypes of other countries
9. Heritage
10. ID checks & stupid drinking laws
11. Religious Americans
12. Corporations win all the time, not small businesses
13. A country designed for cars, not humans
14. Always in a hurry
15. Obsession with money
16. Unhealthy portions
17. Thinking America is the best

jueves, 15 de diciembre de 2011

The Eiffel Tower

Self-study activity:
This is a History Channel video that I discovered through ESL Writing, which has also come up with the activity.

Watch the clip and answer the questions below.

1. What is the nickname of Paris?
2. Why was the Eiffel Tower built?
3. When did it open?
4. How many people visited the tower when it first opened?
5. Why was the tower special when it opened?
6. Did the people of Paris like the tower when it first opened?
7. How long did it take to build?
8. How many metal parts are there?
9. How many rivets are there?
10. How much does it weigh?
11. How much did it cost?
12. What is the tower’s height?
13. What was scheduled for 1909?
14. How many annual visitors are there?
15. How did the tower get its name?

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

Talking point: Do you have good manners?

The decline of good manners is a recurrent topic whenever we talk about how society is changing. I remember my grandparents telling me the way good manners were declining, my parents telling me about my generation's lack of manners and me telling my daughter a similar story.

How would you define “good manners”?
Is it knowing proper etiquette when you’re in a restaurant?
Saying “please” and “thank you”?
Being kind and thoughtful of others?
Do you agree with those who say that civility in general is declining everywhere?
Do you think having good manners is important?
Do you think you have good manners yourself?
How would you rate your own manners?
Do you think our society in general is becoming less civil and more rude? Why or why not?
Do you remember an occasion when somebody was impolite to you?
Do you remember an occasion when you could have been more polite to someone else?

This was the topic of the Student Opinion in The New York Times The Learning Network blog in early November.

As a background article to the topic they used A Last Bastion of Civility, the South, Sees Manners Decline by Kim Severson, which you can also read before you get together with your conversation group to discuss this topic.

In your discussion, it is expected that some anecdotes about people behaving rudely will come up. Use the following expressions to showing surprise and react to what your friends tell you. 

It can’t be!
I can’t believe you / it! / my ears!
Reply questions: Did you? Have you? Is she?
Exclamations: Oh dear! Oh my God! (That’s) incredible / amazing!

miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2011

Penguin upstages BBC reporter

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

1 Penguins need to live in large areas.
2 The new area for the penguins recreates their habitat faithfully.
3 Penguins swim as well as they fly.
4 Penguins can swim under water for up to three minutes.
5 The main danger for the extinction of penguins lies at sea.
6 Fishing must be control to save penguin species.

You can read the transcript here.

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

Famous quotes that were never said

Famous quotes that were never said is a slideshow from Life where we get the opportunity to read 32 famous quotes comprising all aspects of life -cinema, sports, politics, art and so on.

The slideshow is a good opportunity to refresh or get acquainted with famous quotations and compared them with what was actually said.

Famous quotes that were never said is an entertaining way to develop our reading skills.

martes, 13 de diciembre de 2011

Citizenship test in the UK, would you pass it?

The Life in the UK citizenship test must be taken by all those seeking indefinite leave to remain or who apply for a British passport. Could you pass the test as it stands?

1. Is this statement TRUE or FALSE: in the 1980s, the largest immigrant groups were from the West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan

2. How many parliamentary constituencies are there?

3. Which of these statements is correct?
Education at state schools in the UK is free and this includes the cost of school uniform and sports wear 
Education at state schools in the UK is free but parents have to pay for school uniform and sports wear

You can answer up to 24 questions collected by The Guardian by clicking on the picture below.

You can also find out more information about the test in the Official Practice Citizenship Test, where you can buy the Official Handbook and Study Guide.

H/T to Vigilangues.

Speakout elementary: What's your favourite type of food

What's your favourite kind of food?
What's your favourite dish?
What's your favourite place to eat?

Watch this Longman video from Speakout Elementary and note down the answers the interviewees give to the three questions above.

Now you can answer the questions for yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2011

All you need to know about Christmas

Christmas is an interactive book by Mrs Haquet that shows us everything we need to know about Christmas:
  • Christmas vocabulary
  • Christmas traditions in several countries
  • Christmas-related listening activities
  • Christmas-related reading activities
  • A carol

If you want to find out about Christmas, drop by Mrs Haquet's interactive book and you won't be disappointed.

Heathrow Transport Pods

Self-study activity:
Watch this short ITN video clip about the new way of getting around in Heathrow and fill in the blanks in the transcript below with the missing numbers.

The task is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Meet the future, say the designers of public transport. This 30 million pound pod network has replaced (1) ... thousand annual airport bus journeys between Heathrow Terminal 5 and its car parks. Each is battery-powered and entirely computer-controlled. They arrive on demand and make a (2) ... kilometre journey in just five minutes. It took the airport buses up to (3) ... minutes in addition to the 10-15 minute average waiting time.
Your personal pod with four seats will arrive to collect you and your family in around (4) ... seconds and will whisk you non-stop to your destination. The twenty-one vehicle is (5) ... more efficient than a car and automatically-clocked to recharge their batteries when no-one is using them.
It is estimated these cute little private trains will carry some (6) ... passengers a year, a promising start to a novel idea which could just revolutionise transport.

(1) 50,000 (2) 3.8 (3) 15 (4) 30 (5) 70% (6) half a million

Writing Workshop 10: Connectors (1)

Our installments of Feedback, the intermediate writing course of Cambridge University Press, have come to an end. In the new year we might focus on different types of writing tasks and how to deal with them. In the meantime, we will be publishing four blog posts to deal with connectors (also called 'linking words').

Remember that connectors help us structure our writing, as they link together ideas within the same paragraph and connect the paragraphs themselves in the composition.

The examples provided here also give us a good opportunity to revise some grammar points to which some connectors are related.

Personal opinion 
In my opinion/view,
To my mind,
It strikes me that,
It seems to me that,
As far as I am concerned,
I think that the economic recession of the previous decade was foreseeable.

To list advantages and disadvantages
One advantage of,
Another advantage of,
The main advantage of,
The greatest advantage of riding a motorbike in a large metropolis is that of not getting caught in major congestion.

One disadvantage of,
A further disadvantage of,
The main disadvantage of,
The first disadvantage of driving a car in a large metropolis is that offinding a parking space.

To list points
To start/begin with
First of all,
In the first place,
Finally, we have to address the inadequacies within the education system before we can tackle unemployment fully.

To list points in a specific sequence 
BEGINNING - First, To start/begin with, First of all, the Home Secretary will make an introductory speech.
CONTINUING - Secondly, After this/that, Afterwards, Then, Next, the Prime Minister will speak.
CONCLUDING - Finally, Lastly, Last but not least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will announce the new budget.

To add more points to the same topic
What is more,
Apart from this/that,
In addition (to this),
Besides (this), your choice of career is a fundamental decision which will influence the rest of your life.
Not only is your choice of career a fundamental decision, but it is also one that will influence the rest of your life.
Your choice of career is both a fundamental decision and something that will influence the rest of your life.

Most of the connectors and examples here are taken from Successful Writing, intermediate and upper-intermediate, Express Publishing.

domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2011

Little Numbers

Little Numbers is a song performed by Boy, a German-Swiss duo singing in English, who I discovered through Anne Hodgson. The video clip for the song was filmed in Barcelona.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and see how many different settings (places) come up in the video.

Waited for your call, for the moon
To release me from the longest afternoon
I’ve re-arranged parts of my living room
But time is hard to kill since I met you
Looking at the cars that drive on by
While spring is making promises outside
Red cars are quite rare I realize
Then I wonder which colour you like
Seven little numbers
Baby, they could be a start
Seven little numbers
Baby, I know yours by heart
Chorus: Oh, all the pretty things that we could be
Oh, I feel you in every heart beat
Oh, were you ever in a dream that could come true
These numbers could be lucky for you
Watch the sky change to a darkened blue
I can’t think of another thing to do
And every song just makes me think of you
Because the singer sounds as if she was longing,
As if she was longing, too
Seven little numbers
Baby, they could be a start
Seven little numbers
Baby, I know yours by heart
Seven little numbers
They could make a change
Seven little numbers
Make a fire out of this flame
I read your name on every wall, on every wall – tell me
Is there a cure for me at all, for me at all – tell me

Dictations online

Dictations online is a section of Fonekis.org. Here students of all levels will find a number of dictations to practise their listening comprehension skills as well as their spelling and their grasp of grammar and vocabulary.

Just follow the instructions you will find in each activity of Dictations online .

H/T to Michelle Henry.

sábado, 10 de diciembre de 2011

The Cracked Pot

The Cracked Pot is a Chinese story that you can read in this slideshow from EFL Classroom. Some food for thought for today while we read a beautiful short story.

A Day in Jersey

A Day in Jersey is a beautiful slideshow on the British Island devised by F. Lewandowski and R. Maufroid and which I learnt through Michelle Henry.

The listening activity is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Click on the picture below to be directed to A Day in Jersey. You will find a twenty-question quiz with sentences to complete just below the slides.

You can read the transcript here.

viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2011

Food and drink vocabulary

This is a different way of memorising and learning vocabulary. Jason Renshaw and his son Jamie present different sets of food through a video in which they hold a relaxed conversation about different types of food and their attitude to them.

This lengthy video, about 11 minutes, can be useful to lower lowel students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) because they will manage to learn lots of vocabulary items, learn the way the words are pronounced, and hear English speakers using the words in a natural way.

Food Set 1 - Snack/Junk Food
a hamburger; a hotdog; a donut/doughnut; a cookie; an ice cream [cone]; a candy [bar]; a lollipop; a candy; a cake; some pizza; some chocolate; some popcorn; some cake; some ice cream; some jelly; some cheese; some french fries; some potato crisps/chips

Food Set 2 - Fruit
an apple; an orange; an apricot; an avocado; a lemon; a peach; a tomato; a melon; a watermelon; a cherry; a grape; a strawberry; a raspberry; a plum; an eggplant; a pumpkin; a pineapple; a kiwi-fruit

Food Set 3 - Vegetables
a potato; an asparagus; a pea; a carrot; an onion; a capsicum (pepper); a bean-sprout; a mushroom; a chilli pepper; corn; broccoli; a turnip; a lettuce; a cauliflower

Durham School

Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip on Durham School, one of the oldest schools in Britain, and say whether sentences 1-12 below are true or false.

1 Durham School is for boys and girls.
2 Children aged 3-8 can study there.
3 Durham School has 600 students.
4 Durham School is divided in Senior School and Junior School.
5 Older students spend time with students at Junior and Nursery School.
6 Achieving good academic results is not the only objective of Durham School.
7 At Senior School there are single-sex houses.
8 Durham School is also a boarding school.
9 If you are a day student, you can stay at school until 9pm.
10 Extracurricular activities make it difficult for students to study.
11 Gilliann Reader, a parent, has three boys at school. 
12 Developing a community spirit is a priority at Durham School.

1T (co-educational school) 2F (children aged 3-18) 3F (600 years old) 4T 5T 6T 7T 8T 9T 10F 11F (two boys and a girl) 12T

jueves, 8 de diciembre de 2011

Our Secret

Our Secret is an activity devised by Rob Whyte, from ESL Writing. I thought the idea was great to develop the students' listening ability and to establish a framework for conversation and discussion. The film also has a very high dramatic and emotional power, which can be motivational for students.

Here are Rob's questions about Our Secret .

Once again, I would like to recommend you to do these types of activities, which combine both listening and speaking, with someone else, so that you can share ideas and deal with the oral part of the activity together.

What’s the woman’s name?
Why is he writing a letter to the woman?
What did the man decide to do?
What is the name of her favorite horse?
Who is Robert?
What parts of the farm remind him of her?
Who is Nathan?
Who is Roger?
What is the secret?

Self-study activity:
After watching the story and answering the questions, talk it over with a friend about secrets people have kept for a long time. You may remember old family stories or you may even know someone with a secret or who leads a double life. That might make an interesting topic for conversation.

You can read the transcript here.

Pronunciation / θ / vs / ð /

In late September this year the blog I spilled the beans published a wonderful video to illustrate the difference between / θ / and / ð /.

The sounds are not difficult for Spanish speakers, but we do tend to make mistakes with individual words, especially with / ð /.

The main difficulty, though, may be recognising the sounds, as you may find the phonetic symbols intimidating.
  • / θ / is pronounced like the Spanish "z".
  • / ð / is articulated exactly the same as / θ /, the only difference between them being that / θ / is voiceless, "sorda", with no vibration of the vocal chords and / ð / is voiced, "sonora", so it is pronounced with vibration of the vocal chords.
Watch this wonderful video by David Sconda to learn all the details and find out the typical mistakes English learners make with these sounds.

miércoles, 7 de diciembre de 2011

The Origins of 7 Superstitions

Superstitions are a very traditional lesson in all English courses. That's English! students specifically study superstitions in Module 6 unit 7 of the Intermedio 1 year.

Neatorama has published an article to explain the origin of the 7 British superstitions listed below. As they say, whether you’re superstitious or not, discovering the origins of these common beliefs is a fascinating look at religion and human psychology.

Friday The Thirteenth
Breaking A Mirror Causes Seven Years Bad Luck
Knock On Wood
Black Cats
Walking Under A Ladder
Throwing Salt Behind Your Shoulder
Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

Anecdote: A friend

This is another MacMillan video to illustrate the use of anecdotes in the English class.

Today's anecdote is about a friend who is very different from you.

First of all, listen to Laila talking about her friend. Answer the questions below to check your comprehension.

1 What’s Laila’s friend’s name?
2 When and where did they meet?
3 What was Michelle’s opinion of Laila?
4 What was Laila’s opinion of Michelle?
5 In what ways is Michelle different from Laila?
6 In what ways are they similar?
7 How often do they see each other now?
8 What does Michelle do?
9 When did they last see each other?
10 What did they do on that day?

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together witn an English-speaking friend or relative and talk about a friend who is very different from you. Use these questions as a framework to tell your anecdote.

What's your friend's name?
Where and when did you meet?
Why did you become friends?
What opinion do you have of each other?
In what ways are you similar and different?
How often do you see each other now? And in the past?
What do you usually do together?

1 Michelle 2 Five years ago at Cardiff University 3 She was funny 4 She was quirky 5 Michelle is very athletic, she swam for her county, she loves red wine, she’s flaky (=a bit irresponsible) so she may not turn up if you have decided to meet 6 They are outgoing, sociable, they like a good party, they speak their mind (=they are frank) so they have their ups and downs although they never fall out (=argue) 7 Once every six months 8 She’s a high-powered solicitor in another city 9 On Laila’s birthday 10 They wanted to go to a Banksy exhibition, but they changed their mind because it was all sold out and went to a mug painting place, where they both made a mug

martes, 6 de diciembre de 2011

Speakout Upper-intermediate: Reading habits (stories)

Do you read much?
What was the last book you read?
What’s your favourite book?
Which fictional character would you most like to be, or meet?

These are the questions answered by the people interviewed in this new video podcast from Longman's Speakout.

Listen carefully and note down what each person says.

Now, answer the questions for yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

The Big Challenge

The Big Challenge means fun. The Big Challenge  means competition. The Big Challenge puts our English skills to the test.

Básico 1 and Básico 2 students will greatly benefit from this website which prepares ESO students in Spain for the big day on 10 May 2012, although learners of all levels can give the site a try and will really enjoy it.

There are four different levels of difficulty, and three modes within each level (training, normal, fast). Each test consists of 21 questions which include grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

H/T to Ani Anievas.

lunes, 5 de diciembre de 2011

Words in the news

Words in the news is a section of BBC's English Learning Site.

They have a regular feature called Video Reports, where they use short video clips to help English learners develop vocabulary which has come up in recent news stories, while showing students how these words are pronounced and providing exercises so that students can learn the new words and expressions faster.

Students at an intermediate level will greatly benefit from the Video Reports in Words in the news.

Writing workshop 09: Organization


We have ideas, we have thoughts and we have strong feelings. We need to arrange all this in order and not to be chaotic.

We must avoid weak beginnings: the composition lacks an introduction, lacks a paragraph that introduces the topic and justifies why we are writing about that specific topic. Many times we start writing in the middle.
We must always remember to put ourselves in the readers’ position and give them all the information they need to understand our ideas. We must always put the readers in the picture and give them enough information to understand what we are saying, and explain why some names or situations are relevant to the topic.

More frequently, the composition has no real ending because we do not know how to finish it, so we just finish writing.
A good ending relates to the whole of the composition. The last paragraph is usually a conclusion of the main points we have dealt with before. A good ending ‘wraps up’ the subject, and the reader must feel that the last paragraph is effectively the end.
Therefore, we must avoid introducing new ideas in the last paragraph and avoid continuing with the idea we have discussed in the last paragraph.
Remember that one way to get a good ending is to think how to end before we start writing, and always keep the best to the last.

Alternatively, here’s another technique to finish your compositions:
-Start a new paragraph.
-Write In conclusion, To conclude, To sum up or In short.
-Repeat the main ideas you have said before, but in a much shorter way and always being careful to change the words you used before.

We must avoid rambling when writing: Rambling implies that we don’t know where we are going, we have no direction, no reason for writing. Rambling is like running free, without control, moving from subject to subject randomly. Rambling results in linear writing, where one sentence suggests the next sentence, which suggests the next sentence, and so on.
We do not want rambling in our compositions.

We must be careful with digressions when we write, and the best way to do so is carefully plan what we are going to write through notes and write draft after draft until we are happy with the content.

Confused writing
Confused writing, on the other hand, has many things to say but does not group the points and deals with them one by one in good order. Confused writing keeps coming back to different aspects of the same point again and again, like a disorganized spider.
When we talk we usually go back to what we were saying five minutes before, or we suddenly remember something we had forgotten to mention or there’s something we must say now before we forget it. This is not on when writing. Composition means ordering and organizing the disorganized thoughts of our mind.
There are some signs that announce that our writing is disorganized:
-Information in brackets.
-No paragraphs.
-Some expressions like As I said before (repetition), By the way (sudden thought), Anyway (returning to a previous point).

There are some strategies we can implement to prevent confusion:
-You have something you want to say and know what it is. You have an end in mind.
-The thinking must be done during the planning or during the first draft.
-Never start writing straightaway.
-Get all ideas and illustrations, examples and evidence before writing.
-Use your notes to group points together, throw away what you don’t want and decide the best order for the points.
-Start writing your first draft.

Time division
When preparing for an English exam, sooner or later you will have to write compositions in exam conditions. If so, remember not to use a dictionary and divide the time as suggested:
Thinking time: 5 minutes
First draft: 15 minutes
Second and final draft: 10 minutes
Final check: 5 minutes

This blog post is a summary of chapters 9 and 10 of Feedback, Cambridge Universtity Press, an intermediate writing course.