sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

Google's World Wonders Project

I learnt about Google's World Wonders Project through Larry Ferlazzo at the end of May.

Google describes World Wonders Project as a project that enables you to discover 132 historic sites from 18 countries, including Stonehenge, the archaeological areas of Pompeii and the ancient Kyoto temples. In addition to man-made sites, you can explore natural places: wander the sandy dunes of Australia’s Shark Bay or gaze up at the rock domes of Yosemite National Park in California.

Here's a promotional video.

And here's a screen shot that shows what the site has in store for us:

First of all, you have to choose the language you wish to view the site. You can find the language options in the bottom right hand corner.

Then you have two options to spot the sites of your interest, "Find by location", "Browse by themes".

Finally, when you get to the site you wish to visit, you come across a menu with four options, "Information", "Videos", "Photography" and "3D-models". On top of that, you can have a virtual tour of the site.

viernes, 29 de junio de 2012

Same place, same time tomorrow

Same place, same time tomorrow is a five-minute film by Antoine Shaphiro about taking chances and love at first sight.

I think  Same place, same time tomorrow  makes a nice love story which I hope you enjoy. The level is suitable for Intermedio 1 and Intermedio 2 students.

Lesson idea:
Watch the film and retell the story in your own words.
Get together with an English  speaking friend or relative and make up a different ending for the story.

You can read the transcript here.

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012

Obama on his experience of moms in his life

This is a video President Obama used to wish a happy Mother's Day to all the moms this year.  He shares with us why he thinks Michelle Obama is the best mom he knows, how his mom and grandmother influenced him, and how the model of strong, responsible, and loving women have been a great gift to his daughters.

No task for this video. Just enjoy President Obama's thoughts and feelings and try to understand as much as you can. You can find the transcript below.

I think it's important to recognize that moms come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.
You know, my mother was the single most important influence in my life. I saw her struggles as a single mom. She taught me the values of hard work and responsibility, but also compassion and empathy; being able to look at the world through somebody else’s eyes and stand in their shoes. She was somebody who recognized that those of us who have some talents, or have been given opportunities, that we’ve got to give something back, and I’ll always be indebted to her for that.

My grandmother — she was very different than my mother. Much more sort of stoic and, you know, very much displayed her Kansas roots, but was a constant source of strength for all of us. She was a woman who grew up in the Depression, never had the opportunity to go to college, worked her way up as a secretary to become a vice president of a bank, and frankly, if there hadn’t been a glass ceiling, she probably could have taken over the bank.

Michelle is the best mom I know. And she cares deeply about family.

This is my wife Michelle.

Hey, I’m his date.

She combines the ability to make the kids feel completely loved with a real sense of being able to provide the kids limits. And she’s very good at it. And the proof is in those girls, who are magical. And I’d like to say that I had something to do with it, but I think in fairness, I’ve got to give her most of the credit.

I’m saddened I have to let you go.

That model of strong, responsible women but also incredibly loving women has been a great gift for my girls, because they can see every day the contributions that women are making in their own family and I think that gives them an enormous amount of confidence as they go forward.

The issues that mothers face – those are the issues that matter to all of us. So families count on women having equal opportunity. That’s the reason why something like the Affordable Care Act was so important because a lot of times women are paying more for their health care. That’s why I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make sure that people got an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work because when we do that, that’s not just good for women, that’s good for our country and that’s good for families everywhere.

Happy Mother’s Day to every single mother out there

miércoles, 27 de junio de 2012

Talking point: When do you become an adult

This week's talking point is around adulthood. Get together with the members of your talking group and discuss the questions below.

Should the legal age of adulthood be lowered or raised?
Do you think there is a certain age at which people should be considered adults? 
When did you consider yourself mature, or adult?
Is it fair that people can serve in the military and vote at 18, but not buy alcohol until they are 21? (US)
Is it fair that the age of consent for sexual activity is 13 and for marriage with parents' consent 16? (Spain)
Or that parents must go to the doctor with their children if they are under 16? (Spain)
Or that teenagers can abort if they are 16 on condition that they inform their parents? (Spain)
Or that the minimum age to work is 16? (Spain)
Or that the age to take a moped onto public roads is 14 although teenagers have to be 18 to drive a car? (Spain)
When do you feel people should have the rights and responsibilities of legal adults?
Do you think the age of majority should be based more on brain science than on politics?

To gain some insight into the topic, you can read The New York Times debate When do kids become adults?, where several experts express their opinion on this issue.

André da Loba

martes, 26 de junio de 2012

A teleconference

A teleconference is a video lesson which is part of Business Result, Oxford University Press. The activity is intended for upper-intermediate students, but I think that students at an intermediate level will be able to do it successfully.

Self-study activity:
If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and discuss the questions below.
What is a teleconference?
Have you ever used teleconference or videoconference technology for meetings?
What is the main advantage of this kind of meeting?
What are some of the disadvantages?

Now watch the video an answer these questions:
1 Where are Sabine and Sanjit? What is the time difference in their locations?
2 Who has some technical difficulties at the beginning?
3 What are the two main points of the agenda?
4 How does Matt deal with Sabine and Sanjit talking at once?
5 Why is there a delay for the Intranet to ‘go live’? What new date do they agree on?
6 What is the first thing David wants to discuss about the website?
7 What does Sabine still want to discuss at the end?
8 What does Matt suggest to Sanjit at the end?

You can read the transcript here.

1 Sabine is one hour ahead in Germany. Sanjit is in Hong Kong where it’s midnight.
2 Sanjit.
3 Progress update on the Intranet and to discuss the website.
4 He stops them talking and asks Sabine to speak first and then Sanjit.
5 Because of problems with the discussion board. The new date is the 30th.
6 The customer contact page.
7 The contract.
8 He should go to bed.

lunes, 25 de junio de 2012

The Kinect effect

The Kinect effect is another award-winning ad in the second season of Ted initiatives.

Lesson idea:
Get students to watch the ad and note down the different uses Microsoft's XBox 360 Kinect can be put to besides playing video games.

Self-study activity:
Watch the ad and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words. This listening activity is suitable for Básico 2 students.

It started with a sensor that (1) ... voice and movement into magic.
XBox, Play.
We thought, this would be (2) ... to play with... and it was. But something (3) ... is happening. The world is starting to imagine things we hadn't even thought of. (4) ... things. Beautiful things. (5) ... things. Which is why even though the (6) ... is asking us what we will do with Kinect next, we're just as (7) ... to ask the world the same thing.

playing a tennis video game
playing children's games
using voice control to play movies on TV
using hand movements from the couch to turn the pages on an interactive book
a woman playing an "air violin"
some computer programmers writing code to develop new applications
a man is playing an "air xylophone"
a girl in a classroom is zooming in on a model of DNA with her hand motions
a doctor in an operating room is looking through X-rays on a screen
a scientist in a planetarium moves a star map around on the ceiling
an "air cello" and "air piano" is played
it is used to help with physical therapy
it is even used by a bomb squad to disarm a bomb in a car trunk.

Key to transcript:
1 turned 2 fun 3 amazing 4 Unexpected 5 Inspired 6 world 7 excited

domingo, 24 de junio de 2012

Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary

The CBS broadcast this short video clip to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. The video is perfect for intermediate students to develop their listening skills while they find out some facts about the bridge's history.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and say what the following refers to. You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

a frequent question
births on the bridge (how many?)
suicides (how many?)
what the bridge usually inspires is...
the bridge is a symbol of what?

1937, Opening Day.
In the depths of the Great Depression rose a feat of unparalleled engineering.
The closing members are lowered into place. The Golden Gate is bridged.
Californian Historian Kevin Starr:
75 years ago the Golden Gate Bridge says, yes you can do great things in America.
But it almost looked like this. The original design wasn’t nearly as…
Oh, it was…, the original design was hideous. In fact, one of the critics called it an upside down inverted rat trap.
Now the elegant span is admired by millions from around the world. On days like this the bridge makes a perfect backdrop for tourists’ photos, but often it disappears in the fog.
In the summer we can have days on end when there is fog, and you can’t even see the bridge.
On those days, Mary Curry, the Bridge’s Communications Director faces a frequent question:
Where’s the bridge?
A new Visitors Centre now deals with those grey day blues with the magic of green screen technology. So no tourist needs to go home without the perfect photo. The bridge has special significance for Eric Taylor. He doesn’t remember the first time he was here, although his mother, Danielle Romo, can’t forget it.
He was born right in the car.
Right here in the car?
In the car. His birth certificate says Place of Birth Golden Gate Bridge, city and county of San Francisco.
Do you think about this every time, any time you cross?
All the time, any time. Yeah.
Three babies have entered the world on the Golden Gate Bridge, but over one thousand have left the world here, jumping to their deaths.
Why does so many people want to end it all here?
The reverse success of the bridge that has life also becomes makes it a theatrical place for ending life.
Fortunately what the bridge usually inspires is wonder.
Most bridges are silver grey and they’re a bridge you cross it point A to point B. This bridge, you experience, and you experience while you’re on it, off it, around it, below it, above it.
What lesson should we take from this 75 years later?
Here’s a visible symbol of American technology, American know-how. Here’s proof positive that we can develop the environment without destroying it.
At 75, the Golden Gate Bridge spans both space and time.

sábado, 23 de junio de 2012

I've never been so insulted

In mid May The Telegraph published the article I've never been so insulted by William Langley where he compiled a number of famous  insults and rude remarks carried out in the public arena. He divided the insults in categories:

Political insults
Personal insults
Royal insults
Film star insults
Literary insults
Shakesperean insults
Men vs women insults
Sporting insults

Drop by The Telegraph to find out the subtle and acrymonious art of name-calling in the UK.

H/T to It's for Tweeters.

viernes, 22 de junio de 2012


The topic of homelessness is touched on in unit 5 of module 8 in the That's English! programme, so the video on this post fits in perfectly with that unit.

I first saw this Homeless video on Rob Whyte's excellent ESLWriting. As a matter of fact, you can find a listening activity there.

However, I think that the level of difficulty is a bit high for intermediate students to understand it fully, which made me think that I should provide the transcript if I wanted students to make something out of it.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

I served in the (1)...  . I’d been working (2) ... years. Right up to my retirement I hurt my (3) ...  . Yeah, I lost my job and next thing I knew I was in the street, you know? (4) ... .

I’m sorry, man.

Hurts to live in this country, shouldn’t have to live like that.

It could happen to anybody. When you are in a situation like this you don’t think nobody (5) ... . It’s great to have somebody care about you. People that (6) ... me was good enough. They helped me a whole lot.

I was off the street and now I have a nice (7) ... place of my own. There’s a whole lot of people out there need help. A lot of them don’t even  know where to go. I am a lucky one. I am lucky.

1 military 2 thirty-five 3 leg 4 Homeless 5 care 6 helped 7 clean

jueves, 21 de junio de 2012

Queen Elizabeth's life

In early June a number of events took place all over Britain to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne.

A jubilee is a special anniversary of an event, and as Jeffrey Hill informed a few weeks ago, the 60th anniversary of an event is known as a diamond jubilee, the 50th is a golden jubilee, and the 25th a silver jubilee.

You can find out about the Jubilee celebrations and events on http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/.

For the English learner there is lots of material and stuff on the net about this celebration and  http://www.thediamondjubilee.org can keep us busy for some time to practise our English, but  I came across this video from the Canadian CBC about Queen Elizabeth's life that I found really interesting and accessible to learners.

I hope you enjoy it. No task, watch the video clip and try to understand as much as possible.

miércoles, 20 de junio de 2012

Talking point: How close are you to your parents?

How close are you to your parents was the title of the Student Opinion section on the Learning Network of the The New York Times in early June and I thought it would make a good topic for our talking group.

Think about the questions below and discuss them with the members of your conversation group.

Do you live with your parents?
If you don't any more, when did you move out?
What is the right age for someone to become independent and have their own place?
How would you characterize your relationship with your parents?
Have they been more like friends or authority figures in your life?
Was your relationship with both of your parents the same?
How much contact do you think you will have when you’re no longer living at home? or
How much contact do you have with them now that you're no longer living at home?
How do/did your parents support you, financially or emotionally?
Would you consider moving back under any circumstances?
Do you think that intense parental support in adulthood may be damaging?

In preparation for your talking session you can read the article You can go home again By KAREN L. FINGERMAN and FRANK F. FURSTENBERG in The New York Times.

martes, 19 de junio de 2012

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Fame

Would you like to be famous?
What would you like to be famous for?
Which famous person would you most like to meet?

These are the questions the people interviewed on the street answer in a new installment of Speakout Pre-intermediate, Longman Publishers.

Watch the video clip below and note down the different answers each of the speakers give.

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend of the same level as you, and answer the same questions about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 18 de junio de 2012

Day one after retirement

Day One Stories is a site created by Prudential financial services to give us the opportunity to look at the photos, read the quotes and watch the films of some of the thousands of Americans on their first day of retirement. Many look back on their lives and think about the future, where financial worries take top priority.

The video on the blog shows Linda on her first day after retirement. Watch the sheer beauty of the film and try to understand as much as possible. You can find the transcript below and many more video and audio testimonials on 

Well I think that happy is a momentary thing. Happiness comes and goes. I think contentment is there all the time even underneath when you’re having a problem. I mean to be content, you have to work with what you’ve got.

I guess there is something in me that I’ve always been strong. I’ve always gotten through some pretty rough stuff without falling to pieces. It’s my nature to survive, it’s my nature to land on my feet.

It’s kind of hard to make decisions by yourself all of a sudden when you’ve been making them with somebody else for 35 years.

I had a wonderful, wonderful happy marriage and I was well loved and so many people don’t have that. So they gave him three to six months but we all knew better. He sort of sit enough and he reached out and touched my face and died in my arms.

The good thing about change is that you grow each time, you expand each time I think. My executive director and I started talking about it  in the spring that I might take early retirement and I just got antsy, I just said, you know I need to go and do this if I’m going to do it, I need to do it.

Good morning, buddy, what’s up there? Ok, Ok, I’m getting up, I’m doing it.

He don’t talk back, he just looks like he understands.

Tom didn’t leave very much but  he left me a little money. I bought Dicken with the last of the money that he left me. Just the companionship is, made a huge difference. I think when you hug somebody you just feel that sense of being loved and being held. I think that’s contentment. I think if you can carry that with you which pretty much do just feel like I’m walking around in one big hug.

Day one. First day of my retirement. First day I never had to answer anybody for anything, except Dicken. Gotta give him his treats or he’d be unhappy.

domingo, 17 de junio de 2012

Rethink breast cancer

To be totally honest, I have been seriously considering whether to post this ad by Rethink, which tries to raise women's awareness to go through regular checks to prevent breast cancer. The ad seems to make light of a very serious health problem, although the ultimate purpose of the message is crystal clear and Rethink's priority is getting younger women to have regular checks.

Self-study activity:
Watch the ad and judge for yourself.
What does TLC stand for?
You can read the transcript below.

This is what Rethink says about Rethink.

Launched in 2001, Rethink is the first-ever, Canadian breast cancer charity to bring bold, relevant awareness to the under-40 crowd; foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infuse sass and style into the cause; and, most importantly, respond to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women going through it.

You may also wish to drop by  Rethink and read about the tons of information about this disease they offer.

Hi, I’m Doctor Rothaford, and it’s come to my attention that many women aren’t checking regularly for breast cancer. I’d love to discuss how we can change that. Since studies have shown that women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy, I’m not going to. He is!
Hey, I’m Anthony and I’m here to talk to you about Re-Think Cancer, your man reminder. It’s an App, it gives you regular reminders to check your breasts from a hot guy of your choice.
Hey there.
How you doing?
Hey baby.
It also shows you how to check yourself. Hello — with a little something we like to call: TLC.
The T stands for touch. Start by touching your breast any way that feels comfortable for you. Try to be familiar with them and they way they feel. You know you can do this anywhere. Like: on your bed. In the mirror. Or even in the shower.
Now the L in TLC stands for Look. For this one, you’re gonna need to use your eyes. Be on the look out for anything unusual. And if you want to, have a friend check you out.
And finally the C in TLC stands for Check. If you notice anything out of the ordinary even if your not sure check with your doctor. Isn’t that right doctor?
That’s right, Anthony! See TLC is a great way to detect Breast Cancer early. Download ReThink breast Cancer Your Man Reminder App today, now available for free in the App Store.

sábado, 16 de junio de 2012

Test your travel instincts

This is a more than interesting questionnaire from Go Abroad that I discovered on the net a few weeks ago. It can be really useful to develop your speaking and reading skills while having good fun and letting your friends and classmates know how resourceful you are when travelling.

Think getting pooped on by a bird is just unlucky? It's actually part of a scam (fraudulent trick) used by crafty (skilled in deceiving) thieves around the world.

That's the way  Go Abroad introduces the ten-question quiz about dangerous situations that may come up when travelling. And here's the first question:

1. A taxi driver approaches you at the airport and tells you there was an accident on the train line but that he could drive you to your destination at a great rate. Do you:

a. Hop in his cab and think about how lucky you are to have met such a nice cabbie
b. Say, "No thanks I already have a ride."
c. Tell him you'd prefer to check the train line for yourself
d. Smile and walk away. What did that guy just say?

Answer: Anything but A. Cab drivers don't usually approach people for rides. To be safe check out the situation for yourself. You can always hail a different cab.

City Encounters by torontocitylife, on Flickr

Lesson idea:
Drop by Go Abroad and do the questionnaire. If you have the possibility of getting together with two or three English-speaking friends, I would suggest keeping to this procedure:

a) Go over each of the situations and say what you would do if you had to deal with it.
b) Read the options and choose the most suitable one for you. Perhaps you already mentioned it in a).
c) Go over the answer and discuss it. Do you agree?

viernes, 15 de junio de 2012

Zeinab Badawi on freedom of expression

This is Zeinab Badawi's profile as shown on the Foreign and Commonwelth Office website:

Zeinab Badawi is one of the most senior news anchors on the BBC World News Channel and BBC4 TV. Born in Sudan, she moved to the UK aged two and has been been involved in British broadcast news for two decades working on an extensive range of programmes.
In her short ‘See Britain’ film Zeinab says that freedom of expression is something we often take for granted in the UK. She celebrates the liberties we enjoy in the UK and views them as real cornerstones of democracy. Find out more by watching the film below.

Self-study activity:
Watch Zeinab discussing freedom of expression and what it means for her to live in the UK and how her adopted country has given full meaning to her life.

Answer the questions below to test your understanding of the ideas Zeinab puts forward.

1 Why is 1956 significant?
2 Which two jobs did Zeinab's father do?
3 Why doesn't Zeinab take liberty for granted?
4 What's the name of Zeinab's programme with the BBC?
5 Why is it odd to distinguish between British news and international news?
6 How much does the British government control the BBC?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.
Hi, I'm Zeinab Badawi.  I'm a television presenter and this is "See Britain Through My Eyes".  I was born in Sudan at the time when the British were in power there.  But I moved with my family to London when I was 2 years old.  Sudan got its independence in 1956. 
My father had been involved in pre - independence politics and he ceased to be in politics and he moved into journalism.  But by about '62 - '63 it was quite difficult for my father to stay in the country.  There'd been a military dictatorship a few years earlier.  So, he came ahead of the family and in fact he got a job with the BBC Arabic Service at Bush House. 
I think the key thing that we take for granted here in Britain is freedom of speech, freedom of expression.
Having reported and worked in many countries abroad, I have seen and witnessed firsthand how there is a much tighter state control of the media.  People aren't often given a true or balanced or accurate picture of what's actually going on.  As we speak, there are people languishing in jail because they dared to speak out.  I just stand on the steps there and I do a trail.  

Obviously, democracy here is an old robust one. You can vote a government in, you can vote a government out. And so, I suppose my background means that I don't take this liberty for granted and I believe it is a real cornerstone of democracy. 
Are we ready?
How soon will debt - ridden Greece get the financial rescue package it's demanding? 

My news program "World News Today", it's an evening program that goes out in Britain on BBC 4 Television at 7 p.m. and it goes out on our international channel BBC World News.  We reach something like 250 million households.  
The outright winner in Sudan's landmark elections, the opposition say, is fraudulent.
I'll do it again actually.
Too long; it's gonna be too long. 

We really try and find stories which affect the global citizen. How will he, the country and the international community, respond? 
That's World News Today with me Zeinab Badawi. 
I should have written it and then I would have done it to time. So sorry, I was doing it a bit on the hoof. 
I know it's cliche to say but it's true that globalization means everybody's lives are very interlinked. We saw that with the financial crisis. 
Aaron, could I just borrow you for a sec?
I wanted to ask you about the Greece thing 'cause I'm gonna be leading with that, so what have you done on it? Foot down at the moment.
But we've just heard from Angela Merkel who says there is no way that the Eurozone won't come to some type of agreement. 

I mean in the old days, we used to say "foreign news" and "domestic news". And now actually, it sounds a bit odd if we say "foreign news" and "British news" because the two live off each other. They're almost one and the same. 
Tools of the trade. Transparency, accountability of government actions is absolutely crucial and frankly, that's the role of the media. You know, shining a harsh spotlight on truth and sunlight after all is a very strong antiseptic, isn't it? 
Alright Attiya, I'm ready to rehearse when you are.
This is BBC World News Today with me, Zeinab Badawi.
Europe bickers over the Greek bailout.
A narrow escape for the British Ambassador in Yemen: he survives a suicide attack on his convoy.  The government blames Al-Qaeda. 

I'm not sure if people abroad really understand what the BBC is about because I think the fact that the BBC is paid for by the British taxpayer, people believe that therefore the British government has actually an editorial input into what the BBC actually does.  And I think they find it quite hard to understand that the BBC's constitution means that we absolutely, absolutely cherish and protect and fight for our independence. So, we don't even have an arm's-length relationship with the government. We just don't deal with the government at all. And you can see that you have the authentic pronunciation of "Al-Qaeda" because of course, my family speak Arabic. "Qaeda", it's not easy to say it even in Arabic. People like Mikhail Gorbachev say, "Oh I heard about what was going on in my own country through the BBC" and we know that the Dalai Lama listens to the World Service Radio. 
So, it really is a vital, vital tool for the dissemination of information in all sorts of ways. All these things have really served to underscore that freedom of speech that we have in this country. And I suppose the BBC best epitomizes that tradition. This is BBC World News Today with me, Zeinab Badawi. I'm very proud to be an employee of the BBC.

jueves, 14 de junio de 2012

Love Sick

Love Sick is a short film by Kevin Mark which won the 2011 Utah Arts Fringe Film Festival. I found it entertaining and with an easy story line to follow.

Just watch it and enjoy it, and see if you can predict the ending. You can find the transcript below.

It couldn't really end like this, could it? Not after what I've just been through.  We're gonna get through this, right?  We're gonna be together forever, right?

I'm starting to think otherwise.  Maybe Justin Bieber was right.  Maybe there was no Juliet for this Romeo.  No Meg Ryan for this Tom Hanks. Maybe there is no such thing as love.

And just as I was about to resign myself to a life of cat ownership, I saw her.  The girl of my dreams! I have to think fast.  A train leaves the station travelling at 27 miles per hour. The next station is 14 city blocks away. If a man leaves that same station on foot but takes one massive shortcut, will he spend the rest of his life alone?  I was incredibly out of shape. But every fiber of my being told me I couldn't let this one go. I have to keep pushing. I was going to make it! I wasn't going to make it. What was this? Wait a minute! Bieber!

And just like that, she was gone. The next station was in for miles. I had nothing left but flat tire and a broken heart. It couldn't really end like this, could it? Not after what I've just been through. We're gonna get through this, right? We're gonna be together forever, right?

I'm starting to think otherwise. Maybe Justin Bieber was right. Maybe there was no Juliet for this Romeo. No, no Courtney Love for this Kurt Cobain. Maybe there is no such thing as love. And just as I was about to renew my "World of Warcraft" membership, I saw her. The girl of my dreams.

miércoles, 13 de junio de 2012

Talking point: Interacting with people of another race

This week's talking point blends in well with units 3 and 4 of Module 8, and has to do with our relationship with people of another race on an everyday basis.

Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below, which are taken from The New York Times Learning Network.

How many people do you regularly see or talk to from different racial or ethnic backgrounds?
Where in your daily life is that most likely to happen?
Do you think getting to know people from a different background than your own is important?
Do you think interacting with different people from different cultural backgrounds is part of a well-rounded education? Why or why not?
How integrated is your school/workplace?
Your community?
Your social or family life?
What might be better about a segregated community and school?
What might be worse?
What could students from a segregated community do to meet people outside their neighborhood?
What role, if any, should the government play in seeking to integrate aspects of daily life?

In preparation for your talking session, you can read The New York Times article Whites Account for Under Half of Births in the U.S. by Sabrina Tavernise, where you can also watch Sabrina on a video explaining some of the facts she sets out in her article.

martes, 12 de junio de 2012

Speakout elementary: London

How do you feel about London?
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done in London?

These are the questions people interviewed at the street answer in a new installment of Speakout Elementary, Longman.

Self-study activity:
Watch the videocast and note down the answers each of the speakers give to the questions above.

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend to answer the questions above about London, if you know the city, or about your home town or the town you live in.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 11 de junio de 2012

Thank you, mum

Thank you Mum is a video which Michael Marantz filmed for Mother's Day and which I heard about through Larry Ferlazzo.

Self-study activity:

Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

You’re ready? Standby, focusing, initiating, sound speeds. Thanks mum. You did a lot of good work. Here we is
Thank you mum for lying for me to get me out of trouble when I (1)...  . I (1) ... .
Thank you mummy for making my (2) ... .
Thank you for teaching me to eat (3) ... .
Thank you mum for giving me (4) ... .
Thank you for helping me with my (5) ... .
For making me (6) ... in front of your friends.
For showing me (7) ...  when I was young.
For my first (8) ... camera
Thank you for buying me this (9)... .
For keeping me out of (10) ... and thank you for taking care of me when I was in (10) ... .
Thank you for being a nut-job and dancing spontaneously and (11)... .
Thank you for teaching me how to (12) ... .
For never getting on to me about the (13) ... .
For getting me out of trouble when I burnt down a (14) ... .
For teaching me the (15) ... .
For letting me (16) ... you.
For helping me (17) ... the little things.
For standing by me no matter how many stupid (18) ... I made.
For always making me (19) ... .
For teaching me how to (20) ... .
For (21) ...  my whole life.
For not giving up on me when I (22) ... .
For teaching me how to make (23) ... .
For always being the (24) ...  to cry on when I need you.
For being my (25) ... .
Thank you mum.
Thanks mum.
Thank you. I love you.

1shoplifted 2 breakfast 3 fruit and vegetables 4 good looks 5 homework 6 dance 7 punk music 8 SLR 9 t-shirt 10 jail 11 having fun 12 laugh 13 beard 14 forest 15 tune of life 16 love 17 appreciate 18 choices 19 feel better 20 love 21 taking care of me 22 ran away 23 mistakes 24 shoulder 25 rock

domingo, 10 de junio de 2012

Work in Britain

Self-study activity:
Watch this video about work and working conditions and industries in Britain and answer the questions about it. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Viewing 1
What do these figures refer to?
59 million
27 million
15 million
12 million
1.5 million
over 1 million
over half a million people

Viewing 2
What's a job centre?
What jobs did people use to do in the 19th century?
What industries developed in the 20th century?
What's one of the big businesses in Britain today?
What's retailing?
What companies are important in the 21st century?
Why are 'bank holidays' called that way?

Follow-up activity:
Answer these questions about yourself.
What do you do?
How many hours a week do you work?
What do you like about your job?
What don't you like about it?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

sábado, 9 de junio de 2012

An ordinary day

What's a typical day in your life like?
How is a typical day in your life today compared to 20 years back?
What can make your typical day different?
Do you have memories of days when something extraordinary happened?

Think about the questions above before watching An ordinary day. Then compared your ideas with the film.

Self-study activity:
Watch the film and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

You wake up today, like any other day. You get dressed, you make yourself breakfast, you brush your teeth. Everything you do starts to feel like some sort of elaborate (1) ... routine. After a while, you’ve realized that how much of your life is really an accumulation of these seemingly insignificant moments.

You go through the day only half awake, finding (2) ... in the mundane and finding ways to escape from it all. It becomes hard to tell one day from the next. The days turn into weeks, the weeks into years. And before you know it, your whole life has passed you by.

What was once and exciting and mysterious future is now behind you. You come to accept the (3) ... you’ve made, the life you’ve created for yourself. You tell yourself that you’re different, that you’re not just another one of the billions of people put here on this earth only to be forgotten.

But somehow, all your (4) ... will amount to something, but you know there is nothing inherently special about you. All your dreams and memories which you know so intimately. All your thoughts and feelings which define who you are; are destined to become nothing more than a non-written part of history.

And as the rest of the world moves on, all that is left are a collection of photographs that only provide (5) ... of who you were. But then something happens, right there in that ordinary day, maybe it’s only a kiss, a conversation, a song on the radio, something that makes you (6) ... , an incredible view. You are suddenly (7) ... how beautiful life can be and when it does happen, it doesn’t matter to you how temporary life is or whether or not your existence is in any way significant.

All that matters is, for that (8) ... yet eternal moment in time, you’re there to experience it.

1 well-rehearsed 2 comfort 3 choices 4 accomplishments 5 glimpses 6 laugh 7 reminded 8 instantaneous

viernes, 8 de junio de 2012

Top Ten Writing Rules From Famous Writers

During the school year the skill of writing has been a priority for us through the writing workshop entries on this blog, as the writing paper stands for 25% of the overall mark.

It is for this reason that I found this video so enlighting. Here are the ten pieces of advice we are offered:

10 Write a draft, then let it rest
9 Read a lot
8 Never use a long word when a short one will do
7 Never use the passive voice when you can use the active voice
6 Know your audience
5 Recycle and read the good stuff before you write
4 Honour the miraculousness of the ordinary
3 Good copy = draft -10%
2 Look at every word in a sentence and decide if they are really needed. If not, kill them. Be ruthless.
1 Remember, writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

Easier said than done, though.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

jueves, 7 de junio de 2012

The plan

The plan is an award-winning film about a man who gives up his job, leaves his girlfriend and drives to Vegas to bet all his money.

Self-study activity:
Watch the film and enjoy it. What do you think of it? Did the ending surprise you?
You can read the transcript below for a full understanding.

You can use the film as a springboard for conversation:
  • Retell the story in your own words.
  • Tell your friends or classmates about personal stories you know of people who decided to leave everything behind to make a new start in life.
  • Discuss the reasons that make people take these drastic decisions.

"The idea was simple. Quit my job. Pack the essentials needed to sustain life. Whatever happens, go through with it. Leave Claudia. For good this time. Take all of the money out of my bank account. Drive to Vegas. Walk up to a Roulette table, and put it all on red.

It's about going back to a time when life was unexpected, taking a change that would allow me to start over. Finding a new purpose, a new adventure, a new love. I will go through with it. No matter what the outcome is, at least it won’t be the life that I live now.

That’s a really good casino.
How do you know?
Because I just won 50 bucks on the nickel sludge.
Is it good?
You from around here?
Did you just take a picture of me?
No. Yeah!
Well can I see it?
It’s not digital. It’s 35mm.
OK, then I think you should give me the film.
Because you just can’t go around stealing pictures of people. It’s rude.
How about after I get it developed I’ll send you a copy?
You know what, just forget it. Just keep it, asshole.
Hey, I just thought you are pretty!
I’d thought you’d take it as a compliment?

Hey, man, have you ever been to this place before?
Red light casino you see, you go down the 50…
Shit, you give me that back!
You should come out and play.
You gonna mess the film.

Fuck, fuck.

I will go through with it.

Ok, how much do you want on chips?
No more bets.
Black 35 no winners.

Mitch, come home. Just come home, Mitch. You there?

I guess it's about it's about going back to a time when life was unexpected. Finding a new purpose, a new adventure, a new love. And no matter what happens, at least it won’t be the life that I live now."

miércoles, 6 de junio de 2012

Talking point: The best teacher

8 May was National Teacher Appreciation Day in US. The celebration is a bit far-off now, but the topic has a universal value and can be useful for this week's talking point.

Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below, some of which are taken from The New York Times learning blogs.

What teacher, or teachers, do you appreciate, and why?
Who was the most important teacher for you?
What did he or she teach you?
How did he or she do that to make it so memorable?
How important do you think teachers are?
What problems do teachers face as a profession?
What can we do as a society to show them they are appreciated?
Are teachers highly respected in Spain? Are they well paid?
What do you learn from a teacher that you don't from your parents?
Do/Did you prefer to be taught by a male or female teacher?
Should teachers express their political views in class?
Do you prefer strict teachers or easy-going ones?
What subjects are the easiest and most difficult to teach?

In preparation for the topic you can read these two articles: The first one, “Teaching Me About Teaching,” by Charles M. Blow, comes from The New York Times, where Mr Blow writes about the teacher who taught him the most. The second article comes from The Guardian, How Finnish Schools Shine, and was written by Adam Lopez, who tells us about the success of Finnish schools.

Photograph: www.alamy.com

martes, 5 de junio de 2012

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Technology in our lives

How do you feel about technology?
What items of technology do you have with you at the moment?
Are there any items of technology you couldn't live without?

These are the questions that people on the street answer in a new installment of Speakout pre-intermediate, Longman.

Watch the video and make of note of the answers the speakers give.

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer the questions above about yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 4 de junio de 2012

How do you solve hotel insomnia?

How do you solve hotel insomnia is an episode of BBC World News travel programme Fast Track. This excerpt is a bit lengthy, just a bit under six minutes.

Self-study activity:
Watching the clip and understanding as much as possible should do the job for you. Anyway, to help you focus while listening, answer the questions below after you watch.

1 How many people suffer from hotel insomnia?
2 Which two major factors for hotel insomnia are mentioned?
3 What does the $1,000 at the hotel refer to?
4 What part of the body does stress affect more severely?
5 How many of the hotel customers have been dissatisfied with the treatment so far?
6 Are UK doctors fond of prescribing sleeping tablets?
7 What's the best moment of the day to read?
8 What effect does reading have on you?
9 What luxury does Ella mention?

You can read the transcript here.

1 one in four or five 2 jet lag and the first night effect 3 a night for two which includes a sound sleep package 4 the neck 5 none 6 No 7 lunchtime 8 it slows down your brain 9 having someone reading to you

domingo, 3 de junio de 2012

Nivel Básico exam -Reading comprehension practice

Esl-bits offers this extraordinary resource to practice reading comprehension in exam format. There are different kinds of activities you can do: comprehension of signs; true/false questions; matching people with the most suitable situation for them; fill in the gaps with the missing words; and general comprehension of a text.

All in all students of A2-early B1 level (Básico 2 for EOI standards)  can find 19 activities at their disposal to develop their reading skills and prepare for their forthcoming exam.

Charles as weatherman

A few weeks ago Prince Charles visited the BBC Scotland studios and was invited to give the weather forecast that you can watch below together with a transcript of everything he says.

Well it’s an unsettled picture as we head towards the end of the week. This afternoon it’ll be cold, wet and windy across most of Scotland. We are under the influence of low pressure and this weather front pushing northwards is bringing clouds and outbreaks of rain. The rain, of course, will be heaviest over the borders and around Edinburgh, where it could lead to difficult conditions on the roads.

In the west, rain will be lighter and patchier with maybe a few drier interludes over Dumfries House in Ayrshire. There will be snow for the higher ground of the Highlands and Aberdeenshire. There will be the potential for a few flurries over Balmoral…who the hell wrote this script!

The best of the drier and brighter weather will, of course, be over the far northern isles and far north of the mainland. So a little hazy sunshine for the Castle of Mey and Caithness. But a cold day everywhere with temperatures of just eight celsius and a brisk north easterly wind.
Thank God it isn’t a bank holiday!

If you want to get an explanation of some of the weather vocabulary Prince Charles uses in his forecast, you can drop by St George International webpage, where Bren Brennan has prepared a short lesson.

sábado, 2 de junio de 2012

Cirque du Soleil to learn English

The Cirque du Soleil webpage can be an interesting place to develop our English.

Click on the video section of the site and you will have the opportunity to watch and listen to some of the members of Cirque du Soleil explaining the ins and outs of their job.

You also have the opportunity to practise your reading skills if you read all the information on the site.

viernes, 1 de junio de 2012

Dictionary of collocations

For Better English is an online collacations dictionary I stumbled on thanks to English for University Students.

A collocations dictionary allows us to learn how words can be combined in English to say what we mean, and say it naturally.

I would go as far as saying that For Better English is a unique online tool to explore the combination of words  together.

So far, our options to check out whether our collocations were correct were limited to running a Google Fight or simply typing the phrase to check in the search box of Google and draw our own conclusions from the number of hits we got.

I hope you find For Better English useful.