martes, 31 de julio de 2012

Around the town

Around the town is another video in the Richmond vodcast series. This video clip is suitable for Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the beginning of the video clip but freeze it at 1.00. What’s the mission for Tom and Alex?
Play the video on. Tom will show you a piece of paper with their mission written on it.

How much does Alex pay for the ice-cream?
How much does Tom pay for the chips?
What evidence of the places in Bournemouth do Tom and Alex get?

Watch the video again. Note down some of the street directions that both Tom and Alex are given.

The ice-cream is £1.60
The portion of chips is £1.90
Tom got a brochure from the theatre, a brochure from the post office and chips ("and I popped my chips" he says).
Alex got a postcard from the tourist information office, a leaflet from the cinema, and the ice-cream.

So go straight, straight through to traffic lights and then turn left.
Straight to traffic lights and it’s on the left.

Round to the left. Go through the garden. Up the stairs in that corner.  It´s just long down on your left.

The lady said left at the lights and this is the theatre, this, this isn´t the theatre, this is an art centre.

I see an “I”, I see an “I”, Tom. Number one. Done

It´s opposite the gas building.
Brilliant. Thank you.
No problem at all.
So it´s opposite that building in the distance. Come on.

I’m just going go and cross the road at the traffic lights and the cinema is just there.

Hi can I have a “soft wheel”?
With or without flavour on it?

Seen the post office mate? Looking for…

lunes, 30 de julio de 2012

Jonathan Mills

See Britain through my eyes is a Foreign Office series of video clips where English people and foreigners talk about the UK and about what they have found there -a place to study, a place to work or a place of refuge. They speak about their experiences of living in the UK and about their feelings towards their home or adoptive country.

In this new installment, Jonathan Mills talks about his experiences while directing the Edinburgh International Festival.

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

1 What nationality is Jonathan Mills?
2 When did he come to the UK?
3 When did the Edinburgh Festival start?
4 Why was Edinburgh the only possible location for the Festival?
5 What's the main reason why the Festival was so successful?
6 Why does Jonathan mention the Olympic Games and the World Cup?
7 How many visitors does Edinburgh recieve during the Festival?
8 What five adjectives does Jonathan use to describe British society at the end of the clip?

You can check your answers while reading the transcript here.
I'm an Australian and I'm an artist. I'm a composer. I've lived in the UK for the last four years. I came here to do a job. I'm the Director of the Edinburgh International Festival. 
There seems to be a common perception, let's not beat around the bush, that the UK is up itself. I'm here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. This is an incredibly diverse, incredibly welcoming meritocracy. 
Edinburgh in August is, I think, a great example of what the UK can do and do very well: let its hair down.  The Edinburgh Festival was started to offer people hope at a time that had been seen to be so hopeless after the Second World War. 
In 1947, the Edinburgh Festival started when the landscape in Europe was horrific.  There was no town, no part of Europe that had been unscathed by the bombing. It couldn't be held in Coventry, it couldn't be held in Manchester, it couldn't be held in Birmingham or London because the places were bombed to blazes. 
Edinburgh stages Scotland's first international music and drama festival. I think one of the reasons it was so successful was that not only did people open their minds and receive really interesting culture from places they'd hardly ever heard of, let alone been to. 2,000 artists taking part in a total of 174 performances.  But most important of all, they opened their hearts. And there was the most extraordinary sense that we should share what we have. We should share our food, we should share our shelter. But perhaps most important of all, we should share our culture. 
The Edinburgh International Festival is an extraordinary phenomenon by any statistical comparison. Only two other events that are held in the world sell more tickets than we do the Olympic Games and the World Cup. We sell 2.8 million tickets to these festivals in August. 875,000 people come to a city that has a population of about 450,000. Edinburgh more than trebles in size and there is not a square inch of this city that is not teeming with people doing the craziest things. 
The place literally erupts with all kinds of energy and all kinds of artistic endeavors. The enthusiasm of audiences is palpable. There's a great appetite for culture and there's a great appetite for cultures that are not just European. And I think that's one of the really important things to recognize about the UK. 
This is a multicultural society of enormous success. It comes from the ground up. It's because people actually want to have this happen. It's because individual citizens who are free in a very robust democracy have said, "This is important to us. We want to celebrate together. We want a great cultural life." And you can see that all over the UK in spades. The number of orchestras and theater companies, ballet companies, they're literally coming out your ears. And I think they make it the very special place that it is today, diverse, welcoming, open, open-spirited, and curious.

domingo, 29 de julio de 2012

CSI web adventurers

The CSI Web Adventure is an online game which will put you in the shoes of a rookie crime scene investigator. You will need the help of fellow CSI agents.

There are three levels of difficulty, beginner, intermediate and advanced, and you can play as a guest or register to save your game.

The CSI Web Adventure is fun to play and it may help you to develop your reading skills and your crime-related and science-related vocabulary.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers.

sábado, 28 de julio de 2012

Conquering the comma

A long time ago I came across University English, a webpage written by Patrick McMahon, a lecturer in the UK teaching on a variety of Academic English courses and teacher training courses at Plymouth University.

University English is primarily intended for international students who want to improve their English language skills, but the site is full of resources for English language students at an intermediate level and above -reading, listening, writing and English language issues are dealt with in a systematic way.

It is on University English  that I first heard of the term comma splice, that is, the incorrect use of a comma in between two sentences, instead of using a conjunction to link the two sentences together, or simply separate the two sentences with a stop.

It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark. (comma splice)
It is nearly half past five, so we cannot reach town before dark. (use of a connector to link the two sentences)

Funnily enough, right after reading about the comma splice on University English, I just noticed how often this problem presents itself in students' writing of all levels.

Patrick McMahon suggested taking a look at an OWL’s powerpoint on the use of commas, conquering the comma. Pay special attention to slide 24 and following, where the problem of the comma splice is explained.

And make a point of dropping by University English on occasion. You won't regret it.

viernes, 27 de julio de 2012

London 2012 official song

Today the 2012 Olympics in London begin. Here's the official song for the games, Survival, performed by Muse.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and see how many different sports and events you can name. You can check your answers on this section of the 2012 official webpage.

Race, life’s a race
And I am gonna win
Yes, I am gonna win
And I’ll light the fuse
And I’ll never lose
And I choose to survive
Whatever it takes
You won’t pull ahead

I’ll keep up the pace
And I’ll reveal my strength
To the whole human race
Yes I am prepared
To stay alive
I won’t forgive, the vengeance is mine
And I won’t give in
Because I choose to thrive
I’m gonna win
Race, it’s a race
But I'm gonna win
Yes I’m gonna win
And will light the fuse
I’ll never lose
And I choose to survive
Whatever it takes
You won’t ṗull ahead
And I’ll keep up the pace
And I’ll reveal my strength
To the whole human race
Yes I’m gonna win
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Win! Win! Win! Win!
Yes I’m gonna win.

jueves, 26 de julio de 2012

The future of reading -video activity

Yesterday's talking point topic about reading habits led us to a short The New York Times video clip where an American family discussed their reading preferences. I think the video is interesting enough to go through it in more detail.

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

1 What does Mr Sims usually read?
2 How often does Mrs Sims visit the local library?
3 What makes Zac a different reader from his parents?
4 What had critics predicted since the invention of TV?
5 What are some of the specific characteristics of online reading that Zac mentions?
6 What are the differences between reading in print and online for Mrs Sims?
7 What are Mr and Mrs Sims’ worries about technology?
8 What are the advantages of reading for Mrs Sims?
9 What are the advantages of online reading for some literacy experts?
10 What will Zac be doing next year?

For correction you can read the transcript below.

I guess we are voracious readers because we can’t sit anywhere without reading something, sitting in a waiting room, on a train, we are nuts if we don´t have something to read.
I read about five newspapers a day, I read a number of weekly magazines, and I would say I always read some book before I go to sleep at night.
David Sims and his wife Jean clearly enjoy reading. Every room in their house in Greninge Connecticut is strewn with books and newspapers.
I don’t go anywhere without a newspaper or a magazine or a book. I’m probably at the library three or four times a week. We are very big users at the library.
And their son, Zac, enjoys reading too, but just not in the same way.
My family sort of has a great relationship with reading, but I read a lot more online I can say confidently than the rest of my family, and they probably read more in print than I do.
At least since the invention of television critics have warned that the electronic media would destroy reading by diminishing literacy and wrecking attention spans, but accomplished readers like Zac are redefining what it means to read in a digital age.
When you are reading online you can read a lot of different things about a lot of different subjects in a short period of time, whereas if you are reading a book it’s usually about one subject. I would say reading a lot of magazines, user generated-content that one wouldn’t find in paper form, so a lot of different blogs, I’m subscribed to something like a hundred or two hundred RSS feeds that I read every day, and reading sort of aggregators that bring together a lot of information from different sources.
Sure Zachary likes books but he craves interaction with fellow readers.
It’s about the conversation. I suppose if you just receive it in paper, it´s just like you read and you’re done with it, and I think putting it online takes it a step further.
His mother is staggered by the amount of content Zac absorbs every day.
It’s mind-boggling to me. If he had to go pick up all those resources in print, it would be almost impossible.
Still, she thinks reading in print and on the internet are two different animals.
I don’t think about reading on my computer is a quiet activity. I think about sitting and reading in my comfy chair, crawled up with my book, I don’t crawl up with my computer.
But like many in her generation, Zac and Emma do. 
I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think when you start looking at the amount of time that spent on social networking and IMing (short for Internet Messaging), that’s where I have a problem.
The Sims, like a lot of parents, are concerned that their daughter spends most of her time online playing games, not reading.
I think that it’s very important especially when the kids are young for them to read. I think it enriches their vocabulary. They also think that it helps to lay a foundation for good writing skills.
Zac, for his part, is obsessed with reading on any digital device, even reading headline on his iphone on the train ride at home.
I wouldn’t say it’s an unhealthy amount of time that i´m spending online. I have Facebook, I do SMS with friends, I do have friends, but I think they recognize the fact it’s a lot of reading, it´s becoming more informed about the world than informed about other things you care about.
Some literacy experts believe that there are online reading skills that can ultimately help children fair better in school, like the ability to locate information quickly, or even type faster. 
David thinks these and other skills will serve Zac well at Columbia University in the fall.
He’s learned various ways on multiple levels to do research. He’s a very inquisitive kid, so when he’s interested in a subject instead of using the internet if it didn’t exist, he would be in the library all the time going through research books to study a subject.
While the debate continues for educators and researchers about the virtues of online reading for this family reading, and whatever form it is, is valuable.
I think that reading is really the basis of all learning. And I think whether it’s a book or whether it’s on the internet if you are reading and digging you are learning. So I’d like to think that, you know, that’s where we all can gain a great deal.

miércoles, 25 de julio de 2012

Talking point: What do you read and how do you read?

In November last year The Learning Network of the New York Times came up with the question What do you read and how do you read? for its readers.

Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below with them.

Are you a voracious reader?
Do you know anyone who is?
Do you read books, magazines, newspapers regularly?
How often do you go to a library to borrow books?
Do you prefer to read online or in print?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of both media?
What kinds of things do you read in an average day, and how do you read them?
For instance, do you read novels you find at bookstores or libraries, or do you buy and read them on an e-reader?
Do you often follow links on social networks like Facebook or Twitter?
How would you characterize the kinds of things you read that way?
Do you think you are reading more because technology makes books, magazines, newspapers, Web sites, blogs and other sources of print entertainment and information easily available? 
How do you find new things to read? Do you browse bookstores or Web sites, or get recommendations from friends, teachers, social media or elsewhere? 

To gain some insight into the topic, you can read a number of articles on the future of reading in The New York Times, and you can also watch a video where the members of an American family discuss their reading habits.

The entry Books everyone must read on this blog also deals with our reading habits.

martes, 24 de julio de 2012

Exciting and dangerous situations

What's the most exciting or dangerous situation you've ever been in? This is the question the presenter to this week's Richmond vodcast poses to us.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip through. What is today's vodcast about? What is Tom's true story? What is Alex's true story?

Watch the video clip again. What details can you give about the four stories that Tom and Alex tell?

Speaking activity:
Tell the stories in your own words.
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and talk about a time when something dangerous or exciting happened to you.

Tom and Alex are going to tell us two stories that happened to them in the past, but only one of the stories is true.
The one about the stingray is true.
The one about the parachute is true.

Tom came off the back of a motorbike while he was in the Andes.
He was a passenger on the motorbike, he wasn't riding it. 
They rounded a corner and suddenly a lorry was coming towards them.
The lorry driver pulled dramatically and they went down the side of the mountain.
Fortunately, they got caught in a tree.
He broke a rib.

Tom was attacked by a dangerous animal on the beach in Colombia.
It was a stingray, a flat fish with a tail and poison.
It attacked his foot and has a scar now.
He had just been in the sea and when he was coming out he felt something and saw a hole in his foot, with blood coming out.
He could fill the poison was climbing his leg.

Alex slept at a bus station in Rome for two days when she was in her twenties.
She went to Rome with her friend who at the time lived in Prague, and she needed a visa to go back to Prague.
She didn't have a visa. It was a Friday. She had to stay in Rome until Monday, but on Monday when she went to the embassy it was a bank holiday, so on Tuesday when she finally got her visa and went back to the bus station to get a ticket, they only had a ticket for Thursday.
She was stuck at the station for two days because she had already checked out of the hotel

She threw up in the air while she was parachuting somewhere in England.
She was nervous. She got motion sickness.
It was a tandem parachute. She was attached to a guy.
It was hot. They had a 30-second free [fall?]
She told the guy she was feeling a bit queasy.
The guy on the plane gave her a sick bag. It was very embarrasing for her.

lunes, 23 de julio de 2012

Tower Bridge accident

Only yesterday we posted a blog entry to inform our Intermedio 2 students of  ABC7, a site where they can get familiar with an American accent, American news stories and listen to authentic material so that they can prepare well for the listening paper of the exam.

To my liking, the best site for students to develop their listening skills is the BBC. The video clip section of the site offers a wide variety of interesting videos, usually on the short side. The big problem with the BBC is that they do not offer a transcript, which is really a hindrance for learning.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC news story about something that happened in Tower Bridge, London, in May. Watch the video clip through and tell the story in your own words.

Now complete the gaps in the transcript below with the missing words.

This was the message that greeted tourists at one of London’s most famous (1) ... . No one would be allowed up the bridge until an investigation into what happened to a lift here is completed.

They are regularly serviced in accordance with our (2) ... , our maintenance instructions, so we’ve got no reason to think there should be any fault. This comes as a complete surprise to us.

Sixteen people had just got in the lift to go up to the (3) ... above Tower Bridge. It had risen about 10 feet when suddenly it came crashing straight back down.

For nearly two hours Tower Bridge was closed, even pedestrians couldn’t pass.

As people normally do, there’s a lot of emergency vehicles, in London they start worrying whether it’s terrorism, etc. The police did say it’s not (4) ... , just an accident in the Tower.

The Health and Safety Executive has (5) ... an investigation into what led six people to be hurt. They are now being treated in hospital for broken bones.

I mean, we’re desperately sorry we have caused this (6) ... . We clearly very much regret what happened to them and we wish them well.

Those in (7) ... don’t know how long the Tower Bridge exhibition will be shut for, but one of London’s most unique views will go unseen while questions about the accident here go unanswered.

landmarks 2 insurers 3 walkways 4  terrorism-related 5 launched 6 inconvenience 7 charge 

domingo, 22 de julio de 2012

Top student: Tatiana Suriano

Students facing the intermediate certificate exam often complain that they find it difficult to prepare for the listening comprehension paper, as its level of difficulty is often greater than the listening activities they can find in their course books or test books.

Getting used to listening to authentic English is essential to be successful in the listening paper. ABC7 News is a good site for students to get familiar with authentic English and an American accent while they watch current news stories. An approximate transcript of the news item is sometimes provided, which is really useful for students to fully understand the information, practise pronunciation and gain some insight into the reasons why they sometimes fail to understand.

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

1 What prize does each of the top students receive?
2 What is Tatiana planning to study at university?
3 According to Tatiana, why do some students do badly at school?
4 What reputation does Richmond High School have?
5 How does Tatiana help other people in her area?
6 How does Tatiana work best?

For correction, you can read the transcript of the story here.

sábado, 21 de julio de 2012

Irregular verb wheel

Irregular verb wheel is one of the latest additions to the online MacMillan Dictionary.

It is an addictive online game where students of all levels but especially those in the lower ones, Básico 1 and Básico 2, may put their grasp of irregular verbs to the test.

You have to answer five different questions about each verb with a time limit of two minutes.

The only drawback of the game is that there are no audio files, so students who want to work on the pronunciation of irregular verbs, which are often mispronounced, will have to type in the irregular verb in the search box of the online MacMillan Dictionary or use the great online pronunciation dictionary howjsay, which we dealt with on this entry of the blog.

viernes, 20 de julio de 2012


A few weeks ago we posted about The World Wonders Project . It is through this site that I came across this short video about Prague.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermedio 1 students.

1 How long did St.Vitus’s Cathedral take to complete?
2 When did King Václav reign?
3 How does King Václav appear in times of national crisis?
4 Who ordered the construction of the Cathedral and the city of Prague?
5 When did the Czech Republic win their independence?
6 When did the Prague Spring take place?
7 When did the Velvet Revolution take place?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. The people of the city see its castle as not a monument of the past but as still very much in use. It lives in their hearts. There is a Gothic cathedral in the castle grounds. St. Vitus’s Cathedral took 600 years to complete. It is built on the burial site of King Václav who reigned in the 10th century. The bishop here carries King Václav’s skull. Václav is regarded as a patron saint who resisted outside invasion and is said to appear on a white horse in times of national crisis. A statue of Charles IV who reigned in the 14th century stands directly above the cathedral altar. He ordered the construction of the Cathedral and the city of Prague. But the city became a victim of religious and international disputes and it was only after the First World War that people were able to win back their independence.

The castle was used for the Office of the first President, Thomas Masaryk. He ensured that the castle was open to its citizens. The castle’s Great Hall was built by the Hapsburgs of Austria. History swept by. The Hall saw Hitler’s invasion and served as the venue for the Communist National Party Assembly during the post-war years. Soviet troops crushed Czechoslovakia’s liberation movement during the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968. Then, in 1989, half a million citizens took to the streets calling for freedom. The Velvet Revolution liberated Czechoslovakia without bloodshed. Václav Havel was the leader of the movement for democracy. The crowds sent their President to the castle, and the Castle was returned to the Czech people. The words mean: “Truth prevails” The flag expresses the hopes and beliefs of the people of Prague.

jueves, 19 de julio de 2012

Coffee cups to canvas

Coffee cups to canvas was one of the winning ads in the second season of TED ads.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and number the topics below in the order Sharpie mentions them:

Sharpie's plans for his break
Sharpie's friends dismissed his drawings
the process of drawing on a cup
when Sharpie first started to draw on canvas
taking a break
background and education

If you want to fully understand what Sharpie says you can read the transcript below. 

Communication strategy:
In the transcript I have highlighted the use Sharpie makes of some connectors to link his sentences. Sharpie keeps repeating phrases like you knowkind of, to put sentences together. These connecting phrases are really useful when we wish to connect our speech. 

Sometimes we run the risk of our English sounding broken and fragmented, with one sentence having nothing to do with the previous one. Phrases like you knowkind of, may help us to gain time to think and connect ideas.

Another post on the blog where these linking devices are touched on is The Two Ronnies -The Optician.

I grew up in Malaysia on a bird farm. I was just not even a good student, you know. I was terrible in math, I was terrible in English, I’m still terrible in English. If you are terrible in math in Malaysia you automatically go into art, you know. So that kind of worked out for me because that was what I had always wanted to do.

So I came to study animation in the States. I got lucky, I guess, and I landed my job at a game company. I was at a coffee shop and I needed something to write ideas down on. I didn’t have paper so the next best thing was a cup because, you know, it’s also white, so it’s kind of a canvas, so I wrote some ideas on it, I also drew some things on it on the side. I started drawing on a few cups later on.

When my friends saw the cups they asked me what I was going to do with it, and I said some of it were kind of nice, maybe I can sell it. One of them just said, ‘No one’s going to buy that crap’. I wanna just prove them wrong, you know, and I think I could have done just so by just selling the cup for like 20 cents. I’m sure someone will buy the cup for 20 cents, you know. But I don’t want to stop it there, I wanted to make it much bigger.

The process takes anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of months. I don’t sketch on the cups, you know, I would draw directly with a sharpie. I will look at the cup for a long time and I wonder if the stroke is going to make or break the cup, you know. There are times when I got up to ninety-five per cent, ninety-eight per cent done and I would draw something that would ruin the entire piece, you know. I think the challenge was addicting, and ever since I drew on the first cup that was all I wanted to draw on.

When I was a kid I read this book, it was Around the World of in 80 Days. It’s always fascinated me. I’ve worked as an animator for about twelve years now, and I have decided to take a break from it and see the world. People and stuff like that they always say they want to see the world one day but none of them really ever do it, and I decided if any times are good to do it, this is the right time.

I am going to take Route 66 to Chicago and then I don’t know where the hell I’m going after that. For the first time in my life I do not have a back-up plan. I don’t know what is in store, I don’t know… there’ll be nothing familiar to me except my cups and the car, just go along with whatever comes my way.

The difference between a dream and reality is doing it. So if you want to get something done, or if you have a dream, you know, don’t wait, just go for it.

My name’s is Boey. I’m an artist. Now what are you gonna start?

1 background and education
2 when Sharpie first started to draw on canvass
3 Sharpie's friends dismissed his drawings
4 the process of drawing on a cup
5 taking a break
6 Sharpie's plans for his break

miércoles, 18 de julio de 2012

Talking point: What role does TV play in your life?

How many TV sets do you have at home?
Where are they?
How much television do you watch? 
Do you watch more TV at the weekend?
What are your favourite TV programmes?
What TV programmes do you never watch?

Do you have rules in your home about how much television you can watch per day?
What age do you think is appropriate for children to begin watching television?
If a television is on, even in the background, do you find yourself tuning it out? 

How do you think your family life would be different if you cut down on the hours that the television — or televisions — in your home were on?
Do you know anyone who doesn't have a TV set at home?

What are the potential benefits of television-watching?
What about the drawbacks?

What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family? was a feature of The Student Opinion in The New York Times Learning Network in mid-October last year. Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions above with them.

In preparation, you can read The New York Times article Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest, about the harmful effects of TV for children's development.

Daniel Lai/Aurora Photos

martes, 17 de julio de 2012

A very unusual English home

This is another episode in the Richmond vodcast series for their intermediate textbook The Big Picture. Alex and Tom go on a new mission. They visit a very unusual English home. The place looks more like a museum than a house. They have to decide which four objects in the house are typically English.

The video clip may come in handy to revise the use of modal verbs might / could to express probability.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip from the beginning up to 5:40 and make a note of the four objects Alex and Tom select as typically English.

You can check the answers while Tom and Alex get on at it themselves with the owner of the house.

1 plates 2 pictures 3 figures or figurines 4 chest of drawers

lunes, 16 de julio de 2012

What's Britain's most sacred place?

This is another educational video from The Open University and it's suitable for strong Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

What's Britain's most sacred place? deals with the idea that Britain is full of sacred sites. Stonehenge and Glastonbury Cathedral are most probably the most famous ones, but what raised them above the rest? And why are they still special to the British?

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

1. Stonehenge was built when people realized that agriculture might be easier than hunting.
2. Stonehenge celebrates both the link between humans and the earth, and the sun.
3. Three hundred people were needed to raise each of the stones in Stonehenge.
4. In medieval times people thought that Jesus Chirst had walked in Glastonbury Abbey.
5. Jesus himself founded Glastonbury Abbey.
6. Ley lines are believed to connect Glastonbury Abbey and Stonehenge.
7. In Milton Keynes the sun pours directly along the central boulevard.

1T 2T 3F 4T 5F 6T 7T

You can read the full transcript here:

From St. Michael's Mount to the standing stones of Orkney, Britain is choc-a-bloc with sacred sites. Stonehenge was built as people started to realize that growing food might be easier than chasing it. They began to create vast stone structures to celebrate this new bond between humans and earth. Stonehenge is extra special, partly because it celebrates the sun as well.
It would have taken 200 people to raise each stone in the spectacular circle, but it was worth it. At midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, the sun pours to the stone into the center of the monument. Heaven brought to earth.
Glastonbury Abbey is also built along the axis of the sun not because Christians were sun worshipping but because they too wanted to represent the sacred link between heaven and earth.
To the medieval pilgrim, the ground of Glastonbury was the holiest of all. People came to the site in their thousands, perhaps because some believed they were walking in the footsteps of Jesus himself. Jesus' uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, was said to have founded the abbey. And according to some versions of the legend, he brought the young Jesus with him, who stayed in the next door village of Priddy, where he could have earned his keep as a surface miner.
These days, New Age pilgrims have joined the Christians at Glastonbury and all sorts of people flock to Stonehenge. Perhaps they are partly drawn by the ley lines, channels of earth energy that some believe connect our sacred sites.
The influence of Stonehenge and Glastonbury crops up all over Britain. Milton Keynes was designed so that at midsummer sunrise, the sun pours directly along the central boulevard where its rays reflect off the railway station. Perhaps we should start thinking of Milton Keynes as not just a new town but a center for the New Age, or maybe not.

domingo, 15 de julio de 2012

You're not special

David McCullough's commencement speech at Wellesley High School, Massachussetts in June this year was a controversial one, as he defined graduates as “pampered,” likely to get divorced, and “not special.”

Watch David McCullough's full speech here and judge for yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 14 de julio de 2012


Wordmaster is a BCC vocabulary game that I discovered through My English Scrapbook. It is suitable for learners of all levels, as  Wordmaster has three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and difficult.

In each game, we are given 10 questions and a time limit of 89 seconds to answer each question. If we are at a loss for an answer, we can resort to the definition as a hint.

To wrap it all, we can listen to the example sentence at the end.

viernes, 13 de julio de 2012

How beautiful was Cleopatra?

This is a short video by The Open University which is suitable for strong Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students. It deals with the myth of Cleopatra's beauty, and students will get plenty of help about what is being said just by watching the movie. Anyway, they can find a full transcript below.

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

1 What year did she become pharaoh of Egypt?
2 Who was her first husband?
3 What did Cleopatra use her sexuality for?
4 How did Cleopatra make a big impression on Caesar? She had herself rolled up in...
5 When was Caesar killed?
6 How was Caeser killed?
7 What was Iris goddess of?
8 Is there evidence of Cleopatra's beauty?
9 What does she look like on some official coins?
10 Was she loved by her people?
11 What was Cleopatra's greatest love?

Cleopatra's career as beauty and seductress didn't get off to a great start.  In 51 B.C., aged 18, she became pharaoh of Egypt but she was forced to follow tradition and marry her ten-year-old brother. She soon got shot of him, but unfortunately her ministers also got shot of her.  In exile, she had no power of her own, so she did what women have done for centuries, used her sexuality to manipulate men.
The man she had to seduce was Caesar, ruler of Rome, world superpower. She was 21, he was 52. To make a big impression, she had herself rolled up in a carpet and delivered to his feet. It worked. The two became lovers and she got back her throne.
But in 44 B.C., Caesar was stabbed to death. Three men succeeded him; Mark Antony taking charge of Rome's eastern territories. Cleopatra knew that Mark Antony was a big fan of Bacchus, god of wine, so she went to meet him as Isis, goddess of fertility.
A night of passion followed, a match made in heaven. It was also a partnership that worked on earth. He helped her keep Egypt, she bankrolled his empire. They were happy, but Rome wasn't. Mark Antony's co-ruler declared war. The couple's joint forces were no match for the full might of Rome. So rather than be captured and separated, they chose suicide. Cleopatra seduced the two most powerful men of her day, but there's no real evidence she was a beauty.
On some official coins, she looks more like a bloke. We are told she was an excellent pharaoh, loved by her people. Famed not for her beauty, but for her intelligence, wit and charm. She used her brains to play men in order to protect her greatest love, Egypt.

jueves, 12 de julio de 2012

Sign language

Only yesterday we posted an entry about more and more men choosing pink-collar jobs nowadays. Along these lines comes today's post, Sign language, an award-winning short-film about some other non-traditional occupations and the feelings that boil inside the workers doing them.

Somehow it reminded me of a lesson we did in May this year about the most hated occupations. The list featured jobs like estate agents, motorcycle couriers, nightclub bouncers, tax inspectors, telesales reps and traffic wardens, but funnily enough, no mention of board boys.

Self-study activity:
Watch the film and enjoy it. There are some difficult parts in what Ben says, but some others are well within the grasp of intermediate students. You can find the transcript below.

Yeah, my work place is wonderful and I want to share it.
My name is Ben. I am a static outdoor information technician – a board guy.
I’ve been doing it for about 15 years, ah, but I’ve just been promoted. So today is my last day.
London is the most exciting city in the world and I’m in the heart of it. Started out in the provinces, learning the trade, get the technique down. Worked the night shift for a few years. And then my dad retired, passed his patch on to me. But I had to earn it, really. This is Granddad’s pole actually.
Ah, my workmates are amazing. That’s Harry, he’s a joker. He’s always larking around. You know last year he held his sign upside down all day, just for a laugh.
You alright, Harry? Must be planning some high jinks.
Then there’s Chris, Steve, completely inseparable, two peas in a pod.
That’s Alex, work experience, degree in urban semiotics. Still got lots to learn though.
Then there’s Anya. She only started last month. You can tell she really gets it though. Terrible condition those flyerers, I wish I could help. She’s non-union though, so I can’t talk to her.
Yeah, hi Dad. Yeah, hi. No, ah, new post… first day new post starts tomorrow. Yeah, I am excited. Look, Dad, I’m at work. Ah, yeah, can I call you back? Ok, bye, bye.
Don’t get me wrong, the promotion is great. You know, it’s an honour to be recognized, Dad's over the moon.
It’s just that, this… place… You know we’re on a 12th century road surrounded by 19th century buildings - they’re works of art. Beneath us, there’s an underground river. There’s so much community here, so much life. And most people don’t see past the neon. This job teaches you about things like that.
You know, I’m here to point out less obvious things. "From the ruts of Oxford Street to open ways", Thomas Hardy, 1872.
There’s so much beauty, you know, so much opportunity, right under our noses. We shouldn’t just ignore it.
Well, that’s it. Shift's over. Thought the guys might give me a send-off or something. I guess they’re too busy. Oh well.
Yeah, it’s not too bad. Not so many people as before, but, I still love Mondays.
Off to work

miércoles, 11 de julio de 2012

Talking point: Pink-collar jobs done by men

There is a growing trend in western societies for men to enter jobs dominated by women and take positions like nurse, receptionist, dental assistant, kindergarden teacher, call-center operator, baby-sitter, maid, secretary or cleaner, occupations known as "pink-collar" jobs. The term “pink-collar” is derogatory and means that many women are stuck in certain jobs, mostly low-paying ones, and usually because of their sex.

This week's talking point has a look at this new trend in the labour market. Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below, which have been taken from The New York Times Learning Network.

Would you be interested in a non-traditional -pink-collar- job of some kind?
What jobs that have traditionally been held by members of the opposite gender — or by people of an older or younger age, or from a different background or educational level than yours — might you consider? Why?
Would you consider taking a non-traditional job of some kind in the future?
What jobs do your friends and family members do?
Do any of your friends or family members hold non-traditional jobs?
If so, how have others reacted to that choice?
Are there any jobs that you think should be limited by gender?
If so, what, and why?

In preparation for you talking session, you can also read the NYT article More Men Enter Fields Dominated by Women, by Shaila Dewan and Robert Gebeloff. You can also watch the accompanying video to this article, where some men explain the reasons underlying their choice of a pink-collar job. You can find the transcript for the video below.

I kind of cringe at the term male nurse because, you know, I’m a nurse, you know, it just so happens I am a guy. 
Kevin Kaiser is one of a small but growing number of men who are registered nurses. Nursing, like teaching and waitressing are among the occupations that have long been dominated by women. Economists call such occupations ‘pink collar jobs’. But a New York Times analysis shows that men are increasingly donning the pink collar. Men say these jobs are stable, challenging, and often a better fit.
I enjoy the complexity of the patients. I like the flexibility. I basically create my own schedule.
We are seeing now men gravitate into areas that they weren’t so anxious to get into before: neonatal, a lot of male nurses are now in pediatrics, and that’s one, I’ve been a nurse for 40 years, that’s definitely a change.
Now we see a lot of men in pink collar jobs, and there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that those are the jobs that are growing.
Ghilarducci is a behavioural economist who researches workforce issues.
Also the jobs for women, that women dominate are in such high demand that the pay is increasing.
My pay is premium, my benefits are premium, I get subsidized housing across the street. The increase in pay and benefits has been tremendous over the years, and that’s one of the reasons I don’t understand why more men are doing this.
30 years ago Ryan was one of the few men who chose to face the social stigma associated with women’s work.
When I first started in nursing, the culture of nursing was much, much different. If a physician walked into the nurse station, nurses were expected to stand up and let that physician sit down. Now for a guy doing that, you know, not used to sort of demerge to someone else, that was difficult for me to do.
I think young men aren’t settled with the kind of sexism than older men are. They are working along, women are their equals, and that working with a woman and being supervised by a woman would be demeaning.
I ‘ve seen different kinds of guys now. Now you see guys that you’d meet in a neighbourhood bar, the guy who was doing an engineer’s job or something, and I do see people with degrees in other fields.
One of the reasons why it is so important from an economist’s point of view that occupations are integrated is because it makes the economy more efficient. We economists have been talking about that from day one, that if you have artificial barriers to a job, they don’t have people getting the best matches.
I mean, you can go and bang a hammer on the side of a building if you want to or you can sit down and shuffle paper and talk to people on telephone trying to sell them insurance, but you are not going to feel good at the end of the day like you do with this job.

martes, 10 de julio de 2012


Family is another Richmond video in the vodcast series that accompanies their new method The Big Picture.

Today's video is suitable for Básico 1 and Básico 2 (elementary) students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and try to understand presenters Tom and Alex talking about their family.
Watch the video again and stop it whenever Tom and Alex come up with an interesting piece of information. Do you understand the information they give?

Alex's parents got married in 1971.
Alex has two older sisters.
Alex's father is an accountant.
Alex's mother is a housewife.
They live in the capital city of Brazil, Brazilia.
Her eldest sister's name's is Liz.
Her middle sister's name's Karla.
Her brother is called Cezar.
The extra member of the family, Alex's niece, is her eldest sister's daughter.

Tom's dad has three brothers and three sisters. He's one of six (?).
Tom's dad's family is Irish.
Uncle Tony is a London tour guide.
Tom's dad's family come from the west of Ireland.
Tom's got a brother, his name is Philip.
They look like twins, but they are not twins.
Phil is a musician. He is a good guitarrist.
His uncle John is a professional musician.
He plays the bass.

lunes, 9 de julio de 2012

Woman stuck 8 days at airport

News stories are excellent to help us develop our English listening skills, as we can use them for general understanding and for listening for detail.

The story of Teri Weissinger sounds unbelievable to be true and remind us of the film The Terminal, starred by Tom Hanks.

Self-study activity:
1) Watch the news story and explain Teri Weissinger's plight in your own words.

2) Watch the news item again. What do the following phrases and figures refer to?

San Francisco International Airport
baggage fees
five years ago
a refund

You can check the answers by reading an approximate transcript of the story here.

domingo, 8 de julio de 2012

Britain is great

Britain is great is a series of twelve videos that show different aspects of the best of Britain and that can be found on the LearnEnglish site of the British Council.

Britain is great is intended for intermediate students of English.

The videos include topics such as the countryside, creativity, music, shopping, and some more to be published on a weekly basis to complete the twelve-video series.

As it is usual with the LearnEnglish site, there are exercises to help you improve your English, which include  vocabulary and comprehension. There is also an accompanying transcript to help you with anything that might have escaped you, and everything can be downloaded.

sábado, 7 de julio de 2012

Paragraph structure

One of the most popular features on this blog is the series Writing Workshop, where we deal with several aspects concerning techniques and strategies to develop the writing skill with a view to improving students' performance in the writing paper of the test.

Many of the ideas set out in the Writing Workshop can also be easily spotted on the net. Take, for instance, the standard paragraph structure:

Topic sentence
Supporting sentences
Concluding sentence

This video by SmrtEnglish dwells on this standard paragraph structure, and gives us lots of visual support to help with understanding and lots of examples for us to figure out what the teacher is really talking about.

viernes, 6 de julio de 2012


The Nikon short film Why is most probably the hardest clip to understand on the blog. I was really in two minds about whether to post it or not, but the sheer beauty of the film is something worth watching, and whatever Dane Jackson, Rebecca Rush and Alex Honnold say about kayaking, mountain-biking and solo climbing is secondary, although I have included the transcript for English fanatics.

We have also touched on the topic of extreme sports on this blog in the post Berghaus, and in the Why Files.

We seem to come across extreme sports more and more often in the English class, so the Nikon short film Why may come in handy to discuss the topic. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Nikon - WHY from Corey Rich on Vimeo.

You can read the transcript here.

jueves, 5 de julio de 2012

Richard Branson ad

This ad is a funny biography about Richard Branson. We see him as a toddler, as a teen, as a young adult and in present times, always with his famous goatee and always coming up with clever ideas.

Self-study activity:
Complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Long before Richard Branson created (1) ... and (2) ... , he envisioned Virgin Mobile. A phone company that would make ordinary (3) ...  extraordinary and get people what they want as fast as possible.


They all  (4) ... he was mad.
In the future we will all be able to talk to each other with our (5) ... .
Right... are you mental?

It's just so simple, he  (4) ... . Why pay for minutes when it's (6) ... data you really need. And while not all his dreams were embraced, he was (7) ... by a higher calling. This is Richard Branson, and he is here to (8) ... you. Every last one of you.  (6) ... data and messaging just $ (9) ... a month.

1 airlines 2 spaceships 3 experiences 4 thought 5 thumbs 6 unlimited 7 driven 8 service 9 thirty-five

miércoles, 4 de julio de 2012

Talking point: How do you keep up with the news?

This week's talking point is How do you keep up with the news?, which came up in The New York Times's Learning Network a few weeks ago.

Get together with your conversation group and discuss the questions below.

What is your favorite way to get news? 
What kind of news are you looking for?
Are you most interested in sports, entertainment and culture, politics, science and health, style and fashion, business, local news about your community or national or world news?
Has this changed over the course of time for you or for your family?
Do you read a newspaper regularly?
If so, do you read it on paper, online or both?
Do you ever turn to social networking sites to get news?

If your local paper stopped printing daily editions, what effect do you think this have on you, your family and the community as a whole? Why?
Do you think the reduction in the number of newspapers that are printed around the country each day is a sign of our digital times, or an indicator that people don’t follow the news as closely today as they did in previous generations? Why?

In preparation, you can also read the NYT article The Undoing of the Daily by Christine Haughney, who talks about recent changes in the media landscape.

Ted Rhodes/Calgary Herald

martes, 3 de julio de 2012

Looking for Banksy

This is another video in the Richmond's vodcast series. Banksy is part of the educational material that goes with The Big Picture, and it is intended for intermediate students.

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

1 Banksy is an artist who dislikes exhibitions.
2 Banksy is controversial because some people consider his work just grafitti.
3 The girl thinks that the "For the love of dog" painting is colourful and controversial.
4 The blonde girl shows them an original Banksy.
5 The boy thinks that using the mobile phone to find a Banksy is like cheating.
6 There was a Banksy in Shoreditch's local council last year.
7 The Banksy outside the pub has been there since when the pub was opened.
8 The other Banksy in the back is older than the first one.

1 False. Banksy is a street artist, that's why we can't find his works in museums.
2 True.
3 True.
4 False. She shows them the spot where an original Banksy was. It was painted over and now just a photograph of the original can be seen.
5 True.
6 False. The local council had the Banksy removed last year.
7 True.
8 True. It's one of the original Banksies.

lunes, 2 de julio de 2012

Sir Steve Redgrave

With the Olympics just round the corner, retired English rower Steve Redgrave tells us about the UK's passion for sport and his personal involvement in the 2012 Games in this Foreign Office film which is a part of the series See Britain through my eyes.

This is extensive listening, upwards of six minutes and even strong intermediate students may find it difficult to understand in detail what Steve Redgrave says. That's the reason why the task students are given is quite general.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and number the topics below in the order they are mentioned by Steve Redgrave.

The hard training sessions
Britain changing their mentality
The first race
Confidence in the success of the games
How it all started
His ancestors
Steve being asked to help out in the Olympic bid
The British tradition of inventing sports

You can read the transcript here.
The river has always been part of our society here.
My father and my father's father, my grandfather, had all been brought up in the area.
But nobody got on the river before I did.
Certainly on a morning like this, it's sort of so idyllic. It's just fantastic.
This is how I started sort of 30 years ago.
I just loved it.
It was sort of escapism in some ways.
It's just magical.
That's nice rhythm, that's nice control.
I went to a school just on the other side of Marlow.
And the Head of the English Department, a guy called Francis Smith, he was actually captain of Marlow Rowing Club.
And he just asked a few individuals if they would like to give rowing a go.
And I thought, "Well, getting out of school and going along the river during school time, that seems pretty sensible."
And after a couple of months Francis said, "Well, would you like to go and do a race?"
And I thought, "Oh a race! That sounds, that's pretty fun."
And we went down to Bristol and did a race down there, not really expecting anything, and we ended up winning it.
I suppose that sort of shaped my career in some ways, from those first few months and that first race.
Success breeds success.
Your dreams start getting built by other people's views.
And in some ways that was a great motivating factor as being a youngster that time.
But it also had its downfalls as well because you have your sort of belief that, "Oh, one day I am gonna be World Champion."
"I wonder which year that is gonna be."
And the fact is that you have to make it happen.
So, we would be training three, sometimes four training sessions in a day.
That's 20 kilometers a training session.
And that's 49 weeks a year.
So, when you're plowing up and down the river your feeling is, "This is horrible."
I don't wanna be doing this.
But I've gotta do this for the race that we're going.

United States, Slovenia, Great Britain.
Most of the sports that are around have been started by Brits.
We start it off then everybody picks it up, and then does it better than we do.
I think in some ways British people have had a problem over a long period of time and I'm thinking, "Oh no, we're British we've got to do it as very much amateurs!" and it was about having a good fight.
But it wasn't about winning.
But I think over the last few decades, that has slowly changed.
It's not a bad thing to be British and to be a winner.
That's a good thing.
We welcome Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch who is presenting Mr. Steve Redgrave, OBE with a gold Olympic pin to acknowledge his fifth Gold Medal, a record.
I think we've become very happy within our own skins because it's not embarrassing to go out and win races or even to say that you're the best in the field in this particular area.
And I think we've been able to accept that as a nation in some ways.
And certainly moving towards 2012 and having the greatest sporting event coming to our country, there is an expectation that we don't just want to put on a fantastic Games.
But we want our athletes to do well as well and to win some gold medals.
I was asked to be helping out on the bid process.
And I didn't even have to give it a thought.
It was something of being able to hand something down to the next generation.
That's the Aquatic over there.
When the bid was suggested in the UK, that we were going to bid for the games there were people saying, "No, we're never gonna get it."
In less than three years they'll be opening doors, people will be sitting in these seats, watching the athletes doing their bit down there.
I just find that incredible in some ways, of so many people who put so much effort into it.
But it's gonna happen, it's gonna succeed and it's gonna be really very, very special to be here.
I'd really love to be able to compete in these games.
As a 50 - year - old, I think I'd be probably struggling a little bit but it'll certainly be a very proud day from those humble beginnings of getting out in a boat to seeing the opening ceremony, seeing the flame lit.
I'm gonna be one proud British guy.
There's no doubt about that.

1 His ancestors
2 How it all started
3 The first race
4 The hard training sessions
5 The British tradition of inventing sports
6 Britain changing their mentality
7 Steve being asked to help out in the Olympic bid
8 Confidence in the success of the games

domingo, 1 de julio de 2012

Endless summer

Endless Summer by Oceana is the official video for the UEFA Euro 2012 that is coming to an end today with the final match between Spain and Italy. Enjoy the video clip. You can find the lyrics below.

Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh
Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh

Moving up, moving down, keep on turning up the sound
We gonna party in the sun
Catch the feeling have some fun
Moving up, moving down, let your love shine all around
You're gonna be my number one
Make my heart beat like a drum
Like a drum, drum,
Moving up, moving down
You make me jump, jump
Let your love shine all around
Like a drum, drum,
Make my heart beat like a drum
Like a drum, drum,

Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh
Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh

Like a drum, drum,
Moving up, moving down
You make me jump, jump
Let your love shine all around
Like a drum, drum,
Make my heart beat like a drum
Like a drum, drum,
You're gonna be my number one
Make my heart beat like a drum
Like a drum, drum,

Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh
Endless summer, oh, oh, oh, oh,
yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh