Category Archives: General

Featured Blog of the Month

I am thrilled to share with you that the popular website Dreamreader.net has featured Blog de Cristina as “Blog of the Month”

Find out more in their newsletter,  http://eepurl.com/b1CRlH

What’s dreamreader.net?

It’s a site that freely provides graduated reading material for English language learners and teachers. It has more than 500 reading lessons. Every lesson comes with free audio, a free printable worksheet and a free multiple choice quiz.

The site offers 5 categories, but the most interesting ones to help enhance your reading comprehension ability are “Fun English” and “Academic English”. This last category is full of lessons and quiz questions for beginner, low intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students.

The site is run by Neil Millington, a university EFL lecturer in Japan.

I blogged about dreamreader.net here

6 Excellent Free Sites to Practise Reading Comprehension

Make yourself at Home

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning  and using vocabulary  related to homes, houses and rooms through a variety of engaging activities.

Topic: Houses, homes and rooms

Level: Upper Intermediate and above

Time:  60/90 minutes

Materials: handout 1

Task 1. Revising, introducing and using vocabulary.

Part 1. Mind mapping.

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board a mind map as the one below to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes to complete their mind maps and get feedback from the whole class, completing the mind map on the board with their suggestions. Then, give them handout 1, explain difficult vocabulary and ask students to talk about the kind of house they live in and their favourite room in the house.

♥ Part 2. A Game

This part requires some preparation. In advance, you need to find two rooms in a house belonging to two famous people.( see mine below)

Ask students to work in pairs. Student A faces the board and Student B sits with his back to it. Display the picture of a room with the OHP (if you do not have one, stick the picture on the board) and ask student A to describe it in as much detail as possible to his partner. Student B, using a clean standard A4, needs to draw the room. It would suggest beginning the description of the room by saying where the big things in the room are: windows, doors, sofas/beds etc….

Once they have finished, they compare with the original and have a good laugh.

Elicit some adjectives of personality and start a class discussion about how a room can reflect the owner’s personality. Ask students to try to guess what kind of person the room belongs to.

After the discussion, surprise your students by telling them it belongs to a very famous person in their country and ask them to guess who this person might be. Show them.

Repeat procedure for student B.
Conjunto de Fichas creado con GoConqr por cristina.cabal

Task  2. Listening and speaking

In this part, students in small groups will talk about some home-related issues. Questions will be introduced by  short videos, which will hopefully encourage discussion.

House of the future  (I’ll use the first 3 minutes)

After watching, students discuss the video and these questions:

  • What will the house of the future be like?
  • Will we have robots to help with household chores?
  • Do you think houses will be more environmentally friendly in the future?
  • Houses use a lot of energy. What things could be done to make houses more energy efficient? What sort of energy do you think will be used to heat our houses?

♥ Renting out your house  (I’ll just use the first two minutes of the video)

After watching, students discuss the video and these questions:

  • Have you ever used an accommodation sharing site?
  • Have you ever rented out a property to tourists? Would you do it? What are the pros and the cons?
  • Would you rent out a room in your house to a lodger? Why (not)?
  • If you had a property to rent out, what kind of lodger would you prefer and why?

♥ Pallet House Project

The inspiration for the Pallet House Project came from the fact that 84% of the world’s refugees could be housed with a year’s supply of recycled American pallets. With one and a half year of pallet production in the US alone, 33 million refugees can live in a Pallet House.

After watching, students discuss the video and these questions:

  • What strange materials do you know of that have been used to make houses?
  • Is homelessness a problem in your country?
  • How difficult do you think is for homeless people to find a job, or get a house?
  • What does your government do for the homeless?
  • What can you do to help them?
  • Why do you think people become homeless?

I hope you enjoyed the lesson!

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Two Handy Tools that Save the Day

There are about 10 ideas for posts on my to-write list, but this is definitely a post I have meaning to write for a long time and that for some reason or another I never got around to writing it.

This post is not about English; it has nothing to do with vocabulary or grammar. It is just a post featuring two tools that might come in handy.

♥ KeepVid  might prevent you from having a nervous breakdown when after spending Sunday afternoon preparing activities with content from You Tube or any other video site for the coming week, you find that Internet is not working. Sounds familiar? Of course, as well-seasoned teachers we can always resort to plan B  or plan C, but isn’t it terribly frustrating?

Keep Vid is a handy tool for downloading video. As they advertise on their site:

Keep Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more. All you need is the URL of the page that has the video you want to download. Enter it in the textbox and simply click ‘Download’. KeepVid will then fetch download links in all possible formats that the particular site provides.

Remember that if you want to download videos from Facebook, you will need the url. You can get it by right-clicking on the video to get its hidden url.

Downsub.As for the second useful tool, how handy could it be to have a tool that downloads subtitles from YouTube? Very!

Well, this is what http://downsub.com/ does for you. The only thing you need to do is enter the url and choose the language.

Hope this blog post has been helpful! Keep posted!

The Sore Thumb: A Subject-Verb Agreement Quiz

Yes, I am doing this. I am publishing this post. And I am publishing this post even when I am well aware that it is going to stir up controversy.

How does she dare, I can almost hear you say, create a quiz about subject-verb agreement when she is not even a native speaker?

I might regret it, but the truth is that I sort of needed to clarify in my mind one of the most obscure points of grammar in the English language- namely that of subject-verb agreement-,  because contrary to what one might think a singular subject in English does not always demand a singular verb, and what looks like a plural subject might not be so and take a singular verb instead. To top it all, when there is disagreement among grammarians, both singular and plural forms can be used.

To create this quiz, I have done a lot of research on the Internet and read what some noted grammarians have to say about this issue and  I have found that they don’t always agree. For this reason, I have tried to avoid the most controversial subject-verb agreement issues.

Hope you find it useful!

 

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An Engaging Activity to Work with Modals in the Past

Dear readers,

Let me start thanking you for all your comments, likes and shares on my posts. That’s really encouraging!

In today’s post I want to share with you an activity I did with my B2 students that worked really well. It’s the kind of activity that I like because it includes movement and it encourages interaction between students. The focus is on grammar but, at the same time this activity gets them out of their seats and moving. They  will need to interact with other classmates and use English to discuss English grammar while having fun at the same time. So, what else could one wish for?

Aim: The focus of this lesson is on students integrating grammar, speaking and writing using modals of certainty and possibility in the past.

Level: B2 (upper intermediate)

Time: 20-30 minutes

Materials: post-it notes and pictures to display (see mine here)

Although this is an activity to reinforce learning and the grammar should have been explained beforehand, it might be a good idea to revise orally or on the board the targeted grammar.

Warming-up

Remind students of the use of the structure modal+have+past participle to make suppositions about actions that did or did not take place in the past.

Explain that for this activity they will be working with the modal “must” to speculate about the past and with the modals could/may/ might in the past to discuss different possibilities. Drill pronunciation of must/might…+have+past participle

  • Must have been | ‘ mʌstəv ‘biːn |
  • might have gone | ‘maɪtəv ‘ɡɒn |

The Task

On the walls of the class display the pictures you want to use. See the ones I used here. Ask students to try to guess the answers to the questions in the pictures and then, write them down on the post-it notes provided using the modal must in the past to speculate about what must have happened. Tell them that on the back of each picture you have written the answer to the question. They’ll win one point if their answer is the same as the one written on the back of the picture.

Procedure

  • On the walls of the class display the pictures you want to use.
  • Ask students to work in threes.
  • Give each group a different number and some post-it notes. You will need to give them as many post-it notes as pictures on the walls. They will need a post-it note for each picture.
  • Now, ask students to stand up and have a look at the different pictures.
  • In their groups they will have to discuss the different possibilities using the structure may/might/could +have+ past participle.
  • Then when they reach an agreement, they will need to write their suggestion on the post-it note using the modal “must” in the past. Ask students to write their assigned number on the post-it note. Ex. He must have saved someone or he must have discovered a bomb
  • Ask students to sit down. Take the first picture and it turn it around. Read the sentence explaining the picture. Read the post-it notes to see which group guessed correctly. Award them one point. Needless to say, the winner is the group that gets more points.

Thanks for reading!

Winner of the British Council Blog of the Month Award

Dear readers,

I’m thrilled to share with you that I am the winner of this month’s British Council’s Teaching English blog award for my post Six Amazing Websites that Make Your Writing Strongerwhich has received over 70,000 visits so far. Thank you very much!

When I was shortlisted this month, I was flattered my post was competing against posts from teachers I have been following for a long, long time (one of them, the widely admired Nik Peachy). I never thought I could win, but … here we are! As my father used to say: “Nothing worth having comes easy”.

I want to thank everybody who voted for Blog de Cristina and once again, allow me to dedicate this award to my students who are the reason Blog de Cristina exists and an endless source of inspiration.

 

I’m sure most of my readers know about this prestigious organisation but for those of my students, who have just started learning English, know that the British Council, funded by British government, can be considered UK’s international cultural body. It works in more than 100 countries worldwide and reaches 20 million people face to face and more than 652 million people online.

Want to read a bit more about the British Council? More information here and here  and you can also become a follower on facebook here

What Type of Learner are you?

Have you ever asked yourself how you revise for an exam or how you learned English irregular verbs? Read through the traits and identify the kind of learner you are and  the kind of activities that will help you best in your learning process.

Every learner has one primary learning mode. Your learning mode or learning style is just the way you learn best. People learn using a variety of these modes depending on the task, but there is one  that is normally predominant. Therefore, identifying it as soon as possible is important to help you learn better and faster.

There are three main learning modes and there are traits for each type of learner.

  • The visual learner prefers learning by seeing and watching
  • The auditory learner prefers learning by hearing
  • The kinaesthetic learner prefers learning by doing, touching and interacting

Which type of learner are you? Read through the traits and identify the kind of learner you are and the kind of activities that will help you best in your learning process.

Auditory learners:

  • You like traditional teaching techniques
  • You like to learn things by hearing them or saying them.
  • You prefer listening to a book on tape to reading it
  • You prefer telling stories to writing or acting them out
  • You like drilling and pronunciation practice
  • You like listening tasks
  • You like music
  • You love discussions
  • You talk better than you write
  • You like giving speeches and oral reports

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Pay attention in class
  • Make recordings of learning material
  • Repeat facts with your eyes closed
  • Ask questions
  • Explain the subject matter to another student
  • Record lectures
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Study in a quiet place

Visual learners:

  • You learn by seeing and watching
  • You like infographics, pictures, diagrams, films
  • You are well organised
  • You are quiet and observant
  • You need an overall view and purpose
  • You may have some difficulties with verbal instructions
  • You like to read and  write stories more than telling them or acting them out.

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Copying from the board
  • Writing down everything the teacher says
  • Highlighting key information in the textbook
  • Keeping a lexical notebook
  • Making mind maps
  • Using flashcards
  • Watching videos
  • You can also learn easily from infographics, posters, charts, maps, and photographs.
  • The best way for you to study is by looking at flash cards or some sort of paper that has the information written on it

Kinaesthetic learners:

  • You learn things by doing, touching, feeling, experimenting, moving
  • You learn by trial and error
  • You like to memorize things by acting them out or doing them
  • You prefer playing some kind of game to reading or listening to a book
  • You like sequencing tasks
  • You respond to physical rewards
  • You point when reading
  • You make gestures when you are learning
  • You like action-oriented books

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Direct involvement
  • Hands-on activities
  • Demonstrations
  • Using realia
  • Doing pair/group work
  • Doing role-plays
  • Team games and competitions
  • Working with Cuisenaire rods
  • Mimicking to guess  vocabulary
  • Standing up and moving around

As teachers, we need to bear in mind that in our classes there are different kinds of learners. Therefore, we need to incorporate different teaching strategies to reach every one of them.

What I hear, I forget.

What I hear and see, I remember a little.

What I hear, see, and ask questions about or discuss with someone else, I begin to understand.

What I hear, see, discuss, and do, I acquire knowledge and skill.

What I teach to another, I master. (Silberman, 1996)

The more actively engaged a learner is with the content, the better she learns and the more she remembers.

Thanks for reading!

References:

  • Schunk, D. H. & Zimmerman, B. J.. Self-Regulated Learning: From Teaching to Self-Reflective Practice. Guilford Press.
  • Silberman, M. Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

 

Miss Universe Contest’s Flub: Learning How to Apologize

You might be wondering what a “flub” is. A flub is an embarrassing mistake or blunder and this is precisely the best word to describe what happened at this year’s Miss Universe pageant where Miss Colombia was by mistakenly crowned Miss Universe by host Steve Harvey.

Yes, I agree. Everybody makes mistakes, to err is human and stuff like that, but  -hey Steve!- this one was just huge, enormous. It was a Himalayan blunder. Perhaps it was a Freudian slip and you wanted to crown Miss Colombia and thought nobody would notice!

Anyway, I feel bad for both misses, don’t you?

At the Golden Globes this year, the actor Jamie Foxx parodied this situation and this gives me the chance to have a look at the ways we can apologize in English. See? Every cloud has a silver lining!

Level: Intermediate

Age group: any

PROCEDURE:

Step 1.Watch the video and write down all the expressions Jamie Foxx uses to apologize. Check them at the end of this post.

 

Step 2. Speaking.Get students in groups of three or four and ask them to discuss the following questions

♥ What’s the worst mistake you’ve made at work/school and how did you deal with it?

♥ What is the biggest mistake you have ever made and what did you learn from it?

♥ Is it easy for you to admit that you have made a mistake or do you tend to blame         others or circumstances for your mistakes?

Step 3.Do you know when to use excuse me, pardon (me), beg your pardon and sorry?

SORRY

  • You usually use sorry to apologize after you have done something wrong. It is the simplest way to apologize.
  • If you want to be more polite, you can always use the longer version “I’m sorry”.
  • If you want to emphasize how sorry you are, you can use “I’m so /terribly/very/extremely/really sorry”.
  • If you want to say what you’re sorry for, you can say:

                   I am sorry I shouted at you

                  I am sorry about last night

                 I am sorry for being late

  • When you accidentally step on someone’s toe , you say ” I’m sorry” or just “Sorry”
  • When you bump into someone on the street, you say “Sorry”
  • When we hear bad news  and we want to express our feelings, we say “ I am sorry to hear that.”
  • It is also used as a polite way of introducing disappointing information or bad news I’m sorry, but you have not passed the test
  • Used when you have said something that is not correct, and want to say something that is correct. For example: A synonym of large  is small – sorry big!
  • Used when you disagree with someon. For example: I’m sorry but I can’t agree with you here.

EXCUSE ME 

  • when you want to interrupt someone. For example: Excuse me, I have a question.
  • When you want to call someone’s attention. For example: Excuse me,can I have the bill?
  • When you are trying to leave a room and someone is in your way
  • When you want ot ask for permission to do something , you might start with Excuse me, can I open the window?
  • Excuse me can also be used, especially in American English, when you have not heard or understood what someone has said. For example:You’re late.’ ‘Excuse me?’ ‘I said you’re late.’ ‘Oh, sorry.’

PARDON (ME)

  • Speakers of British English usually use pardon when they have not heard or understood what soemone has said. For example: ‘My name is Timothy.’ ‘Pardon?
  • In American English, it is also possible to use pardon me in these situations.
  • In British English, you usually say pardon me when you have done something slightly impolite such as burping or sneezing. In American English, you usually say excuse me.

BEG YOUR PARDON

  • This expression  is rather old-fashioned. It is used to apologize for doing something embarrassing or for making a mistake in what you have said

                          A synonym for big is small – beg your pardon- it’s large.

Source: http://www.ldoceonline.com/

Answers to Step 1 (video): I’m sorry folks, I’ve made a mistake, horrible mistake, I take full responsility, I apologize.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Winner of this Month’s British Council’s Teaching English blog award.

I am  pleased to share with you that I am the winner of this month’s British Council’s Teaching English blog award.

I’m sure most of my readers know about this prestigious organisation but for those of my students who have just started learning English, know that the British Council, funded by British government, can be considered UK’s international cultural body. It  works in more than 100 countries worldwide and reaches 20 million people face to face and more than 652 million people online.

When I started the blog eight years ago, I never imagined I would get this far. Initially, it was more like a meeting point for my students and me, a way to make sure they could still practise outside the classroom encouraging, in this way,  autonomous learning. It still is a meeting point for us, but it has grown into something bigger, mainly because of you , dear readers. The pleasure of seeing so many visitors from everywhere in the world has kept me going, although sometimes it has not been easy to find the time to write something worth publishing.

Allow me to dedicate this award to my students who are the source of my inspiration. Here’s the link  to the post Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Exams that was chosen as representative of my blog. You’re most welcome to do it

Want to read a bit more about the British Council ? More information  here and here  and you can also become a follower on facebook here

 

 

 

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