Category Archives: Students’ Corner

The 8 Best Audio/Video News and Current Affairs Websites to Learn English.

I’m currently really tied up with checking exams, so I’m going to make the introduction to this blog post really brief.  I’m sure you have enough on your plate, too. June is usually a hectic month for almost everybody, isn’t it?

So, how do you keep up with the latest news? Or maybe, are you one of those who, sick and tired of reading bad news, have decided to completely isolate yourself from the world? I wouldn’t blame you!

If you are one of those, I kindly suggest you make an exception for the sake of learning and improving your English. You won’t regret it! Reading is one of the best ways of acquiring vocabulary and learning grammar without studying.If you read and listen to one article every day, or two if you feel overzealous, your reading and listening skills will improve very quickly. Trust me on this!

This is my selection of the best audio/video news and current affairs websites to learn English.

I have looked at the following features in all the websites:

  • If the news is written in levels
  • If the same news is written/read at different levels
  • If it is audio news or video news
  • If the transcript is provided
  • If the site provides a ready-to-use lesson plan for the news
  • Any other relevant additional content

The image below is interactive. Click on the icon and read what each website has to offer.

How else can I use these sites in the classroom?
• Choose one news website from above and ask students, as homework, to read a piece of news they find interesting. Ask them to read the news several times until they feel confident they can retell it. In the next class, ask students to work in threes and share their news.

• The news. Same procedure as above but this time, at home, students will need to rewrite the piece of news in their own words. In class, and again working in threes, students will be asked to assume the role of newsreaders and present the news to the rest of the class.

The interactive image has been created with Genial.ly,a free online tool for creating visual interactive content.

Moving away from Traditional Homework

This is my suggestion for Christmas homework and the kind that if I were a student , I would love to be given.

1. Word Games. Do you have five minutes to spare? Find your level and choose from these 13 addictive games. Click here

2. Watching Series. Do you like watching series? Go to ororo.tv, choose the series you’d like to see and watch an episode every day on this site. I am suggesting series and not films ’cause I hope you’ll get hooked on the series . The only catch is that you can only see an episode a day on this site. Click here

3. Listen to music, but not any kind of music; for this exercise listen to ballads , which are easier to understand. Listen to a song and  concentrate on understanding the lyrics. Then, look up the lyrics online  and sing along. I suggest singers such as the mighty Adele, Ed Sheeran or James Blunt. If you live in Spain, you can listen to radio stations such as  Kiss FM.

Merry Christmas  and thanks for reading!

The winners of the I Short Scary Story Writing Contest are announced!

It’s with great pleasure that I announce the three winners of the I Short Scary Story Writing Contest for Intermediate (B1)students.

It hasn’t been easy to choose a winner from the 45 scary stories you have sent me. I was really impressed by the talent shown.So I have decided to choose three winners .A big thank you to everyone who took the time to write the story.

Winner: Diana Corrales  with “Do you want to hear a story?”

Runners-Up: Andrea María González  with “At the end of the ladder” and  Verónica Rodríguez with “A horror story”.

 

DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A STORY? by Diana Corrales Caamaño

Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Have you ever felt that you weren’t alone in the middle of the night? And… have you felt scared? You should be!

It wasn’t the first night spent in that house. It wasn´t the first month, not even the first year  but that night, Mary, a seven–year–old girl who had never had nightmares, woke up screaming. Her parents ran to her side, but she couldn’t remember anything.

That evening, while her father was reading a bedtime story, she asked him:

“Daddy, who lived here before us?”

Her father, surprised, replied: “I don’t know Mary, why do you ask?”

“I can’t tell you! It´s a secret!” said Mary

“A secret between you and…..?” asked her father.

“Don´t insist Daddy! I won´t tell you! Good night!” said the girl.

Mary kissed her father and lay down in her bed.

During the following weeks, Mary was very happy. She was always playing in her room and her parents realized that she was becoming more independent. They thought it could be because she was growing up and one night Mary didn’t even want a story.

“I only want a story! The story about the girl who lived here before us, and you don´t know it”. She told her father

Her father felt sad and Mary looking at his father said: “Don’t worry Daddy, I still love you” but instead of kissing him, turned off the light and said good night.

Mary’s mother, worried about the distance that was growing between them and their daughter, decided to do some research about “the famous story” and thought that if she couldn´t find anything, she would invent it. It was very hard to find because the house had been empty for many years, but finally she found something. She discovered a terrible story.

“Honey, are you sure that Mary asked about the girl who lived here? She didn´t say family, she said “girl”, didn’t she?”

“Yes, sugar, she clearly said “the girl”; what is the problem?”

“I don’t understand how she could have known that in our house lived a girl. I didn´t even know, and the house has been recently renovated.”

“Maybe she just imegined it”

“Well, you will not believe what I´m going to tell you”.

That night, after dinner, Mary’s mother told her husband what she had discovered. In the house, there lived a girl called Catherine, who was killed by a thief who never got caught. All the neighbours suspected her parents because Catherine had a lot of problems with them; she never went out to play or went to school. People said she was crazy. Two days after Catherine’s death, her parents were found dead in the same way as Catherine, and on their foreheads, engraved with a knife, the words “sweet dreams”.

In that moment.  they heard a scream from Mary’s bedroom but when they entered the room she was sleeping.

“Baby, are you ok?”

“Yes Daddy, why you did you wake me up? It is still early to go to school”

“Sorry baby, my mistake, good night”

“Sweet dreams, Daddy”

“What did you say, Mary?”

“I´m not Mary ,daddy, my name is Catherine…”

AT THE END OF THE LADDER by Andrea María González López

“I’m telling you, seriously!”

“Look,Tobias! I know what you’ve been going through lately and I don’t want to seem insensitive when I tell you this” Sergio hit his friend’s shoulder in a gesture of support “but I think you should look for help”.

Tobias couldn’t believe why his best friend might be saying that. Okay, maybe grief was clouding his senses but he was completely sure that his sister’s death was related to that sinister package that had come to his door three days ago. Especially considering how they had found María. He could still see in his mind the clown’s smile she had drawn on her face, the black mascara smeared on her cheeks, her eyes still open, lifeless… she was sitting at the end of staircase like an abandoned doll.

“Thank you, Sergio, but right now all I want to do is forget everything”

On hearing this, Sergio left.

Tobias was going to end with everything that night. He was going to break that stupid doll which rested on his sister’s bed. He was sure that the clown was guilty of her death.

He went to his sister’s room. What he didn’t expect were all the events that happened then. The doll wasn’t on the bed. Suddenly, the lights went out and he heard footsteps in the hallway downstairs. He decided to silently go down to the hallway and turn on the lights; as he grabbed the banister in total darkness to climb down the stairs, he stopped. Breathing behind him made his skin crawl. And before he fell down the stairs and broke his neck, he only could hear one more thing.

Let’s play.

A HORROR STORY by Veronica Rodriguez

Two months ago, my best friend María and me were on our way to an old town 60km away, when our car stopped without any reason. It was late in the evening and it was getting darker and darker, therefore we were a bit nervous and scared.

Surprisingly, our mobiles  were not working  because apparently they  had run out of battery. It looked like a joke, but as adults, we tried to keep calm.

Ten minutes later, we decided to leave the car and look for someone who could help us. but there was nobody around. Suddenly , our luck changed because Maria managed to stop a car. He was a 27- year-old, good looking man. He seemed reliable and friendly.

He tried to fix our car but as it was dark, he suggested  going  to his house and spending the night there. He lived in a small wooden house with his grandparents, not very far away, so in spite of being scared we decided to go with him, considering we did not have another choice.

We hid the car among the trees and we went ahead through the forest to the house.

Inside the house, there was a nice elderly couple sitting on rocking chairs. They didn’t say  anything; they just looked  at us and smiled.

The man showed us where we were going to sleep that night and then he disappeared. Everything was very strange and when we were trying to fall asleep a frightening noise scared us.

María went to the window and saw the two rocking chairs moving alone! It was terrifying because there was nobody nearby and the wind was not blowing.

Quickly, we left the house and  ran as fast as we could.

To our surprise, when we found our car hidden in the forest and tried to start it , it worked properly; therefore ,we drove several hours until  we reached the nearest town.

Once in the town, we parked in front of  the first restaurant we found  and just as we were parking the car, we saw a policeman coming towards us. He wanted to know  if the car was ours, because he had seen it the previous night.

We explained  everything to him, including where the house was and all about the mysterious man. The policeman did not believe us. He said that  nobody  lived in that house  because the man who lived there had killed all his family and then he hanged himself.

Perhaps we were wrong about the house, but it was the only house that was a bit away from the forest. We had to make sure that we were right about the house and we finally decided to take the policeman there. We were sure about our story and when we arrived, our suspicions were confirmed.

The house was not the same; it was completely abandoned ,without a  roof and with a lot of cobwebs. We saw the two rocking chairs in the same place! But in the man’s bedroom there was still the rope with which the man had  hanged himself.

 

 

Picture Description Intermediate: New Technologies and Food

Once again I thank my students for  kindly contributing to this blog. These  two examples of Picture Description have been sent by Noelia and Carmen from the Intermediate Level.

Thank you girls! Well done!

FOOD by Carmen Gayol

These pictures are clearly both connected with the topic of food.

The picture on the left shows two women who are cooking in a kitchen. One of them is younger than the other, but they seem to  get on well; I’d say that they have a lot in common, they could  be mother and daughter or have  a close relationship.

In the picture on the right, we can see a young couple eating. I think they are in a restaurant, an oriental restaurant because the decoration that can be seen in the background.

 We all need to eat to live, but It‘s clear that the food, in our society, is something more than nutrition. Nowadays, we all use the meals to socialize. We have family meals, business meal, and we all enjoy eating with friends.

Sometimes we prefer eating at home, like in the photo on the left, but other times, we eat out.

However, the main problem isn’t where, but what we eat. In my view, today people tend to eat fast food because they don’t have enough time to prepare a meal and they are always in a hurry. This food isn`t   always healthy, it is many times junk food which contains many calories and carbohydrates and there is a good chance  people will get overweight.

If I had to choose one of the photos, I’m sure I’d choose the first, because it makes me remember old times with my mother , and in addition, I believe that it’s a good way to enjoy eating and cooking.

INTERNET AND THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES by Noelia Espinosa

These two pictures show a connection with the topic of new technologies ,especially with the  internet.

In the first photo there is a woman sitting behind  a desktop and she has a tablet between her hands; probably she is in an office, maybe her workplace. In the second one, a little girl looks as if  she is surfing the internet and she  seems very interested in what she is seeing.  Although I can´t be sure ,I think  she is at home.

Nowadays, both pictures are very common in daily life, although in different ways. The first one shows a typical day at work in all the offices in the world.It is generally accepted that today no company would be operative without the  internet and the  new technologies because they would be unconnected and inefficient. And in the second one, children tend to be connected to the internet every day. When I was child, there was no internet, mobiles or computers, only some privileged people could afford them, but I was very happy playing traditional games with my friends in the street, for example with a  ball,  my dolls …

In my opinion, internet is very important in our lives, I couldn´t live without my mobile, my laptop etc… everybody surfs the net, everybody knows Facebook and even some people work vía Internet. However, I believe sometimes it could be dangerous especially in teenagers and children because there are parents who don´t control what their children are uploading or downloading onto the web and who their children are in  touch with.

You might also find  this section interesting. Check it out!

SPEAKING:PICTURE DESCRIPTION

 

 

A Fun Writing Activity to Practise Giving Advice . Students in the limelight

Raise your hand if you have never had a problem!  Nobody??? Good! That’s what I thought! Now, raise your hand if you have never asked for advice!! I see !! OK ! Maybe some of you don’t like to ask for advice!!

Ok folks !!! What’s clear is that we all have problems and and when we have them, we most usually turn to friends or family asking for advice; it remains to be seen whether we follow the advice but even if we  end up feeling that the advice  given hasn’t helped much, I’m sure, at least, you would  feel grateful  just because someone you trust has been willing to take the time to listen to you.

In this post, I want to share with you an activity to practise giving advice, which has worked really well with my students (see photo below)

LEVEL: B1

AIM: to give written advice using

♥I think / I don’t think you should…

♥ If I were you , I would…  

MATERIALS: A clean sheet of paper and a pen or you can download the template here.

STEPS

1. Introduce / revise the two structures above, used to give advice. Share with your students a problem and ask them to offer you advice using the two structures above. Choose the funniest or most sensible advice as the best offered.

2.  Give students a copy of I NEED SOME ADVICE or display the template so that they can copy the information on a clean sheet of paper.

2. Students write their name  and their problem in the space provided and leave it on their table, face up.

3. Introduce the idea of Agony Aunts ( see definiton here) and tell students they are going to act as agony aunts to solve some problems.

4. Students stand up and they go around the class reading their classmates’ problems and writing their piece of advice in the space provided, together with their name inside the brackets. The same advice cannot be repeated. Allow 10 minutes for this step

 5.  Students sit down at their desks, read the advice offered for their problems and decide on the best. Problem and advice will be read aloud. The students who has offered the best advice gets one point. See who gets more points and name him the new Agony Aunt.

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Students’ Corner: Two Opinion Essays

There is little that gives more satisfaction than publishing students’ work ;they are  the reason behind all the hard work that means keeping  this blog going.

Thank you very much to Raquel de Paz and Lucía Fernández, from the Intermediate Level (B1)  for sending their essays.

Education is the single most important factor in the development of a country.

By Raquel de Paz 

In my opinion, there is a very important thing in society which helps us to improve: education. A strong education system helps people to improve their knowledge and to be successful in their lives.
Education gives the keys to solve the problems. There is a famous saying which says: “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you teach the man to fish you feed him for a lifetime”. Firstly, education is essential to our life. Again and again we have to call on to our basic knowledge to understand basic daily information about life. We need it to do the shopping, to understand signs and signals, etc.
Secondly, a good education brings a long number of qualified people with a lot of knowledge on a wide range of subjects and, as a result, these people work in different areas improving technologies and techniques supporting the development of a country.
To sum up, education is a very important factor in the development of a country. Education provides experience, training and personal development and, as a result, more skills, better productivity and greater ability to improve living conditions.

Children watch too much television   by Lucía Fernández

Nowadays children spend an excessive amount of time watching  television wherever they are, helped by the Internet and mobile phones instead of enjoying other kinds of activities healthier and more educative .
Although many people believe that watching  television is a good way of learning new things and an  innocent distraction for children, from my point of view,you waste a lot of time doing something unproductive. It’s more like something parents use  so as not to be  bothered by their children in some situations; for example,when a child is nervous, the parents play cartoons on his mobile and the child then  stares at the  mobile screen  for hours as if  he were in another world.
Children should play with each other and develop their imagination in a healthy mood ,but also  their parents should help them to achieve it.
To sum up,I think television is necessary and  complements  other activities, but it should be used with care.

 

A Guess the Word Game to Practise Relative Sentences and Paraphrasing

What do you normally do when you are talking to a person in English and you don’t know the word? I guess you don’t tell the person ” OK, right, hold on! I am going to look it up on my mobile phone”. You might be tempted to do it, but know that the person you are talking to might lose interest in what you are saying.
So, the thing to do would be Paraphrasing.

How do we paraphrase?? There are some expressions you can use
It’s A KIND OF house
It’s THE OPPOSITE OF lazy
It’s LIKE cleaning but… trying to explain what you want to say but using other words you know. That’s calle
It’s SIMILAR TO book but..
FOR EXAMPLE, you do this when
It’s A SYNONYM OF..
It’s A PERSON/SOMEBODY WHO…
It’s a THING/SOMETHING WHICH…
It’s SOMEWHERE/A PLACE WHERE

It can also help to say “ It’s a noun, or an adjective…. “ If it’s an expression, you can also say “ It’s an expression and there are three words in it”

Right, now we are ready to play the game. It’s called WHAT’S THE WORD?

How we play the game:

  • Divide the class into two teams
  • Ask a member of Team A to sit on chair with his back to the whiteboard.
  • Display the first word on the screen
  • The members of the team have two minutes to describe the word but they cannot use any parts of the words on the screen. For example if it is “teacher” they cannot use the word “teach”.The aim is for the student to guess as many words as possible in one minute. Every word in black scores one point , the ones in red score two points.
  • Then, it is the other team’s turn to choose someone to take the hot seat.
  • Needless to say, you keep the score on the board for everybody to see. Have fun!!!

 

Get Students Out of their Seats with a Lesson on Gender Stereotypes

My beloved  father was a chauvinist doctor and my mother was an undercover  feminist. I am sure you’ve heard the saying “opposites attract” and  that appeared  to be the case with my parents. It was not an easy combination to live with. My father was the main breadwinner and my mother was the housewife. These were their roles in the house and  to be honest , I don’t think my mother had an issue with that arrangement. The problem was he expected us (three sisters) to fully cooperate doing housework while my only brother did nothing but smile when we complained it was unfair . My father , on the other hand, and contradictorily,  expected us to get the best marks at school ’cause we were expected to go to university and get a degree so as not be the housewife my  mother was . Who understands  men? 😉

Today I want to share with you a lesson I did with my Intermediate students about Gender Stereotypes. This is a lesson where common  general stereotypes about men and women are challenged.

Level: B1/B2

Aim: Get students to discuss general stereotypes about men and women using different expressions to give opinion.

STEPS 

1. Give handouts containing expressions used to give opinion. Here. Encourage students to use a variety of expressions when they give opinion.

2. Ask   Do you know any stereotypes about men and women? Instruct students to talk for about five minutes and then ask them to give feedback.

3. Play the video The Top Ten Differences between Boys and Girls  to get students into the mood. It’s a funny little video. I hope nobody takes offence.

4.Using Blue-tack, stick the posters containing the statements they need to discuss on the walls of the classroom. Posters here

5. Ask students to, working in twos or threes, wander around the classroom   and randomly choose the posters they want to discuss.

Sticking posters on the walls of the classroom  enables  students to get out of their seats and talk to different people. As always it is important to  make sure they understand the importance of using English and only English.

Learn English and have fun!

Giving Opinion: Driving

For the past week I’ve been raking my brains looking for a nice way to display these statements   and finally for lack of something that took my breath away, I have decided to stick to the overused  writeacomic.com , which works just fine … but for a few details there is no point in getting into right now.

So , right below , you’ll find some statements  about driving . This is what you need to do

TASK

♥Choose one statement  (only one , please)

♥Write a comment (5-8 lines) explaining  your point of view and why you agree or disagree with the statement.

♥Use some of the expressions here

I am pretty sure we all agree that these weeks before Three Wise  Men’s Day  are chaos. We’re all  super busy buying , wrapping ,eating and drinking (OMG!) so I don’t think I’ll be back in this space  until lessons start again.Thanks for being there!!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!!

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