Category Archives: Resources

Quiz: Persistent Spelling Mistakes and some Orthodox and Unorthodox Techniques to Get Rid of them

The course is almost finished.

Admittedly, I’m in sore need of a respite from the pressure of end-of-the-course classes, but it’s also true that I have a lot of ideas to try and share sitting on the drafts shelf of my mind. Little by little they will see the light.

My students struggle with English spelling. Who doesn’t? Little by little I can see they’re making progress, but unfortunately there are some spelling mistakes that I keep finding in my student’s exams. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the occurrence of these spelling mistakes has little to do with your mother tongue though, admittedly, the quiz is based on my students’ spelling mistakes who are, for the most part, Spanish.

What about you? Do you also make these mistakes? Let’s find out!


Some orthodox and unorthodox techniques to get rid of these spelling mistakes


  1. Write them down. This is the dull, traditional but effective way of correcting spelling mistakes. Start with one mistake and write it down, at least 10 times. This was my mother’s favourite method. I guess it served two purposes: to help us learn the correct spelling and also to keep us quiet for a while. I can’t blame her. I have 4 siblings and there are 6 years between the youngest and the oldest.
  2. Do the quiz. Do it once and write down all the targeted words you can remember. Take the quiz again. Correct the ones you misspelled. Repeat procedure.
  3. Ask someone to help you. Write a list of the words you have trouble spelling. Write the translation in your own language next to each one. Ask someone in your family to call any of these words at random. Write them down and ask this person to correct them. Once you have mastered the spelling of the words, you might want to buy your helper a drink. He deserves it.
  4. Write a short story. Write the words you seem unable to spell correctly. Make sure you write them down properly. Read them several times. Write a short story containing them and give yourself a high five if you got most of them right. Warning: don’t ask anybody to read it. The story will probably not make any sense at all.
  5. Stick on the walls of your house flashcards with the correct spelling. I used to do it with phrasal verbs when I was at uni. It worked but my flatmates were not very happy.
  6. Use Quizlet or any other app to create flashcards. This app is great to work with spelling as it offers a variety of games to practise the correct spelling. I’ve made a short video tutorial. See it below.

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Photo via Visual hunt

Oral Exam: Monologue Based on One or More Pictures. Some Tips and Ideas to Get Started

In the intermediate and more advanced exam you will be presented with one, two or more pictures about the same topic but in clear contrast. It’s important to remember that you are not supposed to give a detailed description of everything that is happening in the picture(s). On the contrary, what is important is that you talk about the topic or idea suggested in the picture(s). If you are given  for example 3 minutes to talk, use just one minute of this time to describe in general, using appropriate language and structures; the rest of the time should be dedicated to talking about the topic and giving your opinion.

BEFORE THE EXAM

  • Make a list of the most common topics asked in the exam.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary you can use related to this topic. Mind mapping works perfect here. I use the free site Goconqr.

Mapa Mental creado con GoConqr por Cristina Cabal

  • Practise using sets of pictures in contrast. You can use my own selection here. (Scroll down)
  • If your problem is that you never know what to say, I suggest you have a look at some conversation questions you might be asked about the given topic. It will probably help you get started. Have a look at some common topics with questions here.
  • Listen to other students taking the exam (for example here) or read some examples here (fashion, global warming, jobs, new technologies and food)
  • Time yourself to control the time it takes you to develop your ideas.
  • Record yourself and then listen to the recording and see how you can improve it. You can use the app Soundcloud, which allows you to stop the recording and write comments.

(You can write a comment on a track through the text box below the waveform that says ‘Write a comment…’ and press your return or enter key to send. The comment will appear at the point on the waveform where you first started typing. Alternatively, you can click any free space in the comment section to leave a comment at that specific point)

  • The day before the exam, revise all the topics and the vocabulary you can use.
  • Half an hour before the exam, don’t speak your mother tongue. Spend the time listening, doing some silent reading or pronunciation exercises in English.

DURING THE EXAM

Before you start speaking:

  • If you are allowed 1 minute to organise your ideas, use that minute. I have often seen candidates not taking this minute and making a mess of the exam just because they didn’t take the time to organise their ideas.
  • Scan the pictures and identify the topic. Sometimes there is a title or a heading that helps you.
  • Try to come up with three ideas about the topic suggested by the pictures. Expand on these ideas.

Taking the exam:

  • Begin by giving an overall idea of what the pictures are about, using a variety of structures, modals to indicate possibility and the useful “look” or “seem”.
  • Talk about the topic. It’s easier if you relate it to yourself, but if you don’t have this experience, talk about a friend’s or just lie. This is an English exam, not a lie detector.

via GIPHY

 

  • Develop your ideas. Try to use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Don’t give too complicated explanations. I’m sorry to say, you’ll probably make mistakes.
  • Give your opinion. Say which one you prefer and why.

Some expressions you can use:

Remember it’s better if you start by giving a general idea of what the pictures are about.  Don’t start like this:

In the first picture I can see

Start like this:

  • In this worksheet there are two photos. They both show different ways of (shopping).
  • These photos are clearly both connected to the topic of (science)… but in two quite different contexts. In the first one… In contrast, the second picture shows…
  • The photo/picture shows …
  • The first thing that strikes me about this picture is…

 

Remember that you are describing a picture, so you cannot be 100% sure of what is happening. Use language that suggests this:

  •  I think…
  • Maybe / Perhaps…
  • I guess they are…
  •  Modal verbs of deduction: she must / can’t /
  • Modal verbs of possibility: could, may, might
  •  She looks/seems… (tired)/ She looks like … (a teacher). It looks/seems as if (it’s raining)

PRACTICE.

Go to http://www.cristinacabal.com/?page_id=4906  and scroll down to the section SET OF PICTURES FOR PRACTICE and just “practise”. “A  lot!” 🙂

 

Are we Killing or Promoting Creativity? A Collaborative Writing and Speaking Lesson

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

I had a full-blown, real, very much needed holiday. The last two months had been unbelievably hectic: end-of-term exams, working full-time during the week and some teacher training weekends and, to top it all, I was also writing a project to apply for a European grant, which unfortunately I won’t get.

So, there I was, fully enjoying my break , when I stumbled upon an article in El Pais about a short animated short film “Alike”, which had won a Goya award in 2016, and I was struck with how beautiful, touching and thought-provoking the video was. And I just knew I had to show it to my students, do something with it and well, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

About the lesson: In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students watch a short silent film called Alike (7 minutes) with two main aims:

  1. To give voice to the story and for this:
  • they will have to collaboratively write the story
  • they will have to collaboratively retell the story

2. To discuss some questions related to education, the promotion of creativity and         daring to be different.


Step 1. Warm-up: Copi and Paste

Tell students they are going to watch a short  video called Alike, where the main two characters are a father and a son whose names are Copi and Paste. Focus on the names, write them on the board and ask students to predict what the story could be about. Hopefully, students will come up with some of these ideas

  • (Lack of)Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Routine
  • Lack of ideas
  • Plagiarism
  • Inspiration
  • Deception

Step 2. Introducing the video and the task

Explain that the video they are about to see is an animated short film (7 minutes) called “Alike” where there is no dialogue. However, the video is so touching and thought-provoking that words are not necessary; images and especially colours play an essential role and are enough to tell this beautiful story and to give us something to think about.

Play the video once asking students to focus on how the colours (or lack of colour) help tell the story. You can also tell them that, later in the lesson, they will need to narrate the story so they need to concentrate on everything that happens.


Step 3.Working on vocabulary.


The next step will focus on teaching/revising the vocabulary they will need to know to write the story.  Below, some flipcards I have used with my students.
Flash Card Deck created by Cristina Cabal with GoConqr

 


Step 4. Collaborative Writing and Retelling

1. Form groups and assign each group a part of the story. The aim is first to write and then to tell their part of the story as it happens, but also to analyse the hidden meaning and the values it tries to highlight.

  • The day begins (0:06- 1:32)
  • At school/ at work ( 1:33-2:38)
  • Leaving the office/school (2:39-3:07)
  • The next days (3:08-3:52)
  • Copi’s surrender (3:53-5:00)
  • But one day (5:01-6:50)

Depending on the number of students, you can ask them to work in pairs or assign each group two parts.

2. Play the story once again for the students to take down notes and get stsrted with the writing task. Walk around offering help and guidance.

3.  Play the story again to help students polish their part.

4. Ask each group to name a spokesperson and ask these students to come to the front of the class and give voice to the story as you play it once again.  Be ready to pause the video as required.

(below my students performing)

via GIPHY

 


Step 4. Speaking


For this activity there should be a supportive atmosphere within the class.

Form groups to discuss the following questions. When all the questions have been discussed, the groups should report back to the whole class.

  • Have you ever done something different or behaved differently from your peers?
  • Do you remember a time when, for some reason, you stood out as different?
  • Do you remember a time when you went against the established rules?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • Do you think the way education is organized destroys children’s creativity?
  • Do you think education for children under seven is excessively focused on the curriculum?
  • Do you think that be learning to be creative is more important than knowing how to spell correctly?

Life Begins at 70: a Future Perfect and Future Continuous Lesson

To me, old age is always ten years older than I am”  John Burroughs

In this engaging lesson students will consolidate the use of future perfect and future perfect continuous through some engaging activities.


WARM UP


Show them a picture of how you see yourself when you are 70 and explain why you see yourself like that. (below you’ll see the picture I showed my students). After some laughs and a bit of explaining, ask students:

How do you see yourselves when you are 70? Do you look forward to getting old?

Ask them to talk in pairs for two or three minutes and get feedback.


THE POEM- WARMING by Jenny Joseph


This is a nice opportunity to introduce poetry in class.

Explain that the poem they are about to listen/read, written by Jenny Joseph,  goes hand in hand with the picture of yourself shown above. After listening to the poem, ask students whether they think the author is looking forward to getting old and why.

It seems the poetess is rebellious, but she is only comfortable to ‘break the rules’ when she has the excuse of old age and senility. Ask students what they think about her attitude.


GALLERY WALK

  • On the walls of the class display pictures of elderly people reflecting different attitudes towards life when they are old.
  • Ask students to stand up, have a look at all of them and decide which one will best represent their attitude to life. They now return to their desks.
  • Ask them to write two sentences using the future perfect and two sentences using the future continuous, based on the picture they have chosen.
  • Get students in threes now and ask them to explain their choice to their partners and use the 4 sentences they have written.
  • For example and based on my picture
  • I will have tried parachuting when I am 70
  • I will have probably written a recipe book.
  • I will probably be living in Bhutan
  • I will be living life to the fullest

I have used these pictures  to display on the walls, and this presentation when giving feedback see  here.


SPEAKING


Students now work in small groups and answer the following questions about the future. Remind them that they need to elaborate on their answers giving reasons and using different expressions to give opinion. All the questions contain either a future perfect or a future continous form; encourage students to use these tenses in their answers.

You might find this handout useful

Looking Forward to the Future

Some Activities to Teach Gerunds and Infinitives

I always claim that English grammar is easy, especially when compared to the Spanish or French grammar, but it gets a bit messy when it comes to verbs followed by infinitive or gerund.

The easy thing to say is that

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive (promise to go)
  •  some verbs are followed by gerund (can’t stand ironing).

But then we find that,

  • some other verbs are followed by infinitive or gerund with no change of meaning (start to study/start studying)
  • while some others are followed by infinitive and gerund with a change of meaning (stop to smoke/stop smoking)

And to add insult to injury,

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive with to (offer to help)
  • some others by infinitive without to ( make me study)
  • some verbs are followed by gerund, but if there is an object pronoun in between the verb and the gerund, then the gerund becomes infinitive (recommended reading / recommended her to read) …

Amazing, isn’t it?

Well, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s get down to some serious studying.


  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time: 60 minutes

THE GRAMMAR.

      THE PRACTICE:

Exercise 1. The Quiz


 


Exercise 2: The Rewriting Exercise


 


3.  Speaking and/or Writing: Storytelling Competition


  • Go to wheeldecide.com. Ask students to tell you verbs followed by gerund first, and then verbs followed by the “to” infinitive. Feed the wheel with these verbs.
  • Explain that in this activity they will need to seat in a circle in groups of 4.
  • Explain that you will write on the board the beginning of a story and then, in their groups, they will need to continue it.
  • Write on the board the beginning of a story. You can use this Short Story Generator.
  • Spin the wheel.
  • To make sure students will use the verb in the correct way, ask them to tell you whether the verb displayed in the wheel is followed by infinitive or gerund.
  • The oldest person in the group will start telling the story using the target verb in the wheel.
  • Give the student one minute to continue the story and then spin the wheel again for the next student.
  • If a student cannot come up with an idea to continue the story, he’s eliminated.
  • Continue until there is only one student left. This student will be the winner if he manages to give the story in his group a suitable ending.

Here’s the wheel I have used with my students.

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Integrating Technology for Active Learning: An Activity Using Google Slides and Padlet.

There is no denying I use a lot of technology in my classes. It gives me great pleasure to discover a new tool and design an activity around it. I really think this is what keeps me motivated after so many years teaching. The challenge that mastering a tool brings and the possibility to use it in my classes to boost students’ motivation and spark their interest is certainly something that keeps my own motivation alive and kicking

Today, I would like to share with you an activity that I did with my intermediate students. I loved designing the activity and the way my students got involved activating their communicative and writing skills during the whole process.

Tools used:

Aims:

  • to develop students’ communicative skills
  • to develop students’ writing skills
  • to revise vocabulary related to “work”
  • to integrate technology in the classroom
  • to encourage collaborative work

Before the class.

I created a Google presentation using Google Slides and wrote the content for the first two slides. I also added three extra blank slides (see below)

I created three Padlets and called them: Work 1, Work 2, and Work 3

In each of these 3 blank slides I inserted a link to one of these Padlets.

 

During the class.

 One. I asked students to form groups of 4. I have 12 students in this class, so I had three groups, one for each blank slide. If you have more students, you can easily add another slide to accommodate two more questions. I asked each group to write three or four questions related to “work”. I certainly encouraged them to come up with some juicy questions and avoid simple ones such as “Where do you work?”

Two. Once they have written their questions, the groups read them aloud and the class decides on the best two from each group to keep.

Three. At this point, there are two things you can do

  1. Assign each group one of the three slides and ask them to write their two questions, being careful not to delete the link to Padlet. Share the link for your Google Drive presentation making sure you share the link with editing permissions (read and write).  I have shortened the link using Google shortener.
  1. If you think this step might be complicated for your students, you can always write them yourself. Have the groups dictate their two questions and move on to the next stage.

Four: Speaking. Ask students in their groups to discuss the questions in the three slides encouraging them to use work-related vocabulary. Get feedback.

Five: Set homework.

Show the presentation from the very beginning where they will see the instructions for their homework.

Explain that at home they will need to answer one of the two questions in each slide. They can do it by writing their answers or by recording them.

Remind them it is the same shortened link you shared with them in Three.

See one of the Padlet below

 

Hecho con Padlet

Lesson Plan: Do you Speak English?

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B1  (intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to learning languages through a variety of engaging activities.

In this lesson students will get listening and speaking practice, learn new vocabulary, and have the opportunity to improve their writing skills.

Topic: Learning languages

Level:  Intermediate and above

Time:  60/90 minutes

Materials: PDF vocabulary, teacher’s notes

Online tools used: Spark adobe and Playbuzz


Warm up:

Guessing the topic.This funny sketch below works like magic to introduce the topic. The idea is to play this short funny video (2:48) and let students guess what we will be talking about.

Now, ask students to discuss these 2 questions:

  1. What’s the most spoken language in the world?
  2. What’s the most widely spoken language in the world?

Revising, introducing and using vocabulary

The idea is to elicit vocabulary by posing some questions and showing some pictures meant to stimulate spontaneous speech and class discussion. New vocabulary will be written on the board. See PDF with targeted vocabulary here

Tell students that of a total of 1, 5 billion speakers only 375 million are native speakers, so this means that over 1 billion people speak English as a second language. Ask them:

  • How do you think your country ranks in terms of English language proficiency?

Show them the picture below. If their country is not there, click here to see how it ranks. Elicit any reactions to the picture.

  • Does the ranking surprise them? Why (not)?

Get students in pairs to discuss the question below:

  • What do you find most difficult about learning English? Why do you think is that?

 

 


Listening and speaking

In this section there are 3 videos. Below you’ll find instructions to work with them. You can watch all of the snaps in a row or freely jump around from snap to snap.

Part 1: Speaking. English borrowings.

Follow the instructions in the video.

Part 2. Listening Comprehension. Note taking exercise.

Alex Rawlings, who speaks 11 languages, says that the way to start speaking a language more fluently and more proficiently is to practise speaking. In the video, he gives us four tips to get more practice speaking the language we’re learning.

      1. Get a conversation partner
      2. Talk to yourself.
      3. Learn vocabulary in phrases
      4. Imagine how you’ll use the language.

Watch the video and summarise what he says about each of these tips.

Part 3. Speaking. Reasons for learning a foreign language.

After watching the video, in groups of 3 share the reason why you’re learning English

Answer the following questions

      • Do you know anybody who has emigrated from your country?
      • Do you know any immigrants? Can they speak your language?
      • Before entering your country, should immigrants be required to speak the local language?

Speaking

Do you Speak English?


Writing

Write an article on one of the following:

  • “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” Zig Ziglar
  • “There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs”.Zig Ziglar

Post on how to write an article here

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Vocabulary Competition: a Nice Simple Activity to Revise

A nice simple idea to start a lesson.

I always like to start my lessons doing some quick revision of what I taught the previous day. I do it using different techniques, but they always have something in common: they help get students into the mood and start using English from minute one.

The idea in this activity is to combine two things:

  • Revision of targeted vocabulary
  • Consolidation of relative sentences

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard.(see picture above)
  2. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  3. Display the first word cloud on the board.
  4. Team A will choose a word or expression from the word cloud and define it for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will cross it off and the team will define another one. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word and this same team continues defining words and scoring points.
  5. Continue until all the words have been defined.
  6. Procedure is repeated again with word cloud 2. The teams choose other players to take the “hot seats”. Team B starts playing now.

As stated above, the idea is to revise relative sentences, but obviously in the heat of the game I’d allow any paraphrasing students can come up with.

Online Word Cloud used: ABCya. A word of warning: this tool is so easy to use that you’ll soon get addicted to it! See tutorial below.

Word Cloud 1

Word Cloud 2

A Project-Based Learning Activity: Unusual Traditions

These past few days have been hectic with lots of exams to be written and then marked, plus all that red tape I can’t stand involving end-of-term exams. To top it all, my old friend the flu decided to pay me a visit. Very timely.  Right now, thank goodness, deadlines have been met and everybody seems to be winding down for the holiday season. Me, too. So, that’s probably going to be the last blog post of the year.

 

  • Organisation: Group work
  • Level: B2 and upwards
  • Materials: tackk tutorial here (optional)
  • Aims: to encourage collaborative work by giving students the challenge of researching, selecting and presenting a project about unusual traditions around the world.
  • Online tools: Padlet and Tackk

Project Based Learning- What is it?

It is a student –centred teaching method in which students acquire knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to a complex question, problem or challenge.

PBL is an active learning style which inspires and motivates students because they take an active role in their learning process and experience success in their own learning. The role of the teacher here is of mere facilitator and coach.

In PBL students are encouraged to work in pairs or in groups, which is also good because it creates a friendly atmosphere which is a boost to their motivation and creativity.


Project-based learning structure

  1. Choosing the problem or challenge
  2. Organisation
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Coordinating
  5. Sharing learning and refining
  6. Presenting and sharing

1.Choosing the problem or challenge.

For this project, students will be rising to the challenge of presenting information about unusual customs in the world.

2. Organisation.

My classes are quite large so students will work in groups of 4 or 5.

On the board the class as a whole decide on 4 or 5 areas, they want to talk about. There should be the same number of areas as groups you have. Each of these areas is assigned to a group to research.

In this project

  • Relationships
  • Festivals
  • Law
  • House and Home
3. Brainstorming

This step is done entirely at home with the help of an online collaborative free tool. My students are adults, some as old as 70,  and they only see each other in class  twice a week, so it was important to provide them with some kind of free online tool  they could use to brainstorm ideas, share them with the members of the group and organize their project (timing, visuals, specific assignments..etc). I used a Padlet, a well-known collaborative tool, which is very easy to use, something really important as some adults are reluctant to use new technologies. Each group was assigned a different Padlet and given a week to do research on the internet and post on Padlet their ideas.

Below is the Padlet the group”House and Home” used.

Hecho con Padlet

 

4. Coordinating.

This stage might take the first or last 10 minutes of your lesson. Once they have shared their ideas on Padlet, in class they decide on the number of traditions they are going to present, who is going to do what, the order in which they are going to present the information and the visuals or videos they are going to use.

5. Sharing learning and refining

In the next class, allow students time to get together in their groups and share their drafts. Offer help and guidance but ask students to help each other by swapping their drafts within their group  to improve and proofread their written work.

6. Presenting and sharing

Agree with the students on the order of the groups and let the show begin. Below is a picture of one of the groups on stage.

Sharing it with the world is also important. Here’s how we did it. Again, we used a free online digital tool called Tackk.com, which allows  you to beautifully showcase your projects. I gave my students this simple tutorial to help them get familiar with the tool.

Here’s the tackk my students have created.

 

Teaching Both, Neither and Either with List.ly

Several times I have been on the verge of almost writing a post exclusively to share with you this beautiful presentation tool without any reference whatsoever to English teaching.

But I didn’t. I don’t know why, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Normally posts about tools and apps you can use in the classroom go unnoticed, unless you’re clearly into incorporating technology into your classes.

So, next week I’ll be teaching the grammar for both, neither and either and I thought it would be nice to use this tool to present and teach these pronouns as, among other things, List.ly helps you build beautiful presentations, add text and links.

Now, if you’re not interested in incorporating List.ly into your classes, you can skip all about List.ly below and go straight for the grammar. 🙂 although I hope you don’t.


About List.ly


What is List.ly?

Basically it’s a tool for creating and curating lists. With List.ly you can

  • Curate content
  • Create original post content
  • Get feedback from your students

Other features

  • You can add items with or without links, photos, text, video, audio…etc
  • Also, it’s a highly collaborative tool. Students can participate:

-by voting individual lists items up or down

-by adding to the lists

-by writing comments

  • It’s free ( you can create 3 free lists) and you can easily share it and embed it on your blog.
  • You can choose from 6 formats: list, gallery, magazine, slideshow, minimal and badge.
  • You can make it private. You can obtain the link and share it privately.
  • You can moderate the list to approve any comments or contributions to the list.
  • You can decide the order in your list: curated order (great for collaborative storytelling), crowdrank (great for voting), alphabetical or newest.
  • Below you can see some of the things you can add to your list

 Tutorial: here

   How can I use it in the classroom?

Given that you can allow students to collaborate, there are endless possibilities. To mention just a few:

  • Create a list of tips. For example: for scoring high in the oral exam and have students vote the most helpful.
  • Choose a topic, for ex. stereotypes and let students add their own ideas to the list.
  • Create a list linking to specific content they need to see or study: videos, grammar exercises, topic-related lessons, …etc.
  • As you can also upload audio, give them a topic for discussion and ask them to add to the discussion by uploading a recording with their own view on the issue.
  • Create beautiful presentations with links to extra content.
  • Writing contest: share their writing and ask students to vote on the best.
  • Start a list with the songs they would like to work with, ask them to add their favourites and then vote on the best.
  • Collaborative Speaking activity: brainstorming of ideas.

Any other ideas?

 


 Using BOTH, NEITHER AND EITHER


  1. Traditional? Pdf with exercises here. 
  2.   A bit less traditional? Down here!

I have embedded the presentation using two formats:

  • slideshow format
  •  List format
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