Category Archives: American Cultural aspects

A Little Bit of Thriller on Halloween

Raise your hand if you have never seen Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. No hands? Right! Just what I thought! You might like it or not, but what is undeniable is that this video has become a classic.

I was racking my brains about the activity I could give my students for Halloween this year when suddenly the image of the undead rising out from their graves in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” appeared in my mind out of nowhere. Yeah! I know! Weird!

A spooky video but also a masterpiece. I hope you enjoy the activity and also the homework.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Time required: about 60 minutes


Ask students some of these questions:

  • Do you believe in ghosts? Do you know any stories about ghosts?
  • Has anything ever happened to you that you cannot explain?
  • Do you believe that vampires or zombies  exist?
  • What is the most frightening experience you have had?


Pdf of the lesson here.

Ask students if they know who Michael Jackson was. Can they name any of his songs? Most probably students will know who Michael Jackson was and will probably mention the song “Thriller”. If you deem it appropriate, give students some information about this video, like for example, that it was voted the most influential pop video of all time.

More information about the video here.

The video lasts about 13 minutes. It is going to be divided into two parts, with a different task for each part .


TASK 1. Dictation (from the beginning to 4.40)

Tell students they are going to see the first part of the video where there is a dialogue between Michael Jackson and his girlfriend. Half the class will take Michael’s role and half the class the girl’s role.

  • Have the students work in pairs. Half the pairs in the class will write down the part of Michael Jackson and the other half the part of the girlfriend.
  • I suggest you give students the beginning of the dialogue as M. Jackson’s first sentence might be difficult to understand.

Jackson: Honestly, we’re out of gas.

Girlfriend: So, what are we going to do now?

  • You might need to play it twice.
  • Students help each other complete the dialogue
  • Pair students once again, this time you want to pair a student with Michael’s part and a student with the girlfriend’s part.
  • Ask students to act it out.

TASK 2. The Song (from 4.40 until the end)

Write/display the following words on the board and ask students to guess meanings. Explain if necessary and drill pronunciation.

Download the pdf with the activity here

  • Play the video once.

Play the song and ask students to fill in the gaps with the words in the box. Words can be used more than once.

  • Play the video a second time

Students complete task 1 and try to fill in the blanks for the words in phonemic transcription.

  • Check and listen again to enjoy the video and maybe… sing along?

TASK 3. The homework

I am well aware that I won’t be able to check this homework and I am  also pretty sure  my students, which are all adults, won’t be volunteering to show how much they have learnt from doing this homework, but I guess that at home they will be having a  great time and that’s important too. Enjoy!

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Listening Comprehension: Columbus Day

Introduction: Many countries in the New World and elsewhere officially celebrate as a holiday the anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘ arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) in many countries in Latin America, as Día de las Américas(Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus or Festa Nazionale di Cristoforo Colombo in Italy and in the Little Italys around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. (source Wikipedia)


Level: B2

Watch the video from  about Columbus’ Day and answer the questions below:

Unfortunately, doesn’t allow embedding so you’ll probably need to open a new window to listen and see the exercises at the same time.

♥Click on the picture to listen

♥Answer the questions. Download questions

♥Click here to see the answers and the transcript


True or False? Correct the False Sentences

  1. The idea of renaming Columbus Day has been going on for a while. True or False?
  2. So far, only Seattle has been able to change the name of the day . True or False?
  3. The American Indians want to rename the day so that nobody forgets the difficulties they have had to endure . True or  False?
  4.  The USA government is considering renaming the day next year.  True or False?
  1. Name four things, Columbus is blamed for







Lesson Plan: Talking about Your Hometown .

This is a lesson for Elementary students.

Step 1. Reading and Listening

Mind mapping is a very important  learning tool for visual learners. This mind map has been created with Exam Time, which is very easy to use and  embeddable, a feature I always appreciate.

There are some steps previous to this mind mapping  we wrote on the board, essentially reading and listening about this issue. Form these listenings and readings we gathered and sorted vocabulary that was, then, written on the board.

Step 2. Mind Mapping

What you see below is a nice way of displaying what was written on the board of the classroom  with the help of my students.

por cristina.cabal
Step 3. Speaking

For this activity, instead of the typical photocopy with the list of questions to talk about, I have put students in groups of three or four and given each group a set of cards, which they had to place face down on the table. Students in turns pick up a card and talk for as much as they can about the given question. At this point I give my students the usual talk about how important it is now, to “show off.”

This is a snapshot of the cards. Click here if you want to print them.

Learning the Alphabet

Sometimes I can write three posts in a row; I feel everything I want to convey flows naturally and… some other times I’m at a loss for words. I know what I want to say but I don’t seem to find the right words. I write and cross off, write and cross off and the whole process is repeated all over again until I find myself wondering what the point of writing a lengthy introduction is when I can never be sure if there is anybody out there reading it. And then, this week three teachers from different parts of the world kindly wrote a line to let me know they are on the other side, and paying attention. Thank you, you cannot begin to imagine how motivating your words have been.

Learning the Alphabet is fun but even in Advanced Levels vowels still pose a problem, especially for Spanish students – our “i” /i/ is the English “e”, the English “i” is pronounced /ai/ and our “a” is pronounced /ei/. The letters “g” and “j” are also difficult and students find it difficult to hear the difference between “b” and “v”. That’s why it is important to dedicate some meaningful time to learning something so useful in everyday’s life.

These are the two activities I’m going to use this year to teach/revise the alphabet.

♥The first one is a video. I have found that adults still enjoy- or shall I dare say more than enjoy- clips aimed at little children. If you are an adult, watch the following clip to revise the alphabet and tell me what you think. You might need to remind students of a traditional nursery rhyme that goes like this

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,

before playing the video.

♥The second activity is nothing to write home about. It is the world famous Hangman, but this year, played in groups and instead of displaying words, I’m going to try a short sentence:

Divide the class into two teams. You’ll need a red pen for Group A and a black pen for Group B ( or any different colour 😉 ). On the board write the gaps for two different words of any length ( or a short sentence). Group A and B take it in turns to choose one letter of the alphabet. If the letter is correct, fill in the gap (in red if it’s A’s turn and in black if it is B’s). If the letter is not contained in the selected words, start drawing portions of the hangman (remember red or black). The game continues until all the letters have been guessed or all the parts of the hangman are drawn. If groups manage to guess the words, count the number of red or black letters to announce who the winner is.

You might also want to have a look at what I did to teach the alphabet three years ago. Click here

VOA Learning English: Interesting Site to Read and Listen to American English

Voa Learning English really needs some serious exploring. Though I have to say that, in my opinion, the site is a bit of a mess, it could be a great help to some autonomous learners.

What does it offer? The site provides interesting articles based on news and information. The stories are read slowly, or at least at a slower speed and it allows you the possibility of reading the story and listening to the audio at the same time. The mp3 audio can be downloaded, which is also very helpful.

What about the level? Difficult to say  because although the stories are read quite slowly, the vocabulary is quite advanced. You’ll just have to try and see.

Stories are divided into Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 and very often there are exercises following the audio.

if you further explore the site, you will find a section “Learning English TV” with captioned videos that will allow you to watch a story while reading the rolling script.

But there are two sections that I absolutely adore that deal with idioms and expressions:

Words and their Stories and English in a Minute where each week idioms and expressions that many learners of American English find difficult to understand are explained. Don’t miss them!

Another interesting feature in this site is that it has a built-in dictionary. You just have to click on any word to get its meaning. You really need to give a go to this interesting site, especially if you like reading the news and are interested in American English.

Halloween Party Video

Now, I promise this will be the last post about Halloween but I took some nice pictures of our Halloween party at the high school and I wanted to show you how much fun we had and how hard students worked; because not only did they spookily decorate our common room and prepared the games for the party but , they also cooked delicious creepy dishes,which I’m afraid are right now sitting comfortably around my hips.
Anyways , thank you guys for making our Halloween celebration a big creepy crawly success!!!
Enjoy the video!!!!!

Jack-o-Lanterns in Halloween History

I hope you’re not getting sick of so many posts about Halloween. This, if my memory doesn’t fail, is my third post about this tradition but I’m afraid you haven’t seen the last of it as we’ll be throwing our Halloween party on Wednesda . I’ve boarded the Halloween train and I have no intention of getting off .
As if cooking and decorating were not enough for my students, this video about the history of Jack O’Latern will set the mood for the halloween party and do the trick



Halloween: Write a Comic with a Scary Story

Halloween is coming soon , it’s almost here and this is a great time to let your imagination flow and write a scary story. Writing????? I can almost hear you complaining about having to write something , (well, anything).

OK, let’s do it in a funny way!

Let’s say the story is related to your school and /or  to your teacher . A great opportunity to scare MEEEE or even , if you dare, kill me, have  me eat poison or  place me in  the bonfire for witchcraft. The possibilites are endless.

We are going to do it using a comic template from this funny site ,where we’ll choose from different comic options and where we can also see other comics students like you  have written. Then ,when you have finished your masterpiece , we’ll vote for the best story. Does it sound like a good plan?

Choose your template

School of Scares! It started like any other English lesson…

Terror Teacher! One day our usual English teacher was absent…

The Homework from Hell! We were in English class, waiting for home time..

Ghosts and Grammar!  Nobody believed the stories about our school day, until one day…

When writing a comic , it might be helpful to know some common English interjections. Click here to see some of the most common

Click here to see some ideas for your comics and have a spooky Halloween!

An American in Asturias: Easter in the USA

Wouldn’t it be interesting to read a bit about how Easter is celebrated in the USA? Elisabeth Knittel , our language assistant , has written this interesting article about Easter in the USA. Thank you Liz!

In the United States Easter is celebrated in the spring months of March or April. It is a time of church services, family gatherings, eggs, bunnies and lots of fun. Families make the most of the opportunity to spend time together and perhaps spend time outdoors to welcome spring. Easter is a celebration of religious significance with many Americans attending church on Easter Sunday; others only celebrate with the non religious traditions.

Chocolate bunnies and eggs of all sizes in colorful foil wrappings are a favorite part of Easter in the US. Early on Easter Sunday morning, while the children are sleeping the Easter Bunny delivers Easter baskets. Each child receives an Easter basket filled with chocolate treats usually in the form of bunnies, chicks, and eggs. Sometimes children receive small toys, books, or stuffed animals in their Easter baskets. Sometimes the basket is hidden and children need to look for them. Other families have Easter egg hunts where hardboiled eggs, chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with chocolates are hidden in the house or garden for excited children to run around and find.

The Easter Bunny is a huge part of Easter in the United States. The Easter Bunny is usually shown as a big, white, rabbit wearing clothes. During Easter time, there are tons of decorations with the Easter Bunny, sometimes breakfasts where children can meet the Easter Bunny and often times you can go to the mall and have your picture taken with him. Another popular tradition is decorating Easter Eggs. Many families boil eggs and use dye to make them beautiful colors. Sometimes people even put designs on them with crayons, stickers, or different colors of dye.

Hot cross buns are also another Easter treat popular with Americans. They are sweet, spiced buns made with dried fruit. A cross, (the symbol of Christ) usually made from a mixture of flour and water is put on top of the buns. The buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and taste best hot with plenty of butter.

Easter is also a time of various events with the most well known held on the White House lawn in Washington DC. The President and his family host the Easter Egg Roll on Easter Monday (the day after Easter.) This is a game where kids have to race use a spoon to move an egg from one point to another. Many celebrities are invited to the event. Many singers give concerts and actors as well as the President himself read stories to the kids.

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