Category Archives: Listening

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.

Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.


In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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Stars in their Eyes

When I was a kid in my hometown, a little village in the north of Spain, there used to be a cinema. Not any more and not for a long time. In fact, it seems to me there are very few towns or even cities which still have a cinema and I’m not talking about the outdoor cinemas, which are so popular in summer, I am talking about the real thing. Cinemas with endless rows of seats smelling oldish and where the usher always told you off before you even got to your seat and started cracking up. I remember we didn’t get to see the latest films until they were 4 or 5 years old and then, they were not new any more as our friends from the capital city kindly reminded us rolling their eyes in disbelief when they came on holiday, but all the same it brings back very good memories. I must be getting old!

So today I’m sharing with you an engaging lesson with lots of activities around the theme of films and the cinema. Hope you enjoy it!

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning  and using vocabulary  related to films and the cinema  through a variety of engaging  activities which will help them improve listening, writing and speaking.

Activity 1. Warming-up. Learning and using vocabulary.

Step 1.Wordcloud.
Display the word cloud and ask students to guess the topic. Click on the words you want to highlight and ask students to guess meanings and try to use them in a sentence. Alternatively, you can choose the latest box-office hit and ask students to give you a sentence about this film containing the targeted word.

 

Step 2. Mind mapping.  Handout with vocabulary here

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board a mind map as the one below (give them only the words inside the circles) 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.

  • Exercise on types of films here
  • A crossword with film words here

Activity 2. A game.

The class is divided into two groups. In turns, one member from each group sits on the Hot Chair facing  away from the whiteboard. The members of their group have  one minute to describe the film being displayed  without mentioning the title ( that goes without saying, but just in case, I’m saying it). The aim is to guess as many films as possible in one minute. Then, it’s the other team’s turn.

They will need to talk about:

Kind of film/ Nationality of the film/ director/ plot/

Some hints:

♥The film ‘_______’ is a(n) _______ film which takes place in _______.
♥The film is set in __(ancient Greece)__.
♥The story is based on __(a popular novel)__.
♥The film is directed by _______.
♥The main character(s) in the film is/are _______.
♥_______ is a character who _______.
♥__(Johnny Depp)__ stars as __(Captain Sparks)__.
♥In the film, __(Jack Black)__ plays __(a rock guitarist). The story is about _______
♥The best scene of the film is_____

Activity 3. A listening : interview with Hitchcock talking about his film Psycho.

Ask students: What kind of films do you like? Do you have a favourite director?

Write on the board Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho and ask students if they know who he is and if they know any of his films. Students most probably will have heard about Hitchcock and seen some of his films, but in case they haven’t, tell them Hitchcock is considered “the master of suspense” and “Psycho”(1960) s is arguably Hitchcock’s best-known film.

Play the video and ask students to answer the questions. (Find the answers at the end of this post).

  1.  What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
  3. When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

Activity 4. Speaking.

Ask students to work in pairs or in small groups and answer the following questions.

Activity 5. Writing a film review.

Handout with the task and useful vocabulary and expressions to use in your review.

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Answers to the listening

  1. What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?He thinks they are very easy to make and that they are props
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
    He believes in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.
  3.  When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?</li>
    An amusing film
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.
  5. There is only one violent scene in the film, which is at the beginning when the girl is violently murdered in the shower. As the film developed, there is less and less violence. The horror and the tension are transferred to the mind of the viewers, which are the end of the film are screaming.

Tools used
Tagul, Hot Potatoes, Picture Trail, Thematic

Internet Radio: All the Radio Stations only a Click Away from you!

Do you like listening to the radio?

Today, I want to share with you a very nice  user-friendly site to listen to the radio.  With a simple click you can listen  to the best live radio stations from the UK. In fact, you can listen to any online radio station in the world, but the focus here is on English, isn’t it?

Internet Radio UK lists all top online radio stations from the United Kingdom. On the right of the screen, you will see a menu with links to different radio stations in the UK.

Hope it helps you improve your English!

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Video: Alcatraz, The Rock

Do you like visiting places off the beaten track?  Do you choose for your holidays unsual tourist destinations? Would you choose to visit Alcatraz, the famous penintentiary?

Alcatraz, also called The Rock, is an island and  probably the most famous or maybe  infamous prison in the world. Located in San Francisco, it is separated from  the mainland by 2,5 kilometres of freezing water, strong currents, cold winds and high waves, which made it impossible to escape.

Gangster and mafia boss Al Capone was one of the best known residents in Alcatraz. As soon as he set foot in prison, he paid the guards to make his life comfortable while in prison. Below, a picture of his cell.

Would you like to know more about Alcatraz? Watch the video and test your comprehension with the exercise below. (video lasts 2:08)

Level: B2

Materials: Handout 

Before watching the video, you might want to pre-teach the following words

Inmate  /ˈɪnmeɪt/= A person living in an institution such as a prison or hospital

Infamous/ˈɪnfəməs/=Well known for some bad quality or deed

  1. While most tourists would rather avoid jail,  no trip to San Francisco would be complete without ________________________________________________
  2. Alcatraz is located____________________________________ San Francisco Bay.
  3. Alcatraz,the Rock,  was America’s premier ______________________________and for 29 years the final stop for the nation’s most ___________________________
  4. Make sure to buy your tickets online and in advance because they  _______________
  5. If you schedule your trip for early in the morning, you’ll have more room to _________________________
  6. For a spooky trip, book the ___________________
  7. When you are visiting the prison, you might want  to pick up a headset for an ____________________ audio tour.
  8. You’ll hear stories told by _______________________________________

 

Find the answers in the handout.

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Using Viral Videos in the Classroom

Once upon a time, there were students who hated having fun in class….

I know, I know… this sounds like absolute blasphemy, but unbelievably there are students who mistakenly think learning and fun are two concepts that cannot be glued together. “You either have fun or you learn…and that’s flat! You can’t have both!” they claim.

I have over the years determined these students think these two concepts cannot cohabit just because they have not been rightfully exposed to them. In this blog you’ll find tons of activities and links to websites to help you change these students’ minds. One of these sites is Viralelt, which is an excellent example of how fun+learning can get along.

 Viralelt is a blog for adult learners from upper intermediate (B2) to advanced (C2).

All the posts on the blog have a similar structure

  • They all contain an engaging viral video.
  • 10 conversation questions related to the video (Question Time)
  • A listening activity (Sitting Comfortably) where students will have to guess which two questions, from the exercise above, are being  discussed. I find this section especially helpful because it gives students a chance to see how a native speaker would answer these questions. Therefore, I would suggest doing this listening activity before putting students into groups to discuss the questions
  • You can download the “Question time”and the “Sitting comfortably?” script in an editable Word document, so you can adapt it to your students’ needs.

The blog is run by Ian James, a teacher at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, and here  you can read some of his suggestions on how to use Viralelt.

So, let’s say you see this video, The texting hat, on the Internet

You like it. You think it has a lot of potential for teaching and it is just what you were looking for to give your students a break after a tough week. However, your brain has decided to leave you. You watch the video a thousand times, but nothing so far. I’ve been there, believe, very often!

Well, this is when your addiction to this blog will begin. You go to Viralelt and there it is, together with some teachers’ notes to help you with suggestions on how to use the video, 10 conversations questions and the listening activity.

I want to thank the amazing teachers from Cosas que encuentro para clase on facebook for sharing this superb blog with me.

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Lesson Plan: Families

FAMILY, in capitals, because is there anything more important in this world?

“Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”Michael J. Fox. How far do you agree with Michael J. Fox?

This is a lesson for Intermediate students (B1) about Family. In this post you will find

  • A video about traditional and non-traditional families.
  • Some vocabulary you might need to revise/learn when discussing this subject.
  • Guided speaking: questions to discuss+ answers offered by a native speaker  (Flip Cards).
  • Freer Practice: pictures to describe and some questions to discuss in pairs or small groups

The first activity in this lesson (the video) will be set as homework.

1. The Video. What Is a Non-Traditional Family? – Definition of Options.

It is a long video. It lasts 8 minutes so I’d suggest breaking it up and asking students to work on different parts of the video.  In the video five non-traditional /alternative households are mentioned.

  • In class, show students the video and explain it discusses traditional and non-traditional families.
  • Explain that everybody will need to listen to the introduction where the concept of traditional family is explained (from the beginning – 1:02).
  • Explain that in the video Erin Long-Crowell, an educational psychologist, talks about five different non-traditional/alternative households.
  • Form groups of five students and tell them that in the next lesson they will be working in groups of five and each of them will share what they have learned about their assigned non-traditional household.
  • Assign tasks for the different students in the  group

Student 1: single parenthood 1:07-2:20

Student 2: cohabitation 2:20-3:23

Student 3: GLBT 3:23-4:32

Student 4: Polygamy 4:32-5:21

Student 5: Singlehood 5:21-6.30

2. Vocabulary. Family Life

Phasal Verbs

  • To take after your mum/dad
  • To bring up a child
  • To fall out ( with your sister)
  • To make up
  • To get on (well) with sb
  • To get along with sb

 

Verbs

  • To raise your children
  • To adopt
  • To quarrel with your siblings
  • To get divorced/ to be divorced
  • To share ( a bedroom)
  • To cohabit/kəʊˈhabɪt/
  • to start a family

Expressions

  • To have (a lot of) things in common
  • To get together
  • (A cousin) on my father’s side
  • To be close to
  • (not) to see eye to eye
  • To be the main breadwinner= the person in the family who earns the highest income
  • to be under age
  • to come of age

Nouns

  • A family gathering/ reunion /get-together
  • Childhood
  • Birth rate
  • Birth order
  • relationship
  • Immediate or nuclear/extended family
  • Twin
  • a spouse
  • Sibling (rivalry)
  • A parent
  • your significant other = Aspouse or long-term sexual or romantic partner
  • one-parent families
  • In-laws
  • Exhusband
  • Half brother
  • relationship
  • Step brother
  • A relative
  • Ancestors=aperson, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended
  • An only child
  • memories

Adjectives

  • traditional and non-traditional family
  • single parenthood
  • Close knit family

PDF here

3. Speaking .Guided speaking: questions to discuss+ answers offered by a native speaker  (Flip Cards)

  • Students in pairs. Display question 1 and allow two or three minutes for students to discuss this question. Flip the card for them to see how a native speaker would answer the question. Follow the same procedure with the rest of the questions.

Conjunto de Fichas creado con GoConqr por cristina.cabal

  • Freer Practice: pictures to describe and compare.
  • Freer Practice:conversation questions.

PDF here

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Lesson Plan: The Etiquette of Social Kissing.

“How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart”. William Butler Yeats

I was once kissed by a marquis, or maybe he was a count, but it was in a palace. I cannot remember his rank, but he was old and ugly, at least for me! Nothing to daydream about, believe me, but the fact remains that I was kissed by a nobleman. He was a long way from Prince Charming, but that was ok for me. He was selling. I was buying. That was it!

But the kiss… yes…back to the kiss. First time ever I had been kissed on the hand. I was ready for a handshake so I extended my hand. Instead the marquis suddenly, and in a very quick gesture took my hand, bowed and made the gesture,  and I have yet to decide whether he actually kissed my hand or just the air. Now that I know a bit more about the etiquette of hand-kissing I realize he probably never kissed me.

Photo by Tim Rooke/Rex/REX USA

Level: B2

♥DISCUSS: It is not very often that a woman has her hand kissed nowadays. But let’s reflect a bit on how we greet each other in our different countries. Discuss these questions with your partner:

  • What are the rules for social kissing in your country? Do you always know how you are supposed to greet someone? Have you ever experimented any awkward moments where you didn’t know what you were supposed to do?
  • When kissing as a form of greeting, do you kiss on one cheek or on both cheeks?
  • Is it the right or the left cheek you kiss first? Know that you should kiss the right cheek first to avoid awkward situations.
  • If you don’t like the kissing business, how do you cope with people who want to kiss you as a greeting?
  • Is it appropriate to kiss in a business setting?
  • Do you ever hug?
  • Apart from the handshakes, cheek kissing and hand kissing which are quite common for us, do you know any unusual ways  of greeting people ?

♥READ: Have a look at this interesting article about Unusual Ways to Greet People Around the WorldWhen you finish reading , tell your partner which form of greeting  you found most unusual.

♥LISTEN: Watch this video about the etiquette of social kissing and answer the following questions:

  1. In Good Morning America, the *anchorwoman describes an awkward moment when you get to a party. Why is it awkward for some people to greet your host or hostess?
  2. The British are described as” buttoned-up”. What do you think it means?
  3. Laura Ford is a British artist. Does she kiss people she doesn’t know? Choose from the options below and justify your answer.
  4. always b. never c. sometimes
  5. According to Hillary Brown, social kissing in France might be getting out of control. Why?
  6. Social Kissing is taught at some schools. Which ones?
  7. What are some of the rules of kissing taught at these schools?
  8. How are Americans and Latins different as regards social kissing?
  9. At the end of the clip, the anchorman apologizes. Why?

*anchorman/anchorwoman = a person who presents and coordinates a live television or radio programme involving other contributors.

CHECK: Answers here

♥WRITE: Imagine a foreign student is coming to your school/house on an exchange visit. What advise would you give about your customs. Use the ideas below and the modal verbs should/shouldn’t , could, must/mustn’t.

  • greeting someone
  • meeting someone for the first time
  • being punctual
  • being invited to someone’s house
  • tipping

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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)

THE TASK: LISTENING 

Level: B2

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

Unfortunately,newsy.com 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

♥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

a.

b.

c.

d.

 

 

Some Priceless Topic-Based Videos to Help Students Prepare for the Speaking Test

Hi, hey! How are things?
Have you read my last post?? It’s all about first-day activities to get to know my new students. Are you going to be one of them? I hope so!
Lessons start on  5 October  and I am totally in teaching mode. In September ,some  of my students will need to take the oral exam again and I thought it might be a good idea to share with you some priceless videos that I found on youtube  this summer.  I wish I had shared them with you before exams in June, but I didn’t know about them just then. Anyway, I hope you can still make good use of them.
What I am going to show you in this post is the website of an English teacher, Marek Connell ,and his awesome videos on how to answer the questions in the Escuela Oficial de idiomas Intermediate (B1) and Advanced (B2)speaking exams. I have to say here that in my region (Asturias) EOI exams  don’t  follow exactly the same procedure Marek explains in his videos, ie, students cannot take notes and they do not have 10 minutes to organise their speech, but what I like about his videos is that he shows how a fluent speaker would answer the questions related to a given topic.

For each topic I will show you:
From my own website: some questions you could be asked
From Marek Connell ‘s website, his own videos showing how  a native speaker (himself) would answer  some of these questions. Click to visit Marek’s website

So, pen and paper at the ready? Here we go.

1. FAMILY, FRIENDS, RELATIONSHIPS

Questions about Friendship,

Questions about your dream partner

2. WORK

Vocabulary and Questions

3. CLIMATE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Questions about the weather

Questions about the environment

4. EDUCATION

♥Vocabulary and Questions about Education

5. SHOPPING AND CONSUMERISM

Questions about Fashion and Trends

Questions about Going Shopping

♥Questions about Money 1

Questions about Money 2

6. ANIMALS AND PETS

♥ Questions about Pets

7. SPORTS

Questions about Sports

Questions about Violent Sports

8. STEREOTYPES

Lesson Plan about National  Stereotypes with Vocabulary and Questions
 

9. CRIME  

10.PROGRESS AND SCIENCE

You’ll find more  topic -based questions  on my website Blog de Cristina. Click here,please 

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