Archive for the ‘How To’s’ Category


C1 Resource Pack!!

January 10, 2017

I just published / I’ve just published my notes to help advanced students learn to learn to become independent and resourcesful lifelong learners!

Check it all out on!

Direct link


Beginning of the learning year – some tips for learning English

September 3, 2013

A two-page document I’ve written for my students



Language for Games

June 25, 2013

Laura, here is the direct link! Everybody, check it out if you’re interested in games!



June 14, 2013

These days, total exposure to English (listenings) and as much LISTEN & REPEAT AS YOU CAN. IT’ll help you a lot!

The most important thing: avoid making mistakes you know you can avoid making! And if you make them, yes, relax, it’s ok if you… FIX THEM! Practice Useful language for that, in case you make a mistake. “Sorry, I mean…” (corrected version)

Communicative Strategies: Useful language
audios to listen & repeat – do Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3
Listen to the audios for Interactions, too

Learning to monitor your production as you speak
Watch the videos with my corrections, and repeat out loud the corrected sentence. By watching videos os this kind, you’ll learn unconsciously to fix your mistakes when you make them as you speak. Here are some audios too with corrections on the webpage:
Here, I didn’t do the Intermedios, but I did the Básicos and Avanzados (click on their Reproduction List and watch the ones with my comments)

More, here: including a mon on bullfighting for Avanzado (by me) and some ideas for potential problems during the interaction, so you can prepare useful language to be fluent and accurate (grammatically) while doing something to fix the problem!


This has been the first year when the Avanzado 2 Reading and Listening Tests were at the B2 level, with no C1 questions. As people did their Writing test some teachers corrected the Reading and Listening of one of my groups (because I don’t have enough days to do all the work I have this week – even though I’ll be spending this weekend checking Writing Tests), and everybody has passed those two parts (Avanzado 2 Tuesday).

Anyway, when people see their marks, if they have failed some part, they should come to revisión. Check the time and the date for that, and come, if you fail any part. I could be late for Revisión because I’ll be part of an Oral Examining Board the hours before, so wait for me keeping quiet if you are in the corridor.


Screenplay to work on your English!

June 13, 2013

best_exotic_marigold_hotel_ver2At last!!! Finished preparing the screenplay of the movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

It’s taken me two months because I did it whenever I had some free time!

I’ve prepared this screenplay for me to use in class next year with Upper Intermediate and Advanced students. Teachers are welcome to use it, of course. And if you are a lifelong learner, you might want to use at home to work on your English.

the-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-bk13 (44 pdf pages – the two last are ideas for activities!)


Permission for the YouTube Video

June 12, 2013

Dear students,

As you know I published some videos of yours and do not have your written permission. Here is the link to the Form, in case you can print it, fill it in/our, and bring it to the school. If you can’t I’ll try to make some copies to leave in Conserjería, or in the Department if janitors refuse to be in charge of that.

If I weren’t at our school, and you bring it, you can leave it at Conserjería (each of us teachers have a tray). Thanks so much! I really need: Silvia’s, Laura’s, Roberto’s (minimum) but also that of Roberto’s classmates, except Juancar!

Thanks, Teresa, for reminding me of this! I had TOTALLY forgot!!! eek!!! 🙂


Writing Tests

June 8, 2013

In Writing Tests, like the ones that are given at Spanish EOI’s (standardized in Europe — A2, B1 and B2 CEFR certificates), you are required to respect the TOPIC you are given and the KIND of text (e.g. a letter or email, an article, etc.) and the WORD LIMIT (non-complying pieces cannot be checked by examiners). About the three points you need to mention, whenever required to do so, if you don’t mention one, for instance, that lowers your mark, but examiners can proceed to check your work. In any case, ALWAYS mention the three points, even if you don’t know how to develop one properly.

All EFL textbooks from Britain have wonderful explanations and exercises on how to write each kind of text, and with Useful Language for formal and semiformal letters, for instance. So browse through your textbooks, just to consolidate a few ideas about what you are expected to write for each kind.

Here are some of the notes I give my students, especially at the Upper Intermediate (B2) and Advanced levels (C1).


Speaking Tests (B2): Brainstorming on Topics and Language Functions

June 8, 2013

When you have to speak about a topic, it is generally expected you fulfill certain communicative aims and you perform certain language functions, too. Have a look at this and see what I mean:

You will find more ideas for working on your Speaking here:

But remember: listening to English is key. When you listen to English, you learn to speak, you consequently learn “grammar”, and you get used to understanding people, while developing comprehension strategies unconsciously too!


US American and British Standards

June 8, 2013

Here are some notes on differences between US English and UK English. As you know, there is no “correct English”, just different varieties generated by the sociological and geographical fact of communities in their locations (culture). In Spain, for instance, Andalucian Spanish (the variety used by Lorca, the poet, for instance, Victoria Kent, politician during La República española, and María Zambrano, philosopher) is as correct as Castellano Spanish (the variety used by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, the writer and thinker, for instance, or Rosa Montero, the journalist and writer). In both regions there are people who speak badly and write worse, and people who speak and write perfectly well!

Back to English, then there’s the linguistic fact of a kind of International English, which is always about picking the most understandable choices in particular contexts.

Because there is no “correct variety” you can use any, but you should try to be consistent, particulaly in Writing Assignments or Exams, of course. Have a look. (I’ll improve these notes some day — it’s a complicated issue, language and identity — but for the time being, it’ll make do!)


New video!: What Leads to Success?

May 30, 2013

A wonderful presentation by Juancar, who in spite of being an Intermedio 2 student (B1), shows an Upper Intermediate or B2 level in this outstanding exercise! You will learn or clarify some key concepts that lead to a good life! Come on, listen to him! And if you like it, remember to send the link to more English learners! The exercise of listening and reading corrected mistakes helps you develop the skill of listening to yourself and fixing your mistakes as you speak.Thanks, Juancar, impressive work!

Btw, I posted a note under the video, on the correction included about the phrasal.

PS: I’m not sure I’ll manage to edit the videos I videoshot in the Avanzado 2 group… 😦 But I’ll try my hardest. I’ll keep you posted, don’t worry!


Activities you might’ve missed! (Listening / Speaking, Reading)

May 21, 2013

Audio Listen & Repeat based on a Speaking activity – Spain on holidays (Today in Intermedio I said I hadn’t recorded this audio, but I did!! It’s the paper classroom copies I’m giving away)

Timed Scanning – Reading Comprehension Test – On London digs and transport


Avanzado 2 Interaction: Banning pets in city centres?!!!

May 15, 2013

I’m sorry about delays publishing people’s work. I’ve decided just to jot down SOME corrections. Otherwise, it takes me many hours!!!

Here is Ainhoa, Laura and Pablo trying to tackle the card-activiy on banning things


When’s our last lesson together?

May 13, 2013

On the 27th and 28th of May. Then Exam Month begins for teachers, who will be giving the Written (Reading, Listening, Writing) and the Oral exams to everybody in all the levels.

In our last lesson together we can review Exam Strategies, if you need that, and mostly check you’ve got the right attitude to overcome the obstacle and even enjoy it! Most importantly, I hope people will  speak at plenary (instead of in small groups, so I can also listen/hear and spare the eavesdropping part!), tell us whatever they wish, their life stories, or develop topics we’ve been learning to tackle, whatever. (I’ll bring an audiovisual as a contingency plan, anyway.)

tumblr_m7kwwpmvL61ruy8aco1_500If you can’t control your fear and wish to insist in brainwashing yourself into failure (read Don’t buy exams, if you haven’t), please, don’t count on me for that, and spare us all of that kind of session. We’re lovable people who support you. Why should you do that to anyone? And me as a teacher, well, I’ve worked for your learning, so hearing it all about How you are going to fail, how little you learned or studied, and the like makes me sick and — more dangerously — furious. I’m a professional: I don’t need your final mark to know if you have reached a level, for the case of the people whose work and progress I’ve witnessed.

So please don’t come to me with Self-destructive stories or ideas. When I get pissed off, I start getting ideas about how pacifism is actually an option! 😀

So let’s celebrate… (not a party, no!!!, ugh!) knowledge!!!, the wonderful learning year we spent together! Celebrate by showing all you learned!  (Well, I had to try! 😀 My ideal final lesson is me sitting and just listening to students do things!)


Watching Old Movies!!

May 13, 2013

Alberto (Avanzado 2) has sent us this email, with the info that they’ll be showing Old Movies in Original Version here:

Buenas, van a echar en cines algunas películas antiguas los martes y jueves de aquí hasta Agosto. Michelle estaría totalmente en contra porque están subtituladas 😛 pero bueno… es lo que hay…es una oportunidad de poder ver en pantalla grande algunas películas muy buenas o de las que tengáis nostalgia por ver en cine. 
Para quien le pueda interesar: saludo !
It’s true I don’t recommend watching movies with subtitles, even when these are in English, in this context: when you need to develop your listening skill, because when you read, you are reading, and your ear is not exposed in the same way to the language. It doesn’t develop half of the intelligence it could! 🙂
I use subtitles in English when I want to learn new words and expressions, for instance. (Same case as that of Avanzado students.) I also use subtitles in English when the sound is not that good (To Kill a Mokingbird) or when different ways of speaking (e.g., characters that speak inarticulately) or the language they use (e.g., police slang), or cultural information (historic period, crazy political plots that I never understand!! – oh how I hate spy movies for this!) won’t allow me to enjoy the movie AND I know I won’t be able to watch it again.
Thanks, Alberto!

About May 9 – for Avanzado 2

April 30, 2013

Last week I found out in class that trade unions are calling for a strike on May 9. For the past 15 years I’ve supported them all, but the other day in class, because we had scheduled taking a C1 Practice Test on that day and it’s my last strike in Madrid, I thought I might just forget about it.

But I can’t. It’s my last chance to formally protest, and I should stick to that! I wish I could take it differently. I did try. But I can’t.


Tomorrow I’ll tell the people coming to class. The good news: I’ve found a way for Avanzado 2 Martes students to take the test on that day anyway! Can you guess?!


Resources collected by my admired colleague Rosa

April 28, 2013

Rosa and I worked at EOI San Fernando de Henares from 2004 to 2006. From her, I learned a great deal of things, and one of them was to organize the Writings with specific dates to be handed in each month. In this way, students would have  a month to learn to write a certain kind of text and then I would be able to jot down stuff for a List of Mistakes based on common mistakes in the groups. Most importantly, we would have a C-Day (Composition Day) where students would read out their work, and I would share info on Writing Strategies and for people’s LoM. Sometimes Writings were so many that we spent a few lessons doing this. And I tell you — people learned a lot. This year I haven’t followed this plan because of the teaching and learning circumstances at present. But if you’re a teacher and would like to learn a bit about that, download the Program/Syllabus I designed for Avanzado 2 when we were free to design courses — according to the Constitution we are still free, but the truth is Schools are imposing that all teachers pick the same textbook and stick to it so they can “teach the same things”!!! As if learning were that simple!

  • Anyway, Rosa uploaded some unit (listening) tests for Upper Intermediate (B2) over here:
  • And then she has some interesting notes on Formal and Informal language here: Just in case you can’t read it: For formal and semiformal texts, please avoid BIG (large, high, … it depends on context! A big problem = a SEVERE /sevír/ problem), HUGE (very large, considerable…), KID (child), STUFF (what do you mean?). In formal texts you should avoid MANY. Use “numerous” instead, for instance. Brainstorm on examples. Also in semiformal texts, you can also use “a great deal of” to avoid using “many” too many times!
  • And Rosa has some podcast listenings here:
  • I have some podcast listenings here: AND my apologies for Silvia for the delay in fixing the broken the links. I’ll be doing this right now. It might take me a few hours, but hopefully they’ll be working tomorrow! 🙂

About EOI & Cambridge language exams in Madrid (Autonomous Community)

April 27, 2013

The EOI Intermedio exam is equivalent to the Cambridge PET exam. They’re both testing a B1 (CEFR) level exam. Scenario in June: If you failed your exams at EOI after having followed the school learning year and after having used a B2 level textbook, the problem is obviously the EOI exam, so you might want to try taking the equivalent Cambridge exam if you NEED the certificate. Some people in class have taken it recently and passed it! 🙂
The EOI Avanzado exam is equivalent to the Cambridge FCE exam. They’re both testing a B2 (CEFR) level. Scenario in June: If you failed your exams at EOI after having followed the school learning year and after having used a C1!! level textbook, the problem is obviously the EOI exam, so you might want to try taking the equivalent Cambridge exam if you NEED the certificate. I mean, don’t quit!

Why am I saying this? Because since 2009 EOI legislation and rules are upsetting all the system, presumably because the political intention is to close down EOI schools, to profit private language teaching schools. Certificate Exams have been targeted, of course: the four tests used to be evaluated individually and you had to get a 60% of correct answers to pass each. If you did pass the four, you got your certificate. If you failed one, or two… you could take the test of that part again in September. Considering the complete tests in June last two days, this was a relief, and fair. Nowadays failing one part in June involves having to take the four parts again in September. However, the new regulations impose, against all informed criteria, a very negative thing: The percentage of correct answers you need to have in each individual part is the same, a 60%, not less (not a 30 or 40%, which would be understandable, to make sure the person had a mininum skill in each of the 4 skills), which means examinees are subject to a DOUBLE evaluation system which no educational body ever requires or imposes. Let me illustrate with a typical case: Say you have a total of 78/100, a 78%. Well, if you have a 14/25 in one of the four parts, instead of a 15/25 (the 60%), which is the pass mark, you will fail even if your total is between 60 and 99/100!! Consequently, you’ll have to take the complete exam in September!!! Does that 1 point out of 100 mean the person has not achieved the tested level? No way. We could even consider a 10 point margin. Some schools do not publish the marks people get in their Written Part (Reading, Listening, Writing Tests) just in case they can avoid these cases: the case where the person has one 14/25 or two, or one 13/25, and could get a good mark in the Speaking Test, provided, of course the total is above the 60%. Because flunking people in this case would pose an ethical problem, and in terms of respecting the law, this measure can be defended, for very obviously they wouldn’t be giving a certificate to someone who does not deserve it.

The question is, How can a student feel when after learning he or she can’t pass an exam which is even under his or her actual level considering Intermedio 2, Avanzado 2 students use higher level textbooks because a B2 can be achieved in 4 years and 6 is far too many? Why don’t the authorities improve this situation? It’d be enough to ask for a min. 30% in each one of the four parts and a 60% in the four together. Well, informed analyses point to the fact that free adult language education in Spain is bound to extinction. Spain is the only EC country offering this amazing service, so for the past 10 years, politicians have been meddling with the law to prepare things for future privatization. A clear event hinting as this is that EOI language teachers are not called EOI language teachers anymore in recent legislation, but just “language teachers”. The idea is that when EOI close, if the authorities manage it, they’ll transfer these civil servants in secondary schools.

EOI = Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, State-run Adult Language Education in Spain


*ECUS Educational Development
*International House Madrid
British Council Madrid
Cambridge Schools Centre Madrid
Centro de Idiomas Universidad Carlos III  sólo estudiantes
Centro Superior de Idiomas Modernos Universidad Complutense sólo estudiantes
CESMA Business School

2013 DATES for EXAMS given by the BRITISH COUNCIL in MADRID: For PET (B1), for FCE (B2), for CAE (C1). Remember other places above also give them, and that you can also take online exams.

NOTICE that TAKING those EXAMS COSTS between 200-300 euros, approx., and that nowadays, what used to be free language course at EOIs cost 300 euros.

REMEMBER SOMETHING IMPORTANT FOR ANY TEST TAKEN ANYWHERE: You cannot bring your phone or any other electronic devices to your desk in the exam. Your centre will tell you where to put them during the exam.

At the end of each paper (e.g. the Writing paper, the Reading paper, etc.), the invigilator will tell you to stop writing. You must stop immediately.


April 26: Lesbian Visibility Day

April 26, 2013

We’d like to celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day with a song by Buika, a Spanish singer and song writer who performs all kinds of interesting music!


Visibilidad lésbica


Lesson Plans! Getting ready for an orgasmic end of course!

April 19, 2013

Hiya! Just now I updated the Pages here for Avanzado, Intermedio, Learn2Learn and Topics, but I might’ve forgotten to link some posts. You can post them there if you like!

We have next week and two days of the following week to finish UNIT 6, OK? Select what you are most interested in! We won’t be able to do it all in class. I will also pick some exercises. freebooksThen, there’s a holiday (May 1, 2) and when we’re back it’ll be May 6 and 7. We’ll use these lessons to finish up UNIT 6 and raffle the books we have in class, because… May 7 is World Book Day, a very special date!! You are all welcome to bring books (in English) to give away! Reading is like travel(l)ing and like space voyaging! In Avanzado 2 we’ll take our Practice C1 Test in May 8 and 9. We’ll do the listening in the second part of the lesson so that people who are always late can get the chance to do those, but we need to take the break a bit earlier.

Over THIS WEEKEND you could try to do the unit writing assignment and practice speaking on the topics we worked on. And then if you love English and want to do some more, do all you think we’ll probably skip in class of UNIT 6! We’ll only have two weeks for unit 7!!bearebelCome on! Cheer up! Enjoy your English! You’re LEARNING something complex and amazing! Have a pleasurable weekend! Hurray for orgasms! 😀


Indirect Questions – audios – L&R

April 17, 2013

Listen and repeat while visualizing the grammar of these indirect questions. You will improve your fluency and accuracy with this kind of structures!


Example Brainstorming for Language (Unit 7, C1) – Productive Skills

April 14, 2013

When learning a language, you should collect useful language based on the language items you are learning. I did this with the language items in the Grammar Bank of Unit 7 (New English File Advanced – the textbook being used by Avanzado 2 students) to show you what I mean. The “brainstorming” part comes in when you pick the sentence which will remind you of the structure. So, yes, it’s not a true brainstorming exercise — words just do what they can! 🙂 Most of the times, it’s useless to jot down words in isolation equalled to a single word in your own language. Useless and misleading and unreal. You should write down the word in English you want to learn, and then look for sentences where it is used and you understand its use (underline the word so it stands out). You should not depend on dictionaries for this, for in real life (and in exams) you cannot use them, and you have to have developed enough skills to work things out in spite of unknown words, at least for many of the times.

When students have to do a writing assignment or when they have a few minutes to think about what they are going to say on a given topic what I recommend they do is that they brainstorm for language: what tenses can I use?, what kind of clauses? (if– clauses, because, although, time clauses: before + –ing, while past cont. then past simple, relative clauses without the relative pronoun…), infinitive / gerund / participle structures, what about modals? A little Saxon Genitive here, other possessives, –ing/-ed adjectives, comparatives, superlatives, “It” subjects, indirect questions preceded by “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember”… Of course, then you have expressions, vocabulary, to make your range rich, but you should also consider morphosyntaxis = grammar.

Two Intermedio 2 students who did this very well in an oral performance are Laura and Isabel, so check out their work! And adapt it to your level! More oral performances by students + videos by Avanzado 2 students with teacher’s written feedback. More videos by Avanzado 2 students: Pedimos el C1

So here’s the example of Brainstorming for Language at a C1 or Advanced level with the items learned in a unit. Once you know how to pronounce it well, you could record it saying each sentence twice, so that you automatize production and achieve fluency and accuracy!

Unit7_Brainstormingforlanguageitems_c1 (1 Word page)


Closing down the house and coming back

April 8, 2013

Today Irene Gu. (Av2) asked about how to name the things we do when we close down (or close up) our houses before leaving for a holiday, and then when we get back. I’ve been surfing a few websites to fish some Useful Language, in case it helps! Let me know what you think, and also feel free to post more sentences!

Turn off – Turn on, Unplug – plug…

Prevent water damage while you’re away.

  • Shut off the water: Shut off the water supply to your entire home when you leave for overnight or longer.
  • Turn off individual valves: Turn off valves for water-using appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and icemakers.
  • Shut off the water to exterior faucets

Save Energy While You’re Away

  • Unplug appliances that consume electricity even when they’re not in use such as DVD players, microwaves, coffeemakers and computers (also make sure to disconnect the computer from the Internet). This is both a cost savings and a safety issue. It’s not unheard of to have a cat tiptoe across a counter and unwittingly turn on the coffeemaker.
  • Turn the water heater down to the “vacation,” “low” or “pilot” setting.
  • If you’ll be gone for an extended period, clean out the fridge (and freezer) completely, shut it off and leave the door propped open.


  • Arrange with a neighbour, relative or friend – someone you trust – to check your house from time to time. Leave them a set of house keys. Give them the telephone number and address of where you’re staying abroad in case they have to contact you urgently.
  • Pull out all electric plugs for safety reasons.
  • Make sure all windows are closed and the front and back doors are securely locked before you leave.

More, source:

  • Turn off the main water supply to your home.
  • Turn off the water heater.
  • Unplug and defrost your refrigerator.

Read more: How to Close Down a House for Winter |


An OP on Working Abroad

April 4, 2013

with written corrections (few, so it’s mostly a black screen!) by teacher

María tells us about a lecture she attended on Working Abroad


Women have human minds

March 31, 2013

So here’s the poster in English. We need to stop this nonsense explaining human intelligence in terms of our sexual organs! 0_0 How can this have been so popular? It’s a crime against humanity, some profound damage to human intelligence.

womenhavehumanminds_poster (1 doc page)

Recommended reading: Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine but just looking around in societies where women are free to develop their minds and lives can do.

And in case you want to repost and stuff, here’s the text — the “wimmin” is to help EFL students to remember how to pronounce the plural of “woman” /woomn/, but it’san actual alternative spelling of th word too:

are reproductive and sexual organs
unfit to measure our intelligence
establish our emotional & social functions
or our dreams & ambitions

women thinkers, artists, activists, explorers, inventors, adventurers…
in the history of HUMANKIND?

The history of Man is not the history of Humankind

Patriarchy to court
for Crimes against Humanity



March 26, 2013

😀 Can you read it? It’s fun! (and funny!)



About job interviews

March 21, 2013

Here is some feedback for Intermedio 2 students who wrote the note to a friend on a job interview they’d had, which was one of the Sample Exam tasks.

When a job interview begins with “personal questions” is not about your life. It’s about personal details — contact info, education. So say “First, they asked me about my personal details” instead of “about my personal life.” Job interviewers — when offering good jobs, proper jobs — do not go around making personal questions. They don’t even have the right to ask you about your likes and dislikes (e.g., your hobbies). They need to check you’re qualified for the post. They check your Education and Work Experience.

Well, of course, I’m telling you this not so much for your writing test. Stick to what you can actually say in the foreign language, to avoid making mistakes.

Incidentally, when we send our CV’s/resumés, we should refuse to include a photo. There is no good reason behind that “request”. I didn’t even include my age when I was younger, in solidarity with older people! And also because I found my education and work experience were enough information, and my age irrelevant!

OK, I can hear you. “That’s not reality.” Well, but it should. One thing I know about jobs is that if they start exploiting you and treating you with no respect, that’s not going to changeand here women have by far the worst (most humiliating / hopeless) part — I decided to take State exams when I realized I was not going to take any more shit in interviews! I had had enough!! They can’t ask you if you’re single, nothing about your lover/partner!, or if you want to have a baby, they can’t make comments on your body or how nice you are, they can’t treat you like an idiot, and of course, they can’t include in the pack forced blue jokes, simpático comments or going for a drink and — if they get lucky — a fuck. Be wary.)

Read Illegal Questions on TP. Oh, and if you see how we can improve the section, send in your stuff! Thanks!

If you desperately need a job, and what you find is that bad, you might have to accept it, OK, I grant that. I’ve done that, too (though putting some limits, like the sex limit, once I even fought my way out of the office because my boss, a respectable man, tried to rape me. And it was horrible hearing him say: “Your word against mine!” He was a diplomat! Still, he never succeeded, and eventually I quit. And people said: “You’re crazy!” People just don’t care much about women, we’ve been nothing as human beings, all as slaves, servants & dolls for too long!). But let’s not turn our backs to what should be. 🙂 It’s important. You should never feel bad for “allowing” people to mistreat you or exploit you, but you should never ever refuse to see reality. Because if you do, you’ll never see any chance to change the situation, and you’ll end up feeling trapped for a lifetime! Dignity is not about what we do. We do what we can. (I’m hearing June Jordan here.) Need can make us do things we would not chose to do. (Though I’d rather join Robinhood than accept the kind of exploitation I’m not willing to accept, I should say!) Dignity is about not losing the self-respect of knowing what’s going on, plus dignity is about not victimizing oneself — which is always hard when you belong to the group which is socially & traditionally meant to be The Victim, targeted for exploitation and abuse.

In any case, my advice is you never accept being mistreated, treated with a lack of respect. They can overexploit you as a worker, say, but that should be the limit! And for women the limit should include demanding the basic human right to be named. The minimum respect is shown by naming the person. And we all know about how violent ordinary (patriarchal) men can get calling themselves the wrong name! WHAT HAS NO NAME, DOES NOT EXIST (Lo que no se nombra, no existe — this is shown now  in numerous sciences) – that’s been women’s case, sure! But here’s what we have to say now: IF YOU DON’T NAME ME, YOU DON’T EXIST! (Si no me nombras, no existes)


Installations 2

March 14, 2013

gardenÁngeles: my installation for Ángeles would be outdoors. A secret garden. I mean, I would have to find a small garden, wild in its development, with areas where some flower projects would have been started. There would be stones arranged in some ways here and there. At times, there would have to be a cat too, or a small fox, or a rabbit, and of insects, of course! And at times too, a girl or two engrossed in some kind of exploration!

largenest_patbrookesAlicia: for Alicia, I would construct a very big nest, VERY big. Because twigs sting I would spread some hierbabuena leaves (mint is not exactly what hierbabuena is! Hierbabuena smells sweet and people in Morocco use it in their amazing tea, which is NOT mint!). There would also be cotton, spread a bit like threaded white cotton sugar candy. In the nest there would be a collection of objects: a microscope, a pair of knitted gloves, a very well underlined book, and lots of small glass containers (bottles, jars, test tubes). All would be clean, including with no labels, I mean, Some would be empty. One of them could have some kind of sand, an another some kind of colourful grains of whichever sort! Then there would be an old metal cookie box, too.


How Art Made the World! (updated)

March 14, 2013

March 13: Laura and Juanma told us about finding the documentary on YouTube! The complete episode 1! So people, use it to learn more, and see if you can prepare a re-telling of what you learned. Also, if you missed these lessons, print the worksheet below and do it while you watch it a couple of times. Next week we’ll correct the second page. Today we only had time for correcting the first, after watching it a second time.

March 4, 2013: This week we’ll be have pairs and groups of three doing their oral interaction at Plenary, but in our second lesson this week, in its second half (the break will be a bit earlier, I presume), we’ll be watching the first episode of this amazing BBC documentary on Art.

How_Art_Made_the_World (2 Word pages)

The documentary is about how we humans depict the human body. This episode starts in prehistory with the venuses /vínusis/ — and it’s a pre-HIStory, yes — you’ll see why you never visualize women artists, which does not make any sense, really! Then it highlights the fact that Egyptians depicted the human body in the same way for … how many years?! And attempts to explain why. The most impressive part is when we get to Ancient Greece! So don’t miss the lesson! We’ll watch it once this week and again next week, for discussions in small groups and at plenary.

Here is a video where you can listen to Sara, an Avanzado 2 student I once had. She volunteered to do an Oral Presentation on the fourth, I think, episode, which is about how Politics has used Images to make people do and believe things! Enjoy!



March 10, 2013

<p><a href=”″>EXTRAORDINARY EPISODE 1: AMY – Documentary series</a> from <a href=””>Phoebe Hartley</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Celebrating March 8: what’s so good about the human rights concept?

March 8, 2013

I certainly believe that December 10 should be an international holiday. You have to consider that it’s taken us till the 20th century to understand that all human beings have the same rights. Before we managed this idea, some people were considered worthless and some others the representatives of God on the planet, or those who could exploit and abuse feeling totally entitled to do so. Obviously, reaching this understanding cannot wipe out all the harm that the parameters that built societies for centuries constructed. But this is just a beginning, the beginning of a better way to organize societies.

Before we coined “human rights” it was religion organizing societies and what men and women could do in life, their roles, what their hopes and dreams should be. Today most people understand that religion and spirituality should not organize society, for those are private issues, to share with like-minded people, but not to impose on the population. We are learning to respect non-believers and also different kinds of religions or spiritual options.

The genius of the human rights notion is that both believers and non-believers can be able to accept it and respect it.

It is true that patriarchal monotheist religions are having a harder time with this notion, because their dogmas have assigned gender roles to human beings, and women have always been seen and treated as inferior — intelectually, emotionally, spirituality — and a source of evil. But numerous people who believe in those religions are moving beyond those dogmas. They are refusing to believe that it was women who brought suffering to the world, they are refusing to believe that sexual intercourse should exclude pleasure, or that women should have as many children as God sends them. They’re challenging many religious impositions and they’re trying to build a kind of spirituality consistent with the human rights notion.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, as a feminist, as someone who understands human rights, I’d like to post this little thought of mine in celebration of it all!

Venus 21st century: “You understand women have human rights, but you don’t need to develop a feminist intelligence of world? How come? (What a sad violent and pointless war)”



Yeepee! Airport Experiences! 2 minutes, really funny!

March 7, 2013

I found a way of getting your work published without it being such a big amount of work for me — which means, I can publish more, too!

Instead of publishing your work on the Talking People Podcast, I can simply upload the audio you send me (please, try to export it or save it as an mp3 file), paste the transcript, add my corrections on that, link to the audio and voilá!

And here’s Laura’s hilarious airport experience! Don’t read the transcript till you have heard it once. Then, the transcript includes my corrections and comments in block letters or highlighted in pink.

Thanks, Laura, and enjoy you bunch!


Help! Transcripts of your work!

March 6, 2013

Dear students,

Your speaking tasks are great, and one can see how you improve your fluency and accuracy as you use the Onion Approach! (doing the same task once and again, considering my feedback and to file a final version) SO — congratulations!!

As I have quite a few recording to publish on Talking People, I would like to ask you to give me a hand:

Can you send me the transcript? In this way, I would just typeover in block letters any corrections the task might need!

If you can’t I’ll have to do it myself, so, I mean, I would still publish your work.

Just as a reminder, this is the section where your work would be:



What can people do to solve the crisis? (Brainstorming)

March 5, 2013

First, it’s important to find accurate analyses, local, national and also macroeconomic. People have produced a lot of riches with their work and a minority has amassed unbelievable amounts of money, and this should be exposed and those people should start giving back to the populations on the planet.

We should also share the information we find, and discuss it.

We could support the people who are offering constructive analyses and taking initiatives which reclaim democracy, initiatives like the one to solve the housing problem arising from evictions. With this I mean, we can help with our own signatures.

We could help gather signatures, too.

At a more local level, we should support going local: we should support local businesses, and local production, as consumers. Investing money in local businesses creates employment, investing one’s saving in buying a house does not.

We should pay our IVA tax (VAT tax). The taxes on what we consume are used to fund the public system!

Of course, we can demand tax policies become people-friendly instead of exploiting the ones who have the lowest salaries!!

Find out what people are doing in your area. Consider that social activists are people who devote their time and effort to build a better world. See what they are up to, in case you can learn about something or even find projects you can join.

If we find no jobs, we could try to get together with other unemployed people to see if we would be able to set up a small business, to earn a living, at least, to get by!

We should demand the government prosecute corrupt business people, bankers and politicians. In this way, there would be much more money, employment and social justice. We would be defending democracy, reclaiming democracy.

We could create ways in which people giving some money could help the most needed. Like trade unions in the past, when every worker put some money so that workers on strike, fighting for everybody’s rights, could get by.

Organize or help organize a meeting point where people in your area can exchange goods and services. Organize a jumble sale — donate things you don’t need, so that they can sold at a cheap price, and so that all the money collected in this way helps the needy. Donate what you don’t need to charities, if you can’t find or create any of this.

Charities — not NGOs, but places that have always assisted the homeless, for instance — alleviate individual suffering, and this is precious, but they do not achieve structural change. So don’t think only in terms of “giving to the poor” — we also need to change something in how our societies work, and that’s why we should get more involved in constructing democracy.

The government should create policies that made it impossible for the richest people to take their money out of the country. The world of football has corrupt people too, but the richest people are not necessarily in the public eye, especially when they are corrupt.

We should demand policies that encourage the creation of small businesses, and also policies that encourage the development and use of renewable sources of energy. Check out the environmental movement — they’ve got zillions of ideas on how to do this.

One thing is certain: go to demos, attend people’s assemblies. Join Nonviolent Direct Actions in places where people are defending what’s fair/just. This is precious for a democracy!

I have found a site collecting more ideas:
We should also get information of how people are managing in Greece and Iceland!


Inviting Av2 (B2 – Upper Intermediate) students to do Oral Presentations

March 4, 2013

Some years ago, Raúl gave an OP on his Learning to Listen experience. I hope he inspires you!

Raúl mentions “garden paths” but that is not the name of the kind of mistake. My wrong, so sorry about that! What happened to him, what he misheard, that kind of mistake is called “mondegreens” in linguistics. Here is a worksheet I wrote a few years ago explaining Mistakes by Native Speakers, to cheer students up! Anyway, in some group this year I mentioned a very famous mondegreen, based on one of Dylan’s songs, “Dead ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind” 😀

lexical_mistakesbynatives (1 Word page)

Oh, you can base our OP on your adorable textbook, on the language you learn from it, I mean!


The World of AS & LIKE (2)

March 3, 2013


Traditionally, we EFL teachers in Spain have explained when to use “as” or “like” in the following way:

  • “LIKE” when what follows is a noun phrase (including pronouns and –ing nouns, of course). Examples: I’m like you! I’m as you are!
  • “AS” when what follows is a clause, meaning a Subject + Verb. Examples: I do the same(not so much: I do like you). I behave exactly as you do! Me, exactly like you! Exactly as you said!

However, in today’s English – because languages are ALIVE, never forget this, meaning They are constantly changing — native speakers have started to use “like + S + V” in informal spoken or written English. Examples: I’m like you are! I behave exactly like you behave!

What should you do in exams? (written or spoken). Well, if the situation or context for your task allows the use of informal language, you can use either of the two, but if the language you produce requires a more formal register, stick to what you always learned/learnt!

So — more on this last point:

British and US American Englishes

You can keep to the theoretical guideline explained here under “Comparing”, if you take the “like” below as part of the verb, “look like” (not “look” + “like”).
(And yes, there is another meaning to “look like” for both US and UK Englishes:
The girl looks like her sister. The girl and her sister look alike.)


  • US: The girl looks like she’s going to cry
  • UK: The girl looks as if she’s going to cry / The girl looks like she’s going to cry

However, we can use “like” like this, instead of “as if,” with other verbs: it sounds, it feels, they talk…

  • He’s acting as if he is in charge / like he’s in charge (informal)
  • He’s acting as if he was/were in charge (more unreal) like he was in charge (informal)
  • It sounds as if you were really upset about it (guessing = more unreal/tentative) / It sounds like you are really upset about it (more real, informal)
  • It feels as if it’s going to snow / as if it were going to snow (less real) / It feels like it’s going to snow…

The World of AS & LIKE (1)

March 3, 2013

In class, I’ve been clarifying a few things about “as” and “like” in Intermedio 2. I’m posting them now in case they’re of use to more people!

AS for roles

  • I earn a living as a teacher
  • Uma Thurman as Sissy Hankshaw in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues!
  • She worked as a neuroscience researcher in Greece for two years
  • When I was very poor, I used to use a sock as a percolator! To filter my coffee!
  • As your best friend, I think you should quit relationships that do not treat you well.
  • It was amazing – they were using pens and lids and things like that as musical instruments!

US or UK Englishes? Being consistent in Writing exercises

March 3, 2013

Generally speaking, US English spelling tends to register the word in its oldest spelling form especially when the pronunciation of the Word matches better that spelling, for instance: tigre (instead of UK tigre) or color (instead of UK colour). This is similar to what happens with Spanish in America and in Spain. Both for these places for English and Spanish, places where the language is youngest tend to use older forms in syntax and spelling.

The spelling differences are not always systematic (occurring in all of the cases). Also, (además), it is not uncommon that in both varieties of English you find people who use any of the forms, for instance, in the USA people could be using film, too, when talking about the kind of movie you see in art-house. Another common case is the specialization of one of the terms in the variety where the term is not that common: for instance, “biscuits” in the USA are unsweetened dinner or breakfast pastries. Terms traditionally assigned to one of the two varieties are often used in both!

Then we have variants which are more common internationally, but “internationally” means different things. Here in Spain, the international English choices are more influenced by British English in some cases, whereas in a more global international English, choices are often more influenced by US American English.

As an EFL, consider context, and feel free to choose: in writings, for instance, you could use US American English or British English standards. You may have to choose this or that word (city centre vs downtown, for instance). In spelling, check this, for instance:

Spelling Differences US American EnglishUS English British EnglishUK English
-or vs. -our Color, neighbor, favor, favorite, honor, Colour, neighbour, favour, favourite, honour
-er vs. -re Tiger, center*, theater Tigre, centre*, theatre
-ze vs. -se Analyze, criticize, memorize (learn by heart) Analyse, criticise, memorise
-og vs. -ogue Monolog, dialog, catalog Monologue, dialogue, catalogue
-ll vs. -l Travel-traveling-traveled Travel-travelling-travelled
-m vs. -mme Program Programme
-ck or -k vs. –que(non-systematic) Check
Regular vs irregular verb forms Learn-learned
-ce vs. –se (verbs/noun form pairs) To practice
some practice
To practise
some practice
-se vs. –ce (nouns) License (license plate)

This word is not “centro” referring to: the city/town centre in UK English, which is downtown in US English.

The list below was put together using the very precious resource of Hints and Things (


Learning to notice “Useful Language” – technology & awards

March 1, 2013

When you read texts in English, use that to collect Useful Language, too, remembering to pronounce out loud the sentences or chunks of language you jot down!

Below, I have underlined some Useful Language for topics like awards, or technology, in a news article found on the PoA Awards website (formal English):

Prince of Asturias Awards: Technical & Scientific Research 2009

Oviedo, 17th June 2009. At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, made up of (members of Jury), chaired by (chairperson) and with (secretary) acting as secretary, has unanimously decided to bestow the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research on the U.S. researchers, Martin Cooper and Raymond Samuel Tomlinson, respectively considered the fathers of the mobile phone and e-mail.

These two discoveries are among the greatest technological innovations of our time, revolutionizing the way that thousands of millions of people communicate worldwide and contributing decisively to the advancement of knowledge. In particular, they are key elements for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that will enable every citizen on the planet to exercise their right to communicate.

Their impact on society is reflected by the more than 4,000 million mobile subscribers and the 1,500 million users of e-mail and other Internet services. All this constitutes an important aid to the Developing Countries, for which it supposes a source of equality and opportunities, bringing nearer basic services such as health and education.

With this Award, the Jury also wishes to recognize the effort and work of all those people who have contributed to fostering and developing the mobile phone and e-mail services, forms of communication that give rise to a connected world, free from geographical or temporal barriers.


How good are you at self-assessment? (Av 2)

February 28, 2013

Teachers know a lot about this. Having to spend the academic year assessing students’ work, they develop some knowledge of the problems around self-assessment. Not only that, most teachers are lifelong learners, and have to assess their own work all the time. So one thing we teachers know is this: students are really bad at self-assessment. Their self-assessment world is primitive, it tends to be a black-and-white world, a deadly pendulum — the move from “The teacher flunked me!” to “I’ve always been really bad at this.” They move from sentencing teachers to not ever being heard to sentencing themselves to life-long incapacity.

So here is some advice. Mull over it. It’s more helpful than it may seem at first sight — and not only for language learning.

flyawayStop brainwashing yourself with sentences like “I’ve always been bad at this.” The more you repeat something, the more deeply it roots in you, becoming Reality. Politicians know this, business people, and war mongers, so that’s why the sentences they repeat the most are generally lies. They know lies become Reality if repeated ad nauseam. When you tell yourself and others that you are not good at something you are meant to be learning to be good at, you are not being critical, you are not using critical thinking. You are making sure you will never be good at that. That’s all you’re doing — making sure you remain incapable of overcoming some problem you feel you should be able to overcome. That’s irrational and self-destructive. So spread your wings and fly away from the cage!

The difference between critical thinking and self-destructive attitudes is precisely this — critical thinking allows us to move on, to learn, to grow, to outgrown what we are not good at. Self-destructive attitudes sentence us to remain in the well of not being able to improve in some skill, to learn about something. So if your self-assessment is you’re hopeless at something, you’re making a mistake you should fix. Fixing this will take time, so you need to get to work now, and keep working till you overcome it. That’s all. Intellectual work is like climbing a mountain. There’s risk all the time. There’s effort. Practice makes us stronger. And then we grow! And the feeling is amazing. And then you need more learning because your life becomes increasingly interesting and gives you such happiness! Learning is also like traveling! And there’s more — having the chance of learning along with other classmates is an amazing chance — take advantage of it, don’t waste it! All of the people in a class are part of an organic body that is learning together, not only individually. (For me, every year, with each group, I feel like I make an amazing journey, full of discovery, events, adventure! I don’t see why you shouldn’t feel that, too!! 😀 )

Get GrowingStudents — including adult learners — should pay more attention to teacher’s advice on how to work on things to succeed in their learning by actually getting started! Professionals of learning know how to ease the path to learning, and people who don’t know much about learning tend to fill the path to learning with obstacles. Learning is not magic. It is part of a PROCESS. And this process is complex and takes time. What teachers try to transmit with their stories and “tips” on learning deserves some attention. So before discarding the options they offer, if you have a learning problem, a performance problem, pay attention to what your teacher says, give that a try, keep at it for some time, until you master the technique, until you understand in depth the value of the idea your teacher has put forward. Then you will be ready to discard it, or improve it. Doing this before you’ve even tried is not critical thinking.

The Masked Procrastinator!So, get to work. Stop telling yourself you can’t learn. Stop pretending you know it all about why you can’t learn. Avoid stagnating in that horrible place, in that place that breaks your wings to fly away from those pits. Be a critical thinker and work to overcome your mistakes, weaknesses, fears, complexes, the lot! We are not doomed. Human minds are amazing and there is no limit to all the learning they can actually do!


Brainstorming on Language: ability

February 28, 2013

When you are asked to speak about a certain topic, you should try to brainstorm on which language items you can use to make your language range richer!

Here are some examples:

If you are asked to speak about your own experience with food, some of the language items you could use could be those meaning, expressing ability:

  • to be good/bad/… at …-ing: I’m not very good at cooking, but
  • can / can’t or cannot – I can make salad, and I can heat stuff in the microwave! I can fry an egg and boil rice, or spaghetti. But I can’t make potato omelette! 😦
  • know how to / don’t know how to – (you can then use the synonyms of “can/can’t”, just to show you also know them!) I know how to use the oven, so I can roast chicken, but I don’t know how to make quiche!

Well, these are just a few silly examples. But do you see my point? This IS brainstorming on language.

This technique is also useful when you are asked to write!


Dictations: improving in gap-filling activities

February 19, 2013

If you wish to improve in gap-filling listening comprehension exercises you could follow my advice:

  • Choose a podcast episode you enjoyed, or any other audio recording you like. Make sure you have the transcript, so that you can check your dictation later on.
  • Play it once, just listening to it. Then start pressing pause after each chunk of language that makes sense as a chunk of language! (like I do in class — well, I think I just did this once, with the Avanzado 2 groups.) It’s hard to be good at this at the beginning (that is why it is also good you listen once or twice to the complete piece), but you improve at knowing when to pause with practice.
  • If you can’t get the complete chunk down, leave a blank and continue! Just go on, leave blanks. You will fill them up in subsequent listenings. Once you’ve filled in/out your own gaps, play the complete piece again, to check you got everything down. And then play it again to check punctuation and spelling.
  • Finally, check your work with the transcript — use a red pen for mistakes. (And keep a record of your work, so you notice how, in a couple of months, you’ll have improved! including in reducing your fear of this activity!)

love-bubbles-vectorThis exercise will make you better at this kinds of listenings, but it will also make you a better speller!! But there’s much more!!!: it will help you learn vocabulary and most importantly, ways to say things, so remember to use this exercise also to collect Useful Language for your conversations! (you can also Listen & Repeat those bits). AND… it will make sure you listen to different kinds of audios, because you will be looking for one for your dictation! which means it will help you develop the habit of listening to English every day!!

Here is a link to a slightly different activity: dictations online. The teacher says “period/full stop,” “comma,” all that! It’s great and it’s sorted out by levels! But I still recommend you use news, interviews, “authentic” texts, I mean, not only texts designed as dictations. So plan your learning week! You could do one of these, and one with authentic news and interviews (from podcasts or textbook audios every week!


Whoa! What a day today!

February 19, 2013

Life is a rollercoaster! 😀 One minute you’re sad and blue, the next you’re rising, like a wave, and having an orgasm in class! 😀

Today students remembered to bring their paper copies! 😀 So all my work preparing for Exam Format Practice Month seemed to be useful in some way! 😛 And the people who forgot were really sorry, I could feel it across the room! Anyway, results were also great. This means, this final test practice has hopefully shown you that it is possible to pass the Certificate tests, that , and also, most importantly, that if you learn to speak English, passing your finals will be but a logical consequence! So now let’s see how the other two groups do tomorrow! 🙂

I NEED EVERYBODY’S RESULTS OF THE READING AND LISTENING TESTS, OK? Please, if you’re following my course and you didn’t do this when the rest did, do them at home and come to me so I can jot them down. I need those results for two reasons: 1. as your teacher I collect information about group levels and individual levels, and this makes it easier for me to assist you all, 2. the February statistics the School issues (for all teachers): I have to type in the total number of people who passed, of those who failed and of those who did not take the exam. For me, it would feel really bad to have been working for two weeks with you all in class to train in Exam Format and then to have “No Presentadxs” corresponding to people who actually follow this course.

Now for the Speaking Test, English peacelings! Come on!!! And please, remember: practice SPEAKING (saying your mon. once and again till you can “improvise” it), DON’T WRITE THEM DOWN, that’d be READING! Nothing good for learning to speak! And as you speak, practice/practise listening to yourself, so you are quick to fix the mistakes you may make!


What happened today, Monday?

February 18, 2013

In spite of the fact that I explained our plans in the Exam Format Pack and in the February agenda, today, in both Intermedio and Avanzado groups, far too many people had not printed the Sample Exam from the Educamadrid site. So it was kind of frustrating for the people who had, and certainly for myself. Please, read the Bulletin Board, read the whiteboard, or read the blog. Why am I doing all this work if it’s as if I hadn’t done it?

If you can’t find the information, PLEASE LOOK ON YOUR RIGHT here: THERE ARE TWO PAGES: INTERMEDIO 2, AND AVANZADO 2, with links to everything.

Constructively, patiently, we decided to move to next Wednesday the plan we had for today.

Again, please, print the Sample exam, do the timed Reading Test at home, check it, and work out your mistakes. Then come to class with all your paper copies. I’ll jot down your Reading Test results, and your questions about this, we’ll do the Listening (we agreed on a time, so that people usually coming late can also make it to this test). And then we’ll move on to questions and/or speaking practice.


Weeks 3 & 4 February: moving on in Exam Format Practice Month

February 18, 2013

The agenda of weeks 1, 2 and 3 that is on the Bulletin Board in class is also here.

The new items are that today and tomorrow I’m explaining how we will proceed with the Speaking and Writing tests on the Educamadrid site.

Week 3 – Update

AT THE END OF THIS WEEK, you should have consolidated a knowledge of the kinds of Reading & Listening tasks (and Writing tasks, for the groups getting feedback in class about Politeness et al.) and you should have reduced your fears, developed your confidence in terms of Exam Format. Hopefully, you will have been using the underlining technique, notetaking including skeleton of meaning, some phonemic transcription, skimming and scanning, proofreading your work…


Get your copies of the sample tasks on the Educamadrid site. You will have time in class to prepare them with your classmates: practice/practise speaking about those topics freely, brainstorm on language, and then practice timed speaking at home. Meanwhile I’ll be calling out people’s names to come to Exam Area. YOU SHOULD NOT WRITE DOWN YOUR MONOLOGUES OR DIALOGUES. You should practice SPEAKING on the same topic over and over again, till you feel confident, using your detailed outline and your jottings from brainstorming on language.

Then, after you have done it again in Exam Area, when I call your name (I’ll use your list numbers), you can record your sample monologues, so that you can listen to them again throughout the rest of this course.

So now you have two areas of Speaking activities to work on in class and at home: the ones based on units 1-5, so that you use the language learned/learnt from using your textbook audios and other exercises; and the timed tasks covering all of the sample cards you have (work on one a week, for instance).


Once I’ve given you back your Practice Writing (Intermedio 2’s), work on your List of Mistakes, and start working on Task 1 of the Sample Writing test on Educamadrid. You should be handing it in in the second week in March. Once you get it back, work on your LoM and then do Task 2.

As unit 5 depends on your work at home, remember that you can also hand in your Writing corresponding to unit 5, but only once you have learned to do that kind of writing from your textbook. Considering dates, both Task 2 of the Sample Writing Test and Writing 5 will probably have their deadline just after the spring holidays, perhaps just before them! We’ll see.

Week 4 – Finishing Exam Format Practice Month

We’ll continue doing orals in class, I’ll comment on people’s mistakes, so we can learn to put grammar into use. And we’ll pay special attention to pronunciation, too.


Suggestions are not about judging people (Part I – for learners)

February 10, 2013

In the Framework of Exam Format Practice Month, Intermedio 2 students were asked to write an 150-word email to a teacher suggesting ways in which the lessons could improve. There were three points to mention: 1. Proposal for speaking activities, 2. Proposal for individual feedback, 3. Congratulating the teacher for one of the activities they had done. Surprisingly, there were quite a few exercises where The Student told The Teacher what he or she should do (!), without understanding the implications of the language and ideas the student was using (sounding ignorant/arrogant, lacking respect — human, & professional).

Pleaese, keep in mind these two ideas: the teacher is the professional in charge of the learning situation — and today these professionals are particularly knowledgeable due to scientific research, and the development of democratic ideals — human rights notions. The teacher is not someone who got the job as a result of winning the lottery!, and when a teacher asks for feedback or proposals to improve something that is not because he or she doesn’t know how to manage the learning situation (!), or because he or she does not have enough vigor to do so. People, don’t you think it’s kind of surprising this could ever be interpreted? (Some people have even written “You don’t listen to students” to this poor hypothetical teacher who is actually asking for learners’ ideas on a topic!)

So here are some tips for learners who are required to give feedback, make suggestions, proposals (also applicable to filing complaints or present critical analyses):

Giving feedback (like refuting ideas) is not about judging some particular person, the one you are addressing, but about posing what you would do and why — a reasoned opinion at least! (e.g. In order to improve our spoken English, we could do this or that.)

Listen to yourself, walk in the listener’s shoes: how would you feel if the underlying or the explicit message is that you are asking for feedback because you are incompetent or you fail to impose your will (make adult learners obey?!). How would you feel if somebody said you are not doing things right — milder cases adding: But don’t get upset instead of We could do this or that so as to (in order to)… (Please, read my example and mull over your exercise.)

Getting your message through – while respecting others and ourselves – is about making it possible for the receiver to listen to what you have to say, not because you are being hypocritical or lying, but because you are reasoning why you say what you are saying. For instance, instead of saying “Your lessons are hard and boring” you could say something like “Unfortunately, I go to class in the evening, after a full hard-working day, so I am really tired. Therefore (whichever kind of exercises) are too hard for me. On the other hand, I would really enjoy (whichever other kind). We could also…”.

From this communicative approach I have to say that at least half of the Writings that were handed in by Intermedio 2 students last week would not get a pass mark in a Certificate exam because they fail to comply with something fundamental: the communicative task of suggesting ways in which we can improve the language lesson. Saying what you think is the teacher (Which teachers did you have in mind, holy Molly?! Eek!!) is unrelated to your mission: you had to suggest activities explaining why you think they would be good. You didn’t have to do the rest. Please, mull this over once you get your work back.

About Writing Assignments involving sending teachers suggestions, remember:

About teachers: a) teachers know why they do or they do not do certain things in class, b) not all teachers use the same methodology, and c) they are free to choose how they wish to teach (Many roads lead to Rome) — that is why academic freedom is a Constitutional right in Spain.

About your needs as a learner: You can also avoid sounding arrogant/rude or ignorant/uninformed just by thinking twice before writing something. Express your needs, being aware that those are your perceptions and that you are not the teacher in that specific context. Last but not least important, you do not have to apologize for expressing your views. Instead, use sentences like “I hope these suggestions are useful!” (expressing hopes), “Thank you for welcoming our suggestions! I hope they are useful!” (saying thank you and expressing hopes). You should not use “had better” (that’s a kind of threat!) or “You should do this or that” (are you an expert? The teacher’s angry parents?!)

The ways in which we communicate say a lot about how we see others and ourselves. Learn to be constructive. This will not only improve your knowledge and skills, it will also improve your self-assessment.


Speaking Tasks for B2 level students!

February 8, 2013

Femen_anorexic_models_3I have finally finished a two-page list of Speaking Tasks. It’s useful for people using the mentioned textbook, but it might be useful for more people, to get some sort of idea of topics dealt with at this level.


For my Intermedio 2 students: these topics are B2 topics, and your exam will be a B1 exam, so this is kind of esquizo!!! Anyway, you will be picking one to do in March at Plenary. There are three types. Have a look. Please, spread the word, so students never checking this out and never looking at the Bulleting Board in class get the news! If you people don’t do this activity in March, I’ll quit. With this, I feel more like your mother!! EEK!!! (I’m a teacher in adult language education!!)


How to organize/organise a flash mob & Ways to rise

February 6, 2013

OBR-twitterbgOne Billion Rising! From the Toolkit, because it’s new — it’s been updated on Feb 5, I think:

2 pages: FlashMobHowTo

Another new document in the kit is this 2-page Ways to Rise:


They’ve included what we are doing too (see ideas for teachers), as an example of more ideas on rising!


Resources on Talking People for February Exam Format Practice (direct links)

February 5, 2013

Different people have different needs – you all amount to over 100 people so bear this in mind! I have to try to help all of you, right? And you all have different kinds of intelligences and backgrounds and you name it!

Here is a list of a few different resources. Establish your priorities and work on your weekly learning plan. Then just be patient and work a bit whenever you can.

  • Skimming and Scanning for Reading Comprehension: you all know about this, but if you are unsure, please have a look at my notes.
  • Notes on Communicative Strategies (& Oral Textual Structures): check out the page called “Developing Comm. Strats.” where you will find a list of possible scenarios & useful language to overcome those communication problems.
  • Just uploaded “How to do cloze tests.” (Btw! I need to link to that also from the How to Learn section) Both In2 and Av2’s are welcome to download it. It’s on the Talking People page with exercises we’ll be doing in Avanzado 2 during this month of February. Read it and if you come up with more ideas on how to improve the explanation and list of words that can be analyzed, let me know. Av2’s should note that the kind of cloze test they’ll take is not the one-word type but the phrase-type. There is an exercise there like that, but please don’t do it yet. Int2 Lunes got a copy the other day and Int2 Martes will get it next Thursday.
  • Avanzado 2’s can do the two listenings on animals (pets, nature). If you made a mistake in the Listen-Once activity, you should listen again, using the Skeleton of Meaning technique (SoM). Please, give the technique a chance. You should be open to learning new ways of doing things. Then, once you have tried to master it (you need to practice a bit to master it, of course), you can decide you don’t want to use it, of course. Actually, I don’t recommend people to use techniques they have not trained in before in their Certificate tests.

The follow-up exercise for these two Listen-Once recordings is this:
– Listen again to gather Useful Language for a re-telling of each episode. You will learn new words and expressions, and above all, how things are worded in English.
– Listen to jot down chunks of language you don’t understand. Use the sounds to write them down, and if possible, phonemic transcription. Then try to see if by repeating aloud those sounds, you manage to work out their spelling. Keep in mind your chunk might be one or several words! Then share your work in class, OK? You can also hand it in, if you like, for feedback.


Writings on Climate Change (Feedback) – For Intermediate students

January 31, 2013

If you have to write an opinion article about climate change, you should start by stating clearly your topic, and explaining it. Some tips so that people can clarify their ideas:

  • “Climate change” is not a synonym of “Global warming”. Climate change has always taken place, meaning climate changes are “natural”. The problem you wish to address in your writings is the kind of climate change that results from / resulting from HUMAN ACTION, from humans misusing and wasting the earth’s resources.
  • Climate change in this sense is an environmental issue we need to address because we can all consume in more rational ways.
  • Some Useful Vocabulary (there’s some for B2 and some for B1: pick the language you can actually learn to use, not “any word”  – I mean, to Intermedio 2 students, the points you made in your Writings are enough, just improve what you can actually improve — things at your level of English — not what is at a higher level, out of reach just now) is: The environment, environmental activists, going green (informal expression, good for headings), this environmental issue, the greenhouse effect, air pollution, [carbon dioxide produced by vehicle exhaust fumes and by burning fossil fuels from power plants/stations, factories and homes], this causes temperatures to rise, CFC emissions damage the ozone layer, household, industrial waste, landfill sites, acid rain damaging trees and plants in forests, pollution from smog causes respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, sunlight causes greenhouse gases to undergo chemical change and react with water vapor/vapor, creating acid rain, rising temperatures cause…, ice caps melt, the melting of the poles, rising sea levels, flooding, environmental degradation such as desertification, global warming can cause climate change and environmental disaster, solutions, sustainable solutions, solar power, environmentally-friends answers to (our) problems, carbon emissions, avoid wasting water, reforestation organic farming, biodegradable products, recycling (organic waste, plastic, glass, batteries, paper), consciousness-raising campaigns, to raise people’s awareness of, energy-saving measures…

Your opinion article should start with an introduction where you state clearly what you are going to write about.

Then you can do various things, but all of them should be developing the body of your writing in 2 or 3 or 4 paragraphs depending on the number of words you are asked to write.

  • One is that first you list or explain (in a paragraph) some of the consequences of the problem we have,
  • and then you write a paragraph giving advice on what people can do to solve the problem or prevent it.

Before writing, you should always read about the topic in your Writing Assignment: read texts on the same topic (i.e. climate change), to gather Useful Language and learn how ideas are often worded, and also read pieces that are the same kind of text you are asked to write (i.e. an opinion article), noticing the structure, and also any particular wording for any of the parts (e.g., I can see that articles on “addressing problems” use sequencers like “First/Firstly,” and “In conclusion”). If you find Opinion Articles on Climate change, perfect! But read a few of those, anyway. Last, doing some reading before writing will also help you gather ideas, and/or clarify your ideas.

How can you write an article if you haven’t read a bit on the same topic you need to address? (to gather often-used language chunks), and texts of the type of text you need to write (to notice textual structure). How can you word things in English if you don’t pay attention to how native speakers word things? If you don’t notice how native speakers word messages, you tend to do literal translation from your mother language! When you don’t learn from native speakers’ use of language, you keep translating and using English words to express Spanish syntax (word order) and wording is not learning English, or using English. I mean, if  you translate from Spanish, your English will show numerous transfer problems: things won’t sound like “English.” That is why I keep insisting in this: learn “grammar” by listening to speakers. When we learn to listen, we learn morphology, syntax, semantics, textual formats and textual structures, communicative strategies, we learn about culture, approaches to life, etc. LANGUAGE LEARNING IS NOT ABOUT DOING WRITTEN GRAMMAR EXERCISES. That can be good as follow-up / consolidation exercises (Language Awareness). That is very useful when you combine it with LISTENING. Because then grammar helps you double-check, or check things that don’t sound right. Don’t do it the other way round: from grammar explanations in English textbooks (and they tend to be less good than those your teachers give you, because your teachers know more about your specific problems and your frame of mind as Spanish-speakers learning English) and the Spanish you translate literally into English! That’s the hardest way to do things, and the less effective, because native speakers will need a lot of time to listen to you (you take longer when you keep translating it all) and will be often lost, because of the wording, if they don’t speak Spanish and can work out what you possibly mean.

EXAMPLES BY EOI STUDENTS: This is not an opinion article, but a very brief (basic) report, by a B2-level student who was taking a C1 course: Rocío’s report on Global Warming. Reports have a different structure or lay-out, but the underlying idea is similar to the general idea on structure: intro (presentation of topic) – body (posing the different points) – ending (conclusions, summaries or opinions). This is a 300-word article (reflective writing) on Air Pollution by Fernando. Here is an 175-word Letter to the Editor by Paloma, on the atomic crisis in Japan.

OTHER SOURCES: Global Warming for Kids (reading explanations for kids is very helpful for Intermediate students), Climate change and global warming for kids (just avoid “cool language”! 😀 )


February Exam Format Pack for Intermedio and Avanzado

January 31, 2013

This is what I will be explaining in class in our first February Lesson. I have xeroxed some sample exercises but I will not be making copies of this — so that’s why I’m publishing it over here, in case you think you want a copy.


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