Archive for the ‘How To’s’ Category


On how to listen…

January 27, 2013

Sharing a quote a cyberfriend posted on Fb:

“I’ve got a challenging assignment for you… I am inviting you to cultivate a special kind of receptivity — a rigorously innocent openness to experience that will allow you to be penetrated by life’s beauty with sublime intensity. To understand the exact nature of this receptivity, study Abraham Maslow’s definition of real listening: to listen ‘without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all.'” (Rob Breszny – I’m not into Astrology but this cyberfriend of mine is! Anyway, Breszny’s reflection here is a very good. I also use / got to the idea “innocent openness”! It’s amazing! I bet many more people will, then!)

About updating the Avanzado 2 and Intermedio 2 Pages

January 21, 2013

Dear all,

Just a note to let you know that I think I didn’t update these two pages last week, and that in these next days I’ve got tons of Writings to check, so I won’t be able to do so.

If any of you out there copied the lesson overview I wrote today on the whiteboard (where I mentioned what we would be able to actually do together in class, and what you should try to do at home), please, feel free to post it on its corresponding page!

In any case, the idea is: a unit a month. You can certainly skip the exercises that are far too academic or complex. Your exam is not about that, really. Then, your priorities should be learning grammar from listening and repeating your audios, and the Useful Language you underline in other exercises. Plus anything else you can manage, of course. List of Priorities: Listening to podcasts and past textbook audios (not to future audios!), Weekly monologue. And then,¬†Reading exercises, Vocabulary exercises, Grammar Banks when you have practiced those language items. It’s a lot, of course — nobody can learn a language without long hours of personal work. Considering this, you should try to enjoy it. But it’s up to you how much time you have for this, so JUST DO what doesn’t make you develop hatred for the language! ūüôā And please, avoid feeling guilty and procrastinating. You can consolidate things you learn in class by simply reading them out loud in those little dead moments of the day — 5 minutes here, 10 minutes days. Guilt crushes people. Avoid it!

Considering we have 3 or 4 lessons till the end of January, I picked the Listenings and Speaking activities we could manage together. In Avanzado I suggested we did the pages on Mobiles and on Addictions together in class.

Remember please to tell me which answers you want me to post — by sending me an email or by posting here.


Functional Translation: Narrating past events / Your own story-telling – Review of unit 2 (Avanzado 2)

January 20, 2013

burglarHere is a story about a past experience. (But I made it up, I swear!) Notice MY TENSES AND OTHER: I’m going to use the past simple, the past continuous (“when, before, after, while- clauses may come in handy!) and the past perfect (for a past happening before the leading past (simple). Then I’ll try to add modals in the past (“used to” and its synonym, “would”-for-repeated-past-actions, or past-habits). I’ll organize/organise my narrative chronologically, but I’ll resort to the present simple for dramatic effect in one or two of the scenes.

  • If you are in Avanzado 2: Can you include more modals to make the range richer? What about more time clauses or some conditional sentence? … If you improve this story by adding language items (and your own imagination), please, read it in class, or post it here!
  • If you are in Intermedio 2: You can adjust the narration to your own level, if you like. And you can also add stuff, at your level.

Now, translate this example. My translation is posted below as a comment. (“Enter” the post by clicking on its title!)

Unit 2: past narrative tenses, used to, would to

Underline the verbs in tenses and think about time in narratives.

twowimminfriendsOs voy a contar una cosa/an√©cdota que me pas√≥ en un viaje. Fue en 1993, cuando ten√≠a 24 a√Īos. Hab√≠a ido a Londres, para hacer un curso de ingl√©s. Como no ten√≠a dinero, me fui a vivir a una okupa con mucha gente de todos los lados. Muy interesante. Organiz√°bamos todo tipo de talleres gratis y ven√≠a mucha gente. En uno de los talleres conoc√≠ a una mujer de Alemania y nos hicimos amigas. Al final me invit√≥ a que me quedara en su casa. Fue una √©poca maravillosa. La casa era peque√Īa pero acogedora, y ella era genial. Hac√≠amos todo tipo de cosas juntas. Por ejemplo, los domingos nos √≠bamos al rastro de Candem Town y nos pas√°bamos all√≠ la ma√Īana, hablando con la gente. Era muy divertido.

Bueno, pues, un d√≠a est√°bamos escuchando m√ļsica en el sal√≥n cuando de pronto vemos a un t√≠o colg√°ndose por la ventana! Era un ladr√≥n! que escapaba con lo que hab√≠a robado!! Estaba tan estresado el pobre que ni nos vio. Entonces bajamos corriendo y le esperamos. Como hab√≠amos estado en un taller de defense personal, ¬°pudimos inmovilizarle! Jajaja, s√≠! Y despu√©s de convencerle de que nos diera lo que hab√≠a robado (√©ramos amigas de la vecina a la que le hab√≠a robado las cosas), nos fuimos a tomar algo a un caf√© donde sol√≠amos ir! √Čl estaba muerto de hambre, y bueno, ¬°le invitamos a comer algo! Al final, le pedimos que diera un taller sobre c√≥mo entrar en las casas. As√≠ mejorar√≠amos la t√©cnica! (frase hipot√©tica, pal range!)


Nonviolent Resistance (edited on the next day – in italics)

January 16, 2013

(Written with a feminist intelligence, this is, not like Gandhi or Martin Luther King would have.)

In the Avanzado 2 textbook, unit 4 is devoted to Warfare. Being a pacifist feminist, I suppose I should try to balance things a bit, posting here about nonviolent resistance, because History books, until the 20th century, like Science, and so many other areas of knowledge, have always been populated by men and wars, and men‚Äôs wars against other men. To make matters worse, they have always silenced Man‚Äôs war against women, for instance, never including in the description of casualties in war the fact that women were always raped ‚Äď trophies or rubber dolls for the men that prevailed.

Humankind has been much kinder, throughout its History, but not until the 20th century did we start trying to find out evidence of this. Universities started setting up Women Studies and Peace Studies, both doing research to restore what was obliterated by men in power ‚Äď kings, people with tons of money or richess, warriors, the clergy or religious reps. And then, we got the Internet, where zillions of people are leaving track of their existence, which makes it harder for manipulators to keep tricking us all. Consumerism is the new war to divert our attention from real life and real people, but it is obvious we have options, we have innumerable sources of information. We, the Jane Doe‚Äôs and the John Doe‚Äôs in/on the planet, have access to information and means of communication that allow us to travel around the world.

Nonviolent resistance is a method of social change that employs strategies such as strikes, sit-ins, boycotts and civil disobedience. In unit 4 we find some info on famous movie scenes and Spartacus is mentioned. This is an example of one of the most empowering and powerful actions human beings can undertake together without replicating the violence that tries to annihilate them. In class, I mentioned a similar example, much closer to our times: nonviolent resistance against the nazi occupation in Western Europe. People are so beautiful and powerful when they use their imagination and kindness, which is to say their intelligence, to learn to solve conflicts without generating more violence and more injustice!

Women have used nonviolent resistance constantly. But women have always been invisible in patriarchy, so they have not been acknowledged as rolemodels (and certainly not as “people who struggle”). (I don’t believe women are “natural” pacifists. The fact that women cannot use violence is part of the patriarchal rationale. I believe that if we overcome the patriarchal gender role system, we’ll develop our intelligence more, in a good way, and any kind of person will then tend to use nonviolence.)

Fortunately, the time has come when we are finally realizing that any human being is capable of using their intelligence, and that any of them should be treated with respect. Human rights is as new a notion as 1945, so it’s taken us far too long to get to this good idea. But we made it. And if we uproot the patriarchal dogmas that we have been brought up in, if we overcome them, we’ll have a chance of developing more civilized societies.

Here’s a video, “Women, War and Peace,” linked to in this Peaceful Protest Lesson Proposal. It’s just an example of all the nonviolent struggle going on that is not considered “struggle”, because patriarchy has taught us that only violent struggle is struggle, and honorable. And this is false.

564393_289129831196530_26175878_n(1)With our social movement on the streets in Spain, which we call 15M (mostly, I suppose, because “indignados” yet again just made men visible and this was unfair and feminist women and also less machista men protested — not necessary feminist, but some starting to understand or develop a feminist intelligence), and which is called the Occupy movement in English speaking countries, we have a very clear example of how good it feels, how right it feels, how intelligent it is, to use nonviolent struggle. The means should be an example of what we strive for, of the ends. Nonviolent struggle is non-hierarchical, every one can take part, from kids to the elderly, men, women, intersex people, hets, homos, bis, trans, all kinds of people, believers and people who do not believe in any kind of god (it’s not only believers like Gandhi or Luther King the ones fighting for justice through nonviolence)… not only what happens in armies around the world, right? Haven’t you seen how many things are happening where people are helping each other to protest home evictions, and also using nonviolent direct action?, this is, occupying the house, to defend the people being evicted? Or the street markets set in many neighbourhoods, where people are going back / rescuing “trueque”, bartering!

There’s the Arab Spring, too — and I know women were raped in some demos in Egypt, for instance, and we have to denounce that, but women were there fighting, too, they were taking part in this revolution, called nowadays social change, or the social movement.

On TV, have you noticed that when the demonstrations are just by young men, they’re full of violence and that when there are women, and other kinds of men (not only the Brute Force type), and all kinds of ages, from kids to old people, demonstrations are very definitely nonviolent, in spite of provocation?

Do you think there has ever been a time before where so many millions of people are demanding a better world, with less violence and injustice, to “their leaders”?

And there are people in Africa devoting their lives to nonviolent struggle, in the midst of brutal poverty and terrifying violence. And we should all learn to appreciate that, the best options we have if we want to survive as a species.

There’s much to learn from nonviolent struggle and I encourage you all to look for information, to discuss it on/in the street, at home, in bars, anywhere you can! The Franquist dictatorship taught people that we should never talk about politics or religion, and that is still operating, in spite of the fact that it is a crazy idea for democracies. It’s in our cultural unconcious memory, and we have to fight it, because it is not right. Politics is about us people living together and that should be built in cooperation, and via nonviolent struggle.

More hints:

  • Lysistrata
  • The nonviolent theory was developed by Henry David Thoreau in his essay, Civil Disobedience (1849). Thoreau’s argument that it was morally justified to peacefully resist unjust laws inspired Americans involved in the struggle against slavery and the fight for trade union rights and women’s suffrage (see also¬†third wave feminism).
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the USA, with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, thousands of students doing Nonviolent Direct Action, NVDA).
  • Gandhi and the Salt March. (If you are interested in more ideas about nonviolent struggle and today, you might want to read Por qu√© no soy gandhiana (Why I’m not a Gandhian), written from an anarchist pacifist feminist approach.)
  • The movement of Insumisi√≥n (by MOC people, who openly rejected violent action because they were/are pacifists — thought they call themselves “antimilitarists” because the term “pacifist” is not cool.
  • Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and other pacifist feminist groups or networks, like Women in Black.
  • Indians in America (which is a continent, and not a country) have also used nonviolent struggle, against acculturization, too. And Mayan people were incredibly creative since the European invasions.
  • People’s demonstrations all over the world against the Iraq war in 2003. People all over telling their leaders: we don’t want more wars; solve conflicts differently!

There’s so much, people! Just look around you and learn to see it as valuable, empowering, powerful, intelligent! Because we’re extremely lucky to live in this extraordinary time, when people traditionally pushed to slavery and harship, like most women and a lot of men, have finally the chance to lead their own lives.

Oh my! I can’t possibly keep writing this! There are so many experiences, books, handbooks (how to do this and that), people, peoples… and I really got to relax now a bit! So mull over it! And if you’re interested, some other day I can keep posting on this! ūüėÄ


Assessment on our work so far (leaving behind unit 3)

January 14, 2013

Dear students,

Although I have tried to help you all in keeping the plan of a unit a month (posting KEYS on your Pages here, and allowing some time in class for Small Groups to check their work), I can see that the groups that come from 4.00 to 6.30PM are managing, but that most students in the groups coming from 6.30-9.00PM are not managing.¬†Should I just help students finish unit 3 whatever time it takes (especially the Intermedio 2 Mondays because it is harder for this lower level to work in teams, or isn’t it?), or should I stick to the plan a unit a month?

We’re now in mid-January and we’ll be starting (future continuous; future arranged plans) unit 4 in our next lesson together (you should do all the Readings/Grammar exercises in the unit at home whenever you can regardless our work in class), which means that we just have two weeks to try and learn from this unit in the textbook.

But I do not want to follow this plan if people cannot find ANY TIME to work at home on their textbook. What should we do, then?¬†Please, Intermedio 2 Mondays (and Avanzado 2 Tuesdays?)¬†say something in class! If you don’t, I’ll understand you are going to try and catch up (devoting more time at home/work to your English, OK?)

Check your work with the Keys published here¬†Page Key Int 2¬†and Page Key Av 2 —¬†this evening I’ll be posting (future continuous) some more. Can you make sure you’ve done the listening activities, and the grammar/vocabulary work? You can certainly ask me in class or here if you have any questions.

You see, after the winter holidays it’s apparent the people coming from 4.00 to 6.30 PM¬†are going to be ahead of the other two groups, if the other groups can’t catch up this week at home. Today I could also sense how very tired you all are, with a busy day and the freezing weather and our long hours in class plus so very late, but…

I’m going to select the exercises in unit 4 we can do in these two weeks, and hope for the best!! In our first week in February you will learn it all about Exam Format, and that’s a fixed interruption. And I was wanting to do two exam practice exercises instead of one… But we won’t be able to do this is we can’t keep up the course plan, OK? Perhaps, with groups that are behind we could do the second exam practice later on… Dunno!!!

PS: Something else, some extra support I’m going to do here, on this blog, is post some explanations and some exercises to check you learned/learnt what you needed to learn from each of the 3 first units, OK?


Woof! Woof! (to intermedio 2’s)

January 9, 2013

Liebe Studenten!

Intermedio 2 students can send in their mini sagas for publication, yes! When I have a few, I’ll create a webpage on Talking People (Your Stuff – Your WritingMini sagas) and publish them there. You can type them and send them to my email michelle at talkingpeople dot net. I’ll just write your (first) name, your level and group, and the year, OK? You can also tell me to use a nickname of yours. Whatever!

I think I have sent you all your recordings with my feedback, but I’m not totally sure. If you did a recording in class and I haven’t sent you my feedback, that might be because you didn’t send me an email with your group (day) and level on the subject line (and in the message box whichever message you wanted to send me) or because I forgot! So please, send me an email. And sorry for the hassle! ūüôā Finally, if you did a recording at home and sent it to me for feedback, to my knowledge, I’ve replied to all of them. Get in touch if that’s not the case!¬†About publishing your audio recordings on Talking People, I need your written permission, so send me an email allowing me to do that. So far, I created this web page on Skills – Speaking: Oral activities by learners with feedback from their teacher.

Pronunciation. One of the questions today was about the difference between “good” and “would” or “wood.” We did some barking (dogs in English go bow wow, but also woof!) and people with previous problems with this managed to get it! Well done! But now you need to practice lots! Say “good” and “would” tons of times. Try also this: de parag√ľas, end it in “ud”, parag√ľud, g√ľud.

This week all Intermedio 2 students should be listening to audio 3.13 (and the others on page 43, if you like) a few times every day, OK? I would like you to discover that what I say is true: in listening exercises you are not expected to understand the bits that are harder for your level, but you can understand other bits if you don’t work against your mind — you just need to practice being relaxed as you listen, focusing on the words that are more clearly pronounced, and learning to know if any of those can help you reconstruct an answer! I love this audio because it’s very clear that he’s harder to follow except on the key words in his message. The technique I call Skeleton of Meaning is truly useful here (I’ll write it down and publish it on How to LearnHow to Listen on TP… soonish…). And this in turn will help you understand people better. The other benefit of doing this exercise is that you’ll learn to say/explain things, just because you’ve heard it 20 times! And this is the joy of learning to listen: it helps you stop translating. When you hesitate it’s mostly because you are translating things, and that means you don’t listen enough! Good listeners can utter chunks fluently just because they’ve heard so many times and in so many different situations the same combination of words!

The other thing you should all do is try to finish unit 3 this week (the answers to some of that is here on¬†Key Intermedio 2, thanks to Sil’s request a couple of weeks ago)¬†and try to be clear about what you need to ask me to do in class, or just ask me about. Each group is free to tell me, “No, michelle, we want to do the complete unit in class,” even if this means we won’t finish the textbook. That’ll be OK. However, the present proposal is that you work at home on a unit a month, as I suggested at the beginning of the course, leaving key listening exercises for us to do in class (not the ones in unit 3 anymore, for the month has passed).

I cannot teach you, really, but I can help you learn. You should be getting excited about learning English, you should start enjoying it, wanting to listen to it every day because it helps you so much! It’s 2013!! ūüėĬ†Come on! (link to Chuck Berry’s song) Go for it! You can make it! (this means “Puedes conseguirlo”. More: You can make it happen = Puedes hacer que ocurra. You can make it true = Puedes hacerlo realidad)

There is no way you can learn a language without making it part of you daily life. That’s why it’s such a good idea to start loving it.


Telling stories – Using the Mentalist

January 8, 2013

mentalist2x5Here is the link to the narration of episode 2, Season 5 of The Mentalist, possibly my favo(u)rite (except for how the victim gets/is murdered!)! I actually wrote a poem based on the final scene!¬† If you read my first post on story-telling, this’ll be a good follow-up. Read it — notice the tenses, especially, the fact that the present tenses are used for dramatic effect. Then, orally, re-word the narration (a bit, all of it, whatever!) switching to the past tenses and see how it feels and what needs to change and the kinds of changes that take place. Then come to class and tell us about it!


Meals during the winter holidays

December 20, 2012

I can’t believe ithow food prices soar these days!!! No way! I refuse to pay three times it’s usual price for lamb, red bream or shellfish.

Soup, soup, soup (recipes at Food & Feminism!), fried eggs and Spanish chips, fried in olive oil, with tons of Spanish bread, of course! Yummy!! Hurray for spaghetti and for the Italian, too!! ūüėÄ Loving mashed potatoes — thanking the first nations in America! And… What an opportuescarolenity to discover vegan cooking while learning to be more sensitive to fellow species! Pulses are delicious: lentils or chickpeas with carrots, turnips and potatoes! And what about baked apples? Or dates and oranges?! Pomegranate-seeds-2AND a most beautiful kind of salad: curly endives, walnuts and pomegranade! How much would that cost? So much cheaper than buying any kind of meat!

Also, if we find it’s a treat to go to Italian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, French restaurants, why not prepare vegan dishes in the most horrible period of the year for other animals — when the slaughter is hectic, walnutsnon-stop? One of the most horrible developments in Western societies is meat-production. I’m an omnivore — it’s not a principle. I don’t feel guilty for being an omnivore, for the same reason I don’t feel guilty of living in a consumerist society. I could do something about these two things, but I can’t. I’d have to change my life in ways I don’t feel capable of pursuing. But I understand vegan points, and admire their strength, ethic empathetic struggle. Just in the same way I understand feminism, pacifism, all the social struggles that have contributed to the development of our intelligence, individually and as societies.



Words on TV series & movies

December 14, 2012

Can you give examples of uses of the words in BLOCK letters?

Words tend to have different meanings depending on context, so the best way to learn them is to learn how to use them, this is, collecting sentences where they are used.

LAME is like “pathetic”¬† – (attempts) – like “weak”
but also like “lousy” as in “a lousy film/joke” (louse, lice – piojos). Here “lousy” is like “shitty”.

Political speeches in the USA can be really CORNY. Why is that?

How GROSS! – How revolting, disgusting! (puke, puke)

GROSS violations of human rights¬†–¬† flagrantes violaciones de los derechos
Someone is totally GROSS – hortera, basta/o

that is a GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT – quedarse muy corta / corto

Mission: find “that’s the UNDERSTATEMENT of the year!” when you listen to English (movies, TV series) and tell us about its context in class


Relationships: Breaking Up (with subtitles)

December 7, 2012

I finally found the comic strip by Cath Jackson that I told some of you about when we had to work on “Talking about relationships” in unit 2.

From Visibly Vera, cartoons by Cath Jackson (The Women's Press, 1986)

In break-up situations, be careful, get the (fucking) subtitles! (pillad los jodíos subtítulos!)

“We must talk” = “I must talk”
“It’s not you that’s wrong — it’s me” = “I’m bored”
“Don’t think that I don’t love you” = “I don’t love you”
“But I need more space” = “You cramp my style” !!! ūüėÄ ūüėÄ ūüėÄ …
“Time to myself, to sort things out…” = “I’ve got another date tonight and I want to get changed”
“You understand?” = “Geddit?”
“Of course, my love” = “You two-faced cow I’m gonna make your name mud!!”

Cath Jackson¬†gave many of the best years of her life to drawing cartoons for a range of publications, not least Trouble & Strife, which inspired what she considers to be some of her best work. Chief among her creations are Vera the Visible Lesbian, published in the London magazine City Limits, and Nurse Nightshade, who haunted the pages of the Nursing Times. Cath hung up her pen in the mid-1990s and has since only produced cartoons when either foolishly in love or beguiled by flattery. When not drawing cartoons for T&S she contributed to the magazine as a writer, designer and editorial collective member. (Trouble & Strife, the magazine where I got this text from. “Trouble and Strife¬†is cockney rhyming slang for¬†wife. :O¬†We chose this name because it acknowledges the reality of conflict in relations between women and men. As radical feminists, our politics come directly from this tension between men‚Äôs power and women‚Äôs resistance.”)


About your Learning Plans

December 6, 2012

I hope you have a lovely holiday in the rest of this week, if you do have a holiday!
tp_bearebelIn case you want to use part of it to enjoy your English, I’ve updated the Pages here for Intermedio 2 and Avanzado 2 students.

It takes me 2 hours to do a complete unit, without the Writing. It might take you a minimum of 4 hours, I think. Let me know if you work this out. You should try to work out how to fit your language learning activities into your week:

  • everyday listening work (textbook audios, videos, podcast episodes, TV series episode),
  • when to practice speaking (Listening and Repeating, Listening and Re-telling, preparing a monologue…)
  • how to learn about language by doing your textbook exercises (readings, language exercises: vocabulary, grammar)

You can all finish unit 2 and begin unit 3 (don’t do the listenings yet).


The Hair Problem – posting examples

December 6, 2012

Who feels OK with their hair? Is there hope, some day, some one will ever ever…? ūüėÄ

I think this video is very informative (and relevant for your English): Learn to make a messy bun! (un mo√Īo churro) Get a few other good tips: “Pony tails are chic”! YEAH!! ūüôā So that’s why! I knew there had to be a reason — why do so many women wear ponytails?! It’s a relief to hear this, too: “Perfect pony tails simply don’t look good”.


Using English to learn other languages!

December 2, 2012

learn GermanOne of the most exciting things you can do with your English (as a Foreign Language, your EFL) is… learn other languages! I’m using the¬†Deutsche Welle¬†(free) Podcast course to learn German while using my English! I like the course because its main aim is to teach us to learn to listen, which is something I try to do in class as an English teacher. In my view — and in theirs — it’s not possible to become a competent user of a foreign language if one doesn’t develop the routine of listening to that language as part of one’s everyday life. One has to do that, and also be patient, especially if people are lucky enough to have professionals backing their learning experience, like professionals in this Learn German course! Enjoy listening to German! And pay attention to the techniques they explain. These are simple and relevant in language learning for communication. “If you try to understand every single word, this will create a barrier for your understanding.” See what I mean? You have to learn to listen, too!

Get Deutsch ‚Äď warum nicht? as a Podcast¬†–¬†Presentations and explanations are in English, so you will also be consolidating and expanding your level in English!

Bis bald!

PS: Learning by ear in Africa


Get It Right! :)

November 27, 2012

Here’s some useful language so that you avoid making mistakes with sentences we use in class o in our emails.

-Today I need to leave earlier.
-Today I’m leaving at 5.30 because I have a doctor’s appointment.
-I can’t stay till the end today. I’m really tired.
-I couldn’t come to class the other day because… / I couldn’t make it to class the other day
-I just wanted to apologize for missing so many lessons. I was hired as a substitute teacher… / I’ve had exams. (Don’t worry. It’s OK.)
-Sorry for being late. Some days I work long hours… (It’s OK.)

-Michelle, here’s my email address / writing assignment / my oral work.
-I’m sending you my oral work. It’s a talk (monologue) on (topic). It’s 4 minutes.
-You can use my oral work to create a podcast episode, if you like.
-It’s OK if you use my oral work to create a podcast episode.
-Thanks for your feedback. I’ll use it to work on my LoM (List of Mistakes)

-Can you extend the deadline for our writing assignment?
-I’m sorry. I’m a bit lost. What do we have to do now?
-I would like to do a monologue, but not at Plenary.
-It’s OK. We can do it at Plenary. It’s intimidating, but we’re here to learn! / but we’ve got to break the ice! / but we’ll get used to it.

-Are you checking out the blog? / any podcasts?
-Check it out!
-How can I record my oral work? – You can download Audacity for free. Then, you don’t have to SAVE the audio — you can EXPORT it as an mp3. It’s the mp3 what you or I need, not the Audacity project.

REMINDER: If you send me your oral work please write your group code (or LEVEL + name of the day of the week of your first lesson) in the SUBJECT LINE (t√≠tulo del email). And then don’t forget to say who you are in the text box (your first name and first family name are enough).



Booking a date for the Dec OP’s

November 18, 2012

To Michelle’s students – Dear all,

You should start thinking about what you want to share with us in class, in terms of the language you picked up while watching TV series (the listening exercise, not a reading exercise!) and your thoughts, useful language learned/learnt, fav passages, a book review to read out¬†or research on the Sherman Alexie novel. You should also consider talking to other people in class, in case you want to do some teamwork on any of these two projects. I’m very open to the kinds of things you can do — the most important thing is that you learn English and about English-speakers or their cultures, on your own or in the good company of other people in class!

If you want to do some work on your own, think of 5 minutes, though we can negociate for more time. Teamwork could get 15-20 minutes depending on needs. You can post your ideas here, if you like.

Here are some examples of activities by Avanzado 2 students:

Considering working on the textbook takes so much time, you can also record your Useful language and/or send me your selected sentences so we can put together a podcast episode. In previous courses, people sent me their selected language and I created a new segment on the Talking People Podcast called “Everyday Language” (Incidentally, “every day” as an adverbial (time phrase, complemento circunstancial de tiempo) is in two words; and “everyday” in one word operates like adjectives (it’s a modifier that goes before the modified word). We got to episode 4.

I need to know who needs how much time when because 1) I need to plan the lessons allowing time for that, 2) because if nobody is going to do anything then I’ll try to book ONE only lesson where you can just put up your hands and share your weeny bits! ūüėõ If nobody says anything in class or by email, I’ll understand we should just stick to the textbook, OK?

Have a lovely week!

PS: Browse below! There are some amazing audios / audiovisuals!


LoM from Intermedio 2 Writings 1

November 17, 2012

This list is based on the First Writing Assignment by my two groups of Intermedio 2 students.

  • The first and most important mistake MOST people have made is not complying with the requirements. If you ignore this in your June Certificate Exam you’ll fail. When you do this in exams, we teachers are not allowed to correct your exercise. So please, pay attention to the instructions you are given. If you can write a type of text, you can certainly write your name or a task description!

So my “Well done!”, “Excellent”, “Good work” only refers to your English in the Writing Assignment, unless you have ticks in the rest of the requirements. Don’t feel bad about having made methodological mistakes — just do it right the next time, if you want to develop this ability and if you wish to make sure you won’t forget about the requirements in your final test! ūüôā Here is the link to the Writing Guideline I posted here in October and pinned on the Bulletin Board in class, too.

  • like/miss + O + a lot / very much: I like it a lot, I miss you very much
  • writing/written: double consonant makes the previous “i” short. /r√°itin/ /r√≠tn/
  • Sorry for taking so long to write to you / Sorry for not writing earlier / in such a long time / Sorry for not having written earlier. Listen to a TP Podcast episode on apologies.
  • hope/wish: I hope you can come for a visit (that can happen!) – I wish you could come for a visit (that won’t happy, the person actually can’t!)
  • hope/wish: I hope everything is OK (present) / I hope everything will be OK (future)
  • furniture: I haven’t got much furniture; I need to get a few pieces of furniture for my new house.
  • Proposals: We could do this or that. We can also do this other thing…
  • so vs very/really: It’s been so tiring! I miss you so much!It’s really tiring. I really miss you
  • US write you – UK write to you – but you don’t have to mention who to, in sentences like: Please, write soon.
  • know/meet/learn/see/visit: 1) … so you can SEE/VISIT (not KNOW) the most important sites / the most interesting sites / the most culturally-relevant sites. 2) … and then I MET (not KNOW) a gorgeous girl. 3) …
  • How vs. what … like: 1) I’m writing to know how you are and what your new life is like. 2) I’m writing this letter to let you know what my life is like now/today! / so I’m going to tell you about my new life.
  • Time clauses (no WILL): When you come for a visit, we could… (proposal)
  • Situated: only for formal and semiformal. My house is in Legan√©s vs (tourist guide: The museum is situated/located next to…)
  • have gone/been to: I have been to a psychic vs. She has gone to a psychic (she is not back yet)
  • nothing/not anything: I have nothing new to tell you / I don’t have anything new to tell you.
  • How about you? – cannot initiate a letter. It implies someone asked you first. It’s good in conversations.
  • , if you like: (better than “if you want”)
  • Spanish?!: I have thought (that) + Proposals ? – There’s no need to write this just before a Proposal. Examples: Instead of “I’ve thought we can/could (do this or that – Proposal modals)…”, just say: “We could (do this or that)… You can use “I have thought” with “about what you told me yesterday”, “I have thought about applying for a job in London”. If you are shy or uncertain of what the reaction to your proposal might be say this: “If you decided to stay at my place, we might go out together. I could show you around — we could visit the Prado Museum, this or that place”.
  • Connectors: “On the other hand,” implies you are now consider a different kind of point in an analysis that has two sides, so to speak (pair: On the one hand – On the other (hand)). “En otro orden de cosas” (Moving on to other issues, On other matters, On another front,¬† and similar ideas, like “Cambiando de tema” (Changing subjects / Changing the subject), “Otra cosa que quer√≠a contarte” (Something else I wanted to tell you about is, Another issue I wanted to tell you about), “Ah, se me olvidaba:”, “Also,”* (Otra cosa, Adem√°s) … NB: Remember that “Also,” is not “also”.
  • Vestirse de (disfraz): to dress up as a … ; aunque to dress up = vestirse tipo 31Dec.

Avanzado 2 – Skeleton of Meaning (SoM)

November 15, 2012

REMEMBER LISTENING TO ENGLISH EVERY DAY, DEVELOPING THIS HABIT, IS YOUR PRIORITY. It’ll be of great help in your Certificate Exam in various different ways. Work on your monologues using your audios and podcast episodes.

If you want to start working on the SoM technique (see exercise audio 2.4), you can use interviews or audios where people are speaking naturally — not news, for that is not natural connected speech — for 45 seconds or a minute.¬†I have a selection of podcasts where they do reportages and interviews:¬†

This technique is good for the last task in the Avanzado 2 Certificate Listening Test, where 6-8 speakers speak for 45” or a minute each on some topic. You will have to match each speaker to a heading. In February we’ll work on the lay-out (where you can take notes and where you need to write down your answers), but it’d be good now that one of the ways in which you exploit your daily listening activities were this one, the SoM — jotting down the words that are most clearly pronounced, the stressed words, the words that are repeated, and then looking at those to see if you are able to identify the topic. (Think of what you naturally do in Spanish when you are half-listening to the news or to someone in a noisy establishment.)

In the test, the headings will give you a hint/clue, of course, because they contain the topic information, so when you read them before the listening starts (underlining key words as you read), you will have some notion of what is most interesting to jot down, of what kind of topic you are looking for. There are people who have succeeded in this task without taking notes, because a minute is quite enough time to scan the headings up and down and up while a speaker speaks! and decide then which best matches the speaker. But it’s always a good idea to jot down some key words, in case you do not solve the match once the speaker has finished. Still, you should always try to match things while whichever speaker is at it, so that once the last speaker has finished you can write down your answers, as you will just have 30 seconds to do so.

It sounds worse than it actually is. But it’s crucial you have a strong ear, an ear capable of not panicking, and you can only have that if your ear listens to English every day!

Designing Exam Exercises: unfortunately, the authorities do not allow teachers to use past exams in Exam Format Training. They only allow us all to use the 2009 June Exam, which is published in Educamadrid. This goes against all logic and also against the transparency principle of the Public Service — which, in contrast, is respected in PAUs, for instance; that’s why universities publish the PAU exams, to show the world what they are like; and that provides teachers and learners with materials to practice and learn about exam format. Anyway,

1.- We are allowed to use the exams of the old system, the ones for Ciclo Elemental (which was a B2, even though it hasn’t been acknowledged as such when standardization took place) and Ciclo Superior (which was a C1 even though…) — I kept a copy precisely for this, for our “February”. They’re not exactly the same, and the Ciclo Superior ones are harder than the exam you’ll take in June.

2.- If you like, I’m willing to prepare similar exercises if you send me a 45”-1′ audio with its title or heading, where one person speaks about something. I need 6 of those to put together one Task 3. (Best if different people sent in one or two each.) Then I’d add a distractor, and perhaps change your headings to adjust things. And then we could play the final exercises in class.


Example of LoM (List of Mistakes)

November 11, 2012

Here is an example of how to work with your mistakes in productive tasks (speaking, writing).

You should use your LoM to learn to monitor your production, and there is no formula for how you should organize/organise it. It all depends on what is best for you.

How to use it. You can read it before you sit to write, to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes. And you can have a look at it, before you practice speaking at home. Lists of Mistakes are specially useful when you have a fossilized mistake, but remember Oral Drills help a lot, too (parting from a sentence, change different elements so that you learn well its structure, and you automatize production — allow yourself to be more spontaneous because you are counting on your mouth’s memory and your ear’s memory!)

First Draft of M’s LoM – OH! CAN’T UPLOAD IT… Mysteries! I will, eventually!

MICHELLE’S LIST OF MISTAKES РFirst Draft (Nov 2012) (5 pages, pdf file)

Example of Oral Drilling (LINK TO TALKINGPEOPLE.NET)


About your textbooks and possibilities for our course together

November 9, 2012

Your textbooks are very good, one can see that they’ve been designed by professionals.

However, they have far too many activities and topics in two pages (a lesson — which include back pages, to make matters more complicated!). This doesn’t allow us to interact more freely.

  • I miss time for us listening to, say, 4 people at the beginning of the lesson (you are 28, so we should have 4 people in every lesson, and that would only be 3 weeks or 1 month! You would be speaking at Plenary just once a month!! Fortunately, you also speak when we read together and when you work in small groups, which is brilliant! But you also need Plenary feedback every now and then, right?) and analyze their performances (to increase your knowledge of the language, improve your exam strategies, and develop your listening skill, including learning to listen to others’ English and to your own then, at home).
  • There’s not much time for me to explain things or for you to pose questions. When someone explains, there are various factors that make it more likely for you to remember, than if you read something in silence. Today, thanks to Alicia I realized that I was getting stressed about being so “slow” (this is why people did not repeat, I think, as if they were going to sleep!*) while checking the grammar exercises, when what I was doing — adding explanations, examples, related issues — is precisely, as she said, more enrichening for you all than just checking the answers with the key! True!
  • Moving on with the exercises doesn’t allow us to spontaneously tell stories about things, or comment pieces of news

Then I know that in December (Alexie’s for Av2, a B1-level book with audio for Intermedio 2), in February (Exam Format Month!), and in April (Spring OPs or Plenaries on books and documentaries: South Pacific, for Intermedio 2’s, Story of Stuff, and Baby Human or How Art Made the World, for Avanzado 2’s), we’ll need a few lessons to do special activities!

In December:

  • a couple of days for the novel (you should decide if you want to prepare OPs – teamwork – or if we just share at Plenary; we can have a Plenary and then 1 or 2 days with different teams doing their OPs)
  • a couple of days for sharing the language you picked up while watching TV. (Again, if you wish to prepare something in teams, you’re welcome)

So how on earth are we going to do the 7 units! What do you think?

So this is why I try to design Lesson Plans, but this plan depends heavily on you being ahead of us in class (skipping the listenings till we do then in class).

Here is what I would do, if I could and were a student:

  • I’d work on the textbook in one or two sittings at the weekend (e.g. two hours on Sunday evening)
  • I’d work on listening to English and practicing speaking tasks at home during the weekdays. And also read a bit in bed.

Another possibility is we forget about TV, documentaries and books, and focus on the textbook. Just with that you have more than enough work to do!

A third possibility is that we skip pages in the units (which people with more time could do on their own at home, and still ask questions in class).

A fourth, that we don’t finish the book, because we’ll have been working on other things as well.

What do you think? Post your thoughts, if you like, or comment in class!


Dear Intermedio 2’s! (after the Monday lesson)

November 6, 2012

I know — I’m asking you to develop the habit of listening to English every day. This is BIG.

However, consider reality: there are many little “dead moments” in the day you can turn into audio moments. You can VERY EASILY fit listening to English every day into different moments in your day! Developing the habit of listening to English every day means you need your daily dose of English! And this pushes you quite naturally into speaking English on your own! And this means you end up listening & repeating, and preparing speaking activities SPEAKING OUT LOUD (not writing and in silence!! Eek!!) And all of this makes you feel great, and — it helps your learning in various ways.

The reason why I designed the routine of Small Groups doing work independently was also because I was trying to create a safe space in the Exam Area, so you wouldn’t have to speak in front of everybody (at Plenary). But here’s the fact — no one comes to me when Small Groups are working together. So… What should we do?

You are in Intermedio 2, which means you have reached a level when it’s appropriate to develop some independency from the teacher. PLUS you have an intermediate level in English, this is, you’ve been learning English for years! When are you going to put it into practice?! Next year? Once you fail? Only when you travel? (carita turulataaaarrrggghhh)

My proposal is you start now, with your 1. textbook audios, 2. with the ESL Podcast and the Talking People Podcast and/or any of the many BBC podcasts, 3. with the project of watching TV at least once a week. And can you please start speaking in public, at Plenary, or more privately in the Exam Area? It’s embarrassing at first, but I SWEAR it gets better with PRACTICE! Can’t you control your fears a weeny bit? What is so terrifying about speaking English in your language lesson?!

The information I’m getting (sensing) is that you want us to spend the time in class filling in gaps in silence and then reading out your answers. Trying to keep up with the textbook + doing the Speaking/Listening activities is challenging, yes, hard work, but if you don’t work at home in the way I explained it’ll simply be impossible. So should we give my proposal a try or should I stop reaching for the moon? ūüėÄ ūüėõ


LoM (Lists of Mistakes)

November 4, 2012

You should have a section in your notebook where you register your mistakes (crossed out in red) and the correct form (underlined in green), and you should use this list before practicing your speaking activities and before doing your writing assignment. For instance, how do you spell “writing”? Well, there you are! How many people spell it with two t’s?! “Written” has a double t and that’s why the “i” is short: /r√≠tn/ “Writing” has one “t” and the previous “i” is long: /r√°iting/

The example in class is this one:


The Heimlich Maneuver (helping people who are choking)

November 3, 2012


First Aid

November 3, 2012

Intermedio 2 students have been working on Useful Language for Health, Illnesses, Treatments…

  • Learn the jokes on page 14, audio 1.17 – in this way, you learn vocabulary and how to use it in context!
  • Use the two stories on page 13 + their audios, 1.15 and 1.16 to learn to describe a very common accident: choking — though typically, we all choke in New Year’s Eve when we have the 12 grapes as the clock strikes 12 (midnight)!
  • Pick up some more language (especially the sound!, how to pronounce things, and how to use words in sentences) from watching FIRST AID videos whenever you have a few minutes! It will also help you learn how to help in emergencies!


Practice your final “s” and dentals!

November 1, 2012

Today in Intermedio 2 we practiced the -(e)s endings /iz/ and the -(e)d endings /t/, /d/, /id/

Here are two links I recommended, in case any of you all want to do some reading aloud! You can listen and repeat, or listen to the whole story while jotting down sounds over the written words and then read.

This other episode includes modal-awareness

Oh, a third!!:

Today I recommend that if it’s hard for you to pronounce a final D (especially after V and N), you can say a T. It’s OK. Well, for those of you who wish, like Elena, to know when it’s a D and when a T, here is an explanation I can give in class, if you like.


On the Day of the Dead… Conmemorando la vida de las personas que perdimos

October 31, 2012

As a non-believer I do devote some time to thinking of the people I loved who are dead, and also of the people who die every single day because of the violent world this species has created. This helps me keep focused on important things and it helps me avoid getting lost in unimportant things in life! ūüôā

This picture is a Guatemalan burial ground. Indigenous burial grounds are really cheerful, and people at wakes tell jokes and anecdotes. It’s how believers celebrate the person’s spirit is in paradise. That’s what religion should be doing for people, and not what it’s been doing for centuries…

I have also found this amazing Indian prayer, whose excellent advice to allow us to deal with the fact of losing a person we have loved I share. I think I’ll record it for the Talking People Podcast. Till then, here it is…

Indian Prayer

When I am dead
Cry for me a little
Think of me sometimes
But not too much

Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moments it’s pleasant to recall
But not for long

Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living


Your Writing Guideline

October 26, 2012

As our priority is to use classroom time to do speaking and listening activities, I’d like to suggest the following procedures to learn to write different kinds of texts.

In your textbooks, after the C lessons (1C, 2C…) and before the audiovisual (for unit 1 that’ll be the weekend after this one), there are one or two pages devoted to learning how to write a certain type of text. You have to do these two pages at¬† home¬†BEFORE you¬†sit to work on your Writing! In this way, in the lesson devoted to Colloquial English, you will have the chance to ask me in class (during the Plenary, please) whatever it is you need to know. You can use any exercise that requires you to write a text in a certain number of words, or describe the task yourself. If you do so, keep in mind that the aim is to put into practice what you have been working on. [Also, as you are in the second year of a level, you probably have “Successful Writing. Intermediate/Upper Intermediate“. Well, this year you should use this book to expand and/or consolidate your knowledge on the language and format used in the type of text you are learning to write in the textbook unit. We teachers have actually noticed while correcting the Certificate Tests, that students who work in this way to learn to write perform much better than students who don’t!] If you all prefer, I can post on this blog the answers to those exercises.¬†This could save time in class. Ask me at Plenary, at the beginning of the lesson — not during the break, or when people are working in Small Groups, because it’s better my answers are for everybody.


(Full) name on the top right corner. Below, your group code, and below this, the date (in English!, not in Spanish. This is the date in Spanish: 1-11-2012!). In a new paragraph: Title of the Type of Text you are going to write + description of the task, i.e. number of words and other requirements.

You can also attach the brainstorming (on ideas, if relevant, and on language you can use) and outline (not the draft copy of your Writing, an outline)


1. Brainstorming and Outline. Brainstorm on language and ideas using your resources (textbook, & Writing Strategies).  You should time yourself in the Before, During and After Writing your piece. Attach to your writing the page you used to scribble ideas, and outline, and Useful Language (for that kind of text), meaning, attach your brainstorming on language, on ideas and your final outline. Staple it, or fold it all when you hand it in. In this Before part, check spellings you might not be sure about, too.

2. Handwrite your piece and contemplate how much space your handwriting takes for whichever amount of words you write. Also, see how many words you usually write per line.

3. Proofreading. You should read your piece at least twice (I check my Writings zillions of time!): once to check the format, to check what you wrote is following your outline and that it makes sense, and another to focus on spelling and grammar issues. (If you have worked on your LoM, remember to have a look at that before you start writing your piece, so you avoid fossilization!)

DEADLINE for handing in your work:

The lesson after watching the audiovisual, or the following lesson tops!

Once you hand in your work, I’ll take my time to correct it, so please, don’t be impatient! ūüôā

Enjoy your writing!

The Writing section on Talking People



October 25, 2012

Today a lovely student was telling me that she felt kind of overwhelmed by the online resources I’m offering — meaning the Talking People site. That does happen when one is not used to using online resources to learn. The Internet offers us zillions of amazing materials! But — why should you suffer for that?

Strategy 1. We’re incredibly lucky! For the first time in human history, we, the “ordinary” people, including women at last!, finally have access to Knowledge and Information!
Strategy 2. Another way to approach and overcome this feeling of being overwhelmed is to consider this question: do you feel overwhelmed by dictionaries, or encyclopedias? The Internet is the same kind of thing — it’s there, full of knowledge, and we just have to learn to use it to increase our knowledge, improve our skills.
Strategy 3. So my proposal for people in this situation is that you think about what you need and enjoy, and then that you sit for 10 minutes, once a week, to design your Weekly Learning Plan. You should be clear about your priorities. When you are, selecting materials is much easier.

Now, if your priority is to be able to speak and understand spoken English, there is no other way: you need to listen to English every day, and you need to use the same audio materials in different ways, doing different things with them. And you need to practice speaking avoiding translating from Spanish, and “recycling” the perfectly correct language you get from those audios (re-read the stapled copies I gave you at the beginning of the course).

If your priority is to improve your accuracy / correct grammar, what I say above also applies, but you should visualize the grammar as you repeat correct sentences, to be able to learn grammar in use.

Last, instead of using all of the episodes of one podcast, you should subcribe to a few podcasts, and then just select some episodes. I recommend the Useful Language episodes on the Talking People Podcast (not all, just select what you need), TED Talks videos (1 a week) for Avanzado 2 students, the ESL Podcast (for US American English; the dialogues for Intermedio 2 students and the English Caf√© for Avanzado 2), a BBC podcast (for British English; on language or for interviews and news), and then a podcast on something you love! (literature, science…), especially if you are in Avanzado 2. (On Talking People I have a selection of podcasts which has taken me zillions of hours to put together and I’m just sharing it with net surfers!)

So, come on, don’t panick, just focus!! ūüėÄ Have a lovely weekend!


MENSAJE ACLARATORIO sobre todo para mis Intermedios 2 (s√≠, toy gritandooooR)

October 23, 2012

Os lo cuento en espa√Īol, porque creo que hay gente que no ha entendido el m√©todo de trabajo (y por tanto, no saben aprender siguiendo este m√©todo).

Hacer el libro en silencio y corregirlo en plenario, que yo sepa, nunca ha logrado (y tenemos miles de a√Īos de ejemplos) que la gente aprenda a usar el idioma, a hablarlo y entenderlo. Es fundamental o√≠rse los audios del libro hasta saberse muchas frases de un tir√≥n, porque te has hartado a o√≠rlas. Es importante complementar esos audios tan del nivel, con audici√≥n de textos originales y aprender a pescar palabras y frases posibles para tu nivel, que luego, con la info de la situaci√≥n que ves, te sirven para hacerte una idea de lo que est√° pasando.

S√≥lo podemos hacer 1 unidad al mes y al tiempo actividades semanales de Speaking (en la Zona Examen Oral, Speaking Exam Area, para que pod√°is saber c√≥mo vais en el Speaking!!) si maximizamos nuestro tiempo juntas y juntos. Una herramienta para esto y m√°s es trabajar en peque√Īos grupos en ingl√©s, y luego preguntar en plenario ese d√≠a antes del final de la lecci√≥n y/o al siguiente al inicio de la
, y mientras trabaj√°is en peque√Īos grupos, la gente que vea que esos ejercicios le fueron f√°ciles tiene la opci√≥n de venirse (mejor con pareja, o sea, de dos en dos, aunque vayan a ser mon√≥logos) al Exam Area para practicar hablar y recibir mi feedback, con o sin ser grabad@. Que veng√°is a la zona examen oral deber√≠a ser un objetivo que os plantear√°is hacer al menos una vez al mes (dado que sois 29 por grupo, o sea, overcrowded groups). Y esto no lo podr√©is hacer 1) si no tra√©is los deberes hechos (vamos a 2 p√°ginas por lecci√≥n y tra√≠das hechas salvo los listenings que primero hagamos en clase) y hab√©is valorado qu√© ejercicios quer√©is corregir en vuestro grupo, y cu√°les pod√©is dejar para veniros al Exam Area, y 2) si no hac√©is un mon√≥logo semanal como M√ćNIMO hablando en ratitos en casa, para usar el lenguaje aprendido en el textbook. ¬ŅC√≥mo vais a aprender algo si s√≥lo lo us√°is una vez!?

La raz√≥n por la que os pon√©is en peque√Īos grupos y en parejas para corregiros los ejercicios de gram√°tica y lectura, etc., es que adem√°s de comparar respuestas y discutir las cuestiones, est√°is usando el ingl√©s para comunicaros con un prop√≥sito real, algo fundamental en la metodolog√≠a que yo sigo (y que la Constituci√≥n espa√Īola de 1978, ūüėÄ me permite usar en clase, me amparaaaa!) Profesionalmente, yo encuentro que cuando hac√©is eso siempre en clase, os es m√°s normal estar hablando ingl√©s (o sea, pas√°is de la actitud seta-silenciosa a la actitud m√°s relajada de hablar espont√°neamente), y se os dar√° mejor con el paso del tiempo (mejorar√©is vuestra “gram√°tica”), adem√°s consolidar√©is saber decir muchas frases (las de Useful Classroom Language, p.e.) espont√°neamente (ser√©is capaces de mejorar vuestra espontaneidad), sin traducir, sin pensar casi! Adem√°s, esas frases de todos los d√≠as os podr√°n ayudar a ganar tiempo cuando en la vida real os atasqu√©is, porque podr√©is describir qu√© problema ten√©is, y con esto, o ganar tiempo para buscar c√≥mo decirlo de otro modo, o bien dar la info necesaria para que la persona que escucha os pueda ayudar a resolver el problema.

¬ŅC√≥mo saber si los peque√Īos grupos se han corregido bien los ejercicios? Pues como no hago m√°s que repetir!! Pidiendo al inicio de la lecci√≥n que os cante las respuestas del ejercicio que sea, y/o preguntando dudas cRoquetas. Es lo que llamo “doublecheck”. Ten√©is que doublecheck lo que no os haya resultado h√≠perf√°cil!!! Pero si iniciamos la lecci√≥n y digo: hay dudas? y pas√°is de m√≠, pues, joe, est√° claro: yo sigo palante!! En la ense√Īanza de personas adultas se entiende que la gente tiene iniciativas respecto a su aprendizaje y pide lo que necesita, sin que la profe tenga que estar preguntando qu√© tal y eso. No s√© si me explico.

Aprender depende de vosotras y vosotros. Yo soy vuestro libro de referencia, pero ten√©is que usarme! Y soy m√°s, pero distinto a lo que algunas personas esper√°is. El ritmo con el libro no debe costarnos el precio de que avanzamos pero no nos enteramos de nada. C√≥mo me va a entrar a m√≠ eso la cabeza! No way! Yo respeto vuestra autonom√≠a. Est√°is en clase porque quer√©is. Y trabaj√°is el ingl√©s lo que quer√©is o pod√©is. Mi trabajo no es cuidaros que me pregunt√©is cosas, mi trabajo es ayudaros a aprender, con explicaciones no s√≥lo de “gram√°tica” sino tambi√©n mostr√°ndoos maneras diversas de trabajar con la lengua para que desarroll√©is vuestra inteligencia en ingl√©s y d√°ndoos feedback en ejercicios orales y escritos. No es estar supervisando que hay√°is hecho todos los huecos del libro. Se supone que eso lo hac√©is en casa, tranquilamente, porque es una de las cosas que os ayuda a aprender, y si no lo hac√©is, yo no puedo hacerlo por vosotras/os. Con todo, pod√©is venir a clase y participar en un grupo y hacerlo en el acto. No problem! Aunque recomiendo siempre que salvo los listenings parecido a los de los ex√°menes, vay√°is por delante, hay√°is hecho las dos p√°ginas antes de que toquen. Vale?

APARTE DE ESTO, y sabiendo que cuando haya preguntas, no podremos hacer las dos p√°ginas (y os quedar√≠an de deberes, que luego deber√≠ais acordaros de comprobar que est√°n bien preguntando en Plenario), si no acabamos el libro NO PASA NADA. No es prueba de nada, ni asegura el aprobado. Hay unos ejercicios que tienen prioridad: escuchar en casa muchas veces lo mismo, preparar mon√≥logos y di√°logos en casa, y luego hacerlos en clase, en plenario o en exam area. SI VEIS QUE NO QUER√ČIS FALTA AL TRABAJO EN SMALL GROUPS, podemos dedicar una clase cada dos semanas a S√ďLO ORALES. Pero si no los hab√©is preparado, pronunciado, practicado en casa, seg√ļn aprend√≠ais los contenidos de la lecci√≥n, es posible que comet√°is m√°s fallos, empezando por cu√°nto tiempo puedes hablar. Por esto os digo, en casa, time yourselves, ten√©is que saber, despu√©s de hablar y hablar para calentar en el tema, despu√©s de organizar las ideas en un esquema, ten√©is que saber hacer el ejercicio con un l√≠mite de tiempo. Pod√©is elegir el l√≠mite. En los ex√°menes es para Avanzado 2 entre 4 y 6 minutos, y con 4 vale si has hablado (2 minutos de silencio pasan, s√≠, pero no cuentan como hablar! ūüėÄ ) En Intermedio lo tengo que mirar, pero quiz√° sea 3 minutos.

Lo que s√≠ os digo es que si no sac√°is tiempo para aprender un idioma, no pod√©is aprenderlo. Aprender idiomas puede ser “fun”, son muy agradecidos adem√°s, porque te permiten comunicarte con gente, pero no conozco a nadie que sea hablante competente de una lengua que no le haya dedicado miles de horas de escucha y de trabajo. AS√ć QUE OS ANIMO A QUE SI HAB√ČIS ELEGIDO APRENDER UN IDIOMA, OS ASEGUR√ČIS DE QUE EN CASA SE OS DEJA ESPACIO PARA HACERLO (usar la tele, p.e., y hablar en alto en ingl√©s) Y ARA√Ď√ČIS TIEMPO DE LA SEMANA PARA ENCONTRAR HUECOS EN LOS QUE PRACTICAR (hay que aprender a organizarse, y por eso os digo lo del WEEKLY LEARNING PLAN). Si no pod√©is, no pasa nada, claro, pero no dig√°is luego que sois incapaces de aprender porque no ser√° cierto y es injusto con voses y con las y los profes. Decid la verdad: que no hab√©is podido trabajar. Es que nadie aprende por telepat√≠a! no?

Aqu√≠ pod√©is postear preguntas, comentarios, lo que quer√°is, para que as√≠, en comandita, podamos ubicarnos y pasar un a√Īo de trabajo duro pero tambi√©n agradable, porque poder comunicarse en idiomas da subid√≥n, es una maravilla, para las relaciones, y para la inteligencia.



Students doing oral work and teacher’s feedback!

October 22, 2012

Here is the first episode of a new segment at the Talking People Podcast. Thanks to V√≠ctor for giving us permission to put together this episode! Let’s hope it’s useful! It’ll help you at least to learn to monitor your production, or listen to yourself. In this way, you’ll be better at fixing your mistakes on the spot! A big thanks to V√≠ctor and his daughter! ūüôā

Post your comments (click on the title of this post to reach the comment boxes!)


2012 October Lesson Plans for Avanzado 2

October 21, 2012

Updated on Oct 21

Word version (2 pages): AVANZADO 2 LESSON PLANS OCTOBER

Pdf version (in two independent pages):

  • page 1:
  • page 2

Today in Avanzado 2 Tues/Thurs

October 18, 2012

Today we only had time for listening to two students doing a mon. at Plenary. A warm thank you to those generous students! Thanks to the mistakes they made, among a few other things (related to language and to exam strategies) students had the chance to become more aware of the importance of using modals in English correctly. But the bell rang, and we had to leave, so next week (please, remind me if I forget, both Avanzado 2 groups!) we’ll have a special lesson on Modal Awareness! ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

In case you cannot get to sleep out of curiosity, ūüėÄ you can start reading my notes on that over here:

Click on “The Amazing World of Modal Auxiliaries“!!!¬†

One more thing / Something else: Sandra has suggested a topic for a lesson on Grammar in Use. It’s about word families — words with the same root but belonging to different word types. She’ll bring me her materials, so (that) I can design a lesson on this, on morphology or word formation.

When I was teaching without a textbook, I designed a workshop precisely for this: to help students learn about word formation. It’s called “Lexical Creativity Workshop” and it’s on the Functional Grammar page at Talking People. You might want to have a look at it, supposing you have plenty of time for your English! ūüėÄ (Still, your priority now is to use your textbook audios and your TV series episodes, OK?, and second, to do as much of the textbook as you can, so that you all can check your results in small groups.) I just remembered I have another workshop on that, but I think it’s not on Talking People. I’ll try to remember where it is!!


Improve your pronunciation of the -ed ending

October 18, 2012

Check out this webpage and click the link to get to the audio on the Talking People Podcast


Some relevant advice

October 15, 2012


If you want to…

  • learn to understand spoken English
  • speak it with fluency and accuracy (good grammar)
  • speak in a more spontaneous manner (even if you are shy)
  • help your ear not to close up in panicky reaction



Use your textbook audios, podcast episodes (the Talking People Podcast, the ESL Podcast), the three episodes of a TV series you picked (+documentaries, movies…)


Some more tips

October 14, 2012

What do I mean with “Never trust the teacher!!”?
I mean you should be an active listener!
So don’t take me wrong!¬†An active listener and a critical thinker! ūüôā

Should you fear exams?
Nope! Training for an exam is something you do in a few session. I call it training in exam format. What we are doing every day in terms of ¬†learning goes far beyond an exam! It’s much bigger! You are learning a language! That’s BIG.¬†Exams are uninteresting, and they do not evaluate / assess what we know, just if we are able to survive in the academic system. So put exams in place. If you are an active learner, passing exams will just be a logical consequence!¬†The more you fear, the less you learn.

Should you fear making a mistake?
Nope! “Do not fear mistakes. There are none,” said¬†Miles Davis¬†(1927 – 1991), one of the greatest musicians ever! Creative people in all walks of life (e.g. scientists, artists) know that mistakes happen when you live, when you explore, while you learn. Moreover, they have experienced how often mistakes are stepping stones to discoveries!


Food for Thought – Learning to Think

October 10, 2012

El otro d√≠a surgi√≥ un peque√Īo debate muy interesante que por desgracia no pudimos desarrollar en ingl√©s, dada su dificultad y el plan que ten√≠amos para la lecci√≥n! Respecto a las falacia del t√©rmino medio, en Mujer Palabra publicamos un art√≠culo muy interesante que aclara desde la filosof√≠a unas cuantas cosas bastante liadas para mucha gente: Adem√°s existe un Manual (de Znet, donde est√°n los archivos de los an√°lisis de Noam Chomsky (watch), Susan George (watch!), Michael Albert (read), Justin Podur, Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva (listen!), Arundhati Roy (watch!), or Amy Goodman, por ejemplo, y gente as√≠ de racional). Ense√Īa a saber identificar las falacias, lo que viene muy bien para aprender a pensar y debatir, lo que desarrolla mucho la inteligencia! Arriba la racionalidad emp√°tica! ūüėÄ Finalmente, a reliable website for learning Philosophy, webdianoia

The good news is that you can read this Handbook in English! Oh my! I can’t find it! But it’s there somewhere! If you find it, please post the link! Thanks!


Getting along with your teacher

October 2, 2012

It’s OK if you are late. Don’t knock — just walk in, trying not to disrupt, OK? The Lesson Plan will be on the white-board, so you don’t have to ask a classmate what we’re doing. So look before asking. Then, of course, ask if you are lost. It’s also OK to leave before the class is over. If you are a teenager reading this, then, it’s not! ūüėÄ ūüėõ I mean, please, don’t skip the lessons. If you ever get bored, just let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

Politeness. I hate it when people are not civic. We can be informal, but we should always be polite, and I know you are! Except here: being loud when outside the classroom. Our species has an amazing mind, capable of understanding things that allow us, or would allow us, to live together. SILENCE in the corridors is one of those things. Get used to not speaking the Spanish-way (loud!!) in corridors, please. In this way, when people are taking their Certificate exams in June and September, they won’t be running the risk of breaking their concentration, or not being able to hear the recordings.

– I hate clips. They never stay where you put them. I really hate clips. And people eardogging their papers and then tearing a bit in the corner so they papers will stay together. They never do. So please don’t do that! Use a stapler. Or simply fold the two paper sheets!

– It’s risky to ignore a deadline. I’ve reasons to be a pacifist, if you know what I mean! If I mention a deadline, mark my words! You can hand in your work before that date but never ever after! (Unless you have a great excuse.)

If you hand in any written work, I want you to write the basic information before writing the composition or whatever it is you are handing it. TITLES or a DESCRIPTION of the TASK are civilized. And above the title or description, on the RIGHT CORNER you should write: Your full name, and below, your list no. and your group code, and below that the DATE.

You can always talk to me. Even if it is to say you’re not happy with something I do. Just be polite, and don’t use irony — I seldom get it!

– You can alway interrupt if you don’t follow, or to ask a question. I might answer it right away or ask you to wait till this or that, and remind me later.

Listen to English every day, and practice speaking at home, and when you are ready, come to my desk to do that oral exercise. If you learn the talks, the dialogs or the poems by reading instead of by ear I do notice! The music is not the same. And we need music in our lives, don’t you think?

– Don’t be a cry babe! Work, and work, and you’ll be OK in the exam. Self-destructiveness is not critical thinking. Critical thinking allows us to listen to ourselves, identify whatever is wrong, and then FIXING IT! Complaining, on the other hand, is what people who don’t actually change anything, or try to, do… Generally speaking, of course. So don’t repeat to yourself what you’ve told yourself zillions of times! Just identify the mistakes, and FIX them! Yes: work on things, focus in the task, not in your self-destructive self-evaluation!! This means, you need to have at least two Lists of Mistakes: one for orals, and one for writings. And this means, you need to learn to listen to yourself while you speak English and that you need to be a good proofreader of your work.

Don’t use a pencil and don’t use white-out. Certificate exams don’t allow that and you need to spare yourself of having some avoidable technical problem when you take it, meaning, get used to using a blue or black pen and no white-out liquid. Just cross out with a line, or with a cross, what you don’t want there, or make a clean copy — this will be a consolidating exercise!

– Spiral notebooks are not a good idea. I won’t take them home, and you shouldn’t carry that weight. Use flexible two or four-ring binders, for instance.


How to prepare a monolog(ue) at home

October 2, 2012

Here is the link to the Talking People (public) Forums, where some ideas on procedure are given:

If you want to post on this thread, you need to register (just type in a username and a password, leave the rest). But you can also post here, if you like.


How to work with your audio materials

October 1, 2012

Textbook audios: except the ones we’ll do in class (the ones similar to exam listening exercises), you need to listen to the rest, and do the exercises. The ones we do in class: you will have to listen to them several times at home, to learn as many sentences as you can BY EAR. You shouldn’t read when you listen, if you want to learn to UNDERSTAND SPOKEN ENGLISH.

Audio Podcasts: poems to learn by ear by heart! Stories to learn how to read aloud. Sentences and dialog(ue)s to learn by ear, too.

DVDs: try never to read the transcripts. It’s important you learn to understand. The TV series episodes: you need to watch each several times and then try to jot down the sentences you understand, to practice saying them naturally! The final collection of these sentences will be part of your OP on TV series. Don’t use subtitles, please! Life has no subtitles! Using subtitles is a Reading/Listening exercise, not a Listening exercise! Subtitles can only be an option when you have reached your maximum level of understanding and you wish to expand your knowledge. Check with your teacher.

You can also use your audios to take dictations. In this way you also work on your spelling.

Monolog(ue)s: if you listen several times to an audio, you will gain fluency and accuracy, and then you can put together a monolog(ue). You should NOT write out your monologue. You should learn to do an outline and give your talk following it. After you have done your monolog(ue) you can write it down and check for mistakes.

Dialog(ue)s: it’s good to base them in different Life Situations, and that you practice on your own at home, but also with a partner in class.

OPs, Oral Presentations, are longer monolog(ue)s, and you can pick your topic.

When you listen, sometimes you will be practicing (gap-filling exercises) SCANNING for specific information/words, and sometimes you will have to get the general idea, this is SKIMMING the text. When you practice the exam-like audios, you should read the questions first, and underline key words that will avoid you get lost if you miss something! Learning to underline correctly needs practice but it helps you very much to solve the listening comprehension problem! In dictations you will be practicing SPELLING, too.

IMPORTANT: If you are doing a lot of READING or WRITING while you use your audios, you are not exploiting them well. So check with your teacher.

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