Collaborative music quiz with Google Docs

 We have been working on types of music and musical instruments  in the class of 1st ESO. The idea came up to me to make a quiz similar to  the one we had in our Swith 1 by Oxford University Press classbook; so my students wrote a question each and I used Google Docs to do the quiz you can see here.

I hope they like how it came out in the end and send the answers and enjoy their own music quiz.I dedicate this post to my students of 1st of ESO C, they are the ones I am tutoring this year and I really appreciate all of them. This is for you!!!


Comparative and Superlatives: Monsters competition

Monsters, Inc.
For my classes of 2nd of ESO, I ask my students to draw a monster, each of them, at home and to write a small description of how they are; not only physically, but also how they behave and so on, using adjectives of all sorts, such as soft, aggressive, tall, thin, shy, brave...

We start by making sure that they know when we need a comparative (we compare two items or two sets) or a superlative (we compare an item or set with a group of items or sets). Then, we divide adjectives into short (one syllable -strong-  or two syllable ending in -y -pretty) and long adjectives (two syllables -narrow- or more - interesting) and explain them that short adjectives take a suffix to make comparatives and superlatives; whereas long adjectives use a periphrasis. To say the set that we are comparing with, we use the preposition in (in the class, in the school...).

adjective +er than (taller than)
 more adjective than (more difficult than)
 the adjective +est (the tallest)
 the most adjective (the most difficult)

 Finally, we point out the irregular form of the adjectives good, bad, far and old (for families use mainly):

 comparative form
 superlative form
 better than
the best 
 worse than
the worst 
 farther than/ further than
the farthest/ the furthest 
 elder than
the eldest 

 To end up, we make lots of exercises comparing the pictures the students have made. We may also use activities from the net such as the ones in English-zone.com1 and English-zone.com2, or we may play with the IWB this fantastic game by marks-english-school.com or this one by Kids ESL Games.

We can start comparing the monsters in the image above. Do you remember their names?
Leave your comparisons in the form of comments!!!


What did she say? Going down the stairs...

Many of my students mix the change of tenses of the passive with the changes needed in reported speech. We use the passive voice in English more often than we do in Spanish, normally when we do not know the subject of the sentence or when we do not want to say it or we want to emphasize the result among others.
For the passive, we use the verb to be in the tense we need and add the past participle of the verb we need. In reported speech, the tense goes "one backwards" or you can also go down one step in the stairs as you can  see above.

What is "reported speech" or "indirect style"?
We use the reported speech when we report/tell what other person has said. In order to do this, we use introductory verbs such as:
  • tell or say (for statements)
  • tell or order (for commands)
  • ask or want to know (for questions)
We also need to do some changes because the context and cotext of the sentence which was told and the one which is being retold in the present time are different. We may change:
  • subject, object and  possessive adjectives and pronouns.
  • references to time and place.
  • the tense of the verbs (as can be seen in the image above)
If you want to practise these changes and how to say what other person stated, commanded, asked or suggested, you can do exercises at Activities for ESL students or English Exercises online and English Exercises online

I hope you have a clearer idea now; however you know I will be happy to answer  your doubts if you leave a comment!!
Can you tell me when do those tenses remain unchanged as it says in the image?


P.D. James after Jane Austen

One of my favourite English writers is called Jane Austen, she lived in England from 1775 to 1817 and wrote only 6 novels in her life: Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. She usually wrote about middle-high class families and most of her novels centre on the worry families have to marry women at that time. They are called novels of manners because they show the conventions of the society of the time.These novels usually have happy endings because the protagonist (female) gets to marry in the end.

Another of the greatest British writers, P.D. James has written a novel which continues the happy ending that Jane Austen gave to her novel Pride and Prejudice, one of her most famous due to the TV series featuring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, which appears constantly in the Bridget Jones' Diary. Even though P.D. James has continued in the mode of Jane Austen, she is a mystery writer and at the beginning of the book there is a murder which makes the complete happiness of the Darcy family tumble down.

I'm willing to get the book in English and read it,  you can read all the six novels by Jane Austen (you have a link in Pride and Prejudice) and I hope you enjoy them as I did; they also made me aware of how the life of women has been under male's control and determined by social conventions more than feelings or thoughts.

Have you read any of Jane Austen or P.D. James novels? Did youlike them?
 Leave your comments and tell us!!!


What were you doing...?

The Simpsons
What is the past continuous?
It is a tense verb that is formed with the past tense of the verb to be, that is was or were and the   -ing form of the verb we want to use. To form the negative we use the forms wasn't and weren't and we use the verb to be as the auxiliary to form the interrogative putting it before the subject, then the subject and then the -ing form of the verb we need.

To see it more clearly:

 I was eating.
 I wasn't eating.
 Was I eating?
 Mary was sleeping.
Mary wasn't sleeping.
 Was Mary sleeping?
 They were listening to a CD.
 They weren't listening to a CD:
 Were they listening to a CD?

When do we use the past continuous?
We use the past continuous with non-stative verbs, that is, verbs that, due to their meaning do not accept well the progress, such as know, have, and like and many others. We use it mainly for three things:

  • To talk about something that was happening in the past at a given time
  • To describe a scene in a narration.
  • To talk about something that was in progress and interrupted by another action (which would be in the past simple).
We also use it to talk about things that were happening at the same time in the past. If you want to practice the past continuous, you can go to Perfect English Grammar or English Grammar Secrets.

Ok, now that we know more about the past continuous, can you tell me what were the Simpsons doing at their last Thanksgiving dinner? Leave your comments and tell us!!


Civil Rights Movement.

What is the Civil Rights Movement?
These days we are talking about the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, focusing on the fight that African-American people led through non-violent boycotts and sit-ins against racial discrimation and segregation. Not only did the African-Americans fight for their rights, but also the Chicano, Indian, Homosexuals and Women protested peacefully (most of the time) to get recognition and rights. This happened from 1955 to 1968.

How did it start?
This all started when Rosa Parks decided that she would no longer stand up in the bus to give her seat to a white person in Montgomery. 90% of the African-American people of her town followed her in her social disobedience led by a very young Martin Luther King who became the leader of the movement nationwide. Many other non-violent demonstrations followed. He got the Nobel Peace Prize  in 1964. A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama sat at Rosa Parks' seat in the Montgomery bus. He also got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

What did they achieve?
Trough pacific means, they attained the passing of very important laws regarding the banning of discrimination in many aspects, the opening of the USA frontiers to non-Europeans citizens, the actual right to vote; these laws were called: Civil Rights Act, Immigration and National Services Act and Voting Rights Act.

You can watch the video of one of his most important speeches in Washington while you read it: I have a dream speech. It is very touching, it always moves me, especially because some things have not been attained yet, 40 years after it.

Have you ever heard or read it? What do you think of it?
Leave your comments and tell us!!


Olympic games in London 2012

from yo y mis circunstancias
The day before yesterday, the Olympic games came to a start with the ignition of the Olympic flame in a beautiful ceremony that you can watch at the BBC. It  is the starting point more than 70 days  before the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, and it is a way to link the ancient Olympic Games and the modern ones in a ceremony full of rituals.

Now the Olympic flame travels to England  where it will be fired on the opening celebration at the Olympic Stadium in London on the 27th July 2012, (unlike previous flames which went throughout the world, it will fly from Greece directly to England and will only go abroad to Ireland; this way, 95% of the British population would have been able to be just 10 miles away from it).

Believe it or not, the photo you can see with this post is (a joke-collage of) the Spanish official equipment.It was presented some time ago and designed by some Russian company who made it for free-as you can see!! Taking into account that we have very good fashion designers, I wish even a low-cost Spanish design company, such as Zara (who offered money to design it), would have done it; at least we would be laughed at ...consistently.

If you are willing to see the Olympic games, be it because you like sport  or because you want to see our sportspeople wearing these clothes, you can be informed of everything at the official website London 2012.

What do you think of "our uniform"? Do you like it? Would you wear it? Leave your comments and tell us!!


Organising a make-up show.

Reel Sexy
Mac Cosmetics
The majority of the girls like to make up, the majority of the boys hate waiting while the girls are making up...
In the same way that we have organised a fashion show, it occured to me that a good way to practise  colours and  parts of the face could be to organise a make up show in which boys could be the make-up artists and girls their models; in this way, we could teach them several issues that have to do not only with grammar (present continuous and "going to" for plans, adjectives before nouns...) and vocabulary, but also with education on values.

What values can we promote with this activity?
We can teach girls to make up in a more natural way, help them with their self-esteem besides working on inner beauty as well. We can teach the boys patience and understanding for the girls.
Moreover, we can give a second turn and change roles so that all of them are also made-up in different forms, such as tigers, dinousaurs, skulls, butterflies and so on. Doing so, sympathetic values would emerge.

You can teach students how to paint their faces at the YouTube channel called Face Painting with Karina.

If you want to practise a little more your present continuous, go to Tolearnenglish.com.

What do you think of this idea? Would your class like a make-up session just for a day?
Leave your comments and tell us!!


New page for families.

As a teacher I feel it  is very important to take into account, not only the students, but also their families. As teachers, we encounter lots of situations in which we have to help families and I think this is also a nice part of our job; it also happens the other way around, that is, we need help from the families most of the time at home but sometimes even at school!!
This is the reason why I wanted to have a part of my little space for them in the internet. Today  I am going to introduce you to the last thing I have prepared. It is written in Spanish because I teach English in Spain and many of the parents of my students have studied French or do not feel confident enough to read in English.
I hope this helps parents and they can also help me through this space where all commentaries will be welcome,   even in Spanish. I have linked it here, though it is at the top where the rest of the pages of the blog are permanently.
What do you think of this idea?
Leave your comments and tell us!!


Black Comedy at Teatro Alcazar in Madrid.

Photo taken by Ana García
Last weekend I went to Madrid and I was lucky enough to get tickets for Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy. Peter Shaffer (1926-) is a British playwright and screenwriter especially famous for his plays Equus and Amadeus which were later made into films with his own help. Many of her works were represented for the first time at the National Theatre in London and in 2001 he became Sir Peter Shaffer.

The cast of the play was excellent, as you can see in the photo, and included Gabino Diego, Aurora Sánchez, Paco Churruca, Diego Molero, Ramón Merlo, Ana Arias and Eva Santolaria who did not act that night but was sitting in the stalls watching her mates.

Black Comedy is a very funny play, special for its lighting effects. Its name is a pun, that is, a play on words because it is about an electric short circuit and supposedly takes place in total darkness. There's only dim light when a match or lantern can be used by any of the characters. As the play starts, all the theatre is in total darkness and in complete normality. All of a sudden, the lights go out  and the stage gets well-illuminated though they act as if they were blind. 

Brindsley, a mediocre sculptor,  and his recent fiancée Carol are preparing a meeting with her father and a billionaire who is interested in some of his work and may buy something. Both are nervous and do not feel confident about Brindsley's furniture, so they have borrowed some from Harold, his art collector neighbour who is not at home. A variety of people come into scene: Miss Furnival, a funny neighbour who "does not drink alcohol" and profits from the situation; the operator of the London Electric Company, who is mistaken  by the millionaire because he knows about art; his former girl-friend,Clea, who wants to come back to him and, of course, Harold who comes before time unexpectedly and forces Brindsley to get his furniture back to his apartment at the same time as they are waiting for the billionaire.

It was an interesting and hilarious one-act play, we laughed a lot and had a look back at London in the seventies.

Do you know any of the actors or actresses? They have acted in some television series... If you recognize any, leave your comments and tell us!!!