Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Globalisation and Charity

Have a look at the facts and pictures below and have a lively discussion on the topics proposed.

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Discursive essay: taking sides

Here you are some tips on how to write this type of discursive essay properly:

Key success factors:

  • Constructing an argument.
  • Sustaining your case with examples.
  • Showing that you have considered the opposing viewpoint.

Topic sentences
In a well-written essay, the first sentence of a paragraph establishes what the paragraph is going to be about. This is sometimes called the topic sentence.

Using synonyms and richer vocabulary
When you are writing an essay, remember to vary and enrich your vocabulary by using synonyms where appropriate.

Useful language

Giving personal opinions
I feel that ...
I believe that ...
In my view, the influences of ... are generally positive/negative ...
Personally, I think that ...

Expressing opposite arguments
Some people argue ...
It is often claimed that  ...
There are those who say ...

Refuting them
This may have been true in the past, but nowadays ...
There are a number of flaws in this argument.
This is simple not the case.

Planning what to write
Read the essay title below:

Marrying someone from a different country will always be more problematic than marrying someone from your own country.

Decide which you think are the three most important reasons. Decide if there are any typical opposing arguments which you could refute. Write topic sentences for the main paragraphs.

When you take one side of an argument in a discursive essay, it is important to:

  • Organize your essay into paragraphs, with a clear introduction and conclusion.
  • Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence and then develop the idea.
  • Use synonyms to avoid repeating yourself.
  • Use a variety of phrases for giving your opinion, or introducing an opposing argument and refuting it.

DRAFT your essay in four paragraphs:
  • An introductory paragraph where you introduce the topic and state your opinion.
  • Three or four paragraphs giving your reasons.
  • If relevant, a paragraph stating a common counter argument(s), and refuting it (them).
  • A conclusion, stating what your arguments have shown.
EDIT the essay, making sure your arguments link together and making sure it is the right length.

CHECK the essay for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation and register.

Finally, PUBLISH your essay on this blog. 250 words.

Source: New English File Advanced. Student's Book. O. U. P.
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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

What makes science fiction films so successful?

A long time ago science fiction was considered as a minor genre, but a recent survey has shown that nowadays this is one of the most popular film-lovers’ likes all over the world. Greatest advances in latest decades could be the reason and explanation for a significant increase in movies that tell us stories that although completely impossible today, perhaps might exist or happen in the future, as we are being witness to a flourishing technological revolution.

The genre ‘Science Fiction’ embraces quite a few terms: utopia, hope, fear of the future, fantasy, social denunciation, political indoctrination or just adventure. But to answer the question of what makes general public get hooked to science fiction movies in recent days, we need to focus on those things that are shown in films and are totally implausible in reality, like highly developed tools or artifacts, biological engineering, aliens and explorations that can go further than any known scientific principles can allow.

Finally, I personally consider, since the majority of people do not have economic possibilities to skip from routine, cinema is a pastime everybody can afford. In other words, fiction is a way to relax and give up thinking about problems of daily life.

Given these facts, do these successful films mean that the best science fiction movie can supply the best science fiction book? I personally believe that they can’t, but perhaps a good scene is worth more than a thousand of words.
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How to make a good science fiction film


How to make a good science fiction film? Apparently, it might be easy. Nevertheless, nobody knows exactly how some people are able to produce a great film. I think that we will never get to understand why some movies are so successful while others do fail. I have noticed that just one out of every twenty science fiction films produced gets the support of viewers. Why? Let´s analyze some of the factors that may influence the final outcome.
        Firstly, a fiction story is meant to entertain, so this seems to be the main ingredient of the “recipe”. When young people go to the cinema to watch one of these films what they really want is to disconnect from their daily problems in an escapist sort of way, and just have fun.
        Secondly, not only is a science fiction film an opportunity to show a great script and spectacular visual effects, but it can also provide new ideas for the future and evoke a sense of wonder. We are shown other people´s ways of thinking, experiments with yet unknown planets or even travel through time. Sci-fi should explain all these plots with well-written dialogues, coherency and a sense of logic to be credible.
        Finally, a huge budget is necessary to produce a science fiction film and make it profitable. For example, in 1977, George Lucas faced big problems to produce Star Wars because nobody backed up his project. Eventually, it would turn one of the most successful and influential films of all times. The actors were unknown and they invested in the production themselves. In the end, the film earned millions, it got many awards and it is the second highest grossing film in the USA and Canada. On the other hand, Waterworld, a post-apocalyptic science fiction film produced by Kevin Costner, has been regarded as one of the great failures in the film industry due to its very high budget and low recovery.
        In conclusion, in my opinion in order to make a successful science fiction film you should mix a bit of entertainment, credibility, a lot of money, and good luck!
By Vicky García. Advanced level. Year 2
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Dalai Lama

Listen to this extract from a radio programme about Dalai Lama.

Then, do the comprehension activities; you can listen to the programme again while you are answering the questions.

Finally, check the correct answers.

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Monday, 27 February 2012

The Artist takes it all

A silent movie, the second silent movie to be awarded an Oscar in history.
Have a look at the trailer below and try to write some words for it, as if you were subtitling it.

Best picture, best actor in a leading role, best directing, best custom design, best music ...
This silent movie can clearly be said to be the winner of the night.

If you are interested in learning who else went home with an Oscar, click here.
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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Travelling with Gulliver


Answer the QRQuestions below, let's see if your smartphones can face the challenge!

QRQuestion 1 

QRQuestion 2

QRQuestion 3

QRQuestion 4

QRQuestion 5

QRQuestion 6

Extra QRHelp

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Friday, 24 February 2012

Can you take a wild guess?

Sunday 26 February. Everything's ready for a new edition of the famous Oscars, but do you think you'd be able to bet on the winners?
Well, let's try! Here you are some trailers of some nominees for Best Picture; actually, these are the movies I think stand a chance, but let's see if you can take a wild guess and place a winning bet.
Comments are welcome, of course!

And, while you make up your mind and place your comments, why don't you learn a bit about The History of the Academy Awards?
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Thursday, 23 February 2012

The good wife


Before watching:
Have you ever heard of this TV series?
Do you know what famous case it is based on?
What do you think about law and order in your country? Would such a case end up in trial in Spain?

While watching:
What relationship should both women have at work?
What priviledge can men afford, which women can't?
Why does it apply double to the good wife?
How can their firm be compared to other firms?
What is pro-bono work? Why is the good wife in charge of it now?
Summarize the first case she's going to court with. Give as many details as possible of the briefing you hear.

After watching:
Rules and regulations in your country/region/town.
Name those that affect your daily lives and discuss whether you agree with them or not. If none come to your mind, think for instance, about smoking, under-age prohibitions, city rules, and so on.
Which would you change? How? Any suggestions to settle disputes over them once and for all?

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

2012 bookmark contest


Read the contest rules.

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What's the difference

Can you explain the meaning of the words below and the difference between pairs?

Wordle: What's the difference?
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Monday, 20 February 2012

Encouraging ESL learners to read

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Cleft sentences


Get further practice with this worksheet. When you are done with it, just check the answers.

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

A review of Deaf sentence, by Mercedes Martín


Deaf sentence is a journal which begins on November 1 and ends on March 8. It describes the vital experience of Desmond Bates, a sixty something former linguistics professor at a nameless University, who is forced into early retirement as he is becoming hearing impaired.
 As he feels his aging life is steadily declining both physically and mentally toward illness and disability, he has the sense of becoming a burden to the family. He has reached a point in his existence where he is questioning everything. Excluded from social and intellectual life due to his progressive deafness and also excluded from sexual life due to his background of impotence, he confesses being bored and rather useless. On the contrary Fred, his younger wife seems to be rejuvenated, partly as a result of cosmetic surgery and in part due to her new successful interior design business helped along by her best friend Jakki.
The narrator’s main concern is his father Harry, an almost ninety-year old stubborn man, and once a big band musician who is also going deaf, dresses like a tramp and lives independently in his dreary gloomy London home, although he cannot be trusted to take care of himself without endangering his life.
 Despite the thoughts on aging, marriage, seduction, isolation, drawbacks and benefits of deafness and a deep reflection on life fragility, the narrator drifts from the serious to the humorous as our hero tries to solve the dilemma he has been driven into when he meets Alex Loom, a mentally unbalanced young American graduate student who is obsessed with him supervising her thesis about linguistics in suicide notes. Desmond’s life seems to be up ended as she threatens to spoil his already shaky life. As her slightly inane and sexually provocative pursuit of Desmond confuses him even more, and leaves his darker side uncovered.
David Lodge conveys a subtle and sensitive realistic description of these matters of life with a healthy dose of exhilarating humor. The daily situations pictured in the book, turn the story into a comedy of exasperation, physical ineptitude and verbal slip-up, where communication with people around  him  is becoming  difficult , as they all go through confusing, embarrassing misunderstandings, with comic results. In addition, Desmond struggles with the troublesome hearing aids that prove to be inconvenient because of the shrieks and whistles, and the batteries running out. Nevertheless there is not cruelty but compassion and sympathy with hard hearing people, and also not short in mirth and humor; like the family Christmas pictured when old Harry, loudly discusses his constipation and is taken short in the garden or the New Year jaunt ruined by drink and solidifying ear-wax.
By the last two chapters Desmond’s life reaches a crucial point, the rhythm of the novel changes with a trip to Krakón where his visits to the concentration camps and the crematorium in Auschwitz. Afterwards Desmond’s memories of Maisie, his first wife who had died of cancer, become more vivid as his father suffers a stroke, which leaves him a bitter man. Fred and Desmond discuss about the issue of Harry being fed through the PEG tube, and how they considered that nature should take his course.  At this point we find many thoughts on deafness and death; blindness is tragic, and deafness is comic the author repeats… “Death is tragic” he finally says. The whole last chapter is about what we might hear from beyond the grave, and thereby the birth of her daughter’s baby looks like the representation of the beginning of human life cycle at an event focused on its end.
In my personal opinion it is a witty lovely novel that has got to my heart after certain experiences, and has left me a message; all we have while we are alive, is the capacity to laugh and love. 

Mercedes Martín Panero, Advanced level. Year 2
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Firsts. An Interview with Fernando Alonso. Speed TV

Watch this interview with Fernando Alonso and then answer the questions below. 

1. What show are they presenting on Speed TV?
2. How long is the TV programme?
3. What are the contents of the programme?
4. Who are the programme assistants?
5. How is F. A. being introduced to the audience as?
6. Who is sponsoring the interview?
7. What were F. A.'s achievements in that year, so far?
8. When did Michelin last win a race in Indianapolis?
9. How does the presenter depict F. A.'s victory celebrations?
9. Which film could F. A.'s victory celebrations have something to do with?
10. Has F. A. something planned to celebrate his next victory? Why/Why not?

Now listen to the rest of the interview and note down the questions both the presenters and the audience make to F. A.

Write down two questions from the audience and at least eight from the presenters. The latter cannot be part of the questions you have answered yourselves.

Finally, listen again to the whole interview and point out F. A.'s mistakes when speaking in English: take into account pronunciation, intonation, grammar, fluency, etc.

After you've done all the tasks, check your answers using this answer key sheet.

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Ellipsis and substitution


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Listen to part of a television programme in which Dr Oliver Sacks talks about a neurological condition called Amusia. Then, complete the quiz.

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Beating stress

Listen to this interview with a financial trader talking about the stresses of his job and the ways of beating it.

Find the correct option for each of the following questions. When you are done, check your score.

*Audio from British Council. Learn English Professionals. Task by Mª Jesús García San Martín.
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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Fathers of the new millenium


ACTIVITY A: Read the following article and do the exercises below.

FATHERHOOD 2.0. By Lisa Takeuchi Cullen & Lev Grossman

DOES BEING MORE OF A FATHER MAKE YOU less of a man? To a group of committed dads assembled one night in a New Jersey diner, the answer is obvious. Sort of. Paul Haley, 38, a father of two, says women look at him when he walks down the street with his kids. "I think it's admiration," he says. Adam Wolff, also 38-with two kids and one on the way ponders what it means to be a man. "Is my man-ness about being the breadwinner or being a good father to my kids or something else?"
            But what does it mean, exactly, to be a man these days? Once upon a Darwinian time, a man was the one spearing the woolly mammoth. And it wasn't so long ago that a man was that strong and silent fellow over there at the bar-a hardworking guy in a gray flannel suit or blue-collar work shirt. He sired children, yes, but he drew the line at diapering them. He didn't know what to expect when his wife was expecting, he didn't review bottle warmers on his daddy blog, and he most certainly didn't participate in little-girl tea parties.
            Today's dads plead guilty to all of the above-so what does that make them? "Men today are far more involved with their families than they have been at virtually any other time in the last century," says Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History. In the late 1970S, sociologists at the University of Michigan found that the average dad spent about a third as much time with his kids as the average mom did. By 2000, that was up to three-fourths. The number of stay-at-home fathers in the U.S. has tripled in the past 10 years.
             Fathers' style of parenting has changed too. Men hug their kids more, help with homework more, tell kids they love them more. Or, as sociologist Scott Coltrane of the University of California, Riverside, says, "Fathers are beginning to look more like mothers." Many dads are challenging old definitions of manliness. "Masculinity has traditionally been associated with work and work-related success, with competition, power, prestige, dominance over women, restrictive emotionality-that's a big one," says Aaron Rochlen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas, who studies fatherhood and masculinity. "But a good parent needs to be expressive, patient, emotional, not money oriented." Though many fathers still cleave to the old archetype, Rochlen's study finds that those who don't are happier. Other research shows that fathers who stop being men of the old mold have better-adjusted children, better marriages and better work lives-better physical and mental health, even. "Basically," says Rochlen, "masculinity is bad for you." So are sugar doughnuts and men hate to let go of those too
            But how to forge a new idea of manhood for this brave new two-income world? Hollywood hasn't been much help. From Michael Keaton in the 1983 movie Mr. Mom to Adam Sandler in Big Daddy (1999) to Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care(2003), the sight of a man caught in the act of parenting has been a reliable laugh getter-always a good indicator of what the culture considers uncomfortable material. For every Pursuit of Happyness (2006), there's a movie like this summer's Knocked Up, which plays not so much as a tribute to fatherhood as an effort by men to convince themselves that fatherhood is all right and the movie's happy ending is the least plausible thing about it.
            Society hasn't made it easy for newly evolved dads to feel manly either. In Rochlen's study of stay-at-home dads, those who scored low on measures of traditional masculinity professed higher degrees of happiness in their roles-as well as in their marriages, with their children and with their health. But even they worried about how the rest of the world viewed their choice-with some reason. "There's definitely a stigma out there," says Rochlen.
When men take on non traditional roles in the home and family, it also makes a difference to the marriage. Coltrane of UC Riverside and John Gottman at the University of Washington found in separate studies that when men contribute to domestic labor (which is part and parcel of parenting), women interpret it as a sign of caring, experience less stress and are more likely to find themselves in the mood for sex. This is not to say that more involved fathering has erased marital tensions or that it hasn't introduced new ones, as some women resent ceding their role as top parent.
 Today's fathers aren't the men their own fathers were. The new fathers are creating a new ideal of masculinity. "The· emerging and evolving norms of fatherhood and masculinity challenge men to be a different kind of guy," says Rochlen. "But on the positive side, it gives them new opportunity to embrace and enact these dimensions that are good for them and good for their families." It's even good for their emotional health. Coltrane says fatherhood is proving a "safe pathway" for men to develop and explore their nurturing side. "It's not considered wimpy or gay to hug your daughter," he adds. That's something we can all embrace.


1.                     The fathers interviewed in the first paragraph
a.      suffer a serious identity crisis.
b.      are happy with being like mothers.
c.       thank the support given by other women.
d.      find problems to adjust manliness and fatherhood.

2.                    In the second paragraph the main idea suggested by the narrator is  that
a.      most men weren’t good fathers.
b.      men and women fulfilled  different  roles.
c.       most men didn’t know how to change a diaper.
d.      men were expectant when their wives were pregnant.

3.                    When the writer says “ Today’s Dads plead guilty to all of the above”. He means that dads. (line 14)
a.      stay at home.
b.      are keen on daddy’s  blogs.
c.       are more involved in parenting.
d.      spend more time with kids than their moms.

4.                    According to Aaron Rochlen “masculinity has been traditionally associated with” being…( lines 23-24 )
a.      bossy and competitive
b.      Successful and famous
c.       authoritarian and energetic
d.      the dominant partner and ambitious

5.                    According to Aaron Rochlen we can infer that..( lines 25-31 )
a.      You cannot be a good father without being very masculine
b.      Fathers should get rid of the traditional concept of masculinity.
c.       Fathers who stick to the traditional role have  happier children
d.      Fatherhood and masculinity are two compatible qualities in life.

6.                    What has been Hollywood’s attitude to this new generation of Daddies? ( lines 33-39 )
a.      derisive
b.      tolerant
c.       respectful
d.      sympathetic

7.                    Which sentence summarises best the content of lines. 40 -44.
a.      Fathers with low levels of masculinity are healthier.
b.      Society is willingly embracing this new concept of fathers.
c.       Most stay-up-home dads are happy but worried as to how they are seen.
d.      Most stay-up-home dads are happy with their new role within the family.

8.                    Having a father more involved in house chores and parenting ( lines 45-50 )
a.      originates new marital quarrels
b.      erases all tensions within the family
c.       reduces the stress of the female partner.
d.      forces mothers to cede their role as a top parent.

9.                    How do the narrators make their point in the conclusion? ( 51- 57)
a.      By expressing their views overtly.
b.      By mentioning specialists in the field.
c.       By summarising the main points exposed.
d.      By contrasting the main points of view presented.

10.                What is the main topic of this article ?
a.      Problems and issues of parents.
b.      The implications of the economic crisis.
c.       The clash between old roles and new ones.
d.      Issues of the fathers of the new millennium.

11.                How many main voices or points of view does the text present?
a.      3 ( journalists , mothers & specialists )
b.      3 ( journalists, dads & specialists)
c.       2 ( specialists and fathers )
d.      2 (journalists and mothers)



  • A past participle  which comes from a verb which means : To get together as a group/ to bring people together ( line  4 ) _______________________

  • A verb which means :to consider , to think over ( line 6 ) _________________

  • As a noun it refers to a weapon with a long wooden handle and a sharp metal point used for fighting, hunting and fishing in the past, and as verb it means : to throw or push a pointed object through sth/sb: ( line 9 ) ______________________

  • An adjective connected with people who work in an industry or do physical work ( line 10 ) ___________________________________

  • An old and traditional expression which means :to become the father of a child ( line 11 ) _____________________________

  • A verb which means: to stick close to sth/sb, to follow ( line 27 ) _______________

  • An expression which means : to give up an idea or an attitude, or control of something: ( line 31 ) __________________________

  • A verb which means: to put a lot of effort into making sth successful or strong so that it will last, to create or establish, set basis for.. ( line 32 ) ____________________

  • An adjective which comes from the words: evolution and a verb which means:  to develop over time, often many generations, into forms that are better adapted to survive changes in their environment ( line 40 ) ___________________

  • A verb which means: to perform  to carry out, or take part (line 54 ) _______________

  • An adjective ( present participle ) which comes from a verb which means : to care for and protect sb/sth while they are growing and developing: ( LINE 56 ) _______________

  • An adjective which comes from noun which describes a person who is not strong, brave or confident ( line 56 )    ______________



Traditional Role
New Role
-Sired the children
-Change diapers
-Other women look at them puzzled


a.      Is your father the only breadwinner in your family unit? How has this affected the sharing in the household management?
b.      Who does all the house chores at home? Who is in charge or organising and supervising who does what?
c.       Compare your upbringing with your father’s one.
d.      What kind of role did your grandfather play in the family? Can you describe the different family tasks each member of the family did?
e.      What about the future? What kind of parent would you be in the future? What values would teach your children? 

 When you feel you are ready, check the answers for the comprehension questions and see some tips about the oral activities.
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