Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bad grammar vs Vandalism

This month's last post could only be about trying to make you laugh, or at least smile, especially if you're an English Teacher! April is the national humour month in some English-speaking countries, so I hope you have had moments of great fun throughout this month, and have laughed until bursting into tears. If you have, according to the experts, you are a healthier and happier person, and thus a better professional! 

A cartoon by Funny Times
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Winston Churchill on a £5 note

Winston Churchill will appear on the next bank note, the governor of the Bank of England announced on April 26th. A portrait of Britain’s wartime leader will be printed on the next £5 note, along with the words 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.' Churchill made the declaration in a speech at the House of Commons in May 1940. The £5 note will also include a view of Westminster and Big Ben. The hands of the clock will be set at 3pm, the time that Churchill made his famous speech.

Source: London Evening Standard (text and picture)

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Friday, April 26, 2013

To be or not to be

What if Shakespeare had lived in our times? Would he be on Twitter or Facebook? For sure! Today's writers do know how to use these tools in order to reach their readers. You might also like to watch this excerpt of Hamlet by David Tennant... Impressive!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Talk like Shakespeare

Found it @ talklikeshakespeare.org
You might also like to watch THIS VIDEO, in which Kenneth Branagh on the BBC's Culture Show talks about how we quote Shakespeare every day of our lives, as well as THIS PICTURE which shows things we say today that we owe to Shakespeare.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The history of the English language

A Clil to Climb presents this impressive infographic about the history of the English language. Click HERE to view it in a larger size. I dare say 'no words needed' to comment on its content, except 'fabulous'!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

National Shakespeare Day

photo credit: Lincolnian (Brian)
via photopin cc

Many fans and enthusiasts of William Shakespeare, who was one of England’s greatest poets and dramatists, celebrate National Shakespeare Day, also known as Shakespeare Day, on April 23 each year. April 23 is also St George’s Day and the United Nations’ World Book and Copyright Day, which was a natural choice to pay a worldwide tribute to writers such as Shakespeare.
Special pageants are held at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, where Shakespeare was born and where thousands of tourists go each year to see his plays performed. The bells of Holy Trinity Church ring out and the Mayor of Stratford leads a procession there to lay flowers on Shakespeare’s grave. The procession includes bands, civic dignitaries, costumed actors and actresses, Morris dancers, and the staff and pupils of some local schools. In some schools, regular lessons are set aside for students to learn about the great playwright and poet, and his sonnets, narrative poems and plays. Enthusiasts and fans, including the British Shakespeare Company, have campaigned for Parliament in the United Kingdom to officially recognize national Shakespeare Day.

His work includes comedies, such as The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as tragedies such as King Lear, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Much of his work has been seen in modern-day theatre, the ballet and in modern films. His plays have been translated in many different languages across the world.

Picture via
Shakespeare Glove theatre images
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 but was later destroyed by fire. A second Globe Theatre was rebuilt on the same site in 1614 and closed in 1642. A modern reconstruction of the theatre, 'Shakespeare’s Globe', is currently located in London. It consists of The Globe Theatre with a professional theatre company playing a summer season of plays; Globe Education, which works with students of all ages; and a Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition. Other symbols identified with Shakespeare include: an image of the poet on a postage stamp; and symbols from his plays, such as a rose (Romeo and Juliet), a human skull (Hamlet), and blood, ghosts and witches (Macbeth).
Source: TimeandDate.com (abridged)
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

April 22nd reminds us how precious our planet is! So far, it's the best planet I have ever known! Go to www.earthday.org to know more about this day and how you can take action. I leave you with a picture of this year's theme, and 'Without you', a 2011 song by David Guetta featuring Usher. This song has already been the soundtrack of this year's Earth Hour official video. I believe it is adequate for this venue, as well.
Found picture at Earth Day Network

You might also like to take a look at Larry Ferlazzo's website in which you can find many resources to use in class to celebrate this day. Here you can take a look at a video about Earth Day's celebration which turns 40 years, as well as a historical timeline of Earth Day and Green Awareness. I also suggest his list of The best sites to introduce environmental issues into the classroom
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Friday, April 19, 2013

One Direction @Madame Tussauds

Some of my female students simply love them! I dare say they have a crush on them! Others can't even hear their names! Nevertheless, whether you like them or not, they are Madame Tussauds' latest attraction! Their wax figures were unveiled yesterday, April 18th, in London!
'Pop sensations, One Direction, were today the latest figures to be unveiled here at Madame Tussauds London. Revealed for the first time in front of a small group of excited fans, the figures wear outfits donated by the boys themselves and sit casually together on a school-style double bench where fans can also sit right beside them. The figures will stay with us in London for 12 weeks ONLY, until 11th July, before embarking on a tour that will then visit Madame Tussauds New York and Sydney with more locations to be announced.' - In Madame Tussauds London

The band took a sneak peek at their own wax figures on Tuesday, before their gig in Nottingham. Amazing resemblance, don't you think?

Image credits: Madame Tussauds London
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

We are silent

Photo credits: Free the Children
215 million children are forced to work as child labourers and are denied the right to attend school. One in every three children in developing countries is malnourished. One billion children are deprived of essential services like food, water, education, or health care.

We are Silent, formerly the Vow of Silence, is Free The Children’s annual fundraising and awareness-raising campaign, made possible by Second Cup. The campaign began in 2004 and challenges participants to stand in silent solidarity for 24 hours with children whose voices are silenced by not having their rights upheld.

We are Silent is one of Free The Children’s most powerful campaigns. Every year, tens of thousands of participants stand up for children who are being silenced by the denial of their basic human rights, collecting pledges as they take a vow of silence. All over the world, young people will go silent for 24 hours to raise awareness and funds for children without a voice. The campaign can be done as an individual, group, school, or even an entire silent city.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Disconnect to connect

 After watching the video below in class, when talking about multi-tasking activities we are all indulged into, Bárbara Silva and Helena Sousa , two 10th form students, expressed their feelings this way:

Bárbara Silva and Helena Sousa
10thA - Science and Technology course
'We believe the message of this video is that people need to disconnect from their technological world and their virtual life in order to communicate with other people in their real lives. Sometimes people forget that we can have a good time together with our friends and family. Instead we spend a lot of time with our cell phones, computers and other devices that are related to technology. There are a lot of things that we could do interacting with each other, but most of us prefer to stay at home with our gadgets. To make things worse, we often forget people who are right beneath us, as we are texting or listening to music. It's pure addiction!
We think this is a real problem because human beings need to communicate face-to-face. As human beings, we need to interact and do activities together, which is real important for our social life. In our opinion, technology and the different gadgets are very important but we should control the time we are connected with them so that they don't become an addiction in our lives. So, we'd better forget them and enjoy the life with people that we like. We should disconnect to connect!'

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The Students' Corner

Monday, April 15, 2013

Using a dictionary

A dictionary gives you information on:
photo credit: Jonathan_W via photopin cc
Spelling: this is the most obvious thing as it is alphabetically organised.
Meaning: this is also obvious, but not as obvious as you might think. You must be careful, firstly because no two words have exactly the same meaning. Besides one word can have a multiplicity of meanings. Therefore, you must be very careful and make sure the meaning you have found in the dictionary works in the textual context.
Part of speech: your dictionary will tell whether a word is a noun, a verb, a preposition, an adjective, for example. This information is usually given in brackets immediately after the word and it is often abbreviated. Very often the meaning changes according to the part of speech the word belongs to. That is to say, the same word can be an adjective and a verb, and the meaning can change accordingly.
Stress: when a word has more than one syllable, it will have a stress on one of them. This will affect the way you should pronounce the word. Dictionaries usyally identify the stressed syllable by writing it in bold.
Origin: some dictionaries provide you with information about the origin of the word. As you know the English language has been influenced by other languages throughout the ages.
In Links by Porto Editora

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Friday, April 12, 2013

How to do research work

When preparing to do research work, there are a few pre-research plans and decisions you need to make.
First: make sure you know exactly on which topic or theme you will have to gather information about. 
Second: select your sources of information. Here are a few examples of what you may need to use: dictionary; encyclopaedia; handbook; newspapers; television and radio; films; the Internet; other people.
Third: when it is time to use the information you have gathered, it is absolutely vital that you acknowledge your source. This means that if you quote the actual words from a book or any other written material, or what someone has said to you, you put them within quotation marks and state who wrote or spoke them.
Fourth: Very often your research work on a certain topic will lead you into presenting your findings. When you write a comment it is very important to support your comments and statements with appropriate and purposeful references:
  • Don't simply list references or features. Give some details and comment on the relevance that reference has on and for your work.
  • If your research work leads to an argumentative text, you will need to make a clear statement regarding your point of view and then follow it with some evidence which fits what you are saying. Such evidence may be a reference to a book or excerpt you might have read during your research work.
  • With written material, make sure you put the author's name and the title of the book in brackets after the quoted part. You can also do it as a footnote. When quoting someone's words, use a structure such as this 'When asked about the validity of his decision, Professor Terrence said...'. Make sure you have quoted the exact words.
Source: Links 11 by Porto Editora

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Farewell, Iron Lady

Known for her uncompromising politics and leadership style, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not only the first woman to hold the position, she was also the longest-serving PM of the 20th century. In poor health for the last several years. Thatcher passed away last monday (April 8th) at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. 

The English Blog presents a super infographic from The Toronto Sun entitled 'The Iron Lady in 5 minutes. Click HERE to see full size image. HuffPostWorld presents an article in which the world's reaction to Thatcher's passing is described. Reuters explains how Margaret Thatcher got her nickname and how it helped shared 'Iron Lady' with the world.

Image credits: The Toronto Sun

Margaret Thatcher had such an impact in the History of Contemporary England that a film was made to portray her life and personality. In the film an elderly Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene. Go to IMDb to know more about the film or watch the trailer here:

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Opinion paper

Writing an opinion paper will give you the chance to consider the topic you have selected or has been assigned to you, decide what you really think about it, and then put those thoughts into words on paper.
First: gather a pile of material and/or ideas on the topic, some of which you will use, but some you may decide to leave out. In order not to get lost you may want to collect all the information in the form of a mind map or simply in a list.
Second: make a plan. Divide the subject of your paper into a numver of different topics, or aspects. Decide on the most logical or effective order to put them in. Create a plan like this, for example: 
  1. Introduction (write a sentence or two)
  2. Topic 1 (give it a heading)
  3. Topic 2: (again, a heading)
  4. Topic 3 (heading)
  5. Topic 4 (heading)
  6. Conclusion
Third: after organizing your text into topics and paragraphs, decide what you are going to include from your pile of information and ideas. Jot this down on your plan so you don't forget. Remember:  use only short phrases and abbreviations. Do not write your text on your plan. Now that you have undergone this process you may begin writing:
  • Do not force your writing, wait for the first sentence to begin building up in your mind. A good beginning will catch the reader's attention.
  • Once you have finished your introduction, read it and make any necessary changes.
  • Go back to your plan so that you do not forget to include any important information. Your plan will stop you from wandering and keeps you focused on the subject.
  • Be careful when linking all the paragraphs. Use linking phrases such as: 'Another time, I...', 'This may be true, but...', 'On the other hand, ...', 'However...' 'Another interesting question is...'.
  • Take time to write your conclusion. Do not do it in a hurry. Your conclusion may be just a single sentence, but it should leave a lasting impression on the reader.
In Links 11, by Porto Editora

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Argumentative text

Before you begin writing any text, you should always take time to think and plan your text. When writing to argue or persuade you should remember that your purpose is to present your opinions in ways which make them seem attractive and convincing to the reader. To achieve this effect there are some pointers you can follow:
  • It helps to have strong feelings on the subject. Sometimes shocking the reader with a strong viewpoint is an effective and powerful way to opening your text.
  • Take extra care in not becoming incoherent or you will weaken your viewpoint and the reader will lose interest in your text.
  • A good way to persuade people is to present them with evidence which will make them think about the topic and eventually change their minds.
  • 'Keep cool!' You may have strong views on the subject but if the tone you use is somewhat aggressive or even insulting, you will not fulfill your task sucessfully.
  • Be careful about only presenting one side of an argument. It may strengthen your case if you acknowledge other views and then point out their inconsistencies.
  • Take special care in presenting your work. Use: titles, headings and sub-headings; underlinings and frames; bullet points; graphics, tables and charts.
  • Use sophisticated language to get your message across. It might be appropriate to use a whole range of stylistic devices: precisely chosen words; images; direct appeals to the reader; rhetorical questions; repetition; humour; appropriate appealing beginnings and endings; linking words. 
In Links 11, by Porto Editora

photo credit: Flооd via photopin cc
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Monday, April 08, 2013

Improve your writing

This week, I'm dedicating some posts to study tips. All these tips are suggested by the authors of Links 11, a coursebook by Porto Editora, the aim of which is to promote students' autonomy in their own learning process. Today, I shall start with ten rules for good writing:
1. Before you start, listen!
Don't try to force the words, wait them to come to you. Only when you 'hear' the first sentence, do you write it down.
2. Find the right word!
Be sure you find the right word. Don't just settle for any word. It must carry the exact meaning and it must sound right in your text.
3. Simple is beautiful!
Make it your rule to write simply and clearly.
4. No unnecessary words!
If you don't really need a word, delete it.
5. Be brief!
Put what you have to say in as few words as possible. You can vary your sentence until you find the simplest and neatest form.
6. Be generous!
Don't hold back because you are afraid of making mistakes. Make sure you cover all the aspects of the topic and express your opinion whenever the text type allows it.
7. Vary your sentence structure!
Do not write only long sentences or short ones. Vary and alternate different types of sentences. This makes your text lighter and easier to read.
8. Be logical! 
Divide the information into several sections. Write a paragraph for each section or topic.
9. Get the flow!
Make sure your paragraphs follow each other smoothly and that there is a logical prgression from one paragraph to the next. This allows the reader to easily follow your train of thought.
10. Listen!
'Listen' to your text and check if the words sound right, if the paragraphs flow. 'Listen' to your text as a whole and not just as a build-up of sentences.
In Links 11, by Porto Editora

photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc
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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Laughing matters

April is National Humor Month, so this is the perfect time to add a little humor into your daily routine. Founded in 1976 by author and humorist Larry Wilde, the original idea was to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic and restorative values of joy and laughter. After all, many studies have shown that laughter can actually improve our health. And laughter is fun! After all, you can't feel sad or angry when you're laughing, right?

The fact is that laughter itself changes us physiologically. Like exercise or waving your arms around, it boosts the heart rate and increases blood flow, so we breathe faster and more oxygen is delivered to the body's tissues. Our facial muscles stretch and we actually burn calories when we're laughing. In fact, the mere act of smiling can alter your mood almost immediately. Of course, there are always skeptics out there, like that cranky co-worker across the way or that grumpy relative you try to avoid at the holidays. But here are a few fun facts that you might want to mention to them:
  • Laughter Reduces Stress: When stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol. Laughter can significantly reduce cortisol levels.
  • Laughter Can Reduce Pain: Laughter causes us to produce endorphins, which are natural, pain-killing hormones.
  • Laughter Strengthens the Immune System: A hearty laugh decreases stress hormones and increases production of T-cells, immune proteins and infection-fighting antibodies.
  • Laughter Helps the Heart: When we laugh we increase blood flow and the function of blood vessels, which can help prevent cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughter Relaxes the Whole Body: One good belly laugh can relieve physical tension and relax your muscles for up to 45 minutes.
  • Laughter Helps You Recharge: By reducing stress levels and increasing your energy, laughter can help you focus and achieve more.
So, not only is a great giggle a lot of fun, it's good for you! And like yawning, laughter can also be contagious. So by opening yourself up to more humor in your daily life, you may also have a positive effect on those around you. And the great thing about humor is that there is a bottomless supply out there. You don't need to sign up for anything. It doesn't cost a thing. It's fat-free and you can have as much of it as you like. So, to get your giggles started, follow this LINK to watch a slideshow of some hilarious video clips

photo credit: Jason Hargrove via photopin cc

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

April Foolery on the Web

April Fools' Day is a trial for readers of newspapers and other media as they attempt to spot the anagrams and other clues that tip the wink that a particular story is a work of fiction. BBC New Magazine has selected a round-up of some of this year's bizarre stories that are true, or seriously intended at least. Read about the ten stories that look like pranks but aren't HEREOlivia B. Waxman, from TIME NewsFeed, writes about April Fool's 2013 and the 10 best pranks from aoround the web, among which are YouTube's announcement of shutting down and Google Nose (Beta). 'Google celebrates April Fool's Day in its usual style' is also a very interesting article about this web foolery, by Prasad, for Gsmarena Blog.

Image by Google Nose (Beta)
Nevertheless the above fabulous pranks, Harry MacCracken, from TIME Tech, explains what was Google’s Greatest April Fool’s Hoax EVER, which turned out to not being a hoax, after all! 'It was Google that kicked off the age of Internet April Foolery back in 2000, and the company continues to ratchet up the quantity and ambition of its hoaxes each year. I cheerfully concede that it does a much better job than most of the others which have followed its lead. Still, Google has never topped a prank it played in 2004 - one which was so effective that most people, to this day, don’t think of it as a prank. I speak of the launch of Gmail, on April 1, 2004. (...) But improbable though Gmail seemed - and despite the April 1 timestamp on the news - it was real. The hoax was that it wasn’t a hoax. Instead, it was one of the most important web services that anybody ever unveiled. Genius. Back in 2004, a gigabyte of online storage was such an impossibly copious amount that Google said it would eliminate the need to delete messages, period. Wrong! Now Gmail offers 10GB of space, and while that amount is generous, it’s far from being all the space anyone could conceivably need: I pay for 25GB of space and expect to fill it all up within the next few years. (At the moment, I have 13.5GB of stuff.) What seemed unimaginable in 2004 - enormous amounts of cloud storage, for free - is now utterly mundane, thanks in part to Gmail’s pioneering largesse.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The origins of April Fools Day

April Fools Day, sometimes called All Fools Day, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar

New Year's Day date moves
Ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year's Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on 'fool's errands' or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe. There are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first is that it doesn't fully account for the spread of April Fools' Day to other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752, for example, but April Fools' Day was already well established there by that point. The second is that we have no direct historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that conjecture appears to have been made more recently.

Constantine and Kugel
Image credits: CartoonStock
Another explanation of the origins of April Fools Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event. 'In a way,' explained Prof. Boskin, 'it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to put things in perspective with humor.' This explanation was brought to the public's attention in an Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was only one catch: Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple of weeks for the AP to realize that they'd been victims of an April Fools' joke themselves.

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