Friday, May 31, 2013

Traffic jam

Do you know the meaning of 'traffic jam'? A monolingual dictionary is very useful when you come across an idiomatic expression. Urban dictionary is one of my favourite translation tools, as it clearly explains each expression in context, and is continuously updated. Cartoons might also be wonderful resources to introduce vocabulary, as the one below by Brian Zaikowski

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Most common phrasal verbs

A phrasal verb is a combination of words that takes on unique meaning. Because they have little to do with the words they are made of, they can be confusing to those learning English. The majority of phrasal verbs are slang and occur most frequently in spoken English, so meanings can usually be determined by the conversation, but an online phrasal verbs dictionary is helpful. Some phrasal verbs in English routinely appear in online phrasal verbs lists; these 15 are handy to know.

Infographic and information provided by
You can also download full size print version of the infographic HERE.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cheese Rolling Race

This is definitely, how can I put it, a 'different' tradition that took place yesterday, unofficially, in Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, UK! Amazingly, it was an American veteran that won the race! Let's take a look at what some media wrote about it.

'With a disputed history dating back to at least the 1800s, the annual Cooper's Hill cheese rolling involves hordes of fearless competitors chasing an eight pound double gloucester cheese down a steep hill. The slope has a gradient in places of one in one, its surface is very rough and uneven and it is almost impossible to remain on foot for the descent. The winner of the race wins the cheese. Injuries such as broken arms and legs are commonplace.'
In (abridged)

'An international field of daredevils defied health and safety zealots to tumble down a hill as they took part in the annual Cheese Rolling competition, last monday (May, 27th). Rebel rollers again staged their own unofficial event after the world-famous competition, which sees thrill seekers chase an 8lb piece of Double Gloucester down a steep hill, was cancelled in 2010. Organisers behind the event at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, had this year replaced the cheese with a lightweight foam version in order to make the downhill race safer.'
In MailOnline (abridged)

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Photograph: MCPIX
Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Colour Week 2013 @PineTree

For the third year in a row, our school celebrates the Colour Week. I am a fan of this initiative, as I believe colours have an amazing healing power! Furthermore, they are incredible good mood boosters! So, join the spirit and sprinkle each day of this special week with COLOUR: on monday wear YELLOW; on tuesday, my favourite colour, BLUE; on wednesday, wear RED; thursday will be GREEN and friday ORANGE

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Science and Poverty

Quoting Bill Gates:
'Poverty has been with us forever, but the advances of science have not been with us forever - and that is why the future can be different from the past. Innovations like 'scuba' rice can help farmers in the developing world protect their crops, feed their families and emerge from poverty. Read more about why Melinda and I support science with our foundation:'
Another resource I might use in the topic 'The Technological World' as a way to stress that science is not just about pure technology or science-fiction. It can also be used to fight poverty in developing countries. Together with Melinda at their Foundation, Bill Gates enlightens the power of science to benefit the poor. 

Found picture @thegatesnotes
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are you a Star Trek fan?

When I came across this article at TIME I immediately thought it could be an interesting resource to use in class, bearing in mind that the current topic I'm presenting my 10th form students is 'The Technological world', in which the sub-topic 'Outer Space' should also be considered. As I have some science-fiction fans amongst my students, I think they might prefer accessing this information, instead of the one displayed on their textbooks. Here follows the article:

'Any true fan of Star Trek will tell you the USS Enterprise is no mere starship - t’s a character in its own right. They might even know that several ships, all bearing the proud name, have carried captains and crews on their long and dangerous missions to seek out new life and civilizations in the farthest reaches of the galaxy. But only the most dedicated of this group, those who proudly call themselves Trekkers or Trekkies, have a deep knowledge of the ship in all its many iterations - practically a different Enterprise for each TV series and movie, including the latest big-screen version, Star Trek Into Darkness. There’s Captain Kirk’s dependable space cruiser, Captain Picard’s luxury liner, and the bigger craft seen in the alternate-reality of the JJ Abrams’ movies. (There are also lesser known Enterprises: The forgotten middle-year ships, the three engined one, the evil battle cruiser, and the never-even-officially-existed fan versions.) How on earth - or, in space - o keep track of them all? Easy: TIME presents a brief history of the Starships Enterprise.' You can take a look at it HERE.

The Starship Enterprise NCC 1701
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Doctor... Who?

Another entry on The Students' Corner in 2012, by Joana Silva, 10th form student, a huge fan of the science fiction TV series Dr. Who:
Doctor Who is a British science fiction TV show, aired for the first time in 1963, starring William Hartnell as the first Doctor. This show is a “must watch” for all the sci-fi addicts! I haven’t watched any episodes from the “Classic Era” of Who. I started watching the show from the series aired in 2005, starring Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor. The main character, the Doctor, is a many hundred years old Time Lord from Gallifrey. 

There was a great war, The Time War, between the Time Lords and the Daleks. In order to protect the universe from the Daleks and his own people, the Doctor ran away in the TARDIS and time-locked the war, leaving his home and travelling through time and space, saving civilizations. 

Until now, the Doctor has regenerated ten times, each regeneration meaning a change in his appearance and consequently meaning a change in the cast. From William Hartnell, going through Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, to Matt Smith (currently performing the part), eleven people have played the same character in the show.
The TARDIS (he stole it, but we don’t talk about that, shhh) is the most important object the Doctor owns, along with his sonic screwdriver. The TARDIS, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, is a spaceship that looks like a blue phone box and it’s “bigger and the inside” ( ). The TARDIS has a soul and it has been shown a human equivalent of her. 

Well, now it’s time to talk about the companions! Whilst travelling, the Doctor makes friends who usually end up travelling with him for a while. He has had several companions, some being left behind, other leaving him or even dying. He tries to keep them safe, as he does with everyone one he meets, but as referred by one of his companions, he “can’t save everyone”. 

My favourite companions are Rose, Captain Jack Harkness, The Ponds (Amy and Rory) and River Song. Rose is a lovely girl from Cardiff that is saved by the Doctor from living mannequins. She falls in love with the Doctor and the Doctor falls in love with her, but she ends stuck in a parallel universe, away from him. Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, is an impossible person! He died in one episode, but Rose brought him back to life and somehow, from that moment, he became immortal. Amy and Rory: the girl who waited and the Roman. They meet the Doctor the day before their wedding and travel with him for a long time. Amy becomes the Doctor’s best friend. They were caught by the Weeping Angels and sent back in time, leaving the Doctor. River Song, well, she’s a tricky one! River is Amy and Rory’s daughter, trained to kill the Doctor, married to him and named after herself. Well, never apply logic to Doctor Who! I could tell everything thing about the companions, but that’d take a long time! 

It’s time to talk about the Doctor’s foes: The Daleks. They are the greatest enemies of the Doctor. They were made to hate and destroy, but, personally, I think they’re adorable! He has other enemies, like the Cybermen and the Master, but the Daleks are the most important ones. 

And so, I’m a big fan of Doctor Who which means that I could talk forever about it, instead, here’s a fan made video that everyone should watch: 

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

To make and to do

Another video by Philochko in which the difference between 'to make' and 'to do' is explained: 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Your time is limited...

... so don't waste it living someone else's life. - Steve Jobs
Commencement speeches are one of the great collegiate American traditions and the last lesson students get before entering the real world. Among TIME's top ten favorites is the commencement speech delivered by Steve Jobs, at Standford, back to 2005. You can read the full transcript HERE.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Impatient Optimists

My 3 Messages for the Class of 2013
May 13, 2013
You can watch Melinda's Commencement Speech
at Duke University HERE
'Yesterday, I gave the Commencement speech at Duke University, my alma mater. It's hard to express how moving it was to look out at 6,000 graduates, representing the millions of graduates around the world who are so full of promise. I think the theme of my message for the graduates is best summed up as “How to Connect When You’re Connected.” There are really three big ideas I hope everyone can take away and think about. 

1. See the humanity of others first. 
There is one big thing that makes all 7 billion people on the planet the same, and it’s more important than the many little things that make us different from each other. It can be hard to see our common humanity, though, because it’s so abstract. The idea of humanity will never inspire you like the actual human beings you meet. When you meet people, especially people’s whose experiences are different from yours, I think you’ll find that what separates you in not what you dream about, but your ability to make your dreams come true.
2. Technology can make your world a neighborhood. 
If you make the choice to connect to more human beings, then your computer, your phone, and the Internet make it so much easier to do. Be proud of your technological prowess. Computers are just a tool, but they’re a powerful tool that lets you communicate directly with people far away, immerse yourselves in their lives, and turn those who used to be strangers into your global neighbors.
3. Make the commitment to connect deeply.
If you use the tool of technology to connect to people who you really believe are equal to you in spirit, then you will be deeply connected. And as a deeply connected person in a deeply connected world, you will take big and small actions to touch the lives of your global neighbors. You new graduates spent years acquiring the knowledge and skills to succeed at whatever you choose to do. I hope you will do what you already had it in your heart to do—to connect deeply and make the equality of all people not just a theory but a fact of life.

I hope you're able to take a few minutes to watch and, if you agree, share it with a young person in your life. Best of luck for the future to all of the 2013 graduates out there. As I said yesterday, I can’t wait to see what you'll do.'

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Is texting killing the English Language?

'There have been some recent articles about how the language of texting is damaging the English Language. Whether you agree or not with this view, the language of texting is here to stay. Most of us live through our smartphones and I have to say that even I, an English Language Trainer, use text language when sending SMSs.' - Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat, a freelance English Language Trainer, author of The World is Your Oyster.

A Randy Glasbergen cartoon
In case you don't know the exact meaning of BRB and BFN, the Urban Dictionary presents various definitions. If you want to know more on how to text in English, Shanthi presents a short list of some common expressions HERE.
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Bono @TED

On February 26th, 2013, Bono spoke at TED to show the progress in the fight against extreme poverty… and what we need to do next. Bono shares the new facts about fighting global poverty: 'Forget the rock opera, forget the bombast, my usual tricks. The only thing singing today will be the facts.'

photo credit: danny.hammontree
via photopin cc
By becoming a 'factivist', we can learn what needs to be done to end extreme poverty within the next generation. And the facts are beyond promising. Since 2000: eight million AIDS patients have been receiving retroviral drugs; mMalaria deaths have been cut in some countries by 75%; child mortality rate of kids under 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths a year; extreme poverty declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000 to 21% by 2010.

Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation - but only if we act. 'Let’s think about that,' he says. 'Have you read anything, anywhere in the last week that is as remotely as important as that number? It’s great news, and it drives me nuts most people don’t know this.' 'If you live on less than $1.25 a day, this is not just data. This is everything. If you’re a parent who wants the best for your kids, and I am, this rapid transition is a route out of despair and into hope.' Watch the video HERE.

I couldn't finish this post without mentioning the fact that today is Bono's birthday. Yep, that's it! My favourite rock star turns 53 this very same day! Coincidentally, it is my eldest daughter's birthday, as well! So, congratulations to you both. I now leave you with a classic: With or without you!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Rainbows in the clouds

Three lessons from Maya Angelou at ASCD13 by Melissa Greenwood:

Image via Maya Angelou
The Official Website
'During a time in education when teacher retention is an ongoing challenge, Maya Angelou encouraged attendees at the ASCD 68th Annual Conference & Exhibit Show to 'continue to be rainbows in the clouds.' 'You have no idea the power you have,' she said. 'Well, you do have some idea because of how many thousands of you have come to make connections and see old friends and make new friends and encourage each other to continue.' 'I am here to tell you to continue,' she added. 'Continue with sass, some idea of flare. Continue with some passion and compassion, some humor and some style. I came here to tell you how grateful I am to you, and let you know that you are rainbows in the clouds.' Angelou shared times in her life in which teachers of all kinds - from her uncle Willy who taught her multiplication to her grandmother who encouraged Angelou during a time when others had given up on her - helped her become who she is today. The keynote was moving and full of takeaways for us all, but a few lessons seemed especially poignant for today’s educators: Recognize the sacrifices others make. Have an attitude of gratitude even if the circumstances aren’t ideal. Be courageous.'
In Smart Blog on Education (adapted)

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A very special week in the US

Image credits
This week, US schools celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6h - 10th).  Many PTAs (Parent-Teaching Associations) and other parent groups will be busy making sure school staff gets recognized often with a special breakfast or lunch, cards, or other tokens of appreciation. Parents and students may participate too with a small gift or note of thanks. Generally speaking, people recall many of their teachers in 'glimpses' of memories. In a child's formative years, it makes sense that these are the people leaving their lasting impression. Venspired, a blog I've recently started following, presents this poster, along with others, to celebrate this week. They're so beautiful, I couldn't resist sharing and wishing that, even though this week is not celebrated in Portugal, we could import this tradition so as to never forget why we have become educators in the first place!
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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

J. K. Rowling

photo credit: Daniel Ogren
via photopin cc
Joanne Rowling was born in July 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, her course including one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London and worked as a researcher at Amnesty International among other jobs. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel. Jo then moved to northern Portugal, where she taught English as a foreign language. She married in October 1992 and gave birth to a daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she and Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, where Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The “K”, for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not appeal to the target audience of young boys.

Picture via Google Images search
The second title in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July 1998 and was No. 1 in the adult hardback bestseller charts for a month after publication. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was published on 8th July 1999 to worldwide acclaim and spent four weeks at No.1 in the UK adult hardback bestseller charts. The fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published on 8th July 2000 with a record first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It quickly broke all records for the greatest number of books sold on the first day of publication in the UK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia on 21st June 2003 and broke the records set by Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire as the fastest selling book in history. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries on 16th July 2005 and also achieved record sales. The seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries in 2007. J.K. Rowling has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry’s school books within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now Lumos). J.K. Rowling’s latest book, The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults, was published in English in September 2012.

As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

Picture via Google Images search
On 6 February 2013 J.K. Rowling was awarded The Beacon Award for Targeted Philanthropy. The Beacon Awards celebrate giving by individuals whose philanthropy has achieved an impact that needs to be more widely shared. Their aim is to provide inspiration to improve and strengthen the culture of individual giving in the UK, resulting in more effective philanthropy. By showcasing exceptional examples of philanthropy they hope to encourage others to give.
In (abridged)

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Ernest Hemingway
Red Nose Day
Roald Dahl

Monday, May 06, 2013

Where's Wally (or Waldo)?

Originating from a series of books created in 1987, Wally (or Waldo in the USA and Canada) went on to have his own 13 episode TV show. The books consist of a series of complex full-page illustrated pictures of hundreds of tiny people. The purpose is to find Wally among the group, which can be difficult! Popular around the world, 'Where's Wally?' has been translated into many languages, including 'Onde está o Wally?' in Portugal, 'Où est Charlie?' in France and Quebec, 'Find Holger' in Denmark, 'Hvar er Valli?' in Iceland, 'Look for Wally' in Japan, 'Wo ist Walter?' in Germany, '¿Dónde está Wally?' in Spain, 'Dov'è Wally?' in Italy and 'Где Уолли?' in Russia.

By LondonsTimesCartoons
'The world is filled with diverse people and customs, which makes it all a more interesting place. Today is about appreciating one another and the things that make us unique. In recognition of the world's diversity, think about what it is that makes you stand out from the crowd.' - Wally

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

10 business idioms using cats and dogs

The business world is full of animal idioms like fat cats, loan sharks and other animals. Indeed, the business idiom fat cats has been widely used in the last few years to describe all those bankers who have earned huge bonuses during the credit crunch. As an English Language Learner, if you want your English to sound more natural, especially when dealing with native speakers, using some of these business idioms in the correct way would certainly help. Here follows a selection of ten:
  1. 'Let sleeping dogs lie' - do not make trouble if you don’t have to, e.g. 'There’s absolutely no point pursuing this issue.We should just let sleeping dogs lie'.
  2. 'Not enough room to swing a cat' - not enough space, e.g. 'You should see my new office, it’s tiny. There’s not enough room to swing a cat!' (In old English, a cat was a whip, not a real cat!)
  3. 'To be dog tired' - to be exhausted, e.g. 'I have worked 70 hours this week. I am dog tired'.
  4. 'Let the cat out of the bag' - to reveal a secret, e.g. 'Great! George in Finance knows about our new product. That’s all we need. Who let the cat out of the bag?'
  5. 'Go to the dogs' - not as successful as in the past (usually used in the continuous tense), e.g. 'That company will go bankrupt if it’s not careful. It’s going to the dogs.'
  6. 'To put the cat among the pigeons' - to cause trouble, e.g. 'Sending the most unpopular manager to talk to the team was like putting the cat among the pigeons.'
  7. 'A dog’s dinner or dog’s breakfast' - to make a mess, e.g. 'They made a real dog’s dinner of the website. It’s terrible.'
  8. 'To fight like cats and dogs' - to argue and fight with someone, e.g. 'It’s a miracle how Sally and John manage this company. They’re always fighting like cats and dogs.
  9. 'Top dog' - the most important person in an organisation, e.g. 'If you want a decision on that, you’re going to have to get it approved by the top dog.'
  10. 'More than one way to skin a cat' - more than one way to do something, e.g. 'No problem. If we cannot get our proposal through this way, we’ll try something else. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.'

A Mark Anderson's cartoon