Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

Learn English–British Council

Website Review: Learn English—British Council

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/

In Short: The best site on the internet for learning English. It’s multilevel. It’s really big. It’s really helpful.

First: Low-level, intermediate-level, and high-level students will all find great stuff.

Second: The site is really big. You can watch and listen. You can read and write. You can practice grammar. You can play games. You can make friends.

Third: The activities are helpful, interesting, and modern. The site is easy to use and looks great.

For Students: Here are three things you might really like on the site. For listening, Big City, Small World is great. Studying for the IELTS? Check out this section. Or, you might join the virtual community Second Life so you can speak and listen to real people in English all the time.

For Teachers: Send your students to the site and have them write their own reviews. Ask them to answer three questions: (1) What can you listen to on this site? Describe it. (2) Is this a good site? Why/Why not? (3) Would you recommend it to a friend? Why/Why not?

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching English British Council

Website Review: Teaching English www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

In short: The best site for English teachers on the internet. If you only have time to visit one site a day, this should be it. What do you need? Activities for you classroom? They got ‘em.  Training to make you a better teacher? Oh heck yeah. A worldwide community to bounce ideas off of, get help from, and have fun with. Si. Da. Nae. Hai. Tak. Yes. Yes. Yes.

For students: This site is mainly for teachers, but if your teacher isn’t using it, you might tell them about it. Also, check out their sister site for students: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en

For teachers: If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they also have links to tons of other sites. Oh, and make sure to like them on Facebook…

http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this scene: Good Will Hunting

How to listen to this scene: Good Will Hunting Park Scene

Learning Idioms from “Good Will Hunting”. A high-level listening exercise.

Here are some other links if that one doesn’t work for you…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GrfEeLlZW0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBjWHfBHKos

Watch this clip from the movie “Good Will Hunting”. You can also read the transcript below. Use a good dictionary to look up any words you don’t know.

Below the transcript, there are explanations for all of the idioms in the clip. There are also a few extra notes on what’s happening. After you’ve learned them, write practice sentences with them and post them in the comments. We’ll let you know if you’re using them correctly.

This exercise is best for students who have seen Good Will Hunting. For those who haven’t seen the movie, here’s an explanation of what happens before this scene.

Will (Matt Damon) is a young man who is a genius. It seems like he knows everything. However, he also gets in a lot of trouble. He fights a lot. One day after he is arrested, he has a choice. Either, he can go to a psychologist Sean (Robin Williams) or he has to go to jail. He chooses the psychologist, but the psychologist has trouble helping him. During their first meeting Will is very mean. He says some bad things about the psychologist’s wife. He didn’t know that she had died. The psychologist gets very angry. The scene below is their next meeting.

Now read the transcript of the movie clip.

WILL: So what’s this? A Taster’s Choice moment[1] between guys? This is really nice. You got a thing for swans[2]? Is this like a fetish? It’s something, like, maybe we need to devote some time to[3]?

SEAN: I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting.

WILL: Oh?

SEAN: Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me, I fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and I haven’t thought about you since. You know what occurred to me?

WILL: No.

SEAN: You’re just a kid. You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

WILL: Why thank you.

SEAN: It’s all right.[4] You’ve never been out of Boston.

WILL: Nope.

SEAN: So, if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny[5] on every art book ever written. Michelangelo. You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientation, the whole works[6], right? But I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seen that….

If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus of your            personal favorites. You may have even been laid[7] a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

You’re a tough kid. I ask you about war, you’d probably uh…throw Shakespeare at me, right? “Once more into the breach, dear friends.”[8] But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, and watched him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

I ask you about love, you probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable…known someone that could level you[9] with her eyes. Feeling like God put an angel on Earth just for you…who could rescue you from the depths of Hell.

And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, and to have that love for her be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleepin’ sittin’ up in a hospital room for two months, holding her hand because the doctors could see in your eyes that the terms visiting hours don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

I look at you: I don’t see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared shitless[10] kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and you ripped my fuckin’ life apart.

You’re an orphan, right? Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist?[11] Does that encapsulate you?

Personally, I don’t give a shit[12] about all that, because you know what? I can’t learn anything from you I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t wanna do that, do you, sport[13]? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief[14].

Now write sentences Now write sentence with the new words and idioms you learned. Post them in the comments if you’d like them to be corrected.

Finally, answer these reaction questions.

How would you react if you were Will?

Do you think Sean is a good psychologist? Why/Why not?

What do you think will happen to Will in the future?


[1] A Taster’s Choice moment: Refers to a TV commercial for the coffee Taster’s Choice. In the commercials, people shared nice moments together

[2] You got a thing for swans?: To have a thing for me to be attracted to something.

[3] To devote some time to something: This is a common expression used when describing what a patient and a psychologist discuss. Will is using it to suggest that he is the psychologist and Sean is the patient.

[4] Why thank you…It’s all right: Will is being sarcastic. Sean pretends he was serious.

[5] Give me the skinny: To give all the details.

[6] The whole works: Everything

[7] Been laid: To be/get laid means to have sex.

[8] Once more into the breach, dear friends: From Henry V by William Shakespeare. It means to go start fighting again.

[9] Could level you: Could overwhelm you.

[10] Scared shitless: Very scared

[11] Oliver Twist: A book about an orphan by Charles Dickens

[12] I don’t give a shit: I don’t care.

[13] Sport: An affectionate word for a younger man or boy.

[14] Chief: An affectionate word for a friend.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , | 25 Comments

iteslj.org

Website Review: iteslj.org

In short: One of the five best ESL sites on the internet. They have everything. They’ve been putting out great material for 15 years and let’s hope they never stop. Their own menu bar says it all: Articles, Lessons, Techniques, Questions, Games, Jokes, Things for Teachers, Links, and Activities for Students.

The site is organized perfectly. There’s no distracting advertising. If you have a slow connection, this site will still load quickly. What more could you want?

For students: The “Activities for Students” button will take you to this site a4esl.org, There, you’ll find many fun things you can do to improve your English.

For teachers: You can learn from the articles and use the lessons, techniques, etc. Why not contribute as well? See if you can get an article published. You’ll learn a lot while preparing it and give a little back to the community of teachers and students around the world.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this talk: A Formula for Changing Math Education by Arthur Benjamin

How to listen to this talk: A Formula for Changing Math Education by Arthur Benjamin

Before listening Discuss these questions with a partner (or write short answer to them on your own).

What math did you learn in your first years of school? What math did you learn as a teenager?

What math do you use and remember now?

Do you want to change anything about the way math is taught in your country?

Listening Click here to listen to Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education on TED.com.

Listen to it twice.

If you didn’t understand everything, listen two more times with subtitles. (Click “English” in the box below the video.)

If you didn’t understand everything, read the transcript. (Click “Open Interactive Transcript”. There’s a box to the right of the video. In the top-right of the box, you can click the button.)

For any difficult parts, click on the words in the transcript. Then, you can listen to him say those parts again.

Now, if you’re really having trouble, you can listen with subtitles in your language. After you’ve listened with subtitles in your language, listen again in English.

Comprehension Questions Did you really understand this talk? Try to answer these questions. (Answers are below.)

What’s a Czar of Mathematics?

What does the word “implement” mean?

He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid?

What change does he suggest for math education?

Does he think calculus is a good thing?

Make a list of the good things he says about statistics.

Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”?

Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means?

Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.

Do you agree with Professor Benjamin? Why/Why not?

How often do you use calculus in your life?

How often do you use statistics in your life?

Are there any other changes you would make to the way math is taught in schools?

Below the video on the TED site are many comments. Read some of the comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?

Answers

What’s a Czar of Mathematics? It’s not a real thing, but, in theory, a Czar of Mathematics would be able to change any math policy in the country.

What does the word “implement” mean? You can read the definition and hear it in a sentence here.

He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid? He means that you learn a lot of things in order to reach a goal, just like a pyramid has a lot of stone at the bottom so that there can be the top point. The bottom of the pyramid is the math you learn in your first years of school. The top of the pyramid is calculus.

What change does he suggest for math education? He thinks that statistics should be at the top of the pyramid, not calculus.

Does he think calculus is a good thing? Yes. He thinks it’s “one of the great products of the human mind” and that students who study math, science, engineering, and economics should study it.

Make a list of the good things he says about statistics. 1) You could and should use it every day because it’s about risk/reward and understanding data. 2) If more people knew about statistics, then the country’s current economic problems wouldn’t exist. 3) It’s fun (e.g. games and gambling). 4) You can use it to analyze trends (see patterns) and predict the future.

Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”? Without defining the complicated word “analog” this just means that the world doesn’t use old things anymore.

Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means? In short, a standard deviation from the mean shows how close most of the data is to the average. Like, if you’re looking at average height in a class, and just about everyone is 160cm tall (or very close), then the standard deviation will be small. Two standard deviations is a bigger range. You can learn more here.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this: A Sustainable Fridge by Adam Grosser

How to listen to this talk: A Sustainable Fridge by Adam Grosser

Before listening Discuss these questions with a partner (or write short answers to them on your own).

What things do you keep in a refrigerator?

Could you live without a refrigerator?

What medicines should be kept in a refrigerator?

Listening Listen to Adam Grosser discuss his sustainable fridge.

Listen to it twice.

If you didn’t understand everything, listen two more times with subtitles. (Click “English” in the box below the video.)

If you didn’t understand everything, read the transcript. (Click “Open Interactive Transcript”. There’s a box to the right of the video. In the top-right of the box, you can click the button.)

For any difficult parts, click on the words in the transcript. Then, you can listen to him say those parts again.

Now, if you’re really having trouble, you can listen with subtitles in your language. After you’ve listened with subtitles in your language, listen again in English.

Comprehension Questions Did you really understand this talk? Try to answer these questions. (Answers are below.)

At the beginning, there’s a slide show presentation. What problem does it present? What solution does it suggest?

What did Ferdinand Carre invent in 1858? Why couldn’t he build anything with it?

When was the Icyball invented? How did it work?

What problem did it have?

What is “psi”?

What is “computational work”?

Why was it important to find “non-toxic refrigerants that worked at very low vapor-pressures”?

What’s a rig?

What did they build?

How do you use the device to cool things?

What’s a prototype?

How big of a volume can it cool?

Will it work if it’s very hot outside?

How much will it cost if they build a lot of them?

How much will it cost if they don’t build a lot of them?

Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.

What do you think of this product?

This video is from February 2007. Do you think these fridges have become popular?

What are some things people could do to make these fridges more popular?

Below the video on the TED site are many comments. Read some of the comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?

Answers

At the beginning, there’s a slide show presentation. What problem does it present? What solution does it suggest? The problem is that because 1.6 billion people don’t have refrigerators (or the fuel to use a refrigerator), they can’t keep medicine or food that needs to be cold. This makes their lives worse because, for example, there is more disease. The solution is a way to have a refrigerator that works without electricity, fossil fuels, or anything that you can’t get again easily.

What did Ferdinand Carre invent in 1858? Why couldn’t he build anything with it? He invented “absorption and refrigeration” which is a process that makes things colder by heating a gas. (Click here to learn more about it.) He couldn’t build anything with it because, in 1858, he didn’t have the right technology.

When was the Icyball invented? How did it work? It was invented in 1928. It works by heating ammonia and water. The Amonia moves through a tube to another container. When it cools, it comes back to the water and makes everything cold.

What problem did it have? It exploded because heating the ammonia created too much pressure.

What is “psi”? Pounds per square inch. It’s a measurement to say how powerful the air is pushing against its container. A container explodes when the psi is too powerful (like when a balloon explodes).

What is “computational work”? Basically, it means doing a lot of math.

Why was it important to find “non-toxic refrigerants that worked at very low vapor-pressures”? The problem with ammonia was that it exploded and was toxic (poisonous). For people to use the product, it couldn’t be poisonous or explode.

What’s a rig? Usually, it means the back part (trailer) of a truck. Here it just means a test item. It’s their first attempt at building the refrigerator.

What did they build? A low-pressure, non-toxic refrigerator.

How do you use the device to cool things? You heat it over a fire for 30 minutes, let it sit for an hour, and then put it inside something. Whatever you put it inside will get cold for 24 hours.

What’s a prototype? A common term for a test item, not the finished product.

How big of a volume can it cool? 15 liters.

Will it work if it’s very hot outside? Yes. It can work if it’s 30 degrees Celsius.

How much will it cost if they build a lot of them? $25

How much will it cost if they don’t build a lot of them? $40

July 26, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this poem: Kite by Rives

How to listen to this poem: Kite by Rives

A high-level listening exercise. If you like Rives you can learn more about him at his website: shopliftwindchimes.com

Rarely. Sometimes. All the time.

In English classes, we rarely talk about new relationships or how we feel after we sleep with someone for the first time. But, we do sometimes talk about these things with our friends. And we think about them all the time.

Rives’ poem “Kite” is about waking up and finding a note from his new lover. She says “Good morning, Sparkle Boy! I’ll be back around noon. You—make yourself at home.” He does just that.

Enjoy listening to this funny and beautiful poem about new love. Part One has comprehension questions to help you understand the poem. Part Two gives you an exercise to help you improve your intonation, word stress, and timing skills. Finally, in Part Three there are some questions to discuss with a partner (or contemplate on your own).

Part 1: Understand the Poem

Listen to Rives’ poem here or here. Listen three times. Then listen and read it. (The transcript is at the end of this post.)

Try to answer these questions by yourself. If you have trouble, the answers are below.

Comprehension Questions

Why is the poem titled “Kite”?

Why does she call him “Sparkle Boy”? Is it a good thing?

What does it mean to “make yourself at home”? When do people use this expression?

What did the girl’s slippers look like?

What’s the difference between “shuffle” and “walk”?

When do people use the word “frankly”?

Is his tub clean or dirty? What does skanky mean?

What does “to get caught up in the romance of the suds” mean?

Why is it funny when he adds “muthafucka” (motherfucker) at the end of the translation of the Latin poetry?

What is his mood while he’s taking the bath?

He says “maybe I played with myself, but it’s not what you’re thinking.” What does he assume the audience is thinking?

What does “to get laid” mean?

Then he says he did play with himself. What did he do? What did he think of while he did it?

What’s TIVO?

What are antics?

What is the volume of the Prince CDs while he plays them? How do you know?

What is he thinking and feeling when he looks in the mirror?

What does he make for the girl?

What does it mean “I tagged that kite with my words”?

What does he want her to know?

What does “to nail a milestone” mean?

Part 2: Intonation, Word Stress, and Timing

Listen to the poem until the 1:15 mark (when his hand talks to him). Then read the poem out loud to that same point. Repeat this three times.

Then, try to say the words while you listen to Rives. Say the words at exactly the same time, and in exactly the same way, as Rives.

Repeat the process for 1:15-2:10 and 2:10-2:55.

Part 3: Discussion Questions

Do you like bubble baths?

He does many things while he’s alone in her apartment. What are all the ways that he makes himself at home?

What things would you do if this happened to you?

How have you felt just after you started dating someone (after you knew that he/she liked you too)?

After reading the poem on the kite, what kind of person do you think Rives is?

What does he want her to know about him?

How would you react if you were the girl and saw the kite when you came home?

Throughout the poem, Rives is very honest about things that we all do but never talk about. What are some examples? How does this honesty make the poem better?

The audience laughs a lot during the poem. Did you laugh? When? Why?

Kite by Rives

The morning after the first night we made love,
the
note on your pillow said:
“Good morning, Sparkle Boy!
I’ll be back around noon.
You–make yourself at home.”
And so I did.

Maybe.

I’m saying maybe I put on your slippers,
which were as comfortable as bunnies
because they were bunnies,
and then shuffled across my new favorite
hardwood floor to the bathroom
where maybe I took a bubble bath,
which is not something I can do at my place
because, frankly, my tub is way too skanky
to ever sit my bare ass down in.
And then maybe I got so caught up in the romance of the suds
I started quoting old Latin poetry from my college days
like: “fulsere quondam tibi candidi diez…”
You know, uh: “Verily the gods do favor me this morning…muthafucka!”

And then maybe I…played with myself.
But it’s not what you’re thinking–
I’m saying possibly I just sorta
stuck my hand up from the water, for some reason, and started going, like, uh, you know like, um, uh:

HAND: “Somebody got laid last night!
Ha-ha-haaaa!
You! You! You!

Or, you know, whatever.

And then maybe I…played with myself,
and it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
But if I did, it was only to put
the mental motion picture of our naked night together
on replay and replay and replay
so touching myself was just like…
Tivo in a way.

And, and, and yes, you know, I was still wet when I borrowed your bathrobe.
And yes, I scared the birds away from your balcony
with my antics, dancing full-blast
to your old Prince CD’s–
but please let’s keep that my little secret,
because nothing is as private as a solitary dance
unless–maybe–it’s standing in front of a full-length mirror
in a borrowed pair of bunny slippers,
slipping off a bathrobe and then wishing to a lightbulb
that my name, or my game, or my whatever were bigger,
wondering: “What kind of woman wants this skinny kid for a warrior?”

And so I made for you a kite, enormous,
out of coat hangers, brown paper bags
and the masking tape from that drawer in your kitchen,
and I hung it in the hallway
where you couldn’t hardly miss it,
and I tagged that kite with my words,
I wrote:

Just so you know–

My weird mind wanders and my brave heart breaks.
I’ve nailed some milestones, but I make mistakes,
Cuz I got more faults than a map of California earthquakes.

I am taking a nap beneath your covers.
Wake me if you like me.
Wake me if you want me.
Wake me if you need another poem.

Your once and future lover
has made himself at home.

Suggested Answers to Part One

Why is the poem titled “Kite”? Because at the end he makes a kite for her that expresses how he’s feeling.

Why does she call him “Sparkle Boy”? Is it a good thing? “To sparkle” means to shine like light on a diamond, so it’s a very good thing. She probably means that he is an energetic and fun guy.

What does it mean to “make yourself at home”? When do people use this expression? This expression means to act in the same ways that you act at home. For example, if you’re hungry and at a guest’s house, you probably wouldn’t just take food from the cupboard without asking. But, if they tell you to make yourself at home, then you can. People use this expression when they want their guests to feel very comfortable.

What do the girl’s slippers look like? They look like bunnies/rabbits.

What’s the difference between “shuffle” and “walk”? To shuffle means to, sort of, slide your feet in short movements over the floor. Here, he means that he is moving playfully.

When do people use the word “frankly”? Before they want to say something that is uncomfortable to say, but very honest.

Is his bathtub clean or dirty? What does skanky mean? His tub is dirty. “Skanky” means very dirty.

What does “to get caught up in the romance of the suds” mean? He means that he was feeling very romantic because of the soapy, bubbly water.

Why is it funny when he adds “muthafucka” (motherfucker) at the end of the translation of the Latin poetry? Because the Latin is so serious and very formal, the contrast of using a very informal swear word is funny.

What is his mood while he’s taking the bath? He’s very happy.

He says “maybe I played with myself, but it’s not what you’re thinking.” What does he assume the audience is thinking? “To play with yourself” means to masturbate.

What does “to get laid” mean? It means for someone to have sex with you.

Then he says he did play with himself. What did he do? What did he think of while he did it? He masturbated. He imagined the previous night with his new girlfriend.

What’s TIVO? TIVO is a device that lets you record and watch TV shows.

What are antics? Funny or silly (often annoying) actions.

What is the volume of the Prince CDs while he plays them? How do you know? It’s very loud. “Full blast” means maximum volume.

What is he thinking and feeling when he looks in the mirror? He’s wondering if he is good enough for her, if there are enough good things about him so that she’ll really want to be with him. Wishing that his “name” were bigger, means he wants to be more famous. Wishing that his “game” were bigger, means that he wants his career or skills to be bigger. Wishing that his “whatever” were bigger is a reference to his penis.

What does he make for the girl? He makes her a kite.

What does it mean “I tagged that kite with my words”? It means that he wrote words on it.

What does “to nail a milestone” mean? It means to have a big accomplishment.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ted.com

Website Review: ted.com

In short: TED is an organization that wants to spread ideas around the world. And they’re really, really good at it. You can watch videos of some of the most interesting, best thinkers in the world. Scientists, philosophers, comedians, and more—all TED cares about is that they’re good. (Well, they also want them to be quick. The videos range from 3-20 minutes long.)

Why mention it here? Well, it’s maybe the best site on the internet for advanced listening, discussion, and critical thinking skills.

For students: Many of the videos will have subtitles in your language. (This video has 42 languages.) Click on the tab “most languages” to find videos with lots of subtitle options. We suggest that you watch videos four times. First watch with no subtitles at all. Then, watch with English subtitles. Then, if needed, watch with subtitles in your language. Finally, watch again with no subtitles.

Also, to the right of the videos, you can see the transcripts (the speaker’s words) and click on any of the words to skip to that part of the video. Pretty cool, huh?

For teachers: Instead of using magazine articles for your classes and private lessons, why not use TED talks? If possible, you can show them in class. If not, you can assign them for homework.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment