Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

holmwoods.eu

Website Review: www.holmwoods.eu (youtube.com/user/HolmwoodsELT)

In short: They’ve made a bunch of cool YouTube videos. The videos aren’t too strong as stand alone material, but the simple, clear (but natural) language make them great supplemental material for teachers.

For students: If you join, you can use the comprehension questions that come with a lot of videos and readings.

For teachers: Do the free trial at holmwoods.eu to check out some more material. Things are set up for your students to do homework here. Higher level students would get the most out of it.

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this talk: Christopher DeCharms looks inside the brain

How to listen to this talk: Christopher DeCharms looks inside the brain (a TED Talk)

Low-Level Students: You can use the translations to understand this video

Intermediate-Students: Listen and then use the translations to understand this video

Advanced Students: Don’t use the translations.

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

How do we control our muscles?

How do we control what happens in our brain?

What are some ways to change our brain?

Do you think it’s possible to look inside your brain?

Listening Click here to go to the TED website (you need to go there to be able to use the interactive transcript. That way you can listen, read, and repeat certain sections of the talk quickly).

There are subtitles in 27 languages. Below the video, you can select the language that you want for subtitles.

There’s also a box to the right of the video. Click on “Open Interactive Transcript” to see all the words. Click on any word to go to that part of the speech.

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

Why does he ask the audience to wave at the beginning?

What does he think will be possible in the future?

Why does he say: “You had to take a spaceship. Shrink it down. etc.”

What is “MRI”?

What does he say we can do using MRI?

Doctors have been using MRI for years. What’s new about this?

In the past, what were the three ways to try to impact the brain?

What is the fourth way?

What is “chronic pain”? Why does he mention it?

Why does he ask the audience to flex their biceps?

Activity Do this activity to help you remember what you’ve learned.

Imagine you can change things about your personality. What things would you change and why? Post your ideas in the comments!

Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.

Do you think it will be possible to change many things about your brain because you can look at your brain patterns? Why/Why not?

Is there anything that is dangerous about this technology? If yes, what? Why?

Imagine that this technology works very well. Do you think children should be allowed to use it?

How about athletes? We don’t let athletes use drugs to change their bodies. Should they be able to change their minds?

Answers

Why does he ask the audience to wave at the beginning? He wants to demonstrate that if you can see something, you do the same thing.

What does he think will be possible in the future? In the future, we’ll be able to look inside our brain and control what’s happening (just like we can control our arms).

Why does he say: “You had to take a spaceship. Shrink it down. etc.” He’s referencing movies and TV shows where people went into bodies using tiny ships. He’s saying that we’ve been thinking about this technology for a long time. It’s going to be true, but different than how we thought it would be.

What is “MRI”? Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

What does he say we can do using MRI? Basically, it’s a way to look inside the brain. We can see what’s happening inside the brain.

Doctors have been using MRI for years. What’s new about this? In the past, we had to wait to see a scan of the brain. Now we can watch brain activity live (like we watch CCTV/a security camera—in real time, without waiting).

In the past, what were the three ways to try to impact the brain? Talking to a psychologist/psychiatrist, taking drugs, having surgery.

What is the fourth way? The way he’s describing, by looking inside the brain, watching what’s happening and controlling it.

What is “chronic pain”? Why does he mention it? Chronic pain can be different things. In this talk, chronic pain is feeling pain even though the source of the pain is gone. Like, someone’s hand hurts even after the hand was cut off. He mentions it as an example of something we’ll be able to see in our brains in the future.

Why does he ask the audience to flex their biceps? He wants to say that you’ll be able to do the same thing with different brain areas. You’ll be able to flex parts of your brain, so to speak.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , | Leave a comment

CNN Student News

Website Review: edition.cnn.com/studentnews

In short: CNN Student News presents the news almost every day in a short video. These are made for teenagers who are native English speakers, but non-native speakers will enjoy them as well. The anchor (news person) speaks quickly and uses some slang and idioms, but students can read the transcript if they need help.

For students: Check out the discussion questions for each story. If you can answer them, then you’ll know that you really understand.

For teachers: Ask your students to follow a topic all semester. At the end of the term, they can present everything they’ve learned.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this song: If a Song Could Get Me You by Marit Larsen

How to listen to this song: “If a Song Could Get Me You” by Marit Larsen

You can also listen here, here, and here.

First Listening Question

What is this song about?

Second Listening Questions

Just guess. Who do you think ended the relationship? The girl or the boy?

What would she do to get him to be with her again?

Now read the lyrics

If A Song Could Get Me You Lyrics

I could try you with a waltz
I could try rock and roll
I could try it with the blues
If a song would do

I could sing it high or low
When I let you go you know
I thought it was for the best
Now it is so obvious

So here it is, here it goes
I could try it rock and roll
Change your life forever too
If a song could get me you
I could make it high or low
Sing it on the radio
If that is what I need to do
If a song could get me you

I could run for miles and miles
I’d take off and I’d start flying
I could cross land and sea
If you just believe me

I should not have hurt you so
This old house is not a home
Without you here, there’s no use
I’ve got no time left to lose

So here it is, here it goes
I could try it rock and roll
Change your life forever too
If a song could get me you
I could make it high or low
Sing it on the radio
If that is what I need to do
If a song could get me you

If a song could get me through
I’d sing my way, right back to you
Tell me how, to make it right
Tell me now, I’ll start tonight
I know I could make it last

I swear to you that if I knew
What I was getting myself into
I wouldn’t answer to my fears
I’d never leave you standing there

Just look at me

If you’d only see me
I would prove my love for you
I could swallow half the moon
Just tell me where, tell me when
I will have you back again

Yeah, here it is, here it goes
I could try rock and roll
Change your life forever too
If a song could get me you
I could make it high or low
Sing it on the radio
If that is what I need to do
If a song could get me you

Yeah, here it is, here it goes
I could try it rock and roll
Change your life forever too
If a song could get me you
I could make it high or low
Sing it on the radio
If that is what I need to do
If a song could get me you

Third Listening Questions

The main line of the song is “If a song could get me you”. This is half of a conditional sentence. How might you finish it? (Hint: There are many examples in the song.)

When do we use conditionals like this?

Who ended the relationship? How do you know?

What three types of music does she mention in the song?

Other than writing a song for him, what are some other things she says she would do?

A Little Extra

What things would you do? Try and write another verse to the song to help Marit get her boyfriend back.

First Listening Answers

What is this song about? This song is about a girl who wants to write a song to get her boyfriend to come back to her.

Second Listening Answers

Just guess. Who do you think ended the relationship? The girl or the boy? She says exactly in the lyrics, but right now, you should just guess. How does it feel to you?

What would she do to get him to be with her again? She would probably do anything, but she’s thinking about writing whatever kind of song would work.

Third Listening Answers

The main line of the song is “If a song could get me you”. This is half of a conditional sentence. How might you finish it? (Hint: There are many examples in the song.) She finishes it with lines that start with “I would” or “I could”. For example, she says: “I could try you with a waltz” and “I would prove my love for you”.

When do we use conditionals like this? This conditional is pretty rare. The form is [subject+past modal+base form of verb, if+subject+past modal+base form of verb]. We use it to describe what we would do in future impossible situations. She thinks it’s impossible for him to return, but if it were possible, she would write him a song.

Another example would be: I would study hard, if I would get an A. It means that an A is impossible, so I won’t study hard. But, if an A were possible (in the future), I would study hard (in the future).

Who ended the relationship? How do you know? She did. “I let you go” means she ended the relationship. She sings:

When I let you go you know
I thought it was for the best
Now it is so obvious

I swear to you that if I knew
What I was getting myself into
I wouldn’t answer to my fears
I’d never leave you standing there

What three types of music does she mention in the song? Waltz, Blues, and Rock and Roll.

Other than writing a song for him, what are some other things she says she would do?

Sing it on the radio

I could run for miles and miles
I’d take off and I’d start flying
I could cross land and sea
I could swallow half the moon

Do you have more questions about this song? Ask in the comments!

August 24, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this..., Using Songs to Teach Grammar | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ef.com/podenglish

Website Review: ef.com/podenglish (youtube.com/podenglish)

In short: Five minute videos that are funny and fun to watch. They make learning English enjoyable.

Each video contains a single grammar point and a theme (Cooking, Interviews, etc.). A narrator reviews the grammar and theme, and then introduces a short video where two people talk about the theme and use the grammar. Then, the narrator reviews the video and some practice exercises.

For students: If you enjoy these videos, you might want to use EF for online lessons. You can learn more here.

For teachers: If you look through the videos, you’ll probably be able to find the grammar point or theme you’re doing in class. You could assign it as homework or use it as part of your lesson.

August 19, 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

growenglish.com

Website Review: growenglish.com (youtube.com/user/ESLJoan)

In short: Some good videos. The material for lower-level students covers things like prepositions, address vocabulary, etc. Joan, the site’s author, does a wonderful job of going slowly and including nice images in her videos. It’s nice to find videos that really low-level students can use. Intermediate and advanced students will find nice stuff too, but will probably prefer a site that goes a little faster.

Also, for just $10 a month you gain access to a lot more videos, quizzes, etc. She also offers private lessons at the incredibly low price of just $30 per hour.

For students: Check out this mystery. You can ask her questions or read the comments to learn more.

For teachers: Send your beginner students to watch these videos as review for what you’ve covered in class.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

esl-lab.com

Website Review: esl-lab.com

In short: Lots of 1-3 minute listening “quizzes.” Mostly, you can listen to conversations, but sometimes just one person is speaking. The best thing is how natural the conversations sound. Randall, who runs the site, has a strong personality. You can really get to know him if you listen a lot. (Some people might find him annoying, but most will find him lovable.)

Unfortunately, the “easy”, “medium” and “difficult” levels aren’t necessarily accurate. A lot of the “easy” ones are quite hard. The speed is OK, but sometimes there is too much difficult vocabulary and grammar for students who want easy listening tasks. The post-listening vocabulary activities are stronger and having your scores appear is cool.

Also, there are way too many ads and the whole site needs to be redesigned. The content is strong, but poorly organized and displayed.

For students: Listen to each quiz many times. They are short, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Listening to one quiz 20 times would be very good for your studies.

For teachers: You might put students in pairs and have each pair choose a quiz that has two people.  After they’ve thoroughly understood it, they could make a transcript and act it out for the class. Then, the class could do the comprehension questions based on the other students’ performance.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this Science Experiment

How to listen to this Science Experiment

Steve Spangler does a lot of science experiments. ESL students enjoy listening to him because he often works with children, so his explanations are simple. But, while the explanations are simple, he speaks quickly. He speaks so quickly that sometimes he decides to change his sentence in the middle.

For example, in the link below, he says: “The liquid nitrogen’s a liquid, most of the air…” This would be a strange sentence to write, but people say strange things or change their sentences in the middle all the time. So, it’s good practice to listen to someone like Steve. Practice focusing on the important things and ignoring the strange things. You can do it in your language, so you can do it in English too.

Other than a few technical terms, the vocabulary is not too difficult. Listen three times. Then take a look at the discussion questions and answers below. Finally, you can read the transcript at the bottom. But listen several times and answer the questions before reading.

To see more videos by Steve Spangler, you can visit his YouTube channel or his website.

Comprehension Questions

What is liquid nitrogen?

Is nitrogen poisonous?

What happens while the liquid nitrogen is in the bottle under the barrel?

Why does the barrel fly into the air?


Answers

What is liquid nitrogen? Nitrogen is normally a gas, but if it is very cold, then it becomes like water (a liquid).

Is nitrogen poisonous? No, most of the air we breathe is made of nitrogen.

What happens while the liquid nitrogen is in the bottle under the barrel? It expands. It becomes 700 times bigger. When liquid nitrogen becomes a gas again, it needs a lot more space. But, it’s in the bottle, so there isn’t a lot of space.

Why does the barrel fly into the air? When there is too much gas in the bottle, it explodes. The explosion sends the barrel into the air.

Transcript

Alright, so Ellen this is what we did in our office. We’re pouring the liquid nitrogen in here, and I mention it because the police actually came out a little bit because they thought that maybe shots had been fired. The liquid nitrogen’s a liquid, most of the air that we breath is nitrogen, so it goes down inside here, but it expands 700 times its normal size. So, here’s the liquid nitrogen here. Now, Jeff’s going to cap it off, and it goes into the barrel that you see here, and so this goes in, and we thought that we’d just kind of put this over the top. So this goes over the top, and now the liquid nitrogen’s getting bigger and bigger, and that bottle is expanding, and it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger until finally you get this pressure that starts to release. It’s the same thing that we used to use in a steam engine, you know years ago, or on a propane tank there’s a pressure release valve. But, it’s, you can actually hear it inside…[BOOM!]…so that’s what happens. You just kind of, release the pressure. Isn’t that awesome? Back to you, Ellen.

August 2, 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