“Any teacher that can be replaced with a computer, deserves to be.” – David Thornburg

21 December 2015


Christmas traditions and customs

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: The story behind the oldest Christmas Carol (reading).

Even Charles Dickens gave it a prominent place in his classic novel, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge showed a depth of his sad self in this paragraph from Dicken's classic: “...at the first sound of 'God bless you merry, gentlemen, May nothing you dismay!’ Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost”.

New Year's quiz... about Scotland: Test your knowledge on Scot's Hogmanay!

Shall I jog your memory?

13 December 2015

2015 Advent Calendar

Provided by Pearson:
From now on and right up to Christmas Eve there’s a special box to open up every day with a little Christmas-based surprise for you and your students, including things like:
  • Christmas songs for your teen and adult students.
  • Christmas crafts for the younger ones.
  • Reading texts for this special time of the year.
  • The origin of Christmas.
  • Activities, recipes, jokes, tongue-twisters and much more… (just click on the image below)

22 November 2015


Weird but quite clear videos of phrasal verbs in context. They are a bit long, though. Anyway, if you can spare some minutes.... They are going to carry on and on until you're dead!

If these videos go with your learning style, here you have more on the Papa Teach Me YouTube channel.

19 November 2015


(the American speaker gets them all wrong! Such fun!)

Please, when you are planning a trip abroad, avoid mispronunciations of the names of places. Just check the correct pronunciation of the places you are going to visit on forvo.com beforehand.

Anglophenia YouTube channel
(Anglo + encyclopedia)
Understanding British culture (for American speakers!!!) Illuminating!

Experts demand legal protection for accents: Reading activity
Should discrimination based on accent be made a legal offence?



For watching this video with subtiles, click here.
Doctor Who: The greatest show in the galaxy

So, name three Scottish inventions. Oh, and you're going to say they weren't invented in Scotland. Yes. I don't know; depends what you say! Well television's is always the one that's-- Ooh, ooh! Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the word "TELEVISION". --sort of claimed 'Cause John Logie Baird came up with one system He came up with one system, which wasn't used. Alexander Graham Bell robbed the telephone. Quite right, so certainly not Alexander Graham Bell. Haggis. Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the word "HAGGIS". Haggis, no. Not even haggis. You'd think, wouldn't you? Haggis was invented in ancient Rome. Rubber tyres? Ah, rubber tyres you can have. Yeah. I'll give you that. Yes. Dunlop. Dunlop. I'll give you Dunlop. Yeah. Yes. Just to get through things that weren't: Kilts were not. They were Irish. And the word "kilt" is a Danish word. Hogmanay is a French word. Did you know that? Yeah. Anguillanneuf it's a French word. Whiskey was Italian. Really? Even before that, probably Chinese. Yeah. It's amazing, isn't it? What "Have you done anything in this bloody world?" you may wonder. I will now tell you what they've invented. Yes. Scotch inventions and discoveries include: Adhesive stamps, the Australian national anthem, the Bank of England, bicycle pedals, the breach-loading rifle--you'll notice I'm going in alphabetical order--Bovril, the cell nucleus, chloroform, the cloud chamber, cornflower, a cure for malaria, the decimal point, the Encyclopedia Britannica, fountain pens, fingerprinting, hypnosis, hypodermic syringes, insulin, the kaleidoscope, the lawnmower, lime cordial, logarithms, lorries, marmalade, matches, motor insurance, paraffin, piano pedals, the postmark, pneumatic tyres, RADAR, the reflecting telescope, savings banks, the screw propeller, the speedometer, the steam hammer, raincoats, tarmac, teleprinters, tubular steel, typhoid vaccine, ultrasound scanners, the United States Navy, universal standard time, vacuum flasks, wave-powered electricity generations, and wire rope! [clapping] Hey! Goodness me. Thank you. Well. Thank you. You should be, er applauding the, erm You should be applauding the inventive Scots. Yeah. And the population of the Scots has never been more than five million, so that's quite an achievement-- It is. --for that small-- Shortbread! Scotch eggs Scotch pancakes Dundee cake. "Dundee " Scotch tape. Yes. Sitting in doorways, erm, singing and crooning, in a weirdly--[deepens and drastically hoarsens voice, adopting Scottish accent]--"inexplicably husky voice, for some reason! I don't know why they do that. Where's that come from, that voice? Aye, aye! Oh " Why are there-- [points to Clive] "I know you, you gobshite!" [suddenly normal voice] That's, er sorry for some reason, what they say to me But, no. Alexander Graham Bell, that For all that we've, rather, introduced him, he did, er He was involved in SONAR, and he developed a hydrofoil, which traveled at 70 miles an hour in 1919. It was a He had a metal detector which was used to find the bullet on Garfield, the president, after he'd been shot-- Yeah. --by an assassin's bullet, and, unfortunately, it didn't work. They didn't find it. He said it was confused [Scottish accent] "by the bedsprings". Erm So Garfield died. So, there we are. Lots and lots of Scottish things.

Catherine Tate/Aga Saga Woman: Geordie nanny
"Children! Run for your lives! We're going to die! She's from the north!"

WILD WEST TV show (more Catherine Tate, now in Cornwall).
Episodes on YouTube.

Now, do watch the following videos for a feel-good boost of confidence: Spanish words English-speaking people can't say. Why do you think they felt reluctant to say the words "negar" (to say no) and "foca" (seal)?

For older posts about accents, do click here.

Gather 'round me, everybody
Gather 'round me, while I preach some
Feel a sermon coming on here
The topic will be sin
And that's what I'm agin'
If you wanna hear my story
Then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewing
The attitude of doing right
You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with mister inbetween
You got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
And have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, noah in the ark,
What did they do, just when everything looked so dark?
Man, they said, we better
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with mister inbetween

17 November 2015


The sounds of English (BBC Learning English). Videos for all the sounds. Really helpful! Example:

Useful tip: practise pronunciation using songs and sing along!!!

And Tell her by Kenny Loggins, with lyrics.

Finally, you know that when I tell you that English is a crazy language I'm not joking, hahaha...

12 November 2015


Book your flight to Middle Earth (video + transcript)

Grammar practice: INVERSION
- Rephrasing
- Loads of exercises

Inversion from Luiz Otávio Barros on Vimeo.

For a post about kiwi accent, please do click here.

TVNZ. New Zealand TV (video news)
Radio New Zealand
New Zealand Herald (newspaper)
New Zealand News

ABC Australia (news + transcript)

10 November 2015

PANTOMIME 2015: Peter Pan

We are going on Friday, December 11th at 19:30 but you can reserve tickets on your own here: http://madridplayers.org/pantomime/
Not to be missed!

Christmas pantomime is a musical-comedy play found in the UK. Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences consisting mainly of children and parents, British pantomime is now a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo. There are a number of traditional story-lines, and there is also a fairly well-defined set of performance conventions. Panto story lines and scripts typically make no reference to Christmas. Plot lines are often 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect, and certain familiar scenes tend to recur, regardless of plot relevance. (source: wikipedia)

Xmas pantomime Madrid 2014: Little Red Riding Hood
Xmas pantomime Madrid 2013: Aladdin
Xmas pantomime Madrid 2012: A Christmas Carol
Xmas pantomime Madrid 2011: Mother Goose
Xmas pantomime Madrid 2010: Alice in Wonderland
Xmas pantomime Madrid 2009: Robin Hood

05 November 2015


Six degrees of separation theory

Six degrees of separation is now three

This theory actually reminds me of a gripping TV series: Touch


For old posts about Guy Fawkes Night, click here.

Gunpowder Plot Game

ALCALÁ DE HENARES AND GUY FAWKES NIGHT: Six degrees of separation (click on the links inside the presentation to expand your knowledge)


Does the name of this London tube station come from "Infante de Castille"? 

Read this article to know.

The Tudors: Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary

29 October 2015


At last, some good news!

From the academic year 2016/17 the Official Schools of Languages in Madrid will offer C1 certificate courses!!!

La Comunidad de Madrid ofrecerá la certificación del nivel C1 en varios idiomas el próximo año.


Halloween corner:
   Treasure hunt
   Listening exercise
   Reading exercise

History of Halloween: listening comprehension
Halloween quiz: spooky destinations
Halloween in the USA: listening comprehension
Learn English with songs: prepositions exercise

For older posts about Halloween, do click here.

22 October 2015


Exercise 1
Exercise 2
Exercise 3
More practice
And a bit more...

Watch this video with extracts from TV series to be able to see this grammatical point in real context:

Listen to these two songs to practise past tense pronunciation and our grammatical point today:


Teacher: You copied from Fred's exam paper, didn't you ?
Pupil: How did you know ?
Teacher: Fred's paper says "I don't know" and you have put "Me, neither" !
Jokes for teachers )

21 October 2015


Hello, boils and ghoulstime to get ready for Halloween?     (whooops, sorry, boys and girls, I meant)

Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven (interactive poem)

Summary. It is midnight on a cold evening in December in the 1840s. In a dark and shadowy bedroom, wood burns in the fireplace as a man laments the death of Lenore, a woman he deeply loved. To occupy his mind, he reads a book of ancient stories. But a tapping noise disturbs him. When he opens the door to the bedroom, he sees nothing–only darkness. When the tapping persists, he opens the shutter of the window and discovers a raven, which flies into the room and lands above the door on a bust of Athena (Pallas in the poem), the goddess of wisdom and war in Greek mythology. It says “Nevermore” to all his thoughts and longings. The raven, a symbol of death, tells the man he will never again ("nevermore") see his beloved, never again hold her–even in heaven. 

For older posts on Halloween, please click here.

13 October 2015

03 October 2015


in Alcalá de Henares
The Birmingham European Festival

The Madrid Players presents An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly. 

An Inspector Calls is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, considered to be one of the classics of mid-20th century English theatre.

Summary (and notes)
Character and theme
BBC - GCSE Bitesize: English Literature, An Inspector Calls

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). In the UK except Scotland, a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school students aged 14–16, at a level below A level. The equivalent in Scotland is Standard Grade.
  •       a GCSE exam or pass 
    "you need five GCSEs"

An Inspector Calls (Complete BBC Edition, Bernard Hepton, 1982) by JB Priestley:

17 September 2015


Coursera.org offers free online courses with American universities on different subjects, ranging from Humanities to Nutrition and Engineering. Well worth considering, don't you think?

14 September 2015



De nuevo ponemos en marcha esta interesante actividad entre CCOO-Henares y la Bowling Green State University, destinada a tod@s los interesados en mejorar su nivel de inglés. 

Como en otras ocasiones, los alumnos de esta Universidad compartirán con nosotros unos meses y ofrecen 1 hora a la semana de conversación.

Tendremos diversos niveles de conversación y cada uno podrá apuntarse al que le vaya mejor según su nivel.

Para establecer los días y los horarios, así como los grupos por niveles nos reuniremos:

HORA: 18:00H.
LUGAR: Local de CCOO del Henares (Vía Complutense, 19 en Alcalá de Henares)

19 July 2015

GO SET A WATCHMAN, better off lost?

I've just finished reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, the we-don't-know-what-to-call-it (prequel, sequel,...) of our beloved To Kill a MockingbirdAfter realising that Go Set A Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe the best description is to say that it was a draft that, ten years later and with a change of perspective, turned out to be the Pulitzer-winning book we are so fond of. 

I don't really know what to make of it. On the one hand, it has been a literary trauma. On the other one, it makes you aware that life is complex and human beings are even more complex. If you decide to tackle it, first, be ready for some shocking revelations, Second, bear in mind it is only the draft of a beginner writer, in fact, just the seed for To Kill a Mockingbird, not a prequel or sequel or even a separate novel. And third, please do some research about the place and time, the Confederate States vs. the Yankees, etc. so that, at least, you can use some sense in understanding the contradictions you are going to encounter.

The Guardian article 1
The Guardian article 2

Plot twists explained (spoiler alert)

"If Mockingbird projects a South that can be read in terms of black and white, Watchman shows us the gray complexity that is the real Dixie. In this powerful newly published story about the Finch family, Lee presents a wider window into the white Southern heart, and tells us it is finally time for us all to shatter the false gods of the past and be free." (NPR news)

Go Set A Watchman: exclusive extract, chapter one

After reading it, I see two clear options: One, you accept it as a depiction of life being complicated, nobody is perfect and, in the end, we all are products of our own surroundings. Two, turning this hero into a racist is an epic blunder, above all, after the symbol it has become. 

Final verdict: mixed feelings.

Maybe this video will help: How do we read this novel?


Humorous review:

17 June 2015


The importance of attitude: How changing your attitude will change your life.

The importance of your attitude on learning

Attitude problem?: Victor Kuppers at TEDxAndorralaVella
"Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will."
Even though in Spanish I really wanted you to listen to what he has to say: Never ever will we be able to change the hand we are dealt but we can ALWAYS choose our attitude, our ultimate freedom.

Ordinary Day song by Great Big Sea (a group from Newfoundland, "Terranova")
I'm free to be whatever I, whatever I choose song by Oasis
Unwritten song by Natasha Bedingfield

"That's the attitude!", Ellen says to Michael J. Fox who talks about staying positive through Parkinson's, a disease he has been suffering from for 20 years but which hasn't prevented him from appearing on tv shows. One of them is The Good Wife in which he plays the role of Louis Canning, an opposing counsel whom Alicia Florrick faces in court many times. He has tardive dyskinesia, a condition which gives him visual tremors and which he has no shame about using to his advantage to elicit sympathy in court.

The Good Wife: Beware, binge watching alert!

Michael J. Fox, my memory lane:

30 May 2015


Wh- ever phrases:

Grammar + practice
Exercise 1
Exercise 2

Exploring concession and contrast sentences

Now, allow me a personal walk down memory lane: I said maybeeeeee, you're gonna be the one that saves meeeeeee, and after aaaallllll, you're my wonderwaaaallll

Once I start to walk, I can't stop!!! So, don't stop me now, we're having such a good time!!!

There's no stopping me!!! Or you!!! Thank you for a lovely course. I'm honoured to have had you as my students. Now, never stop! Keep your English alive, no matter what! 

As a token of my appreciation:

Just as a reminder that so much can be done with so little. Outstanding!

06 May 2015


BBC Skillwise website: giving a presentation
BBC Tallking Business: Presentations: Language Expert

How to make your presentations better without opening your mouth. Body language and voice tone account for 63% of communication (according to this article).

Tips for effective presentations

Tips on making presentations (by University of Kent, the UK's European University). 
Worth checking out the part "Advanced Presention Tips: the Art of Rhetoric": 

  • tricolon effect or the rule of three (The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth)
  • use of contrast (A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up. Margaret Thatcher)
  • use of similes and metaphors (A beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion. J.F.Kennedy)
  • alliteration (Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future. Bill Clinton)
  • quotations (An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. Gandhi