Posted in Uncategorized

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 230,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 10 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Games, Young Learners

Christmas Trivia Quiz

This is a fun Christmas trivia quiz for the last day of term. Bring prizes for the winning team.

Split the class into small groups and get them to come up with a festive team name. There are two rounds, the first is the picture round. Show the pictures in the picture round handout, students have to name the items they see.

The second round is the trivia round. Read out the questions below one at a time, students write their answers on a piece of paper. You can download the list of questions here. Christmas Trivia Quiz

Trivia Round

  1. What are the names of these dates? 24th + 25th, 31st of December, 1st of January. Christmas eve, Christmas day, New Year’s eve, New year’s day.
  2. What do people traditionally do under the mistletoe plant? Kiss
  3. Where do children hang their stockings on Christmas Eve? Next to the fireplace.
  4. Which English author wrote the book ‘A Christmas Carol’? Charles Dickens
  5. In Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, how many ghosts visited Ebeneezer Scrooge? Extra points for their names. 4 Jacob Marley, Ghosts of Xmas past, present and yet to come.
  6. Name 2 of Father Christmas’ reindeer apart from Rudolph. Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donner, Blitzen, Alternative question: Which of these names is NOT one of Father Christmas’ Reindeer? Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Chaser, Vixen, Donner, Blitzen
  7. The character Jack Skellington appears in which 1993 Tim Burton film? The Nightmare before Christmas
  8. What are the names of the three wise men said to have brought gifts to the baby Jesus? Balthasar, Melchior, Caspar (or Gaspar – Interestingly the Bible does not states state their names, nor even the number of wise men: “…there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem… and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh…” from Matthew 2:1 and 2:11. Thanks A Russell.)
  9. What is New Year’s Eve called in Scotland? Christenmouse, Hogmanay, pigmany
  10. In which modern country is St Nicholas’s birthplace and hometown? Turkey (St Nicholas, bishop ‘Nikolaos of Myra’, 270-343AD, was born a Greek, i.e., of Greek parents in Patara, Lycia. He lived in and was bishop of Myra, Lycia. Patara and nearby Myra, in Lycia, or fully Lycia et Pamphylia, were then technically provincial territory of the Roman Empire with no specific country name. Patara became ruins centuries ago. Where the ancient town of Myra stood, now stands the Turkish town/district of Demre, Antalya Province, Turkey)
  11. From which country does the poinsettia plant originate? Mexico
  12. How many points does a snowflake have? Six
  13. What is the name of the cake traditionally eaten in Italy at Christmas? Panettone
  14. Which country does the tradition of Christmas trees come from? Germany
  15. What do people in England do at 3pm on Christmas day? Listen to the Queen’s speech.
  16. Name 3/5 traditional English Xmas dinner ingredients. Turkey, potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, parsnip, broccoli, cauliflower, sausages with bacon.
  17. What 3 things do children leave next to the chimney for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve? A drink, some food, carrots for the reindeer.

Thanks to Business Balls for some of the questions.

Posted in Vocabulary Classes, Writing Classes

For example…

A quick post of different ways to say “for example” that I found at

“For instance…”
“This can be seen when…”
“… is one example of …”
“…as illustrated by…”
“…as seen in …”
“…which is made apparent when…”
these include…
for instance…
this is illustrated…
note well….
for instance
As an example
such as
e.g.(meaning “exempli gratia”)
“by way of illustration”,
“in particular”,
“as a case in point”,
“an example being…”

Posted in Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class

CAE/CPE Speaking Part 1: Talking About Yourself

This is a sheet of phrases for the CAE/CPE speaking part 1. In speaking part 1 you are required to answer some questions about yourself. These questions could be about a number of subjects. On the sheet there are nice phrases to use divided by category. Put students in pairs to go over the vocabulary, encourage them to choose their favourite expressions and then test each other on them. Tell students to come up with 1 question related to each category and ask them to their partner, then switch partners and repeat.

Download the handout here.

Phrase list:

Where you live

On the outskirts of the city

Just round the corner from…

A stone’s throw from…

Just off calle…

A ten-minute walk from…

A sleepy/peaceful neighbourhood…

An old apartment block where everyone knows everyone else.

A leafy street/avenue

Bang splat in the middle of…

It’s not much to write home about.

Our place can be a bit chaotic

Your aims for the future

I’ve got a burning ambition to…

It might sound silly but I’ve always wanted to…

I’ll probably follow in my Mum/Dad’s footsteps and become a…

Working in… kind of runs in our family.

With any luck/hopefully, in … year’s time I’ll be…

I haven’t got it all mapped out but I’d like to…

I have absolutely no clue what I wanna do, something to do with…

… is a field which interests me.

Provided I get the grades I’d like to be/study…

If all goes to plan I’m gonna…

… is on my bucket list.

Places you’ve travelled to

I’ve definitely got the travelling bug.

…(The Taj Mahal) blew me away.

I’ve never seen anything like it.



I couldn’t believe my eyes/ears.

The first place that springs to mind is…

I had the time of my life/a whale of a time.

I’ll never get bored of…

Soaking up the culture/atmosphere/sun

Catching some rays

Going for a dip in the pool/sea

Towering skyscrapers

Mind-blowing skyline

Snowy peaks

Rolling hills

Scorching heat

Miles of golden sands

Little secluded coves

Crystal clear water

Golden sands as far as the eye can see

Sleepy villages

Bustling towns/cities/marketplaces

Your occupation

I’m in the middle of my (2nd) year of batxillerat.

I’m in the (2nd) year of a 3-year (psychology) degree.

I’m juggling my studies at… with working at…

I’m completely snowed under with coursework.

I’m up to my eyeballs in assignments.

It’s nonstop at the moment.

It’s a steep learning curve.

I’m getting a lot out of the course.

It’s not really living up to my expectations.

I’m gonna take the selectividad in… I’m hoping to get into… to study..

I’m finding it pretty challenging but definitely worthwhile.

I take several extra-curricular subjects such as… and.. on top of my studies.

At the start it was tough but I’m getting the hang of it now.

I’m working every hour of the day.

Learning languages

I’ve been studying English for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always had a knack for learning languages.

I try to really immerse myself in the language.

Learning languages comes quite easily to me.

I’ve always had a curiosity for other cultures and languages.

I spent (a year) living in (England)

Preference in the arts

I’m squeamish so I don’t like horror films.

I’m easily (scared) so I don’t like…

I make an effort to see …’s films as soon as they come out.

I’m into big blockbusters/more obscure art-house films.

One artist I really look up to is…

I do my best to see (art/films) by … whenever I get the chance.

Spare time activities

I’m a keen/avid + personal noun (skier/surfer/skater/reader/swimmer etc.)

I dabble in…

I’m an amateur + personal noun

I like nothing more than to…

I’m really in to…

I’ve hardly got a spare minute these days but when I get the time I like to…

I can be a bit of a party animal…

I sometimes burn the candle at both ends.

I live for the weekend.

I like to go for a stroll around…

I hang out with friends.

My guilty pleasure is…

I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I’m a big fan of…

I’m doing evening classes in…

I’m a bit of a

·         film buff

·         geek

·         bookworm

·         foody

·         tech-head

·         rocker/metal head

·         culture vulture

Your Personality

I’m not the (superlative most sociable/tidiest) person in the world.

I’m easy-going/happy-go-lucky

I can be a bit (negative adjective)

My friends/family would probably say I was…

At times I can be the typical moody teenager.

Were you to ask my Mum, she’s probably say I was…

I’ve got a short attention span.

I procrastinate a lot.

I’m a bit of perfectionist/motor mouth

I’m a bit of a daydreamer.

I sometimes drift off into my own little world.

I tend to (worry about things)


























Chalk and cheese

Two peas in a pod

… runs in my family

I take after my Mum/Dad

We’re a close-knit family

We’re always having family get-togethers/gatherings

I’m the baby of the family/the middle child.

I’m the eldest so I get to boss my siblings around.

I’m the eldest so I was the guinea pig.

I’ve got a sprawling extended family.

I’ve got a kid brother/sister who really gets on my nerves/drives me up the wall at times.

I don’t know how my parents with us.

I really look up to my…

My family’s originally from… but my great-granddad settled her in …

We’re (Catalan) through and through.

My siblings are pretty competitive; we’re always trying to outdo each other.

My sister’s the brainy one, I’m the artistic one, my little brother is the sporty one.

Friends and social life

I prefer to keep myself to myself.

I’ve got a really close circle of friends.

I’ve got a great support network.

My social life is non-existent at the moment; I’m up to my eyeballs/here in coursework.

Me and my best friend are real kindred spirits.

I can really count on my friends; they’re always there for me.

If I’m feeling blue/down, they always know how to cheer me up/lift my spirits

We’ve been through a lot together.

We met in (primary school/kindergarten) and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

I confide in my best friend.

We hangout all the time.

We’re always taking the mickey out of each other.

Sometimes people drift apart.

I do my best to stay in touch with old friends.

If I’m not with them, I’m glued to my phone texting them most of the time.

I know he/she/they have got my back.


I’m completely hooked on (series name) at the moment.

I can watch a whole boxed set in a weekend.

I don’t watch a lot of tele, I stream everything online nowadays.

I like to keep up-to-date with the news.

I have to admit I watch a lot of trashy tele, shows like… and… are my guilty pleasures.

I’m completely hooked on/addicted to facebook/twitter/instagram.

I can’t do anything without tweeting/posting it.

I’m trying to get into (video) blogging/photography.

I can waste hours bingeing on funny cat videos on you-tube.

Posted in Grammar Classes, Video Classes

Video Lesson: Jurassic Park 3rd Conditionals

This is a lesson plan to practice the 3rd conditional using clips from the film Jurassic Park. There are two different activities, one for FCE level and one for CAE/CPE.


Use the Jurassic Park powerpoint to introduce the characters from the film and the formula for the 3rd conditional and then show the t-rex attack video:

Then students come up with as many 3rd conditional sentences as they can.

If Ian hadn’t run to the toilet, the t-rex wouldn’t have eaten Gennaro.

If the kids hadn’t been so stupid, the t-rex would have left them alone.

If Alan hadn’t distracted the t-rex, it would have eaten the kids.

You can also repeat the exercise with Dennis Nedry’s death scene:


The video can also be used to practice the more advanced conditionals needed for the CAE and CPE exams. Use my prezi on advanced conditionals to go over the grammar first. Then introduce the characters and story with the powerpoint from the link above.

Use the video to practice conditionals with noun phrases:

If it hadn’t been for Alan’s bravery, the t-rex would have eaten the kids.

But for Ian’s stupidity, Gennaro wouldn’t have been eaten.

Or inverted conditionals:

Had the kids not attracted the t-rex’s attention, it might have left them alone.

Had it not been for the glass, the t-rex would have eaten the kids.

I recommend giving students the noun phrases you want them to use before watching, then let them watch the video. Afterwards, they make the sentences together in pairs.

Noun phrases:

the flashlight/torch

Alan Grant’s bravery

the kid’s stupidity

Ian Malcolm’s stupidity

the glass

Again, if you have time or if you want to recap at the end of the class or the beginning of the next lesson, show the Nedry video.

Follow up:

Composition: Review/letter of complaint about a trip to Jurassic Park. It would be a good way to practice formal phrases for complaining but in a funny context.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Video Classes

TED talks lesson: The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor

This is a lesson plan for higher levels (C1+) based around Shawn Achor’s TED talk “The happy secret to better work” about ways to apply positive psychology in our day to day lives.

Shawn speaks very quickly, so some students may have trouble keeping up. I suggest setting the video as homework and giving students the link to the transcript as well (you can find it on the TED website); in this way they can watch and rewatch to ensure they understand it fully.

Or download the transcript here.


Or alternatively you could watch it in class.

Vocabulary and Comprehension questions:

Before watching give out the handout and read through the vocabulary and comprehension questions.


  • Boarding school – school where the students live on campus
  • Bunk bed – two single beds one above the other
  • Tailor st towards sb – to make something specifically to fit somebody
  • Glean information – to gather/collect
  • To be at the vanguard of something – to be leading st (This laboratory is at the vanguard of cancer research)
  • Advil – a painkilling drug

Comprehension Questions:

  1. What happens in the anecdote Shawn tells at the start of the talk? His sister falls off the bed and he uses positive psychology to stop her from crying and waking up their parents.
  2. Why does he tell the anecdote? To introduce the topic of positive psychology
  3. What is the purpose of the graph he shows? To introduce the idea of “the cult of the average” and his cynicism about modern psychological studies.
  4. What example of “the cult of the average” does he give? The speed at which children learn to read.
  5. What effect does watching the news have on Shawn’s brain? It changes his perspective of the ratio between positive and negative things.
  6. What is “medical school syndrome”? When medical students start studying symptoms of different disease, they start to think they have them all.
  7. What do Shawn’s friends assume about Harvard students? That they will all be happy just because they go to Harvard
  8. What does Shawn think of the boarding school’s “wellness week”? That it is actually a “sickness week” because it focuses too much on negative things
  9. What problems with the way happiness and success are related in society does Shawn highlight? That happiness is always on the other side of success
  10. How can we rewire our brains to be more positive? Through techniques such as: documenting our gratitude for 3 things a day, by journaling a positive experience every day, doing more exercise, meditating, and random or conscious act of kindness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which of these activities do you do?
  2. Which of these activities would you consider doing?
  3. Do you keep a diary/journal? Did you use to when you were younger?
  4. What is the message of the video?
  5. In which fields do you think this theory would be helpful?
  6. How could they be implemented?
  7. Tell the class a similar anecdote about your childhood to the one Shawn tells at the start of the video.