Saturday, October 30, 2010

Audio: childhood obesity in the USA

A2, B1, B2

Obesity is a growing problem in the western world, especially among children. In this audio programme from the VOA Special English site, you will hear what measures Michelle Obama has taken in the USA to combat this problem. The programme is written in simplified American English and the presenters speak slowly to help you with comprehension. American accents.  Audio time: 16 minutes. Total activity time: 20 to 45 minutes.

Task: Listen to the programme without reading the transcript and answer these questions:
  • Why does the problem exist?
  • What measures are the government taking? 
Then read the transcript and check your answers.
If you have problems understanding, listen with the transcript. Then cover the transcript, listen again and answer the questions.

Go to the activity here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Prounciation: the schwa - the most common sound in English

A2, B1, B2, C1

What is the schwa?  It's represented by the symbol to the right and it's the most common sound in the English language. When you understand how the schwa works in spoken English, it can help improve your pronunciation and your listening comprehension .. This video gives you an introduction to the schwa.  Video time: 4 mins and 8 secs. Total activity time: 10 to 30 minutes.

Task: Watch the video. Then decide how many schwas there are in this sentence?
"When you know that the schwa exists, words are easier to pronounce"

Go to the video here.

Check your answers here.

Vocabulary: hotels and airports

A2 , B1

Do you know your travel vocabulary? In this activity from the OUP site, you will read a text about a new chain of hotels, then make 25%, 50% or all the words disappear. You will then rebuild the text. Activity time: 10 to 30 minutes.

Task: Go to the activity page, select the text for "Unit 7", and click "Next". After reading the text, decide how many words you want to take out, then rebuild the text.  

Go to the activity here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Audio: How to reduce stress

B1, B2, C1, C2

Emily is from Hong Kong, where life can be very stressful. Listen to this audio talk from the British Council site, where she talks about ways of beating stress. Audio time: 4 mins 30 secs. Total activity time: 10 - 45 mins.

Task: Go to the activity page and
  1. Do the "Preparation" task to help you with vocabulary.
  2. Listen and do the "Task". If you find it difficult, click on "Transcript" and read and listen at the same time. 
  3. For pronunciation practice, listen and read aloud at the same time. Can you speak at the same speed as Emily?

Go to the activity here.

Video: Solving the problem of population growth

(A2), B1, B2, C1, (C2)

The world's population will grow to 9 billion over the next 50 years. What can we do to stop it? Listen to this talk from by Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor and researcher. Video time: 10 minutes. Total activity time: 20 minutes to 1 hour. NB You have the possibility of subtitles in English or your language.

Practise your tenses by answering the questions below. You can use the interactive transcript to the right of the video to check your answers.
  • What was the situation in 1960?  (past simple)
  • What has changed since 1960?  (present perfect)
  • What will happen in 2050?  (future with "will")
Go to the video here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Logic Puzzle/Questions with "how.."

A2 , B1

Test your logic skills with this puzzle, then see if you know how to make questions with "How". Activity time: 5 to 30 minutes.

Task: Farmer Giles is walking home at 5 km per hour with his dog, Rex. When he is 20 km from home, he lets Rex off his lead and the dog runs back home at an average of 15 km per hour. He then runs back to the farmer, back to the house, and so on and doesn't stop running until the farmer gets home. How far does Rex run in that time? 

Not too difficult? So now try this little challenge: How many different questions can you think of that begin with the word "How...?"  There was one in the puzzle and one in the last sentence. Can you write down at least 12 others?

Check your answers here.