36% in UK will never buy own home

3 levels / 26-page printable lesson with graded listenings and 30+ online quizzes

House prices in the U.K. are now so high that a third of British people believe they will never buy their own home. This is according to a new report published by the Halifax Bank. Home ownership was once an achievable goal for generations of Britons. However, rising prices now mean the prospects of getting on the property ladder are on the decline. The report says that one in five twentysomethings has no desire to own their own home. Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax, said: “We may be heading towards the point where the aspiration to own a nice home will be replaced by the aspiration to simply live in one.” He added: “It seems that people are now beginning to accept a lifetime of renting.”
Britain’s Office for National Statistics earlier this week stated that house prices have risen by 10.5% in the past year. It expressed concern at what it describes as “runaway train” house prices. The average U.K. house was valued at $425,000 in 2013. Things get bleaker for house hunters wishing to buy in London. Prices in the capital have risen by 18 per cent in a year to an average of $610,000. The Halifax report writes about possible long-term social problems arising from, “the division between homeowners and non-homeowners”. The report warned that if there are fewer first-time buyers, “the market will come to a standstill”. If this happens, prices will have to come down.


Novelist Gabriel García Márquez dies

4 levels / 26-page printable lesson with graded listening and 30+ online quizzes

Gabriel García Márquez, one of the world’s greatest novelists, has died, aged 87. He passed away at his home in Mexico. The official cause of death was a lung infection. The Colombian writer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, among many more top literary awards. The Colombian government has announced three days of national mourning. A spokesperson said García Márquez was, “a writer who changed the lives of his readership”. His novel ”Love in the Time of Cholera” is the best selling book written in Spanish of all time. He also wrote many more classics. Many critics place García Márquez among the most important writers ever. He helped develop a style of writing called “magical realism”.

U.S. President Barack Obama paid a tribute to Márquez, saying: “The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers.” Former President Bill Clinton said: “I was always amazed by his unique gifts of imagination, clarity of thought, and emotional honesty. He captured the pain and joy of our common humanity in settings both real and magical.” García Márquez once said he was a storyteller from a young age. He told an interviewer: “I have often been told by the family that I started recounting things, stories and so on, almost since I was born – ever since I could speak.” Peruvian Nobel prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa said: “His novels will survive and will continue to find new readers everywhere.”


Death threats over new Banksy painting

3 levels / 26-page printable lesson with graded listenings and 30+ online quizzes

A new painting by the “guerilla artist” Banksy is currently the focus of a heated argument in the city of Bristol, England. The painting appeared overnight on a building. The leader of a nearby youth club, Dennis Stinchcombe, couldn’t believe his luck when he saw it and discovered it was a Banksy that could be worth up to $150,000. He prised it off the wall using a crowbar and stored it in the youth club. However, the city mayor said Mr Stinchcombe had no right to take the painting as it was on the wall of a city-owned building. The mayor wants the painting put back. Stinchcombe said it would be vandalised and hopes to auction it to raise money for the youth club. He has since received death threats from angry Banksy fans.

The painting has been called “Mobile Lovers”. It depicts a man and woman embracing while checking out their mobile phones over one another’s shoulder. Art by Banksy is much sought after the world over. The mysterious artist, who is only known by the pseudonym Banksy, has become famous for paintings left on walls and buildings around the world. Many have been removed by building owners and caused similar spats. Wikipedia says Banksy’s work combines, “dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique.” Banksy’s work is heavy on political and social commentary. The city mayor said it was “against the spirit of Banksy and street art” to remove it from where the artist put it.


Australian wins at World Pizza Championship

3 levels / 26-page printable lesson with graded listenings and 30+ online quizzes

An Australian chef has been crowned pizza king at the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy. Pizza maker Johnny Di Francesco, who runs an Italian pizzeria in Melbourne, Australia, scooped the award in the traditional Neapolitan pizza category. He fended off dozens of rivals from Italy and all over the world. Italians who might be shocked at the thought of an Australian (or indeed any non-Italian) winning the prize can take heart from the fact that Mr Di Francesco has firm roots in Italy. His family is from Naples, home of the legendary Neapolitan, and he trained at the city’s prestigious culinary school, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.

The World Pizza Championship is an annual event held to determine the world’s best pizza makers and artists. It began in 1991 and now attracts over 600 entrants. Pizzas are judged by discerning international experts, who look at preparation, taste, bake and presentation. There are also awards for the fastest pizza maker, freestyle acrobatics and the largest dough stretch. The judges at this year’s contest restored Italian pride by announcing the winner of the best classic pizza was master chef Giulio Scialpi from the city of Bari, in south-east Italy. Mr Scialpi said it was the pinnacle of his career and had “craved” the prize since first entering the championship in 2000.


Drawing Challenge

I was reading some wonderful blog posts and saw that David Harbinson took up a drawing challenge which Sandy Millin started.  I really enjoy including drawings to complement vocabulary – I believe that it brings the language to life and students either end up taking photos or copying my (usually poor) drawings which accompany the vocabulary.  I suppose when I first started language teaching, I never included any drawings on my whiteboard and relied on flashcards (due to teaching young learners) or using my phone to translate words.  However, the past few years, I decided that it was probably best to develop my skills in drawing.  I have always been, what I consider, an artist with two left hands.  I find it incredibly difficult to draw anything representing animals or anything complex on the whiteboard.  I usually get ripped into by my young learners at how bad my drawings are.  Nevertheless, I thought it would be great to take up the drawing challenge.  Just below was a picture that I included in a young learner classroom around Halloween last year.

My best attempt at drawing a scary skeleton

My best attempt at drawing a scary skeleton

The Rules (as described by Sandy)

1. Choose four things you often have to draw in the classroom, or that you’ve had bad experiences drawing in the past (!). I suggest a person doing a particular action or job, an animal, a vehicle, and a miscellanous object, but you can draw whatever you like.
2. Draw them in any way you see fit (on a board, on paper, on a tablet…) but don’t spend any more time on it than you would in a lesson.
3. Share the results for us to guess what they are.

My Drawings

I shall let my readers tell me what you think these are.  You are probably wondering what number 3 is but I did say I was pretty awful at drawing pictures.

Attempted drawing

“Where’s the CD?” – Ideas for Missing Audio

What do you do when you can’t find an accompanying CD for your coursebook or a listening lesson?  Scream?  Shout?  Point fingers?  Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do in replacement of the CD if it seems lost for that moment you need it.  At our school, the problem for missing audio CDs seems to be a reoccurring problem.  Each week, there is a frenzy to locate the missing CDs, and yes sometimes missing tapes.  Unfortunately, those involved would often quickly place blame on other people for the missing CDs: “So and so used it last, so they mustn’t have put it back!”.  I find it somewhat amusing that particular teachers are blamed but there seems no immediate plan to recover lost CDs.  So, what is the best way to teach a lesson if you have lost a coursebook CD and what ideas could be incorporated for the future?

One thing that I have done in the past, actually when I was doing my Diploma at the University of Sussex, was to record our own soundtrack.  I grabbed a few teachers and said, “Look, I can’t find the CD for this activity so I would like to record ourselves.”  They were more than happy to help and I handed out the transcript to each teacher, got my phone and started the sound recording application.  We took a few takes, recorded ourselves with the transcript to hand.  The teachers were always so helpful and it made quite a nice change.  I suppose you could spin it another way and get students to record themselves with their own smartphones, attach their smartphone to speakers and then get students to answer the comprehension questions which are then in the coursebook.  All coursebooks have transcripts from their CDs, so it just makes life easier when you record teachers or students for missing audio.

One thing to do is to photocopy the transcript, tip-ex some of the words out, photocopy the amended transcript (after the tip-ex has dried – otherwise you end up removing the tip-ex from the glass panel from the photocopier) and then hand to students. The students then work together and try to reconstruct the transcript.  Once reconstructed, you could students to act it out, record on a video and then upload to YouTube.  The students will find this activity enjoyable and more memorable rather than forgetting about the listening that they done for 10-15 minutes.

Another thing that I like to do at home is to digitalize all my music and CDs on to my computer.  Fortunately, with the advance of technology, you don’t have to worry too much about CDs breaking or getting misplaced.  You can burn your CDs on to your computer and then transfer to an MP3 so you don’t have to juggle around with so much equipment when setting up and preparing your lessons.  You could even get your laptop/PC to communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth and play the audio through this method.  If you do lose a CD and you have a digital copy, you can always burn it again to CD from your computer and have a backup just in case.  I am surprised by the number of schools that rely on the original CDs but when they disappear, it can really hit the fan.  If you have access to computers or servers are setup within your school and have access to these in your classroom, it would make sense to make a digital copy of your CDs or otherwise, purchase IWB software which contains all the audio and video included with it.  This would save you time with juggling between CDs and/or tapes as well as DVDs to play in the classroom.  You would be able to play the audio straight from your computer or school server.  When I was undertaking the CELTA at the British Council in Seoul, all computers in the classrooms had access to the school server and all audio could be accessed via these computers.  Of course, with any reliance upon technology, there were a few times when the computers crashed.

What are your best ways to incorporate the tapescript into your clasroom?  Do you have problems with your school with lost audio CDs or tapes still?  Do you have any advice for ensuring CDs do not go missing?

European leaders rap to win votes

4 levels / 26-page printable lesson with graded listening and 30+ online quizzes

European leaders tried a new way to win votes. They used rap to get young people to vote for them. More and more young people are losing interest in elections. The number of young people who vote has gone down in the past ten years. The number was 87 per cent but in the last election, it was just 65 per cent. Younger politicians made a group called EU40. They said rap would get their message across to young Europeans. They took part in “a freestyle hip-hop battle” on April the 9th in the European Parliament. It was called the “Battle For Your Vote”. The organizers said: “The aim is getting young voters interested in European politics and thus increasing young people’s votes at the upcoming elections.” The European elections are in May. Europeans must choose 751 new politicians. The BBC reported on how the battle started. It wrote: “MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] were given the microphone for a minute to try and drum up some pre-election support. The conservative European People’s Party tried to appeal to the young crowd by saying, ‘If you like money, vote for the EPP’. And then the battle commenced.” The politicians made short raps about many topics. The topics that were most popular were youth unemployment and immigration. Each rapper told the audience what they would do about these problems. They used short, rhyming sentences instead of the usual long speeches.