Tuesday 29 March 2011

Prepositions of time & place: at, in, on + Interactive Tsunami in Japan Cloze Activity

In this post, I'll briefly run through the general rules regarding the prepositions at, in and on, and at the end, there is an interactive cloze activity for you to practise on.

Prepositions of place

Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activities
When we think of a place which has a three-dimensional space, we use IN. Examples are containers, rooms, buildings, vehicles, cities, countries, areas, etc.

I was looking for my keys, and they were in my pocket!
The children are in the garden with their father.

He's got a lovely flat in Paris.
Whenever they get a chance, they go running in the park together.

We use AT when we think of a place as a point.

Whenever I'm in Singapore, I stay at the Goodwood Park Hotel.
Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activitiesI used to live at 67 Whitehall Park.
Joni is at the bus stop.
My son is at the station now.
Why don't you call Sue now? I'm sure she's at home.

Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activities
We use ON when we think of a place as a surface:

Why are you lying on the floor?
I have 17 pictures on my living room wall.
Who was the first man on the moon?
I just love listening to the rain falling on the roof.

To recap:

Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activities

Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activities

Prepositions of at, in, on: Tsunami cloze activities
Let's meet at the bus stop in front of Jack's café on Fifth Avenue.
The cheque is in the white envelope on my desk.
The accident happened at the traffic lights before Jack's café.
Prepositions of time

Let's try to imagine time in terms of lines we spoke of above. Think of longer periods of time as spaces, and remember we use IN when we think of spaces, so we use IN with years, months, weeks, and seasons: in 1992, in October, in the second week of August.

We can also think of periods during the day as 'spaces', so we use in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Think of days, as blobs on a line, so we use ON: on Monday, on 1st April, on Christmas Day.

However, the hour can be imagined as a point in time, so we must use AT: at 5pm, at midnight, at lunchtime.

To study these prepositions in more detail, I suggest you read One Stop English's reference.

Now, try to do this interactive cloze based on the triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threat) that hit Japan earlier this month. Click on the image to begin.

Tsunami in Japan Cloze Activity

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Saturday 26 March 2011

*NEW* Index file to help with your browsing!

In spite of having a drop-down menu (For your browsing pleasure on the top of the left column of this page), some of you have remarked that it was still difficult for you to find certain activities! If we add to that the fact that some security systems, especially public systems such as MEDUSA), prohibit access to the free hosting site I use and, therefore, cannot access this menu, I decided I had to offer an alternative.

This alternative comes in the form of a comprehensive index file, hosted in Google Docs, listed in alphabetical order within each category. If you still can't find what you're looking for, use CTRL F to open up a search box, type in your search, and, hopefully, you'll find it! If you still can't, email me: acliltoclimb@gmail.com.

To access this index file, look at the top of the left column. Just under For Your Browsing Pleasure, you'll see a string of words beginning with 'If you don't like...'. Click on this and the index file will open up in a new window/tab. Alternatively, you can also reach it via the index page above.

Footnote: In the image, I wrote that you could send me suggestions, etc. by clicking on DISCUSSIONS. Unfortunately, this isn't true. You can only write in DISCUSSIONS if you are authorized to edit the document, which no-one can except me.

Earth Hour 2011: Join in! Spread the news!

From the humble beginnings of a one-city initiative in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour has grown to be the largest ever voluntary action taken by mankind. What's more, this year, it carries added poignancy due to the triple tragedy which hit Japan on Friday 11th March, leaving millions of people without electricity. Earth Hour this year is not only to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change, but to show solidarity with the Japanese people.

Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights for one hour, but each year sees more and more cities joining in. What's more, the call for this year is to go BEYOND the hour.

Will you be joining in?

Remember, tonight 26th March 2011 at 20:30 hours, local time.

To help Japan, go here.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Flipping Education With Technology: A Must-Watch Video

The Khan Academy happened almost by accident. It all started when its creator, Salman Khan, made a video tutorial for his cousins. You can find out what happened after that by watching this video. Khan, quite rightly, received a long standing ovation, and I must admit I haven't been so thrilled about education since Sir Ken Robinson's talk.

Khan's proposal, which wasn't his really, but was started by some of his early followers, is simply to reverse the teaching process. Use video as self-instruction at home, and bring what used to be homework into the classroom, where teachers spend more time with individual students, rather than explaining theories to 30 children. Khan's approach would also work well for students who want to supplement their learning while taking online courses.

The idea is, indeed, very exciting, especially for those of us who have been propagating the use of technology in teaching. It has been tested in some schools, and the result have been very encouraging.

Watch the video, and tell us what you feel. Spread the word - tweet this, post it on Facebook, etc.

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Nuclear Energy Power Debate: What's the way forward?

With all the headlines on the problems of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Northern Japan, now is a good time as any to have a debate on the viability of nuclear power as a source of energy.

The strongest objection of the anti-nuclear power lobby are the safety concerns, but what other methods of producing cheap clean energy have we got? Is nuclear power a dirty word? Is alternative energy the way forward?

I'm sure this topic will generate heated debate in the classroom, so why not organise one?

If you are not familiar with formal debate, make sure you read these: All you need to know about debate, and Debate: tasks for everyone.

There are lots of information available on the web, but I'll include a few here to start you off on the right track.

Learn how a Nuclear Reactor Works

-  How Nuclear Power works from How Stuff Works.
-  The Nuclear Fuel Cycle from BBC
-  How a Nuclear Plant Works from BBC
-  BBC also has a graphic explanation of the Fukushima nuclear alert and some facts about radiation.
-  Updated 11 April 2011: Detailed BBC analysis.
-  The Union of Concerned Scientists in Facebook has links & information

All comments will be most welcomed. Thank you.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Tsunami Disaster in Japan: Idioms Part 21 with interactive game. HELP JAPAN!

One must be indeed cold and heartless not to be affected by the triple calamity of earthquake, tsunami, and threat of nuclear meltdown that hit Japan on Friday 11th March 2011. Why, even the Yakuza, Japan's notorious Mafia gang have been doing their bit to help, giving donations and driving relief supplies into radiation zones without protection. You can read about their humanitarian efforts here.

If you wish to help, click on this list to see a list of organisations accepting donations for Japan.

Still, life has to go on, and the series on idioms is no exception. I thought it would be a good idea to take a short break from food, and introduce you to idioms that you could easily come across in a conversation regarding the current situation in Japan.

Idioms arm and a leg

an arm and a leg

very expensive: It will cause the Japanese an arm and a leg to rebuild their country after this disaster.

back to square one

This means that you are in the exact same situation you were before you started to do something, i.e., you haven't made any progress. This is similar to

back to the drawing board

When you try to do something and it wasn't successful, and you have to think of something new, you go back to the drawing board: 

When the cooling system broke down, TEPCO resorted to using sea water to try to cool the nuclear fuel rods, but that didn't succeed, so they were back to square one.

They then tried to drop tons of water from helicopters flying above the reactors, but that didn't work very well either, so they had to go back to the drawing board.

Idioms bending over backwards

bend over backwards

Willing to do anything to help: In spite of having lost all their possessions, they were still bending over backwards to help one another.

bite off more than you can chew

You do this when you take on a task that is way too big and complex for you: The Japanese originally rejected a US offer to help with their nuclear crisis, but they quickly realised that they had bitten off more than they could chew, and ended up accepting the help.

blue moon

a rare occurrence: Having a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami that created waves more than 10 metres high, and a threat of a nuclear meltdown from a reactor whose cooling system (and the backups) failed, all at the same time is something that happens once in a blue moon.

cross your fingers

You do this to hope something will be all right: Let's cross our fingers and hope that their cooling system hasn't been damaged!

dropping like flies

Falling ill or dying in large numbers very quickly: Due to the lack of medical supplies, clean water, and food, the evacuees were dropping like flies.

every cloud has a silver lining

Even difficult times will lead to better days: They say every cloud has a silver lining, so let's cross our fingers and hope that this disaster will, paradoxically, end the world economical crisis.

everything but the kitchen sink

everything you own: Most people who were directly affected by the tsunami lost everything but the kitchen sink.

field day

an enjoyable day or situation:  The anti-nuclear lobby was having a field day when the Fukushima nuclear reactors started having problems.

go against the grain

to be completely different to what you feel is right or normal: "The idea that the Japanese are acting in some way against the grain in an emergency situation is challenged by columnist Johann Hari in the UK's Independent." (BBC News Magazine)

Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan helps others in need without expecting compensation: The Yakuza turned Good Samaritan and started delivering relief supplies to the evacuation centres.

If it's not one thing, it's another

A series of thing that go wrong: It's incredible how if it's not one thing, it's another: the tsunami struck half an hour after the 9.0 earthquake, and then the Fukushima crisis began. After 8 days, they're still having aftershocks of great magnitude.

EFL ELL ESL TEFL TESOL CLIL Games, Resources Activities: Idioms on Disaster in Japan

in the same boat

We're in the same boat if we're faced with the same challenges or difficult situation: Everyone is sharing what they have because they are all in the same boat.

keep your chin up

to remain happy in a difficult situation:  It is truly amazing how people manage to keep their chins up in spite of the difficult situation they're facing.

kick the bucket

to die (although it tends to be used more in a humorous situation): In the darkness, the old lady tripped on a bucket, and literally kicked the bucket.

out on a limb

You go out on a limb when you put yourself in a risky situation, or in a situation where you get no support: The 200 or so workers of Fukushima are going out on a limb, risking their lives, to try to put the perilous situation under control.

saved by the bell

to be saved at the last possible moment: She was hanging on the tree, and was saved by the bell when the rescuers appeared out of nowhere.

start from scratch

to start all over again: When all this is over, the Japanese, especially in the North East, have to start their lives from scratch.

Apart from the usual tagging game (click on the image below), you can compose sentences of your own, showing how you've understood the idioms. Post them in the comments section below (click on the pencil icon).

Be sure to check out the rest in this series. Go to the index file and search (ctrl F) for 'Idioms'.

EFL ELL ESL TEFL TESOL CLIL Games, Resources Activities: Idioms on Disaster in Japan

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Tsunami in Japan: my favourite sites for resources

By now you must have heard about the triple catastrophe that hit Japan: earthquake (measured at 9.0 on the Richter scale, it was the biggest to have hit Japan), giant tsunamis, and nuclear crisis. There are, obviously, numerous websites where you can get up-to-date accurate information, but here are some of my favourite from which you can find useful resources to help you prepare a lesson on the disaster, or simply to get the latest news.

The BBC is always a useful place to find news, in-depth analysis, Q&A, etc. You can get live video & text coverage here.

To understand how tsunamis occur, they have an animated explanation from 2004 here.

The New York Times have incredible images here and interactive before & after images here. More before & after images can be seen at ABC News, too. CNN offers high resolution images of the aftermath here.

NPR does a comprehensive study on the Fukushima nuclear reactors crisis here.

To get an idea of the scale of the earthquakes from which Japan has been suffering, take a look at this interactive map.

Rather than inundate you with countless websites, which will only serve to confuse more than educate, I have just recommended these. Spare a thought for all the people in Japan, dead or alive. If you can, help them by clicking on the image below.

For more organizations involved in the donation process, see this list.
Help Japan NOW!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Teaching and Learning Pronunciation: another video

Those of you who have read Teaching & Learning Pronunciation would have probably watched Jennifer's video lessons on vowels, although I'm not sure if all of you had realised that there were more videos apart from the one I embedded. You can navigate through the playlist by clicking on the arrows to the left or to the right of the video image.

Jennifer (Thanks, Jenny!) has just published another lesson as part of the series, this time on diphthongs. Before watching this, make sure you have watched the other videos on single vowels.

Help Japan if you can...

Help Japan NOW!
Help if you can. Either way, spread the news on the social networks: retweet, post in Facebook, etc. I'm sure the people of Japan will be grateful. Image from setjapan.com

To donate to the Japanese Red Cross, click on the image or here.
For more organizations involved in the donation process, see this list.
Do read Barbara Sakamoto's aftershock series for more bona fide donation services.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Idioms Part 20 (Food - Fruit) Interactive Game

CLIL EFL ESL ELL ESOL TEFL Resources, Games & Activities: Fruit Idioms
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Are all these idioms driving you bananas? I sure hope not! Keep playing these games over and over again, and soon you'll be enjoying the fruits of your labour.

Let's run through the idioms.

bear fruit

When something bears fruit, it means that it has started to yield some success: After slogging day and night at it for a couple of years, his restaurant is, at last, starting to bear fruit.

the fruit/fruits of your labour

These are the benefits you get from something such as hard work: After 50 years of hard work, he can now retire and start enjoying the fruits of his labour.

forbidden fruit

This is something that is desirable because it is illegal or immoral: I don't normally go for these type of films, but since it's been banned, it's become a forbidden fruit for me.

tree is known by its fruit

You judge a person by what he's done: He's told so many lies before that no-one believes him anymore. You know what they say... a tree is known by its fruit.

apple of one's eye

If someone is the apple of your eye, you're extremely fond of that person: He says that he loves all his grandchildren equally, but anyone can see that Akira is the apple of his eye.

upset the apple cart

When you upset the apple cart, you ruin a plan or an event: We were all having such a good time until Tammy upset the apple cart by telling that sick joke.

go bananas

When you go bananas, you feel some strong emotion such as excitement, anger or frustration: Trying to learn all these idioms is making me go bananas!

sour grapes

This expression originates from Aesop's The Fox and The Grapes, and refers to envious behaviour. When you can't get something that someone else has, you pretend that you don't have any interest for it and you say bad things about it: Zahara says she doesn't like my new shoes, but I think it's just a case of sour grapes.

another bite (or a second bite) at the cherry

another chance: He failed his sixth driving test, but he's practising hard now for another bite at the cherry.

rotten apple

This refers to a bad person who influences others so that they become bad, too: Watch out for that tall blond boy over there; he's the rotten apple of the neighbourhood.


You refer to something you buy as a lemon when it doesn't work satisfactorily: I paid 2,000€ for this car, but after 3 days, I realised that I'd bought myself a lemon.

Okey-dokey, now you're ready to beat the record at the fruit idiom game! Click on the fruit image above to begin the game. Although it isn't necessary, registration at Purpose Games will allow you to keep track of your scores. Have fun!

Be sure to check out the rest in this series. Go to the index file and search (ctrl F) for 'Idioms'.

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Friday 11 March 2011

Tsunami in Japan 11 Mar 2011. Google Person Finder Service. Spread the Word

All Isn't Lost: Caring Children

Find more videos like this on School of TEFL

Thanks to David Deubelbeiss for bringing this truly inspiring award-winning documentary to our attention. It's really heartwarming to see that there are teachers like Toshiro Kanamori who attach as much importance to human values as academic knowledge.

What about you? Have you got any similar experiences to share with us? Comment below, please, by clicking on the pencil icon.

Educating Moral People: A Caring Alternative to Character Education Justice and Caring: The Search for Common Ground in Education (Professional Ethics in Education Series)   Schools of Thought II Current Issues in Education Alfie Kohn and Eric Schaps "Creating Caring Classrooms" VHS

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Idioms Part 19 (Food - Fish) Interactive Game

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".
Chinese Proverb

CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL Games, Resources, Activities: Fish Idioms Interactive Game

Cartoon dedicated to Janet Bianchini & Nik Peachey

So, folks, are you still swimming with me? Or did you keep getting egg on your face? The world's an ocean, and this time we'll work with fish.

sounds fishy

When something sounds fishy to you, you find it hard to believe that it is true: He said he just came back from Jamaica, but it sounded rather fishy to me.

a big fish in a small pond

This refers to someone who is important or powerful only in the company of mediocre people, or in a smaller group, and under different circumstances, they wouldn't be so: Jack behaves like a big shot, but really, being a manager of this small branch, he's just a big fish in a small pond.

a cold fish

refers to someone who is unfriendly: The new girl in the office is a bit of a cold fish, isn't she? I'm not sure if she's shy or arrogant...

drink like a fish

If you drink like a fish, you drink often, and in large quantities.

a fish out of water

When you feel like a fish out of water, you are in an unfamiliar situation, and you feel awkward: I was the only one who didn't speak Chinese at the table, so I felt like a fish out of water.

have bigger/other fish to fry

You use this expression to say that you have more important things to do: I've got to rush off now, John; I've got a lot more fish to fry today.

neither fish nor fowl

This is used to refer to something you cannot categorise easily: We just stood there and stared when that strange animal appeared out of the blue. It was neither fish nor fowl!

there are plenty more fish in the sea

You say this when you want to encourage someone who's just had a bad experience, such as losing a job or breaking up with their partner, and it means that there are more opportunities out there: I didn't know what to say to Suzie when she told me her boyfriend had left her, except that there are plenty more fish in the sea.

a different kettle of fish

This is not to be confused with a fine kettle of fish (see below) and means something that is completely different to what you were previously talking about: Joanne is very loud and boisterous, but her sister, Jenny, is a different kettle of fish!

a fine kettle of fish

Don't confuse this with the above. This is used to talk about a situation that is rather unpleasant: I've got a plane to catch in a couple of hours and I can't find my passport! A fine kettle of fish, this is!

OK, now you're ready to put your knowledge to the test! Click on the image at the beginning of the post to begin. Be sure to check out the rest in this series. Go to the index file and search (ctrl F) for 'Idioms'.

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Sunday 6 March 2011

Teaching and Learning Pronunciation

A lot of teachers shy away from teaching pronunciation or they think it isn't important for learners to know the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols. No doubt they have their reasons, but I often get asked by students, 'But how do I learn how to pronounce a word?' They look up a word in a dictionary, and they see these funny squiggles beside the word and they don't know what they mean.

If only for this reason, for them to be able to pronounce a word by looking at the IPA, it's worth guiding them through the sounds of English.

If you're a teacher, but you aren't sure where to start, Adrian Underhill's videos are phenomenally inspirational - just search for him in YouTube. I have embedded his schwa lesson here:

Teaching pronunciation, however, may require too much time, which isn't always available in class. It is very useful as a filler, or perhaps as a five-minute warm-up, but the bulk of the work has to be done by the students themselves at home, so I'll post a few useful links.

First, its useful to know which symbols are used in English pronunciation. English has 44 speech sounds. These links below have interactive phonetic charts - click on the symbol, and you'll hear the sound it represents, and examples of words which have that sound. They all work fine with my tests, so it's a matter of preference which you use:


You can also download Adrian Underhill's Phonetic Chart from here

Then, there are many videos teaching pronunciation; below are some of my recommendations.

I found a set which are excellent for beginners as the presenter (UK) speaks very slowly, and quite clearly, but they have disallowed embedding. Click on the image to lead you to the video on YouTube:

CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning PronunciationCLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning Pronunciation
CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning Pronunciation

Jennifer (US) has some excellent pronunciation videos; the first lesson is reproduced below. The advantage of Jennifer's videos is the fact that they have subtitles, which may help learners quite a bit.

Sound Foundations Teacher Development Vocabulary Power 1: Practicing Essential Words   English Pronunciation in Use Advanced Book with Answers, 5 Audio CDs and CD-ROM (Win 2000/XP)

Once you're quite familiar with the IPA and its sounds, you might like to try these activities:

For more games & activities on Sounds of English, go to the left column of this page (For Your Browsing Pleasure),  click on the '+' sign beside GAMES AND QUIZZES, then click the '+' sign beside Sounds of English, and you'll see a few games listed.

There are a few more posts under the category English Sounds (further down, right after Q&A and before P.E.).

If you're a teacher, I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences on teaching phonetics, and if you're a student, why don't you tell us about your opinions on pronunciation?