Saturday, May 30, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #9

Ready for the next online word formation puzzle? Here is Number 9. I hope my students and others preparing for the CAE find this a useful activity. So far, none of my students have been able to do the puzzle in less than two minutes. How about you?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do you, like, use 'like' much?

'Like' can be used to mean that you enjoy something or to mean 'similar to.' Now 'like' is also often used informally, as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary explains, to mean that the speaker is 'thinking of what to say next, explaining something, or giving an example of something.' For instance, 'he was, like, so upset.' Or, 'So I thought to myself, like, I'd better make a decision.' For a well-researched and fascinating look at the common usage of 'like' in speech, check out this 2007 piece from the New York Times Magazine.

As an ESL instructor, I have been torn about what to tell students when they use or try to use this expression during Cambridge practice speaking tests. When I'm in the mode of thinking 'like' is a lazy way of speaking and then notice that I use it, I silently reprimand myself for such sloppiness. Other times, I am tongue-tied in class trying to search for a word other than 'like', when I'm giving a definition or an example of how to use a word. I was, therefore, relieved to find that language experts consider 'like' to be an acceptable and even logical expression.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #8

Drill, baby, drill! I'm still trying to get a large variety and number of word forms into my students' brains. For anyone else, trying to practice word formation for the Cambridge exam, as promised, here is the eighth online puzzle. With this 8th installment, we're up to 144 different words. If you see any errors, please let me know.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #7

My goal is to get ten Online Word Formation puzzles up, which would translate to 180 different words that you could review here in preparation for June's CAE exam. Onward to word forms No. 7

National Spelling Bee 2009

On Friday, students from my CAE classes watched one of my favorite films 'Spellbound,' which profiles eight adolescents and their families as they prepare for the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. There's a blog up about Speller No. 128, who's competing in this year's nationals. For up to the minute general information about this English spelling competition, click here.

On May 28, 2009 (Thursday), ABC will televise the final round at 8 PM (Eastern). Be sure to watch. It's guaranteed to be spellbinding.

I discovered last week that students from outside the USA can also compete in our 'national' spelling bee. So, why do we call it the 'National' Spelling Bee, when, in fact, it has been international for many years?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #6

If you're getting ready for the Cambridge exam and liked the first five word formation crosswords, here is the next one in this series. As before, the 18 words in this crossword are different from the ones found in the previous puzzles. Good luck, and have fun with No. 6!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #5

This is the fifth in a series of online crosswords for practicing word formation for the FCE and CAE Cambridge Exam Use of English (Paper 3). There are SO many words that could occur on the exam, students often ask if there is 'a list.' Unfortunately, no.... However, the words that I have included in these puzzles are ones that I've taken from previous exams and exam prep books, going back to 2001 when I began teaching these exam preparatory courses. Each of my crossword puzzles has 18 different words or parts of words in it. By the time you finish this fifth puzzle, you will have practiced 90 different words.

***Oops! There's one error in this crossword. The clue to #4 Across is 'adj of ambition.'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Word Clouds

You can create colorful and thought-provoking images of words using this wonderful tool called Wordle. This is one of my creations with a bunch of random antonyms. Can you match these opposites? Teachers and students can both have fun with this. Choose your own color combinations and the font you like. You can also print out your creations or save them to a permanent gallery.

Online Word Formation Crossword #4

Are you ready for another word formation crossword? Are your skills improving? This approach to learning word formation is to have some fun reviewing and rethinking these forms. Try testing your speed at completing the crosswords if you've done this one or the previous ones. Practice makes perfect!

Online Word Formation Crossword #3

Here is another challenging word formation puzzle. Good luck!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Online Word Formation Crossword #2

Here's the second online word formation crossword. If you do the first one and the second, you will have reviewed 36 different words. Please drop a comment, and let me know if these are helpful, and I'll continue. I've added a new feature to this blog - a reaction strip. This is a quick anonymous way to give feedback to me about what you think of a particular post. Thanks for your feedback.

Online Word Formation Crossword #1

The word formation section of the FCE and CAE Use of English paper is always challenging. Here is my first online word formation crossword puzzle for reviewing for the FCE, CAE, or TOEFL exams. I've abbreviated the word forms because of letter limits: n = noun, adj = adjective, v = verb, adv = adverb.

The neat thing about this online crossword puzzle is that you can time yourself (see how long it takes you to complete the crossword), and you can get a percentage score for how well you do each time. Hope you find this addition to the blog useful!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Disney English in China

What is 'Disney' English? A recent Wall Street Journal article focused attention on this topic. Although the representatives of Disney schools claim that their educational institutions are not primarily marketing Mickey Mouse to the children of China, it sure looks like it. Nevertheless, according to Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products Worldwide, "We never saw this as an effort to teach the Disney brand and Disney characters. We set out to teach Chinese kids English." I am dubious after watching this video, but is there anything wrong with teaching English while marketing Disney products?

I guess not, but in trying to understand the world's many Englishes, this is one I hadn't thought about before. Does it matter what 'literature' inspired you to learn English? Here in the USA, we say that the most important thing is that you get your children to enjoy reading, whether it's comic books or Sesame Street books or Disney storybooks. However, if you're living here, it's assumed that you want to acculturate your children to our value system.

So, why hasn't the Chinese government reacted negatively to the idea that their most precious resources for the future - their children - are being taught American values through Disney English schools? Clearly, there is no way to remove our culture from this product. Hmmmm....

(For those curious about what Disney Schools are looking for in their teachers, here's an ad displaying requirements for teachers applying for a job with Disney in China.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Great Academic Listening Sites for TOEFL

Students and teachers of TOEFL will find Academic Earth and Education for All to be very useful for improving vocabulary and listening comprehension. Both sites feature lectures by outstanding professors and entrepreneurs representing a wide range of fields. There are ten-minute segments as well as full lectures (an hour or more). Some of the resources provide written transcripts. Definitely visit these free sites for practicing academic listening comprehension.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

George Carlin and Playing on English

A few weeks ago, I saw a recording of an award ceremony commemorating (posthumously) the comedic talents of George Carlin, who was being honored with the Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center. Listening to some of his most famous routines, I realized what a genius he was with words and wondered why I had never seriously explored his work. Take, for example, the first two minutes of his 'Advertising Lullaby.' It's an outstanding demonstration of all the advertising come-ons used in the business, but presented in such an artful way that it was pleasurable listening to it. He always considered the rhythm and sounds and carefully chose the sequence in which to put the phrases together. You can be totally mesmerized by his 'poetry in motion.' The only drawback is that, depending on the age of your students and your own sensitivity, you may need to censor the last 40 seconds of this piece. There's a lot of vulgarity in the last part. This link gives you a transcript of the lyrics without the last stanza.

Of course, George Carlin devotes some attention to seven dirty words that can't be used on television (this excerpt again would not be appropriate for school-age children). Had he not used so many 'unacceptable' words, his work would be ideal for any advanced level ESL class. His abundant profanity, however, requires caution when airing his pieces. Nevertheless, the fact that the Kennedy Center did celebrate his achievements last November, shows that he went beyond notoriety to achieve recognition as a major contributor to the development of the art of American humor.

Advanced-level students, if you can understand George Carlin's work, then you're probably near proficiency level! If you can't yet enjoy this form of entertainment, download, read and interpret the transcript of 'Advertising Lullaby.' Watch the performance again, and just listen to the music of the American spoken word interpreted by George Carlin.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

CAE and the Open Cloze

What is a cloze? For a detailed description of the cloze technique, check out Brigham Young University's English site

In the Cambridge exams, the second part of Paper 3 (Use of English) is the 'open cloze.' It contains written material with gaps. The student must fill them in with his/her own words, and it is quite challenging.

Today, while reviewing adjective clauses, I told students to tell me the difference between the restrictive and non-restrictive form. They rolled their eyes, and I could see them thinking to themselves - oh no! more terminology! However, with illustrations using some examples from the Blue Azar grammar book ('The children, who wanted to play soccer, ran to the park.' and 'The children who wanted to play soccer ran to the park.'), they began to see the difference. The main point was to let them know that "Mr. Cambridge" loves to trick students into choosing the wrong word, in this case, 'that' instead of 'which' or 'who.' That is, if you have a restrictive adjective clause containing essential information identifying the noun, there are no commas around the relative clause and you can use 'which' or 'that' with a thing or 'who' or 'that' with a person. On the other hand, if the adjective clause following the noun is a non-restrictive form, you must use 'who' or 'which', and not 'that.' Isn't the Use of English 'Open Cloze' fun?

Here's an example of a self-created 'cloze' about history. The paragraph comes from an article in 'The Atlantic' (Dec. 2008) by James Fallows entitled, 'Be Nice to the Countries that Lend You Money':

'Gao, _____ I mentioned in my article, would fit no American's preexisting idea _____ a Communist Chinese official. He speaks accented ______ fully colloquial _____ very high-speed English. He has _____ law degree ______ Duke, _______ he earned _____ the 1980s after working _____ a lawyer ______ professor in China, _____ he was _____ associate _____ Richard Nixon's former Wall Street law firm. ______ office, _____ one of ______ more tasteful new glass-walled high-rises _____ Beijing, itself seems less Chinese ______ internationally 'fusion'-minded in _____ aesthetic ______ furnishings. '

The solution is below in the previous post (since the order of my posts on my blog page is most recent first, I have put the solution in an earlier post so that you can scroll DOWN rather than UP for the answers).

Solution to the Above Sample CAE Cloze

If you tried the previous CLOZE example of a self-made Part 2 of the CAE Use of English paper, here's the solution. With practice, CAE Students, you will definitely improve!

'Gao, whom I mentioned in my article, would fit no American's preexisting idea of a Communist Chinese official. He speaks accented but fully colloquial and very high-speed English. He has a law degree from Duke, which he earned in the 1980s after working as a lawyer and professor in China, and he was an associate in Richard Nixon's former Wall Street law firm. His office, in one of the more tasteful new glass-walled high-rises in Beijing, itself seems less Chinese than internationally 'fusion'-minded in its aesthetic and furnishings. '

Good job!