Hi Everyone,

We started off today with a review of some casual phrases and expressions used in daily short conversations. By looking at some illustrated situations we focused on key expressions and their meanings . Here are the illustrations with answers we did in class.

Next we moved on to today’s topic : literacy – the ability to read and write.Image result for literacyWe talked about what age we started to learn to read; who taught us; and how were we taught. In small groups we looked at a few images and wrote our own stories or narratives titled “The Reader”Image result for bell's the reader film by greg gray .

Your stories were very descriptive and thoughtful and also very creative!!
Image result for bell's the reader film by greg grayImage result for bell's the reader film by greg graySome of the common themes were the man’s age, his passion and dedication to reading and learning.

Next we watched the film “The Reader” and compared our stories with the film. Take a look here:

After watching we discussed the struggles the man had to overcome to learn to read and the various techniques and strategies he used to be a successful reader, including reading the cereal box.We talked about the relationship between the man and his son. And the social issues related to an older person challenged by learning how to read.

One surprising thing at the end of the film, is that this is an advertisement for Bells Scotch.Related image

An extra special scotch for an extra special man!


We talked about the issue of illiteracy – not being able to read and write. Why does this happen, and what are the problems that an illiterate person may face in life. Although illiteracy rates have declined significantly in the last 25 years, it still exists in some parts of the world, due to poverty, civil and social issues, and limited or no access to education.

Photographer, Laura Boushnak started a project “I Write. I Read” which raises the awareness of women in Arab countries that suffer from high rates of illiteracy.Image result for laura boushnak i read i writeRelated image

Take another look at her talk about her project and what we can all learn through her photographs and travels –

We all agreed that this is a great way to expand knowledge and awareness about the issues with illiteracy around the world.

Enjoy a nice summer weekend in Boston!Related image

Remember to relax and practice!



Hi Everyone,

Yesterday’s conversation was about physical appearance, intelligence, and persistence, or grit. We talked about which of these 3 traits were important to us, and as a group decided that intelligence was number 1, followed by physical appearance and then persistence. We described these two men in terms of physical appearance:Image result for 3x3 nuno rochaRelated image

Then we expressed our opinions about each man’s intelligence and persistence based on the photographs. Both the men are in the film we watched “3×3”.  We tried to guess what was the relationship between the men and what would happen in the film. Take a look at the film here: 

After watching we talked about the themes of the film – not to judge someone by their looks, and that persistence pays off.Image result for try try try again

We discussed personal instances in our own lives when we have been faced with a challenge but didn’t give up. 

A popular word used to describe persistence today is grit.Image result for grit

Grit is persistence, stamina and passion for long term goals. It is popular in education, psychology and business, as a measure of success. We watched this news report about grit, which features the author of a book on grit, Angela Duckworth. 

In the video Angela Duckworth talks about grit as “passion, perseverance, and payoff”, and that it is considered more important than intelligence, leadership, and physical fitness. But, the bottom line is that grit is as important as empathy and kindness.Related imageWe all agreed that we are gritty!

Words of the day

hesitant (adjective) : slow to act or speak especially because you are nervous or unsure about what to do                                                                                                        She seemed hesitant about accepting the job in London.

smack-dab (adverb) : {informal} exactly or directly                                                             In the movie theater, a very tall guy sat smack-dab in front of me! I could barely see the movie screen! 

prepare (verb) : to make (someone or something) ready for some activity, purpose, use, etc.                                                                                                                                     Our teacher prepared us for tomorrow’s math test.   

Remember to relax and practice!

Move Learn Eat

Hi Everyone,

We began with a review of modal verbs which are :Image result for modal verbs

Today we focused on modals of speculation – must, might, may, and could.

Modals of speculation are used to express degrees of certainty. In other words, they describe a fact or situation that is definite, probable, possible or impossible.

For example:  Mary must not have done well on the test. She looked so sad.

To speculate about present situations or facts:Related image

To speculate about past situations or facts:Related image

We practiced using modals of speculation with 5 different scenarios. Good work everyone!

Today’s topic was Move Learn Eat. These 3 verbs can be used to describe activities at school, at work, at home and when travelling. Then we discussed if you could travel to 11 countries in 6 weeks, which countries would you visit? What would you do in each country? Where would you start your trip and where would you end it? Each group presented their itinerary, and they were each well presented and very unique.

Well, a guy named Andrew Lees actually did this trip and made 3 one-minute films, Move Learn and Eat. In each film we see where Andrew went; what he learned; and what he ate. Image result for move learn eatAndrew traveled to these 11 countries : Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Thailand, Myanmar, and United States. We used modals of speculation to guess what Andrew learned and what he ate.

Take another look at the three short films, and see what you can speculate about Andrew’s adventures!

After speculating about where Andrew would go, and what he would learn and what he would eat, we talked about what does travel mean to us. We agreed that the more you travel the more you become connected to the world. When we are experiencing different cultures we gain an insight into other people’s lives, and can appreciate all our differences. Our view of the world expands and this helps to create a global mindset. Travel is a good thing, for sure!

Remember to relax and practice!

Let’s Move Learn and Eat , where ever we are!Image result for move learn eat


Vanishing Voices

Hi Everyone,

What languages do you speak? We opened up today’s conversation with this question, and as a group we speak 11 different languages. We discussed what is language, what are it’s forms, and what is it used for. According to the dictionary language is the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other. A linguist is someone who studies, speaks, and teaches languages.

How does language identify us? Does it make us who we are? Related imageWe talked about important aspects of language like culture, tradition, history, psychology, and unique characteristics each language has – different intonations, fluencies, vocabulary and rules.


We talked about world languages, how many are there? What languages are spoken in what countries? What languages are studied the most? Here are some graphs to answer these questions.Image result for world language 7 maps and graphics






Image result for world language 7 maps and graphics

Related image


















Today’s topic was vanishing voices or endangered and dying languages. These languages are no longer being spoken for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are that speakers of the languages are dying and it is not being handed down to younger generations. Certain populations are in danger due to natural disasters, war and genocide. Globalization and technology have led to a use of fewer languages to facilitate communication around the world. Here is a world map of endangered languages:Image result for world language 7 maps and graphicsSo, what happens when a language dies or goes extinct? We discussed the loss of history, culture and traditions. Take a look at this video which discusses this question: 

The video talked about the significance of preserving languages, and that language is more than communication, it is a way of thinking.  

There are lots of projects and activities going on to protect and preserve these dying languages and technology has helped a lot in this area. Listen to this radio interview  on Digital Technology and Dying Languages from NPR. After listening we talked about how relevant are these languages in the modern world? Some of them don’t have the vocabulary to communicate in today’s world.

But, still, there is a passion to save these languages and to keep them alive, even if it’s just for a small group of native speakers. One woman, Marie Wilcox, showed her devotion to keeping her Native American language, Wukchumni, alive by writing a 156 page dictionary of the language. It took Marie 7 years to write the dictionary, but with the help of her daughter and grandson, she hopes to pass down Wukchumni. Take a look at Marie’s journey in writing the Wukchumni dictionary: 

After watching it was easy to understand Marie’s passion and devotion to the dictionary, and the roles that her daughter and grandson played in it. For Marie it became a life project, but, the future is uncertain if no one continues to speak Wukchumni.

Lastly we talked about the possibility of everyone speaking one universal language and some of the advantages and disadvantages.Related image Most of us agreed that our native languages are what we identify with, but, English provides a way to communicate globally in today’s modern world.




Words of the day

get the hang of (idiom) : {informal} to learn the skills that are needed to do something                                                                                                                                 After a few weeks of practice, she was finally getting the hang of driving.

peachy (adjective) : like a peach : {informal} very good : fine or excellent                      For the first few years of their marriage, everything was peachy. But lately they seem to be drifting apart.                                                                                                               

obstacle (noun) : something that makes it difficult to do something                                  They had to overcome a lot of obstacles before they could adopt a child.

Remember to relax and practice!

Happy 4th of July Clipart



Fear Of Rejection

Hi Everyone,

Today’s conversation was about fears and phobias – what are they and how do we express them.Related imageWe talked about vocabulary related to fears like scared and afraid which are general words to describe fear. Frightened is a sudden fear, terrified is an intense overpowering fear, and horrified involves a state of shock. Then we discussed some common idioms used to describe fear. Take a look here at the exercise we did together. 

Next we talked about fears and phobias, what makes them different. We reviewed some common phobias and one unusual phobia – hippopotomonstrosequipedaliophobia (fear of long words)! Here’s a list of some common phobias and their meanings.

We discussed some of our fears and then focused on the very common fear of rejection. We all face rejection every day and it can make us feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, shameful, and bad or mad with ourselves. But, none the less we have to deal with it. Rejection is the opposite of acceptance and we all want to belong, it’s just human nature.

Well, Jia Jiang, an entrepreneur was faced with a life long fear of rejection and he took on this fear in a very unusual way. He decided to take on a project where he faced rejection every day for 100 days. Here is his list of daily rejections. Watch his talk as he describes his rejection project: 

After watching his candid and funny talk, we reviewed some of Jia’s tips on how to deal with rejection: 1.) turn a no into a yes by asking “why” 2.) use empathy to break down barriers 3.) persistence often turns a no into a yes 4.) rejection never defines you, your reaction following rejection defines you , and, 5.) we can use rejection to fuel our determination to succeed. We all agreed that we can handle rejection better by using some of Jia’s tips!

Words of the day

blazing (adjective) : very hot, fast or powerful                                                                     At the beach last summer, the blazing sun made it uncomfortable to sit on the sand.

blast (noun) : a mass of air, water, gas, heat, etc., that moves very quickly and forcefully: {informal} a very enjoyable and exciting experience                                       We all had a blast at your wedding last weekend!

up to par (idiom) : good enough : as good as expected or wanted {- usually used in negative sentences}                                                                                                            His teacher said he’s an okay student, but, his math skills are just not up to par.

Have a great weekend and remember to relax and practice!

And don’t let fear of rejection get in your way, just Image result for turn yes into no

Everyday Life

Hi Everyone,

Today we started off with a quick review of “Both….and….” “Both of them…” and “Neither….nor….” “Neither of them….” , where both subjects do or feel the same way about something.

For example : 1.) Both Pete and Sam enjoy playing tennis.                                              2.) Neither Alice nor Sally wants to come to the party.  

The only rules you have to remember is to always use the plural form of the verb with Both…and….     But, with Neither…nor…. the verb depends on the subject (singular or plural) closest to the verb! Take another really quick look at this 6 sentence practice we did together!  Then we held a team competition, where you all split up into 3 teams and some of you asked yes/no questions which were answered and you had to make a sentence using Both…and…./Both of them and Neither..nor…/Neither of them. Great job everyone and congrats to the winners, Team C,with a total of 9 points!!!

Now, onto today’s topic : Everyday Life.Related image

Image result for everyday life  Image result for everyday lifeImage result for everyday life

Image result for everyday lifeRelated image

We split up into pairs and each person asked the other 5 questions about their daily life. After each person had time to get to know a little about their partner’s daily life, we shared what we found out, and tried to imagine what life is like for each other. We concluded that our days are fairly routine with chores and schedules, and activities like school and work and working out, and household duties and time with family and friends.

BUT….. what if you had an extra day in the week, what could you do??? We discussed and brainstormed possibilities for this extra day. Then we watched the film, Everyday, in which a couple Amie and Daniel (below)Image result for everyday gustav johansson script have a conversation about this idea of an extra day in the week, and what they might do. Watch the film here: 

After watching we talked about the activities Amie and Daniel could do on their extra day, and used the both…and / neither…nor forms to describe their feelings about their ideas. 

Lastly, we came up with some ideas of what we would call our extra day, great job coming up with some imaginative and inspirational names for your extra day!!

Words of the day

herbivore (noun) : an animal that only eats plants                                                               My rabbit is a herbivore, who eats lettuce and grass!

at a loss for words (idiom) : unable to think of anything to say                                           I was so shocked when she told me about her divorce, I was really at a loss for words.

delighted ( adjective) : made very happy : full of great pleasure or satisfaction               I am delighted to meet you, and hope to see you again soon.   

 This weekend is the Sail Boston celebration in Boston Harbor for more information about the schedule of events go to Sail Boston . Please be careful if you go, they are expecting big crowds.

Liberty ClipperGuayas

Image result for sail boston 2017

Remember to relax and practice!





Hi Everyone,

Today is a perfect June day, sunny and breezy. We started off with a quick review of questions using question wordswhy, when, where, who, whose, what, which, and how. Take a look at this  quick review we did together.

Next we split up into teams of two and each person was given a list of words. Image result for guess the word

The first student would ask questions using question words and the second student would try to guess the word.

You all did a great job! It was a little more challenging than we thought, but, it was fun! 


This led to a conversation about who asks questions and why? How do we describe the type of person who asks questions?Image result for ask questions

Today’s topic was curiosity – which is a noun meaning : the desire to learn or know more about something or someone.

We discussed whether or not curiosity is important in life? Should we encourage curiosity in schools, businesses, and at home? How? To help us with these questions we watched this video: 

After watching we talked about some of the words used in the video to describe curiosity – thoughtful, powerful, natural, bold, importance of questions, knowledge and life long learning. 

We looked at some  Quotes on Curiosity and discussed what they mean in our lives and in the real world.

Lastly we watched this talk by artist Janet Echelman and how she used her curiosity in many ways to develop and produce her art. Take a look here:

We all agreed that Janet Echelman’s art is amazing and as she progressed through her art and different installations, she approached challenges with curiosity, always asking questions to solve issues and learn more. Janet’s work has been displayed in locations all over the world, even in Boston in 2015!

“As If It Were Already Here” Janet Echelman’s 2015 Boston Installation above the Rose Kennedy Greenway

Words of the day

private investigator (noun) : someone who works as a detective and who is not a member of the police force                                                                                                     Tom hired a private investigator to find out if his wife was having an affair.

fire up (phrasal verb) : to start (something) by lighting a fire : to fill (someone) with energy or enthusiasm                                                                                                              Over Memorial Day weekend, we fired up the grill and had a barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers.

spectacular (adjective) : causing wonder and admiration : very impressive                   We all thought that Janet Echelman’s art work is spectacular and very beautiful to see in so many urban settings!

Remember to relax and practice, and stay curious!

But, don’t be too curious, because, remember – curiosity killed the cat!Image result for curiosity killed the cat idiom







The Great American Food Waste

Hi Everyone,

Well it’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer!! Volunteers have been busy putting over 37,000 flags on the Boston Common in memory of all the people who served and died in our armed forces. The flags will be on display until late Monday afternoon.Image result for memorial day on boston common

Today we talked about what the world eats and the issue of food waste in America. First we looked at a series of pictures of families all around the world and what they spent on food weekly and what they bought.Related image The developed countries spent more money on fruits, vegetables, dairy, and processed foods. The less developed countries spent money on grains and fruits, and not much proteins,like fish or meat.

Next we talked about food waste, especially in the United States.  Americans waste over 40% of produce that is grown here and most of it ends up in landfills. Related image

We read this article  Why Americans Lead the World in Food Waste which basically says that food is cheap and people want food that looks perfect. We all agreed that education about our food, where it comes from,and what happens to food waste, would help in changing our views on food.

Then we talked about some efforts that are being done to cope with food waste, such as gleaning, food rescue, composting, and using everything from nose to tail.

Image result for what is gleaning  Image result for what is food rescueImage result for what is composting Image result for what is nose to tail

We watched this video which talks about food waste and some activities and practices that are used to reduce food waste. 

Two important things that our Moms taught us : “Take what you want but eat what you take.” and “Finish your food, because somewhere, someone’s hungry.” The film also showed us gleaning, food rescue, composting and eating nose to tail.

There is still lots of food waste on our farms, because farmers have to grow produce that is pretty and the right size to appeal to food distributors and food store customers. This often leaves a lot of food behind on the fields to rot and go unused. This PBS video is from the farms in Salinas, California, known as the salad bowl for all the fruits and vegetables it produces. Take a look here:

This video shows the food waste from the farmers perspective and how they are selling  “perfect” produce, and slowly starting to get the “ugly” produce to food banks and even into some grocery stores to reduce waste. One supermarket in France had started a lively campaign to sell some “ugly” fruit and it has been quite successful. Take a look at this amusing video to advertise their “Inglorious fruits and vegetables” campaign: 

So, maybe with education, marketing campaigns, and a general renewal of our relationship with food , we can reduce food waste and save our environment and live a healthier life. 

They may not be perfect, but, they taste great!

Image result for pbs and ugly fruit

Happy Memorial Day weekend and remember to relax and practice! And clean your plate!

Inspire and Advise

Hi Everyone,

What a beautiful, sunny and warm day it is! This is graduation season at the many colleges and universities here in Boston and Cambridge. Related imageThe graduation ceremonies all full of traditions, and a way to honor and congratulate all the students. In addition to awarding diplomas to students, there are also commencement speeches that offer advice and inspiration to graduates as they head off into the world.

Today we focused first on inspiration.Who inspires us? What inspires us? Where do we get inspiration? Image result for inspiration in a canWe can be inspired by nature, the planet, heroes, kindness, books, movies, music, lectures and much more. We are also inspired by our parents, family and friends, students, teachers, religious and political leaders, and many historical figures. Inspiration has a positive effect on our behavior and emotions. 

We agreed that people in our lives and other humans often give us inspiration. We watched this video of a conversation between Blanca Alvarez and her daughter, Connie. They talk about their struggles and challenges in life and how it led to inspiration. Take a look here: 

Image result for icing on the cake

icing on the cake means something that makes something good even better

After watching we talked about how Blanca inspired her daughter to achieve success in her life by watching her mother and father deal with the challenges of coming to the United States and starting a new life.

As Connie says at the end of their conversation “For me watching you go to school with two kids and trying to make ends meet that was the biggest inspiration for me to finish college. So, it’s the most important thing for me having gone to college and I feel like anything I do from here on out is ok, because I’ve already achieved my dream. Everything else is icing on the cake.” 

Now, for the advice part of today’s topic. As we mentioned earlier this is graduation season and that means lots of graduation speeches. We watched this 2 minute video of the best 2016 commencement speeches. 

The clips are brief and fast, but, there are some inspiring advice offered to the graduates and lots of congratulations! (Remember that advice is a noun – pronounced with an “s” sound; and advise is a verb – pronounced with a “z” sound)

Next we watched this video which was originally a column in the Chicago Tribune published in 1997, 20 years ago. It was written to offer advice to graduates, and as we watched it we listened to the advice and thought about whether or not it is still relevant today, 20 years later. Take a look here:

We discussed the advice and then in groups shared some of the pieces of advice and decided which we thought was the most important. We also discussed some of our own advice we would also offer to graduates. So, inspiration can be in actions, and words.    Nice job everyone!!

Words of the day

arm in arm (idiom) : next to each other with the arm of one person linked at the elbow to the arm of another person                                                                                     An elderly couple walked down the street arm in arm, and it showed their closeness together.

exhilarate (verb) : to cause (someone) to feel happy and excited                                    We were exhilarated by the news of his promotion to manager.

bulky (adjective) : large and difficult to carry or store : of a person : large and muscular                                                                                                                                      It’s always a challenge of where to store all my bulky winter coats and sweaters!

Remember to relax and practice! 



The Sounds Of Silence

Hi Everyone,

Image result for parts of speech


Today we started with a quick review of the 8 parts of speech used in English – and practiced some examples in sentences and then did a fun exercise telling stories with random parts of speech.



Our topic today was – the sounds of silence. We discussed and described what is silence? How do you feel when things are silent. We shared 2 minutes of silence together, and some of us felt uncomfortable, and sort of anxious. Others initially felt odd, but, then got into it and felt calm and relaxed. We talked about a man, John Francis, who stopped talking for 17 years. Take a listen to his brief radio interview What We Learn When We Find Silence. After listening we agreed that 17 years of silence seemed kind of crazy!Image result for silence quotes dalai lamaWe talked about the cultural and physical aspects of silence. The relationship of religions and silence. We associate silence with patience, reverence, respect, wisdom and understanding. We discussed where is silence in our lives and what do we do in silence.

Image result for noisy worldBut we live in a noisy world, so what about noise pollution and coping with it?

We talked about what sounds we love and what we hate. 



Recently, a documentary film, called In Pursuit of Silence was produced by director Patrick Shen. Take a look at his kickstarter video which introduces Patrick and his ideas for the film. (this video was used to raise funding on kickstarter, an online resource). 

After watching we then watched the trailer for the film, In Pursuit of Silence, which got into the more detailed issues about silence in this noisy world. 

We agreed that although silence is important, we are probably not looking for absolute silence, but, a balance of silence and sound. We also discussed when silence is a bad thing, like when our freed of speech is silenced.

Finally listen again to the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sound of Silence” which was written over 50 years ago. It still has a relevant message, and simple but pleasing melody.

Remember to relax and practice!

(and appreciate some silence in your noisy world)