The Cultural Iceberg

Hi Everyone,

Today we discussed the world’s total population, over 7.5 billion people, and where do we fit in? Check out this live world population meter to see how quickly the world’s population is growing. So, it is difficult to comprehend the number 7.5 billion and what makes us unique and what do we have in common. A handy way to look at this is to imagine there were 100 people in the world ( a much easier number to understand). We talked about how many men and women there would be, what would be the nationalities, the languages, and the average age range. Take a look at this video that gives you some demographics: 

Here is a link to the data and report for the statistics used in the video. We talked about some of the surprising information, especially education and shelter. 

So, now back to what makes us unique. In pairs we discussed our unique traits and what we had in common. Some of these traits were age, language, nationality, physical appearance, family status, education, and likes and interests. But we also discovered that we have different and similar beliefs, values, customs, and ways of living – culture. Each of us has our own individual and unique culture. 

We looked at culture as an iceberg, where we only see about 10% of the iceberg which is above water. The other 90% is below the water and we can’t see it. Take a look at this image to get a better understanding of this iceberg model of culture:Image result for cultural icebergThe things that we can see are above the water line and what we can’t see is below the water line. It is those beliefs, values, customs,and views on life, which are below the water line, that can lead to misunderstandings among people of different cultures. Next we watched this short video One Day On Earth, which shows a variety of cultures around the world. 

After watching we shared our observations of various customs, activities, clothing, food and other differences in culture. 

To avoid misunderstandings among different cultures and to co-exist peacefully on this earth, we need to practice tolerance. Tolerance is the willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.  We talked about how we can practice tolerance among a world of over 7.5 billion people – travel, education, respect, avoid stereotypes, understand differences, try new foods, sports, movies, and books of another country, learn a language, communicate and many more. We ended our discussion with this quote Image result for helen keller education and tolerance quote

Words of the day

value (verb) : to make a judgement about the amount of money that something is worth : to think that (someone or something) is important or useful                               The necklace was valued at $250,000.

no sweat (idiom) : with little or no difficulty : easily                                                              Sure, I can drive a car no sweat !

eyesore (noun) : an ugly object or building                                                                          That old run-down shack is a real eyesore.

Remember to relax and practice! 

Image result for celebrate diversity




Hi Everyone,

On this frigid morning, after yesterday’s snowstorm, our discussion was about time. Image result for timeAre we constantly worrying about time, does it stress us out? Or do we not think about time too much, and just go with the flow? Well, whatever type of person you are time serves a purpose to keep order in our lives, and help to make things run smoothly. Take a look at this video on the “History of Keeping Time” .

So, time is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, eras, seasons and more. But time is changing with technology and changing lifestyles and work habits. Take the iPhone watch which does a lot more than tell time – it has built in GPS, you can check and monitor your heart rate and it syncs Image result for iPhone watchwith the iPhone 5 so you can get email and text messages and be notified of phone calls! Pretty cool!

One of our classmates was wearing the iPhone watch, and explained some of the advantages and features!

Time is used in lots of idioms and expressions, like “time flies” meaning time passes quickly, and “wasted time” meaning goofing off and not doing what you should be doing. Here is the exercise we did Time idioms and expressions and the list of time expressions meanings

Next we discussed what can happen in a minute, and what can happen in a second. Things like a smile, a wink, a blink of an eye, pushing a button, closing a door, turning off a light, and lots more. German filmmaker, Wim Wenders joined up with Mont Blanc, the watch makers, and hosted a contest for people to submit a one-second video of something they thought was beautiful. Watch Wim Wenders explain the contest here: 

Lots of people submitted their one-second videos for the contest, and they were put together in a one-minute video. Here are two of the videos, and each one has 60 one-second videos.

So, whether you wear a wristwatch, an iPhone watch, use your phone as a watch, or anything else, don’t forget to make every second count!

Words of the day

butt heads (phrasal verb) : to disagree about how something should be done             We’ve seen the Republicans and Democrats butt heads about lots of issues lately.

snowdrift (noun) : a hill of snow that is formed by the wind                                               Yesterday’s snowstorm also had high winds which created snowdrifts all over Boston, but, lots of kids enjoyed playing on them!   

mollify (verb) : to make (someone) less angry : to calm (someone) down                       After their disagreement, Amy tried to mollify Pat with an apology.  

Remember to relax and practice!

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The Sharing Economy

Hi Everyone,

Since we are well into winter, we started off with a review of winter words and phrases. We also talked about winter activities like ice skating, skiing, and sledding. But after spending some time outdoors it’s always nice to come in and warm up by the fireplace.Image result for warm up by the fireplace

We did this quick exercise on winter weather, verbs that go with winter nouns, and some winter phrases , click here to review it again.


Today’s topic was the sharing economy – which is basically an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either free or for a fee.Related image We are familiar with Uber, the car sharing service, a prominent player in the sharing economy. The rise of technology combined with the economic needs of people launched this sharing economy. As time went on, the sociological component also became important, as more and more people started to connect with one another.  

So, we are sharing all sorts of things – like cars, meals, clothes, books, and services- like legal and medical services, and borrowing and lending money. Image result for sharing economyPeople are committed to what they are doing in these exchanges and the element that is holding it all together is trust

We watched this video Shareconomy which talks about the sharing economy, gives some examples and discusses the reason for the sharing economy and pros and cons. Take a look here:

Most of us felt this is a good thing for economic innovation and expansion. By introducing these goods and services, it makes the traditional providers look at their business models and maybe, make some changes. Still, change can be difficult. The video says that in 2020, 40% of the workforce will be “technology free lance”, which we also discussed. It’s progress. 

Have a great weekend – Go Pats! Super Bowl 51 on Sunday!!

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Remember to relax and practice!

Hobbies and Reading

Hi Everyone,

This morning we began with a discussion about hobbies – which are activities done in one’s leisure time for pleasure. We talked about when we do hobbies and listed some of our favorite hobbies –  sports;crafts; reading; listening to music ; napping; collecting stuff – just about anything fun and enjoyable!Image result for hobbiesToday we focused on reading and the joy of books. First we started by creating a list of all the different genres (or types) of books we could think of and posted our results on the wall. Then we talked about our favorite bookstore and wondered what happens in a bookstore when it’s closed…. take a look at this short video to see what happens when a bookstore is closed. 

After watching we talked about the quote at the end of the video “There’s nothing quite like a real book”. We agreed that “real book” means a print book, not an e-book or digital book. Then we discussed some personal preferences about our favorite authors, what time of day we like to read, what we like to read, and can we judge a book by its cover?? Well done everybody, you all had some great thoughts and ideas on reading.

Next we discussed the future of reading and books. With new technologies and innovations in publishing books are changing and now available online in digital formats.Related image We talked about the pros and cons of digital books and print books, and most of us agreed that digital books are convenient and easily accessible, but there is still something special about a print book.

We watched this short video of a digital, interactive version of Al Gore’s book, Our Choice. It has some pretty cool features that make the book and its content come alive. Take another look here: 

So, you choose, either the digital version (above)  or the print version (below)

Image result for our choice


Words of the day

eventually (adverb) : at some later time                                                                               Eventually, I got over the flu and returned to work.

lift a finger (idiom) : to make an effort to do something                                                     She has so much work to do around the house and none of her kids lift a finger to help out!

silent treatment (idiom) : the act of ignoring someone because you are angry at him or her                                                                                                                                          Whenever he gets mad at me, he gives me the silent treatment.

Remember to relax and practice!

Also, if you haven’t already, give yourself the greatest gift – a library card. Click on  this link to get more information on how to get your free Boston Public Library card.

library cards

Universal Human Rights

Hi Everyone,

Today is the 58th Presidential Inauguration at noon in Washington, D.C. We discussed the meaning of the word inauguration (noun) : the beginning or introduction of a system, policy or period : the formal admission of someone to office. Today, Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. He  will be sworn in by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. For American democracy this is an historic day, as we elect a president every four years and it is a symbol of our government by and for the people.

Today’s topic was universal human rights as written in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Image result for universal declaration of human rights

This declaration was written in 1948 by the United Nations, following World War II. It was created to insure that all people were given a set of inalienable rights to preserve and protect basic human freedoms. We watched this video which describes the Declaration and some of its advantages and disadvantages.

We discussed the information from the video and some of the problems with enforcing and policing abuses of these human rights. Because this is a declaration and not law, the means to address violations are weak. There are non-profit organizations, like Amnesty International that defends human rights throughout the world, through humanitarian and other actions. Here is a video that describes the 30 universal human rights. 

We then looked at some images of different types of human rights and global issues and discussed them.

{We cut class short and watched Donald Trump take the oath of office and part of his inaugural speech}.

Remember to relax and practice!

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Wisdom, Experience, Knowledge

Hi Everyone,

Today we did a review of concrete and abstract nouns. Concrete nouns can be detected by our five senses – you can see it; taste it; tough it; hear it; or smell it. We looked around the classroom and came up with plenty of examples of concrete nouns. Then we talked about abstract nouns which are nouns that name a quality, action or state, and can not be seen or touched. Some examples are kindness, childhood and growth. Abstract nouns can be formed from common nouns, verbs , and adjectives. Take a look at this table below:Image result for abstract nouns from adjectivesWe did this practice of converting adjectives to abstract nouns, here is the worksheet with the answers

Image result for wise old owlToday our conversation was about the abstract noun wisdom – what is wisdom and who is wise?                       We talked about experience, knowledge, intelligence, success and age as being important characteristics of wisdom.

Some people we consider wise are Mark Twain, Socrates, Mother Theresa, God, grandmothers, mothers, and scientists.

Then we watched this video “Wisdom” in which a look of well-known people from a wide range of fields talk about what wisdom means to them. As you watch you may want to follow along with the written quotes here 

After watching we discussed our favorite quotes and why we liked them. Then we talked about how we get from experience, knowledge, intelligence, and age to wisdom. Well, it seems that abstract nouns like decency, optimism, humanity, strength, goodness, bravery and patience, are a few that lead us to wisdom. We looked at a few quotes about wisdom and ended up with this one –Image result for wise old owl quotes


Words of the day

turtleneck (noun) : {U.S.} a shirt with a high collar that covers most of your neck                                   Lots of us wear a turtleneck in the winter to keep us warm, especially when we go skiing.

potluck (noun) : a meal to which everyone who is invited brings food to share                                  On New Year’s Day, we had an open house party and a potluck dinner.       

plug away (phrasal verb) : to continue doing something even though it is difficult or boring                                                                                        Many students who are studying a new language can get frustrated, but, they keep plugging away because they want to succeed. 

Remember to relax and practice!



Nonverbal Communication

Happy New Year Everyone!

Welcome back and let’s have a fantastic 2017! Today we started off with a discussion about communication – the act of interacting with people and sharing information with themThere are two types of communication – verbal, which uses words and nonverbal , which is based on signsYou all gave some examples of verbal and nonverbal communication. But today our focus was on nonverbal communication – hand gestures; facial expressions; and body postures.

Image result for verbal and nonverbal communication Image result for hand gestures clipart       Image result for verbal and nonverbal communication
We all took some turns demonstrating these nonverbal signs and talked about the difference in culture and meanings of some of them. Next we watched this clip from the movie “Save the Last Dance” in which a guy tries to teach his friend how to hip hop dance. We listened for the body postures that he suggested and what it takes to be a good hip hop dancer. 

We agreed that hip hop is about attitude – confidence, swagger, and being strong and relaxed.

So, onto today’s conversation about dance as communication and language. Dance is a form of nonverbal communication that expresses feelings, emotions, and can be a form of therapy. We talked about dance in different cultures and dance in history. Dance tells stories, dance celebrates life and love, dance is powerful and allows us to be expressive with our emotions, and dance is an important part of cultural folklore.

This next video focuses on dance as expression and therapy for dancer and artist, Aakash Odedra, who suffers from dyslexia. Aakash uses the language of dance to tell us his story about dealing with dyslexia. The piece is called “murmur” – a murmur  is a soft, indistinct sound made by a person, kind of like a whisper. Take a look here: 

After watching we talked about his body movements and what they told us about how Aakash was feeling and how he copes with his dyslexia. We talked about the overall progression of the video and what it says about his life journey. Great job everyone on all your wonderful thoughts and insights!!

Lastly, we discussed do actions speak louder than words?? Why and when? And also, which is more powerful verbal or nonverbal communication? Both of these are complex and complicated, but, we use verbal and nonverbal communication all the time, and simultaneously. Image result for nonverbal communicationWords of the day

go-to (adjective) : {informal} always helpful: producing desired results or information when needed                                                                                                      Jane is my go-to friend, whenever I need advice on my relationship with my husband.

insatiable (adjective) : always wanting more : not able to be satisfied                            The students desire for knowledge was insatiable.

go over big (idiom) : {informal} to be successful or well-liked                                          That big pot of homemade soup went over big with everyone on this chilly, winter day.       

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Have a great weekend! Remember to relax and practice….. and dance!



The Moon

Hi Everyone,

Well, 2016 is rapidly coming to a close and I’d like to thank all of you for your time, dedication, and many contributions to our classes! It has been a pleasure to get to know you all! Image result for Thank youToday’s conversation was about the moon – facts to folklore to fantasy.Image result for word as image

The moon is something that is studied by scientists, engineers, astronauts, and lots of other people interested in the solar system, the galaxies, the planets, and the universe. In 1969, American astronauts landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong famously said “A small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Since then space exploration and discovery has been an important activity for all of us. 

We talked about what we think about when we look up at the moon – we sometimes see certain lights and shading. We think the moon is mysterious, magical, and maybe wonder what’s going on out there. The moon is an important part of our culture and many children’s books and nursery rhymes have “moon” themes. Here’s one very popular children’s poem “Hey, Diddle, Diddle” Image result for hey diddle diddle poem

We talked about the significance of the moon in navigation, and in the lives of early settlers. Many native American indian tribes had special names for each of the monthly full moons, and the moon played an important part in the life cycle. In Chinese cultures, the lunar calendar is used, which is based on the phases of the moon. We talked about the Moon Festival and mooncakes, which is celebrated in mid-Autumn each year.

The moon also provides some magic as we use our imaginations and think about “the man on the moon”.

Related image We all had ideas about the man on the moon, and imagined what he might look like, and how he would feel, and what he would do all day on the moon. You all had some great, fun ideas!

But we all agreed he’s an imaginary person, but, it’s fun to guess what he might be like!

We watched this short video “Man on the Moon” which is about a girl and the man on the moon, and how she finally gets to communicate with him in a very clever, imaginative and sweet way! Take another look at the video here: 

The video speaks for itself, hope you enjoyed it! 

Words of the day

openly (adverb) : in a direct and honest way : without hiding feelings or opinions         We openly talked about our feelings and decided to try a trial separation, while we worked on some problems in our marriage.

laud (verb) : to praise (someone or something)                                                                    Many people lauded her efforts to help the poor and needy.

cornucopia (noun) : a container that is shaped like a horn and is full or fruits and flowers : a great amount or source of something                                                                The local farmers market offers a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from May through October.

Remember to relax and practice!


Image result for december full moon

Strangers And Being Alone

Hi Everyone,

Today we began by talking about strangers – who are they and how do we feel about strangers? Do we talk easily with strangers or not? Why and where?Image result for when strangers meet: how people you don't know can transform you

We talked about conversations with strangers and how do we feel when strangers approach us and want to talk. We listened to this talk by Kio Stark, “Why You Should Talk To Strangers”. This talk is based on her book “When Strangers Meet”. Kio is a person who sees the benefits of talking with strangers and offers some insight into how we react to strangers in different cultures. She also gives some advice on how to meet and talk with strangers. Take another look here:

Generally we agreed with Kio’s ideas, but, it’s different in real life situations…. Then we talked about certain things we do when we are strangers, especially when we travel to other countries and may not know the language or how to get around on our own.

But, sometimes, you just want to alone and not bother with anyone else. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of being alone, and also talked about what places we like to go to be alone, and what things we like to do when we are being alone. Then we talked about loneliness and being alone – loneliness is a feeling or emotion of sadness because one has no friends or company ; being alone is to be physically apart from other people. We watched this video “How To Be Alone” based on the poem by Tanya Davis: 

Tanya Davis has a lot of good, simple and easy ways to be alone and enjoy it! Here is a copy of the poem How To Be Alone by Tanya Davis which you can read while listening to the video. Lastly, we talked about being alone at different stages in your life and how it changes. Thanks for all your ideas and personal thoughts on today’s conversation!

Words of the day

scarcely (adjective) : almost not at all : hardly                                                                     He had scarcely enough money to pay for the deposit and first month’s rent on his apartment.

scruffy (adjective) : {informal} not neat, clean, or orderly                                                 I know college students like to wear casual clothes, but, sometimes they just look scruffy! 

ashamed (adjective) : feeling shame or guilt                                                                       She was ashamed at her rude behavior at Thanksgiving last year.

Remember to relax and practice!

Enjoy this cold winter weekend, but, be sure to bundle up!

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