Got Stuff?

Hi Everyone,

Happy Spring!!Image result for happy spring Boston Although it may not look like it or feel like it, spring has arrived here in Boston!

We talked about all the things that symbolize spring here including, birds singing, flowers and trees blooming. People outside  enjoying the Commons, Public Garden, and Charles River. We can put away our heavy coats, boots, scarves, and gloves!! And another thing we can do (even though we don’t like to) is spring cleaningRelated image – cleaning your home, washing windows, cleaning up your yard and planting gardens.

So, that led us to a discussion about our stuffall the items, objects and possessions we have,that we live with, that we carry around, and what do they really mean to us. We agreed that cheaper prices, a rise in the consumer economy, a preference for choice, and a sense of personal identity with stuff, like clothes, accessories, cars, and household goods have all led to our problem with stuff. Americans are living in bigger houses, buying more and more and more stuff, and when we run out of storage at home we rent storage facilities for our stuff.

But why are we so attached to our stuff?? Take a look at this video which examines the psychology behind this and the the “endowment effect”. 

This video told us about our attachment to things at an early age and the “endowment effect” which means that people place an extra value on things they already own. Lastly, digital technology will allow us to store movies, books, photos and other stuff on our phone, but, will it replace the physical stuff? 

Next, we looked at the concepts of materialism and minimalism.Related image What do they mean, and what are some positive and negative aspects?

These are choices that we make, and both have positive and negative consequences.

There is a rising popularity of the minimalist lifestyle, as people make use of smaller living spaces, become more aware of the environment, save money, gain more freedom, and generally feel less burdened with less stuff. But, it’s not for everyone, since we each have our own unique lives.

Lastly, take a look at this video on living with less stuff by Graham Hill, as he gives some suggestions on how to lighten up on your stuff and maybe live a happier life. 

So, does the minimalist life appeal to you? Could you try it? Would you try it? Could you be happier with less stuff?Image result for graham hill less stuff

 Have a great weekend! Remember to relax and practice!

Perfect World

Hi Everyone, Image result for st patrick's day

Today we started off with a review of prepositions and 10 common mistakes that people make. Prepositions are important words and we use them frequently. There are lots of them, so meanings and usage can be confusing. The exercise we did together in class is here, and you’ll find the answers in green. Also, take a look at this list of 40 common prepositions with meanings and examples.

Ok, on to today’s topic – Perfect World. First, we described how a perfect world would look – you all came up with some very interesting and inspiring details for your perfect world.  We talked about some of the types of social and emotional features of our worlds. We watched this video, World Builder, about a man who builds a high-tech, special world. Take a look here:

After watching we talked about the man’s style of building, what does it mean, and why did he build this world. What does the yellow flower mean? We agreed that the man built the world for his dying wife, and without her the world did not exist. Image result for is there a perfect worldSo, back to our question – is it possible or impossible to have a perfect world? Well, we had a good debate on this question, and some felt human nature would not allow a perfect world to exist, and others felt that with good leadership, and commitment to common goals we could have a perfect world. Some felt that a perfect world is in every individual already. 

Words of the day

chintzy (adjective) : {informal} not showing good taste: poorly or cheaply done or made: stingy or cheap                                                                                                             Many of my co-workers complain about how chintzy our boss is with salary raises.

soft drink (noun) : a cold drink that is usually sweet, does not contain alcohol, and is often sold in bottles or cans                                                                                               Many people like soft drinks, especially Coke.

withdraw (verb) : to remove money from a bank account: to take something back so that it is no longer available : to stop participating in something                                      You can withdraw up to $500 from you bank ATM.

Remember to relax and practice!

This Sunday is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston click parade information for more details.

Image result for south boston st patrick's day parade

Smile! It’s Good For You!

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for coming out on this unexpected snowy Friday morning! Today’s topic was all about smiles. How many times do we smile a day? What makes us smile? What effects does smiling have on human behavior? Image result for smiling facesWe talked about the different cultures of smiling. How in some countries like Japan and Russia, smiling is more reserved than it is in the United States, Russians tend to smile at people they know. Japanese are considered reserved and less emotionally expressive. We all talked about in our own countries how, why, and when people smile. We listened to this radio clip about McDonalds fast food restaurant opening in Russia in 1990 and how the smile, in addition to the menu, was exported. Take a listen here to how the Russians adapted their smiles  McDonalds Comes to Russia.

So, since everyone seems to be smiling all the time, are all these smiles real or are some fake? Smiles generally indicate happiness, but, sometimes we smile because of a social norm. For example, you are introduced to your friend’s roommate (who you have never met) and what do you do? Smile and say hello. But are you really happy to meet the roommate? Probably not, instead you’re smiling to be polite and welcoming. This idea of a real vs. fake smile was explained long ago by Guillaume Duchenne, a French neurologist, who said that eye muscles and mouth muscles had to be engaged for a smile to be real. Related image

Look at this example, and you can see that the real or Duchenne smile is on the left – both mouth and eye muscles are engaged.

How about this one, below, can you spot the fake smile?Image result for duchenne smile vs pan am smile


We took a fun quiz and looked at 20 different smiles and picked the fake ones and the real ones. Good job, everyone – you know how to spot a fake smile! Here are the answers:Related image

Lastly, we talked about the power of smiling – how smiling can improve health, make you and others feel good, has the potential to make you more money, helps in love, friendships, and relationships. We watched this video The Hidden Powers of Smiling.

After watching we discussed Ron Gutman’s ideas and the research he discovered about the power of smiling. One interesting point he made was about this cycle of smiling and how it contributes to confidence and competency.  Image result for hidden power of smilingSo, let’s smile – it’s good for us, and everyone else too!

Words of the day

flatter (verb) : to praise (someone) in a way that is not sincere                                         Men often flatter women, when they want to ask them out on a date.

keep your cool (idiom) : {informal} to remain calm                                                               She was so frustrated that her kids were behaving so badly at the restaurant, but, she kept her cool until they got home.

tulip (noun) : a large, bright flower that is shaped like a cup and that grows in the spring                                                                                                                                       There is nothing like some tulips to make you smile!

Image result for tulips and smiles

Relax and practice! Make sure to use your superpower – smile!


Hi Everyone,

-Sorry for today’s technology issues, hopefully, they will be fixed soon!

Today we started by filling in this short paragraph: 

We all have ______________________.

________________________ help us to laugh.

________________________ help us to love.

Without _________________ , life wouldn’t be the same.

The answer is “memories”! Today’s topic was Memories – The Science and Sentiment.

First, the science of memories – we talked about short term and long term memories. Why we remember certain things and not others.  What memories are important or not, and what are good or bad. Image result for memoryMemory is the ability of the mind to store, retrieve and encode information. Memory is vital to experience, without memory, we are not us.

We talked about losing or forgetting memories, why does that happen? What can we do to improve our memories? You all came up with some interesting suggestions!

Next we talked about the sentiment of memories, or the emotions and feeling of memories. Our memories are commonly triggered by the five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. We shared some specific personal memories, thank you all for your candor.

We discussed how to preserve memories – from videos, photographs, heirlooms, furniture, jewelry, books, newspapers, magazines, music, and audio recordings (also called oral histories). We listened to this audio recording from Story Corps about a woman , Chloe Longfellow, and her memories of her grandmother. Click here to listen to Chloe Longfellow remembers her grandmother. After listening we talked about what her grandmother taught Chloe and how it affected her life. Take a look at this video of Chloe’s talk with animation: 

In the end, Chloe’s grandmother left her lifelong love.

Words of the day

TLC (noun) : {informal} care and attention that is given to make someone feel better, to improve the bad condition of something (TLC is an abbreviation of “Tender Loving Care”)                                                                                                            After breaking up with his girlfriend, he just needed a hug and some TLC.   

goofball (noun) : {informal} a silly or stupid person                                                              Those kids are always fooling around, playing pranks and telling jokes. What a bunch of goofballs!       

go places (idiom) : to become successful                                                                              With all the time he spends studying, he is definitely going places.       

Remember to relax and practice! Don’t forget!   

                  The cookbook, featuring those hand prints left in beet juice.                           (Courtesy of Chloe Longfellow)                         

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!

Image result for make every second count

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!!

Image result for super bowl 2017

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!

Image result for universal declaration of human rights


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!