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)


May Is Bike Month

Hi Everyone,

Image result for may is bike month

May is Bike Month!  We started off today with some of the advantages of biking – like, it’s fun and good exercise, less polluting, cheaper, and sometimes quicker. The disadvantages are it can be dangerous riding on roads with cars, can be uncomfortable in bad weather, and sometimes hard to park safely.

The word bicycle is formed by bi + cycle. The prefix bi- means two and so a bicycle has two wheels. Just like unicycle means one wheel and tricycle means three wheels. We looked at some other words with prefix + root word, and were able to come up with a lot of examples. Related image


By knowing the meaning of a few prefixes we can figure out word meanings and improve and expand our vocabulary. Here is a list of some common prefixes and the practice we did together. 


Next we talked out manifestos – which are written public statements declaring the intentions, motive or views of a government, group or individual. We came up with some examples like the Declaration of Independence, Communist Manifesto, Political party manifestos, and more. We watched this short film which is a manifesto for the company, Holstee. As we watched it we looked for values mentioned in the manifesto, and what is it all about. 

After watching we talked about some of the values and ideas in the manifesto, and what we thought of the Holstee manifesto. We agreed that the basic principals are good, but, some of the things are not realistic, like quitting a job.

Next we decided to come up with our own personal manifestos, and then we shared them with everyone. Some of the adjectives used to describe out personal manifestos were – passionate, realistic, compassionate, wise, artistic, humorous, simple, thoughtful, and practical. Great job everyone!!

Remember to relax and practice!

Get out there and bike ride (if it ever stops raining!)

Image result for hubway



Gender Stereotypes

Hi Everyone,

Today we discussed gender symbols, gender stereotypes, and the gender gap.  Image result for gender

The familiar symbols on the right are for women(in pink) for the planet Venus and for men (in blue) for the planet Mars.

These two symbols were adopted in the later half of the 20th century and are universal.


We held an open discussion about gender stereotypes,which are generalizations about the roles of each gender, and they can be positive and negative. Although men were under represented in today’s class, we got a lot of stereotypes about men and women! We talked about how gender is not the only part of who we are, and that each one of us is an individual. But, different cultures and attitudes definitely play a part in our views on gender roles and stereotypes. 

Related image

Next we talked about the gender gap which is the discrepancy in opportunities, status, attitudes, etc., between men and women. Two primary factors that contribute to the gender gap are education and workplace, which includes job opportunities and salary differences. One industry here in the US that has a huge gender gap is the tech industry. The tech industry is a male dominated industry, but it is much too important part of the economic engine to limit women into the industry. A recent documentary called, Code, Debugging the Gender Gap takes a look at the gender issues in tech. Take a look at a brief trailer of the film here:

(sorry that due to electrical issues we couldn’t watch this in class and only listened to it)

We talked about specific businesses and industries in your home countries with gender gaps, and saw some of the same issues as the tech industry here.

Next we heard two interesting accounts from immigrant men here in America and how they are coping with their male cultures. Take a listen to the interviews here. After listening we discussed how Lindolfo Carballo, from El Salvador and Samuel Adewusi, from Nigeria, each dealt with being a man in America.Image result for immigrant men in america

Carballo says many parents in Latin America teach their children that “men are to be served by their sisters.” He tries to model a different approach by sharing cooking and other household duties with his wife.”

Thanks for a lively discussion today, and, again sorry for the computer problems.

Words of the day

have it made (idiom) : to be in a very good position or situation                                       She has it made with a great job, a healthy family, and a big house with a pool.

steaming (adjective) : very hot : very angry                                                                          We all agreed that the weather in Boston in July and August can be steaming hot!

bangle (noun) : a large ring that is worn as jewelry around the arm, wrist, or ankle        She was wearing a very pretty bangle on her wrist, which also matched her earrings.

Remember to relax and practice!

Community : People and Place

Hi Everyone,

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day. The annual celebration of the environment and nature. The 3 Rs for a healthier earth are :Image result for 3rs for a healthier earthWe talked about some ways we reduce, reuse and recycle. Then we talked about the “greening” of certain cities. Boston is considered a “green” city not only because of its open spaces and gardens, but, the city has good public transportation, bike rental facilities, recycling trash bins on sidewalks, and public awareness. New buildings are using alternative energy sources, and water conservation systems. Washington, D.C. was also mentioned as another “green”  (= environmentally friendly) city. There are a few events to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow – a march on the Boston Common for Science, and the annual Charles River clean-up.

Today’s topic was – Communities: People and Place. We began with a definition of community-a group of people that live in the same place. Also, a community is a group of people that share similar ideas, opinions, beliefs, attitudes, religions, education, lifestyle, politics, civil security and safety, nationality, language, culture, interests,and more. We talked about specific communities – families, universities, groups of friends, sports teams, business/professional, and others. Then we talked about the roles, and duties, responsibilities and rights that we have in these communities. We almost forgot to talk about online communities, which most of us are members of.

We discussed our personal communities, in small groups, and found that we have lots of communities in common and also some that are very different.

Next we described the place of community – our own neighborhoods. What do they look like? What is the tempo of life? How about sounds and smells? Is it crowded or open? 

But how does a community become a community? We watched this video about two Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn (known as Haas&Hahn) who created and led a community-made global art project to encourage a community to work together to improve their community. Watch it again here:

After watching we talked about the project and what impacts it has on communities. Some of us thought the paintings were ugly, and did not do much more than fix the exterior of the buildings. What about the lives of the people living inside? Others thought that maybe these paintings would encourage the people in the community to strive for an improved life and respect for their neighborhoods.

If you are interested the full article about Hass&Hahn’s latest projects around the world and to see some photographs of their work and the communities they are working in click on the link below:

Gallery: Colorful, community-made global art projects — for everyone

Celebrate community and Happy Earth Day!

Image result for earth day

Remember to relax and practice!

Water Is Life

Hi Everyone,

Today’s topic was water – what does water mean to us? How do we use it? How often? How do things like pollution, human consumption, and climate change affect water? What about global access to water? Does anyone even care??

Hydros – God of Water

We started off looking at some facts around water usage and some of us were surprised by some of the numbersImage result for water usage chart for agriculture, industry and domestic in USA

The farming and agricultural sector uses the largest percentage of water in the US.

Industry uses about 27% and we use about 8% of the water for use inside and outside the home.

With domestic use at 8%, it was interesting to see where this is being used. Although the statistics vary a lot this is a fairly good view of average daily consumption of water  Image result for average american water usage chart in gallonsSo, we use lots of water, but many factors in the last 20 years or so have made us a lot more aware of water, our scarce and precious resource. We are more aware of the overuse of water, pollution, and climate change. Today, we consider this water supply to be in jeopardy, and water and its future is a major political, environmental, social and global issue.

We talked about our own personal experiences with water crises , including availability of safe drinking water to issues many countries face with flooding and runoff making rivers into mud. The solutions are complex and often have serious environmental and human consequences.

In sunny California, they have been suffering from drought for the past 15 years. This has affected everyone, and changes to human consumption have been enforced. Lots of our food, vegetables, nuts, and fruits come from farms in California. Some of these farms are family owned for generations and the drought has had a severe impact on these communities. One community, Stratford, CA., has been especially badly hit. We watched this film about the effect the drought has had on a farmer, a shop keeper, and a football coach. Watch here: 

After watching we discussed the emotional, economic, and social effects the drought has had on Stratford. Will it survive? We hope so.

Next we took a look at the current water crisis in Flint, MI. Flint has been suffering with unsafe drinking water for the last few years, after a decision was made to use water from the Flint River, which it was discovered had high levels of lead. Flint residents have dealt with troubled and difficult economic Image result for flint michigan watertimes, and for many this is almost too much to cope with. People have gotten sick, and are concerned about their children”s health and development.

People in Flint felt like they were being mistreated and just wanted some clean, drinkable water. Listen to this story from last December about how the Flint community is doing, and what still needs to be done here

We discussed some possible solutions and how to be better conservationists. We all agreed that the crisis is real and happening.

We wrapped up things on an encouraging note, and watched painter Zaria Forman’s presentation on how she brings awareness to the water crisis through her beautiful landscape drawings of glaciers in Greenland. Take a look here: 

Water is beautiful, powerful, destructive, and complex.

Water is life.

Crime Doesn’t Pay

Hi Everyone,

Today we started off with a review of using more than one adjective before a noun. Believe it or not, we put these adjectives in a specific order. For example, I like pink Dutch tulips. The “pink” is the color and “Dutch” is the origin, which describes where the tulips came from. Most people put these adjectives in order without much thought because it just sounds right. But there is an order we follow and here it is with some examples:Image result for osascompJust try to remember that acronym OSASCOMP and you will be in great shape! Here’s the practice exercise with the answers we did together in class. The easiest way to remember this is just to practice it.

 Today’s topic was “Crime Doesn’t Pay” which means – if you do something illegal, you will probably be caught and punished. We reviewed some vocabulary about types of crimes and criminal activities.Image result for crime vocabulary

We all considered this following situation – “You are coming home after a hard day at work when you are held up at knifepoint by a teenager.” (“to be held up at knifepoint means that someone is threatening you with a knife and wants to take your money”)

We then discussed how would you feel in this situation? What would you do? Well, this did happen to Julio Diaz, a social worker from NYC. First listen to Julio’s story here Julio Diaz Talks About His Mugging. After listening we talked about Julio’s actions and why he did what he did and why it was unusual. Julio’s narrative was a little difficult to follow, with a lot of slang, so we watched this video which has Julio telling his story with the transcript. Take another look here:

We talked about this strange encounter between Julio and the teenager, would we do something like this? We agreed that Julio showed a lot of kindness, bravery and empathy for the teenager, and seemed to really want to help him. In the end Julio got his wallet back and the teenager’s knife, and the teenager got $20 from Julio.  As Julio said,”I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”  Here’s a copy of  the Transcript Julio Diaz so you can read along and listen. Thanks to you all for sharing your personal experiences and thoughts on today’s topic.

Words of the day

mischievous (adjective) : causing or tending to cause annoyance or minor harm or damage                                                                                                                                      Our new puppy is very mischievous, he keeps chewing on my shoes!

mope (verb) : to behave in a way that shows you are unhappy and depressed              After her divorce, all she did was mope around the house all day.

baggy (adjective) : { of clothing} – very loose: not tight                                                         He likes to sleep in baggy cotton pants and a T shirt.

Remember to relax and practice! (Don’t forget OSASCOMP)

Don’t let this rainy weather get you down, we need it for those May flowers!!

Image result for april showers bring may flowers


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!