Monday, April 21, 2008

TagBoard Changes

Hello all.
As a result of excessive spam on the Tag Board, I am going to remove it and replace it with a new one.

Here is what you have been saying on the old Tag Board:

silvia: hi mike! Hi keep on doing listening and writing exercises, I hope to improve quickly.bye
Mike: Thanks Vance! That's wonderful.
Vance: Hi everyone. I'm chatting with Michael in Skype right now and he's showing me his Tagboard. I thought I'd try it. (Note: Vance is a teacher in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and is an expert on the use of Internet in education. Click on his name, and check out his Blog.)
Mike: Maria Paola: there is very little difference between "what about..?" and How about..?" in informal parlance. They both introduce proposals or suggestions.
Mike: Thanks very much for your comments, Anna. Keep listening, even if it pains you!
anna: Hi Mike, I listened to bbcnews. It pains me to see the international comments about Italy's elections. Sob!
Maria Paola: Hi mike what is the difference between "what about..." and "How about..." in informal talks ?? Thanks
Mike: Glad to be of help, Maria-Paola! All suggestions most welcome.
Maria Paola: Hi Mike...thanks for your website...I'm using it more now than when I had lessons with you!...It means you did a good job because you left me the curiosity...
Mike: Excellent Silvia. We may have time to do a quick exercise during the lesson.
Silvia: Hi mike, I have just given a look to watching and listening exercices by bbc,I have found it very useful
giuseppe: See you Friday
anna: Hi Mike, I listened to the broadcast on Radio4.I found it quit difficult, but very interesting the theory of the "soft power". See you tomorrow.

It has been very encouraging to see everyone communicating through the Tag Board. However I now have to check the Board 3 or 4 times a day in order to remove unwanted messages, some of which are of a very dubious nature.

So I am installing a replacement board. We will see how well it works. Wish us all luck - and keep your comments coming in!


Latest Update Today (Monday 21 April)

Listening - for levels 4 and 5

I've been encouraging people to listen and some of you, notably Anna and Silvia, have been doing just that. Well done, but keep at it - in other words, continue. Here I repeat what I have been saying in our lessons:

BBC News: The first link for you is One Minute World News, which is at the top of the page. This is a video summary of the latest news. Try to make short notes by writing down the key words. Can you say what the main news items were?

Below the main stories on the BBC News page is a section called "Video and Audio News". A click on the link opens a wide choice of listening activities. Most of them are video. I recommend you try these first.

Now look at the right-hand side of the page, entitled "From Programmes". These are mostly audio. I recommend "Analysis". This is organised into nine-minute blocks of news analysis. Choose one that interests you. As you listen, write down the key words that you hear. Try to understand the basic message. When you have finished, write a short report on the Tag Board.

Next place to go is the BBC Learning English site. We've all seen "Words In The News" and I encourage you to watch it at least twice a week. By listening and following the transcript, you will learn to visualise what you hear as text. In addition, there is a useful glossary of the expressions in bold.

But do not neglect other features of the page. I recommend, at least once a week, listening to "Six Minute English". You'll find it under "Watch and listen". This week's item is about Managers. Who are they, what do they do, why do they do it, and is it worth it? And what does the word "manage" mean?

To listen, you have two options. Either click on the upper link labelled "Audio", to listen immediately.

Or you can click the "Podcast" link. A new window opens. Go down the page and look for "Latest Episode", then a link called "Download Episode". Right-click your mouse on this link. Choose the option "Save target as"/"Salva oggetto con nome", and save it somewhere on your computer. Then you can transfer the listening file (which is in MP3 audio format) to your i-Pod or mp3 player, and listen anywhere you like. You can also build a collection of these listenings.

I've just done this - and it took me 20 seconds to download this 3Mb file, through a broadband (ADSL) connection.

Please do write your comments on the TagBoard or in the Comments section below this post. It is very important to leave a comment, so as to encourage others in the class, exchange ideas, and form a community of learners.

More very soon! I'll be changing the Tag Board to one which hopefully will attract less Spam. I will let you know when I have done so.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spam on TagBoard

Dear All,

As I mentioned earlier, I constantly check the Tag Board for illegitimate messages. I remove them whenever I can, but I have to check every day at least once.

Meanwhile, if you do see a spam message, just ignore it. Do not, repeat not, click on any links you may see in it. You run the risk of downloading a malicious file - virus, trojan, whatever.

I am looking for other solutions to the Tag Board. If all else fails, we may have to revert to the traditional comments system, which is less immediate than our tag board, but it is fully protected.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Listening Practice

Listening and speaking practice are two of the most important problems cited by students.

For both, regular practice is vital. I recommend a practice listening session at least three times a week. This could take the form of listening and doing an associated exercise, or simply listening and trying to understand the basic meaning. Never worry about not being able to understand every word.

For practice and exercises, look down the right-hand column of this Blog for the Listening Sites. This is best if you are an elementary or pre-intermediate listener. Try the first three sites listed there.

Advanced learners should explore the BBC web site. There are huge resources here. "
Words In The News" should be your first stop.

With more experience, you could then try
BBC News. Try all the links to watching and listening. Your first link should be "Watch One minute world news". Then, further down the page, there is a section marked "Video and Audio News" - click here to get straight to it. This opens a page full of opportunities for you to listen and watch.

I suggest you try watching first, then listening.

As always please please leave a comment on the Tag Board.

- Mike

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Have Your Say

Take part in debates and express your opinion. This week, The British Council Hub, a blog for advanced students at The British Council Porto, Portugal, is debating the question of human rights.

You too can participate. Just go to the Hub, contact the Editor and ask for a password. See the top of the Hub's home page for instructions.

Then add your ideas to this important debate.

Click here to go to The British Council Hub.

And as always, leave a comment on your experience there.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Advanced Listening: BBC radio documentary on British Council

Dear All,

I have just been listening to this documentary on BBC Radio 4. It is about the British Council and its work in cultural diplomacy, and is 40 minutes long. I recommend it to levels 4 and 5.

here to start listening to it. It should open in a new window.

And when you have finished, please do leave a comment on the Tag Board. Say how easy or difficult you found the documentary. Also, say whether it helped your English and listening skills.

Thank you and more soon,


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Listening on the BBC

Dear All,

Just to remind you that the British can be every bit as disorganised as everyone else, here is a story from London Heathrow Airport's new Terminal Five.

Flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage, frustrated passengers. Listen to and read all about it by clicking this link:
BBC Learning English Terminal Five Chaos.

This listening is best for levels 4 and 5 but Level 2 could try it as well. Level One might find it rather difficult.

Did this listening help you? Did you learn any new words? Add your comment to the Tag Board opposite. (where, incidentally, someone has posted advice on computer security.)

I'll have more for you very soon indeed.