Friday, February 26, 2010

Seven Questions for Six Minutes: Plastic Pollution

Hello everyone. Here's a new comprehension exercise for you, from Six Minute English on the BBC's Learning English site. This week it is about the pollution caused by plastic material in the sea.

Listen to Dan and Kate and try to answer the questions. Read these questions first.

1. (Official question also posted on the 'Learn English' site)
     How many pieces of plastic are there in each average square kilometre of the world's oceans?
(a) 22 000 (b) 38 000 (c) 46 000 ?
You will hear the answer at the end of the programme.

2. How many of these are killed each year by plastic pollution?
(a) Sea birds (b) Mammals

3. What examples of litter are mentioned by the Dutch environment expert? You should be able to name four: ______ , _________ , _________ and ________ .

4. Can you complete this sentence? "_______ per cent of the plastic found in the ocean is _______ that has been thrown away _____ _______ ." [Each ___ represents one word.]

5. What weight, in tons, of plastic products are made each year?

6. And what percentage of this weight is used for packaging?

7. What are the 'three Rs' necessary in order to lower the amount of plastic waste?
    (a) R________ the amount of packaging;
    (b) R________ packaging more than once;
    (c) R________ the materials used.

That's enough questions. Now listen to the programme and write your answers on the Tag Board, or in a comment.

And do take note of the vocabulary. Each Six Minute English exercise has a very useful word list below it which expands to show you the meaning when you click on the '+' button.

That's it for now. Remember, I would very much love everyone to visit the Blog, try a site linked to it, and leave your comment on the site in a message to the Tag Board or a Comment. It does not matter whether you are a current student or not. Everyone is welcome.
More very soon indeed! - Mike

A History of the World in A Hundred Objects: The Answers

Hello everyone. Today I am going to produce two posts. First of all, in this one, I'll now give you the answers to the last Six Minute English exercise that we did.

1. There are 13 million objects in the British Museum's collection.
2. Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, says that although people think that objects have remained the same over time, they have in fact changed. (Note my use of "in fact". In English this means "in reality". "In fact" is different from the Italian expression "infatti".)
3. The materials used to make Egyptian mummies can be examined to see where they come from. We can then make deductions about how trade was conducted in the ancient world.
4. The Egyptian writer Araf Souef would encourage children to learn a brief history of the entire world by concentrating on the 'common ground' of people's relationships with each other, with the planet and with the universe.

How many questions did you get correct? Congratulations to Alessandra, Savina and Giovanni for getting most of the answers right.

I'd like now to welcome some new students to the Blog. They have been kind enough to write their names on the Tag Board. They are: Valeria, Arnaldo, Emilio, Rossana, Daniele, Paolo and Laura.

Thank you very much for participating in the Blog. But I would love to see many more students joining us. I have over a hundred students right now, so this should not be difficult!

Finally, Savina has recommended a site: 'Memorize Now'. She tells us that she uses this site to try to memorise the words of a song. But it could be used to memorise words in all sorts of situations. According to the FAQ, this facility was originally designed to help people memorise words from the Bible. Try it and let me know what you think of the site. Please leave your comments in the Tag Box or in a comment.

Later, I will psot the next "Six Minute English" exercise. Watch this space!
Many thanks for reading this - Mike

Friday, February 12, 2010

Six Minute English is back!

Or rather, our listening comprehension exercises are back. You can of course visit Six Minute English whenever you like. Indeed, I encourage you to do so at least once a week. I cannot overemphasise the fact that your progress in listening skills depends on your creating time for personal practice.

Let's first look at the answers to the previous exercise. The correct answers are:

1. Inconclusive! Kate says (a), six-and-a-half hours; Dan says (b) seven and a half hours; but they both agree that most people do not get enough sleep.
2. Dan is an owl, Kate is a lark;
3. the sun;
4. They do not get enough sleep, and they feel tired.
5. To go out into the sunlight.
6. The level of natural light compared with the average level of light in a house or office is (a) 50 to 100 times brighter at dawn, and (b) 500 to 1000 times brighter at midday.
Now for this week's Six Minute English. This is connected to a new exhibition in the British Museum in London. It aims to define the history of mankind in 100 objects. First, let's look at the questions:

1. How many objects are there in the British Museum's collection?
(a) 8 million; (b) 11 million; (c) 13 million

2. What does Neil MacGregor, the museum director, say about people's relationship with objects through the centuries? How has this relationship changed?

3. How do Egyptian mummies help us to understand the workings of trade and commerce in the Ancient World?

4. Which area of history would the Egyptian writer Araf Souef encourage children everywhere to learn?

Now, listen to Dan and Kate speaking on this Six Minute English programme. Post your answers to the Tag Board or the Comments section.

From the Six-Minute English page, note that you can download the Podcast and the script. See the "Downloads: to take away" section just to the right of the main picture.

And why don't you go and see the History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition at the British Museum for yourselves? Flights are now often very cheap and convenient.

That's all for now! More very soon,

- Mike

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daily English Activities

Dear All,

While I'm still busy marking tests, here is a resource for you.

It's another Blog called Daily English Activities. This Blog was created by colleague Nik Peachey, formerly of the British Council in Naples, and then in Morocco.

There are lots of ideas here, many of them to do with listening practice. Discover, for example, how easily you can memorise a song.

And don't forget to leave the story of your experiences in a Tag Board Message (short) or in a Comment (longer).

More soon!
 - Mike

Monday, February 08, 2010


Dear All,

I apologise for the lack of any further Six Minute English and other exercises here on The Blog. Right now I am busy marking mid- and end-course tests. But I hope to post a new exercise for you later this week. As well as this I will post the correct answers for the previous exercises.

Meanwhile, I advise you to look at the list of Video and Listening Sites down the right-hand column of this Blog. And just below the Tag Board, you'll also see a list of various areas in the vast BBC Learning English site. I urge you to explore as many of these as you can. This need not take you long. I suggest twenty minutes to half an hour a week if you do not feel you have much time. Otherwise, spend as much time as you can doing listening practice. It is never time wasted.

Finally, if your course has finished, this does not mean that the Blog has finished. You are always welcome to visit the Blog, explore the site and leave messages and comments.

More later this week.


- Mike