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Wednesday 9:15 conversation class - previous topics

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

13 April - no lesson this week but I'm looking forward to seeing you all after the holidays. Need some holiday homework? Simply re-read some of the articles we've discussed. You'll have forgotten a lot of the vocabulary that we talked about in class but reading it again in the articles will help you to retain it.

6 April - Something quite different again. This time it's a podcast about a miscarriage of justice. Forensic linguistics has been instrumental in quashing a number of convictions where the police were found to have fabricated evidence. Find out more by listening to the podcast.

30 March - I was in England when this week's article first appeared. I think there were three named storms during my five-day visit. It was quite unpleasant weather. The reason I chose this article was because of the authentic spoken language, the smattering of idioms and the typical British understatement 'a bit of a struggle' when people are confronted by dreadful situations such as having no running water.

23 March - time for something completely different. How much do you know about ancient history and Scotland? Let's find out by discussing stone age culture. Do you also want to join in with the second conditional challenge? I'd like you to write 5 sentences a day using the second conditional. Add some of your sentences to my Instagram post (don't be shy) or bring them to the lesson next week. Read this post on second conditionals to find out how they are formed.

16 March - psychology and modern life combine in this engaging read about our attention spans. I wonder if you'll be able to read the whole article without getting distracted. If time allows, I suggest you read it a second time, paying attention to the use of the #pastperfect. This tense can be tricky for English learners to produce but I assume that you'll all be able to understand it passively. In order to deepen your knowledge try to analyse why the author has used it.

9 March - we'll practice Part 6 again by trying the equivalent exercise at advanced level. The link is in the box above. For conversation, we'll talk about the environment and skiing.

2 March - continuing our 'my life as a ....' series of recent articles, this time we'll read an article about a New York based court artist. Here is the link to it.

We'll also continue practising for the Cambridge proficiency exam. This time, I'd like you to have a go at doing Part 6 - The fog catcher's forest. Enjoy the holidays and see you all again soon.

9 February - time for a language lesson. Just language. I'd like you to read this article in The Guardian from a subeditor about grammar and some common mistakes that journalists make when writing. More interesting than the article are the comments that follow it. They should keep you busy for quite a while.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam, this time using the Destination book. We'll look at page 20 exercises A and B.

2 February 2022 - over the Christmas and new year period there were many articles in The Guardian about big changes that writers had made in their lives. One of the articles I enjoyed reading the most was this one, written by a journalist who had spent a lot of his life in prison. He talked about why he didn't mind being in prison much of the time and also about the reason that he changed his mind. It's quite an intriguing read with sophisticated vocabulary. I think it will make a good topic for discussion.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam. Please have a look at the sample test reading and use of English part 4.

26 January - we finished today's lesson by talking about the present perfect (I've lived in...) and the present perfect continuous (I've been living in...). As luck would have it, the next article I read contained an example of each of these so that's our choice for next week's lesson. The article is short but packed with lots of interesting vocabulary and it will give you an insight into being British. Hopefully you'll like it. The link for the article is here.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam. Please have a look at the sample test reading and use of English part 3.

19 January - let's do something easy this week. Let's discuss the topic of money and kids. Read this article from The Guardian and think about your experiences with money as you were growing up. If you want something more challenging you can listen to the Desert Island Discs episode again, this time on full speed!

12 January - this week I'd like you to do some listening. Can you listen to a recent episode from Desert Island Discs, a popular radio show where guests are hypothetically cast away to a desert island and have to choose the music that they would take with them. As well as explaining their choices, they also reminisce about their lives. It's a good opportunity to listen to spoken English. Pay attention to how often the castaway, Richard Osman, uses the word 'would' when talking about his childhood. See if you can also notice the difference in the regional accent of the presenter, Lauren Laverne, and her guest. By the way, both Lauren and Richard speaks rather quickly. If it is too fast for you, try playing it back at a speed of 0.8. Also, it's about 30 minutes long but you don't need to listen to it all.

I would also like to start doing some exam preparation training in this class for the #Cambridgeproficiency exam. I think you'll all enjoy it and will benefit from it. Please download the sample papers from the Cambridge website and have a go at doing the reading and use of English Test 1, part 1. This should only take about 10- 15 minutes. We'll then discuss it in class.

Finally, in answer to the topic that Sandra raised about #adjectives and #adverbs, there is a quick explanation from the Grammarly website. Check out these two pages.

5 January - Christmas is a time to watch the telly so for the first lesson back after the Christmas break I thought we could discuss The Repair Shop. It's a piece of feel good television that I occasionally watch. In this opinion piece in The Guardian, you can find out more about the programme and you can also watch a trailer for it here on Youtube. You might notice a couple of people saying "I'm liking it" in the trailer. The reason I mention this is that teachers might tell you that 'like' is a state verb and shouldn't be used in the continuous form. When you listen to native speakers though, you realise that many people use language flexibly.

15 December - it's the final week before Christmas so we'll do something simple. Can you read this interview with Rod Stewart. This time it is the fans who are asking the questions rather than a journalist. If you have time, read some of the comments below the article. They will give you an insight into 'authentic' British English.

8 December - this week we'll have a slight grammar focus on using would for past habits. There are a few authentic examples of past habit would in this interview with Paul McCartney in which he talks about meeting Linda Eastman, the photos she took and the things they used to do together. It's possible that one of you might have done this article already but it's almost 2 years since we did it so I don't think you'll remember much of it!

1 December - this week it is a 25-minute podcast from The Why Factor about why grandparents are important. Don't worry if you don't have enough time to listen to all of it, you'll still be able to discuss this interesting topic.

24 November - health and science this week! We'll be talking about wine, coffee and chocolate and whether they are healthy or not. Please read this article from The Guardian before Wednesday's lesson.

17 November - this time it is quite a short article from the Pass Notes series in The Guardian. There is quite a light-hearted tone to these articles. This particular article is about red kites attacking the people of Henley-on-Thames. As you are reading the article, try to imagine the characters described.

10 November - another upbeat topic. Please read this article about an influential teacher.

3 November - time for something completely different. I'd like you to read this article about making your home more beautiful. Some of the author's tips are quite practical, others probably less so but overall I enjoyed reading the article and it has inspired me to buy some more pictures and hang them lower on the walls! I hope you enjoy it too! Remember to look at our shared document where you can read the recent chats and add some of your writing.

27 October - at a lesson in one of my other groups we were talking about when people came up with their best ideas, is it when they are young and unconstrained by convention or when they are older and wiser? That reminded me of this fairly long interview with clinical psychologist, Richard Bentall. Please read it before our next lesson. Don't forget about our document where you can do a bit of homework and read the chats from recent lessons. Enjoy the holidays!!!

6 October - let's talk about Swiss billionaires and the planet. Read this article before the lesson and if you have time, do some extra research about the people or themes in the article. I'll be testing your knowledge of famous philanthropists!

29 September - a slightly funny article this time, or at least I thought so. Read up about the plans to change an iconic image and how the original designer reacts. Pay attention to the language he uses and consider whether he prepared his comments in advance. At the start of the lesson, I'll do a quick revision session, asking you to present your five favourite words or phrases from recent lessons - remember to look at the copies of the chats that I send to you. (Students who've been on holiday don't need to do this - but can if they want!)

22 September this week we're going to talk about how to practice effectively. Watch the following TEDEd talk before the lesson. It's possible that some of you might have done it before but it's so interesting that it's worth watching and discussing again.

15 September - time for something musical! Read this obituary of The Rolling Stones' drummer, Charlie Watts. We'll talk about rock and roll, jazz, working with Mick Jagger and much more.

8 September - in last week's lesson we talked about Jeff Bezos' two pizza rule. Let's talk about this some more after reading this article.

1 September - this week the world of business meets the stone age. Read this article from a few years ago, `The Stone Age answer to your Desk Job'. We'll talk about the optimum size of work organisations and how offices can be better working environments.

25 August - let's start by talking about the Olympics (I know - sport again!!). Watch this video about high jumper Dick Fosbury who used his engineering know-how to develop a revolutionary and successful approach to the high jump. We'll talk about sport, the Olympics and the benefits of doing things differently.

14 July - it's the final lesson of term, usually we'd play games but the lesson is still online so we can't. I couldn't resist giving you this article to read about Olympic champion, Usain Bolt. As you're reading the article I want you to count the third conditionals you come across. We'll see if we all reach the same number! After the summer holidays we can probably go back to in person lessons or do a hybrid version! We'll talk about this next week.

7 July - Loneliness is something that affects many people but who does it affect the most - young people or the older generation? There isn't a definitive answer to this question in this thought-provoking article but it is something that we can discuss in conversation class.

30 June - we rarely talk about sport so it's time for a change. Although I'm no fan of boxing, I think there will be plenty to talk about on Wednesday based on this obituary of 'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler.

23 June - we're going to talk about small talk, answering emails, dealing with phone calls and similar. If you've got any emails you want to answer in English bring them to the lesson. Watch this video from the British Council before the lesson - it's at a fairly basic level but should give you some ideas about how you can keep a conversation going. If you want to do some extra homework, I suggest listening again to the 'Why do we Text not Talk' podcast that we did last year. This is also relevant to this week's theme.

16 June - In this slightly worrying article we learn that many British people don't know the biology of their own bodies. If a person doesn't know the names of the different parts of the body, how can they describe a problem to their doctor? Are you comfortable using the medical names or do you avoid using them? Let's talk about this!

9 June - Let's talk about architecture; you can read about the first 3D printed house here. I must admit to not really getting what 3D printing is all about so this article has helped me to comprehend just what can be done. Quite eye-opening indeed. What would your dream home look like?

2 June - One of you wants to talk about holidays and beaches! Read this article from the Lonely Planet about the 20 best beaches in Europe. I can't imagine you'll agree with all the suggestions but that's not a problem. Hopefully you'll bring your own ideas about your favourite beaches or other holiday destinations. We'll also talk about your holiday plans for this year so you'll be practicing some future tenses and possibly some conditionals!

26 May - Something completely different to last week. Let's read this obituary of fashion designer Alber Elbaz. It's slightly different to the original article I found but still has lots of points that I think you'll enjoy discussing.

19 May - This is a serious article about genocide. It's an interesting read providing an insight into how words are formed and defined and about the importance of choosing the right word.

12 May - Fans of tennis, Chinese medicine, yoga and philosophy will find lots to discuss after reading this article about ambidextrous tennis prodigy, Teo Davidov. Before the lesson you can test how ambidextrous you are by trying to clean your teeth using the 'wrong' hand, that is, the one that you don't usually use.

Click here to see the topics we talked about last semester.

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