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lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012

Christmas [Yule or Saturnalia]

Christmas at home starts at the beginning of the Advent period setting the decorations. That is four weeks before Christmas Eve. With the decorating of our house, it comes the baking of Christmas goodies, the building of our gingerbread house, the planning for the trip to visit our families and of course, marking and assessing students before they go on holidays.
But what is there behind these celebrations?
Many of the ancient celebrations have a connection with the sun and the cycle of life and the passing of seasons, the harvesting, the duality. What do a mean with duality? If this world has been made of pairs, such as good and evil, man and woman, light and darkness, the celebration of this time of the year is not any other thing than the searching for light. We, at least I do, adore light. We  want our houses pretty well illuminated. This is what we do when we are searching for a place to live.

Yule log

Let's go back in time to the British Isles:  Yule was a Norse tradition of the celebration of the winter solstice. Daylight is so short in the north of Europe, that fathers and sons went to the forest to choose an evergreen tree to bring it at home, so they could recall springtime. Later on the Christians, decorate it with red apples reminding them the Garden of Eden;  and there you go, a tradition was born. . It is said that they sacrified a bull and gathered mistletoe, which is nothing more than a parasite. There is a tradition that it could be the Golden Bow of Aeneas.

The Romans had the festival of the Saturnalia, to honor the god Saturn. Before being assimilated to the Greek god Chronos, Saturn was a god of the agriculture and harvesting. This festival recalls the Golden Age when Saturn was a ruler and there weren't social class differences. People wore their best attires, there was exchange of presents, family gatherings and eating of a sweet with a bean inside, whose finder would be crowned as prince of the Saturnalia. There was even a carnival celebration on the second day and of course, the celebration of the winter solstice.

gingerbread biscuits

Among the soldiers, Mythras, the Persian god, was born on Dec 25, the birth of the sun. If Jesus for the sun for Christians, it was a short step until Dec 25th was declared the Nativity of Jesus's Day on the 4th century.
Gingerbread house www.cocinandoconcatman.com

Christmas is also about giving presents, mostly when your birthday is on Jan 6th

Let's revise some dates in the US history.

Merry Christmas!

Teaching English by Fran | Hanukkah
Teaching English by Fran | Kwanzaa 

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012


America is a melting pot. Thanksgiving is a celebration for all Americans; however, when Christmas comes, not all Americans celebrate it. For instance Afro-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits"  in Swahili. Kwanzaa lasts for  seven nights from Dec 26 till Jan 1. The family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, their candelabrum (rather similiar to the menorah in Hanukkah). Each candle represents a principle of African culture. There are three green  candles, three red ones and a black candle in the middle.

 The first night, the black candle in the center is lit. One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed. The principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
One of the traditions is sipping from the unity cup.

Happy Kwanzaa!
Teaching English by Fran | Hanukkah
Teaching English by Fran | Black History Month

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012


Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar. It is also known as "the Festival of Lights"

In Hebrew, the word "hanukkah" means "dedication". The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

The following Sunday will be the end of the celebration. This year Hanukkah has been being celebrated from Dec 8th till Dec 16 Teaching English by Fran has joined the celebration as it is also part of the Northamerican culture. Some traditions are:

Lighting the menorah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights .

Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side.

Because of the proximitiy of Christmas, it has become customary to exchange presents.

Happy Hanukkah!

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2012

St Nicholas

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born in Patara, nowadays Turkey. 
He followed Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. 
He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. 
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith and was imprisoned. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church
It is said that his relic has healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. 
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds.  
One of them is he saving some girls to be sold into slavery by tossing coins of gold through the windows and falling by stockings. 
You have more information on the Nicholas Center page.

After reading about St. Nick and watching the following video Origins of Santa Claus, you may be able to answer the following questions:

1. Where was St Nicholas a bishop in?
2. Where did the gold that St Nicholas   
   tossed through the window land into?
3. When did St Nicholas die?
4. Who were the first ones to call St 
   Nicholas, Santa Claus?
5. Who drew the American image of Santa 
6. There is a rumour that a famous company 
   from Atlanta, changed the colour of 
   Santa's attire, although it may not be 
   true, can you name it?

When Clemens Clarke Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas (also known as Twas the Night Before Christmas, he started connecting the idea of St. Nicholas to Christmas. The poem was also known as A Visit from St Nicholas. You can read the full version on this web page.

Later, an American cartoonist gave us the 

latest image of the American icon which you can see in these butter cookies decorated 
with royal icing by Manu Catman.

However, I am attaching a new version by Brandon Heath

After all these stories, children may just be interested in wainting for Santa's (St. Nicholas) arrival on Christmas Eve. So, they'd better watch out!!

Teaching English by Fran |Eggnog
Teaching English by Fran |Carols

domingo, 25 de noviembre de 2012

International Day against Gender Violence [Trifles?]

Today is International Day against Gender Violence. First of all, I would like to recommend you a short story, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, where there is  reference to gender violence. We don't read about bartering because it was probably too much to say at the beginning of the 20th century. By clicking on the title you have access to the full  text. The main topics you will find on the text are:

  • social class differences
  • the importance of giving relevance to women's opinions
  • isolation in Northamerican rural areas
  • the topic and law and justice
The feminine characters are: Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Hale and Minnie Wright, who used to be "Minnie Fosters, one of the town girls singing in the choir".
Trifles is a one-act play where the main conflict is the class on the way of looking at things and details between men and women. 
What is the general mood/tone of the play?
It is mainly sad because of the topic of death. Nevertheless, Glaspell used a real murder to express the importance of women's opinions and active participation in society. This is why the mood changes into positive when the two women, distant because of their social status, end up linked by the empathy shown towards Minnie as a woman. 
You will find the images of the rocking chair, the preserves, the apron, the quilt, (have in mind the quilting has always been related to American women's way of narrating their lives), the birdcage and the death bird.

In relation to quilting, Philomela, having being raped  by her brother-in-law, Thereus, and having his tongue cut by him, quils and embroiders what happened to her, so Progne, her sister, finds out. You can read the whole myth in Metamorphosis VI.

Do some men still think that Helène Cixous's Binary thought should still be applied.


Other texts in the layout of songs in Spanish are the following:
  • Un extraño en mi bañera by Ana Belén
  • Malo by Bebe
  • Amor Cobarde by Marta Sánchez.
Thanks to a friend of mine I have taken part in the following campaign: Una foto contra el matón (a pic against the bully). Speak up and join us 

Tasks for secondary students:

Task 1: Listen and reflect on this song:

Task 2: Thanks to my 2.0 friend, Ana, from Close your books, we are going to read the following storybook by Rosalind P. Penfold published in Dragonslippers. 

Teaching English by Fran | International Women's Day
Teaching English by Fran | Mother's Day

Good Time [Weekends]

Weekends are shorts. I read last week that weekdays go that way, Mooooonday, Tueessssdddayy, Weeeedneessday, Thruuuuuusssday and Friday, Sat, Sun. We normally do our favourite things at weekends. We hang out with our friends, go to the cinema (to spend a fortune, lately), read in bed with the short sunspells that enter through your window, walk your dogs by the beach, short naps after a nice meal. Weekends are mostly to have a good time.
This weekend, I have had the chance to visit Oli Novembre's oil mill, their fields with 2,500 olive trees with a Majorcan variety of olive, the Arbequina. This is what it can be read in the dictionary about it "The name comes from the town of Arbeca; however, this variety is said to be actually originally from Palestine.
As well as being a table olive, it is used to produce a highly valued olive oil. Generally, arbequina-based olive oils are more buttery, with a slightly peppery finish.
Arbequina olives have one of the highest concentration of oil and are therefore mostly used for olive oil production. Harvesting is easy since the trees are typically low to the ground and allow for easy hand picking".
Don't hesitate to visit Oli November's web page if you want to know more about "green gold".

Woah-oh-oh-oh,  It's always a good time, Woah-oh-oh-oh,
It's always a good time...   Woke up on the right side of the ­­­_____,
What's up with this spring song inside my head?
Hands up if you're down to___   ____   ____
Cuz it's always a good time.

Slept in all my ______ like I didn't care,  Hopped into a cab, take me anywhere,
I'm in if you're down to get down tonight,  Cuz it's always a good time.

Good morning and good night,  I wake up at twilight,
It's ____ be alright, We don't even have to try,
It's always a good time...


Feet down, dropped my _____ in the pool again,
Checked out of my_____ , hit the ATM,
Let's hang out if you're down to get down tonight,
Cuz it's always a good time... 

Activities proposed by Salvador F. 

-1- Complete the gaps.
-2- Find three verbs in past simple.
-3- Find one use of get.

Guillermo F. has also thought about the song. It's poppy and cheesy enough for everybody. Here you are his proposal:

1.Find three mistakes.

Woke up on the left side of the bed,
What's up with this spring song inside my head?
Hands up if you're up to get down tonight,
Cuz it's always a bored time.

Slept in all my clothes like I did care,
Hopped into a cab, take me wherever,
I'm in if you're down to get down tonight,
Cuz it's always a bored time.

2.Listen to the song and write the missing words.

Good …….. and good …….,
I wake up at twilight,
It's gonna be alright,
We don't even have to ……..,
It's ……… a good time...

Slept in all my ………. like I didn't care,
Hopped into a …….., take me anywhere,
I'm in if you're down to ………. down tonight,
Cuz it's always a good ……... .

3.What Do You feel when you listen this song?     


Gonna:going to(voy a…)

Have you had a good time over the weekend?

Teaching English by Fran | Stand by Me
Teaching English by Fran | Burns Night 

sábado, 24 de noviembre de 2012

I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing

Through the centuries, the human race has been fascinated with the concept of Armageddon. During that time, the word has been separated from its original biblical context. The true meaning of Armageddon has been replaced by the secular concept of humanity destroying itself. The word is now synonymous with nuclear war, natural disasters, impact from a comet or an asteroid, and any number of creatively conjured existential threats. Yet, the 
Bible doesn’t connect a single one of these events with Armageddon.

I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith

Activities: (by Jaume V.)

  1. Listen to the song and put one word in each gap.

I could stay awake just to hear your _________,
Watch you __________ while you are sleeping,
While you are far away and dreaming,
I could spend my life in this sweet ___________,
I could stay lost in this moment forever,
Where a moment spent with you is a moment I _________,,


I don't want to close my
_________, I don't want to fall asleep,
Cause I miss you baby, and I don't want to
_________ a thing,
Cause even when I dream of you, the
_________ dream will never do,
I still miss you baby and I don't want to
_________ a thing

Lying close to you feeling your _________ beating,
And I wondering what you are _________,
Wondering if it's me you are _________,
Then I kiss your eyes and thank god we're _________,
I just want to stay with you in this moment forever and forever and ever.


And I don't want to miss one _________,
I don't want to miss one _________,
I just want to be with you right here with you,
Just like this, I just want to hold you close,
I feel your _________ so close to mine
And just stay here in this moment,
For all of the rest of time.

  1. Find and correct the mistakes in the following sentences.

a. I could stay awake just hear you breathing.

b. I could spend my live in these sweet surrender.

c. I don't want to close the eyes, I don't want to fall sleep.

d. And I wondering what you is dreaming, wondering if that is me you are seeing.

  1. Mark each sentence depending on the tense used.
I could stay awake just to hear your breathing,
Watch you smile while you are sleeping,
While you are far away and dreaming,
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender,
I could stay lost in this moment forever,
Where a moment spent with you is a moment I treasure.

Present simple tense
Present continuous tense
Past simple tense

e. g. I could stay awake.

  1. True/False answers:

-          Both lovers don’t want to fall sleep. (True/False)

-          She is seeing his boyfriend while he is sleeping. (True/False)

-          This song is a dream story of someone who has fallen in love. (True/False)

-          He doesn’t want to miss one kiss and he doesn’t want to miss one smile. (True/False)

I hope you don't wanna miss a thing at my classes.

Teaching English by Fran | Because of You
Teaching English by Fran | Count on Me

jueves, 22 de noviembre de 2012


On Thanksgiving, many Americans gather with their family around the table and enjoy a turkey meal and many other tasty dishes, as their ancestors did centuries ago. 

Task 1: After watching the video, answer the following questions:

1. When was the First Thanksgiving and what did their first meal consist of?
2. In 1777, the thirteen colonies celebrated 
   their Thanksgiving to commemorate the   
   victory at Saratoga; over whom was their triumph? 
3. What did Sarah Josepha Hale do for a living?
4. When was Thanksgiving national day set on 
   the 4th Thursday in November?
5. What's the name of the department store 
   which organizes New York's Thanksgiving 

Task 2: Relative clauses

Wampanoag tribe who taught them about fishing, planting and hunting.
Abraham Lincoln, who saw the unifying potential of the holiday.

Task 3: Past simple
You can do the following activity done by Isabel Pérez.

To honour Sarah J. Hale, who believed in Thanksgiving as a national day to join American people, here you are her most famous nursery rhyme

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day, which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play, to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.
"Why does the lamb love Mary so?" the eager children cry;
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know" the teacher did reply.

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Teaching English by Fran | 4th of July
Teaching English by Fran | Halloween 

domingo, 18 de noviembre de 2012

She Wolf

The question of gender in English is not complicated; however, we cannot say that there is no gender distinction. Sometimes it is as easy as placing she- before the name, as in the title of the song, She-wolf

Some professions mark a difference between the masculine and the femenine, such as waiter/waitress or  actor/actress , both of them using the latin suffix -trix. There was a debate among American actresses who want to avoid sex discrimination, saying that if English has not gender marking difference, they should be called actors too.

There is also the common French diminute suffix which has feminine connotations or little one -ette, as in kitchenette  or cigarette from cigar.

As the song is about a she-wolf, I am teaching my students some animal names which have a feminine form.


A shot in the dark
A past, lost in space
Where do I start?
The past, and the chase?
You hunted me down
Like a wolf, a predator
I felt like a deer in love lights

You loved me and I froze in time
Hungry for that flesh of mine
But I can't compete with a she wolf who has brought me to my knees
What do you see in those yellow eyes
Cause I'm falling to pieces

I'm falling to pieces ( x 4 )
Falling to pieces
I'm falling to pieces
Falling to pieces

Exercices by Laura A.

1.Write the missing words. Use these words and put the verbs in past simple if it is necessary.
                     Hunt  ,  hungry ,  compete  , shot  ,  pieces
-_______  for  that  flesh of mine.
-I’m falling to _______.
-A _______ in the dark.
-You ______ me down.
-I can’t ________ with her.

2.Put the following  words in the correct order to make questions.

-I falling am pieces to.
-You do see that in what those eyes yellow.
-Like wolf I, predator a.

Frozen--- congelado
Hunt--- cazar
Shot--- disparo
Chase--- caza
Knees--- rodillas

How to use present continuous:
Subject + to be + verb + ing + complement
                 I am fall + ing to pieces

Nowadays monsters, vampires, werewolves are a trend. Let me know if you find a she-wolf on your way.

Teaching English by Fran | Wide Awake
Teaching English by Fran | All Around the World

miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2012

Wide Awake

It's time to fly away to an enchanted world: fairies, magic butterflies, trees that speaks wait for us. But, beware, there are also minotaurs, creepy crawly creatures and a prince charming. To see all these and more you should be Wide Awake.
My proposal is why don't you write your own short story. You can hand it whenever you want during this year. Of course, you must start with "Once upon a time". 

Isa B. has worked on the song and this is what she proposes:

Wide Awake

(Timing 1:29)
1.-Fill the blanks with the words in brackets:


I'm wide awake (x 3) 

 Yeah, I _____ in the dark 
 I was _____ hard 
 With an open heart I'm wide awake 
 How did I read the _____ so wrong
 I'm wide _____ And now it's clear to me 
 That everything you see A
in't always what it seems 
 I'm wide awake Yeah, I was _____ for so long

I wish I knew then; _______________ What I know now:_______________

Wouldn't dive in:_________________ Wouldn't bow down:_____________
Gravity hurts:___________________  You made it so sweet:___________
Till I woke up on the concrete:_____________

3.-Sing along(surprise gift):

Falling from cloud 
Crashing from the high 
I'm letting go tonight 
(Yeah I'm) Falling from cloud

4.-Put in order the next setences:

I'm wide awake 
And landed on my feet 
Picked up every piece
I'm wide awake 
Not losing any sleep 
Need nothing to complete myself - nooohooo

Remember to be wide awake and be participative in class!

Teaching English by Fran | Because of You
Teaching English by Fran | Movember