Study English every day--absolutely free!
(more about these lessons and the teacher)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Quiz yourself when you read. Ask yourself questions, and answer them, out loud, in English. Better, talk with a friend!
  • Proverb: Like a fish out of water. When one leaves one's usual environment, one can have serious troubles.
  • AcVoc [Academic Vocabulary]: procedure (n): the way to do something. "What is the procedure for getting a driver's license?" means "How do you do it?"
  • Lit [Literature]: Let there be light: In the Bible (Book of Genesis), the first words God spoke when he created the world.
  • Art: The Birth of Venus: painting by Botticelli of the goddess Venus coming out of the sea as a grown woman.
  • Slang: It's not the end of the world: it's not terrible. "You know, Ron's not that great a guy; if he leaves you, it's not the end of the world."
  • Geog [Geography]: The Pyrenees: 491 km (305 mi) mountain chain between France and Spain. Separates Iberia (Spain and Portugal) from the rest of Europe.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

New Year's Eve Traditions


GET READY:

How do you celebrate New Year's Eve in your culture?

READ THIS:

Here are some "traditional" ways that Americans celebrate the New Year.

We use the phrase "Ring out the old, ring in the new" to mean that we say "goodbye" to one year and "hello" to another. Often, we actually ring bells (or make other noise--see below) to do this. As part of this tradition, we have an image of the passing year as an old man, and the New Year as a baby. (see the picture above)

We usually ring out the old year and ring in the new with our friends. In America, Christmas Eve is spent with family, and New Year's Eve with friends. We usually have some food and drinks. No special foods, as in some cultures, but just the usual party snacks: chips and dips, etc. But we do usually toast the New Year with champagne.

People at home often watch TV, especially as midnight approaches. One show that has been on the air since 1972 is "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." The program shows people at parties all over the country, "from coast to coast," waiting for the countdown to midnight to begin. There are bands performing at the parties, and interviews in which the partygoers are asked about their resolutions.

A countdown is a common feature of many parties. The most famous countdown in America, from Times Square in New York City, is seen on many TV shows. "Counting down" means starting at 10 seconds before midnight; counting backwards from 10; and when 0 is reached, shouting "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" while hugging and even kissing. Also, some people like to make a lot of noise at midnight, blowing horns, lighting firecrackers, and so on.

By the way, notice that "countdown" as a noun is one word; when used as a verb, it's two: "We turn on the TV and count down with some show."

Most people sing along with the song "Auld Lang Syne." This may have been a traditional song when it was written down by Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), or it may have been composed by Burns himself. After its publication, it became popular to sing on New Year's Eve. When Scots people migrated to America, they brought the tradition with them.

Here is the first verse and the chorus:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
"And never brought to mind?
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
"And days of auld lang syne?

"For auld lang syne, my dear,
"For auld lang syne!
"We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne."
The expression "Auld lang syne" means literally "old long since," and is understood as something like "the good old days." So the song says, let's not forget the past, but raise a toast to it. There were five verses to the song as it was published by Burns; few Americans know them all.

Finally, a word about "New Year's Resolutions": Many people see the new year as a chance to begin again, so they resolve to do something different. They might want to stop smoking, exercise more, save money, or lose weight. Whatever the resolution may be, it's sad to say that most of them are broken before January is over!

PRACTICE:

Match the following terms to the ideas below:

1. a famous countdown
2. an old man and a baby
3. Auld Lang Syne
4. champagne
5. resolutions
6. Ring out the old, ring in the new

a. the good old days
b. image of the passing year and the new one
c. Times Square
d. goodbye and hello
e. promises, often broken
f. a toast for the New Year

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Which of these traditions are similar to ones in your country? Which are different?
2. What do you do in your country that is not mentioned here?
3. Is there any tradition here that you've never done before, but would like to try?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. c; 2. b; 3. a; 4. f; 5. e; 6. d

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Friday, Dec. 30, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Sci [Science]: intensity (n): strength of energy like light or heat that can be measured in units. "Light's intensity becomes less as you move away."
  • Eng [Language Study]: conjunction: a word used to join two or more words, like "and," "or," and "but." "I like tea and cake." "He likes tea but not cake."
  • Biz [Business]: liability: responsibility. Also, a problem. "That department isn't making money; it has become a liability."
  • Lit [Literature]: War and Peace: 1869 Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy about Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Famous for its length: in paperback 1,475 pages.
  • New [New Words]: digerati: people who are good at using digital technology, especially the Internet and computers.
  • Slang: What planet are you from?: said when someone says or does a strange thing. "You like Justin Bieber? What planet are you from?
  • Hist [History]: The Bastille: Paris prison where political prisoners were held. Its destruction was a symbol of freedom during the French Revolution.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Expressions from Shakespeare


GET READY:

What two books do you think have probably affected the English language more than any others? If you're not sure, try to guess. See the answer in the "Notes" below.

READ THIS:

Jen and Ashley are talking about Jen's love life. There are eight expressions from Shakespeare in their conversation. Can you find them all? Answers below.

Ashley: So, Jen, what's up with you and Rob? Why are you treating him so bad?
Jen: Well, I like him, but he might be too much of a good thing, you know?
Ashley: Oh, so there's method in your madness.
Jen: Yeah. But I'm really in a pickle. I'm so upset about it that I haven't slept a wink!
Ashley: So, are you gonna send him packing?
Jen: I don't know. I wish this whole problem would just vanish into thin air.
Ashley: Don't worry too much. All's well that ends well.
Jen: Maybe. But don't say anything to him about this, OK? Mum's the word!

NOTES:

The two books that have shaped the English language probably more than any others are the complete works of William Shakespeare, and the King James Bible. Shakespeare died in 1616; the King James Bible was published in 1611. You could say, then, that the late 16th and early 17th centuries were a "Golden Age" for the formation of English. Some of these expressions were created by Shakespeare; others were just made popular by him.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Have you ever read anything by Shakespeare? Did you learn any new expressions from it?
2. Look at the plays in the answers below. Have you read any of those? Or do you know what they're about?
3. Try to use some the expressions in sentences of your own.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

Here are the Shakespeare expressions used in the conversation above:
  • too much of a good thing: Even something or someone you like can become tiresome; from As You Like It
  • there's method in your madness: What you're doing seems crazy, but in fact you have a plan; paraphrase of a line in Hamlet
  • in a pickle: In a difficult spot, or unable to make a decision; from The Tempest
  • I haven't slept a wink: I have not slept at all; from Cymbeline
  • send [someone] packing: To send [someone] away in shame; from Henry IV, Part I
  • vanish into thin air: Disappear without a trace; used in different forms in Othello and The Tempest
  • All's well that ends well: Despite troubles along the way, things usually turn out all right; title of a play
  • Mum's the word: Don't say anything except "Mmmmmm…"; from Henry VI, Part 2

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Office basics. http://www.talkenglish.com/Speaking/Business/Basics.aspx
  • Hist [History]: Vikings: 8th-10th century fighting men from northern Europe (Scandinavia) who attacked and sometimes settled in many areas of Europe.
  • Verb [Irregular Verbs]: The sun sinks in the west. It sank at 6pm yesterday. It has sunk for millions of years. Make more sentences like these!
  • Idiom: two shakes of a lamb's tail: quickly. "I need you to go out and get some supplies, and be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail."
  • Pop [Pop Culture]: Boy Scouts of America: An American youth organization meant to train boys and young men to be good citizens and leaders.
  • Slang: I guess: agreeing, but with no enthusiasm. "You're lucky to have that job!" "Yeah, I guess."
  • Gov't [Government]: expatriation: leaving the country one was born in to live in another. A person who does this is called an "expat" (expatriate).

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Englishes


GET READY:

Which do you find easier to understand, spoken English or written English? Why do you think this is?

READ THIS:

English learners today must learn not just English, but EnglishES. If you choose between British English and American English, this isn't the end of the problem. That's because most English speakers--I mean natives of the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other "English-speaking countries"-- don't really speak "standard English" day-to-day.

If you have learned English as a second language, you probably have noticed that your foreign friends, or people in movies, speak differently from what you read in a textbook. That's because, as with most languages, the spoken and written ways of expression are quite different. Speakers fill their speech with slang, colloquialisms, swear words, informal pronunciation and constructions, and so on.

Sometimes it seems like the language learner doesn't have a chance!

NOTES:

Note: Beware of false distinctions! Some books will say things like "Taxi is British, and cab is American," when in fact both words are used in both countries!

PRACTICE:

Can you give the American equivalents for these fifteen common British words?

1. biscuit
2. car park
3. chemist's shop
4. chips
5. dustbin.
6. flat
7. lift
8. lorry
9. maths
10. nappy
11. petrol
12. queue
13. rubber
14. tin
15. torch

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Aside from the words above, do you know other words that are different in the U.K. and America? Do you know words in other "Englishes" besides the US and UK (Australia, maybe, or India)?
2. How and why do you think these different "Englishes" developed?
3. The great Irish writer George Bernard Shaw wrote, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." What do you think he meant?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

American English:
1. cookie (a biscuit in America is a small piece of bread, like a roll)
2. parking lot
3. drugstore, pharmacy
4. fries, French fries ("chips" are very thin wafers, like "potato chips")
5. garbage can, trash can
6. apartment
7. elevator
8. truck
9. math
10. diaper
11. gas, gasoline
12. line
13. eraser ("rubber" is a boot to go over the shoe in the rain; or a condom)
14. can
15. flashlight ("torch" is a stick with fire on the end)

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Go to English talks or lectures. Listen carefully; take notes; ask questions; and discuss with a friend.
  • Proverb: The early bird catches the worm. The enthusiastic person, who does the work before others, is most successful.
  • AcVoc [Academic Vocabulary]: estimate (n=-mət) an inexact guess of something's cost or size; (v=-meɪt) to make such a guess. "I estimate dinner will cost $20."
  • Lit [Literature]: Hercules: Roman name of Greek hero, son of god Zeus and a human mother. Strong and brave, had to perform the "12 Labors of Hercules."
  • Art: Johann Strauss the Younger: 19th-century composer from Vienna. Called the "Waltz King," wrote "The Blue Danube."
  • Slang: Take care!: said to wish a person well when saying goodbye. "See ya! Take care!"
  • Geog [Geography]: Nagasaki: city in south Japan. Only port open to outsiders 1641-1858. In 1945, second city (after Hiroshima) hit by US atomic bombs.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (8): Success


GET READY:

Have you ever been so desperate (without hope) that you would try anything to fix a problem? Or do you know someone who has felt that way?

A gardener's son wants to marry a princess. After he showed kindness to an old woman, she told him how he could heal a sick king.

READ THIS:

[38] The young man followed the old beggar-woman's directions. On going out of the town he found the white, red, and black dogs, and killed and burnt them, gathering the ashes in three bags. Then he ran to the palace and cried:
[39] "A celebrated physician has just come from Janina in Albania. He alone can cure the King and give him back the strength of his youth."
[40] The King's physicians at first laughed at the unknown wayfarer, but the Sultan ordered that the stranger should be admitted. They brought the cauldron and the loads of wood, and very soon the King was boiling away. Toward mid-day the gardener's son arranged the bones in their places, and he had hardly scattered the ashes over them before the old King revived, to find himself once more young and hearty.
[41] "How can I reward you, my benefactor?" he cried. "Will you take half my treasures?"
[42] "No," said the gardener's son.
[43] "My daughter's hand?"
[44] "NO."
[45] "Take half my kingdom."
[46] "No. Give me only the bronze ring which can instantly grant me anything I wish for."
[47] "Alas!" said the King, "I set great store by that marvelous ring; nevertheless, you shall have it." And he gave it to him.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. burnt: the past of "burn"; also spelled "burned"
b. a wayfarer: an old-fashioned word for a person who travels
c. to scatter: to spread or sprinkle
d. to revive: to wake up, to come back to life
e. a treasure: something valuable
f. take or give one's hand: can mean to get married; the king means "take my daughter's hand (in marriage)."
g. to set great store by something: to think of something as important or valuable
h. marvelous: very good, wonderful, perhaps magical
i. nevertheless: anyway, even so; a bit like "What I just said is not important."

PRACTICE:

Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. I was carrying some papers when the wind came and __________ them everywhere.
2. I know you don't like Marcia; __________, you need to work with her.
3. All of my books were __________ in the fire.
4. When I'm sleepy, taking a short walk around the office __________ me.
5. Daily exercise is a __________ way to keep fit.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the king was willing to be boiled?
2. How do you think the "cure" worked? That is, what causes the king to revive?
3. Do you think the gardener's son is smart to refuse the king's many offers?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 c scattered; 2 i nevertheless; 3 a burnt; 4 d revives; 5 h marvelous

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Sci [Science]: algebra: type of mathematics using symbols instead of numbers, like solving for "x" in x-5=27.
  • Eng [Language Study]: abbreviation: Short form of a word or expression, like "Mr." for "mister" or "USA" for "United States of America."
  • Biz [Business]: workforce: all the people working in a company, a country, etc. "There are more women in the workforce than before."
  • Lit [Literature]: Bard of Avon: a nickname for Shakespeare, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. "Bard" means "poet," one who writes poems.
  • New [New Words]: bridezilla: a woman planning to get married (bride) who becomes difficult to the people around her (like the monster Godzilla)
  • Slang: Atta boy (or girl): words of encouragement or praise. "I just won first prize in an English speech contest!" "Atta boy!"
  • Hist [History]: Billy the Kid: Late 19th-century American outlaw and folk hero, killed at age 21. He said he killed 21 men; others say only 4 to 9.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Understanding a Dialect

Edgar A. Guest

GET READY:

In your language, is the spoken language different from the written language? Do people ever try to write as they speak, like English "wanna" for "want to" or "doin'" for "doing"?

READ THIS:

People who have learned English as a second language often have trouble understanding English dialects, the different ways people speak English in different places. Here is the first stanza (verse) of a famous poem by Edgar Guest. It's called "Home," and was published in 1916. See if you can understand what Guest is saying.
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
One of the problems you might have is the unusual spelling, which tries to sound like "natural" speech. Reading the words out loud might help.

Another problem is the vocabulary. Guest wants the speaker to sound like someone from the countryside, not the city, so he chose "country" words. Can you guess the meaning of these?
heap
afore
to hunger for
"Heap" means "a lot of something"; "afore" is "before"; and "to hunger for something" means to want it very much.

NOTES:

Edgar Guest was a poet born in England on August 20, 1881.

His family moved to America ten years later, where "Eddie" became one of the most popular poets of the early 20th century. He was known as "The People's Poet" because he chose subjects which were loved by everyone, such as "home" or "mother." People were also attracted by his unusual style.

Guest often tried to copy the pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar, of the common people. As a result, he didn't usually write in what is known as Standard American English, or "SAE." He wrote in a "folksy" dialect.

PRACTICE:

Can you guess which sound is which word?
1. an'
2. 'em
3. fer
4. lef'
5. o'
6. 'preciate
7. shadder,
8. t'
9. ye
10. yer

a. to
b. and
c. appreciate
d. you
e. them
f. your
g. left
h. for
i. of
j. shadow

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

Try to paraphrase (write in other words) the four lines of dialect above.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. b; 2. e; 3. h; 4. g; 5. i; 6. c; 7. j; 8. a; 9. d; 10. f


ANSWER TO THE QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING
It takes a lot of living in a house to make it home,
A lot of sun and shadow, and you sometimes have to roam
Before you really appreciate the things you left behind,
And really miss them somehow, with them always on your mind.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Monday, Dec. 26, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Worksheets and quizzes on verbs, idioms, more. http://www.usingenglish.com/
  • Hist [History]: I came, I saw, I conquered: Tradition says Julius Caesar described one of his victories this way. In Latin, "veni, vidi, vici."
  • Verb [Irregular Verbs]: I pay $20 a month for water. I paid the bill yesterday. I have paid it since I moved here. Make more sentences like these!
  • Idiom: bite the bullet: accept something unpleasant. "When our family has little money, every one has to bite the bullet and help us save."
  • Pop [Pop Culture]: "White Christmas": A 1942 pop Christmas song written by Irving Berlin. Many have sung it, but Bing Crosby's version is the most famous.
  • Slang: to work out: to have a "happy ending." "Sorry to hear about your troubles at work; I hope everything works out."
  • Gov't [Government]: Greenpeace: environmental organization founded in 1971. Often actively protests abuse of the environment.

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (7): A Magic Cure


GET READY:

Do you believe in magic?

A gardener's son wants to marry a princess. He has just shown kindness to an old woman, and has carried her on the back of his horse into a city.

READ THIS:

[34] The next day the gardener's son heard a great noise in the street, and the King's heralds passed, blowing all kinds of instruments, and crying:
[35] "The King, our master, is old and infirm. He will give a great reward to whoever will cure him and give him back the strength of his youth."
[36] Then the old beggar-woman said to her benefactor:
[37] "This is what you must do to obtain the reward which the King promises. Go out of the town by the south gate, and there you will find three little dogs of different colors; the first will be white, the second black, the third red. You must kill them and then burn them separately, and gather up the ashes. Put the ashes of each dog into a bag of its own color, then go before the door of the palace and cry out, 'A celebrated physician has come from Janina in Albania. He alone can cure the King and give him back the strength of his youth.' The King's physicians will say, 'This is an impostor, and not a learned man,' and they will make all sorts of difficulties, but you will overcome them all at last, and will present yourself before the sick King. You must then demand as much wood as three mules can carry, and a great cauldron, and must shut yourself up in a room with the Sultan, and when the cauldron boils you must throw him into it, and there leave him until his flesh is completely separated from his bones. Then arrange the bones in their proper places, and throw over them the ashes out of the three bags. The King will come back to life, and will be just as he was when he was twenty years old. For your reward you must demand the bronze ring which has the power to grant you everything you desire. Go, my son, and do not forget any of my instructions."

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. a herald: a person who announces that the king is coming, or that the king has news
b. an instrument: or, a musical instrument; something to make music with, like a piano or a drum
c. infirm: unwell, ill
d. a reward: something given in return for a good deed, like money for reporting a crime
e. to cure: to make well again; also, a cure: something that makes a person well again
f. a benefactor: someone who has done something for another; related to "benefit," something good that one receives
g. to obtain: to get
h. ashes: the soft gray remains after something has burned
i. celebrated: famous
j. a physician: a doctor
k. Albania: a country in Southeastern Europe; here, it just means a far away, unfamiliar place
l. an impostor: someone who pretends to be something he's not
m. learned: educated; pronounced LEARN-ud, not LEARNED
n. to overcome: to succeed against difficulties; to win
o. a mule: a cross between a horse and a donkey; it's big and strong, but cannot have offspring (babies) of its own
p. a cauldron: a very large pot for boiling water and cooking; bif enough to put a man inside
q. a Sultan: a ruler (like a king) in Arabic-speaking places
r. to boil: to heat water to 100 degrees C (or 212 degrees F) until it makes steam
s. flesh: the skin and muscle on a body
t. bronze: a kind of metal, usually made by mixing copper (Cu) and tin (Sn)
u. to grant: to give, especially when the giver is extremely powerful, like a king


PRACTICE:

Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. People often become __________ as they reach their 80s and 90s.
2. The police arrested the __________ who said he was a doctor, but wasn't.
3. As of now, there is no __________ for the common cold.
4. Some people eat the __________ of fish and animals; others are vegetarians.
5. Can you play any kind of __________?
6. If you explain your case clearly, the court might __________ your request.
7. Please __________ some water and we'll make tea.
8. If one is ill, one should visit a __________.
9. If you found some money, would you turn it in and hope for a __________?
10. If you work hard and believe in yourself, you can __________ most problems.
11. The __________ Age came between the Stone Age and the Iron Age.
12. What do you have to do to __________ a driver's license?

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the dogs are white, black, and red? Do the colors mean anything?
2. Three dogs, three bags, three mules. Can you think of any folk stories that use THREE as an important number?
3. Where do you think the old woman got her knowledge? Do you think that what she says will come true?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 c infirm; 2 l impostor; 3 e cure; 4 s flesh; 5 b instrument; 6 u grant; 7 r boil; 8 j physician; 9 d reward; 10 n overcome; 11 t Bronze; 12 g obtain

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Throw away the IPA. When you learned your mother tongue, you didn't read it: you listened and repeated. So get some audio and do it!
  • Proverb: You can’t go home again. Home changes, and so do we; when we return after a long absence, it's never the same as before we left.
  • AcVoc [Academic Vocabulary]: definition (n): meaning of a word or phrase; define (v) to tell the meaning. "'Cat' is defined as…" or "The definition of 'cat' is…"
  • Lit [Literature]: Bethlehem: a village near Jerusalem, in Israel, where tradition says Jesus (known as Jesus Christ, founder of Christianity) was born.
  • Art: choreography: arrangement of dance movements, and the movements themselves. "I enjoyed the ballet's choreography."
  • Slang: a heck of a lot: very much or many. "If I'm late to work one more time, I'll be in a heck of a lot of trouble."
  • Geog [Geography]: savanna: (or "grassland") a wide flat area with grass but few trees (as in Africa's Serengeti). About 20% of Earth's land is savanna.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Popular Christmas Songs


GET READY:

How many Christmas songs do you know? How many of them are religious? How many are not?

READ THIS:

Many Christmas songs are, of course, about Jesus, whose birthday is celebrated on Christmas.

But many others are what we can call "popular songs," about the Christmas season or winter season, but not especially about God.

Look at these songs and match them to the song lyrics (the words to songs) below.

1. Deck the Halls
2. Frosty the Snowman
3. Jingle Bells
4. Let It Snow
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
7. The Christmas Song
8. The Twelve Days of Christmas
9. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
10. White Christmas

a. He's making a list and checking it twice; gonna find out who's naughty and nice.
b. Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.
c. 'Tis the season to be jolly!
d. Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful
e. Although it's been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.
f. Three French Hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
g. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.
h. Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh; over the fields we go, laughing all the way!
i. He was made of snow but the children know how he came to life one day.
j. And if you ever saw it you would even say it glows.


ANSWERS:

1. c; 2. i; 3. h; 4. d; 5. j; 6. a; 7. e; 8. f; 9. b; 10. g

PRACTICE:

Look at the titles and lyrics again; can you guess the theme (main idea) of each song?

1. Let's stay inside and stay warm because it's cold outside.
2. A simple Christmas greeting
3. Someone in Los Angeles is dreaming about Christmas in a snowy place.
4. A list of Christmas gifts
5. Let's decorate for this happy time.
6. Taking a ride outside
7. A non-living thing that became alive
8. Someone who was different from his friends became a hero
9. People sing Christmas songs at your family's door.
10. Santa Claus wants to know who should get good gifts.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. It seems like these songs are more popular in America than many "religious" ones. Why do you think that is?
2. Besides these songs, what religious ones do you know in English?
3. You can go to this page: http://www.the-north-pole.com/carols/index.htm and find many Christmas songs, both religious and popular, with sounds file to help you "sing along." Enjoy!

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 = Let It Snow; 2 = The Christmas Song; 3 = White Christmas; 4 = The Twelve Days of Christmas; 5 = Deck the Halls; 6 = Jingle Bells; 7 = Frosty the Snowman; 8 = Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; 9 = We Wish You a Merry Christmas; 10 = Santa Claus is Coming to Town


This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Sci [Science]: The planets, from the sun: ☿ Mercury, ♀ Venus, ⊕ Earth, ♂ Mars, ♃ Jupiter, ♄ Saturn, ♅ Uranus, ♆ Neptune (and formerly Pluto)
  • Eng [Language Study]: malapropism: humorous confusing of two words, like "secret urgent" for "secret agent," or "a blessing in the skies" for "in disguise."
  • Biz [Business]: compliance: following the laws and regulations of business. "We will protect our workers in compliance with safety laws."
  • Lit [Literature]: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin": German legend about a flute-player who leads away the children of a town.
  • New [New Words]: fashionista: someone who tries to wear the latest fashions; also, one who works in the fashion industry.
  • Slang: to be seeing someone: to be dating someone. "Are you seeing anyone?" "Yes, I'm seeing this great new guy."
  • Hist [History]: Mahatma Gandhi: 20th-century leader who used non-violence to help India become independent from Britain. "Mahatma" means "great soul."

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Boss (Slang) Part 3


GET READY:

Why would you quit a job (or change schools)? In other words, when would a boss's or teacher's requests become too much?

READ THIS:

The conversation continues. Jeff is so upset he may have to change jobs...

Jeff: Yeah, I worked all night, but I was a basket case the next day. My social life is DOA. I even had to cancel a date I had with this hottie I met the other night.
Brad: Can you talk to him about it?
Jeff: Nah, he's a dinosaur. He thinks everyone should work 24/7. But I'm a people person! I need to go someplace and just veg out with my friends.
Brad: So what are you going to do?
Jeff: I'll hang a few more weeks, but if nothing changes, I'm outta there!
Brad: Good luck!

PRACTICE 1:

Match the words and their meanings:

1. 24/7
2. basket case
3. dinosaur
4. DOA
5. hang (or hang on)
6. hottie
7. I'm outta there
8. people person
9. veg out

a. old-fashioned
b. someone who likes other people
c. sit around
d. all the time
e. non-existent
f. insane person
g. I will leave
h. wait and see
i. good-looking or sexy person

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 1:

1. 24/7: (d) all the time: "24 hours a day, 7 days a week"
2. a basket case: (f) a crazy person, someone who can't take care of him- or herself
3. a dinosaur: (a) someone old-fashioned, with outdated ideas
4. DOA: (e) a medical term, "Dead on Arrival" (as when someone is already dead before they reach the hospital). We use it to mean "non-existent." You can hear this in the theme song of the TV show "Friends": "Your life's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA."
5. to hang: (h) to do nothing, to wait and see
6. a hottie: (i) a good-looking or sexy person, one who is "hot"
7. I'm outta there: (g) I will leave there. Also "I'm outta here" used as an informal way to say goodbye.
8. a people person: (b) a person who enjoys being with other people; someone with good relationship skills
9. to veg out: (c) to do nothing special, to sit around (like a vegetable)

PRACTICE 2:

Use the words above to fill in the blanks:

1. After that long plane ride, I was a __________ and could barely stay awake in the meeting.
2. If she's such a __________, why is she going out with YOU?!
3. If you make another mistake like that, your career will be __________.
4. I think I'll just stay home and __________ in front of the TV tonight.
5. See ya later! __________!
6. We'll work __________ to keep our customers happy.
7. Just __________ a second, and I'll be right with you.
8. If you weren't such a __________, you'd know how to use your mobile phone.
9. I hate staying home; I'd rather go to a club, because I'm a __________.

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 2:

1. basket case; 2. hottie; 3. DOA; 4. veg out; 5. I'm outta here; 6. 24/7; 7. hang (or hang on); 8. dinosaur; 9. people person

NOTES:

Here's a paraphrase of the rest of the conversation, in more standard English:

Jeff: Yes, I worked all night, but I was in bad condition the next day. I have no social life. I even had to cancel a date I had with a pretty girl I met the other night
Brad: Can you talk to him about it?
Jeff: Nah, he's too old-fashioned. He thinks everyone should work all the time. But I prefer to be with people! I need to go someplace and just have free time with my friends.
Brad: So what are you going to do?
Jeff: I'll wait and see a few more weeks, but if nothing changes, I'll leave there!
Brad: Good luck!

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Friday, Dec. 23, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Basic Conversation Podcasts: Listen and learn! http://www.eltpodcast.com/archive/bc
  • Hist [History]: Montezuma: or Moctezuma II, Aztec emperor (died 1520). Expanded Aztec land to its largest size, but lost to the Spanish under Cortez.
  • Verb [Irregular Verbs]: He sweeps the floor after work. He swept it better than usual last night. He has swept it for years! Make more sentences like these!
  • Idiom: all thumbs: not skillful with one's hands. "I can't type very well; I'm all thumbs."
  • Pop [Pop Culture]: The Beatles: John, Paul, George, and Ringo, the "Lads from Liverpool" (England), were one of the greatest rock 'n' roll groups ever.
  • Slang: to juggle some things: to have several things to do. "I'm juggling a job and my hobby." Many juggle "work and family" etc.
  • Gov't [Government]: pacifism: deep belief that war is NEVER good, and cannot be accepted; the belief that nations should always behave peacefully

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Boss (Slang) Part 2


GET READY:

Has a boss or teacher ever asked you to do something that you thought was unreasonable? Did you do it?

READ THIS:

The conversation continues. Brad thinks Jeff is too hard on the boss, but then Jeff tells him more...

Brad: I think you should back off. Cut him some slack.
Jeff: What are you saying?
Brad: It's a no-brainer. I mean, it's a good job. Don't blow it.
Jeff: But I'm not finished. Last week he asked the whole office to pull an all-nighter.
Brad: Whoa! Did you do it?

To be continued...

PRACTICE 1:

Match the words and their meanings:

1. back off
2. cut him some slack
3. What are you saying?
4. no-brainer
5. blow it
6. I'm not finished
7. whoa
8. pull an all-nighter

a. requires little thought
b. expresses surprise
c. give him a break
d. I want to say more
e. leave someone alone
f. work all night
g. make a big mistake
h. How dare you!

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 1:

1. to back off: (e) to leave someone alone, to stop attacking him or her
2. to cut someone some slack: (c) to "give someone a break," to be forgiving of someone
3. What are you saying?: (h) This might be a request for more information. It can also be a challenge to the speaker, like "Why are you criticizing me?" or even "How dare you!"
4. a no-brainer: (a) something that is obvious, and requires little thought
5. to blow it: (g) to make a big mistake, to manage something badly
6. I'm not finished: (d) This might be simply what it says: "I want to say more." But it can also mean "You have spoken too soon. Don't make a decision until you have all the facts."
7. whoa: (b) an expression of surprise; it might also mean "stop"
8. to pull an all-nighter: (f) to work all night, or at least until the early morning hours

PRACTICE 2:

Use the words above to fill in the blanks:

1. I'm a nice guy! How could you accuse me of that? __________
2. To stop smoking is a __________ as far as I'm concerned.
3. Wait! Don't decide yet! __________
4. If I have to __________ I'll never get to class in the morning.
5. If you don't __________ I'm going to punch you!
6. __________! Hang on a second!
7. If you __________ on this deal, you'll get fired for sure.
8. He's not such a bad guy! __________!

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 2:

1. What are you saying?; 2. no-brainer; 3. I'm not finished; 4. pull an all-nighter; 5. back off; 6. whoa; 7. blow it; 8. cut him some slack

NOTES:

Here is this part of the conversation, in more standard English:

Brad: I think you should stop being so aggressive. Be more forgiving.
Jeff: Why are you defending my boss? How dare you!
Brad: It's obvious. I mean, it's a good job. Don't do something that will cause you to lose it.
Jeff: Before you take my boss's side, listen to this: last week he asked the whole office to work all night.
Brad: That's really surprising! Did you do it?

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Use prefixes and suffixes. "pre-" means "before"; "post-" means "after." "-ness" makes a noun. "-ive" makes an adj. Bigger vocabulary!
  • Proverb: Leave well enough alone. If everything is OK, don't try to change it. Now we say: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
  • AcVoc [Academic Vocabulary]: occur (v): happen. "Where did your bike accident occur?" "Rain seldom occurs in the desert."
  • Lit [Literature]: cyclops: member of a race of giants in Greek myth with one eye in the center of the forehead. One trapped Odysseus in "The Odyssey."
  • Art: Whistler's Mother: a famous painting by James Whistler of his mother seated. Properly called "Arrangement in Grey and Black Number 1."
  • Slang: You lost me: I don't understand what you said. "Could you repeat that? You lost me."
  • Geog [Geography]: Yellowstone National Park: in Wyoming, USA; first national park in the world (1872). Famous for "Old Faithful" geyser, and for bears.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Boss (Slang) Part 1


GET READY:

Do you have a boss? What is he or she like? If you don't have a boss, describe your teacher, or your mother or father.

READ THIS:

Jeff, an American, tells Brad about his boss...

Brad: So, what's your boss like?
Jeff: He's a complete wuss. But he's like a zillionaire, so nobody wants to bad mouth him.
Brad: Why do you say he's a wuss?
Jeff: Like, the other night we went out to some dive to get some eats. The place served us some kind of mystery meat. I wanted to complain, but he was totally psyched about it! It's like he lives in some la-la-land where life is beautiful all the time.

To be continued...

PRACTICE 1:

Match the words and their meanings:

1. bad mouth
2. dive
3. eats
4. la la land
5. like
6. mystery meat
7. psyched
8. wuss
9. zillionaire

a. food
b. imaginary place
c. a weak person
d. excited, extremely happy
e. say bad things about someone
f. common filler word, like "um" or "uh"
g. a very rich person
h. low-class bar or restaurant
i. you can't tell what kind it is

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 1:

1. to bad mouth: (e) to say bad things about someone
2. a dive: (h) a low-class bar or restaurant
3. eats: (a) food
4. la la land: (b) an imaginary place, like where we go in dreams
5. like: (f) a common filler word, like "um" or "uh." Here, it means "For example."
6. mystery meat: (i) meat that has been prepared badly, so one can't tell what kind it is
7. to be psyched: (d) to be excited, extremely happy
8. a wuss: (c) a weak person, one who won't stand up for him- or herself
9. a zillionaire: (g) a very rich person. Like "millionaire" or "billionaire," but with an imaginary number.

PRACTICE 2:

Use the words above to fill in the blanks:

1. Pay attention! Stop drifting off to __________.
2. The water's not that cold! Get in! Don't be such a __________!
3. I don't like __________, so I seldom eat barbecue from the street.
4. There's no need to __________ him just because he doesn't like you.
5. Last time I went into that __________ I ended up in a fight!
6. I won the contest! I'm so __________!
7. Where can I get some good __________? I'm starving!
8. If I were a __________ I'd buy you a new car.
9. If you were, __________, honest, you'd tell me where you were last night.

ANSWERS TO PRACTICE 2:

1. la la land; 2. wuss; 3. mystery meat; 4. bad mouth; 5. dive; 6. psyched; 7. eats; 8. zillionaire; 9. like

NOTES:

Here's a paraphrase of the conversation so far, in more standard English:

Brad: So, what's your boss like?
Jeff: He's a weak person. But he's very rich, so nobody wants to say bad things about him.
Brad: Why do you say he's a weak person?
Jeff: For example, the other night we went out to a cheap restaurant to get some food. The place served us some meat that was so badly prepared that we couldn't guess what it was. I wanted to complain, but he was excited about it! It's like he lives in some imaginary place where life is beautiful all the time.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Sci [Science]: aborigines: first people known to live in a region, before European settlers came, like Native Americans in the Americas.
  • Eng [Language Study]: declarative sentence: the kind of sentence that gives information. "I am a teacher." "Gas is expensive." "My computer is broken."
  • Biz [Business]: shareholder: a person with shares of stock in a corporation. "A new chairman was elected at the shareholders' meeting."
  • Lit [Literature]: Tarzan: fictional character from books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (and later, films). He was raised in the jungles of Africa by apes.
  • New [New Words]: soccer mom: a suburban mom who doesn't work, often taking her kids to after-school activities (music lessons, sports practice, etc.).
  • Slang: Whatcha doin'?: casual way to say "What are you doing?" meaning "How are you?" Usual answer: "Not much" or "Nothing."
  • Hist [History]: Ernesto "Che" Guevara: Latin-American revolutionary who helped bring the Marxists and Fidel Castro to power in Cuba.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


GET READY:

Do you know what "Winter Solstice" means? How do you think it might relate to the title of this poem?

READ THIS:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer [5]
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. [10]
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep, [15]
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

NOTES:

Winter solstice is around the 20th or 21st of December (in the Northern Hemisphere). It is the time when the sun is farthest south, on the Tropic of Capricorn (a little over 23 degrees south of the equator). This makes it the coldest time, with the darkest nights, in the temperate "middle" latitudes, where much of the earth's population lives. For many, it is the time of Christmas or Hanukkah; four to six weeks later is the start of the lunar New Year in many Asian cultures.

This poem, by American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) talks of a winter scene, probably in New England where he lived. Many readers think that line [8] of the poem, "The darkest evening of the year," is a reference to Winter Solstice, which is at least the longest, if not the darkest, night of the year.

PRACTICE:

Here is some vocabulary from the poem:

1. downy [10]
2. flake [10]
3. harness [9]
4. queer [5]
5. sweep [11]

a. a motion, like using a broom
b. equipment used to help a horse pull a wagon
c. a small piece of something
d. strange, odd
e. soft, fluffy

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the speaker stops his carriage?
2. Look at the "GET READY" question again. "Solstice" means the sun ("sol" as in "solar system") comes to a stop (Latin sistere). What else "stops" in the poem? Can you see a connection?
3. What "promises" might the speaker have to keep? How about you? What promises would keep you from stopping too long to watch a snowfall?
4. Why do you think Frost repeats the last line?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 e; 2 c; 3 b; 4 d; 5 a
Notes:
•    "queer" now also means "gay" (homosexual)
•    "harness bells" are small bells attached to the horse's harness; you may have heard about them in the song "Jingle Bells"
•    the "sweep" of the wind and the snow is the sound of a gentle snowfall with mild wind
•    "downy flake" describes falling snow

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Commonly Misspelled Words http://www.esldesk.com/spelling/misspelled-words
  • Hist [History]: Trojan War: War between Greece and Troy (in Turkey). Tradition says Trojan prince Paris stole Helen, wife of Spartan king Menelaus.
  • Verb [Irregular Verbs]: I hear bells every day. I heard them yesterday morning. I have heard them for years. Make more sentences like these!
  • Idiom: crocodile tears: a show of sympathy that's not real. Tradition said crocodiles cried before they ate their victims.
  • Pop [Pop Culture]: Walt Disney: 20th-century American film producer and businessman. Created Mickey Mouse, and opened several Disneyland parks.
  • Slang: Don't ask: I'd rather not talk about it; it's too depressing. "How's your homework coming?" "Don't ask!"
  • Gov't [Government]: human (or civil) rights: the right to certain freedoms from government control, believed by some people to be necessary for all humans

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (6): Kindness


GET READY:

How has your kindness been tested lately? Did you pass the test or fail it?

A king wants his daughter to marry the son of his prime minister. The princess wants to marry the gardener's son. The two men are in a race to see who can go to a distant country and back first. The one who wins gets the princess. The minister's son has a better horse and a lot of money; the gardener's son has a very old horse, but the princess has given him a purse filled with jewels. The prime minister's son has been unkind to an old woman; now the gardener's son meets her.

READ THIS:

[28] That same evening the gardener's son rode up to the fountain upon his lame gray horse.
[29] "Good-day to you, young traveler," said the beggar-woman.
[30] "Good-day, good woman," answered he.
[31] "Young traveler, have pity upon me."
[32] "Take my purse, good woman," said he, "and mount behind me, for your legs can't be very strong."
[33] The old woman didn't wait to be asked twice, but mounted behind him, and in this style they reached the chief city of a powerful kingdom. The minister's son was lodged in a grand inn; the gardener's son and the old woman dismounted at the inn for beggars.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. Good-day: an old-fashioned way to say "hello." We still say "Good morning," "Good afternoon," and "Good evening," but seldom "Good day." (By the way, "Good night" means "Goodbye.")
b. a beggar-woman: a woman who begs (makes a living by asking others for money, food, and other kinds of help)
c. good woman: an old-fashioned form of address. "Good man," "Good sir," etc. are seldom used anymore.
d. to mount: to get onto something; a horse, for example
e. to be asked twice: a common phrase used when you really want something: "Tea? I'd love some! You don't need to ask me twice!"
f. the chief city: Today we would say "the capital."
g. a kingdom: A country ruled by a king (or queen, as "The United Kingdom").
h. to lodge or to be lodged: to stay somewhere, like in a hotel
i. an inn: a small hotel
j. to dismount: to get off of something (see "mount")
k. a beggar: a person who begs for a living, like the "beggar-woman" above

PRACTICE:

Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. When we went to the mountains, we stayed in a beautiful little __________.
2. He loves to play piano for people; you don't have to __________.
3. We often see __________ asking for money near the train station.
4. The audience applauded as the speaker __________ the stage.
5. Where were you __________ when you went to college?
6. Near the end of Shakespeare's Richard III, the king calls out: "A horse, a horse, my __________ for a horse!"

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the gardener's son is polite to the old woman?
2. The gardener's son gave all of the jewels to the old woman? Does this surprise you? Why do you think he did this?
3. Do you think the old woman can be helpful to the gardener's son?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 i inn; 2 e ask him twice; 3 k beggars; 4 d mounted; 5 h lodged; 6 g kingdom

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Monday, Dec. 19, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Sing songs. Find an English song you love and sing it. Learn the meaning, learn to pronounce it well, and sing. Then sing another!
  • Proverb: When the cat’s away, the mice will play. People will relax when the boss (teacher, etc.) is away.
  • AcVoc [Academic Vocabulary]: significance: importance, meaning. "He said 'I'm sorry' so often, the words lost their significance."
  • Lit [Literature]: The Fall of Man: In the Bible (Book of Genesis), removal of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they ate the forbidden fruit.
  • Art: soprano, alto, tenor, bass: singing voices--high female, low female, high male, low male. Choir music in four parts is called "SATB."
  • Slang: There's plenty of fish in the sea: There are other girls/boys available. "If you lose Dave, don't worry; there's plenty of fish in the sea."
  • Geog [Geography]: Turkey: country in Europe (3%) and Middle East (97%). Capital Ankara, largest city Istanbul. People "Turks," lang., adj. "Turkish."

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Staffordshire Hoard 2

Part of a helmet from the Staffordshire Hoard

GET READY:

If you found something expensive (like a ring or a wallet), would you try to find the owner? Or would you keep it?

READ THIS:

See yesterday's lesson for the first part of this story.

The Staffordshire Hoard was valued at £3.285 million, and has now been purchased by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

The hoard was found when Terry Herbert, using a metal detector, was exploring an area of farmland. In the next five days, Herbert uncovered enough gold objects to fill 244 bags. Herbert notified the British government, and they hired a company named Birmingham Archaeology to do a compete excavation.

In September of 2009, it was declared that the hoard was a treasure, meaning it belongs to the Crown. Some of the finds were displayed at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Over 40,000 people came to see them, and waited in queues for several hours.

NOTES:

This text was based on an article at Wikipedia. You can see the original here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staffordshire_Hoard

Two more articles about the hoard can be found here:
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/11/gold-hoard/alexander-text
http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

This story was begun in yesterday's lesson.

PRACTICE:

Here are some of the difficult words in this article. Match them to their meanings.

GROUP 1
1. archaeology
2. an excavation
3. a metal detector
4. a treasure
5. to uncover

a. something very valuable
b. the study of very old things made by people (buildings, cups, swords, etc.)
c. digging up old things from the ground
d. to find
e. something used to help find coins, rings, etc., especially underground

GROUP 2
6. to declare
7. farmland
8. to notify
9. a queue
10. the Crown
11. to be valued

f. to tell (officially)
g. a line (of people)
h. to have a price assigned
i. to announce, to tell people publicly
j. the British government
k. an area where food can be grown

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. How much is £3.285 million in your country's currency? (If your country uses British pounds, what is the purchasing power of £3.285 million? Like, how many houses could you buy?)
2. If you were Terry Herbert, would you notify the government about what you found? (By the way, it was on another person's land, and Terry Herbert was looking with the land owner's permission.)
3. Do you think it's fair that the government took the treasure, and that Terry Herbert and the land owner can't keep it all? (Another article says Mr. Herbert and the land owner will each keep 25% of the treasure's value; the Crown gets the rest.)

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE (with explanations):

GROUP 1
1. archaeology: b. the study of very old things made by people (buildings, cups, swords, etc.)
2. an excavation: c. digging up old things from the ground. The verb is "to excavate."
3. a metal detector: e. something used to help find coins, rings, etc., especially underground. Some people take these to parks or the beach to look for coins and other lost objects.
4. a treasure: a. something very valuable. Here, the word has a special use. It means "something valuable whose owner is not known." In this case, the government can take it from the finder.
5. to uncover: d. to find. It can also simply mean "to take the cover off" of something. "Uncover the car; we're going for a drive."

GROUP 2
6. to declare: i. to announce, to tell people publicly. This is often a legal action, making a promise or a kind of contract.
7. farmland: k. an area where food is grown. This could be an actual farm, or an area meant to be a farm, but not being used right now.
8. to notify: f. to tell (officially). Similar to "declare."
9. a queue: g. a line (of people). This is usually used in British English. In American English, it is used to describe a list of jobs to be done by computer.
10. the Crown: j. the British government. A crown is a special hat worn by a king or queen. In this article, since it took place in England, THE Crown means the government (headed by the queen, who wears a crown).
11. to be valued: h. to have a price assigned. "Value" means "how much something is worth." "To be valued," then, means someone decides how much something is worth.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mini-Lessons from Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Sci [Science]: a fossil: the remains in stone of a plant or animal from an earlier period in the earth's history.
  • Eng [Language Study]: plagiarism: using a writer's words without saying where the words came from. "Avoid plagiarism; make a footnote."
  • Biz [Business]: a merger: joining of two (or more) companies, also called "a takeover." If planned, it's "friendly." If done by force, it's "hostile."
  • Lit [Literature]: Herman Melville: author of Moby Dick (1851), a great American novel about a crazy ship's captain chasing a white whale
  • New [New Words]: brain candy: entertainment that doesn't make us think too much. Like candy, it tastes good, but doesn't make our brains "healthy."
  • Slang: to be sick of something: to not be enjoying something, or to "hate" it. "I'm just sick of work."
  • Hist [History]: The Spanish Armada: 130 Spanish ships sent against the English in 1588. The English won, and kept Queen Elizabeth I on the throne.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Staffordshire Hoard 1

Part of a sword from the Staffordshire Hoard

GET READY:

What's the most expensive thing you ever found? What's the most expensive thing you ever lost?

READ THIS:

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. It was discovered in a field near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England, on July 5, 2009. It consists of some 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character. The artifacts have been tentatively dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, in the time of the Kingdom of Mercia.

Experts are not sure why the hoard was put there. The average quality of the workmanship is extremely high. Parts of a large number of individual objects, such as swords or helmets, were found in the hoard.

(to be continued)

NOTES:

This text is based on an article at Wikipedia. You can see the original here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staffordshire_Hoard

Two more articles about the hoard can be found here:
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/11/gold-hoard/alexander-text
http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

This story will be continued in tomorrow's lesson.

PRACTICE:

Here are some of the difficult words in this article. Match them to their meanings.

GROUP 1
1. 7th or 8th centuries
2. the Anglo-Saxons
3. Kingdom of Mercia

a. the ancestors of the modern English people
b. sometime between 601 and 800 A.D.
c. one small country among several in old England

GROUP 2
4. an artifact
5. a hoard
6. martial
7. metalwork
8. swords and helmets

d. these things are used for fighting, either to attack or to protect oneself
e. a thing which has been made by a person
f. things made of gold, silver, and so on
g. a collection of valuable things; especially a collection that has been hidden
h. connected to the military or organized fighting

GROUP 3
9. workmanship
10. character
11. to consist of
12. an expert
13. tentatively

i. the skill that something is made with
j. someone who knows a lot about something
k. not certainly
l. nature, quality
m. to be made of

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. What is the Staffordshire Hoard? Where and when was it discovered?
2. Has an ancient treasure ever been discovered in your hometown or country? Talk about it.
3. Why do you think the Staffordshire Hoard was hidden?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE (with explanations):

GROUP 1
1. 7th or 8th centuries: b. sometime between 601 and 800 A.D. The 21st century goes from 2011-2100. So the "hundred" numbers are always 100 below the number of the century. The 7th century is 601-700; the 8th century is 701-800. and so on.
2. the Anglo-Saxons: a. the ancestors of the modern English people. The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes came to England from the European continent. Together they were called "Anglo-Saxons." They were important between about 550 and 1066 A.D. "England" means "Land of the Angles."
3. Kingdom of Mercia: c. one small country among several in old England. Some experts say that seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came together in 927 A.D. to form the Kingdom of England.

GROUP 2:
4. an artifact: e. a thing which has been made by a person; especially a historical or cultural object.
5. a hoard: g. a collection of valuable things; especially a collection that has been hidden. This can also be a verb; people might hoard food in case of an emergency.
6. martial: h. connected to the military or organized fighting. It comes from Mars, the Roman god of war.
7. metalwork: f. things made of gold, silver, and so on; in other words, things made of metal, especially fine things like rings, weapons, etc.
8. swords and helmets: d. these things are used for fighting, either to attack or to protect oneself. Swords are used for cutting and stabbing; helmets are used to protect the head.

GROUP 3:
9. workmanship: i. the skill that something is made with. "A company's profits can suffer if their product has poor workmanship."
10. character: l. nature, quality. We can use this for people (He has good moral character") or things.
11. to consist of: m. to be made of. "A square consists of a figure with four equal sides, joined at ninety degree angles."
12. an expert: j. someone who knows a lot about something. "Shakespeare was a drama expert." Can also be an adjective: "Shakespeare was an expert writer."
13. tentatively: k. not certainly. To be tentative is to be unsure; here it means the dates have been assigned, but the experts aren't sure they're correct.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."