ef.com/podenglish

Website Review: ef.com/podenglish (youtube.com/podenglish)

In short: Five minute videos that are funny and fun to watch. They make learning English enjoyable.

Each video contains a single grammar point and a theme (Cooking, Interviews, etc.). A narrator reviews the grammar and theme, and then introduces a short video where two people talk about the theme and use the grammar. Then, the narrator reviews the video and some practice exercises.

For students: If you enjoy these videos, you might want to use EF for online lessons. You can learn more here.

For teachers: If you look through the videos, you’ll probably be able to find the grammar point or theme you’re doing in class. You could assign it as homework or use it as part of your lesson.

How to listen to this talk: A Formula for Changing Math Education by Arthur Benjamin

How to listen to this talk: A Formula for Changing Math Education by Arthur Benjamin

Before listening Discuss these questions with a partner (or write short answer to them on your own).

What math did you learn in your first years of school? What math did you learn as a teenager?

What math do you use and remember now?

Do you want to change anything about the way math is taught in your country?

Listening Click here to listen to Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education on TED.com.

Listen to it twice.

If you didn’t understand everything, listen two more times with subtitles. (Click “English” in the box below the video.)

If you didn’t understand everything, read the transcript. (Click “Open Interactive Transcript”. There’s a box to the right of the video. In the top-right of the box, you can click the button.)

For any difficult parts, click on the words in the transcript. Then, you can listen to him say those parts again.

Now, if you’re really having trouble, you can listen with subtitles in your language. After you’ve listened with subtitles in your language, listen again in English.

Comprehension Questions Did you really understand this talk? Try to answer these questions. (Answers are below.)

What’s a Czar of Mathematics?

What does the word “implement” mean?

He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid?

What change does he suggest for math education?

Does he think calculus is a good thing?

Make a list of the good things he says about statistics.

Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”?

Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means?

Discussion Questions Now discuss these questions.

Do you agree with Professor Benjamin? Why/Why not?

How often do you use calculus in your life?

How often do you use statistics in your life?

Are there any other changes you would make to the way math is taught in schools?

Below the video on the TED site are many comments. Read some of the comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?

Answers

What’s a Czar of Mathematics? It’s not a real thing, but, in theory, a Czar of Mathematics would be able to change any math policy in the country.

What does the word “implement” mean? You can read the definition and hear it in a sentence here.

He compares math education to a pyramid. Describe the comparison. What is the bottom of the pyramid? What is the current top of the pyramid? He means that you learn a lot of things in order to reach a goal, just like a pyramid has a lot of stone at the bottom so that there can be the top point. The bottom of the pyramid is the math you learn in your first years of school. The top of the pyramid is calculus.

What change does he suggest for math education? He thinks that statistics should be at the top of the pyramid, not calculus.

Does he think calculus is a good thing? Yes. He thinks it’s “one of the great products of the human mind” and that students who study math, science, engineering, and economics should study it.

Make a list of the good things he says about statistics. 1) You could and should use it every day because it’s about risk/reward and understanding data. 2) If more people knew about statistics, then the country’s current economic problems wouldn’t exist. 3) It’s fun (e.g. games and gambling). 4) You can use it to analyze trends (see patterns) and predict the future.

Why does he mention that the world has “changed from analog to digital”? Without defining the complicated word “analog” this just means that the world doesn’t use old things anymore.

Do you know what “two standard deviations from the mean” means? In short, a standard deviation from the mean shows how close most of the data is to the average. Like, if you’re looking at average height in a class, and just about everyone is 160cm tall (or very close), then the standard deviation will be small. Two standard deviations is a bigger range. You can learn more here.

growenglish.com

Website Review: growenglish.com (youtube.com/user/ESLJoan)

In short: Some good videos. The material for lower-level students covers things like prepositions, address vocabulary, etc. Joan, the site’s author, does a wonderful job of going slowly and including nice images in her videos. It’s nice to find videos that really low-level students can use. Intermediate and advanced students will find nice stuff too, but will probably prefer a site that goes a little faster.

Also, for just $10 a month you gain access to a lot more videos, quizzes, etc. She also offers private lessons at the incredibly low price of just $30 per hour.

For students: Check out this mystery. You can ask her questions or read the comments to learn more.

For teachers: Send your beginner students to watch these videos as review for what you’ve covered in class.

esl-lab.com

Website Review: esl-lab.com

In short: Lots of 1-3 minute listening “quizzes.” Mostly, you can listen to conversations, but sometimes just one person is speaking. The best thing is how natural the conversations sound. Randall, who runs the site, has a strong personality. You can really get to know him if you listen a lot. (Some people might find him annoying, but most will find him lovable.)

Unfortunately, the “easy”, “medium” and “difficult” levels aren’t necessarily accurate. A lot of the “easy” ones are quite hard. The speed is OK, but sometimes there is too much difficult vocabulary and grammar for students who want easy listening tasks. The post-listening vocabulary activities are stronger and having your scores appear is cool.

Also, there are way too many ads and the whole site needs to be redesigned. The content is strong, but poorly organized and displayed.

For students: Listen to each quiz many times. They are short, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Listening to one quiz 20 times would be very good for your studies.

For teachers: You might put students in pairs and have each pair choose a quiz that has two people.  After they’ve thoroughly understood it, they could make a transcript and act it out for the class. Then, the class could do the comprehension questions based on the other students’ performance.

How to listen to this Science Experiment

How to listen to this Science Experiment

Steve Spangler does a lot of science experiments. ESL students enjoy listening to him because he often works with children, so his explanations are simple. But, while the explanations are simple, he speaks quickly. He speaks so quickly that sometimes he decides to change his sentence in the middle.

For example, in the link below, he says: “The liquid nitrogen’s a liquid, most of the air…” This would be a strange sentence to write, but people say strange things or change their sentences in the middle all the time. So, it’s good practice to listen to someone like Steve. Practice focusing on the important things and ignoring the strange things. You can do it in your language, so you can do it in English too.

Other than a few technical terms, the vocabulary is not too difficult. Listen three times. Then take a look at the discussion questions and answers below. Finally, you can read the transcript at the bottom. But listen several times and answer the questions before reading.

To see more videos by Steve Spangler, you can visit his YouTube channel or his website.

Comprehension Questions

What is liquid nitrogen?

Is nitrogen poisonous?

What happens while the liquid nitrogen is in the bottle under the barrel?

Why does the barrel fly into the air?


Answers

What is liquid nitrogen? Nitrogen is normally a gas, but if it is very cold, then it becomes like water (a liquid).

Is nitrogen poisonous? No, most of the air we breathe is made of nitrogen.

What happens while the liquid nitrogen is in the bottle under the barrel? It expands. It becomes 700 times bigger. When liquid nitrogen becomes a gas again, it needs a lot more space. But, it’s in the bottle, so there isn’t a lot of space.

Why does the barrel fly into the air? When there is too much gas in the bottle, it explodes. The explosion sends the barrel into the air.

Transcript

Alright, so Ellen this is what we did in our office. We’re pouring the liquid nitrogen in here, and I mention it because the police actually came out a little bit because they thought that maybe shots had been fired. The liquid nitrogen’s a liquid, most of the air that we breath is nitrogen, so it goes down inside here, but it expands 700 times its normal size. So, here’s the liquid nitrogen here. Now, Jeff’s going to cap it off, and it goes into the barrel that you see here, and so this goes in, and we thought that we’d just kind of put this over the top. So this goes over the top, and now the liquid nitrogen’s getting bigger and bigger, and that bottle is expanding, and it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger until finally you get this pressure that starts to release. It’s the same thing that we used to use in a steam engine, you know years ago, or on a propane tank there’s a pressure release valve. But, it’s, you can actually hear it inside…[BOOM!]…so that’s what happens. You just kind of, release the pressure. Isn’t that awesome? Back to you, Ellen.

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