Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

My dear friends, I'm finally going on vacation! I really hope to rest with my family for a while, recharging the batteries for 2011! Brand new activities starting on January 14th, 2011. I promise a lot of new hot topics activities with attractive movie scenes. Meanwhile, don't hesitate to contact me, for I'll be replying all your comments and clearing your doubts . I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eurotrip: Hooligans

Social issues are often discussed in conversation classes. Hooligans are approached here in a light, fun manner. This movie is great, don't miss it.

A. Read the definition of Hooliganism:

Football hooliganism is unruly and destructive behaviour —such as brawls, vandalism and intimidation—by club fans. Fights between supporters of rival teams may take place before or after football matches at pre-arranged locations away from stadiums, in order to avoid arrests by the police, or they can erupt spontaneously at the stadium or in the surrounding streets. Football hooliganism ranges from shouts and fistfights to riots in which fans clash with bats, bottles, rocks, knives or guns. 

A. Discuss these questions with a partner:

1. Does your country face violence in sports?

2. In which sports can you see more violence outside the sports arenas.

3. Are football fans particularly more violent? Explain it?

4. What can be done to reduce violence rates among hooligans?

5. What should happen to a hooligan who is caught fighting in another country? What about when it happens in his own country?

6. How do athletes contribute to violence inside and outside the stadiums? Explain it.

7. Why do hooligans behave the way they do? Justify your answer.

8. Are certain club fans more violent than others or are they pretty much the same? Why?

9. Do you still go stadiums and arenas despite the potential violence you may face? Justify it.

10. Which countries do you believe face more problems concerning violence in sports?

11. Is hooliganism a sport or social problem? Explain it B.

Watch the funny movie segment from the movie Eurotrip and discuss the questions that follow:


1. Describe the scene.

2. Why did the Americans end up in a pub full of hooligans?

3. How did they feel? How did the hooligans feel?

4. What did the Americans do to prevent violence from taking place?

5. What could the possible consequences for their entering that bar be?

6. Is the situation in the movie a possible one? Explain it.

7. Is it fair that English people have been seen as hooligans? Why (not)?

8. What are the stereotypes of a hooligan that you could identify in the segment?

9. How different are these hooligans from the ones your city (country)?

10. Are football (soccer) hooligans different from the fans who support other sports?

11. What would you do if you were in the Americans' shoes?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The New Daughter: Neglicence x Carelessness x Accident

This movie was not very popular, but it has good moments. This scene is great for discussing NEGLIGENCE, CARELESSNESS and ACCIDENTS.


A. Read the definitions of Negligence (N) , Carelessness (C) and Accident (A). Now decide what the following cases are. Justify your answers:

Carelessness (C) is lack of concern about the consequences of an action, and by extension, the behavior that results from that lack of concern. 

Negligence (N) refers to a failure to exercise the proper care and skill that a reasonable person would have exercised. Negligence is the fault of a person.

Accident (A) refers to an event that occurred despite the use of proper care and skill. Accidents are not anyone’s fault.

1. ( ) In 2003, Annette Ritzmannt stopped to get gas and a paper at the corner store. As she walked into the Miller Mart, she slipped on a small puddle created by a leaky awning, fell forward onto her chest and chin, and lost consciousness. A witness said the impact sent her head snapping back. Miller Mart's owners, Miller Oil Co., admitted they had known the outside curb was dangerous. She was awarded more than $12.2 million in damages.

2. ( ) An 8 year old girl in Grain Valley, MO was killed. This tragedy occurred in the 1200 block of NW Phelps Drive. The news agency reported it as an “accidental” shooting. It appears that one or more adults didn't store their gun, or educated their children about the importance of gun safety.

3. ( ) Jonathan Kalus, the local hospital nurse, forgot to give Jerry Lewans his medication, so he end up having a seizure.

4. ( ) Dr. Gary Garson prescribed his patient, Ana Miller, the wrong dose of medication who was accidentally overdosed.

5. ( ) Jane Collor took Mary Dawson's respirator out and forgot to put it back, causing her death.

6. ( ) Sarah Parker slipped on a an entryway that was particularly slippery, even though it had been completely cleaned 20 minutes before.

7. ( ) Electrical wires are exposed and during a rainy night damaged a car parked in front of the light pole.

8. ( ) Jennifer Lois saw her child with unusual symptoms, such as bleeding and eyes rolling back, but did not take action. Nothing happened to the child, but the father wants custody of the child.

9. ( ) Carl Carlton allowed an unlicensed driver to drive his car and was caught by the police.

10. ( ) The owner of a car allowed a drunk driver drive his car. There was an accident and the car owner was killed.

11. ( ) The bar in front of a college serves alcohol to minors. One teenager was hit by a car that was passing by.

12. ( ) Justin Stones was driving on a icy road and fell off a cliff.

B. Watch the movie segment and answer the following questions:


1. Describe the scene.

2. How would you describe the father's, the boy's and the girl's behavior?

3. Was it negligence, carelessness, or an accident.

4. Why did the boy get hold of the gun?

5. Who's responsible for the happening?

6. What should the consequence in the following situations be? What penalties should be applied?

- if the boy gets hurt

- if the girl gets hurt

- if the boy gets killed

- if the girl gets killed

- if the father gets hurt

- if the father gets killed

C. Read the statements below about gun control found on the polemic site Guncontrol.com. Decide if the statements are fact or myths. Justify your answers

#1: Gun control stops criminals from having guns.

#2: Guns are ineffective for self defense.

#3: Gun ownership is not an constitutional right in the USA.

#4: Guns are not needed since the police can be called.

#5: Only violent and uneducated people want to own guns.

#6: A home owner is 43 times more likely to be killed by their own gun than to kill an intruder.

D. According to the site, all of the items are myths. Below are the facts for each of the myths above. Do you agree with them? Why (not)? 

Fact #1: Gun control laws do not keep guns out of criminals’ hands.

Fact #2: Guns are the most effective means of self defense yet devised by human kind.

Fact #3: The Supreme Court of the United States has conclusively declared gun ownership for self defense to be an individual right.

Fact #4: The police simply cannot get there quickly enough, or at all in some situations.

Fact #5: Gun ownership is a right that between one third and one half of all Americans exercise.

Fact #6: 65 lives are protected for every 2 lives lost.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Clockwork Orange: Punishment

This activity was shared by one of this blog's reader, Rodrigo Tiago Mendonça. Check out his biodata and views in the end of the post. Thanks, Rodrigo. Here is a space for sharing, so if you have activities to share, email them to me at claudioazv@gmail.com

Video Activity – Clockwork Orange - The segment has been edited in order to make it suitable to an EFL/ESL class.
1) What kind of punishment would you give to the following heinous crimes?
a) A drunkard who dragged and killed an innocent child while trying to steal a car and failing to notice the parents were trying to take him out of the backseat.
b) A man who viciously killed a couple of homosexuals because they were holding hands in a public place
c) A seventeen-year-old boy who attacked and killed his stepmother out of jealousy for his father’s attention. His stepmother was six-month pregnant at the time.
d) A psychopath who killed and mutilated over 18 women and afterwards kept their hands in a trunk. The media nicknamed him the “maniac collector”.
2) Is capital punishment acceptable in any of these cases?
3) Watch the following movie segment and mark True (T) or False (F):
( ) Alex will be given something to sleep.
( ) Alex couldn’t shut his eyes or look away.
( ) The patient would feel a death-like paralysis together with feelings of deep terror and helplessness.
( ) According to the nurse, Alex’s body was learning that violence was a very horrible thing.
( ) Alex hated classical music.
( ) According to the minister, Alex would learn real values and honesty in prison.
( ) Alex didn’t change because of the treatment.
( ) Alex would get nauseated whenever he was submitted to violence.
4) What would you do if you wanted to help someone close to you but the person refused to accept it? Would you consider helping the person against his or her own will?

Answer Key:
My name is Rodrigo Tiago Mendonça, I'm 28 years old and I live in São Paulo, SP. I've been a teacher for 8 years now, 4 of those for Yazigi (morumbi branch), the school I'm currently at. As a teacher I'm an ideologist, I believe that teaching gives me the opportunity to make a remarkable change in the future, so I try to provide open, meaningful dialog whenever possible. And that's how I came to the present activity, I wanted to make my students ponder on the rights and responsibilities we have living in a society and how easy it is to lose track of those. I'd like to thank Claudio for the great initiative in sharing his ideas with us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Fifth Element, WALL-E & The Road: Future Trends

A. Read these two quotations from the past. Then discuss why these specialists in their fields were unable to foresee the future.

1. "Everything that can be invented has been invented." (Charles H. Duel, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, 1899)

2. There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." (Kenneth Olson, President of Digital Equipment, 1977)

B. Discuss these questions in pairs:

1. What important inventions have been made since 1899?

2. What reasons are there for people to have computers at home?

3. In your opinion, when might the following future events? How will they happen?

- Space tourism:

- The widespread use of non-petroleum-dependent technology:

- The elimination of cancer as a health threat:

- The widespread use of flying automobiles:

- The widespread use of robots as household chores equipment:

- The use of cryonics for immortality - people with fatal illnesses could have their bodies frozen before death to wait for its cure.

4. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Explain it.

C. Watch the first segment from the film The Fifth Element and discuss the questions that follow:


1. Describe the scene.

2. Is this an optimistic or pessimistic view of the future? Explain it.

3. How different is this future from the one you imagine it will be like?

4. How do you think the future will be similar to the one shown in the segment. Think about everything you have seen (living in a big city, cars, police, weapons, traffic, criminals, buildings, etc).

5. Would you like the future to be like the one depicted in the segment? Why (not)?

D. Now watch the second segment from the same movie, The Fifth Element, and discuss the questions that follow.


1. Describe the segment.

2. Do you think space tourism will ever be possible? Why (not)?

3. How similar and different is this kind of tourism from the way tourism is nowadays?

4. Would you like to join this group of tourist? Why (not)?

5. How do you think tourism will be in the future, 20 years from today, for example?

E. Watch the third segment from the wonderful movie WALL-E.


1. How does the director describe the future? Is it an optimistic or pessimistic view? Why?

2. Why is everyone so fat?

3. Most of the inventions nowadays are to make our lives more effortless. Do you agree with this statement? Why (not)? What are the possible consequences of such inventions.

4. What were some of the novelties promised by the movie? Will they ever happen? Which ones will and which ones won't be possible?

5. How do you compare the future shown in WALL-E with the one shown in The Fifth Element.

F. Discuss future trends in pairs. Write R if you believe the following rates or trends will rise, and F if you believe they will fall. Justify your answers:

1. ( ) crime rate

2. ( ) birthrate

3. ( ) literacy rates

4. ( ) fertility rate

5. ( ) divorce rate

6. ( ) population growth

7. ( ) life expectancy

8. ( ) marriage trends

9. ( ) unemployment rates

10. ( ) wars

G. Now watch the fourth segment from the movie The Road and discuss the questions that follow.


1. Describe the scene.

2. Is it an optimistic or pessimistic view of the future? Explain it.

3. Do you think this is a possible reality? Why (not)?

4. What could lead us to a future like this one?

5. What is mentioned in the segment concerning:

- what possibly happened

- daylight

- weather

- animals

- crops

- trees

- food

- shoes

- cannibalism

H. Class discussion:

1. How do you compare the future shown in The Fifth Element, WALL-E and The Road?

2. Which one of them is more feasible to happen? Why?

3. How do you think our future will actually be like?




Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Omen, Orphan, Despicable Me & Reclaim: Adoption

A. Work in pairs. Take turns asking each other questions. Student 1 asks the questions in red and Student 2 asks the questions in orange.

1. What's your opinion about adoption?

2. What happens to those children who are never adopted?

3. What are the problems that there might be when adopting a child?

4. How different is the love of a biological parent from that one who is a parent of an adopted child?

5. Is it better to adopt a baby or an older child?

6. Should parents adopt people from the same race? Why (not)?

7. What should happen when the biological parent shows up ten years after his child's adoption by another couple, asking for his/her child back?

8. When should the adopted child learn about the adoption? How should it be done?

9. Should all adopted children know they are adopted? Why (not)?

10. What if the child decides to meet his/her biological parents? Should they always be allowed to do it?

11. Should same-sex couples be allowed to adopt children? Why (not)?

12. Should single people be allowed to adopt children? Why (not)?

13. Is it better to adopt a child from your own country or from a very poor country? Why (not)?

14. Should siblings be separated from each other for adoption or is it better for them to stay together without the adoption? Explain it.

15. What happens if the adopted parents decide they don't want the kid anymore after a few years?

16. Many people have dogs who are treated like kings. What's your opinion about people who do it instead of adopting children?

B. Watch the first segment from the movie The Omen. Then discuss the questions that follow:


1. Describe the scene.

2. Why did Mr. Thorn decide to adopt the child?

3. What would you do if you were in his shoes?

4. Did he do the right thing not to tell his wife about the adoption? Why (not)?

5. What are the possible consequences of his act?

6. Should adoptions be made easier so that situations like the one in the movie did not happen?

7. Is there anyone wrong in this case? The priest, Mr. Thorn? Both? No one? Explain your answer.

8. What do you think will happen next?

C. Watch the segment from the great movie Orphan. Then discuss the questions that follow.


1. Describe the scene.

2. Why did they decide to adopt Esther?

3. Esther is an older child. Is it better or worse for the adopted parents?

4. Why do parents prefer adopting babies rather than older children like Esther? Was their decision right?

5. They decided to adopt a Russian child? Does it make a difference?

6. What do you think will happen next?

D. Watch the scene from the outstanding animated movie DESPICABLE ME and answer the questions.


1. Describe the children who want to be adopted and their feelings too.

2. Describe the place they live in, waiting for the adoption.

3. Describe Ms. Hattie, the lady who runs the place.    

4. Describe the man who adopts them.

5. How do you think their lives are going to be, according to what you see in the segment.

6. Which place is better. The place she lived in before the adoption or the house?

 7. Is this kind of adoption rare? Do all adopted children have better lives after the adoption?

 8. How often do people lie in order to provide the necessary information to adopt someone?

9. Do you think single men should be allowed to adopt children? What about gay couples? Justify your answers.

E. Watch the scene from the movie Reclaim and answer the questions:


1. Describe the scene.

2. The couple did not follow the regular procedures for adoption. Are they right?

3. They are adopting an orphan child from Haiti. She lost all her family. Are the couple wrong to help the girl?

4. What could possibly go wrong in such kind of adoption?




Saturday, November 20, 2010

Free Birds, Pieces of April & The Ice Storm: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is not a popular holiday in Brazil, so it is always profitable to insert cultural perspectives into the lessons. My students learned a lot about this holiday and had fun doing it.

GAME: Here you will find some information about Thanksgiving. In groups, decide if the statements are True or False. The group who scores most points is the winner.

1. ( ) Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada.

2. ( ) Thanksgiving is celebrated on the same day in both the US and Canada.

3. ( ) Thanksgiving Day is also celebrated in Leiden, the Netherlands.

4. ( ) Thanksgiving in the United States has been celebrated on various different dates throughout history.

5. ( ) In the West African country of Liberia, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the first Thursday of November.

6. ( ) Thanksgiving day originated in America.

7. ( ) It is traditional for families and groups of friends to get together for a large breakfast.

8. ( ) Traditional food often consists of a turkey, stuffing, different types of potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy,
other seasonal vegetables.

9. ( ) Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dish.

10. ( ) Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day

11. ( ) Many football games are played and watching them is a popular activity on this holiday.

12. ( ) Many families and groups of friends get together for Thanksgiving, so it is one of the busiest periods for travel.

13. ( ) Some states, such as Maine and West Virginia (among others), have an extra week for the Thanksgiving holiday

14. ( ) Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as the most important holiday of the year.

15. ( ) 95 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

16. ( ) Thanksgiving is about asking for blessing for the following year.

Answer key:

1. T
2. F (in the United States, Thanksgiving Day falls on the fourth Thursday of November In Canada it is celebrated on the second Monday in October)
3. T
4. T
5. T
6. T
7. F (a large meal, usually dinner or lunch)
8. T
9. T
10. T
11. T
12. T
13. F (an extra day)
14. F (Not everyone sees Thanksgiving Day as a cause for celebration. The European settlers had a massive destructive effect on the Native American peoples and their culture. They have protest marches against it)
15. T
16. F (Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for the people and blessings of the past year)

II. Watch the segment from the movie Free Birds ad answer the questions:


1. What Thanksgiving symbols did you see in the segment?

2. What is the turkey's point of view about Thanksgiving food?

3. What does the segment say about the Thanksgiving tradition?

4. How do vegetarians celebrate Thanksgiving in your country?

III. Watch the segment from the great movie Pieces of April and discuss the questions:


1. Describe the scene.

2. Who do you think is hosting the dinner party?

3. What is being served?

4. What are some of the characteristics in exercise I did you manage to see in the segment?

5. How would you describe the mood of the guests during dinner?

6. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? How do you do it? How similar do you think it is to your Christmas dinner?

7. Is it a good idea to celebrate Thanksgiving? Why (not)?

IV. Now watch the scene from the movie The Ice Storm and discuss the questions.


1. Describe the scene.

2. Who do you think is hosting the dinner party?

3. What is being served?

4. What are some of the characteristics in exercise I did you manage to see in the segment?

5. How would you describe the mood of the guests during dinner?

6. How would you compare both scenes?




Saturday, November 13, 2010

Did You Hear about the Morgans?: Witness Relocation Program

My students loved the scene and the activity. The movie, though, has funny moments, but it isn't a movie I would strongly recommend. I managed to use two scenes from it, both really funny. I hope you like it.

A. Work in pairs to discuss the questions below:

1. Have you ever heard of the Witness Relocation Program? What do you know about it?

2. Is there a similar program where you live?

3. Would you tell the police that you witnessed a murder even if you knew that your life could be in danger because of that? Explain it?

4. What kinds of crime you have witnessed wouldn't you tell the police? Why not?

5. Do you think that many witnesses are afraid of reporting a crime because they are afraid of the criminals' retaliation to his/her family? What can be done about it, if it is the case?

6. Have you ever witnessed a crime (or Do you know anyone who has witnessed a crime)? Can you share what you (he/she) saw? What did you (he/she) do about it?

B. Read the Witness Relocation Program's procedures below and decide if you think they are TRUE or FALSE.

1. ( ) Usually the witness is relocated and given a new name.

2. ( ) Witnesses are encouraged to keep their first names and choose last names with the same initial in order to make it easier to instinctively use the new identity.

3. ( ) Witnesses are provided with new documentation.

4. ( ) They are assisted in finding housing and employment.

5. ( ) They are provided with a fixed regular income until they find a new job.

6. ( ) They don't have to work, if they don't want to.

7. ( ) Witnesses are allowed to travel back to their hometowns or contact unprotected family members or former associates in case of emergency only.

8. ( ) In order to prevent the possibility of the witness being followed, the witness is made to indirect transportation path, such as random flights and alternative roads, before finally reaching the location where they will live under the new identity.

9. ( ) This program is established to protect witness against organized crime only.

10. ( ) Every witness who has complied with the terms of the Witness Protection Program has been successfully protected. However, a few witnesses who broke with the terms have been killed.

(information collected from Wikipedia) False statements - 6 (have to work), 7 (are not allowed), 9 (or other serious offenses)

C. Now watch the movie segment from the funny movie "Did You Hear about the Morgans?" and discuss the following questions about it.


1. Describe the scene.

2. What are the witnesses' reaction to the program?

3. Where are they going?

4. How are they going there?

5. Why was that location chosen?

6. How would you feel if you were the main character of the film? Would you adhere to the program? Why (not)?

7. Take a look at the items in exercise B. Say which ones did they mention in the segment.

8. What are the advantages and disadvantages to adhering to a program like this one?

9. In the case of the movie, do you think it will work? Explain it.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anna and the King, My Big Fat Greek Wedding & The Joy Luck Club: Cultural Misunderstanding

Talking about cultural misunderstandings is a topic we always address in our classrooms. Here are segments from three different movies, all of which are worth seeing.

A. Discuss the following questions in pairs.

1. What are the major features of your culture? How would you describe the people in your country?

2. Imagine a foreigner is coming to visit you. What special advice would you give him/her so that he does not face any serious cultural misunderstanding?

3. What advice would you give concerning:

- what to wear on the beach

- what to wear to go shopping

- what to wear in a party

- where to (not) eat

- how to greet people (kissing, shaking hands, etc.)

- What to take when you're invited for a dinner party

- how to talk to people of the opposite sex

- when traveling alone around the country

- how to flirt

4. What was the most different culture you have ever had contact with. How different was it?

5. What are some common mistakes foreigners make when they visit your country? Come up with examples.

B. Now watch the segment from the movie Anna and the King. Then make a list of all the cultural differences Anna experienced. She is an English teacher visiting Siam, which is now Thailand. Write at least 6 different items.


C. Now watch the three segments from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Repeat the process in exercise B.

1. The first segment shows the Greek fiancee meeting her American parents-in-law for the first time.
2. The second segment shows the American fiance visiting her fiance's Greek family for the first time.
3. The third segment shows the American and Greek family getting together for a dinner party.


D. Class discussion:

1. How do you compare the American and Greek family to your own family? Which of the families are closest to your own family when we consider behavior and culture? Explain it.

2. How would your family feel if they were invited for the Greek dinner party? What about the American party?

3. How would they feel if they were invited to a party in your house?

E. Watch the movie segment from the movie The Joy Luck Club. make a list of 5 cultural mistakes the American man made during his first dinner party with his fiancee´s Chinese family.