Friday, February 25, 2011

Food, Inc. & Falling Down: Fast Food

Food, Inc. is a very critical documentary about Americans' eating habits. Falling Down has this great scene, which takes place in a fast food restaurant. I used both to talk about fast and junk food. Topics we always address in the language classroom.

I. Discuss the following questions with a partner.

1. What kinds of food are popular where you live?

2. How often do you eat fast food?

3. How do you like fast food restaurant? Which one is your favorite and why?

4. What do you like and dislike about fast food restaurants?

5. What meal do you prefer to have fast food? Why?

6. Are there any rules in your house when you eat? Which ones?

7. Can you eat anything? Explain it.

8. What is your favourite breakfast, lunch and dinner?

9. Do you think “you are what you eat”? Explain it.

10. What do you think about canned, frozen and processed food?

11. Do you like fast food and slow food? Why?

12. What national dishes from your country would you recommend to the world?

13. Is fast food necessarily junk food? Explain it.

14. Is slow food necessarily healthier than fast food? explain it.

II. Read the statements below about eating habits. Decide whether they are (A) advantages or (D) disadvantages of fast food.

1. ( ) In today's fast-paced life, there is nothing more practical than getting a ready meal.

2. ( ) Besides the time an individual has to spend in the kitchen, cooking a meal also requires one to make a trip to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for the dish.

3. ( ) There is the added effort and time consumed in washing and peeling the vegetables when you cook your own meal.

4. ( ) If someone lives alone, it is cheaper to buy a meal at the supermarket or a snack bar instead of cooking it at home. Certain fast foods like fries and burgers are inexpensive.

5. ( ) You can find some options on the menu of a fast food. Salads, bread products that are made from wheat bread, lean meat, boiled preparation instead of fried, fruit juices, low-fat milk, or diet soda are smart choices.

6. ( ) It is a fact that fast food is more unhealthy than home-cooked meals, as they contain higher amounts of salt, fats and calories.

7. ( ) Fast food is an important contributor to obesity in the population.

8. ( ) Given the sedentary lifestyle that we lead today, the excess fats and calories that we take in with fast food is not used up completely, accumulating in our body as fat deposits that cause complications like cardiovascular diseases and other related diseases of the heart.

9. ( ) The greater the number of people at a meal in a fast food restaurant, the larger is the bill. Eating at fast food outlets is economical only for a single person.

10. ( ) Fast food joints are also being seen as a factor that is making a number of families spend less and less time together.

11. ( ) Fast food restaurants are attractive to many children, with large playgrounds and birthday lounges.

12. ( ) You can find fast food restaurants practically anywhere around the city.

III. Watch the movie segment below from the movie Food, Inc. and discuss the questions that follow:

1. Describe the scene.

2. What do they talk about fast food?

3. Do you think it is true what they say about fast food?

4. Have you ever considered the issues mentioned in the segment when you eat in a fast food restaurant? Will you change your eating habits because of this?

5. What should be done about eating fast food in restaurants like the one mentioned in the segment?

6. Do you think fast food is actually a problem? Why (not)? What should be done about it?

IV. Watch the scene from the movie Falling Down and discuss the questions.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Why did the character act that way?

3. What did he expect and what did he get?

4. How is fast food pictured in the segment?

5. What does it show about the American way of life?



Monday, February 21, 2011

International Conference for Teachers of English and Administrators, Montevideo, Uruguay

I had a great time in Montevideo, Uruguay last week. The city is beautiful and the seminar was rewarding. I want to thank the messages, support and the audience, who cooperated to the successful accomplishment of the presentation's goals. I hope I will be back to Uruguay again soon. Let me know if you were there and how you liked it. Thanks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Alice in Wonderland & The Stepford Wives: Square Dancing, Quadrille

I love both movies and the scenes of the square dance are just great. Alice in Wonderland's square dancing is completely different from The Stepford Wives's one and both are different from square dancing in Brazil - quadrilha. Great for cultural aspects too.

I. Read some characteristics of a square dance and check the ones you could see in the movie segment from the movie The Stepford Wives.

1. ( ) Square dance consists of four couples arranged in a square.

2. ( ) The steps are based on the steps or figures used in traditional folk dances.

3. ( ) There are several steps that all couples must follow.

4. ( ) Dancers wear traditional clothing.

5. ( ) It is usually a happy dance and people smile, laugh and have a good time together.

6. ( ) It is usually performed in ballrooms or outdoors.

7. ( ) There are a lot of rehearsals before the square dance actually takes place.

8. ( ) In the USA, Americans do it in special holidays and events.

9. ( ) Depending on the steps, some men have to dance with other men as well.

10. ( ) Somebody gives the commands for the steps to be followed.

II. Now watch the segment from the movie Alice in Wonderland. It shows a quadrille, which is a precursor to traditional square dance. Read the items in exercise I and repeat the process in the previous exercise, deciding which characteristics you managed to identify in the segment.

III. Compare both scenes.

1. How similar are the square dance in The Stepford Wives and the quadrille in Alice in Wonderland? How different are they?

2. Which one do you prefer? Why?

3. How do you compare both dances with the Brazilian traditional quadrilha? What do they all have in common and how different is the quadrilha? (for Brazilians only)

4. Do you have square dancing in your country? If so, describe it, comparing to the ones you saw in both segments.

5. What is the future of square dancing? Do you think this tradition will fade away in the future? Explain it.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

The House of the Spirits & Big Fish: Fortune Telling

Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting the life, usually of a group, through mystical or natural means, and often for commercial gain. It is often conflated with the religious practice known as divination.

A. Talk to a partner about the following questions:

1. Is it possible to predict the future? Explain it.

2. Do you believe that there are people who can actually predict the future? Talk about it?

3. What are the possible ways you know people use to tell fortunes.

4. Do you think our lives are pre-determined by fate or is the future unknown?

5. Would you consult with a fortune teller? Why (not)?

6. Make a list of three things you would like to know and three things you would not like to. Share it with the class.

B. Watch the movie segment from the film The House of the Spirits and discuss the questions below:

1. Describe the scene.

2. Who is the fortune teller? Who is being told the fortune?

3. What is the prediction?

4. How would you react if you were the one whose fortune was being told?

5. Do you believe children are more sensitive to this kind of experience? Why (not)?

6. What kinf of fortune telling (look at exercise C) is it?

C. Look at the kinds of fortune telling described in Wikipedia. Check the ones you had already heard of. Which one do you think are feasible ones?

alectormancy: by observation of a rooster pecking at grain

astromancy: by the stars.

astrology: by the movements of celestial bodies.

augury: by the flight of birds.

bibliomancy: by books; frequently, but not always, religious texts.

cartomancy: by cards. And sometimes by hand

cheiromancy/palmistry: by palms.

chronomancy: about time, lucky/unlucky days.

cybermancy: by computers.

gastromancy: by stomach-based ventriloquism.

ceromancy: by patterns in melting or dripping wax.

clairvoyance: by spiritual vision or inner sight.

cold reading: by using visual and aural clues.

crystallomancy: by crystal ball, also called scrying.

geomancy: by markings in the ground, or the way earth or soil lays when thrown.

horary astrology: by astrologically reading the time the question was asked.

hydromancy: by water.

I Ching divination: by yarrow stalks or coins and the I Ching.

lithomancy: by stones or gems.

extispicy: by the entrails of animals.

feng shui: by earthen harmony.

haruspicy: by the livers of sacrificed animals.

numerology: by numbers.

palmistry: by lines and mounds on the hand.

oneiromancy: by dreams.

onomancy: by names.

spirit board: by planchette or talking board divination.

pendulum reading: by the movements of a suspended article or weight.

rhabdomancy: divination by rods.

scrying: by looking at or into reflective objects.

taromancy: by a form of cartomancy using tarot cards.

tasseography or tasseomancy: by tea leaves or coffee grounds.

necromancy: by the dead, or by spirits or souls of the dead.

pyromancy: by gazing into fire.

D. Now watch the segment from the movie Big Fish and answer the questions below.

1. Describe the scene.

2. What kind of power does the witch have?

3. What did she predict?

4. Would you like to know when or how you are going to die? Why (not)?

5. What kind of fortune telling (look at exercise C) is it?

6. How will the characters' lives change after what happened in the scene?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Valentine's Day & I Hate Valentine's Day: Valentine's Day

Talking about Valentines day attracts everyone, especially teens. I used one scene from the movie Valentine's Day to warm-up and the topic. I also want to share another activity which was provided by a reader of this blog, Anna Silva from Casa Branca Idiomas in Santos, SP, Brazil. Check it out in the end of the post, please.

How do you feel when it is Valentine's day if...:

a. You are single

b. You are in love with your sweetheart

c. You have just broken up

d. You have been married for a long time

e. You love your sweetheart, but you are far away from him (her)

 I. Work with a partner and decide if the statement is true for Valentine's Day celebration in the USA or in Brazil (your country), or both. Taken from
1. The celebration of Valentine's Day is not limited to lovers but includes any and everyone loved by us, be it our parents, siblings, children, friends, relatives or dear ones.

2. Valentine's Day is a wonderful opportunity for you to spend time with your family members. You can party, make a trip to the restaurant or go out for a movie together.

3. Going out with your single friends is a great option, visiting a friend's house or inviting your pals to your own home. Catching a movie together, playing party games or having a picnic are single people's activities on this day.

4. It is an extremely popular festival and the day is observed as a holiday.

5. It has now become an occasion to express gratitude and love to not only sweethearts and spouses, but also to teachers, parents or any other close relation or acquaintance.

6. The modern celebrations of the day sees people complementing their dear ones with gifts that include popular items as cards, fresh flowers like rose, chocolates and candies.

7. Sending candies on Valentine's Day has been a very popular tradition and it still is. Most valentine candy boxes are heart-shaped and tied with red ribbon. These contain tiny pastel-colored candies shaped like hearts with some lovely messages like "Be Mine", "Thank You" or "Cool Dude" printed on them.

8. Children celebrate Valentine's Day with great enthusiasm.

9. It is celebrated on February 14th.

10. There are many Valentine's parties all over the country.

Answer key: They are all true for the USA, but the students should decide which ones are true for their own countries (In Brazil, everything is different).

II. Watch the movie segment from the movie Valentine's Day and answer the questions about the segment.

1. What did the teacher talk about the history of Valentine's Day?

2. Are the children interested in the story?

3. How's the classroom decorated?

4. What happened in the florist's? What is the conflict?

5. What kind of people are shopping there?

This second activity was provided by the reader Anna Silva, who works at Casa Branca Idiomas in Santos, SP, Brazil. Thanks, Ana, for your kindness and great idea.

1- After watching the first scene, fill in the blanks:

What are they doing?

a- A boy and a girl.....................................................

b- Three guys ...........................................................

c- A lady....................................................................

d- A blond lady.........................................................

e- A man...................................................................

2-Now discuss:

-What´s the weather like?

-What are they celebrating?

-How do they celebrate it in the United States?

Watch the 2nd scene and discuss:

  -What´s she wearing?

-Does she look happy?

-What happens when she gets to the Flower shop? Why?


2. Many people give or send one to friends on Valentine's Day.

4. Another term for sweets that are given on Valentine's Day.

9. Sometimes on Valentine's Day, a secret ________ will give you an anonymous present.

11. If you don't get any Valentines, you might do this into your pillow.

12. Herseys is one kind of this type of candy.

15. Roses, carnations, and daisies are these.

17. When you really, really like someone, you ____ them. Also you ______ your parents.

19. If you give someone a treat on Valentine's Day, it usually is this. This word is also used in the expression "______ Heart", a nickname husbands and wives call each other.

20. This expression is often said on Valentine's Day: "___ Mine"


1. The color of hearts on Valentine's Day.

2. The fictional character that shoots arrows at people.

3. These flowers come in many colors, but usually red ones are given on Valentine's Day.

5. What cupid shoots at some poor unsuspecting person, that makes them fall in love.

6. If you want to give a friend roses, you would give them this color.

7. The name of this holiday!

8. Doilies are usually made out of this material.

10. Moms and Dads may want to get away for a _________ dinner or weekend.(mushy, mushy, mushy)

13.One of the shapes used often on Valentine's Day is ______ (plural).

14. These are made out of paper or material that are lacy.

15. The abbreviation for the month that Valentine's is in.

16. The man that this holiday is named after is, _______ Valentine.

18. If you get flowers for Valentine's Day, you will want to have one of these to keep them in. Solution:




Friday, February 4, 2011

Invictus & Goodbye Bafana: Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring personalities of all times. Teachers usually teach lessons about him. These segments from the outstanding movie Invictus and Goodbye Bafana are nice to warm-up the topic and activate schemata.

A. Work in groups. Choose the correct answer for the questions about Nelson Mandela. The group that scores most correct answers is the winner!

1. Mandela was born in:

a. 1918

b. 1923

c. 1925

d. 1939

2. He was born in:

a. Soweto

b. Pretoria

c. Durban

d. Qunu in the Transkei

3. As a young college boy, he studied:

a. Law

b. Business Administration

c. Literature

d. Foreign Affairs

4. Mandela has been married:

a. once

b. twice

c. three times

d. six times

5. He announced that he would be retiring from public life at age:

a. 75

b. 78

c. 80

d. 85

6. He was not born with the name Nelson, but with his African name Rolihlahla , which literally means in colloquial sense:

a. peace maker

b. trouble maker

c. trigger-happy

d. happy-go-lucky

7. His English name, Nelson, was given by:

a. his father

b. his mother

c. his school teacher

d. Winnie Mandela

8. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in:

a. 1990

b. 1991

c. 1992

d. 1993

9. He was elected president of South Africa in:

a. 1993

b. 1994

c. 1995

d. 1996

10. What does Bafana - the way many people call Nelson Mandela - mean?

a. best friend boy

b. boys with a view

c. boys are heroes

d. best boy in the world

B. Watch the movie segment from the wonderful movie Invictus and discuss the questions that follow:

1. Which historical moment of Mandela's life is the segment about?

2. How do you describe the people's behavior?

3. Who was cheering? Black or Caucasian citizens?

4. What did his release cause to South Africa at that moment?

5. What was South Africa on the verge of then?

6. Summarize in your words Mandela's speech.

C. Watch the segment from the movie Goodbye Bafana and discuss the questions that follow:

1. Which historical moment of Mandela's life is the segment about?

2. How does he describe his feelings in that moment?

3. How do you compare both scenes?

4. What are your feelings towards Nelson Mandela? In your opinion, what was his greatest achievement?

Answer key: