Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Back-up Plan & Gattaca: Assisted Insemination

Completely different approaches for the topic Assisted Insemination. Both generated a lot of discussion.

Sometimes known as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Assisted Insemination may be recommended an initial treatment choice for unexplained fertility. The treatment involves placing prepared (or ‘washed’) sperm into the uterus just prior to the time of ovulation. This is a simple procedure, similar to a pap smear. The process may be supported by fertility medications that increase the chance of pregnancy. (Next Generation Fertility)

A. Work in pairs to discuss these questions:

1. Do you think that it is fair that women who can not get pregnant make use of assisted insemination to have babies? Why (not)?

2. What about women who are healthy, but want a certain donor's semen to have a baby?

3. Is it okay to choose for artificial insemination in order to have children with selected genes and, consequently, healthier babies? Explain it.

4. Do you think that in the future humans will have babies with assisted insemination rather than the traditional way in which couples make love to have children? What are the consequences of such a behavior?

B. Work in groups. Read the statements below and decide whether the group agrees or disagrees with them. Make sure you prepare a brief speech explaining the group's beliefs.

1. Assisted Insemination is tampering with nature, and God’s plan for the world. The process of insemination to be purely sexual, and natural between two people without any outside influence whatsoever.

2. If a man is infertile, and a couple cannot have children, this was God’s or nature’s plan for them, and they should remain childless for some mystic, destiny-related purpose.

3. Assisted insemination is a gift from science to help an infertile couple, lesbian partners, or a single woman experience parenthood whereas they would not be able to.

4. Men who have been donors or plan to be believe that in some way, because they are donating semen, that they are responsible for the child produced.

5. The child who is born after their parents make use of this technique should know how he/she was conceived and who the donor is.

III. Watch the movie Segment from the movie Back-up Plan and discuss the questions that follow:


1. Describe the scene.

2. Describe the main character's feelings and the process she is being submitted to.

3. Do you think she has taken the right decision?

4. What could go wrong?

5. What are the advantages of doing it, in her case?

6. Do you think this is a fair case for this kind of fertilization?

7. The main character is healthy, young and beautiful. Should this kind of people be eligible for assisted insemination? Why (not)?

IV. Now watch the segment of the movie Gattaca, a fabulous film. Then answer the questions.


1. Describe the scene.

2. According to the movie, technology has developed so much that you can prevent parents from having unhealthy babies with assisted insemination. What are the consequences of such advancement in technology?

3. If you lived in this period of the future, would you risk having an unhealthy baby by not making use of the available technology, or would you play safe and use technology to help you? Explain it.

4. Will life be the way it is shown in the segment? Why (not)?

5. What are the similarities and differences between the two situations pictured in both segments. Explain them to your partners.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's Complicated: Cosmetic Surgery

Great actors in this funny romantic comedy. I used this scene to talk about the popular topic, cosmetic/plastic surgery.

Plastic surgery is also known as reconstructive surgery. This type of surgery involves fixing a body part or facial feature that is abnormal and reconstructing it to appear normal. Often a person seeks reconstructive surgery due to a malformation that they would like to have corrected. Others need plastic surgery because of health complications due to the abnormal body part of facial feature.

Cosmetic surgery differs from plastic/reconstructive surgery because the purpose of this procedure is to take a normal body structure and improve it to make it look better and improve the person’s self-esteem. Cosmetic surgery is not needed due to a deformity or health issue - the person simply wants to appear more attractive in most cases. Breast implants and breast reductions are seen as a cosmetic surgery procedure because the surgeon is enhancing the already normal body structure. 

Anti-aging procedures such as facelifts, tummy tucks, and hair replacement treatments are also common cosmetic procedures.

Taken from the great informative site Carefair

I. Half the class reads the first paragraph about plastic surgery. The other half reads the 2nd paragraph about cosmetic surgery. Then the students pair up to tell each other what they read and answer the question. Work in pairs:

1. Explain in tour own words the differences between plastic and cosmetic surgeries.

II. Students A ask questions in red; students B ask the questions in blue.

1. Would you consider having a cosmetic surgery? Why (not)? If so, in which cases?

2. Do you think cosmetic surgeries are more popular among man or women? Why does is happen?

3. What are the dangers of cosmetic surgeries?

4. What parts of your body or face would you like to change?

5. Why are cosmetic surgeries so popular in some countries, like the USA and Brazil, and not so popular in others, like Japan and China?

6. Do you think there should be an age limit for someone to have a cosmetic surgery? How young or old must one be to have a cosmetic surgery?

7. How happy are people with the cosmetic surgery results?

8. What advice would you give someone willing to have a cosmetic surgery?

9. Is cosmetic surgery playing with the way that God made us? Explain it.

10. Do you know anyone famous (or not) whose cosmetic surgery was not satisfactory? Talk about what happened.

11. Is it okay to have a cosmetic surgery to completely change the way your face looks like, creating a new identity, for example ? Why (not)?

12. If you could have a cosmetic surgery for free with the best surgeon in the world, what would you change?

II. Decide if the statements below are Risks or Benefits of cosmetic surgeries.

Collected from: Mayoclinic Smartskincare

1. Plastic surgery is expensive. In the US, a facelift costs from $6,000 to $15,000.

2. Any surgery is potentially dangerous, including plastic surgery. Complications are rare but they do occur, ranging from scarring to fatalities. Plastic surgery may be particularly risky if you have certain health conditions (e.g. diabetes).

3. Everyone is different. Some people do much better than others, even when treated by the same plastic surgeon.

4. It may take several weeks or months before your face fully recovers from plastic surgery.

5. Plastic surgery might adversely affect the physiology of your skin and underlying tissues, speeding up the aging process.

6. Dissatisfaction is possible after any type of cosmetic surgery. Surgical complications are possible, too — including excessive bleeding or infection at the surgical site.

7. Your self-esteem might improve after cosmetic surgery, but cosmetic surgery isn't likely to relieve depression or other mental health conditions.

8. Individuals who undergo cosmetic surgery find themselves emotionally more confident.

9. Blending in is sometimes quite important to people who decide to have plastic surgery, especially when they have grown up teased because of their features.

10. There are many cosmetic surgeons available in the market. Some of them we don't know much about, but many others are efficient doctors.

III. Watch the movie segment from the movie It's Complicated and answer the questions that follow:


1. Describe the scene.

2. What are her feelings about cosmetic surgery?

3. How confident is she?

4. Why do you think she wants to have the surgery done?

5. Do you think she needs a cosmetic surgery?
Justify your answer.

6. What's your opinion about the doctor? Would you trust him?

7. Do you think that the doctor motivated her to have the surgery? Why (not)?

8. What advice would you give her?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Capitalism, a Love Story & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Propaganda

Both movies are excellent, especially The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The concept of propaganda is usually misunderstood by students, especially Brazilian ones, because the word "propaganda" in Portuguese means Advertisement. That is why I decided to have this post right after the previous one - Advertising.

Divide the class in half. S1 reads the explanation given by the site to explain PROPAGANDA.

Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine. I am aware that the word "propaganda" carries to many minds an unpleasant connotation. Yet whether, in any instance, propaganda is good or bad depends upon the merit of the cause urged, and the correctness of the information published.

S2 read the explanation given by the site:

Propaganda is an enigma that has defied historians to this day. Its definition is broad and it affects every aspect of life and has been used since ancient times.Not all propaganda is hateful and it is not good or bad (per se). It is manipulation and deceit in whatever manner that may be. It could be through radio, films, newspapers, magazines, posters, rallies, public speeches, staged demonstrations, protests or whatever other outlet is available. It can be as simple as a commercial by a politician attempting to sway his audience to vote for him or it could be as complex as the institution of the Hitler Youth and the state-controlled churches of Nazi Germany. Propaganda can be described and defined in many ways, but one aspect of it remains constant: It is a distortion of truth or an outright lie and it is the most powerful political and social tool ever employed.

II. Pair up S1s with S2s. Students tell each other what they understood from the explanation, examples or anything else they can remember. Then they decide what there is in common and what is different from each other's passages.

III. Now watch the segments from the movies Capitalism: a Love Story and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Then answer these questions about both segments.

1. What is the propaganda in the segments?

2.How do you know it is propaganda?

3. How effective is it?

4. What are the principles or messages behind it?

5. What do both segments have in common?

6. How different are they?

7. How different is propaganda and advertisement?

8. Do you think that advertisements can be propaganda too? Explain it.




Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Truman Show, The Invention of Lying & Gnomeo and Juliet: Advertising

Both The Truman Shown and The Invention of Lying are great movies with food for thought. I used one scene from each one to talk about advertising, a topic we usually address in our English classes.

I. Work with a partner and discuss the following questions:

1. What makes a good commercial?

2. What are some of the best TV commercials you can remember? Why do you like them?

3. What are some of the worst ads you can remember?

4. When is an ad effective?

5. Is a commercial that you like effective even if you don't remember what it is advertising?

6. How influenced are you by advertising?

7.Do you watch the TV commercials during the TV programs breaks or do you switch channels? Why do you do it?

8. Check the items of features that you think make commercials effective:

( ) Beautiful people

( ) Music

( ) Humor

( ) Real comments made by consumers

( ) Slogans

( ) Famous people

( ) Scientific facts about the product

( ) Animals

( ) Sad stories

( ) Happy families

( ) Ugly people

II. In pairs, decide if you agree or disagree with these statements and why.

1. Advertising needs to be relevant to the consumer’s needs, wants, and values.

2. It is getting harder and harder to get a consumer’s attention these days.

3. Consumer’s tend to block out advertisements, so you need to try and find a unique way of getting them to pay attention.

4. Advertising should be truthful.

5. Being honest is not only ethical, it is also the intelligent way of doing business. No one likes being deceived, and if deception occurs, the consumer will have a negative view of the company.

6. Sometimes advertisement creators get so caught up in designing a creative, cool advertisement that they fail to effectively deliver a message that will facilitate the success of their marketing communications strategy.

Read more at the great site:

III. Watch the segment of the movie The Truman Show and discuss the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. What product(s) is (are) being advertised?

3. How is it (are they) being advertised?

4. How effective are the ads? Why?

5. Would you buy any of the products? Why?

6. What could be done to improve the quality of the ads?

IV. Now watch the segment of the movie The Invention of Lying and discuss the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. What product(s) is (are) being advertised?

3. How is it (are they) being advertised?

4. How effective are the ads? Why?

5. Would you buy any of the products? Why?

6. What could be done to improve the quality of the ads?

Watch the scene from the movie Gnomeo and Juliet and discuss the questions:

1. What is being advertised?

 2. Describe how attractive the ads are. Are they effective?

 3. What product was chosen? What did the shopper consider the most important feature while shopping online? The quality of the ad, the quality of the products advertised, or the price?

 4. Are your criteria the same as the character in the segment?

 5. What's your opinion about shopping online? Have you ever had any problems with Internet shopping. If so, how did you solve the problem?




Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lost in Translation: Languages

This segment is a great warm-up activity when the topic is languages, how different they are from one another, or any other aspect revolving around language learning.

I. Work with a partner and check how much you know about foreign languages. If you don't know the answers, make a wild guess.

1. Portuguese

2. Thai

3. Arabic

4. English

5. Hebrew

6. Greek

7. Latin

8. Lithuanian

( ) It is the ancestor of the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian) and has also deeply influenced many others, including English.

( ) It is the language of the Muslim religion and of the Koran. Its spoken form varies from country to country but its classical form has remained unchanged since the 7th century.

( ) Its modern version dates from 1453 and it refers to the 5th stage of the evolution of the language: Mycenaean, Classical, Hellenistic, Medieval and Modern or Romeika. The vocabulary of the modern language is essentially that of ancient times.

( ) It is considered the oldest surviving Indo-European language and is thought to have retained some features of Proto-Indo-European such as pitch-accent and a complex inflexional case system.

( ) It ceased to exist as spoken language about the year 250, but it was reborn in the 19th century. Today, it is written and spoken in almost the same way it was over 2000 years ago.

( ) It is a tonal language, which means that different intonations distinguished words that otherwise would be homonyms. Orthography is complex. It has 44 consonants and 32 vowels.

( ) It is the official language of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Principe, Mozambique and two other major countries. It is also co-official with Cantonese Chinese in Macao.

( ) The language has the largest vocabulary in the world.

Answer Key: 7, 3, 6, 8, 5, 2, 1, 4

II. Discuss these questions with a partner:
1. When did you start learning English? How did it happen?

2. Do you think it is easy to learn a foreign language? Why (not)?

3. What is the best way to learn a foreign language?

4. How would you compare your native language to English? Which one is easier to learn?

5. How many languages can you speak?

6. What languages do you like or dislike the sound of?

7. Does language make the personalities of each nationality different? Explain it.

8. Can one learn a language without learning about its culture? Why (not)?

9. Do you think that one day there will be just one language in the world? Would the world be a better place?

10. What do you think of languages that are dying? Do you think they should be preserved? Why?

11.Do you think English should become an official language in your country? Why (not)?

12.What three languages would you really like to speak, and why?

III. Watch the segment from the movie Lost in Translation and discuss the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. How would you describe the American actor, Bob? What about his personality?

3. How would you describe the Japanese director? What about his personality?

4. What is so unusual about the scene?

5. How does communication take place?

6. How do you compare the English and Japanese languages?

7. How do their languages reflect their cultures?

8. How accurate do you think the translation is?

*Thanks to my reader Kseniya who provided me with the tapescript of the dialog. 

9. What do you think about English? How difficult is it?

10. How long have you been learning English? How do you like it?

11. What is the hardest part when it comes to learning English?

Translated Suntory Scene

Translated dialog from the hilarious Suntory Time whiskey commercial scene from the film Lost in Translation. 

Bob is lost. And without subtitles, so is the audience. Here, translated into English, is what the fulmination is really about. 

DIRECTOR (in Japanese to the interpreter): The translation is very 
important, O.K.? The translation.

INTERPRETER: Yes, of course. I understand.

DIRECTOR: Mr. Bob-san. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then 
there is a bottle of Suntory whiskey on top of the table. You 
understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the 
camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the 
words. As if you are Bogie in "Casablanca," saying, "Cheers to you 
guys," Suntory time!

INTERPRETER: He wants you to turn, look in camera. O.K.?

BOB: That's all he said?

INTERPRETER: Yes, turn to camera.

BOB: Does he want me to, to turn from the right or turn from the left?

INTERPRETER (in very formal Japanese to the director): He has prepared 
and is ready. And he wants to know, when the camera rolls, would you 
prefer that he turn to the left, or would you prefer that he turn to 
the right? And that is the kind of thing he would like to know, if you 
don't mind.

DIRECTOR (very brusquely, and in much more colloquial Japanese): 
Either way is fine. That kind of thing doesn't matter. We don't have 
time, Bob-san, O.K.? You need to hurry. Raise the tension. Look at the 
camera. Slowly, with passion. It's passion that we want. Do you 

INTERPRETER (In English, to Bob): Right side. And, uh, with intensity.

BOB: Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than 

DIRECTOR: What you are talking about is not just whiskey, you know. Do 
you understand? It's like you are meeting old friends. Softly, 
tenderly. Gently. Let your feelings boil up. Tension is important! 
Don't forget.

INTERPRETER (in English, to Bob): Like an old friend, and into the camera.


DIRECTOR: You understand? You love whiskey. It's Suntory time! O.K.?


DIRECTOR: O.K.? O.K., let's roll. Start.

BOB: For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

DIRECTOR: Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut! (Then in a very male form of 
Japanese, like a father speaking to a wayward child) Don't try to fool 
me. Don't pretend you don't understand. Do you even understand what we 
are trying to do? Suntory is very exclusive. The sound of the words is 
important. It's an expensive drink. This is No. 1. Now do it again, 
and you have to feel that this is exclusive. O.K.? This is not an 
everyday whiskey you know.

INTERPRETER: Could you do it slower and ?

DIRECTOR: With more ecstatic emotion.

INTERPRETER: More intensity.

DIRECTOR (in English): Suntory time! Roll.

BOB: For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

DIRECTOR: Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut! God, I'm begging you.