The highest of the high!

First, get your grammar right: revise the basics of comparatives and superlatives

mountain3 and then check your irregular comparatives and superlatives here.

Check the Guinness Book of Records for the highest mountains. Next, delve a little deeper with geologists – is Mount Everest really the highest? on DVD, iTunes, Netflix: This documentary that us takes on a motorcycle journey through the Himalayas of India over the highest motorable road in the world, and follows a daredevil yogi leading seven Americans to make decisions about life and death while traversing steep, icy cliffs and the chaos of India’s “road killer” traffic.

moutain2Carrying a prophecy of death in his late twenties, their Yogi leader Anand Mehrotra inspires us to question what it means to truly live and pushes them to the limits of his teachings: “Only the one who dies, truly lives“. ”

Are you planning to climb a mountain today? Check this comic strip for advice!mountain

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Survival skills (and modal verbs)

First, review modal verbs  – today you’ll need them to talk about ability, permission and instructions.

  • The modal verbs are can, could, may, might, shall, should, will and would.
  • We use can to talk about someone’s skill or general abilities: She can speak swim.
  • We use can to talk about the ability to do something at a given time in the present or future: You can survive without food for a few days.survival
  • We use could to talk about past time: She could swim before she could walk.
  • We use could have to say that someone had the ability/opportunity to do something, but did not do it: She could have learned judo, but she didn’t have time.
  • We use can to ask for permission to do something: Can I have some water, please?
  • could is more formal and polite than canCould I have some please?
  • may is another more formal and polite way of asking for permission: May I have some water please?
  • We use can to give permission: You can erect the tent now if you want.
  • may is a more formal and polite way of giving permission: You may light the fire, if you like.
  • We use can to say that someone has permission to do something: We can go back to camp whenever we want.
  • may is a more formal and polite way of saying that someone has permission: Hikers may use the hut for free.
  • We use could you and would you as polite ways of telling or asking someone to do somethingCould you take the rope please?
  • can and will are less polite: Can you take the rope please?
  • We use should to make suggestions and give advice: You should stay safe.
  • We use could to make suggestions: We could shout for help.
  • We use conditionals to give advice: Dan will help you if you ask him.
  • Past tenses are more polite: Dan would help you if you asked him.
  • We use can I… and to make offers: Can I help you?
  • We can also use shall I …: Shall I help you?
  • We sometime say I can … or I could … or I’ll (I will) … to make an offerI can do that for you if you like.
  • We use must to say that it is necessary to do something: You must stop before dark.
  • We use had to for this if we are talking about the past: Everyone had to bring something to eat.
  • survival3

And now let’s think about survival! What should you do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation? What must you do to stay safe?

Read these top survival tips. How many modal verbs can you find? What other ways does the writer use to give instructions or suggestions?

Did you know vending machines can be dangerous? How can you survive them? Find the answer amongst these tips.survival2

Are you ready to survive? Take the test to find out! If you don’t do very well, why not book a survival course – or a wilderness survival course? A great blog to follow is Ray Mears’ blog – he’s interested in wilderness and surviving in natural surroundings. Look out for modal verbs in all his posts.

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Talking about the future

future2 You probably know all about using ‘going to’ to talk about something you intend to do, and using present continuous to talk about fixed arrangements or plans. Here’s a chance to have a look at all the different ways you can use to talk about the future in English.

future3Check the British Council for an overview of verb tenses to use. Test yourself!  Make sure you have integrated your future tenses with all the other ones – compare your future tenses with your other tenses.

Read this blogpost – it’s written by a young American woman whose partner is a soldier. She writes about their future – conversations and plans they have for their joint future. The spelling and grammar isn’t perfect – but she is a native English speaker! While you’re reading, make a note of the different verbs and verb tenses she uses to talk about the future.

Are you good at predicting the future? Could you be a super-forecaster? Read this article, and find out!

A great way to consolidate your learning is to use the language. Have you got a study partner you could practise your English with? Talk about the future together.future

And now you’ve done all that hard work – here’s a fun short film all about how we might talk in the future!

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Finished your Masters?

masters2First of all, congratulations! You’ve worked very hard and probably can’t really believe it is all over! Make sure you spend some time celebrating and congratulating yourself on all your hard work. Well done!

What next? You might want some careers advice. A good place to start is with an overview of careers and resources around careers.

Read these instructions for finding a job. Remember as many as you can and tell your study partner the advice. Do you agree with the tips? There’s more detailed advice if you want to find out more. If you haven’t got a clue what job you want, you might find an online career planner tool helpful.masters3

To keep up to date with careers and graduate life, try Graduate Fog, a blog and site for graduates. Another great place is Career Player, an American site with lots of news and advice for you.masters


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Food and Films!

food filmsWhat’s your favourite film about food? Is your favourite on this list?

Look at the list from Time Magazine, and watch the clips. Have you seen any of those films?

If you don’t fancy watching a whole film, why not watch some clips from films about food? food films2



Can you transcribe the clips? I love this one, from “Eat Drink Man Woman” – can you describe it to your study partner? You’ll need a lot of food nouns, and a range of cooking verbs. Practise first!

Once you’ve watched a film about food, you will probably be hungry! Why not match your food to another film?

food films4food films3food films6 food films5

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Jamie Oliver

jamie4Have you heard of Jamie Oliver? He’s a chef from London who’s written lots of recipe books and made a lot of TV series about cooking.  Have a look at Jamie’s website – get recipe ideas, find out about seasonal vegetables and even learn how to make some cocktails!

If you live in a British city, why not see if there’s a Jamie’s Italian restaurant nearby? It hasn’t got any Michelin stars, but you’ll be able to taste some of Jamie’s dishes.

Jamie Oliver also has restaurants called Jamie’s 15. He takes on young people who haven’t had any opportunities and who are finding life a struggle, and teaches them to work in his kitchen. He describes how it started – read the story and tell a study partner about it. Follow the story of some of the young men. Channel 4 hosts an outline of the TV series, read it as an introduction to the series. Watch a short film explaining the concept.

Find out what happened to those first chefs – how many of them are now working in Michelin Star restaurants?

jamie3One of Jamie Oliver’s most successful ideas was his 30 Minute Meals – three course meals you can make in only 30 minutes. Watch him making something delicious! Have a look at 5 recipes, choose one and try making all three courses in only half an hour.

If you couldn’t make the meal in 30 minutes, don’t worry – neither could some journalists!

And if 30 minutes is too long, see if you can find some recipes for meals that can be made in 15 Minutes! jamie

As well as making delicious meals himself, Jamie Oliver recently led a campaign that resulted in McDonald’s stopping the use of ‘pink slime’ in their burgers. What is ‘pink slime’?  Read the story about the campaign, and then check your understanding by watching this video:




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Child Musical Prodigies

child prodigy2As an introduction, read a short list of child prodigies of the past and more recent years.

For a real example of a child musical prodigy, have a look at TsungTsung – a 5 year old boy who plays the piano amazingly!


Watch a news story about a young musician:

Compare how a different news network reports the same story, watch another news story about the same girl, 8 year old Alma Deutscher, who plays the piano and the violin.  Encourage a friend or a study partner to watch the same films and discuss them together.

child prodigy3 If you’d like to learn more about current child prodigies, try the Channel 4 series following talented children.



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Music and your brain!

music brain3When you listen to music, all sorts of things happen in your brain. You’re going to find out how, and I think you’ll be surprised! What surprising things do you think you might learn?

To get an overview of what happens in your brain, click here. Try and remember 3 or 4 in detail and tell a friend or study partner.


Listening to music has an impact on our brains, but playing an instrument has a greater one. Find our more about the science involved, and practise your listening and reading skills. First, watch the TED talk “How playing an instrument benefits your brain”

music brain2

Now you have watched, test your understanding.

Still interested? Find out more about the topic.

Encourage your study partner to watch the video, and have a discussion.

Is there anything you still want to know? Any questions? Fill any gaps in your knowledge.



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Musical instruments

musical instrumentsDo you play a musical instrument? Which one? What’s the name in English? Check here in this picture dictionary.

Listen to different musical instruments here, and find out more about the history of different instruments.

Do you want to buy a musical instrument – or find out how much they cost? Have a look. musical instruments3

If you’d rather make your own musical instruments, follow these instructions here:

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The story of The Jam

the jam 2Have you heard of The Jam? Find out more about this British group – and improve your reading skills.

Read the story of The Jam here, and then tell a friend or study partner about the group.

See their discography here: are there any songs you recognise?

Watch this documentary about how they made the album All Mod Cons here:

Read their song lyrics, a lot of the songs tell stories. Try ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’.

the jamDo you understand what the lyrics mean? Check – and join in the discussions! What did the songs mean to you? Find out what everyone else thinks? Why not ask a question?

And now test your understanding of the lyrics here – just like a reading comprehension test!

Fill in any gaps in your knowledge here – is there anything else you want to learn about The Jam?

Watch The Jam in concert here:


the jam 3

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