Friday, December 25, 2015

Why are soft drinks called soft drinks?

Q: Why are soft drinks called soft drinks?

A: Typically, alcoholic drinks have been known as 'strong' drinks and the stronger ones have been known as 'hard' liquor. To differentiate juices and sodas, they are known as 'soft drinks'.

This originated as a marketing term. Makers of sodas had trouble marketing their products because they were known as 'soda' in some parts of America, 'pop', 'cola' or even just 'coke' in others. In Britain and other countries, they were known as 'fizzy drinks'. Hence the term 'soft drink' was created as a universal term - it sounds nice and also sounds like a pleasant alternative to alcohol.


References:

www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/why-carbonated-beverages-are-called-soft-drinks/
english.stackexchange.com/questions/169092/why-soft-drink

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Business English: Guide to Report Writing

I have just published a guide to writing a short business report.

Features:

  • full example and notes
  • comprehension activity
  • suitable for Business English learners
  • suitable for use as a class activity
  • writing tasks provided
  • mobile-friendly

Friday, November 06, 2015

ESL Unit: A Food Contest

A new free-to-use ESL module is available on roadtogrammar.com: "A Food Contest".

The module includes:

  • A warm-up discussion (class version)
  • A reading activity + vocab + quiz
  • A listening activity
  • A vocabulary activity
  • A grammar topic + activity (BEFORE/AFTER + ING)
  • A writing activity (class version)
  • A conversation topic (class version)
  • A PDF download of the materials (class version)
The links are as follows:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Business English Unit: Human Resources

A new business English module is available on roadtogrammar.com, on the topic of Human Resources.

The module includes:

  • A reading activity + vocab + activity
  • A listening activity
  • A vocabulary activity
  • A grammar topic + activity (gerund as subject of the sentence)
  • A conversation topic (class version)
  • A PDF download of the materials (class version)
The links are as follows:




Saturday, October 03, 2015

Historical origins of some idioms.

Here is a passage that was forwarded to me, which describes the origins of many English idioms, such as 'one for the road' and 'raining cats and dogs'. I'm not sure it's 100% accurate, but I think you'll find it interesting anyway:

There is an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hanged. The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who  would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the  prisoner if he would
Like ''ONE LAST DRINK''.  If he said YES, it was referred to as ONE FOR THE ROAD.   If he declined, that Prisoner was ON THE WAGON.
 
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and t hen once a day it  was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were "piss poor", but  worse than that were the really poor folk, who  couldn't even afford to buy a pot, they "Didn't  have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of  the low.
 
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water
Temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to  be.
 
Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June, because t hey took  their yearly bath in May and they still smelled  pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
 
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!" 
Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was t he only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."      
  
There was nothing to stop things from  falling into the house. This posed a real
problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence. The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "dirt poor." The wealthy
Had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their  footing. As the winter wore on they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance. Hence: a thresh hold.
 
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung
over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate
mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for
dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next
day.  Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence
The rhyme: ''Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old''.   
  
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When
visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of
wealth that a man could, "Bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to
Share with guests and would all sit around talking and  ''chew the fat''.    
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death.  This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.   
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf,
The family got the  middle, and guests got the top, or ''The Upper  Crust''.  
 
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and  wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ''Holding a Wake''.      
  
England is old and small and the local folks started  running out of places
to bury people, so they  would dig up coffins and would take the bones to 
a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out
of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up  through the ground and tie it to a  bell.   Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night  (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell;  thus someone could be, ''Saved by the Bell ''or  was considered a ''Dead Ringer''

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rebus Puzzles

If you've never tried a Rebus Puzzle before, it's a play on words presented as a picture.


Here are some examples:
















The answers are:
1 Coffee Break
2 Misunderstood ('miss under stood')

Try 50 more here:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vocab Activities for Mobile Devices

Two vocab activities have been updated to work on mobile devices: you can now either type in the answers or tap the tiles on the screen.

The first activity covers types of fruit and is suitable for elementary level:

roadtogrammar.com/fruit

The second activity covers items found around the house and is also suitable for elementary level:

roadtogrammar.com/householditems




Both activities will work well in class with a projector!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Smartphone Activity: Random Discussion Questions

This is the fifth in a series of smartphone games and activities for the ESL classroom. 

This activity is a set of random discussion questions that you can use as a warm-up or icebreaking activity. Point your students to one of the links below and ask them to discuss the question that they find with their partner or group.


Random discussion questions (basic): roadtogrammar.com/rp/6a

Random discussion questions (int/advanced): roadtogrammar.com/rp/6b
Random discussion questions (business): roadtogrammar.com/rp/6c



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Find Someone Who...

This is the fourth in a series of smartphone games and activities for the ESL classroom. 

This is the classic icebreaking activity where students get to know about each other by asking simple questions. The smartphone version gives the student a randomised list of five characteristics, such as 'Find someone who goes to bed late', and the student has to match a name to each characteristic.

This activity is good for icebreaking or practising asking simple questions. You could turn it into a competition by stating that the first person to get five names is the winner.



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Job Interviews

This is the third in a series of smartphone games for the ESL classroom. 

In this activity, students log in to the activity page on their phones and have a list of interview questions to ask each other.

There is a basic version, for general ESL classes. In this version, each students gets a job which they will interview their partner for, and a list of questions. There are 10 different jobs in total.

Student A: roadtogrammar.com/rp/3a
Student B: roadtogrammar.com/rp/3b

In the advanced version, for Business English classes, the questions are more general, but more realistic. The students rate their partner's answers, confidence and body language, leading to a score out of 100.

URL: roadtogrammar.com/rp/4




Saturday, June 13, 2015

Smartphone Monster Drawing Game

This is the second in a series of smartphone games for the ESL classroom. 

In this game, the students see a picture of a monster on their screen, and they describe it to their partner, who draws it. The student giving the description should not look at the drawing. The goal is to get as close to the original picture as possible.

This game will allow students to practise giving descriptions. The monsters have hats and moustaches and things, so there will be some vocabulary practice too. The monsters are brightly colored, so you could use this activity with smaller kids and get them to color in their pictures.

The links are:

Student A (set 1 of five monsters): www.roadtogrammar.com/rp/2a

Student B (set 2 of five monsters): www.roadtogrammar.com/rp/2b


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Smartphone Animal Guessing Game

Teachers, here is a game that you can get your ESL students to play in pairs in class with their smartphones. 

Student A goes to this page: roadtogrammar.com/rp/1a 
Student B goes to this page: roadtogrammar.com/rp/1b 

They will be shown a picture of an animal which their partner must guess by asking YES/NO questions. They also have to guess their partner's animal.The one who takes the least amount of guesses wins. They can then click the picture to get a new animal and play again.  
Screenshot:


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Notes on WHEREBY

From Wiktionary:

Use of whereby as a formal equivalent of where is nonstandard and is avoided by careful speakers and writers, who use where or in which instead. The term typically fails readability and comprehension review so it is generally avoided in published works. The term is also avoided by speakers as it makes it difficult to understand the message that is trying to be communicated.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/whereby

Monday, April 27, 2015

Gigantic list of TED Talks

The TED site has a great search function, but sometimes you just want a huge and easy list to browse through. 

You can find that here: http://whaddayaknowabout.com/ted_talk_list/

This list has almost 2000 TED Talks on it!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New: Job Satisfaction Vocabulary Activity, Glossary and Discussion Questions

New today on roadtogrammar.com is a Business English vocabulary activity on the topic of job satisfaction. This activity allows students to practise 27 words and is smartphone-friendly. It comes with a glossary and discussion questions.

Activity URL: www.roadtogrammar.com/businessenglish/biz4
Glossary: www.roadtogrammar.com/businessenglish/biz4/glossary.html
Discussion questions: www.roadtogrammar.com/businessenglish/biz4/discussion.html



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ESL Teaching Resources: Holidays

A new mini-unit has been added to the site, on the topic of 'holidays'. It can be done online or downloaded as a pdf. It is free for teachers to use and distribute with their classes.

The topic begins with a warm-up discussion, and then there is a short quiz to test the students' knowledge of holidays around the world. This is followed by a reading activity on the Indian festival of Diwali. Next, there is a grammar activity, which is a review of the passive voice used in the present simple tense. The examples covered in the grammar section will come up in the listening section, which is on Chinese New Year. The follow-up activities are a class presentation or a writing activity.

The online materials have been designed to work nicely on a smartboard. Students can access the materials on their smartphones, too, including the quizzes and the listening audio. Alternatively, the unit can be downloaded in pdf format, printed out and distributed. (The teacher will still need to log in for the listening clip.)

URL: http://roadtogrammar.com/units/holidays/

Screenshots:




Sunday, March 01, 2015

Something for teachers to think about when asking questions

 Questions must be guided by definite aims. They should be asked:

-- to test a student's preparation (Find out if students did their homework.)

-- arouse interest (Bring them into the lesson by motivating them.)

-- to develop insights (Cause them to see new relationships.)

-- to develop ideals, attitudes and appreciations (Ask questions that cause students to get more than knowledge in the classroom.)

-- to strengthen learning (Review and summarize what is taught.)

-- to stimulate critical thinking (Develop a questioning attitude.)

-- to test achievement of objectives (Check to see if what has been taught "sank in.")

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vocab used in law and courts

Here is an activity to help intermediate - advanced ESL learners understand all those words in the courtroom dramas and detective shows that we always see on tv - words such as jury, attorney, prosecution, testimony.

The activity is presented as a series of short newspaper articles with questions on vocab contained in the article.

The activity is mobile-friendly.

URL: http://roadtogrammar.com/lawvocab/

Screenshots:















Sunday, February 22, 2015

If OCTO means eight, why is October the TENTH month?

If you know your prefixes, you will know that OCTO- or OCTA- means eight. An octopus has eight legs. An octagon has eight sides. SEPT- means seven. NOV- means nine and DEC- means ten. So why, for instance, is October the tenth month and December the twelfth month?

The reason is simple. The Romans used to do things in tens and they used to have ten months in a year. Then along came Julius Caesar, and the Roman Senate named a month after him - July. Augustus Caesar also got a month named after him - August.

So September - December were bumped forward and became the ninth - twelfth months, despite what their names suggest!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Business English: How to Write an Email of Enquiry...

I have just added a Business English section to the site:

www.roadtogrammar.com/businessenglish

The first articles in the section deal with how to write an email of enquiry or a reply to an email of enquiry.

The aim of these articles is to show realistic examples that are carefully planned and written in plain, clear English. There are also writing tasks that teachers could use in their classes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Look Up!


I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely.
I speak to all of them every day, yet none of them really know me.
The problem I have sits in the spaces between
Looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.

I took a step back and opened my eyes,
I looked around and realised
That this media we call social is anything but.
When we open our computers and it's our doors we shut

All this technology we have, it's just an illusion
Community companionship, a sense of inclusion
Yet when you step away from this device of delusion
You awaken to see a world of confusion.

A world where we're slaves to the technology we mastered
Where information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard
A world of self interestself image, self promotion
Where we all share our best bits but, leave out the emotion.

We're at our most happy with an experience we share,
But is it the same if no-one is there?
Be there for your friends and they'll be there too,
But no-one will be if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation
We pretend not to notice the social isolation
We put our words into order and tint our lives a-glistening
We don't even know if anyone is listening

Being alone isn't a problem, let me just emphasize
If you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise
You're being productive and present, not reserved and recluse
You're being awake and attentive and putting your time to good use

So when you're in public, and you start to feel alone
Put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone
You don't need to stare at the menu, or at your contact list
Just talk to one another, learn to co-exist.

I can't stand to hear the silence of a busy commuter train
When no one wants to talk for the fear of looking insane.
We're becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
To engage with one another, and look into someone's eyes.

We're surrounded by children, who since they were born,
Have watched us living like robots, who now think it's the norm.
It's not very likely you'll make world's greatest dad,
If you can't entertain a child without using an iPad

When I was a child, I'd never be home
Be out with my friends, on our bikes we'd roam
I'd wear holes on my trainers, and graze up my knees
We'd build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees

Now the park's so quiet, it gives me a chill
See no children outside and the swings hanging still.
There's no skipping, no hopscotchno church and no steeple
We're a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down the display
Take in your surroundingsmake the most of today
Just one real connection is all it can take
To show you the difference that being there can make.

Be there, in the moment that she gives you the look
That you remember forever as when love overtook
The time she first held your hand, or first kissed your lips
The time you first disagreed but you still love her to bits

The time you don't have to tell hundreds of what you've just done
Because you want to share this moment with just this one
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring
For the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.

The time you want to start a family, and the moment when
You first hold your little girl, and get to fall in love again.
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest
And the time you wipe away the tears as your baby flees the nest.

The time your baby girl returns, with a boy for you to hold
And the time he calls you granddad and makes you feel real old.

The time you've taken all you've made, just by giving life attention.
And how you're glad you didn't waste it, by looking down at some invention.

The time you hold your wife's hand, sit down beside her bed,
You tell her that you love her and lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly as her heart gives a final beat
That she's lucky she got stopped by that lost boy in the street.

But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this.
When you're too busy looking down, you don't see the chances you miss.

So look up from your phone, shut down those displays
We have a finite existence, a set number of days
Don't waste your life getting caught in the net,
As when the end comes nothing's worse than regret.

I'm guilty too of being part of this machine,
This digital world, we are heard but not seen.
Where we type as we talk, and we read as we chat
Where we spend hours together without making eye contact
So don't give into a life where you follow the hype
Give people your love, don't give them your 'like'
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.

Look up from your phone. Shut down that display. Stop watching this video. Live life the real way.

Xmas Vocabulary Quiz

Teachers, here is a Christmas vocabulary quiz that you can use with your students: www.roadtogrammar.com/christmas/ Suggested use: Use i...