Welcome! This site is for students to practice their English and keep up to date with environmental issues.

You can find a mixture of reading, crosswords, videos and short English lessons: these will normally be vocabulary, but I may also treat you to some grammar!

There are now over 250 lessons on this blog. Look through the Blog archive, Post labels and Popular Posts to find what you want.

If you want to print a lesson, click on the lesson title and then look for the Print Friendly icon.

''Let nature be your teacher''
William Wordsworth, poet, 1770-1850

''Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift''
Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

Monday, 28 February 2011

Fairtrade Fortnight

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Fairtrade fortnight begins today. I found out about it when I was walking along a wet and windy Brighton seafront last Wednesday! I was lucky enough to meet someone from Cadbury chocolate who was giving out free bars of Dairy Milk to promote the event. Yum!

During Fairtrade Fortnight, Cadbury will donate some of the profits from their Fairtrade products to fund farming communities in Africa.

Read this article about it and answer these questions:
1 How much of their profits from Fairtrade products will Cadbury donate?
2 Which African country will receive the money?
3 Which form of renewable energy will be funded?
4 What will the electricity help to do?
5 How much money has Cadbury already given from its sales of Dairy Milk?


Okay, those are some questions to check your reading skills and understanding, but now lets look at some more general questions:
Why do you think Cadbury are doing this?
What are the benefits for them? And for the farmers?
Do you know any other examples of large companies running such projects?
Should such large companies be doing more?

Please comment and share your opinions. Thanks!


1 20%
2 Ghana
3 solar
4 Run health clinics, cool medicines, light surgeries, allow children to study after school.
 £2.3m (yes, that's how we write 'two point three million pounds'. The symbol comes first and m = millions)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Mother Earth - vocabulary lesson 3

As promised, a more difficult vocabulary lesson this week. It is from proficiency level. Enjoy!

Choose the word that best completes each of the sentences:

Many species of animals and plants today are ............... .
     dangerous          endangered          precarious          risky

It took a long time for the theory of evolution to be ............... .
     absorbed          accepted          tolerated          acknowledged
My friend is a keen amateur ............... .
     natural          naturist          naturalist          nationalist

Waste paper can be ............... instead of being burnt.
      decomposed          incinerated          recycled          renovated

There are over 850,000 named ............... of insects on this planet.
     colonies          kinds          species          varieties

Rabbits and mice are ............... .
     amphibians          carnivores          marsupials          rodents

Crocodiles and alligators are ............... .
     crustaceans          herbivores          mammals          reptiles

The lioness lay in wait for her ............... .
     game          lunch          prey          victim

Cattle and chickens are ............... animals.
     domesticated          house-trained          obedient          tame

10 Your cat has scratched me with its ............... .
     claws          nails          paws          whiskers

Need any help?! I will give you some clues if you ask! 

Look again at the words that you DIDN'T use in the gaps. Why is each wrong in the context?

This exercise is adapted from New Progress to Proficiency, OUP.



1   endangered
2   accepted
3   naturalist
4   recycled
5   species
6   rodents
7   reptiles
8   prey
9   domesticated
10 claws

So, how did you do? Any questions about the vocabulary?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Trees - crossword

Here is our regular Wednesday crossword from the BBCs Learning English website:

Trees crossword

Let me know how you got on - I had to think hard for one or two of them!!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Japanese whaling fleet abandons hunt

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Here is another short reading from Wildlife Extra.
As I told you last week, you can sign up to this site for free and get a weekly or monthly email with all the latest news. I think it works well because there are lots of short, easy to read articles.

Japanese whaling fleet abandons hunt

Have a look at the article and then answer these questions:

1  How much of its quota has the fleet caught?
2  How fast is the Nissin Maru travelling?
3  Commercial whaling is banned, so how does Japan justify its hunt?
4  How much is the whale watching industry worth?
5  Which two other countries carry out whale hunting?

And a bonus question - you will have to look elsewhere for the answer to this one:
6  What species of whale was the Japanese fleet hunting?

Answers below!

Do you agree with what Sea Shepherd have done? Or should the Japanese be allowed to carry on?
Let me know what you think please.

1 Less than half
2 14 knots
3 'scientific whaling'
4 $2.1 billion
5 Iceland and Norway
6 850 Minke and 50 Fin whales

Friday, 18 February 2011

The environment - vocabulary lesson 2

Use these words to complete the sentences about the environment:

     acid          fossil          greenhouse          ozone layer     pollution    

     public          recycle        renewable         solar          warming

1   We should                      glass, plastic, metal and paper.

2   Scientists have detected holes in the                      .

3   Some gases trap heat in the earth's atmosphere, causing the '                   ' effect.

4   One result of global                      is likely to be a rise in sea levels.

5   Heavy industry causes a lot of air                     .

6                       panels use the sun's energy to heat water.

7   Coal, oil and gas are known as                      fuels.

8   Solar, wind and hydro power are alternative or                      energy.

9   Damage has been caused to forests by                      rain.

10  We can reduce pollution by using                      transport instead of our cars.

Answers below!


1  recycle
2  ozone layer
3  greenhouse
4  warming
5  pollution
6  solar
7  fossil
8  renewable
9  acid
10 public

Got them all correct?!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Online learning - recommended sites

There are many online learning opportunities. I have already posted some of the great material from the BBC Learning English website. Here are some others:

Studying Online was established in 2007 by a very experienced teacher. It offers professional English courses, but also has a lot of good and easy to use exercises for free. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

The British Council has a free online learning page, with games, stories, listening activities and grammar exercises. They are also on Facebook

A site that I have used a lot and would recommend is Busuu. Their online learning is easy to use and covers all the language skills you need. This is their Facebook page.

One of many websites that offers online English learning is Bell English Online. I haven't used them, but they seem very popular and also have a good-looking Facebook page.

Many websites offer basic courses and learning for free. You can pay for more advanced services, but it looks like many people just use the free stuff!

So, what sites do you use? Which ones would you recommend (or not!)?
Let us know please.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Winter - crossword

Especially for those of you on your skiing holidays, or living in colder parts of the world, here's a seasonal crossword form the BBC Learning English website.

Winter crossword

Let me know how you got on (I found one of them quite difficult!!).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Environmental videos on TED

A great site for watching short, high quality videos is TED, a small nonprofit site devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. The world's ''most fascinating thinkers and doers'' are given a maximum of 18 minutes to talk. Over 700 videos are now available.

Once you have chosen a video to watch, the best thing to do is look for 'open interactive transcript' (on the right, next to 'About this talk'). You then get the text of what the speaker is saying (and you can click on a word and go to that part of the talk!). You may want to print the script so you can highlight new vocabulary.

There are a lot of environmental videos under different categories:
A greener future
Inspired by nature
Ocean stories

So, here is one form the latter category:

David Gallo shows underwater astonishments

Let me know what you think and share any other good videos with us.

Monday, 14 February 2011

10 minute reading: Killer Whales off Ireland and Scotland

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

A great site for wildlife news updates is Wildlife Extra. You can sign up for free and get a weekly or monthly email with all the latest news. I think it works well because there are lots of short, easy to read articles.

Last week there was a story called 100 Killer Whales off Ireland and Scotland.
Have a look at the article and then answer these questions:

1  What is the scientific (Latin) name of the Killer Whale?
2  Which fish species were these Killer Whales chasing?
3  How many fish were the fisherman catching per day?
4  Where have similar large sightings of Killer Whales been made recently?
5  True or false - Killer Whales are not actually whales.

Answers below!


1 Orcinus orca
2 Mackerel
3 ''All fishing vessels were catching in excess of 200 tonnes per day''
4 Off Shetland and in the North Sea
5 True (they are a member of the dolphin family)

Friday, 11 February 2011

English Course, 25th - 27th July 2011, Juniper Hall, England

A Specialised English Language Course for Environmental Professionals
25th – 29th July 2011
Juniper Hall Field Centre, Surrey, England

I am running an Environmental English course in the UK this summer. It will take place at the Juniper Hall Field Centre in Surrey, just south of London.
The cost is 400 Euros, including accommodation, food, tuition and materials.
For more details, please download the pdf here, or contact me at

Quantity - grammar lesson 1

Level: Pre-intermediate / A2

Complete the sentences using too, enough, too much, too many, so much, so many

1.         There wasn’t                            snow, so we couldn’t ski.
2.         We were                                   busy to go on the guided walk.
3.         I haven’t got                            money to pay for the course.
4.         English pronunciation is                                   difficult.
5.         Our problem is over-population – we have                                         people.
6.         The report was very long – it had                                   information.
7.         Have you got                           data for your thesis?
8          Do you think there are                                     problems with this project?
9          Why is there                                         pollution in this river?
10        Why are there                                       different pollutants?

Answers below!


1   enough
2   too
3   enough
4   too
5   too many
6   too much
7   enough
8   too many
9   so much
10 so many

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Polar bears - listening lesson 1

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

It is difficult to find time to do some listening, but it is an important skill.

The BBC Learning English site has a lot of listening material. They are good because they are short and easy to use. You can listen on-line or download the listening and print the text.
Have a look at this recent one:
Scientists track polar bear’s nine-day swim

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Vocabulary learning websites

There are many websites to help you with your vocabulary. Here are some of my recommendations.

One Word A Day
Every day you are sent an email with a word (or phrase); you are given three possible answers to choose from. The reason this site is so good is that it uses English to explain the meaning of the word and gives lots of examples. And it's free!

Cambridge Word of the Day
There are many 'word of the day' sites, but they often have very difficult or unusual words which are not suitable for a learner (or even for a native speaker!). The Cambridge site works because it gives a definition of a word from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary.

Snappy Words online dictionary
Make your own word maps! Type in a word and see related words and synonyms

Do you use these sites? What do you think of them?
What other websites can you recommend?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Animal idioms - crossword

One of my recommended sites is BBC Learning English. It has a lot of great material - reading, listening, vocabulary, etc.
This week they have a fun crossword looking at animal idioms. Have a look and see how many you know!
Let me know how you got on!
English is full of idioms - do you know any more animal idioms?

There is also a lesson on animal idioms on this blog.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Ramsar Convention anniversary

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

This year is a big anniversary for the Ramsar Convention.
But how much do you know about this important agreement?
Read this article and then answer the questions:

1: Where is the city of Ramsar?
2: When was the Ramsar agreement signed?
3: When is World Wetlands Day?
4: How many countries have signed the Ramsar Agreement ('contracting parties')?
5: In which country is the Ramsar Secretariat based?
6: Which country has the largest number of Ramsar sites? (You may have to look around to find the answer to this one!)

Finally, what do you think of the Convention? Has it been successful? Let me know what you think.

Answers below!


1  Iran
2  2nd February 1971
3  2nd February, every year
4  160
5  Switzerland
6  The United Kingdom

Friday, 4 February 2011

Geography - vocabulary lesson 1

What word matches these definitions? The first letter is given.
        1. A very large sea                                             o                                 
2. Land with sea on all sides                           i                                                          
3. Where a river meets the sea                     m                                         
                                                                      or         d                                 
                                                                      or         e                                 
4. A river that flows into another river     t                                              
5. Where a river starts                                      s                                  
                                                                     or          s                                  
6. A river of ice                                                    g                                 
7. The top of a mountain                                 s                                           
                                                                    or           p                                
8. Where land meets sea very steeply        c                               
9. A small river                                                     s                                           
                                                                     or          b                                 
10. Land with sea on three sides                   p                                  

Got them all?! If not, ask me and I will help you out!
For more practice with geographical words, try the geography crossword.

Answers below!


1   ocean
2   island
3   mouth
4   tributary
5   source
6   glacier
7   summit
8   cliff
9   stream
10 peninsula

EU energy challenge

The EU has set a "20-20-20" goal: a 20% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020; a 20% increase in the share of renewable energy; and a 20% cut in energy consumption.
Can it be done? Here are some articles on the subject:
Germany targets 100% renewables by 2050
An article in The Guardian and a press release from the German government
Sluggish Europe seeks new energy boost
A report from the BBC

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Oysters disappearing

'Globally, 85% of oyster beds have disappeared.'
Another excellent blog from Richard Black on the BBCs Earth Watch pages:

Shark populations dwindle

Shark Populations Dwindle as Top Catchers Delay on Conservation Actions
Why are shark populations so at risk? What can we do to help them?

Read this worrying report here from the Pew Charitable Trusts: