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 240 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

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wild animals - crossword

Here is our regular Wednesday crossword from the BBC:
Wild animals crossword

A couple of difficult ones in there! Let me know how you get on.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ospreys in the UK

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Here is our regular reading from Wildlife Extra. This week we look at migrating ospreys returning to the UK.

Read the article and answers these questions:

1 When were the returning ospreys first seen?
2 How long do ospreys normally survive?
3 How many times has EJ returned to the same site?
4 When do osprey eggs start to hatch?
5 What do ospreys eat?

And a bonus question - what is the scientific (Latin) name for the osprey. It is not mentioned in the article, so you will have to look elsewhere!

Answers below!


1 7th March
2 Eight years on average
3 Nine
4 Late May / early June
5 Fish

Friday, 25 March 2011

Habitat destruction - FCE lesson

Level: FCE / B2 
Habitat Destruction

Read the text below and decide which answer A, B, C or D best fits each space. There is an example at the beginning (0).

0          A environs       B place            C environment                         D ground

All over the world, people are changing the face of the Earth. Wild areas are cleared for farming and to build roads and expand cities. Our factories, cars and power stations poison the (0) ..C... with polluting gases and chemical (1) ..... . As well as transforming the environment, we are destroying habitats, the homes of (2) ..... plants and animals.

Living things have evolved (3) ..... millions of years. Many animals and plants can only (4) ..... in certain environments. When (5) ..... areas are destroyed, wildlife cannot always (6) ..... to the new conditions and some species may (7) ..... . Thousands of species of plants and animals face extinction because of human activities.

People can also (8) ..... from habitat destruction. When forests are (9) ..... earth is washed away, this causes crop failure and starvation. There is the future to consider, too; plants provide essential food and can also be used in medicines. If species (10) ..... extinct, their potential value will never be known.

The scale of destruction is enormous. Swamps, forests, grasslands and jungles are being cleared at an increasing (11) ..... . Half of the world's tropical rainforests have (12) ..... been destroyed. Coral reefs, called the rainforests of the ocean because they are so rich in life, are (13) .....  around the world. We must limit the (14) ..... to habitats now (15) ..... they remain a valuable resource for the future.

1          A   rubbish       B   nonsense          C  remains             D   waste  
2          A   both            B   each                 C  every                  D   either  
3          A   over            B   in                      C  during                D   since  
4          A   persist         B   survive             C  go                       D   attend  
5          A   so                B   this                   C  such                   D   that  
6          A   adapt          B   use                    C  stand                 D   bear  
7          A   fade out      B   die out              C  give out             D   run out  
8          A   experience  B   feel                   C  suffer                 D   damage  
9          A   cut down    B   pulled down     C  put down          D   struck down  
10        A   get               B   die                    C  result                D   become  
11        A   degree          B   rate                  C  extent               D   index  
12        A   still              B   even                 C  already              D   yet  
13        A   threatened  B   violated            C  wasted              D   spoilt  
14        A   injury          B   hurt                  C  damage            D   pain  
15        A   so that         B   in order to        C   in case             D   as a result  

Adapted from Fast Track to FCE, Longman

Answers below!

1  D  waste
2  A  both
3  A  over
4  B  survive
5  C  such
6  A  adapt
7  B  die out
8  C  suffer
9  A  cut down
10 D  become
11 B  rate
12 C  already
13 A  threatened
14 C damage
15 A  so that

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011

Insect quiz

Something a bit different for you this Monday - a great online insect quiz from the Woodland Trust.
Can you get all 12 correct and win a certificate?!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Prepositions - grammar lesson 2

Level: Intermediate / B1

Put the correct preposition in the space:

1.         My office is                  the National Park
2.         I am not                       the office this week
3.         I will be back              work next week
4.         This is a good place for seeing bats                night
5.         We will go and listen to the nightingales                    dusk
6.         There is time for some bird watching                         the morning
7.         Who is that with you              the photograph?
8.         Kiel is              the north
9.         Brighton is                  the south coast
10.       The nature reserve is               the north of Prague
11.       The visitor centre is marked                the map
12.       Write your name                     the top of the page
13.       We are almost                         the end of the guided walk
14.       There is a core zone                 the middle of the Park

Answers below!


1  in / near 
2  in
3  at
4  at
5  at
6  in
7  in
8  in
9  on
10 to /in (be careful - they have different meanings!)
11 on
12 at
13 at
14 in

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Spring - crossword

It looks like spring has finally arrived.
Are the flowers appearing around you? Which ones?

To celebrate, here is our regular crossword from the BBC:
Spring crossword

Let me know how you got on!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Badgers in Wales

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Here is another item from Wildlife Extra. This is good site for environmental articles. You can sign up for free and get a weekly or monthly email with all the latest news.

This week there is an article about a badger cull in Wales. Read the article and answer these questions:

1 What is a cull?
2 What disease do the badgers have?
3 The RSPCA thinks there are better ways of dealing with the problem. What are they?
4 According to the ISG, how many badgers were killed over ten years?
5 How big is the cull area?

What do you think about culling the badgers? What other species do you know of that are culled? And for what reason?
Please let us know your thoughts.

Answers below!


1  Culling is the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria. This is done in order either to reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group. For livestock and wildlife, the process of culling usually implies the killing of animals with undesirable characteristics.
2  Bovine TB (tuberculosis)
3  vaccination, increased levels of testing, improved biosecurity and stricter controls on cattle movement.
4  about 11,000
5  288km2

Friday, 11 March 2011

Where are the rainforests? - FCE gap fill

Level: FCE / B2

Here is a gap-fill exercise from First Certificate in English (FCE).
There are fifteen gaps in the text. The most common grammatical words that are removed from the text are:
• prepositions (e.g. on, in, to)
• quantifiers (e.g. little, few)
• auxiliary verbs (e.g. do, are, have)
• determiners (e.g. the, most, another)
• relative pronouns (e.g. whom, who, where)
• possessive adjectives (e.g. my, his, their)

Read the following text and fill in the gaps with an appropriate word.

Where are the rainforests?

Rainforests once occupied almost all the land around the Equator, (1)                      there is hot sun and rainfall almost every day. In these hot, wet areas, trees and (2)                                  kinds of vegetation grow fast, feeding massive numbers (3)                             insects and animals.

Until recently, the rainforests filled river valleys in warmer countries (4)                   Australia. They climbed hillsides of great mountain chains (5)                           as the South American Andes, and covered islands (6)                      Borneo to the West Indies.

In West Africa, the rainforests cover (7)                     wide strip of the coast from Sierra Leone to Gabon. In the last century these forests (8)                       mostly uninhabited. The Europeans arrived and soon began chopping (9)                the trees for timber and to make way for massive plantations of cocoa, peanuts and cotton.

Today, two thirds of the West African forests (10)                            gone. But elsewhere in Central Africa it (11)                                       still possible to find huge undisturbed forests. Nineteenth century explorers along (12)                 River Zaire called Africa the 'dark continent'. Even today (13)                                 are no roads in some places. The inhabitants include pygmies, (14)                                     are trying to lead (15)                                     lives in harmony with the forest.
Adapted from First Certifiacate Gold, Langman 2000

Answers below!


1  where
2  all / other
3  of
4  like
5  such
6  from
7  a
8  were
9  down
10 have
11 is
12 the
13 there
14 who
15 their

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

Lions in crisis

Level: Upper intermediate / B2

Here is another item from Wildlife Extra. This is good site for environmental articles. You can sign up for free and get a weekly or monthly email with all the latest news.

Read this article about lions and answer the questions.

1 How big was the lion population in 1980?

2 In how many countries do lions live?

3 Which country imports the most lion parts and trophies?

4 Apart from hunting for trophies and body parts, the article lists 4 other threats to lions. What are they?

5 What is Richard Benyon's job?

And a bonus question - what is the spelling mistake in the middle of the article?!

What do you think about the trade in animal body parts and trophies?
What can be done about it?

Answers below!


1 76,000
2 27
3 The USA
4 loss of habitat, loss of prey, diseases, retaliatory killings
5 UK Minister for Biodiversity

Got them all?!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Nature - vocabulary lesson 4

Those of you who have been on one of my courses will recognize this exercise (and you should get them all correct!).

Put the following words into the correct sentences. Use each word only once.

     countryside    country     nature     the wild     landscape

     scenery     habitat     rural     view     environment

1   Turner was one of England's most famous                                painters.

2   Animals should live in                                and not be kept in zoos.

3   I would rather live in the                                than in a city.

4   We went for a long walk in the                                .

5   There is not much work in most                                areas.

6   I like to watch                                programmes on tv.

7   Many people are worried about the way we are destroying the                               .

8   Deforestation is destroying important                               s.

9   It was a lovely house with a wonderful                                of the lake.

10 Many people go to Switzerland because of its beautiful                                .

Need any help? I'll give you a clue if you ask nicely!
Answers below!


1   landscape
2   the wild
3   country
4   countryside
5   rural
6   nature
7   environment
8   habitat
9   view
10 scenery

Quite difficult, wasnt't it! Some confusing words. Any you are not sure about?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

How would you meet energy demands and reduce carbon emissions by 2050?

To meet its climate change targets, the UK aims to reduce its co2 emissions to 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2050. But how to achieve such a large reduction?

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has produced a new interactive online modelling tool My 2050.

Users can decide what needs to be done - should we have more nuclear power, more electric cars, reduce temperatures at home?

Have a go on the model and try out your ideas for reducing emissions. It's not easy to meet the 80% target!
The graphics are very good - watch them change as you alter supply and demand for energy.
Click on 'Find out more about the sliders' for information about energy and climate change.

Let me know what you think of it. What is your country doing about emissions? Do you know of any similar models or online activities?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Plant idioms - crossword

Here is our regular Wednesday crossword from the BBC Learning English website.
English is full of idioms. A couple of weeks ago we had animal idioms crossword.
Now lets try plants!

Plant idioms crossword

How was it? Not too bad?
Do you know any other plant idioms?
Do you have any plant idioms in your language?