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

Monday, 30 May 2011

Great Gorillas - video lesson 3

Level: Intermediate / B1

On Saturday I took part in the Great Gorilla Run in Prague (for photos, see their Facebook page). So, here is a short, fun video lesson about gorillas.

Here is a video about a Great Gorilla Run (in London, 2006).

Watch it and answer these questions:

1 How long is the run?
2 How many gorillas are running?
3 Fill in the gaps: ''More                      , more                     , and more                           then you have ever seen before!''
4 What does the expression ''I've gone ape!'' mean?
5 How many mountain gorillas are left living in the wild?
6 How much has the population grown with the help of the Gorilla Organisation?

Hope you enjoy it!
(Read more about Great Gorilla Run)

Answers below!


1 7km ('seven k')
2 1,000
3 hair, sweat, bananas
4 I've gone crazy
5 700
6 20%

Friday, 27 May 2011

Global warming - FCE lesson

Level: FCE / B2

Global warming

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  recognised              B  regarded                 C  registered                D  represented

The Earth's climate is a very complicated system. What's more, it is now widely (0) ..A.. that human activity is having an effect on it. The pollution which (1) ..... from the use of oil and coal in industry, (2) ..... the increased use of private cars, is causing significant changes in temperature in many parts of the world. These changes often have a knock-on effect on other aspects of the climate, (3) ..... to things like extreme weather (4) .....  and rising sea levels.

Studying the changes which are taking (5) .....  and predicting those that are (6) ..... to happen in the future is now a major area of scientific research. The information which the scientists (7) ..... is very useful in helping governments to (8) .....  the effects of climate change and so be better prepared to (9) .....  with them.

A much more (10) .....  problem, however, is how to prevent the situation from (11) .....  worse. This depends on how quickly, and to what extent, the (12) ..... of pollution in the atmosphere increases. Although many countries have now agreed to try and limit the pollution they create, much more (13) ..... to be done. If no further action is (14) .....  , then temperatures are set to rise by about 0.2% per decade (15) .....  the 21st century. Such a rate of warming is greater than anything that has occurred over the last ten thousand years.

 1          A  recovers      B  concludes    C  results          D  happens
2          A  as far as      B  as soon as    C  as long as    D  as well as
3          A  leading        B  causing        C  finishing      D  producing
4          A  examples    B  conditions    C  cases            D  instances
5          A  point           B  part              C  path             D  place
6          A  surely         B  probably      C  likely            D  possibly
7          A  provide       B  progress       C  prove            D  propose
8          A  prevent       B  pretend        C  predict          D  prefer
9          A  handle        B  face              C  manage        D  cope
10        A  serious       B  determined   C  thoughtful   D  anxious
11        A  going          B  giving           C  getting         D  gaining
12        A  addition     B  amount        C average         D  account
13        A  needs          B  wants           C wishes          D  hopes
14        A  held            B  taken            C made            D  carried
15        A  already       B  during          C while             D  still

Adapted from Fast Track to FCE, Longman

Answers below!

1  C results
2  D as well as
3  A leading
4  B conditions
5  D place
6  C likely
7  A provide
8  C predict
9  D cope
10 A serious
11 C getting
12 B amount
13 A needs
14 B taken
15 B during

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Reading: The White Carpathians

Something a bit different today. I want to show you an exercise from a course I am running this weekend in the White Carapatian (Bílé Karpaty) Protected Landscape Area (PLA) in the Czech Republic. This was sent to the students before the course as homework and we went through it today in the classroom.

Bílé Karpaty Protected Landscape Area

A         What is the name of the PLA we are close to?

B         What is so special about it?

C         Check the meaning of these words before reading the article:
     1         Quail (Coturnix coturnix),
     2         Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
     3         Corncrake (Crex crex)  
     4         calcareous  
     5          impermeable
     6          run-off
     7          landslide
     8          orchard
     9          orchid
     10        meadow

D         Read the article and answer these questions:
    1          What is special about Bílé Karpaty PLA?
    2          What type of soil is most common?
    3          True or false: the area is over 1,000 metres above sea level.
    4          What is different about the area around Valašské Klobouky?
    5         When was the area designated as a Biosphere Reserve? 
    6         Why have the meadows been disappearing?
    7         Which is larger – the Czech or Slovak PLA?
    8         How many other protected areas are within Bílé Karpaty PLA?

 Bílé Karpaty PLA

1. The Bílé Karpaty Protected Landscape Area (PLA) is situated in the South-Moravian Region and Zlín Region. Its management is seated in the spa town of Luhačovice.  

2.The PLA borders the Slovak Biele Karpaty PLA (435 sq km). The SW-NE oriented mountain range represents the westernmost outshoot of the Carpathians. It is a country of rolling hills intersected with stream valleys, and lies between 175-970 m above sea level. It represents an extraordinary area for reason of its vast areas of species-rich calcareous meadows with an exceptionally rich flora and entomofauna, and its old-growth beech forests.

3. The north-eastern part of the area, in the surroundings of Valašské Klobouky and Brumov-Bylnice, is called South Wallachia after their colonisers. The landscape is of a more mountainous nature. The large areas of semi-natural beech forests around the Vlára pass are among the best conserved woodlands of the Czech Republic.

5. The White Carpathians are based on Magura flysch - impermeable sedimentary rock consisting of mainly calcareous clay and sandstone. The impermeability of these formations causes rapid surface run-off resulting in minor groundwater accumulation and the occurrence of many small flushes and some mineral springs. Almost the entire area is subject to water erosion and landslides. The predominant soil types are brown soils (Cambisol), with rare occurrence of Chernozem and Phaeozem soils. In floodplains Fluvisol and around springs Glaysol soils occur.

7. Old orchards and solitary fruit-trees form an indivisible part of the countryside. These are, however, gradually disappearing and being replaced by modern cultivars. Since the beginning of the 1990s, local varieties have been identified and preserved. So far, more than 600 trees of local or rare old cultivars of apple, pear, cherry, plum and service tree (Sorbus domestica) have been documented.

8. The meadows are the most outstanding feature of the area. At the beginning of the 20th century they were many more than today. After World War II a considerable part was ploughed up or excessively fertilised, but also lack of management contributed to their degeneration.

9. What makes them unique is their diverse and plentiful orchid assemblage. Most common are Gymnadenia conopsea, Listera ovata, Platanthera bifolia, and Traunsteinera globosa. Neither Orchis mascula nor O. militaris are rare. In the north-eastern part, Dactylorhiza sambucina and Orchis morio are quite abundant. Real jewels are Anacamptis pyramidalis  and Ophrys fuciflora, scattered all over the White Carpathians but altogether absent from the rest of the country.

10. They also provide refuge to a number of rare birds, e.g. quail (Coturnix coturnix), corncrake (Crex crex), meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis), corn bunting (Miliaria calandra), whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), and stonechat (Saxicola torquata). A common bird of prey throughout the area is the honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus).

Designated: 1980
Area: 747 km2
Small-scale protected areas in the PLA:
    - 5 National nature reserve
    - 15 Nature reserves
    - 1 National Nature monuments
    - 31 Nature monument
UNESCO Biosphere Reserves 1996

Answers below!


    1          What is special about Bílé Karpaty PLA?
its vast areas of species-rich calcareous meadows with an exceptionally rich flora and entomofauna, and its old-growth beech forests.
    2          What type of soil is most common?
brown soils (Cambisol)
    3          True or false: the area is over 1,000 metres above sea level.
False - the maximum altitude is 970 metres.
    4          What is different about the area around Valašské Klobouky?
The landscape is of a more mountainous nature with large areas of semi-natural beech forests.
    5         When was the area designated as a Biosphere Reserve? 
    6         Why have the meadows been disappearing?
After World War II a considerable part was ploughed up or excessively fertilised, but also lack of management contributed to their degeneration
    7         Which is larger – the Czech or Slovak PLA?
Czech is 747 km2, Slovak is 435 km2 
    8         How many other protected areas are within Bílé Karpaty PLA?

Friday, 13 May 2011

Comparatives and superlatives - grammar lesson 4

Comparatives and superlatives

Level: Intermediate / B1

What are the comparative and superlative forms of these adjectives?

long             longer        longest





What are the rules for one-, two- and three-syllable adjectives?

Can you think of two more irregular adjectives like far?

Complete these sentences:

1.         The Nile is only                                                            (long) than the Amazon.

2.         Tokyo is the                                                                 (populated) city in the world.

3.         Mexico City is a little                                                               (big) than Mumbai.

4.         New York is the                                                                       (big) city in the world.

5.         The coast of Canada is                                     (long) than the coast of Indonesia.

6.         Los Angeles is a                                                           (far) south than San Francisco.

7.         India has a                                                        (big) university than any other country.

8.         France is much                                                 (popular) with tourists than the USA.

9.         London has                                                                  (busy) airport in the world .

10.       Japan has the                                                    (popular) theme park in the world.

Answers below!


long             longer        longest

big              bigger        biggest

busy           busier         busiest

popular       more popular  most popular

far              farther/further        farthest/furthest

1   slightly / a little longer
2   the most populated
3   bit bigger
4   fourth biggest
5   much longer
6   a lot farther
7   much bigger
8   more popular
9   the busiest
10  most popular

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Insects - crossword

This weeks crossword is on insects and arachnids. There are some good idioms in there!
Insects crossword

Friday, 6 May 2011

Energy - vocabulary lesson 4

Level: Advanced / C1

Replace the words and phrases in italics with words of similar meanings:

1)         Companies are being encouraged to develop alternative  renewable  energies.

2)      A steep rise in the price of oil could be devastating c                           for large numbers of businesses.

3)         Energy companies claim there is currently no lack s                           of oil.
4)      The increase in energy use c                              is resulting in high levels of pollution throughout the world.

5)         The price of getting oil out of the ground e                             looks set to soar.

6)         Many countries are reliant d                           on fossil fuels.

7)         We need to find new origins s                                    of energy.

8)         What will be the effects c                                            of limited oil supplies?

9)         Reserves will be used up d                              within the next 20 years, experts predict.

10)       Discharges e                             of pollution have never been so high.

Answers below!


1  renewable
2  catastrophic
3  shortage
4  consumption
5  extracting
6  dependent
7  sources
8  consequences
9  depleted
10 emissions

That was a tough one! Let me know what you thought of it.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Geography - crossword

This is a great crossword - lots of useful words (and one really difficult one!).
It is also a test for those of you who did the geography listening lesson (The Flatmates)!

Geography crossword

For more practice with geographical words, try the geographical words vocabulary lesson.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Geographical words - listening lesson 3

This week I want to have a closer look at the BBC's Learning English website.
One of their regular items is The Flatmates. You can listen to a short episode (just over a minute) and also do a quiz and some reading.
This particular episode (204) looks at geographical vocabulary. On the right you can see links for the episode and quiz as well as downloads of the material.

For more practice with geographical words, try the geography crossword, or the geographical words vocabulary lesson.