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Back in the 19th century, the Swedish scientist and businessman Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and other explosives. A French newspaper called him a “merchant of death” who “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before”. Nobel did not want to be remembered like this, so he decided to leave his fortune to people who make the world a better place. To do so, he created the Nobel Prize. Each year the Prize is awarded to eminent people in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Today the Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious award in these fields. Authors who write in English have dominated the Literature Prize with 28 winners out of 113 (plus 3 who wrote both in English and in another language). Among them are 11 American, 10 British and 4 Irish writers. The winners are chosen by the members of the Swedish Academy, helped by the advice of scholars from around the world. Not everybody agrees with the choices of the Academy, but no choice was more controversial than this year’s.

 

Are songs literature?

This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded not to a novelist, nor to a poet, nor to a playwright, but, for the first time, to a singer-songwriter: the American music legend Bob Dylan. The Academy chose him because he created “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Many writers and critics around the world praised the decision. Others agreed that it was time for an American writer to win the Prize – the last one was Tony Morrison who won it 23 years ago – but they believed that novelists like Philip Roth or Don DeLillo were far more deserving than Bob Dylan. Some claimed that songs belong to a different art form: they are not literature. Others said that even if one considers songs literature, Bob Dylan’s lyrics did not deserve a Nobel Prize. The heated debate continued, and while the world was discussing him, Bob Dylan said nothing.

 

Speechless or arrogant?

Bob Dylan did not comment on winning the Prize. Many wondered: was he going to refuse it? For sure, he was ignoring it. The Swedish Academy tried to get in touch with him, but it gave up after more than ten days of failed attempts. One of its members suggested that Dylan was being “impolite and arrogant.” A few more days passed and finally Dylan called the Academy and said that winning the Prize left him “speechless.” He accepted the Prize but he wasn’t sure if he could attend the Nobel ceremony on 10 December. Again the world wondered: was he being rude a second time? The days passed and finally Dylan said that he was not going to the Nobel ceremony due to “pre-existing commitments.” What could be more important than receiving from the hands of the King of Sweden the greatest literary prize in the world?

 

Prizes and artistic freedom

The critics of Bob Dylan’s attitude probably did not consider that not all writers approve of the Nobel Prize. In 1925 Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw almost refused it. He wittily said: “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.” He probably considered prizes fit for competitions, not for art forms such as literature. In 1964, French writer Jean-Paul Sartre won the Prize but refused it. He claimed that a writer should be free and should not be “institutionalised.” Bob Dylan differs from Shaw and Sartre because he accepted the Prize and seems to consider it important. His attitude, though, seems to suggest that he also believes, like Shaw and Sartre, that artistic freedom is more important. Writers write for personal reasons or to communicate with their readers, not to win prizes. If they win them, that’s fine, but it’s no big deal. Even if it is the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Useful links

1) Watch this video to learn more about the Nobel Prize: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94YQ3el6LMc

2) Here is the official page of the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/

3) Find out some interesting facts about the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/literature/index.html

4) What do you know about this year’s winner? Learn more about Bob Dylan here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/bio-bibl.html

5) George Bernard Shaw was famous for his intelligent, often witty remarks: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_bernard_shaw.html

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Alfred Nobel was criticized because
  1. his inventions were dangerous.
  2. he created the Nobel Prize.
  3. he became rich.
2. The winners of the Nobel Prize are chosen by
  1. Alfred Nobel.
  2. the Swedish Academy.
  3. scholars from around the world.
3. So far, the winners of the Prize who wrote in English are
  1. 113.
  2. 28.
  3. 31.
4. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize because of his
  1. novels.
  2. plays.
  3. songs.
5. One of the 11 American Nobel Prize winners for Literature is
  1. Tony Morrison.
  2. Philip Roth.
  3. George Bernard Shaw.
6. The Swedish Academy called Bob Dylan, but
  1. Dylan answered that he was busy.
  2. they couldn’t get through.
  3. Dylan said that he was not interested in the Prize.
7. Bob Dylan
  1. said he will accept the Nobel Prize on 10 December.
  2. refused the Nobel Prize.
  3. accepted the Nobel Prize.
8. George Bernard Shaw said that
  1. dynamite was a worse invention than the Nobel Prize.
  2. the Nobel Prize was a worse invention than dynamite.
  3. he did not want to be “institutionalised.”
9. The Nobel Prize was refused by
  1. George Bernard Shaw.
  2. Bob Dylan.
  3. Jean-Paul Sartre.
10. Dylan, Shaw and Sartre believe in
  1. artistic freedom.
  2. the importance of literary prizes.
  3. the importance of the Nobel Prize.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

eminent  *  speechless  *  commitment  *  wit  *  merchant  *  lyrics  *  fortune  *  field  *  scholar  *  fiend

1. The surprise made her so happy that it left her ______. 2. Shaw was full of ______: he could always make funny and intelligent remarks. 3. The words of a song are called ______. 4. When he died, the rich businessman left a ______ to his children. 5. A ______ is a large open space, but it can also mean a specific area or subject of human activity. 6. A ______ is a devilish, evil person. 7. If you promise to do something, you are making a ______. 8. Einstein was an ______ physicist: he was among the best scientists of his age. 9. A person who works buying and selling goods is called a ______. 10. That professor is a Latin ______: he’s been studying that ancient language all his life.  

GRAMMAR – Conjunctions

3) Complete the sentences using the following conjunctions:

because  (x2) *  unless  * although  while  *  that  *  whereas  *  when  *  if  *  but

1. Alfred Nobel was called a “merchant of death” ______ he invented dynamite. 2. Alfred Nobel was so shocked by the criticism ______ he decided to become a philanthropist. 3. ______ the Academy announced the winner, the journalists let out a gasp of surprise. 4. ______ he is a songwriter, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 5. ______ Bob Dylan remained silent, the world talked about him. 6. Many critics agreed with the Academy’s choice, ______ many others did not. 7. A member of the Academy said that Bob Dylan was rude  ______ he did not answer the Academy’s calls. 8. Bob Dylan said he would go to the Ceremony ______ he had previous commitments. 9. “______ I have nothing else to do, I will come,” he said. 10. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, ______ Philip Roth did not.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Who is your favourite writer? Why do you like his/her work? Has he/she taught you something important? (60-80 words)

5) Do some research on Bob Dylan or on another Nobel Prize winner, then write about him/her. (60-80 words)

 --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: mtarvainen, flickr and Francisco Antunes, flickr)

 

[post_title] => Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize [post_excerpt] => On 13 October the Swedish Academy announced the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Prize is the most important literary award in the world and this year’s winner was the most controversial ever. Not only because he was the first songwriter to win the Prize, but also because for weeks nobody knew if he was going to accept it. Learn more about the Nobel Prize in Literature and this year’s winner: American rock legend Bob Dylan. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bob-dylan-wins-the-nobel-prize [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-30 11:16:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-30 10:16:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11361 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-11-02 15:29:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:29:40 [post_content] =>

Fear is not a pleasant emotion, but most people like a little thrill in their lives. Some people might enjoy reading a horror novel, others might like riding on a ghost train in an amusement park. Strangely, being frightened can be fun. One of the year’s most beloved celebrations, Halloween, revolves around fear. On that day, many adults sit at home to watch horror films, and many children go trick-or-treating, dressed as scary creatures such as vampires, ghosts, zombies and witches. But this year’s Halloween was a little different. One outfit was particularly popular even if it wasn’t a traditional monster costume: this year lots of people dressed up as scary clowns.

 

Scary Clowns

The wave of ‘scary clowns’ began months before Halloween. In August, the people of Wisconsin saw an unkempt clown with black balloons walking the streets. In September and October, dozens of other scary clowns appeared across the US, the UK, Australia and other countries. Sometimes these clowns just wandered around looking scary. Other times they jumped out of nowhere and started chasing people. Sometimes they even frightened passersby with fake weapons. Most of these scary clowns proved harmless, but some took the joke too far and ended up injuring people. A few were arrested for “making a terrorist threat connected to ‘clown-related activity’.” This sounds ridiculous, but it’s not funny at all. Policemen have better things to do than arrest people dressed as scary clowns! Following police advice, many schools banned clown costumes from Halloween celebrations.

 

It

Nobody knows the reason for this scary clown craze. Some believe that it’s a way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the horror novel It written by Stephen King. It tells the story of a group of kids terrorized by a mysterious monster. This creature often disguises itself as a clown called Pennywise. Before writing the book, King wondered: “what scares children more than anything else in the world?” The answer he gave himself was: clowns. Clowns can be ambiguous: who is hiding behind the face paint? Are their drawn smiles sincere, or are they the smiles of madmen such as the Joker, Batman’s enemy? If the recent wave of scary clowns is paying homage to the novel It, Stephen King is not grateful. He recently tweeted: “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria – most of them are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”

 

A noble tradition

Indeed, the professional clowns who want to make people laugh are worried by what’s happening. They say there’s a big difference between real clowns and people in scary masks. Their profession has a noble tradition: there were clowns already in ancient Egypt! Clowns believe that “laughter is health,” and with their acts they explore emotions such as happiness and sadness, but also hate and fear. A clown wants to teach people to face life and difficulties with a smile. They also teach resilience: clowns survive anything that’s thrown at them. Many clowns do good around the world. For example, Clowns Without Borders is an association of clowns who entertain and help children in war zones. Patch Adams, similarly, is a doctor who uses ‘clowntherapy’ to help sick children in hospitals. Although these professionals are worried by the scary clown craze, they are confident that they’ll survive. “We’ve been around for centuries,” they say. “We’ll still be here after these people in scary masks are long gone!”

Useful links 1) Read about the origin and history of Halloween: http://www.familyeducation.com/fun/history-halloween/spooktacular-history-halloween https://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

2) Learn more about clowns and scary clowns in this short video: http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/clowns-funny-scary-43146002

3) Find out how a man dressed up as Batman is chasing down the scary clowns: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/12/man-dressed-as-batman-chases-killer-clowns-in-cumbria/

4) Learn more about the history of clowning: http://www.humourfoundation.com.au/resources/history-of-clowning.html

5) Read and listen to what professional clowns have to say about the scary clown craze: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/13/clowns-clown-craze-professionals-costume-sightings-phenomenon

6) Here are the American and British websites for Clowns without Borders: http://www.clownswithoutborders.org/ http://clownswithoutborders.org.uk/

7) Learn about Patch Adams and his work: http://www.patchadams.org/

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. People who like being scared probably enjoy celebrating
  1. Christmas.
  2. Halloween.
  3. New Year’s Eve.
2. Traditionally, on Halloween children go trick-or-treating dressed as
  1. clowns.
  2. adults.
  3. monsters.
3. The first scary clown was seen in
  1. the US.
  2. the UK.
  3. Australia.
4. The scary clowns craze is
  1. an American phenomenon.
  2. a British phenomenon.
  3. an international phenomenon.
5. The police are not happy because
  1. scary clowns are a distraction from their real work.
  2. scary clowns are not funny.
  3. scary clowns are banned from schools.
6. Thirty years ago Stephen King created a famous character:
  1. Batman.
  2. Pennywise.
  3. Joker.
7. Stephen King asked the people dressed as crazy clowns
  1. to pay homage to his novel It.
  2. to calm down.
  3. to continue scaring people.
8. Professional clowns are interested in exploring
  1. all kinds of emotions.
  2. only positive emotions.
  3. only negative emotions.
9. Clowning has been around for
  1. hundreds of years.
  2. thousands of years.
  3. less than a hundred years.
10. Patch Adams and his clowns work
  1. in war zones.
  2. in circuses.
  3. in hospitals.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

craze  *  passerby  *  to disguise  *  outfit  *  unkempt  *  ban  *  resilient  *  grateful  *  to revolve  *  harmless

1. The spy ______ himself using a wig and dark glasses. 2. There’s a ______ on cigarettes in this building: you can’t smoke inside. 3. Clowns are ______: they recover quickly from the bad things that happen to them. 4. I was very ______ that mom helped me with my homework. 5. The garden looks ______: nobody has mowed the lawn in ages. 6. That dog is ______: sure, he barks a lot but he doesn’t bite. 7. The latest  ______ in fashion is purple jeans. Everybody wants them. 8. The lady fell in the middle of the street and a ______ helped her up. 9. Halloween films usually ______ around ghosts and monsters. 10. A vampire ______ must include fake vampire teeth and a black cape.

GRAMMAR – Adverbs of place, time, manner, degree

3) Complete the sentences using the following adverbs:

only  *  nowhere  *  lately  *  yet  *  extremely  * everywhere  * carefully  *  there  *  really  *  warily  *  soon  *  angrily

1. The clown hasn’t finished his act ______. 2. ______ there has been a wave of crazy clowns in the UK 3. The professional clown ______ claimed that the crazy clowns are stupid people with scary masks 4. He was in no hurry, so he ______ put on the green zombie makeup 5. “The clown was over ______,” said the boy, pointing at the forest behind the school 6. The police are ______ worried about the clown craze 7. The clown jumped out of ______ and scared everybody 8. I ______ enjoyed the clown’s performance, it was great 9. He looked around the corner ______, thinking that the crazy clown was there 10. He celebrated Halloween ______ once 11. The clown craze has spread ______ in the US 12. Some say that the crown craze will ______ be over.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Did you celebrate Halloween this year? Did you wear a costume? Write about what you wore and what you did. (60-80 words)

5) Which is the scariest mask you can think of? Explain why you find it so frightening. (60-80 words)

   --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Graeme Maclean, flickr and Lucas Ramos Bispo, flickr)

 

[post_title] => The scary clown craze [post_excerpt] => This year’s Halloween was a little different: lots of people didn’t dress up as monsters, but as scary clowns. The scary clown craze began months ago and it spread quickly across the US and the UK. Dozens of scary clowns appeared out of nowhere to frighten people. Learn more about this strange phenomenon and about the ancient art of clowning. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-scary-clown-craze [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-28 16:14:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-28 15:14:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11361 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11179 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-09-29 15:16:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-29 13:16:50 [post_content] =>

London is a city of great diversity: more than one third of its inhabitants are foreign-born. It is the city with the second largest immigrant population in the world, after New York. All kinds of ethnicities and nationalities live in London, speaking more than 300 different languages. It was a diverse city already in the 19th century, when trade and wealth attracted many foreigners. For example, Chinese employees of the East India Company, a company that traded with Asia, settled in the neighbourhood of Limehouse. By the beginning of the 20th century, London was the largest city in the world, full of people from around the globe. But how diverse was the very first London, the Londinium that the Romans founded almost 2000 years ago? A recent archaeological find seems to suggest that it was somewhat similar to the London of today.

 

An “absolutely phenomenal” discovery

In the October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, British researchers published a study regarding 22 skeletons from a small Roman cemetery found in South London. Using cutting edge techniques, the scientists could make an educated guess about the origin of the skeletons. What they found was, according to them, “absolutely phenomenal.” Four people were ethnically African and two were Asian, most likely Chinese. This was the very first time people of Chinese origin were identified in Roman Britain. Londinium was an important centre of the Roman province of Britannia with a population of approximately 60,000, but it was still a provincial city on the very edge of the known world, far from the hub of the Empire. So what were Chinese people doing in London?

 

Beyond the Silk Road

At the time, the Roman Empire and the Chinese Han Empire were two huge civilizations at the opposite ends of the Eurasian continent. They were so distant that they knew little about each other besides rumours and legends. There was trade, though, between them. A thin, 8,000 kilometre route connected the Mediterranean to China: the so-called Silk Road. Along this route travelled the goods of Rome and China: Roman glassware reached Chinese homes and Chinese silks reached Roman markets. These goods were not transported by the Romans and the Chinese, but by the many traders who bought and sold them along the Silk Road. At least this is what our current historical knowledge tells us. The finds of the Chinese skeletons in London might change all this. If two Chinese had wondered so far from the Silk Road to distant Britannia, the relations between the two ancient empires might have been much deeper than previously thought.

 

A mystery in Londinium

Maybe the Chinese people in London were merchants. Maybe they were ambassadors or the descendants of Chinese travellers. Maybe they were not free men: sadly, slaves were also traded along the Silk Road. What’s certain is that the finds in London have raised a mystery. More data will be needed to solve it. The skeletons analysed were few, and the method used to determine their origin is not infallible. What is absolutely certain is that the ‘Chinese skeletons’ were from people not born in Britain. Their Chinese origin, however, must be confirmed by further testing. What these skeletons (as well as the four African ones) prove, though, is that there was great diversity in the Roman Empire, even in the far away province of Britannia. This reinforces other previous archaeological finds that showed that ancient Londinium is not so different from modern London: it was an important trading centre as well as a multicultural city.

Useful websites

Read more about the “absolutely phenomenal” discovery of the Chinese skeletons in London: http://www.history.com/news/possible-chinese-skeletons-could-rewrite-roman-history

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/chinese-skeleton-discovery-roman-history-society-southwark-cemetery-asian-remains-a7330666.html

Listen to this brief audio. One of the researchers who studied the Chinese skeletons talks about them on BBC radio: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37452287

Watch this video about the ethnic diversity of Roman Londinium: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34809804

Research the Silk Road, starting from this Wikipedia Simple English article: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road

Read about London’s Chinatown: http://www.chinatownlondon.org/

Learn more about London’s history: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/a-brief-history-of-london

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The city with the largest immigrant population in the world is
  1. London.
  2. New York.
  3. Limehouse.
2. London was founded by ‘foreigners’:
  1. the Chinese.
  2. the Indians.
  3. the Romans.
3. Londinium was
  1. an important city in Britannia.
  2. the largest city in the world.
  3. the largest city of the Roman Empire.
4. British researchers made an “absolutely phenomenal” discovery:
  1. Londinium had a population of 60,000.
  2. non-European people lived in Londinium.
  3. they found 22 skeletons in a Roman cemetery.
5. The Silk Road was
  1. trading route.
  2. a road built by the Romans.
  3. a road built by the Chinese.
6. From what we know, the Romans and the Chinese
  1. knew very much about each other.
  2. did not know each other.
  3. knew very little about each other.
7. The Roman Londinium
  1. was very far from the Silk Road.
  2. was on the Silk Road.
  3. was on the Mediterranean.
8. The Romans loved
  1. Chinese legends.
  2. Chinese glassware.
  3. Chinese silk.
9. The study on the ‘Chinese skeletons’ proves that
  1. there were lots of Chinese living in Londinium.
  2. foreigners lived in Londinium.
  3. Chinese merchants reached Londinium.
10. The study on the ‘Chinese skeletons’
  1. raised a mystery.
  2. solved a mystery.
  3. did not discover anything new.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

glassware  *  to settle  *  to found  *  diverse  *  cutting edge  *  educated guess  *  hub  *  goods  *  rumour  *  to trade

1. A gossip or an unconfirmed story is called a ______ . 2. An ______ is a conclusion based on previous knowledge or facts. 3. Romulus and Remus ______ the city of Rome. 4. Objects or containers made of glass can be defined as ______. 5. The word ______ can be used to describe the centre of a wheel, an airport, and the most active part of a city or place. 6. The things for sale that can be found in shops are called ______. 7. ______ technology is the newest and most advanced technology there is. 8. The class was very ______: there were students from 10 different countries. 9. Many immigrants ______ in London, making it their new home. 10. Today we usually ______ using money, but once it was common to do it by exchanging goods.  

GRAMMAR – Comparative and superlative adjectives

3) Complete the sentences using the adjective in brackets with comparatives of majority (+) minority (–) or equality (=), or superlatives (S). 1. New York has a ______ (large) immigrant population than London. (+) 2. London is ______ (diverse) New York. (=) 3. Early 20th century London was ______ (large) city in the world. (S) 4. New York is ______  (old) than London. (–) 5. London is not ______ (old) city in the world. (S) 6. One of ______ (far) cities of the Roman Empire was Londinium. (S) 7. Londinium was ______ (far) from Rome than China. (–) 8. The Roman Empire was ______ (large) the Chinese Empire. (=) 9. The Silk Road was ______  (good) route to get from China to Rome. (S) 10. Ancient history is probably ______ (mysterious) than we think. (+)  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Research the history of your city. Who founded it? Who were the first settlers? Compare it to the way it is today. (60-80 words)

5) Which is the most incredible archaeological find you can think of? Explain why you think it’s so interesting. (60-80 words)

6) Imagine that archaeologists make an unexpected, incredible discovery. Think of something really revolutionary. (Roman ruins in America? A UFO inside the Great Pyramid?) Write a report of the discovery, and explain how it will rewrite history. (60-80 words)

 --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and Dun.Can, flickr) [post_title] => Roman Londinium: an international city [post_excerpt] => History books tell us that the Roman Londinium was a provincial town at the very edge of the known world, very different from the international London of today. A recent archaeological find disagrees, promising to rewrite history, not just of London, but of the whole ancient world. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => roman-londinium-an-international-city [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-02 15:36:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:36:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11179 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11020 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-09-15 11:56:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-15 09:56:51 [post_content] =>

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro finished with no surprises at the very top of the medal table: the United States came 1st with 46 gold medals. The US has come 1st 5 times in the last 6 Summer Olympics. Its most famous athlete is probably the swimmer Michael Phelps who won 5 golds and 1 silver in Rio. That’s one person winning more medals than some entire countries – only 18 nations won more golds than Phelps did by himself! Other ‘usual suspects’ such as China, Russia, Germany, France and Italy were among the top 10 nations in the medals table. But there was one big surprise in 2nd place: the United Kingdom. The UK won 27 gold medals in a wide range of disciplines, from athletics to cycling, from rowing to gymnastics.

 

Rise to the top

This feat is incredible if one thinks of the UK’s Olympic past. Twenty years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the UK won only 1 gold medal, finishing 36th in the medal table. This was the UK’s worst Olympics after many bad ones. Never, since World War II, had the UK won more than 6 golds. After hitting rock-bottom in 1996, something changed: the UK started climbing up the medal table. It came 10th in Sydney 2000, 10th in Athens 2004 and 4th in Beijing 2008. In 2012 it hosted the Olympics in London and came 3rd. It is normal for a nation to do particularly well when hosting the Games, but the UK was the first nation to improve again in the following Olympics – Rio 2016 – where it came 2nd. The UK can now consider itself a “superpower” of sports. But how did this amazing transformation happen?

 

The causes of success

After the UK’s horrible performance in Atlanta, Prime Minister John Major decided that sports needed more funding and a different mentality. He used the money the government earned from lotteries to finance sports. A new approach was also adopted, called the ‘no compromise approach’: the UK would invest money and energies only in those sports that produced medals. “Why do we invest in medal success?” said Liz Nicholl, who works for UK Sport, the agency that funds sport across the UK. “We invest in medal success to create a proud, ambitious, active, healthy nation.” But is this really happening? Is the UK a prouder, more ambitious, more active and healthier nation than before? Do people exercise more if they see top British athletes winning medals at the Olympics?

 

Controversy

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the UK won very few medals, the Sports Council promoted the creation and expansion of local leisure centres. There, ordinary people could play sports without Olympic competition in mind. Today many of these centres are in financial trouble; they are closing or they are being converted into expensive, private facilities. This is partly the result of the ‘no compromise approach’: if the sport is not producing medals, it will get no funding. History proves that people exercise more if they have access to facilities, not if top athletes win Olympic medals. Indeed, the number of British people participating in sports has fallen since 2012. The UK faces a dilemma: is it better to have elite athletes win gold medals, or is it better to promote sports for all? Maybe both aims can be achieved. UK Sport has recently softened its ‘no compromise approach’ and money will be used to fund also those sports that do not produce medals. Hopefully the next Olympics – Tokyo 2020 – will see both successful British athletes, and a healthier nation, back home, cheering for them.

Useful links

-  Do you want to know more about the Olympics? Here is the official website of the International Olympic Committee:

https://www.olympic.org/

- This cool interactive diagram tells you how many medals each nation won in every Summer Olympics:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/sports/olympics/rio-olympics-2016-medals-results.html

- These interesting graphs give you another break-down of Olympic medals. Check out the various sports. Is there a sport in which Italy dominates?

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/08/sports/olympics/history-olympic-dominance-charts.html?_r=0

- Here are some fun facts about Rio de Janeiro, the city that hosted the 2016 Games: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/south-america/brazil/rio-de-janeiro/articles/rio-2016-olympics-100-fascinating-facts-about-rio-de-janeiro/

- Here is the official home page of UK Sport:

http://www.uksport.gov.uk/

- Did you know these interesting facts about the Olympics?

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/sports/summerolympics.html

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct option.

1. The 2016 Summer Olympics was hosted by
  1. Brazil.
  2. the US.
  3. Russia.
2. The nation that came 1st in the medals table at Rio was
  1. The United Kingdom.
  2. The United States.
  3. China.
3. The UK’s worst performance at the Olympics was
  1. at London 2012.
  2. at Atlanta 1996.
  3. at Sydney 2000.
4. The UK’s best placing at the Olympics since World War II has been
  1. 2nd place.
  2. 3rd place.
  3. 4th place.
5. The prime minister who helped British sports in 1996 was
  1. Michael Phelps.
  2. Liz Nicholl.
  3. John Major.
6. Most of the funds that finance British sports come from:
  1. lottery money.
  2. the government.
  3. the Olympic Committee.
7. If British athletes win lots of medals, says Liz Nicholl,
  1. more British people will exercise.
  2. British people will buy more lottery tickets.
  3. more British people will watch the Olympics.
8. The “no compromise approach” has
  1. helped all sports.
  2. helped some sports, but not others.
  3. made British people healthier.
9. Compared to 2012, today in the UK
  1. more people play sports.
  2. the same number of people play sports.
  3. fewer people play sports.
10. The next Summer Olympic Games will be hosted by
  1. Korea.
  2. Japan.
  3. China.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

feat  *  to hit rock bottom  *  host  *  leisure  *  to cheer  *  medal table  *  usual suspects *  to fund  *  facility  *  to soften

1. Prices ______: they can’t get any cheaper. 2. If you invite your friends to dinner, you are the ______ and your friends are the guests. 3. Who ate all the chocolate biscuits? The ______ are Jack and Jill: they love chocolate. 4. We came to the stadium ______ our team – we want them to win! 5. A ______ is an extraordinary, very difficult act. 6. You are too critical in this letter. Rewrite it, and try ______ your language. 7. A school is an educational ______. 8. You can’t work all day! You need some ______ too. 9. I have a great idea for a startup, but I have no money. I need somebody ______ it. 10. A ______ is a list of countries ordered by the numbers of medals won.  

GRAMMAR – Cardinal and ordinal numbers

3)  Complete the table writing the numbers, first as cardinal numbers, then as ordinal numbers.

Ordinal numbers

Cardinal numbers

 1

one

1st

first

 2

 3

 4

 50

 62

 74

 81

 99

 100

 

SHORT ESSAY

4) Did you follow the Summer Olympics? Was there a specific moment or an event that you liked? Or was there an athlete that impressed you? Share your impressions and thoughts. (60-80 words)

5)  Write about a sport that you practice or that you enjoy watching. Why do you like it? (60-80 words)

6) Do some research to find out why a nation wins more medals than usual when it hosts the Olympic Games. (60-80 words)

---

(Carlo Dellonte)

(Image credits: US Army, flickr e JuliaC2006, flickr)

[post_title] => The World’s New Sporting Superpower: the UK [post_excerpt] => Twenty years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the UK won only 1 gold medal, finishing 36th in the medal table. After hitting rock-bottom, something changed: the UK started a dramatic climb to the top. This summer, at the Olympics in Rio it came 2nd with 27 gold medals. How did this amazing transformation happen? Learn the secrets behind the world’s new sporting superpower. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-worlds-new-sporting-superpower-the-uk [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-02 15:31:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:31:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11020 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10749 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-05-30 15:20:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-30 13:20:18 [post_content] =>

Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, celebrated her birthday on April 21. She will celebrate it again on June 11. Strange but true: the Queen has two birthdays – her real one, in April, and an official one, in June. For centuries English kings and queens have had this privilege. Their excuse? British weather. It all began in 1748 with King George II. His birthday was in November, not a good month for outdoor parties. So George decided to celebrate his birthday in late spring, combining his celebration with a military parade known as Trooping the Colour. Having a double royal birthday became a tradition. This June 11 will be quite special: the Queen will celebrate her 90th birthday, while her husband, Prince Philip, will turn 95 the day before.

 

A record-breaking royal couple

At 90 and 95, the British royal couple has broken quite a few records. Last year Elizabeth II became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, beating the record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Elizabeth has been Queen for more than 64 years now. This also makes her the world’s longest-reigning female monarch – no other queen has reigned longer than she has. (She still has a long way to go to beat the male record: king Sobhuza II of Swaziland reigned for an incredible 84 years and 254 days!) Elizabeth II holds another record: the longest royal marriage in history. She has been married for 68 years. Obviously, she shares this record with her husband, Prince Philip, and the Prince holds another record of his own: he is the oldest-ever male member of the British royal family.

 

A busy and beloved Queen

During her record reign, the Queen has kept very busy. She is always meeting people, attending ceremonies, receptions, audiences, etc. Last year, she had 306 engagements in the UK and 35 abroad. That’s almost one a day. Over the years she has attended something like 25,000 events of all kinds! She has awarded more than 400,000 honours and has held more than 100 state banquets. She is the patron of more than 600 organizations and charities. Apparently, she once said: “I have to be seen to be believed,” and, indeed, she has shown herself quite a lot! Her work ethic, dedication and continuous public presence have made her very popular. For her official birthday on June 11, 10,000 guests have been invited to a giant street party and picnic in front of Buckingham Palace. And big screens will be placed in other parts of London to broadcast the event. That’s one incredible birthday party!

 

Criticism and the future of British Monarchy

Not everybody, though, wants to celebrate. Many do not like the Queen, or more generally, royalty. A hundred years ago, the English writer H. G. Wells said: “the time has come to rid ourselves of the ancient trappings of throne and sceptre.” Back then, there were 22 monarchies in Europe – now there are only 12. Today we are used to electing our leaders, but nobody ever elected their king or queen. Why should they live in castles and have lots of privileges (like the Queen having two birthdays)? Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter, considers the royals a “symbol of class division.” The influential English singer and songwriter Morrisey (who released with The Smiths an album called ‘The Queen is Dead’) said: “the full meaning of the Monarchy is, like the Queen herself, a complete mystery to most people.” Yet, whether they understand it or not, the British Monarchy is not going away anytime soon. According to recent surveys, between 70 and 80% of Britons want the monarchy to continue. So, come June 11, for the second time this year, most Britons will wish Happy 90th Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II.

Useful links

 - Do you want to know more about the Queen? Read this: http://royalcentral.co.uk/uk/thequeen/her-majesty-at-90-a-look-back-at-her-remarkable-life-59389

- What powers does the Queen have? Here’s the answer: http://royalcentral.co.uk/blogs/insight/what-are-the-queens-powers-22069

- Read about Trooping the Colour and check out the cool time-lapse video: http://www.trooping-the-colour.co.uk/

- Here’s what the Queen’s guests will eat at her incredible birthday street party: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/12200138/Whats-inside-Marks-and-Spencer-Patrons-Lunch-hamper-for-Queens-90th-birthday-street-party.html

-  The Queen’s birthday can even change pub opening times! Check out this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/23/pubs-to-stay-open-late-so-drinkers-can-toast-to-the-queen/ 

- Here’s a very unusual ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Queen from the UK’s republicans: https://republic.org.uk/stopthereign

-  Here is some more interesting criticism. Check out the “Monarchy Myth Buster”: https://republic.org.uk/what-we-want/monarchy-myth-buster

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The Queen has two birthdays because
  1. all kings and queens around the world do.
  2. it’s part of a British tradition.
  3. her 90th birthday is a special occasion.
2. Trooping the Colour is
  1. the name of the Queen’s birthday celebrations.
  2. a military parade invented by George II.
  3. a military parade held on the day of the Queen’s official birthday.
3. Prince Philip’s birthday is very close to
  1. the Queen’s real birthday.
  2. the Queen’s official birthday.
  3. King George’s birthday.
4. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for more years than
  1. King Sobhuza II.
  2. Queen Victoria.
  3. Prince Philip.
5. Prince Philip holds
  1. two records.
  2. one record.
  3. no records.
6. The Queen
  1. is always meeting people.
  2. never meets people.
  3. rarely meets people.
7. The Queen’s official birthday party will be
  1. a very private celebration.
  2. celebrated inside Buckingham Palace.
  3. held outdoors.
8. Writer H.G. Wells was
  1. a supporter of the British crown.
  2. against royalty.
  3. an expert in the ancient trappings of royalty.
9. Today in Europe there are
  1. fewer monarchies than a hundred years ago.
  2. more monarchies than a hundred years ago.
  3. elected kings and queens.
10. The British monarchy is
  1. very popular.
  2. not very popular.
  3. very unpopular.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Use the plural for nouns and conjugate the verbs if necessary.

parade  *  engagement  *  patron  *  to broadcast  *  trappings  *  record  *  to reign  *  sceptre  *  survey  *  privilege

1. A ______________ is a march or a public walk, usually done by military troops, or for special occasions such as a carnival or Thanksgiving. 2. The job of kings and queens is ______________, but their power, today, can be very limited. 3. Lorenzo il Magnifico was a famous ______________ of the arts: he gave support and money to painters and other artists. 4. An ______________ can be a promise of marriage, but it can also be an event or an appointment, like a meeting or a special dinner. 5. Televisions and radios ______________ programmes. 6. Traditionally, a king wears a crown on his head and holds a ______________ in his hand. 7. A big house, an expensive car and fashionable clothes are the ______________ of success. 8. The ______________ asked the students of the school what their favourite subject was. 33% said it was English. 9. Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive. He holds both the 100 metres and 200 metres world ______________. 10. I am against some people having ______________! I think everybody should have equal rights!  

GRAMMAR – Past Simple and Present Perfect

3) Complete the sentences using the verbs provided. In one instance use the past simple, in the other the present perfect.

1. The Queen ______________ (to marry) Prince Philip in 1952. They ______________ (to be) married for 65 years. 2. Elizabeth II ______________ (to become) Queen 64 years ago. She ______________ (to be) Queen since 1952. 3. The Queen ______________ (to break) many records. She ______________ (to break) the record of longest-reigning monarch in 2015. 4. Queen Victoria ______________ (to rule) for 63 years. So far, Queen Elizabeth II ______________ (to rule) for 64 years. 5. The Queen ______________ (to be) the patron of my charity for many years. She even ______________ (to invite) me to Buckingham Palace once. 6. The Queen ______________ (to meet) the British prime minister last week. During her long reign, she ______________ (to meet) twelve prime ministers. 7. John ______________ (to see) the Queen at a ceremony in 2013. Lucy, however ____ never ____ (to see) her. 8. The Queen ______________ (to award) a medal to that man. It was a very special occasion for him, but for her it probably wasn’t: she ______________ (to award) thousands of honours since she became Queen. 9. ____ you ever _______ (to visit) Buckingham Palace? I ______________ (to visit) it last year. 10. Morrisey ______________ (to criticize) the monarchy in his 1986 album ‘The Queen is Dead’. He ______________ (to criticize) the monarchy for decades.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Imagine you are a monarchist, somebody who supports and believes in monarchy. Explain why you think a monarchy is better than a republic. (60-80 words)

5) Now imagine you are a republican, somebody who supports and believes that all people in power should be elected. Explain why you think a republic is better than a monarchy. (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte)

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(Image credits: flickr and flickr)

[post_title] => Why does the Queen have two birthdays? [post_excerpt] => Strange but true: Queen Elizabeth II has two birthdays and the reason is… British weather! Find out about this strange, century-old tradition, and learn more about an extraordinary and record-breaking Queen. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => why-does-the-queen-have-two-birthdays [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-06-16 11:44:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-06-16 09:44:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=10749 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 10 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10388 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-05-02 14:21:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-02 12:21:31 [post_content] =>

No currency symbol is more famous than that of the dollar ($), and no banknotes are more iconic than the green dollar bills. There are seven denominations of dollar bills ($1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100), and each has, on its front, the portrait of an important American. The seven lucky ones include five US presidents and two Founding Fathers, the people who helped found the United States of America. They are all men, though, and somebody thought this was not right. In 2014 Sofia, a 9-year-old girl from Massachusetts, wrote a letter to President Obama saying that women too deserved to be on the front of a dollar bill. Obama answered that this was ‘a pretty good idea.’ To make space for a woman, a president or a Founding Father had to go.

 

Hamilton

Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury (which prints US dollars), suggested removing Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) from the $10 bill. Lots of people protested. Among them was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author of the incredibly successful Broadway musical Hamilton. Hamilton, which premiered in 2015, tells the story of the Founding Father in a very original way, using hip-hop music and a multi-cultural cast. Lew went to see the musical and loved it. He later met with Miranda who asked him to ‘save’ Hamilton. Like so many Americans, Hamilton was a poor immigrant. With courage and determination he fought for American independence. He lived an adventurous life and was killed in a pistol duel. Most importantly, he helped create the Department of the Treasury and was its first Secretary. If it wasn’t for Hamilton, there probably would be no such thing as the dollar! He had to stay!

 

Jackson

Lew reconsidered. He suggested keeping Hamilton on the front of the $10 bill and putting images of the women’s movement on the back. Again lots of people protested, especially women. They claimed that what matters is who’s on the front of dollar bills, not on the back! It seemed impossible to find a solution that made everybody happy. Yet a popular movement called Women on 20 had a suggestion: an American woman could go on the front of the $20 bill, replacing the controversial president Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Jackson was a slave owner who opposed the abolitionist movement that wanted to end slavery. He also forced native Americans to leave their lands so he could give it to white settlers. This relocation, later called the ‘Trail of Tears’, caused the deaths of thousands of native Americans. Jackson had to go!

 

Tubman

On April 20, 2016, Lew declared his final decision. Hamilton is safe: he will remain on the front of the $10 bill. The back of the same bill will show leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote. Finally, a woman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. The woman chosen will not only be the first woman to appear on the front of a dollar bill, but she will also be the first African American person to do so. Her name is Harriet Tubman (1822-1913). She was born a slave, but escaped to freedom. She helped many other slaves escape, and she became a leading abolitionist. During the American Civil War she worked as a nurse and even as a spy! After the war she fought for the rights of women to vote.

Everybody praised Lew’s choices. Not everybody was happy with his schedule, though. The new bills will be released no sooner than 2020!

Useful links

1) Here are some interesting facts about money:

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/technology/money.html

2) And here is a video on how money is made:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEePLZxLcVo

3) Learn more about US dollars:

http://www.kidzsearch.com/wiki/United_States_dollar

4) Read Sofia’s letter to president Obama and Obama’s answer:

http://time.com/3765227/woman-us-currency-obama-letter/

5) Do you want to know more about the musical Hamilton? Check out these videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKSx9RixuQ0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wboCdgzLHg

6) Are you interested in Women on 20? Here’s the official website:

http://www.womenon20s.org/

7) Read about Alexander Hamilton and Harriet Tubman on Wikipedia Simple English:

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The dollar symbol ($) is
  1. the least famous symbol for money in the world.
  2. the most famous symbol for money in the world
  3. one of the most famous symbols for money in the world.
2. All persons featured on American dollars are
  1. Founding Fathers.
  2. American presidents.
  3. important men from American history.
3. Jack Lew
  1. is the first Secretary of the department of the Treasury.
  2. is the author of the Broadway musical Hamilton.
  3. is the current Secretary of the department of the Treasury.
4. Hamilton, like so many Americans,
  1. was born in the United States.
  2. was not born in the United States.
  3. died in a pistol duel.
5. Women on 20 want
  1. the women’s movement on the $10 bill.
  2. Jackson off the $20 bill.
  3. Jackson on the $29 bill.
6. The Broadway musical Hamilton
  1. helped change Lew’s mind.
  2. convinced Lew that Hamilton had to go.
  3. had no influence on Lew’s decisions.
7. Andrew Jackson was
  1. an American president.
  2. a Founding Father.
  3. a native American.
8. The victims of the ‘Trail of Tears’ were
  1. American settlers.
  2. native Americans.
  3. slaves.
9. Harriet Tubman
  1. died a slave.
  2. helped many slaves become free.
  3. Was against the abolitionist movement.
10. Lew finally decided to make changes
  1. a. only to the $10 bill.
  2. b. only to the $20 bill.
  3. c. to the $10 and the $20 bills.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

claim  *  abolitionist  *  founded  *  debate  *  duel  *  settlers  *  bills  *  portrait  *  schedule  *  nurse  *  denominations

1. A person who wanted to end slavery was called an _______________. 2. A person is born, a nation is _______________. 3. To _______________ something means to say that something is true. 4. Money usually comes in the form of metal coins and paper _______________. 5. A ______________ was a fight between two people, usually fought using swords or guns. 6. A ______________ is like a discussion, but it is often public and focuses on a specific topic. 7. After a long journey, the ______________ found a piece of land where they could build their new house. 8. Important people of the past had their _____________ painted by famous artists. 9. “When will the bus arrive? Could you please check the bus _____________?” 10. A _____________ is the value of a particular coin or bill.  

GRAMMAR – Reported speech

3) Rewrite the sentences using reported speech.

1. Sara said: “Women should feature on money as well.” e.g. Sara said (that) women should feature on money as well. 2. President Obama answered: “It’s a good idea.” ____________________________________________________________________ 3. Lew said: “I could remove Hamilton from the $10 bill.” ____________________________________________________________________ 4. Miranda disagreed. He said: “Lew, you must save Hamilton!” ____________________________________________________________________ 5. Lew said: “I’ll save Hamilton, but somebody else has to go.” ____________________________________________________________________ 6. Women on 20 said: “We are campaigning to get Jackson off the $20 bill!” ____________________________________________________________________ 7. Lew asked: “Does everybody agree?” ____________________________________________________________________ 8. Somebody asked: “Who will replace Jackson?” ____________________________________________________________________ 9. Lew said: “I thought of replacing Jackson with Harriet Tubman.” ____________________________________________________________________ 10. Everybody said: “It’s a wonderful choice!” ____________________________________________________________________

SHORT ESSAY

4) Imagine that you have to design a new currency. Which important people (dead or alive) would you feature on your bills? Explain why you think they deserve this honour. (60-80 words)

 

(Carlo Dellonte)

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(Image credits: flickr and Wikipedia)

 

[post_title] => Historic changes to the dollar bills [post_excerpt] => The US dollar bills will soon undergo an important restyling, the outcome of a long and heated national debate. Read how a 9-year-old girl, a Broadway musical and the women’s movement helped shape the history of the world’s most famous currency. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => historic-changes-to-the-dollar-bills [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-30 15:24:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-30 13:24:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=10388 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10167 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-03-31 13:03:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-31 11:03:19 [post_content] =>

Last month, British chancellor George Osborne announced that driverless lorries will be tested on UK roads. The ‘drivers’ of these 44-tonne vehicles will be computers. Similar tests have already been carried out on cars. For example, since 2009, Google’s self-driving cars have driven 1.3 million miles on all kinds of roads. The results? So far the Google cars have been involved in 18 accidents, but 17 of them were caused by humans driving other cars. Computers are already driving better than people! By 2020, the first commercial self-driving cars will be on the market. All those who hate driving will be happy: they will be able to spend their time in the car reading, sleeping, playing video games… while their car takes them wherever they want to go.

 

The second machine revolution

We invented machines to do the work that we didn’t want to do ourselves. Industries are full of machines that can do all sorts of tasks better and more quickly than any human ever could. Dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners… even our homes are full of machines that do our chores. Experts say that this is just the beginning. The first, mechanical revolution is being followed by a second, digital revolution. The new generation of machines, computers and robots will be better than us not just at manual tasks, but also at professional ones: we may soon have robot doctors, teachers and politicians. Some have predicted that robots will take over most jobs within 30 years. The question then becomes: what will we do? Will we live lives of total leisure, or will we become dangerously unemployed and terribly bored? Some say that there are two other, more incredible scenarios to consider.

 

Scenario 1: The AI Apocalypse!

If we continue creating more intelligent machines, we will eventually create a conscious artificial intelligence, or AI. Such a machine will be as intelligent, as creative and – probably – as self-aware as we are. But unlike us, an AI will be able to upgrade itself. An AI will quickly become an ASI, an Artificial Super Intelligence, and an ASI might not want to do what we, inferior beings, tell it to do. It might not get along with us. It might even consider us a nuisance or a threat, and might get rid of us, squashing us like insects. Science fiction has already investigated this scenario: think of the films The Terminator and The Matrix or last year’s Ex Machina. “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history,” said Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous physicist. But, he points out: “it might be our worst mistake.”

 

Scenario 2: Transhumans

Many in the fields of science and technology do not share Hawking’s fears; some even claim that they are dangerous. Every year, the American Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) gives the Luddite Award to “someone who seeks to hold back the introduction of new technologies.” The recently announced 2015 winners were Stephen Hawing and others who, like him, have “alarmist” ideas on artificial intelligence. ITIF and other optimists in the high-tech sector such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg believe that an AI will be very beneficial for humanity. They look forward to its invention because they believe it will work for us and solve all our problems. Futurist Ray Kurzweil says that an AI will do even more than that. He believes that we will join with our intelligent machines. We will connect our brains to the AI and become transhumans: immortal super beings, part human and part machine.

Never before has our future looked so unpredictable. One thing is for sure: it will be incredible!

Useful links

Read about driverless lorries:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-35737104

Watch a self-driving racing car in action:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/georgeosborne/12191589/Driverless-cars-will-take-to-Britains-motorways-for-the-first-time-next-year.html

Check out Google’s Self-Driving Car Project:

https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/

What is AI? Find out in this animated video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvtrRGmv7aU 

Before choosing a career, find out if a robot might ‘steal’ your future job. Use this special calculator:

http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/21/408234543/will-your-job-be-done-by-a-machine

Watch this incredible humanoid robot:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVlhMGQgDkY

Read the open letter that Stephen Hawing and others wrote on the dangers of artificial intelligence:

http://futureoflife.org/ai-open-letter/

Read about the 2015 Luddite Awards:

https://itif.org/publications/2016/01/19/artificial-intelligence-alarmists-win-itif%E2%80%99s-annual-luddite-award

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct alternative.

1. British chancellor George Osborne said that
  1. all trucks are now driverless.
  2. Google will test driverless lorries.
  3. Computers-driven lorries will be tested.
2. Google’s self-driving car caused
  1. more car accidents than humans.
  2. fewer car accidents than humans.
  3. as many car accidents as humans.
3. Machines are better than us at
  1. many physical tasks.
  2. most intellectual tasks.
  3. at everything.
4. The first machine revolution produced many machines such as
  1. robot doctors.
  2. the dishwasher.
  3. an AI.
5. The Terminator and The Matrix are films
  1. about possible futures.
  2. about the past.
  3. about insects.
6. Stephen Hawking is afraid that an AI might
  1. steal all our jobs.
  2. upgrade itself.
  3. destroy us all.
7. The Luddite Award is given to
  1. people who invent new technologies.
  2. people who are against new technologies.
  3. people who support AI.
8. An ASI is
  1. an upgraded human.
  2. a very stupid robot.
  3. an upgraded AI.
9. Mark Zuckerberg
  1. agrees with Stephen Hawking on the dangers of AI.
  2. thinks that Stephen Hawking is wrong.
  3. won the Luddite Award.
10. According to Ray Kurzweil, transhumans
  1. already exist.
  2. will never exist.
  3. might soon exist.
 

VOCABULARY

2) PHRASAL VERBS. Substitute the verbs or expressions in bold with a phrasal verb with a similar meaning.

hold back  *  take over  *  carry out  *  point out  *  get rid of  *  look forward to  *  get along with * find out

Computers can perform __________________ many difficult tasks. Experts indicate __________________ that they will do many more in the future. Some are afraid that advanced AIs will conquer __________________ the planet. A hostile AI might eliminate __________________ us. This is not a future to anticipate with pleasure __________________. Some say that we have to restrain __________________ the development of AI until we discover __________________ how we can control it. We have to make sure that it can be friendly towards __________________ us.

 

3) Match the following words with their definitions:

Words

1. lorry   2. chore   3. unemployed   4. leisure   5. nuisance  6. threat  7. self-aware

Definitions

a. free time for enjoyment and relaxation  = __________________

b. danger = __________________  

c. conscious of being alive = __________________    

d. a domestic task = __________________

e. out of work = __________________

f. an annoying person or thing = __________________

g. a large vehicle = __________________

 

GRAMMAR

4) MODAL VERBS. Choose the correct modal verb to complete the sentence.

1. Self-driving cars must/would/may be on sale in 2020. 2. Computers would/can/should count faster than humans. 3. Experts claim that, inevitably, computers would/will/may become sentient. 4. Scientists should/can/will be more careful: their discoveries will/may/must be dangerous. 5. We might/can/must see the birth of a self-aware AI in the next decade. 6. Vacuum cleaners and dishwashers do chores that we will/would/could do ourselves. 7. We can/must/will create a friendly AI, or we could/can/must be in trouble. 8. The future can/will/would be shaped by new technological inventions. 9. Most people would/may/could rather do leisurely activities than work.  

SHORT ESSAY

5) Science fiction (sci-fi) has made many predictions about the future. Think of sci-fi films you have watched or sci-fi books you have read: describe their predictions about the future. Which prediction would you like to see become reality, and why? (60-80 words)

6) Is technology a big part of your daily life? Which technological devices do you use, and what do you use them for? Which devices that have not been invented yet do you wish were invented? (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte)

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(Image credits: flickr and flickr)

[post_title] => Driverless cars and incredible futures [post_excerpt] => Driverless lorries will be tested on UK roads this year, and in 2020 we will be able to buy a self-driving car. Technology is changing our lives, often in unpredictable ways. Some experts say that our inventions will destroy us, others that they will make us more than human. Read about the incredible scenarios awaiting us. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => driverless-cars-and-incredible-futures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-02 14:23:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-02 12:23:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=10167 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 12 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 10022 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-02-29 15:30:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-29 14:30:29 [post_content] =>

On the night of February 28, 2016, after five previous nominations and zero wins, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar. “At last!” must have thought his fans around the world. Something similar happened to another amazing artist: Italian composer Ennio Morricone. He received an Honorary Oscar in 2007, but he won his first Oscar for Best Original Score this year, after five previous nominations and zero wins. An Oscar is a very prestigious award. Most people in the cinema industry would love to win an Oscar. That’s why Leo’s friend Kate Winslet keeps hers in the bathroom: her guests who go for a pee can pose with it in front of the mirror, and, for a couple of minutes, they can pretend to be winners. Besides the prestige, films that win an Oscar make more money. Actors and actresses who win an Oscar earn more money. An Oscar even has ‘health benefits’: a study shows that people who win an Oscar live longer than those who don’t. Apparently, Oscars even make chickens lay larger eggs! That’s what actor Russell Crowe said after putting his Oscar in his chicken coop.

 

A knight with a sword

The official name of an Oscar is ‘Academy Award of Merit’. The winners are decided by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award is a little golden statuette of a knight holding a large sword. It was designed in 1928 by Cedric Gibbons, a Hollywood production designer. No human model was used to design the statuette. Nobody really knows how the statuette got the nickname ‘Oscar’. According to a popular story, an Academy librarian said that the statuette looked like her uncle Oscar. Many professions in the movie industry receive the award: actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians. Curiously, the production designer who designed the statuette, Cedric Gibbons, won 11 of them.

 

45 seconds to say ‘thank you’

To be nominated for an Oscar, a film has to be shown for at least 7 consecutive days in the Los Angeles county cinemas. This means that even a foreign film, in a foreign language, can be nominated. The Italian La vita è bella is an example. It was shown for several weeks in Los Angeles, and it was nominated for Best Picture. The protagonist of the film, Roberto Benigni, won the Oscar for Best Actor. The awards are given during a very important ceremony. All the nominees hope to hear their name at the end of the sentence “And the Oscar goes to…” (Before 1989 the phrase used was the even more famous “And the winner is…”). The winner collects the award and can give a brief speech. But it has to be very brief indeed. It can only last 45 seconds. When the 45 seconds are over, the orchestra starts playing even if the winner is still talking!

 

Winners and controversies

Winning an Oscar is a great achievement, and some people have won more than one. Walt Disney holds the record: he won 26! Actress Meryl Streep has received more nominations than any other actress or actor: 19 (with 3 wins). Even children have won Oscars. Actress Anna Paquin (you might know her as Rogue in the X-Men films) won an Oscar when she was 11 years old. There are also some film geniuses who – incredibly – have never won. The Academy, for example, was criticized for not giving an Oscar for Best Director to Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick, probably two of the greatest directors of all time. This year, director Spike Lee launched the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to criticize the lack of ethnic diversity in the awards. Most members of the Academy are white, middle-aged or old males, and all 20 of the acting nominees they chose this year (as well as last) were white. The Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs accepted the criticism. She has promised that the Academy will recruit younger members, diversifying in “gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.”

Useful links

Here’s the official Oscars website:

http://oscar.go.com/

Which are the strangest places where winners keep their Oscars? Find out here:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2010/07/where-do-oscar-winners-keep-their-littlegoldmen

Are you interested in Academy Award records? Can you find any Italian who holds a record?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Academy_Award_records

Do you know Ennio Morricone? Do you know any other Italian Academy Award winners? Research some of them:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Italian_Academy_Award_winners_and_nominees

Do you want to know more about the criticisms the Academy received this year? Here is what Spike Lee wrote on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BArm7C2Sqh_/

And here is an article about Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ reply:

http://variety.com/2016/film/awards/oscars-diversity-academy-statement-1201682500/

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Kate Winslet’s Oscar stands
  1. in her bathroom.
  2. in front of her mirror.
  3. in her chicken coop.
2. Usually, actors and actresses who win an Oscar
  1. keep the award in a funny place.
  2. earn more money.
  3. earn less money but live longer.
3. ‘Oscar’ is
  1. the official name of the Academy Award.
  2. the name of the model used to design the award.
  3. the award’s nickname.
4. The Oscars are given to many professionals, such as
  1. librarians and directors.
  2. writers and technicians.
  3. producers and models.
5. To be nominated for an Oscar, a film must be
  1. filmed in Los Angeles.
  2. filmed in English.
  3. shown in Los Angeles cinemas.
6. Cedric Gibbons
  1. holds the record for most Oscar wins.
  2. designed the statuette and called it Oscar.
  3. won many times the Oscar he designed.
7. The winner of an Oscar should
  1. give a very long speech.
  2. give a very brief speech.
  3. say “And the Oscar goes to…”
8. Walt Disney won
  1. more Oscars than Meryl Streep.
  2. less Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock.
  3. an Oscar for the X-Men films.
9. Anna Paquin
  1. won more Oscars than any other actress.
  2. was very young when she won an Oscar.
  3. never won an Oscar.
10. The Academy Award
  1. has been criticized only once.
  2. has never been criticized.
  3. has been criticized more than once.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

prestige  *  sword  *  chicken coop  *  nominee  *  statuette  *  speech *  motion picture  *  director  *  recruit  *  foreign

1. A _________________ is a person who receives a nomination for an award. 2. A _________________ is the typical weapon of a knight. 3. In a _________________ you can probably find many eggs. 4. A _________________ is a small statue. 5. Something that has _________________ has a very good reputation. 6. _________________ is another word for ‘film’. 7. A _________________ is a person who directs the filming process of a film. 8. If you are talking in front of many people, you are probably giving a _________________. 9. A _________________ language is a language spoken outside one’s country. 10. To _________________ somebody, means to get him or her to join something like a group or an association.  

GRAMMAR – Irregular verbs

3) Complete the sentences with the correct past tense of the verb.

1. Kate Winslet ________ (put) her Oscar in her bathroom. 2. An Academy librarian ________ (think) that the award looked like her uncle Oscar. 3. Animator and director John Lasseter ________ (put) Barbie clothes on his Oscars. 4. A sculptor ________  (make) the Oscar statuette using Cedric Gibbons’ design. 5. Leonardo DiCaprio ________  (get) his first Oscar in 2016. 6. The actress was very happy when she ________ (hear) that she had won an Oscar. 7. It was actress Sofia Loren who ________  (give) the Oscar to Roberto Benigni. 8. Russell Crowe  ________  (win) an Oscar for his role in the film Gladiator. 9. In 2015, the Academy ________ (choose) only white nominees for the acting awards. 10. In 2000 two men ________ (steal) 55 Oscar statuettes and ________ (hide) them. A man called Mr. Fullgear _______(find) them and called the police.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Who is your favourite actor/actress? Describe him or her and say why you’re his or her fan. (60-80 words)

5) Which is your favourite film? What is it about? Write a short essay explaining what it is about, what is special about it and why you think it’s such a good film. (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte)

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(Image credits: Academy Awards and Cliff, flickr)

[post_title] => And the Oscar goes to… [post_excerpt] => Every year, the Academy Awards is the biggest event of American cinema, and the Oscar statuette is probably the most famous film award in the world. Find out some of the more curious facts about the Oscars, and read about some of the criticism the Academy has received. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => and-the-oscar-goes-to [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-02 14:21:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-02 12:21:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=10022 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9778 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-02-10 16:50:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-10 15:50:41 [post_content] => “First ever flower grown in space makes its debut!” tweeted astronaut Scott Kelly on January 16, sharing the photo of a zinnia flower. The tweet was sent from the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting at 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth’s surface. The experiment, an attempt to grow zinnia in space, began in November. It was a very difficult experiment. The astronauts of the ISS had to learn how to garden, and we’re not talking about normal gardening, but gardening in space! How do you water a plant in a microgravity where water does not flow but floats? And how do you grow a plant using only artificial lighting? The astronauts followed the instructions they received from a NASA ‘Veggie team’ back on Earth. The zinnia was grown aeroponically, meaning in a very humid environment without soil. A fan was used to regulate the humidity. Red, blue and green LED lights were used to simulate sunlight. But it wasn’t enough. Around Christmas, the zinnia plants looked like they were going to die.  

Green fingers and space vegetables

Astronaut Scott Kelly decided to follow his gardening instincts. To help him, the Veggie team sent him a one-page guide called “The Zinnia Care Guide for the On-Orbit Gardener”. Kelly discovered that he had green fingers: his efforts saved the plants, and the zinnia flower bloomed. It was another success in space gardening. In fact, the zinnia flower wasn’t the first plant grown in space. It wasn’t even the first flower. Four years ago, on the ISS, astronaut Donald Pettit grew plants using plastic bags as pots. He grew courgettes (or zucchini in American English) and broccoli, as well as a sunflower. Pettit wrote about it in his blog, “Diary of a Space Zucchini”. Russian cosmonauts have grown (and eaten) many edible plants in space, such as onions, peas, wheat, garlic, lettuce and cucumbers. More experiments with vegetables are on the way. In 2018, NASA will try to grow a tomato plant. But what’s the objective of all this space gardening?

 

To the Moon, Mars and beyond!

Every few months, food supplies are sent to the ISS from Earth. This won’t be possible on longer-distance space voyages. If astronauts go to Mars, for example, they will have to be self-sufficient: they will have to grow their own food. NASA is planning to return to the Moon in the 2020s. A mission to Mars might take place in the 2030s. If you would ever like to go on such adventurous trips you could start by going to one of NASA's 'space camps'. There you can learn how to become an astronaut. Space camps include space simulations and space exploration activities. You also get to meet and talk to real astronauts. If you want to go to Mars, though, be warned: the first mission to Mars might be a one-way ticket. This means that the astronauts might have to live and survive on Mars without the possibility of returning to Earth. So, if you want to go, you will have to know how to grow your own food!

 

Discoveries from outer space

Like the ISS, the first trip to Mars will probably be an international enterprise. NASA collaborates with many other space agencies (including the Italian ASI). Together, they developed the Global Exploration Roadmap (GER). This project coordinates efforts to explore destinations, such as the Moon and Mars, where people will someday live and work. In the meantime, space exploration has already changed the way we live and work here on Earth. Have you ever used ear thermometers, cordless devices, water filters, scratch-resistant lenses, athletic shoes, satellite TV, or portable computers? Have you ever slept on a foam mattress? Then you have used products that were developed or improved by NASA for its space missions. NASA has helped develop more than 2,000 spinoff products. Even if you're never going to travel to outer space, there's already a bit of outer space in your life!

Useful links

Would you like to follow astronaut (and ‘space gardener’) Scott Kelly on Twitter? On his account you can find pictures of the zinnia flower. (P.S. NASA and ASI also have twitter accounts):

https://twitter.com/stationcdrkelly?lang=it

You can also read astronaut Donald Pettit’s blog ‘Diary of a Space Zucchini’:

https://blogs.nasa.gov/letters/2012/04/03/post_1333471169633/

Did you know that the ISS is the third brightest object in the sky? Track the Station:

http://www.isstracker.com/

Have you ever reflected on our place in the universe? Read about the 'Pale Blue Dot' picture and Carl Sagan's thoughts about it. Discuss it with your class.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot Would you like to go to a Space Camp and learn how to become an astronaut?

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/information/camp_faq.html

Here is somebody about your age who is already training to go to Mars! Discover the incredible story of Alyssa Carson:

http://nasablueberry.com/

Are you interested in the Global Exploration Roadmap? Here you can find an official document with lots of interesting diagrams and pictures:

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/GER-2013_Small.pdf

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The International Space Station
  1. is on the Moon.
  2. orbits around the Earth.
  3. is on Earth.
2. NASA’s Veggie team
  1. grew the zinnia flower.
  2. helped grow the zinnia flower.
  3. ate the zinnia flower.
3. On the International Space Station gravity is
  1. stronger than on Earth.
  2. the same as on Earth.
  3. weaker than on Earth.
4. “The Zinnia Care Guide for the On-Orbit Gardener” contains
  1. instructions on how to grow zinnia flowers.
  2. recipes on how to cook zinnia flowers.
  3. pictures of zinnia flowers.
5. Which of these has not yet been grown in space?
  1. Lettuce.
  2. A tomato.
  3. An onion.
6. Astronauts on the International Space Station
  1. grow their own food.
  2. eat food grown on the Moon.
  3. eat food they receive from Earth.
7. Space camps teach space exploration skills to
  1. children.
  2. children and adults.
  3. children and astronauts.
8. The Global Exploration Roadmap
  1. is a kind of guide for future space missions.
  2. coordinates international space gardening.
  3. is a project aimed at changing our life here on Earth.
9. Ear thermometers, portable computers and satellite TV
  1. were invented by astronauts.
  2. were developed or improved for space missions.
  3. were developed or improved by the Global Exploration Roadmap.
10. The article seems to suggest that space exploration
  1. produces nothing useful.
  2. is done exclusively by NASA.
  3. promotes international cooperation.
  VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

debut  *  voyage  *  cosmonauts  *  gardening  *  device  *  foam  *  bloom  *  edible  *  self-sufficient  *  green fingers

1. ____________ is the practice of growing and caring for plants, usually in a garden. 2. If you are good at growing plants you have ____________. 3. The first, formal public appearance of an artist or an athlete is called a _____________. 4. When plant produces flowers they ____________. 5. If a plant is ____________you can eat it. 6. The term ____________ refers to a long journey, usually by sea or in space. 7. ‘____________’ is the Russian equivalent of ‘astronaut’. 8. The more____________ you are, the less you depend on others. 9. A ____________ is an object that has been designed to serve a specific function. 10. ____________ is made up of many small bubbles.   GRAMMAR – Active and passive form

3) Turn these passive form sentences into active.

1. The zinnia flower was grown by the astronauts. 2. A fan was used by the astronauts to regulate the humidity. 3. LED lights were used by the astronauts to simulate sunlight. 4. Peas, lettuce and cucumbers were eaten by cosmonauts. 5. Many spinoff inventions were developed by NASA.   4) Turn these active form sentences into passive. 1. Astronaut Scott Kelly sent an incredible tweet. 2. Astronaut Donald Pettit grew courgettes and broccoli in space. 3. At space camps astronauts teach children how to live and work in space. 4. Many space agencies developed the Global Exploration Roadmap. 5. Many people use ‘space inventions’ daily.   SHORT ESSAY

5) NASA is looking for people who want to go to Mars. Would you like to be one of them? Explain why you would like (or would not like) to go in a short text. (60-80 words)

6) Do you think you have “green fingers”? Write about your gardening experience and the advantages or disadvantages or growing plants at home. (max 100 words)

(Carlo Dellonte)

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(Image credits: Nasa.gov e Nasa.gov)

[post_title] => Space flowers [post_excerpt] => “The future of humanity awaits in deep space,” said the chief of NASA Charles Bolden. Space exploration is a highly ambitious enterprise. It promotes international cooperation, and it produces thousands of inventions. But it is also about simple things, like growing a flower. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => space-flowers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-12 12:25:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-12 10:25:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=9778 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-01-08 12:12:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-08 11:12:47 [post_content] =>

Look around you: how much of what you see is the product of humans? You might see streets, buildings, factories, farms and crop fields where there once flourished natural environments. According to many studies, humans have transformed 50% of the Earth's land surface! We have caused the extinction of many species and ruined many habitats. When we burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, we produce dangerous greenhouse gases (for example CO2) that cause the Earth's temperature to rise. This planetary "fever" or "global warming" is causing disasters such as droughts, tornadoes, floods and the melting of the polar ice caps. Most scientists say the situation is critical. Even Pope Francis wrote an encyclical (a special papal letter) called Laudato Sí – On Care For Our Common Home urging action against climate change. But what are the governments of the world doing about it?

 

COP 21

From 30 November to 12 December 2015 the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, was held in Paris, France. Political leaders from around the world met to talk about global warming and its disastrous consequences. The debate was intense. There were deep divisions and contrasting ideas. At the end, the participating 195 nations reached a compromise: the Paris Agreement. This document calls for the reduction of human-produced greenhouse gases. The president of the Conference said the Agreement was a “historic turning point” in the fight against global warming. But not everybody agreed with him...

 

It's not enough!

Thousands of people demonstrated around the world calling the Agreement "weak". They pointed out that parts of the Agreement are “promises” and not commitments. Some important issues were left out, such as livestock agriculture that, according to the UN itself, produces more greenhouse gases than all cars, trains, planes and boats combined! Also, the Agreement is not yet law for its member states. Each state has to approve it first – probably some never will. But even if all goes well, many scientists say that the Agreement is not enough to contain global warming.

 

What can you do?

Do we really have to wait for governments to solve this problem? The answer is no. Many environmental associations are already fighting climate change. There are businessmen investing in new, green technologies for a cleaner future. There are millions of ecologically conscious people, adults and children, doing their part. That´s because we all have an "environmental footprint" (meaning an impact on the environment) and we can all do something to reduce it by acting, for example, on how we eat, live, travel. A "climatarian" diet consumes foods that have a low impact on the environment. An energy-efficient home saves on heating and electricity using good insulation, LED lights and maybe solar panels. Walking and biking are ecological alternatives to taking the car. And if you feel that you want to do more, when you're older, you can choose a "green career", a job that helps solve climate change problems. So, what are you doing to help save the planet?

Useful links

To know about COP 21 check out its official website:

http://www.cop21paris.org/

To know more about climate change and get some good advice check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqxMzKLYrZ4

Here´s some more good advice from NASA!

http://climatekids.nasa.gov/how-to-help/

Interested in a "climatarian" diet? Check this out:

http://www.lessmeatlessheat.org/

Do you want to calculate your ‘environmental footprint’? Try WWF’s easy quiz:

http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. 50% of Earth's land surface has been
  1. destroyed by humans.
  2. transformed by humans.
  3. covered with cities.
2. Global warming is caused by
  1. governments.
  2. tornadoes and floods.
  3. greenhouse gases.
3. Most scientists and the Pope agree that
  1. climate change is dangerous.
  2. we have to burn more fossil fuels.
  3. the Earth is OK.
4. COP 21 is the name of
  1. a place in France.
  2. a greenhouse gas.
  3. a UN conference.
5. The Paris Agreement is
  1. a compromise between almost 200 nations.
  2. a document written by the President of the Conference.
  3. a ban on greenhouse gases.
6. Thousands of protesters called the Paris Agreement
  1. weak.
  2. strong.
  3. a historic turning point.
7. The Paris Agreement
  1. is already law for all member states.
  2. might become law for all member states.
  3. will never become law for all member states.
8. Climate change is a problem that
  1. only adults can solve.
  2. only governments can solve.
  3. even children can help solve.
9. A "green career" is
  1. a job at the Conference in Paris.
  2. a job that cares for the environment.
  3. a job in the countryside.
10. Ecologically conscious people
  1. try to increase their environmental footprint.
  2. try to decrease their environmental footprint.
  3. never take the car.
  VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

drought  *  compromise  *  greenhouse gases  *  global warming  *  turning point  *  environmental footprint *  green career  *  demonstration  *  encyclical  *  conference

1. ______ give Earth a fever. 2. The planet's "fever" is called ______. 3. You can say that a ______ is the opposite of a flood. 4. A papal special letter is called an ______. 5. Political leaders often meet at a ______. 6. A ______ is when different people agree on something. 7. A ______ is a crucial development. 8. If you don´t agree with a political decision, you can take part in a ______. 9. The ______ is our ecological impact on the planet. 10. A ______ is a job that helps solve the problems of the environment.   GRAMMAR 3) Choose the correct alternative. 1. Human beings have been/were transforming the Earth. 2. Many scientists are afraid that the future will be warmer/more warm than the present. 3. One of the main problems of the Earth's/Earths climate is global warming. 4. To burn/Burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases. 5. COP 21 is held/was held between November and December 2015. 6. There are many greenhouse gases, such as/like CO2. 7. Political leaders met in/at Paris. 8. The outcome of/for COP 21 was the Paris Agreement. 9. Demonstrators wanted a more strong/stronger Agreement. 10. It's time to take/taking action to solve global warming.   SHORT ESSAY

4) Everybody can do something to help fight global warming. Are you already helping? How? What else could you do to save the planet? (60-80 words)                          

(Carlo Dellonte) --- (Image credit: Alisdare HicksonRon Mader, via flickr)   [post_title] => COP 21 – Trying to save planet Earth [post_excerpt] => Droughts, tornadoes, floods, melting polar ice caps – climate change is causing disasters around the world. The representatives of almost 200 nations met in Paris to find a solution to this dramatic problem. What did they decide and what can you do to help save the environment? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => cop-21-earth [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-21 09:56:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-21 08:56:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=24 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 27 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11546 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-11-28 16:13:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-28 15:13:34 [post_content] =>

Back in the 19th century, the Swedish scientist and businessman Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and other explosives. A French newspaper called him a “merchant of death” who “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before”. Nobel did not want to be remembered like this, so he decided to leave his fortune to people who make the world a better place. To do so, he created the Nobel Prize. Each year the Prize is awarded to eminent people in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Today the Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious award in these fields. Authors who write in English have dominated the Literature Prize with 28 winners out of 113 (plus 3 who wrote both in English and in another language). Among them are 11 American, 10 British and 4 Irish writers. The winners are chosen by the members of the Swedish Academy, helped by the advice of scholars from around the world. Not everybody agrees with the choices of the Academy, but no choice was more controversial than this year’s.

 

Are songs literature?

This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded not to a novelist, nor to a poet, nor to a playwright, but, for the first time, to a singer-songwriter: the American music legend Bob Dylan. The Academy chose him because he created “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Many writers and critics around the world praised the decision. Others agreed that it was time for an American writer to win the Prize – the last one was Tony Morrison who won it 23 years ago – but they believed that novelists like Philip Roth or Don DeLillo were far more deserving than Bob Dylan. Some claimed that songs belong to a different art form: they are not literature. Others said that even if one considers songs literature, Bob Dylan’s lyrics did not deserve a Nobel Prize. The heated debate continued, and while the world was discussing him, Bob Dylan said nothing.

 

Speechless or arrogant?

Bob Dylan did not comment on winning the Prize. Many wondered: was he going to refuse it? For sure, he was ignoring it. The Swedish Academy tried to get in touch with him, but it gave up after more than ten days of failed attempts. One of its members suggested that Dylan was being “impolite and arrogant.” A few more days passed and finally Dylan called the Academy and said that winning the Prize left him “speechless.” He accepted the Prize but he wasn’t sure if he could attend the Nobel ceremony on 10 December. Again the world wondered: was he being rude a second time? The days passed and finally Dylan said that he was not going to the Nobel ceremony due to “pre-existing commitments.” What could be more important than receiving from the hands of the King of Sweden the greatest literary prize in the world?

 

Prizes and artistic freedom

The critics of Bob Dylan’s attitude probably did not consider that not all writers approve of the Nobel Prize. In 1925 Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw almost refused it. He wittily said: “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.” He probably considered prizes fit for competitions, not for art forms such as literature. In 1964, French writer Jean-Paul Sartre won the Prize but refused it. He claimed that a writer should be free and should not be “institutionalised.” Bob Dylan differs from Shaw and Sartre because he accepted the Prize and seems to consider it important. His attitude, though, seems to suggest that he also believes, like Shaw and Sartre, that artistic freedom is more important. Writers write for personal reasons or to communicate with their readers, not to win prizes. If they win them, that’s fine, but it’s no big deal. Even if it is the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Useful links

1) Watch this video to learn more about the Nobel Prize: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94YQ3el6LMc

2) Here is the official page of the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/

3) Find out some interesting facts about the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/literature/index.html

4) What do you know about this year’s winner? Learn more about Bob Dylan here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/bio-bibl.html

5) George Bernard Shaw was famous for his intelligent, often witty remarks: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_bernard_shaw.html

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Alfred Nobel was criticized because
  1. his inventions were dangerous.
  2. he created the Nobel Prize.
  3. he became rich.
2. The winners of the Nobel Prize are chosen by
  1. Alfred Nobel.
  2. the Swedish Academy.
  3. scholars from around the world.
3. So far, the winners of the Prize who wrote in English are
  1. 113.
  2. 28.
  3. 31.
4. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize because of his
  1. novels.
  2. plays.
  3. songs.
5. One of the 11 American Nobel Prize winners for Literature is
  1. Tony Morrison.
  2. Philip Roth.
  3. George Bernard Shaw.
6. The Swedish Academy called Bob Dylan, but
  1. Dylan answered that he was busy.
  2. they couldn’t get through.
  3. Dylan said that he was not interested in the Prize.
7. Bob Dylan
  1. said he will accept the Nobel Prize on 10 December.
  2. refused the Nobel Prize.
  3. accepted the Nobel Prize.
8. George Bernard Shaw said that
  1. dynamite was a worse invention than the Nobel Prize.
  2. the Nobel Prize was a worse invention than dynamite.
  3. he did not want to be “institutionalised.”
9. The Nobel Prize was refused by
  1. George Bernard Shaw.
  2. Bob Dylan.
  3. Jean-Paul Sartre.
10. Dylan, Shaw and Sartre believe in
  1. artistic freedom.
  2. the importance of literary prizes.
  3. the importance of the Nobel Prize.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

eminent  *  speechless  *  commitment  *  wit  *  merchant  *  lyrics  *  fortune  *  field  *  scholar  *  fiend

1. The surprise made her so happy that it left her ______. 2. Shaw was full of ______: he could always make funny and intelligent remarks. 3. The words of a song are called ______. 4. When he died, the rich businessman left a ______ to his children. 5. A ______ is a large open space, but it can also mean a specific area or subject of human activity. 6. A ______ is a devilish, evil person. 7. If you promise to do something, you are making a ______. 8. Einstein was an ______ physicist: he was among the best scientists of his age. 9. A person who works buying and selling goods is called a ______. 10. That professor is a Latin ______: he’s been studying that ancient language all his life.  

GRAMMAR – Conjunctions

3) Complete the sentences using the following conjunctions:

because  (x2) *  unless  * although  while  *  that  *  whereas  *  when  *  if  *  but

1. Alfred Nobel was called a “merchant of death” ______ he invented dynamite. 2. Alfred Nobel was so shocked by the criticism ______ he decided to become a philanthropist. 3. ______ the Academy announced the winner, the journalists let out a gasp of surprise. 4. ______ he is a songwriter, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 5. ______ Bob Dylan remained silent, the world talked about him. 6. Many critics agreed with the Academy’s choice, ______ many others did not. 7. A member of the Academy said that Bob Dylan was rude  ______ he did not answer the Academy’s calls. 8. Bob Dylan said he would go to the Ceremony ______ he had previous commitments. 9. “______ I have nothing else to do, I will come,” he said. 10. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, ______ Philip Roth did not.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Who is your favourite writer? Why do you like his/her work? Has he/she taught you something important? (60-80 words)

5) Do some research on Bob Dylan or on another Nobel Prize winner, then write about him/her. (60-80 words)

 --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: mtarvainen, flickr and Francisco Antunes, flickr)

 

[post_title] => Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize [post_excerpt] => On 13 October the Swedish Academy announced the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Prize is the most important literary award in the world and this year’s winner was the most controversial ever. Not only because he was the first songwriter to win the Prize, but also because for weeks nobody knew if he was going to accept it. Learn more about the Nobel Prize in Literature and this year’s winner: American rock legend Bob Dylan. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bob-dylan-wins-the-nobel-prize [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-30 11:16:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-30 10:16:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
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