Keep counting

Let’s learn a bit more about the figures that define the population of the world. Before you watch the video by National Geographic Magazine, try to guess what the figures below refer to:

7,000,000,000 / 25% / male / 8 hours / Chinese / India

Was there anything you found surprising about these facts? How typical are you?

Fun fact about this song:

On 30 September 2005, the writer and scientist Simon Singh accused Katie Melua in The Guardian of being scientifically incorrect with the lyrics.  In her song she says: We are 12 billion light-years from the edge. That’s a guess – no-one can ever say it’s true, but I know that I will always be with you.

Singh said it was an assault on the accuracy of the work of cosmologists, and the article motivated a series of letters from other  readers, agreeing or disagreeing.  On 15 October, Melua and Singh appeared together on the BBCs Today programme and Melua sang a new version of the song including Singh’s amendments to the lyrics:

We are 13.7 billion light-years from the edge of the observable universe / That’s a good estimate with well-defined error bars / And with the available information / I predict that I will always be with you”.

Both sides amicably agreed that the new lyrics were less attractive for commercial success, and continued with a discussion about scientific accuracy versus artistic licence.


School Days

We have spent a few days in class talking about schooling and education and students had the chance to share some memories from their school days. Most were stories of bonds that were made within the classroom walls, and also the teachers that we were supportive and inspiring. The general feeling was that our experience at school has a long-lasting effect in our lives and might easily determine some decisions we  make. Do you agree with this?

There are many pop songs that have been composed that talk about school days. Here is one by the White Stripes “We’re Gonna Be Friends” . What is being told in the song?

The lyrics are available here: How about your own memories? If you are an English language learner and you would like to share your ideas about this and practice, go ahead and post a comment on this blog post or share your opinions, videos and articles on Twitter. All you have to do is tweet your opinion followed by #occeoic. For more information on how to use twitter and the hashtag #occeoic go to: Here are some questions to help: Can you remember a particular aspect of school that brings a smile on your face? Was it a friend, a subject, or a teacher? If you are a secondary school student, what do you enjoy most about school? What would you change if you had the chance? Do you know any song that talks about school or education? Is there any song that reminds you of your school days?

Letting go

These days in class we’ve been talking about revenge.  We had the chance to read some hilarious stories of people who actually felt better after getting their own back.  “Revenge is sweet” or “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” seem to be the two options we have when it comes to healing a broken heart. Which one do you agree with?

This made me think a lot about relationships, and how strong the bonds can be. I’m not only thinking of romantic relationships, though. Friends, colleagues and relatives spend so much time with us that their effect over our emotions is greater than we can even imagine sometimes.

We get so used to the people who are part of our lives that we don’t even dare to consider if that relationship is actually doing us any good. We just carry on.  Most times, I supppose, we are surrounded by the people we choose and, hopefully, their influence on our lives can only be positive. They’re the ones who support us, complete us and may even become part of our history. But sometimes they might not be such good company.

So, just as it’s important to recognize the valuable impact of some, it’s probably necessary to know when that relationship has to end. Accepting it is probably hard, but it should prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are part of your history, but not part of your destiny” Steve Maraboli

Here’s a song that describes this, and how difficult it is to accept. A listening comprehension activity is available.

Farside listening comprehension

  • New Day (

Music to Honour Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away last December 5 and left an enduring legacy. Not only will he be remembered in South Africa, where he changed people’s lives forever, but also in the rest of the world.

As he once said, he was born to rule. And he did so with amazing commitment and courage. Not even the years in prison could undermine his strength. His quiet and respectful  appearance combined well with his determination and the strength to make the world a better place to live for all the people who were suffereing from Appartheid, for instance. In fact, his first major accomplishment, along with de Klerk, was to dismantle the country’s apartheid system forever.

In 1994, he became South Africa’s first black president and gained admiration worldwide with his constant struggle to guarantee children’s well-being and future,  and campaigning against AIDS. He has inspired artists who have celebrated the man whose ideals were made real.

If you are seeking some inspiration you can visit this website which features a collection of quotes by Mandela. Quotes from Mandela

One of these quotes is “Unlike some politicians, I can admit to a mistake“. I wish his legacy were more visible among  world leaders and politicians  nowadays where, at times, courage, passion and commitment is missing.

To celebrate Nelson Mandela and his legacy I have decided to post a song by Simple Minds Mandela Day

Listen and answer the questions:

What event of Mandela’s life is it recalling?

How many years did he spend in prison?

The Lyrics

Song: Singing in the Rain

Rain camera

Rain camera (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Autumn has already set in with its usual mood. Depending on the day it might be a little grey outside but colourful inside,or the other way round. Autumn showers have made their way and the tempertature has gone down.

How do you feel on rainy days? Read the  list of words. Which ones are you likely to use when talking about the effect that rain has on you?

happy, wellingtons, wonderful, gloomy, dull, glorious, uneasy, laughing, boredom, frown, tired, wonderful, umbrella, horrible.

Is there any word you are missing? Now listen the classic song Singing in the Rain covered by Jamie Cullum and spot the words from the list above that are used. This is a cover I love listening to. It just makes me want to curl up with good book and enjoy the rain outside.


SONG. Maggie’s Farm

Bob Dylan is one of the iconic songwriters of pop-rock culture. If there were such thing as a 60’s Civil Movement Songbook, some of his songs would be clear candidates to be there. He’s inspired a whole generation.  Unfortunately, for the English language learner understanding his songs is not at all easy. Still, why not have a go?

Listen to this song and try to get the big picture.

What’s the song about? Choose one:

a) The singer says farming is too hard.

b) The employers are mean and demanding.

c) The singer’s in love with Maggie

Read the lyrics to find out. They’re also available here: Maggie’s Farm (with an extra listening activity included).

You can read some reviews of the song here. Why not post your own ideas?

After you have listened to the song you might also want to share your opinions about the topic on this post. Below are some questions to help. Just click on the “reply” icon at the top of the page and post your comment.

How much is true about Dylan’s song in your country?

What qualities make a good boss?

What conditions make people happy or stessed at work?