/ə/ - schwa

It is the most frequent of all English vowels because historically it has replaced many unstressed vowels. It has a restricted distribution: it only appears in unaccented syllables.

a. Description: it is very short and weak. The middle of the tongue lies in a relax position and the lips are neutral (neither spread nor rounded).

b. Spelling: this sound only appears in unaccented syllables and it may be spelt with any single vowel or combined with consonants:

-"a": about, woman, chocolate
-"e": sister, the
-"i": impossible
-"o": synonym, photograph
-"u": suggest, Saturday

Vowels are distinguished by distribution: /ə/ can only appear in unaccented positions and /I, ʊ/ in both accented and unaccented, the rest of the vowels always requiring some kind of stress.

1. Watch this video about how to pronounce schwa and practice several times with the examples given in this webpage:

2. Schwa prediction
3. Pronunciation practice:
     3a. Open this chart, click on vowels-monophthongs, then click on central: listen and practice the schwa.
     3b.Watch this video and practice.
     3c. Listen, read and practice in this webpage.
4. Visit this ESL pronunciation web page and do the exercises provided to practice the schwa.


Breakfast in class in English

We have just had breakfast in English. This is an activity which consist of having breakfast in class. Students play the roles of customers and waiter/waitress and serve and eat real breakfast. It is very easy to organize: most products are available at the school cafeteria (milk, toasts, jam, butter, hot chocolate, fruit, orange juice...) and those which are not are brought by some students (muffins, bums...). We displayed two tables together as a counter and they had to order something to drink and eat. No mistakes in English are allowed. In case they don't know how to ask for something, they won't get it. In order to control this I started playing the role of a waiter.
Previously, we had worked in class the following points:
- vocabulary: cutlery (fork, mug, napkin, spoon, etc), food (muffin, a piece of toast, olive oil, etc)
- ordering: 1. Customers: "Can I have the menu, please?", "I'd like...., please", "Could I have.......?", "I think I'll have...", etc.
                 2. Waiter/waitress: "Can I help you?", "Are you ready to order?", "Would you like to see the menu?", "Anything to drink?", etc.
- expressing opinions: "That sounds good", "It is delicious", "It is tasty", "It is crunchy", etc.
- intonation in questions: 1. rising intonation in yes/no questions: Can I see the menu, please?, can I help you?, etc.        
                                     2. falling intonation in open questions: What do you recommend?, "What would you like to drink?, etc.

I find this activity very motivating as students really enjoy what they are doing (they are having breakfast!!) and there is not one single students who doesn't like this. Therefore, they do their best to know how to order and how to play the waiter/waitress role paying special attention to how words are pronounced and how questions are uttered with the proper intonation.

It is time for you, customers, waiters and waitresses, to evaluate this activity. Please write a comment on it focusing on the following points:
a. Do you think you could order food in an English cafeteria after having done this activity?
b. Value how you have improved:
                  1. Vocabulary related to food and cutlery.
                  2. Vocabulary and structures to order food and drinks.
                  3. Vocabulary to express your opinion on food.
                  4. Intonation in questions.
c. Would you like to do this activity again? If so, say why.


Final Project (II)

Here you have another example of a video recorded for the last term of 1st Bachillerato. It was part of the oral exam for English Extension I (Ampliación de Inglés I) in the last term. It was made by four students whose names are Marta, Yaiza, Beatriz and Natalia. They wrote the dialogue, practice the conversations and recorded the video and I think they did a good job. I hope it can be useful for students who have to do a similar project so that it can inspire them to do something similar.


Test your English pronunciation

How many times do we meet a written word and we don't know how to pronounce it? Everyday, I'm afraid. That makes learning English difficult. However we have phonetics to help us. Phonetics is an essential tool to learn English. Here you have a webpage with a test on phonetics. Try and do it in order to check how much phonetics you remember from our last year course.

After having done this text, write a commentary on how successful (or unsuccessful) you were.


Final project

The final project of every student last academic course was to record a video on any subject as long as the sounds practice in class were used. Here we have one of them that can be seen as a model for future videos. Some students starred this video. They did a great job as they had to write the script, practice the speech paying attention to individual sounds, linking, fluency and intelligibility and create the charming character of the deaf grandfather. Have a look at it and enjoy it.

This video was created by Ainhoa González, Alejandro Fernández, Jorge Tuda and Carlos Monroy (1st Bachillerato, 17 years old).

Welcome back!

Hi everybody,
I hope you have rested and enjoyed your holidays. We are back at the school ready to start Ampliación en inglés II as a 2nd Bachillerato optional subject. This blog, which was created in the subject of 1st Bachillerato, is intended for both courses. Here you will find resources to practice oral English. Besides, we intend to use this year as a place to show some of the oral practice done by you, the students. So, I hope you find it useful and entertaining.


La Lente awarded the Endesa Prize in El País de los Estudiantes

LA LENTE has been awarded the ENDESA prize for the best Enviromental section of the newspaper,  a national prize given by El País de los Estudiantes. The prize consists of going to Galicia for 5 days including a visit to a mining electric complex of Endesa. We will fly there, stay at a hotel in A Coruña and travel to As Pontes to visit the mine.
This prize is one of the four big prizes given by El País: there are three prizes for the three best newspapers and this ENDESA prize for the best Enviromental section given by the main sponsor of El País de los Estudiantes.

You can watch the video of the ceremony here.
All the information about the programme, the newspapers and prizes can be visited at:


Congratulations to all the students who have written the newspaper and enjoy the trip!!!!!!!!

Picture from Entrega de Premios IX Edición de El País de los Estudiantes (EL PAÍS)


El País de los Estudiantes awards ceremony

This ceremony is held on Monday morning at El País in Madrid. The Education Minister, Ángel Gabilondo, will preside over the ceremony which will be attended by the 18 final newspapers published in Spain. La Lente, the newspaper published in our school - IES Barrio de Loranca, Fuenlabrada- has been elected the final candidate for the Comunity of Madrid.

You can have more information about the event at: http://www.elpais.com/articulo/sociedad/periodistas/futuro/aprenden/rebelarse/elpepisoc/20100614elpepisoc_5/Tes

We wish them good luck!!


Text reconstruction

Here you have two listening exercises which consist of writing the story you are listening to. Type your text in the Type box and the use the chech and help buttons to help you. Once you have finished, you can check your text and have a look at the solutions.
This one is easier than the second one:
This one is more difficult than the previous one because you have to write the whole text. No help is provided:

As a final activity you can listen and then read the texts several times paying attention to the sounds we have worked on in class as well as intotation and fluency.

When you have finished, come back to the blog a write a comment on the activity.


LA LENTE reaches the final of El País de los Estudiantes

The newspaper La Lente, written by our school mates, has been chosen the best newspaper of the Comunity of Madrid. The 18 best newspapers from all the counties in Spain will attend a ceremony in El País on 21st June. There, it will be known which three newspapers get the final prizes. We wish them good luck!



Gerald Fitch, Nicoloz Tskitishvili and Chris Thomas interviews

After having interviewed three basketball players who play for Ayuda en Acción Fuenlabrada, we have finally published them in a newspaper written for El País de los Estudiantes. Here you have the whole newspaper. Notice that the first pages are written in Spanish, but the last section, which includes the interviews with the basketball players, are written in English. It is also worth reading the article about London: don't miss the picture of the foggy view of the Thames from the London Eye; it was taken by Marta.



"It's worth keeping an eye on that blog"

Our blog has been included in the Top 10 of a blog called English without end by teacher at EOI Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) called Laura. We really appreciate that! This Top 10 is part of an initiative called Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog ("It's worth keeping an eye on that blog"). So, according to her opinion, our blog is worth visiting. Now, I must point out 10 blogs I value. I've been thinking about my Top 10 and it is a hard task to elect just 10. But here we go (notice, no ranking is intended, just alphabetical order):

Alpozo's Phonetic Blog
Batxillerat Collaborative Class
Ciencias Naturales
English in Brunete
English without end
My English Printable Worksheets
Shakespeare in love
Sing your English


LA LENTE or our newspaper at El País de los Estudiantes

IMPORTANT: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED: now you can read the whole newspaper here.
LA LENTE de LORANCA has just published their newspaper. This is the third newspaper published by a group of students of our school. We have participated in the programme El País de los Estudiantes, organized by El País, for three academic years. Here you have just the cover but if you want to have a look at all the sections you can visit http://estudiantes.elpais.com/, choose Madrid (or any other region) > PERIÓDICOS > VISUALIZA OTROS PERIÓDICOS > MADRID > IES BARRIO LORANCA (1A).


Nikoloz Tskitishvili - Ayuda en Acción Fuenlabrada

Here you have the first part of the interview with Nikoloz Tskitishvili. When you finish the listening questions, please report your mark to me (use this information: teacher code: alberto; class id: none). Finally, write a comment on this post explaining how difficult it was. Hope you enjoy it!!

Video edited by Daniel Tierno


Interviewing ACB basketball players

We have just done the most motiviting activity I have ever been involved in. We have interviewed three ACB basketball players who play for Ayuda en Acción Fuenlabrada: Gerald Fitch, who is the leader of the ACB top scorers classification, Chris Thomas and Nicoloz Tskitishvili, who has played in the NBA and Chris Thomas. This has been done thanks to the cooperation of Ayuda en Acción Fuenlabrada basketball club. They allowed us not only to interviewed them, but also use Fernando Martín Sports Center, mainly the court and the press room. We are really grateful for that.

This activity has provided real oral practice, both speaking and listening. It was necessary to practice and review all the sounds we have seen so far this year and to practice falling intonation in questions. Although most part of the interviews was controlled practice (the questions we had practiced in class), there was also open conversation (introductions, giving personal/group information, asking for pictures, autographs...).

Confidence has played an important part: students do not only have to speak in English but they have to do it with a famous basketball player whom they have seen on TV, newspapers or magazines. So, in order to be successful in the interview they must have confidence on themselves.

Motivation has been another important aspect as a result of having done this activity. There is an after and a before this activity. I know it has been incredible for most of you to have been understood in English and being able to have a short conversation in English.

In future posts, we are going to do some listening practice using the audio recordings of these interviews. But before that, and although we have done an evaluation sheet on the activity in class, I would like you to write a comment on this activity explaining what you have learnt and how you felt and referring to confidence and motivation.

Thank you.

Pictures taken by Alberto Hidalgo

CONFIDENCE is one key to learn a language

There are many key aspects when learning a language that students must bear in mind and teachers must help to accomplish. One of them is confidence. When learning a language a student must be aware of what they CAN communicate (and not of what they can´t communicate). So, it is important to learn in an atmosphere of confidence, making students feel what they know and pushing them a step forward.

Developing confidence is more important than learning new vocabulary or using a determined grammatical structure. It is the basis for a longlife language learning. It is the key to use one's knowledge of a language, making mistakes and learning from them, and also to build bridges towards new unknown areas. It is a necessary tool at any stage in the process of speaking a second language.

Confidence has played an important part in the out-of-school activity we have just done. I will comment on this activity in the following post and I will refer to confidence in it.



What do you know about Australia? Is "kangaroo" the first word that comes to your mind when you think of Australia? What interesting places can you visit there? Who was Captain Cook?
Well, if you don't know the answers, don't worry. In the link below you can find a listening about Australia which includes all the answers for those questions and much more information about the country.
This is a different listening activity from those we have done in this blog before. You are given the whole text you have to listen to with a lot of gaps and, obviously, you have to complete the text.
After doing this listening activity and checking your answers, try to read aloud the whole text yourself. Listen to it as many times as you need, paying attention to how words are pronounced. Then repeat it several times (three times or more).
Here you have the link:


Comfortably Numb by PINK FLOYD

Maybe you already know Pink Floyd, but maybe you don't. In any case, it is worth visiting this web about the band.
This song is taken from the record "The Wall". All the songs in this album tell the story of a boy who builds a wall around him to be protected against the outer world. Each bad experience in his life means a new brick in the wall. When he grows up, he becomes a singer and in the video we have him just before giving a concert. Well, this is not really a video, this is part of the film "The Wall", which was made after the album. The film deals with the story of this man following the lyrics of the songs, because there are no dialogues, but just songs. Here you have just a little bit of the story. If you want to know the whole story you will have to watch the film...

I hope you enjoy this song and do the quizz well. Please, add a comment on your results.



A new blog in the school

We welcome the students of 3º Diversificación who have just created a new blog and are posting pictures and comments on our school. They are the ones who take the pictures, write the comments and posts. They say it is easy and that they enjoy a lot. Long live their blog!
You can visit it at:


/i:/ vs /I/

Here you have a webpage to practice these two sounds, firstly in single words (minimal pairs), and then in a sentence. Listen and repeat the words and practice the sentence several times.

PS: don't forget writing a comment on this post telling us if you find these exercises helpful.