THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did you miss a class? What to do?

Catch up with Chat!
...or under this posting

Hello everybody! As promised, I am opening a new section to cater for your requests.

Actually, no one has particularly asked for this new “gadget” but, I have seen you would like to exchange messages when you have been absent to a class and I had not allowed room for that yet.

This poses a little problem here. To begin with I must comply with my own rules for this Blog as stated in the Manifesto. This site is not meant to give or correct homework. That is what teachers do in class. This is an FCE Student after class companion (About this site reads: meeting point), especially for my FCE students, but there are so many candidates out there each year who might find our work useful that I simply do not wish to leave other students out. No way.

Second, there is a question of order and relevance of site posts. In the Site Rules I explained that I would try and keep entries organised and clear comments that are not relevant to the posting. The idea is that you can use this as a website that you consult from time to time, choose what you need from the previous posts links, and what you read there is always updated; always important today.

Naturally, there will be messages that are relevant for a short time only. The catching-up situation is a good example. It will be difficult for you to browse and find wherever you had posted the odd message with questions about last class. For that we need new space as well as a techie solution.

I thought about having our own chat for miscellaneous messages and leave the comments under postings for the topic of the posting only.

So I believe I am not breaking my rules by allowing you to exchange messages about homework. It is just the teacher who is supposed to mums the word here.

How to chat on the FCE Blog

In fact, this is more like texting someone to his mobile rather than chat. You leave your message there (or here below) and come back to the site later to see if any caring human being has left any answer.

However, if you are remarkably lucky, you might see that someone else is online with you. Mind you, the chat function will not tell you who it is out there, so you will be taking your chances.

Yet I see several advantages to this.

For starters, by leaving your messages in the chat, you will not be spamming your classmates’ inboxes about your missing a class. Not to mention the disappointment when they do not answer! So if no one answered through the site, they are just as busy as you. That’s why.

Second, there is a question of privacy protection. You will be signing your comment but your personal email or msn is not exposed at all.

Another practical advantage is that you may suggest new sections for the site from there. Or simply put any comment that does not clearly fit in the previous posts.

Finally, the chat icon is always there on the side bar. No need to lose time finding where the message was. It is on every page.

Hope you find this helpful.

The messages in the chat thread will date, of course, so I will be clearing them from time to time before they become as interesting as yesterday’s newspaper.

If you have questions you can email me at
An afterclass meeting point for all First Certificate Students
This phrase has just taken on a new meaning here.

Thank you Gilda and Mariano for triggering off this idea. I am republishing here your comments, for they have little to do with the World Cup.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sports: Football

World Cup 2006

The World Cup has kicked off, so our eyes go to Germany as from today. We will be glued to the television leading the life of a couch potato while watching our team play.

We’ll spend four weeks rating players, discussing squads, and plotting our country’s route within the fixture.

Here are some of the best English language Sports Sites. They feature a live and lively coverage for you to follow:

The Guardian includes articles on the history of the World Cup, interactive fixtures, as well as separate sections on each country’s performance and stats. So get clicking!

BBC broadcasts with video, radio and a special link for the Word Cup. Complete teams pages.

Sky News has all the football highlights.

Do not miss the host country’s news.
English Home Page from the Deutsche Welle

A rarity: the official site includes a section called ‘The 12th Man'.

May the best one be the Champion!

9th June 2006

Site Rules

Blog Manifesto

FCE Students are all invited to browse and write on our own FCE blog at:

What is this?
First things first: It is not homework.
That clarified let me state the purpose. It is twofold.

Internet is a powerful learning tool when used wisely. There is plenty of useful stuff to read, although there is lot of rubbish too. It can be a time consuming task as well and then we end up throwing our attempt away. And when you do find something worth going back to, we get thrilled for one day and then we have no trace to find the site back again. It is also lonely when you can't share what you found or you realise there is more you can do in that site but you need help. So let's share our internet journeys and see what good comes out of all this.

On the other hand, we all want to succeed in the exam. Personally, I would like you to pass with merit. That requires time and effort outside the class. Sharing exercises and tips for studying will no doubt increase our chances of getting better. Again, having a meeting point for our ideas will be empowering.

Finally, I would like you to grasp the concept that this is a free writing space. We are constantly learning rules about how to organise our thoughts within articles, stories, and letters of application. Lack of practice can make us feel a bit trapped among so many rules -dos and don'ts. When all of that is so new and so very much bound by the codes of a different culture, writing becomes all work and no play. I believe it is also important to try writing in a more personal way for your own non-academic purposes. So this will be a neutral territory in your path to develop your own style in English.

Blog Postings
Rules of the game to bear in mind when writing comments:

  1. English, only English. Much richer than abbreviations or emoticons.

  2. Every comment must be signed. No anonymous contributions, please. When you click to make a comment, choose the option “other” so as to sign it.

  3. The teacher will retain a moderator role and a right to delete postings which do not fulfil these rules. If you would like something deleted, just say so (in class or by mail will be OK).

  4. Humorous comments are better when directed to ourselves, not others.

  5. A note on plagiarism. If you are quoting from another site, please copy & paste the link you got the information from. It is a question of respect. Otherwise we are stealing, pure and simple.

  6. Please do not ask me to correct the grammar or style in your postings, I won’t. (You may do so in class - sure) In the real world, you just do not go about telling people they are wrong. It’s rather out of line.

I have the intention of keeping sections a little organised under appropriate headings. This is for all of us to go back and re-read something fast. It is quite annoying to browse endlessly for something interesting you once read and not find it. The headings will appear as links on the right grey bar. So let’s try to include comments related to the headings. These subtitles are by no means the only ones we will have. I am looking forward to your suggestions for other sections. Just do so anywhere you feel comfortable and then I will open a separate posting to continue there.

By the way, I am no expert in this. I am just learning. I haven’t got the faintest idea about html and the like. I see beautiful things on other weblogs, but I still do not have a clue how to embellish mine. I am willing to learn, though. Any idea of how to do things better will always be welcomed with a broad smile.

Hope you enjoy the site.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Disclaimer & Acknowledgments


This blog project has been developed by Claudia Ceraso. It is a strictly personal page and not a part of an institutional site. The ideas discussed in these postings need not coincide with those of AACI.

I am not personally responsible for the content of the external pages.

Origins and scope: This project was born as an idea to support my classroom work and as a tool to share with other teachers of English in need of a guide to quality educational sources on the Internet.

Quality judgements on the websites mentioned are done by Claudia Ceraso. Links are posted for students or teachers to assess site contents by themselves. A critical approach to contents is mostly encouraged.

I have no intention of selling educational products or services here mentioned. Part of the content of the sites listed is accessed only by subscription. Libraries and AACI services charge fees.


Ideas and motivation never come out of the blue. I owe a lot to the many enthusiastic teachers I have met in my life for their contagious zeal and commitment to the teaching profession. I am particularly grateful to my students, for being a constant source of inspiration and reflection. To AACI, its authorities and colleagues, for the support I have been given as a teacher in the good times and ... not so good ones.
Last but definitely not least, to the eternal patience of my parents, who always understand and encourage my projects. This site is dedicated to the memory of my dear brother Daniel.


© 2006. All rights reserved.
No part of this blog may be reproduced without proper acknowledgement to the writer. Teachers are allowed to print postings for classroom use.

How to quote this blog:
Source: Claudia Ceraso (2006)

To the best of my knowledge, I have properly cited all material mentioned in this blog. For comments or questions please contact me by e-mail.

Claudia Ceraso

6th June 2006
Buenos Aires, Argentina


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Online Dictionaries

Which dictionaries are the most useful?

Let’s have a look at this question. First thing you should bear in mind is what you need the dictionary for. As an FCE student you need a good monolingual advanced learner’s dictionary with concise and clear definitions. Dictionary entries vary in layout among editions (you should browse and see which you find most convenient), but they all include information about pronunciation –International Phonetic Alphabet is best for this-, about grammar categories and ,of course, a definition. However, when it comes to useful dictionaries –paper or online editions- for the FCE preparation, what you should pay more attention to is the number of examples the entry includes. Not just one, as that may only exemplify one of the many meanings of the word but not its use. So the rule for examples is “The more, the merrier”.

There are countless dictionaries and glossaries in the internet galaxy. You can find so much that it may sometimes be discouraging to try and check them out, tell what is good from what is not.

I'll suggest a few to get started:
Definitions, synonyms, translation
Options to look up your word in different dictionaries: phrasal verbs, idioms, translations. Examples are given.

Also Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Or Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

A tip...
Go into Google searchbar and type the following:
define: type the word you are looking for
And then press ENTER

Now if you are ready for more...

-If you need a dictionary to link you to the web dictionaries where the word appears, you should visit:

-If you need to see the word in a picture, try this one:

-For an extensive coverage on synonyms go to:

-Now when you are writing and you want more than synonyms, you want an aid to retrieve the right word from your mind, this visual help will prove irreplaceable:;jsessionid=B6B1838D9D226CBB90C562A5D36EC77E

-For specific purposes, you probably need to search for a dictionary before you try finding the word:

-Another portal worth paying a visit is:
Here you will find links to computing dictionaries, financial dictionaries, acronyms, and more.

Just out of curiosity, do you know how many volumes the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language has? Mm...Guess or check:
The dictionary is available at the NRC on the 5th floor.

Looking for Real Books

A Word on Libraries at AACI

There are two libraries at AACI to help you with your FCE needs.

The general library is called British Cultural Library
1st floor
Open Monday to Fridays from 11 am to 12.30 pm and from 1 pm to 7 pm

You can consult books as well as newspapers and magazines. Books are available in simplified forms too.

The specialised library is called National Resources Centre (NRC)
5th floor
Open Monday to Thursdays from 10 am to 1 pm and from 1.30 pm to 5 pm
Fridays from 10 am to 1 pm

Here you can find other FCE course books, practice tests books with answers. Books for phonetics practice, vocabulary, phrasal verbs and idioms.

The dictionary collection is quite complete. Let me recommend a look at the Oxford Collocations Dictionary. It may prove very useful when you are looking for differences among near synonyms. Or when solving the Use of English multiple choice exercise. Try it.

Learning Land
1st basement. Room 22
Open most of the day -with a break for lunch- until 7.15 pm.
This is not a library, although you might borrow simplified readers. This is the place to get extra practice for most parts of your test. There is a wide collection of listening papers other than the ones we are using in class. And a big plus: there is a teacher to guide you through the maze of practice available. You can't miss it!

Breaking News

Reading on the Web: Newspapers

Reading is not only a pleasure but also a wonderful way of improving your vocabulary. So choosing carefully what you read might help you to have the vocabulary you want.

I simply love reading the news on the web. It is instant, always updated, and a way to travel far. You decide when you start, what news you want and you can easily avoid commercials!

I’d like to share with you a few links to read news from Britain and the United States. It is an interesting exercise to read the same piece of news published on both sides of the Atlantic and compare. You will see how different British and American English can be.


BBC NEWS | News Front Page
World, UK and Business news and comment from The Times and The Sunday Times, Times Online
Guardian Unlimited | UK Latest
The Daily Telegraph
Finantial Times

US - News & Information Homepage - U.S. Home
The Washington Post
The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia : Miami & Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Dolphins & More

There are sites publishing news from Argentina in English. When it comes to economy, we need words to describe what is going on and they are not easily found in a dictionary.

Buenos Aires Herald

On another posting... we can discuss magazines on the web.

Are you reading anything that you would like to recommend?

Related Post: Sports: Football