Wednesday, 28 December 2016


A context of fear

The Salem Girls in The Crucible (The Old Vic, London, 2014)
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in the 1950s,  in a climate of fear, during the Cold War, when communist infiltration of US culture was considered a pathology, a virus that could kill their politics and their nation.  

Writers and intellectuals gravitated to communism during the 1930s Depression, either hoping its precepts could lead to social reform or as a way to protest America’s isolationism, specifically the nation’s neutrality in the Spanish War.  In the 50s, in a period of right-wing paranoia, they became Senator McCarthy’s scapegoats. They were considered Un-American. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) turned its attention to writers and actors who were  supposedly seen as a threat to the republic. Those who in the 1930s had embraced radical politics were now to be made to pay.  

In January 1952 Elia Kazan, Miller’s friend and film director, was summoned by the Committee. Although at first he refused to name names, he changed his mind, confessing what he had done and said to Miller,  who then left Kazan’s house and drove directly to Salem, Massachusetts to research what would become The Crucible.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


Today the Internet provides people with tons of useful and interesting information. There is no need to go to the library or pay enormous sums of money in order to read desired book or article. It is possible to find great amounts of information in the vastness of the Internet. Thus, it is extremely important for modern people to read more information and apply useful reading techniques that can improve person’s reading skills. Here are some tips that can be beneficial for readers:

Monday, 19 December 2016


Task 1. Copy and translate what the little girl says
Task 2. Why is the child so sad? What is she talking about? 

Saturday, 17 December 2016


In October of 1949, a few months after the release of George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a fascinating letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley — a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published, in the form of Brave New World. What begins as a letter of praise soon becomes a brief comparison of the two novels, and an explanation as to why Huxley believes his own, earlier work to be a more realistic prediction.

Huxley's letter to Orwell

21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD is part of an unforgettable trilogy of masterpieces which are strictly connected each to the other. The other two novels are 1984 by George Orwell and Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451. They are all science fiction dystopian novels, not my favourite genre,  but the three of them left an indelible mark inside me. There is science fiction and science fiction. These three novels are amazingly interesting and frighteningly premonitory.

They all imagine life in a dystopian society, under totalitarian regimes, in which human beings are dehumanized and totally deprived of their freedom.

In Brave New World , set in the future year A. F . 632 ( 632 years after the advent of the American magnate Henry Ford), the stability of the World State is maintained through a combination of biological engineering and exhaustive conditioning. The citizens have not been born but "hatched" to fill their predestined social roles. In infancy the virtues of passive obedience, material consumption and mindless promiscuity are inculcated upon them by means of hypnopedia or sleep - teaching. In later life the citizens of the World State are given free handouts of soma , the Government  - approved dope. The World State's motto is: "Community, Identity, Stability". The World State is divided into ten zones, each run by a Resident World Controller. "His fordshisp", Mustapha Mond, the controller of the Western European Zone centred in London, heads a hierarchical, factory-like concern with a mass of Epsilon- Minus Semi - Moron bred for menial labour at the base and with castes of increasing ability ranked above them. Immediately below Mond there are a caste of Alpha- Plus intellectuals. Bernard Marx and Helmhotz Watson are members of this elite, but both have developed subversive tendencies, taking delight in such deviant pleasures as being alone and abstaining from sex.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


“If they banished you from your country, where would you go? Would you like to find a nation as barbarous as yours who would spurn you like dogs?”
This does not come from Amnesty International, nor from Unhcr. This is William Shakespeare 400 years ago, in a passage from the historical play “The Book of Thomas Moore”. The fragment has been digitalized by the British Library and is one of the few manuscripts we have in Shakespeare’s own hand. It is part of a play written by different authors based on the life of Henry VIII’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More . The play dates presumably back to around 1600  but it was censored and never staged for fear of further disorders in London due to the theme it dealt with.  
Sir Thomas More (1478 - 1535)
It is not only a historical literary important discovery, but also a socially important message which comes right in a time when those words are relevant and painful. The tragedy of the migrants and refugees is an open wound in nowadays Europe, characterized by the fear of the foreigners and the misery of the newcomers.
 In the play,  set in 1517, Thomas More as the Sheriff of London, speaks to the crowd enraged against the migrants, merchants coming from the North of Italy, whom they accused of wanting to steal their jobs and money.  Doesn’t this sound very familiar and contemporary? Haven’t you heard this refrain in the media?

Friday, 14 October 2016


By the early 1590s, we know for sure that Shakespeare had become an actor. He was working very closely with a group of actors. They moved between a number of different companies, but it  rapidly became apparent that the leading figure among them was Richard Burbage. He would go on to become Shakespeare's closest friend and the man for whom he wrote all the great parts (Romeo, King Lear, Richatd III)

Shakespeare and those actors, such as Burbage, were just establishing themselves as some of the leading players in the early 1590s when disaster struck. There was a major outbreak of plague, and the theatres had to be closed. The point of that was that public places with large crowds in close proximity to each other were very dangerous from the point of view of the spread of infection. So,  whenever a bad outbreak of plague hit London, immediately the theatres were closed. That was a problem for the actors. What they had to do was get out on the road, tour in the provinces, and the takings were always much poorer there than they were in the city with its huge population.
It seems, though, that in 1593 and 94 while various acting companies were out in the country, Shakespeare didn't go with them. It would seem that just as he was establishing himself as a playwright, he decided on an alternative, or an additional course, for his writing. He decided to write poetry.

Sunday, 21 August 2016


The Olympic Games 2016 in Rio, Brazil, end today. What about celebrating the many emotions and athletic achievements we have witnessed with a compelling story from the past connected to the 1968 Games in Mexico?

The picture above is  perhaps the most iconic sports photograph ever taken. Captured at the medal ceremony for the men's 200 meters at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, U.S. sprinter Tommie Smith stands defiantly, head bowed, his black-gloved fist thrust into the thin air. Behind him fellow American John Carlos joins with his own Black Power salute, an act of defiance aimed at highlighting the segregation and racism burning back in their homeland. It was an act that scandalized the Olympics. Smith and Carlos were sent home in disgrace and banned from the Olympics for life. But they were treated as returning heroes by the black community for sacrificing their personal glory for the cause. History, too, has been kind to them. Yet few know that the man standing in front of both of them, the Australian sprinter Peter Norman who shocked everyone by powering past Carlos and winning the silver medal, played his own, crucial role in sporting history.  (from The third man: The forgotten Black Power hero

Read his story in this article from CNN and complete the tasks in the worksheet

Tuesday, 9 August 2016


1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“Harry: This book belongs to Harry Potter. 
Ron: Shared by Ron Weasley, because his fell apart. 

Hermione: Why don't you buy a new one then? 

Ron: Write on your own book, Hermione. 

Hermione: You bought all those dungbombs on Saturday. You could have bought a new book instead. 

Ron: Dungbombs rule.”

This movie will come out in November 2016. It is based on the adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. The screenplay has been written by J. K. Rowling herself. 

Within the Harry Potter universe, Newt Scamander's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was first published in 1927 and became a massive bestseller, as well as an approved textbook at Hogwarts. By the mid-1990s, when the Harry Potter series is set, it was in its 52nd edition. Scamander also has the distinct honour to have his own Chocolate Frog Card.

Sunday, 31 July 2016


The first refugee team to ever compete at the Olympic Games has been revealed, with 10 athletes given the dream opportunity of going for gold in Rio. Yusra Mardini, a teenage Syrian swimmer living and training in Berlin, is one of them. Read and watch her story and complete the tasks in the worksheet


"There are those whose footsteps we would not want to follow, whose shoes we would not want to be in - yet we strive to have their character, their strength, their drive and their courage. It is from them we learn that the worst of humanity can bring out the best in humanity"  

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


(by guest blogger Vera Reed)  It’s a good time to be a tech lover because trends show that the demand far outpaces the supply when it comes to well-paying job positions in the information technology space.

In fact, the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2016 notes that employers on the North American continent often have to wait several months after they post ads for IT-related jobs. The reason? There is a lack of candidates, and the reason for  this is that skilled IT workers often end up on the receiving end of multiple job offers -- complete with higher-than-usual pay, flexible work schedules, and other perks -- which leaves some companies with vacant positions.

These jobs have loads of growth potential, and they definitely pay well, for the most part. While money isn’t everything, it does count for a lot, and you might as well be compensated well for your hard work.

So if you’d like to get into the promising tech sector after completing business school, then read up on the best careers for tech lovers.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016



Alan Grant, Scotland Yard Inspector (a character who also appears in five other novels by the same author) is confined to bed in hospital with a broken leg. Bored and of restless mind, he becomes intrigued by a reproduction of a portrait of King Richard III brought to him by a friend. He prides himself on being able to read a person's character from his appearance, and King Richard seems to him a gentle and kind and wise man. Why is everyone so sure that he was a cruel murderer? With the help of friends and acquaintances, Alan Grant investigates the case of the Princes in the Tower. Grant spends weeks pondering historical information and documents with the help of an American researcher for the British Museum. Using his detective's logic, he comes to the conclusion that the claim of Richard being a murderer is a fabrication of Tudor propaganda, as is the popular image of the King as a monstrous hunchback.
Further, the book explores how history is constructed, and how certain versions of events come to be widely accepted as the truth, despite a lack of evidence. "The Daughter of Time" of the title is from a quote by Sir Francis Bacon: "Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority." Grant comes to understand the ways that great myths are constructed, and how in this case, the victorious Tudors saw to it that their version of history prevailed.

Friday, 6 May 2016


Did you know that work can make you happy? At least, it’s one of the major factors in determining overall happiness, and a large part of how happy work makes you is determined by the career you choose. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding on a career.

1) How do you enjoy interacting with people?

If you’re very much a “people person”, you may enjoy a career that allows you to constantly meet new people and, in many cases, solve their problems. This can be anything from standing on stage as a public speaker to helping people with research as a librarian.

If you prefer to have somewhat limited contact with other people, look for a career where you’ll be able to work as part of a small team instead. You may never need to deal with more than a few individuals, but you will be able to form steady, ongoing relationships with the people you know.

Humans are inherently social beings, and it can be hard to be happy when we’re totally isolated. That’s why your career should include a way to interact with others in a way that’s comfortable for you.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


War is no game. War leaves a mark. Eric Lomax, like many other surviving soldiers,  lived haunted by his war memories all his life through, as if war never actually ended in his mind and his heart. The Railway Man, based on Lomax’s autobiography,  came out in September 2014  here in Italy as “Le due vie del destino”, but it had opened theatrically on New Year’s Day in the UK and, in the US,   in April 2014.
Eric Lomax (30 May 1919 - 8 October 2012) was one of thousands of Allied prisoners of war forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. Fate wanted he, a train and railway enthusiast, to be part of the army of enslaved prisoners the Japanese employed for their ambitious plan. His experiences, after the secret radio he built to bring news and hope to his mates was discovered, the inhuman tortures he was subjected to,  and which left  him traumatised and shut off from the world, are the main interest of this movie. Water-boarding and savage beating didn’t make Lomax surrender or lose his will to live. Years later, with his life still affected by that huge amount of suffering and consequent hatred, he met Patti (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful woman, on a train and fell in love. Once they get married  and Patti becomes acquainted with Eric’s nightmares and terrifyingly weird moments, she  is determined to rid him of his demons.
One day they discover  that the young Japanese officer who tortured him is still alive and Eric decides that it is time to meet him again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Veronica and her Erasmus mates in Innsbruck
Hi! I’m Veronica and Mrs Spila was my English teacher, though only during my last year at grammar school. I spent a nice period there and I was really satisfied. My school career was quite brilliant and I got my degree with the highest grade… but not because I love studying… just thanks to my willpower.
In my life I’ve often changed my mind about what I wanted to do in the future. When I was in  middle school, my dream was to become an archaeologist. This is why I chose grammar school. But I loved also literature, reading good books and writing, too. So I thought “why not a journalist?”. Yes, good idea. But I loved cinema, as well. So I decided I might have been a film critic.
 Actually,  I’ve always loved lots of things,  but none was my “true love” and, in short, after leaving high school, I decided to study Economy at University.
You maybe wonder why. At that moment it was a very simple decision actually, because I knew exactly what I wanted in my life: I wanted to be a manager. Not an easy goal, but that  was my ambition.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


Drawing by Denis & Simone 2scA
In January we had a so - called Students' Week in our school,  during  which we didn't follow the regular timetable: classes were open and  students split into sub-groups or gathered into mixed groups, our lessons were based on extra activities.

To the groups of students I met in those days, I proposed a writing workshop (B1 level). The activity had been designed to prepare candidates for the ISE I exam of Trinity College. I used it to improve students' writing skills through amusing and engaging tasks. 

Introducing story frames

There are usually 6 stages to a short story:
a. Introduction: introduces characters, setting, time, weather, etc.
b. Starting action: the point of a story that starts the rising action.
c. Rising action: events leading up to the climax or turning point.
d. Climax: the most exciting part or turning point of the story.
e. Falling action: the story begins to conclude.
f. Resolution: a satisfying ending to the story

Monday, 8 February 2016


Who I was

Hello everybody, my name is Tommaso Troia and, like many of you reading here, I have been lucky enough to be one of  Mrs Spila’s pupils  in my high school years.
In high school I was quite a good student with a passion for swimming, Maths and Physics, who loved studying the English language but  not English poetry and literature. I particularly enjoyed pushing Mrs Spila’s patience to the limit, which is why our beloved teacher will hardly ever forget about me. J
I also spent my spare time playing Magic The Gathering, and studying some computer science on my own.

My Choice

I have to say, I didn’t think about my future much till the fourth year of high school, since I was pretty sure that whatever was in my future, it would be great.
It was right in the middle of my fourth year of high school that I clearly realized what my dream job was. A tough one, both physically and mentally challenging, but with strong values and sound rules to follow. Thus,  when I asked myself what I was going to do in my life, I clearly saw that my choice could be no other than to join the Army. So I started dreaming of entering the Military Academy of Modena.
Of course, as I had made my mind, I visited the Italian Army official website and found all the information I needed to enlist, which is what I did.  So, since first step was to pass a series of tests and exams of different types, I started studying and doing some extra exercise to pass whatever test I was to go through.

Friday, 29 January 2016


 "... a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  

It came out on the 5th this month and,  at last, I came to see it this morning. It's the latest film version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. I saw it at the cinema with 4scA, one of my classes. 
It is a great movie: dark, gloomy, violent, impressive. It was not my first Macbeth, of course, but it was certainly an outstanding one. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are giant actors and I expected them to be remarkable  as the two protagonists.  But they were beyond perfection. As Macbeth was doomed to be king and Lady Macbeth his Queen, Fassbender and Cotillard were born to embody these two icon figures.  They were not simply remarkable but incredibly intense, impeccable in their renditions. 


Saturday, 23 January 2016


Do you ever look at people and wonder what happens in their minds? This is exactly what brilliant Pixar film Inside Out  (2015) tries to do. 
Inside Out is the story of what happens in Riley's mind. Riley is 12, she leads a pretty good life with her loving parents,  she plays hockey and loves Minnesota, her home state. Her life goes on quite smoothly with the help of her emotions; Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger. But one day she must move  to San Fransisco and once she is there Joy and Sadness disappear, which  symbolizes her difficulty accepting her new life. Joy and Sadness go on a quest to return home and save Riley....

The video I've chosen for this lesson is not in the movie. It is a clip released after the great success Inside Out got both from audiences and critics all around the world. 

What happens in Riley's parents' minds when a boy, Jordan,  comes round to take their daughter out? Enjoy the video and don't forget to complete the tasks in the worksheet below. Practice makes perfect!

Monday, 18 January 2016


"Sometimes it's the very people who no one imagines anything of 
who do the things no one can imagine"

Alan Turing was a prodigy endowed with incredible stubborness and will power. He succeeded in an apparently impossible enterprise saving thousands of lives during WWII: he invented a machine to decrytp  Enigma, the Germans' secret code, thus boycotting many of their deadly attacks on Britain. He saved all those lives  thanks to his ingenious intuition, algorithms and computing being almost a game to him . He contributed to change the outcomes of a horrifying war,  designing his machine which could compute thousands of figures at a speed a human mind could have never achieved, neither the most brilliant. He is now considered one of the fathers of computer science and a war hero. 

Friday, 8 January 2016


In November you met Maria Sofia, studying Arabic and giving a helping hand in Palestine. In December, Emanuele, living in Milan and working as a software developer. After them, the first of my former students I want to introduce you in 2016 is Edoardo , Edo,  with his lovely girlfriend, Federica, aka Kika. They live in Salento, in the South of Italy. Contrada Lusci is their place and a lifestyle, about which they write on their blog. They are a special couple and I'm glad to share their story with you.  
It is a story of love, peace, beauty, respect for nature and every living being, hope and incredible adventures.


Edoardo was one of my students, he left school eleven years ago and he is a young man in his thirties now. I met him again a couple of months ago because he and his lovely partner, Federica, presented a very original project, a book + CD,  here in my town and I was invited to the event by friends and colleagues.

Obviously teenagers change once they turn into men and women but what surprised me most meeting Edoardo again was how totally different his posture, attitude, smile, speaking voice and look were. He looked and sounded relaxed, calm, focused and imperturbable. His eyes and his smile were warming, welcoming, peaceful. Well, actually, both Kika and Edo are the embodiment of the word “peaceful” and  both have a special smiling light in their eyes which speaks volumes of their inner world.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016



BBC Hard Times - 1994

Thomas Gradgrind is an educator and a riter on political questions. He has founded a school where his education theories are put into practice: children are taught nothing but facts, and he educates his own children, Louisa and Tom, in the same way, neglecting their imagination and their affections. He also adopts Sissy Jupe, whose father worked  in a circus.
Mr Gradgrind suggests his daughter should marry Josiah Bounderby, a  rich factory owner and banker of the city some thirty years older than she is. Louisa, desiring to help her brother Tom in his career, consents to the marriage, which naturally proves to be very unhappy.