Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston

Posted on 26. Feb, 2015 by in Culture, Travel

Freedom Trail map.

Freedom Trail map.

Join us for a short video tour of the Freedom Trail in Boston – home to 16 historic sites and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

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“In Boston, you can walk the 2.5 mile-long Freedom Trail across downtown and visit 16 historic sites. Start in Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States. Here, you can see the Frog Pond, Brewer Fountain, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Across the street is the Massachusetts State House. You can also see the Shaw Memorial dedicated to the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the Civil War. Nearby is another icon – the Park Street Church.

Keep walking to the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place for many American patriots such as: Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Ben Franklin’s parents. You can walk the trail yourself or join a tour.

The next stop is the King’s Chapel, an 18th-century National Historic Landmark. This was the first Anglican church built in colonial New England during the reign of King James II. It was designed by America’s first architect, Peter Harrison.

Nearby is the Old City Hall, which was also home to the Boston Latin School. Outside is a statue of Ben Franklin, as well as one of a donkey – symbol of the Democratic Party. The Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston and stage for some of the most important events leading up to the American Revolution.

The Old State House was the center of political life in colonial Boston. It was here that the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was given. Just outside, the Boston Massacre occurred on March 5 1770.Nowadays, the Bostonian Society runs the Boston history museum here. Head inside to browse the many informative exhibits.

Historic Faneuil Hall has been a marketplace and meeting hall since 1742, and it’s often referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty.” Head in Quincy Market, where you can choose from a variety of vendors to sample some of Boston’s fresh seafood, including the famed clam chowdah. Our final stop is the Paul Revere House, once home to the legendary patriot. There are no photos allowed inside, so you’ll just have to go see for yourself!”

The Redwoods: Old trees filled with wonder

Posted on 24. Feb, 2015 by in Travel

Redwood trees.

The Coastal Redwoods of California.
Image by wolf4max on Flickr.com.

There are perhaps no trees more amazing than the redwood trees. There certainly are few trees older than the redwood trees, which makes them special, and definitely worth your time to read about today. In this post I am going to introduce you to these amazing trees and one place where they are being preserved; the Redwood National and State Parks in California.

Redwood trees are type of evergreen tree, which means they have needles instead of flat leaves. One thing that makes these trees special is that they can live for a very long time. Redwood trees that are 3,000 years old have been found. In fact, it is very common for a redwood to live to be at least 300 years old; whereas most other trees don’t live much longer than 300 years. These trees are among the oldest living things currently on the Earth! Another thing that makes these trees special is that they grow very tall. The Coastal Redwood trees, which is found on the coast of California and Oregon, are the tallest living things on Earth. These trees can grow to be up to 379 feet (115 meters) tall! These trees tower above the other trees in the forest. (Note: There are three types of redwoods, Coastal Redwoods, Giant Redwoods, and Dawn Redwoods. This post just focuses on the Coastal Redwoods.)

Sadly, the beautiful, tall, and long-living redwood trees, which used to be found all along the Oregon and California coast, are almost all gone. In the 1800s and early 1900s logging companies decimated (to decimate = to destroy a large percentage of something) these trees. Their wood is a beautiful red color, the wood is also long lasting after it is cut, and it is very strong. These are among the many reasons that redwood trees were logged for decades in California and Oregon. It is estimated that now, only 5% of the old redwood forests still exist. Luckily, these forests that do exist are now protected so that the old trees can continue to grow and new ones can come back.

The Redwood National and State Parks in California are where you will find almost all of the old growth redwood trees today. These are a group of connected parks, which were created, beginning in the 1920s, to protect the redwoods and the animals that live in their forests. In total there are about 38,000 acres (157 km2) of old-growth redwood trees in these parks. You can drive your car around in groves (grove = a group of trees) of redwoods; and you can also, hike and even camp near these big trees. No matter how you see these trees, on foot, or by car, you will be amazed by their height, age, and beauty! If you are driving your car to see the redwoods, you can also drive your car through one of the three “drive-thru” redwood trees that have been created. These “drive-thru” trees, which are so big you can dive a car through the trunk, have been created as tourist attractions. They are not found in the parks, but nearby. Amazingly people have cut holes large enough to drive cars through these trees and that has not killed the trees!

Drive-thru redwood tree.

Drive-thru redwood tree!
Image by Carissa Rogers
on Flicker.com.

I know when I spent time camping in the Redwood National and State Parks, I was amazed by these trees and I am sure you would be too if you went to see them. Just think about all that has happened in the world in the time that some of these trees have been alive. That is truly awe inspiring to think about!

Note: Information for this post was taken from National Parks brochures at Redwood National and State Parks.

Deconstructing the Grammar of the Present Perfect Using Classic Songs

Posted on 23. Feb, 2015 by in Culture, English Grammar, English Language

Image of U2 via John Athayde / flickr

Image of U2 via John Athayde / flickr

As any student (or teacher) of English can verify, the present perfect tense can be a rather tricky and frustrating topic in English grammar. There are a couple reasons why this is the case. First, semantically, the present perfect tense overlaps significantly with the simple past and simple present tenses, and thus it’s easy to get by without it. Second, the present perfect involves complicated grammar, which further discourages students from using it.

Still, it’s important that students understand how to use the present perfect tense, as it is widely used in both spoken and written English. As such, it is featured in several popular songs. Here are some classic tunes that can serve as a gentle, enjoyable way to learn about the grammatical intricacies of the present perfect tense.

The basics of the present perfect: I’ve Been Everywhere, Johnny Cash

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Even if you’re not a fan of country, Johnny Cash’s songs are great for English language learners, as he generally speaks slowly and clearly. And his 1996 hit “I’ve Been Everywhere”, in which he lists the various places that he’s visited, has plenty of great examples of the present perfect tense. In it, Cash highlights the very common use of the present perfect to talk about past experience, and illustrates the grammar of the present perfect as it is typically used in affirmative sentences in spoken English.

Key lyrics:

I’ve been everywhere, man

I’ve been everywhere, man

Crossed the deserts bare, man

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man

Of travel I’ve had my share, man

I’ve been everywhere


Using the present perfect in negative sentences: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2

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A favorite among English teachers, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” has ample instances of the present perfect tense in action. It’s a good song for reviewing the use of the present perfect to describe something that is ongoing — the singer’s search began in the past, and is still happening in the present. It also gives a good example of the present perfect in negative form (i.e., haven’t found), as well as its use in conjunction with adverbs of time (i.e., “still”).

Key lyrics:

I have climbed the highest mountains

I have run through the fields

I have run, I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls

Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for


Using the present perfect in questions: Have You Ever Seen The Rain?, Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Forming questions in English is hard, and this is especially true when making questions with the already-complicated grammar of the present perfect tense. The popular song “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a relatively painless way to demonstrate how to use the present perfect in questions. In addition to illustrating how questions are formed (i.e., the subject “you” and the auxiliary “have” switch places), it also demonstrates the use of ever, a popular adverb of time that is used when asking questions in the present perfect tense. As an added bonus, it’s also a great way to introduce conversations in which you ask your students (or friends) what they have or haven’t done in their lives.

Key lyrics:

I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?

I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain

Comin’ down on a sunny day?

These classic songs are a fun, engaging way to introduce the difficult grammar of the present perfect tense, including its use in negative sentences and in questions. For more modern examples of the present perfect tense in songs, consider listening to Rihanna’s Where Have You Been All My Life or Michael Buble’s I Just Haven’t Met You Yet. And don’t forget to sing along — in doing so, you’ll get in some valuable speaking practice, too.

paul_thumbnailPaul is an English teacher living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups. You can check out their free English level tests and other language-learning resources on their website. Feel free to visit their Facebook page or contact paul@languagetrainers.com with any questions.