Reading: Silent Fireworks in Italy (B2)

cac87296-a7df-4599-87aa-26a3e7f39078A small town in Italy has passed legislation requiring people to use only silent fireworks in displays and celebrations. The new measure is to ensure the wellbeing of dogs and other pets. The town of Collecchio in the province of Parma has decided that the welfare of its pets is more important than the sound of explosions that normally accompanies fireworks. The more sensitive hearing of animals causes them to develop a condition known as ‘acoustic stress’ that follows sudden and loud noises. The sounds and smoke created by fireworks can cause additional health problems in animals. Vets commonly report cases of nausea, tremors and increased anxiety in animals after a fireworks show.

Awareness of the potential problems created by the sound of fireworks is growing in Europe. Over the New Year, Germany banned fireworks near refugee shelters to minimise trauma experienced by refugees who had just fled war zones. Fireworks are also known to cause problems for war veterans. The explosions bring back painful memories of being in areas of conflict and can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, not everyone agrees with the idea of silent fireworks. Antonio Maldini said: “You need the booms, cracks and thunder. It’s an essential part of the fun.” He advised pet owners to keep animals indoors and keep all windows firmly closed.



  1. What did a small town in Italy pass?
  2. What did the town decide the welfare of pets was more important than?
  3. What is the name of the condition animals can get from loud noises?
  4. What else causes health problems for animals besides sounds?
  5. Who commonly reports cases of nausea in pets after fireworks shows?
  6. Which country banned fireworks displays near refugee camps?
  7. What did organisers want to minimize in refugees?
  8. What kind of memories can fireworks brink back in war veterans?
  9. What can fireworks trigger in war veterans?
  10. What did Antonio Maldini say should be firmly closed?



  1. What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘fireworks’?
  2. What do you think of fireworks?
  3. How unfair is it on animals to use fireworks?
  4. What do you think of the idea of silent fireworks?
  5. What do you know about noise pollution?
  6. Should all towns introduce the same law?
  7. What else should we do for the wellbeing of pets?
  8. What noises make you stressed?
  9. What other dangers are there with fireworks?
  10. What was the last fireworks display you saw like?
  11. How might refugees feel when they hear fireworks?
  12. How can we help war veterans with PTSD?
  13. Would you prefer to see: silent fireworks or loud ones?
  14. Where’s the best fireworks display in the world?
  15. Is noise an essential part of a fireworks display?
  16. Is it enough to keep pets indoors with the windows shut?
  17. What questions would you like to ask a fireworks display organiser?


STRESSFUL NOISES: Rank these with your teacher. Put the most stressful noises at the top.

  • Cars hooting
  • Music in supermarkets
  • Video games
  • Babies crying
  • Fireworks
  • Other people’s headphones
  • Electric tools
  • Family members


TEST EACH OTHER: Look at the words below and try to recall how they were used in the text:

  • potential
  • near
  • fled
  • painful
  • idea
  • windows
  • only
  • new
  • normally
  • hearing
  • sudden
  • report


Original material: Breaking News English

Reading: Professional Sleepers (B1)

A company in the USA is paying its employees to sleep more. Staff at the insurance company Aetna will get $300 a year added to their salary if they get at least seven hours of sleep a night. That works out to just over an extra dollar for each night the employee sleeps over seven hours.

The idea behind this scheme is employee performance. Human resources officials say employees will work better if they have slept well. They add that a workforce that is more awake and alert will mean the company will perform better. Staff can either record their sleep automatically using a wrist monitor that connects to Aetna’s computers, or manually record how long they have slept every night.
There are a number of studies that warn that not sleeping enough can affect our ability to do our job. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine said that the average worker in the USA loses 11.3 working days of productivity a year because of not getting enough sleep. This costs companies about $2,280 for one worker. It estimates that the US economy loses $63.2 billion a year because workers do not sleep more than seven hours a night.

A 2015 study in Europe by the Rand Corporation found that staff who slept less than seven hours per night were far less productive than workers who had eight or more hours of sleep. The staff at Aetna also receive extra cash if they do exercise.




  1. How much extra money can workers get for sleeping more?
  2. What is the idea behind this scheme?
  3. Who said employees would work better after more sleep?
  4. What will perform better if workers are more awake and alert?
  5. What kind of monitor can workers use to record their sleep?
  6. How many days of productivity does the average worker lose a year?
  7. How much does a lack of sleep cost companies per worker?
  8. How much does a lack of sleep among workers cost the US economy?
  9. What did the Rand Corporation do in 2015?
  10. What else can the insurance company workers do to get more money?



SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article.

  1. employees
  2. salary
  3. scheme
  4. alert
  5. monitor
  6. affect
  7. average
  8. far
  9. productive
  10. extra
  1. ordinary
  2. detector
  3. a lot
  4. workers
  5. additional
  6. aware
  7. pay
  8. useful
  9. plan
  10. change

Reading: Body Talk (B2)

f8f9802c236745406bc957ed6f506c60WHAT YOUR BODY LANGUAGE REVEALS ABOUT YOU AT WORK.

Your boss asks how things are going. “Fine,” you smile. You can’t quite bring yourself to look him in the eye as you deliver this jumbo-sized lie but, what the hell, it’s not as if he can tell you’re fibbing, so it doesn’t make any difference. Or does it? The truth is, no matter what you say, your body language will reveal your true feelings as surely as if you came to work holding a big banner saying, “Help! I hate my job.”

“What we say with our bodies is at least as important as what we say with our voices,” says occupational psychologist Dr Cary Cooper. “The way you stand and sit, the direction of your eyes and the intonation of your voice are all part of your range of non-verbal communication.”

“A genuinely happy and enthusiastic worker would have looked his boss directly in the eye as he replied to his inquiry. Even if his manager doesn’t realize why he’s not convinced by the answer, he’ll know something’s not right.” “Slouchy posture and drooping shoulders are a sign of someone who’s feeling ‘under it’ and quite literally overloaded,” he explains. “Like the image of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, people with hunched shoulders and rounded backs are struggling with a weight of work that is overburdening them.”

“People who shuffle their shoes along the floor as they go are invariably bored,” says Dr Cooper. “Their couldn’t-care-less gait reflects their listless, can’t-be-bothered attitude.” Crouchers, says Dr Cooper, hide behind their desks all day and never get up unless they have to. Some even rearrange their desks to create a physical barrier between themselves and their colleagues.

Keen, fulfilled employees are as easy to spot as demotivated, miserable ones. Management consultant Dr Paul Cassinder says those of us who are unhappy at work and giving off the wrong signals can reverse our state of mind by adopting positive body language. “Most people get bogged down occasionally at work. But minds can be tricked and, if you’ve allowed yourself to fall into a dreary state, take action now.”



1. Fibbing

A acting B lying C showing off D pretending

2. Reveal

A disguise B block C conceal D show

3. Slouchy

A Upright B Arrogant C Composed D Floppy

4. Hunched

A curved B unbalanced C broad D straight

5. Keen

A Caring B Kind C Friendly D Enthusiastic



6. What we say with our bodies:

A. can tell what we feel about our job.

B. can be as important as coming to work with a banner.

C. can help us communicate with cur boss better.

D. makes things worse at work.

7. Your bad posture:

A. will make your manager realize something is not right.

B. can mean you don’t want to look your boss in the eye.

C. can mean you’re carrying a big load on your shoulders.

D. can mean that you feel you can’t cope with your job well.

8. Workers who drag their feet:

A. don’t use enough body talk.

B. can’t care less about their friends.

C. can’t be bothered to lift them.

D. are usually fed up.

9. Some employees use their desks:

A. to keep out of fights.

B. as an excuse so they never get up.

C. to hide themselves.

D. to get into trouble.

10. You can make yourself feel positive again by:

A. speaking your mind.

B. talking to your manager consultant.

C. allowing your psychologist to help you.

D. walking, talking and standing tall.

Reading: Profile – David Bowie (B2)


artists-pay-tribute-david-bowieDavid Bowie is a music legend. He was one of the most original, innovative and influential rock stars in music history. He was also an actor, fashion icon, record producer, artist and art critic. He was born in London on the 8th of January, 1947 and died at the age of 69 on the 10th of January, 2016. His real name was David Robert Jones but he changed it because there was another David Jones singing in the 1960s.

David Bowie first became famous following his 1969 hit “Space Oddity”. This song was released just ten days before the first Moon landing. In 1972, Bowie became a leader of the glam rock movement. He wowed and shocked people with his make-up, dresses and flamboyant costumes. His Ziggy Stardust persona was the first of many different characters Bowie would use every time he changed musical direction.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Bowie continued to break new ground with his music. In 1975, he experimented with soul music and had a number one hit in the USA with the song ‘Fame’. He also helped to pioneer the electronic and new romantic movements in the mid-1970s. In the early-80s, he was one of the first artists to use videos to promote his songs.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. His fans thought he had given up making music after a ten-year break starting in 2003. He surprised the world by suddenly announcing a new album, ‘The Next Day’ in 2013. He released his final album days before his death. Many believe the album was Bowie’s goodbye to his fans.

Listen to the article

Text extracted from here


David Bowie interviewed by the BBC in 1999 by Jeremy Paxman. 



Reading: A Confused Generation (B1)

shanghaiChange brings problems. Bella lives with her parents in a brand new apartment in Shanghai. Her real name is Zhou Jiaying – ‘Bella’ is the name that she has been given by her English teacher.

Her parents are representative of a confused generation in a confused time. In modern Chinese society different ideologies are fighting against each other. Enormous material benefits have been brought by China’s economic boom, but the debate is not about these; it’s about family life and values. Old values – the respect of family and the older generations – are being replaced by new ones which place money as the critical measurement of one’s position in society. But at the same time these new values are also being questioned. Have our lives been made richer by all our new possessions? Is Chinese culture being supplanted? As in all changing societies people are trying to find the right balance between the ‘new’ and ‘old’.
traditional-chinese-new-year-celebration-happy-family-illustration-67833207Recently, Bella’s family put their grandfather into a nursing home. It was a painful decision. In traditional China, caring for aged parents has always been an unavoidable duty, but times are changing. Bella’s ambition? ‘I want one day to put my parents in the best nursing home’ – the best that money can buy, she means.
‘When she told us that’ Bella’s father says, ‘I thought – is it selfish to think she will be a dutiful and caring daughter and look after us? We don’t want to be a burden on her when we get old. This is something my daughter has taught us. Once it was parents who taught children, but now we learn from them.’

2-01The family can buy many more things these days, and when they go shopping, Bella makes sure that the ‘right’ western brands are selected. (Pizza Hut is her favourite restaurant.)
She also teaches her parents the latest slang. Her parents want to be supportive, but they no longer help with Bella’s homework; in spoken English she has surpassed them. She has already learnt much more about the world outside than them. ‘Our advice is not listened to and it is not wanted,’ her mother says. ‘When she was little, she agreed with all my opinions. Now she sits there without saying anything, but I know she doesn’t agree with me.’ Bella glares, but says nothing. ‘I suppose our child-raising has been a failure.’ In China there is no concept of the rebellious teenager.

Text taken from National Geographic open-source Life Study Book:Upper Intermediate

Reading: Okinawa – The Secrets of Long Life (A2)

Map showing Okinawa Island

The island of Okinawa in Japan has some of the oldest people in the world. It’s famous for its high number of centenarians – men and women who live beyond 100 years of age.

There have been many scientific studies of their lifestyle and you can even buy cookery books based on their diets.

Some of the reasons for their good health are that they …

• go fishing and eat what they catch.

• regularly do gardening and grow their own fruit and vegetables.

• go cycling and never drive when they can walk.

• often spend time with friends. They meet at people’s houses and play games.

• rarely buy food from a supermarket.

• do regular exercise, go swimming and lead active lives.

Reading: Refugees in Europe (B1)

A very full boat carries people across the Mediterranean

The organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the European Union (EU) to act immediately on the refugee situation in the Mediterranean Sea. The call follows the latest tragedy that saw at least 700 migrants perish in an attempt to flee from their troubled homelands and reach Europe. This brings the death toll to over 1,000 in the past week. HRW spokesperson Judith Sunderland said: “The EU is standing by with arms crossed while hundreds die off its shores. These deaths might well have been prevented if the EU had launched a genuine search-and-rescue effort.” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi singled out Libya as the key problem and said efforts should focus on refugee boats leaving Libyan ports.

Crowds demand action from European governments

The 28-member EU is under fire from within over its policy to scale down efforts to save lives at sea. Divisions began last year when the EU cut its search-and-rescue budget by two-thirds. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said: “Europe can do more and Europe must do more. It is a shame and a confession of failure how many countries run away from responsibility.” Maltese PM Joseph Muscat warned: “We will all be judged in the same way that history has judged Europe when it turned a blind eye to the genocide of this century and last century.” Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy said: “This is the umpteenth time we hear of yet another human tragedy in the Mediterranean….Words won’t do any more.”