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Archive for July, 2012

Integrated Writing – For or Against Gun Control in America

In the wake of the Aurora shooting, the perennial discussion on the individual right or non-right to guns in the U.S. once again comes to the fore. Read the following text on the topic:

I have a dream to counter the nightmare of Aurora. I see three or four ex-presidents standing together, speaking truth to the American people. Here is what they would say:

“Our fellow Americans, we have come together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as men who have been privileged to lead this great country. We all treasure the constitution and the Second Amendment. We believe that Americans have the right to own guns. But that amendment does not entitle citizens to own combat weapons like the assault weapon that the Aurora shooter used to kill 12 and wound 58 more in a Colorado theater. The AR-15 assault rifle is a military-style weapon designed to feature high-capacity ammunition magazines capable of firing up to 30 rounds of ammunition without reloading. You don’t need an assault weapon to protect your family or shoot a deer. No one should own an assault rifle except our folks in the military and the law enforcement officers who protect us. For 10 years, assault weapons like these were banned in all 50 states until Congress let the Federal Assault Weapons Ban “sunset.”

“Our fellow Americans, it’s time to reinstate this law. We call upon the men who lead, or want to lead this country, and the Congress, to do the right thing: protect American citizens by restricting the sale of such weapons to those who have been authorized to use them.”

Is such a group presidential statement a pipedream?

Former President Jimmy Carter has long called for reinstating the assault weapons ban. So, too, did President Clinton. In 1994 Clinton signed two bills that became the hallmark of such efforts. The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act required a five-day waiting period and background check for the sale of handguns and created a National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Assault Weapons bill he signed banned the production and importing of 19 types of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and other guns with similar features, as well as ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds.

President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order making it illegal to import Uzis and AK-47s. Even his son, President George W. Bush, whose opposition to gun control may have helped him eke out victory over Al Gore, indicated in 2004 that he would have signed an assault weapons ban reauthorization had Congress approved it.

If not now, when? How many more massacres must Americans endure –the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Columbine, Amish girls, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords? Can’t we do more than pray for families of victims and carry flowers to their graves? 

For the full article, go here.

Now watch the following video in which the speaker seeks to answer a very simple question: Do American Citizens have the right to own a gun?

The task: State how the reading passage contrasts with the views presented in the video. Give examples and reasons presented in each. Write at least 200 words.  

More Independent Speaking – Sample answers

Task 1
What was the most important decision that you have ever made? Why was this decision important to you?
Task 2
If you could spend a year living in any city in the world, which city would you choose to live in? Give the reasons why you would want to live there.
Task 3
What do you think of this statement?
Failure often leads to success.
Give an example of why you think this is sometimes true. Give another example of why you think this statement is NOT true. Then state your opinion of this statement.
Task 4
You have received a full scholarship to a good university in your country. You have also been offered a full scholarship to a top university in another country. Which of these two scholarships would you accept? Why?

Independent Speaking – An important decision

Here is topic question that can be used in the Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT:

What was the most important decision you have ever made? Why was this decision important to you?

 Here is a sample response:

The most important decision I have ever made was when I decided to leave home and live in another country. This decision was crucial for two reasons

In my area of study there are not many opportunities in my city so I needed to venture out on my own to earn experience and find a job that would suit my qualifications or that would allow to apply the knowledge I would have acquired.

Being the youngest child in a large family, I was always under the wings of my parents and siblings, which meant that I always had someone spoon feeding me. I felt that the time had come for me to learn to fend for myself. What better way to gain independence than to live on my own and away from the over-protective eye of my loved ones?

These are the reasons why the most important decision I have ever made was leaving my hometown to live in another country.

Wanna share your important decision? Leave a comment here and try rehearsing your speech by recording your voice on the Voxopop group. Go to the site here.  


Independent Writing Sample – Favorite TV shows

Sample answer to an Independent Writing Task – done in the classroom

Question: There are many types of television shows: comedies, news programs, dramas, reality shows and so on. What is your favorite type of TV show? Why do you prefer this type of TV show? Give some examples from your own experience watching TV shows.

I’m not really into TV programs but if I were, I would probably go for NEWS PROGRAMS for several reasons, three of which I will explore in this essay: they are factual; they are objective and, they are informative.

News programs aim to provide us with factual information, things that are happening in our world today. Since I find it important to keep up to date with the latest news, watching this kind of program is a must for me. It is much more beneficial than fictional shows, the content of which I can find in a book. Moreover, I remember many times being able to acquire valuable information for my research projects at school from news programs, most of which I still can remember today.

In light of the fact that news programs are factual, they would necessarily be impartial or objective, which is completely different to what you might find in a reality show, which might intentionally try to sway the viewer’s opinion. Despite the popularity of the latter, reality shows are knowingly rigged to get people to vote for a particular participant or just to boost the TV station’s viewer ratings and bombard us with explicit merchandising.

If it is factual and objective, a news program would supposedly be informative; in other words, it should teach and educate viewers about important issues that affect our daily lives. Given the globalized world in which we live, information, and consequently, critical knowledge, are paramount for an educated university student like myself. The need for a competitive edge in today’s market can not be denied, so I make it a point to be always informed of what is going on in the world at local, national and international level. This information can help me to make important decisions that will affect my future and my family, like for example, the decision to study at an American university. I had set my mind on seeking admission at a top American university after learning on a news program that the higher education institutions from the U.S. are ranked in the top one hundred learning centers around the world. Obtaining a degree from one of these colleges then would mean a lot to my academic and professional career.

In short, news programs offer much more to my personal development and do much more of a service to the community at large than say, comedies or reality shows or fictional programs. That they are factual, objective and informative are what make them my favorite type.


And you, what is your favorite type of  TV show?