Reading Activity: The History of Graffiti

1- ——————

The first drawings on walls appeared in caves thousands of years ago. Later the Ancient Romans and Greeks wrote their names and protest poems on buildings. Modern graffiti seems to have appeared in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, and by the sixties, it had reached New York. The new art form really took off in the 1970s, when people began writing their names, or “tags”, on buildings all over the city. In the mid-seventies, it was sometimes hard to see out of subway car window, because the trains were completely in spray paintings known as “masterpieces”.


In the early days, the “taggers” were part of street gangs who were concerned with marking their territory. They worked in groups called “crews”, and called what they did “writing”- the term “graffiti” was first used by New York Times and the novelist Norman Mailer. Art gallery in New York began buying graffiti in the early seventies. But at the same time that it was regarded as an art form, John Lindsay, the then mayor of New York, declared the first war on graffiti. By the 1980s it became much harder to write on subway trains without being cut, and instead many of the more established graffiti artists began using roofs of buildings or canvases.


The debate over whether graffiti is art or vandalism is still going on. Peter Vallone, a New York city councilor, thinks that graffiti done with permission can be art, but if it is on someone else’s property it becomes a crime. “I have a massage for the graffiti vandals out there,” he said recently, “your freedom of expression ends where my property begins.” On the other hand, Felix, a member of the Berlin-based group Reclaim Your City, says that artists are reclaiming cities for the public from advertisers, and that graffiti represents freedom and makes cities more vibrant.


For decades graffiti has been a springboard to international fame for a few. Jean-Michel Basquiat began spraying on the streets in the 1970s before becoming a respected artist in the ‘80s. The Frenchman Blek le Rat and the British artist Banksy have achieved international fame by producing complex works with stencils, often making political or humorous pints. Works by Bansky have been sold for over 100.000 pounds. Graffiti is now sometimes big business.

Taken and Adapted from British Council


Answer the following question according to the text.

1-  Choose the best paragraph heading for each paragraph.  (Note: two of them are extra)

Paragraph headings

  1. a) Controversial debates on Graffiti
  2. b) Graffiti in ancient times.
  3. c) Famous graffiti artists
  4. d) The origin of the term “Graffiti” and its growth
  5. e) Graffiti is crime.
  6. f) From ancient to modern times


2-Fill the gaps by choosing an appropriate word from the text.

1-Prehistoric men were drawing on the walls and ceilings of the ——————-.

2- The group of taggers was called ——————-.

3- The action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property is called ——————–.

4- Graffitis are part of city culture and they make the city more ———————.

5-  Artists mainly use ———————- to draw their painting on the walls of street.

6-A template used to draw or paint identical letters, symbols, shapes is called ——————-.

  1. a) Which idea is NOT mentioned in the text?
  • Graffiti is a work of art.
  • Graffiti was a band in New York.
  • Graffiti is a sign of vandalism.
  • Graffiti is a way of making business.


  1. b) According to the text, which idea is FALSE?
  • Nobody has reached an international fame by the help of graffiti.
  • John Lindsay declared the first war on graffiti.
  • Graffiti makes the city residents more vibrant.
  • Graffiti is neither considered vandalism nor a work of art.
  1. c) What does Peter Vallone mean by telling the graffiti artists that their “freedom of expression ends where my property begins”?
  • Freedom of expression has turned into vandalism
  • Graffiti artists need to be careful of New York Council
  • His property is in danger because of graffiti artists
  • Graffiti artists should not damage other people’s property.



Reading Activity: What Makes a Good Road Sign?

Many road signs are bizarre when thought about logically. Just what is one supposed to do if there is a danger of falling rocks? And if the road is slippery, will your car tires really cross like the frightening slide marks seen on the sign? But even if some symbols do not stand up to inspection, they send a message that is quickly recognized. Or at least, that’s the hope.

Out of 500 drivers surveyed last year, none was able to correctly recognize 12 road signs and only one sign – the speed camera – was known to all of them. A review of signs has begun by the Department for Transport, looking at ways to decrease the number of signs and introduce more technology. So what makes a good sign? “The most important thing is that it works,” says Michael Wolff, chairman of The Sign Design Society. Not only do modern drivers travel faster than before, they are also listening to the radio, chatting on their hands-free phone and trying to get children in the back under control. Distractions are everywhere. With so much competition for a driver’s attention, a good sign must be clear and simple so that it can be seen, read and understood immediately. The red no-entry sign is one that, even without words or pictures, transfers its message. But others signs don’t. Many drivers are unable to recognize the “no stopping” sign. And former police driving instructor Chris Walker says the “give way to oncoming traffic” sign is debated at driving school because it is illogical and takes too long to “work out”.

“Symbols don’t have to be correct; they are there to transfer an idea and be understood,” Mr. Wolff says. Some widely used signs have attracted criticism for being outdated. The image of stooped elderly people crossing a road has been branded as “insulting” by Help the Aged.

Different colors create very different reactions in the human mind, says Dr. David Cowell, who specializes in the psychology of color. The brain is very sensitive to the level of energy in the light that passes through your eyes, with different colors of light carrying different amounts of energy. “Blue [the color of motorway signage] suggests harmony and relaxation,” says Dr Cowell. “It is the color of nature in relaxed form. It encourages social communication and consideration of others.” Orange and yellow “suggest a positive future”, he says, the point being that the color of signs surrounding road works is clearly meant to encourage frustrated drivers to think beyond the current delays. Different shaped signs also create different psychological reactions, suggests Dr Cowell. “A triangular sign has points and represents danger,” which is why the shape is used for warning signs. “Rectangular signs are the same shape as a book and therefore give information. Round signs are instructional. They look like the end of a pointing finger giving you an instruction.”

While the fundamental design of the country’s road signs has remained unchanged for almost half a century, the number of signs seems to be multiplying. Today British roads can seem crowded with symbols warning drivers of every foreseeable danger, from falling rocks to passing deer. As well as fuelling fears, the streetscape is being damaged, and the increase in signs reduces their effectiveness. “Drivers now face a system overload,” says Mr. Walker. “Signs are doubled, in some cases triplicated, leaving little time for the information to be seen and processed.” Even the most well-designed road sign will be of little use if nobody can make it out.

Adapted from © Dominic Koole, BBC News 2008

  1. a) Give short answers to the following questions.
  2. Which road sign was known to all drivers?
  3. What is considered as a good sign?
  4. What is the red no-entry sign?
  5. Which sign is unrecognizable by drivers?
  6. Why sign is debated at driving school?
  7. Which image has been branded as “insulting”?


Read the text and fill in the gaps with appropriate words.

Various colors incite various reactions in the human mind. The brain is subtle to the level of 1___________in the light that passes through your eyes. 2________ symbolizes coordination and relaxation. It is the color of nature in calm form. It inspires social communication and consideration of others. 3________ and yellow “propose a bright future, which means that the 4________ of signs near the road works encourages the drivers to think past the postponements. Various 5________ signs create different psychological reactions. A 6________ sign has points and says danger. 7___________ signs are the same shape as a book and give information. 8_______ signs are instructional. The number of 9_________ is increasing. Today British roads are packed with 10__________. The streetscape is being damaged, and the increase of signs decreases their efficiency. If nobody understands the signs, then it will be of little use.

Writing Thesis Statements



Placeholder Image

Level: upper intermediate (B2)                                             Age: young adults (17-25)

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to identify Thesis Statements (TS) in short essays.
  • Students will be able to distinguish between an effective TS and an ineffective TS.
  • Students will have the opportunity to practice the writing of a persuasive TS.

Time Needed for Activity: 35 minutes

Preparation time: 1 hour

Prior Knowledge: Before doing this activity, Ss are supposed to know what Topic Sentence (hook) and Statements of Fact are.


  1. chalks or marker
  2. handouts


This activity is designed to teach Ss to identify the TS in the text. It will also teach them how to write an effective TS in their short essays.



Warm up: Brainstorm (5 minutes)

  • Divide the class into groups of three.
  • Write down the following topics on the board.
  1. Women’s rights
  2. Smoking in public places
  3. Capital punishment
  4. Violent video games


  • Ask each group to pick a topic and brainstorm it by writing down the key points and arguments.
  • Give them 3 minutes.
  • Ask each group to read their ideas.


Writing Activity: How to write a thesis statement (25 minutes)


  • Write “Thesis Statement” on the board.
  • Ask Ss whether they have heard this term before or whether they know what it means.
  • If they know, ask them to talk about it, if not, tell Ss that TS is a sentence in the introductory paragraph of an essay that identifies the main idea and tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • Write the following examples on the board.


  1. I love fast food but I know eating fast food is bad and harmful. So, in my opinion, it should be avoided.


  1. People should avoid the regular fast food consumption, because fast food can cause serious health issues, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.


  • Ask Ss which sentence better identifies the main idea of the paper.
  • Then, tell Ss that the TS must be persuasivelike sentence “b”, rather than a statement of fact like sentence “a”.
  • Also, tell Ss that sentence “a” is not a good TS as it is subjective and is not written in third person.
  • Tell Ss that TS should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence and facts.


  • Then, distribute the activity handouts to all Ss. (see appendix 1)
  • Ask Ss to do both activities individually first.
  • Give them 5 minutes.
  • Then, write “Golden questions” on the board.
  • Tell Ss that some basic questions help us to improve our TS.
  • Ask them if they know these golden questions.
  • Write the following questions on the board.
    1. Is my TS debatable?
    2. Is it supportable?
    3. Is it specific?
    4. Does it give me a guide to the organization of the paper?
    5. Is it written in third person?


  • Ask Ss to go back to their handouts.
  • Ask Ss to compare their answers in their groups of three and check whether the variants they have chosen in activity 2 answer the questions written on the board.
  • Give them 3 minutes.
  • Check the answers by asking Ss to read them aloud.


Writing Thesis Activity: (5 minutes)


  • Now tell Ss to continue working in their groups and to write a TS for the topic they have brainstormed.
  • Remind Ss to keep the golden questions in their minds.
  • Give them 3 minutes.
  • Ask each group to read their TS.


Anticipated problems:

1-Ss may not understand how to write an effective TS. T should devote several lessons to practice how to write a TS.

2- Some Ss may not have enough knowledge about the topics suggested by T. The teacher should have additional topics or ask Ss what topic they would want to write an essay about.


References: Taken and adapted from

Appendix 1: Activities


Activity 1: Read the following paragraph and answer the questions.


The Best Medicine


Last week, I noticed that my son got flu. I took him to the doctor and she told me that my son had an infection. Then she gave me a prescription for antibiotics. After two days, my son was happy and healthy thanks to this important medicine. Everyday doctors prescribe antibiotics to help thousands of patients around the world to fight infections. I do not like to think about what might happen if we did not have antibiotics. Antibiotics are considered important medical inventions in human history for several reasons.


  1. A) Underline the hook (opening sentence). Which of the following strategies is used?
  2. a) a personal story   c) an anecdote
  3. b) a fact d) a question


  1. B) Circle the sentence that gives background information.


  1. C) Underline the thesis statement.



Activity 2: Identify TS in each topic and circle it.


1- Topic: Homeless people in Yerevan

  1. a) Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, has lots of poor and homeless people, who need our help.
  2. b) Homeless people in Yerevan should be given access to free services, such as regular food donations and public restrooms, because it would improve their lives.




2- Topic: Using cellphones at school

  1. a) Cell phones should not be allowed at school because of their potential to distract students, to lead to thefts, and to be used for cheating.
  2. b) Nowadays, most of children have cellphones and bring them to schools. I believe that cellphones should not be allowed at school.

 3- Topic: Pollution

  1. a) Beijing is the most polluted city in the world. Pollution is harmful for the environment and can put species in danger.
  2. b) The pollution rate in Beijing is very high. Due to this fact at least 25 percent of the federal budget should be spent on limiting pollution.

4- Topic: Internet addiction

  1. a) Nowadays, internet addiction has become a major problem in the world and many people suffer from it.
  2. b) Like other addictive behaviors, internet addiction may have serious negative consequences, including academic failure, job loss, and a breakdown in personal relationships.


5- Topic: School uniforms

  1. Schoolchildren should wear uniforms.
  2. School uniforms provide many benefits to students, parents and educators.






I am For/Against of Arranged Marriage

 Level: High intermediate (B2)      Age: 18+         Number of Students: #16

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to

  • practice newly learned vocabulary in the context
  • improve their critical thinking
  • express their viewpoints regarding types of the marriages

Time Needed for Activity: 35 minutes           Preparation Time: 15 minutes


  • Board
  • Box of chalk


Introduction: This is for and against activity on the topic of “Arranged marriage”, in which students are divided into two equal groups, where one group defends the idea of arranged marriage while the other group talks against it, using the newly learned vocabulary in context.


Warm up activity: Types of marriages (10 minutes)

  1. Write “Relationships and Marriage” on the board.
  2. Ask students what types of marriages do they know?
  3. Write the following words on the board.
  • Arranged marriage
  • Love marriage
  1. Ask Ss whether they know about these types of marriages. If yes then ask them to explain them, if not, explain them yourself.
  2. Now ask Ss what general vocabulary, phrases or idioms they know related to this topic.
  3. Write the words said by the Ss on the board.
  4. Make sure that Ss know the following words:
  • a healthy relationship
  • Tie the knot
  • Have a lot in common
  • To enjoy each other’s company
  • To fall for
  • To have ups and downs
  • to get on well with
  • love at first sight
  • to be well matched
  1. Discuss the meanings of the words with Ss and bring examples.
  2. Make sure that everyone knows the meanings of all the words on the board.

Speaking activity: “For and against” (20 minutes)

  1. Divide the class into two equal groups.
  2. Write the sentence “Arranged marriage is better than love marriage.” on the board.
  3. Tell Ss that they are going to have a debate on this topic.
  4. Tell group 1 that they agree with this statement, even if they are against it, they have to bring strong points to defend the idea of arranged marriage.
  5. Tell group 2 that they are against arranged marriages and they think that people should decide about their personal life themselves. Again ask group 2 to bring strong points to support their idea.
  6. Give the groups time to discuss the topic with their members, ask them to write their points on a piece of paper using the newly learned vocabulary in their speech.
  7. Tell them the group presenting the most persuasive points will be the winner.
  8. Give them 10 minutes.
  9. Mentor the groups and help them with vocabulary.
  10. After 10 minutes, ask Ss to stop discussing.
  11. Before starting the debate, tell Ss that all the members of the group should talk and express their viewpoints.
  12. Ask one S from first group to introduce the argument for arranged marriages by giving 3 to 4 valid points.
  13. Give him/her 2 minutes.
  14. Ask one S from second group to introduce the argument against arranged marriages by giving 3 to 4 valid point.
  15. Give him/her 2 minutes.
  16. Now tell Ss the groups will start the debate and each group will talk in turn.
  17. Ask first group to start the debate by defending their viewpoints.
  18. Ask the second group to continue the debate talking against arranged marriages.
  19. Continue the same procedure until the end of debate.

·   Each group has at most 3 minutes to defend the idea, after 3 minutes stop them and ask  

the other group to continue.


  1. Listen to them carefully, mentor the groups, and make sure that everyone is participating.
  2. After 15 minutes debate, ask the groups to express their final thoughts.

Wrap up: (5 minutes)

  1. When the debate is finished, review the arguments once again.
  2. Decide which group is the winner.

Anticipated Problems & Assumptions:  There might be students having different viewpoints about the topic that they are assigned to debate about. Remind them that they need to be able to look at the topic from different angles and help the group to come up with strong points to have a good debate.