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  • Children sat at desks in a classroom with their hands up
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Special Educational Needs: Lesson tips

    By Pearson Languages

    In this blog, James Laidler talks about his insights into how to plan lessons for neurodiverse students. James is a teacher and has been a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Coordinator for the past 18 years. He also discusses how important it is to consider your terminology, using phrases like ‘special learning powers’ or ‘neurodiversity’ to break down negative stereotypes. On top of this, he wants to help teachers and students recognize the strengths SEN students can bring to the classroom.

    James explores special needs education and what teachers can do to ensure their lessons are inclusive for all. A lot of these lesson tips are also great to apply to keep all students engaged, SEN or otherwise.

    Defining Special Educational Needs

    To define what Special Educational Needs (SEN) is, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability that calls for special educational provision. Learners with conditions such as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia or anxiety disorders come under this framework.

    Inclusive lesson tips for neurodiverse students

    Although teachers want to create inclusive lessons, many feel ill-equipped to support neurodiverse students. To help, James offers some tips for lesson planning which aim to turn learning diversities into strengths:

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    ADHD is a condition that can include symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Students with this disorder may have a short attention span, constantly fidget, or act without thinking.

    Lesson tips for ADHD students:

    • Movement breaks – Students with ADHD may struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. Include short breaks in your lessons that offer them the opportunity to get up and move around at regular intervals.
    • Group work – To keep learners active and engaged, include group work in class. This means they don’t have to focus on the board for too long.
    • Dramatise lessons – A really effective activity is to bring drama into the classroom. For example, students can act out role plays or other fun drama-based activities. It keeps them motivated, holds their attention and can be fun for all of the class.

    Dyslexia

    Dyslexia primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent reading and spelling. It may affect a person’s phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Lesson tips for dyslexic students include:

    • visual aids – Learners with dyslexia tend to have excellent visual memories. Try bringing in pictures to illustrate ideas or add them to lengthy texts to help students when doing reading comprehension exercises.
    • font and spacing – When setting reading tasks, simply changing text font, enlarging font size, and double spacing is hugely beneficial to dyslexic students. Simply adapting the text can make their learning experience much easier.
    • text-to-speech software – Using a text-to-speech specialized software often provides significant support to those who struggle with reading or digesting text on computer screens – try ClaroRead or Kurzweil 3000.

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

    ASD is a developmental condition that involves challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. The severity of symptoms is different in each person. Lesson tips for ASD students:

    • Encourage systematic skills – Often students with ASD may be more systematic than other students. This means they favor routines, regular processes, and predictable activities. Try bringing out these skills by asking students to spot patterns, analyze numbers or evaluate data.
    • Talk about interests – Autistic students may have specific interests they love to research. Engage them by getting them to talk about their hobbies or ask students to create projects on a topic they choose that they can present to the class.
    • Teaching online/blended learning – If you have a learner who is struggling socially at school, it may be an option to include hybrid or blended learning. This takes away the social and emotional challenges of school and people interaction, which can benefit ASD students.

    Anxiety disorders

    Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, but rather involve intense fear or anxiety. This condition is becoming increasingly common in young people since the onset of the pandemic and greatly affects their ability to learn.

    Lesson tips for anxiety disorder students:

    • Changing language and terminology – Our education system is very exam driven, which can cause students to experience much stress. By simply offering reassurance, guidance, and motivation, you can help to reduce their feelings of anxiety.
    • Talk openly – Encourage learners to discuss their feelings if they struggle. They can do this with you, a classmate, or a support worker at the school. If they open up to you, focus on strategies to combat negative feelings and emotions.
    • Mindfulness techniques – Try adding five minutes at the start of the day for guided meditation or breathing exercises. It may help students to begin the day in a calm and relaxed manner.
  • A overhead shot of a chalkboard with a cube on, with people around it with chalk and books
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    The coding mindset: Benefits and activities

    By Pearson Languages

    What is the coding mindset?

    Over the past decade, the ELT industry has placed more emphasis on soft skills. The focus has been on developing personal leadership qualities, creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and communication and collaboration skills. These are all essential skills for the future of work – and especially useful when students need to work better together and solve unexpected issues.

    A coding mindset encourages students to develop these essential soft skills – and practice them as a coder would. Teachers can use activities and tasks in the classroom that are based on this mindset to help students develop strategies to analyze, understand and solve problems.

    This is integral to computational thinking and is how computer programmers think when coding. Yes, the coding mindset is a way of thinking, but it does not directly relate to computer science. Instead, it follows the skills and mentality that coders and programmers use in their work. Following this mindset can help learners to become more resilient and savvy when faced with challenges in their learning or daily lives.

    Four benefits of the coding mindset

    There are several benefits to developing this mindset:

    1. Gain creativity skills

    One significant benefit of this way of thinking is that students learn that not everything they try will work out just as they expect. In fact, it’s normal to fail several times when trying to solve problems.

    In working to find new strategies to work through challenges, students are also developing their creativity skills.

    Creativity was once synonymous with art, such as drawing or painting. However, this now means coming up with new ideas and is a skill that is particularly sought after by employers.

    2. Learn how to cope in difficult times

    We live in a world where we experience constant change – and we need to be able to find ways of managing. A coding mindset teaches learners how to build resilience.

    By openly communicating with others, evaluating ideas and discussing a range of options, students will be able to work through uncertainties and confront challenges.

    Not only will this help students when coming up against stumbling blocks in their learning, but it will also benefit their day-to-day lives.

    3. Create risk takers

    We can all recognize that learning English isn’t easy and that students are bound to make mistakes.

    However, a coding mindset encourages students to take risks when approaching difficulties. It also helps language learners spot their mistakes and experiment with different options to find solutions.

    Ultimately, learners become more willing to take risks which they need to do to reach a higher level of proficiency.

    4. Develop the ability to overcome obstacles

    When approaching a task with a coding mindset, students will learn how to focus on the important information. They will filter out any irrelevant details and find ways around barriers.

    For example, if learners have to write a text about their last holiday in class, they could hit a wall if they don’t know how to use the third conditional to explain something. Rather than giving up, students with a coding mindset would use the grammar they do know to complete the task. For instance, they can continue with the past simple or past continuous, explaining their story in a different way.

    This encourages learners to focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses to overcome obstacles and keep going.

    Practical activities for use in the classroom

    There are several activities that teachers can use in the classroom to develop the coding mindset for their students. These include:

    Recognizing patterns

    If you teach in a classroom with a whiteboard, you can draw a series of colored circles on the board. The colors should follow a pattern that students must work out in small groups and then continue on the board.

    This simple exercise can be adapted for all levels and ages. You may even want to use flashcards with vocabulary, letters or number combinations.

    Giving instructions

    A great way to develop troubleshooting and problem-solving skills is by asking students to direct one another across the classroom. Put the learners into pairs and ask one of them to give directions and the other to follow.

    They can practice imperatives and language for directions, while they break down problems into smaller, more manageable parts.

    Treasure hunts

    Creating treasure hunts works particularly well with young learners. If you have access to an outside space, you can hide classroom objects or flashcards around the space and give students clues as to where to find them.

    You can also do this around the classroom or school if you cannot access the outdoors. This will help them to think systematically and follow instructions.

    Pixilation of pictures

    If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, another way to develop problem-solving skills is by selecting some pictures from the internet and blurring them with a pixilation tool.

    Choose vocabulary you’ve been working on in class, so students are already familiar with the topic. Show the pictures on the whiteboard and ask students to work in groups to guess what the pictures are.

  • A group of young people sat together smiling
    • Linguistics and culture
    • Language teaching

    How long does it take to learn English?

    By Pearson Languages

    “How long will it take me to learn English?” This is a question we often hear, especially with summer intensive courses just around the corner. Students all over the world want to know how much time and effort it will take them to master a new language.

    Teachers know the answer isn’t as simple as it seems. It depends on many things, such as; how different the second language is from their mother tongue, how old they are, whether they can speak other languages, how much time they will have to study outside the classroom, their motivation and ability to practice.

    The truth is, it takes A LOT of work to become proficient in a new language – and students need to be aware that they need to study independently if they want to progress rapidly.

    Explaining student responsibility

    Becoming truly proficient in a language can take many years. In a study carried out by Pearson they found that even for fast learners, it can take as much as 760 hours to enter the B2 CEFR level from <A1.

    Also, most year-round courses are around 100-120 hours per level, (not including homework). So the reality is that it should take approximately 1000 hours to go from A1 to C2.

    However, one of the biggest misconceptions students have is that there is a “fixed route” to language learning and that this is linear – and that time spent studying in class is all that’s required to make the progress they expect. This mistakenly puts the onus on the teacher, rather than the student, which means they may not take responsibility for their own learning.

    While most language learners need great course materials, instruction, correction, and mentorship from their teachers, it’s key that they are motivated to become independent learners. Progress and success comes down to regular practice, feedback and the confidence to make and learn from mistakes. Students must understand this from the outset – so make sure this is a conversation you have with your classes from the very first day.

    Understanding language goals

    It’s also extremely important to understand your students’ language learning goals right away. Some, for example, will want to learn a language for travel purposes and may be happy to reach an elementary or pre-intermediate level of English. Others will want to learn it for work or study purposes and will need to reach a more advanced level. By definition, “learning a new language” will be very different for those two groups of students – and this will affect how you design and deliver your course.

    Therefore, it’s key that you discuss individual learning objectives and then form a plan of how students will meet them. You should also explain that not everyone progresses at the same rate, but that is normal and should not be a cause for frustration.

    In private language schools (PLSs), which offer English for specific purposes (ESP), business English, CLIL, English for Academic Purposes, intensive summer classes, and a range of other courses, it’s even more important to do this well. Correctly managed expectations, well-selected materials, and tailored courses will keep students motivated and help the business thrive.

    Setting and meeting targets

    At an institutional level, schools, PLS’s and even government agencies also need to be aware of the pitfalls of rigid target setting.

    Not only can mishandled targets directly affect learner motivation when they are held back or moved up too quickly, but they also can force educators to “teach to the test”, rather than planning classes and designing courses that meet their students’ needs.

    On the other hand, standardized testing systems help place learners at the right level, set benchmarks and show student progression. Examinations also give students firm objectives to work towards.

    So, at the very least, management and governing authorities should consult with educators before setting broad targets.

    Handling feedback and adapting to individual needs

    Honesty is essential when talking to individual students about their progress (good or bad). It’s hard telling someone that they haven’t achieved the grades they need to move on to the next level, but it’s the right thing to do. Putting a person in a higher level to save their feelings only leads to frustration, demotivation, and self-doubt. Likewise, when a student has done well, praise is good, but you should still be honest about the areas in which they need to improve.

    This is what happens at a successful PLS in Japan who run 1000-hour year-round intensive courses. They get results because they consult their learners in order to understand their goals and focus their courses on developing key communicative skills for professionals. At the same time, they track motivation levels and adjust their courses to ensure the student’s progress is on track to meet their expectations. Of course, this is quite a unique setting, with a very intensive, highly personalized approach, and the school has the advantage of tailor-making courses.

    Using tools to help

    They also used the Global Scale of English (GSE) to help design their curriculum and use the ‘can do’ descriptors to set goals. They then selected Versant assessments (which are mapped to scoring against the GSE) to measure student progress on a monthly basis.

    Educators can emulate their approach. By using tools like these, as well as others, such as the GSE Teacher Toolkit, you can design syllabi, plan classes, place students at the right level and measure individual progress, helping you meet your institution’s targets while supporting your learners to achieve their goals.

    An additional benefit from using the GSE, is that this granular framework breaks down what needs to be learned within a CEFR level. Our courseware, Placement, Progress and high-stakes assessments, like PTE Academic, are already aligned to the GSE. To help accelerate the learner journey, our courseware now features three new levels – A2+, B1+ and B2+. By moving to eight-level courses, it ensures students are able to master the content at a more achievable rate.

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