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  • A overhead shot of a child holding a map and looking at it
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    5 activities to help students practice English over holidays

    By Pearson Languages

    Practicing English is a thing that ideally needs to be kept up with regularly, and when school breaks up for the holidays, it's easy for what’s been learnt to be forgotten. This phenomenon is called summer learning loss, and it’s something that affects students of every age and stage.

    So, how can you encourage your students or children to keep practicing their language skills over the holidays? There are apps and online activities –but the school holidays are a good opportunity for young learners to disconnect and enjoy some time offline. So here are some activities to suggest to them. There are no screens in sight, and the whole family can enjoy practicing English together:

    Go on a nature walk

    Get them out into the fresh air with nature spotting. Make a list of things for your students/children to find in their garden or local park. You can keep the list simple for younger learners, with things like trees, grass or flowers, linking them to colors or numbers. For older learners, you can make the search a bit more challenging by including specific species of tree, flower or insect.

    This offline activity reinforces the links between English and the natural world. It helps to build children’s observational skills and builds their natural vocabulary along with their gross motor skills. What’s more, multiple studies have shown that spending time in nature is enormously beneficial for children, restoring their attention, reducing their stress and helping them to become more creative and engaged in learning.

    Follow a recipe

    For this activity, choose a recipe that you think your students/children will enjoy making.

    Cakes or cookies are popular choices – most young learners have a sweet tooth! Then, with their parents or caregiver, they can make a shopping list of the ingredients they need, buy them from the supermarket, and then follow the recipe steps.

    This type of offline activity helps young learners use their English in a practical way. It will develop their vocabulary and link their English language skills to other skills like math and science. Following a recipe from start to finish teaches children how to follow instructions and problem solve. It also builds their fine motor skills as they pour, stir and chop. They’ll get a considerable boost to their confidence when they take their cake out of the oven – and they’ll be able to share that success with their family and friends. After all, nearly everyone likes cake!

    Read a story

    Reading has numerous benefits for children (and adults too). It is good for building vocabulary, developing creativity and promoting empathy. What’s more, reading has been shown to reduce stress levels dramatically. It’s the perfect antidote to too much screen time and a good way for learners to maintain their English level over the holidays. But it’s essential to ensure the text's level is correct. If it’s too difficult, they will be frustrated and put off. It’s crucial for reading to be enjoyable!

    Older learners can read independently, but you can also suggest some books to read with parents/caregivers. Reading aloud together is a really positive way for adults and children to spend time together. It positively impacts children’s self-esteem and builds good associations with reading, hopefully encouraging them to become independent readers.

    Learn how to read a map

    This activity involves a little bit of preparation– but it’s a fun activity and gets children outdoors and away from screens! Open up local maps, and have children select somewhere they’d like to visit. Then, they can create a navigation guide in English, building on their vocabulary of directions and surroundings to describe the route.

    Learning how to read a map and follow directions is an excellent cognitive and physical exercise. It helps young learners to solve problems and builds their decision-making and observational skills.

    Do some experiments

    Suggest some DIY science experiments to do at home. Just like the recipe challenge, learners will need to make a list of the materials they’ll need and gather all the experiment components before setting everything up. Then, they will follow the instructions in English and see how their experiments turn out!

    Science experiments are a great way to nurture children’s intellectual curiosity and develop critical thinking skills. It also encourages learners to solve problems and analyze results. Who knows, you could even be planting the seed of a STEM career in future years!

  • A silhouette of several buisness people stood by a desk, in the background are skyscrapers.
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    5 future skills our students will need

    By Ken Beatty

    Elevator to the future: English skills

    “Would it be safer to take the stairs?”

    The question came to mind in Montreal last week when I visited a 1929 apartment building and came face-to-face with its equally ancient caged elevator. An elderly woman shooed me inside the polished brass and oak confection and, as we ascended, confided that there was still an elevator operator when she first moved into the building.

    Ah, an elevator operator – it’s a career and skill set we’ve almost forgotten. But just as hard as it is for us to imagine doing a job that only involves opening and closing doors and pressing buttons, an elevator operator from 50 years ago would find it impossible to imagine much of today’s work. And, in turn, we may not be able to imagine the jobs our students will have in the coming years. Fortunately, imagining the education that will take our students there is less difficult.

    To educate today’s students, we should heed the advice of Ali ibn Abi Talib (599-661 CE): “Do not raise your children the way your parents raised you; they were born for a different time”.

    Today’s students are different in five key ways: visual learning, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, digital involvement, and control of their learning.

    1. Developing visual literacy

    Today’s learners grew up with the rich multimedia of computers and are used to exploring ideas independently. They’re less dependent on teachers for the information they want, and often find it in surprising ways. For example, avoiding dictionary definitions and instead doing image searches to understand new words.

    What you can do

    Develop students’ visual literacy. Do they know the differences between bar charts, pie charts and Gantt charts? Can they interpret the data in line graphs and Venn diagrams? Can they apply what they know to present and explain ideas in dynamic ways? Expose students to a range of visual formats, from illustrations to diagrams, and give them tasks where they have to use them.

    2. Encouraging collaboration

    Schools were traditionally organized around competition, aimed at separating the most able students from the least able. But teachers today can’t ignore those who seem less able; we need to be more like doctors, devoting the greater part of our time and resources to those who need it most. Our aim should be to bring everyone up to the same level.

    What you can do

    Collaboration involves offering more tasks where students can help each other, particularly getting more able and less able students to work together to benefit from peer teaching. More able students may resist, but remind them that one who teaches learns twice.

    3. Facilitating critical and creative thinking

    Critical thinking has become far more important than schools’ traditional focus on memorization. Employers expect that students will become problem solvers. Gone is the factory model of employees doing repetitive jobs; those are now more efficiently and effectively done by machines.

    What you can do

    Traditionally, teachers have asked questions for which they know the answer and for which there is only one answer. Try to ask more open-ended questions for which there may be multiple answers. Ask questions to which you don’t know the answer. Encourage creativity. Ask students to brainstorm, and then use analytical skills to determine the best answers.

    4. Leveraging the digital environment

    Today’s students are digital natives. They first learned to type on digital keyboards and, since then, have embraced phones as a key resource. English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said there were two kinds of knowledge: knowing a thing or knowing where to find it. For today’s students, finding information has never been easier.

    What you can do

    Many teachers dread phones in the classroom, but they are powerful computers that let students connect to online learning resources and learn what they want, when, and where they want. Steer students toward using their phones to improve their English but also teach them to be reflective about the sources of the information they choose to use.

    5. Offering autonomy

    Today’s students are too often referred to as clients, suggesting that the teacher-student relationship is no more than a business arrangement. It’s wrong to think so but, at the same time, we recognize that today’s students are savvy about assessing what they need to learn and how they would prefer to learn it. They have grown up with ideas about multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993).

    What you can do

    Open a dialog with your students to see if they have learning preferences and whether these preferences can be accommodated in the classroom. Give more individual projects letting students choose topics based on their needs and interests.

    Even among elevator operators, there were those who were better or worse at their jobs. Perhaps the greatest skill for students today is a sense that they need to take responsibility and examine the needs of any task or career that interests them, and figure out how to learn the skills that will get them there.

  • A teacher standing over a desk where a student is sat, helping them. Students are also sat at desks in the background
    • Language teaching

    4 key challenges in secondary education

    By Anna Roslaniec

    Let’s examine four of the most common challenges secondary teachers have and look into some strategies to help solve them.

    1. My students are afraid of making mistakes

    You’re not alone! Many teachers say their teenage students are quiet and unwilling to answer questions in class. Sometimes, this might simply be because they don’t know the answers, but more often than not, they are nervous about making mistakes.

    When children grow into teenagers, they tend to become more self-conscious and worried about what their peers think of them – and making mistakes in public is a big no-no for them. However, there are several ways to facilitate a safe learning environment where your students are happy and willing to talk. Sometimes, though, it takes a little experimentation. Here are some things you can try:

    Celebrate mistakes

    When students make mistakes, ensure that you praise them for taking a risk or making an effort. Correct their errors and be clear with the rest of the class that the only way to learn is to try new things.

    Be firm

    Don’t tolerate any bullying or laughing when someone gets an answer wrong. If your students fear that others will mock them for their efforts, they’ll stay quiet. So make sure you have clear rules and that your students understand that mistakes are normal and to be expected.

    Have students discuss their answers in pairs or groups

    If your students are painfully shy and afraid of making mistakes, avoid picking on individuals to answer questions in front of the class. Instead, when asking a question, tell your students to discuss it in pairs or small groups first. This will allow them to formulate their ideas and feel more confident. Afterwards, you can ask the pairs to share what they discussed – leading to a natural open-class discussion.

    Listen to your students

    Another, powerful way of engaging your students in discussion is to listen to a conversation they are having with their partners and then express how impressed you are with their ideas during a feedback session. E.g. “You said X, which I thought was very interesting. Could you explain this to the class? It was a great idea.” This gives them the confidence to share their thoughts.

    2. My students are not engaged with the activities I choose

    This is another very common problem for teachers of teenagers. You spend a lot of time thinking of fun, interesting activities – then, when you present them to the class, your students look away and say they’re bored. Soon enough, you’ll get frustrated and not know how to re-engage them. Here are some ideas to help:

    Get to know your students

    Without fail, the best way to engage your students is by getting to know them as individuals over the year. Find out about their hobbies and interests outside of school, and learn what makes them laugh and what worries them. Use your knowledge of your students to find interesting books to read, videos to watch, or relevant subjects to discuss. This way, you’ll deliver tailored lessons your students find truly interesting and useful.

    Allow a degree of autonomy

    Sometimes quietness is also a sign of disengagement with the learning materials. To get past this obstacle, you can get your students to brainstorm things that interest them in groups, list them on the board and have a class vote on the topic of their next class project. As a teacher, you always have the power to veto inappropriate ideas, but giving students a voice is a powerful way of making them feel valued and involved in their own education.

    Make things (a little) competitive

    Even teenagers love games! And play is an integral part of learning, as it allows our students to be themselves, have fun, and communicate freely at the same time. By allowing them to play language-focused games in class, they’ll soon forget their inhibitions and start talking.

    3. My students just want to do grammar exercises

    Language is all about communication, speaking, listening, reading and writing – yet all your students want to do is grammar exercises. Frustrating as this is, it’s probably a sign that our students are not confident in their speaking or listening abilities. Here’s what you can do:

    Encourage free language practice

    Grammar activities are very structured and there is often a clear answer. Day-to-day communications, however, are much freer, which can intimidate less confident students. This activity will help you combine the two aspects of language learning:

    • Put students in small groups and give them a set of cards with exciting topics printed on them—for example; music, sports, environment, school, vacations, friends, food.
    • Tell students that they should each choose a card and speak freely about their topic for 30 seconds – the short time will help them overcome their fear of speaking and can be gradually increased as they get used to this type of activity.
    • Have students record themselves when they are speaking and then, when they listen back, have them identify the grammatical structures they used.

    They should write down and correct any mistakes under your guidance. Not only will this get students used to talking and encourage a lot of emergent language, but it will also help them feel they are practicing grammar.

    If your students really enjoy learning grammar, you can ‘flip’ your grammar activities and make them more communicative. First, provide them with a series of sentences or listening clips which have a common grammatical structure (second conditional sentences, for example).

    Then have students work together (in English) to identify how the language is structured, so they can discover the grammar point for themselves. This not only gets them talking, but they are doing something they feel confident at.

    4. My students are bored of all the repetition

    Repetition is an important part of language learning. By practicing things over and over again, your students will come to understand it better and will be able to produce the language more easily. However, repetition is often quite dull, especially for fast learners. Here’s how you can make things more interesting for your teenage students:

    Use a greater variety of activities to engage your learners

    If you’ve been teaching your students a particular set of vocabulary, a grammatical structure, or some pronunciation rules, think about how else they can practice them.

    For example, instead of drilling pronunciation over and over again, ask students to think of all the words they can think of that have the same sound in them (e.g. book, look, cook, shook, etc.). This will help them ‘hear’ the sounds in their heads and improve their understanding of other words.

    If you have been learning vocabulary through reading, have students write or tell stories that incorporate the words.

    The idea is not to stop repeating the target language or skill, but to practice it in different ways. Apply this principle to other areas of language learning so your students won’t feel like they are repeating things.

  • Two children looking over a book together
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    How to motivate reluctant readers

    By Sue Alderman

    Reading in English can be one of the most challenging activities for young learners and teenagers, especially when they don’t get much enjoyment from reading in their own language.

    These four reading strategies are fun, high-energy, and educational ways of getting even the most reluctant students involved in your reading lessons.

    1. Bring outside interests into the classroom

    Many students find it hard to get enthused by the reading texts used in their classrooms; they might feature complex vocabulary, be too generic, or just not resonate with their interests. An effective way of reaching out to the more reluctant readers in the class is to use reading materials related to the media they enjoy engaging with in their leisure time.

    Pearson’s Marvel series of graded readers provides an ideal opportunity for bringing popular movie culture into your learners’ reading skills development. All of the readers are designed specifically for use in the classroom and feature an integrated skills approach that reinforces vocabulary and helps develop language skills. The readers come with activities to complete throughout the book rather than at the end, and key vocabulary is highlighted and defined.

    Excitingly, most of our readers come with downloadable audio files (MP3s), so the students can listen along and hear the stories come to life. The audio can help students model pronunciation, get used to different accents and dialects, and make it even more accessible for students who are still less keen on reading.

    2. Gamify the reading experience

    By adding simple game dynamics and mechanics to your reading activities, you can add a competitive and fun element to your classes. This could help maintain the interest of learners who might otherwise lose enthusiasm.

    The “dictogloss” activity is a good way of adding that extra element as it uses a countdown timer and peer-to-peer interaction to make the reading more of a competitive game.

    First, find a good level and age-appropriate story for your students. Before you begin reading the story, tell your students to pay close attention because they are going to re-tell it themselves later.

    You will need to read the story to the students in an engaging way, occasionally stopping, and asking students what they think will happen next.

    Afterwards, allow the students five minutes to write as much of the story as they can remember in their notebooks.

    When time is up, put the students in pairs and allow them to compare stories and correct each other, combining their stories, so they have a complete version. Help students by writing key vocabulary on the board as they request it.

    Finally, hand out the original story for students to compare. Get feedback to find out what new vocabulary they have learned and help them make corrections in their stories where needed.

    3. Experiment with high-energy activities

    Reading doesn’t have to be a sedentary activity. Make use of the classroom space and use movement as a way to motivate and engage your students.

    Add a dash of physical activity to your reading task by turning it into a running dictation competition. At the same time, they will practice a whole range of skills; reading, listening, pronunciation, and writing.

    Before the class, stick some level-appropriate reading materials to a classroom wall; ideally, you should space it out well and have one reading sheet for every two to four students (the material should be identical).

    Put your students into pairs and tell them they are going to have a reading race. Nominate one student to write and another student to dictate.

    Students who are writing must sit at a table on the opposite side of the room to the reading material. Students who are dictating must go to the text on the wall, memorize as much of the text as possible, come back to the writer and dictate what they can remember.

    Pairs must write as much as they can in four minutes, and when you get halfway through the activity, students should swap roles.

    Finally, ask the students to swap their papers and listen to your dictation, making corrections and asking questions as they go. The pair with the longest text and fewest errors is the winner!

    4. Go beyond the text

    Taking a text and making it into something entirely original can also be a powerful motivator for creative students. Those who complain that reading is boring or too hard will have an extra reason to get through a story if there’s a promise of creative fun at the end of the task.

    Tell students that once they have finished reading, they must re-imagine the story and characters and adapt it for a radio show, complete with sound effects, music and scripts.

    Depending on how creative your students are feeling, they could write a sequel or a prequel, or adapt the existing story – ideal if you’re using a superhero reader from the Marvel series.

    They will need to review vocabulary and pronunciation, remember the details of the original story, explain the characters and their motivations, and plot and write their own scripts. Students can find sound effects on YouTube and record the whole thing on their mobile phones, or a school computer.

    By turning a book into a creative project, not only can you motivate students to read, but you will reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation and have a lot of fun doing it.

  • A group of teenagers lying down in a circle in grass, smiling and gesturing a thumbs up
    • Study prep
    • English certification and assessment
    • English for work and migration

    Tips for success with the Pearson English International Certificate

    By Pearson Languages

    Studying for the Pearson English International Certificate (PEIC) is a challenge for any student, but there are many different areas where you can help yourself or your students achieve top grades.

    By becoming familiarized with the test format, equipping test-taking strategies and having awareness of commonly occurring vocabulary and topics, learners can be on the path to success in the PEIC.

    Know the test

    Understanding the test format and what to expect in each exam section will give students the confidence they need on test day.

    Do drills on how many sections there are, how long they have for each section, and the order of the sections too. This will help learners anticipate what’s coming next and feel prepared throughout the exam. For example, the recording is played twice in listening section 2 – dictation. If students are aware of this, they can use the first recording to note key ideas and the second to complete the dictation fully.

    Give yourself/your students plenty of practice under test conditions. Do timed mock exams, without phones or dictionaries, to help get a feel of the real test.

    As the speaking section is done simultaneously for all candidates, get yourself/your students used to communicating in loud environments. Doing mock exams for the writing sections will also help students become aware of their word count and how long it takes to achieve this. It’s important to note that each writing task has a word limit and there are penalties for being significantly above or below.

    Learn test strategies

    Knowing the test format is important, but so is being equipped with test-taking strategies. For all sections, train yourself/students to use the questions and rubric to their advantage. Underlining the keywords from the question will help learners prepare for the task ahead and predict potential answers.

    In the listening sections, students are given ten seconds before the recording is played. Learners should identify and underline keywords and use this time to predict the topic and vocabulary of the recording. Remind yourself/students that even if you think you have the answer, you need to listen carefully to the entire recording, as it’s also likely that some of the keywords will be used as distractors.

    It’s also helpful to highlight keywords in the prompts and questions in the reading sections. For example, when dealing with multiple choice questions like in section 5, test takers should first highlight keywords from the question, then scan the text for these keywords. This is the part of the text where the answer is located, and where they should direct their attention. It’s important to read this section of the text carefully and also be aware that the answer may be paraphrased or a synonym.

    Planning is crucial in the writing sections, and highlighting keywords from the question is an important planning step. Read the task carefully and identify the words that indicate the type of writing that is required and the audience. This will help guide the writing style and register. For example, in section 8, noticing the difference between writing a letter to a friend and a letter to a magazine editor will change the tone of the task.

    Build a strong lexical base

    Prepare further by building a strong grammar and vocabulary base with topical and functional language.

    Introduce yourself/students to a wide range of themes on social and current issues, as well as personal and familiar topics. It's useful for learners to note useful vocabulary and phrases and test themselves on these regularly, making a note of the spelling, as this is essential in all sections of the exam.

    Test takers will encounter gap-fill style tasks in both the listening and reading sections. Students can predict what kind of word is missing by reading around the gap. Train yourself/your students to consider what part of speech the answer will be, and if the other words in the sentence give clues to the topic or theme. Give them plenty of practice with word formation so they can easily identify the missing information.

    Higher points are awarded for complex structures and expressions during the speaking and writing sections. Teachers should provide learners with functional language such as discourse markers and linkers, so they can connect and extend their ideas. It’s also important to have a range of vocabulary they draw on to express their opinions, offer suggestions and to give reasons, as this will help give their answers complexity and depth.

    Studying these things should provide a solid knowledge base of the exam format and structure, coaching learners to use different test-taking strategies and directing their study of vocabulary and grammar, so they can work more efficiently and confidently toward their goal of passing the PEIC.

  • People of various backgrounds and ages standing together holding paper speech bubbles
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    4 poor communication skills (and what to do about them)

    By Pearson Languages

    How to help your students improve their general listening, speaking and understanding

    Do your students ever display poor communication skills?

    Most teachers will answer with a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, communication skills do not always come naturally to many people. Let’s look at some of the most common and egregious errors people make when speaking and listening to each other. I’ll also give you some valuable ways to help your students improve.

    1. They don’t even stop to breathe!

    If you find one student doing a LOT of talking, it’s probably because no one else can get a word in edgeways. It can be tempting to assume that this is because the chatty student thinks their ideas are better than anyone else’s, but, in fact, it is often a sign of nerves.

    Look more carefully and see if they appear breathless or anxious. Whatever the reason, this kind of student may benefit from a more structured approach where students are given time to prepare what they are going to say, and everyone is expected to contribute equally. Or make it into a game where students have to make sure that they speak for 50% of the time each, as would be expected in an exam situation.

    2. They aren’t really paying attention to each other

    Whether your students are looking at their phones, staring out of the window or can’t wait to interrupt each other, poor listeners make poor communicators. Deal with this by always requiring the listener in any pair to do something specific. For example, tell them they will need to summarise what their partner said, or they have to think of three questions to ask their partner at the end.

    We usually have a reason to listen in real-life communication, so make sure you give them one. Otherwise, they may assume that only the teacher needs to pay attention when another student is talking.

    3. They ramble and it’s difficult to follow what they’re saying

    Students may ramble because they are unconfident about the target language. It’s fine for students to struggle a bit to communicate, but it’s sensible to set achievable tasks, or they may give up.

    It could also be that they would benefit from more rehearsal and practice. Being able to speak fluently ‘off the cuff’ is very challenging, particularly in front of an audience. Try giving students time to plan what they are going to say first. They shouldn’t be reading off the page, but writing it first can help with confidence and fluency.

    Repetition is also invaluable in building fluency. Try doing speaking tasks more than once, and see how the quality and quantity improves each time. You can ring the changes by swapping partners or changing the format from pairs to small groups, to the whole class.

    4. They don’t treat others’ feelings with respect

    This can show itself in different ways. Maybe your students just completely ignore the feelings the other person is demonstrating or telling them about. Or maybe they dismiss them in other ways, ‘Oh, exactly the same thing happened to me! I was just walking along…’

    You can model better ways to respond yourself. For example, “It sounds as if you feel quite angry about that?”, “That must have been really difficult.’

    This teaches students the kind of phrases they can use to validate, empathize and talk about emotions.

    If you can deal with these problems, your students will be well on the way to becoming master communicators.

  • A young person in front of a laptop with headphones
    • Language teaching

    Tips for effective online classroom management

    By Pearson Languages

    Online language learning and teaching brings with it a lot of things to think about. The following tips are designed to help you plan your primary-level online classes effectively and manage students in a digital environment.

    1. Keep energy levels high

    The school environment is an active and incredibly social space. It’s hard to replicate this online, potentially leading to boredom and frustration among your students. For this reason, you should take regular 'movement breaks' during the day to energize them. You can do the following quick sequence sitting or standing:

    • Stretch your arms above your head and reach for the sky. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Drop your left arm to your side and bend to your left while stretching your right arm over your head. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back to an upright position and stretch both arms above your head. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Drop your right arm to your side and bend to your right while stretching your left arm over your head. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back to an upright position and stretch both arms above your head. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Lean forward until your fingertips touch the floor (only go as far as is comfortable for your body), then cross your arms and release your head so it hangs gently between your legs. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back upright, shake your arms and legs, and get back to work!

    This excellent energy booster allows your students to revise parts of the body, commands and even make the link with other subjects.

    2. Encourage casual socialisation

    Small talk and gossip are fundamental parts of the regular school day. It’s essential to give students a few minutes to chat freely. It will help them feel relaxed and make your classes more comfortable.

    Let your students do this in whatever language they want and don’t get involved, just like at school. Alternatively, ask someone to share a YouTube video, song, Instagram, or TikTok post in a digital show and tell.

    3. Encourage the use of functional language

    After students have been chatting freely in their own language, take the opportunity to bring in functional language depending on the subject they were talking about in English. This will help get them ready for the lesson. Here are some ways to do this:

    • Singing - Play a song and get them to sing along. 
    • Role-play - When students talk about food, you could role-play in a restaurant or talk about likes and dislikes. 
    • Guessing games - Students must read the animals' descriptions and guess what they are. You can make up your own descriptions.

    4. Consider task and student density

    To optimize learning time, consider dividing your class into smaller groups and teaching each one individually for part of the timetabled class time. You may find that you get more done in 15 minutes with eight students than you would be able to get done in 60 minutes with 32 students.

    At the same time, you will be able to focus more easily on individual needs (you’ll be able to see all their video thumbnails on the same preview page). If it is not acceptable in your school to do this, divide the class so you’re not trying to teach everyone the same thing simultaneously.

    Having the whole class do a reading or writing activity is a lost opportunity to use this quiet time to give more focused support to smaller groups of learners, so think about setting a reading task for half the class, while you supervise a speaking activity with the other half, and then swap them over.

    Alternatively, set a writing activity for 1/3 of the students, a reading for 1/3 and a speaking activity for the remaining 1/3, and rotate the groups during the class.

    5. Manage your expectations

    Don’t expect to get the same amount of work done in an online class as in the classroom. Once you have waited for everyone to connect, get them to turn on their cameras, etc., you have less time to teach than you would usually have. Add this to the fact that it’s much more complex and time-consuming to give focused support to individual learners in a way that doesn’t interrupt everyone else.

    So, don’t plan the same task density in online classes as you would for face-to-face teaching. Explore flipping some of your activities, so your students arrive better prepared to get to work.

    It’s also much harder to engage students, measure their engagement and verify that they are staying on task online than in the physical classroom. In an online class, measuring engagement and reading reactions is harder. Always clearly explain the objectives and why you have decided on them. Regularly check to see if everyone understands and is able to work productively.

    When you’re all online, you can’t use visual clues to quickly judge whether anyone is having difficulties, like you can in the classroom. Ask direct questions to specific students rather than asking if everyone understands, or is OK. During and at the end of class, check and reinforce the achieved objectives.

  • A smiling little girl on a laptop with headphones on
    • Language teaching

    Tips for setting up an optimized online classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    Technology and the learning space

    How a physical classroom is organized, decorated and laid out impacts how your students feel, interact and learn. It’s just as important to think about how your virtual teaching space functions and what it looks like, as it will greatly affect your students’ learning experience.

    Classrooms are usually full of posters, examples of students’ work and other decorations. Just because you’re teaching online doesn’t mean your environment needs to look dull.

    Take some time to think about your virtual teaching space. Picture it in your head. What’s behind you? What’s on either side? Is there an echo? Is it light or dark? How far away are you from the camera?

    Online classroom setup dos and don’ts

    While teaching online isn’t always that different from teaching face-to-face, there are quite a few things you might not have considered before. Here are some of my top dos and don’ts to help:

    Lighting

    • Don’t sit in front of a window or other source of light; otherwise, your face will be in shadow and hard to see. If you have no option, close the curtains and use an artificial light source to illuminate your face.
    • Do reflect lighting off a wall or ceiling, so it hits your face indirectly. This creates a much more pleasing image. If possible, sit in front of any windows or to the side of them so that the light hits your face directly or from the side. If the room is naturally dark, reflect a couple of lamps off the wall in front of you or the ceiling.

    Audio

    • Do invest in a set of headphones with an inline microphone. Even cheap ones will make you easier to understand, and reduce environmental noise interference (traffic, your neighbor’s stereo, etc.).
    • Don’t teach in an empty classroom (if you can avoid it). They are a terrible place to teach online classes from because they suffer from echo, environmental noise, lighting and bandwidth problems.
    • If your teaching space has an echo, try placing pillows or cushions on either side of your screen. They help absorb echoes and make it easier for your students to hear you.

    Video

    • Sit far enough away from the camera so your students can see most of your upper body and arms. If you use a laptop, raise it up on an old shoebox or a couple of books, so that the camera isn’t pointing up your nose!
    • Do invest in the fastest internet connection you can afford (school administrators may want to consider offering subsidies so teachers can upgrade their connection speed). It is vital that you have enough internet bandwidth to stream good-quality audio and video and share materials with your students. Learn how to use your mobile phone data plan to create a wifi hotspot for your computer as a backup.

    Using technology with your students

    Here are some ways to get the most out of technology, build your student’s digital literacy skills and increase motivation:

    Space

    Students should connect from a private space where they are not interrupted by siblings, pets, housekeepers, or parents. The space should be well-lit and have a good Wi-Fi signal.

    Communication

    Just like you, they should use earphones with an inline microphone. Their webcams should be on, not just so you can see them, but so they can see each other. Encourage learners to have fun and personalize their space by changing their backgrounds or using filters.

    Distractions

    Parents and caregivers should be aware of the negative effect of noise and distractions on their children’s learning. It’s important that where possible, they avoid having business meetings in the same room their children are learning in. They should also ask other people in the house to respect the children’s right to enjoy a quiet, private, productive learning environment.

    Resources

    If you and your students are online using some form of computer, tablet, or mobile device to connect to class, make sure to use the resources available to you. Reinforce how to correctly use spell check when writing a document; for example, have your students use their cameras to take photos of their work to share or even their favorite toys.

    Flexibility

    Instead of trying (and often failing!) to get all your students to speak during the class, have them make videos or audio recordings for homework that they send to you or each other for feedback. Alternatively, experiment with breakout rooms, if using a platform that allows this.

    Preparation

    If you want to show a YouTube video during class, send the link to your students to watch for homework before class, or have them watch it during class on their own devices.

    Besides saving your internet bandwidth, they may even be inspired to click on one of the other recommended (usually related) videos alongside the one you want them to watch. It’ll be on their recently watched list if they want to go back and watch it again.

    Collaboration

    If you set group work that involves writing a text or designing a presentation, ask your students to collaborate with a shared Google Doc. You’ll be able to see what they’re doing in real-time and give them feedback. It works like you are walking around the classroom and looking over their shoulders.

    Feedback

    Explore the focused feedback tools your web conferencing platform offers, such as breakout rooms or an individual chat. But also, don’t forget to share relevant information and learning with the whole class. This helps them all benefit from your expertise, just like if they listen to you answering a classmate’s question in the classroom.

    If your students are at home, they can access materials and props they would never have at school. Think about how you could incorporate this into your teaching.

    Materials

    Finally, ensure that the materials you use are suitable for online learning. If you use a book, it should have a fully digital option and a platform available to your students with practice activities, videos, and audio recordings. You should avoid using static pages in favor of dynamic activities, or online documents that allow real-time collaboration.

    Involving parents and caregivers in your online teaching environment

    Create an online learning document for parents explaining how they can create a positive and productive learning environment for their children. Some families may experience significant difficulties and may be unable to implement everything. But it’s still important to explain to them how to optimize the experience if they can.
     

  • a woman stood in front of a noteboard, gesturing to it. The noteboard has different papers and graphs stuck to it.
    • Language teaching
    • Business and employability

    The importance of teachers professional development

    By Pearson Languages

    There’s the saying, “There are two types of teachers with 20 years of teaching experience: the first are those with 20 years of experience and the second are those with one year’s experience repeated 20 times.”

    Some believe most teachers want to be the first kind of teacher – constantly evolving throughout their careers – rather than repeating the same classes. Additionally, taking professional development courses can help us reach these new heights.

    Doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals regularly have to seek training opportunities. This enables them to keep up to date with the latest technologies, innovations and changes in the wider world. It could be argued that teachers are no different.

    Benefits of professional development training

    There are several benefits to continued professional training for teachers. For instance, there’s always something new to learn as developments are happening regularly in the world of ELT. Whether it’s innovations in ed-tech, new research into how we learn languages or a new pedagogy, certain courses can help bring you up to speed with these!

    Undertaking further training will help you to deepen your knowledge and widen your expertise. So rather than simply repeating the same method of teaching a grammar point over again, you’ll learn new approaches. In turn, you’ll be better equipped to find the tools that work to help your students reach their learning goals.

    Another great thing about professional development is that it can lead to career progression and promotion. There are a number of courses that you can take to develop not only skills for teaching, but other roles in the ELT industry.
    For example, you can train to become a director of studies, specialize in business or academic English, or enter ELT publishing or management. There are many options to explore through further education!

    New trends in English language teaching

    To be the best teachers we can be, it's important to be aware of new trends in the field of ELT. Some of the latest ones include:

    Hybrid learning

    Gaining popularity in recent years, hybrid learning is an approach to teaching. Specifically, it involves some students attending class in person, while others join the class virtually from home. This means that teachers must be prepared to simultaneously teach both students in person and online.

    Flipped classroom

    A flipped classroom means students are introduced to content at home. Often teachers introduce this via videos and then practice working through the new knowledge in class. This is the opposite of the more traditional method where they are given new content at school, and complete assignments independently at home.

    Bite-sized learning

    One method of teaching that has become more common is bite-sized learning. For example, breaking down information into smaller chunks instead of having learners listen to long, uninterrupted sessions, and this helps students absorb information and keeps them engaged.

    If you’re not already familiar with these, there are lots of professional development courses that teach you how to use them in your classroom.

    Formal qualifications in ELT

    So what courses can you take? Here are some of the most common courses you can take for English language teaching.

    • CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Cambridge’s Level 5 CELTA qualification is an internationally recognized ELT course. While this certificate focuses on teaching adults, language academies accept it for both adults and young learners.
    • Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Like the CELTA, the Trinity CertTESOL Level 5 course is designed for people with little or no English teaching experience.
    • Trinity CertPT (Certificate for Practising Teachers) - Trinity’s Level 6 CertPT is designed for teachers who have already been teaching for a minimum of six months. It aims to support teachers' further development and help them improve their teaching practice.
    • DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Cambridge’s DELTA provides professional development for teachers with at least one year’s experience. This level 7 qualification is also designed for those who want to progress into more senior roles such as head of English and teacher training.
    • Trinity DipTESOL (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Trinity’s DipTESOL is designed for teachers who have reached a stage in their career where they’d like to progress to a more senior level. Like the DELTA, it’s an internationally respected level 7 qualification for experienced TEFL teachers.
    • Master’s degree - Master’s studies in English Language Teaching, TESOL, or applied linguistics, are great options to reach a more senior level in your career. Most people take them to become a director of studies or reach a management position.
    • Specialized courses - If there’s an area of teaching that you’d like to specialize in, plenty of short courses cover a range of topics. These include teaching online, teaching with technology, teaching business English and teaching very young children. Check out LinkedIn Learning, Coursera or Udemy to see what they offer.

    If you’re unable to take a formal course, sharing ideas with colleagues is a great way to create professional development opportunities. You could exchange lesson plans and ask for feedback or input. There are plenty of podcasts, webinars and social media groups for teachers where you can find great tips and ideas from fellow teachers worldwide.

    Whichever route you decide, remember that learning is a lifelong journey – not only for your students but for yourself too! There are always new things to discover that will help you develop as a teacher.