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  • A group of children at a desk playing a baord game with a teacher smiling looking over them
    • Study prep
    • Young learners
    • English language testing

    Preparing for the PEIC YL oral test

    By Pearson Languages

    Younger learners may find speaking in English comes easily to them, more so than reading and writing. However, they need to be well-prepared and familiar with what they have to do in order to be successful in an exam. Let’s look at a few ways we can prepare our students for the International Certificate Young Learners (PEIC YL) oral test and have fun along the way!

    The test

    The PEIC YL oral test includes two speaking tasks that have an emphasis on real-life communication. Throughout the four levels, the format of the speaking tasks remains the same, with questions and topics suitable for each level and age group.

    Learners take the oral test in groups of five, with one examiner, who gives instructions and assesses the learners.

    • The first speaking task consists of a question and answer activity played as a board game. In their group of five, students take turns to throw a dice and move around the board/cards. When they land on a square, they read out a question which they should direct at another student, who then responds. Each question has a corresponding picture, which helps scaffold the task and give clues to what the question means.
    • In the second task, each student gives a short talk about a topic. Students take turns to pick a topic card and then talk about the topic for one minute. The other students in the group then ask questions related to the topic.

    For both parts of the test students are assessed on their vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

    Classroom activities

    There are lots of ways in which you can prepare your learners for the test in class. The game-like format of the speaking test makes practicing the tasks an ideal end-of-lesson activity. Here are a few ideas:

    Play board games

    Playing board games will allow learners to get used to the functional language they will need to play games, e.g. "It’s your turn" / "Where’s the dice?".

    It will also give them plenty of practice in counting the squares in English, which they are expected to do in the test. You can use traditional board games designed for English language learners or make your own.

    Include questions on familiar topics such as family, clothes, or vacations.

    Make collaborative board games

    Young learners love to make things so why not have them make their own board games and cards? Put students in groups to make a board game for the other groups to play. You can provide a board template, have them write questions, and draw pictures in the squares.

    Make sure you have students write a rough draft of their questions first so that you can check for any errors. It can be helpful to write example questions and prompts on the board as a guide, e.g. 'What (sports) do you play at school?' 'How often do you …?'. Depending on the level, students will need to include questions in a variety of present/past/future tenses.

    Use student pictures

    To prepare for the short talk, give students plenty of practice at speaking for one minute. One way of making this more engaging is by having the students choose their own topics by talking about pictures they have drawn or taken.

    If students have mobile phones, you can ask them to choose a photo from the gallery and discuss it with a partner. If mobile phones are not an option, have them bring in some photos from home. These could be pictures taken on vacation, birthday parties, or at other celebrations. 

    You could also write a list of topics on the board, have each student choose one, and draw a picture to illustrate it.

    Tips

    • Make sure students are used to playing board games and know rules and functional language.
    • Practice turn taking and asking/answering questions regularly.
    • Encourage students to listen carefully to questions and to read them thoroughly, paying attention to the verb forms used. They should aim to use the same verb form in their answer.
    • Give learners practice speaking in one-minute turns.
    • Use your course book unit topic to include similar speaking tasks in lessons.
    • Make a set of laminated picture cards for students to practice both parts of the test.
    • Write questions and topics on popsicle sticks or cards for fast finishers.

    The key to good test preparation is to make it a part of your regular lessons, rather than something you do in just the weeks before the test. The more familiar your students are with the tasks, the more relaxed they will be on the day of the test.

  • A young girl working at a desk, there are others working in the background
    • Young learners

    5 academic skills for primary students

    By Carol Higho

    In an ever-changing jobs market, the skills we all need to use have developed beyond numeracy and literacy – and part of our jobs as teachers is to give students the skills they’ll need in their future careers.

    Primary students preparing to go to secondary school (and then university) will need academic skills too. While there are lots of courses offering to teach these skills to older learners, we can give our younger learners a head start in the classroom.

    A breakdown of academic skills

    There are a number of important academic skills that can be carried into many different areas of students’ lives. These include:

    • time management
    • prioritization
    • cooperative learning and delegation
    • research
    • analysis.

    Each skill will help students manage their workloads and work effectively and efficiently, whether working in an office, studying for a degree, or being self-employed.

    Activities to develop an awareness of academic skills

    Here are a few ideas for use with students of all ages, to develop students’ awareness and understanding of these skills.

    Time management

    For much of the school day, children are told where to be and what to do. However, knowing how to tell the time is not the same as managing time.

    Some students underestimate how long an activity will take and then feel cheated or ‘behind’ when their work takes longer (especially fast finishers). Others overestimate the time needed, feel overwhelmed, and want to give up before getting started.

    Helping each student understand what each activity involves will help them to plan and manage their time. It will also encourage them to recognize everyone has differing abilities and works at a different pace.

    Give each student sticky notes representing 10 minute blocks of time (6 pieces if your classes are in 1 hour segments).

    Explain an activity:

    • You will read a story, and they will need to listen for key information and make notes.
    • After that, they will work in groups to make a Venn diagram.

    Next, have the students think about how much time each part of the lesson will take using sticky notes. If they think making the diagram will take 20 minutes, they should put two sticky notes on top of each other.

    Have students share what they think the time allocation should be, taking into account how long your lesson is. Did any ‘run out of time’ or have time ‘left over’?

    After the activity, ask students how accurate their predictions were and if there was any time wasting.

    Let students practice using this type of task analysis throughout the week for different activities, so they begin to see which activities they work quickly through and which they find more time-consuming. This will help students plan and manage their time better.

    Also, involve the parents by sharing what has been done in class. Get students to manage the time allocation:

    • from waking up to getting to school (getting washed and dressed, having breakfast, the journey to school),
    • from arriving home to going to bed (homework, evening meal, any cores, time for watching TV or playing games, getting ready for bed).

    How does their time management change at weekends/in the holidays?

    Prioritization

    Prioritization is another big part of time management. Task analysis helps students recognize what they must do and how they must do it in order to get a good grade. It also helps them understand the things they will most enjoy about an activity.

    To teach prioritization, it should become a regular part of the class. At the start of each week list (approximately five) class objectives to be achieved:

    • Ask each student to number these objectives - 1 being their top priority, 5 being their lowest. Make a note of which students prioritize the same tasks in the same order to help with grouping.
    • Next, ask them if any of the objectives will need planning or preparation (for example; growing cress for a science experiment) – and if so, should that be started earlier in the week?
    • At the end of each day, review how the students are doing in reaching the objectives and if they need to reprioritize.
    • As the week progresses, add additional items that are not priorities. For example, clean out your school locker/sharpen all the pencils, as well as other new real priorities: revise for the quiz on Friday. This will give students an understanding of how priorities can change.

    Collaborative learning and delegation

    Delegation and collaborative working are both essential academic and life skills. Thankfully they are already quite familiar topics for students. Students often delegate roles and characters in their everyday play – ‘You be Spiderman, I’ll chase you’, etc.

    It’s helpful to encourage this behavior in the classroom too. It can help students (of all ages) to recognize what they can achieve through cooperation and delegation because of their different skills.

    Explain that a group project (e.g. a group play) will require students to share information and to work together. Make it clear there are rules to follow:

    • Everyone must take part in the performance.
    • The play must be at least one minute long.
    • The group needs to write a script and create some props.
    • As a team, all are accountable/responsible to each other (as well as to you).
    • The activity will only be classed as a pass/success if everyone takes part.

    There is a finite goal – the play will be performed at the end of next week to the Year 2 classes.

    Suggest that the group meets and plans together (reading corner, at lunchtime, etc.). As they prepare, ask for updates on who is doing which tasks and why. Also encourage the group to determine whether something could be done differently/better by sharing the jobs.

    Listen in to see how objections are handled (recognize some of this discussion may be in the students’ first language).

    At the end of the project ask each student to list what they enjoyed the most and what they found most challenging. Ask them what skills they would like to develop for the next project.

    Research and analysis

    This can sound daunting for Primary students, but laying the foundations for academic research is easier than you might think.

    Big questions are a gateway to developing research and analysis skills. Two examples are, 'Why are plants and animals important in our world?' Or 'What can you do to help people in need?'.

    Providing students with a way to remember the important steps in any kind of research makes this type of activity less daunting.

    'Hands On’ is a five point guide that can be demonstrated by drawing a hand with five fingers:

    • Hypothesis
    • Research
    • Gather data
    • Create a report
    • Present evidence
    • Research and analysis (written on the palm).

    Following the five point guide students must:

    • give their thoughts and ideas on possible answers (create a hypothesis)
    • use books, the world around them and the internet to find information (research)
    • learn how to recognize what is fact and what is opinion (gather data)
    • review the data and summarize the main points (create a report)
    • use examples from their research to support their argument (present evidence).

    Any research needs to be methodical; using the five points above helps students build a clear structure that can become more detailed and complex as they advance through school.

  • A woman gesturing to her mouth in a playroom with a child copying the gesture
    • Young learners
    • Language teaching

    Educating young learners: Making phonics fun

    By Pearson Languages

    For many young learners, reading and writing can be one of the most challenging steps in their English learning journey. Even fluent English speakers often find it difficult to understand the connection between how English is pronounced and how it is written.

    Let’s explore how phonics can be a valuable and fun tool to help students and teachers understand this connection.

    What is phonics?

    Phonics is a method of teaching learners how to read by making the connection between sounds and letters. There are around 44 different sounds used in English, and around 120 different ways of writing them down.

    Children learn to identify and say individual sounds (phonemes) and what letter or groups of letters can be used to write that sound down (graphemes). This helps children to read and spell words. For example, the /k/ sound is frequently written using these letters:

    • k as in kite
    • c as in cat
    • ck as in back

    When children learn to read using phonics, the sounds are read out in isolation, for example, b-a-ck. Then they are blended together to form the whole word: back.

    How to teach phonics

    Other methods of learning how to read and spell rely on students memorizing every new word they encounter – that’s potentially thousands of new words! On the other hand, phonics gives students the tools and confidence to read and spell unfamiliar words autonomously. If they know the sounds, they can read the word.

    Simply drilling sounds and letters will quickly become dull for students, so here are some practical, fun phonics ideas you can try out in the classroom.

    1. Use music

    Music can create a positive atmosphere for teaching phonics, and it helps children to memorize sounds in a lively, enjoyable way. Furthermore, it can improve pronunciation and listening skills.

    • Use musical instruments or clap to help students break words into individual sounds.
    • Alternatively, use ‘robot talk’ – say the words in a robotic way, breaking up the words into their component sounds, for example ‘r-e-d’.
    • Tongue twisters are useful for working on the initial sounds in words. Try creating tongue twisters using known vocabulary and students’ names, e.g. Sara sings in the sun.
    • Many ELT courses provide phonics songs that practice new sounds. However, you can also adapt well-known songs to teach phonics.

    Example song:

    Clap your hands and turn around!

    Put your hands up!
    Put your hands down.
    Clap your hands
    And turn around!

    Put your head up!
    Put your head down!
    Clap your hands
    And turn around.

    Put your leg up!
    Put your leg down!
    Clap your hands
    And turn around.

    2. Move your body

    Learning through movement comes naturally to many young learners and can be a dynamic part of your phonics routine. Incorporating movement into your lessons can motivate students and help them retain the sounds and letters.

    • Add an accompanying action when you present a new phonics sound and its corresponding letter/s. For example, say, ‘S, s, s, snake’ and make a snaking movement with your arm. The action becomes a visual prompt, so students call out ‘S!’ whenever you do the action.
    • Air drawing can be great fun. Have students trace the shape of letters in the air with a finger while repeating the corresponding sound. This is also good pre-writing practice.
    • You can even challenge students to work alone or in pairs to make letter shapes with their whole bodies!

    3. Make phonics tactile

    To really embed the connection between the shape of the letters and the sounds they represent, get children to use their hands to feel the shape of the letters while they repeat the sounds.

    These tactile phonics activities have the added advantage of working on fine motor skills, which in turn will improve students’ handwriting.

    • Show students how to trace the shape of the letter in a tray of sand while repeating the sound. Alternatively, try tracing the letter shape in shaving foam.
    • Try modeling the letter shapes out of playdough or a piece of string.
    • A fun pair-work game involves one student silently drawing a letter on their partner’s back. Their partner must guess the letter and say the sound.

    4. Be creative

    There are wonderful, creative ways you can explore phonics with your students. For younger students who don’t yet have the fine motor skills to write letter shapes, using arts and crafts can be an enjoyable way to reinforce the link between the letter/s and the sound.

    • They could make letter shapes from dried pasta or use junk modeling.
    • Have your students decorate letter shapes by painting, coloring, or collaging. This will help them memorize the shapes. Encourage them to repeat the sounds as they do this, or play a phonics rhyme in the background so the association between the sound and letter/s is constantly reinforced.

    Create class displays for different sounds using a variety of pictures and objects starting with that sound. Use them for revision and classroom games. Try splitting the class into teams and then calling out a sound, or a word starting with that sound. The first team to touch the display with the matching letter/s wins a point.

    5. Play games

    Many popular ELT games can be adapted to teach phonics. Games are a great way to bring phonics to life and to give young learners the confidence to produce the sounds themselves.

    • Play ‘Whispers’. Students sitting in a circle whisper a sound rather than a word to the child next to them until it reaches the end of the circle. The last child says the sound aloud, or points to the letters that correspond to that sound.
    • Get children to create their own sets of cards with sounds and pictures on them. These can be used to play card games like snap and pairs.
    • Other games such as i-spy, board rush games, bingo and lucky dip, can be easily adapted to teach phonics.

    Whether you dedicate a whole lesson or just five minutes of your lesson to phonics, make sure to have fun!

  • A Parent reading to his two children from a book with all three of them laying on the floor
    • Young learners
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    How can teachers encourage parents to get kids reading at home?

    By Donatella Fitzgerald

    “Sharing a story with your child is one of the most incredible things you can do for them.” The Book Trust.

    Research shows that getting kids reading at home can increase their reading ability at school – and improve their overall well-being. Parents and guardians can make a big difference. But how can teachers encourage parents to get their children to read more at home? We explore some strategies you can use.

    Tell parents about the benefits

    Reading can give children a break from technology-centered activities. It can help them to relax and unwind; reading a book can make children laugh and feel happier! Through hearing stories, children are also exposed to a rich and broad vocabulary.

    “It is important for teachers to establish contact with parents as much as possible and give very clear guidelines on the benefits of reading, and how they can create a reading routine and help their children read at home,” says Kasia Janitz-De La Rue, Product Development Director at Pearson.

    So, encourage parents to find time for a reading routine. Just before bedtime is a great time, as a nightly reading routine is associated with improved sleep in children.

    Give parents practical ideas for reading strategies

    Encourage parents to read with and not to their child. It doesn’t matter how long they set aside to read – just 10 minutes of quality reading time can make a big difference.

    Here are a few tips concrete reading tips for teachers to share with parents:

    • Ask children lots of questions while reading.
    • Use encouragement and praise to keep children engaged. Saying things like “what fantastic ideas” or “you thought so carefully about that, what might happen now?" will keep their minds working.
    • Use their past experiences to talk about what’s being read. Things like “have you learnt about…at school?” or “do you remember when we watched…and found out about…?” are good conversation starters.
    • Tune in and listen to children, and be curious about their interests. “I didn’t know you knew so much about…” or “I love reading stories about…with you,” are good phrases to keep in mind.

    It’s also a great idea to share online resources with parents. You can also suggest that parents look up read-aloud YouTube videos featuring authors, teachers or librarians reading their favorite stories. This way, children can watch and listen as often as they like.

    Recommend graded readers

    Graded readers are books that use language in line with a child‘s learning level. They can help children build confidence, and help slowly expose them to authentic reading levels.

    Encourage parents to identify what genre their child is interested in and show them the readers available. Each time parents see their children move up a level, they’re sure to see their children’s love for reading grow.

    Suggest before, during, and after reading activities

    Before reading

    Parents can take turns with their children to predict what the story is about – or what will happen next. Here is an activity teachers may suggest they try:

    “Start with the cover of the book and the blurb on the back cover. Reveal the cover slowly to ask the child what they can see. Ask them to guess what is on the cover. Once they have seen the cover, ask them questions about the images on the cover – who, what, why, where and how?”

    While reading

    Remind parents to focus on their children’s reading comprehension by using strategies like prediction, questioning, clarifying, and summarising. Teachers can ask parents to:

    • check ideas and understanding as the child reads: ‘So, you think that….’ ‘Did you expect…to happen?’ ‘Why do you think that happened?’
    • use the pictures in the book to help with comprehension
    • describe what is happening and talk about the characters.

    After reading

    Don’t forget: parents can continue to explore the book’s topic once reading time is done! A few ideas to share with parents include:

    • organising a puppet show for family members and siblings after making puppets of the characters in the book
    • having children draw a picture of their favorite character or their favorite page in the story
    • encouraging children to express their opinion on the book.
  • A group of children looking engaged on a task whist their teacher is sat near them
    • Young learners

    3 opportunities for using mediation with young learners

    By Tim Goodier

    Mediation in the CEFR

    The addition of ‘can do’ descriptors for mediation in the CEFR Companion Volume is certainly generating a lot of discussion. The CEFR levels A1 to C2 are a reference point to organise learning, teaching and assessment, and they are used in primary and secondary programs worldwide. Teachers of young learners aligning their courses to the CEFR may wonder if they should therefore be ‘teaching’ mediation as a standard to follow. Is this really the case? And what might ‘teaching’ mediation mean?

    This short answer is that this is not the case – the CEFR is a reference work, not a curriculum. So the ‘can do’ statements for each level are an optional resource to use selectively as we see fit. This is particularly true for young learners, where ‘can do’ statements may be selected, adapted and simplified in a way that is accessible and meaningful to them. This approach is demonstrated in the many European Language Portfolios (ELPs) for young learners that were validated by the Council of Europe following the launch of the CEFR and ELP. 

    So let’s recap what is meant by mediation in the CEFR. The new scales deal with three main areas:  

    • Mediating a text: taking things you have understood and communicating them in your own words to help others understand. 
    • Mediating concepts: collaborating with others to talk through ideas and solutions and reach new conclusions.  
    • Mediating communication: supporting the acceptance of different cultural viewpoints.

    Focusing on mediation with young learners

    Mediation activities may involve aspects of cognitive demand, general social competencies and literacy development that are too challenging for a given target age group or level. These factors need to be carefully considered when designing tasks. However, with the proper guidance it is possible that young learners can engage in mediation activities in a simple way appropriate to age, ability and context. The Council of Europe has published documents providing expert judgments of the potential relevance of the new descriptors to age groups 7 to 10 and 11 to 15.

    Opportunities for mediation in the young learner classroom

    It’s fair to say that opportunities for mediation activities already regularly occur in the communicative young learner classroom. These can be identified and enhanced if we want to develop this area.  

    1. Collaboration 

    Many young learner courses adopt an enquiry-based learning approach, guiding learners to collaborate on tasks and reach conclusions through creative thinking. The CEFR provides ‘can do’ statements for collaborating in a group starting at A1:  

    • Can invite others’ contributions to very simple tasks using short, simple phrases. 
    • Can indicate that he/she understands and ask whether others understand. 
    • Can express an idea with very simple words and ask what others think.

    Young learners at this level can build a basic repertoire of simple ‘collaborative behaviors’ with keywords and phrases connected to visual prompts e.g. posters. A routine can be set up before pair and share tasks to practice short phrases for asking what someone thinks, showing understanding, or saying you don’t understand. This can also include paralanguage, modeled by the teacher, for showing interest and offering someone else the turn to speak. 

    It is important for young learners to be clear about what is expected of them and what will happen next, so such routines can effectively scaffold collaborative enquiry-based learning tasks. 

    2. Communication 

    ‘Can do’ statements for mediating communication, such as facilitating pluricultural space, can orient objectives for learners themselves to foster understanding between different cultures. Again young learners can develop their behaviors for welcoming, listening and indicating understanding with the help of visual prompts, stories and role-model characters.

    3. Discussion of texts  

    Young learners also spend a lot of time mediating texts because they enjoy talking about stories they have listened to, watched or read. Although there is only one statement for expressing a personal response to creative texts at A1: ‘Can use simple words and phrases to say how a work made him/her feel’, this can inspire a more conscious focus on classroom phases to talk about responses to texts and stories, and equipping learners with keywords and phrases to express their reactions. In this way, as they progress towards A2 young learners can develop the confidence to talk about different aspects of the story in their own words, such as characters and their feelings. 

    Moving forward

    Clearly, it is not obligatory to focus on mediation activities with young learners – but the ‘can do’ statements are an interesting area to consider and reflect upon. There are some obvious parallels between mediation activities and 21st century skills or soft communication skills, and the CEFR ‘can do’ statements can help formulate manageable communicative learning objectives in this area. This, in turn, can inspire and orient classroom routines and tasks which prepare learners to be active communicators and social agents in the target language, developing their confidence to engage in mediation tasks as a feature of their lifelong learning pathways.

  • Two Young children high fiving one another
    • Language teaching
    • Young learners

    The importance of teaching values to young learners

    By Pearson Languages

    Values in education 

    The long years children spend at school are not only about acquiring key knowledge and skills. At school, children also learn to work together, share, exchange opinions, disagree, choose fairly, and so on. We could call these abilities social skills as they help children live and flourish in a wider community than their family circle.

    Social skills are not necessarily the same as social values. Children acquire social skills from all kinds of settings. The tools they use to resolve problems will often come from examples. In the playground, children observe each other and notice behavior. They realize what is acceptable to the other children and which strategies are successful. Some of the things they observe will not reflect healthy social values. 

    Part of a school’s mission is to help children learn social skills firmly based on a shared set of values. Many schools recognize this and have a program for education in values. 

    What values are we talking about? 

    Labeling is always tricky when dealing with an abstract concept such as social values. General ideas include:

    • living in a community, collaborating together
    • respecting others in all of human diversity
    • caring for the environment and the surroundings
    • having a sense of self-worth.

    At the root of these values are ethical considerations. While it may seem that primary education is too early for ethics, children from a very young age do have a sense of fairness and a sense of honesty. This doesn’t mean that children never lie or behave unfairly. Of course they do! But from about three years old, children know that this behavior is not correct, and they complain when they come across it in others. 

    In the school context, social values are too often reduced to a set of school rules and regulations. Typical examples are:

    • 'Don't be late!'
    • 'Wait your turn!'
    • 'Pick up your rubbish!'
    • 'Don't invent unkind nicknames'.

    While all these statements reflect important social values, if we don’t discuss them with the children, the reasoning behind each statement gets lost. They become boring school rules. And we all know that it can be fun to break school rules if you can get away with it. These regulations are not enough to represent an education in values.

    School strategies

    At a school level, successful programs often focus on a specific area of a values syllabus. These programs involve all members of a school community: students, teachers, parents, and administrative staff. 

    Here are some examples of school programs:

    Caring for the environment

    Interest in ecology and climate change has led many schools to implement programs focused on respect for the environment and other ecological issues. Suitable activities could include:

    • a system of recycling
    • a vegetable garden
    • initiatives for transforming to renewable energy
    • a second-hand bookstore.

    Anti-bullying programs

    As bullying can have such serious consequences, many schools have anti-bullying policies to deal with bullying incidents. However, the most effective programs also have training sessions for teachers and a continuous program for the children to help them identify bullying behavior. Activities include:

    • empathy activities to understand different points of view
    • activities to develop peer responsibility about bullying
    • activities aimed at increasing children’s sense of self-worth.

    Anti-racism programs 

    Combating negative racial stereotypes has, until recently, relied mainly on individual teacher initiatives. However, as racial stereotypes are constructed in society, it would be useful to have a school-wide program. This could include:

    • materials focusing on the achievements of ethnic minorities
    • school talks from members of ethnic minority communities 
    • empathy activities to understand the difficulties of marginalized groups.
    • study of the culture and history of ethnic minorities.

    As children learn from observed behavior, it’s important that everyone in the school community acts consistently with the values in the program.