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    • Teaching trends and techniques

    7 tips for teaching English to beginners

    By Pearson Languages

    Teaching beginners can be daunting, especially when it’s a monolingual group and you know nothing of their language, or it’s a multilingual group and the only common language is the English you’ve been tasked with teaching them. Nevertheless, not only is it possible to teach beginners only through English, but it can also be one of the most rewarding levels to teach. To help you succeed in setting your learners firmly on the path to increasing proficiency, here are seven tips for teaching English to beginners.

    1. Keep instructions clear and simple

    When addressing a class of students, especially ones you’ve just met, it can be tempting to explain activities in your politest language. After all, no one likes to be rude. However, a student who has only a few words of English, if any at all, won’t appreciate the courtesy of (or even understand), “OK, so now what I’d like you all to do, if you don’t mind, is just to stand up for a moment and come to the front of the class. Oh, and please bring your book with you. Could we all do that?”

    Instead, make instructions crystal clear by using as few words as necessary, gesturing whenever possible, and breaking down a series of instructions into smaller units. If you want to be polite, “please” and “thank you” will do. “Everybody – take your book, please. Stand up. Now, come here, please. Thank you.”

    2. Let them listen first

    Your students will likely want to start practicing speaking from the get-go. However, it takes a while for one’s ear to acclimatize to the sounds of a new language, and not everyone will be so keen; don’t pressure students into speaking before they’ve had lots of opportunity to listen to you using it (which doesn’t mean you should just be rambling on at the front of the classroom – with beginners more so than with other levels, you really have to consider what you say and grade your language accordingly).

    3. Drill, repeat, drill, repeat, drill…

    Beginners need lots of repetition and drilling, especially as they get to grips with the sounds of their new language. It might seem boring to go over the same sentences again and again, but it is necessary. When practicing a new sentence, try back-drilling, breaking the sentence down into manageable units and then building it back up, working backwards from the end to the beginning; this helps ensure that your intonation is natural and that you get elements of connected speech right. For example, break down “Would you like a cup of tea?” as follows:

    tea > cup of tea > like a > like a cup of tea > Would you > Would you like a cup of tea?

    4. Establish classroom language early on

    Classroom language – Can you speak more slowly? What do we have to do? I don’t understand. What does… mean? How do you say… in English? – is usually associated with teaching children, but it also helps with adult beginners. No matter how friendly and relaxed you make your classroom atmosphere, learning a new language can still be daunting, especially when you feel you’re not entirely following what’s going on, or that you might be called on to say something that you don’t feel ready to say. It’s much better to equip students early on with classroom language that will help them navigate the lesson smoothly.

    5. Avoid metalanguage

    There’s no point in students knowing the terms past simple, irregular verb or adverb of frequency if they can’t use the actual structures or words they refer to. Don’t tell them how to say something: show them. Give as much context as you can (visual prompts work well).

    Furthermore, make sure you check they have understood by asking questions that test their comprehension – never ask “Do you understand?” as:

    a) many people are reluctant to let on that they haven’t understood and will pretend instead that they have

    b) a student may think they have understood when in fact they haven’t.

    6. Don’t forget that your students are fluent in their own language(s)

    This may seem trivial, but it’s all too easy when listening to somebody speaking broken English to forget that behind the errors and the mispronunciation is a person with cogent thoughts, no doubt articulate in their first language, attempting to communicate their opinions or ideas.

    As teachers, we not only have to be patient and proactive listeners, alert to the reasons why specific errors are being made while filling in the gaps in less-than-perfect communication, but we also have to steer clear of adopting the 'Me-Tarzan-You-Jane' approach to teaching, degenerating the very language we are aiming to teach.

    Rather than degrading our language, we have to grade it carefully to keep it comprehensible while maintaining its naturalness, rhythm and spirit, ensuring all the while that, as far as possible, we actually converse with our students and listen to what they have to say. After all, even from the very first lessons, from the ‘A’ in the alphabet and the ‘am’ of ‘to be’, communication is the goal.

    7. Prepare well, prepare a lot, keep them talking

    Even though teaching beginners entails progressing slowly and recycling and repeating language many times, that doesn’t mean recycling the same activities, especially not during one lesson. Ensure you have a range of activities to use, and don’t go into class without having first carefully thought through how you are going to introduce a new language, how you will check that the students have understood it, how you will practice it, and how you will deal with potential misunderstandings. The possibility for confusion at this level is much greater than at higher levels, and sometimes even harder to disentangle.

    Also, remember, unlike with higher levels, you can’t rely on conversations developing simply because the students don’t yet have the linguistic resources to engage in anything other than simple exchanges (though in time, they will). This means that the onus will largely be on you to keep them talking.

    Finally, enjoy this level. Although in many ways the most challenging level to teach, it can also be one of the most satisfying. Seeing your learners go from knowing nothing to knowing a few words to knowing a few sentences and structures to being able to hold rudimentary conversations can be incredibly rewarding. If they enjoy their initial exposure to the language, and feel confident and inspired to continue, then you will have helped pave the way to their further success.

  • A girl sat at a desk in a with her head leaning on one hand smiling at the camera
    • Study prep

    Reaching exam success with happiness and wellbeing in mind

    By Sophia Fergus

    Are you or your students preparing for an exam like The International Certificate (PTE General)? If so, you might find that things are more stressful than usual or that motivation is starting to lack. When preparing to take an exam, it’s easy to overlook the fact that people also need to destress and relax a little.

    Exam preparation is an important period. That’s why we’ve come up with some tips and advice that will help increase happiness and well-being. It will also help develop good study habits and ensure you or your students remain happy right up to their exams and beyond.

    1. Create a study plan

    A clear plan can help you get off to a positive start. At the same time, it will inevitably lead to more confidence and better results on the big day. Make sure to gather all the materials and equipment you will need (or provide your students with a list of what they need to gather). Once prepared, set up a comfortable workspace where you will feel happy to spend time. If you’re a teacher, you can ask your students to describe their ideal study spaces in class – this will help them visualize what they need to do at home!

    It's also helpful to create a schedule where you write down what you need to work on and when. Try to include all areas of the exam but prioritize those areas that may need more work and improvement.

    2. Take time out

    If you're starting to feel anxious or stressed as the exam day comes nearer, here are some ideas to help manage:

    Take a break

    It’s better to study for short periods rather than spending hours on end at their desk. It’s a good idea to break up study periods and take a short break at regular intervals. If possible, also go outside and get some fresh air at least once a day.

    Try mindfulness techniques

    Guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Petit BamBou can help reduce stress and prepare learners to focus better on their studies. You can also find guided meditation videos and audio tracks on Youtube or Spotify.

    Be positive

    Remember how far you’ve progressed and celebrate what you can do, and if you’re an educator encourage them to visualize themselves confidently completing the exam.

    3. Have fun!

    Although exam practice and reviewing are important parts of preparing for an exam, you can also have some fun. Play games and base activities around a variety of different media, including short videos and podcasts and other forms of entertainment.

    Make English a part of your leisure time. Watch series or films in English, listen to music or choose podcasts related to your interests. A good tip is to look for English-language alternatives to any materials or media usually consumed.

    4. Stay healthy

    The stress caused by exams can result in bad habits, and eating unhealthily – fast food, snacks and caffeine can provide a false sense of energy. However, the food we eat and drink can greatly affect our body and mind. A healthy diet can improve our mood, our memory and our levels of concentration:

    • Healthy carbs such as brown rice, pasta, whole grain bread and cereals will provide the necessary energy to allow students to keep working through the day.
    • Oily fish like salmon and sardines are great for the brain, heart and joints, as well as increasing serotonin which makes us feel good!
    • Other sources of Omega 3 such as nuts and seeds are a great substitute for vegans.
    • A variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure that students have a balanced diet that will improve memory, brainpower and mental agility.

    5. Get a good night’s sleep

    Sleep is essential for learning to take place. The time you spend asleep is just as important as the time you spend awake. You should aim to sleep for 8 hours a night. This will help your brain to recharge, allowing you to start the day with energy and focus.

    It’s especially important that you sleep well the day before the exam. This will help you relax and ensure that you are alert and ready to give your best performance.

    6. Offer incentives

    If you are studying intensively or for a long time, motivation levels may start to drop. If you’re a teacher and you see this is the case, your class will need some additional support and encouragement to help them keep going. Small rewards can help with this.

    Teacher: You can offer rewards in class by allowing students to choose an activity they enjoy, but it’s also useful for students to give themselves rewards for any goals they set and accomplish. This personalization will make the reward even more satisfying.

    Self-learner: When you get to certain checkpoints of your study make sure to reward yourself with something small that you enjoy. Small rewards include things like listening to your favorite song, eating a sweet treat or watching a funny video.

    7. Reduce the workload

    As the exam approaches, make sure to gradually slow down. Rather than trying to learn something new, spend the last few days reviewing what you’ve studied and practice English as much as you can. On the day before the exam, do something completely different, like go for a long walk or watch a good film. Just to get your mind to wind down and relax before your exam, which will likely be quite demanding on the brain.

  • A  silohuette of a side profile of a womans head inside her head space is a ocean sunset
    • Language learning

    Being bilingual can help keep your brain in good condition

    By Steffanie Zazulak

    Learning and understanding a new language is one of the most challenging things that your brain can do. But as well as the advantage of acquiring another language, it appears that the effort of giving your brain a good workout today by being bilingual could keep it in better condition in later life.

    Research led by Dr. Daniela Perani, a professor of psychology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, found that people who speak two or more languages seem to weather the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease better compared to people who have only mastered one language. Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration that can begin in middle or old age due to generalized brain degeneration.

    The study involved 85 people with Alzheimer’s – half of whom spoke both German and Italian and half who spoke only one language. The researchers found that bilingual patients had greater connectivity in key brain areas. This was especially in the part of the brain that governs “executive control” – a set of necessary behavioral cognitive processes that include problem-solving, working memory, reasoning and attentional control. The study also noted that the bilingual Alzheimer’s patients showed less severe symptoms of the disease.

    The study concluded: “Our findings suggest that the effects of speaking two languages are more powerful than both age and education in providing a protection against cognitive decline.”

    Bilingualism and the brain

    Although Alzheimer’s disease is currently incurable, the study supports a popular theory that people who have higher levels of education function longer with little manifestation of the illness. Part of the reason why bilingual brains may be better at resisting Alzheimer’s could be due to a lifetime of switching between languages daily. 

    Learning and speaking more than one language changes how the brain carries out tasks that require focus and concentration on a certain piece of information without being distracted. It can also increase the density of white matter (connections) in the brain, meaning that there are more connections between brain parts, thus making this part of the brain more resistant to degeneration.

    This is supported by a study conducted by a team led by Professor Ana Inés Ansaldo at the University of Montreal, which suggests that bilingual people have more robust and more efficient brains compared to those who only speak one language. This is one of the reasons why a bilingual brain can be a buffer against aging and dementia.

    They recruited elderly people, half of whom spoke only one language and the other half who had learned a second language between the ages of 11 and 18. All performed equally well on a task that involved focusing on an object's color while ignoring its position, but brain scans revealed a big difference in how they processed the task.

    “While bilinguals were recruiting very specific brain areas and a small number of areas to perform the task, monolinguals were recruiting a much larger number of areas that were consuming much more resources. And the networks they were using were very, very complex,” says Professor Ansaldo. “That led us to think that the bilingual brain was more efficient in terms of the amount of resources that bilingual people require to do complex tasks as opposed to the monolingual brain.”

    The study concludes that bilingualism shapes the brain in a different way or how people approach complex tasks. It could be because bilinguals must inhibit the language they are not using to focus on the one that they are using.

  • A group of young adults sat at a table in a library looking up towards a older woman
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    Fostering critical thinking in the classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    Critical thinking is a term often thrown around the teacher’s lounge. You often hear, “Of course, teaching critical thinking is essential.” However, in that same space, we may also hear the question, “But how?”

    Teaching students to think critically involves helping them to develop a critical mindset. What exactly does that mean, and how can we do that?

    What does it mean to think critically?

    Critical thinking is a complex process that involves students reflecting, analyzing and evaluating ideas. Building a community of critical thinkers in our classrooms involves going beyond the cognitive domains and building the affective domains.

    The cognitive domain concerns subject knowledge and intellectual skills, whereas the affective domain involves emotional engagement with an idea or learning material.

    This deliberate teaching of critical thinking needs to be part of our teaching toolkit. We need to develop a mindset around it in and out of our classrooms.

    How can teachers develop a critical-thinking mindset?

    Consider all the questions we pose to students during our classes. Do we expect a yes or no answer, or have we established a classroom environment where students offer considered reasons for their responses?

    By following some guiding principles, we can get into the practice of naturally expecting deeper answers:

    1. Students need to engage in critical thinking tasks/activities at all levels.
    2. Teachers need to provide space/time in the classroom to build critical thinking learning opportunities.
    3. Practicing critical thinking must be incorporated throughout the course, increasing complexity as students improve their critical thinking ability.
    4. Students must be given opportunities to practice transferring critical thinking skills to other contexts.

    Activities to foster critical thinking in the classroom

    Activity/Strategy #1: Categorizing

    Provide a set of vocabulary terms or grammatical structures on the board (or pictures for true beginners). Ask your students to gather in pairs or small groups and have them categorize the list. Ask them to be creative and see how diverse the categories can be.

    Example:

    Desk, computer, pencil, stove, dishes, forks, novel, cookbook, sink, shelf

    • Made from trees: pencil, novel, cookbook, desk.
    • Made from metal: fork, stove, sink, etc.

    Activity/Strategy #2: What’s the problem?

    Provide students with a short reading or listening and have your students define a problem they read or hear.

    Tomas ran up the steps into Building A. The door was closed, but he opened it up. He was very late. He took his seat, feeling out of breath.

    • Determine why Tomas was late.
    • Underline verbs in the past tense.
    • Create a beginning or ending to the story.

    Activity/Strategy #3: Circles of possibility

    Present a problem or situation. Consider the problem presented in strategy #2 above: Ask the students to evaluate the situation from Tomas’ point of view, then, from the teacher’s point of view, and then from his classmate’s point of view.

    This activity generates many conversations, and even more critical thinking than you can imagine!

    Activity/Strategy #4: Draw connections

    Provide students with a list of topics or themes they have studied or are interested in. Place one in the center, and ask them to draw connections between each one.

    Afterward, they should explain their ideas. For example:

    “Energy and environment are affected by sports. Most sports do not harm the environment, but if you think about auto racing, it uses a lot of fuel. It can negatively impact the environment.”

    Activity/Strategy #5: What’s the rule?

    Play students an audio clip or provide them with a reading text. Draw students’ attention to a particular grammatical structure and ask them to deduce the rules.

    Activity/Strategy #5: Establishing context

    Show your class an image and put your students in small groups. Give each group a task. For example:

    The Jamestown settlement in the United States
    “A famous historic site is the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. People from England were the first people to live in Jamestown. When did they arrive? They arrived in 1607. They built homes and other buildings. They looked for gold, silver and other materials. They sent the materials back to England. It was a hard life. Jamestown wasn’t a good place to settle. The winters were cold, and the settlers didn’t know how to protect themselves. After some time, they traded with the Native Americans, including tools for food. This helped the hungry settlers. Did many people die? Yes, many of the first settlers died. Later, more settlers arrived in Jamestown. It wasn’t easy, but in the end the settlement grew.”

    Ask questions like this:

    • If this were in a movie, what would the movie be about?
    • If this were an advertisement, what would it be advertising?
    • If this were a book, what would the book be about?

    There are many other wonderful strategies that can help build a classroom of critical thinkers. Getting your students accustomed to these types of tasks can increase their linguistic and affective competencies and critical thinking. In addition to these on-the-spot activities, consider building in project-based learning.

    How can you incorporate project-based learning into your classroom?

    Project-based learning often begins with a challenge or problem. Students explore and find answers over an extended period of time. These projects focus on building 21st Century Skills: Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking.

    They also represent what students are likely to encounter when they leave our English language classes.

    An example project

    Consider this project: Our cafeteria is outdated. It does not allow for food variety, or for guests to sit in groups of their desired size and activity level. Survey students who use the cafeteria. Follow up the survey with interviews. Determine how your group can reimagine the cafeteria. Prepare a proposal. Present your proposal.

    You can imagine the amount of language students will use working on this project, while, at the same time, building a critical mindset.

    Teaching critical thinking is all about building activities and strategies that become part of your teaching toolkit, and your students’ regular approach to problem-solving.

  • A young boy in a room full of books thining with his hand to his head, there is a lightbulb graphic above him
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    Success beyond class: Critical thinking skills and academic english

    By Pearson Languages

    English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes are designed to prepare students for higher education delivered in English. Students are expected to hold their own among a class full of fluent English speakers. So it’s essential that they have not only the language skills, but the academic and social skills that tertiary education demands today. And it’s up to teachers to ensure our students develop these skills – but that requires a balancing act.

    Many EAP courses lack the authenticity of the college classroom experience. Lectures are generally relatively short, only 5-10 minutes long. Reading is scaffolded, and the content is very structured, even overly structured. Then, our students move into their academic courses where they encounter two-hour lectures, 50+ pages of reading, and content that is far from scaffolded. So, how do we bridge these academic, linguistic and social gaps? Let’s look at some techniques to help students succeed in higher education.

    Bridging the linguistic gap

    Linguistics gaps may involve content-specific language, or the informal language students encounter when they work with other students, or the connotative and denotative meanings and contexts of a word. To bridge this gap, we need to build deep conceptual vocabulary knowledge. We don’t want students only to have label knowledge. Label knowledge allows students to pass a vocabulary text where matching or multiple choice is present. But that is not enough in an academic environment. Deep conceptual knowledge means truly knowing a word.

    So, what does it mean to know a word? Well, according to linguistics scholar Paul Nation, a student needs to know the following:

    • The spoken and written form 
    • The parts of the word that have meaning
    • The word's forms and their meanings
    • The concepts and vocabulary associated with the word
    • The grammatical function, any collocations
    • The register and frequency of the word

    That is a whole lot!

    To build this extensive knowledge, we need to do so in an intentional manner. We need to build various activities that develop and foster critical thinking skills and engage students.

    Here is an example:

    “Hello! I am so glad to see so many of you at our special lecture today. Today, I am going to describe how a mixed community is planned and built. First, let’s look at what a mixed purpose community is, and then we will discuss the planning and building. As many of you know, a mixed purpose community is a neighborhood that includes residential spaces, business spaces, services and green spaces. How about the planning? First, when planning mixed purpose communities, architects, city planners and builders work together to plan where everything will be located. Because they want the community to be a fully walkable one, they need to think about how far homes are from schools, services and other businesses. Then, they carefully look at what kinds of businesses and services are needed. Next, they must design sidewalks so people can easily get to anywhere in the community, and not worry about car traffic. Today, planners are even looking at including bicycle paths, as more and more people are riding bicycles to work. Lastly, they need to consider the different types of residential space they will need. They build homes and apartments to attract all a wide variety of residents. These communities are becoming more and more popular, but planning them still takes time and a team of people.”

    The terms mixed and community are bolded. You can engage students with a simple noticing activity of how these words are used, the forms they take, the words around them, their collocations and the concepts associated with these words. An exercise like this will help students develop a deep understanding of these words. And that deep understanding will enable students to make connections and draw conclusions around these terms.

    Bridging the academic gap

    EAP students move from very scaffolded EAP courses to courses where they must listen and take notes for 50 minutes or read 50+ pages before class. Additionally, their professors often do not build background knowledge, or scaffold learning, as they expect students to enter their classrooms with this understanding. And this can create an academic gap.

    When it comes to bridging this gap, content can be the vehicle for instruction. Exposing students to the language of academic disciplines early on can build background knowledge, and be highly motivating for students who crave more than rote language instruction.

    Bringing the social gap

    When students enter their university courses they will be expected to work with peers, engage in group activities, negotiate, take turns and assert their own ideas into a dialogue. These social skills require language which needs to be developed and practiced in their EAP courses.
    You can do this by building instructional tasks and learning around developing and practicing critical thinking skills. Consider introducing project-based learning to your class. In project-based learning, students must work with their peers, learning how to prioritize, negotiate and assign responsibility. Bringing in these types of tasks and activities helps develop soft and critical thinking skills.

  • Group of Young Children sat on the floor, laughing with a teacher
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    3 creative routines to help foster a safe learning environment

    By Laura Vazquez

    “The world is undergoing revolutionary changes, we need a revolution in education too.” - Creative Schools, Ken Robinson 

    In February 2006, the late Sir Ken Robinson delivered a talk at TED titled: “Do schools kill creativity?”. This was some years ago and time seems to have stood still in education since then. 

    Creativity is a key 21st century skill. Our young students need to harness it in order to be successful in further education and the workplace, especially now that technology is advancing at such a rapid rate. 

    So what can we do to encourage creativity and create a safe learning environment? I’ll take you through three activities that I use with my own students to help them flourish. 

    Clear and structured objectives 

    To nurture and encourage creativity in the classroom, it is important to have clear, well-structured objectives and routines that give students a safe learning environment. Here’s a breakdown of a few you can try in your classroom. 

    1. Monday activity 

    As part of your routine, do something different every Monday and have your students guess what it is. For example, you could change your earrings or only wear one. You could shave your mustache, wear a hat, or do something less obvious. 

    Students should participate too, so have them do something different every week. Select a student in the class and everyone must guess what has changed that Monday. 

    This activity is designed to encourage students to pay attention to each student in the class and notice things about them during the week. At the same time, it will encourage them to be creative and think about how to do things differently and mix up their own routines. 

    2. Friday team building challenge 

    Every Friday, my class play a team building challenge activity which helps them set and follow rules, be respectful to one another, and work and play with students from different circles. 

    Here’s a simple, energetic team building activity you could try: 

    • Have students call out all the new vocabulary words they learned during the week. Write them on the board as they do so.
    • Split the class into teams of four or five students.
    • Tell them they have to use their bodies to spell each word (if there are lots of words, pick the top three). Wipe the word off the board and explain that they can stand up, lie down, and use their arms and legs – but they should work together to form the shapes of the letters. The first team that correctly spells the word you dictate wins a point!

    3. "Hurray, I failed” activity 

    The final activity is all about celebrating failure. Start by putting students in a circle or a line, and have them each name a color out loud. If someone repeats a color or takes longer than five seconds to answer, they must stand up, dance, and shout “hurray, I failed!” as loudly as possible. 

    You can select any topic – such as nouns, countries, or, even better, your students’ interests. The intention is to create a safe learning environment for your class, where students feel supported and being wrong is fun and okay. This will enable students to participate in class without fear of judgment or criticism. 

    Try it out until your students become comfortable with dancing and 'hurraying' in front of everyone in the group. 

    This activity has yielded fantastic results with groups of people I’ve worked with, regardless of their age group (young, old, junior high). Participants may feel silly or shy, until one participant starts doing it for fun, and then the rest of the group will start feeling comfortable with being wrong. They will realize it’s okay, and the exercise will start to flow with greater ease. 

    If your group is shyer or your students are more introverted, you can ask the person who makes a mistake to wear a silly hat – until the next person fails.

  • Older Woman with glasses sitting at a laptop
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    12 tips for training older teachers in technology

    By Pearson Languages

    An assumption persists in the educational community that more mature teachers are much more difficult and reluctant to be trained on the effective use of educational technology. To some degree, I think this assumption has been built on by the digital native vs digital immigrant myth. But as someone who has trained teachers of all ages all over the world, I would say that, from my own experience, this hasn’t been the case.

    What I have found to be the case is that more mature teachers are:

    • less likely to be lured by the shiny hardware and the seemingly wonderful claims made to go along with it.
    • more critical and skeptical about the way technology is used in the classroom.
    • less confident when using various apps and websites and less likely to explore the different features.
    • more easily discouraged by failures.
    • less familiar with various tools, applications and services that have become part of everyday life for younger users.
    • more likely to be able to see through “technology for technology’s sake” classroom applications.

    So how should trainers approach the challenges of working with these teachers? Here are a few tips from my own experience of training older teachers to use technology.

    Be sure of your ground pedagogically

    So many edtech trainers are great with technology, but much less versed in educational theory and pedagogy. More mature teachers are more likely to have a more robust theoretical understanding, so be prepared to back up your ideas with sound pedagogical insights and try to relate your training back to theories of learning and pedagogical approaches. 

    Make sure training is hands-on

    Running through a list of tools and ideas in a presentation may have some value, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the impact of giving teachers hands-on experience and the chance to actually work with the tech to create something. 

    Give solid examples of what you have done

    Being able to speak from experience about how you have used tech with your own students will have far more impact than theoretical applications of “You could do blah blah blah with your students.” Sharing anecdotes of how you have used technology in your classes, the challenges you have faced and how you have overcome or even been overcome by them can really lend credibility to your training. 

    Manage expectations

    A positive attitude is great, but be also prepared to point out weaknesses, and potential pitfalls and talk about your own failures. This might help your trainees avoid the same mistakes and stop them from becoming disillusioned. 

    Make time to experiment and explore

    Don’t be tempted to cram in as many tools, techniques and activities as possible. Incorporate project time into your training so that teachers have the chance to go away and explore the things that interest them most and get their own perspective on how they can use them with students. 

    Back up technical training

    Learning to use new tools is getting easier all the time, especially on mobile, but it’s still relatively easy for teachers to forget which button to press or which link to follow. So back up any demonstrations with an illustrated step-by-step guide or a video tutorial that teachers can return to later. 

    Make their lives easier

    Using technologies that can make what they already do a bit easier or a bit quicker is a great way to start. For example, I have a link to a tool that really quickly creates a cloze test activity. Sharing tools like this that start from what teachers already do can really help to get them on your side. 

    Do things that can’t be done

    One of the most common remarks made by more mature teachers about technology is: “Well, that’s fine, but you can do that without tech by …” If you can show examples of technology use that go beyond what is already possible in the classroom, then you are much more likely to get capture their enthusiasm. One example of this is the use of collaborative writing tools like PrimaryPad and its ability to track, record and show how students constructed text.

    Solve classroom problems

    Being able to spot a genuine classroom problem and show how technology can solve it can be very persuasive. One example of this is gist reading which can be very challenging to teach because students tend to ignore time limits. Cue Prompters can give teachers control of the text and push students to gist read at the speed the teacher chooses. Problem solved. 

    Plan with long-term and short-term goals

    However inspiring your training session is, and however short or long it is, you should ensure that teachers leave it with a plan. SMART Plans are great if you have time to work on them with the teachers. If you don’t have time to get them to create individual SMART plans, at least get them to think about the first step or the first technology application they will try in their classroom and what they will do with it. 

    Tech can be implemented in CPD

    One of the reasons many mature teachers feel less confident with tech is because they often only use it in the classroom. Showing how technology can become part of their own self-guided CPD and professional practice, and helping them to build their PLN can energize their technology use and make their development much more autonomous and long-lasting. 

    Make sure everything works

    I can’t emphasize this enough. Make sure you have updated all your plugins, browser versions, etc., and check the network and connectivity and make sure everything runs smoothly. Nothing puts teachers off more quickly than seeing the trainer fail.

    Having read this list of tips you are likely to think: “But all technology training should be like that!” Yes, you are right it should, but the truth is we are more likely to be able to get away with lower standards when working with teachers who are already more enthusiastic about tech. So the next time you walk into a training room and see some older teachers there, don’t groan with disappointment, but welcome the opportunity to test your skills and understanding with the most critical audience. If you can send them away motivated to use technology, then you know you are on the right track. 

  • 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.

  • A range of scrabble tiles lying on a pink surface in random order.
    • Just for fun
    • Language hints and tips

    The most commonly misspelled words in English

    By Pearson Languages

    If you've ever had the feeling a word doesn’t look right after you've typed it, you are not alone. The most commonly misspelled words from this list pose challenges for more people than you think. English native speaker or not, hard-to-spell words are determined to give you a headache. And if bad spelling does happen, it’s usually in very important contexts like a vital application letter or during a conversation with your crush – which can really change the tone and potentially cause confusion or embarrassment.

    English has drawn inspiration from many different languages, so it’s perfectly normal to get confused because of its double consonants and silent letters. We all know that moment when you stare at a word for ages and still can’t believe it has two sets of double letters. There are many such examples. In fact, “misspelled” is one of them and people often misspell it.

    Here are some of the most commonly misspelled words in English (both British and American, where necessary), along with their common misspellings.

    1. Accommodate not accomodate

    Also commonly misspelled as: acommodate

    Let’s start strong with a typical example of double consonants – two sets of them. 

    2. Acquire not aquire

    Think of this rhyme whenever you encounter the word: 'I c that you want to acquire that wire'.

    3. Awkward not akward

    It also describes how we feel when we realize we’ve just misspelled a word.

    4. Believe not belive

    Remember the rhyme ‘I before E, except after C’. The same rule applies to 'believe', so use this mnemonic when in doubt. There are some exceptions to the rule, so be careful.

    5. Bizarre not bizzare

    It’s bizarre that there is only one Z but that’s the way It is. 

    6. Colleague not collegue

    Also commonly misspelled as: collaegue, coleague

    It’s hard to get this one right! Make a funny association like 'the big league of the double Ls', you may just win the misspelling match.

    7. Embarrassed not embarassed

    Also commonly misspelled as: embarrased

    If you remember this one, you’ll reduce the chances of finding yourself in an embarrassing bad spelling situation. 

    8. Entrepreneur not enterpreneur

    Also commonly misspelled as: entrepeneur, entreprenur, entreperneur

    It’s not only hard to spell, but also hard to pronounce. The origins? It’s a French word coming from the root entreprendre (‘undertake’).

    9. Environment not enviroment

    The N is silent, so it’s quite easy to misspell this one too. Luckily, it’s similar to 'government' whose verb is 'to govern' which ends in N. A very long, but good association. 

    10. Definitely not definately

    Also commonly misspelled as: deffinately, deffinitely, definitley

    You’ll definitely get this one right if you remember it’s not a case of double letters. Neither does it feature any As. 

    11. Liaison not liasion

    There’s a reason why you’re never sure how to spell 'liaison', 'bureaucracy', 'manoeuvre', 'questionnaire' and 'connoisseur'. They do not follow the same patterns because they are all French words. 

    12. License not lisence

     In American English, it’s always spelled 'license' – no matter what. On the other hand, in British English, it’s spelled 'license' when it’s a verb and 'licence' when it’s a noun. Once you decide which spelling you’ll use – American or British – it’s best to go forward with that and stick to it. 

    13. Publicly not publically

    Words ending in 'ic' receive the 'ally' suffix when transformed into adverbs (e.g., organically). But 'public' makes an exception so it’s understandable if you misspell it.

    14. Receive not recieve

    Remember the 'I before E, except after C' rule? This is the kind of word where the rule applies. It also applies to 'niece' and 'siege', but it doesn’t apply to 'weird' or 'seize'. So remember the rule but keep in mind it has some exceptions.

    15. Responsibility not responsability

    People often get tricked by this word’s pronunciation. And if you think about it, it does really sound like it has an A in the middle. Safe to say – it doesn’t. So keep an eye out.

    16. Rhythm not rythm

    This is another borrowed word; in this instance it comes from the Greek word ‘Rhuthmos’ which mean a reoccurring motion. 

    17. Separate not seperate

    'Separate' is apparently one of the most misspelled words on Google and it’s understandable why. The same as with 'responsibility', its pronunciation can trick you into thinking there’s an E there.

    18. Strength not strenght

    Even spelling pros will sometimes have to think twice about this one. Our mind is probably used to seeing the H after the G because of words like 'through'. Not this time though (wink wink).

    Don’t forget that the same goes for 'length' (and not 'lenght').

    19. Successful not successfull

    Also commonly misspelled as: succesful, sucessful

    There are so many double consonants in English, that it can become tempting to double them all at times. But for the love of English, don’t do that to 'successful'.

    20. Succinct not succint

    Some people would say two Cs are enough. This is why the word 'succinct' gets misspelled so frequently. The third S is indeed very soft, but don’t let pronunciation deceive you.

    21. Thorough not thurough

    You may have heard of this tongue twister: “English can be understood through tough thorough thought, though.” It’s hard not to get confused with so many similar-looking words. You add an O to 'through' and its pronunciation changes completely.

    22. Until not untill

    In fact, 'until' was spelled with two Ls in the Middle Ages. If it helps you remember, you can think it just lost some weight but getting rid of the last L (unlike 'still').

    23. Whether not wether

    Not as confusing as the 'through' and 'thorough' example, but still pretty challenging.

    24. Which or witch not wich

    Do you know which one is which?

    Advice to avoid misspellings

    One obvious answer would be spell-checkers, but the truth is that spell-checkers won’t actually help you to improve your spelling. You will continue to misspell words and they’ll continue to correct them. This process is passive and won’t stimulate you to learn the correct spelling because somebody else already does the job for you. 

    The best advice? Practice, practice and practice!

    If you keep attempting to spell challenging words and checking them it will begin to sink in and become second nature over time. Using tools like dictionaries and language learning apps such as Mondly can help you practice and learn spelling. If you persevere and practice you can avoid any spelling mishaps.