Filter by tag

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • Woman with a headset at a computer
    • Business and employability
    • English language testing

    Online English language testing for employment: Is it secure?

    By Pearson Languages

    Managers and HR professionals have a global workforce at their fingertips – and now, nearly 50% of organizations plan to let employees work from home. This makes adopting a secure English language test for employment more important than ever.

    An online English test enables organizations to assess candidates’ language proficiency from anywhere in the world, screen more applicants, and standardize the hiring process. They also help HR professionals and managers to save time – ensuring only people with the right language skills advance to the interview stage.

    But how can employers be certain these tests are safe? And how easy is it for people to cheat? In this article, we’ll explore a few of the top security concerns we hear, and share what features make online language tests secure.

    What is an online English test?

    An online English test measures how well a job applicant can communicate in English, focusing on speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. They also assess a candidate’s specific English for business skills – for example, how clearly someone can communicate on the phone with clients, or understand what is being said during a conference call.

    Online tests can be taken in a controlled environment – in a testing center with in-person proctors – but also from a job applicant’s personal computer or mobile phone at home. When tests are taken at home, they can be made more secure using virtual proctors or powerful AI monitoring technology.

    Cheating, grading and data security

    When many people think of taking a language test, they imagine the traditional way: students in a large testing center scribbling away with pen and paper. No mobile phones are allowed, and if test-takers are caught cheating, they’ll be flagged by a proctor walking around the room.

    So when managers or HR professionals consider the option of an online English test – taken digitally and often without human supervision – it’s no surprise that many have questions about security. Let’s take a look at some common concerns:

    Is cheating a problem?

    A large number of test takers admit to cheating on their tests. According to research by the International Center for Academic Integrity, 68% of undergraduate students say they’ve cheated on a writing assignment or test, while 43% of graduate students say they have.

    But how easy is it to cheat during a Versant test?

    The truth is, not very. With Versant, exam cheating is actually quite difficult, and test takers would have to outsmart a range of AI monitoring technologies.

    If a verified photo is uploaded to the platform, HirePro’s face recognition technology can compare the live test taker with it. This ensures test takers are who they say they are, and haven’t asked someone else to sit the exam for them. It is the institution’s responsibility to verify the original photo.

    And since Versant tests are monitored using specialized AI algorithms – without a human present – even the slightest suspicious behaviors are flagged for review. For example, Versant notices if a different face appears in the video, or if the camera goes dark. With video monitoring, our platform also flags if the test taker moves from the camera, or looks away multiple times. And we’ll see if someone changes tabs on their computer.

    Finally, the entire test is recorded. When suspicious behavior arises, HR professionals will decide whether to accept or reject the results – or have the candidate retake the test.

    Are scores accurate?

    We’ve all had frustrating experiences with AI. Chatbots don’t always understand what we’re trying to say, and speech recognition technology sometimes isn’t up to par. This leaves many wondering if they should trust AI to grade high-stakes tests – especially when the results could be the difference between someone getting the job, or not.

    Versant uses patented AI technology to grade tests that are trained and optimized for evaluating English language proficiency. It evaluates speaking, listening, reading, writing, and even intelligibility.

    Our AI is trained using thousands of fluent and second-language English speakers. With these models, we’re able to not only evaluate how someone should be assessed but also understand when they’ve mispronounced words or have made another mistake. Using all this information, a candidate’s final score is evaluated based on more than 2000 data points.

    Do online tests follow GDPR standards?

    HR professionals and managers deal with sensitive personal information every day. This includes each job applicant’s name, full address, date of birth, and sometimes even their social security number. The HR tools they implement therefore must also keep this data secure.

    Most importantly, it must follow GDPR standards. The data must be gathered with consent and protected from exploitation. With Versant, test-taker data is securely stored and follows all GDPR guidelines.

    All our data is encrypted at rest and in transmission. Versant assessment data is stored in the US and HirePro, our remote monitoring partner, stores the proctoring data in either Singapore or Europe, depending on customer needs. Both systems are GDPR compliant.

    Versant: a secure English language test

    The Versant automated language test is powered by patented AI technology to ensure the most accurate results for test takers and employers alike. Even better, our remote testing lets HR professionals securely and efficiently assess candidates worldwide, 24/7 – and recruit top global talent to help more companies scale.

  • An image of Max Kortakul, a man with dark hair, glasses and black shirt holding a microphone
    • Business and employability
    • Success stories

    How English can help make a successful business

    By Pearson Languages

    In today's commercial world, proficiency in English can significantly set a successful business apart from those challenged by communication barriers. English acts as a bridge to international markets, enabling businesses to establish worldwide partnerships and connect with a broader audience.

    Effective use of English can amplify marketing strategies, enhance customer engagement, and simplify and manage the complexities of legal and financial dealings across different countries. Let's explore an example where English proficiency has been instrumental in a business's success.

    Max Kortrakul, the dynamic CEO and co-founder of the company StockRadars, has become a pivotal figure in the business world spearheading innovation within Thailand's thriving stock investment scene. His mobile application, a beacon for stock investors in the region, encapsulates the surge of technology start-ups that Southeast Asia is witnessing. With the prestigious Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Award under its belt in 2014, StockRadars exemplifies the caliber of start-ups emerging from this vibrant corner of the world.

    In 2015, Southeast Asia's tech industry saw an unprecedented influx of deals, and as projected by a fascinating report by Temasek and Google Singapore, the internet economy is poised to soar, potentially amassing a staggering US$200 billion annually over the course of the next decade. Amidst this digital gold rush, Max unearths his entrepreneurial saga – from seducing investors with a mere concept, to architecting a budding enterprise with English as a critical cog in reaching an impressive valuation of US$15 million.

    The genesis of a pioneering app for stock investors

    Eager to democratize the daunting task and practice of stock investing, Max identified a crucial void in the market – intuitive and user-friendly analytical tools. "Investment should be accessible. My vision was to demystify the stock market terrain for both myself and the wider audience in Thailand" he reflects. StockRadars embodies this ethos, distilling complex market data into streamlined, actionable insights, accessible right from your smartphone.

    From sleepless nights to a sound business proposition

    Max was burning the midnight oil when inspiration struck - that unshakable idea that jolts you awake at 3 a.m. Consumed by potential, he channelled all his energy and focus into writing and crafting the app. "It's about conviction and the audacity to give life to your concept," Max states. "Some ideas propel you into the celebrated Unicorn list; others are stepping stones to the next big venture."

    The art of engaging investors

    Successful fundraising transcends mere numbers. For Max, it hinged on substantiating his commitment and the sweat equity he poured into StockRadars. "Investors bet on people, not just ideas" he states. Presenting the app as a tool that could help alleviate risk and simplify stock market investment was key to unlocking investor confidence.

    Tackling pitchroom anxieties

    "I shunned the notion of insignificance," Max admits. Being from a region sparse in tech success stories, he focused on his personal goals and conviction to succeed rather than his country’s size.

    Navigating the pitch in English could intimidate, but Max was a proponent of simplicity over jargon. His prior stint in an IT firm in Vietnam had polished his own English skills and vocabulary, a skill he used to his advantage.

    Multicultural mindsets driving innovation

    Working in diverse environments has broadened Max's horizons, teaching him the value of "English variants" in seamless communication. "Diversity shapes our business ideology" notes Max. Interns from Nepal and England have enriched StockRadars, bringing distinct perspectives to the table and fuelling innovation.

    The language of opportunity

    "English is the connective tissue in the global business landscape" Max asserts, underscoring its significance in multiplying prospects and fostering networks. With Southeast Asia becoming a fertile ground for tech start-ups, English proficiency is not just an asset; it's a gateway to turning start-up visions into tangible successes.

    Why is English so important in business?

    In today's global economy, where over 1.5 billion people speak English, it serves as a crucial tool enabling cross-border collaborations and partnerships.

    For successful entrepreneurs, like Max, proficiency in English is not merely an academic accomplishment but a strategic business tool that enables effective communication across diverse cultures and geographic boundaries. It breaks down barriers, allowing businesses to access and engage with international clients, partners and investors effortlessly.

    In settings where colleagues of diverse nationalities meet, English is the shared language that promotes effective communication and understanding, boosting workflow efficiency and fostering workplace inclusivity. Whether it's negotiating deals, drafting contracts, or conducting marketing campaigns, English proficiency is essential, enhancing professional capabilities across various sectors.

    Therefore, speaking and mastering English is not merely a skill but a critical asset, increasing occupational prospects and driving careers and business success in a world where many professionals consider it the language of global business.

    This linguistic skill enhances understanding of global market trends and consumer demands, fostering opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Furthermore, English is the predominant language of the Internet, digital marketing and global trade agreements, making it indispensable for businesses aiming to develop and capitalise on e-commerce and digital platforms.

    In essence, for many business professionals, English is more than a language; it is a catalyst for business expansion, innovation and competitive edge in the increasingly interconnected global economy.

    Ensure your own business success

    Are you an aspiring business maverick? Amplify your reach, unlock investment opportunities, and join the ranks of elite companies and start-ups like StockRadars. The trajectory to success starts with a single step - and sometimes, that crucial step is mastering the English language.

    Unlock the doors to global success with Pearson's Business English Courses. Whether you're an emerging entrepreneur keen to pitch your next big idea with confidence or a seasoned professional looking to enhance your own knowledge and communication in the international market, our courses are designed to refine you or your students business English language skills.

    Read our other posts on workplace English, such as 'Cutting through corporate English: Clearer alternatives to business jargon' and 'Ways language training can transform your business'.