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  • A group of students in a classroom sat at their desks, smiling and looking towards their teacher at the front
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    How can we encourage our learners to feel self-confident?

    By Jeanne Perrett

    Encouraging learners to feel more confident in the classroom is a problem often faced by teachers. Below are five simple things you can adopt in your classroom to encourage learners to feel self-confident.

    The small things

    Let’s start with the physical comfort of our students. Having the room adequately heated or cooled, asking if they would like the window open, making sure everyone has had some water or checking to see if anyone needs to go to the bathroom or wash their hands only takes a minute at the beginning of the lesson. It helps our children to know that their welfare is our concern.

    Then, make sure that everyone has their books and praise them for being organized or having their pencils sharpened and ready. These things seem trivial, but they count. They count because we are acknowledging the fact that it isn’t always easy to get up and ready for school every morning, day after day and that just managing that well is an achievement.

    So, starting by checking the small things helps to give our students a feeling of well-being before the lesson has even begun.

    Clarity and familiarity

    Be clear. Be clear about what you are all going to do and why you are going to do it. There is no such thing as ‘the obvious’ when it comes to learning. For example, you know that English is spoken internationally, but primary-aged students may have no concept of what ‘internationally’ means.

    They may never have considered the concept of language itself. So, we must state the ‘obvious’ and do it in ways which are meaningful to the children, through videos, pictures and relatable examples. This goes for everything; what a verb is, how we form negative statements, what question marks indicate and what today’s lesson aims are.

    Whatever they need to know, we need to state it clearly and when they have forgotten, we tell them again without ever making them feel that they ‘should’ have remembered. They forget – we remind. That’s our job.

    Then there is the familiarity of a routine. Apart from making us feel reassured that we know what is happening, routines also feed into the innate need for repetition. Young children want their favorite bedtime stories told to them exactly the same way each night and will pop their heads up to correct us if we do something differently. That repetition is part of practice; doing, saying or hearing something repeatedly until we are completely sure we know it.

    Most teachers don’t need reminding of this, but it might be helpful to remember that within that routine, one can also have surprises.

    A five-minute ‘something different’ slot could be built into your routine. This could be a fun quiz, game or song and dance. A straightforward way of managing this is to write the names of different ‘surprise activities’ on pieces of card, put them into a pot and let a different student pick a card each day.

    Room to maneuver

    We all feel more confident if we know that we are free to experiment and, within that experimentation, to make mistakes. It can’t be stated often enough that we will only ever learn something by doing it wrong, often many times, before we do it right.

    This message may be even more important nowadays when we see and hear perfect versions of whatever has been created - music, cookery and writing to name but a few - especially on social media.

    The learning process is not brought to our attention as often as the result, and the results are often digitally altered to look more impressive. We need to remind our children of this and make them feel good about their efforts, however small and halting.

    Peer pressure often contributes to a lack of self-confidence; you only need one mocking ‘friend’ to put you off. So, we must be vigilant in noticing little glances or whispered asides and praise the majority of the students who are quietly accepting or encouraging.

    Space to flourish

    Finally, confidence in our language learning abilities will soar when we know we can make the language our own and use it however we want.

    This goes beyond personalizing activities, which can be done at any level ("What’s your favorite food?" "Do you like tomatoes?") and is dependent on the teacher noticing and accepting what individual children are really interested in. So, for example, if we continue with the example of food, a sporty child might be interested in what famous sports people have for breakfast or which foods give us stamina.

    A child who is interested in nature might want to know what birds and animals eat. For this to happen, first we need to notice their interests, show enthusiasm for what they are finding out and encourage them to share what they have learnt with the class.

  • A young girl meditating outside in a green space
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Does mindfulness really work? And can it help your students?

    By Amy Malloy

    What is mindfulness?

    The term mindfulness refers to a state of awareness. This is arrived at by paying conscious attention to the present moment and observing it without judgment, with curiosity and compassion.

    It is often confused with meditation, but really they’re not the same thing at all. Meditating and focusing on the breath is just one of the ways we can consciously pay attention and become more aware of ourselves and the present moment. 

    You might be conscious that mindfulness has grown enormously in popularity over the last decade. As with anything trendy, it can be easy to build preconceptions and dismiss it before trying it yourself. So let’s break it down together and start with the basics.

    Why is mindfulness important?

    Have you ever been driving somewhere in the car and noticed that you’ve arrived at your destination without really noticing the journey at all? All your thoughts on the way were elsewhere.

    This is called being on automatic pilot. It’s a symptom of our mind and body’s brilliant way of turning our everyday processes into a routine. It means we don’t need to think about it every time we need our body to move, speak or function.

    Just as the scenery can pass us by on a journey, so too can our thoughts and reactions to the things happening around us. They happen in our minds and bodies without us noticing. Our conscious mind is focused on something in the future, the past, or in our imaginations instead.

    Being on automatic pilot is often very helpful. But it also comes with a significant downside. Without us even realizing, negative thought cycles can build up under the surface. They can make us feel stressed and anxious.

    When this happens our minds conclude that there is a threat and sounds the fight or flight alarm. This stress negatively affects our memories, ability to process new information, and ability to learn.

    This is where mindfulness comes in.

    Mindfulness helps us catch these habitual thought cycles in their tracks, allowing us to consciously notice negative thoughts. Rather than panicking, we become aware of how we are feeling – and why. We can therefore shift our relationship with our thoughts and emotions so that they don’t seem so challenging anymore.

    In a school setting, this can help students regulate the stress surrounding exam pressure. Students can also learn to sit more comfortably with the impermanent emotions of adolescence, which seemed all-consuming and everlasting at the time.

    What can our students learn from mindfulness?

    Over the past decade, neuroscientific research has discovered that our brains are immensely malleable. Every interaction we have in our day-to-day lives builds connections that affect how our brains and thoughts function. Just like building muscle through exercise, our brain forms new matter in the areas we use most.

    In short, we can either continue to cement the habits we’ve already formed or build brain matter in areas that encourage healthier, more positive functioning.

    Studies have demonstrated in many contexts that the brains of those who regularly practice mindfulness use different pathways to those who don’t: pathways which allow self-regulation of adrenaline and the stress responses and make it easier to experience external events without the accompanying narrative of critical thought.

    Even ten minutes of practicing mindful awareness a day has been demonstrated to strengthen these healthier pathways in the brain. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve concentration and focus, resilience, emotional regulation and sleep quality in children, teens and adults alike.

    How can we begin to practice mindfulness?

    We start by learning to focus attention on a physical anchor. This may be focusing on the body, the breath, or even using the senses to observe sounds, sights, tastes, touch etc. in our external environment. We then build the length of time we can focus, and grow accustomed to the mind wandering and returning to the point of focus.

    Then we learn to be curious about what we notice in the present moment and that we can observe without judging or forming an opinion.

    In time, it can be possible to learn to observe our relationship with the thoughts that come in and out of our minds. We can then find ways to accept difficult feelings and allow them to pass over without panicking or instinctively reacting.

  • A Teacher sat with a child at a desk in a classroom helping them with their writing,
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing
    • Language teaching

    5 ways to support students with dyslexia

    By Pearson Languages

    Children seem to be starting English lessons younger than ever, often before they can even read and write. This means that learning differences like dyslexia may not have yet made themselves apparent.

    While it’s not a language teacher’s role to diagnose specific learning needs, it is important for us to monitor our young learner students’ progress. If we think a student might be showing signs of dyslexia (or another learning difference), we should feel comfortable referring parents to the right place early on. This can make a huge difference in the learning process.

    There are many forms of dyslexia and it affects students in various ways. However, some signs of dyslexia may include the following:

    • having difficulty reading (especially aloud)
    • struggling with spelling
    • problems remembering the sequence of things
    • finding it hard to follow instructions
    • misbehaving or disrupting the class
    • being very quiet or shy (especially when doing reading or writing activities)
    • falling asleep in class.

    Dyslexia is not a learning disability; it’s a learning difference.

    What do Magic Johnson, Richard Branson and Tom Cruise have in common? They all have dyslexia. So learners with dyslexia are certainly not less capable; in fact, they often excel in spatial thinking and creativity. The difference is that their brain works differently, so they find visual processing and using their working memory challenging. For example, they may struggle to remember what was said and face challenges when trying to link sounds to letters.

    The most common issues are related to reading, spelling and writing, but dyslexia can also impact concentration span and planning skills. And all these challenges have a severe impact on learners’ self-esteem.

    Providing effective learning opportunities for young learners with dyslexia might require teachers to reframe how they see dyslexia. Avoid seeing it as a dis-ability, but rather as a form of neurodiversity: the brain functions and learns in different ways.

    Creating the conditions for learning

    Many – if not most – young learner teachers feel they are not appropriately trained to deal effectively with learners who have dyslexia in a classroom context.

    In an ideal world, all EAL and mainstream teachers would receive in-depth training to better deal with neurodiversity in the classroom. But for now, let’s explore some modifications that help create a more enabling learning environment in which all learners – with or without dyslexia – can progress.

    1. Getting to know them

    If we want all learners to progress to their next level, we need to get to know them. Only then can we provide learning opportunities that start where they are. Get to know their strengths, weaknesses and interests as well as their learning profile; where do they like to work, who do they work well with and what kinds of tasks engage them fully? These are the starting principles of differentiated teaching and all learners will profit from you taking the time to get to know them beyond their name.

    Top tip:

    Observations are an extremely useful tool to gain insight into learners’ levels and learning preferences. My favorite activity is to get young learners to create a personal profile.

    This can be done in their first language – at home with parents – or as a shared writing activity in class. You provide the stem sentences, and learners complete them with drawings or words. You can hang the profiles on the wall and use them to start talking about ‘differences and similarities’. Alternatively, you can have a learner present their buddy to the class based on their profile, depending on the level and age you teach.

    2. Creating a collaborative culture in the classroom

    If we want learners to help each other in class, we need to create a culture of ‘helping hands’. Focusing on developing good relationships in your classroom, between you and the learners but also between learners, is vital for a collaborative culture. Use activities that focus on building understanding through sharing ideas. Integrating collaborative learning activities will help to establish supportive relationships and makes struggling learners feel more confident in the classroom. They know they can first talk things through with others and ask them for help before completing a task independently. This will benefit all learners, not only learners with dyslexia.

    Top tip:

    Think-pair-share is a well-known collaborative activity and can easily be adapted to include some movement too in the form of HuSuPuWu!

    This activity will help learners share ideas and allow for differentiated thinking time. Ask your young learners a question you want them to respond to, give them thinking time and tell them to put their hand up when they are ready to talk (Hu).

    Encourage them to look around, find another person with their hand up and stand up (Su) to walk over and pair up (Pu).

    Together they share ideas before returning to their place and writing up their ideas (Wu).

    This will be especially beneficial for students who need more time to process, love to move and want to get confirmation or support.

    3. Providing multi-sensory tasks and activities

    Providing multi-sensory activities is already common practice in most young learner classrooms. It allows learners to process information using their stronger senses while strengthening their weaker areas.

    Multi-sensory teaching (MST) acknowledges that all brains learn in unique, different ways and is a well-known method used when working with dyslexic students in their mother tongue. So instead of only telling the story, find images that illustrate the events, draw a story path for learners to follow, or get them to visualize the story.

    Doing this increases the ‘routes of memory’ as Kormos (2017) calls it, and enables information to reach the brain via different pathways, visual and auditory, which strengthen the message.

    Top tip:

    When learning new words, break them into syllables by clapping when you say them. Then show the word and break it up visually (e.g. fri-end), and get them to make the word with playdough or in shaving foam as they say it. Get them to keep saying it as they write it and then check it.

    4. Setting clear, manageable instructions

    Because dyslexia often impacts working memory, following instructions can be even more challenging than it already is for young learners. We need to reduce the processing load by breaking up instructions into manageable, achievable steps.

    Focusing on just a small amount of information better enables learners with dyslexia (Kormos & Smith, 2012) and to be honest, all young learners – and our classroom management – can benefit from this.

    Also, check whether you need to ‘tell’ it or can you ‘show’ the instructions? Presenting instructions in a multisensory way where you, for example, use the whiteboard to visualize the instructions, and use gestures and body language to support your oral input will facilitate understanding.

    Top tip:

    Learners benefit from talking things through as talk plays an integral part in meaning-making. So why not get learners to turn to their elbow buddy and repeat what they need to do in their own words? Another effective way would be to record the instructions so they can listen back as many times as they need.

    5. Adapting your materials

    Being aware of what works best for the unique brains of learners with dyslexia allows us to tweak existing materials to make learning more accessible. Think about the color of paper you copy on or the background color of your slides. Learners with dyslexia cope better with colored backgrounds as it reduces word blurring. When learning to write new words in their workbook, use a highlighter to highlight the area between the middle lines where the body of the letters needs to be written.

    Top tip:

    Nowadays, many young learner coursebooks have audio resources available, but not always for readers or stories. Use assistive technology to get the selected reading text recorded. Struggling readers can listen to the audio as they read the text alone. In this way, they will feel that they are reading independently whilst working on letter sound correlation as well as the rhythm of the language.

    The English language classroom can be stressful for learners with specific learning needs. Now, we don’t need to – and can’t – ‘fix’ learners, but we should try to ‘fix’ the environment and provide an enabling, inclusive learning environment for all. By tweaking our teaching, we might better enable learners who face challenges, ensure they feel supported in their learning and allow them to bloom in our classroom.

  • a woman with headphones around her neck writing notes at a table
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    How to reduce anxiety using to-do lists

    By Pearson Languages

    Help reduce anxiety using to-do lists

    Many teachers have a to-do list a mile long or even several to-do lists in different places.

    Theoretically, a to-do list is a good idea. When we write something down, the brain can stop holding onto it quite as tightly, which can reduce anxiety and any feeling of overwhelm.

    This tendency to obsess about unfinished tasks is called the Ziergarnik effect, after the Russian psychologist Bluma Ziergarnik, who noticed that waiters only remembered orders before they were served. As soon as the meals were delivered, the memory vanished.

    So, if your brain is constantly nagging you about tasks that remain undone, write them down or make a rough plan and the anxiety will often disappear.

    The downside of ‘to-do’ lists

    I once had a list of jobs that needed doing about the house which had some items dating back several years. Simply writing down a task doesn’t guarantee that it will get done. A lengthy to-do list can enable you to procrastinate and avoid doing important tasks as they are hidden amongst any number of others.

    Long lists can also be overwhelming and off-putting in themselves, and as you cross items off the list becomes cluttered and disorganized.

    Making better use of your to-do list(s)

    1. Learn to prioritize

    It is vital to distinguish between tasks as this will help you decide how to prioritize, delegate and ignore. Categorize your tasks in the following way:

    • Important and urgent (prioritize these).
    • Important but not urgent (book in a time to do these, and stick to it).
    • Urgent but not important (see if you can delegate these, or consider if you need to do them at all).
    • Not urgent and not important (you could almost certainly take these off your list altogether).

    2. Keep separate lists for separate areas of your life

    It’s much easier to see what needs to be done and to prioritize things if you keep separate lists. If you are comfortable with tech, there are plenty of apps to help you with this. You can flag things as important and set reminders and deadline alerts while keeping separate lists. Trello and Monday are just a couple of the options available. If you’re more old school, you can have separate pages in a notebook.

    3. Break tasks down

    Understandably, you might avoid getting started on a big task that will take a long time. There never seems to be a suitable time slot to get it done. Instead, break it down into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time. For example, break down marking 30 books into three slots of marking ten books.

    4. Know your next actions

    Before you finish work on part of a bigger task, make sure you know your next step, so that when you come back to it, you can get started straight away. This also works well when you decide at the end of a working day what the first task you’ll do tomorrow is.

    5. Review weekly

    A regular review is essential. Look through what you’ve achieved and feel good about it - and remove it from your lists. Analyse where you tried to do too much (try to stick to 3-5 tasks a day) and consider this when setting yourself tasks for the following week. Take note of any tasks you should have done but didn’t get around to and, assuming a certain task is a priority, decide exactly when you will do it next week.

    Good luck!

    Teaching requires you to juggle 101 different things, and that’s before you take your home life into account as well. Get on top of your to-do list, and not only will you feel less overwhelmed, but you may also even find yourself a bit more free time.

  • A girl sat at a desk looking at an exam paper, there are people behind her sat at desks in a row doing similar
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Reducing exam day stress

    By Amy Malloy

    What are the origins of exam-day stress?

    There’s no doubt about it – exams are scary. But why exactly is this? What is it about an exam scenario that stresses us out and how can we make it feel okay?

    To answer these questions, we’re going to have to take a trip back in time and look at how our ancestors evolved their abstract thinking skills. At the same time, we’ll look at how mindfulness can actively help shift the way we think about exams.

    About 70,000 years ago, or thereabouts, a critical development happened in how the human brain processed experiences.

    Over a relatively short time (in evolutionary terms), scientists believe we stopped simply experiencing primal urges (safety/hunger/tiredness etc.) and responding to them.

    Instead, we started to be able to imagine, analyze and believe in things that didn’t exist. This meant not only could our brains respond to the threat of a real predator in front of us, but also to the perceived or imagined threat of a predator. This shift had really interesting consequences for our future relationship to threat.

    Developing imaginations also meant we started to believe in the same things as our peer groups. As a result, if a member of the tribe stopped behaving in a way that supported the tribe’s survival, other members might start to doubt their usefulness as a member of the community.

    At this time, social isolation meant no share of the food and no protection against predators. Inclusion was directly linked to survival. Essentially the physiological consequences of not meeting societal expectations were the same as coming face-to-face with a lion: fight or flight.

    Why is fight or flight mode a problem for exam performance?

    Fast forward to the present day and the context of English language exams. Exams are a type of societal expectation: a standard of language proficiency which a student is required to meet to prove their usefulness in a community who speaks that language.

    Thinking about it this way, it’s no wonder we can experience stress and panic at the thought of an exam or in the exam room itself. In evolutionary terms, an exam = a lion or the possibility of social exclusion!

    Fight or flight mode is designed to help us overcome or escape danger as quickly as possible.

    When fight or flight is activated, our brain shuts down the bodily functions it doesn’t need to survive. This includes digestion, language creation, creative and strategic thinking, writing, and deeper breathing.

    Unfortunately, some of these are key to performing well in a language exam!

    Psychologists have identified that, especially in an exam course context, “extremely high stress levels[…] can affect your cognition, negatively impacting your memory and ability to complete a task. Over time, chronically high stress levels can also impair your ability to form new memories, so high stress levels all semester long could impact your final exam performance later.”

    This means that high stress levels in the exam make it hard to perform at one’s best, and stress in anticipation of the exam can mean that the content is not learned properly in the first place.

    What can teachers do to help?

    Ultimately, we want to make the exam scenario seem safe. When our mind and body do not perceive danger, they will allow the ‘rest and digest’ functions to become active and allow our performance to flow.

    There will of course be some nerves. But the key is to help the student stay in that sweet spot of clear thinking before the stress takes over and turns into panic.

    Here are three ways we can help:

    1. Practice mindful breathing

    Practice some simple mindful breathing with your students. Mindfulness refers to the awareness that we find by focusing consciously on the present moment, objectively, with compassion and without judgment.

    It takes us back into the physical reality of the present moment and out of anxious thought cycles, which can make our stress spiral out of control. Practicing regularly ahead of the exam will help build up neural connections in the brain around the areas that help us relax and stay calmer in stressful situations.

    The following straightforward routine can be used both regularly at the start of class and by the student in the exam itself if they feel panic rising:

    • STOP: Close your eyes. Take a moment to notice the physical sensation of the chair beneath you and the floor underneath your feet. Notice the sounds around you in the room and allow them simply to flow in and out without needing to follow them.
    • BREATHE: Focus your attention gently on your breath going in and out of your nose at the tip of the nostrils. Count ten breaths in and out, seeing if you can notice something new about each one. If you feel panicky, allow the breath out to continue a little longer than the breath in.
    • WATCH: Become aware of your thoughts and allow them to simply come and go, like clouds across the sky. Notice if you are holding on to something from the past or striving towards something in the future. Allow these to simply release and take your attention back to the breath in the present moment. Count another ten breaths. Then open your eyes and come back into the room.

    2. Familiarize your students with the exam scenario

    Make the exam scenario as familiar as possible in advance. Anything you can do to make the exam conditions appear less threatening ahead of exam day will be of great benefit.

    This may be as simple as making conditions surrounding regular progress assessments as close to the main exam as possible, so it is less strange on the day. If you have control over the exam day itself, make this as low pressure as possible.

    3. Help students develop a growth mindset

    Foster a growth mindset with your students by using the word ‘yet’ with them. Encourage them to replace ‘I can’t do it’ with ‘I can’t do it yet’. This simple word takes them out of comparison mode with where they think they should be in terms of language ability and helps them stay focused on where they are, reducing self-pressure.

    All of the above strategies are designed to take away the threat of a lion in the exam room when the day comes.

    Wishing your students all the very best for their exam preparation and good luck!

  • four children of different backgrounds in a group with their arms over their shoulders smiling at the camera
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    5 ways to bring cultural diversity into your classroom

    By Amy Malloy

    Bringing cultural diversity into the classroom is becoming increasingly important. Our young learner and teen students are exposed to different ideas, traditions and voices from all over the world. This is thanks to social media platforms like YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok, and Instagram – among others.

    This is a hugely positive advance because greater cultural understanding increases opportunities for studying and working abroad. However, with so many online contradictions, the world can also seem confusing. It’s our job as teachers to show students how to navigate and cope with the information they find.

    By talking about cultural similarities and differences – and rejecting stereotypes – we help our students understand that the world is an extremely diverse and exciting place. In turn, this will encourage them to be more understanding and tolerant of others in the classroom, helping them to thrive in the future, if they enter an international working environment.

    So here are five exciting ways to bring cultural diversity into your classroom using maps, reading materials, and images.

    1. Use a world map

    World maps are excellent classroom resources. You can use an online version projected on the whiteboard, a poster-sized one from a school supplier, or one that you build on a bulletin board with A4 printed sheets.

    Having the world at your fingertips suddenly makes a huge planet seem much more inviting and exciting. It’s not just the places themselves but the distances, geography and diversity that can be displayed on a world map bringing new information and connections to the learners’ attention.

    Build on your map throughout the year. Encourage students to add information to the map to increase their knowledge of the world as you cover different themes. Add cultural details relevant to where you teach and new places students are learning about in class.

    If you create a yearbook, add a snap of the final map to show students the world they have discovered over the past year.

    2. Build a background

    Build on a theme or topic covered in your coursebook by including photographs and/or commentary from students of a similar age from around the world. You can find authentic materials online using resources like Teacher Tube (a school-friendly video platform), or search for images or articles online. Themes you could cover include; musical instruments, animals, festivals, places of interest and sports.

    Then you can encourage students to share their traditions or thoughts on how their experiences relate to those you have introduced. It’s also a good idea to bring in items related to the theme that they recognize and talk through why they are important in their culture.

    For example, if your theme is related to music, find a video or a set of images of children around the world playing (or talking about) traditional instruments. Bring in an instrument or two that your students would easily recognize. Ask them to share how the instruments are played and their cultural significance. They can then add their ideas to the map in the form of stories, photos or drawings.

    3. Highlight similarities

    Sometimes when we mention culture, the outcome can be to highlight differences, but we can highlight similarities too. Students can often be interested and even amazed at how similar lives across the world can be. Below are some example activities:

    • Who are the people who help in your community? Possible answers could include nurses/doctors, the police or fire service, teachers, bus drivers, etc. Compare images of these occupations from around the world and have students identify/discuss why they are similar.
    • What is your favorite way to celebrate? Look at what items (food, clothing, gifts) mark celebrations in different cultures – why are some things, like New Year celebrations and birthdays, universal?
    • What makes a good friend? Ask students if distance changes these characteristics.

    Use string to link the countries to an image or word-list of similarities and add to this, as topics increase.

    Note that while it’s also important to show there are differences, you should be wary of stereotypes. If you are using a coursebook, look and see how many stereotypes are included – you might be surprised. Are the Inuit only shown living in igloos? Does everyone in Mexico have a sombrero? Is the most pasta eaten per person in Italy? (No, it’s the USA).

    Does the stereotype give the learner a better understanding of a country or culture? How can we present a balanced view?

    4. Share a story

    Most cultures are rich in storytelling tradition. This means asking students to share a story should be stress-free. Nevertheless, they may need help with the English words, so how do we prepare children to share their stories?

    This can be an excellent opportunity to build a home/school link. Help students to think about a story they want to share:

    • What words do they need to tell that story?
    • Can they act out parts of the story?
    • Could a picture, a clip of video, a piece of music help tell the story?

    Give the students time to prepare so they can bring in photos, realia etc. from home. In some situations, it might be an opportunity to invite in parents/grandparents to help with the story.

    If you have tablet computers in your class let a small group of students take turns to record the stories. Have other groups create a poster for each story to add to the world map.

    5. Use culturally diverse reading materials

    Providing diverse reading materials is an excellent way to introduce your students to cultures, ideas and traditions from all over the world. So perhaps it’s time to review your class library. If you can’t find authors from every continent, it might be time to update it.

    While printed books are a nice resource to have, you are restricted by your shelf space. Digital readers, on the other hand, can help you solve that problem. With so many great titles available, there’s no need to limit what you have available for your students to read.

    Focus on one area of the world at a time and read adapted versions of books by authors from this region. Then ask students if they have a similar story in their culture.

  • A teacher holding books in a classroom
    • Language teaching
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Mindfulness for teachers: managing expectations over the holidays

    By Amy Malloy

    Mindfulness and your routine

    In the run-up to the holidays, it is common to feel like your routine has completely broken down, especially when you’re not giving classes or working at school. The holidays also often bring with them lots of people, family, and excitement. That sometimes means we also experience fluctuating emotions, stress and the feeling that everything should be perfect.

    On top of this, shops and social media are filled with advertising – and there’s definitely more ‘stuff’ to buy. In addition, we can see messages telling us we need to feel ‘merry’ and ‘bright’ wherever we look. Even the popular greeting, ‘Merry Christmas’, can sometimes feel less of a greeting and more of an instruction.

    Sometimes it feels like the people around us expect us to always feel happy and joyful over the holiday season. This is fine if we do feel merry, but we will always have ups and downs. If you don’t feel happy, for whatever reason, it can feel even harder than it might at times where there is less expectation all around us.

    Overcoming the challenge

    Finding a way to introduce mindfulness into the holiday season can be a wonderful way for us to understand our emotions at this time of year. It will help you think about your expectations and let you find a moment to pause to accept whatever the reality actually is.

    Here are some quick and easy ways to find some ‘you’ time and keep checking in with how you’re feeling. These are also tips you can try with children in the classroom and for yourself at home to keep yourself on track.

    3-minute body scan

    Find a quiet moment. This may be in the few minutes after you wake up or go to bed, during break time, or even at the start of a lesson.

    • Notice the contact of your feet with the floor. Notice the sounds around you in the room.
    • Take three deep breaths and notice how they feel.
    • Scan down the body in your mind from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Observe what you notice about your body with an air of curiosity – look for any tension, discomfort or comfort. Also, notice if there are any expectations you have of that day or moment. See if you can simply notice them and set them aside. This curiosity helps us stay detached from what we notice so we can just observe.
    • Take three more deep breaths, and carry on.

    2-minute notebook

    Writing something down can be a wonderfully mindful exercise. Have a stack of post-its or a little notebook on your desk or bedside table. You could encourage your students to do the same.

    1. Pick a point in your day. It could be at the start of each day, the start of each lesson, or just before bed. Each day, at that time, take a moment to write down three:

    • good things that have happened in your day
    • things that felt challenging
    • things you feel grateful and thankful for.

    2. Review your notes every now and again during the holiday period. This will give you a sense of your shifts of mood and energy that might have occurred.

    Noticing something you feel grateful for has been shown to physically improve your wellbeing and state of mind.

    1-minute cupboard pause

    When things feel over-stimulating, find a quiet space just for a minute. Even if it’s in a cupboard!

    STOP: notice the contact of your feet with the floor.
    BREATHE: take ten deep breaths, breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of six.
    WATCH: watch each breath coming and going from the nose or chest or belly. Observe what your thoughts and feelings are doing. Allow them to sit without needing to respond.

    Then head back into the area you were in.

    I hope these tips help you to navigate the festive season without expectation and with curiosity for what each moment holds along the way.

    Remember that the holiday days you celebrate are really just normal days. It’s simply that expectations have changed, and what’s more, everyone’s expectations will be different.

    Simply taking time to notice this can make a massive difference to the pressure we put on ourselves. Releasing this pressure can even lead to more enjoyment overall – so why don’t you try it and see?

  • A diverse group of people standing together in a group
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    The importance of gender equality within learner content

    By Pearson Languages

    Gender equality in the publishing industry

    The impact of any learning material goes far beyond its subject matter and pedagogical objectives. Everything included, from the choice of language, to the imagery, to the text and front covers, has the potential to reinforce stereotypes unintentionally. This can shape a learner’s sense of self and others around them and affect how they feel and behave in a social setting.

    A wealth of evidence suggests that early gender bias influences future inequality. It can affect career aspirations, influence the choice of school subjects and ultimately contribute to gender disparity as children grow into adults. This is a challenge for all sectors and industries across society. Guidelines have been developed for Pearson to ensure that our materials are gender equal and showcase positive female role models.

    The guidelines are broken down into three different areas surrounding gender equality:

    1. The representation of people and characters in content

    The guidelines help to ensure that women are represented equally to men in our learning and teaching materials. This includes ensuring that women's representation does not reinforce negative stereotypes. For example, content that shows women as single parents, can also present them as single parents and workers. The idea is to show students that women can do both.

    Another common example is with regards to science materials.

    Often, when students are asked to describe a famous scientist, they describe a character similar to Albert Einstein with white hair and a white coat. Female scientists are often overlooked in this respect, and historically, they have not been given as much attention as their male counterparts.

    This type of unconscious bias is something the guidelines aim to help change. Our goal is to represent both women and men from various backgrounds across all subjects. For example, some content shows women in traditionally male roles, such as pilots, engineers and soldiers. The objective is to highlight that women can do these roles equally.

    Another issue is the objectification of women. Often, women are presented as not having agency or purpose, and too much focus is placed on their appearance, rather than their intentions, behavior and aspirations. The new guidelines set out to change this.

    2. The use of language

    Our language is gendered and therefore steeped in stereotyping. We aim to promote the use of terminology that is non-gendered. For example, using ‘police officer’, ‘firefighter’ and ‘maintenance worker’ instead of ‘policeman’, ‘fireman’ and ‘handyman’. Although this is a small change, it contributes to removing the unconscious bias surrounding jobs and professions.

    Adjectives can also play a role in perpetuating gender inequality. We often associate particular adjectives with genders. For example, words like ‘hysterical’, ‘shrill’, or ‘frumpy’ are typically used for women. Whereas men can be described as ‘assertive’, women are more likely to be seen as ‘bossy’.

    Furthermore, parallel language is something that needs to be looked at. Words like ‘girls and boys’ can be replaced with ‘students’. In this way, the guidelines are here to ensure that there is no gendering within materials. This will influence gender equality among our users.

    3. Referencing third-party content

    Another key issue involved in the material is the referencing of third-party content. For example, stories based on classic fairy tales are often used to represent certain points, and these typically show the strong male hero saving the weak female damsel in distress.

    Although these are stories that our society has grown up with, they could be more helpful in offering a gender-balanced view of society. Pearson’s guidelines are in place to ensure that students see women and men as equals throughout the materials.

    What can teachers do to help in the classroom?

    To help fight against gender inequality, teachers can think about incorporating more female stories and role models into their lessons. For example, they can introduce famous and influential women in the field rather than simply focusing on Issac Newton or Albert Einstein in science class.

    At a management level, schools can be more aware of what materials they are choosing to bring in, assessing whether the content is balanced, before accepting it. These simple actions can help our learners grow up with a more balanced view of gender.

  • A businessman sat cross legged is meditating on a desk, around him are other business people sat at the same desk busy working
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Understanding and managing technostress

    By Amy Malloy

    What is technostress?

    Technostress affects people in different ways. I resonate with Chiapetta’s (2017) definition:

    “Technostress is a syndrome that occurs when the person, subjected to information overload and continuous contact with most digital devices, develops a state of stress.”

    This explanation isn’t limited to any particular symptoms. However, most of us can relate to being over-exposed to technological devices – especially in the past year. Consequently, I imagine many people have experienced some symptoms of technostress as a result.

    What are the symptoms of technostress?

    While the symptoms of technostress differ, there are a number of common experiences. Perhaps you obsessively check social media, or struggle to focus on everyday tasks. Or maybe you feel demotivated and low in mood. You might find yourself overly focused on getting the latest technology. Or you might be actively avoiding or feeling anxious about using technology.

    Why should we be concerned about technostress?

    People are adaptable, it’s part of our biology, but if change happens too quickly, we experience symptoms of stress. And, in our modern, continuously busy culture, it can be easy to assume something is wrong with us if we feel we can’t cope with technology. It can feel like we’re failing because we’re not focusing or achieving enough. We might also feel stupid for not understanding how a piece of software works.

    In response, we need to find ways to relieve that stress and return to a more restful state.

    Tips to prevent and manage technostress

    1. Switch off – This may be hard to do with the demands of life but sometimes, just turning your devices off and stepping away from technology is the best approach. Do something to pull you away from the information overload, like a walk in nature or reading a fictional book. Something that pulls you away from life’s goings-on.
    2. Limit your exposure – If you can’t switch off completely for whatever reason, then maybe rationing your exposure to devices is key. Time and limit your time on devices, taking regular breaks away. If you struggle to pull yourself away, there are apps and device functions that can restrict access for you.
    3. Only use with a purpose – Before you start using technology, ask yourself: “What am I using this for?”. Study? Research? Or is it just out of boredom? If you haven’t got a set aim or goal, then you are likely to mindlessly scroll and get pulled into the vast information overload of social media and the web. Try to avoid this by having a set aim/goal when using technology.