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  • A teacher leaning on a table where students are working on various activities
    • Language teaching

    6 things to consider when planning your first classes

    By Pearson Languages

    You are nervous, yet excited. You want to appear relaxed and fun, but still be taken seriously. Most of all, you are keen to make an excellent first impression.

    With all that in mind - planning your first English classes of the year can be a daunting experience.

    Here are six things to consider when planning your first classes:

    1. Set clear aims

    Whether you are teaching young learners, teenagers or adults, it’s important you discuss the aims and objectives of the course from day one. You’ll need to learn more about your students' needs to do this. Why are they learning English? Do they want to prepare for an official exam? What activities do they enjoy? What things do they need to improve the most?

    The way you do this will depend on the age of your learners. For example, with adults and teens, you could get them to interview each other and write a report about what they found out. With younger children, do a survey they can complete using smiley faces.

    2. Find out students’ interests

    Although you should understand your students' needs and why they want to learn English - to help make your classes relevant and engaging - you should also discover what they enjoy doing outside of class.

    To do this, get students to write mini bios you can stick around the classroom. Or have them prepare presentations where they share something they are passionate about with the rest of the class - using coursebooks. As a class, go through the contents page, vote on which topics students find most interesting, and start with those.

    3. Break the ice

    You want your first class to be fun so that students are motivated, and associate English language learning with something they can enjoy. Ice-breakers can also be an excellent way to get to know each other and learn about your students' current level of English.

    Activities where students have to ask each other questions work well.

    4. Provide a comfortable environment

    Young learners and teenagers tend to be shy at the start of a course - especially if they don’t know each other. Develop a rapport and break down boundaries by including team-building activities in your first class. Your aim is to have all the students feeling more comfortable with each other before the end of the lesson so that there are no awkward silences in future lessons.

    5. Manage expectations

    Managing expectations is an essential part of a teacher's job. Make sure in the first class you are clear about what you expect from your students and what they can expect from you.

    Have students brainstorm the rules for the class and then make a big poster or ‘class contract’ which all students have to sign. Display the poster on the wall so you can always refer to it if someone misbehaves.

    Try to keep the rules as positive as possible. Instead of writing: 'Don’t speak your first language', write: 'Try to always speak English and ask if you don’t know a word'. If you are feeling really brave, you can even get your students to devise a list of rules for you which you can display on the wall next to theirs.

    6. Make it challenging

    It’s great making your first lesson fun - but there’s nothing more motivating than leaving a new class and feeling like you’ve made a good decision and you are going to learn lots (and you aren’t wasting your time or money). This is especially important for adult learners.

    So, as well as getting to know each other and finding out their needs, teach them something new. This could be 10 new pieces of vocabulary, how to structure a letter or report, or a list of resources they can use at home to practice their English.

  • A teacher stood in front of a classroom of students sat at their desks
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    5 ways to deal with mixed ability students in secondary classes

    By Pearson Languages

    No two teenagers are the same. Within all of our classes there tends to be not only a range of English proficiency levels, but also general learning styles, maturity, motivation, and personalities. This diversity can bring some challenges, but also opportunities to vary your classroom activities and teaching methodology.

    Here are some ways to help deal with mixed-ability classes and ensure all your students experience success in their language learning journeys.


  • A woman and a man talking together
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    4 activities to improve your students' intelligibility

    By Pearson Languages

    Intelligibility is the art of being understood by others. Many students think they need to speak a language flawlessly and with a native-like accent to make themselves clear, but this is not quite true.

    While there is a correlation between proficiency and intelligibility, even students of lower general proficiency are capable of expressing what they mean, in a way that the listener understands, if they are using good intelligibility practices.

    Being understandable in a second language is often extremely important in work environments, especially as the world becomes more connected and job markets more competitive. 

    Intelligibility is a vital aspect of communication but it is not exactly a skill in itself. Instead, it is a combination of fluency, pronunciation, and managing your speed of speech. To reflect how important this is for language learners when studying, traveling or at work, we use an Intelligibility Index as part of our Versant English Test scoring.

    This index is based on factors affecting how understandable speech is to native English speakers. These include things like speed, clarity, pronunciation and fluency. Ranging from 1 (low) to 5 (high), the Intelligibility Index shows how intelligible someone’s speech in English is likely to be in a real-world situation.

    Let’s go into some activities and exercises you can try in class to help your students improve their intelligibility with their English and speaking skills.


  • Children singing in a line holding song sheets, with a teacher singing facing them
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    How to incorporate music into the classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    Learning English with music can enhance learning and create a more engaging and dynamic classroom environment. In a previous post, we discussed if music can help you learn a language; this post looks at how music can be incorporated into the classroom.

    Using music in your classroom can help improve student motivation, focus, and retention of information. Here are some ways you can use music to enhance your classroom teaching:


  • A woman sat outdoors reading a booklet
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    Seven ways to develop independent learners

    By Pearson Languages

    What is independent learning?

    Students who are actively involved in deciding what and how they learn are typically more engaged and motivated.

    That’s not surprising, because independent learners are extremely focused on their personal learning objectives.

    According to Philip Candy, independent learning is “a process, a method and a philosophy of education whereby a learner acquires knowledge by his or her own efforts and develops the ability for inquiry and critical evaluation."


  • A girl holding a pile of books smiling in a room with large sheves of books.
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    How to bring Shakespeare to life in the classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    The 23rd of April marks the birth (and death) of William Shakespeare: poet, playwright and pre-eminent dramatist. His poems and plays have been translated into 80 languages, even Esperanto and Klingon.

    It is remarkable how Shakespeare’s iconic body of work has withstood the test of time. More than four centuries on, his reflections on the human condition have lost none of their relevance. Contemporary artists and writers continue to draw on his language, imagery and drama for inspiration.

    But, despite the breadth and longevity of his appeal, getting students excited about Shakespeare is not always straightforward. The language is challenging, the characters may be unfamiliar and the plots can seem far removed from modern life.

    However, with the right methods and resources, there is plenty for teenagers and young adults to engage with. After all, love, desperation, jealousy and anger are feelings we can all relate to, regardless of the age group, culture or century we belong to!
    So, how can you bring classic Shakespearean dramas like Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth to life?

    There are many ways for your learners to connect with Shakespeare and get excited by his works. Here we’ll show you three classroom activities to do with your students and some indispensable resources to ensure that reading Shakespeare is as accessible and enjoyable as possible!


  • A teacher sat in a classroom pointing and smiling,  surrounded by children sat on the floor
    • Language teaching

    5 ways to keep students attention in class

    By Pearson Languages

    Do you ever find it hard to keep students focused and on task? Young learners get easily distracted and it can be hard to find ways to keep them engaged.

    So what can we do to get, and more importantly, keep our students’ attention? Here are our five top tips.

    1. Plan a range of activities

    Young learners have relatively short attention spans. In the classroom, it is rare to have the whole class fully engaged in something for a long time, since the children will have different interests and levels, so it is essential to plan a number of activities for each lesson.

    The more variety you can include in the activities and tasks you plan, the easier it is to provide something enjoyable and relevant for each child. Choose short tasks and try to have a couple of extra activities up your sleeve if something you planned doesn’t work well. However, don’t worry if you don’t have time to do them all – you can always save them for a future lesson.

    2. Vary the dynamics and pay attention to the mood

    Another way of keeping students engaged is to mix up the classroom dynamics, having a combination of individual heads-down work, pair work, group work, and whole class discussions or games. When planning your lesson, consider how your students might feel at each stage. After doing some reading or quiet work, students may start to become restless, and this is the ideal time to get them up and moving about.

    While you are in class, pay close attention to the mood of the class. When you sense that students are becoming distracted or bored, change the dynamics of the activity.

    3. Use brain breaks

    Ever notice that students become lethargic and show a lack of interest? Why not try introducing brain breaks at strategic points in your lessons? Brain breaks are short physical activities or games designed to get the blood flowing and to re-energize students to help them get ready for learning. They range from short activities that last a couple of minutes, to longer breaks that may be suitable if your lessons last more than an hour.

    4. Peer teaching

    We can vary different aspects of the lesson using the previous strategies, but one thing that rarely changes is the role of the teacher! One way of keeping students involved is by giving them more responsibility and allowing them to take a more active role in their learning.

    Peer teaching completely changes the classroom dynamic and has students teach their peers while you take a step back. For primary classes, ask one or two students to take charge of a ready-made activity, e.g. one from your course book. They should give instructions, demonstrate, monitor as necessary, and check answers.

    When students are used to doing this, you can start to have them work in pairs or small groups to plan their own activities to use in class.

    5. Useful classroom management strategies

    Of course, nobody is perfect and there will be times when you lose students’ attention and they are not on task. For these occasions, you can use a wealth of classroom management strategies to regain the class's attention. Here are a few techniques:

    • Walk around the classroom as students are working. They are less likely to go off-task if you are available and watching.
    • Stand next to or behind individuals who are not paying attention, or move your position to a strategic point in the classroom where everyone, particularly those who are not listening, can see and hear you clearly.
    • Have a code word. Choose a word before the lesson and display it on the board. Tell students that you will sometimes call out this word during the lesson and they need to pay special attention. You could ask students to do an action e.g. stand up and turn around, and give points to the first student who does so.
    • Silence. An old but effective trick is to stand in silence at the front of the class and wait for everyone to stop talking.

    Your enthusiasm is key

    Finally, if we want our students to be motivated and engaged in our lessons, we must show enthusiasm for what we are teaching. The more lively and animated you are about the lesson, the more the students will want to join you and learn.

  • A young woman taking notes in a lecture theatre, she is sat by other young people.
    • English for work and migration
    • Language teaching

    Preparing your learners for university study abroad

    By Pearson Languages

    Whether your learners are going for a single semester, academic year or an entire university course, studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for them. They’ll have the chance to discover a new culture, develop new skills and make new friends.

    University study in another country also poses several challenges. But as a teacher, you can equip them for this experience and prepare them for future academic success.

    Why study abroad?

    Most people think that studying at university is hard enough, without the added difficulty of doing it overseas. But that doesn’t stop hundreds of thousands of university students from leaving the support of family and friends and relocating to a foreign country.

    People apply to study in another country for a range of reasons. A university program abroad might offer the student better tuition and a greater promise of future employment or simply represent better value for money. And in the case of very specialist university courses, studying abroad may be the only option.

    Whatever the reason, the decision to study in a foreign country is likely to involve a high level of proficiency in another language – and more often than not, that language is English.

    A move towards English language in higher education

    There has been a significant shift in higher education in the last ten years, as many European institutions look to internationalize their programs. As a result, across Europe, we have seen a sharp growth in the number of university courses taught in English. English-taught bachelor’s programs offered by universities in the European Higher Education Area have multiplied dramatically over the last decade. 

    What challenges do learners face?

    Academic skills

    There are a whole range of academic skills that students are expected to know when they start university. From research and evaluation, to note-making and referencing, many learners will enter higher education lacking many of the essential skills they require.

    Studying in a foreign language

    Not only will they have to master new skills, but they may need to do them in a second language. What’s more, even everyday things that native speakers may take for granted, such as understanding lectures, reading academic papers, writing essays and even socializing with new friends, will take a lot more effort if English isn’t your first language.

    Administrative issues

    There are many potential pitfalls for a student in a new academic setting. From the administrative process and campus regulations to the types of lessons and assessments, there may be a lot of differences to deal with. Even understanding the etiquette of addressing and interacting with professors can be daunting.

    Problems integrating

    Another challenge is integrating into another culture. Even if the host country is culturally similar, adapting to new surroundings is not always straightforward. There can also be a certain amount of ghettoization, where international students might stick together and remain isolated from the local student population.


    Feeling homesick can be difficult for international students to deal with. Depending on how far they travel to study, your learners may be unable to return home easily, visit their families and alleviate their homesickness.

    Money worries

    Without a grant or a scholarship, studying abroad can be very expensive. If your learners currently live at home with their parents, the cost of accommodation may be formidable. The higher cost of living could mean they have to look for a part-time job to supplement their income.

    What can you do to get your students ready?

    All of the challenges mentioned above have one thing in common. If a student cannot communicate effectively, these situations can be exacerbated. Language is key, whether it’s accessing support, communicating with professors or getting to grips with a new culture.

    Here are some things you can do to help your learners prepare for university life:

    1) Put them in touch with past students

    It’s important that your learners have a clear idea of what university study abroad entails. Creating a chance for them to speak to other students who have already gone through that experience can be extremely valuable.

    Students who have returned from studying abroad can help with your learners' doubts and put their minds at rest. They might be able to provide essential advice about a specific country or university or simply tell their story. Either way, it’s a great way to reassure and encourage your learners.

    2) Use appropriate authentic content

    In preparation for your learner’s time abroad, the language course that you teach should align with their future linguistic needs. One of the main aims should be to develop the language skills required to perform successfully and confidently in their new context.

    3) Teach them academic study skills

    Think back to when you were at university and what you struggled with. Group work, presentations, critical thinking and exam skills are all things which your learners will need to be proficient in, so the more you practice them in class the better.

    4) Promote autonomous learning

    Success at university is deeply rooted in a student’s ability to work independently and develop practical self-study skills. Giving your learners more choice in the language learning process is one way to encourage autonomy.

  • A business woman in a suit sat at a laptop
    • Business and employability
    • Language teaching

    6 tips for teaching business English to low level learners

    By Pearson Languages

    The CEFR describes A1 and A2 learners as ‘basic users’ of a language. So how can we help these students to develop their communication skills for the international workplace?

    Here are our six top tips:

    1. Focus on high-frequency vocabulary for work

    Learning vocabulary for work context is the top priority for many low-level learners in business English classes. It helps them to communicate their message in a simple, effective way. This makes it important to teach common words and set expressions for everyday work situations.

    These include:

    • lexical sets (words related to the same topic or situation) – for example, days, months, numbers, verbs to describe work routines, verbs in the past.
    • common collocations with verbs and nouns (for example, manage a team, have meetings, place an order, solve a problem).
    • functional language and fixed phrases – greetings (How are you? Nice to meet you.) and offers (How can I help you? Would you like…?).

    2. Help students with vocabulary learning

    Teach vocabulary items in realistic contexts. For example, phone calls, to-do lists, short emails, text messages etc.

    While it might be tempting to give students lots of vocabulary to memorize, this can cause overload, be frustrating and ultimately demotivating for learners. Instead, you should aim to present eight to ten new words in a lesson as a general rule. This is an achievable number for working memory and helps to build learners’ confidence. The number of words can be a little higher if items are easy to show in images or there is repetition; for instance, the numbers 20 to 100.

    Have students make simple decisions about new words, as this helps with recall later. Start with simple tasks, such as matching words and pictures or verb and noun collocations they’ve seen in a short text (for example, managing a team, call customers, writing emails, etc.). Next, ask students to complete sentences using the target words and write their own sentences using these words.

    Getting students to personalize new vocabulary makes it more memorable, for instance writing sentences describing their work routines. Repetition also aids long-term memory, so make sure vocabulary is recycled in the materials in later lessons.

    Finally, make a list of vocabulary games to use for revision exercises, warmers and to finish classes.

    3. Maximize student speaking time

    Learners need to develop their speaking skills for work. The classroom is a safe, low-stakes environment for them to gain fluency and confidence.

    Use the audio and video scripts of short dialogues or an extract from a longer script. Students read the dialogue aloud in pairs or groups. Give feedback by drilling the stress and rhythm of any words or phrases which were difficult with the whole class. Back-chaining phrases – starting with the last sound and building up going backwards – is an excellent way to drill. Get students to swap roles and repeat the task.

    You can also use another technique called disappearing dialogue. Put a short dialogue on the board for students to practice in pairs. Then delete parts of the dialogue and ask them to repeat the task, swapping roles each time. Gradually delete more parts to increase the challenge. Students can reconstruct the dialogue as a final task.

    Moreover, surveys, questionnaires, true/false games, and information-gap exercises are ways to practice speaking skills, target structures, and vocabulary.

    4. Provide support for speaking tasks

    Use a model dialogue from the coursebook or one you wrote yourself. Ask students to build their own short dialogues by changing some details (such as names, dates, prices, and quantities). Or use one half of the dialogue and ask students to write the other part.

    Then, have them perform their dialogues together with their script. Then, ask them to try to memorize it without the script. Finally, they should perform the dialogue for another pair or even for the whole class.

    Give students a reason to listen to their partners when they are speaking. For example, a speaking task like placing an order on the phone, gives them a reason. The listening student can note the essential information and check their answers afterwards.

    Repeating tasks with slight variations increases the challenge, improves fluency, helps students remember useful phrases, and builds self-confidence.

    5. Practice work skills your students need

    Students are much more engaged and motivated when the class content is relevant to their everyday situations. Work skills they need to practice include telephoning, socializing and giving presentations.

    Writing skills are also important. This includes formal and informal text messages, simple forms, less formal emails to colleagues (e.g. to update on work) and more formal emails to customers (e.g. replying to a simple inquiry).

    At the start of the class, make it clear what students will be doing in the lesson. You can refer to the lesson outcome on the coursebook page or write the lesson outcome in your own words on the whiteboard. For instance, “Today you will learn to place a simple order on the phone”.

    At the end of the class, ask students to respond to the self-assessment statement: “I can place a simple order on the phone.”

    This is a reminder of the purpose of the lesson. It also helps the students and teachers to reflect on the progress they are making.

    The grammar syllabus should also relate to learners' communicative needs (for example, describing your company, instructions, and talking about arrangements).

    6. Teach functional language phrases

    Draw students’ attention to useful phrases and functional language in speaking and writing. For instance, when greeting visitors (“Nice to meet you.” “See you later.”). They can memorize these utterances and put them to immediate use outside the classroom.

    Use role plays to practice work skills and functional language. Give learners ample time to prepare and write down what they want to say. In a phone call role play, put students back to back to increase the challenge and add an element of authenticity; even better if they can call each other on their mobile phones from separate rooms.

    Similarly, with presentations (for example, introducing yourself and your company), give students time to prepare and rehearse. They can ask colleagues to video them on their mobile phones for later correction work and feedback. Or they could rehearse and film themselves at home and show the final video in the next class.

    These are just a few tips and techniques for teaching English for work to low-level learners. It’s especially important for these students to start simple, recycle language often and build their confidence in their language-learning abilities.