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  • 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

    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

    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 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 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 Jeanne Perrett

    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 young boy and a young girl sat at desks in a classroom, smiling and looking at another child in front of them
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    Five ways to promote friendship in your English language classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    There is a strong link between well-being and friendship, which is just as accurate for children as it is for adults. Studies have found that children with stable friendships are happier, more able to cope with stress, and have higher self-esteem. Moreover, school friendships impact academic achievement too, and children who experience friendship adjust more easily to school and perform better academically. School friendships are also a valuable way of learning social skills like sharing, resolving conflict, and engaging with peers positively.

    Having friends is an important part of school life, and teachers can play a significant role in creating a positive classroom culture and helping children and young people to form friendships. How can you promote friendships between your students? Here are some ideas:

    1. Make friendship a central theme in your classes

    If there is an example of a good friendship in a book you are reading with students or in your lesson materials, draw your students’ attention to it. For instance, The Jungle Book is an excellent example of a story about friendship. Encourage your students to think critically about the friendships that they read about. You can ask questions like:

    • What are some things a good friend does?
    • What are the qualities of a good friend?
    • What words do you associate with friendship?

    By discussing friendship regularly in the classroom, your students will learn about the behavior and characteristics of being a good friend.

    2. Create opportunities for interaction

    You can create lots of opportunities for students to build friendships with one another during class time. Design activities that call for pair or group work, and include at least one or two in every lesson. Focusing on a common goal or problem is a great way to encourage your students to bond with one another. As a bonus, this collaborative way of working promotes important 21st century skills like communication and problem-solving.

    Another way of promoting friendships between different groups of students is moving them around. Adjust your seating plan regularly to ensure that all your students interact with and work alongside different classmates, to promote positive, friendly classroom vibes.

    3. Discuss and model good behavior

    Friendship is a social skill that children need to learn – and you can help by teaching them. Be explicit about exactly what you expect from them. Saying, “Be kind” is an abstract, vague concept that children might struggle to put into practice. Instead, give them concrete examples of behavior, such as:

    • take turns when playing
    • speak respectfully
    • share pens or other resources

    When you see a student engaging in these behaviors, draw attention to them and praise them.

    But to really convey the importance of school friendships and kind behavior, it’s not enough to tell them. As the teacher, you must model the behavior you’d like to see in your students. Be consistently positive and upbeat in your interactions with students, thank your learners when they offer help with something, and try to refrain from sounding impatient (even when you are!). All these steps will help to build a positive classroom culture where students feel secure, supported and happy.

    4. Help to navigate difficult situations

    Conflict is an inevitable part of school life, but you can help students to navigate arguments and other difficult situations in the classroom. If two students argue, you can help them to resolve it with the following steps:

    • Separate the students to give them time to calm down.
    • Have a conversation with them. Ask for their perspective on the conflict, and find out how their day has been in general. Sometimes, you can better understand a student’s reaction when you look at the bigger picture. Ask them how they feel, and how they could resolve the situation.
    • Bring the students together again to discuss things and find a resolution together. Reconciliation is the goal.

    Following these simple steps teaches children a framework for resolving conflict and gives them the tools to process strong emotions.

    5. Do some friendship-focused activities

    An excellent way to promote a positive classroom culture is to do friendship-focused activities with your students:

    You could do a Venn diagram activity, where students work in pairs to discuss and write down things they have in common and areas of difference. It’s good to pair students who don’t spend much time together for this activity.

    Another positive activity is a 'Honey Roast'. Give students enough squares of paper to have one for each of their classmates. Get them to write their classmates’ names on the paper, and then, on the other side, write down a compliment or something they like about that person, for example, “I like your handwriting”, or “You always use kind words”. Collect the pieces of paper and read out some nice examples to the class. Alternatively, give them directly to the students to read to themselves.

  • A group of children in a classroom, one is sat at a desk drawing a picture, another is smiling at the camera
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Connecting with your students using simple creative activities

    By Pearson Languages

    “We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”Maya Angelou.

    We want our kids to excel in everything they do. This is partly down to the media, which has fostered the idea of celebrity kids and football leagues that encourage kids to become professional athletes at the age of eight or younger.

    However, we have missed the most crucial thing in their education – and that is to build their character through everyday creative activities which encourage the formation of human connections.

    Moving from kindergarten to elementary school

    Consider how nervous a first grader must feel after leaving the safe kindergarten playground and entering a strange new 'grown-up' world. The playgrounds are bigger, the kids are older, they have to line up to buy their first meal at the school cafeteria. The classroom has changed too: the desks look different, the books are bigger, and there are new challenges too.

    Some are thrilled to feel part of the older kids’ environment. Others, of course, are frightened and insecure. They have to understand and accept all the new rules and regulations, which now apply to them too.

    High expectations from parents must be met

    We also have moms, dads and caregivers worried for their little ones. They have high hopes for them. They want their children to become successful learners, multi-medal athletes, excellent readers, mathematicians or perhaps scientists…

    Professor David Healy, director of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine, said: “We want kids to conform to ideals based often on parental insecurities and ambitions.”

    Elementary school has therefore become something resembling a battlefield, where children must thrive in spite of (and not because of) their interests. Only top grades and excellence in everything will make parents proud.

    But what if a child is not successful? What if their reading skills are below average? What if their daydreaming about a trip to the moon doesn’t allow them to concentrate?

    Then we have two lists of kids, the thriving kids with excellent grades and the other ones.

    So how can we take the pressure off and help all kids to thrive? Here are some simple creative activities to help.

    Reaching out to your students with a simple hello

    When did we forget that education is about promoting playfulness, imagination, and creativity to build up confidence?

    My very first and most important recommendation would be this:

    Before you start a class, give yourself a moment to say "Hello" to each individual in your class. Take that moment to make eye contact with every student and see how they are doing that day.

    Make this an important part of your routine. Then have them do the same with their classmates. You could even introduce phrases such as:

    • "How was your day yesterday?"
    • "How are you feeling today?"
    • "What did you have for breakfast this morning?"
    • "I notice you look nice today!"

    You can also try another creative activity. Ask your students to say good morning to the new day and think of something they are grateful for or someone they are grateful to. For example:

    • "Thank you mom, for my breakfast."
    • "I am grateful because all my classmates are here."
    • "Thank you moon, for your light every night."

    These are just a few simple creative activities. But the most important thing to consider, if you want to introduce creativity in the classroom, is that every student needs to feel in a secure and welcoming environment, free of criticism or judgment of their ideas. If you achieve this in your classroom, you will be well on your way to exploring your students’ creativity and building new connections with them.

  • 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!