With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.
Success beyond class: Critical thinking skills and academic english
English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes are designed to prepare students for higher education delivered in English. Students are expected to hold their own among a class full of fluent English speakers. So it’s essential that they have not only the language skills, but the academic and social skills that tertiary education demands today. And it’s up to teachers to ensure our students develop these skills – but that requires a balancing act.
Many EAP courses lack the authenticity of the college classroom experience. Lectures are generally relatively short, only 5-10 minutes long. Reading is scaffolded, and the content is very structured, even overly structured. Then, our students move into their academic courses where they encounter two-hour lectures, 50+ pages of reading, and content that is far from scaffolded. So, how do we bridge these academic, linguistic and social gaps? Let’s look at some techniques to help students succeed in higher education.
Bridging the linguistic gap
Linguistics gaps may involve content-specific language, or the informal language students encounter when they work with other students, or the connotative and denotative meanings and contexts of a word. To bridge this gap, we need to build deep conceptual vocabulary knowledge. We don’t want students only to have label knowledge. Label knowledge allows students to pass a vocabulary text where matching or multiple choice is present. But that is not enough in an academic environment. Deep conceptual knowledge means truly knowing a word.
So, what does it mean to know a word? Well, according to linguistics scholar Paul Nation, a student needs to know the following:
- The spoken and written form
- The parts of the word that have meaning
- The word's forms and their meanings
- The concepts and vocabulary associated with the word
- The grammatical function, any collocations
- The register and frequency of the word
That is a whole lot!
To build this extensive knowledge, we need to do so in an intentional manner. We need to build various activities that develop and foster critical thinking skills and engage students.
Here is an example:
“Hello! I am so glad to see so many of you at our special lecture today. Today, I am going to describe how a mixed community is planned and built. First, let’s look at what a mixed purpose community is, and then we will discuss the planning and building. As many of you know, a mixed purpose community is a neighborhood that includes residential spaces, business spaces, services and green spaces. How about the planning? First, when planning mixed purpose communities, architects, city planners and builders work together to plan where everything will be located. Because they want the community to be a fully walkable one, they need to think about how far homes are from schools, services and other businesses. Then, they carefully look at what kinds of businesses and services are needed. Next, they must design sidewalks so people can easily get to anywhere in the community, and not worry about car traffic. Today, planners are even looking at including bicycle paths, as more and more people are riding bicycles to work. Lastly, they need to consider the different types of residential space they will need. They build homes and apartments to attract all a wide variety of residents. These communities are becoming more and more popular, but planning them still takes time and a team of people.”
The terms mixed and community are bolded. You can engage students with a simple noticing activity of how these words are used, the forms they take, the words around them, their collocations and the concepts associated with these words. An exercise like this will help students develop a deep understanding of these words. And that deep understanding will enable students to make connections and draw conclusions around these terms.
Bridging the academic gap
EAP students move from very scaffolded EAP courses to courses where they must listen and take notes for 50 minutes or read 50+ pages before class. Additionally, their professors often do not build background knowledge, or scaffold learning, as they expect students to enter their classrooms with this understanding. And this can create an academic gap.
When it comes to bridging this gap, content can be the vehicle for instruction. Exposing students to the language of academic disciplines early on can build background knowledge, and be highly motivating for students who crave more than rote language instruction.
Bringing the social gap
When students enter their university courses they will be expected to work with peers, engage in group activities, negotiate, take turns and assert their own ideas into a dialogue. These social skills require language which needs to be developed and practiced in their EAP courses.
You can do this by building instructional tasks and learning around developing and practicing critical thinking skills. Consider introducing project-based learning to your class. In project-based learning, students must work with their peers, learning how to prioritize, negotiate and assign responsibility. Bringing in these types of tasks and activities helps develop soft and critical thinking skills.
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Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.
But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?
That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.
Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.
So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.
Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.
Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.
Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.
Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)
Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.
Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)
Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.
One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.
5. North and South
Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.
During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.
6. Oliver Twist
Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.
His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.
Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?
Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.
Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too.
In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.