How the GSE can help teachers personalize activities

Leonor Corradi
Leonor Corradi
A teacher stood at a students desk helping them - there is also the gse logo to the side of them

Reading time: 4.5 minutes

Teaching is an art form that thrives on adaptation and personalization. When dealing with language instruction, ensuring that each student is engaged and effectively learning is of paramount importance. In my experience as a teacher, I have learned that we should always teach our students rather than the coursebook or the syllabus. I think most teachers would agree with this.

However, it may be challenging to adapt activities to cater to our learners’ needs. What does personalizing an activity mean? How can we make it more accessible to our English learners? One would think that making the answers more obvious can be the way to go. Yet, this does not really help students learn and make progress. That's where the Global Scale of English (GSE) comes in as a valuable tool for personalizing teaching activities.

The essence of personalized learning

Personalizing an activity in language teaching does not simply mean making the responses more obvious. Instead, it's about tailoring the exercise to elevate the student's learning experience and potential for progress. This demands an insightful approach during the preparation phase of any given lesson.

Utilizing the GSE in language teaching

Let’s analyze this listening activity at A2 level for a group of adults:

Audio script example:

Emma: Are you working on the Media project?

Vic: Yes. I may start working on a new project in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m writing the objectives for Media. Why?

Emma: Well, Adam wants to see the photos for the project. He needs them for the ads.

Vic: Oh, they’ll be ready next week. OK?

Emma: Awesome! Thanks. Any plans for the weekend?

Vic: Well, I have to work on Saturday. We’re taking the Media pictures in the morning, but we’re just going to have fun at the beach in the afternoon.

Emma: Nice!

Vic: What about you? What are you doing this weekend?

Emma: I’m going to a concert on Sunday at 3 pm.

Vic: That sounds fun!

Listen and write T (true) or F (false)

1. Vic is working on a new project.

2.  Vic is working on Saturday morning.

3. Emma is going to a concert on Sunday evening.

GSE Descriptors

Upon dissecting this example by the GSE descriptors, we can identify the learning objectives that align with an A2 level:

  • Can identify simple information in a short video, provided that the visual supports this information and the delivery is slow and clear. (GSE 30)

  • Can identify basic factual information in short, simple dialogues or narratives on familiar everyday topics, if spoken slowly and clearly. (GSE 32)

  • Can understand the main information in short, simple dialogues about familiar activities, if spoken slowly and clearly. (GSE 33)

  • Can identify key information (e.g., places, times) from short audio recordings if spoken slowly and clearly. (GSE 33)

We know that learners should be given a global task first for overall listening, which is also one of the communicative objectives in the Global Scale of English:

List of options sat under comprehension: Finding specific information, listening/reading for detail, listening/reading for gist, overall listening/reading comprehension, recognizing a speakers/writers opinion or purpose, understanding main points

We can easily personalize the activity to include overall listening by adding a question before students are asked to solve the exercise:

Are the speakers a couple? or, Are the speaker's family?

The first question gets a No for an answer, whereas the answer to the second one can lead to a discussion. This is a good thing for it can generate a debate in which students have to account for their answers, which they can do after they complete the exercise.

In a similar matter, the GSE indicates that at this level, students can extract key factual information such as prices, times and dates from a recorded phone message (at level 35). For learners who are ready to expand their abilities further, additional questions can be posed to extract specific factual information, as indicated by the GSE for a level slightly above A2:

  • Vic is going to be at the beach in the ____________.

  • Emma is going to a concert on Sunday at ___________.

Through such adaptations, we cater to different proficiency levels within the same group, offering a degree of challenge that is suitable yet stimulating. We can also consider these learning objectives for listening when analyzing the items in a listening activity. Let me describe some possible scenarios.

Addressing challenges and enhancing motivation

What happens when the tasks set before young learners at the same A2 level don't offer the necessary support? The GSE guidelines stipulate that learners should have access to materials and certain assisting elements, like visuals or supplementary information. It's our responsibility as educators to incorporate this support, thereby aligning the exercise with the learners' capabilities.

Occasionally, certain tasks may exceed the current level of the students. For instance, students may be asked to make basic inferences in simple conversations on familiar everyday topics (level 38). A stratagem I employ involves segregating items into 'A' (level-appropriate) and 'B' (slightly more advanced). This provides students with a clear understanding of their expectations and offers an optional challenge.

If they do not get them right, they do not feel frustrated since they know these items are somewhat beyond their level but if they do at least one correctly, this works wonders on their motivation, which has a positive impact on learning. The more motivated students are, the more motivated we teachers will be. The synergy between student motivation and teacher motivation cannot be overstated, amplifying the learning experience for both parties.


The Global Scale of English is an instrumental guide in shaping teaching activities to fit the varied needs of students. By leveraging its comprehensive descriptors and specialized insights, we can personalize our approaches to teaching English, providing a richer and more rewarding educational landscape. As we refine our activities using the GSE, we contribute to a dynamic classroom environment where each student is given the opportunity to flourish in their language learning journey.

About the author

Leonor Corradi is an English teacher based in Argentina. She is a former member of the Foreign Languages Team at the National Ministry of Education in Argentina, in charge of English and coordinator of state plurilingual schools in the City of Buenos Aires. She has extensive experience as a materials designer and coursebook writer and is an academic consultant for different educational institutions such as the British Council and Ministries of Education in Latin America. 

She has run professional development courses for teachers and has presented extensively at national and international conferences. She is the author of the Curriculum for Foreign Languages for the City of Buenos Aires (2001, English) and has been an ELTons Judge since 2014. Leonor has been a member of the Global Scale of English (GSE) Advisory Board since 2014 and is a GSE Ambassador.

More blogs from Pearson

  • How to make the most of AI in the classroom

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a futuristic concept confined to science fiction. It has become an integral part of various sectors, including education. As educators, integrating AI into your classroom practices can enhance teaching and learning experiences, making them more personalized, efficient and engaging. Here’s how you can make the most of AI in your classroom.

  • A woman walking around outdoors with a camera

    The benefits of taking part in foreign exchange programs

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    If you are a student or one considering a gap year, the option of foreign exchange programs may have crossed your mind or been mentioned to you. More and more young people are taking advantage of exchange programs and reaping the transformative benefits that come with it.

    Let's have a look at some of the reasons why taking part in an exchange program can be a life-changing experience and how it can help you more than you think.

    What is a foreign exchange program?

    A foreign exchange program is an educational initiative where students have the opportunity to study abroad and immerse themselves in a different culture for a specified period, typically ranging from a few weeks to an entire academic year. These programs facilitate cultural exchange by allowing students to attend foreign schools or universities, live with host families or in dormitories, and engage in activities that foster intercultural understanding and personal growth.

    The primary aim of a foreign exchange program is to provide students with a global perspective, enhance their language skills, and expose them to different educational systems and cultural practices. By stepping out of their comfort zones, students can develop independence, adaptability and a deeper appreciation for diversity.

    What are the benefits of a foreign exchange program?

    1. Cultural immersion and global perspective

    Embracing diversity

    One of the most immediate benefits of an exchange program is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture. Experiencing new customs, traditions and ways of life firsthand fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of global diversity. This cultural immersion helps break down stereotypes and broadens your worldview, making you more open-minded and adaptable.

    Develop cultural understanding

    Living in a foreign country teaches you how to navigate and respect different cultural norms and practices. This cultural competence is increasingly valued in our interconnected world, enhancing your ability to work effectively in diverse environments and making you a more attractive candidate in the global job market.

    2. Language proficiency

    Enhanced language skills

    For language learners, an exchange program is an opportunity to achieve fluency. Experiencing a language firsthand is one of the best ways to learn a new language. Being surrounded by fluent speakers provides constant practice and exposure, accelerating your language acquisition in ways that classroom learning alone cannot match. You'll develop better pronunciation, expand your vocabulary and gain confidence in your speaking abilities.

    Real-world communication

    Using a new language in everyday situations—whether it's ordering food, asking for directions, or making new friends—helps solidify your language skills in a practical context. This real-world communication practice is invaluable, ensuring that your language proficiency extends beyond textbooks and exams to actual, meaningful interactions.

    3. Academic and professional growth

    Academic enrichment

    Exchange programs often provide access to unique academic resources and teaching methods that differ from those in your home country. Exposure to new perspectives and approaches can deepen your understanding of your field of study and inspire new areas of interest. Additionally, studying abroad can enhance your academic credentials, making your CV stand out to future employers or academic institutions.

    Career opportunities

    Experience abroad signals to employers that you possess qualities like independence, adaptability and cross-cultural communication skills. These attributes are highly sought after in today’s job market. Moreover, the networking opportunities during your exchange can open doors to international internships, job placements and collaborations that might not have been available otherwise.

    4. Personal development

    Building independence and resilience

    Living away from home in a completely new environment challenges you to become more self-reliant and adaptable. You'll develop problem-solving skills, resilience and the ability to thrive outside of your comfort zone. These experiences build character and prepare you for future challenges, both personally and professionally.

    Forming lifelong connections

    The friendships and connections you make during your exchange program can last a lifetime. You'll meet people from various backgrounds, creating a global network of peers and mentors. These relationships can provide support, inspiration and opportunities long after your exchange program ends.

    Boosting confidence

    Successfully navigating life in a foreign country, mastering a new language, and achieving academic success abroad can significantly boost your confidence. This newfound self-assurance can positively impact all areas of your life, giving you the courage to pursue further opportunities and take on new challenges.

    5. Engaging with the local community

    Volunteer and community projects

    Many exchange programs encourage participants to engage with their host communities through volunteer work or community projects. This engagement allows you to give back to your host country, gain a deeper understanding of local issues, and develop a sense of global citizenship. It's a rewarding experience that fosters empathy and reinforces the importance of contributing to the wider world.

    Gaining valuable work experience

    Participating in volunteer and community projects during your exchange program can provide significant work experience that is highly attractive to future employers. These projects often involve teamwork, problem-solving and project management, all of which are essential skills in any professional setting.

    By contributing to local initiatives, you can demonstrate your ability to adapt to new environments, work with diverse teams, and handle responsibility. Furthermore, these experiences can fill gaps in your CV, showcasing your proactive approach to skill-building and community involvement. Engaging in meaningful projects not only supports your personal growth but also highlights your commitment to making a positive impact, a quality greatly valued in any career field.

    Where can I sign up for exchange programs?

    There are many organizations and programs that offer exchange opportunities for students and language learners. Some popular options include:

    • Study abroad programs through universities or colleges, which often have partnerships with foreign institutions. Check with your institution.
    • Government-sponsored programs such as Fulbright or Erasmus, (depending on your location).
    • Check non-profit organizations in your country, they may also offer exchange programs.


    Taking part in an exchange program is a life-changing adventure that offers myriad benefits for students and language learners alike. From enhancing language proficiency and cultural awareness to boosting academic and career prospects, the experiences gained through an exchange program are invaluable. By stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new world, you open yourself up to endless possibilities, personal growth and a broader, more inclusive perspective on life.

    If you're a student or language learner considering an exchange program, seize the opportunity. The world awaits, and the benefits are boundless.

  • Friends studying together around one big table

    8 things you should try to avoid when learning English

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    Learning a new language is an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. As English learners, it's important to recognize and overcome the common pitfalls that could hinder your progress. Here, we provide advice and guidance on what not to do to make your English learning experience as smooth and successful as possible.