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Blogs from Pearson

  • A young child with a hat on climbing on a tree
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    From learners to explorers: How to develop an explorer mindset in language students

    By Jeanne Perrett

    What do you think of when you hear the term ‘explorer mindset’?

    Many people think that it’s about encouraging children to be interested in learning. To support them when they want to discover new thoughts and skills – and to find things out for themselves.

    But we can expand on those thoughts.

    Explorers who set off on expeditions have specific goals. They have to prepare physically, mentally and practically. They know where they want to go, even if they don’t know what they will find there. In the process, they stumble and fall and get back up again. And when they finally reach the place they were headed for, they see more opportunities and realize they would like to go even further.

    Young people who develop this mindset will always want to learn, discover and keep searching for bigger and better things.

    1. Prepare them for the journey

    Before setting off on any journey, it’s crucial to have access to the right tools. In our schools, we (usually) have all the books, technology and stationery we need. At home, on the other hand, students might only have the basics. Books and craft supplies might also be seen as messy and something to be tidied away.

    Therefore, in our classrooms, we should show our students that materials are always readily accessible. Learners should understand that while everything has its place, we still like to read, write, and make things.

    How to encourage reading, writing and creativity:

    • Show students what you are reading; the books you have in your bag or tablet.
    • Show them your notebooks and other written work.
    • Allow time for craft work in the middle of the lesson and leave time to clear up at the end.
    • Allocate a ‘messy space’ in the classroom where craft material can be used anytime. We often do this with kindergarten classes; consider continuing it for older students.

    2. Focus on the language learning destination

    Most of our students will be excited about starting their journey through the English language. Some will be naturally motivated or innately inclined to become fluent speakers, and others will need your encouragement.

    As a teacher, you are the primary role model for your students. Your most powerful tool is showing your own enthusiasm for learning through English. Show the children that you want to improve your own English.

    Thanks to the power of technology, children have become excellent explorers.

    We can now be genuinely surprised about the things they discover on YouTube, Twitch or TikTok – the phrases, ideas or even ‘life hacks’ they share with us in class. We can learn from them too. Real admiration is always more motivating than praise.

    How to encourage show and tell in the classroom:

    • Allow five minutes for the children to show or tell you new things they have discovered online or elsewhere. Make it a routine with a time limit.
    • Help the children find out about the skills their role models have by searching the internet or reading magazines. Seeing what others can do from small beginnings can inspire students to create their own goals.

    3. Acknowledge obstacles

    We tend to think of obstacles as something we have to conquer and get over. But we can’t always do that. Sometimes we have to stop, retrace our steps, rest, redefine our goals and start again.

    As teachers, we know that not achieving what we have set out to do can make us feel incompetent. The same goes for our students. If they can’t do their homework, they may not feel good about themselves and start to invent excuses. We need to set them small, manageable daily goals so that the students can find satisfaction in focused work with a finite outcome.

    If they do not achieve those goals, we can reset them in a different way – for example, a writing task could become a speaking task or vice versa. Seeing that we can approach a piece of work from different angles is a life skill for our children. We don’t have to give up; we have to do it differently.

    How to help individuals reach their full potential

    Give them a homework menu with different tasks done in different ways. This allows them to work to the best of their specific abilities.
    For example:

    Describe your bedroom. You can…

    • write about it 
    • talk about it
    • draw and label it
    • take a photo and label it

    4. Continue to explore

    It sometimes seems that the more we learn, the less we know. As we achieve certain goals, we realize that there are other goals beyond them. Viewed from afar, they might seem, like mountain ranges, impossible to reach. And it’s true. We can’t possibly learn everything. Just as we can accept obstacles as a natural part of life, we can accept limitations.

    Instead of feeling inadequate, we can focus on what we have learnt and gradually extend our knowledge and skills. This can be done at any level, and it is rewarding to look back and see how far we have come as explorers of the English language.

    Tips for extending students’ knowledge and skills

    • Create regular opportunities for the children to demonstrate new knowledge or skills. A bulletin board is a simple way of doing this; children could add a note or a drawing to a topic-based board and read it aloud or briefly explain why they think it is interesting.
    • Start or end a school term with simple revision activities and quizzes to help the students feel good about what they already know, however basic.
    • Point out the students' less obvious soft skills, such as punctuality, listening to others, or being organized. Reading and writing often dominate school lessons. This helps children realize that other aspects of their skill sets and behavior are recognized and valued.

    Encouraging children to develop an explorer mindset helps them feel a sense of satisfaction, that they are responsible for their own education. They are, and will continue to be, the leaders of their own learning expeditions.

  • Children sat at desks in a classroom with their hands up
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Lesson tips for Special Educational Needs

    By Pearson Languages

    In this blog, James Laidler talks about his insights into how to plan lessons for neurodiverse students. James is a teacher and has been a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Coordinator for the past 18 years. He also discusses how important it is to consider your terminology, using phrases like ‘special learning powers’ or ‘neurodiversity’ to break down negative stereotypes. On top of this, he wants to help teachers and students recognize the strengths SEN students can bring to the classroom.

    James explores special needs education and what teachers can do to ensure their lessons are inclusive for all. A lot of these lesson tips are also great to apply to keep all students engaged, SEN or otherwise.

    Defining Special Educational Needs

    To define what Special Educational Needs (SEN) is, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability that calls for special educational provision. Learners with conditions such as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia or anxiety disorders come under this framework.

    Inclusive lesson tips for neurodiverse students

    Although teachers want to create inclusive lessons, many feel ill-equipped to support neurodiverse students. To help, James offers some tips for lesson planning which aim to turn learning diversities into strengths:

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    ADHD is a condition that can include symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Students with this disorder may have a short attention span, constantly fidget, or act without thinking.

    Lesson tips for ADHD students:

    • Movement breaks – Students with ADHD may struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. Include short breaks in your lessons that offer them the opportunity to get up and move around at regular intervals.
    • Group work – To keep learners active and engaged, include group work in class. This means they don’t have to focus on the board for too long.
    • Dramatise lessons – A really effective activity is to bring drama into the classroom. For example, students can act out role plays or other fun drama-based activities. It keeps them motivated, holds their attention and can be fun for all of the class.

    Dyslexia

    Dyslexia primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent reading and spelling. It may affect a person’s phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Lesson tips for dyslexic students include:

    • visual aids – Learners with dyslexia tend to have excellent visual memories. Try bringing in pictures to illustrate ideas or add them to lengthy texts to help students when doing reading comprehension exercises.
    • font and spacing – When setting reading tasks, simply changing text font, enlarging font size, and double spacing is hugely beneficial to dyslexic students. Simply adapting the text can make their learning experience much easier.
    • text-to-speech software – Using a text-to-speech specialized software often provides significant support to those who struggle with reading or digesting text on computer screens – try ClaroRead or Kurzweil 3000.

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

    ASD is a developmental condition that involves challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. The severity of symptoms is different in each person. Lesson tips for ASD students:

    • Encourage systematic skills – Often students with ASD may be more systematic than other students. This means they favor routines, regular processes, and predictable activities. Try bringing out these skills by asking students to spot patterns, analyze numbers or evaluate data.
    • Talk about interests – Autistic students may have specific interests they love to research. Engage them by getting them to talk about their hobbies or ask students to create projects on a topic they choose that they can present to the class.
    • Teaching online/blended learning – If you have a learner who is struggling socially at school, it may be an option to include hybrid or blended learning. This takes away the social and emotional challenges of school and people interaction, which can benefit ASD students.

    Anxiety disorders

    Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, but rather involve intense fear or anxiety. This condition is becoming increasingly common in young people since the onset of the pandemic and greatly affects their ability to learn.

    Lesson tips for anxiety disorder students:

    • Changing language and terminology – Our education system is very exam driven, which can cause students to experience much stress. By simply offering reassurance, guidance, and motivation, you can help to reduce their feelings of anxiety.
    • Talk openly – Encourage learners to discuss their feelings if they struggle. They can do this with you, a classmate, or a support worker at the school. If they open up to you, focus on strategies to combat negative feelings and emotions.
    • Mindfulness techniques – Try adding five minutes at the start of the day for guided meditation or breathing exercises. It may help students to begin the day in a calm and relaxed manner.
  • A overhead shot of a chalkboard with a cube on, with people around it with chalk and books
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    The coding mindset: Benefits and activities

    By Pearson Languages

    What is the coding mindset?

    Over the past decade, the ELT industry has placed more emphasis on soft skills. The focus has been on developing personal leadership qualities, creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and communication and collaboration skills. These are all essential skills for the future of work – and especially useful when students need to work better together and solve unexpected issues.

    A coding mindset encourages students to develop these essential soft skills – and practice them as a coder would. Teachers can use activities and tasks in the classroom that are based on this mindset to help students develop strategies to analyze, understand and solve problems.

    This is integral to computational thinking and is how computer programmers think when coding. Yes, the coding mindset is a way of thinking, but it does not directly relate to computer science. Instead, it follows the skills and mentality that coders and programmers use in their work. Following this mindset can help learners to become more resilient and savvy when faced with challenges in their learning or daily lives.

    Four benefits of the coding mindset

    There are several benefits to developing this mindset:

    1. Gain creativity skills

    One significant benefit of this way of thinking is that students learn that not everything they try will work out just as they expect. In fact, it’s normal to fail several times when trying to solve problems.

    In working to find new strategies to work through challenges, students are also developing their creativity skills.

    Creativity was once synonymous with art, such as drawing or painting. However, this now means coming up with new ideas and is a skill that is particularly sought after by employers.

    2. Learn how to cope in difficult times

    We live in a world where we experience constant change – and we need to be able to find ways of managing. A coding mindset teaches learners how to build resilience.

    By openly communicating with others, evaluating ideas and discussing a range of options, students will be able to work through uncertainties and confront challenges.

    Not only will this help students when coming up against stumbling blocks in their learning, but it will also benefit their day-to-day lives.

    3. Create risk takers

    We can all recognize that learning English isn’t easy and that students are bound to make mistakes.

    However, a coding mindset encourages students to take risks when approaching difficulties. It also helps language learners spot their mistakes and experiment with different options to find solutions.

    Ultimately, learners become more willing to take risks which they need to do to reach a higher level of proficiency.

    4. Develop the ability to overcome obstacles

    When approaching a task with a coding mindset, students will learn how to focus on the important information. They will filter out any irrelevant details and find ways around barriers.

    For example, if learners have to write a text about their last holiday in class, they could hit a wall if they don’t know how to use the third conditional to explain something. Rather than giving up, students with a coding mindset would use the grammar they do know to complete the task. For instance, they can continue with the past simple or past continuous, explaining their story in a different way.

    This encourages learners to focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses to overcome obstacles and keep going.

    Practical activities for use in the classroom

    There are several activities that teachers can use in the classroom to develop the coding mindset for their students. These include:

    Recognizing patterns

    If you teach in a classroom with a whiteboard, you can draw a series of colored circles on the board. The colors should follow a pattern that students must work out in small groups and then continue on the board.

    This simple exercise can be adapted for all levels and ages. You may even want to use flashcards with vocabulary, letters or number combinations.

    Giving instructions

    A great way to develop troubleshooting and problem-solving skills is by asking students to direct one another across the classroom. Put the learners into pairs and ask one of them to give directions and the other to follow.

    They can practice imperatives and language for directions, while they break down problems into smaller, more manageable parts.

    Treasure hunts

    Creating treasure hunts works particularly well with young learners. If you have access to an outside space, you can hide classroom objects or flashcards around the space and give students clues as to where to find them.

    You can also do this around the classroom or school if you cannot access the outdoors. This will help them to think systematically and follow instructions.

    Pixilation of pictures

    If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, another way to develop problem-solving skills is by selecting some pictures from the internet and blurring them with a pixilation tool.

    Choose vocabulary you’ve been working on in class, so students are already familiar with the topic. Show the pictures on the whiteboard and ask students to work in groups to guess what the pictures are.