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"Pearson English Connect (PEC) adds value to our business because our students are happy and make progress. They love the fact that they can take digital notes in PEC, get instant scores for their activities and have the option of saving their work. They are enjoying using PEC so much that our students voted to continue using PEC online during the class – they will bring their computers if they go back to the classroom.”
Guadalupe Salazar, Pedagogical Manager, Academia Education

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  • A young person in front of a laptop with headphones

    Tips for effective online classroom management

    By Pearson Languages

    Online language learning and teaching brings with it a lot of things to think about. The following tips are designed to help you plan your primary-level online classes effectively and manage students in a digital environment.

    1. Keep energy levels high

    The school environment is an active and incredibly social space. It’s hard to replicate this online, potentially leading to boredom and frustration among your students. For this reason, you should take regular 'movement breaks' during the day to energize them. You can do the following quick sequence sitting or standing:

    • Stretch your arms above your head and reach for the sky. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Drop your left arm to your side and bend to your left while stretching your right arm over your head. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back to an upright position and stretch both arms above your head. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Drop your right arm to your side and bend to your right while stretching your left arm over your head. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back to an upright position and stretch both arms above your head. 
    • Count to ten. 
    • Lean forward until your fingertips touch the floor (only go as far as is comfortable for your body), then cross your arms and release your head so it hangs gently between your legs. 
    • Count to fifteen. 
    • Come back upright, shake your arms and legs, and get back to work!

    This excellent energy booster allows your students to revise parts of the body, commands and even make the link with other subjects.

    2. Encourage casual socialisation

    Small talk and gossip are fundamental parts of the regular school day. It’s essential to give students a few minutes to chat freely. It will help them feel relaxed and make your classes more comfortable.

    Let your students do this in whatever language they want and don’t get involved, just like at school. Alternatively, ask someone to share a YouTube video, song, Instagram, or TikTok post in a digital show and tell.

    3. Encourage the use of functional language

    After students have been chatting freely in their own language, take the opportunity to bring in functional language depending on the subject they were talking about in English. This will help get them ready for the lesson. Here are some ways to do this:

    • Singing - Play a song and get them to sing along. 
    • Role-play - When students talk about food, you could role-play in a restaurant or talk about likes and dislikes. 
    • Guessing games - Students must read the animals' descriptions and guess what they are. You can make up your own descriptions.

    4. Consider task and student density

    To optimize learning time, consider dividing your class into smaller groups and teaching each one individually for part of the timetabled class time. You may find that you get more done in 15 minutes with eight students than you would be able to get done in 60 minutes with 32 students.

    At the same time, you will be able to focus more easily on individual needs (you’ll be able to see all their video thumbnails on the same preview page). If it is not acceptable in your school to do this, divide the class so you’re not trying to teach everyone the same thing simultaneously.

    Having the whole class do a reading or writing activity is a lost opportunity to use this quiet time to give more focused support to smaller groups of learners, so think about setting a reading task for half the class, while you supervise a speaking activity with the other half, and then swap them over.

    Alternatively, set a writing activity for 1/3 of the students, a reading for 1/3 and a speaking activity for the remaining 1/3, and rotate the groups during the class.

    5. Manage your expectations

    Don’t expect to get the same amount of work done in an online class as in the classroom. Once you have waited for everyone to connect, get them to turn on their cameras, etc., you have less time to teach than you would usually have. Add this to the fact that it’s much more complex and time-consuming to give focused support to individual learners in a way that doesn’t interrupt everyone else.

    So, don’t plan the same task density in online classes as you would for face-to-face teaching. Explore flipping some of your activities, so your students arrive better prepared to get to work.

    It’s also much harder to engage students, measure their engagement and verify that they are staying on task online than in the physical classroom. In an online class, measuring engagement and reading reactions is harder. Always clearly explain the objectives and why you have decided on them. Regularly check to see if everyone understands and is able to work productively.

    When you’re all online, you can’t use visual clues to quickly judge whether anyone is having difficulties, like you can in the classroom. Ask direct questions to specific students rather than asking if everyone understands, or is OK. During and at the end of class, check and reinforce the achieved objectives.

  • A smiling little girl on a laptop with headphones on

    Tips for setting up an optimized online classroom

    By Pearson Languages

    Technology and the learning space

    How a physical classroom is organized, decorated and laid out impacts how your students feel, interact and learn. It’s just as important to think about how your virtual teaching space functions and what it looks like, as it will greatly affect your students’ learning experience.

    Classrooms are usually full of posters, examples of students’ work and other decorations. Just because you’re teaching online doesn’t mean your environment needs to look dull.

    Take some time to think about your virtual teaching space. Picture it in your head. What’s behind you? What’s on either side? Is there an echo? Is it light or dark? How far away are you from the camera?

    Online classroom setup dos and don’ts

    While teaching online isn’t always that different from teaching face-to-face, there are quite a few things you might not have considered before. Here are some of my top dos and don’ts to help:

    Lighting

    • Don’t sit in front of a window or other source of light; otherwise, your face will be in shadow and hard to see. If you have no option, close the curtains and use an artificial light source to illuminate your face.
    • Do reflect lighting off a wall or ceiling, so it hits your face indirectly. This creates a much more pleasing image. If possible, sit in front of any windows or to the side of them so that the light hits your face directly or from the side. If the room is naturally dark, reflect a couple of lamps off the wall in front of you or the ceiling.

    Audio

    • Do invest in a set of headphones with an inline microphone. Even cheap ones will make you easier to understand, and reduce environmental noise interference (traffic, your neighbor’s stereo, etc.).
    • Don’t teach in an empty classroom (if you can avoid it). They are a terrible place to teach online classes from because they suffer from echo, environmental noise, lighting and bandwidth problems.
    • If your teaching space has an echo, try placing pillows or cushions on either side of your screen. They help absorb echoes and make it easier for your students to hear you.

    Video

    • Sit far enough away from the camera so your students can see most of your upper body and arms. If you use a laptop, raise it up on an old shoebox or a couple of books, so that the camera isn’t pointing up your nose!
    • Do invest in the fastest internet connection you can afford (school administrators may want to consider offering subsidies so teachers can upgrade their connection speed). It is vital that you have enough internet bandwidth to stream good-quality audio and video and share materials with your students. Learn how to use your mobile phone data plan to create a wifi hotspot for your computer as a backup.

    Using technology with your students

    Here are some ways to get the most out of technology, build your student’s digital literacy skills and increase motivation:

    Space

    Students should connect from a private space where they are not interrupted by siblings, pets, housekeepers, or parents. The space should be well-lit and have a good Wi-Fi signal.

    Communication

    Just like you, they should use earphones with an inline microphone. Their webcams should be on, not just so you can see them, but so they can see each other. Encourage learners to have fun and personalize their space by changing their backgrounds or using filters.

    Distractions

    Parents and caregivers should be aware of the negative effect of noise and distractions on their children’s learning. It’s important that where possible, they avoid having business meetings in the same room their children are learning in. They should also ask other people in the house to respect the children’s right to enjoy a quiet, private, productive learning environment.

    Resources

    If you and your students are online using some form of computer, tablet, or mobile device to connect to class, make sure to use the resources available to you. Reinforce how to correctly use spell check when writing a document; for example, have your students use their cameras to take photos of their work to share or even their favorite toys.

    Flexibility

    Instead of trying (and often failing!) to get all your students to speak during the class, have them make videos or audio recordings for homework that they send to you or each other for feedback. Alternatively, experiment with breakout rooms, if using a platform that allows this.

    Preparation

    If you want to show a YouTube video during class, send the link to your students to watch for homework before class, or have them watch it during class on their own devices.

    Besides saving your internet bandwidth, they may even be inspired to click on one of the other recommended (usually related) videos alongside the one you want them to watch. It’ll be on their recently watched list if they want to go back and watch it again.

    Collaboration

    If you set group work that involves writing a text or designing a presentation, ask your students to collaborate with a shared Google Doc. You’ll be able to see what they’re doing in real-time and give them feedback. It works like you are walking around the classroom and looking over their shoulders.

    Feedback

    Explore the focused feedback tools your web conferencing platform offers, such as breakout rooms or an individual chat. But also, don’t forget to share relevant information and learning with the whole class. This helps them all benefit from your expertise, just like if they listen to you answering a classmate’s question in the classroom.

    If your students are at home, they can access materials and props they would never have at school. Think about how you could incorporate this into your teaching.

    Materials

    Finally, ensure that the materials you use are suitable for online learning. If you use a book, it should have a fully digital option and a platform available to your students with practice activities, videos, and audio recordings. You should avoid using static pages in favor of dynamic activities, or online documents that allow real-time collaboration.

    Involving parents and caregivers in your online teaching environment

    Create an online learning document for parents explaining how they can create a positive and productive learning environment for their children. Some families may experience significant difficulties and may be unable to implement everything. But it’s still important to explain to them how to optimize the experience if they can.
     

  • a woman stood in front of a noteboard, gesturing to it. The noteboard has different papers and graphs stuck to it.

    The importance of teachers professional development

    By Pearson Languages

    There’s the saying, “There are two types of teachers with 20 years of teaching experience: the first are those with 20 years of experience and the second are those with one year’s experience repeated 20 times.”

    Some believe most teachers want to be the first kind of teacher – constantly evolving throughout their careers – rather than repeating the same classes. Additionally, taking professional development courses can help us reach these new heights.

    Doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals regularly have to seek training opportunities. This enables them to keep up to date with the latest technologies, innovations and changes in the wider world. It could be argued that teachers are no different.

    Benefits of professional development training

    There are several benefits to continued professional training for teachers. For instance, there’s always something new to learn as developments are happening regularly in the world of ELT. Whether it’s innovations in ed-tech, new research into how we learn languages or a new pedagogy, certain courses can help bring you up to speed with these!

    Undertaking further training will help you to deepen your knowledge and widen your expertise. So rather than simply repeating the same method of teaching a grammar point over again, you’ll learn new approaches. In turn, you’ll be better equipped to find the tools that work to help your students reach their learning goals.

    Another great thing about professional development is that it can lead to career progression and promotion. There are a number of courses that you can take to develop not only skills for teaching, but other roles in the ELT industry.
    For example, you can train to become a director of studies, specialize in business or academic English, or enter ELT publishing or management. There are many options to explore through further education!

    New trends in English language teaching

    To be the best teachers we can be, it's important to be aware of new trends in the field of ELT. Some of the latest ones include:

    Hybrid learning

    Gaining popularity in recent years, hybrid learning is an approach to teaching. Specifically, it involves some students attending class in person, while others join the class virtually from home. This means that teachers must be prepared to simultaneously teach both students in person and online.

    Flipped classroom

    A flipped classroom means students are introduced to content at home. Often teachers introduce this via videos and then practice working through the new knowledge in class. This is the opposite of the more traditional method where they are given new content at school, and complete assignments independently at home.

    Bite-sized learning

    One method of teaching that has become more common is bite-sized learning. For example, breaking down information into smaller chunks instead of having learners listen to long, uninterrupted sessions, and this helps students absorb information and keeps them engaged.

    If you’re not already familiar with these, there are lots of professional development courses that teach you how to use them in your classroom.

    Formal qualifications in ELT

    So what courses can you take? Here are some of the most common courses you can take for English language teaching.

    • CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Cambridge’s Level 5 CELTA qualification is an internationally recognized ELT course. While this certificate focuses on teaching adults, language academies accept it for both adults and young learners.
    • Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Like the CELTA, the Trinity CertTESOL Level 5 course is designed for people with little or no English teaching experience.
    • Trinity CertPT (Certificate for Practising Teachers) - Trinity’s Level 6 CertPT is designed for teachers who have already been teaching for a minimum of six months. It aims to support teachers' further development and help them improve their teaching practice.
    • DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Cambridge’s DELTA provides professional development for teachers with at least one year’s experience. This level 7 qualification is also designed for those who want to progress into more senior roles such as head of English and teacher training.
    • Trinity DipTESOL (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - Trinity’s DipTESOL is designed for teachers who have reached a stage in their career where they’d like to progress to a more senior level. Like the DELTA, it’s an internationally respected level 7 qualification for experienced TEFL teachers.
    • Master’s degree - Master’s studies in English Language Teaching, TESOL, or applied linguistics, are great options to reach a more senior level in your career. Most people take them to become a director of studies or reach a management position.
    • Specialized courses - If there’s an area of teaching that you’d like to specialize in, plenty of short courses cover a range of topics. These include teaching online, teaching with technology, teaching business English and teaching very young children. Check out LinkedIn Learning, Coursera or Udemy to see what they offer.

    If you’re unable to take a formal course, sharing ideas with colleagues is a great way to create professional development opportunities. You could exchange lesson plans and ask for feedback or input. There are plenty of podcasts, webinars and social media groups for teachers where you can find great tips and ideas from fellow teachers worldwide.

    Whichever route you decide, remember that learning is a lifelong journey – not only for your students but for yourself too! There are always new things to discover that will help you develop as a teacher.

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* Global online survey on Learner's Voice among just over 2,000 respondents including teachers and learners of English, decision makers in educational institutions and companies, Jan-Mar 2022.