Filter by tag

  • An overhead shot of a three children with notepads, tablets and phones on the table being handled by them
    • Language teaching

    How to encourage your teenage students to become independent learners

    By Pearson Languages

    Learning is a lifelong activity regardless of age, position, or ambition. Many teachers embody this philosophy themselves – and would like nothing more than for their teenage students to develop strategies to become independent learners.

    But teachers often feel frustrated when their students rely on them too much or show a lack of motivation and focus in the classroom.

    Let’s look at how to start a project that holds your students’ attention. We’ll also go into how you can help your students practice and develop a range of English language skills at the same time.

    The benefits of starting a project that interests your students

    Group projects are motivating because they give students a common objective to work towards. The need to work as part of a team teaches teens collaboration skills, such as accountability. When learners decide on roles within their groups it soon becomes apparent just how important it is for them to be responsible and do their part.

    Project work also often encourages students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones as they try and test new skills. This is often true when learners are required to present on a topic or learn how to do something practical (like using PowerPoint or Google Slides for presentation design).
    In addition, projects can test a variety of English language and 21st century skills such as:

    • critical thinking skills (for planning and development of ideas)
    • topic/subject-specific vocabulary
    • reading and listening comprehension (for researching)
    • speaking skills (for group work)
    • creative skills (for project development and production)
    • presenting skills (for the final delivery of the project)

    Furthermore, when projects take place over several classes, students often eventually get into a routine and seek less direction from the teacher. They know what needs to be done and get on with it in their groups. Of course, you will still need to monitor and offer guidance throughout the project.

    The key elements of an independent learning project

    Find a meaningful subject matter

    First, you’ll need to start with a topic that engages your students. To discover this, put students in groups (online in breakout rooms or in the classroom) and have them work together and mind map some local, national or global problems they would like to solve. For example:

    • The local theater has closed down and they want to set up a new drama club.
    • There is a lot of pollution in the capital city and they want to help reduce it.
    • The rainforest is being deforested and they want to create awareness.

    After they have a good-sized list, instruct each group to pick something they would like to learn more about. Alternatively, if your students are unlikely to find interesting problems to solve themselves, provide them with several short-level-appropriate reading materials about topics you think will catch their attention. That way they can learn about local or international issues and choose a project focus.

    Balancing guidance and instruction

    A vital goal of this project-based approach is to encourage students to be independent. That does not mean they should have no boundaries or objectives, however.

    You’ll need to set deadlines, tell them what you expect of them, and explain how they should present their projects at the end. And depending on their levels, your students will also need a certain amount of scaffolding. You can do this using a set of questions. For example:

    1. What is the main problem you want to solve?
    2. Who does it affect?
    3. Why is it important to change?
    4. What steps could you take to solve the issue?
    5. Who could help you do this?
    6. How could we do this as a group?
    7. How can we present the issue to make people care about it?

    These questions can form the basis of the project, which can last from one to several weeks, depending on their age, level and time restraints. Adapt the questions to suit your students and the specific needs of their projects.

    Facilitating teamwork

    Encourage students to work together to plan, research and present their ideas. Set days or classes by which certain project elements must be completed. This helps ensure that the students make progress and encourages them to ask you questions if they are stuck.

    Decide whether you want to give set times during your classes to work on the project, or whether you want to dedicate entire classes to their work. Also, think about how much work should be completed in your student's own time. Their workload, level of English, and access to technology will all impact your decision.

    For example:

    • Class one: Define the problem you want to solve. Consider what you need to find out, decide on individual roles and develop an action plan. Show the teacher your progress.
    • Class two: Research your project questions and share what you find with the group. Is there anything else you need to know? Show the teacher your progress.
    • Class three: Come up with a presentation outline and begin to work on it.
    • Homework: Each work on your individual presentation section.
    • Class four: Show the teacher your progress. Practice your presentations.
    • Class five: Practice and then deliver your presentations.

    You may wish to allow students the freedom to choose how they would like to present it. Give instructions on how long you expect the presentation to be. If working remotely, collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Padlet and Trello are excellent for facilitating teamwork.

    Here are some ways you might ask them to present:

    • a poster and presentation
    • an online presentation (e.g. using PowerPoint)
    • a website (on paper or online)
    • a video presentation
    • a theatrical production
    • a podcast episode.

    Keep in mind that the objective is to help them research, present and deliver a project in English. Check in regularly on progress and provide feedback and help whenever needed.

    While it’s important to monitor and guide them with the English language as they work, it’s also crucial to let students make decisions for themselves.

  • A group of young people sat at a table drinking and eating
    • Linguistics and culture

    How the English language has changed over the decades

    By Pearson Languages

    All languages change over time, and there can be many different reasons for this. The English language is no different – but why has it changed over the decades?

    Some of the main influences on the evolution of languages include:

    • the movement of people across countries and continents, for example, migration and, in previous centuries, colonization. For example, English speakers today would probably be comfortable using the Spanish word 'loco' to describe someone who is 'crazy'.
    • speakers of one language coming into contact with those who speak a different one. No two individuals speak identically: people from different geographical places clearly speak differently and even within the same community there are variations according to a speaker’s age, gender, ethnicity and social and educational background. For example, the word 'courting' has become 'dating'.
    • new vocabulary required for inventions such as transport, domestic appliances and industrial equipment, or for sporting, entertainment, cultural and leisure reasons. For example, the original late 19th century term 'wireless' has become today’s 'radio'.

    Due to these influences, a language always embraces new words, expressions and pronunciations as people come across new words and phrases in their day-to-day lives and integrate them into their own speech.

    What changes has the English language seen?

    As the English language has changed, it’s been easy to pick out words that pass into common usage. Here at Pearson English, we have explored some of these recent changes to the English language. The rise in popularity of internet slang has seen phrases such as 'LOL' (Laugh Out Loud), 'FOMO' (Fear Of Missing Out) and 'fam' (an abbreviated form of family) become firmly embedded in the English language over the past ten years.

    Every decade sees new slang terms like these appearing in the English language. And while some words or abbreviations do come from internet or text conversations, others may appear as entirely new words, a new meaning for an existing word, or a word that becomes more generalized than its former meaning, brought about by any one of the reasons above. Decades ago, 'blimey' was a new expression of surprise, but more recently 'woah' is the word in everyday usage.

    Sentence structure is of course, another change to the English language. Decades ago, it would have been normal to ask 'Have you a moment?' Now, you might say 'D’you have a sec?' Similarly, 'How do you do?' has become 'How’s it going?' Not only have the sentences been abbreviated, but new words have been introduced to everyday questions.

    Connected to this is the replacement of certain words with other, more modern versions. It’s pretty noticeable that words like 'shall' and 'ought' are on the way out, but 'will', 'should' and 'can' are doing just fine.

    Other changes can be more subtle. Many verbs can take a compliment with another verb in either the '-ing' form or the 'to' form, for example, 'they liked painting/to paint', 'we tried leaving/to leave', or 'he didn’t bother calling/to call'. Both of these constructions are still used and have been for a long time, but there has been a steady shift over time from the 'to' to the '-ing' compliment.

    What do the changes mean?

    There are many other changes to the English language – what have you noticed? Have these changes affected your teaching or learning methods? 

    Most contemporary linguistic commentators accept that change in language, like change in society, is inevitable. Some think that is regrettable, but others recognize it as a reinvigoration of a language, bringing alternatives that allow subtle differences of expression.

    Linguist, writer and lecturer David Crystal considers whether 'text speak' is undermining the English language. His response to the naysayers who claim it is damaging the English language is to point out that abbreviations have been around for a long time. While some, such as the ones we discussed above, are new, others, such as the use of 'u' for 'you' and the number 8 as a syllable in 'later', have been around for a century or more. Further to this, research shows that there is a correlation between the ability to use abbreviations and the ability to spell. After all, in order to abbreviate, you have to know which letters to abbreviate.

    As with everything, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, as the needs of English language users continue to change, so will the language.

    Fancy learning more about English? Check out our post 'How do English phrases travel across countries?'.

  • a pair of hands typing at a laptop
    • English language testing
    • Technology and the future

    Explaining computerized English testing in plain English

    By Pearson Languages

    Research has shown that automated scoring can give more reliable and objective results than human examiners when evaluating a person’s mastery of English. This is because an automated scoring system is impartial, unlike humans, who can be influenced by irrelevant factors such as a test taker’s appearance or body language. Additionally, automated scoring treats regional accents equally, unlike human examiners who may favor accents they are more familiar with. Automated scoring also allows individual features of a spoken or written test question response to be analyzed independent of one another, so that a weakness in one area of language does not affect the scoring of other areas.

    PTE Academic was created in response to the demand for a more accurate, objective, secure and relevant test of English. Our automated scoring system is a central feature of the test, and vital to ensuring the delivery of accurate, objective and relevant results – no matter who the test-taker is or where the test is taken.

    Development and validation of the scoring system to ensure accuracy

    PTE Academic’s automated scoring system was developed after extensive research and field testing. A prototype test was developed and administered to a sample of more than 10,000 test takers from 158 different countries, speaking 126 different native languages. This data was collected and used to train the automated scoring engines for both the written and spoken PTE Academic items.

    To do this, multiple trained human markers assess each answer. Those results are used as the training material for machine learning algorithms, similar to those used by systems like Google Search or Apple’s Siri. The model makes initial guesses as to the scores each response should get, then consults the actual scores to see well how it did, adjusts itself in a few directions, then goes through the training set over and over again, adjusting and improving until it arrives at a maximally correct solution – a solution that ideally gets very close to predicting the set of human ratings.

    Once trained up and performing at a high level, this model is used as a marking algorithm, able to score new responses just like human markers would. Correlations between scores given by this system and trained human markers are quite high. The standard error of measurement between Pearson’s system and a human rater is less than that between one human rater and another – in other words, the machine scores are more accurate than those given by a pair of human raters, because much of the bias and unreliability has been squeezed out of them. In general, you can think of a machine scoring system as one that takes the best stuff out of human ratings, then acts like an idealized human marker.

    Pearson conducts scoring validation studies to ensure that the machine scores are consistently comparable to ratings given by skilled human raters. Here, a new set of test-taker responses (never seen by the machine) are scored by both human raters and by the automated scoring system. Research has demonstrated that the automated scoring technology underlying PTE Academic produces scores comparable to those obtained from careful human experts. This means that the automated system “acts” like a human rater when assessing test takers’ language skills, but does so with a machine's precision, consistency and objectivity.

    Scoring speaking responses with Pearson’s Ordinate technology

    The spoken portion of PTE Academic is automatically scored using Pearson’s Ordinate technology. Ordinate technology results from years of research in speech recognition, statistical modeling, linguistics and testing theory. The technology uses a proprietary speech processing system that is specifically designed to analyze and automatically score speech from fluent and second-language English speakers. The Ordinate scoring system collects hundreds of pieces of information from the test takers’ spoken responses in addition to just the words, such as pace, timing and rhythm, as well as the power of their voice, emphasis, intonation and accuracy of pronunciation. It is trained to recognize even somewhat mispronounced words, and quickly evaluates the content, relevance and coherence of the response. In particular, the meaning of the spoken response is evaluated, making it possible for these models to assess whether or not what was said deserves a high score.

    Scoring writing responses with Intelligent Essay Assessor™ (IEA)

    The written portion of PTE Academic is scored using the Intelligent Essay Assessor™ (IEA), an automated scoring tool powered by Pearson’s state-of-the-art Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine. Based on more than 20 years of research and development, the KAT engine automatically evaluates the meaning of text, such as an essay written by a student in response to a particular prompt. The KAT engine evaluates writing as accurately as skilled human raters using a proprietary application of the mathematical approach known as Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA). LSA evaluates the meaning of language by analyzing large bodies of relevant text and their meanings. Therefore, using LSA, the KAT engine can understand the meaning of text much like a human.

    What aspects of English does PTE Academic assess?

  • A Parent reading to his two children from a book with all three of them laying on the floor
    • Young learners
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    How can teachers encourage parents to get kids reading at home?

    By Donatella Fitzgerald

    “Sharing a story with your child is one of the most incredible things you can do for them.” The Book Trust.

    Research shows that getting kids reading at home can increase their reading ability at school – and improve their overall well-being. Parents and guardians can make a big difference. But how can teachers encourage parents to get their children to read more at home? We explore some strategies you can use.

    Tell parents about the benefits

    Reading can give children a break from technology-centered activities. It can help them to relax and unwind; reading a book can make children laugh and feel happier! Through hearing stories, children are also exposed to a rich and broad vocabulary.

    “It is important for teachers to establish contact with parents as much as possible and give very clear guidelines on the benefits of reading, and how they can create a reading routine and help their children read at home,” says Kasia Janitz-De La Rue, Product Development Director at Pearson.

    So, encourage parents to find time for a reading routine. Just before bedtime is a great time, as a nightly reading routine is associated with improved sleep in children.

    Give parents practical ideas for reading strategies

    Encourage parents to read with and not to their child. It doesn’t matter how long they set aside to read – just 10 minutes of quality reading time can make a big difference.

    Here are a few tips concrete reading tips for teachers to share with parents:

    • Ask children lots of questions while reading.
    • Use encouragement and praise to keep children engaged. Saying things like “what fantastic ideas” or “you thought so carefully about that, what might happen now?" will keep their minds working.
    • Use their past experiences to talk about what’s being read. Things like “have you learnt about…at school?” or “do you remember when we watched…and found out about…?” are good conversation starters.
    • Tune in and listen to children, and be curious about their interests. “I didn’t know you knew so much about…” or “I love reading stories about…with you,” are good phrases to keep in mind.

    It’s also a great idea to share online resources with parents. You can also suggest that parents look up read-aloud YouTube videos featuring authors, teachers or librarians reading their favorite stories. This way, children can watch and listen as often as they like.

    Recommend graded readers

    Graded readers are books that use language in line with a child‘s learning level. They can help children build confidence, and help slowly expose them to authentic reading levels.

    Encourage parents to identify what genre their child is interested in and show them the readers available. Each time parents see their children move up a level, they’re sure to see their children’s love for reading grow.

    Suggest before, during, and after reading activities

    Before reading

    Parents can take turns with their children to predict what the story is about – or what will happen next. Here is an activity teachers may suggest they try:

    “Start with the cover of the book and the blurb on the back cover. Reveal the cover slowly to ask the child what they can see. Ask them to guess what is on the cover. Once they have seen the cover, ask them questions about the images on the cover – who, what, why, where and how?”

    While reading

    Remind parents to focus on their children’s reading comprehension by using strategies like prediction, questioning, clarifying, and summarising. Teachers can ask parents to:

    • check ideas and understanding as the child reads: ‘So, you think that….’ ‘Did you expect…to happen?’ ‘Why do you think that happened?’
    • use the pictures in the book to help with comprehension
    • describe what is happening and talk about the characters.

    After reading

    Don’t forget: parents can continue to explore the book’s topic once reading time is done! A few ideas to share with parents include:

    • organising a puppet show for family members and siblings after making puppets of the characters in the book
    • having children draw a picture of their favorite character or their favorite page in the story
    • encouraging children to express their opinion on the book.
  • A child and parent laying on a carpet staring at eachother and smiling
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Mindfulness activities for kids to reduce stress

    By Pearson Languages

    How can we help children (and ourselves) deal with turbulent situations?

    As humans, we are programmed to position ourselves according to the constants around us: people, structures and boundaries. When those constants shift, it can be unsettling for adults and children.

    Sometimes we find ourselves in unprecedented situations, and we each have our own approach to managing things. If you feel confused and without direction because of a turbulent situation, please know that that is okay.

    We’ll look today at why that is, to help us understand ourselves a little more and why these simple mindfulness activities can help us navigate it.

    What causes social stress?

    There may be many reasons for feeling stressed in life, but during turbulent times in society, it is often due to not feeling safe.

    Something in our environment is alerting our survival instinct. This makes our brains produce stress hormones, which get us ready to fight the threat, run from it, or freeze until it’s gone away.

    The threat might be to our physical or even social survival – and the two are linked. Things can feel even scarier when we also feel isolated from our social group, which keeps us protected from that threat.

    Human beings are social by nature. We live and work in communities, we connect through love and empathy and we protect each other. There’s truth to the saying “there’s safety in numbers”.

    But it’s not just about safety. We also define ourselves by comparing ourselves to others and working out what we are not.

    Research has found that we identify deeply with our role in society and the ‘pack’ to which we belong. This holds deep ties with our sense of safety, contentment and self-esteem. If the boundaries by which we define and position ourselves have shifted or continue to shift, we will feel unsafe, threatened and therefore stressed.

    Are children affected by social stress in the same way?

    If we then apply this to children, the constants to whom they look for security are the adults in their life. If the adults are behaving differently, the children will feel a shift and feel unsafe and stressed too. If they don’t have their friends alongside them for social positioning, this too can lead to them feeling confused and uncertain.

    Here are some key ways we can help:

    Communicating and listening

    Children may often lack the language to express what they are feeling, or even to recognize it themselves. Therefore, we must offer ways to help them make sense of the world around them, to help them feel safe and to help express their concerns.

    Communication provides the necessary social interaction and models for them on how to handle the new situation. It firms up their boundaries, and provides a safe space where they feel listened to and acknowledged and this, in turn, helps diffuse their stress.

    The activity below is a lovely way to invite children to express any worry they might be feeling, mindfully and with support – and give them something to do with their feelings. It also has the benefit of helping them breathe fully and slowly, which will calm down their nervous system.

    Breath activity: Worry bubbles

    1. Sit together and invite your child to put their palms together.
    2. Invite them to take a big breath in. As they breathe in, they can draw their palms further and further apart, spreading their fingers as they imagine blowing up a big bubble between their hands.
    3. Invite them to whisper a worry into the bubble.
    4. Invite them to blow the breath out nice and slowly. As they breathe out, they can imagine blowing the bubble (and the worry) away with a big sigh.
    5. Twinkle the fingers back down to the lap, and start again, either with the same worry or a new one

    Helping them find a safety anchor inside themselves

    By helping children focus on breathing, we can teach them that even if things feel wobbly around them, their breath is always there. The act of focusing on the breath also helps settle the fight or flight branch of their nervous system into a calmer, more balanced state.

    Breath Activity: Counting breaths

    1. Invite your child to sit with you.
    2. Invite them to place their hands on their tummy and breathe in slowly so they push into their hands, counting slowly up to four.
    3. As they breathe out, invite them to count up to six, as they slowly empty the belly and their hands lower back down.
    4. Continue until they feel calmer. You can do this every morning or evening to help sustain balance. With younger children, they might like a teddy on their tummy to push up and down!

    These two activities can be lovely daily practices to try and provide some safety and structure to your child or students’ mental health right now. They are also enjoyable activities to try for yourself – you may like to increase the in and out count of the breath a little bit for an adult breath.

  • A young man sat in a library, he has a pen in hand and is looking at the camera; a stack of books are next to him
    • Linguistics and culture

    What does it mean to be fluent in English?

    By Mike Mayor

    What do we mean by English fluency, and how can understanding competencies across the four skills provide a more realistic picture of communicative English ability?

    What is fluency?

    As someone who worked in dictionaries, the meaning of words has always interested me – and fluency is a particular case in point. Language learners often set themselves the goal of becoming fluent in a language. Job adverts often specify “fluent in English or Spanish” as a requirement. But what does being 'fluent' in a language actually mean? If we look in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, we see that fluent means “able to speak a language very well”. Fluent speech or writing is described as “smooth and confident, with no mistakes”. In general, fluency is most often associated with spoken language – but is that the goal of all language learners? And what does being able to speak fluently show about the other language skills?

    Describing English proficiency

    Before entering the world of dictionaries, I taught English as a foreign language in France. At that time, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) had not yet been published and learners were described in very general terms – beginner, intermediate, advanced – with no agreed standards on what learners at each level were expected to know. As well as establishing standards, the CEFR also shifted the focus of language assessment from knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to functional competence, i.e. what can a student actually do with the language they’re learning across the four skills:

    • listening
    • reading 
    • speaking
    • writing

    Interestingly, while calling out specific objectives for each skill, almost two-thirds of the information in the CEFR describes spoken language. This seems to imply that spoken fluency is indeed the most important goal for all language learners.

    Mapping out a personalized path to proficiency

    As a global publisher, Pearson English recognizes that all learners are different – in their backgrounds, learning environments and learning goals. This is why we have undertaken new research to extend the set of learning objectives contained in the CEFR to account for learners who need detailed information about their level in all four skills, not just in one (typically, that of speaking).

    No learner will be equally proficient in all four language skills – in the same way that no native speaker is equally proficient in all skills in their first language. Some of us are better at writing than speaking, and many are illiterate in their first language. A true measure of language proficiency needs to take into account all of the skills. Equally, not every learner of English will need to be 'fluent' in spoken communication.

    Many researchers need to read papers in English and attend conferences in English – but will only ever present and write in their first language. Is 'fluency' a good way to describe their goal? And if it isn’t, does that somehow diminish their language achievements? By acknowledging proficiency in individual skills – rather than catch-all terms such as 'fluent' – we gain a clearer understanding of goals and outcomes, and with this knowledge, we are in a better position to tailor learning to the individual.

    Interested in learning more about the English language? Check out our post How using jargon, idioms and colloquialism confuses English learners and our post on strange English phrases.

    If you're looking to improve your own fluency (in any language) make sure to check out our language learning app Mondy. 

  • A hand writing on paper on a desk
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    7 tips for teaching English to beginners

    By Pearson Languages

    Teaching beginners can be daunting, especially when it’s a monolingual group and you know nothing of their language, or it’s a multilingual group and the only common language is the English you’ve been tasked with teaching them. Nevertheless, not only is it possible to teach beginners only through English, but it can also be one of the most rewarding levels to teach. To help you succeed in setting your learners firmly on the path to increasing proficiency, here are seven tips for teaching English to beginners.

    1. Keep instructions clear and simple

    When addressing a class of students, especially ones you’ve just met, it can be tempting to explain activities in your politest language. After all, no one likes to be rude. However, a student who has only a few words of English, if any at all, won’t appreciate the courtesy of (or even understand), “OK, so now what I’d like you all to do, if you don’t mind, is just to stand up for a moment and come to the front of the class. Oh, and please bring your book with you. Could we all do that?”

    Instead, make instructions crystal clear by using as few words as necessary, gesturing whenever possible, and breaking down a series of instructions into smaller units. If you want to be polite, “please” and “thank you” will do. “Everybody – take your book, please. Stand up. Now, come here, please. Thank you.”

    2. Let them listen first

    Your students will likely want to start practicing speaking from the get-go. However, it takes a while for one’s ear to acclimatize to the sounds of a new language, and not everyone will be so keen; don’t pressure students into speaking before they’ve had lots of opportunity to listen to you using it (which doesn’t mean you should just be rambling on at the front of the classroom – with beginners more so than with other levels, you really have to consider what you say and grade your language accordingly).

    3. Drill, repeat, drill, repeat, drill…

    Beginners need lots of repetition and drilling, especially as they get to grips with the sounds of their new language. It might seem boring to go over the same sentences again and again, but it is necessary. When practicing a new sentence, try back-drilling, breaking the sentence down into manageable units and then building it back up, working backwards from the end to the beginning; this helps ensure that your intonation is natural and that you get elements of connected speech right. For example, break down “Would you like a cup of tea?” as follows:

    tea > cup of tea > like a > like a cup of tea > Would you > Would you like a cup of tea?

    4. Establish classroom language early on

    Classroom language – Can you speak more slowly? What do we have to do? I don’t understand. What does… mean? How do you say… in English? – is usually associated with teaching children, but it also helps with adult beginners. No matter how friendly and relaxed you make your classroom atmosphere, learning a new language can still be daunting, especially when you feel you’re not entirely following what’s going on, or that you might be called on to say something that you don’t feel ready to say. It’s much better to equip students early on with classroom language that will help them navigate the lesson smoothly.

    5. Avoid metalanguage

    There’s no point in students knowing the terms past simple, irregular verb or adverb of frequency if they can’t use the actual structures or words they refer to. Don’t tell them how to say something: show them. Give as much context as you can (visual prompts work well).

    Furthermore, make sure you check they have understood by asking questions that test their comprehension – never ask “Do you understand?” as:

    a) many people are reluctant to let on that they haven’t understood and will pretend instead that they have

    b) a student may think they have understood when in fact they haven’t.

    6. Don’t forget that your students are fluent in their own language(s)

    This may seem trivial, but it’s all too easy when listening to somebody speaking broken English to forget that behind the errors and the mispronunciation is a person with cogent thoughts, no doubt articulate in their first language, attempting to communicate their opinions or ideas.

    As teachers, we not only have to be patient and proactive listeners, alert to the reasons why specific errors are being made while filling in the gaps in less-than-perfect communication, but we also have to steer clear of adopting the 'Me-Tarzan-You-Jane' approach to teaching, degenerating the very language we are aiming to teach.

    Rather than degrading our language, we have to grade it carefully to keep it comprehensible while maintaining its naturalness, rhythm and spirit, ensuring all the while that, as far as possible, we actually converse with our students and listen to what they have to say. After all, even from the very first lessons, from the ‘A’ in the alphabet and the ‘am’ of ‘to be’, communication is the goal.

    7. Prepare well, prepare a lot, keep them talking

    Even though teaching beginners entails progressing slowly and recycling and repeating language many times, that doesn’t mean recycling the same activities, especially not during one lesson. Ensure you have a range of activities to use, and don’t go into class without having first carefully thought through how you are going to introduce a new language, how you will check that the students have understood it, how you will practice it, and how you will deal with potential misunderstandings. The possibility for confusion at this level is much greater than at higher levels, and sometimes even harder to disentangle.

    Also, remember, unlike with higher levels, you can’t rely on conversations developing simply because the students don’t yet have the linguistic resources to engage in anything other than simple exchanges (though in time, they will). This means that the onus will largely be on you to keep them talking.

    Finally, enjoy this level. Although in many ways the most challenging level to teach, it can also be one of the most satisfying. Seeing your learners go from knowing nothing to knowing a few words to knowing a few sentences and structures to being able to hold rudimentary conversations can be incredibly rewarding. If they enjoy their initial exposure to the language, and feel confident and inspired to continue, then you will have helped pave the way to their further success.

  • A girl sat at a desk in a with her head leaning on one hand smiling at the camera
    • Study prep

    Reaching exam success with happiness and wellbeing in mind

    By Pearson Languages

    Are you or your students preparing for an exam like The International Certificate (PTE General)? If so, you might find that things are more stressful than usual or that motivation is starting to lack. When preparing to take an exam, it’s easy to overlook the fact that people also need to destress and relax a little.

    Exam preparation is an important period. That’s why we’ve come up with some tips and advice that will help increase happiness and well-being. It will also help develop good study habits and ensure you or your students remain happy right up to their exams and beyond.

    1. Create a study plan

    A clear plan can help you get off to a positive start. At the same time, it will inevitably lead to more confidence and better results on the big day. Make sure to gather all the materials and equipment you will need (or provide your students with a list of what they need to gather). Once prepared, set up a comfortable workspace where you will feel happy to spend time. If you’re a teacher, you can ask your students to describe their ideal study spaces in class – this will help them visualize what they need to do at home!

    It's also helpful to create a schedule where you write down what you need to work on and when. Try to include all areas of the exam but prioritize those areas that may need more work and improvement.

    2. Take time out

    If you're starting to feel anxious or stressed as the exam day comes nearer, here are some ideas to help manage:

    Take a break

    It’s better to study for short periods rather than spending hours on end at their desk. It’s a good idea to break up study periods and take a short break at regular intervals. If possible, also go outside and get some fresh air at least once a day.

    Try mindfulness techniques

    Guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Petit BamBou can help reduce stress and prepare learners to focus better on their studies. You can also find guided meditation videos and audio tracks on Youtube or Spotify.

    Be positive

    Remember how far you’ve progressed and celebrate what you can do, and if you’re an educator encourage them to visualize themselves confidently completing the exam.

    3. Have fun!

    Although exam practice and reviewing are important parts of preparing for an exam, you can also have some fun. Play games and base activities around a variety of different media, including short videos and podcasts and other forms of entertainment.

    Make English a part of your leisure time. Watch series or films in English, listen to music or choose podcasts related to your interests. A good tip is to look for English-language alternatives to any materials or media usually consumed.

    4. Stay healthy

    The stress caused by exams can result in bad habits, and eating unhealthily – fast food, snacks and caffeine can provide a false sense of energy. However, the food we eat and drink can greatly affect our body and mind. A healthy diet can improve our mood, our memory and our levels of concentration:

    • Healthy carbs such as brown rice, pasta, whole grain bread and cereals will provide the necessary energy to allow students to keep working through the day.
    • Oily fish like salmon and sardines are great for the brain, heart and joints, as well as increasing serotonin which makes us feel good!
    • Other sources of Omega 3 such as nuts and seeds are a great substitute for vegans.
    • A variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure that students have a balanced diet that will improve memory, brainpower and mental agility.

    5. Get a good night’s sleep

    Sleep is essential for learning to take place. The time you spend asleep is just as important as the time you spend awake. You should aim to sleep for 8 hours a night. This will help your brain to recharge, allowing you to start the day with energy and focus.

    It’s especially important that you sleep well the day before the exam. This will help you relax and ensure that you are alert and ready to give your best performance.

    6. Offer incentives

    If you are studying intensively or for a long time, motivation levels may start to drop. If you’re a teacher and you see this is the case, your class will need some additional support and encouragement to help them keep going. Small rewards can help with this.

    Teacher: You can offer rewards in class by allowing students to choose an activity they enjoy, but it’s also useful for students to give themselves rewards for any goals they set and accomplish. This personalization will make the reward even more satisfying.

    Self-learner: When you get to certain checkpoints of your study make sure to reward yourself with something small that you enjoy. Small rewards include things like listening to your favorite song, eating a sweet treat or watching a funny video.

    7. Reduce the workload

    As the exam approaches, make sure to gradually slow down. Rather than trying to learn something new, spend the last few days reviewing what you’ve studied and practice English as much as you can. On the day before the exam, do something completely different, like go for a long walk or watch a good film. Just to get your mind to wind down and relax before your exam, which will likely be quite demanding on the brain.

  • A  silohuette of a side profile of a womans head inside her head space is a ocean sunset
    • Language learning

    Being bilingual can help keep your brain in good condition

    By Pearson Languages

    Learning and understanding a new language is one of the most challenging things that your brain can do. But as well as the advantage of acquiring another language, it appears that the effort of giving your brain a good workout today by being bilingual could keep it in better condition in later life.

    Research led by Dr. Daniela Perani, a professor of psychology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, found that people who speak two or more languages seem to weather the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease better compared to people who have only mastered one language. Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration that can begin in middle or old age due to generalized brain degeneration.

    The study involved 85 people with Alzheimer’s – half of whom spoke both German and Italian and half who spoke only one language. The researchers found that bilingual patients had greater connectivity in key brain areas. This was especially in the part of the brain that governs “executive control” – a set of necessary behavioral cognitive processes that include problem-solving, working memory, reasoning and attentional control. The study also noted that the bilingual Alzheimer’s patients showed less severe symptoms of the disease.

    The study concluded: “Our findings suggest that the effects of speaking two languages are more powerful than both age and education in providing a protection against cognitive decline.”

    Bilingualism and the brain

    Although Alzheimer’s disease is currently incurable, the study supports a popular theory that people who have higher levels of education function longer with little manifestation of the illness. Part of the reason why bilingual brains may be better at resisting Alzheimer’s could be due to a lifetime of switching between languages daily. 

    Learning and speaking more than one language changes how the brain carries out tasks that require focus and concentration on a certain piece of information without being distracted. It can also increase the density of white matter (connections) in the brain, meaning that there are more connections between brain parts, thus making this part of the brain more resistant to degeneration.

    This is supported by a study conducted by a team led by Professor Ana Inés Ansaldo at the University of Montreal, which suggests that bilingual people have more robust and more efficient brains compared to those who only speak one language. This is one of the reasons why a bilingual brain can be a buffer against aging and dementia.

    They recruited elderly people, half of whom spoke only one language and the other half who had learned a second language between the ages of 11 and 18. All performed equally well on a task that involved focusing on an object's color while ignoring its position, but brain scans revealed a big difference in how they processed the task.

    “While bilinguals were recruiting very specific brain areas and a small number of areas to perform the task, monolinguals were recruiting a much larger number of areas that were consuming much more resources. And the networks they were using were very, very complex,” says Professor Ansaldo. “That led us to think that the bilingual brain was more efficient in terms of the amount of resources that bilingual people require to do complex tasks as opposed to the monolingual brain.”

    The study concludes that bilingualism shapes the brain in a different way or how people approach complex tasks. It could be because bilinguals must inhibit the language they are not using to focus on the one that they are using.