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  • A teacher with children stood over a globe of the world, with children pointing to it
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Using gamification in teaching: Engage, educate and excite

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 6 minutes

    In an era where student engagement can be as challenging as the teaching itself, educators are constantly seeking innovative ways to capture attention and enhance learning. Gamification has emerged as a dynamic solution, promising to turn education into a more engaging and enjoyable experience. But what does gamification really entail, and how can it be effectively implemented in teaching? Let’s have a look:

  • Children sat outdoors reading a book together
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Why should you use storytelling to teach English?

    By Richard Cleeve
    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Stories can make us laugh, cry or tremble with fear. They can teach us valuable life lessons and transport us to other worlds. They've been around since the beginning of language itself, but can they actually help us learn a language?

    Stories are one of the most useful tools when teaching children English. Not only do they help with listening and reading skills, but they can also support speaking and writing skills by providing context, language and structure. 

    Very young learners may already be familiar with stories – they may hear them in daycare, school or at home with their parents. Therefore, incorporating these into their language classes may help them to feel more comfortable in their surroundings. And if children feel comfortable, they are more likely to be receptive to learning. 

    Storytelling usually happens as part of a group in the classroom. This means that it becomes a bonding activity for children where they can communicate and subconsciously pick up the key language. While having fun listening and interacting with the story, they soak up information without even realizing they’re learning.

    So, what storytelling activities can we use with young learners? Let’s find out. 

    Practical activities for storytelling with young learners

    Often, we think of storytelling simply as reading a book aloud to children. Yet, there are other activities you can do. These include:

    1. Choral repetition

    To get young children interacting with the story, first read out a sentence alone. Then, have the children repeat the line with you as a group. Repeat as many times as necessary, until the children feel confident with the language. 

    2. Individual repetition

    If your learners are happy to, ask them individually to repeat the sentence after you. Make sure each one has a turn and praise them for being brave and trying to use the language. 

    3. Play acting

    An activity that works well with children is to act out the story’s characters. For example, there may be animals, fairies, monsters or other exciting characters that they can each act. 

    Ask them to make the noises of the animals, the wind, or the scenery to create an atmosphere while you read. This gets them interacting with the story and the rest of the group, which will help their communication and listening comprehension skills. 

    4. Use puppets or dolls

    Young learners react particularly well to visual aids and realia. Why not use puppets or dolls to act out the characters, or even ask students to have a go with them? They will engage more with the story and the language.  

    5. Dive into the pictures

    Children’s story books are usually quite visual with illustrations and pictures. Make the most of these while telling the story. Try asking students questions about the images to get them using the vocabulary. 

    You could ask them, “what can you see?”, “what’s he wearing?” or “can you find an apple?”. This is another great way to reinforce the vocabulary they’re learning in class. 

    Use these activities individually or incorporate a mix into your lessons. Either way, storytelling will help your learners with more than just developing their English language skills. 

    Storytelling with adult language learners

    While we often think of storytelling as a pastime for children, it can also be a useful language learning activity for adults. 

    Stories are part of our daily lives, from news to social media to books and movies. Therefore, they can be extremely beneficial tools for English language learning. 

    Yet, the way we approach storytelling as a class activity for adults differs to that of young learners. While we typically read fairy tales to young children, we can bring in a much wider range of content for adults, such as:

    • News stories – There may be a current news story that learners are interested in. Ask them to bring in an article to retell in class.  
    • Traditional folk stories – Ask learners what traditional folk tales or ghost stories they were told as children growing up in their hometowns. This can be really interesting for both language and cultural awareness.  
    • Personal life stories – Our lives are a series of short stories that can make for very interesting reading. You can either ask students to share stories in class orally or have them write up a “chapter” from their lives to tell the class. It could be something funny that happened to them or an anecdote from their childhood, for example. 
    • Movie plots – Ask students what their favorite movies are and have them either tell the group the summary of the plot or write it up to share at the end of the lesson.
    • Advertisements – There are some fantastic advertisements which tell mini stories in under three minutes. Have students choose one, show it to the class and discuss it as a group. 

    Storytelling can be a wonderful language learning tool for both children and adults. If you’re looking for a new way to engage, inspire and motivate your learners, why not try it in your next class? 

  • Children stood around a whiteboard, one is writing on the whiteboard smiling
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Ink's vital role in education: How colors influence student participation

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7 minutes

    In this age where screens often dominate our field of vision, the humble ink pen might seem like a relic. Yet, intriguing research is bringing to light the unsung importance of ink in educational settings, particularly in enhancing student engagement and learning.

    Today, we look at the importance of handwriting and ink, and how it still plays a pivotal role in the cognitive development of students.

    The importance of ink and color

    Studies reveal that color, wrought into our documents and notes through ink, plays a significant role in memory retention and comprehension. Psychologists argue that colors like blue and green foster a sense of calmness and improve focus, making them ideal for environments geared toward learning. Conversely, vibrant colors such as red and orange are thought to stimulate energy and excitement, potentially boosting creativity and critical thinking skills. By strategically incorporating these colors into educational materials, teachers can create a more dynamic and effective learning atmosphere, encouraging students to engage more deeply with the content.

    Delving deeper into the benefits of ink for students

    Writing with ink offers multifaceted benefits in an educational context:

    Enhanced memory and learning

    Research has shown that students remember information better when they write it down by hand rather than typing it. This is attributed to the fact that handwriting requires a bit more effort and thought, leading to deeper processing of the information. For instance, college students were found to recall more information from a lecture when they took notes by hand compared to typing them.

    Brain activation

    Writing by hand activates different brain regions compared to typing. When children write, it stimulates areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This stimulation is less pronounced when typing. For example, handwriting has been shown to activate the region of the brain that responds more to handwritten letters than typed letters in young children. For example in James, W. L., & Engelhardt, T. M. (2012) 'The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Functional Brain Development in Pre-Literate Children'. This research highlights how the act of handwriting, as opposed to typing, can influence cognitive development and creative thought processes in young learners.

    Development of fine motor skills and cognitive abilities

    Handwriting also plays a crucial role in the development of fine motor skills and cognitive abilities. It requires a level of hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, and thought about what is being written, which are essential skills for academic success and cognitive development.

    Creativity and thoughtful expression

    Handwriting can spark creativity and encourage more thoughtful expression. Slower than typing, it allows more time for creative ideas to develop and for the writer to choose their words carefully. 

    Emotional and therapeutic benefits

    Handwriting can have therapeutic benefits, such as better immune function and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Writing about stressful events by hand can arouse higher emotional levels, leading to greater therapeutic benefits compared to typing. For example, 'Smyth, J.M., & Pennebaker, J.W. (1999). Sharing one's story: On the benefits of writing or talking about emotional experience.' digs into the emotional and therapeutic benefits of writing by hand about stressful or significant life events.

    Problem-solving and mindfulness

    The process of handwriting can assist in problem-solving and serves as a mindful activity. Writing out problems can help clarify thoughts and lead to solutions. It also encourages a moment of calm and focus in a fast-paced world​​.

    In conclusion, the act of handwriting not only deepens focus and understanding but also contributes significantly to cognitive development, memory retention, creative thinking, emotional well-being and problem-solving skills. These benefits highlight the importance of maintaining handwriting as a skill, even in an increasingly digital world.

    Practical classroom applications of ink

    Teachers utilize various practical applications of ink in the classroom to enhance learning among students. These methods leverage the cognitive and educational benefits of handwriting:

    Handwritten note-taking

    Encouraging students to take notes by hand during lectures can significantly improve their understanding and retention of the material. Studies have shown that students who write notes by hand perform better in recalling information and understanding concepts compared to those who type their notes. This method forces students to process and rephrase the information in their own words, which aids in deeper learning.

    Journal writing and creative tasks

    Assigning journal writing or creative writing tasks can be an effective way to develop student's writing skills and encourage self-expression. The act of writing by hand can stimulate creativity and thoughtfulness, as evidenced by numerous authors and researchers who advocate for the benefits of handwriting for creative processes.

    Practicing cursive writing

    Cursive writing, in particular, can be beneficial for cognitive development. It requires more complex motor skills and can help in the development of fine motor skills. Moreover, cursive writing can be faster than printing, which might engage students more effectively and give them a sense of personal style and ownership over their writing.

    Handwriting for memory and recall exercises

    Using pen and paper for writing exercises focused on memory and recall can be very effective. For example, having students write summaries of lessons or chapters by hand can help them better remember and understand the content. This method can be particularly useful for complex subjects where comprehension is critical​​.

    Therapeutic writing activities

    Incorporating therapeutic writing activities, such as writing letters or reflective essays, can offer emotional and psychological benefits. This practice can be particularly useful in subjects like literature or social studies, where understanding and expressing emotions are part of the learning process.

    Problem-Solving through writing

    Teachers can use handwriting for problem-solving activities, where students are asked to write out their thought processes when solving complex problems. This can, of course, be particularly useful in subjects like mathematics or science, where breaking down problems into smaller, manageable parts is essential.

    Peer review and handwritten feedback

    Providing handwritten feedback on students' work can be more personal and impactful. Teachers can also encourage students to peer-review each other's handwriting, fostering a more engaging and thoughtful critique process.

    Wrapping up: Ink's enduring relevance in education

    In summary, the use of ink and handwriting in the classroom offers a range of benefits for student learning, from improving memory and understanding to fostering creativity and emotional expression. These methods, supported by research and studies, can be effectively integrated into various teaching strategies to enhance educational outcomes.

    Despite the digital age's allure, ink remains a potent tool in the educational arsenal. By nudging students towards the use of ink and harnessing the power of color, educators can cultivate a more engaging, dynamic and effective learning atmosphere.

    Extra insights for maximizing ink's potential

    • Offer students a diverse palette of ink colors to spark their interest and creativity.
    • Promote the use of handwriting in creative and expressive writing exercises.
    • Develop color-coded educational materials to aid visual learning.
    • Encourage personalized stationery: Inspiring students to use personalized ink pens or stationery can increase their engagement and ownership of their written work. It might also stimulate their interest in practicing handwriting more frequently.
    • Implement ink-based art projects: Integrating art projects that require the use of different ink colors can help students explore their creativity while learning about color theory and its impact on emotions and perceptions.
    • Promote the study of calligraphy: Introducing students to the art of calligraphy can foster an appreciation for handwriting's aesthetic aspects and improve their fine motor skills and concentration.
    • Incorporate ink in digital detox sessions: Allocating specific times during which students are encouraged to use only ink and paper for their work can serve as a digital detox, helping them to focus better and reduce screen time.

    Beyond engagement: The art of handwriting

    An often-overlooked benefit of writing in ink is the improvement of handwriting skills. The focused nature of handwriting demands careful attention to letter and number formation, leading to neater, more legible writing. This skill is invaluable for note-taking efficiency and clarity, especially for when they enter the workforce.

    To sum up, the simple act of using ink can have far-reaching effects on student engagement and learning outcomes. We urge educators to rediscover the power of ink in their classrooms and observe the transformative effects it can have on their students.

    From enhancing memory and promoting creativity, to offering therapeutic benefits and aiding cognitive development, the act of writing with ink presents a multifaceted tool for educators and students alike. Whilst we continue to advance in a digital age, it's crucial to remember the foundational skills and benefits that handwriting offers.

  • A child running with a rugby ball outside, with children behind them
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • Language teaching

    How can gaming support language learning?

    By Jacqueline Martin

    Reading time: 5 minutes

    Academics and teachers have been writing about the benefits of using games in the language classroom for many years. Wright et al (1984), Lee Su Kim (1995), Ubermann (1998), Ersoz (2000), Yong Mei and Yu-Jin (2000) and Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga (2003) all pretty much agreed that games provide a useful and meaningful context for language use; encourage students to interact and communicate; can both challenge and reduce anxiety (as the emphasis is on the message, not the form); provide practice in all four skills; and help students to make and sustain the significant effort involved in learning a language.

    Kim and others have also noted that games can offer a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class. Playing a game after an intensive test or with over-excited students after break time can help re-engage learners instantly in your lesson, and you'll maximize your time with them.

    Lengeling and Malarcher (1997) took the list of potential benefits of games in the classroom even further.

    Affective

    • Games lower the affective filter
    • They encourage the creative and spontaneous use of language
    • They promote communicative competence
    • Games are both motivating and fun

    Cognitive

    • Games reinforce learning
    • They both review and extend learning
    • Games focus on grammar in a communicative manner

    Class dynamics

    • Games are extremely student-centered
    • The teacher acts only as a facilitator
    • Games build class cohesion
    • They can foster whole-class participation
    • Games promote healthy competition

    Adaptability

    • Games can be easily adjusted for age, level and interests
    • They utilize all four skills
    • Games require minimum preparation after the initial development stage

    It is important to bear in mind that when the above was written over 20 years ago, it was with reference mostly to more traditional games. But more recent evidence seems to indicate that the same principles apply. Some additional benefits cited by teachers I've spoken to are that:

    • Games could make language lessons less threatening for less confident pupils as their concern about getting sentence form wrong was reduced, and so their production greater.
    • Students learn more than just the language of the lesson when playing a game; they may learn instructional language through discussion or rules and sometimes negotiation skills and a lesson in cultural differences too.
    • Students can form a greater variety of emotional connections with language through playing games, for example acting out a word or seeing another student do so, or remembering a clue for a word.

    So, playing games can help students learn a language – but is just playing them enough? Some teachers like using games with less motivated classes who won't engage with straight practice activities and will willingly use key vocabulary and structures in a game, gaining much-needed practice without even realizing it. In today's language-learning context, though, is that a good thing?

    Motivating the unmotivated

    In recent years, much research has shown that students learn better when the intention or objective of the lesson is clear to them. In short, they understand what they're supposed to be learning and why and, when taking it to the next level, can assess their own learning and be actively involved in planning their next steps.

    Would knowing that the games they play are actually a way of doing some additional language practice make these students engage less? Opinion differs, and some discussion seems to center around the actual activity involved. Some games are thinly veiled group-work tasks, but other games that are at the right proficiency level (or slightly above) and take into account factors like cultural context, available time, learning topic and the classroom setting are generally considered to have a positive impact.

    Another major influence on improving motivation is the feedback a student receives, and this is something games can also support. Online games can provide richer simulated learning experiences and immediate feedback to students in a variety of ways.

    Above all, the main issue for the less motivated students is usually that they can't see why they need to learn English. Playing games not only simulates 'real' contexts but also helps them understand that they can accomplish a variety of tasks using English as a medium, which is motivational in itself.

    As teachers, there is a responsibility to explain how or why games will help students learn. This can equally motivate learners (or parents) who fear that playing games is just frivolous time-wasting. For example, informing even adult students that a simple hangman or hot seat game helps them improve spelling skills, gets their brains focused on recognizing the shape and structure of new words, and facilitates their learning of new vocabulary soon helps them see the value (Simpson 2011).

    Can games help learners acquire 21st-century skills?

    Maybe we can draw the conclusion that games can positively impact learning – but is that even enough? Today's teachers have to ensure not just that their students learn but that they acquire the skills they need for life and jobs in the 21st century. Can games help here too? This is a newer area of research, but evidence seems to indicate that games can help students learn a variety of important skills such as critical thinking skills, creativity, teamwork and good sportsmanship.

    These ideas were taken seriously by Robert Morris University Illinois, who offered an e-sports scholarship for the first time in 2014. They studied two groups of students – football players and gamers – and found that levels of competitiveness, perseverance, focus and determination were very similar. Both groups showed a similar desire to excel as part of a team. Both 'sports' required the team members to be detail-orientated, have good hand-eye coordination and have a strategic mind. The only difference was in the level of cardiovascular activity. Both groups received performance analysis and tactical advice from coaches and both subsequently made improvements.

    How many universities will start to offer these types of programs remains to be seen. Still, the idea that online competitive gaming can improve performance is being brought to the workplace too. Think about what virtual teams could learn from playing role-based collaborative games. Team members have set roles and clear and shared goals and have to work closely together to formulate an action plan to achieve them. Teamwork, skill, strategic thinking and communication are essential.

    All these are important skills for today's workplace, so maybe gaming can provide an opportunity to hone these in a lower-risk environment and improve business performance.

    These examples are clearly far from the norm, but they do seem to indicate that using gaming to support learning in the classroom is not a waste of time. When you get the right mix of gaming and learning, it develops a student's autonomous learning skills and encourages them to spend more time on task – both of which greatly impact learner outcomes.

    Need language learning game ideas for your young learners? Read our post 5 quick and easy ESL games for teaching young learners.

  • A teacher stood at the front of a class with a book, pointing at a student. Students are sat at desks with their hands raised.
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • English certification and assessment

    Assessing and tracking your students' language learning

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 4 minutes

    As a language teacher, your goal is not just to impart knowledge but to guide your students on a transformative journey toward fluency. Assessing and tracking learning progress is a dynamic process that empowers both educators and learners, rather than being just a routine task.

    In today's language learning blog post, we will explore the significance of assessment in language teaching and provide valuable insights on how to track and assess your students' linguistic development.

    The benefits

    Informed instruction

    Regular assessments enable teachers to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. Identifying strengths and weaknesses helps educators adapt teaching methods, promoting a more personalized and effective learning experience.

    Motivational tool

    Assessment results can be very useful in motivating students. Even small progress should be acknowledged as it can boost their confidence and encourage a positive attitude towards learning. It is important to share success stories, celebrate achievements and foster a culture of continuous improvement within your language classroom.

    Feedback for growth

    Assessment feedback can help students improve their skills by giving them a clear idea of their strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can use this feedback to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning journey and foster a growth mindset that is resilient even in the face of linguistic difficulties.

    Tracking and assessment methods

    Diverse assessment methods

    Embrace a variety of assessment methods to capture the multifaceted nature of language learning. Beyond traditional exams, integrate speaking assessments, project-based evaluations and collaborative activities. This diversity ensures a comprehensive understanding of your students' language proficiency.

    Example: Consider assigning projects that involve researching, creating presentations and demonstrating creative expression (like plays or videos) in the target language. Assessing various aspects such as language skills, creativity and critical thinking. Design projects around your class's interests and motivations.

    Formative assessments

    Integrate formative assessments into your teaching strategy. These ongoing evaluations, such as quizzes, class discussions and short writing assignments, provide real-time feedback. For instance, if you notice that your students are struggling with a particular concept, you can use formative assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of your teaching approach and make necessary adjustments.

    Example: Conduct regular quizzes, polls or short assessments during class to evaluate students' understanding. Use quick checks to gauge student understanding to adjust teaching methods accordingly. This will help you tailor your teaching methods in real time to ensure effective lesson delivery.

    Portfolio assessment

    Encourage students to maintain language portfolios. These portfolios can include samples of their written work, recorded conversations and reflections on their language learning journey. Portfolio assessments offer a holistic view of progress and provide students with a tangible record of their achievements.

    Example: Conduct periodic portfolio reviews to discuss progress and set goals. Encourage frequent reflection to show learners how far they've come. 

    Self-assessment

    Empower students to self-assess. Encourage reflection on their language skills, setting goals and evaluating their own progress. Self-assessment also fosters a sense of responsibility and independence in the learning process. When students take ownership of their progress, they become more invested in their education and are more likely to achieve their goals.

    Example: Provide your language students self-assessment checklists or rubrics for them to evaluate their proficiency and set personal goals.

    Technology integration

    Use language learning platforms' analytics and progress reports for data-driven decision-making. It's great to help save time and provide reliable and up-to-date reports. 

    Example: Using online platforms for assignments, quizzes and collaborative projects with built-in tracking features. Our learning platform, Pearson English Connect (PEC), can help you keep track of your students' progress.

    Cultural projects

    Cultural projects are a great way to engage students in the broader context of the language they are learning. These projects could involve researching cultural practices, traditions or historical events related to the language.

    Students learn how to navigate cultural nuances, understand diverse perspectives and effectively communicate in different cultural contexts by participating in cultural projects. Such projects help students form a personal connection with the language and bridge the gap between theory and real-world application, making language learning more meaningful.

    Example: Assign projects that explore certain cultural aspects of the target language, encouraging a deeper understanding of context. These can be evaluated on how well it's presented, its clarity, and how factually accurate it is.

    Peer reviews

    Peer review is a valuable practice that promotes a sense of community within the language learning classroom. It involves students working together and offering constructive feedback to each other, which leads to the development of their language skills. It creates a collaborative learning environment where students actively participate in the improvement of their peers, learning from one another's strengths and weaknesses.

    Students often put more effort into assignments when they know peers will review their work. This increased accountability can lead to higher-quality work and a greater commitment to language learning.

    Example: Implement peer review sessions where students provide feedback on each other's written or spoken assignments. Encourage constructive criticism to enhance collaboration and learning. To accommodate shy students, this process can be anonymous.

     

    Assessing and tracking language learning progress is integral to effective language teaching, requiring continuous interaction between educators and students.

    By utilizing diverse assessment methods and fostering a culture of constant improvement, language teachers play a vital role in guiding their students toward linguistic fluency. Helping language students celebrate their successes and overcome challenges helps them to be not only proficient speakers but also lifelong language enthusiasts.

    Are you an English teacher preparing for assessments? Check out our post Motivating your students through assessment.

    As well as our learning platform, PEC, we offer various English assessments and courses to help track your learner's progress and to certify their English level, so make sure to explore our range to find the best solution for your students.  

  • Students working together laughing with a laptop in front of them
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Improve student vocabulary and memory with these classroom activities

    By Vaughan Jones

    Reading time: 6.5 minutes

    Vaughan Jones has more than 30 years of experience as an EFL Teacher, Trainer and Author. He’s lived and worked in France, Japan and Spain, and has worked to produce a number of coursebooks, including Focus, an English language learning series for upper-secondary students.

    In this post he explores some tips and techniques for language teachers to help students improve their ability to remember vocabulary. 

  • Young children in a group smiling and raising their hands
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Keeping students motivated in the lead-up to the holidays

    By Charlotte Guest

    As the holiday season approaches, learners often struggle to stay motivated and focused on their studies amidst the festive cheer and distractions. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, but maintaining consistency in language learning is crucial for making progress. To help you stay on track during this joyful yet potentially distracting time, here are some effective strategies and tips to keep things going.

  • Young children stood in a row clapping and celebrating with a christmas tree in the background
    • Young learners
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Classroom tips: 12 days of Christmas

    By Pearson Languages

    With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.

  • A classroom with students sat at desks and one student stood at the front with the teacher
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Forward-looking reflective teaching

    By Ehsan Gorji

    Ehsan Gorji is an Iranian teacher, teacher trainer and teacher educator. He also designs strategic plans, devises study syllabuses, runs quality-check observations, and develops materials and tests for different language institutes and schools in the country. Ehsan has been a GSE Thought Leader and Expert Rater since 2016. 

    Reflective teaching, despite it sounding modern and sophisticated, has not yet become a common practice among English language teachers. However, the experiential learning cycle proposed by Jim Scrivener offers a practical approach for teachers. The cycle involves teaching a lesson, reflecting on "what we did" and "how we did them," and then using that reflection to improve future English classes. By using this approach, teachers can prepare for better teaching in the long term.