The Global Scale of English and planning: A perfect partnership

Leonor Corradi
Leonor Corradi
A teacher helping a student at a table there is also a GSE bronze ambassador logo to the left of them

As a teacher, I realized that planning had become an 'automatic pilot' routine from which I did not learn much. Like many others, I thought scales such as the Global Scale of English (GSE) or the Common European Framework of Reference are just that; references that are beyond the realities of their lessons.

However, I've seen that the GSE is a very powerful resource to help us at the level of planning. 

If you're using a coursebook you may have noticed that, after completing one of the books in the series, students move up one level, such as from elementary to pre-intermediate or from intermediate to upper-intermediate.

We all understand what it means to be an elementary or intermediate student. These levels are usually defined in terms of structures – conditional sentences, passive voice, and tenses – Simple Past, Future Continuous, etc.

But why do students want to learn English? Using it means being able to listen or read and understand, interact with others, and communicate in writing. Even if it is parents who enroll their children in language institutes, what they want is for them to use the language. We can see a mismatch between how levels are defined and students' aims to study English.

Here's how the GSE can help English language teachers

First, you need the right scale for your group – Pre-primary, Young Learners, Adults, Professionals or Academic, which can be downloaded at:

Focus on your students' level. There you will see all the learning objectives that students need to achieve to complete the level at which they are and move on in their learning journey.

What are learning objectives? They are can-do statements that clearly describe what students are expected to achieve as the result of instruction. In other words, these objectives guide teachers in our planning to help students learn.

When we plan our lessons, rather than working at lesson level only, we should reflect on how the activities proposed are referenced against the learning objectives of the level. We may see that some activities need some adapting in order to focus on the selected learning outcomes.

At the level of planning as well, I also use the GSE to analyze the activities proposed in the materials I am using. Let me tell you what I do. Let's take listening, for instance. You may use the downloaded scales or the Teacher Toolkit that the GSE provides. Let's run through how this works. 


Image of the GSE Teacher Toolkit

Here's the link to the Toolkit:

  • In the 'Learning Objectives' tab, choose the learner: Pre-primary, young learners, etc.
  • Then move the slides at either end of the scale so that you only work on the range you are teaching.
  • After that, select the skill you want to focus on, in this case Listening, and click on 'Show results'. You'll get a list of the LOs for listening at the selected range. You can download it as a pdf or Excel document.
  • Next, analyze the listening activity proposed in the materials used. Are the items in the activity at the right level? May the students need guidance or support? Are they required to extract information, an operation that may be beyond their level? Are there learning objectives that are not present at all?

After the analysis, I sometimes decide to add objectives, which I write on the board or will add support and guidance to the items in the activity. Occasionally, I divide the items into A and B categories, with A being at the right level and less demanding than B items.

I share this with learners and challenge them to complete some of the B items. But since they know they are more challenging, they're less likely to get frustrated if they cannot find the right answer. Also, as these tasks are more demanding, I might play the audio more often or chunk it and stop at each chunk.

You may think this is time-demanding, which is true, but it's time well invested, not wasted. On the one hand, I'm helping students reach their target level. On the other, I am tailoring all activities, personalizing them. What's not to like about this?

Since starting using the GSE myself and with groups of English teachers, I have seen improvements in students. They know what it takes to move on in their learning process and feel more responsible and committed to it. It's their decision, not mine. Another realization is that this type of reflection directly impacts my teaching methods. It makes me more reflective and focused on my students' needs and it has changed lesson planning into a learning practice.

About the author

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

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

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