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.
Language and employability skills: Critical thinking, creativity, and communication
Why learn a language?
For most, it's part of academic studies. For some, it's a fun social opportunity. But for many, language learning is aimed at getting a job.
Language teachers didn't always consider the reasons students were motivated to learn a language. Instead, they focused solely on the central parts of language learning: phonology (sounds of letters and words), morphology (the meaning of parts of words), lexicon (vocabulary), grammar (word order) and to a lesser extent, discourse (the intent of language).
But today, beyond the mechanical aspects of language teaching and learning, language teachers and their teaching and learning materials try to align with students' motivations. This includes exploring a wide variety of social issues from global warming to racism to homelessness. Reasons for teaching these issues are based on the notion that language is culture, and students want to learn broad topics and be able to contribute to conversations about the issues of the day.
A related challenge facing students is employability skills. In the past, students were largely taught the types of language expected of factory workers: giving and responding to simple instructions. Most students learning via the audio-lingual method would consider the question "How are you?" to always be answered with the response, "I'm fine, thank you." The reality, of course, is that you might just as well say, "I'm okay." "Can't complain!" "Not too bad." or even the little-used but truthful, "I feel terrible!"
The Communicative Approach challenged this pre-programmed speech and reflected changes in the workplace. As robots and artificial intelligence agents take over more and more factory work, today's language students are graduating into jobs that require critical thinking, creativity, and broad communication skills. What are these skills and how do they relate to employability?
Critical thinking is about examining problems to better understand them. Sometimes critical thinking helps students make choices between one or more alternatives. Like creativity and communication, critical thinking is vital in both academic and employment situations where, for example, staff might try to decide between two locations to build a new factory.
Creative thinking is about looking for new solutions. In the factory example, a solution might be to build a factory on a boat so it travels between where the raw materials are collected to the market where they're to be sold.
Communication is about explaining ideas, listening to others' views, and using persuasive speaking and writing to structure arguments. Is the factory boat the best idea? It might be, but without clear communication and debate, it will be tossed aside.
In terms of employability, the Pearson series Step Up outlines the varied needs faced by adult learners: "to improve their employability skills to get their first job, secure a promotion, find a different job, re-enter the workforce after an absence or change fields."
Meeting these needs requires new teaching and assessment approaches.
Teaching has to become more collaborative. This reflects the nature of modern work, where most people work in teams, rather than in the factory model where workers were interchangeable parts of a machine. Workers today need to identify problems, share ideas about how to solve them and negotiate, using critical and creative thinking.
Similarly, assessment needs to change to a model that allows students opportunities to show what they know in open-ended ways with multiple opportunities to achieve success. Tests with closed-ended questions aimed at tricking students are a thing of the past. Assessment today needs to present students with chances to learn and try again and again until they and their teachers are confident of their abilities.
Learning a language and related abilities, like employability skills, is not a narrow classroom-bound experience. Students continue to learn and improve throughout their lives. More than anything else, the role of today's teachers is to set their students on a path of lifelong learning.
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Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.
But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?
That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.
Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.
So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.
Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.
Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.
Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.
Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)
Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.
Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)
Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.
One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.
5. North and South
Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.
During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.
6. Oliver Twist
Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.
His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.
Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?
Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.
Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too.
In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.