Correcting Writing: Less Red Pen and a bit more Zen

Getting into the zone

So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk.  You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students.  “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc.  The pressure’s on now.  The sooner you get these back to your students the better.  They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible.  You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class.  So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in.  You’re in full-on correction mode.

Ruby red pens

A familiar scene.  We’ve all been there.  And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?).  Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.

Cop or Coach?

Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment?  After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre?  May I see your certification to operate at this level please?  Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”

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“Describe the pictures”: phenomenal teaching ideas for the B2 test and beyond

“In this part of the test, I am going to show you two photographs. I would like you to talk about them for about a minute and also answer a question about your partner’s photographs”. No matter which official B2 exam your students are taking, they are likely going to come across a task like this.
Happy-Girl--300px

If we refer to the GSE, students at this stage “can describe objects, possessions and products in detail, including their characteristics and special features” (59) and “justify and sustain views clearly by providing relevant explanations and arguments” (60). So if they are at the right level there is no need to press the panic button: your students are ready to do this.
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ACEIA 2016, Seville: a resounding success!

Over 700 enthusiastic teachers from all over Europe attended the ACEIA 2016 conference in Seville on Saturday 12 November.

Antonia plenary

Under the banner ‘Creative Minds Inspire,’ the event was headlined by Pearson’s Antonia Clare, one of the award-winning authors of Speakout 2nd edition, with her inspirational plenary session ‘Language, Learning and the Creative Mind.’ Antonia examined the ways in which learning a language is in itself such an inherently creative task and looked at how to engender creativity, both on the part of the learner but also on the part of the teacher.

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See you at ACEIA Conference 2016!

ACEIA Annual Conference 2016 Creative Minds InspireHere at Pearson we hope we’ll get the chance to see you this weekend at the ACEIA Annual Conference 2016: Creative Minds Inspire, to be held next Saturday 12th November in Seville, at the hotel Los Lebreros.

We are sure you will get plenty of inspiring ideas from our talks and workshops, and​ you will also be in for a nice surprise if you visit our stand​!​

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Effective classroom management part 1: be the boss!

Socrates quote - Effective classroom management part 1: be the boss!Some of you may have noticed that I am sharing part of a quote attributed to Socrates from 400 BC. I have seen it used as a starting point for many a classroom management seminar, with the speaker aiming to show that teachers have been dealing with naughty students for millennia. However, the contents of training workshops on classroom management can of course vary wildly: it’s such a broad area. In many ways ‘How to be a good classroom manager’ is the same as ‘How to be a good teacher.’ With this in mind, I’ll be splitting this post into a series of three blog posts, each looking at a different ingredient in the recipe for good classroom management.

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Halloween: great teaching ideas for teens

Halloween: great teaching ideas for teensGhosts, witches, black cats, haunted houses… Despite the creepy flavour of these terms, I’ve always liked Halloween: 31st of October, the spookiest day of the year, as it is said to be. As teachers, many of us celebrate this autumn festivity by decorating our classrooms with spider-webs, skeletons, bats, etc., and by asking our students to dress up as ghosts, witches or werewolves.

We have already talked about some Halloween activities that your primary students will love, but there is also a wealth of activities out there for teenagers. Just type “Halloween activities for teens” in your internet browser and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Is this just another blog post with a compilation of links? No, it isn’t. Here you will find practical teaching ideas, which require little preparation time. Continue reading

For English Teachers it’s time to skill up – and celebrate our success!

For English Teachers it’s time to skill up – and celebrate our success - Ilustration by Tang Yau HoongAt the beginning of this month I attended the Teaching for Success Conference at the British Council in Valencia, and got to see the always entertaining and thought-provoking Jeremy Harmer deliver a rather ominously titled talk. “Through a glass darkly: does ELT have a future?” centered on the technological disruption we’re beginning to see in our sector and the possible effects on teachers and learners. Harmer made quite clear that he was not in the business of making prophesies about the always uncertain future, and raised far more questions than he answered, but he did serve to get across one clear and solid message to the audience that might be summed up in a single word: Beware.

That technology’s impact on education, and ELT more specifically, can no longer be ignored is a sentiment being echoed elsewhere by technophobes and technophiles alike (as well as many of those in between). There was a time when it may have been easier to think that the inevitable tipping point into this new age of English Teaching everyone had been predicting for so long would never come, but, as Harmer said, employing a fairly well-known saying, “change comes slowly, and then all at once.” So, if this is to be taken as general truth, I’ll throw in another useful motto from my days in the Boy Scouts – “Be Prepared.” Continue reading

Taking word clouds to the next level with Wordsift

word cloud 1Not only do word clouds look pretty, there are also a number of ways they can be used in the ELT classroom to help our students learn. In this post we’re going to be looking at how.

Now, there are lots of word cloud generators out there such as wordle and tagxedo. However, not all these tools were created equal: there are word clouds and then there are word clouds! One which really caught my eye recently is Wordsift, created by Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University.

What’s the basic premise of a word cloud? Well, it’s an image made up of the words used in a text with the size of each word indicating its frequency in the text it was drawn from. A quick glance at the word cloud on the right reveals that ‘freedom’ is the most common word in the text and you can probably guess which famous speech these words come from. Word clouds are quick to make: copy the text, paste it into the generator and let the program do the rest. Continue reading

Do you want to be Pearson’s Global ELT Teacher of the year?

Pearson ELT TEACHER AWARD logoAt Pearson ELT we know that English teachers play a crucial role in the success of their learners. That’s why we’ve launched a new award to celebrate teachers and showcase good practice. The Pearson ELT Teacher Award will recognise teachers who have implemented innovative ways of teaching in their classrooms; from the big innovations to the everyday.

Five inspiring teachers will each win an all expenses paid trip to IATEFL (UK) or TESOL (USA) where they will enjoy the opportunity to hear the latest theories and exchange ideas with fellow professionals from all sectors of ELT.  A People’s Choice winner will selected by a public vote from the entries submitted. The winner will receive 20 Kindles for their class pre-loaded with a selection of Pearson English Readers. Continue reading

Check out our teacher training sessions at the British Council

It’s been a busy few weeks for Pearson’s teacher trainers who have been giving talks at the British Council ‘Teaching for Success’ events across Spain. As promised, here are the links to the presentations we gave:

Valencia, Barcelona & Madrid with Brian Engquist, Marta Cervera & Michael Brand

Saturday 1st October 

Exploiting video to the max

From the Classroom to the Wider World

Bilbao with Elena Merino  

Saturday 24th September

Embracing Authenticity

Ten Top Tips for Terrific Teachers

Thanks for attending the talks and we hope you found them useful!

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You might also be interested in…

– Do you want to be Pearson’s Global ELT Teacher of the year?

– Mark your calendar for Pearson Webinars for English Teachers

Don’t forget to sign up to our ELT blog. You’ll find lots of great stuff to read here!

More info at Pearson ELT Spain & Portugal