Practical tricks for mixed-ability classes

mixed-ability

Let’s face it, teachers of mixed-ability classes have a lot on their plate. Weaker students may give up on work assigned to them and stronger students often finish very quickly. Both groups can switch off and start messing about. Nobody would disagree that ‘Every child matters’, but for a teacher with eight classes of thirty children, responding to each child’s needs can sometimes seem a challenge to put it mildly.

The glass is half full!

Although challenging, mixed ability classes also have many advantages. First off, they represent a microcosm of society: we’re likely to get varied input and ideas from students and these classes lend themselves to developing values like respect, tolerance and helping others: they encourage co-operative learning. Also, they may require creativity on our part, but that makes us better teachers!

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Top tips for the First (FCE) writing exam

For English Teachers it’s time to skill up – and celebrate our success - Ilustration by Tang Yau Hoong

Preparing our students for high stakes exams can be a daunting task. We want them to know the exam inside out, we’ll need to give them plenty of practice and we still aim to keep our lessons engaging and fun! This post is concerned with Part 2 of the First writing exam: what should we teachers bear in mind?

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Bringing reading to life for young learners

Bringing reading to life

Last week I taught some classes with preschool aged children (aged 3-5) and, in honour of World Book Day and Sant Jordi, did some storytelling (as if you needed an excuse to tell stories to young learners!). As teachers we know that children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than their less bookish peers, so trying to engender in our learners a love of reading by telling them stories from a young age can have far-reaching benefits.

However, even with very young learners, we’re only scratching the surface if the only thing we do with a story is, well, to tell it. Stories become really powerful, both as a motivational and as a learning tool if we can allow our pupils to become protagonists in these stories and this blog post will look at some ways to do that with classic stories. The ideas are relevant for pre-primary, but also primary too where we might expect more in the way of student production.

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An Interview with JJ Wilson

JJ Wilson 5

Last week, award-winning Speakout author JJ Wilson embarked upon a whistle-stop tour of Spain, delivering teacher training workshops and presentations in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia (where he spoke at the national EOI convention) and Seville. Some of the areas he touched on were learning strategies, authenticity in the classroom and creativity and over 400 teachers attended his talks to pick up some tips.   

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3 ways to bring assessment for learning into your classroom

rocketWe all want our students to become more independent and responsible for their learning, but this won’t happen without the right support. Enter assessment for learning! As opposed to assessment of learning (think end of term exams, categorisation of students, awarding a number), assessment for learning sees learning as a journey: what does my student know, where are they going, what do they need to get there? Let’s look at three simple ways that good teachers employ assessment for learning.  

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Help your students hit a home run with sports idioms

sports idiomsIdioms! Perhaps they are one of the most colourful aspects of language to teach, conjuring up amusing imagery or teaching our students about culture. I had a lot of fun with them in my advanced classes, though found I had to guard against overuse! But a question here for teachers is: which ones to teach? One tends to come across many a student of English who knows the expression “It’s raining cats and dogs,” but I am racking my brains to think of a single time in my life I have heard that idiom in natural conversation.

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Harnessing the power of video in ELT

 video2Video’s a powerful tool: choose the right one and we’re sure to motivate and engage our learners. But video in class can take many forms and be used in many ways. Let’s take, for example, the ‘Friday afternoon video’ or the ‘end of term video’ or ‘the treat because you worked well video’. Probably a long video, perhaps a feature-length film, where our students (and, why not, ourselves!) can kick back and relax, perhaps learning a little English into the bargain to boot. But that’s definitely not the type of video we’re interested in for this blog post: in this post we’re going to be looking at short video and at how to exploit it.

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Effective classroom management part 3: be fun!

Welcome to the third and final instalclassroom managementlment in our series on classroom management for teachers of teens. In previous posts, we established that a teacher should be the boss, while at the same time showing a human side. Ladies and gentlemen, the final ingredient in the recipe to effective classroom management is (drum roll…): be fun! But what do we mean by ‘be fun’? A clown? A performing monkey?

Let’s start with a common gripe from students: “Lessons are boring.” What they usually mean by this is that they are tired of doing the same things over and over again. Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes, and it applies to our lessons too.

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Effective classroom management part 2: be human!

Welcome to the second installment of our three-part series on effective classroom management for teachers of teens. In part one I argued that the teacher needs to be the boss, but that on its own isn’t enough of course. In this post let’s look at our second ingredient in the recipe for classroom management success: being human.  Being the boss and being human are by no means mutually exclusive, I’ve seen countless teachers who’ve been able to combine these two traits very effectively. Get the balance right and we’ll get our students on board.

So, what do we mean by ‘be human?’  Ben-Wiseman_brain_thumprint_arrows_RGB

Back in the day, teachers were encouraged to keep maximum distance between themselves and their ‘charges.’ The teacher was a lofty, far-removed figure who existed in the classroom, but anything outside of this was none of the students’ business. But showing your students that you are in fact a real person just like them is a step on the way to forging a relationship. We are not aiming to become their best friend, but revealing something of ourselves to them is not going to do any harm.

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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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