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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Integrating pronunciation into your classes: Part 3

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Part Three: A top-down approach

There are many ingredients to good pronunciation in English.  In my last post on the subject I focused on individual, discrete sounds and their importance for our learners, but the thing that strikes me most when I hear a non-native speaker of English with good pronunciation is the rhythm and overall delivery of the chunks of language they use, not individual words per se.  As a native speaker, if I hear a familiar pattern my ear can naturally pick out information which is being packaged in a way that makes sense to me.  If some of the individual sounds are difficult to discern this is unlikely to affect my understanding to any great degree.

The importance of stress-timing

And I’m being quite literal when I talk about packaging language into meaningful chunks.  Let’s see why this is and why one of the most important things we can do to help our students with pronunciation is to draw their attention to the phenomenon of stress-timing.  Here’s a nice activity someone showed me years ago to introduce this at the beginning of a course.  I don’t remember who exactly (my apologies) but I’ve never forgotten it.

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3 e-ffective ICT tools to boost speaking

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Teachers are often overwhelmed by the wealth of choices provided by the digital world so when trying to apply technology in their classes, they are often understandably confused about which tools might work and which might not.

It is tough job, I know, so today I will show you 3 tried and tested digital resources that will foster your students’ speaking skills. In addition, I will illustrate a few e-ffective tasks that will surely engage and improve your learners’ outcomes.

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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

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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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It’s time for the National EOI Convention!

Once every two years the Official Language Schools in Spain hold their national convention.  This year’s event at the EOI in Valencia (this Thursday 30th March until Saturday 1st April) marks the 10th time they will come together to share ideas and best practices.

X jornadas eeooii

We at Pearson are also very proud to be taking part by providing three engaging workshops. Two of these talks will be given by award-winning ELT author, novelist and co-author of Pearson’s Speakout series, JJ Wilson, on the topics of creativity and authenticity in the classroom.  Also on hand will be Spain-based Teacher Trainer for Pearson Michael Brand who will offer his perspective on the characteristics of a C1 user of English and how to get our students up to this level.

For more details and times please consult the information below.

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5 common errors Spanish speakers make in English

errorHow many times have you told your students that the word “hotel” is stressed on the second syllable, not the first one? Or that there is no “to” after modals?

No matter how many times we correct our students, they will make the same mistakes over and over, or at least that’s how sometimes I’ve felt. Why is that happening? Let me address these two important questions about errors in second language acquisition.

  • Your students might not be ready to learn that language point, so there’s not much we can do except ignore those errors. We can also point them out, when they are impeding communication, but don’t expect your students to learn them.
  • How you deal with errors in your classes has a significant effect on how your learners react to them and how likely they are to stop making mistakes. Keep an eye on this blog for a future post on “Top tips for dealing with common errors in your classes”.

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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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Integrating pronunciation into your classes: Part 2

Integrating pronunciation into your classes

Part Two: A bottom-up approach

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At its most basic level pronunciation deals with the production of individual sounds or phonemes.  For many students and beginning teachers this is what comes to mind when they think of pronunciation.  

The approach of learning and practicing phonemes in isolation and then using them as building blocks to construct words or longer utterances is atomistic in nature, and suffers from obvious limitations which I will touch on below, but it also has its positive points, and chief among these is something I referred to in part 1 of this series: it gets students (and teachers) to listen to and feel what is going on with their bodies when they are producing sounds.

Here are some things to think about when teaching pronunciation in this way: Continue reading