Top games for helping our Spanish-speaking students’ pronunciation (Part 1)

If you have taught English to Spanish speakers for a while, I’m sure you already have an idea of what the main pronunciation problems for them are. As a teacher of English and native speaker of Spanish, I have not only experienced those problems myself but also have always tried to help my students with effective and engaging techniques that I will be explaining in this post.

Below, you can find some of most problematic pronunciation areas for Spanish speakers (take a look at the Speakout Study Booster for Spanish speakers)  and how to get around them in class by using games.

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Equal opportunities in ELT: putting native-speakerism to bed

Recently, we shared an article about native / non-native speaker teachers (NST / NNST from now on) on the Pearson ELT Spain and Portugal facebook page and it sparked some quite lively debate. There were polarised arguments in the vein of ‘Natives don’t know their own grammar’ to ‘Non-natives can’t pronounce properly’ as well as more nuanced arguments in between and the aim of this blog post is to delve into this issue which remains a thorny one in our profession.

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Whose English is it anyway?

I am a native speaker of English.  I was born and raised speaking a particular variety of North American English.  It’s my mother tongue. Heck, my mother (and my father and the whole community around me for that matter) taught me how to speak it.  Well, to say they “taught” me isn’t entirely accurate. I was brought into the fold and participated in this living, growing, evolving thing that is my native language.  I’m proud of that. I feel like I belong to something quite beautiful and unique. It’s good to belong to something. It’s nice to share a language with other people, to know what they’re thinking and even, if you’re quite lucky, to have a little window into knowing how they feel.  I think that’s really very special.

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Effective ways to work with euphemisms in the classroom

Have you been offered a career change? An early retirement opportunity? Well, I’m sorry but I think you have been fired. But saying the first two sounds harsh or too straightforward, doesn’t it?

A euphemism, also called doublespeak, “makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unnatural seem natural, the unpleasant seem attractive, or at least tolerable”. So how are our L2 students going to understand such nuanced language? Continue reading

5 fantastically fun ideas for the primary classroom

With the Pearson Teacher Training Department for Spain and Portugal having delivered a large number of sessions around primary learners so far this year (and with many more to come!), the aim of this week’s post is to share five of the practical ideas we’ve been looking at. These activities have fun and engagement at their heart, as well as including the language practice our students need to make progress.

1) Sing a welcome song

Songs are a great way to learn English and thankfully for us, most primary-aged pupils are only too happy to sing. We often use songs as a way to contextualise a grammar point or some vocabulary – a catchy song will help this stick. But what about beginning our lessons with a welcome song? This is a great way to set a positive climate for learning and to calm and focus our students. Here is an example of a welcome song:

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Scaffolding: Giving our primary pupils the support they need

The following is an outline of the ideas and activities covered in my webinar on scaffolding at primary for Pearson Spain and Portugal on 20 February 2018.

Teaching primary learners can be rewarding and sometimes challenging. The enthusiasm and energy can be extremely satisfying and help keep us engaged as educators. To be successful, we often hear about providing support to help our students achieve success. Support can cover a variety of different aspects of our learners’ social and emotional development, their cognitive learning and their language needs. Unlike adults, who have experience we can draw on to create connections and foster learning, when we work with our primary and secondary students, we are often responsible for introducing students to new information for the first time. When this happens, the support that works best for success is referred to as scaffolding. Scaffolding helps us present new ideas and concepts while making sure learners have the tools they need to be successful.

That said, what is scaffolding and what does it really mean? When you think about how you first learned to do something you can get a sense of what scaffolding is all about.

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The art of questioning. Helping our teenage students to become critical thinkers

In today’s world, where news spreads like wildfire, it is not uncommon to find our teenage students taking things for granted and believing whatever is “on the internet”. As teachers, we want our students to become critical thinkers so that they can make sense of this VUCA world. Helping our students to develop strategies for asking (good) questions will not only prepare them for their future but also help them develop critical minds that will maximize their learning experience across disciplines.

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5 Things to love about teaching English

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and to celebrate it we are re-posting this article from our archives on reasons why we love teaching English.

And while we’re on the topic of love and English, check out this post with a list of romantic readers for your students!

No two people have quite the same experience of teaching English.  My own history includes mostly private sector teaching to adults and teens (so this post might not reflect your situation exactly).  But regardless of the context you teach in, many of us, and this is undoubtedly true of any profession, might get to a time when we question why it is that we are doing it, or maybe we forget why we got into it in the first place.

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Examining Scaffolding: Providing support for learning challenges

You sit down at your desk to begin planning your course for the year. You have a good idea about what your students can do and how much they have currently achieved. As you begin to look through the course outcomes and expectations, you may feel a bit worried, possibly even concerned. Flipping through the course book you stop on a few pages and think to yourself “This is going to be very challenging for my students.”

It’s an experience many teachers have and how teachers address the experience can have an enormous impact on students learning. In teaching, our goal is to challenge our students. This helps students make progress, keep learners engaged, and can provide motivation through tangible success in the learning journey. However, when we can anticipate that content will be very challenging, it’s tempting to skip past it, or move on to something a bit easier as a way to create a safe and comfortable learning environment for the learners. In fact, when you see very challenging content coming up in your program, this is the perfect time to dig in and think about how you can scaffold difficult content in a way that will ensure learner success.

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Fostering the 4Cs in the primary English classroom

We English teachers do so much more than teach English.  I won’t attempt a definitive list for fear of breaking the internet, but one of the other things we do is to teach our students transferable skills which will be useful to them wherever they end up. The 4Cs of Critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration have been recognised as the ‘learning and innovation’ skills that separate students who are prepared for life in the 21st century from those who aren’t: how can we help nurture these skills? In this blog post I’d like to begin to take a look at these questions which I will be looking into in more detail in my webinar on the topic. Continue reading