Speaking and writing practice tasks for the summer

The summer is almost here! In our previous blog posts, we gave you some tips as to how to help your students practise their grammar, vocabulary and reading over the summer. However, it is impossible for them to work on their speaking and writing without the help of a teacher. Or is it?
It may be that the best way for your students to improve is to have the guidance and feedback of a teacher, but there are actually quite a few ways for them to continue the work when you are not around. There are also great ways to simply incorporate ways of expressing themselves in English into their everyday lives. Let’s have a look at some of them!

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5 tips for practising your grammar and vocabulary over the summer

Summer is finally approaching, and teachers and learners everywhere are looking forward to a well-earned break. However, lots of students will be preparing for language exams during this time or will want to catch up on lessons they missed during the pandemic and work on their grammar and vocabulary over the summer. In this blog post, we have collected 5 tips to practise their vocabulary and grammar in an autonomous way, even when we are not around to guide them:

Find expressions that are relevant for you

During the academic year, most teachers have to follow a syllabus and prepare students for tests and exams, which can often feel quite limiting. However, in the summer, students can get the chance to practise language that is relevant for them, personally! If your students enjoy reading about make-up, video games, yoga, climate issues or any other topic, encourage them to do so in English. Only in texts that truly interest them will they find expressions that are relevant for their interests.
A great tool to learn vocabulary from such texts is Readlang. It is a plugin that you can install into Google Chrome and after a 5-minute registration process, you can start collecting vocabulary items. Select words (or chunks) that are new to you in any text online and click on them to get the translation in your mother tongue. The words you look up will be automatically saved to your collection and can be used for practice later. I especially like it that the expressions are saved with the whole sentence, which can help students recall them later. You can even export the vocab items to Quizlet or your preferred flashcard application!

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5 books for your students to read this summer

Summer’s (nearly) here and the time is (nearly) right, for dancing in the street! After what’s been a challenging year in so many ways, teachers and students alike are looking forward to a well-earned summer break. But before we dismiss our class, we might set them a task or two to keep up their English: summer’s long over here! Last year I wrote a post with ten top tips for summer activities. In the coming weeks, my colleague Anita Derecskei will be looking at getting our students working autonomously on their writing and speaking and then grammar and vocabulary. But today, I’d like to suggest that classic summer activity: reading a book. And I’d like to share five of my favourite stories to suit different tastes and levels. But this is just the tip of the iceberg – click here to see more!

  1. The Twits

This Roald Dahl classic is one of my son’s favourite books, I must have read it to him a dozen times, I never get bored of it and neither does he. It’s hilariously funny and The Twits are deliciously evil! Imagine putting a ‘Skillywiggler’ in your wife’s bed and telling her ‘It’s got teeth like screwdrivers!’ We repeat this line every time we see a big insect in the countryside. Give it a go with your young learners: you won’t regret it!

 

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Structuring a grammar class…and five top practice activities

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Grammar lessons sometimes get a bad press. Perhaps that’s because in the past the lion’s share of the grammar class has been devoted to an explanation and mechanical practice activities. Those things are necessary, but redressing the balance with more meaningful communicative activities can lead to our students coming to our grammar lessons with more of a spring in their step…and they’ll learn the grammar better too!

In the blog post we’ll consider a procedure to teach grammar (Part 1) and move onto five top activities to practice the grammar taught (Part 2). Let’s begin!

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Helping our students recognise the author’s opinion

Being able to understand and give an opinion is crucial in communication. It makes our connections with each other stronger and our dialogue richer. This important skill is also tested a lot in reading and listening exam tasks, so it’s important that we pay attention to the variety of ways in which a writer or speaker can do this, and help our students to recognise and use it themselves.

As we can see from these GSE descriptors, this skill starts to be developed and is expected at an A2 level:

and continues well into C1:

It’s a skill we can help our students with in general, and also for exam preparation. This blog post is going to take a typical listening text you find in a course book and provide ideas on how to teach it, and then provide further activities for you to use in class to help your students to recognise and use the language used to express opinions.

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Helping students with word formation exam tasks

Word formation is not only a task that you encounter in most language exams, but also a skill that our students need for everyday language use, be it written or spoken.

In this blog post, we are going to look at what’s being tested in the word formation task, how we can exploit more the short text of the task, how students can record vocabulary to maximise exam success and how to get students to work collaboratively with some games to spice up the preparation. Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of preparing students for word formation, I’m sure you’ll take away a fresh perspective here and an idea there to augment your routine.

What is being tested?

In Cambridge main suite exams (Preliminary, FCE and CAE), the word formation task appears in the Use of English part of the written exam. In this task, students are given a short text with 8 gaps and some root words. They have to formulate new words using the roots to make the sentences (and the whole text) logical and coherent. It tests students’ lexico-grammatical knowledge as well as their reading skills. In order to be able to fill in the gaps, learners need to understand the text as a whole and know how to formulate words.

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Speak Out for Sustainability – Get Involved!

As English teachers we know a thing or two about preparing our students for the future. For starters, we help develop our students’ communicative competence in the language itself. We look to integrate other skills too, such as digital literacy, critical thinking or the ability to collaborate with others in a team. But as well as ‘preparing’ our students for the future, we can also give them the tools to go out and shape that future for themselves.

Speak Out for Sustainability, a project recently launched by Pearson and BBC Studios is a project with our students’ futures in mind. It’s a project which has at its heart the goal of making that future sustainable. And we aim to do that by raising awareness of sustainability issues and inspiring action and interaction among teachers and students alike.

Read on to find out more…

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Helping our students recognise paraphrase in exams (and beyond)

I hope you enjoy this blog post and find it useful. I trust you’ll like this article and get something out of it. I’m hopeful you’ll appreciate this piece and deem it helpful.

This post is about paraphrase. Paraphrase is something our students will use in real life, for example when telling someone about something they’ve read or heard (such as in mediation), or when reformulating when they sense someone hasn’t understood what they’ve said.

And moving to receptive skills and exam questions, spotting paraphrase in a text is often a key to getting the answer right. Indeed, these GSE descriptors indicate what a learner at a B2 level should be able to do:

It is an (exam) skill that we can help our students develop and in this blog post we’ll be looking at how both by using course material and in other ways.

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10 Tips on Using Puppets in the Pre-Primary Classroom

Playfulness and humor are essential in the pre-primary language classroom. They help create an inviting classroom environment and encourage language learning. There is no easier way to incorporate these things into your classroom than by using a puppet!

Puppets can become an integral part of your class if used correctly. It’s not enough to stick the puppet onto your hand and move it around. In today’s blog, I have 10 tips on how to effectively use a puppet in your classroom.

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How to develop digital literacy in our teens

Digital literacy is a key 21st-century skill that sometimes gets overlooked by teachers. Though many of our pre-teens and teens were practically born with a phone in their hand, they’ve a lot to learn about digital tools and the internet. I don’t think anyone doubts the importance of digital literacy skills. However, as teachers of English we often have a syllabus to follow and lots of skills to practise. Isn’t it enough for us to balance the different receptive and productive skills and language systems like vocabulary and grammar?

Is it also our job to train students to be better digital citizens?
I think so!
Why?

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