Bringing Sustainability Forward with Learning Experiences

In March 2020 a study was released showing that almost 50% of Spanish students considered The Climate Crisis as a problem the world needed to solve.

A massive 98% of them said they wanted to learn about it in an academic setting. Sadly, 4 in 10 of those students felt it wasn’t even talked about at school.

It is clear that education ministers are attempting to address this issue with updates to the education law (LOMLOE) giving a greater focus to the planet in its most recent update. You can read more about it here. Hopefully, this newly found focus on bringing sustainability to the forefront of education will help tackle the climate crisis by ensuring future generations are aware and prepared to help prevent an impending global catastrophe.

In today’s post we’re going to look at how you and your students address some of the sustainability issues

raised the LOMLOE in your classroom using the Your World Learning Experience 4.

What are Learning Experiences?

 The learning experiences are stand-alone activities for both primary and secondary aged classrooms, aimed at helping teachers and students to work through the new additions to the law. They focus on key social justice issues ranging from gender equality through to the environment helping to develop both hard and soft skills along the way.

They have been created with the aim of helping our students develop more than just their language skills. The Learning Experiences are designed with specific tasks to aid learners in the acquisition of key skills such as critical thinking and collaboration. They will work on issues that go beyond the classroom and encourage them to develop into more rounded global citizens.

Understanding how to help the planet

The benefits of this learner pack goes well beyond simply helping our students understand the impact we, as humans, have on the planet. It also empowers them to make a difference. When assuming personal responsibilities our students develop a better understanding of the issues at hand and in taking positive steps, albeit small ones, it will heighten their awareness of key issues and help them develop a greener mindset.

Your World Learning Experience 4: Make Green Positivity Cards

This goal focuses mainly on the Sustainable  

Development goal 11. Promoting Sustainable Cities and Communities but also has underling connections to an array of the goals set out in the 2030 agenda. The LOMLOE states “Students begin to adopt sustainable life habits, in order to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity from both a local and global perspectiveThis pack will help promote critical thinking and a whole host of sustainable habits.  

The beauty of these sustainable life habits is that they create a greener mindset in our students and tend to grow into much greater actions in the long run, they also show that there is only one place to start when you want to make a difference and that is with yourself.  It is also imperative that we, as educators, allow students to see and feel how the connection of our actions, as humans, have an effect on the planet.  

Making the most from the learning experience.  

Before you start

Have your students look at the image and identify as many of the different sustainable acts as they can. This is a great way to activate schemata and see how much our students already know. It also gives students a chance to say what isn’t in the picture. You can also check to see if students know why these acts are important. Which links closely to the “understand the systemic relationships between human actions and the environmentpart of the LOMLOE. 

Step 1 

Goes a step further and asks students to think about the acts in the pictures and read a short conversation between two teenagers. Asking them to consider which of the two is most eco-friendly and honestly compare themselves to the person they’re most similar too. It’s very important at this stage of development there are no prizes for being the eco-friendliest person around. The aim is to simply try and do better.  

Step 2  

When at the analyse stage it’s important to impress upon your students that these acts are individual acts and will make a big difference to their own lives, however, the responsibility tackling the climate crisis doesn’t rest upon them, it is something everyone needs to address and take steps to positive change. The changes suggested are all very simple to action and a great place to plant the seed of environmentalism. 

Step 3 

When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, we all need a little positivity and a lot of creativity. Preparing the Green Positivity cards will provide your students with the perfect chance to use both. Not only that but it’ll also add in some incredibly useful phrases too. Having these positivity cards will serve as a constant reminder to you and your students of the steps we all need to take to be a little greener. 

Step 4 

At this stage we can truly empower our students. By now they have come up with the ideas they can easily action and now they can present them to their peers. It shows an understanding of the LOMLOE sections which says:They should also adopt a sustainable and eco-socially responsible lifestyle”. 

Once these ideas have been shown, presented and displayed we need to ensure that as teachers and mentors we refer back to them frequently to check in on how we are doing in our quest to be greener. 

Reflect 

Reflection is key to any lesson, not simply those about our behaviours. At this stage of the class, we should ensure our students have fully understood and find out from them what their biggest takeaway was from the class.  

 

Final Thoughts 

It’s wonderful to see the law makers are finally taking note of the changes our students want and need to have a better future. Thankfully, with resources like the Learning Experiences we can empower our students with the key skills they are going to need going forward to make a difference with a wide range of social justice issues in their world and beyond.

Introducing the Pearson English International Certificate (formerly the PTE General)

The internationally recognised Pearson English International Certificate has rapidly gained in popularity since its inception in 1985. Therefore, it’s worth taking a look at what the buzz is all about and whether it is the right exam to take for yourself or your students.

Why take an official exam?

There are a variety of reasons why people decide to take an official English exam with a brand they trust. It ranges from personal pride and satisfaction in being able to officially prove that you have reached a certain level of proficiency in a language, to needing to demonstrate your capabilities in order to join an institution, such as a university or to join the workforce. The Pearson English International Certificate is recognised by more than 50 countries as a reliable indicator of an English level, which means that a whole host of universities and international organisations will value its worth.
Check out the list of institutions here.

Why take the Pearson exam specifically?

The main benefit of taking an exam that is officially recognised means that one exam and certificate is enough and you don’t need to go through the stress of repeating English exams for different countries! There are many exams that students can opt to choose from, such as with Oxford or Cambridge, but the Pearson English International Certificate is unique because it is accredited by Ofqual, the United Kingdom’s national regulator of official qualifications, and 100% of the exams are marked in the United Kingdom. It’s also evaluates everyday English, with familiar activities, in a way that students will actually use in real life.

How can I take the exam?

You can take the test in a traditional way at a test centre with a paper format. The marking is done very quickly and you will not have to wait very long for your results. The computer-based version is coming in 2023 which will give you and your students even more choice and flexibility.

Which students does it evaluate?

Every student who is learning English can take the test and have a reliable indicator of their current English level. There are six different levels which correspond to the Common European Framework for languages, from A1 to C2 levels. In that way, it is easier for employers and universities to know what level of English you have.

What does the test consist of?

There are four sections to each exam – speaking, listening, reading and writing. There is no separate grammar test. Session 1 is the Speaking Exam. The speaking part of the exam is in an interview format with an interlocutor and reflects the skills people will use at university or the workplace. Session Two are the three other sections – listening, reading and writing.



How can I prepare my students to take the test?

There’s a really great app called Warm Up which is free to download and has loads of practice materials for students. Furthermore, there are Practice Tests Plus course books which focus on exam training, skills building and practice. Finally, when students feel they are ready to take the exam of their choice, they can go online and take the Readiness Test to see if they are ready.

Is there a test for Young Learners?

Yes, there is. It is called Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners which helps students to progress in their English and strive towards learning more English.


The Pearson English International Certificate is a very comprehensive test that students will find useful and valuable. There’s a wealth of materials to use to help your students to prepare and it is internationally recognised. To find out more information, please click HERE.

 

Assessing when to give assessment!

Judging the quality of a student’s level of English can be a daunting task for teachers and strike fear into the hearts of students, who, like most sensible people. hate to be judged, especially on their mistakes. For teachers, we are always asking ourselves when should we carry our assessment, how should we do it, and what exactly are we looking for in order to give a kind of score or opinion. Let’s break those three important questions down.

When should we carry out assessment?

There are two main schools of thought regarding assessment: Summative assessment and formative assessment. 

Summative assessment is usually carried out towards the end of the course. It is designed to produce a ‘summary’ of what the student has successfully learned during their time with you. An example of this is an end of course test. Summative assessments can be very valuable, as tests are usually comprised of the material a student is expected to have seen before and are therefore connected to the learning aims you have set during each class. Another good point is that they are usually very comprehensive, with sections on listening, reading, writing, speaking and grammar and vocabulary.

Formative assessment is carried out throughout the length of the course. The idea is that you are ‘forming’ an assessment week by week or month by month and gathering evidence until you have the completed assessment of the student. An example of this could be assessing regular presentations students make in class and sharing your feedback with your students so that they improve every time. This is the main reason why formative assessments are considered very valuable, as the student plays a more participative role in their assessment – they know the assessment criteria and they receive feedback in order to improve.

In your classes you are probably doing a little bit of both – giving short quizzes, setting writing assignments with feedback and end of unit tests (all formative assessments) and then in the middle and end of the course you are giving a much larger test to assess how much a student has learned (summative assessment). All of these are extremely important in order to help your students recognise strengths and needs and to motivate them to achieve their goals.

A final benefit teachers, students and parents can select is official exams, such as the Pearson English International Certificate. This method provides a full picture of a student’s ability when compared to other English speakers worldwide. It’s extremely useful for universities and employers, and the Pearson English International Certificate not only provides students with a certificate, but also includes a deep dive into the results so students can continue to assess themselves and learn from their mistakes. Finally, this exam also offers student’s the option to take the test in the comfort of their own homes, which fits perfectly with a busy and demanding world and can compliment the English classes they are in.

How should we be integrating assessment into our teaching schedule?

It does depend on the length and purpose of your course, and mathematically thinking about time and material can help us make an informed decision. You have to calculate the time you have in order to teach the materials and then see what time you have left to give assessment and feedback. From there, you can look at your course book and identify tasks where formative assessment would be valuable and when to implement summative assessments.

Depending on the method of grading work and giving feedback for formative assessments, we can spend more time or less. For example, if you are a lover of technology you can audio record feedback for students to listen to on your class portal, rather than write it out every time. You can use writing corrections codes in order to avoid complex written feedback in writing assignments, for example:

Students can be given the answers to an end of unit test and grade themselves or their partner’s work. If you have a digital course book, very often the software allows you to set tests and assess students’ progress. For example, the new Pearson English Connect has the ability for teachers to see continuous progress of their students as they work through the course book, work book and extra activities. This is valuable data to collect and know where your students’ strengths and needs lie.

What exactly are we assessing?

Before giving any task to students, we should be clear about what we are assessing, and the criteria for success. It vastly helps students to complete a task well if they are also told what you will be assessing them on. For a grammar and vocabulary end of unit test, it’s simple enough to tell students you are assessing them on knowing the correct answer and how to spell it. For a skills based activity, for example a speaking activity, it’s a good idea to tell students your criteria, otherwise students do not know what they need to work on, and criticism can seem personal. Imagine the speaking task is to tell an anecdote to your partner. Our criteria can be (but not limited to) the successful use of linking phrases to tell a story, good body language with their partner and the correct use of past tenses. Putting this criteria on the board before students start the task helps them to visualise success, and also encourages our students to self-assess. As the teacher, you also have the opportunity to focus on just one or two criteria or add more. Finally, do explain your scoring system to the students if you are going to implement one, and be sensitive to cultural differences regarding grades and what they mean in the main school – for example, an 7 out of 10 may seem like a great score to you, but culturally it may seem like a ‘fail’.

The Importance of student self assessment

The world in general is moving towards the idea of students being able to critically and fairly self-assess themselves as a future life skill. The ability to recognise strengths and weaknesses and further improve on them rationally will help students to obtain the life goals they are striving towards. They learn to listen to and trust their own voice rather than relying on outside voices. Therefore, teaching students how to self-assess is as important as ever. This does not happen automatically, and teachers need to guide students in learning how to self-assess. It is definitely not a time-saving exercise for the teacher, initially. You have to show plenty of examples and ways to self-assess in order for students to find the process useful. An example of the stages of implementing self assessment is taken from James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn’s article:

The most effective form of student assessment is not to for teachers to create a checklist in advance and then students apply the criteria to themselves, rather student’s opinions on what they think is fair to assess should be included. It’s a two-way negotiation. Whichever method you choose, it needs to be fully implemented across all levels and classes within an academic institution, not just within your own class.

Some problems we face when students self-assess are the fact that lower performing and less experienced students tend to overestimate their achievements. Students may also resist self-assessment, being too shy or perceiving assessment and grading to be the teacher’s job. Finally, issues can arise if students’ self-assessments are not consistent with peer or staff assessments. However, the more you implement self-assessment, they more natural it becomes for the students.

Assessment is a wonderful tool for teachers and students so do take the time to implement it regularly in your lesson plans and help your students to successfully self-assess. If you’re looking for a tool that gives teachers and students evidence and follow-up on how students are really progressing in their English skills and proficiency, Pearson’s Benchmark Test could be useful for you. On the other hand, if you’re interested in knowing more about a complete assessment journey, you can see what else Pearson proposes here.

If you would like to read more about assessment you can read Michael Brand’s blog post on digital assessment here.

Ten Top Back to School ice-breakers

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

And just like that we’re back. The holidays have drawn to a close and the suncream’s back in the cabinet. The laptop’s dusted off and thoughts turn to the 25 (hopefully) beaming faces that we’ll soon have in front of us. In our first lesson back we’ll often outline our rules and expectations, explain the content of the course and get to know one another with a range of ice breaking activities. This blog post focuses on the latter. Here are 10 activities to go away and use on the first day back!

1. Teacher introduction gap fill

We’ll want our students telling us about themselves, but it’s easier for them if we go first. There are a number of ways to this. One is a gapped text which students can look over in pairs and make predictions. They’re sure to make a few funny ones which should help break the ice:

I’m Mr Brand. Nice to meet you! I was born in ______________(Country) in _______________ (Year). But I’ve lived in Spain for ___________ (years). My favourite sport is _____________ and my favourite food is _____________. I can’t stand ____________!

Students can then write or read their own texts and even gap fill them too.

Continue reading

Mediation and the LOMLOE part 2: mediating a text

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Welcome to our second blog post on mediation, which is one of the six key competences for foreign languages in the new Education Law, the LOMLOE. In part 1 we asked ourselves what mediation is and why it’s important. We delved into the different subskills that make up a successful mediator and considered the ways in which we’ll already be developing these subskills in class. In part 2, we’re going to consider what a full ‘mediating a text‘ task might look like. Let’s begin!

Continue reading

Mediation and the LOMLOE: read all about it!

We’ve been blogging at some length about the new Education Law and particularly about what it means for teachers of English. In the new curriculum for Foreign Languages the Key Competences to be developed have undergone change. There are now six, namely:

Comprehension
Production
Interaction
Mediation
Plurlingualism
Cultural competence

In this blog post, we’re going to deal with the key competence of mediation and consider these questions

1. What is mediation in a broad sense?
2. Why is mediation important?
3. What sub skills are involved in mediation?
4. How can we develop (and how are we already developing) this competence in our students? We will further expand on this point in the next blog post.

Let’s begin!

Continue reading

6 great ways to use dictation in your English class

Dictation is a tried and tested activity in the language classroom. It’s a multi-skilled activity, testing listening and writing skills: it’s quick to correct too, and it’s diagnostic: we get valuable feedback for where our learners need to improve. Dictation draws our students attention to many features of speech: it helps them get to grips with elision:  the omission of sounds ( /kamra/ for camera). The same can be said for assimilation: a sound becoming more like a nearby sounds (we often say ‘hambag’ for handbag). Indeed, dictation is particularly suited to English because of it’s complicated sound/spelling relationship.

Dictation is also used in certification exams. Take this example from the B1 level of the Pearson English International Certificate. At the top are the instructions the candidate sees, and the transcript of what they hear below:

Candidates hear the recording twice and the second time they hear it there are pauses to give them time to write (represented by the slashes above).

Read on to look at six great dictation activities to use in class with your students:

Continue reading

Developing the LOMLOE Key Competence of Citizenship at Primary

The new Education Law outlines eight key competences to be developed across subject areas as part of its ‘perfil de salida’ (leaver profile). These are general competences that school leavers will need to get on in life and be effective members of society. One of these key competences is Citizenship and in this blog post we are going to look at how it is defined according to the LOMLOE and consider some activities we can do with our primary pupils to develop the competence.
Continue reading

Getting future-ready with STEM and the LOMLOE

Spain’s new Education Law (LOMLOE) outlines STEM competences as one of the 8 key areas of the leaver profile (“perfil de salida”) – the core cross-curricular competences that learners should leave school with. This arises from the idea that STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is important for developing individuals now and for the future. Helping your students become future-ready means that they will develop skills, transferable abilities and a learning mindset that will prepare them to face future challenges. And all this, believe it or not, can happen in your English language classroom!

Continue reading

Supporting International Women’s Day: #breakthebias

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. Celebrate women’s achievements. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

I took this introduction from the International Women’s Day website as I couldn’t improve upon it. I think we can agree that it’s a world we’d like to live in and one that’s worth fighting for. To create it, we’ll need to educate our children and indeed ourselves in the values above. In this blog post, I’d like to look at some of the things we can do as educators, parents and as people to try to make it a reality.

Continue reading