Building a Classroom Community: How to Encourage Diversity and Inclusion in the English Classroom

Diversity and inclusion

Creating a teaching environment that is as welcoming a possible to all members of the group is hard work, but wonderful when it all comes together. Addressing all our students’ needs as much as we can should not mean a lot of extra work for the teacher, but adapting our normal lesson plans to embrace neurodiversity will go a long way to creating that inclusive teaching environment. Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your teaching:

Entering the classroom

Consider where your students are coming from and their energy levels. Will they have just come from playing outside with their friends and need calming? Have they been sat down previously and will likely be full of energy when they come in? This will help you to decide what the first welcome idea will be. Have the instructions on the board, e.g.

Play the word domino game from yesterday with your partner. You have 7 minutes.

Lucas hand out the laptops.
Abigail and Frank come and see me.

Some students may need extra tasks to use up their energy in order to concentrate later. Can you provide a task, such as delivering a message to another classroom?

Getting ready to listen and learn

Do students know exactly where to sit every lesson and who they work with? This kind of routine helps children to settle quickly and feel at ease. If you like changing seats every month then you can provide a seating plan on the wall for students to consult if they have trouble remembering. Can all the students see the board and you easily? Are they in the best place for learning for their particular learning goals? For example, if someone is easily distracted by movement outside the window, consider positioning the chairs and table away from the distraction. Finally, are the walls of the classroom too ‘busy’? Having too much information up on the wall can be a distraction for some students who find it hard to focus.

Another tip to consider is having a visual schedule of the lesson to help students understand what is coming next. If you follow a class routine, this is helpful for students to understand the flow of the class and what should come next. A schedule looks like this:

It can be placed on the wall next to the board in large letters or printed off and put on a student’s desk to follow. If this is too much for some students to process, consider using ‘Now and Next’ cards so students are focused on the present moment and not too overwhelmed with what is to come. These cards look like this:


Furthermore, some students may require a step-by-step visual approach to an activity, such as this:

Finally, do some of your students need to fiddle with an object to keep listening to you? If so, have something like blue-tac on hand.

Giving Instructions

Clear instructions are vital for students, especially those learning a foreign language, yet it is one of the hardest tasks for a teacher to carry out. We are nervous that our students do not understand us, so we say an instruction again and add more words; we try to joke with our students, but they do not quite get it: or a student asks us a question during a difficult moment in class and we respond unclearly. Take for example the last scenario. A student asks for help while you are trying to help another student. You may respond like this:

“Hold on, I’ll be with you soon”.

Students can interpret this in a variety of ways, e.g.

  1. I need to wait patiently until my teacher can help me (correct interpretation of that the teacher wants!)
  2. I do not consider your request as important as my current task.
  3. I need to hold something? A pen? The table? For how long?

A lack of understanding by a student when giving instructions for how to complete an activity can be shown in a variety of disruptive ways, for example acting out, procrastination (because they really do not understand the task), not participating, playing with a friend, and so on. Consider these tips when giving instructions:

  • Use imperative sentences and avoid extra detail. Write down the instructions in advance if you need to until you get very good at saying instructions clearly. Compare:

“Listen to the people talking then write your answers in the space”.

“Listen and write.”

The second command is much clearer.

  • Try not to deviate from the course book instructions, especially if the students are trying to follow what is written.
  • Use non-verbal communication strategies to help students to process the instruction.
  • Use visuals and flashcards of items to support students with their comprehension of items, for example, show a picture of a pair of scissors.
  • Avoid saying the instruction again in a different way and with more detail if at first students do not understand. Follow this pattern of Say the instructions, Stop, Observe if students understand (checking questions can help here), Repeat.

Assessing Understanding

You can implement different routines to help you to know if students understand the task or not. For example, students show you with the thumbs up / thumbs in the middle/ thumbs down visual to show who does not understand well. If this causes embarrassment to some students, you can implement a ‘buddy’ system where students check with each other what they have to do and ask each other for clarification. Finally, asking students to repeat back instructions or give answers to a task in front of others is sometimes very hard. Provide sentence starters to help them tell you. Finally, some students feel overwhelmed at the idea that they may get suddenly called on to answer a question. There is nothing wrong in telling that student that “No, for this next feedback I won’t call on you”, or “I will ask for your help for question three”

Task Differentiation

Asking, or expecting, each student in your class to undertake activities in the course book all together and all at the same time is unrealistic. Think about how to slightly change an activity in a course book to make it more challenging, or indeed, less overwhelming for some students. This is not meant to imply designing extra worksheets for students, but instead slightly changing a task already provided. For example:


Image taken from Rise and Shine Book 4

Activity 2: To make it harder, ask students to complete the activity, then write the sentences again from memory. How many words can they get right? To make it easier, ask students to only complete answers 2 and 3. Or, you provide clues, such as starting letters, on a mini whiteboard in front of them to help students complete the missing words.

Working in pairs or groups

When looking at tasks in a course book where students work with a friend or small group to complete the task, first analyse the task to see whether it has more social or academic demands, or if it has a balance of both. From there, you can plan some support strategies. For example:


Image taken from Rise and Shine Book 4

This task has a high social demand. Some elements to consider are listening, waiting, turn taking, participating, sounding interested, eye contact, sensory issues. The academic challenge is fairly low as the grammar used is predominantly ‘can’ sentences, possessives and adjectives to talk about upcycling. Therefore, as the teacher, you need to think about providing strategies for supporting the social challenge of the task for students.

Image taken from Rise and Shine Book 3

This task has a high academic challenge. The students focus more on writing sentences, using the correct grammar and vocabulary, check spelling and then putting all the information attractively together in a. project. The teacher needs to focus more on the academic support to help the student achieve the task.

Further considerations for the teacher when students work in pairs or small groups are:

  • Who is in the group?
  • How big is the group?
  • Should you have a ‘buddy’ system or will you provide the support needed?
  • Helping students to understand how to take turns.
  • How does every student contribute – what’s their role within a certain project?

One useful approach to help all students keep on track during a project and to focus on the stages of a project is the Bell Wallace TASC Wheel (TASC means Thinking Actively in a Social Context).



Students start with the orange ‘Gather/Organise’ or red ‘Identify’ stage and work their way around the wheel, completing each stage.

Leaving the Classroom

An exit routine is just as important as a welcome routine. It helps students to leave the classroom calmly, proud of what they have achieved and knowing what they have to do for homework. Some aspects to consider are making sure you give enough time for students to tidy up in order to avoid stress and chaos. How can you calmly communicate what students have to do for homework? Do you need to provide more detailed, printed instructions for some to students to glue into their workbooks? Do you need to make a quick video and post it to the school web for students to watch calmly at home and understand? Do you have a system for leaving in a calm and ordered way?

Seeing your students as individuals who each have their own strengths and challenges is vital. It is hard for one person to provide support to all, but small changes in class can go a long way to help all students achieve their goals. Do not try to take on everything all at once without support. You need your directors and fellow teachers to help you with ideas and extra care. Also, some changes take time. If something does not work the first time in class, such as implementing a new welcome routine, keep trying as changes need time to be understood and adapted to by students. I will leave you with the final thought by author Alexander Den Heijer: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”




Beyond Borders: Crafting Holistic English Language Learning Experiences

In today’s global context, ELL teaching transcends traditional boundaries. It’s about empowering students to navigate the world confidently in English while nurturing their role as proactive global citizens. Including examples from Your World, the Pearson coursebook for teenagers, this blog explores crafting impactful learning experiences that blend language mastery with environmental and emotional intelligence.

Embracing Emotions: It’s Essential


Understanding emotions is crucial in our learning journey. Acknowledging and expressing feelings like frustration or sadness is vital for mental wellbeing. By integrating emotional literacy into ELL, we promote resilience, aiding students in articulating their experiences and building emotional strength alongside language skills. While it’s important we find solutions to problems it’s also important we allow ourselves time to get through negative emotions before moving on.

Using Role-Plays for Deeper Learning

Role-plays about common, and sometimes painful, dilemmas, such as a lost phone, serve as springboard for broader lessons and greater scope for empathy when considering world issues. These scenarios encourage students to articulate feelings, and solutions in English.

Practical Example: The Broken Phone Scenario

  • Problem Identification: A student expresses the frustration of losing a phone, discussing immediate feelings and their root. Also look at potential impacts like the environmental toll of manufacturing one mobile phone.
  • Sustainable Solutions Discussion: Shift focus away from the broken/lost phone to eco-friendly resolutions, while acknowledging it’s incredible annoying to break a phone, what are the next steps? Could repairing or recycling be viable options? This conversation fosters critical thinking and eco-consciousness. It also focuses on finding a solution from within rather than simply “buying a new one”
  • Mental Health Benefits: Having a broken phone and an enforced digital detox for a few days can do wonders for your mental health. Perhaps take the chance to plan a few “phone free” activities students could do it their phone was broken for an entire weekend!
  • Role-Play Expansion: Students brainstorm and role-play scenarios offering sustainable solutions, practicing English while embedding sustainability in their thought process.
  • Global Impact Reflection: Conclude with a discussion on how individual choices, like opting for repaired or second-hand electronics, contribute to global sustainability efforts. Remind students there are many ways they can make a difference in the world. This is just one tiny solution.

Celebrating Diversity: A Europe day Celebration

After engaging with the Europe Day Competition from the workbook, a natural progression is to host a Europe Day celebration in the classroom.

This event can serve as a celebration of the European Union’s cultural diversity. Imagine a classroom transformed into a mini-Europe, where each corner represents a different member state, adorned with national flags, traditional costumes, and homemade replicas of famous landmarks. Students could share insights into each country’s contribution to environmental sustainability, highlighting how these nations are pioneers in renewable energy, waste reduction, and conservation efforts.

Europe Day Celebration:

  • Team Formation and Role Assignment: Students assess their strengths and interests. It’s important that everyone has a chance to present how they want to present. There’s a chance not every student will want to stand in front of a class and read a powerpoint. Look for other presentation options and roles.
  • Research and Presentation: Each group selects an EU Member State. They will beyond flags cuisine and capital cities. Allow students to look into areas like language, and cultural expressions though art. Assed to that encourage deeper research into climate policy and other areas related to the Sustainable Development Goals.  It only take a second to find out how much energy is produced by using renewables in Iceland. (Spoiler alert, it’s 99%)
  • Cultural Exchange and Reflection: Students prepare and share their presentations, engaging in a rich exchange of cultural knowledge and language practice. This activity not only enhances understanding of diverse cultures but also fosters a sense of European unity and global citizenship.

This celebration would not only solidify students’ research and presentation skills but also deepen their understanding of the interconnectedness of European cultures.

Through activities like a “taste of Europe” food fair or a collaborative art project depicting Europe’s scenic diversity, students can experience the joys of cultural exchange. Such a celebration reinforces a shared commitment to fostering a peaceful, inclusive society. It’s an opportunity for students to practice empathy, appreciate diversity, and understand their role in the global community, all within the enriching context of learning English.

What next?

We don’t need to reimagine ELL, we don’t need to reinvent it. By integrating emotional literacy, environmental consciousness, and cultural diversity into our curriculum, we’re not just enhancing language skills—we’re empowering students to make meaningful contributions to the world. This holistic approach prepares them to face future complexities with resilience and empathy. It ensures students leave our classrooms ready to enact positive change. Together, we’re shaping a generation that values sustainability, emotional wellbeing, and global unity.

How Can Mediation Skills be Taught in the Classroom?

Mediation skills are a vital tool of communication both in your own language and also in the language you are learning. To communicate, we all have to take information, understand it, and then explain it to others. This sounds simple and easy, and you may ask, why do we need to teach this in our lessons? It takes a unique set of skills to be able to do this well and not to be either too dominant or unforthcoming when speaking with others, thus we need to focus on helping our students to develop this skill in class. Furthermore, it is a key assessment component in many exams, and the CEFR upon which many exams are based, breaks down the meaning of using mediation in groups and the English level to which they correspond:

Mediation scales

(Image taken from Completing the CEFR Descriptive Scheme: The CEFR Companion Volume, 2022)


What is mediation?

In simple terms, mediation means the ability to read or hear a message, understand it and then communicate it appropriately. This is more than just simple interaction, as mediation implies skills like leading a discussion, managing conflict within a group, proposing solutions, simplifying a message and so on. It requires the speaker to be aware of who they are speaking to and the context they are in to communicate successfully. The Council of Europe has broken down this concept into the image below:


(Image taken from The Council of Europe, 2020)

As you can see, these skills are not only useful for students to use at school but are the types of skills most in demand by universities and employers. They are often referred to as future skills or employability skills in teaching course books. These refer to skills that cannot be carried out successfully by technology and still rely on humans to act. It is therefore well worth working on these in class to prepare our students for the future.


Teaching mediation skills in class

Your World, the Pearson course book for teenagers, is a great example of a book that consistently incorporates teaching future skills in class, especially mediation skills. Let’s look at an example of how to teach a mediation skills lesson in class. The lesson example comes from Your World 2.

Activity 1 & 2:

Mediation activities


The aim of the activity is for the students to participate in a group discussion and make a decision.

The mediation skill in practice is to collaborate in a group, work towards a common goal and give the opportunity for everyone to contribute their opinion. If we refer back to the Council of Europe mediation levels above, this activity is aimed at students wishing to achieve a B1 level.



The activity begins with a warm-up for students to recall vocabulary regarding holidays and practice speaking interaction skills. The prepare stage helps students to understand and respond to the reading task about different styles of holidays. They are practicing their comprehension skills and learning new vocabulary. These four holiday suggestions will be used later in the mediation task.

Activity 3:

Mediation activity

The next stage is the scenario. It gives a realistic reason for students to talk together and presents some problems that they must consider when discussing. For example, it talks about what Sophie and Alex like and do not like which will also have to factor into what the students themselves like and dislike. This type of activity is by far the best kind of collaboration activity as it asks students to solve a problem together, as they would in real life. The question asks students to summarise in their own words what they have to do (which is another mediation activity: understand and summarise a text). An example answer could be: We need to agree on the best summer holiday activity for our group of friends.

Activity 4:

Mediation Activity 4 - Your World

The activity now clearly shows the students the aim of the activity. The aim is not a linguistic one – it is not ‘I will practice the present perfect’ (the course book has other grammar pages where this type of aim can be found) – but instead it is ‘ask others for their opinions, listen to their opinions and express your own opinions clearly, but respectfully.’ We obviously want students to practice their English language skills, but the focus in on how they interact in a group in order to achieve a desired outcome.

As the activity is clearly labelled as ‘mediation’ and the aims are written down in an easy-to-understand way for the students, they are very clear on how you will be assessing them as the criteria for success is clear for all. Furthermore, to help students achieve the task in English, there are some useful language expressions which students have already seen in an earlier unit in a different context, so it is an opportunity for students to practice and reinforce what they have seen before. As teachers, we can always extend the list of phrases if we feel our students need an extra challenge, and we can add in a pronunciation stage here to make sure that our students will be saying these phrases correctly.

Activity 5 and 6:

Mediation activities - Your World

Now students attempt the task. An example of a successful group task would look like this:

An example of a task that has areas to improve for next time would look like this:


Monitor students carefully as they do the task. Write down any errors they make, both mediation errors (e.g. if they laughed at a student’s idea and it was not very respectful) and also linguistic errors, such as pronunciation or grammar, but also make a note of things they did well. You will use these notes later.

Ask students to self-reflect in stage 6, which can help them to understand the feedback from you better. Students being able to recognize their own strengths and areas to improve on helps them to become more autonomous learners. Also, invite thew whole class to comment on what the group finally chose, as each group is likely to have chosen something different. Finally, you can put the positive feedback and areas to improve that you wrote down while students were completing the task on the board for whole class feedback. You can then let each group know what score they received for the task (this can be done privately or whole class depending on how you would like to give the feedback) and future recommendations.


These types of tasks may seem very familiar to you already – setting a context for speaking, then monitoring and giving feedback. However, most teachers are still focusing on language errors during these activities. When practicing future skills such as mediation, please bear in mind that you need to be helping the students to develop other skills, and looking at the CEFR descriptors will help you when designing activities, modifying activities in your course book and then assessing them correctly. This will help students at school, during exams where they have a collaboration section that is assessed, and also in the future at university or at work.

New Year’s Language Goals and Resolutions

When you set yourself an impossible New Year’s Resolution for January 1st you could be setting yourself up for failure. For that reason it’s always good to wait a while and take a measured approach to your resolutions. Set some realistic goals and lay out how you’re going to achieve them.  In this post we’re going to look at some language resolutions you could make and how you can stick to them throughout the year.

The Power of Goal Setting

Why is January such a pivotal time for setting language learning goals? Unlike the fleeting enthusiasm that often accompanies resolutions made in the thrill of New Year’s celebrations, goals set in January tend to be more grounded and realistic. This is because they are made with a clearer understanding of what the new year looks like, allowing for more tailored and achievable objectives.

scissors and two paper clips beside opened spiral notebook

For language learners, this means setting attainable goals that align with their current lifestyle and responsibilities. Whether it’s dedicating a specific number of hours each week to language study, or aiming to reach a particular proficiency level by year’s end, the key is to make these goals as specific and realistic as possible.

Benefits of Learning a New Language

The benefits of learning a new language extend far beyond the ability to communicate in another tongue. Socially, it opens doors to new cultures and friendships, allowing learners to connect with people across the globe in a more meaningful way. Professionally, bilingualism is an increasingly sought-after skill, offering greater employment opportunities and potential for career advancement.

On a physical level, studies have shown that learning a new language can improve cognitive function, enhance memory, and even delay the onset of dementia. The mental workout required to master a new language keeps the brain agile and strong, much like physical exercise benefits the body.

brown brain decor in selective-focus photography

Strategies for Effective Language Learning

Successful language learning is not just about setting goals, but also about employing effective strategies and tools to achieve them. Here are some tips for staying on track:

  1. Consistent Practice: Dedicate a regular time each day or week for language study. Consistency is key to progress.
  2. Immersive Learning: Surround yourself with the language as much as possible. Listen to music, watch films, or read books in the target language.
  3. Speak and Practice: Don’t be afraid to speak the language, even if it’s not perfect. Practice with other speakers of the language as well as fellow learners.
  4. Track Your Progress: Regularly review what you’ve learned and celebrate your milestones, no matter how small.

Leveraging Mondly by Pearson for Language Learning

Mondly by Pearson is more than just a language learning app; it’s a comprehensive tool that transforms the traditional learning experience into something interactive, engaging, and highly effective. Mondly provides a unique approach to language learning that caters to various learning styles and levels. Here’s how Mondly by Pearson stands out as an essential resource for language learners:

Interactive Daily Lessons:

Mondly by Pearson keeps the learning experience fresh and exciting with daily lessons. These bite-sized, interactive sessions are designed to build language skills gradually but effectively, perfect for keeping learners engaged and motivated.

Real-Life Conversations:

One of Mondly’s standout features is its focus on real-life conversations. The app immerses learners in common conversational scenarios, ranging from ordering food to booking a hotel room. This practical approach ensures that learners are not just memorizing vocabulary, but are also able to apply their language skills in everyday situations.

Voice Recognition Technology:

To aid in pronunciation and speaking skills, Mondly by Pearson incorporates advanced voice recognition technology. This feature allows learners to receive instant feedback on their pronunciation, helping them to speak more accurately and confidently.

Augmented Reality (AR) Feature:

Mondly by Pearson takes language learning to another level with its AR feature, allowing learners to interact with virtual objects and characters. This immersive experience makes learning both fun and memorable, as it bridges the gap between theoretical learning and practical application.

Personalised Learning Path:

Mondly by Pearson adapts to each learner’s style and pace. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, the app personalises the learning content to suit your level, ensuring that every lesson is both challenging and achievable.

A Wide Range of Languages:

With Mondly by Pearson, learners have access to an impressive array of languages. From widely spoken languages like English, Spanish and French to less common ones like Norwegian and Finnish, Mondly caters to a diverse range of linguistic interests.

By incorporating Mondly into your language learning resolutions, you’re not just committing to learning a new language; you’re embracing an innovative and dynamic method of learning that keeps you engaged and accelerates your progress. Experience the interactive and immersive world of language learning with Mondly by Pearson by visiting their website.

The Goal of Certification – Pearson English International Certificate Exam

For many learners, obtaining a language certification is a significant milestone. The Pearson English International Certificate (PEIC) is an excellent goal for those seeking to validate their language proficiency. The PEIC exam assesses all four skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – and is recognised globally. By aiming for this certification, learners can have a clear, tangible target to work towards. Learn more about the PEIC exam and how it can be part of your language learning resolution here. For additional information, check out the info here.

So… what next…

Setting proper goals is a fundamental step in the journey towards language fluency. By choosing the right time to set these goals, understanding the multifaceted benefits of language learning, and utilizing the right tools and resources, such as Mondly by Pearson and the Pearson English International Certificate exam, learners can make significant strides in their language acquisition. It’s about more than just learning a new language; it’s about opening up to new worlds of opportunity, enhancing cognitive abilities, and connecting with diverse cultures.

Remember, the journey to language fluency is a marathon, not a sprint. With persistence, the right tools, and a clear set of goals, achieving language proficiency is not just a dream but an attainable reality. Here’s to a year of linguistic growth and success!

Fresh & Festive Ideas for your Teen Classes

Festive ideas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. We can almost hear the sleigh bells ringing. Home Alone is on the TV. There are endless perfume adverts and we all want to eat our own body weight in Christmas goodies.

It’s been a long first term and to be honest, we’re all VERY tired. We’ve finished our exams and we just want to throw on Netflix, relax and wait for the three wise men to bring us lots of presents.

We already know what Mariah wants for Christmas so why not leave the Christmas song gap fills in Santas sack? Looking for some video inspiration?

Now, you might not win “El Gordo” this year but In today’s post we’ve got the next best thing.  We’re giving you 4 Christmas class ideas to keep your teens motivated until they’ve opened the last window on their advent calendar.

A Gift from afar

Here’s an idea we developed everyone’s favourite Youtube teacher Charlie’s Lessons. It all comes from the idea that the people of Oslo donate a huge Christmas tree to Trafalgar Square every year. (This video explains why)

After watching the video allocate students in the class a random city around the world. Ask your students to research the city a little and see what gift they would send them from your home town. Then ask the students to suggest what gift that city might send in return.

For example we landed on Nashville Tennessee. It soon became clear that Nashville is the home of Country music. So our gift to them would be a set of castanets. We could send them with a “How to play castanets” video or guide.

In return Nashville could send us a fancy neon guitar sign or something from the wonderful celebration of Tomatoes, The annual Tomato Art Fest.

If you want to take this one step further, why not get in touch with a school in your random city and exchange some ideas about each other’s hometown at Christmas?

Santa’s Sustainable Christmas

We’ve already written our letters to the Three Wise men and Santa. Telling them we’ve behaved well all year; asking for a new iPhone or more socks than a centipede could use. Why don’t we send Santa a letter asking for him to make a real difference in the world?

Amidst the excitement of Christmas, the tradition of writing letters to Santa often revolves around material desires and personal wishes. However, as teachers of English as a second language, we have a unique opportunity to instill in our students a sense of global responsibility and sustainability.

Encouraging our students to write a sustainable letter to Santa can foster empathy and awareness about real-world issues. Instead of solely focusing on personal wants, this exercise prompts them to consider the bigger picture. Students can express their concerns about the environment, advocate for social causes, or suggest ways in which Santa, the symbol of giving, can contribute to making the world a better place.

This activity not only enhances language skills but also cultivates a sense of agency in students. By channeling their wishes into requests for positive change, they learn the power of their voices and the impact of collective action, instilling values that transcend the holiday season.

Snow Balls

Is there anything more exhilarating than a snowball fight? I didn’t think so. Imagine capturing that excitement in a super-fast, low-prep classroom activity that ingeniously repurposes those old, seemingly endless scraps of paper.

Start by prompting your students to jot down their heartfelt Christmas wishes on these pieces of paper. As the wishes accumulate, the anticipation heightens. Then, in the spirit of a lively snowball fight, crumple these papers into balls and let them fly across the classroom in a flurry of hope and joy.

Free Snowball Fight Winter photo and picture

The real magic begins when the flurry settles. Students embark on a quest, picking up the scattered wishes. The challenge? To unravel the crumpled pieces and, with curiosity and camaraderie, decipher whose wish they hold. This lively interaction not only recycles paper but also encourages students to engage actively in forming questions, fostering a playful yet educational atmosphere.

For instance, imagine a student unraveling a wish that reads, “I wish for a world with no hunger.” They turn to their peers, querying, “Hi Pepe, do you wish for a world with no hunger?” Another might discover a wish for “A new map on fortnite,” sparking a round of inquiries to uncover the wishmaker.

Cracker Jokes

Free Celebration Christmas photo and picture

The best thing about Christmas dinner isn’t the food is it? No, it’s the terrible Christmas cracker jokes. Start by presenting a few classic Christmas cracker jokes to your students. These often feature playful wordplay and puns. Encourage students to read and discuss the jokes together, identifying the humor and the wordplay elements embedded within them.

Guide them through the process of dissecting the jokes:

  1. Identify Wordplay: Break down the jokes to highlight the double meanings, homophones, or clever twists in the language used.
  2. Explain the Humour: Discuss why the jokes are funny and how the wordplay contributes to the humour. Help students understand the cultural context if necessary.
    1. “What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker!”
      • Deconstruction: This joke cleverly plays with words that sound similar but have different meanings. It uses a pun on “Quacker” (a sound a duck makes) and “Cracker” (a traditional festive item). By combining “Santa” and “Quacker,” it creates the humorous image of a Christmas-themed duck, merging the idea of Santa Claus with the quacking sound, resulting in a playful and pun-filled phrase: “Christmas Quacker.”
    2. “Who is Santa’s favorite singer? Elf-is Presley!”
      • Deconstruction: This joke relies on a play on words and a clever twist. It combines “Elf” (Santa’s helper) with “Elvis Presley” (a famous singer), creating a wordplay fusion, “Elf-is Presley.” This wordplay substitutes “Elvis” with “Elf,” humorously suggesting that Santa’s favorite singer would be a play on the famous musician’s name, indicating the mythical Elf as the preferred singer.

    If your students are feeling brave why not go on to step three and get them to Create Their Own Jokes: After analysing a few jokes, encourage students to try their hand at crafting their own Christmas cracker jokes. Provide prompts or examples to help kickstart their creative process.

As we wrap up these festive activities, may your days be merry and bright and filled with warmth. Wishing you all a Christmas  – where laughter sparkles like tinsel and joy resonates like the sound of sleigh bells. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Hair-raisingly good Halloween English Reader activities

Halloween reading activities

Halloween is just around the corner, and it is a wickedly wonderful way to encourage your older teen and adult students to broaden their vocabulary, consolidate their grammar and practice their reading skills by using classic horror or thriller English Readers in class. Pearson has a collection of more than 300 Pearson English Readers which are easy to use and contain lots of extra materials.

Some spook-tacular Halloween selections from the classic English Readers are:

  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Dracula
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Dr Faustus
  • Hamlet
  • The Locked Room and other horror stories
  • Misery
  • Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • The Canterville Ghost and other stories

If you want to use a Reader with your students in class, for Halloween or for any time of the year, here are some ideas to compliment the book.

Word Lists

Every Pearson Reader has a word list at the back of the book that gives a brief definition of the essential vocabulary used. Use these lists to design a ‘treasure hunt’ style game. For example:


  1. Three animals
  2. Two jobs
  3. Two places for dead people

After students have read the story, you can also play a quiz game where you read out a definition of a word and students buzz in and tell you the answer. Alternatively, another fun revision game is that you say a word and students must come up with a grammatically correct sentence using that word to win. It’s a fun way to practice new vocabulary.

Character Conversations

Once you have started to read the book with your students and the characters have been introduced, you can ask students to imagine that they are some of the characters in the book and to have a conversation with each other. For example, in the story Dracula, the Doctor comes to visit Lucy as she is under the spell of Dracula and is acting strange. A dialogue may look like this:

Student A: You are Dr Seward. Ask questions about how Lucy is feeling.

Student B: You are Lucy’s father, Arthur. Explain how Lucy is feeling.

Conversations can also take place between characters in the form of Instant Messaging, or mobile phone text messages. Students can collaborate on a shared document, such as Google docs, and read and respond in real time to their classmates’ messages. You can also do this via traditional pen and paper messages.

Another conversation practice can be character interviews. Student A is a very famous TV talk show host and invites one of the characters from the book on to their show for an interview. Student B is one of the characters. Students can prepare the questions together before acting out the dialogue.

Radio Plays

Ask your students to recreate the entire story, a chapter or part of the story in the form of a radio play. They not only have to be the characters but they also have to be foley artists. If you have permission from the students and/or parents, you can record them performing! Give students plenty of time to prepare their dialogues, scripts and find the props they need to make the sounds. If students are watching each other, provide some listening activity for the audience to do, such as:

Watch your classmates perform their radio play.

  • What did you like the best?
  • What sound effect was the most realistic?
  • Was their dialogue accurate from the book?
  • What was your favourite line?

Creative Writing

Try to find opportunities in the story to encourage different writing styles. For example, in Dracula, we could set these tasks:

  1. You are Dracula trying to sell your castle. Write a description of it.
  2. You work for the police. You want to tell people about the dangers of vampires. Write a report answering these questions: How will I know if a person is a vampire? What should I do if I see one?
  3. You are Jonathon and you have just spent the first night in Dracula’s castle. You send a text message to your fiancée Mina. Arrived safely. Dracula v. strange. J xx. Reply as Mina and then continue the conversation between them both.
  4. The book publisher wants you to write a 100-word description for the back of the book that will encourage people in the 21st Century to read it – careful, do not reveal the ending of the story!


Many of these Readers are suitable for Halloween because they play on our fears. Some are supernatural, such as vampires or werewolves, but others are more real, such as locked rooms or insects. Personalising questions either before students read the text or after is a great way to either build anticipation or check understanding of the story, and it helps students to use quite specific vocabulary. For example, in the short story The Ash Tree, we can ask our students before they read:

Which of these situations would frighten you most?

A You are walking alone in an open field at night. You see a black shape with two very bright eyes.

B You are driving along a road on a stormy night. Tall trees on each side of the road are moving wildly.

Or in The Barrel of Amontillado before students read:

This story involves a slow death and a barrel of expensive wine. Discuss how the person might die.

and in The Locked Room after the students have read it, we can discuss and speculate what we might do in the same situation:

Imagine you have just been into the locked room for the first time. You saw the clothes move and you heard the steps behind the door. What will you do now? Talk to another student.



Debates are great because not only do students practice speaking but they also have to give logical reasons as to why they are defending a particular idea, which is a very useful skill to have. We can choose to have a two-sided debate, such as after reading The Phantom of the Opera, the debate could be:

The mayor of Paris and the Captain of Police wants to tear down the Opera House after the recent scandals, but the locals want to protect the historical and beautiful building.

The class then splits 50/50 and they prepare their ideas and arguments before debating. Alternatively, the debate can be character based with multiple opinions. For example, after reading Faust, the debate could be:

In groups of five, imagine and act out this scene. The characters are:

  • The Pope
  • The army officer
  • The King of Germany
  • The Duke of Vanholt
  • Robin

A world organization thinks that Faustus should receive its top international prize for his services to science. Do you agree? Make short speeches and then have a discussion.

Halloween is the perfect time in the academic year to introduce readers to your class if you have not done so already. The Pearson Readers form part of the ‘Connected English Learning Program’ as it is part of the vast resources available to help your students to learn English through topics they love.

Back-to-School: Setting Goals, Nurturing Mental Health, and Embracing Green Practices

Back to School!

As the new school year approaches, it’s the perfect time to not only prepare for academic success but also setting goals, prioritising mental health and consider incorporating eco-friendly practices. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of setting goals for both teachers and students, provide valuable advice for teachers on maintaining their mental well-being and explore practical ideas to make going back to school greener. Let’s embark on a journey towards a purposeful, sustainable and supportive new academic year.

Setting Goals for Success: Teachers and Students


Set realistic and measurable goals for yourself. This might include improving instructional strategies, implementing new technology in the classroom, or focusing on personal growth as an educator.

Setting goals can help us  stay motivated and continuously improve our teaching practices.

You might also have a goal of not over working or taking your work home with you. Set work/life balance goals too… and stick to them. School is important, your students are important, but you are important too. Make sure you always set the goal of having time for yourself.


Guide students in setting their academic, social and personal goals for the new school year. Remember school isn’t just a stepping-stone to university.  It’s the place where doors begin to open, and ideas come to blossom.

Encourage your students to define specific objectives, create action plans, and regularly review their progress. This cultivates a sense of ownership over their learning journey and promotes self-motivation and growth. Not just, I want to pass an exam.

Here are three of our favourite ideas:

  • Goal Setting Workshop: Conduct a collaborative session where students identify their language learning objectives for the semester. Encourage specific and achievable goals, such as improving speaking fluency, expanding vocabulary, and achieving a certain proficiency level.
  • Personalised Learning Plans: Have students create individualized study plans outlining daily/weekly language practice. Emphasize the importance of consistency and track progress regularly to stay motivated and focused.
  • Goal Visualization Board: Encourage students to create visual boards representing their language goals. Include images, words, and symbols that inspire them to stay committed and visualise their success throughout the academic year.

Prioritizing Mental Health: Advice for Teachers

Self-Care Strategies

Remember to prioritise self-care throughout the school year. Look into mindfulness practices, regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining a work-life balance to prevent burnout and promote overall well-being.

Supportive Networks

Encourage fellow teachers to connect with colleagues and build supportive networks within the school community. Collaborative discussions, sharing experiences, and seeking advice can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of camaraderie.

Professional Development Opportunities

Remember the importance of growth. As teachers it’s important we continue with our own professional development. By enhancing our skills and keeping up with current trends in education, we can provide a better learning environment for ourselves and students.  Attend workshops, webinars, or conferences to expand your knowledge and your network.

Going Green: Sustainable Back-to-School Practices

Reusing Materials

Encourage students and their families to reuse school supplies from the previous year. By reusing items like notebooks, folders, and pencils, we can reduce waste and promote a sustainable mindset.

Uniform Swapping

Organise uniform exchanges or second-hand uniform  sales within the school community. This initiative not only helps families save money but also reduces the environmental impact of producing new clothes.

Carpooling and Walking Buddies

Encourage parents to arrange carpooling systems or find friends for their children to walk to school with, if it’s safe and within a reasonable distance. This reduces traffic congestion and air pollution while fostering social connections and physical activity.

When it comes to the classroom there are hundreds of ready to use materials available out there. A great place to start is Renewable English you can also check out out previous posts looking more closely at the LOMLOE and ideas for World Recycling Day. 

As we prepare to embark on a new school year, let’s embrace environmentally friendly practices, prioritise mental health, and set goals for success. By adopting sustainable habits, we can contribute to a greener future. Supporting the well-being of teachers ensures a positive learning environment for students. Finally, setting goals empowers both teachers and students to strive for continuous improvement and personal growth.

Back-to-school Activities


Last but by no means least, what would a back-to-school blog be without some ice breakers to get the year off to a good start? Here are a couple of our favourites!

All the students in my class

Start this game by practicing a little chant

“All the students in my class, I can say them really fast”

  • Have all participants stand or sit in a circle.
  • The first person starts by saying their name and an adjective that starts with the same letter as their name (e.g., “Joyful Jane”).
  • The next person repeats the previous person’s name and adjective and adds their own (e.g., “Joyful Jane, Clever Chris”).
  • Continue around the circle, with each person reciting the names and adjectives of all the previous participants before adding their own.
  • If someone forgets a name or adjective, they can ask for help from the group.
  • The game continues until everyone has had a turn.

Emoji Charades

Prepare a list of various emojis and their corresponding actions or phrases. For example, a smiley face emoji could represent “happy,” a thumbs up emoji could represent “approval,” or a crying face emoji could represent “sadness.”

  • Divide the participants into small teams or pairs.
  • One person from each team or pair takes turns acting out the emoji using only gestures, facial expressions, and body language, without speaking or using any props.
  • The other team members or the partner must guess the corresponding action or phrase represented by the emoji within a specified time limit (e.g., 1 minute). If students can’t think of the emotion it represents, they can describe the emoji


If you’re looking for even more ideas to kick off your school year then you need to look no further than the Back-to-School webinar series including session on Employability, AI, Future Skills, Sustainability and Accessibility and Diversity.

Let’s make this upcoming academic year one that is not only academically enriching but also emotionally fulfilling and environmentally conscious.

A Guide to Disconnect and Recharge During the Summer

Disconnect during Summer Break

As the summer break approaches, it’s crucial for English language teachers to take time to disconnect from the demands of the academic year and recharge their energy. We all need to disconnect from the hectic year we’ve just had, but is simply taking time away from work enough? In today’s post we’ll look at some extra ways to focus on self-care.

Mindfulness, a practice that involves being fully present in the moment with non-judgmental awareness, can be a valuable tool to achieve this much-needed disconnection. By embracing mindfulness, teachers and students can enhance their focus, manage stress, promote emotional well-being, and develop a positive mindset.

This guide combines insights from mindfulness experts, practical activities, and suggestions to help English language teachers embrace mindfulness during the summer holidays, fostering self-care and personal growth.

Understanding Mindfulness

Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, means paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and without judgment. English language teachers can utilize mindfulness to develop essential skills such as attention, focus, non-judgmental observation, self-compassion, stress management, and performance enhancement. By cultivating these skills, educators can enhance their well-being and create a mindful classroom environment that supports students’ growth and language learning.

Benefits of Mindfulness to language learners

During the summer holidays, language learners can greatly benefit from regular mindfulness practice. Research shows that mindfulness enhances emotional well-being, concentration, sleep patterns, emotion regulation, and the ability to cope with stress. Mindfulness can help  learners develop in many way. They build strategies to remain calm in challenging situations, become more aware of the present moment as well as cultivate habits that support their language learning journey. Mindfulness can also assist students in adapting to new experiences, fostering acceptance, and enjoying their day-to-day lives.

Top Tips for a Mindful Summer

Expressing Worries and Emotions:  Encourage students to express their worries and emotions through mindful activities. One effective exercise that promotes self-awareness and emotional well-being is the “worry bubbles” exercise. Start by guiding students to take a deep breath and imagine their worries as if they were captured inside a bubble. As they exhale slowly, they visualize blowing the bubble away, symbolically releasing their worries with a sigh of relief. This activity allows students to externalize their concerns in a tangible way, helping them gain a sense of control over their emotions.

Furthermore, provide students with the language and support needed to express their emotions effectively. Create a safe and non-judgmental classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their feelings.

Focusing on the Breath: Guide students in practicing focused breathing to anchor themselves in the present moment. One exercise involves counting breaths, where students place their hands on their abdomen, breathe in slowly (counting to four), and exhale slowly (counting to six). This activity can become a daily routine to promote balance and calmness.
5 Breathing Exercises for COPD
Noticing the Surroundings: Encourage students to embark on nature walks or mindful explorations. During these activities, they should observe their surroundings, paying attention to details they haven’t noticed before. Look for different trees, listen to the birds and maybe even go searching for insects. This cultivates mindfulness, attention, and concentration while connecting with the natural beauty of the world around them.
a bird sitting on a sign
Cultivating Gratitude: Introduce gratitude as a daily practice during the summer break. Encourage students to keep a gratitude journal, noting or drawing things they are thankful for each day. By acknowledging the positive aspects of their lives, students develop a sense of gratitude and resilience.

Today I am Grateful book

Mindful Reading: Recommend students choose English graded readers to read mindfully during the summer. Reading promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and enhances language skills. Graded readers, such as the Disney Kids Readers, offer engaging stories featuring beloved characters, providing an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in English reading away from distractions.

Don’t forget about yourself

As English language teachers, it is crucial to prioritize self-care and develop a personal mindfulness practice. By taking care of ourselves, we can better support our students. 

Begin with Yourself: Engaging in daily mindfulness practice replenishes your well-being and allows you to be a positive role model. Take 10 minutes a day to engage in mindful meditation or simply allow yourself to stop and enjoy the moment. 

Professional Development: Participate in mindfulness courses designed for teachers, such as those offered by Pearson Academy. These courses provide a deeper understanding of mindfulness and offer practical strategies to integrate into your classroom.

As summer approaches, English language teachers have an opportunity to disconnect, recharge, and embrace mindfulness. By using the suggestions and activities shared in this guide, teachers can cultivate attention, manage stress, regulate emotions, and foster a positive outlook. Remember, taking time for mindfulness allows us to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and balance. Enjoy a mindful and rejuvenating summer, and return to the classroom with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Fun reading activities for the summer break

Fun reading activities for the summer break

Summer is nearly here, and you and your students have well-deserved long weeks to rest. However lovely that sounds, this long break could have a downside. Your students could suffer from ‘the summer slide’. This implies losing level already obtained by not practising or using English during the summer. One excellent way to prevent this summer slide is by encouraging your students to read during the holidays. Here are some ideas to help your students stay on track with their reading goals over the summer. Please note that the key to success is to get parents involved and motivated to help their children stay in their reading routines and maintain their skills.


The ‘100 Checklist’ provides students with fun and imaginative challenges they must tick off over the summer. This means that children will need to read a little bit every day, no matter where they are! This helps students to get into a daily habit of reading and enjoy it too. An example of this you can see below: 

List of 100 activities

Image taken from

The Reading and Writing Bingo Card

It allows students to pick and choose what activity motivates them most. Reading does not have to only be books, but can also be magazines, poems and crosswords. If students complete a line of activities over the summer, be it horizontal or vertical, or complete all the boxes of a specific colour, then they gain a prize they collect from you at the beginning of the next school year, or their parents can give them a prize as soon as they complete the challenge, if you have previously agreed this with them. The Bingo Card is easy to make or adapt to the needs of your students. Furthermore, you could also ask students to fill in challenges themselves before the end of term in a lesson of challenges that would motivate them. Here’s an example of a bingo card. 

Reading activities as a bingo card

Image taken from

Scavenger hunt

A Scavenger hunt is also another way to combine fun challenges and reading, and the best scavenger hunts include trying to find books at a library, be it a real library or an online library. This helps children to understand the sections of a library and how to find specific books. They will also practice their skimming skills in order to find the information they are looking for.  

Scavenger hunt of reading activities

Image taken from

Answer your own questions

This is a fun activity to help students become independent learners. Ask parents to write down any questions their child asks them over the week and put them on pieces of paper, for example, “How do helicopters fly?”. On the weekend, parents choose five or six questions, and the children must find out the answers. Parents can take their children to the library or sit with them at the computer to help them search for the answer.  

Guided readers

Signing up to websites that provide guided readers is an excellent choice, because they have been designed and adapted to grab the attention of your students and to provide them with the right level of challenge. Very often those guided readers also contain fun activities at the end of the chapter, or at the end of the book. 

Pearson has a huge library of readers for both primary and secondary learners with great ‘while you read’ and ‘after you read’ activities. For example, after reading Disney’s Frozen, students are invited to experiment and learn about melting ice into water: 

Pearson Readers activities

Check out the Pearson catalogue here.



Allowing students to make choices about what they read is very powerful. Before breaking up for the summer, design a lesson around choosing the books they want to read. For example, if students have access to readers, such as Pearson English Readers, they can choose four books that grab their attention and explain to you why they would like to read those books during the summer. If your students do not have access to readers, then choosing books from home, the library, or magazines, and making a list can be done before the end of the term. This list encourages the students to look forward to reading and to achieve their goals. 

Reading sprints

Design for students who do not have time to read due to high workload or are put off by reading in another language for sustained periods. This activity is best set up during the academic year so students can continue during the summer. Students set a time limit of 10 minutes per day to read as quickly as they can while still understanding the text. Students keep a note of how many pages they have read and where they got up to. An example of a digital log can be found here, taken from, which can then be viewed at the beginning of the next academic school year to see how students did. This helps students to practice their general understanding of text and to enjoy the experience. 

Storyboard summaries

A fun project for students to get into over the holidays. Once students have read their book, they then create a summary of the story, identify key themes, and choose the most memorable quote. The best thing is that once several of your classes have created storyboards, you then have little summaries to use in future classes to encourage other students to choose to read books. This can be done on paper or using online graphic software, such as  

Storyboard summary

These activities should spark some ideas to help even the most reluctant reader to read over the summer. By explaining to parents what students have to do, and getting students excited about reading, teachers can help prevent summer slide. Of course, don’t forget to choose and read a few good books yourself over the break!

International Children’s Day In a Wider World

International Children's Day in a Wider World

June 1st is International Children’s Day. Is there any better way to celebrate the future than give them a space to learn and grow? A child might suggest that chocolate would be a better idea. We don’t have any chocolate but we do have a few ideas to celebrate all the students in the classroom.

Children of All Ages

When people speak about Children’s Day the immediate thought goes to primary aged kids running around in the playground, scraping their knees and bouncing straight back up again. When we’re looking to future generations it’s important we include everyone.  In today’s post we’d like to take a closer look at celebrating secondary aged children and giving each one the best chance to succeed in the world. We need to remember that their world’s don’t simply revolve around iPhones and Tik Tok, and we need to tap into how best to help them learn.


As with any age the key first step to learning is engagement and interest. Wider World Second Edition inspires learners to enthusiastically engage with English in authentic contexts using humorous situations, interviews with real people, videos from the BBC, and issues high on the agenda of our to Gen Z and Alpha students.

One such issue being that of the Climate Crisis. It’s almost certain the majority of your students will be aware of the issues at hand, but how are they engaging in the topic. Unit two of the level 4 book is dedicated to solutions that can be implemented by our students. Looking not only at CO2 emissions but also at food waste and rubbish being left in the countryside.

The writing section then helps consolidate learning and allows students to focus on and engage with others on what can be done to be more environmentally friendly.

There are also a wide range of high quality BBC videos to keep students engaged in the work at hand. One of our favourites takes a look at Indian food in Liverpool. Which celebrates the international cuisine on a local level.



Once we’ve got our students ready to learn, we need to make sure they stay motivated. In a class of 20-40 students it’s impossible to ensure equity in terms of learning resources across such a broad range of personalities and development. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try our best. As teachers our lives are always much easier when our materials aid us in our quest to inspire and motivate as many of our students as possible. Wider World offers enhanced support for personalising learning for mixed ability and neurodivergent learners, including resources and tips for teachers.

Throughout the teachers book you are provided with activities to cater to students of all abilities. For those that need a little extra support there are materials with adapted tasks to enable students to reach the same end goal, but with tasks to suit their needs. There is also plenty of advice to guide teachers along the way.

There is then the opposite end of the spectrum, those students who don’t struggle and the issue is often that they finish long before their peers Wider World. as a teacher it can be a bit of a nightmare trying to keep the rest of the class on task. Wider World provides teachers with advice and materials to keep your students focused and helps them push themselves a little further.

There are also ample opportunities for students to work independently and with their peers with clear instructions to help teacher get the most out of the time they have in class.


Children grow, eventually they become adults, but before they do that they need our help and guidance as teachers so they can become the best versions of them selves possible.

When students are engaged and supported it allows them to flourish. At which point our classrooms become far more than simply a place for language lesson. The four walls of the English classroom can be much more than simply the home of grammar and vocabulary. They become a safe haven for growth. Looking beyond the language students need to develop a whole raft of skills to prepare them for “the real world”.

Wider World series builds learners’ transferable skills for future successes outside the classroom with a new edition to the series call Set for Life, a unique future skill development program.

Every other unit contains a Set for Life section which help with things like developing a growth mindset, social responsibility, communication, leadership and critical thinking.

In this example we can see how students can work on their self-management and how to stay calm when things go wrong.

This one section is a simple set of steps to stay cool when things heat up around us.

It is also vital that as teachers we let our students know that we don’t always need to be positive and it’s ok to not be ok. It’s our job to make sure they know that the classroom is always a safe place to be and if they ever need someone to speak to our door and our heart is always open.

So stop for a moment this children’s day and think what we can do to make our students feel more included, more energised and better prepared to face the world.

How are you going to celebrate Children’s day?