Developing self management in English class: part 2

Persistence, confidence, optimism and emotional intelligence. Useful qualities to have? They’re all outlined as part of the competencia personal, social y de aprender a aprender, one of the key competences in the new LOMLOE.

In part 1 of this two part series we broke down the key competence (I called it self management) and considered how to develop skills like planning, goal setting and reflection, which are all part of ‘learning to learn‘. Today we’re going to look at the four areas mentioned in the first sentence of this post. Let’s begin!

One area to work on, which might sound a bit fluffy at first, but if you look at the detail does make a lot of sense is working on developing a growth mindset over a fixed one. A fixed mindset means you believe intelligence, talent, and other qualities are innate and unchangeable. If you’re not good at something, you typically think you will never be good at it, we’ve all had students who’s said “I’m just not very good at English.” By contrast, a growth mindset means you believe intelligence and talent can be developed with practice and effort. Now, innate ability has an impact, of course it does, but there’s so much we can achieve with work and practice: if there wasn’t, why go to school?

To help develop this mindset we can consider A) effective use of praise and B) ensuring that the students can see they’re making progress. And we can include B) in our A)! So as far as possible our praise should be specific and based on the success criteria that we outlined before our students do a task: we want to point out learning in our praise and emphasize that this learning is a result of hard work. As well as praising our students according to success criteria, we can also praise them on achieving lesson goals (look at part 1 for more on goals), again to make evidence of learning explicit.

Specific praise can help students improve as they know what to do more of in the future, but it is also more meaningful to them. Credible and meaningful praise can boost confidence.

A related point on developing confidence is celebrating our students’ successes. Here’s a worksheet I made for a class preparing to take a C1 exam:

You’ll probably notice all the report / proposal language on show here. For a while I’d been making worksheets with common mistakes on and I do think this had a marked effect on accuracy, but celebrating success rather than merely pointing out mistakes can have a big impact on confidence and also learning too. We picked apart the sentences and decided what made them impressive (good use of linkers, different complex grammar structures). This kind of close, public engagement with student work is more powerful than, for example, just putting it on the wall.

Other ways of celebrating students’ written work include:

  • A sentence / introduction / supporting paragraph / conclusion of the week on the wall (making sure that we dissect and celebrate it in class first)
  • Sharing students’ work in the school’s newsletter or on a social media account.

Let us move onto emotional intelligence, a useful quality to possess for both our students and ourselves. It’s a big topic and I don’t pretend to be a guru or coach on it, though I have attended training and am looking to improve! Emotional intelligence has been defined as:

  • The ability to perceive and recognize emotions
  • The ability to understand and manage emotions
  • Self-motivation
  • Building and maintaining relations

A definition I have heard that really stuck with me is that having emotional intelligence is ‘learning to dance‘ with emotions rather than denying them or being squashed by them.

If I think back, in the past I’d hear ‘toughen up’ or indeed the more sexist ‘man up’ whereas I believe we’re taking great strides in talking about emotions now rather than the ‘stiff upper lip’ being the order of the day. I think that helps us to be better able to perceive our own emotions and others’ emotions too.

I’ll now move onto some activities which are designed to develop the different parts of emotional intelligence I mentioned above.

1) Have younger pupils stick a picture of themselves / their name on a chart at the start of the lesson so they can identify and show others how they are feeling. They can also change their sticker during the day if they feel the need to.

2) Part of emotional intelligence and indeed, a way to feel good about yourself is to do things for others. Even pictures up around the classroom can help remind students about the importance of this.

Of course we can also engage actively with these pictures, talking about what the people in them are doing, how they are making others feel, if our students have been in a similar situation, or who our students would like to be and why.

3) With older learners, we might use pictures such as these ones below. They have fairly clear themes: refugees, homelessness, loss, old age/ill health. Getting our students to be empathetic with others can involve looking at tough topics.

What questions or tasks might we build around such photos?

A task could be:

  1. Choose one of the people in the photos.
  2. Imagine their name, age, where they live, what they need.
  3. Imagine their daily routine, both what they do and how they feel.

Of course the first and last photo have more than one person in them and both of the people have their challenges. We trying to get our students to put themselves in others’ shoes.

Our pupils have had to imagine the characters in the pictures, with the stimulus of a photo. We can also get them to do a similar task about someone they know, such as a family member, classmate or teacher – how well can our pupils empathise with us?! We can add here that we give the composition to the person it is about. How well do we know them? This exercise could be simplified to answering questions from another student’s point of view.

4) Here is a good use for a notice board in our school. Members of the class can congratulate each other on something they’ve done well, and thank each other when they’ve been helped.

You’ll often find that the teacher needs to model this first and the pupils will follow. The teacher lets the pupils know they can help with the language if need be, so not being able to saying something shouldn’t be a barrier to congratulating or thanking someone.  Also, you can provide language on the board.

You might get a silly example from a pupil at the start but you can talk about it as a class and allied to the fact that the teacher starts off with a few examples, pupils can and do take this seriously. The pupils can (and do) thank and congratulate the teacher too!

5) Finally, in this grammar lesson the functional language of asking for and giving advice is contextualised in a video. But there is also a discussion on possible coping strategies when we are feeling down. My go-to strategies are doing exercise and writing down my feelings. What are yours?

In this blog post we’ve looked at ways to build our students’ persistence, confidence and optimism, as well as their emotional intelligence, all of which are outlined in the competencia personal, social y de aprender a aprender in the new LOMLOE. I do hope the discussion and activities have been useful.

Examples in blog post are taken from:

The pre-primary course My Disney Stars and Friends 

The upcoming new course for teens Your World:


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