5 tips for practising your grammar and vocabulary over the summer

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

Find expressions that are relevant for you

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

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Helping students with word formation exam tasks

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

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

What is being tested?

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

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How to develop digital literacy in our teens

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

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

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Vocabulary revision games: Part 2

This post is the second in a series of blog posts about vocabulary revision. In this one, I’m going to list my five favourite games. For a handy list of principles that can guide you to choose the best activities to revise vocabulary, check out my previous post.

What makes a successful vocabulary revision game?

Just as a reminder, here are the main principles that I bear in mind when selecting or creating vocabulary revision games:criteria for vocab revision

Let’s have a look at some engaging games that also tick all the boxes above:

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Vocabulary revision games: Part 1

Revision is unquestionably of utmost importance when learning a language, so how do we go about it effectively? What are pedagogically sound criteria for selecting vocabulary revision activities? What’s more, how do we ensure these activities don’t generate a lot of extra work for teachers? In this two-part series of blog posts, we are going to look into what makes vocabulary revision effective and look at lots of ideas for games.

There is a lot of research behind retention and if you want to look into it, I highly recommend reading Paul Nation and Scott Thornbury on this topic to understand the rationale behind the following tasks (in this blog post and in part 2). 

What are the criteria for a good vocabulary revision activity? Let’s begin…

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EFL Compass: Reflection and planning in difficult times

I’m a huge fan of reflection and planning. Every year I sit down with my partner or a friend (or sometimes even alone) and go through the YearCompass questions. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a little booklet designed by a group of Hungarian university students, which went viral in 2012. You can download it in 61 languages (to print out or fill in in the digital version) and only last year around 1,500,000 people downloaded it. 

On January 2nd 2021, I sat down to do it again, and frankly, just couldn’t. 2020 was such a difficult year for everyone and it really has turned our whole world upside down. What’s the point in reflecting on such a year? So I put it aside but for some reason couldn’t let go of the idea completely. What’s there to reflect on? Until I realised: my professional life! I’m sure many of you working in ELT can say that although 2020 was an extremely challenging year, it was a year in which we learnt A LOT about teaching (whether it was socially distanced, online, hybrid or a combination of these), and since I keep telling my students that revision and reflection are key to learning, that’s what I should do, too!

So in this blog post I’m going to select a few of the YearCompass questions and answer them about my professional life in 2020/2021. My hope is that it will motivate you to reflect, too!

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Life hacks for online teachers

Life Hacks for Online Teachers

The digitalisation of education was already in motion even before the events of this year, which has seen more and more classes taught online or in blended scenarios. The transition brings with it great opportunities for innovation, but it’s certainly not without its challenges, too! We’re sometimes spoilt for choice with a plethora of digital tools and platforms and apps with ‘bells and whistles’ so there’s a lot to be said for taking a step back and focusing on what’s important. In this blog post I’d like to share some of the ‘life hacks’ I’ve learned as an online teacher which I hope will help simplify and make more efficient your digital teaching lives…

*Should you wish to delve deeper into this topic, check out the webinar I delivered – you can access the recording and slides at the Pearson teacher training hub

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