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:

Find:

  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!

Personalisation

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

Debate

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.

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.

Primary 

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 @themeasuredmom.com

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 whatwedoallday.com

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 modernparentsmessykid.com

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.

 

Secondary 

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 readingandwritinghaven.com, 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 www.storyboardthat.com  

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!

STEAM: Ideas to incorporate it into our English language classes

STEAM: Ideas to incorporate into our English language classes

Spain’s LOMLOE education law promotes STEM as a core competency for students to leave school with. STEM is an acronym that refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, areas in which jobs are growing thanks to technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, a further step forward in STEM has been STEAM, which adds the word Arts to the acronym. That’s where we come in as English language teachers.

This move forward recognises the fact that professions of the future will need people who are able to function in a computer-driven world and yet also have the social and communication skills needed to problem solve, talk to customers and design user-friendly websites and games, among others. This is something which currently AI cannot do. These social and communication skills are exactly what is practised in our classes. Furthermore, employers are more keen than ever to hire people who are competent in STEAM and can speak a foreign language, so helping our students at school now is key. 

A further reason why Spain’s education law is promoting STEM and STEAM subjects is the issue of equality. Currently in Spain, only around 25% of people who work in STEM industries are women, and schools are a great place to introduce how exciting these subjects are and to break down any prejudices or barriers which prevent women from choosing this as a career. 

Considering that our main focus is teaching the English language, how can we incorporate this focus on STEAM in our curriculum? As we are now teaching children holistically, we can definitely introduce aspects to our lesson plans, or final tasks to carry out which has a focus on STEAM subjects. Furthermore, it consolidates what children are learning in their other classes, such as maths lessons, and cements the language needed to operate in STEM careers (e.g. words such as analyse, quantity, ratio). Here are some ideas to get you started to add STEAM to your lessons 

  1. Lesson planning 

When setting out your lesson plan, try to add in one or two elements of STEAM. If you want to incorporate science, is there an experiment that can be done based on the topic?

  • For technology, can some kind of sequencing or coding be added, or the use of a computer or tablet?
  • For engineering, can the students make an item using different materials?
  • For Arts, what creative thing can they produce, such as a role-play or a picture?
  • For Mathematics, can counting or patterns be added? 

This lesson overview from the Pearson course book English Code gives an example of a lesson plan incorporating some of these elements for primary students.

Example of STEAM methodology on English Code As you can see, it includes engineering when students make a boat, science to understand the materials and conduct the experiment, maths to count and sequence and art for the creative activities. All of this helps students to practice English with useful language and vocabulary, just like any other course book, except that here the lesson normalises and creates a sense of fun around the core STEAM topics. The activities students do in class are bright, fun and easy to understand: 

Exercise 1 STEAM Exercise 2 STEAM Exercise 3 STEM

  1. Take inspiration from all sections of your lesson

You can add in an element of STEAM in nearly all aspects of your lesson. For example, if you are reading a story, then take inspiration from the characters and ask students to design something for them that they would find useful, or to design a character’s perfect home using software such as Floorplanner. You could also give hints for students to predict the story to come in order to engage critical thinking by designing your own QR code for students to scan on their phones and discuss. You can print them off and hang them up around your classroom. Students can also create their own versions of an element of the story, first with a thaumatrope, then on to a flip book, or even writing using invisible ink which they make themselves. Your reading can also be biographical, not only fictional. Reading about famous scientists and engineers and mathematicians of both genders is really fun. If you are learning new vocabulary in your lesson plan, can the students add in engineering aspects and make one of the vocabulary items themselves?   English Code

  1. Add in STEAM vocabulary into your lesson outcomes

To make sure you are adding in elements of STEAM, include a section on key vocabulary the students will learn and use into our lesson plan. Vocabulary STEAM

  1. Use the internet to help you get started

Teachers have been incorporating STEAM into their English lesson for a while now, and you can take great inspiration from them about what has worked in the past. A simple search on the internet for STEAM ideas will help you, plus there are some great websites with free materials and lesson plans to download, such as Science Buddies, DIY, The National Gallery of Art to name but a few. 

To find out more about STEAM and how to teach it, you can check out the excellent Sarah Hillyard and her series of webinars here 

To find out more about the STEAM-focused course book English Code for primary students, click here  

Embracing equity within the Spanish LOMLOE education law

Embracing equity within the LOMLOE education law

The passing of the Organic Law 3/2020, 29 December 2021, which is popularly known as LOMLOE, puts in place a process of reform of the Educational System in Spain.

The aim of the law is to ensure the provision of a quality education with equal opportunities for one and all. LOMLOE aims to help equip young people with the necessary competences to meet the demands of the global and digital world of today and tomorrow: to meet the demands of societal change.

Gender equality or equity?

 The second focus of the law is:

Ensuring gender equality, preventing gender violence, respecting diversity and ensuring an inclusive and non-sexist education. 

This is directly linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, of which Spain is a proud member. Sustainable goals number 4 and 5 outline inclusive, quality education and gender equality. At home and school is always the best place for children to learn how to participate and promote a fairer society. However, I would like to address the term ‘equality’ in this education law and argue that it is, in fact, ‘equity’ that we should be striving towards.

The terms equality and equity are often confusing, so first let’s begin with a simple explanation as to what is the difference.

Differences between equality and equity. LOMLOE EDUCATION

Image source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Equality refers to making sure that everyone has access to the same resources. While this sounds marvellous, and indeed, what we expect from democratic educational institutions in Spain and around the world, the word does not take into account that every child and human being is unique and may require additional help. 

Equity understands that all humans come from different background and experiences, and therefore equips them with the right tools so that each individual achieves the same goals or outcomes.

This way of thinking about education is aligned with the concept of personalised learning, where schools, teachers and students work together to try to find the right path that suits each student’s needs and strengths. 

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity’. This is a perfect opportunity for you as an educator to introduce the concept to your students and discuss the differences between equality and equity. The website has downloadable resources to help you plan lessons raising awareness.

Implementing equity and teaching the concept at school

Here are some ideas for you to think about to accommodate different learning styles and the diversity of your students every day. 

  • Present the same information in different ways for visual, aural and verbal learners
  • Use a variety of media (e.g. coursebook, videos, podcasts, app based learning)
  • Provide complimentary materials to the lesson plan to help students understand the learning aims (E.g. plan extra materials, such as visual aids, grammar instructions to hand out)
  • Give students the ability to adjust their computer settings (e.g. increase text size or adjust brightness)
  • Use dyslexia-friendly fonts in worksheets and presentations
  • Read instructions aloud, even if they appear in print, and vice versa – prepare your common instructions in print and use them or point to them as you speak.
  • Allow extra time for test taking, or allow the test to be taken on a computer for some students
  • Include transcripts for any listening activities
  • Change the classroom tables and chairs if you can, or move students to different seats if you cannot. Students can work with many different partners in class, and it stops you from only teaching to the first three rows of students.
  • Providing quiet spaces for students who find it hard to concentrate with lots of stimulus

What to do if your students are inappropriate in class

Every student (and teacher, if we’re honest) has a set of biases and assumptions. Sometimes, students will say something because they have a certain assumption of have been misinformed by something. A big part of building an equitable class is stopping these insensitive remarks and explaining why they are so.

When a student uses language that defies classroom guidelines, you can

  1. Pause—Stop the lesson at once to focus on the problem so that the important discussion doesn’t lose its impact.

  2. Address—Draw everyone’s attention to the remark without shaming the student

    a. Identify why the statement is harmful

    b. Explain why it doesn’t promote equity

  3. Discuss—Initiate a respectful class discussion around the biases and background knowledge that may have triggered the student to make the harmful comment.

Doing this can be quite uncomfortable at first, but discussing inappropriate remarks immediately is a powerful way of promoting equity.

Final thoughts

For my generation, we had it instilled in us the concepts of fairness and not cheating. For example, ‘why does my friend get to use a book to help them but I can’t?’ On the face of it, one might think that, yes, this is indeed not fair. But now as we look at the bigger picture and we see that not every child starts from the same point or has the same advantages in life, and that every child is unique, we need to question our own beliefs as educators. The most important thing for me as a teacher is that my students learn English and enjoy classes. Does it really matter the tools they use to learn? The answer is no.

 

 

 

The Pearson Connected English Learning Program

Learning a language is challenging and can often be fragmented without any kind of clear plan or goal. You start off with a book at home for self-learning, then you enrol on a language course and pick up another book. You then browse extra materials on the internet and your phone and watch a few movies in English. When you think you’re ready to take an exam you then get in contact with another institution who represents the examining board.

With such a unsystematic approach, it’s really hard to keep track of your, or your students’ learning goals, the progression and how that matches up to international standards. The Pearson Connected English Learning Program is a good solution to provide students with a complete and connected program which includes courses, assessment and certification all in one place, which is connected and relatable to the Global Scale of English

Courses

As a teacher, I am always looking for course books that offer me as much material as possible, and that can handle face to face, hybrid or online teaching. Moving away from the old title of ‘course book’, which implies that students have access to only one resource, Pearson offers courseware which refers to the complete package that a Pearson product provides. Along with a course book, either paper based or online, the students and teachers have access to extra materials, ranging from teacher books, flashcards, posters, workbook, story cards, to videos, audios, picture dictionaries and more. We are aware now more than ever that each student learns in their own unique way. Therefore, by having multiple sources presenting language in various ways, students and teachers have a better chance of being able to access and use materials that suit them best, and design their own curriculum. The material puts students at the centre of their learning, as it is user friendly and allows the students to access extra activities to help them learn faster or consolidate what has been taught in class. Popular course books for primary learners to help them be confident and wonder about the world include Rise and Shine, English Code and Team Up Now!; for curious teens who need to understand the reasons why they are learning Wider World 2nd Edition and Your World are gems; and for adults who need a different approach in a modern, fast-paced world Roadmap and Speakout 3rd Edition are very enjoyable options, among many other Pearson courses.

Assessment

Students are assessed at every stage of their learning journey and it makes sense that tests can be carried out at each step of the way in one place. Pearson offers quality testing that teachers and students can trust in. From the first moment, students can take a Level Test to see from where they need to start learning in order to be placed in the correct class or level for learning. Teachers will then need to see how their students are progressing during their course, and a complete picture of their strengths and areas to work on. That’s where the Benchmark Test comes in. This 45 minute test gives a holistic view of a student’s level, and offers teachers recommendations targeted exactly to their needs. Tests can be taken multiple times and the scores match up to the Global Scale of English (more information on that below) so that students can compare their level of English to international standards. If your whole class takes the Benchmark test, then as a teacher you can also see a class report of all their strengths, areas of improvements plus whole class recommendations.

Certification

Finally, when students are ready to take a formal test that provides with an internationally recognised certificate of level, Pearson offers the Pearson English International Certificate  which is accepted by Ministries of Education, Government bodies and universities around the world. It is very convenient to have all your student’s testing needs in one place, from starting level tests to international tests, which are professionally delivered and using cutting edge technology in order to make the test itself and the results easier to understand.

The Global Scale of English

Finally, the key element that underpins the quality of the courseware and the accuracy of the tests can be found in the Global Scale of English, which is the backbone that guides everything that Pearson produces. The Global Scale of English allows students and teachers to measure their level of English and it helps to answer questions such as

  • How good is my English?
  • Am I progressing?
  • What do I need to do next?

Pearson courseware has been written to match the differing levels of the Global Scale of English and helps students to progress. It sets out clear learning objectives and practical things they need to be able to accomplish in order to move up the scale. Thus, when students see their numbers increasing on the Global Scale of English by either taking a Benchmark test or successfully completing courses using Pearson Courseware, they know they are heading in the right direction.

Pearson offers a multiple ways for teachers and institutions to help their students achieve their goals in English in an easy.to use, accessible and enjoyable way. By streamlining the process, it takes out most of the uncertainty and anxiety of learning and taking tests that teachers and students have faced in the past. Learning English should not be complicated, and Pearson shows that it doesn’t have to be!

 

 

How to keep to your New Year’s Resolution to pass your English Exam!

 

New year, new promises. Even though we all start the year so optimistically, sometimes our resolutions fall by the wayside as expectations, circumstances and life gets in the way. However, if you need to pass an English exam this year, such as the Pearson English International Certificate, here are eight tips to help you stay on track and keep that promise to yourself.

1. Little and Often

Life is increasingly demanding – work, friends, family and digital overload means that we have very little time to sit down with our study notes for consecutive hours. The ‘old-fashioned’ way of studying at our desks at home in our room after school is unrealistic. Therefore, the strategy of ‘little and often’ is a great motto to bear in mind. Rather than trying to do a once-a-week long study session, try blocking off little 15 or 30 minute sessions every day. If you can do it for 7 days a week, you’ll end up having studied more things for more time than in one block.

2. Turn off the distractions

You might not need your phone or the Internet to study, it could be that you are reviewing your notes from class, writing, or using your course book. So do yourself a favour and turn your mobile phone to airplane mode, and if you are using your computer, close all non-essential tabs and shut down your email. Like that, you will not be distracted from your study time. Furthermore, if you live in a noisy home, try to purchase some noise cancelling earphones to wear, or take yourself to the library for your study time.

3. Use a study-time management app

If you find it hard to concentrate deeply for a long period of time, feel the need to take a break and move, or are simply a procrastinator, then the Pomodoro technique may help you. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method based on 25-minute stretches of focused work broken by five-minute breaks. Longer breaks, typically 15 to 30 minutes, are taken after four consecutive work intervals. Each work interval is called a pomodoro, the Italian word for tomato. There are many free and purchasable apps out there to help you manage your time. 

4. Use other apps 

There are plenty of free websites and apps out there to help your study, and a simple internet search helps you to find what you are looking for. Some recommend apps are:

StudyBlue or Quizlet to make electronic study cards

Evernote to keep notes and memos

Forest, which is similar to Pomodoro, but does actually contribute to helping plant trees in the world

Warm up which is the Pearson app to help you prepare to take your Pearson English International Certificate Test. You can download it here.

5. Know the test well

It may sound like strange advice, but by knowing how the exam works, e.g. how many sections of an exam are there, what type of question you are expecting, means you are more likely to be focused and do your best on the test day, rather than worrying if you are doing ti correctly. The best way to get to know an exam is to do practise tests and past papers. Many of these can be found for free online, such as the Pearson English International Certificate past papers, or in course books.

6. Sign up for an exam class

Teachers are highly trained and knowledgeable about the test you will be taking, and they can provide direct advice and personalised corrections to help you achieve your goals. Plus, signing up for a class helps you to get into a rhythm of learning and be accountable to achieve your goals.

7. Talk to your friends or yourself!

Languages are for communicating, so it is not enough to only be studying from a book, you have to speak it, too! If you have friends or family, try to find at least 10 minutes of the day to practise your English, for example, having breakfast in English together. If you do not have anyone to practise with, then you can ‘narrate your life’ as you go about your tasks, and comment aloud what you are doing or thinking at a particular moment. You might also want to speak aloud some vocabulary you have been trying to learn by using it in a sentence. Finally, there are a number of websites you can sign up to for free called the ’30 day speaking challenge’ where you audio record yourself answering a question and a native person will correct you and give you advice, in exchange for your help as they learn your language. 

8. Keep your notes visible

In keeping with tip number 1 of this blog post, little and often works well. In that sense, keep your notes out and visible, and keep glancing at them as you walk by. Put sticky notes around your bathroom mirror of words you would like to learn and try to memorise them as you brush your teeth. Put poster up in the kitchen and glance at it as you are cooking. Go for a run and listen to an English podcast. Learning can therefore compliment your busy life, not be a barrier to learning. 

Studying towards passing an English exam is a great motivator and keeps you focused on your goals. 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. 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 assesses A1-C2 levels and you can choose to take the test in a traditional way at a test centre with a paper format, or choose the computer-based version which is being launched this year, giving you even more choice and flexibility.

 

If you’re looking for different materials and resources to achieve your New Year’s language resolutions you can #MakeItHappen with Mondly by Pearson!

December holiday ideas for Infant, Primary and Secondary students

Happy Holidays to everyone from Pearson! Here’s a short blog post of December activities to do with your students of all ages to get you in the mood for festive season.

INFANTS

Clothes vocabulary

This activity is nice to review or teach clothes. As a whole class, sort your clothes flashcards into Winter or Summer categories.

Take the winter flashcards and keep them on the board in a grid. Review the vocabulary with your children, then ask them to close their eyes. Secretly remove one flashcard and ask students to open their eyes and to whisper to their partner which card they think is missing. Students raise their hands when they think they know and you choose a pair to tell you the answer.

From there, do a drawing dictation. Give each student a copy of a figure, for example a snowman (he’s easy to draw!) and dictate the clothes they need to draw on the snowman and the colour. For example, you say ‘Draw a red scarf’ and students complete the activity. Then you could say ‘draw a green hat’, and so on until the picture is complete.

What’s in my stocking?

This activity is nice to do at the beginning of class. Bring a Christmas stocking to class, and place an object inside it that your students could guess. It could be related to Christmas, or it might be vocabulary you are generally working on in class. For example, we could have a plastic animal in the stocking. Invite one student to come and feel the object and help the class to guess. Help students by asking:
Is it big or small?
Is it light or heavy?
Is it soft or hard?
Does it have a smell?
Does it make a noise?

Further give clues to students if they need it, for example you could say ‘it’s a type of animal’ ‘ it lives on a farm’ and so on. When the students have guessed, show them to object and teach the vocabulary word. This word is now the ‘word of the day’ and the password to leave your class at the end! They have to say the word and give you a high-five as they leave. Help your class to remember this throughout the lesson by pointing to the mascot and asking for the vocabulary word.

Toy Vocabulary

Review toy flashcards and put them up on the board. Choose two students to work together. Ask them to stand by the door of the classroom and close their eyes. You take a flashcard , for example ‘teddy bear’ and ‘hide’ it somewhere in the classroom. The two students must find the card, and the rest of the class will help them. If the students are very far away from the flashcard, the class will chant by only whispering ‘teddy bear’. As the pair get closer to the hiding place, the class will chant ‘teddy bear’ in a louder voice, and if they are very close, the class will chant ‘teddy bear’ in a very big voice until the pair finds it! Repeat until all students have taken turns.

Then, ask students to choose a toy to give to their partner as a Christmas toy swap. Give a worksheet like the picture below and ask students to draw a picture of the toy, colour it and then stick it to a class poster. Then students can then guess who drew the toy.

From Rise and Shine Level 1, Unit 1

PRIMARY

Open the Pearson Advent Calendar

Clicking on this link will take you to the Pearson Advent Calendar, revealing an activity to do with your class every day in December. Bookmark the page so that you can return to it for next season.

Play ‘Teacher Says’

Place the winter clothes flashcards on the board and play ‘Teacher Says’ For example, you say ‘Teacher says put on / take off your scarf’ and children have to mime the action. If you do not say ‘Teacher says’ before a phrase then students should NOT do the action and freeze until the next ‘Teacher says’ instruction. You can also use other seasonal flashcards, such as ‘Teacher says eat Christmas pudding!

Petitions to Santa

Ask students to work in pairs and tell each other they would love to have for Christmas and why, plus a good thing they did recently. Explain to the class that they need to tell Santa about one thing their partner would like, why they like it, and what good things they did this year to deserve it. This can be done with traditional letter writing, or you can ask your students to be more creative by making a short video, song or routine. Either way, some writing processes needs to take place before the finished product.

Let’s imagine students want to write a letter. First of all they write down:
Dear Santa, my friend would like to have ………

Then they write the name of the item. Then ask them to give two adjectives to describe the item. The students should then have something like this:

Dear Santa, my friend would like to have a nice pink umbrella.

Then ask students to write why

Dear Santa, my friend would like to have a nice pink umbrella because she lost it on the bus.

Then ask students to tell Santa one good thing they did.

Dear Santa, my friend would like to have a nice pink umbrella because she lost it on the bus. My friend was good this year because he/she helped his/her family to clean the dishes.

Then end the letter:

Thank you Santa and Merry Christmas.

Students can then decorate the letter, or they can now start to turn it into a video or song.


SECONDARY

Debates

Practise the language of agreeing, disagreeing and persuading by holding either whole class or mini group debates, but around the theme of Christmas. For example:

Is the holiday season too commercialised?
Should little children be tricked into believing in Santa or is it better to tell them the truth?
Is re-gifting an acceptable practise?

Remember to establish clear rules for turn-taking, respect and language use before the activity begins.

Planning a Christmas Party
In the area where I live, supermarkets prepare free brochures of Christmas food and offers that are posted through my letterbox. You can use these in class as inspiration for groups to plan a Christmas party. Before class, prepare some scenarios on card, e.g.

A party for 20 friends who prefer sweet items to savoury items. Budget: $100
An office party for 50 people. They want to sit down for dinner and then dance afterwards. $1000

Students then work together to design the venue, decoration and also the food and drink from the magazine that cannot go over their budget. Later they present their ideas to class. The class listens and guesses 1. Who is the party for? 2. How many people? 3. What was their budget?


Christmas quiz battleships

This is a fun activity to either recycle past grammar and vocabulary or to test students’ knowledge on holiday vocabulary and information.

Divide the class into small teams. Ask a question to one of the teams, but the other teams listen and try to work out the answer together in case they get a chance to ‘steal’ points.

An example question could be:

Name 5 items that feature in the 12 Days of Christmas song.

If the team gets it wrong, another team has a chance to steal if they can get the correct answer. If a team gets in correct, they uncover a square from a grid you have prepared on the board.

For example:


On a secret piece of paper, you have already prepared what is behind each box. For example, behind box A1 is 10 points, behind box B2 is 5 points, and so. However, behind a few boxes is the Christmas Grinch, and if students uncover this box, the team goes back to zero points.

This adds a sense of fun and jeopardy to the game, and it also means that not necessarily the team with the most knowledgeable student wins!

I hope you enjoy these activities with your students.

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.

LOMLOE: Creating Learning Experiences in the Primary Classroom

The new LOMLOE Education Law in Spain encourages our primary students to work towards participating in ‘situaciones de aprendizaje‘ or ‘learning situations‘ as projects at the end of course book chapters or curriculum sections in their language learning. But what are they and how can teachers set them up and use them in class? This blog post will take you through the essential elements to consider when implementing them.

First of all, let’s look at the wording of the law when it comes to creating ‘learning situations’. It asks our students to:

1. Take what they have learned in class with you and use it in a complex task to achieve an objective.

2. Use their comprehension, production, interaction and mediation skills.

3. Respond to a 21st century task that’s relevant to their interests or concerns.

4. Participate in a real or potential task.

5. Work with texts (oral, written and multimodal).

6. Do the task in order to progress with language and learn more about culture.

7. Reflect on the experience.

Let’s take a look at each point and break it down a little further.

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