Assessing listening: challenges and choices

Listening: a vital skill

One of the first things new teachers learn is that simply exposing students to lots of listening will quickly increase their ability to communicate orally.  Even beginners armed with a very limited repertoire of vocabulary and grammar can often get their ideas across provided they generally understand what other people are saying to them.  In fact, Feyton is often cited as estimating that listening makes up a full 45% of what we do in a language.  So invariably the assessment of listening will be of paramount importance in the overall evaluation of our learners’ communicative ability.  And yet it remains one of the most elusive skills to reliably test.

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An Introduction to Language Assessment Literacy

What is Language Assessment Literacy?

The original use of the term “literacy” is still commonly defined as the ability to read and write, but in its wider sense teaching professionals prefer to view it as a concept that brings together knowledge and competences in a given area of learning. We are all now becoming increasingly familiar with terms such as Digital Literacy or Research Literacy, as well as Assessment Literacy, which will now be the subject for a series of posts we are going to be sharing with you in the coming months, focusing specifically on the theme of Language Assessment Literacy, or LAL. Since the term first appeared at the start of the 1990s, there have been many attempts to define it, but we will use Pill and Harding’s simple yet concise definition from 2013, which considers LAL as a series of “competences that enable the individual to understand, evaluate and in some cases create language tests and analyse test data”.

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ACEIA 2016, Seville: a resounding success!

Over 700 enthusiastic teachers from all over Europe attended the ACEIA 2016 conference in Seville on Saturday 12 November.

Antonia plenary

Under the banner ‘Creative Minds Inspire,’ the event was headlined by Pearson’s Antonia Clare, one of the award-winning authors of Speakout 2nd edition, with her inspirational plenary session ‘Language, Learning and the Creative Mind.’ Antonia examined the ways in which learning a language is in itself such an inherently creative task and looked at how to engender creativity, both on the part of the learner but also on the part of the teacher.

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Mark your calendar for Pearson Webinars for English Teachers

Pearson Webinars for English TeachersAre you teaching a B2 exam course? Find yourself falling into the same old exam practice routine?

Would you like to know how to make cooperative learning work in your Primary classroom?

Do you need fresh ideas on to use video in your English classes?

If your answer is yes, join us in October for two weeks of Professional Development webinars presented by our teacher trainers: Brian Engquist, Elena Merino and Michael Brand, who will share with you new ideas, activities, tips, tools and tasks to spice up your lessons! Continue reading

Five things you can do to identify the English level of your students

Five things you can do to identify the level of your students (2)September is for many of us the start of a new academic year, back to work and back to school. New students bring new challenges and objectives for both teachers and learners, and the first thing we need to know is: What level of English do they have? And secondly: How can we measure their ongoing progress?

Here are five ways to identify the level of your students ranging from informal home-made observation classroom activities to more scientific commercial products which have been carefully designed to identify levels of English. Continue reading

10 best practices for tackling English language exams

10 best practices for tackling English language exams - Illustration by Tang Yau HoongSummer might be the season for taking time off work, but for many English language students it’s also the time of year to sign up for an exam and work towards passing it. Whichever exam you’ll be taking, be it PTEFCE, CAE, CPE or IELTS or another, we are here with some advice that will help you prepare. Here, then, are our 10 best practices for tackling English language exams.

1. Avoid learning language in isolation

If grammar is the skeleton of the language, then vocabulary is the meat (and we might say idiomatic language the blood). Of course, you can’t have one without the other. When learning new words, make sure you learn the grammatical constructions that go with them (e.g., dependent prepositions, whether verbs are followed by a gerund or the infinitive, and so on). When learning grammar, make sure you personalise and contextualise it with lots of examples. Familiarise yourself with collocations and learn language in chunks. Continue reading

Using connectors in English to improve your writing skills

Using connectors in English to improve your writing skills - Illustration by Lucy Vigrass (2)When you’re writing in English, especially when you’re writing for exams, it’s not enough to choose the correct words and put them in the right order. You also have to link sentences together to show how your ideas are organised and to guide the reader through your text. For this, you need a good command of connectors, or linkers, those little words and phrases like but, however, in spite of, because of and in order to. In this article we look at using connectors in English to improve your writing skills.

The most common connectors, and the ones used most frequently in speech, are and, but, or, because, so and then, and with them you can express most ideas quite well. However, in order to demonstrate a more sophisticated knowledge of the language and to express more nuanced ideas, especially in formal writing, there are many other connectors that you need in your repertoire. Let’s have a look at some of them. Continue reading

Collaborative learning in EFL class with teens and adults

Collaborative LearningForget the traditional classroom scenario that sees the teacher at the board imparting facts or explaining ideas while students sit passively at their desks. If you really want your learners not only to acquire knowledge but also the skills necessary to make good use of that knowledge in the outside world, then collaborative learning is the way forward.

Collaborative learning builds on two keys premises; firstly, that we learn by doing; secondly, that we learn best when we learn together, with peer-instruction allowing students to check each other’s understanding and address any misconceptions. This of course is central to acquiring good language skills, not only because language is an inherently social act but also because misunderstandings only make themselves known in actual use of language. Continue reading

7 tips for teaching writing in the EFL classroom

teaching writingMany students shy away from writing in English as they feel it is either difficult or boring. At the same time, it can be tempting for the teacher to tackle the skill by setting simple compositions with little structure or purpose. However, writing is not only a necessary language skill, especially for students hoping to use English in their work or studies, but also a great way to improve their level overall, and it need not be boring. We look at 7 tips for teaching writing in the EFL classroom.

Tips for teaching writing in the EFL classroom:

1. Know the aim of text and the target reader

Perhaps the two most important things to bear in mind when teaching writing (and when writing oneself) are the aim of the text and the target reader, as these will dictate the type of language used and the organisation of the text itself. Writing an informal email to a friend to let them know your news requires a very different approach to writing a report for your boss about the progress of a project you’re running. Equally, it would be just as odd to give titles to the sections of a letter of complaintMy Shock on Discovering the Item Didn’t Work, How This Has Inconvenienced Me, Here’s What I Want You to Do About It! – as it would to open a love letter with ‘To whom it may concern…’ Continue reading

Top tips for passing the CAE (Cambridge Advanced English)

Top tips for passing the CAE examAs English grows ever more in demand in the worlds of education and employment, more and more people are taking the CAE to prove their level of proficiency. Preparation for the exam is an excellent way to improve all four language skills, but the exam is demanding. Knowing exactly how it works, what each part is testing, and how to tackle the different skills is crucial for success. Below are our top tips for passing the CAE Cambridge Advanced English. For a thorough course of exam preparation, look no further than MyEnglishLab Cambridge CAE.

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