Ten expressions (with talk) to get your students talking

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Stuck for something to talk about in class?  Well here are ten useful expressions in English to stretch your students’ vocabulary plus a quick activity to get them chatting as well.

Teach the expressions anyway you see fit.  You might start out by putting the word “talk” on the board and ask students to think of different ways of talking, or as many expressions with “talk” as they know.  You can then include the expressions you want them to learn and have them guess at the meaning and use a dictionary to check, or have them match expressions to their meanings.

Here are my ten (but you can use others if you like):

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Ask a Stupid Question Day

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When you saw the title of this post you probably thought that this is just the latest example of a world gone crazy with yet another apparently random silly holiday.  Better think again.

Ask a Stupid Question day, far from being a pointless unofficial holiday, was created in the 1980’s by a group of teachers with a very specific purpose in mind: encouraging their students to participate more in class by asking questions. They knew that most of them had lots of questions but believed they kept many to themselves for fear of being laughed at.

It takes place on the 28th of September, but it’s commonly celebrated on the last day of class this month. Since its creation, this has been an annual tradition in American schools, and has recently become popular in Britain and India.

So how might we English teachers take advantage of this date at the beginning of the year to foster a more participative classroom which focuses on the needs of our learners? Continue reading

5 ways for students to watch video more effectively at home

Video in ESL classroom

One of the most common pieces of advice a teacher will give to a student wanting to improve their listening (and quite possibly their vocabulary) is to “watch films in English.”  It seems like a sensible enough suggestion on the surface.  After all, it couldn’t do any harm could it?  But perhaps the question is: Does simply watching films in English translate into any real improvement in listening and vocabulary, or does it perhaps require a bit more effort than that?

My own experience of learning Spanish tells me that watching films or television is indeed extremely helpful, but I also remember that most of the time I spent in front of the TV in my first months in Spain was spent in the company of the family I lived with.  I could easily ask them questions to check the meaning of words or concepts and instantly check their reactions to what was happening on the screen to see if I was following the thread.  In short, I had something very similar to teachers on hand.

So, what tips can we give our students to get the most out of their viewing?  How can they make time often spent alone in front of the TV less passive, and actively take control of their learning on their own?  Here are a few tips:

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Integrating pronunciation into your classes: Part 3

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Part Three: A top-down approach

There are many ingredients to good pronunciation in English.  In my last post on the subject I focused on individual, discrete sounds and their importance for our learners, but the thing that strikes me most when I hear a non-native speaker of English with good pronunciation is the rhythm and overall delivery of the chunks of language they use, not individual words per se.  As a native speaker, if I hear a familiar pattern my ear can naturally pick out information which is being packaged in a way that makes sense to me.  If some of the individual sounds are difficult to discern this is unlikely to affect my understanding to any great degree.

The importance of stress-timing

And I’m being quite literal when I talk about packaging language into meaningful chunks.  Let’s see why this is and why one of the most important things we can do to help our students with pronunciation is to draw their attention to the phenomenon of stress-timing.  Here’s a nice activity someone showed me years ago to introduce this at the beginning of a course.  I don’t remember who exactly (my apologies) but I’ve never forgotten it.

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Top tips for dealing with common errors in your classes

errorIn a previous post, we pointed out 5 common errors Spanish speakers make in English. We also stated that errors could be ignored if they are not impeding communication. However, there are times when error correction exercises are needed for the students to make progress in the language. Here are five top tips for dealing with common errors that will help your students to 1) become aware of their own mistakes and 2) make them responsible for their own learning. Continue reading

3 ways to bring assessment for learning into your classroom

rocketWe all want our students to become more independent and responsible for their learning, but this won’t happen without the right support. Enter assessment for learning! As opposed to assessment of learning (think end of term exams, categorisation of students, awarding a number), assessment for learning sees learning as a journey: what does my student know, where are they going, what do they need to get there? Let’s look at three simple ways that good teachers employ assessment for learning.  

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Ideas for Christmas Classes!

‘Twas the class before Christmas and all through the school all the teachers were searching for something to do!  Xmas Pearson

Sound like a familiar situation?  Your students have their work completed and exams taken.  Holidays are just around the corner and you need one more lesson to send them off on a positive note.  Well look no further.

In the true spirit of giving and the holiday season the Pearson Teacher Training Team for Spain and Portugal have come up with a few ideas that will put a smile on your students’ faces and save you some time so you can maybe get in a just a little more holiday shopping to boot.

These varied and enjoyable Christmas activities designed for adult and teen learners of English are the focus of our Christmas Webinars (slides available herewhich are taking place this week.  They can be easily adapted for different levels or mixed, matched and changed to your liking or particular needs.  So have a look at the menu below, click on each title, download what you like and go into class ready to get your students into the holiday spirit!

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Halloween: great teaching ideas for teens

Halloween: great teaching ideas for teensGhosts, witches, black cats, haunted houses… Despite the creepy flavour of these terms, I’ve always liked Halloween: 31st of October, the spookiest day of the year, as it is said to be. As teachers, many of us celebrate this autumn festivity by decorating our classrooms with spider-webs, skeletons, bats, etc., and by asking our students to dress up as ghosts, witches or werewolves.

We have already talked about some Halloween activities that your primary students will love, but there is also a wealth of activities out there for teenagers. Just type “Halloween activities for teens” in your internet browser and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Is this just another blog post with a compilation of links? No, it isn’t. Here you will find practical teaching ideas, which require little preparation time. Continue reading

Taking word clouds to the next level with Wordsift

word cloud 1Not only do word clouds look pretty, there are also a number of ways they can be used in the ELT classroom to help our students learn. In this post we’re going to be looking at how.

Now, there are lots of word cloud generators out there such as wordle and tagxedo. However, not all these tools were created equal: there are word clouds and then there are word clouds! One which really caught my eye recently is Wordsift, created by Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University.

What’s the basic premise of a word cloud? Well, it’s an image made up of the words used in a text with the size of each word indicating its frequency in the text it was drawn from. A quick glance at the word cloud on the right reveals that ‘freedom’ is the most common word in the text and you can probably guess which famous speech these words come from. Word clouds are quick to make: copy the text, paste it into the generator and let the program do the rest. Continue reading

Check out our teacher training sessions at the British Council

It’s been a busy few weeks for Pearson’s teacher trainers who have been giving talks at the British Council ‘Teaching for Success’ events across Spain. As promised, here are the links to the presentations we gave:

Valencia, Barcelona & Madrid with Brian Engquist, Marta Cervera & Michael Brand

Saturday 1st October 

Exploiting video to the max

From the Classroom to the Wider World

Bilbao with Elena Merino  

Saturday 24th September

Embracing Authenticity

Ten Top Tips for Terrific Teachers

Thanks for attending the talks and we hope you found them useful!

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More info at Pearson ELT Spain & Portugal