Back-to-School: Setting Goals, Nurturing Mental Health, and Embracing Green Practices

Back to School!

As the new school year approaches, it’s the perfect time to not only prepare for academic success but also setting goals, prioritising mental health and consider incorporating eco-friendly practices. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of setting goals for both teachers and students, provide valuable advice for teachers on maintaining their mental well-being and explore practical ideas to make going back to school greener. Let’s embark on a journey towards a purposeful, sustainable and supportive new academic year.

Setting Goals for Success: Teachers and Students


Set realistic and measurable goals for yourself. This might include improving instructional strategies, implementing new technology in the classroom, or focusing on personal growth as an educator.

Setting goals can help us  stay motivated and continuously improve our teaching practices.

You might also have a goal of not over working or taking your work home with you. Set work/life balance goals too… and stick to them. School is important, your students are important, but you are important too. Make sure you always set the goal of having time for yourself.


Guide students in setting their academic, social and personal goals for the new school year. Remember school isn’t just a stepping-stone to university.  It’s the place where doors begin to open, and ideas come to blossom.

Encourage your students to define specific objectives, create action plans, and regularly review their progress. This cultivates a sense of ownership over their learning journey and promotes self-motivation and growth. Not just, I want to pass an exam.

Here are three of our favourite ideas:

  • Goal Setting Workshop: Conduct a collaborative session where students identify their language learning objectives for the semester. Encourage specific and achievable goals, such as improving speaking fluency, expanding vocabulary, and achieving a certain proficiency level.
  • Personalised Learning Plans: Have students create individualized study plans outlining daily/weekly language practice. Emphasize the importance of consistency and track progress regularly to stay motivated and focused.
  • Goal Visualization Board: Encourage students to create visual boards representing their language goals. Include images, words, and symbols that inspire them to stay committed and visualise their success throughout the academic year.

Prioritizing Mental Health: Advice for Teachers

Self-Care Strategies

Remember to prioritise self-care throughout the school year. Look into mindfulness practices, regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining a work-life balance to prevent burnout and promote overall well-being.

Supportive Networks

Encourage fellow teachers to connect with colleagues and build supportive networks within the school community. Collaborative discussions, sharing experiences, and seeking advice can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of camaraderie.

Professional Development Opportunities

Remember the importance of growth. As teachers it’s important we continue with our own professional development. By enhancing our skills and keeping up with current trends in education, we can provide a better learning environment for ourselves and students.  Attend workshops, webinars, or conferences to expand your knowledge and your network.

Going Green: Sustainable Back-to-School Practices

Reusing Materials

Encourage students and their families to reuse school supplies from the previous year. By reusing items like notebooks, folders, and pencils, we can reduce waste and promote a sustainable mindset.

Uniform Swapping

Organise uniform exchanges or second-hand uniform  sales within the school community. This initiative not only helps families save money but also reduces the environmental impact of producing new clothes.

Carpooling and Walking Buddies

Encourage parents to arrange carpooling systems or find friends for their children to walk to school with, if it’s safe and within a reasonable distance. This reduces traffic congestion and air pollution while fostering social connections and physical activity.

When it comes to the classroom there are hundreds of ready to use materials available out there. A great place to start is Renewable English you can also check out out previous posts looking more closely at the LOMLOE and ideas for World Recycling Day. 

As we prepare to embark on a new school year, let’s embrace environmentally friendly practices, prioritise mental health, and set goals for success. By adopting sustainable habits, we can contribute to a greener future. Supporting the well-being of teachers ensures a positive learning environment for students. Finally, setting goals empowers both teachers and students to strive for continuous improvement and personal growth.

Back-to-school Activities


Last but by no means least, what would a back-to-school blog be without some ice breakers to get the year off to a good start? Here are a couple of our favourites!

All the students in my class

Start this game by practicing a little chant

“All the students in my class, I can say them really fast”

  • Have all participants stand or sit in a circle.
  • The first person starts by saying their name and an adjective that starts with the same letter as their name (e.g., “Joyful Jane”).
  • The next person repeats the previous person’s name and adjective and adds their own (e.g., “Joyful Jane, Clever Chris”).
  • Continue around the circle, with each person reciting the names and adjectives of all the previous participants before adding their own.
  • If someone forgets a name or adjective, they can ask for help from the group.
  • The game continues until everyone has had a turn.

Emoji Charades

Prepare a list of various emojis and their corresponding actions or phrases. For example, a smiley face emoji could represent “happy,” a thumbs up emoji could represent “approval,” or a crying face emoji could represent “sadness.”

  • Divide the participants into small teams or pairs.
  • One person from each team or pair takes turns acting out the emoji using only gestures, facial expressions, and body language, without speaking or using any props.
  • The other team members or the partner must guess the corresponding action or phrase represented by the emoji within a specified time limit (e.g., 1 minute). If students can’t think of the emotion it represents, they can describe the emoji


If you’re looking for even more ideas to kick off your school year then you need to look no further than the Back-to-School webinar series including session on Employability, AI, Future Skills, Sustainability and Accessibility and Diversity.

Let’s make this upcoming academic year one that is not only academically enriching but also emotionally fulfilling and environmentally conscious.

A Guide to Disconnect and Recharge During the Summer

Disconnect during Summer Break

As the summer break approaches, it’s crucial for English language teachers to take time to disconnect from the demands of the academic year and recharge their energy. We all need to disconnect from the hectic year we’ve just had, but is simply taking time away from work enough? In today’s post we’ll look at some extra ways to focus on self-care.

Mindfulness, a practice that involves being fully present in the moment with non-judgmental awareness, can be a valuable tool to achieve this much-needed disconnection. By embracing mindfulness, teachers and students can enhance their focus, manage stress, promote emotional well-being, and develop a positive mindset.

This guide combines insights from mindfulness experts, practical activities, and suggestions to help English language teachers embrace mindfulness during the summer holidays, fostering self-care and personal growth.

Understanding Mindfulness

Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, means paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and without judgment. English language teachers can utilize mindfulness to develop essential skills such as attention, focus, non-judgmental observation, self-compassion, stress management, and performance enhancement. By cultivating these skills, educators can enhance their well-being and create a mindful classroom environment that supports students’ growth and language learning.

Benefits of Mindfulness to language learners

During the summer holidays, language learners can greatly benefit from regular mindfulness practice. Research shows that mindfulness enhances emotional well-being, concentration, sleep patterns, emotion regulation, and the ability to cope with stress. Mindfulness can help  learners develop in many way. They build strategies to remain calm in challenging situations, become more aware of the present moment as well as cultivate habits that support their language learning journey. Mindfulness can also assist students in adapting to new experiences, fostering acceptance, and enjoying their day-to-day lives.

Top Tips for a Mindful Summer

Expressing Worries and Emotions:  Encourage students to express their worries and emotions through mindful activities. One effective exercise that promotes self-awareness and emotional well-being is the “worry bubbles” exercise. Start by guiding students to take a deep breath and imagine their worries as if they were captured inside a bubble. As they exhale slowly, they visualize blowing the bubble away, symbolically releasing their worries with a sigh of relief. This activity allows students to externalize their concerns in a tangible way, helping them gain a sense of control over their emotions.

Furthermore, provide students with the language and support needed to express their emotions effectively. Create a safe and non-judgmental classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their feelings.

Focusing on the Breath: Guide students in practicing focused breathing to anchor themselves in the present moment. One exercise involves counting breaths, where students place their hands on their abdomen, breathe in slowly (counting to four), and exhale slowly (counting to six). This activity can become a daily routine to promote balance and calmness.
5 Breathing Exercises for COPD
Noticing the Surroundings: Encourage students to embark on nature walks or mindful explorations. During these activities, they should observe their surroundings, paying attention to details they haven’t noticed before. Look for different trees, listen to the birds and maybe even go searching for insects. This cultivates mindfulness, attention, and concentration while connecting with the natural beauty of the world around them.
a bird sitting on a sign
Cultivating Gratitude: Introduce gratitude as a daily practice during the summer break. Encourage students to keep a gratitude journal, noting or drawing things they are thankful for each day. By acknowledging the positive aspects of their lives, students develop a sense of gratitude and resilience.

Today I am Grateful book

Mindful Reading: Recommend students choose English graded readers to read mindfully during the summer. Reading promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and enhances language skills. Graded readers, such as the Disney Kids Readers, offer engaging stories featuring beloved characters, providing an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in English reading away from distractions.

Don’t forget about yourself

As English language teachers, it is crucial to prioritize self-care and develop a personal mindfulness practice. By taking care of ourselves, we can better support our students. 

Begin with Yourself: Engaging in daily mindfulness practice replenishes your well-being and allows you to be a positive role model. Take 10 minutes a day to engage in mindful meditation or simply allow yourself to stop and enjoy the moment. 

Professional Development: Participate in mindfulness courses designed for teachers, such as those offered by Pearson Academy. These courses provide a deeper understanding of mindfulness and offer practical strategies to integrate into your classroom.

As summer approaches, English language teachers have an opportunity to disconnect, recharge, and embrace mindfulness. By using the suggestions and activities shared in this guide, teachers can cultivate attention, manage stress, regulate emotions, and foster a positive outlook. Remember, taking time for mindfulness allows us to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and balance. Enjoy a mindful and rejuvenating summer, and return to the classroom with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

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.


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

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

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

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.



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, 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  

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!

International Children’s Day In a Wider World

International Children's Day in a Wider World

June 1st is International Children’s Day. Is there any better way to celebrate the future than give them a space to learn and grow? A child might suggest that chocolate would be a better idea. We don’t have any chocolate but we do have a few ideas to celebrate all the students in the classroom.

Children of All Ages

When people speak about Children’s Day the immediate thought goes to primary aged kids running around in the playground, scraping their knees and bouncing straight back up again. When we’re looking to future generations it’s important we include everyone.  In today’s post we’d like to take a closer look at celebrating secondary aged children and giving each one the best chance to succeed in the world. We need to remember that their world’s don’t simply revolve around iPhones and Tik Tok, and we need to tap into how best to help them learn.


As with any age the key first step to learning is engagement and interest. Wider World Second Edition inspires learners to enthusiastically engage with English in authentic contexts using humorous situations, interviews with real people, videos from the BBC, and issues high on the agenda of our to Gen Z and Alpha students.

One such issue being that of the Climate Crisis. It’s almost certain the majority of your students will be aware of the issues at hand, but how are they engaging in the topic. Unit two of the level 4 book is dedicated to solutions that can be implemented by our students. Looking not only at CO2 emissions but also at food waste and rubbish being left in the countryside.

The writing section then helps consolidate learning and allows students to focus on and engage with others on what can be done to be more environmentally friendly.

There are also a wide range of high quality BBC videos to keep students engaged in the work at hand. One of our favourites takes a look at Indian food in Liverpool. Which celebrates the international cuisine on a local level.



Once we’ve got our students ready to learn, we need to make sure they stay motivated. In a class of 20-40 students it’s impossible to ensure equity in terms of learning resources across such a broad range of personalities and development. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try our best. As teachers our lives are always much easier when our materials aid us in our quest to inspire and motivate as many of our students as possible. Wider World offers enhanced support for personalising learning for mixed ability and neurodivergent learners, including resources and tips for teachers.

Throughout the teachers book you are provided with activities to cater to students of all abilities. For those that need a little extra support there are materials with adapted tasks to enable students to reach the same end goal, but with tasks to suit their needs. There is also plenty of advice to guide teachers along the way.

There is then the opposite end of the spectrum, those students who don’t struggle and the issue is often that they finish long before their peers Wider World. as a teacher it can be a bit of a nightmare trying to keep the rest of the class on task. Wider World provides teachers with advice and materials to keep your students focused and helps them push themselves a little further.

There are also ample opportunities for students to work independently and with their peers with clear instructions to help teacher get the most out of the time they have in class.


Children grow, eventually they become adults, but before they do that they need our help and guidance as teachers so they can become the best versions of them selves possible.

When students are engaged and supported it allows them to flourish. At which point our classrooms become far more than simply a place for language lesson. The four walls of the English classroom can be much more than simply the home of grammar and vocabulary. They become a safe haven for growth. Looking beyond the language students need to develop a whole raft of skills to prepare them for “the real world”.

Wider World series builds learners’ transferable skills for future successes outside the classroom with a new edition to the series call Set for Life, a unique future skill development program.

Every other unit contains a Set for Life section which help with things like developing a growth mindset, social responsibility, communication, leadership and critical thinking.

In this example we can see how students can work on their self-management and how to stay calm when things go wrong.

This one section is a simple set of steps to stay cool when things heat up around us.

It is also vital that as teachers we let our students know that we don’t always need to be positive and it’s ok to not be ok. It’s our job to make sure they know that the classroom is always a safe place to be and if they ever need someone to speak to our door and our heart is always open.

So stop for a moment this children’s day and think what we can do to make our students feel more included, more energised and better prepared to face the world.

How are you going to celebrate Children’s day?

Global Recycling Day

Global Recycling Day

Some schools have strict rules about waste, others, well…. don’t. World Recycling Day is a wonderful opportunity to share with your students a path to becoming expert consumers.

It’s important to emphasize early in the post and in our classrooms in general: Recycling is not the answer to the climate crisis. It is absolutely and 100% the bare minimum that every person should be doing, and every government should be working on to improve the terrible fact that only 9% of plastics are recycled.

Recycling, however, is a fantastic tool to raise awareness in your students in the dangers of plastics (especially single-use-plastics) and take steps to becoming as close to plastic-zero as possible.

Of course, time in class is always limited so we’ve got a few ideas below to help you move forward.

5 minutes

Waste count

At the end of the day spend 5 minutes checking the different waste in the recycling bins. Keep track of the different materials you use and see if you can reduce waste as a group.

10 minutes

Litter Pick

A litter pick doesn’t have to be a huge community organized clean up. You can do it on the way to/from school, you can find a place close to home and spend 5 minutes getting it as clean as you can.

If you’re short on time but looking for a high impact activity. A litter pick is the answer. Taking 10 minutes to clean the world around you and your students will help build a bond between you and nature. It also gives students the chance to see the immediate impact of their actions.

20 minutes

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Plastic identification codes


People often fall into a trap of “wishcycling” which is when we take all of our plastics and throw them into the recycling. The biggest problem here is not all plastics can be recycled.

Here is a quick guide you can go over with your students*.

Plastics are divided into 7 different types. These numbers often appear on plastic containers to ensure people know when to recycle and when to send the plastic to landfill.

 * Please note that different towns, cities and countries have different recycling facilities so it is always best to check with local authorities

 30-45 minutes

Swap Shop

 What do your students love? Are they into Pokemon? Do the love fashion? Is there a stuffed toy they love but just don’t have space for, and would rather it go to another home than straight to landfill?

A swap shop is a wonderful way to get students excited about the world of preloved items. Reframing the way students view secondhand materials and encouraging them to actively seek them out will reduce the world’s need to recycle as people will be interchanging things rather than simply sending them to land fill and buying a new one.


1 Lesson

An Artist at Work

Speakout 3rd Edition

Obviously stopping the production and not buying SUPs in the first place is the first answer to the plastic problem and the problem of waste in general. The next best thing is to make sure we are as creative as possible and reuse as much.

Speakout B1 3rd Edition has a great lesson about art and creativity.

This is a wonderful place to invite your students to get creative in the classroom and make some art out of upcycled materials.

Arts and Crafts are a wonderful way of transmitting a message and learning “Real English” it’s important to ensure all of our adult learners still have the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Upcycling is for everyone, not just kids.


1-20 lessons

Speak Out for Sustainability

Speak Out for Sustainability

The beauty of Speak Out for Sustainability is you can come at it from whichever angle you like. Two full units each with 10 individual lessons based on plastics, litter and how we can work towards the “3 R’s of Sustainability” (of course there are many more)The lessons can be used as stand-alone classes or as a full unit. There are interviews with experts and activists, providing students with different viewpoints in terms of the plastic problem and the climate crisis. It also includes official BBC studios materials.

Speak Out for Sustainability also won a judges’ commendation at the ELTon awards for Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action.

Environmental Sustainability

5+ Lessons

Be Plastic Clever

Kids Against Plastic provide materials and guidance for primary and secondary schools to help them become plastic clever schools. This is a wonderful chance to empower students into bringing positive social change in their environment and beyond!


If you’re still stuck for something to inspire your students on Global Recycling Day, you can always check out of lots of free planet-friendly classes and materials.

Let’s make a pledge this World Recycling Day to reduce our waste and become more environmentally conscious. Whether it’s by committing to a daily litter pick, reducing single-use plastics, or participating in a local recycling program, every step we take brings us closer to a greener mindset and a more sustainable future. So, let’s take action today and encourage others to join us in making a positive impact on the planet. Remember, together we can make a difference!

Future skills: The best ways to implement them in the classroom  

Future skills: The best ways to implement them in the classroom  

Jobs of the future and our way of life is changing thanks to a variety of interconnected factors, such as globalisation, the growth of cities, artificial intelligence, technology and the environment. Therefore, preparing our students while they are at school to become comfortable with these changes and be leaders of the future is at the forefront of education plans across the globe.  

In Spain, the LOMLOE education law makes specific reference to this by focusing on digital competence, sustainable development and being a global citizen. Within that, there are 8 cross-curricular competences that children are developing throughout their school years to help them adapt to the world of the future. They are: 

  1. Linguistic  
  2. Plurilingual  
  3. STEM  
  4. Digital  
  5. Personal/Social/Learning to learn  
  6. Citizenship  
  7. Entrepreneurial  
  8. Cultural and artistic 

The Pearson and Oxford Martin School research project makes nuanced predictions about the future of work and skills in 2030 and beyond. According to their research, the most in-demand skills mirror what has been changed in the education system and what curriculums are focusing on. 

Top Future Skills for 2023

 These Future Skills can be placed into four main categories, making it easier for teachers to plan their lessons. They are: 

  • Communication 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Collaboration 
  • Creativity 

Traditionally, teachers have been paid for their skill in imparting knowledge and teaching memorisation techniques. This is now becoming obsolete. The widespread use of artificial intelligence means that the technology itself can reproduce facts at the touch of a button, thus reducing the importance of memorised details by our students. What artificial intelligence cannot do yet, or cannot do well, is to understand and use complex social, emotional, and creative skills. The teacher’s role is now about teaching how to work effectively. Students need to learn how to communicate a message clearly, work together, be creative and think critically. We, as teachers, need to place emphasis on teaching these skills, as they are very much taught and practiced, not developed naturally by students.  

How can we make a start in this? 

First of all, try to choose newer course books and materials that specifically address the needs and competencies outlined above. The Pearson course book Team Up Now! Is specifically focused on addressing the cross-curricular competencies outlined in the LOMLOE law, and each lesson plan is designed with those in mind, as well as the four Future Skills categories, the language goals and methods for evaluation. 

Future Skills activities - Team Up Now!

If you are not able to access materials of course books where these skills are added for you, then here are some ideas to incorporate them into your classes yourself. 


This is what teachers have been planning and practising for decades – practising speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in class. But it is always good to remember some advice to help our students get the most out of a lesson.  

  • Try to limit your teacher talk time so that students can talk more together during the class. For example, instead of asking questions one by one to a class and students raise their hands to answer (you will always get a teacher-one student ratio), place the questions on the board and ask students to discuss in pairs. In that way, all your students are talking at the same time.  
  • Make sure students have a reason to listen to each other. Placing them in pairs for a discussion sometimes doesn’t work as they don’t see the need to listen to each other and wait their turn. If they can fill in information on a worksheet as they speak, or that they know you will ask them after the activity to give you a summary of what they discussed, students are more likely to pay attention to their partner! 
  • Once your class has learnt the rules of a fun activity with you, e.g. a speaking game, try handing over the role of the teacher to a student or students, thus minimising your speaking time. 
  • Make sure that sentence starters are visible on the board so that the discussion can go as smoothly as possible, phrases such as ‘I reckon…’ ‘I see what you mean, but…’ 
  • Every page of a course book has the opportunity for you to ask a question that personalises the learning. For example, if the Unit has been about travel, it is easy to add questions for students to discuss, such as how do you travel to school? What was your favourite ever journey? What do you think is the most comfortable/exciting/boring way to travel? 

Critical thinking 

Critical thinking practices and develops organizing, categorizing, predicting, interpreting, analysing and evaluating, summarizing, and decision-making skills.  

 We often use these skills in our course books with vocabulary, e.g. organising and categorising groups of words, 

Team Up Now! - 2nd Activity

and the rest of the skills we use them with listening and reading texts, such as here in activities 1, 3 and 4. 

Reading Activities on Team Up Now!

To help practice critical thinking skills, try: 

  • Think, pair and share: Before a story of listening, ask some questions to the students. Before they respond, they think about the answers themselves, quietly. Then, they talk to their partner and discuss their ideas. Finally, they share what they and their partner discussed with the class. 
  • With any vocabulary, you can invent some categorising criteria for students to sort, such as the sports example above. It is fine of some words overlap into multiple categories, as this will provoke discussion in pairs as to which category is the best fit.  
  • Use brainstorming charts to document students’ thoughts regarding “What I Know” and “What I Want to Know” before starting a unit and after learning has occurred, “What I Learned.” If any of the ‘What I Want to Know’ questions have not been addressed, add an extra stage before moving on to the next unit to either find out or discuss.  


The ability to work with others is crucial. Making sure that students work in pairs, small groups, large groups is vital, a balance of gender grouping them with students of a similar level, or a mixed level are ways in which teachers can vary these interactions. This kind of collaboration also practices conflict resolution. Conflict will happen, as it is a part of life, but students get to practice how they resolve it in a safe environment and under your care.  

Here is a great lesson plan about conflict resolution from Education Foundation of Sarasota County and a conflict resolution wheel that can be used in class.  

Future Skills - wheel


This section is often the most fun in our lessons, and often it is the final project where most creativity takes place, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You can tweak and change your course book so that students can demonstrate that they have understood something, such as a grammar rule, by being more creative with how they show you.  

Ways to show what you know

This picture from shows that students can get creative in all stages of the lesson. For example,  

Team Up Now! Activity

In this lesson, students communicate by asking and answering their partner what they are good at. Instead, students may choose to practice the grammar by pretending they are interviewing each other on a talk show, inventing a questionnaire about what the class is good add and displaying the information in a chart format. It’s a great way for students to be themselves and get creative with what interests them.  

This article has barely scratched the surface of how you can incorporate Future Skills into your classroom, but it is important to note that it doesn’t need to be time consuming or take your time away from teaching a language. When planning a lesson or series of lessons, try to identify tasks in the course book that could or do practice these future skills. Is there a balance of tasks, or are you mostly covering communication skills and not enough critical thinking skills? From there, you can identify where would be a good point to add in a mini-stage or activity to address the balance.  

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  

GSE: Building understanding and confidence

Building understanding and confidence with the GSE

As an English teacher how often have you had a student walk into your classroom with a determined look on their face and a clear goal in their mind. “Teacher” they say. “I need to get a B2”  

Obviously, there is no problem in a student knowing what they need to get a certain job, visa or simply a shiny new certificate, but do they know how to achieve that goal and how they’re doing along the way.  

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was developed in the 90’s and published in 2001 but it’s origins steam back to as early as the 1960’s and it continues to be updated with new skills to this day.  

One of the biggest flaws in the CEFR is the gaps between levels and the effect that has on a student´s confidence and ultimately their learning.  

Let’s take the typical example of a student who has been learning English for 5-8 years. They’ve reached B1 and want to get to B2 for a new job. What is almost impossible to see in the CEFR is the vast difference between the two levels, a huge jump from pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate. It’s often surprising to a student when they hear they may be studying for a further 2 years to move up “just” one level.  

The CEFR is also mainly aimed at general English with a limited focus on work or study. For all the good it has done for language learning its weaknesses have left gaps in teachers’ and learners’ knowledge which can lead to a huge loss of confidence.  The Global Scale of English (GSE) has taken huge strides to remedy that.  

What is the GSE? 

The Global Scale of English is a standardized measure of English language proficiency. It is designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing learners to focus on specific language skills and track their progress over time. 

It has been designed to build learners’ confidence by understanding exactly where they are on their learning journey, setting personalised goals to focus their learning, and accurately measuring their progress. 

It’s the result of extensive global research, extending the number of learning objectives in the CEFR and assessing what learners are capable of on a scale of 10 to 90 for each of the four key language skills: speaking, listening reading and writing. 

GSE - CEFR Comparison

How can it build confidence?

Yogi Barra one said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  The structure of the GSE allows students to plan every step of their language learning journey with clear descriptors to guide them along every step of the way. 

GSE Experiencing Success

That can plan out a clear route to success and experience that success as you go. Giving students the ability to easily track how far they have come.  

The Teacher Toolkit

The teacher toolkit enables teachers to look at precisely the areas their learners need to work on, at the click of a button. This can help teachers and learners map out a clearer path in order to help progression 

Teacher Tool kit Example

Teacher Tool Kit Results Example

The clear descriptors show learners exactly what they need to achieve to reach the next level. We can use the teacher toolkit to help us plan our classes, but also help our learners set their targets for language learning.  

Setting SMART Goals 

Learning a language is never easy. Whether it’s for work, study or just for fun. To learn a new language, you need to work hard and push yourself. 

The importance of smaller steps 

It is always easier to push yourself to your next goal if it isn’t a million miles away. The GSE helps learners create these more achievable goals and allows them to set SMART Goals.  

To set SMART goals using the Global Scale of English (GSE), you should follow these steps: 

  1. Specific: Clearly define the specific skill or area you want to improve in, such as speaking or listening. Look for the learning objectives you’ll need to achieve. 
  2. Measurable: Set a measurable goal using the GSE scale. For example: increasing your speaking proficiency from a GSE level of 45 to 50. 
  3. Achievable: Ensure your goal is realistic and achievable within a specific timeframe. Will you realistically be able to do 4 hours of study a day? 
  4. Relevant: Make sure your goal aligns with your overall language learning objectives. 
  5. Time-bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goal, such as six months from now. 

By setting SMART goals using the GSE, you can track your progress and stay motivated as you work towards improving your English language proficiency. 


The next time you have a student knock on your door asking for a B2 talk to them about how they’re going to get there and show them SMART easy steps to achieve their goals using the GSE as a guide. 

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


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.


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.


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 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!