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

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!

 

 

Critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration: How to develop LOMLOE key competencies at primary level

Spain’s education system has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. A focus on rote learning, piles of homework and endless copying from the early primary years has led to criticism from parents, students and teachers alike.

A desire to modernise and come in line with education systems across the EU led to the development of the new educational law LOMLOE. Part of the law’s stated aim is to keep pace with changes in society.

A Competency-based Approach

A little over two years later and we’re starting to see the benefit of some of its key concepts. Not only is there a greater focus on social justice issues like Inclusion and Sustainability in the classroom, but key competencies are also being worked on. Competencies which go beyond simply memorising facts and regurgitating them in exams and help students think for themselves.

The new law has a competency-based approach (ie. using knowledge to do / achieve things) that gives schools more freedom to personalise learning based on their students’ needs.

All of this sounds wonderful, but it’s impossible for teachers to simply switch teaching styles from one day to the next without, support, training and the relevant materials. In today’s post we’re going to look at three of those competencies, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration. We’ll see what they are, why they’re important and how we can incorporate them into out English classes

Critical Thinking

What is it?

Critical thinking is defined by the dictionary as: “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” Put simply, to think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyse the information you receive.

Why is it important?

For many years the education system has force fed students information. Students then have their intelligence judged by how well they can retain and regurgetate that information in a highly pressured exam situation. Employers now see soft skills such as critical thinking as vital in the workplace and a key to employability. It helps students form well-informed opinions, promotes curiosity, allows for creativity and enhances problem solving skills. The ability to think critically can also improve empathy among students.

How can we encourage it?

Getting our youngest students to think for themselves and form their own opinion can be tricky. Life is much easier when you can simply teach from the book. Which is why critical thinking is now a key component to most course books.

The ability to self-evaluate using the evidence and information gathered is vital. Reflecting critically on what you’ve learnt helps with critical thinking. Added to that, in this particular unit, you can see one of the key aims is the ability to agree and disagree. Fundamental attributes to critical thinking.

Rise and Shine and its unique methodology provides plenty opportunities for critical thinking throughout the book.  For example the ‘I can’ statements at the end of the units allows students to think back over their work and evaluate whether they have achieved what they set out to achieve.

I Can Shine statements, LOMLOE

Problem Solving

What is it?

The ability to solve a problem doesn’t only relate to Maths. Problem solving goes a long way beyond the classroom walls. Our younger students are figuring out how to tie their shoe laces, button their coats and how too avoid getting the blame for something naughty they did.

Why is it important?

We need to help our students understand that problems will arise in all walks of life. Figuring out how to solve them can require creativity and a lot of thought. It’s important we don’t simply solve all of their problems for them.

How can we encourage it?

In I Can Shine there are plenty of chances for students to develop their problem-solving skills.

Let’s take a look at I Can Shine 5 where the book looks at a school garden project. Students read and listen about a school garden project. Take the time to identify the problems (no gardens at home, lack of funding) the students could have and show your class how they solved those problems.Problem solving. LOMLOE

After working through the reading and seeing what issues the students came up against, you could ask what your students could do to help projects at their school or in their community.

Collaboration

What is it?

Helen Keller once famously said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” the art of collaboration is one that needs to be nurtured from a very young age. Learning to build relationships and work through differences is a skill you will continue to work on your entire life.

We never know who we are going to end up working with. However,  something we need to know is we can’t do everything alone. There will be times when, no matter how hard we try, we need a helping hand. Learning to collaborate means will be able to make the most of everyone’s skills to achieve the best possible goal.

How can we encourage it?

Understanding students’ relationships with each other and how whether they will work well together is obviously something only a teacher can know. I Can Shine gives these diligent teachers the materials to foster collaboration in their classrooms and among their learners.Collaboration. LOMLOE

In this “Wonder” section of I Can Shine, our learners are encouraged to talk about when they have helped others. How they have collaborated to make someone else’s life easier. Allowing students to reflect on what they have done to help others, be it setting the table for dinner or helping someone with their homework, will provide them with a sense of self-worth and a new appreciation of the help they receive from others.

When we walk into our classroom, we need to take a moment to realise we’re not simply helping our learners get 9’s and 10’s in their exams but we also want them to get 9’s and 10’s in life. Helping them become their best possible selves. The LOMLOE has now provided us with the push we need to go out and help our students get to grips with these core competencies. Now it’s up to us to grab that opportunity and make the most of it.

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.

Bringing Sustainability Forward with Learning Experiences

In March 2020 a study was released showing that almost 50% of Spanish students considered The Climate Crisis as a problem the world needed to solve.

A massive 98% of them said they wanted to learn about it in an academic setting. Sadly, 4 in 10 of those students felt it wasn’t even talked about at school.

It is clear that education ministers are attempting to address this issue with updates to the education law (LOMLOE) giving a greater focus to the planet in its most recent update. You can read more about it here. Hopefully, this newly found focus on bringing sustainability to the forefront of education will help tackle the climate crisis by ensuring future generations are aware and prepared to help prevent an impending global catastrophe.

In today’s post we’re going to look at how you and your students address some of the sustainability issues

raised the LOMLOE in your classroom using the Your World Learning Experience 4.

What are Learning Experiences?

 The learning experiences are stand-alone activities for both primary and secondary aged classrooms, aimed at helping teachers and students to work through the new additions to the law. They focus on key social justice issues ranging from gender equality through to the environment helping to develop both hard and soft skills along the way.

They have been created with the aim of helping our students develop more than just their language skills. The Learning Experiences are designed with specific tasks to aid learners in the acquisition of key skills such as critical thinking and collaboration. They will work on issues that go beyond the classroom and encourage them to develop into more rounded global citizens.

Understanding how to help the planet

The benefits of this learner pack goes well beyond simply helping our students understand the impact we, as humans, have on the planet. It also empowers them to make a difference. When assuming personal responsibilities our students develop a better understanding of the issues at hand and in taking positive steps, albeit small ones, it will heighten their awareness of key issues and help them develop a greener mindset.

Your World Learning Experience 4: Make Green Positivity Cards

This goal focuses mainly on the Sustainable  

Development goal 11. Promoting Sustainable Cities and Communities but also has underling connections to an array of the goals set out in the 2030 agenda. The LOMLOE states “Students begin to adopt sustainable life habits, in order to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity from both a local and global perspectiveThis pack will help promote critical thinking and a whole host of sustainable habits.  

The beauty of these sustainable life habits is that they create a greener mindset in our students and tend to grow into much greater actions in the long run, they also show that there is only one place to start when you want to make a difference and that is with yourself.  It is also imperative that we, as educators, allow students to see and feel how the connection of our actions, as humans, have an effect on the planet.  

Making the most from the learning experience.  

Before you start

Have your students look at the image and identify as many of the different sustainable acts as they can. This is a great way to activate schemata and see how much our students already know. It also gives students a chance to say what isn’t in the picture. You can also check to see if students know why these acts are important. Which links closely to the “understand the systemic relationships between human actions and the environmentpart of the LOMLOE. 

Step 1 

Goes a step further and asks students to think about the acts in the pictures and read a short conversation between two teenagers. Asking them to consider which of the two is most eco-friendly and honestly compare themselves to the person they’re most similar too. It’s very important at this stage of development there are no prizes for being the eco-friendliest person around. The aim is to simply try and do better.  

Step 2  

When at the analyse stage it’s important to impress upon your students that these acts are individual acts and will make a big difference to their own lives, however, the responsibility tackling the climate crisis doesn’t rest upon them, it is something everyone needs to address and take steps to positive change. The changes suggested are all very simple to action and a great place to plant the seed of environmentalism. 

Step 3 

When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, we all need a little positivity and a lot of creativity. Preparing the Green Positivity cards will provide your students with the perfect chance to use both. Not only that but it’ll also add in some incredibly useful phrases too. Having these positivity cards will serve as a constant reminder to you and your students of the steps we all need to take to be a little greener. 

Step 4 

At this stage we can truly empower our students. By now they have come up with the ideas they can easily action and now they can present them to their peers. It shows an understanding of the LOMLOE sections which says:They should also adopt a sustainable and eco-socially responsible lifestyle”. 

Once these ideas have been shown, presented and displayed we need to ensure that as teachers and mentors we refer back to them frequently to check in on how we are doing in our quest to be greener. 

Reflect 

Reflection is key to any lesson, not simply those about our behaviours. At this stage of the class, we should ensure our students have fully understood and find out from them what their biggest takeaway was from the class.  

 

Final Thoughts 

It’s wonderful to see the law makers are finally taking note of the changes our students want and need to have a better future. Thankfully, with resources like the Learning Experiences we can empower our students with the key skills they are going to need going forward to make a difference with a wide range of social justice issues in their world and beyond.

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.

Ten Top Back to School ice-breakers

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

And just like that we’re back. The holidays have drawn to a close and the suncream’s back in the cabinet. The laptop’s dusted off and thoughts turn to the 25 (hopefully) beaming faces that we’ll soon have in front of us. In our first lesson back we’ll often outline our rules and expectations, explain the content of the course and get to know one another with a range of ice breaking activities. This blog post focuses on the latter. Here are 10 activities to go away and use on the first day back!

1. Teacher introduction gap fill

We’ll want our students telling us about themselves, but it’s easier for them if we go first. There are a number of ways to this. One is a gapped text which students can look over in pairs and make predictions. They’re sure to make a few funny ones which should help break the ice:

I’m Mr Brand. Nice to meet you! I was born in ______________(Country) in _______________ (Year). But I’ve lived in Spain for ___________ (years). My favourite sport is _____________ and my favourite food is _____________. I can’t stand ____________!

Students can then write or read their own texts and even gap fill them too.

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