Getting a Handle on Fluency at C1


A big part of being an English teacher is gauging our students’ abilities in relation to what is expected at the level they’re in.  It’s not an easy task by any means, but we do seem, after years of experience, to get a certain feel for it.  But the real trick is actually being able to nail it down a bit more, to point to concrete features of their spoken output that are more reliable measurements of their proficiency.  Let’s take a look at what fluency looks like for our advanced C1 learners.

Often times we might find ourselves saying things like “You know you’re fluent when you dream in English” or “You know you’re fluent when you think in English”, but what does that actually mean?  I don’t know about you, but if I’m giving my advanced students feedback on their speaking I want to point to something a little more specific (and professional sounding) than their dreams.

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Correcting Writing: Less Red Pen and a bit more Zen

Getting into the zone

So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk.  You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students.  “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc.  The pressure’s on now.  The sooner you get these back to your students the better.  They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible.  You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class.  So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in.  You’re in full-on correction mode.

Ruby red pens

A familiar scene.  We’ve all been there.  And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?).  Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.

Cop or Coach?

Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment?  After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre?  May I see your certification to operate at this level please?  Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”

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

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

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

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessments

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessmentsThe Global Scale of English has been a great support and a positive change for my practice. As I previously discussed, the GSE can be used in a variety of ways, but my three favourite uses are as a tool for validating my students’ learning objectives, as a tool to enhance and improve my assessments, and, finally, as a tool to create content. In this discussion, I’d like to look at how you can use the GSE and the Teacher Toolkit to create custom rubrics and also explore the potential of the GSE Assessment Framework for teachers. First up, a refresher on rubrics (please skip to the section titled “Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics” if you’re already familiar with the concept). Continue reading

A guide to the GSE Learning Objectives

A guide to the GSE Learning ObjectivesWhen learning something new, maintaining a good level of motivation is key – and this applies to learning English, too. Students learn at different rates, and motivation will vary from learner to learner, so it’s useful to have a way to measure their English skills and provide step-by-step goals that they can aim for. The Global Scale of English (GSE) Learning Objectives can do just that.

The GSE is a global standard that allows teachers and learners to accurately measure progress. It provides an easy answer to students asking questions such as, “How good is my English?” and “Am I progressing?” To motivate students and help them move to the next level, the GSE Learning Objectives give learners guidance on what to concentrate on next. Learning a language requires a mix of skills across reading, writing, speaking and listening. If a student understands that they are weaker in one skill they can focus more on this area to help raise their overall proficiency score, or they can tailor their learning to meet the needs of their overall learning goal. They have all been constructed in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Continue reading