Every group of students we teach is different. This makes planning our courses around our students’ needs challenging – especially when course book materials are hard to personalise or lack flexibility.
Roadmap is an eight-level general English course for adults, which has been designed to meet that challenge head-on. It enables you to adapt your classes to fit the needs of every one of your groups.
In this webinar series, which begins on Thursday 12th September, we demonstrate how you can start a new course successfully. You’ll learn how to build learner confidence, and adapt and personalise your classroom materials – no matter how large your classroom groups are.
Each webinar is led by a co-author of Roadmap and deals with different aspects of the course.
You’ll learn about:
- Practical ideas for first-day activities using Roadmap
- Addressing changing individual needs in the classroom
- Boosting learner confidence
1. Starting a new course with Roadmap
In this webinar, Roadmap co-author Hugh Dellar kicks off the series by talking about the difficulty of starting a course with a new book. He gives us a range of practical ways to approach the beginning of term. You’ll come away with lots of new ideas and some great first-day activities to use with the Roadmap course.
When? Thursday 12th September
Register here for 9:00 am (UK time)
Register here for 2:00 pm (UK time)
2. Building learner confidence with Roadmap
In this webinar, Lindsay Warwick explains how low learner confidence can have a negative impact on student progress in the classroom.
Using a Roadmap lesson as an example, Lindsay explains how we can show our students’ progress and celebrate their achievements. The sooner we can get our students to feel more confident about using English, the sooner they’ll achieve their goals.
When? Thursday 19th September
Register here for 9:00 am (UK time)
Register here for 2:00 pm (UK time)
3. Finding the right route to develop your learners’ skills
Damian Williams looks at learning as a journey and talks about how we can get our students on the right track by developing their receptive and productive skills.
Covering communication skills and practical tools, he’ll examine Roadmap’s flexible, dual-track approach and show you how it can be adapted to suit your students’ needs.
When? Thursday 26th September
Register here for 9:00 am (UK time)
Register here for 2:00 pm(UK time)
4. The best-laid plans – responding to learners’ changing needs with Roadmap
You’ll come away with ideas on how to plan ahead during the course. You’ll also learn how to adapt your content with the changing needs of your students in mind, over the course of the year.
When? Thursday 3rd October
Register here for 9:00 am (UK time)
Register here for 2:00 pm (UK time)
You can also catch up on our previous webinar series on our dedicated page.
Roadmap’s rich content and flexible organisation allows teachers to personalise their lessons to give learners the specific language training they need to progress. Engaging and clearly-organised with an extensive range of support materials, Roadmap makes lessons easy to prepare and fun to teach.
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Confident students are often the most successful learners. In this post, Lindsay Warwick explains how we can inspire our ESL learners to be more sure of themselves and do better in their learning.
She examines the importance of confidence in the English language classroom, shows us why some learners are more self-assured than others, and takes us through five key confidence-building strategies.
You can also join Lindsay for a practical webinar about building learner confidence with Roadmap. There will be one session at 9am and another at 2pm (UK time) on Thursday 19th September.
How does learner confidence affect student achievement?
A learner who has belief in their abilities will set themselves challenging goals, be motivated to achieve them, put in an effort, and use appropriate strategies to perform well.
On the other hand, a learner with self-efficacy (self-confidence) will set themselves low-level goals, not put in effort (why try when you think you’ll fail?), not use appropriate strategies and not perform well. As a result, their confidence and motivation levels will continue to fall.
This is backed by a body of research, which suggests that high self-confidence can positively affect motivation and effort, the ability to set goals and performance. Conversely, it suggests that low self-confidence can negatively affect them (Raoofi, Tan & Chan, 2012).
What affects learner confidence?
It’s also important to understand what affects learner confidence. Albert Bandura’s theory claims that there are four sources of self-efficacy:
- Mastery experiences: When you achieve one goal, it makes you believe you can achieve another.
- Vicarious experiences: When you see people similar to you working hard and achieving goals, you believe you can too.
- Verbal persuasion: When influential people (e.g. a teacher) reinforce the view that we can achieve our goal.
- Emotional and physiological states: When we feel tired, stressed or depressed, our self-efficacy will be low.
These are all key things to bear in mind when managing your classroom, providing instruction, giving feedback, and reflecting on individual and group progress.
So, how can we help to build our learners’ confidence?
Here are my top five strategies for developing learners’ confidence.
1. Establishing learning goals
It’s key that every lesson has a clear learning goal. This helps us to stage the lesson logically and ensure that learners make progress. For example:
- I can compare two places
- I can make an arrangement with a friend
It’s also important to convey this goal to learners so that they know what they’re trying to achieve. Note that learners don’t generally pay much attention to a goal simply written on the board. There needs to be some kind of engagement with it.
You can do this by asking learners to read the goal and say why it’s useful and how confident they currently feel about achieving it (1=not confident, 5 =confident). You can then repeat this activity at the end of the class and (hopefully) they’ll give a higher score.
You can read more about goal setting our article Back to school: 5 ways to establish SMART goals.
2. Staging the lesson appropriately
Once we know what we want our students to achieve, we can stage the lesson so that learners have the best chance of achieving it. Each activity should build on the last, leading up to the final task that allows learners to achieve the goal.
If, for example, the goal is to compare two places, then our lesson might include these things:
- Listening task: Students listen to a model conversation where people are choosing between two cafés for brunch.
- Language clarification: Students recognize how we use, form and pronounce comparative adjectives.
- Language practice: Students practice using comparative adjectives, with personalized practice.
- Speaking task preparation: Students prepare to compare two cafés.
- Speaking task: Students have a conversation where they decide which of two cafés to visit.
3. Providing the right support
Not everyone in the class will be able to work through lesson activities with the same level of ability. When a task is challenging, less confident learners are likely to think back to past failures and give up more quickly. To avoid this, we can add support to help weaker learners to complete the task successfully.
Some examples of support include:
- A gap-fill exercise providing two possible answers to choose from
- A listening multiple choice where students must take one option away
- A speaking task that supplies useful phrases
- Extension tasks that stronger learners can complete, so slower learners can finish a task
We can give learners the option to use the support or not.
4. Working with peers
Regular pair and group work gives learners the opportunity to see how the effort from their peers results in good performance and progress. We can also encourage learners to share strategies through discussion. For example:
How did you prepare for the test? What was helpful? What wasn’t helpful?
What stages did you follow when you wrote your article?
What did you do to get the answers to the exercise right?
Learners can discuss questions like these in L1.
5. Feedback and reflection
Rather than focus solely on error correction, it’s really important that we also point out what learners did well and should keep doing, as well as what progress they’ve made.
We can encourage peer feedback and self-reflection that focuses significantly on what went well as well as next steps. This doesn’t need to take long. We can ask one or two questions at the end of a lesson or a series of lessons. For example:
How confident do you feel at the end of this lesson? (1-5) Why?
What are you proud of in this lesson? Why?
What do you need to do to improve next time?
Again, learners can discuss these in L1.
Building learner confidence with Roadmap
In Pearson’s new general English series Roadmap, all lessons have a clear learning goal, carefully staged activities, and a task that shows learners that they’ve achieved their goal.
What’s more, learners have the opportunity to develop and practice sub-skills and strategies to help them develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. There are also reflection tasks which focus on confidence, and suggestions in the Teacher’s Book on how to add support for learners who need it. All of these things are designed to help learners build confidence alongside competence.
Want to find out more?
You can join Lindsay on Thursday 19th September for a practical webinar about building learner confidence with Roadmap. There will be one session at 9am and another at 2pm (UK time).
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Raoofi, S, Tan, B, Chan, S. (2012). Self-efficacy in Second/Foreign Language Learning Contexts, English Language Teaching; Vol. 5, No. 11; 2012 https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1080058.pdf
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Our classes are often more successful when we’ve planned them with learning objectives in mind. In this post, Hugh Dellar explains how the idea of aim-oriented teaching and backwards planning can help you map out the language that will be most useful for your students so they can reach their goals faster.
He also shares some practical ideas for putting it into practice as well as his top teaching tips.
Defining appropriate aims
Aim-oriented teaching has become better known over recent years. It involves starting your lesson planning by defining what you want your students to be better able to do at the end of the class.
Much of the original impetus behind this came from the Common European Framework (CEFR), which sets out lists of can-do statements for different levels of linguistic competence. These statements are connected to what the CEFR defines as the broad aims of all language teaching:
- To help students deal with the business of everyday life
- To help them exchange thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions
- To broaden their understanding of different cultures and ways of living/thinking.
The Global Scale of English (GSE) expands on the CEFR. It provides teachers with more learning objectives and numbers each to show where each sits exactly on a granular, numbered scale.
Key ideas that emerge
By focusing on what students will be better able to do at the end of a lesson, we start to see a new set of priorities emerging. The most obvious is that communicative goals should be the primary driver of our lessons. This means that grammatical and lexical input should be thought of as secondary and subordinate.
Secondly, there needs to be a consistent emphasis on fixed expressions, on patterns, and on routines. Interestingly for a profession that can sometimes be guilty of prioritising the novel and unusual, there’s also a keen focus on general topics and the familiar and on developing range by going deeper into what students can already do within such areas.
If we are to teach towards communicative outcomes, then perhaps the best approach to adopt when planning classes is backward planning or backward design. First introduced into curriculum design in 1998 by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in their book Understanding by Design, this involves designing material by first identifying desired results and then designing activities that will make these results happen. In other words, once you know the destination you’re headed towards, it’s far easier to construct a straight route!
This was very much the approach we employed when writing Roadmap. We’d start a double-page lesson by selecting a relevant goal that we wanted students to work towards. Next, we’d think of the actual conversations we’d expect students to learn how to have.
Having narrowed this down, we’d choose realistic models, analyse the model texts for language and then write exercises that lay out relevant new grammar and vocabulary that helps students achieve their goals. This often means helping them to notice chunks, patterns, collocations, and so on. From here, we then build back up towards the final task.
Putting it all into practice
Let’s consider how all this can work in the classroom. In Unit 4A of the B1+ level for example, there’s a lesson designed to help students have better conversations about accidents and mistakes.
The lesson begins by asking students to discuss the accidents and mistakes that could happen in different situations shown in some photographs. They then read and respond to four short posts about accidents and mistakes taken from a discussion forum. Out of this emerges some work on narrative tenses, practiced in the context of similar stories. In the same way, the vocabulary is also practiced and presented in a similar context, and includes items such as mix up the dates, knock over a bottle and cause a lot of damage.
There’s a practice activity that encourages further use of the past simple and continuous. Students then try to put the separate elements they’ve studied in detail together as they discuss experiences of their own and respond to the stories of others.
Tips for teaching
Obviously, using classroom material such as Roadmap, which has been written with backward design in mind, makes implementing these ideas easier. In addition, here are my six top teaching tips:
- Always have a clear sense of what you want learners to get better at within any given class.
- Ensure your can-do statement is neither too broad nor too specific.
- Use existing frames of reference such as the GSE to help you decide whether your goals are appropriate to the level you’re teaching. (GSE teacher mapping booklets help you see where exactly each learning objective covered in Roadmap is on the scale).
- Define the new language – both grammar and vocabulary – that will be most useful to your classes as they work towards their goals.
- Think about the feedback you’ll provide at each stage of the lesson and how it will help students see their goals more clearly.
- Repeat your final tasks in a future class and revise some of the language covered in previous lessons.
Good luck and enjoy your teaching.
Want to learn more? Watch a recording of Hugh’s webinar now.
You can also sign up to his next online training session: Starting a new course with Roadmap on Thursday 12th September. Hugh will be examining ways we can approach new classes, share with you some first-day activities and will also look at how you can ensure your students get the most out of Roadmap.
Get your students to their learning destination with Roadmap
Roadmap is a new, eight-level general English course for adult learners.
The rich content and flexible organization allows teachers to personalize their lessons to give students the specific language training they need to progress. Engaging and clearly-organized with an extensive range of support materials, Roadmap makes lessons easy to prepare and fun to teach.
No other course is so focused on helping learners achieve the goals for each lesson.
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The new school year is the ideal time for a fresh start. After all, once young students are in a routine they can be resistant to change, and it’s hard to find time to experiment once teaching is underway.
But too many changes all at the same time are difficult for teachers to manage and might be overwhelming for young students. And in most cases, major changes are not necessary.
In my experience, young learner teachers often want to focus on improving student engagement and motivation, and this is an area where Assessment for Learning (AfL) can be of great benefit.
I want to share some AfL strategies which encourage learners to take more responsibility for their own learning. These strategies won’t require huge changes to your teaching, but can be introduced and experimented with throughout the school year. A new beginning without all the pressure of making things perfect from the first day of term.
Share learning objectives at the start of each lesson so students know what they are learning, how it will benefit them personally and what the expectations are for the lesson. Learning objectives should be specific, measurable and age appropriate, for example:
- I can write the instructions to a simple game.
- I can describe basic symptoms to a doctor.
Write the learning objective on the board then begin a discussion with your students, giving further questions if necessary. For the objective about symptoms you might ask:
- When did you last go to the doctor?
- What are some common reasons for going to the doctor?
- Can you say those things in English?
- What advice might the doctor give you?
Return to the learning objective at the end of each lesson so students can reflect on how successful they were. Once again, discussion questions are useful, for example; Which words in the lesson were new for you? Tell me three pieces of advice the doctor might give.
All of these discussions can take place in English or your students’ L1.
Success criteria ensure students know exactly what to do to succeed in a task. You can use them for any task, but they are particularly useful for speaking and writing when you want maximum effort and engagement from students. Set the task, and if possible show students a model. This could be a well-written text for writing, and a recording or a teacher demonstration for speaking.
Invite students to identify the key features of the model and help them to formulate these into success criteria. Students should write these in their notebooks to refer to throughout the task. Here are some examples:
After students complete a task, they should look back at the criteria and self or peer-assess how well they did. They can assess each point by drawing emojis, writing ticks, question marks and crosses or using red, orange and green coloring pencils to colour in boxes.
To get started with success criteria as well as the other strategies mentioned in this blog, watch our video summary series.
You can also read more in our article: Visible progress for primary learners.
We give praise and feedback to students all the time, but feedback is only truly effective when it informs students not only what they did well or badly, but how they can improve. Here are some examples of helpful formative feedback:
Your article is very well balanced and interesting to read. To improve your work, include 4 linkers from the lesson (despite, although etc.) to organize your points.
I like the adjectives you used to describe your friend’s appearance (fashionable, slender). Can you tell me something about her personality? Is she patient, reliable?
To help you keep track of the feedback you are giving as well as other key AfL techniques, download our AfL Teacher Checklist.
Self- and peer reflection
To thrive in the 21st century our students need to learn how to work autonomously and independently, and self- and peer reflection is key. However, young students are not used to doing this, as traditionally that’s the teacher’s job. Therefore, extra support and scaffolding is essential.
Sentence stems and reflective questions are one way to help students focus on their own learning and can be used regularly before and after learning takes place. Use some of the ideas from my AfL classroom posters, or better still put one up in your classroom so students can refer to them whenever they need to.
Some other ways to facilitate reflection with young students include the use of Can Do Statements and learning diaries.
Can Do Statements can be used regularly at the end of a lesson, unit or cycle of work to encourage students to reflect on their progress and should be connected to the learning objectives for the lesson.
Learning diaries provide a safe place where students can communicate with their teacher about the things that matter to them. They can record their successes and challenges, as well as their language learning goals.
If you would like in depth training on how to implement Assessment for Learning with your students watch my webinar series. The five hour training program covers both theoretical and practical aspects with plenty of ideas for you to try out with your students.
If you enjoyed reading this – don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list below and receive the latest blog posts directly to your inbox!
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In this article, Dr. Ken Beatty outlines seven key principles for effective teaching, taken from timeless historical examples of royal education.
Ken is the series consultant for Startup, and these ideas have influenced the development of this series. Not only does Startup personalize learning, it gives teachers the flexibility to teach traditionally or use a flipped classroom approach. It offers a range of innovative, interactive activities and focuses on building 21st Century skills, and creative and critical thinking abilities.
A royal thought experiment for teachers
“What shall we teach the king and queen’s child?”
The question comes from a thought experiment I created for my graduate students.
In this exercise I review how a few of the children of the richest and most powerful people around the world have been taught over the past 2,500 years. It leads to the more important and practical question:
If the best teachers and the best learning materials were easily accessible to everyone, how would we design a perfect language curriculum?
Surprisingly, teachers in the 21st century are able to answer the question and put the same principles into practice for teaching children, teens, and adults. So let’s take a look. Here are seven principles for personalized, flexible teaching.
Principle 1: Get the best teachers
King Phillip of Macedonia employed the greatest scientist of the age, Aristotle, to teach his son, Alexander the Great (356–323 BC).
The greatest thinkers, in all fields, are available to share their ideas with your students through countless free videos now posted online.
For lower level students, curate selected videos or parts of videos that will be comprehensible. For more advanced students, ask them to explore topics that interest them then share the ideas with the rest of the class. This type of personal and flexible task shifts responsibility for learning to the students.
Principle 2: Make learning engaging
English Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) was the most educated woman of her generation. Her Cambridge University tutors and governesses taught her Cornish, English, French, Greek, Italian, and Latin. She also studied arithmetic, geometry, history, literature, logic, music, philosophy, rhetoric, and theology, as well as archery, dancing, embroidery, hunting, riding and sewing.
Elizabeth’s most influential teacher was Roger Ascham. Ascham had an unusual idea for the time: that learning should be engaging. Make your lessons more engaging by introducing a topic then encouraging students to think of questions they might have about it. For example, “Why and when do I use the past perfect tense?” Also, always find out what students already know about a topic; if they can teach part of the class, let them!
Principle 3: Encourage lifelong learning
Peter the Great (1672–1725) was taught by Russia’s best scholars but went beyond their lessons to study practical subjects such as boat building, dentistry, and masonry. Peter’s curiosity continued his whole life.
Lifelong learners become self-directed when they are encouraged to be curious about personal interests and are offered opportunities to explore new ideas on their own. Support self-directed learning by encouraging students to imagine themselves using English in the future.
Start by asking them to think of who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. For example, “In ten years, where would I like to be working and how would I use English there?”
Principle 4: Look for other perspectives
China’s Emperor Qianlong’s (1711–1799) private tutors taught him the Chinese classics and the art of poetry, and he was initiated into affairs of state at an early age. He extended his learning through travel and surrounded himself with talented individuals from other cultures.
It’s often said that language is culture, and one of the joys of learning English is to see how perspectives differ from other languages.
Have students explore idioms and customs in their first languages and in English. What’s similar? What’s different? Why?
Principle 5: Encourage reflection
As a child, Queen Victoria (1819–1901) wrote about the 150 books she studied between the ages of seven and 16. Many were challenging far beyond her age.
It’s often the case that teachers and textbooks introduce new topics week after week and students sometimes forget what they’ve learned. Encourage students to be more reflective by keeping a journal of what they have learned. For today’s students, the best place to do so might be on their mobile phones, keeping a file of notes that they can read and review anytime and anywhere.
Principle 6: Test ideas against local realities
Before ascending the throne of Siam, King Mongkut (1804–1868) lived as a monk for 27 years, traveling around Thailand and experiencing the lives of his subjects first hand. He also became a fluent English speaker. King Mongkut used his knowledge of English to find innovative ways to modernize his country.
What teachers can do – that textbooks sometimes cannot – is to localize learning. Ask students to relate what they learn in the English language classroom to their own contexts, helping them to consider situations in which they could use English.
Principle 7: Use your imagination!
“Merlin, knowing the boy’s destiny, teaches Arthur what it means to be a good king by turning him into various kinds of animals: fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger. Each of the transformations is meant to teach him a lesson, which will prepare him for his future life.” (White, 1958, n.p.)
Okay, so it’s unlikely you can turn your students into small animals. But you can promote their imaginations by suggesting hypothetical situations.
“Imagine you are lost in a city on the other side of the world with no money and need to find your way back home. How much language would you need to help you do that?” Give students time to brainstorm in pairs and encourage multiple answers. Roleplay!
Putting these principles into practice
But do I put these principles into practice myself? Yes, I try, both in my textbooks and in classes for graduate students. But I also try to use them as a parent – and once had the perfect opportunity to do so when my eldest son was in Grade 6. We were living in Abu Dhabi at the time, and an unexpected opportunity for a two-week vacation arose. “Where should we go?” my wife asked.
To me, there was only one answer: “Nathan is studying Greek and Roman history,” I reminded her. “Let’s go to Greece and Italy and let him live it!”
It was the sort of thing a King and Queen would do.
- Hoffman, M. (1999) Raised to Rule: Educating Royalty at the Court of the Spanish Habsburgs, 1601-1634. London: Woburn Press
- White, T. H. (1958) The Once and Future King. London: Collins
Developing student skills with StartUp
StartUp is an innovative eight-level, multi-skills general English course built around the Global Scale of English (GSE). It is a complete language program that motivates 21st century learners with relevant and media-rich content, and provides teachers with robust support to make teaching personalizable and easy.
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As your students get ready to come back to school and begin a new school year, it’s time to think about your first few classes and start preparing for a new intake of students. But what should you consider? What ESL teaching resources are available to you? And how can you make sure your students learn, engage and behave?
Here are our five top tips to help you prepare for the new school year and some free resources for you to download.
1. Set expectations
Your first few classes with a new group of students are critical. It’s your chance to make a strong first impression and lay down some ground rules for expected behavior in the classroom. In your first or second class, you should encourage your students to participate in a group discussion about how they should act – and then put together a classroom contract.
Guide the discussion using a series of questions. For example:
- What should you do when the teacher is talking?
- Is it okay to make a mistake in English?
- How should we treat other students?
- Can you use mobile phones in class?
Have students answer in their own words and negotiate the rules/norms you feel are suitable. Write their answers on the board and then have students create a poster, which they should all sign.
Although you have helped them, they will feel more ownership over this “contract” because they suggested the answers. You can also ask them to add some rules for you – though it’s up to you if you agree with them or not!
Make sure to stay consistent and fair with the rules over the course of the year.
2. Build routines
No matter how old your students are, it’s important to start building a classroom routine in the first few weeks of your course. Routines create a familiar, safe space; the ideal environment for learning. While younger children need a stricter routine, even teenagers can benefit from them.
Putting students in the right frame of mind
By always beginning your class in the same way, you help put students in the right frame of mind. That way they’ll know both what to expect and what’s expected of them. You might ask students to line up outside the classroom, and greet them one by one as they enter. Not only does this give you a personal connection, but it also allows you to control where they sit and how they enter the room – calmly, and ready to learn.
Reducing teacher talk time
A regular classroom routine reduces the need for extended teacher instructions. For example, once young learners know that they must sit cross-legged and quietly on the floor to get ready for storytime, you only need to tell them to “get ready for story time.” Likewise, if teenage students know the first class always begins with a five minute circle game, they will get ready for it automatically.
Managing energy levels
Routines can be used to manage energy levels in the classroom. Perhaps your students run in screaming after break time, or maybe they’re still half asleep. Whichever is the case for you, you can adapt your routine with different activities to energize them or calm them down at the start of the class and get things off to a good start.
Creating a safe learning environment
What’s more, routines help students feel in control, confident, and happy. These emotions put the students in the right frame of mind for learning.
Finally, the best thing about routines is that you can occasionally break them! Students also benefit from the occasional classroom shake up to make things feel new and exciting.
3. Challenge your students
New starts are also about fresh challenges – and it’s important that your students feel that they are learning something relevant and worthwhile. Be wary of starting things off too easily, and ensure you have enough fast-finisher activities up your sleeve.
If students think things are too easy, they’ll soon switch off, get distracted and start causing problems.
You can use the GSE Teacher Toolkit to research learning objectives, grammar and vocabulary at the appropriate level for your new group.
4. Prepare a classroom survival kit
Before you dive head first into your lesson, it’s a good idea to have a classroom survival kit at the ready. These kits will help you supplement your class plan and change things up when your students need to expend energy.
What to include for young learners:
- A pack of stickers
- Colored card
- A simple board game
- A ball
- A variety of fast finisher activities
What to include for teenagers:
- Graded reading materials – the Marvel Graded Readers are often popular among teenagers
- Fast finisher activities
- A ball
Also don’t miss our Words-in-Action card game. It’s a great way to engage your learners and get them speaking in a fun, dynamic activity. Choose from various themed worksheets which are divided into a series of 20 flashcards. Each set has full teacher instructions and contains words and expressions illustrated by a picture. They are color-coded by nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. There is one set for B1 or lower and another set for B2 or higher level learners.Download B1 Download B2
You can also find a number of other helpful resources for your teenage classroom survival kit here.
5. Build rapport
At the beginning of term, it’s especially important to help the students in your class get to know each other and form bonds. Teenagers, especially, can be shy, embarrassed and awkward around new people – and it only gets worse when you ask them to speak in another language!
In the first few classes, it’s a good idea to try team building activities and icebreakers, so your students start to feel more comfortable around each other.
There are a number of top ideas you can try in our article Back to school: 5 team building activities to help break down boundaries.
What are you looking forward to trying out in your classrooms this year? Do you have any questions or worries about your new classes?
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In this article, Dr Ken Beatty talks about the importance of updating our teaching practices to reflect modern demands of our students.
Ken is the series consultant of Startup, a course that helps you personalize your class, focus on different themes and sub-skills, and teach flexibly. With Startup, you can meet individual and group needs by extending and differentiating classroom instructions. Students benefit from interactive activities and videos with grammar and pronunciation coaches, character-based conversations, and topical talks. They build 21st century skills and develop their creative and critical thinking abilities.
No more piano tops: The skills today’s students need
A few years ago, at the start of my career, I sat with two other professors and recalled my work at a teacher’s university in rural China. “I visited a wonderful English class held at a school that couldn’t afford desks; students simply sat on benches,” I said respectfully.
“That’s nothing,” said the second professor, boastfully. “I visited an English class with no walls or books.” He talked about an inspirational lesson held in a city in India where students sat outdoors on a carpet and wrote their letters and numbers in the surrounding dust.
“That’s nothing,” said the third professor, triumphantly. “I visited an English class with no teacher.”
Well, not exactly.
That class in the countryside in Zambia was held under a tree, and the local teacher was also a part-time taxi driver and was sometimes summoned at the last moment to drive customers. When he did so, the students would chat and wait to see if he might return soon and, if not, would disperse for the day.
Are classrooms really more modern today?
We may think that our classrooms are far more modern than these examples, but what exactly has changed?
The answer, sadly, is “not much.”
Aside from some minor differences in furniture, many classrooms look and operate much in the way they did 200 years ago. They are overwhelmingly teacher-centered and learning materials are often still limited to books and workbooks.
Teachers may write on whiteboards with erasable pens instead of on blackboards with chalk, but the methodology may not have changed beyond the classic approach of remembering through repetition.
Have attitudes towards teaching and learning shifted?
In some cases, teachers’ attitudes have not changed. My first class at university was an auditorium-based geography lecture led by the tiny but fierce Dr J. Ross Mackay (1915-2014), a world expert on permafrost. He strutted into the lecture hall and, instead of welcoming us, began with a warning, “Ah, 300 students. Next year probably half of you will drop out. In four years, I expect 20 of you will graduate in Geography. 20 years after that, only one of you will have made it as a professional geographer.”
We were all stunned, but it was a clear explanation of the university’s attitude of sink or swim. Either we competed as hard as possible to be the best, or we would fall by the wayside. Some teachers still feel this way, anticipating that each student in their classes will fall somewhere on an imaginary bell curve of marks.
Fortunately, for many teachers, that attitude has changed today. Reasons why include the fact that most universities and language schools have adopted a more humanistic approach to teaching. Student-centered approaches that encourage continuous feedback and help to ensure that every student succeeds are rising.
Also, with more students than ever before going on to study English as adults, the opportunities for them have expanded and language institutions need to compete. Students can pick and choose which institution to attend and vote with their feet if they feel a class or a college is not meeting their needs. Even in small towns with limited educational options, students have the choice of face-to-face instruction or attend classes online.
What new teaching skills are needed today?
Contemporary adult learners require new approaches and materials that address new needs in their social, professional, and academic English. New teacher approaches include being able to adjust lessons and tasks to work with more able and less able learners. New materials with a more engaging approach to contemporary topics and blended learning opportunities extend classroom instruction. The recent innovation of phone-based instruction complements what’s going on in the classroom. This seems to be far more effective than gamified apps that students soon discard.
Regardless of the delivery method, the major focus is still on reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Many sub skills are also necessary, such as active listening skills, pronunciation skills for speaking, critical thinking for reading, and organizational skills for writing.
These new sub-skills recognize the new language challenges facing students. Genres have moved far beyond paragraphs, essays, and reports. Today’s students are reading – and writing – emails, blog posts, and computer presentations. In terms of listening and speaking, they need new skills around understanding and explaining data, participating in seminars, and making persuasive presentations.
Among the greatest skills students need today are lifelong learning skills. There is seldom enough time in the classroom to teach a language and students need to be able to continue learning both English and new job skills. Today’s students should be able to self-assess their own abilities, research ways to improve, and think critically about new ideas they encounter.
Is change necessary?
Do we need to change our teaching and our classrooms? After all, the students I described without desks, walls, books, or even a full-time teacher probably all learned to speak English. But we should consider what Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) says about old solutions:
‘If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.’ (Fuller, 1969, n.p.)
Although we continue to use old methods and see some success, we have to remember that students sometimes learn despite the existing approaches we use to teach, not because of them. Let’s try to identify and re-think all those piano tops in our classrooms.
- Fuller, B. (1969). Operating manual for spaceship Earth. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Developing 21st century skills with StartUp
StartUp is an innovative eight-level, multi-skills general English course built around the Global Scale of English (GSE). It is a complete language program that motivates 21st century learners with relevant and media-rich content. It also provides teachers with robust support to make teaching personalizable and easy.
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We’re at the start of a new term. With many students starting courses in September, now’s the perfect opportunity to help your students establish their learning goals for the year.
Early goal setting is essential as it helps with motivation, focus and a sense of direction. Defining those goals, however, can be overwhelming.
Use this goal-setting checklist to make sure your students are on the path to success.
Make your goals SMART
SMART is an acronym that you can use with your students to help guide goal setting. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
To make a goal specific you must focus your attention on what you want to achieve. Instead of saying ‘I want to improve my English’, a more specific goal might be ‘I want to be able to pass a retail job interview in English’. Your student will still be learning English, but their goal is more focused.
Note – the Global Scale of English (GSE) Teacher Toolkit is a great tool to help you set specific learning goals, especially when it comes to jobs. It allows you to look for specific language objectives for different professions, meaning you can tailor your classes to your students’ career interests and consolidate the knowledge of students already working in those fields.
Read more in our post: Preparing learners for the world of work using the GSE Teacher Toolkit.
For work and education-related goals, your student may also need to prove their level of English, which leads to new goals like: ‘I want to pass an exam such as the Pearson Test of English (PTE) General to prove my skills in English.’
To help your students set specific goals, get them to ask questions such as – ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ ‘Why do I want to accomplish it?’ and ‘When do I want to achieve it by?’
- To learn English
- To improve vocabulary
- To improve reading
- To pass an interview in English
- To read a whole book in English
- To pass my Level 3 PTE General exam in English
Goals need to be measurable, so you and your students can see when progress is being made. To make a goal measurable, guide students with questions such as ‘How much/many do I need to do?’ ‘How do I know when I’ve reached my goal?’
This indicator should be something visible or tangible. It could be moving up a level, getting the exam grades they need to get into university, or reading a certain amount of chapters of an English book.
- I aim to add 10 new words to a vocabulary list every week
- I aim to read one chapter of a book in English a week
- I aim to complete one Level 3 PTE General practice exercise a week
A goal must be achievable. This means students must feel challenged but the goal must remain possible. To help consider if a goal is possible, look at if the student has the right resources available to them. For example, if they want to improve their listening skills at home, do they know which websites to visit and do they have a plan of action?
If passing an exam is their goal, do they have the correct preparation material to give them the best chance? If they don’t have the right resources, how can they access them?
Other questions they should ask are: ‘‘Have others in the same position done this before?’ ‘Can I realistically do it in the time frame I have?’ and ‘Am I able to commit?’
- I will learn 10 new English words a week (rather than 50)
- I will begin by reading a graded reader in English (rather than a complete novel)
- I will pass Level 3 PTE General (not level 5)
The goal should be personal and relevant to the student: if it matters to them they will be more likely to accomplish it.
Encourage students to ask questions such as, ‘Am I interested in this topic?’ and ‘Is this the right time for me to achieve my goal?’ And have them consider why it’s important to them.
Improving situational communication skills, for example, might be relevant for a student who is about to spend a year abroad in an English speaking country. Or a child that loves stories but struggles with writing, might decide to write a story in English by the end of the first term.
- I struggle using a wide range of vocabulary in English so I am going to learn 10 new words each week
- I love sports so I am going to spend 15 minutes every morning reading BBC Sport
- It’s my dream to study abroad and therefore I am going to pass my Level 3 PTE General
The final consideration when setting a goal should be the deadline. Students should consider ‘When is the start and finish date?’ and ‘When will I need to achieve this goal by?’.
If you think of completion of the chapters of a book or practice papers as your micro-goals, they should eventually result in a finish line such as finishing the book or taking the exam. Providing time restraints is useful because it pushes for action and provides a sense of urgency.
- I aim to take my PTE General exam in June next year
- I will build a list of 200 new words in English in four months
- I will finish a book in English in one month
Examples of SMART goals for learning English
Eventually your student is left with a breakdown of a goal to focus on. To make sure it is clearly defined ask them to review what they have written and write a summarising SMART goal.
Encourage them to record it as part of a bigger language learning plan and tell them to refer back to it regularly. Take a look at these examples of SMART goals to get you and your students thinking.
Broad goal – I want to improve my listening in English:
- Specific – I will subscribe to an English podcast
- Measurable – I aim to listen to one podcast a week
- Achievable – I will download them to my phone so I can listen on the way to school
- Relevant – I will choose a topic that interests me to keep me engaged
- Timely – I will listen to one podcast a week for 6 weeks and then reassess
SMART goal: I will listen to a different English podcast once a week, for six weeks, on my phone. I will listen to a range of topics that interests me, and I will listen on my way to work to build the habit.
Broad goal – I want to move abroad
- Specific – I will use role plays to improve my situational conversation skills in English
- Measurable – I will use my phone to record practice dialogues of myself and a partner speaking in English
- Achievable – We will record one dialogue per month to give us time to meet and prepare
- Relevant – I will choose 12 common situations in English to base the role plays
- Timely – I will set a deadline of one year before my plans to move abroad
SMART goal: I will record one English dialogue between me and a friend once per month on my phone. I aim to have a collection of ten situational dialogues such as going to the doctor, or going to the bank, that I can then refer back to before moving abroad.
A SMART goal for teachers
Broad goal – I would like my young learners to feel motivated in English
- Specific – I will prepare them for them for L1/L2/L3/L4 PTE Young Learners exam
- Measurable – We will use practice papers to measure their progress
- Achievable – We will use the following practice tests – Firstwords / Springboard / Quickmarch / Breakthrough
- Relevant – The content will be engaging and relevant for 12-year-old students
- Timely – They will be ready to take the exam in June next year
SMART goal: I will prepare my class of young learners for the PTE Young Learners exam and will measure their progress with practice papers. I will use textbooks and my own material to help prepare them with the aim of taking the exam in June next year.
When goals are SMART they are much more focused, easily tracked, important to the student and therefore more likely to be accomplished.
When you return back to school, why not consider creating goals for yourself and help your students create their own goals?
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The Pearson International Schools Community aims to connect international teachers from around the world. With over 3,240 members and nearly 200 available resources, we would like to share some of our favorite articles to help you in your professional development as English teachers.
1. A guide to bullying at school for teachers
Bullying can occur in any classroom at any time and despite our best efforts as teachers it is not always easy to recognize.
The article offers an overview of the different types of bullying – verbal, social and physical. This helps teachers know what to look out for and what they can do to help their students.
You’ll also discover advice on what to tell students if they are being bullied or have witnessed it.
2. Using mindfulness to deal with exam stress
Mindfulness is being used as a tool in classrooms all over the world to help with stress and anxiety. Through breathing exercises and guided meditation, students are becoming better equipped to face the challenges of exam stress.
Expert Amy Malloy tells us how students can calm their nerves before an exam, and what an English test and a lion has in common.
3. Teaching Online: The keys to success
Teaching English online is rapidly growing in popularity. Allowing you to teach students all over the world from the comfort of your home, it offers many advantages. However, it can often be challenging to keep students motivated and engaged through a computer screen.
Mickey Revenaugh shares her advice on everything from setting up your classroom to building rapport, discipline, and engagement. This advice will help you feel more confident teaching in front of the camera.
4. Supporting your students with revision planning
No matter the subject, all our students worry about exams. While we can help them prepare during class, it’s up to them to take responsibility when they are at home.
This guide is full of tips on how to improve recall, and manage time and energy levels before an exam. It also features great advice on how to use flashcards and note taking to help your students retain the information they’ve learned.
5. From ELT to history
Thinking of changing from English language teaching to another specialized-subject such as history, geography, or maths? Nick Thorner shares his experience of doing exactly that and explains how valuable ELT was in his new found career.
He was able to use his skills in paraphrasing, drilling, and eliciting when teaching students whose first language was not English. Nick leaves us with the idea that the essence of all good lessons is essentially the same, regardless of the subject!
6. Three experts share their tips for using social media in teaching
Do you use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the classroom?
Three experts talk about how social media can be used to enhance your lessons and aid learning. From the sharing of ideas to subject-specific hashtags to encouraging conversation, perhaps we could all use a little social media in the classroom.
7. Maintaining engagement with students
With a range of levels and abilities in one class we don’t always give the same attention to all our students. How do we know if we’re really connecting with them?
Team work, free speaking and pop culture are what Nell Shotten suggests to engage with learners.
8. The kind of teaching that makes a (good) difference
Jack Wildeman, Academic Director of Hull’s School in Switzerland, explores the idea that whilst solid subject knowledge and relevant experience are necessary, it is passion and genuine enthusiasm for a subject that are most needed in schools.
The student has to feel the teacher cares deeply about their subject and whether each student is actually learning it.
9. Metacognition: Why we should all care
Metacognition is the process of thinking about thinking and more specifically thinking about our own learning. Oliver Omotto talks about teaching students to reflect on their own learning styles to feel more empowered.
Discover strategies such as setting goals, mind mapping, think-pair-share, thinking journals and thinking hats to help students become more independent learners in this thought-provoking article.
10. A ‘restorative practice’ approach to behavior management
Do you have problems with behavior in the classroom?
This article tells the story of one school’s approach to transforming student behavior.
Restorative practice aims to build relationships between teachers and students, maintain a positive atmosphere, and reduce friction in the classroom. It involves asking six questions such as ‘what happened?’ and ‘how can we do things differently in the future?’ to help modify children’s behavior without punishing it.
11. Teaching students with autism: Strategies for the international school classroom
One in every 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but many teachers feel they are not well-equipped to deal with the challenges of autism in the classroom.
Autism expert and assistant head teacher, Stacey Melifonwu, tells us more about ASD and the strategies you can employ to be inclusive of all your students.
Read more in this interview post Teaching autistic students: Strategies for the international school classroom.
Lots more classroom resources for teachers
Join the International Schools Community for more excellent resources including education news, classroom tips, career advice, lesson ideas and much more!
We also feature real life stories of what it’s like to teach in Brazil, Vietnam, Czech Republic, South Korea and more.
Which of these articles did you find most useful? Let us know in the comments.
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