Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


Leave a comment

Developing Intercultural Competence In Your Classes

group of friends socialisingAs a Spanish learner, I once faced the awkward situation of thinking I was having a conversation about new potatoes being on the menu, when in fact the hotel manager had diverged from the conversation to give me the news that there was a new Pope! Being in a Catholic Latin American country at the time, I should have been more aware of the context and cultural importance of the vote going on in the Vatican that week. However, my focus was simply on the words. Hence intercultural competence is so important and should not be ignored in the language classroom. It is especially so with English because it facilitates communication between so many people from diverse backgrounds (ELT Position Paper on Global Skills, 2019).

If we are to successfully communicate with people, we need to appreciate different perspectives to be able to understand how someone on the other side of the planet might view things. Open, respectful, and tolerant communication enables interaction with diverse cultures effectively, enabling us to connect with people. From researchers to taxi drivers, gaining intercultural competence alongside language skills can help smooth out communications and help reduce the stress of communicating in another language.

Intercultural competence in the ELT classroom

As an English language teacher, you may wonder if your students will be interested in such a thing as intercultural competence. A useful exercise to help students understand its importance is to ask them to write down what different interests, groups of people, clubs/societies, communities (local/national/international) they belong to. As an English language teacher, perhaps you listen to music in English and are part of a fan group of certain music artists; belong to an association of English teachers; run a book club. You might enjoy super-hero films; be a fan of Liverpool Football Club and watch every press conference Jurgen Klopp makes. – Incidentally, as a German manager of players of 17 different nationalities, living in England, he is an excellent example of what intercultural competence means.

  • The activity helps us understand how we belong to different communities and are multi-faceted in terms of our cultures. In other words, multicultural is the norm, not the exception.
  • For the teacher, it becomes a multi-purpose activity, because students are using English to discuss and write down the communities they belong to, whilst the teacher simultaneously discovers students’ interests and online communities they belong to.

Many students are keen to learn about Korean culture to understand their K-Pop idols better and so might combine Korean words with their English in their chats on fandom pages. Greta Thunberg is a climate activist that has captured the interest of many teenagers and young people. The sports fans may prefer Naomi Osaka – a Japanese tennis star born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, brought up in the US. Whatever the interest of your students, the chances are high that they visit and possibly engage with other fans, in English, on pages/websites, so they are probably already reading in English to find out about the people/topics they are interested in.

English language and citizenship

As our students are online much of the time, it is essential that we can help them to be aware of their responsibilities as fair-minded and respectful participants. Bullying is a topic that we can investigate and learn about its effects together so that those who may have thought being anonymous removes responsibility realise that there are consequences of actions.

We can weave citizenship into example sentences while helping the understanding/practice of language items. E.g. because, because of, that is why, as a result of, consequently:

“I know a few words of Korean because I love Rain’s music.”

“Lewis Hamilton is one of the best F1 drivers and he is not afraid to promote Black Lives Matter. That is why I like him the best.”

“Billie Eilish is vegan, believes in sustainable fashion, and consequently signed a contract with H&M for their sustainable fashion line.”

“As a result of Greta Thunberg’s activism, more young people understand the need for replacing petroleum as an energy source.”

“Because of bullying, I refuse to have an Instagram account.”

Encouraging learner autonomy

After using the above kind of examples to illustrate how we use these connectives, we can ask students to do an internet search on a person/topic of interest and note down 5 sentences that use a variety of the same connectives. A follow-up to this could be they write out the sentences they found with a blank for the connective and provide it as an example for their peers to complete.

Another meaningful way to get students to further practise connectives would be to ask students to reflect on what issues/cultural aspects they feel strongly about in their communities and if there are any that have influenced their behaviour/habits. This would lead to them creating their own sentences using the connectives to describe why or how these issues have influenced how they live. Hence while they are using and practising English, students are also becoming more conscious about reasons for good citizenship and opinions on cultural values.

Download the position paper

 


Zarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. She has taught and delivered teacher training at all levels and in both private and government institutions in over fifteen different countries as well as in the UK. Early on in her career, Zarina specialised in EAP combining her scientific and educational qualifications. From this developed an interest in providing tailor-made materials, which later led to materials writing that was used in health training and governance projects in developing countries. Since 2000 she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina is published and has delivered training courses, presentations, spoken at conferences worldwide, and continues to be a freelance consultant teacher educator.


6 Comments

Teaching During The Pandemic: Postcards From Around The World

Postcard with the message "Wish you were here!"This year may have been difficult for everyone across the globe, but it has been especially challenging for teachers. They have had to transform their lessons into online sessions and adapt to rules and advice to keep their students safe and make sure they can continue learning. In this two-part blog series, we contacted this year’s Headway Scholars to find out more about their pandemic teaching experiences and any advice they have for our teaching community. Read their stories below!

Comments have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Dr. Ahmad Khalil Awad, Saudi Arabia

This pandemic has taught me to value everything we have; our families, friends, books, life, pets and countries. It has taught me a priceless lesson of not taking things for granted. Life is full of ups and downs, but there is no mountain too high nor is there an ocean too deep.

It has been really challenging to teach students during this time. Their fears and uncertainty around the situation overwhelmed their thoughts so we have had to help with this. Teaching online was new to all of us and it was difficult not being able to meet our students face-to-face.

TOP TIP: Sometimes, I felt like I was talking to myself and no one was participating in the online lesson. Using a flipped-classroom approach with tools such as Kahoot, Wordify, Padlet, and Oxford Learn are amazing in helping us achieve our teaching and learning outcomes.

“The pandemic has taught me to value everything we have.”

Fariha Haidary, Afghanistan

During the pandemic, I have been teaching English to business and journalist students at university. Although it was my first time teaching online, I received good feedback from my students and felt satisfied with my teaching. They said that they didn’t feel like they were online during my lessons as I made it feel like the usual classroom experience.

TOP TIP: WhatsApp has been very helpful during this time. I make sure to share the link for the online lesson and lesson recordings in our WhatsApp groups before and after our sessions. Google forms have also been useful for producing quick online quizzes for students.

Safa Abdul Razak, India

The most challenging part of online lessons in India was how many students were not able to participate because of a lack of technological know-how and poor internet connection. It was also difficult to get students to understand the importance of attending these sessions.

There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on. However, on the bright side, since students have less school work, we have been able to explore new surroundings, talk about incidents that we would never have thought of until this lockdown, and spend a lot more time learning English.

TOP TIP: Connect with other teachers and students around the world! I started a pen-pal project with several schools in other countries and it yielded wonderful results. My students were able to learn about other students’ lifestyles and how the pandemic was affecting them.

“There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on.”

Begoña Urruticoechea, Spain

Teaching during the pandemic has been very intense. Online lessons have been tailor-made to fit my students’ needs and this has been very demanding. Despite it being really tiring, it’s also been satisfying. Students’ good results are always gratifying for teachers, but to be told that they have enjoyed my lessons is equally delightful.

TOP TIP: Teachers should inspire students and the best way to do this is showing our enthusiasm for what we do. I make sure to establish a close connection with my students and get to know them and their needs. I then pick materials according to their interests and needs to help stimulate their learning process and help them become autonomous learners.

Santina Mandelli, Italy

My experience was challenging as I had never taught online lessons. It was also difficult to get students to attend and concentrate during these lessons. Some struggled with their internet connection and others did not have a laptop or tablet. I had to be very patient, but eventually more and more students were able to attend lessons. Does teaching online mean avoiding books? Of course not! Sharing the pages of Headway through video lessons was great because I could show pictures, texts and the corrections of the exercises straight to the students’ screens.

TOP TIP: I split the classes into small groups. Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully. This solution was quite difficult because I had to increase the number of sessions in our timetable, but it was more satisfying for me and my students.

“Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully.”

 

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, this year’s Summer Seminar at Oxford University was cancelled. Instead, we are excited to welcome our winners to Oxford in 2021 and thank them for sharing their stories and advice.

 

How have you found teaching during the pandemic? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

 

Coming soon: For more stories from our Headway Scholars about teaching during the pandemic read Teaching During The Pandemic: Postcards From Around The World (part 2).


2 Comments

The Power Of Proficiency: How English Changed My Life

Valeria: "It has given me confidence."

Valeria, a 22-year-old computer engineer and programmer, first started learning English from her father at home in Costa Rica.

“He spent time in Canada and the States. But I think I’m better at English than him now – don’t tell him, though!”

English proficiency for a brighter future

Her father saw the opportunities that can come from learning English during his travels overseas, and now Valeria has seen them firsthand too. “I have better job opportunities, and I get paid more because I can prove I have a great level of English.”

This became clearer when she landed her dream job — working for a company whose headquarters are based in Atlanta, making English language skills a must for any member of staff. “Most of our clients and vendors are in Atlanta, so we have to use English every day.” Luckily, she was able to get her B2 certificate while at university. Knowing she could prove that she had a good level of English gave Valeria the confidence to apply for the role in the first place.

It was all made possible when her professor arranged for her class to sit the Oxford Test of English at the end of their course. She found the experience of taking the online test quite relaxing and was able to complete all the modules in two hours. And, unlike other English proficiency tests, the students didn’t have to learn a particular way to answer the questions, which Valeria appreciated.

“I could focus on my English instead of learning how to take a test.”

It also didn’t hurt when she learnt that her Oxford Test of English certificate is valid for life.

“Whenever I need evidence of my English proficiency, I can show my Oxford Test of English certificate. You can use it for business or travelling – the possibilities are endless. It’s amazing for anyone who needs to prove they have a good level of English.”

Like Francisco, for example – a Mechanical Engineering Student & Basketball Coach from Spain.

Proving English proficiency to study abroad

Francisco: "It takes just two hours."Francisco needed to prove he had a B2 level of English when he was applying to spend a year studying abroad in Finland, as all his classes there were in English.

Once he arrived, he found his English also came in handy when he was socialising too, as not that many of the locals or other foreign students spoke Spanish.

 

“I realized that if you can speak English, you can communicate nearly everywhere you go.”

Just like Valeria, Francisco certified his English level with the Oxford Test of English, and also enjoyed the fact that it was online and adaptive.

“The structure of the test is great; it adapts to your ability, getting harder or easier depending on your answers. It’s nice because you’re being tested during the whole exam.”

So would he recommend it?

“Yes, absolutely! The test takes just two hours, and then the certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford stays with you and remains useful for your whole life. It’s ideal for people who need to prove to a company they can operate in English, and it looks great on a CV.”

Not to mention, it helped open the doors to a once in a lifetime experience of studying in Finland –

“I think it was probably the best period of my life. It was just four months, but they were so special. I travelled around the Nordic countries and Russia and met people I’d never meet in any other situation. I’m so glad I was there – and all because of the Oxford Test of English!”

 

You can read other students’ success stories and find out more about the Oxford Test of English on our website.

Find out more

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.


5 Comments

The Complete Professional Development Guide: Books You Need To Read In 2020

man reading bookTeaching during COVID-19 has challenged us to adapt quickly and learn on the go this year! But how much time have you spent on your own professional development, and how prepared do you feel for the start of next term? As the holidays approach there is a sense of relief as we get to have a well-deserved break, but it is also a chance to get ready for the new term, whatever it may bring. To help you prepare for every scenario, we’ve created an essential reading list with English language teachers in mind! Explore the pros and cons and get practical tips for teaching online, prepare to assess your students in new ways, and learn to prioritise your own wellbeing. We’ve got you covered with best-sellers and the latest professional development books and papers written by ELT experts.

 

Our Professional Development Book Of The Year

Teacher Wellbeing book cover

Teachers… have the power in their own hands to make things better and to nurture and enhance their own wellbeing. This is a welcome message at any time, but perhaps most of all now when there is so much uncertainty in the world.

– English Teaching Professional

Teacher Wellbeing

Our book of the year serves as a practical guide to help individual teachers promote and nurture their wellbeing. Discover effective tips and strategies to help you meet your needs, and improve your wellbeing by finding techniques that work for you. You’ll also find tips to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance, and nurture your personal and professional relationships.

 

Three Professional Development Best Sellers

Bestselling professional development book covers

  • Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching: This award-winning book explores key areas of educational and social psychology and considers their relevance to language teaching. Learn learners’ and teachers’ beliefs about how a subject should be learned and taught, relationships with others, the role of emotions in learning, and more…
  • How Languages are Learned 4th edition: Prize-winning How Languages are Learned shares how language learning theory works in the classroom and provides you with practical techniques and activities developed from research. Perfect for new and experienced practising teachers.
  • Teaching Young Language Learners 2nd edition: A clear introduction to teaching young learners. It covers child development, L1 and L2 learning, vocabulary and grammar, and more by combining theory and practice in an accessible way. It draws on up-to-date international research and classroom practice.

 

Support For Teaching Online

  • Mobile Learning: Get clear guidance and essential support for using mobile devices in and outside the language classroom. Full of practical ideas and activities, it emphasizes the power of the mobile device as a tool for language learning.
  • Learning Technology: Learning Technology provides a clear guide to how teachers can introduce learning technology to the classroom. Explore different ways of putting it into practice, including virtual learning environments, social learning platforms, blended learning and the flipped classroom, mobile learning, and adaptive learning.

 

Recommended Assessment Books

  • Language Assessment for Classroom Teachers: This book presents a new approach to developing and using classroom-based language assessments. The approach is based on current theory and practice in the field of language assessment and on an understanding of the assessment needs of teachers. Split into four parts, this book is the ultimate practical guide to classroom-based language assessment, with advice that can be applied in any classroom setting – both real and virtual! A professional development must-read!
  • Focus on Assessment: This book develops your ability to design, implement, and evaluate language assessment in your classroom, helping you relate the latest research and pedagogy to your own teaching context. Explore the multiple roles teachers play in language assessment such as ensuring a positive assessment experience and promoting learner autonomy, and improve your assessment competence with activities that help you to apply assessment theory to your own classroom.

 

Recommended Vocabulary Books

  • How Vocabulary is LearnedHow Vocabulary Is Learned discusses the major issues that relate to the teaching and learning of vocabulary. Written by leading voices in the field of second language acquisition, the book evaluates a wide range of practical activities designed to help boost students’ vocabulary learning, starting with ‘Which words should be learned?’…
  • Focus on Vocabulary Learning: Explore teaching vocabulary to language learners aged 5-18. Discover the considerable challenges of learning the vocabulary of a new language from a range of perspectives, and become equipped to teach with practical solutions. Find a rich variety of useful activities and examples from real classrooms, and ‘spotlight studies’ of important research, that link theory to practice.

 

ELT Position Papers

Our position papers provide expert advice and guidance on the burning issues shaping English Language Teaching today. Download them for free and you’ll also receive exclusive training and resources for your classroom.

ELT Position Paper covers

  • Global Skills:  Creating Empowered 21st Century Learners: Help every learner develop the skills they need for success in a fast-changing modern world! Get expert advice and discover the five global skills clusters that prepare learners for lifelong success and fulfilment.
  • Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000: The Most Important Words to Learn in English: Interested in expanding your learners’ vocabulary? Discover our core wordlist of all the most important words for learners to know! Deliver a well-founded vocabulary syllabus with confidence, and encourage independent vocabulary learning at home.
  • Inclusive Practices in English Language Teaching: Create an inclusive classroom, and make learning a positive experience for each and every learner. Discover expert advice to help you identify and support students with special educational needs, and pick up practical solutions for building an inclusive classroom environment.

Professional Development On The Go!

Download our free focus papers to access bite-sized insights and practical tips for the ELT classroom! Each paper is easy to use, and immediately useful, covering topics like:

  • Online Teaching
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Mediation
  • Oracy Skills
  • Managing Online Learning
  • And more!

 

Which new teaching skills are you trying this year?

Let us know in the comments below!

 


Leave a comment

Girls and Autism: Tips and Activities to Support Your Learners

group of girls and boys at school

What is autism? You may or may not have taught individuals in your English language teaching classrooms with autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is linked to brain development and can affect the way learners socialise, communicate, and behave.

Did you know? Many girls go undiagnosed with autism or are diagnosed later in life because they present differently to boys. By this, I mean they behave in a different way that may cover up the signs. For boys, their autism is often externally expressed, whereas girls tend to conceal or internalise what is worrying them.

 

Masking or camouflaging: what do they mean?

When a girl ‘masks’ or ‘camouflages’ she essentially modifies her behaviour. This might be in an attempt to fit in with her peers, for example copying the behaviour or voice of a classmate, in order to be similar to the group. It may also be her way of hiding her autism or the anxiety she is feeling in order to appear calm on the surface. This means girls can spend a lot of time covering up their emotions, which must be extremely exhausting (and as teachers we certainly know how this feels!)

In fact, girls with autism are often very good at making eye contact and holding conversations, which you don’t typically expect with autism. And unlike boys, their special interest subjects tend to be similar to their ‘neurotypical’ peers, for example horses or boy bands, making it difficult at times to spot autistic traits.

 

A few tips for including learners with autism: 

1) Listen

Every girl (and boy) with autism is different. They often say their brains are wired differently so they may learn in unconventional ways. It is important to remember that what works for one learner might not necessarily work for another.

2) Support

Statistically, learners with special educational needs are more likely to develop mental health issues. As we know, there are a multitude of pressures on young girls, so openly discussing mental health and managing anxiety is essential.

3) Strengthen

Girls with autism tend to struggle with self-worth and self-belief. Helping girls become aware of their sensory issues and emotions and how to regulate these helps them understand themselves and others.

4) Talk, talk, talk…

As teachers, we’re pretty good at this one! In order to overcome the lack of knowledge in this area, we need to discuss autism. We need to speak to colleagues and parents/carers, search for and share information, but most importantly we need to talk to our students and learn from them.

 

Practical activities (expanded from Into the Classroom: Special Educational Needs)

REMEMBER: Not every activity works for every student, it’s important to get to know your learners and understand what works best for them.

1) You’re the expert

Ask students to prepare a presentation on their special interest subject. Ask the rest of the class to ask questions. If learners don’t feel comfortable presenting to the class, why not get them to video and edit a short clip? Or run a Facebook Live, you could direct the conversation, but this may be less daunting for those who are anxious as they can join from elsewhere.

2) Name the feeling

Make pairs of cards with 1) photos of people expressing different feelings (according to students’ age and ability and 2) cards with the words that best describe the feelings.

Older students can play this game as ‘pelmanism’.

3) Pelmanism: Create pairs of cards where one card has a picture of a vocabulary item, and the other has the written word. Students place the cards face down on the table and take it in turns trying to find a matching pair by turning over two cards at a time. If players find a match, they keep it and have another go. If they don’t, they turn the cards face down again. Older students can practise homophones or homonyms, or match verbs with their tense forms.

 

Bonus activity: Tell me a story

Social stories and/or comic strips are a great way to engage learners. They can help children with autism in a number of ways, from teaching them how to behave in certain situations to developing their social skills. Why not get your students to draw or design stories of their own?

 

Want to find out more about autism and special educational needs? Get your hands on our Inclusive Practices position paper:

Download the position paper

 


References

  • Autism.org.uk.(2020) Autism Support – Leading UK Charity – National Autistic Society [online]. Available at: https://www.autism.org.uk
  • Carpenter, B, Happé, F, and Egerton, J. (2019) Girls and Autism: Educational, Family and Personal Perspectives. New York: Routledge
  • Delaney, M. (2016) Into the Classroom: Special Educational Needs. 1st ed: Oxford University Press
  • Sutherland, R, Hodge, A, Bruck, S, Costley, D, Klieve, H (2017) Parent-reported differences between school-aged girls and boys on the autism spectrum. Volume: 21 issue 6: 785-794.

 

Leanne Atherton is a further education lecturer with experience of teaching both in the UK and internationally. She qualified in post 16 education at City of Bath College and has ELT experience teaching young learners in Thailand and aboriginal students in Australia. She holds a TEFL qualification, a PCGE PCET and is currently studying for her Masters of Education (Special Educational Needs) in Oxford.