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Teaching English to Preparatory Year Programme (PYP) students

PYP student

To be successful at university, students in Preparatory Year Programmes need to improve their language skills in a fairly short amount of time. At a minimum, PYP programmes will prepare students to be able to read the course books, listen to lectures, and take exams in English in their chosen field. They may also need to write essays, discuss issues in seminar discussions, or defend their thesis. However, teachers in these programmes often face challenges related less to language learning and more to motivation.

Goals and aspirations

Although it’s tempting to start with the coursebook on day one of a course – after all, there is so much to get through! – it might be a better strategy to spend some time getting to know students as individuals, and especially getting students to think about their own educational and personal goals for learning English. Once students have an idea of ‘where they are going’ or ‘what they want English for’, teachers can then help them to see how what they learn in class connects to their goals. They can explain the approach they will take and how it will help them on their journey. On another level, when a teacher spends time getting to know their students and sharing information about themselves, the students are more likely to like him/her which may lead them to work harder so that they can please the teacher. A good rapport is an important factor in motivation.

What’s in it for me?

The next step in motivating learners is to help them see how the lessons lead to those goals. Students want to know, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and teachers can help by creating lesson aims with a clear context and purpose, and communicating those aims to the students. In this way, students will begin to see the benefit of planned activities and will be more cooperative and motivated. Instead of ploughing through pages, teachers can link activities back to the lesson aims. Of course, in an ideal classroom, students would have some say in what is taught, and would be able to choose topics of interest, but in the absence of that option, letting them know what’s in it for them at least involves them to some extent by explaining what they are going to gain.

Progression

Another piece of the motivation puzzle is related to progression: students are more motivated when they can see their progression as it relates to goals, and when they know what they need to do to improve. This highlights the need for a clear link between lesson aims and ongoing assessment, in-class revision, and quick checks to make sure students are still on target. It also means setting individual student targets whenever possible – once a student reaches a target, another is set. In that way, students have a clear sense of where they are going and what they have achieved.

If you’re interested in learning more, don’t forget to join me in my webinar.  During the webinar, we will first make a case for and suggest activities for helping students identify their own goals and aspirations and consider how English fits into their future version of themselves. We will then look at improving lesson aims to include a context and purpose and make them SMART. Finally, we will look at ideas for making progression and next steps more visible to students. By the end of the webinar, teachers will have a set of tools which will help them in their quest to increase student motivation which will, in turn, give them the incentive to tackle the daunting task of learning English in their PYP year.


Stacey’s webinar will feature content from Headway Plus Special Edition 2nd edition, developed by Oxford especially for PYP classes. The trusted Headway approach combines a perfectly balanced grammar and skills syllabus, supporting teachers in Saudi Arabia to deliver results driven preparatory English tuition.


Stacey Holliday Hughes is a part-time lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and also works freelance as a teacher developer, materials writer, learning resources editor and educational consultant in ELT. She has taught English in the US, Poland, Italy and the UK in many different contexts. Stacey’s main interest in ELT is in maximising student engagement through student-focused learning using traditional and digital tools.  As a teacher developer, she enjoys working with teachers seeking to explore alternative approaches and strategies often in response to emerging classroom issues. Stacey has written a number of blogs, online student exercises and teacher support materials.


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Headway Scholarship 2014 – Winners announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Headway Scholarship competition 2014, on behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation.

Headway Scholarship 2014 applicants map

Around 230 teachers from 54 countries took part in the competition, which was based on the theme of “Headway makes a difference”. Using short stories, blog posts, photo montages, presentations, videos or podcasts, and even some lesson plans and research papers, the teachers illustrated how Headway has made a difference to students, teachers, and the community. They drew on a wealth of experience, as between them they had taught more than 115,000 students over 1600 teaching years!

As well as showing what Headway means to them and their learners, the teachers had to show what difference winning the scholarship would make to their own professional development. The various tasks were judged and moderated by a team of specialists, including author Liz Soars herself, and we can now announce that the winners are:

Hanna Dudich Magdalena Dygala Olga Gurchak
Marianne Chavarría Hernández Irina Krestianinova Gloria Rossa

Exeter CollegeEach of these teachers has won a place on a 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford, including flights, accommodation and meals – a wonderful opportunity to share and develop best practice.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Headway Scholarship and, thanks to the generosity of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation, there are six first prize winners this year instead of four. To further celebrate this landmark, additional prizes have been awarded to 12 runners up, and so congratulations also go to:

Oksana Bondus Letizia Cinganotto Claudia Gambier
Catalina Iacobuta Kiomars Karami Maria Fernanda Montu
Elena Maximova Miglena Petrova Uliana Proshina
Magdalena Pedro Anna Savina Valeriya Tabarina

As a personal ‘Thank you’ to all the teachers who entered the competition, Liz Soars has recorded the below video, and everyone who applied will be receiving a Certificate of Acknowledgement.

Go to the Headway fourth edition page for more information, or the Winners Gallery to see all the winners.