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Build active engagement with Contemporary Topics online classes June 8, 2021
By Michael Rost, Series Editor

Build active engagement with Contemporary Topics online classes

Content-based instruction is a great way to increase student engagement and motivation. Basically, content-based instruction, or “CBI”, means acquiring language while learning content — or through learning content.

CBI doesn’t necessarily involve using a curriculum with academic lectures — history, physics, economics, philosophy and so on. In CBI, the course content can be practical “how to” demonstrations, current event documentaries, inspirational talks, or pop culture events like films and music. The choices are virtually endless. What is important is that the content is substantial — it is appropriate, relevant and worth learning for your students.

The Contemporary Topics series, now in its fourth edition,  has grown in parallel with the developments in content-based instruction and also through my own research on how students acquire language. Over the years I have grown to believe that CBI can accelerate language learning in a variety of contexts, with learners of all ages and levels of proficiency, and not just in academic programs.

The key reason that content-based instruction is so effective ­is that you are working with affective, cognitive, and social engagement at the same time.  

Of course, the results are not automatic. Just using content as a basis for your course won’t guarantee success. In order for CBI to be successful, the instructor has to be patient, flexible, and willing to create three conditions for success:

  1. The content is inherently interesting and relevant to your students — or as the instructor you must find ways to make it more interesting and relevant, through framing of activities, grading of material, and supplementation with other media.
  2. Activities are primarily idea-focused (rather than language-focused) and involve discussion to develop solicitation of others’ views, critical thinking, and agreement or disagreement. If the course material that the class is using is not sufficient in these ways, again you as the instructor need to expand and adapt activities in order to develop more topic-oriented discussion.
  3. Peer interaction is the primary means through which learning takes place. This interaction involves predicting, brainstorming, pair sharing, small group discussion of opinions, peer review of content, and original student presentations on meaningful topics, along with a format for feedback from classmates.  

It may be impossible to achieve all of these conditions fully, but it is important to have these instructional goals in mind, and to work toward establishing them in every class.

Because many English classes are now being taught online, instructors may feel limited, unable to achieve the learning conditions that they could achieve in live face-to-face classes. While it is true that face-to-face instruction is superior for some aspects of language learning, we can still achieve the same levels of successful learning in our online classes.

To teach classes online you basically need a meeting platform with options for screen sharing and grouping.  Most online meetings platforms, such as Google Meet or Zoom, operate in a similar transparent fashion: The instructor enrolls participants and controls “the room”, enabling what students see on their (computer/tablet/phone) screen. The instructor also sets up formats for students to participate either in whole group settings or in break out rooms. The technical format seems foreign at first, but once you learn the mechanics of the online meeting (and realize that there’s always more to learn!), you should be able to start teaching in much the same way you would conduct a face to face class. The essential advice for making this transition is not to worry about the limitations or differences, but simply to do your best with (“embrace”)  the realities of the situation you have!


Working with these principles, here are some practical suggestions for organizing and accelerating learning in online only classes with Contemporary Topics.

1. Flip the classroom to allow for maximum interaction during live sessions.

Contemporary Topics Level 1 cover

Essentially, this means to have the students do as much listening, reading, and practicing on their own before class, so that you can use class time for coaching and interaction and student presentations and feedback.

One rule of thumb for flipping your class is to ask: Can this activity be done alone? (If so, be sure it’s an individual assignment, not done during your online class meeting time.) Can this activity best be done in pairs or small groups? (If so, plan the activity for a “Break Out” session, in which the students work in pairs or small groups in an online meeting room.) Is this activity best done as a whole group activity? (If so, be sure to plan time for the students to work as a whole group and be sure to give a specific task to the whole group, not just the presenter.)

–> Here is a basic formula for flipping the classroom with Contemporary Topics.

2. Consider yourself to be a coach for active learning.

Contemporary Topics Level 2 cover

A major part of the teacher’s role, particularly in online learning, is to provide coaching. Coaching involves specific directions on how to improve skills, but maybe more importantly, coaching involves providing motivation to guide and sustain students in their language learning efforts and struggles.

Try to give at least one personal coaching tip to each student in each class. Try to include a coaching tip in each interaction you have with your students, especially if you meet only once a week.

–> Here is a set of coaching tips that you can use with your own students.

3. Prepare a menu of “core speaking activities” that you can do in break-out groups.

Although “variety is the spice of life” may be true for a lot of relationships, it definitely does not hold for online teaching. Because of the challenges — and the sheer time-consumption — of explaining and demonstrating the procedures for a new activity, it’s most efficient to have a small number of “core speaking activities” that you use again and again. Just three or four “go to activities” is all you need. If you have clear ground rules for the activities, you can just give minimal instructions, such as, “Okay, let’s do our Notes Review Activity now in groups of three. Go to your groups now. You have 10 minutes.” Of course, you’ll need to spend time at the beginning of the semester to get the procedures right, but once things get going smoothly, everyone will be grateful for the time-saving routines you have created.

Student participating in an online class

Aim to have at least three 5-10 minute speaking activities in each online class. These should be activities in which the students do all of the talking, with a clear task. In CBI, it’s very important to give students time to “process” and “own” the material — content-based teaching is definitely not all about being passive and receptive.

–> Here are some core speaking activities that I use with Contemporary Topics.

4. Use media supplements to complement the coursebook content.

Because it is important to keep the content in CBI alive and relevant, you will want to supplement the course material with media and other activities that will personalize the class. It doesn’t take a lot to achieve this effect. Even just one supplement every two or three class meetings can keep your course content fresh and motivating.

You can think in terms of sources you already know — such as TED presentations, YouTube interviews, Spotify songs, or other pieces of media you have archived. (Hint: If you don’t have an archive of favorite sources to supplement units in Contemporary Topics, start one now!) Some popular sites that I use for supplementary material are Newsela and Listenwise. Just type in some topical words and you can find current content that is related to the course material.

Remember: The key with this type of supplementation is that you are using “authentic” sources that focus on ideas and events, not on language learning per se. They give extra dimensions to the content of the course. And remember also, you don’t need to use every bit of media as a thorough comprehension exercise. You’re trying to spice up the content of the class, trying to keep motivating your learners to engage more. Aim to arouse curiosity and generate insight.

Contemporary Topics Level 3 cover

Of course, you can also use language-related supplements. One of my favorites is Quizlet – it’s very fast and easy to create your own vocabulary quizzes for a unit. Add other terms that you think are useful. You can allow Quizlet to give you translations, definitions, and even sample sentences and graphics. All with a free account. Just create your quizzes and pass along the link to the students. They can practice in pairs, quizzing each other.

Just adopt an experimental mindset — and see what kinds of supplements “click” with your students. And, of course, don’t be afraid to ask your students to suggest supplements or types of topics they’d like to learn more about.

–> Here are some suggestions for supplementary activities you can use with Contemporary Topics.

5. Emphasize student participation as a key component of success in the class.

It really can’t be emphasized enough that successful online classes require active student participation – via activities in break out groups, use of the chat and survey functions to respond to questions and ideas during classes, and preparation and delivery of individual and group presentations.

If intrinsic motivation – the students’ natural desire to learn – isn’t enough to infuse a sense of active participation in the class, don’t hesitate to introduce some extrinsic motivational forces, like grades, to give an extra push.  I recommend having participation measures for every class, if possible, and certainly for every unit in course.

Student in online class with teacher

One ingredient of successful participation in Contemporary Topics is the preparation and delivery of individual presentations, which is the last activity in each unit. A few hints for maximizing the use of presentations:

  • To save time (yours and the students’), the instructor prepares a small set (2 to 4) of reliable resources for each presentation. By using just these known resources (which may be articles or videos that you have pre-screened), you can be more certain that the students are doing sound research, rather than simply finding any sources on the internet and asking your approval.
  • To allow for maximum use of student practice time, have every student prepare a presentation for every unit.  Of course, you won’t have enough online class time for every student to present to the whole class “live”, but you can take advantage of free software like Flipgrid to have every student record and submit (after they are happy with their performance) their presentations. (If possible, you will also want to have students submit an outline for approval and comment by you before they do their presentations.)
  • Because presentations in any format (live or recorded) are intended for a real audience, be sure that you and/or your students are viewing every presentation and giving some kind of substantial feedback. Develop a simple rubric that the audience can use to give feedback.

–> Here are some ideas for supporting student presentations.


These are some ways that you can promote engagement in classes in which you’re using Contemporary Topics.  The units themselves are organized to promote maximum participation and engagement, but it is up to the instructor to orchestrate the class and make decisions about timing, grouping, and supplementing the course material.

As I have mentioned, one thing that I am sure of is that content-based instruction can provide you with a flexible framework for engaging students, for creating a learner-centered course, and for achieving maximum progress. Good luck!


Michael Rost is series editor of Contemporary Topics, a three-level series, now in its fourth edition. You can contact him with questions and feedback via your Pearson representative.

Contemporary Topics, now in a fourth edition, expands on its highly respected approach to developing academic listening and study skills. Organized around realistic college lectures, the text guides learners through carefully sequenced activities in skills such as note-taking, focusing attention, intensive listening, and vocabulary building. Learn more at pearsoneltusa.com/contemporarytopics4E

Build Self-Directed Learners May 19, 2021

Build Self-Directed Learners

Dr. Ken Beatty
By Dr. Ken Beatty

“One hour.”

The answer is heartbreaking. More fortunate teachers and students say “Three hours,” but it’s still disappointing.

Both are answers to the question I ask, “How many hours a week do your English language students attend classes?” Often the answer is “Not enough.”

Surprisingly, even in countries that claim they want to help all students become bilingual, class times and resources can be severely limited. Governments may expect students to achieve a CEFR B1 Level on graduation but, without additional support, it’s impossible for most to achieve. This is particularly true when the teachers themselves are not at a B1 Level, and opportunities for professional development are limited or non-existent.

Students need quality classroom hours. To progress from CEFR A1 to A2 requires about 100 contact hours but, to get to A2 to B1, requires 350 to 400 hours. Question: If students only have one or a few contact hours a week doesn’t that make it impossible for students to learn the English language? Surprisingly, many students do succeed. How? What are their secrets?

It usually starts with the teacher. Teachers are naturally used to identifying and overcoming problems in innovative ways. Teachers faced with limited contact hours make the most of the ones they have, and help students become more self-directed.

Here are five strategies for helping students to become more self-directed, autonomous  English language learners:

1 Needs assessments

A starting point for helping students to learn on their own is to discover, together, each student’s strengths and weaknesses. This means lots of formative assessment where students can test themselves to see where they need to improve before taking summative assessments. Every student is different. Keep an eye on less-able students and work with them to figure out what gets in the way of them improving. It’s often that they don’t understand key building blocks in language learning. For example, although they may be able to memorize different verb forms, do they really understand why we sometimes use the simple past tense, but use the past progressive at other times?

2 Point to resources

Students studying on their own can find extra resources, but they need to be pointed in the right direction. One set of resources that is often overlooked is the student book and the online resources that come with it. StartUp, an eight-level series for young adults and adults, has both a Student Portal and a Teacher Portal packed with resources like photocopiable masters that can be shared online. Another key part of StartUp is the Pearson Practice English App. Once students download the content, it’s on their phones and available anytime, anywhere. This means students can use the app to do vocabulary and grammar exercises, listen to student book audio clips, and watch grammar, pronunciation, and conversation videos. Studying while they travel or wait makes the best use of their time.

3 Suggest extra tasks

learning on your own

Encourage students to expose themselves to more English. In terms of lifelong learning, nothing is better than a love of reading. Students who read English for pleasure will unconsciously pick up vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, genres, the rhythms of language, and more. The same is true with listening; students can search online to find podcasts on almost any area of personal interest. Beyond reading and listening, it’s important for students to be productive, speaking and writing. A good starting point is for students to write about what they’re reading and listening to, and then share with peers what they’ve learned and enjoyed.

4 Flip learning

Flipped learning is about getting students to do more preparation outside of class. Limited classroom time should not be taken up with having students read, write, or watch videos. Instead, the main focus should be using English in conversation. Ask students to study the unit content ahead of time. They will come to class with questions, better prepared to practice and learn.

5 Raise expectations

Actor Natalie Portman was a top student, but she recalls how when she came home from school with 97 percent on a test, her father’s response was: “Where is the other three percent?” His high expectations–along with support–helped Portman in her movie career, as well as to graduate from Harvard University. You need to encourage your students but, at the same time, continuously raise expectations, pushing them to see what more they can do. They learned new vocabulary? Good. Now learn the synonyms and antonyms. They gave a speech clearly? Good. Now work on saying it more fluently. They wrote an excellent paragraph? Good. Now try rewriting it to make it longer, better, and more engaging. Learning a language is a life-long process of continuous improvement.

Regardless of how many classroom hours students have, each of these strategies will help move them closer to their English goals. Perhaps your students only come to class one hour a week, but the important question is how many hours they study. If the answer is many then, like you, they’re sure to be successful.


StartUp

StartUp is the new general English course for adults and young adults who want to make their way in the world and need English to do it.


Dr. Ken Beatty has worked in secondary schools and universities in Asia, the Middle East, and North and South America. He is author of 77 textbooks for Pearson and has given 500+ teacher-training sessions and 100+ conference presentations in 33 countries. His most recent books are in the LEAP series, and he is Series Consultant for StartUp.

What It Really Means to Know a Word May 10, 2021
Christina Cavage

By Christina Cavage

What It Really Means to Know a Word

As ELT educators we often build our lessons around reading, writing, listening, speaking and grammar. We introduce new vocabulary that students need to be able to accomplish the reading or listening task. This often happens by providing a definition, and maybe a few ‘drill and kill’ type of exercises—matching the word and definition, multiple choice, or fill-ins. But, does this really lead to vocabulary acquisition? In a word, no. Vocabulary, specifically academic vocabulary is the often-forgotten skill in language learning. To effectively foster vocabulary learning, we need to consider what it really means to know a word.

two women talking

According to Paul Nation, explicit vocabulary teaching, is necessary, but not always effective for expanding a student’s knowledge of a word because knowing a word goes far beyond identifying the definition of a word. While form, meaning, and usage are the key elements for understanding a word, Nation breaks these down even further. When you know a word, you know:

Form:

  1. How it is pronounced (spoken form)
  2. How it is spelled (written form)
  3. Which word parts are in the word (prefix, base, suffix)

Meaning:

  1. Meanings/definitions
  2. Concepts associated with the word
  3. Synonyms or other words associations

Usage:

  1. How the word is used in a sentence (grammatical function in a sentence)
  2. What collocations the word has
  3. When and where the word is used (register and frequency)

This list may seem overwhelming, especially if you need to prepare students for university entrance, where their acquisition of the AWL (Academic Word List) is critical for their success. This list of 570-word families contains the words that most frequently appear in academic texts, across all disciplines. So, adding that layer to what it means to really know a word, goes beyond overwhelming! So, how can we adequately prepare students to not only know, but really know English vocabulary while engaging them in the learning process at the same time?

lesson from PECL -- vocabulary

Well, first we have to consider the tools we use. As we have seen, true academic vocabulary acquisition goes beyond what lies in many textbooks; thus, we have to look for additional tools. Within the Pearson English Content Library Powered by Nearpod, lies The Modular Academic Word List Course. The vocabulary lessons within the Modular AWL are built around Paul Nation’s work in what it means to really know a word. Students engage in activities where they can practice spoken form, written form, meanings, grammatical functions, collocations, and more. These flexible lessons allow you the teacher to deliver powerful lessons in class and out-of-class.

lesson from PECL -- vocabulary

The AWL Library is divided into 10 sublists, the first containing the most frequent terms and the last (10) being the least frequent. Each lesson begins with an overview of the vocabulary term, highlighting meaning, part of speech, syllable division, and collocations. From there, students are able to see the word in context. Then, students are engaged with a formative assessment, assessing their understanding of the word in context. They listen and choose the word stress, engage with collocations, create their own sentence with the vocabulary item (in speaking and writing), and are given a final summative assessment of the vocabulary item, which is conducted with a gamification tool.

collocations activity

Each microlesson provides a dynamic, interactive learning experience, that is completely customizable. In other words, you, the teacher, can add, delete and modify any lesson to address the needs of your students. Additionally, as students move through the lesson, you receive real-time data on your students’ strengths and struggles, as well as their level of engagement. You can see who is engaging in the lesson, and who may not be engaging.

analytics features in PECL
Analytics in Pearson English Content Library Powered by Nearpod

Teaching vocabulary needs to go beyond word, definition, and part of speech if we want to foster true acquisition. We can do this by providing students opportunities to engage with academic vocabulary that are built upon sound research in vocabulary.


Learn more at pearsoneltusa.com/nearpod

Christina Cavage is the Curriculum and Assessment Manager at University of Central Florida. She has trained numerous teachers all over the world in using digital technologies to enhance and extend learning. She has authored over a dozen ELT textbooks, including University Success, Oral Communication, Transition Level, Advanced Level, Intermediate Level and A2. Recently, Ms. Cavage completed grammar and academic vocabulary curriculum for the new Pearson English Content Library Powered by Nearpod, which is now available. Learn more here.

Online Teaching and Learning Are Here to Stay May 3, 2021
By Dr. Ken Beatty

Online Teaching and Learning are Here to Stay

Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison in 1922.

In 1913, American inventor Thomas Edison predicted that books and teachers would soon be obsolete. In their place, students would use his motion picture projectors to learn. Getting rid of teachers is an old idea, but one that’s been repeated every few decades, with radio, TV, computers, phones and, more recently, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

These predictions are usually self-serving. It’s clear that Edison’s prophecies were rooted in his eye for profits. The same attitude persists today, with educational institutions looking for ways to save money. Online teaching, for example, while not replacing teachers, removes the cost of building new classrooms and teachers’ offices. Teachers and students also tend to use their own computers and pay for their own internet connections rather than using a school’s resources.

Is online teaching and learning likely to fade away like Edison’s primitive motion picture projectors and other failed technology experiments? Probably not. Instead there are at least seven ways that online teaching and learning are here to stay.

1. Internet access is becoming a human right

The United Nations has declared internet access as a universal human right although it doesn’t say that it should be free. Giving students free access to the internet is important because of the unfairness of the digital divide where wealthier students prosper because they have better access to educational tools like computers and services like Wi-Fi. Many educational authorities are starting to find ways to get every student outfitted with a computer and online. As this happens, online learning becomes a more realistic option for everyone.

2. The role of peers as educators

We’ve abandoned the short-sighted model of the teacher having all the knowledge and students being empty vessels to be filled. Anyone studying online soon becomes aware how easy and important it is to learn from one’s peers. Students have much to offer each other and, if given the chance, can help in ways that teachers cannot. Doing so online, rather than in a quiet chat during a face-to-face lesson, means that it is less disruptive and less limited by time constraints. 

>> You might also like: Get Students Working Together Online

3. Blended (hybrid) learning can divide input/output

In simple terms, language learning involves two processes: input and output. Input is all the teaching that happens, as well as the reading and listening students do. Much of this can be taught and done outside the classroom in a blended (hybrid) learning model. Face-to-face classroom time is reserved for output, the chance for students to use the language they’ve learned, getting feedback from peers and teachers. These ideas are part of the flipped learning model.  

>> You might also like: Applying FLIP.

4. New times, new media

online learner

It’s difficult to imagine a job today where your first assignment would be to write an essay. This does not mean that it’s not important for students to learn essay writing; it is. Learning to write an essay is about learning how to think and explore a point of view, and the essay format applies to everything from news articles to application letters. But, increasingly, students are communicating in visual ways, such as computer-based presentations, and using photos, and videos. Online learning makes it easy for students to add these digital components to their assignments, better preparing them for the world of work.

5. The importance of digital professional development

Many resources for teachers once kept in Teacher’s Books are now online, and media helps make them far more engaging. StartUp, for example, has a Teacher’s Portal packed with useful text and video resources to help both novice and experienced teachers improve.

Pearson English Portal Teacher's Resources
Pearson English Portal: Teacher’s Resources

6. The evolution of the textbook into a multimedia tool

Textbooks have come a long way in the past 50 years as resources shifted from being teacher-centered to more student-centered. Where once a teacher would be the only one able to play a recording or show a film in class, students now have control over extensive media and interactive exercises online. Rather than just watching a video once or twice in class, students are now free to preview and review media and do online and app-based exercises where they want and when they want.

7. The use of social media for sharing ideas and assignments

Imagine handwriting an assignment 100 years ago. You’ve spent many hours and covered pages with your best penmanship. Before handing it in, you’d share it with a friend who suggests dozens of large and small changes. Would you be reluctant to start over? Probably. Today, in the computer age, everything is different. Students can easily edit online and, using social media to share digital assignments, can easily get feedback and make changes. Online learning encourages peer editing, and peer teaching as well.

>> You might also like: Motivating Students for Online Learning

There are many reasons why education doesn’t change, but it’s not always because what we’re doing is the best way. There’s sometimes a sense that whatever system is in place is good enough. There’s also an enormous inertia to overcome, making it hard to stop doing what we’ve always done. But change must come, and with a move to online learning it will come, one teacher and one student at a time.


Dr. Ken Beatty has worked in secondary schools and universities in Asia, the Middle East, and North and South America. He is author of 77 textbooks for Pearson and has given 500+ teacher-training sessions and 100+ conference presentations in 33 countries. His most recent books are in the LEAP series, and he is Series Consultant for StartUp.


StartUp

StartUp is the new general English course for adults and young adults who want to make their way in the world and need English to do it.

Exploring Engagement in ELT Teaching April 28, 2021
Part IV: A Wrap-Up
By Christina Cavage

Part IV: A Wrap-Up

Engagement—critical for success, not so easy to build. As you may recall, I started this dialogue out by drawing attention to how as ELT educators we are bridge builders. We build bridges not only between people and their goals, but also between people. We help make connections, and this has been challenged like never before in our COVID world. Engaging students who don’t have cameras on or aren’t sitting in the classroom with your other students, or who may be in a time zone that generally warrants sleep rather than learning, isn’t easy. However, with thoughtful consideration, and a wide variety of tools in your teaching toolkit, it’s doable.

First, it is important to recognize the three levels of engagement that we need to build: emotional, behavioral and cognitive. Each one comes with its’ unique characteristics and effective strategies.

Emotional engagement is all about lowering a student’s affective filter or building their comfort with taking risks and trying out new content. As we saw, there are many advantages to building emotional engagement in an online or digital environment. Students often feel freer to take risks and engage. The pressure of making a mistake sitting next to their peers often dissipates. Using a tool like Nearpod can really help students overcome the fears they may have of making a mistake. If you are launching a live session, you can hide student names, or you can launch a student-paced lesson.

Game in Nearpod

Strategies such as building a community of learners, holding a coffee or tea hour, using collaborative tools within your delivery systems and utilizing think-pair-share via Zoom breakout rooms or other functions within a conferencing platform are all effective strategies in lowering that affective filter, and building emotional engagement.

How about behavioral engagement? This is often a challenging one within our classroom walls and can become even more challenging in a Zoom or digital environment where you can’t always ‘see’ a student’s engagement.

Collaborative Board in Nearpod

Well, the key here is to make learning active. Regardless of if your class meets face-to-face, online, or live online, it is important that your students are active participants and not just recipients of language. Selecting the right tools and using them at the right time are critical.

As we saw earlier, microlearning, or learning in small chunks works best in building and fostering both behavioral and cognitive engagement.

Draw It! in Nearpod

Always consider asking your students to do after a mini lesson. Additionally, varying the types of tasks you are using in the class is just as important. Students tend to become more passive if the same type of activities come their way again and again. As the examples here illustrate, consider using a collaborative or discussion board, then after the next lesson, have students use an interactive activity such as Draw It! in Nearpod, or an activity where they have to do something. When you appeal to different learning styles, you are able to reach all students, and scaffold learning.

Lastly, we have cognitive engagement. While cognitive engagement appears to be the most obvious, it is often presents the greatest challenge because of all we often feel we need to accomplish.

Bloom's Taxonomy

As we saw in the third blog post, it is about moving students up Bloom’s taxonomy in a thoughtful, deliberate manner. We need to build up to creating rather than ask students to create after simple remembering and understanding tasks. Consider the teaching of paragraph organization. We may have students first identify the parts of a paragraph with a model text. Then, we may have students fill in missing gaps of a model paragraph. Next, we can have students unscramble sentences to organize them into a paragraph—all before we ask students to go and create their own paragraphs. Without proper scaffolding, students are being asked to jump across wide rivers without a bridge. It puts a strain on their cognitive load, and often creates obstacles in learning.

Now, with the pressures that many of us feel to ‘get things done’ this can be taxing. However, really working your students up Bloom’s can improve the quality of learning. In other words, it will stay with them longer. Research tells us that students who are cognitively engaged during a lesson perform better on assessments.

Example of microlearning

While this is not too surprising, it is important to frequently stop and assess students’ level of engagement. Consider again microlearning, with checkpoints that stop and immediately assess what they have just learned. As you see in this screenshot, after teaching the pronunciation of –ed endings, students receive a short formative assessment on what they just heard. When students know they will be immediately assessed, they tend to be more on task and engaged, regardless of where they may be sitting.

Overall, engagement is closely aligned with achievement. Students are able to achieve their own linguistic goals, as well as your course and programs, when they are engaged. And, when we think of engagement, we can’t simply think of how we can make the lesson more fun, but rather how we can build and foster emotional, behavioral, and cognitive engagement.

Christina Cavage is the Curriculum and Assessment Manager at University of Central Florida. She has trained numerous teachers all over the world in using digital technologies to enhance and extend learning. She has authored over a dozen ELT textbooks, including University Success, Oral Communication, Transition Level, Advanced Level, Intermediate Level and A2. Recently, Ms. Cavage completed grammar and academic vocabulary curriculum for the new Pearson English Content Library Powered by Nearpod, which is now available. Learn more here.