Teaching online with Pearson digital tools

by Christina Cavage and Gosia Jaros-White

Need a PDF of this blog post? Download it here.

Need to move your face-to-face instruction online? Feeling overwhelmed? You are not alone. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started. Think about LEARN: Language Teaching in an Engaging, Active, Resourceful eNvironment. This is what we aim to do in our face-to-face classes, so how can we replicate that in the digital world? In her webinar, Christina Cavage explores these tips and tricks to help you transition to the online environment. You can watch it here and download the webinar handout here.

Pearson English Portal: MyEnglishLab, eText, ActiveTeach

The Pearson English Portal is a powerful platform that delivers digital resources to instructors and students, such as MyEnglishLab, Pearson eTexts / digital flip books, and the ActiveTeach. With the Pearson digital resources, you can transition your course online and ensure your students have the resources they need to continue learning.

The following roadmap will help you utilize MyEnglishLab in conjunction with eTexts and ActiveTeach in your online course delivery, both synchronously and asynchronously. It illustrates:

  1. How to front load your class lessons with MyEnglish lab;
  2. How to use data from MyEnglishLab to drive synchronous instruction;
  3. How to reinforce and instruct using the eText / digital flip books and ActiveTeach;
  4. How to formally assess and support learning gaps with additional MyEnglishLab content.

If you have not accessed the Pearson English Portal or used MyEnglishLab before, you will find links to information and resources at the end of this post (Tips for Success).

Roadmap for using Pearson resources in live and asynchronous classes
Figure 1: MyEnglishLab Gradebook
eText + screensharing
Figure 2a: Teaching using the eText with screensharing
ActiveTeach + screensharing
Figure 2b: Teaching using the ActiveTeach and screensharing
Collaborative task for breakout rooms
Figure 3: Collaborative task in the eText for breakout rooms
Manage resources: add resources in MyEnglishLab
Figure 4: Manage resources — add resources in MyEnglishLab

Tips for Success

  1. Be sure you and your students are registered for the Pearson English Portal at english.com/activate.
  2. Once registered, students should use their product access code to add to their dashboards. They can find the codes in their student books. You can also obtain these codes from your Pearson ELT sales specialist.
  3. Orient students to MyEnglishLab. Consider sharing this helpful setup video with your students: Registering your access code.
  4. Set up your course. Make sure you obtain your instructor access code from your Pearson ELT sales specialist. This video will walk you through the process of creating a new course.
  5. Share your Course ID with your students. Have them join your course. This video will show students how to join your course. Share the link with them.
  6. Reach out to students who are not completing assignments via messaging in MyEnglishLab or other electronic systems. Ensure they are able to access the course.
  7. Attend webinars and other trainings to explore all functionality. You can sign up for live webinars here.
  8. Explore available resources and videos here.
live webinars
Sign up for live training webinars

Sample Lesson Planner for course that traditionally meets 4-6 hours a week face-to-face:

  1. Assign MyLab work, including instructional videos (2-3 hours of work for students).

2. Meet synchronously 1-3 hours a week, review content delivered online, asynchronously. Review key concepts in e-book, utilize collaborative tasks, and engaging activities for students to connect and practice.

3. Reinforce with MyLab assignments and assessments, 1-3 hours of student work.

Additional resources to help you move online

We have lots of helpful resources to get you going:

A series of seven videos by Dr. Ken Beatty on making online teaching and learning work. Access them here.

A presentation by Christina Cavage exploring solutions and tips for successful online teaching. Access it here.

A presentation on how the Versant Placement Test can be used to assess students securely from home. Watch it here.

A demo on how to use MyEnglishLab for anytime, anywhere learning. Watch it here.

An update from Pearson ELT USA regarding the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak

In response to the recent Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, we would like to reassure the ELT community that we are monitoring the situation extremely closely. We understand the impact this is having, and our thoughts are with everyone affected.

Our priority is the safety of our employees, customers, and learners. The Pearson ELT USA Team is doing everything possible to ensure that teaching and learning can continue during this period of uncertainty, following guidance from the CDC and local authorities.

The Pearson ELT Team is dedicated to be your support center during this challenging time. We offer an array of modern digital solutions for online teaching, learning, and assessment. We are here to:

  • Help you obtain instant access to digital resources for your learners.
  • Find the best digital subscription solutions for your program. 
  • Offer support and training to make digital implementation quick and easy. 
  • Furnish you with digital versions of Pearson ELT textbooks.

The Marketing Team and your dedicated Pearson ELT Specialist are here for you. Contact us at any time! Locate your rep here. Email the marketing team at esl_marketing@pearson.com.

For a limited time, students can purchase instant access codes for MyEnglishLab and eTexts at a discount of 25% using code SPRING20 at buymylab.com.

We hope you can join our Digital Implementation Webinar Series with Pearson authors and experts who will talk about available resources and how to best transition to online learning and teaching. With the Pearson digital solutions, you can choose how you want to integrate online tools into your classroom to assess your students, manage your classroom, motivate your learners, and facilitate online practice.

Register for our online webinars

Distance Teaching and Learning: Useful Tips for Making it Work. Presented by Ken Beatty

Online teaching and remote learning are increasing globally, so how do you make it work for both educator and learner? In this webinar Dr. Ken Beatty, an expert on online teaching and learning, will focus on the needs of teachers and learners of all ages and at all levels.

He’ll explore how to get organized, plan effectively, stay motivated and keep learners engaged and answer key questions about online distance learning

Tuesday, March 17 at 8:00 am EDT . Register

Wednesday, March 18 at 6:00 am EDT . Register

Wednesday, March 18 at 1:00 pm EDT . Register

Digital Solutions for Online Learning. Presented by Christina Cavage

Wednesday, March 18 at 2:00 pm EDT

Learn how you can leverage digital tools to deliver course content in an online environment. This session covers the how to’s of using MyEnglishLab and other tools to keep your course moving and your students motivated.

Register

Using Versant Placement Test as a Home-Based Assessment. Presented by Nick Laul, Pearson Assessment

Thursday, March 19 at 2:00 pm EDT

Is your program in need of a home-based testing solution that will allow you to assess your students’ English language skills if your primary test is not available? The Versant English Placement Test is a 4-skills test that can be taken by computer for admissions and program placement. With score mappings to common scales like GSE, CEFR and TOEFL, it is easier than ever to integrate results into your existing enrollment process. In this session you will learn about Versant Placement Test and how you can implement it with your program.

Register

MyEnglishLab: Your Solution for Anytime, Anywhere Learning. Presented by Janay Phillips, Pearson ELT

Friday, March 20 at 2:00 pm EDT

MyEnglishLab, Pearson’s Language Management System, provides solutions for distance learning, anytime, anywhere. This session will walk you through the steps of registering your product, creating a course, and utilizing the wide array of tools available within MyEnglishLab.

Register

Designing a Superhero Movie Unit

by Lora Yasen

“You’re despicable. Dishonorable. Faithless,” said Gamora to Peter Quill.

This short line from the sci-fi superhero movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, provides a lot of material for the ESL class.  First, this list of adjectives in the movie makes a good multiple-choice listening exercise. Next, students can learn new vocabulary words and talk about the tone, informality and intent of the speaker. This scene is a good discussion topic also. What are some characteristics of a hero?  Is Peter a hero at this point in the movie? Why or why not? At the end of the movie unit, this line from the movie may be cited with a reference in a student essay on the transformation of the hero character during the story.

In my university level reading, writing and discussion skills-based ESL courses, I often use a movie and reader in addition to the usual textbooks. Superhero movies are instantly engaging, and a favorite source of language and cultural content for my students. Here is the process I follow for designing a superhero movie unit.

Superhero Movie Toolkit

First collect the movie resources. Find a junior novelization or ESL reader on the movie (which includes movie photos) as a student textbook. Find teacher reference materials such as the movie script online, movie websites, movie trailers, soundtracks and lyrics, comic books, etc. Official movie websites may have games, quizzes, taglines, trailers, etc. that can be used in worksheets, scavenger hunts, or previewing activities. Most have character photos that can be references for students to learn about the heroes and the villains.

Pearson English Readers have a whole series based on the Marvel Super Heroes

Materials Creation

 For Guardians of the Galaxy, I created a PowerPoint with movie photos to help students learn the character names, and different groups and planets. Later we returned to the character photos to talk about special abilities, motives for wanting the orb, and tragic backstories.

I created a listening assignment called, “Who Said It?” for the movie. I used quotes from the movie or website taglines that are important to the comprehension of the film.

“You keep throwing that in my face!”

Who said It? Peter Quill said it when Yondu reminds him the crew wanted to eat him.

Since music is such an important theme in the movie, I developed lessons on several songs from the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack and discussed the lyrics, and we viewed the original singers in YouTube videos. Knowing the songs made the music more meaningful during the movie and helped students comprehend more of the movie.

I chose Scene 13 from the movie script for student role-plays. This scene, “12 % of a Plan”, is significant in the movie. It is a difficult, humorous, sad scene where the characters decide to set aside their selfish motives and unite to save the galaxy. Student read the scripts and then discussed the vocabulary and meaning of the scene before viewing this part of the film. Without this preparation, students would have missed this major change in the plot.

Lesson Plans, Course Outcomes & Assessments

Using a reader and movie offers plenty of opportunities to meet course outcomes and design interesting assessment options. I have students read 3-4 chapters of the reader each week. While reading, we discuss vocabulary in context, discuss parts of speech, work on reading comprehension skills, reading for details and do a lot of summarizing. We practice the concepts learned in our regular textbooks.  We begin with the paragraph and locate main ideas. Then we summarize the paragraph, then the page, and finally the chapter. We practice note-taking skills with the reader and make oral and written summaries. Unless the reader comes with reading exercises, I create my own worksheets that incorporate the skills and student learning outcomes that I normally teach in the course. To scaffold summarizing skills, students work in groups, pairs and then alone to summarize the chapters. Assessments include reading tests on the story and writing assignments on a character or a compare/contrast essay on the reader and movie.

Stop and Go Method

Every Friday after finishing the weekly reader chapters, we watch the portion of the movie we’ve read about. I turn on the closed captions and we watch the movie scene using a stop and go viewing method. I stop at confusing scenes to ask questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? At the end of the movie unit, we watch the movie through without stopping to prepare for the final writing assessment.

Superhero Themes

Superhero movies reflect American society and culture and include many interesting themes for discussions or writing assignments. My students decided that one of the themes in Guardians of the Galaxy is that diverse groups of people can work together successfully to help others. Superhero movies are not simply for entertainment, they can be rich sources for teaching language and culture.


Pearson ELT offers a large collection of graded readers at all levels of proficiency. Our new series of readers is based on Marvel’s Super Heroes series. To search the catalog of all Pearson English Readers, click here.

Using Plays in the Classroom. Part 4: Reflecting on the Play

This article is another installment in our Helping Superheroes Teach series. The aim of this series is to offer teachers helpful strategies and practical tips they can implement in their classrooms.

 
By Dr. Frances Boyd and Christopher W. Collins

In this series of blog posts, we’ve discussed a variety of language-learning exercises and activities for introducing the play preparing for the play and digging into the play . In fact, some of the most satisfying moments come when the play has been finished. Completion of the play allows for a deeper, more reflective response on the part of students. While they have focused on comprehension and interpretation of individual scenes, students now have the opportunity to respond to the work as a whole, to make connections with their own experiences, and to think critically about their views.

Play Performance
Whether students see a stage or a movie performance, when the reading is done, they can step back to observe and react to the director’s choices. The teacher can give them a choice of what to focus on and then pose such questions as: How do the casting, costumes, setting(s), lighting and sound fit your imagined version? How does the audience react (in a live performance)? If the director omitted or changed any lines or scenes, why and to what effect?

In our experience, few students have analyzed film; fewer still have ever experienced a play in the legitimate theater. By empowering students to get into the director’s shoes, rather than elicit a simple reaction, teachers create an intriguing platform for students to think critically about the techniques, strategies, and expressive power of drama.

Integration of Grammar and Vocabulary
Throughout the unit of materials for a play, students learn new language and practice using it. By the end, it is appropriate to expect more nuanced, varied, and accurate utterances. To both elicit and model such language, teachers can create a structured conversation between two readers who have just viewed a performance. Such an exercise could either be a quiz or a final practice. In either case, it is also effective as a prelude to a discussion.

Two readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” have just seen the Academy-award-winning film. Use modal perfects, adjective clauses, and past unreal conditions.

A: Wow! That was no run-of-the-mill film. Gregory Peck was amazing as Atticus. I read that Harper Lee, [1] ___________wrote the original novel, said the director [2] _____________[choose/not] a better actor.

B: Uh, huh. One big difference from the novel is the point of view. Jean Louise, [3] __________ is Scout as a grown woman, is only there in the beginning of the film. If she [3]_____________________[continue], it __________________[be]

Essay Writing
When students write an essay in response to a play, they practice their writing skills in an organic way: the motivation should be intrinsic and much of the language should be at their fingertips.  In a variety of unedited quotes from student essays in response to August: Osage County, we can see some of the depth and breadth of their engagement with the work.

I really like this story and movie even though this is totally a tragedy, but this story gives me a lot of thoughts and made me reflect on what the family is…This story tells us an important thing: we are all part of our family and that is why we can talk to each other by heart and criticize them without offense, because we love them so much.

***

Every family has inevitable contradictions; everyone in this world has their own miserable problems.

While these students focus on the family, the following student delves into the emotional relationships themselves.

It’s an indisputable fact that some of plot is “fiercely funny”, but when I think rationally, I tend to think it’s “bitingly sad.” The emotions and implications of August: Osage County are complex….

Other students comment directly on how the reading of a play holds possibilities for understanding culture in greater depth.

Language and culture are the important factors that make the film or play have different national characteristics.

***

This play quintessentially displays the real American family who lives in the countryside.

***

As an international student, if I hadn’t learned this play so deeply, I would have never known those complicated aspects of real American life.

While excerpts from individual writings only give a narrow sense of the writing itself, we can see students responding to the piece of literature and to the culture out of which it emerges. We can also appreciate their search for connections to their own experience as well as explanations for the similarities and differences across cultures.

Concluding Remarks
“People’s need for theatre is as powerful as their desire for food or drink,” says Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theatre in New York in his TED Talk “Why Theatre is Essential to Democracy”. In the dialog on stage, he explains, we hear the drama of conflicting points of view, and we “lean forward” in empathy; moreover, we do this together, as part of an audience.

In an in-depth study of an American play, English Language learners can partake of this powerful, ancient, collective experience – guided by teacher-made exercises and activities that move from comprehension to interpretation to reflection and coached by teachers who set the stage for students to explore new contexts, new relationships, and new ways of using language.

Here is a list of plays we have successfully introduced in the ESL classroom. This list is by no means exhaustive; we would welcome hearing recommendations for other plays, particularly those that are contemporary.

Selected American Plays for English Language Learners

Advanced: CEFR B2 – C1
All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, An Enemy of the People – Arthur Miller
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
August: Osage County – Tracy Letts
Inherit the Wind – Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee
A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry
Six Degrees of Separation – John Guare
To Kill a Mockingbird  – Christopher Sergel/Harper Lee
Twelve Angry Men – Reginald Rose

Intermediate: CEFR B1
Lost in Yonkers, The Prisoner of Second Avenue – Neil Simon
Children of a Lesser God – Mark Medoff
Crossing Delancey – Susan Sandler
The Miracle Worker – William Gibson
Our Town – Thornton Wilder


Dr. Frances Boyd has been teaching students and developing teachers for over 30 years in the U.S. and abroad, in China, Columbia, Kyrgyzstan, and Mexico. She serves on the faculty of Columbia University’s American Language Program in the School of Professional Studies, where she has collaborated on the American Play Project for nearly all of those years. She is co-editor of the academic book series NorthStar, author of Making Business Decisions –both published by Pearson, and a frequent featured speaker at international ELT conferences. Boyd holds the BA from Oberlin College, the MA from the University of Wisconsin, and the Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Christopher W. Collins is a lecturer in the American Language Program (ALP) at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, where he also co-chairs the annual ALP Winter Conference, and he has also taught in the Czech Republic and in Japan. He completed his M.A. in TESOL at The New School, with a concentration in Curriculum Development.

Using Plays in the Classroom. Part 3: Digging into the Play

This article is another installment in our Helping Superheroes Teach series. The aim of this series is to offer teachers helpful strategies and practical tips they can implement in their classrooms.

By Dr. Frances Boyd and Christopher W. Collins

In our last post, we described and illustrated –with examples based on the play version of To Kill a Mockingbird – four activities that work to introduce a play: purpose of studying a play, connection to themes, how to read a play, and Socio-Historical Context. One of the most important moments in teaching a play is the beginning. First, it is important to get “buy in” from the students. It is also imperative for students to have an understanding of the characters, contexts, and events they will encounter.

In this month’s post, we describe and illustrate an additional technique to introduce a play –in this case, a contemporary play: Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. We go on to describe the types of exercises and activities that guide students in comprehension, interpretation, and expressive speaking.

Introducing the Play 

August: Osage County tells the story of a family that comes together around the death of the father figure in rural Oklahoma one hot summer. This family has secrets, resentments, and lingering feuds; over the course of a few days, all of these themes converge into conflict, confrontation, and, in the end, mutual understanding.

In 2013, the play was made into a film that is very similar in content and dialogue to the original text. As the play is challenging, both linguistically and thematically, it is recommended for mature students at level CEFR B2 and above. In our experience, working with difficult themes, including drug addiction, painful family secrets, and the use of taboo language, presents worthwhile challenges to students and teachers alike. Ultimately, students tend to recognize the common humanity expressed in this story and make unexpectedly moving connections with the challenges facing families in their own societies.

To introduce August: Osage County, one effective way is to show the first few minutes of the film. The opening scenes introduce the primary characters, the dry and dusty landscape of rural Oklahoma, along with the decaying old home where the play takes place. These images provide context for the text, particularly for students who may come from far different environments, cultures, and societies. Not every student will obtain the full emotional impact of the story from the text, but seeing a film adaptation can support their imaginations and make the text more accessible.

Digging into the Play

Once they have entered the imaginative world of the play, students can be guided to explore the content and language through a variety of exercises and activities. As you write these materials, consider collaborating with colleagues and remember that, over time, the materials can be refined and reused. At our program, we have some units that began over 30 years ago!

Comprehension of Content and Language

The focus of this set of exercises is to clarify and review the main ideas and details of the story, as well as notice and practice new language. We suggest providing plentiful exercises, using the playwright’s divisions into acts and scenes whenever practical. As a practical matter, the reading comprehension and vocabulary exercises can often be completed as homework, while inference and grammar exercises tend to require interaction.

For reading comprehension, write items that help the students follow the narrative by finding answers literally stated in the text. For inference, in contrast, write items that require higher-order thinking, such as inferring motivation of characters, and inferring opinion or stance of characters or the playwright. For vocabulary, select a range of items: multiword units—lexical phrases, idioms, phrasal verbs, collocations—that are common in spoken English, as well as some academic words. For grammar for speaking/writing, create exercises based on the plot and characters that review and deepen understanding of the play. Plays offer an authentic context to practice, for example, description (adjective clauses), speculation (unreal conditions in past and present), past possibility/regret (modal perfects), as well as all major verb forms.

Integration of Content and Language

The focus of these activities is to go beyond comprehension and move toward interpretation and creation with new language. While we generally avoid asking students to do any acting per se, we do ask them to take imaginative leaps into the shoes of the characters. Certain activity designs fit the play genre particularly well.

For example, we’ve had lively classes with character description, an activity in which students (1) work in groups to describe a character, express opinions about the character, and explain the character’s relationships, and (2) present to the whole group.

In one class, a student, who unbeknownst to the others suffered from chronic arthritis pain, was able to explain the feelings and moods of a character in August, Osage County, who suffered from an addiction to prescription drugs, with uncommon compassion. By making an unexpectedly moving connection, the student transformed her own and her classmates’ understanding of and appreciation for the central character of August: Osage County.

In panel of characters, 6-7 students prepare monologues from the point of view of a character (“I”), making a special effort to use new vocabulary and grammar to summarize information about their personal history, personality, and behavior. The others prepare “provocative questions” aimed at particular characters. In class, panel members (1) present their monologues and then (2) respond to questions which require them to make on-the-spot connections and inferences. If the playwright appears on the panel, students can ask about inspiration, writer’s choices, and message of the work.

Expressive Speaking

If you want to focus on crucial but tricky-to-teach speaking skills—expressive intonation and thought groups—a play script is just the thing. How do you express emotion in English? Focusing on a manageable number of lines, students become aware of their voice as an instrument, an actor’s skill. This gives them both a new perspective on speaking and an incentive to experiment with the vocal range of English.

We recommend beginning with dramatic reading. In small groups, students practice reading 2-3 pages of lines aloud, with coaching on pronunciation, intonation, and thought groups from the teacher. Then, they meet together and read their lines to the class, with periodic pauses to identify the emotions emerging from the text.

Once aware of the tools of expressive speaking in English, students can choose a character and set of lines to practice. When ready, they can record a monolog on their smartphones, along with an explanation of its meaning and significance, and send it to the instructor for feedback. Stepping into an intensely emotional scene and speaking the lines as if you were the character can be a transformative experience. Some learners literally find their voice in English for the very first time. And it is a truly memorable moment.

In the next and final blog post in this series on American Plays, we will discuss activities for reflecting on the play and present some reactions from students and instructors in our American Language Program at Columbia University. We will also offer a list of recommended American plays for advanced and high-intermediate English Language students.


Dr. Frances Boyd has been teaching students and developing teachers for over 30 years in the U.S. and abroad, in China, Columbia, Kyrgyzstan, and Mexico. She serves on the faculty of Columbia University’s American Language Program in the School of Professional Studies, where she has collaborated on the American Play Project for nearly all of those years. She is co-editor of the academic book series NorthStar, author of Making Business Decisions –both published by Pearson, and a frequent featured speaker at international ELT conferences. Boyd holds the BA from Oberlin College, the MA from the University of Wisconsin, and the Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Christopher W. Collins is a lecturer in the American Language Program (ALP) at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, where he also co-chairs the annual ALP Winter Conference, and he has also taught in the Czech Republic and in Japan. He completed his M.A. in TESOL at The New School, with a concentration in Curriculum Development.