Cambridge English Qualifications tailored to young learners

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 can take the Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers exams to develop their language skills in a fun, practical and progressive way.  A boy holding his Cambridge English: starters certificate

Pre A1 Starters, formerly known as Cambridge English: Starters (YLE Starters), is one of  Cambridge English Qualifications. It is the start of a child’s language learning journey.

Pre A1 Starters test format (2018 update)

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A1 Movers is the next step in a child’s English language learning. A1 Movers can help the student: understand basic instructions or take part in simple conversations and complete basic forms and write notes, including times, dates and places.

A1 Movers test format (2018 update)

A2 Flyers is the third of these fun activity-based English tests for children. The tests are written around familiar topics and focus on the skills needed to communicate effectively in English through listening, speaking, reading and writing. With the A2 Flyers tests, the student will be able to: understand simple written English, communicate in familiar situations and use basic phrases and expressions and interact with English speakers who talk slowly and clearly.

A2 Flyers test format (2018 update)

A girl holding her Cambridge English: Flyers certificate

Acquiring Vocabulary for Young Learners

If learning English seems very challenging, break it down into smaller tasks. For example, your child/student shouldn’t try to learn lots of new words in one go. Instead, they should focus on learning a few new words every week. They will be much more likely to remember them!

Here are some ideas you can try at home or at school.

Free vocabulary picture books and lists

Use these books and lists to encourage young learners to speak, read and write in English

Download Cambridge English Assessment free Pre A1 StartersA1 Movers and A2 Flyers Word List Picture Books.
Download Cambridge English Assessment free vocabulary lists for A2 Key for Schools and B1 Preliminary for Schools.

Learning tips for young learners

Playing fun games

Try learning vocabulary and playing fun games at the same time! For example, you could use the words in the free picture books and vocabulary lists to play Charades or Pictionary.
Look at the vocabulary pictures together. For example, here’s a picture called At the doctor’s. Try using a mixture of closed questions, which assess quick factual knowledge (e.g. Where is the doctor?), and open questions, which assess reasoning (e.g. Why do you think the doctor is looking surprised?).

A busy doctor's waiting room.

Talk about the pictures.

If you are a parent or a teacher, find time to sit with your children and look at the book. Talk together about what you see. The ‘Let’s talk!’ questions on the picture pages give ideas of what you can talk about. Try and help your children to move from one-word answers to longer answers.

Find words in the pictures.

There is lots of action in the pictures. Ask your children to talk about what they see. Can they tell stories about the people in the pictures? They can then begin to use the words for a real purpose.
See if the children want to test your English too! What can they ask you to find in the pictures?

Always use the words in context and help young learners develop short responses into longer phrases and sentences

For more information about Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers and for preparation materials, visit:
cambridgeenglish.org/starters
cambridgeenglish.org/movers
cambridgeenglish.org/flyers

Digital Citizenship

The topic of digital citizenship is certainly gaining momentum around the world. Whether it is called digital citizenship, digital wellness or digital ethics the issues are the same: how should we act when we are online, and what should be taught to the next generation. Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool, it is a way to prepare students/technology users for a society full of technology.

As teachers, we know the value of good citizenship in the classroom and school community. But today, students need to be good citizens in the digital world as well. Their digital behaviour has a big impact on themselves and others, and what makes good or bad digital citizenship may not always be clear.

One of the first agreements that needs to be made is that preparing students to be literate digital citizens is everyone’s responsibility. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students all play a role.

What can all teachers do in their classrooms to help shape responsible students? (Select all that apply.) From Google for Education “Create Safe, Responsible Digital Citizens”

  • Show students how to create strong passwords
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice good behaviour
  • Create a safe environment for talking about digital citizenship topics
  • Integrate digital citizenship lessons in class.
You should have selected all of them because these are the four pillars to learn Digital Citizenship.

Several organizations have developed support materials and full curricula that can be used when planning instruction. For instance, Common Sense Media’s K-12 Scope and Sequence provides lesson plans, activities, and assessments.

Vicki Davis in an article on Edutopia presents “What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship”. She wants her students to know the “9 Key Ps” of digital citizenship, but for my purpose and for my students I will take into account only these seven Ps extracted from the above-mentioned article:

1. Passwords: Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites?

2. Private information:  Do students know how to protect details like their address, email, and phone number? She recommends the Common Sense Media curriculum on this.

3. Personal information: While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favourite food) can’t be used to identify you, you still need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs: Are students aware that some private details (like license plates or street signs) may show up in photographs, and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture—even if they aren’t tagged?

5. Property: Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights.

6. Permission: Do students know how to get permission for work they use and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection: Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work?

Digital citizenship is a topic that we need to address more carefully and thoroughly in our schools. Our students must be aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing, with the goal of keeping themselves safe online.

 

The Mother Tongue. The World’s Language.

“More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest … try to” this quote is from the opening lines of the non-fiction book “The Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson.

In this book, the author compiles the history, origins and quirks of the English language. In the first chapter, “The world’s language” Bryson proffers the argument that English is, in short, one of the world’s great world industries. Indeed, such is the demand to learn the language that there are now more students of English in China than there are people in the United States.

Bryson discusses the place of English in contemporary society, explaining how English words and phrases have entered the vocabularies of many other languages around the globe, reflecting the power that English has in the modern world. As it is well known, English is often the neutral language chosen for international businesses that have workers and management who speak different native languages. Notwithstanding, Bryson tries to justify the popularity of the English language not with historical or political arguments. Surprisingly, he does not mention the colonization of part of the world by the British Empire and the subsequent cultural and political hegemony of the United States.

The author argues the point that what sets English apart from other languages are facts such as the diversity of its vocabulary. He states that “the richness of the English vocabulary, and the wealth of available synonyms, means that English speakers can often draw shades of distinction unavailable to non-English speakers”. This, I would suggest, is a statement both controversial and debatable.

After a quick examination of the role that English plays in the world today, Bryson goes back in time to study the origins of language itself in the second chapter: “The dawn of Language”. But that chapter will be reviewed in the next post.

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Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)

Words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

fergregory/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

I recently wrote about phrasal verbs that we use to describe managing problems. While I was researching this area, I started to think more widely about the language of solutions.  I noticed how many words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

The first word that comes to mind is panacea. People often say that something is not a panacea for a particular problem, meaning it will not magically cure that problem. The idea here is that the problem is more complicated or varied than people sometimes assume: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems. A phrase with a very similar meaning is silver bullet or its variant magic bullet. Again, a silver/magic bullet is a solution that is too simple or too general for a complicated…

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Do you use cooperative learning in your classroom?

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals.

Cooperative Learning is particularly beneficial for any student learning a second language. Cooperative Learning activities promote peer interaction, which helps the development of language and the learning of concepts and content. ELLs (ELL is a person who is learning the English language in addition to his or her native language) learn to express themselves with greater confidence when working in small teams. In addition to ‘picking up’ vocabulary, ELLs benefit from observing how their peers learn and solve problems.

How students should interact with one another is the point.

How teachers structure student-student interaction patterns has a lot to say about how well students learn, how they feel about school and the teacher, how they feel about each other, and how much self-esteem they have.

Assign each student in a team a role (such as reporter, recorder, time keeper, and materials manager), you might want to rotate roles each week or by activity or by project. This prevents what typically happens if students select their own roles: the same students wind up performing the same tasks. By rotating, students develop the skills they most need to practice.

There are some popular strategies that can be used with all students. Most of these strategies are especially effective in teams of four: take a look at this past post on this same blog: Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

In this post, I am going to focus on two cooperative strategies that I found very useful with my students.

Numbered Heads Together

Ask students to number off in their teams from one to four. Announce a question and a time limit. Students put their heads together to come up with an answer. Call a number and ask all students with that number to stand and answer the question. The aim is to recognize correct responses and elaborate them through rich interactions and discussions. This strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.

A very useful strategy, moreover, if you have hoarders and shy students in your classroom. The hoarder likes to talk, so they are getting an opportunity to talk within their small group and even teach them.  The introvert students will have to pay attention and participate because their number might be called.  You have just differentiated learning.

Heads together instructions from teachingwithsimplicity

Jigsaw

Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece — each student’s part — is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective.

Assign each student in a team one fourth of a page to read from any text (for example, a narrative text or a short tale or biography). Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.

Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.

Each student presents her or his segment to the group and then teaches the others or helps to put together a team product by contributing a piece of the puzzle.

Jigsaw instructions from Cult of Pedagogy

You could appoint one student from each group as the leader in order to prevent troubles (e.g., a member is dominating, disruptive or not collaborative),

After each Cooperative Learning activity, you will want to debrief with the children by asking questions such as: What did you learn from this activity? How did you feel working with your teammates? If we do this again, how will you improve working together? And finally, have students celebrate the hard work of group members.

An Overview Of Cooperative Learning David W Johnson and Roger T Johnson

Numbered Heads Together Cooperative Learning Strategy

4 Things You Don’t Know About the Jigsaw Method

The Jigsaw Classroom

Digital vs Digitized Learning

BYOT Network

Digital vs Digitized Learning

As teachers begin to shift toward greater personalized learning experiences for students, their initial steps build upon what they already know from face-to-face instruction. Districts usually provide teachers with easy to use Learning Management Systems (LMS) that can facilitate new learning opportunities with technology. However, the greatest potential of learning with technology tools is that teachers and students can transform the traditional learning environment, processes, and products. Just providing teachers with an organizational tool, such as an LMS, will not lead to transformative practices. Teachers need on-going support if they are to truly transform their classrooms into ecosystems for digital age learning.

A Model for Redefining Learning

The SAMR Modeldeveloped by Dr. Ruben Puentedura provides a guideline for explaining the digital transformation. The four levels within this model are Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. At the Substitution level, teachers merely replace the traditional methods of instruction with digital tools, so instead of…

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A little bird told me …

It is an idiomatic expression that means “someone told me, but I’m not telling you who it is”. This phrase is often used more comically than seriously, especially when the source of the information is obvious to both parties but neither is willing to say.

Various authors over the centuries, including Shakespeare, have made reference to birds, feathered or otherwise, giving messages. I have found an earlier version of this phrase: “A little bird has whispered a secret to me,” from 1833 on www.phrases.org.uk

Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is difficult to guess from the meaning of each individual word. For instance, If two people are birds of a feather, they are very similar in many ways, so they naturally spend time together and join together. That is not the same as the separate meanings of their individual words.

“Do not complain about your friends. Remember, birds of a feather flock together. Your friends are just like you.”  These are examples of idioms, they cannot be taken literally.

Sometimes we use the features and cliches based on birds as a short way of expressing a more complicated idea. For example if “the student learned about the birds and the bees in his health education class at school” is a way of saying that he or she has learned the facts about sex and birth and life, the facts of life.

Also idioms help to make English a more colourful language: “An early bird” is someone who arrives someplace early or starts something early

“I am an early bird and I like to arrive early at work every morning.” If you wake up and get to work early, you will succeed, in this case we can say the proverb: “The early bird catches the worm”

Similes are expressions which compare two things, they always include the words as or like. You can use similes to make a description more emphatic or vivid, e.g. “as free as a bird” completely free, carefree. “Eat like a bird” to eat very little. The opposite would be “Eat like a horse”, and if he eats very unpleasantly and greedily with no table manners he “eats like a pig”.

Idioms are used to catch the reader’s eye, particularly those with strong images, e.g.: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This expression means that it is better to have an advantage or opportunity that is certain than having one that is worth more but is not so certain. The ‘bird’ we already possess is far more valuable than the ‘two’ we could possibly get. In essence, don’t be greedy and a “bird brain”, stick with what good things you already have, instead of going after something you’ll probably never get.

The Teacher, a very interesting and intelligent person, not a “birdbrain”, introduces us to three idioms connected with birds:

  • Birdbrain.
  • To have a bird’s eye view. (a general view from above)
  • A little bird told me.

The phrase “to kill two birds with one stoneIdiom 68 Kill two birds with one stone 2I do use it by habit, but I catch myself every time I say it. The expression is rarely used literally, no one really goes around throwing stones at birds these days. Again, because these examples are idioms, they cannot be taken literally. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the usage as a proverbial phrase meaning “to accomplish two different purposes by the same act or proceeding.” Or in other words: “to use only one action to complete two tasks”.

And this is what I hope I have done with this post, learn about idioms and expressions and about bird features.

Another video about birds idioms by  JamesESL English Lessons (engVid)

To learn more about Bird Idioms:

About idioms in general:

 

 

Making Music Matters

The Chinese philosopher Confucius said long ago that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  Learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Playing a musical instrument has many benefits and can bring pleasure to those around them.

Quotefancy-28004-3840x2160.jpg

More qualitative benefits than only listening to music. Passively listening to Mozart, or indeed any other music you enjoy, does not make you smarter. The so-called “Mozart effect” is  now a debunked myth: just listening to certain types of music does not improve intelligence, like you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports. It’s important to engage with the music in order to reap the benefits and see changes in your learning. Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.

Moreover, people with little or no musical training, who represent the vast majority of the listening audience, perceive music in a totally different way than the actual musicians who play or create the music. Each person who hears music is influenced by his or her own individual personality, knowledge, and life experiences that have molded their minds.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.


Extract from the video:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout

Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brains functions, allowing us to apply that strengh to other activities.

The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.

– See more at: 

Benefits-playing-an-instrument MerceCardus

Anita Collins Music.com/films/

The Two Sides of Music

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain – TIME

Mozart doesn’t make you clever – NATURE