The GSE Teacher Toolkit is a free, online resource that makes it easy for teachers to find appropriate learning objectives, grammar, vocabulary and teaching materials. They can use the search results to plan classes and courses that are clearly aligned to the GSE and Common European Framework (CEFR). Lately, it has been a great resource for teachers having to adapt their normal courses to make them suitable for online lessons.
To find out more about the GSE Teacher Toolkit and how it has earned this exciting nomination, we spoke with GSE Director Mike Mayor.
The benefits of using the GSE Teacher Toolkit
The GSE is a global English language standard that extends the CEFR by providing a numerical proficiency scale and hundreds more learning objectives (Can Do statements). Its purpose is to help teachers determine what students need to master for each of the four skills within a CEFR level with more precision. The granular nature of the proficiency scale makes it easier to measure small increments in learner progress.
“We developed the GSE Teacher Toolkit because we wanted to give teachers an easy-to-use online database to support their teaching,” Mike said.
The database lets teachers access thousands of learning objectives, and easily find appropriate grammar and vocabulary for their learners’ level. Teachers around the world use the Toolkit for lesson planning, curriculum planning, and supporting their day-to-day teaching.
“The most-searched-for section of the teacher toolkit is GSE Vocabulary,” Mike told us. “This database is especially helpful for teachers whose first language isn’t English, because it can help them get an idea of the most appropriate vocabulary to focus on.”
The vocabulary database is divided into topics and the words and phrases within each topic are ordered by frequency and usefulness to language learners (based on ratings by teachers). Additional filters include part of speech and level (on the GSE and CEFR).
How learners can benefit from teachers using the GSE Teacher Toolkit
While the GSE Teacher Toolkit is a resource meant to make teachers’ lives easier, learners can benefit from it too.
“The GSE Teacher Toolkit helps teachers become more familiar with the GSE and CEFR. It helps them set clear objectives and determine the right level of challenge for their students. Essentially, it helps upskill teachers, which students ultimately benefit from,” said Mike.
Experienced teachers are often able to plan classes that pose the right amount of challenge for their learners. However, the GSE Teacher Toolkit can offer new ideas and directions for their classes that they might not have considered.
Teachers who are just starting out may not be able to pinpoint their students’ learning needs quite so easily. “The GSE Teacher Toolkit helps them serve up level-appropriate content, so learners can benefit from being appropriately challenged – in the zone of proximal development,” Mike said.
How the GSE Teacher Toolkit helped teachers tackle the challenges of online learning
When the world suddenly went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers around the world were forced to take their classes online overnight.
“Most teachers had their whole year planned out using materials that were heavily focused on classroom interaction. And now, they found themselves having to create new lesson plans that could work in a remote context,” Mike said.
This is where the GSE Teacher Toolkit proved to be very useful. Teachers could lean on it to create level-appropriate lessons for the new digital format. For example, if you had a group of B1 students, you could use the database to search for language functions that you could teach at that level, as well as the appropriate grammar and vocabulary to go with it.
“We also have some worksheets and lesson plans within the grammar section that are already created,” said Mike. So if teachers needed some materials for self-study grammar practice, they could find that in the Toolkit, too.
A new feature coming to the GSE Teacher Toolkit this year
At the start of the new school year, an exciting new feature will be added to the GSE Teacher Toolkit.
“We’re introducing a text leveler: a piece of software that teachers can use to determine the level of any text on the internet,” Mike said.
So, for example, when teachers find an online article that they’d like to share with their students, they can copy it into the text leveler and the engine will analyze it to tell them what GSE level range the text falls into. If the text turns out to be too challenging for a particular group of students, teachers can either find a way to adapt it or look for a different article on the same topic that’s more appropriate to the learners’ level.
This handy tool will help teachers supplement coursebooks and bring topical subjects into the classroom to discuss with students.
The ELTon Innovation Awards 2020 nomination: Innovation in Teacher Resources
The ELTons Awards will be organized for the eighteenth time this year by the British Council. The awards recognize the most innovative courses, publications, projects, apps, and platforms helping learners around the world and shaping the future of the ELT industry. This year, the GSE Teacher Toolkit will be one of the finalists contending for the Award in the Innovation in Teacher Resources category.
“An ELTon nomination is a badge of honor. It’s an external endorsement of the quality of our work by a prestigious organization – which is really valuable,” said Mike.
This isn’t the first time that Mike has been a part of an ELTon-nominated project: 10 years ago, Mike and his team were also nominated for a dictionary they’d created.
The ELTons have an important role to play within the ELT industry.
“The ELTons play a role in showcasing English language teaching itself. A lot of research goes on in ELT, and these kinds of awards help to showcase innovation and new thoughts that could be applicable to other parts of the education system,” he added.
About Mike Mayor
Mike has a diverse background in ELT publishing. After completing a degree in French and spending five years teaching at language schools in France, Mike moved back to the UK to complete his Master’s in English and Applied Linguistics at Cambridge. He became a lexicographer and joined the Pearson dictionaries team in 2003, which he went on to head in 2007. After a decade on the dictionaries team, he joined the Global Scale of English division and is currently leading it as Director of English Learning Research and Design.