GSE Teacher Toolkit Top 10: Targeting the right learning zone

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Sara Davila is a Learning and Language Acquisition Expert. She has experience in teaching, researching, training other teachers and creating educational materials. In this series of blog posts, Sara will be taking us through her top ten ways to make effective use of the Global Scale of English (GSE) Teacher Toolkit. 

In today’s article, number 6 in the countdown, Sara explains how the toolkit can be used to target the right learning zone.

Gauging class difficulty with the GSE Teacher Toolkit

The GSE Teacher Toolkit can help you ensure that you are making effective teaching choices when you are planning your lessons. Have you ever found yourself preparing for a future class and wondering if the activities you have planned are the best way to use your teaching time? 

You might ask yourself:

  • Is this lesson too hard? 
  • Is this lesson too easy?
  • Will this lesson help my students make progress?
  • Will this lesson be more of a fun experience or a learning experience?

These are important questions to answer in order to ensure your students are making progress. If a lesson is too difficult or too easy, your students will lose out on valuable learning time. What’s worse, when content is not at the right level, this can have an impact on students’ long term perception of their competence in language learning. They can also end up bored and demotivated, which is not an ideal learning state! 

Targeting the right learning zone is a crucial step when it comes to pushing student progress. This is where the GSE Teacher Toolkit becomes very useful. In just a few quick steps, it can help you make sure that your lesson is the right level of difficulty and challenge to achieve results. 

Choosing a learning zone

First, open the GSE Teacher Toolkit. Select your learners, and your current target learning zone. Your target learning zone is defined by the level of ability you want students to demonstrate at the end of their learning experience. 

How do you do this? There’s an easy way to quickly understand your target zone. 

Look at recent test results for your students that provide CEFR information. You could check the Versant Test, IELTs, TOEIC or TOEFL test – but even a level test will do. 

The Global Scale of English Test Score Conversion can then help you calculate a GSE range. 

Learning zones with GSE Teacher Toolkit

Secondly, use your course information, or stated learning objectives for your program. For example, if you are currently teaching an A2 level class, the next class is an A2+/B1 level class. 

In order for your students to be successful at the next level, they need to be able to demonstrate some A2+ level skills by the end of your program. Your learning range can be defined as a GSE 33-35 (High A2) to GSE 36-42 (A2+). 

Reviewing your students’ abilities

Once you’ve got an idea of what your students’ learning zone looks like, you can dig into the specific skills detailed in the GSE range. You’ll need to ask a very simple question: can my students currently do this? 

For example, imagine that you are planning a writing class for A2 Adult students in their target learning zone. You know these learners are already at an A2 level. So, you will want to review the skills that transition between A2 and A2+ (35-40 GSE range). This will allow you to assess which skills your students can do, and which they’re not yet capable of: 

Learning zones with GSE Teacher Toolkit

Setting learner goals

As you review the list of learning objectives, you’ll see several things that your students can do. Maybe you’ve practiced writing about likes and dislikes. In this example, you’ll feel confident that your students can write short texts about their likes and dislikes. However, you’ll notice that the GSE 38 skill also includes explanations, which your students may not have practiced before. 

You can also search for other skills that your students need to learn. For example, writing a process or reproducing key vocabulary from a text. You can check these specific skills and download and review them in an excel file. 

This will let you quickly check when you are reviewing skills that your students know, such as writing basic descriptions and short sentences. It also lets you see where you can make things more challenging: You’ll see when an activity provides an opportunity for new skill development, such as adding explanations to short texts. 

Targeting the right learning range

After this, you’ll understand what to expect in class when you present your lesson. Activities that are at my students’ level, and just above, are all in the target learning range. As such, they will help your students make progress. 

Being able to assess the challenge posed by a lesson plan will help you to make sure your learners are always engaged and stimulated in your classroom. 

Tailoring lesson plans to push your learners’ skills is critical to long term success. The GSE Teacher Toolkit is a quick and easy way to make sure you are targeting your students’ ideal learning zone. 

Learn more 

For more practical tips on using the GSE Teacher Toolkit, have a look at Sara’s other articles in this series. She shares practical advice for teaching grammar and vocabulary with the GSE Teacher Toolkit. 

There’s also a useful blogpost on how the GSE Teacher Toolkit can help you get inspired when it comes to creating lesson plans. And the guidance offered by the toolkit can be a big help when you are addressing curriculum standards.

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