Why You Should Refresh Your Fundamental English Skills: Know Your Words!

Even if you speak English every single day, it’s never a bad idea to refresh your core English skills.

Fundamental English Skills: Going back to basics

When preparing for your IELTS, PTE, OET or TOEFL it’s important to know the strategies for success. This means understanding the structure of the test, understanding the skills you need to practice, and the methods you need to apply. However, it is just as important to go back and practice your fundamental English skills.

The building blocks of language

We all want to impress with complex sentences and fancy vocabulary, but we may fall short if our basic language skills aren’t there. This is why a review and practice of the building blocks of language – parts of speech – is so important.

Parts of speech are the groups of English words which fit into eight functional categories. These words make up sentences and are therefore the building blocks of language. Understanding how to use these building blocks will help you write better sentences and become a better speaker.

In this article, we are going to look at four parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

English Skills
Unlike this hilarious grammar joke, the English language isn’t all fun and games! Photo courtesy of Grammarly Cards.

Nouns:

Nouns are words for things, places, people, feelings or concepts. For example, flower (thing); outdoors (place); mother (person); happiness (feeling); freedom (concept).

Nouns can be singular or plural. Most plural nouns (more than one) take ‘s’. For example, flower (singular) becomes flowers (plural). BUT some plural nouns are irregular. For example, child (singular) becomes children (plural). It is important to know the irregular plural nouns so that you avoid making mistakes in your IELTS writing tasks.

Some nouns cannot be made plural. We call these uncountable nouns. There are many!

Here are five commonly mistaken uncountable nouns:

Advice

Evidence

Information

Knowledge

Research

Although in our minds we can count these things, their nouns cannot be made countable. They will always stay in singular form!

For example, we can never say “My father gave me many advices”, or “The scientists undertook many researches”.

However, we can make them plural by adding the word pieces of in front of them.

For example, “My father gave me many pieces of advice. But I can NEVER say “My father gave me many advices.”

There are many ways to form nouns. Let’s look at a few.

  1. Add -tion

Motivate -> motivation

Elevate -> elevation

Demonstrate -> demonstration

  1. Add -ence

Intelligent -> intelligence

Excellent -> excellence

Confident -> confidence

  1. Add -ness

Happy -> happiness

Weak -> weakness

Dark -> darkness

Check out our recent E2 English lesson about nouns:

Adjectives:

Adjectives are words that describe nouns. The tell us what kind of noun. For example, a beautiful flower; the great outdoors; a kind mother; overwhelming happiness; limited freedom.

There are many ways to form adjectives. Let’s look at two of them.

  1. Add -y

Salt -> salty

Sun -> sunny

Itch -> itchy

* if a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) comes before a consonant (every letter that’s not a vowel), then we add an extra consonant. For example sun becomes sunny.

  1. Add -ful

Beauty -> beautiful

Care -> careful

Peace -> peaceful

Here is our core skills lecture about adjectives:

Verbs:

Most verbs are doing words. They describe actions such as run, jump, eat, sleep, cry, laugh, etc. Verbs can be formed as one word, or more. For example, are running, or is laughing. Verbs can also be three words. For example, have been sleeping, or has been crying. This has to do with which tense the verb is in. Tense indicates when a verb happened – in the recent past, distant past, present, future, or is still continuing etc. This will change the form of the verb.

Verbs that relate to a singular noun, take ‘s’ at the end. For example:

My teacher sing­s well.

‘Teacher’ is singular and therefore has no ‘s’, so the verb must take ‘s’.

Verbs that that relate to a plural noun, do not take ‘s’ at the end. For example:

My teachers sing well.

‘Teachers’ is plural and takes ‘s’, so the verb does not take ‘s’.

Adverbs:

Adverbs describe verbs. They say how something is done. For example, run quickly, eat loudly, sleep softly.

Most adverbs end in -ly

Quick -> quickly

Slow -> slowly

Loud -> loudly

Quiet -> quietly

English Skills
The man ran quickly away from the scary English lesson! 😉

There are exceptions. For example, good does not become goodly. The adverb for good is well.

Understanding the different parts of speech will help you build better sentences. Fundamental English skills are just as important as test skills. To learn more, subscribe to our Core Skills channel on YouTube to watch live classes.

 

Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently teaches for and writes e-learning material for E2Language.com.

 

 

 

IELTS and PTE Online Training: Why 1:1 tuition is the way to go

Have you heard about IELTS and PTE online training?

Do you remember Nancy (or maybe it was Ned)? That kid in the classroom who constantly distracted you from getting work done? Well, unfortunately even as a grown-up you might still find a nagging Nancy sitting in your classroom! She might be chatting or hogging the teacher’s attention while you are trying to do your work. Imagine you have your PTE or IELTS test in a few weeks and you NEED to prepare, but how on earth can you learn anything in such an environment? HOW you ask? Easy, 1:1 tuition and online learning!

What is 1:1 IELTS and PTE Online Tuition?

1:1 tuition is where a teacher gives a pupil intensive individual support. At E2Language.com, we offer 1:1 tuition when you sign up as a paid user. A tutorial is 40 minutes long. If you are having trouble with a concept, the tutor can spend more time explaining the concept in a way that you can understand.

PTE online
Our teachers give you their undivided attention and support!

Self-study – where do you learn best?

Some people can learn on a construction site, the sound doesn’t bother them, others need the silence of a library. Everyone is different. But one thing is for sure, having someone to guide and help you improve in your areas of weakness is going to help you get better results.

1:1 tuition allows you to break down material into discrete components, study systematically, manage your time, and develop the capacity for sound reasoning.

How is 1:1 IELTS and PTE online tuition better than being taught in a classroom?

In a classroom, one teacher may be faced with around thirty pupils, each with different abilities, different rates of learning, and individual strengths and weaknesses; yet despite this, for the majority of the lesson the teacher will be forced to treat his/her class as if it contained just one student, possibly called Nancy or Ned!

NOTE: An important thing to remember is that you are preparing for an English exam, which is not the same as learning general English.

Learning a language in a classroom definitely has its advantages, and is very effective, BUT you are technically preparing for a test. Sure, you will learn new language related content, but it is more about preparing for the test and becoming familiar with its structure as well as being confident in answering the questions correctly.

What is a study plan consultation?

Here at E2Language.com, we offer study plan consultations. Your tutor can develop a study plan to overcome your weaknesses. The tutor also helps to build an infrastructure for studying at home that best suits your own preferences for learning. During your study plan consultation, you will chat to your teacher for 15 minutes, and during this time you can also discuss past test results or your concerns and they will give you advice on how to achieve your goals.

The importance of feedback:

Feedback on performance, when effective, is widely considered to be integral to learning. People learn faster and more deeply if they know what the strengths and weaknesses of their performance are and most importantly, how to improve future performance.

“One of the most valuable contributions anyone can make to another person’s learning is constructive feedback. Whether as a student or as a teacher, each one of us has the capacity to provide useful information to other people, which will help them to learn more effectively” (Boud, 1991, p. 19).

PTE online
We provide expert detailed and personalised feedback to each of our students.

KEY benefits of 1:1 IELTS and PTE online tuition:

  • I know this may seem like a sales pitch, but in all honesty the difference between booking two verses five 1:1 tutorials could end up being the difference between getting a score of 70 versus 80. Is it really worth taking the test again? Or would it be better to invest now and avoid the disappointment of not achieving your needed score by a few points?
  • 1:1 tutoring keeps you focused and engaged in the lesson, allowing you to use your time more efficiently.
  • You will have the advantage of having your own personal teacher, with their lesson plans and strategies of teaching designed just for you!

Evidence that it works:

Tutoring works. Evidence from various continents down through the millennia confirms this fact. While tutoring Plato and other leading thinkers of his time, Socrates perfected the classical Greek model. In theory and in practice, tutoring has always played a central role in European and Asian education at primary, secondary, and university levels. In the UK, three recent evaluations of 1:1 tuition interventions found average impacts of between three and five months’ additional progress, suggesting that positive impacts can be successfully replicated in English schools. In addition, an intensive coaching program that involved 1:1 tuition had an average impact of five additional months’ progress.

Who will get you the results you need?

At the end of the day, it is up to you and how much effort you put into preparing for your exam. But with the additional support of your own private tutor, the chances of you achieving your goals are much higher. Remember, if it were not for the private tuition of Aristotle, Alexander the Great may have only become Alexander the Average.

 

Written by: Michelle Anderson

 

 

 

 

What Do Teachers Want in an Online English Course?

If a teacher needed to take an online English course for professional development purposes, what tools and techniques would they want in the course to help them to succeed and pass the exam? To answer this question, E2Language decided to do a survey of the next generation of tech-savvy teachers- a group of education students in their final year of study in the Faculty of Education at Monash University.

online English course teaching

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the responses we received from these ‘soon to be teachers’ echo much of the positive feedback we regularly receive from our IELTS test taking students who come to us for help in preparing them to take the IELTS exam.

(I should warn you before I go any further, we at E2Language really enjoy our research into optimal online teaching and learning practices).

Returning to our question, I should also mention that when we approached our ‘soon to be teaching grads’ to participate in the survey, they all seemed more than happy and willing to contribute their opinions and insights. If the enthusiasm of this group is any reflection of the next wave of teaching professionals being unleashed upon the world, our children are in very good hands indeed.

Our survey group was a relatively small sample size of 35 students in total. Though not particularly large, the results of the survey were unambiguous all the same. The survey wasn’t intended to be especially rigorous, scientific or exhaustive. Rather, it was meant to ‘take the temperature’ of our group more in the nature of a perceptions study.

Before commencing the survey, we explained the context of the survey. We explained that if a respondent had the opportunity to design an online English course to help them pass an important examination, what tools and techniques would they wish to have as part of that course? This is a situation that is broadly similar to that of our e2language.com students taking online IELTS classes to enable them to get into a graduate program or for other professional reasons.

To very briefly summarize the key questions, we asked respondents whether they would want their online English course to include:

  1. teacher-guided one on one instruction providing guidance and feedback?
  2. video or media based explanations of key principles and concepts that could be re-played?
  3. group oriented, participatory webinars?
  4. self-paced, self-directed practice exercises, activities and assessments?

The results of the survey, as I mentioned earlier, were clear.

Teacher Guidance

The responses to this question were interesting. More than three-quarters of respondents replied with a very strong YES- they did want some form of teacher guidance! This is a ringing endorsement of the important role a real teaching professional plays in efficient and effective guided learning.

At e2language.com, we have recognized this in the role of the IELTS tutor our students meet online. Tutors are well placed to give feedback on IELTS writing topics or IELTS speaking topics with answers.

Video and Media

We also asked our survey group whether they would want video lessons included in their online English course. Again, we received the clear answer that over 80% wanted video lessons illustrating key concepts ‘in action’ (which could be re-played). This implies that many wanted video delivering something more than a talking head.

Using video including explanations of concepts ‘in action’ is something we very much believe in at e2language.com. For example, using video to explain the IELTS listening skill requirements or de-constructing an IELTS essay sample is very helpful for many of our students.

Webinars

Teaching and learning, whether online or in a classroom should always be a social exercise. Interactions with teachers and other students provides a diversity of opinions and views necessary to acquire a well-rounded body of knowledge. The webinar is a tool that enables that interaction to occur online.

Despite its importance, surprisingly, our group responded to our question on webinars with slightly less enthusiasm than 1:1 learning. Perhaps this is because, as teachers, they approached the question more from a teacher-centric as opposed to a student-centric perspective. A good IELTS webinar, should function like an IELTS forum that is live- interactive and somewhat more balanced between teaching and learning- an online IELTS school.

Self-paced, Self-directed learning

Most online English course are either heavily video-based or heavily self-study activity based- a sort of ‘one technique or the other’ approach. A well-designed online course, our respondents told us, is more akin to a puzzle where the technical and methodological pieces need to be fit together in a holistic and coherent manner.

Well over 85% of our respondents stated that self-study, self-paced activities were essential to apply and reinforce the theoretical or conceptual aspects of the course. This would include examination practice questions.

In a similar sense, an IELTS self-study program is fine. It provides an essential element of skill building for students. The simulation of IELTS exam questions or IELTS mock tests is an important part of the self-study process. However, the application of knowledge is a part of the learning path that is towards then end of the learning journey. A good grounding in what to apply, when and how is equally important to contextualize learning.

Interestingly, what our survey told us- apart from answers to these specific questions- is that the teaching profession itself is more than willing to embrace these new and different ways of disseminating knowledge. Technology is not seen as a threat to the role of the teacher. Perhaps this is because teachers know and accept how important they are in helping students achieve their goals.

 

Written by Tom Connors.

What really is Blended Learning?

In this article, we will explain the concept of Blended Learning which is one of the main concepts behind E2Language.

A student that took a recent IELTS test asked the question: “is three hours of well-designed teacher-guided online English language learning as effective as thirty hours of teacher-led classroom learning?”[1] This question begs another: is the online learning environment better suited to the teacher-led or the teacher-guided approach?[2] With the shift to new ways of delivering English language test preparation, teaching and learning, are 1 to 1 sessions with an IELTS tutor online more beneficial than taking IELTS classes with a group of 20 or 30 other students?

These questions are very broad, of course. The effectiveness of different teaching and learning approaches is affected by the age, learning objectives and educational background of students. Nevertheless, using high-stakes English language exam preparation (PTE Academic, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and OET) as the focus of this article, we examine how over-reliance on a teacher-centred approach (whether via video or in a classroom) can affect the quality of online learning outcomes.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning is an iterative and dynamic communication process. The idea that teachers teach and that students, hopefully, learn neglects that teaching and learning is a two-way communication loop. This means that the teacher is also learning. Through direct teacher-student interactions, a good teacher will be sensitive to the student’s learning path, speed of knowledge acquisition and the depth of their comprehension. The pace and depth of knowledge transfer is continuously adjusted to achieve better learning outcomes for students.[3]

However, rather than taking a holistic approach as advocated by the teaching and learning literature, in practice, the online education revolution has been heavily weighted towards the student-side of the equation.[4] New technologies have been introduced to incorporate and distribute richer media and materials to students; or to shift basic testing and assessment online. To a great degree, the online education revolution has side stepped the role of the teacher. While student-centred activities have migrated online, new teaching approaches by and large haven’t.

Why is this the case?

Re-Visiting the Old ‘Teacher-Led/Student-Centred’ Debate

For a long time, a classical debate in the field of education is whether teacher-led or student-led learning is more effective? Is knowledge transfer more effective when a teacher stands in front of a classroom explaining and illustrating ideas- a method where students play a more passive role? Or, is the learning process more effective when students a take an active role and greater responsibility for acquiring knowledge at a pace and depth that better suits their individual requirements?[5]

These questions, of course, represent extreme positions on a continuum. Teaching and learning is a social interaction between teachers, individual students and groups of similarly situated students. To the extent that some optimal position exists somewhere in between differs for each and every student. On one hand, if students are not actively engaged in the learning process, they feel disconnected and quickly become bored. Effective knowledge transfer fails. On the other hand, if students are left too much to their own devices, they loose direction, confidence and the motivation to continue to learn.

In the online English language test preparation space, student support is heavily materials focused, not engaging and often completely without guidance. As a result, students quickly become bored and find it extremely difficult to maintain the motivation necessary to complete online test preparation programs. The extremely low retention rates isn’t very different from other more general courses offered online.[6] When left without proper guidance, many students have a tendency to waste time reinforcing skills they have already mastered rather than focusing on weaker skills.

The Internet and Blended Learning

Somewhere between the extremes described above, new technologies, tools and teaching approaches have emerged enabling new ways to find that elusive balance between teacher and student. The journey towards finding that balance has resulted in different concepts surrounding ‘blended learning’ also emerging.

First Generation Blended Learning

The first generation, and still the dominant understanding of what blended learning is, tends to place the teacher in front of a class or audience using a teacher-led approach, in the first instance. To the extent blending does occur, it is weighted heavily to the student side of the equation. The internet is used to provide new ways of distributing and providing access to digital materials not to mention the management of these materials and related media.

The teacher-led function occurs independently of the student-centred activities. Blending exists only to the extent that the new technologies are used to support the teacher-led approach.

New Generation Blended Learning

A more sophisticated concept of blended learning has evolved in recent years focusing on more sophisticated ways to better integrate the teacher side of the equation. With new tools and technologies, more efficient and effective ways of knowledge transfer are possible. At the same time, more sophisticated ways of designing and digitising materials to be more engaging also strengthens the student-centred side of the equation.

Combining the two, technology can be constructive rather than disruptive. A ‘constructive’ digital platform is one that provides benefits to all parties. This can only be achieved with good governance and guidance on the part of the teacher. The student has a role to play in meeting the terms of the student/teacher compact. This side of the bargain is more easily kept if students are engaged by the technology they are expected to interact with.

Seeking the Optimal Blend: Teacher Guided, Student-Led Learning

When more balanced blended learning approach is pursued in curriculum and lesson design, it should seek a more coherent balancing of strategic ‘guidance’ and constructive ‘engagement’. The new technologies can facilitate both provided that curricula is well designed involving a mixture of student informed guidance drawn from diagnostic assessment and face to face interaction as well as highly engaging, interactive, self-supporting teaching materials.

Rather than 30 hours of passive, classroom learning reinforced with un-engaging, static learning materials, studies suggest that 3 hours of 1 on 1 guidance integrated with well-scaffolded and engaging digitally delivered materials can generate as efficient and effective learning outcomes.[7] Further, rather than the one size fits all classroom approach, a more direct two-way interaction between teacher and student allows the teacher to better calibrate the speed and depth of knowledge transfer to individual student needs much better.

Studies show that well designed and scaffolded learning materials provide a more efficient path forward enabling students to self-direct their learning more effectively. The teacher is responsible for ensuring that students stay on that path and assist where weaknesses in understanding are flagged or identified.

 

[1] Palloff, R. M., Pratt, K. (2013) Lessons from the Virtual Classroom (2nd Ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Richards, J.C., Rodgers, T.S. (2013) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (3rd Ed). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press

[3] Innovation and Change in English Language Education. By Ken Hyland, Lillian L C Wong, 2013 Routledge Milton park

[4] Teaching & Researching: Language Learning Strategies. By Rebecca L. Oxfor

[5] Sheppard, C. and Gilbert, J. (1991) “Course design, teaching method and student epistemology” 22(3) Higher Education 229-249.

[6] http://static.duolingo.com/s3/DuolingoReport_Final.pdf

[7] Allen, E. & Seaman, J. (2013) Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.Wellesley, MA: Babson College.

 

Written by: Tom Connors