Vicky's Posts

Like all language teachers, I use excellent coursebooks tailored to the age and language proficiency of my learners. Students can also use the growing range of online learning content to supplement their learning, which, over recent years, has transformed the way in which language students can learn and access education. 

Most of my students are learning English to give them the high-level skills needed to either travel or work in an English-speaking country or work for an organisation needing a professional level of spoken English. Students are therefore looking to develop their language skills further than the basic level of conversation that a tourist may need. I need to take them beyond conversational English to help them communicate fully in the real world.  

As I am based in Spain, my students are living and learning in a non-English native-speaking environment and can miss out on important exposure to the spoken language. Rather than simply provide opportunities for conversation in English I believe it is vital that students are able to fully immerse themselves into English life, its language, politics, culture and environment; offering them as much content as possible to experience a more authentic learning experience

I fully believe in teaching based on language immersion; employing what is learned in the classroom to real-world experiences. From experience, this has been the most effective way to gain proficiency and to help them to think like a native speaker. 

It was during the move to online learning triggered by the onset of Covid-19 that the opportunities for students to even have a conversation with their teachers became more difficult, so considering other ways to ensure they received the in-depth level of experience they need was essential.


Rather than just offering students the skills to be able to hold basic conversations, another essential element of their learning is the ability to navigate new cultures. If they are to live or work in England or an English-speaking nation it is important that they also develop an increased empathy and appreciation of the country’s culture. 

Whether through remote learning during the pandemic or face-to-face classroom-based learning, I believe that providing students with complete immersion, and uninterrupted communication in the English language is the best way to gain the effective fluency they need.

During the pandemic, to give students the level of auditory support that was no longer available, I started using an online language resource that doesn’t just offer lessons in terms of teaching the words, grammar punctuation and sentence structures, but also fully immerses them in English life with daily international news reports, both written and spoken in English. It offers hundreds of real news videos and articles for the students to listen to and read every day, which allows them to be fully absorbed in the culture. Videos of real news reports which include subtitles have been wonderfully effective. It has been amazing to see how much language learning takes place while the students are watching video reports, and the cultural knowledge gained is priceless.

I have been able to allow my students to be fully immersed in the language and culture even if they were not in the classroom with me – an invaluable resource in the time of coronavirus and social distancing.


A common solution for students learning English is to encourage them to watch films and sport in English and listen to English radio, music and entertainment. To a certain extent in today’s Internet world of YouTube and podcasts, this should be easy to achieve but the challenge is that for all students other than those at a very advanced stage, the language level is too high, the conversations too fast and the chat too colloquial.  

Whether the report is about ‘Diving for wild oysters in Sweden’ or the ‘Crisis in Lebanon’, the learning platform we now use provides each report at five different levels (from elementary to advanced) so learners can have the audio file at a normal speaker’s pace or slow it down to hear each word slowly so they can more easily understand the dialogue. These ‘real world’ materials also have English subtitles so they can see and hear the words at the same time. 

Concentration Levels

Concentration can also be an issue for young people. I have found that bite-size articles and little video clips from around the world make a difference, especially for teenagers who access digital content as their main source of information. Gamification is very popular with learners old and young nowadays. They are attracted to online materials that encourage participation, from quizzes to puzzles to problem-solving activities. In fact, many students expect this now as a matter of course. 

Having access to so many multimedia resources also means that we can make the learning more relevant and topical. When we are working on a topic such as an environment, I might use a short, related video clip so students can hear vocabulary such as drought, carbon footprint, greenhouse effect and verbs such as reduce and preserve in context. Once they are familiar with the vocabulary and syntax, I might use an online magazine article or a news report as a stimulus for class debates or consolidate learning at the end of a unit.


As all teachers know, differentiation is vital. I always want to be sure that our less confident learners have a lesson that matches their abilities, and that the more advanced students are being challenged. For students, the language immersion content is also making education more personalised. I’ve been able to tailor the information to the interests of a particular age group and level of development.

I have found that when the students are in charge of their learning, their confidence increases. With more advanced groups, I can set a project where they can choose their own video or podcast and use the news sources to produce in-depth reports or presentations. I also find that an element of competition helps to enliven lessons, especially with my teenage classes. 

Regardless of whether students have participated in remote online learning or in-person language learning courses (or even both), the real-life videos have motivated them to learn. 

Because I use resources that introduce authentic language into the classroom, my students are not only getting to experience the real-world English language but are able to learn it from authentic content. The impact has been significant, not only in their proficiency but more importantly in terms of their interest in their learning.
Veronique uses Sensations English

Read more

Does using subtitles when students watch videos in English help them learn more effectively?

Using subtitles when watching videos helps students learn English by increasing reading speed and comprehension and also increasing familiarity with vocabulary and the sounds of English.

Based on an academic study of 2,350 children, 34% became good readers with schooling alone. But when exposed to 30 minutes a week of subtitled film songs, that proportion more than doubled to 70% – a copy of the study (in the above folder). This was conducted on children as well as adults +15

The first and foremost benefit of using subtitles is that they make authentic resources accessible in the target language, regardless of students’ proficiency level. Subtitles offer a new approach to language comprehension. In fact, a study by Holger Mitterer (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics) and James McQueen confirms that when used as a supplement to regular studying, subtitles help students learn a language faster.

One of the main findings of this study was that hearing and reading a foreign language at the same time helps a person’s phonetic understanding of it. Additionally, it helps build familiarity with the vocabulary and sounds of the language.

Students can pause and rewind whenever they need to. Subtitles help students to have broadened vocabulary about specific subjects (e.g. YouTube videos about science, cooking, politics, business, pop culture, etc.).

Watching foreign films and news videos with subtitles are great for understanding when to use formal/casual language, and knowing when and when not to use certain words.

Since the ultimate goal of language learning is to be able to understand native speakers, it’s important to listen to real media and speech by natives. However, for beginning students, this is often too challenging. Subtitling makes that type of content comprehensible even for beginners.

Below are the benefits of using subtitles/captions and transcripts:

  • Learn new languages faster and follow along easily

  • Easier access to other cultures across the globe

  • Better experience for those with learning disabilities, attention deficits or autism

  • Online videos with subtitles provide better user engagement and experience

  • To comprehend any strong accents, mumbling, loud background noise

  • Easier to translate to other languages

  • Allows students to repurpose their content

  • Improves students literacy rate

  • Well-written subtitles can create a better watching experience

In order to learn English efficiently, it is important that learners choose videos in English with English Subtitles. There are several benefits to this approach. First of all, it exposes learners to the spoken language, familiarizing them with the sounds native speakers use. It’s sort of like training wheels for foreign language comprehension. Learners will also start to build associations between target language words and their meanings.

However, learners may want to use this method sparingly, with attention to how much it’s working for them. A study suggests that students with good listening skills might actually be slowed down by using native-language subtitles. Plus, slang and idioms can be more challenging in this context.

ELT Expert – Sensatins English

Read more

Textbooks have provided ESOL teachers and students with a measure of structure, consistency, and logical progression through their language development. Textbooks have evolved over the years to reflect new findings in ESOL language research and its understanding of how to improve their efficiency in learning.

However, our role as language teachers is to ensure they are used at the right time, place and for the right purpose. We integrate the content of a textbook into a class to make the learning an interactive and meaningful experience, rather than a silent self-directed study session.

Textbooks certainly have their advantages.

Whether you’re following a functional, lexical or good old fashioned grammar syllabus, textbooks greatly reduce our preparation time. 

However, there are of course also disadvantages.


However good the textbook is, by offering different editions for each level of development, they can restrict a lesson as there is never one book to suit the individual needs of each student in a class. Textbooks are often written to fit a majority of students and, even then, fail considerably at addressing all the issues necessary for most students; as we know, every student is unique and so is their progress.


The other challenge we find is that in general, textbooks do not inspire today’s digitally driven students to learn and often result in them becoming disengaged.

Textbook copy rarely relates to the reason that each student is learning English. For example, reading an extract in English about a child visiting the zoo may help them to learn certain verb tenses and new vocabulary but can be demoralising to someone wanting to secure a job in banking. I’ve taught classes in the past to introduce a topic such as ‘going to school’ and see the students sitting and rolling their eyes.


A major aspect of learning a language, especially for people who want to be able to become fluent, involves verbal communication. I certainly introduce activities with live or recorded radio broadcasts to expose students to authentic language material, but it can be time-consuming to find the right material to match each student’s level of development. Added to this the audio material is unlikely to be made specifically for ESOL students.

LSI Portsmouth

LSI Portsmouth is a large, year-round English language school judged to be the leading English Language Centre in the UK; this was partly because we offer a truly personalised, bespoke learning experience for each student.

Appropriate online content

I am always looking for audio learning content for the students and recently have used software that has been specifically designed for ESOL students. The website is, for all intents and purposes, designed to replicate a news website with reports on current breaking news and other topics. Ideal for the age of students we teach, the content is immediately appropriate for their areas of interest.


I wanted to enrich English language learning, making it accessible, fresh and rewarding for all. You could certainly spend time researching appropriately levelled news items on YouTube but for me, Sensations English makes it easy to find the right level.

For every news report, students can select one of five stages of development from elementary to advanced and the news report, both written and audio, will be aligned to that student’s level; developing their skills while learning about real-world events. What’s really nice is the way that they can switch the level; starting by reading and listening to the A1 level content and moving up to B2 or C1 level.

They may not understand all the words but may still be able to follow the information. This is a great way to engage the students with very few demands on my time. For one lesson on Space Travel, I used the Sensations English video on the SpaceX launch with the associated questions at their specific level of development. This is all perfectly tied in with the Cambridge Advanced practice on Space exploration.


I also welcome seeing each student’s scores; which questions they got right, and which were more challenging for them. Being able to give them instant feedback and additional support has resulted in a notable improvement over the past two to three months.

With the online ESOL resource we use, there is never going to be a topic they’ve already done as it’s all about daily breaking news. They may have heard about the news item or read related articles which makes it a lot easier to get their interest and make it relevant to the current landscape.

In my opinion, textbooks are still an important part of my teaching; they certainly provide a starting point. However, to maintain LSI Portsmouth’s level of excellence I am always looking for new ways to engage the students and give them the most wide-ranging experiences to broaden their understanding of the English language. My life is so much more efficient using authentic copy with audio content to back up the learning and make it relevant to their daily lives and aspirations.


Lewis Tatt uses Sensation’s English online daily news content which is offered in written copy and audio formats at different levels of complexity.

Biography: Starting his career as an English language teacher at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology in China, Lewis Tatt spent two years teaching IELTS classes for students preparing to study abroad. He has since been a senior teacher at Web International English, designed ESP courses for several companies including Power China and worked as an in-centre teacher trainer for EF. He now teaches pre-sessional EAP courses and Cambridge Advanced courses at LSI Portsmouth.

Read more

How Teachers Can Help Students With Special Needs Navigate Distance Learning

When you say ‘special education,’ you are talking about an umbrella of ages, interests, abilities, and disabilities, within which are individual needs identified by their Individualized Education Program.

Unlike developing a whole-class lesson plan online, special education teachers are now tasked with developing unique plans for every student. One huge hurdle, teachers say, is determining if both the learning and services students are accustomed to receiving in school—things like gross motor remediation and behavioural therapy—can even be offered in a home-based setting or through digital resources. 

Students with special needs face unique challenges when learning, but there are many resources online that can be used by educators to aid their students. Whether these students are homeschooled and using these resources 24/7 or enrolled in school full-time and utilizing these resources as supplemental material, online platforms can help children with special needs gain more of an understanding of course content. Interactive games, activities, and videos may be a better alternative to handwritten homework for some students with learning disabilities. Students with disabilities are often shortchanged by pandemic classroom conditions. Here are three tips for educators to boost their engagement and connection.

Team collaboration

One of the challenges for students with special needs is that their support is more disjointed and remote. This is why building out a team of support is even more critical than ever before. 

If you are an individual teacher who is struggling to support diverse learners in your classroom, consult with your school psychologist, special education team, and counselling support staff.

Most importantly though, connect with the parents! Parents are doing the best they can with the tools and skills they have at home, under stressful circumstances. When educators partner with parents, especially now, when the parent is the primary source of support during the day, that’s where the real change can happen for our students.

Use plenty of visuals in your class

Teacher and student cards with a picture and written word for vocabulary words are ideal. This is especially important for students who have hearing disabilities. Since they do not hear well, they need to focus on the written words to help them learn right from the beginning. Have students play games, in pairs or small groups, using small cards, each with a picture and a word to build knowledge in a playful way. Place pictures around your room with words that students can refer to as needed for support.

Use assistive technology to help provide differentiated learning opportunities for your students.

Digital resources for students often contain stories, which a student can listen to and read over and over, at their own pace. This gives students a chance to practice words and language that they might not be able to completely absorb during the in-class activities. The online practice also provides the students with a way to practice listening and new language on their own, in the privacy of their homes.

English Language Learners (ELLs), like the general student population, may have any one of many learning disorders, including visual impairment, hearing impairment, dyslexia or delayed language development. If they face these challenges, it will be evident in both L1 and L2. So it is important for us to carefully understand and evaluate a student’s complete language and life experience when one is struggling with learning English and provide extra support for that student when needed. As we work with our students, we must also be aware that students who are newcomers to our area, or students who did not choose to be in English classes, go through an adjustment period. During this time, they may actually exhibit behaviours that are similar to those found in a student with a learning disorder, such as distractibility, lack of focus and concentration in learning, rejection of and a distance from the new language and community. Given time and plenty of encouraging support from us, and their classmates, students with special needs will be able to learn English.

This is the new normal for now. While we can’t smooth out the ocean of challenges altogether to provide an ideal learning experience in a pandemic, we can figure out ways to ride out the waves together, so we are providing the best educational experience for the students we possibly can. The only way we will get through this is together.

ELT Experts – Sensations English

Read more

Boredom is so common that almost half of all high school students are bored in school every day. Boredom is a negative academic emotion that can affect students in multiple ways. 

Anxiety is the most studied negative emotion while boredom is a newer academic emotion drawing the attention of researchers and educators. 

Boredom has a function. It signals individuals to establish new goals and to explore alternatives. At the same time, boredom is related to a variety of mental and physical health problems including impulsivity, risk-taking, drug and alcohol use, procrastination, aggression, and decreased academic achievement.

Following are some of the possible reasons which might be responsible for children’s boredom in the classroom

Children are not Adequately Challenged

It is possible that some students may predict teachers planned activities and completing the task way ahead of the other students, which makes them bored during the rest of the session. We heard the majority of teachers call these students ‘over smart’ or ‘overconfident’. However, it’s not the students’ fault that they are smart and sharp-minded. 

A teacher needs to understand what these students are trying to tell you with this attitude that they are not sufficiently challenged in the class activities. It does not mean that under-challenged students are less smart. It says that they are capable of competing with other kids, but these children don’t always present the way other kids perform in the class. Many under-challenged students are chaotic in their work, don’t study much, still get good grades because they focus on the completion of their paper instead of making things tidier.

Deficiency of Learning Skills

Sometimes, students get bored in the classroom because they lack skills that help them to comprehend the classroom tasks, such as managing or enquiry (research) skills. A child who could benefit from learning how to manage his time or create a plan for a long-term project might say ‘I’m bored’ when he means ‘I don’t know how to do this, so I don’t even want to try.’

Here are the most common things teachers do to cause boredom.

Talking too much

Students need room to breathe or they’ll form an unspoken mutiny and turn your classroom upside down. Talking too much is especially smothering. It communicates that you don’t trust them, teaches them to tune you out, and causes their eyes to glaze over. The more economical and concise you are with your words, however, the more attentive your students will be.

Making the simple, complex

Many teachers misunderstand the oft-heard mandate for more rigour. They take it to mean that they need to make their instruction more complex, more involved, more verbose—which is a major reason why students don’t progress. Our job, if we are to do it well, is to do the opposite. The most effective teachers simplify, break down, and cut away the non-essentials—making content easier for students to grasp.

Failing to adjust

Regardless of what you’re trying to squeeze in by the end of the day, or how important it seems, the moment you notice heads wilting, you must make an adjustment. It’s never worth it to plough through. Sometimes all your students need is a moment to stretch their legs or say hello to a friend. Other times, you’ll simply move on to something else.

ELT Experts – Sensations English

Read more

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which complex real-world problems are used as the vehicle to promote student learning of concepts and principles as opposed to direct presentation of facts and concepts. In addition to course content, PBL can promote the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills. It can also provide opportunities for working in groups, finding and evaluating research materials, and life-long learning (Duch et al, 2001).

In a PBL learning environment, the focus is on student-centred and collaborative learning, moving beyond cooperative learning to an environment where critical feedback and challenge between peers and instructor are essential. Shifts in teacher-learner roles occur, students take ownership of the learning, become involved in the assessment process, and define their own course of learning. Thus, there is a perception that pedagogy becomes virtually invisible.

Problem-based learning online is defined as students working in teams numbering 8 to 10 on a series of problem scenarios that combine to make up a module. Students are expected to work collaboratively to solve or manage the problem. Students will work in real-time or asynchronously, but what is important is that they work together. Synchronous collaboration tools are vital for the effective use of PBLonline because tools such as chat, shared whiteboards, video conferencing and group browsing are central to ensuring collaboration within the problem-based learning team. Students may be working at a distance or on campus, but they will begin by working out what they need to learn to engage with the problem situation. This may take place through a shared whiteboard, conferring or an email discussion group. What is also important is that students have both access to the objectives of the module and the ability to negotiate their own learning needs in the context of the given outcomes. 

Role of the Teacher: Invisible pedagogy does not mean the teacher is absent, nor does it imply that the pedagogy is simple. In fact, done well, it can be more challenging, more artful, more creative and widely diverse. The instructor must step out of his/her traditional role and become the disruptor, creating situations and experiences that both challenge, inspire, and support students while providing critical feedback throughout the process.

Considerations for Using Problem-Based Learning

Rather than teaching relevant material and subsequently having students apply the knowledge to solve problems, the problem is presented first. PBL assignments can be short, or they can be more involved and take a whole semester. PBL is often group-oriented, so it is beneficial to set aside classroom time to prepare students to  work in groups  and to allow them to engage in their PBL project.

Students generally must:

  • Examine and define the problem.
  • Explore what they already know about underlying issues related to it.
  • Determine what they need to learn and where they can acquire the information and tools necessary to solve the problem.
  • Evaluate possible ways to solve the problem.
  • Solve the problem.
  • Report on their findings.

The self-directed learning focus of PBL, combined with the capabilities of today’s online learning environments, can turn out learners who are motivated, know what they want to learn, set their objectives, find resources, and evaluate their learning progress to meet their goals—all collaboratively and virtually.

ELT Experts – Sensations English

Read more

Schools are using Sensations English to improve results of students, provide feedback, and assign homework in a clear and detailed format.

Using video in the classroom is one of the best ways to provide a personalised learning experience. Personalised learning is becoming an increasingly important demand and refers to any efforts made to tailor education to meet students’ different needs.

Personalised video has emerged as a modern and unconventional way to reach potential / current students, and alumni on an individual basis. Using targeted videos as a Personalised learning tool will produce a stronger relationship with your students. Consequently, you’ll have better mutual communication and ongoing engagement.

When you learn something from a visual medium, there is a higher chance that you’ll memorize it quickly and efficiently. By creating, sending, and using Personalised video in Personalised learning, both teachers and students become more flexible. They have a sense of connection and build mutual understanding. The benefits of using Personalised video in the process of Personalised learning are apparent.
However, some might think that such an approach asks for an enormous amount of money, time, and energy. The truth is you could actually reduce the financial burden.

The current approach in schools is still the “one-size-fits-all.” All students are approached the same way and with the same sources. Typically, when the lecture finishes, the entire class moves onto the next one although some students haven’t understood it completely. However, with the constant digitalisation of our world, personalised learning becomes something widely accepted, and easier to introduce.

Personalised learning, or student-centred learning, has one general goal – to satisfy individual learning needs, instead of choosing a logistically more practical approach.
Instead of holding students back and leaving them behind, you can now offer an innovative, engaging, and compelling way to learn.

Personalisation in education determines a variety of learning activities, instructional methods, and academic-support strategies that need to meet the different learning needs, ambitions, or backgrounds of particular students.

The benefits of using personalised video in Teaching

  • Using personalised video in education is memorable and comprehensive
  • Visual stimulation grabs student’s attention
  • Remote teaching opportunities expand exponentially
  • Video emphasises digital literacy
  • There are a variety of ways teachers can use classroom videos
  • The stimulation of higher-order learning
  • Teachers become facilitators
  • The variety of videos available
  • Videos can be used to accommodate shorter attention spans
  • Using personalised video in education promotes engagement
  • Using personalised video in education is affordable

Personalised learning can move mountains for students. It means that assignments and instruction are tailored to individual students’ interests, needs, and skills. It allows the teacher to bring in more robust, useful, and varied material into the classroom.

Placing the students and their learning needs at the heart of each educational initiative helps them succeed later in life. EdTech plays a crucial role in achieving this through the various ways it supports educators in creating and delivering personalised learning experiences for every student.

ELT Experts – Sensations English

Read more

What are interactive videos?

Video is a media format that usually isn’t so interactive as the only thing you can do is to rewind, pause or fast forward a video. Not much of an interaction. But when we add the annotation to a video to enrich its content, then it starts being really interactive.

There is a multitude of things we can actually do: add open-ended questions, multiple-choice questions, fill-in tasks, insert text boxes, add links, extra sound, and commentary or a reflective pause. The possibilities are endless. Let us introduce you to the world of interactive videos

What are the purposes of video as a learning tool?

  • Active viewing – active involvement
  • Vocabulary– vocabulary development and review.
  • Grammar – grammar presentations and review
  • Pronunciation – activates focusing on sounds, stress and intonation.
  • Listening / Speaking skills – viewing comprehension, listening, oral composition, speaking and discussion.
  • Reading/ Writing skills – reading, note-taking and written composition.
  • Cross-cultural concerns – cultural awareness and cross-cultural comparison. has many features including hundreds of video lessons covering global news reports. Users can assign video lessons as homework. Sensations English is full of interactive videos and articles for you to use in your classes.

Here we break down some of the key benefits of using video with your students, giving you some top ideas for your next class.

 1.Videos engage students of all ages and abilities

Video has a huge advantage over reading texts, writing activities and listening exercises in that it’s instantly engaging. Students young and old are attracted to videos and many even see them as a treat when used in class. Whether a video is authentic or made specifically for an ESL audience, it has been designed to catch and keep your students’ attention.

As all teachers know, this is a key part of a successful class. Once the students are interested in the content, they will be ready to learn and be receptive to the activities you have planned.

  2. Videos motivate with authentic content

One of the biggest advantages of using video in class is its ability to motivate students. Knowing that they can understand a real person speaking English is a milestone for many students.

What’s more, it shows the language points your students are learning in action, giving them even more reason to pay attention. Video also demonstrates that English is not just a subject at school; it’s a skill that has applications in the real world. And that can spark students’ imaginations!

Make sure to highlight your students’ success in understanding video content and ask them to reflect on how easy or difficult video activities are for them. It will help you plan subsequent classes and focus on student progress.

3. Videos provide context to help to understand

Unlike reading texts and listening activities, video provides strong visual cues. These help learners understand what’s happening – even when the language is hard to follow.

In some cases, you can even play videos without sound at first and have students guess what’s happening. This works in a similar way to a reading prediction activity – and helps prepare students.

Documentaries often also provide text overlays that share additional information with the audience. This, in turn, helps with a general understanding of authentic content which is key to students’ language development.

4. Videos expose students to a variety of languages and cultures

Video offers unlimited opportunities to expose your students to different accents and dialects of English. When students travel, meet new people or start working they are likely to speak with people from all over the world – and that will probably be in English.

It is therefore a good idea to use video to expose students to a range of English accents. This will help them become aware that there is more than one variety of English and will help them get used to hearing English spoken in different ways.

What’s more, globally, there are many more people who speak English as a second language than there are native speakers. So, it’s a good idea to expose your students to a variety of non-native speakers in videos too.

5. Videos introduce the culture and new ideas

Videos can bring the outside world to students, introducing different cultures, new places and ideas. They provide a great way to integrate new content and language learning at the same time – giving students the opportunity to learn about a whole range of subjects and ideas, at the same time as learning English.

ELT Experts – Sensations English

Read more
Follow us on social