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Making progress and an old phonebox

In this series of blogs I will write about our school’s contribution to the iBUILDIT Toefl project, that runs until the end of 2023. This project started in 2021, in collaboration with ETS global, Goaltesting and a number of primary and secondary schools in Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. The main aim of the project is to improve our students’ language skills on an individual level and to try to make the transition between primary and secondary education in our countries easier. The main tool that we use to achieve these goals, are assessments that take place twice a year, to keep track of our students’ progress.

Last October, all the first-year - and most of the second-year students at our school in Goor, the Netherlands, took the latest Toefl assessment, consisting of a listening test, a language form & meaning segment and a reading segment. After a few weeks, we received the students’ results back. As expected, there was a wide variety of result levels in every classroom, where some students didn’t achieve the threshold level and some students achieved the highest level of proficiency. The students received a certificate for their efforts and we as teachers got together regularly to talk about how to proceed with these results in hand. Furthermore, we have updated the tutors of the students about the results.

These are the steps we have taken in this project so far:

1. We will use the Toefl test result data to differentiate in the classroom. The results make it easier for us as teachers to support the students during class and adjust some of the teaching program to accommodate the different student levels.

2. We have set up a reading program. Our goal is to offer all our students a wide and attractive selection of reading materials to improve their proficiency.

First, we took a detailed look at the reading material that we had available to our students already. Then, we decided on which materials we needed to acquire to fill in the gaps. We noticed that it is difficult to find suitable materials for 1st and 2nd year students who have a lower level of profiency in English. We have dealt with this problem in part, by offering new comic books and graphic novels for these pupils. We need to continue to look at book releases to invest in attractive reading material for all students.

All this reading material will be colour coded into 5 different lexile levels, in order for the pupils to be able to quickly identify which materials are suitable for them.

Second, we have set up a weekly reading class for lower level students and other students who like to read. During this class, they have to switch off their phones and leave their schoolbags at the door, be quiet and concentrate on reading for 45 minutes. We have purchased a number of beanbags to help students get comfortable while reading.

Third, we have bought an old red wooden English phonebox, which we will transform into a English library for the school. In this phone box library, we will put our colour coded reading materials and some games. We will make a feature out of it and inform all our students, that they can borrow books if they wish, to read outside of school. Moreover, we will ask for feedback from them on which materials they would like, and so we will put in maximum effort to encourage our students to read.

3. For the students who have shown a high level of proficiency at the test, we will offer the possibility to take a trial ITP test. This is a language skills test at an advanced level. Those who do well at the trial test, will be able to take the ITP test. Depending on the scores in this test, these students have the possibility of receiving a certificate, which is legally valid. It will mean that they have archieved the skills level that is required to enter into the university.

In two weeks’ time, the English teachers of our school will meet in Kolding, Denmark, with all the other participating teachers from Finland, Denmark and The Netherlands, for our next Teacher Training Week. I will keep you updated on the next phase in our Toefl project.

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