What type of lessons would this include
The following types of lessons would use minimal or no resources, and the students would have to produce most of it using their creative minds and using the teacher as a go-between. The only problem is whether or not you can maximise their potential.
• Role plays – you can set the topic and area, but they write and perform them. You can use a model, or just provide a few boundaries.
• Stories – written and read out.
• CLL (Community Language Learning) – Students record a conversation between themselves, using you as a translator.
• Interviews – can be about them, or pretending they are celebrities or characters.
• Ranking activities – students are given a list and asked to rank them in a specific order. For example, a list of jobs and ordered in which they would hate to do most.
• Specific information gap activities – students prepare questionnaires to ask each other based on grammar or vocabulary you want to practise.
Why use minimal or no resources in class?
Students tend to get tired of the same book, day after day, class after class. I find that when they just use their pen or pencil and their notebook, or just their vocal chords, they get a lot more out of the lesson. Mainly because these types of lessons will involve them being more creative, having to work more with their colleagues, and also presenting or producing an end result, rather than just filling in a few grammar exercises. The less resources they have, the more they have to think and actually produce something. Students themselves can be a deep source of information, they just need your help to bring their knowledge to the class.
Advice for these types of lessons
Lessons where you don’t have the course book to fall back on will tend to be more exhausting as students need more support, and you will almost certainly be asked a lot of vocabulary questions, so your quick translating skills will be called upon.
• Have a system – if you are doing story writing or role plays in class, then students will want to express themselves and will ask you a lot of ‘How do you say…?’ questions. This can easily become chaotic, so I would make sure they stay in their seats while you wander between the whiteboard, in order to write up new vocabulary, and them creating their magic.
• Set up classroom language- if students are going to be conversing with you and each other, then spend a few minutes writing up useful phrases on the board to keep English to a maximum.
• Make yourself available – when you’re not answering questions, stroll round the class making yourself available for help, and also make sure that students are on track. This will also cut down any use of L1. I like having my class in a semi-circle to make myself more reachable. By getting more involved in your students work, allows you to enrich their vocabulary as well.
• Believe in your activity – it will probably feel weird not having so many resources at your fingertips, and you might feel guilty because the students aren’t using those expensive course books that their parents have forked out so much for, but at the end of the day they’ll be producing something, whether it’s a story, text, or memorable conversation.
• Produce something memorable – students get more out of learning when their work is displayed for others to see. This is highly motivational and also provides extra reading practise for other students.
• Set time limits – Students need to be motivated to keep on track and get the task done. Maybe you want to be able to perform the role play or read out the stories in the same class, or you could stretch it out over a couple of classes, so it's not rushed.
• Key tools – I like to explain to my students that I’m not a walking dictionary, and for higher levels it’s vital that you have an online dictionary and thesaurus handy. It’s hard work translating all class and you don’t want to make any mistakes.
• Enjoy it – I used to do a lot of role plays, normally at the end of a unit to revise and practise grammar and vocabulary. There isn’t much prep, just thinking up an interesting situation or topic, and at times I’d feel guilty. It’s normally in these classes where I work hardest though; editing student's work, helping pronunciation, and producing worthwhile results. I have most fun when I do these types of activities, and the students do as well.
Back in the day I’m sure ESL teachers had little resources, maybe just a few magazines, a tape cassette, and a dodgy acoustic guitar. These days we can get a bit obsessed with the course book, materials, and online resources. At the end of the day it’s about motivating learning and letting students express themselves in English, and maybe allowing them to be more creative by having less resources is the way to go. What do you think? How many resources do you use in class? Which of the above would you try?