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Self-access on a budget

Average: 4.3 (8 votes)

Not all self-access ideas need to cost a fortune. Here are a few ideas for how you might develop resources in your school.

You'll have loads more ideas! Why not send them to us to include here?

  • Make sure you have a good 'cataloguing system' for your materials. Even if your resources are limited to one cupboard, you will want to know where to shelve things so they can be retrieved easily, and you can check on missing resources.
  • You can cut up published material for self-study, but use originals, and remember to follow the copyright guidelines outlined at the back of publishers' catalogues. Don't forget the answer key and/or notes.
  • Remember all the free material available - newspapers, magazines, journals, brochures... but remember how long it takes to convert them into worksheets!
  • You'll need 'browser boxes' to hold your worksheets. If you can afford to get them built, great, but perhaps students with carpentry skills could build some for you. Failing that, cardboard boxes, box files or ordinary files will do.
  • Use your own students' work. (e.g. model compositions, student produced exercises, puzzles, error correction texts etc.)
  • Laminate your worksheets if possible. If you can't, stick them on card for a more durable resource.
  • Create a language lab! It might only be a couple of Walkmans, but it can grow!
    • Encourage student feedback at all stages
    • Setting up - what do your students want?
    • Using - What problems do they encounter?
    • What's useful/popular?
    • What's missing?
    • How should the centre be developed?
    • What equipment isn't working?
  • Set up Project work to link classroom syllabuses to the self-access centre. E.g. clothes vocabulary in class could lead to a 'Fashion Project' with worksheets, texts, Internet sites, video, student artwork etc.
  • Don't be too fussy about levels; aim for a more flexible structure than in class work. In our British Council teaching centre, we're experimenting with a three-level structure of elementary, intermediate and advanced.
  • Some kind of booking system might be necessary to ensure that all your students can have access to resources.
  • Think about having some competitions to encourage your students to use the self-access resources, with prizes for the most imaginative response.
  • Decorate your self-access space with exhibitions of student work - projects, pictures, texts etc.


If you have some more ideas for setting up a self-access centre with minimal resources, contact us.

Michael Rodden, British Council, Lisbon