Most teachers create at least some of their classroom materials, either as a supplement or as a replacement to the course book they are using. Are your materials good quality? You probably think they are but how do you know? And what can you do to make sure they pass a certain standard of quality control. Here are a few questions and answers that might help you to make your good materials even better.
Should I get an editor?
21st century skills … a few suggestions
Lots of authors have their first experience of developing materials when they create things for their own classes, either through necessity or because they want to personalise or substitute a course book they are using.
Variety: the spice of life
For me, the best lessons have a variety of interaction patterns. Learners might start off the lesson doing a mingling activity as a warmer. This would involve the whole class. Then they might spend time doing individual work, maybe reading a text or doing some exercises. Later in the lesson learners might work with a partner in a speaking activity, perhaps finishing off the lesson with group activity such as a team vocabulary game.
The 4 Cs
But a couple of things are pretty constant. The first – spending most of my waking hours in front of a computer screen under the auspices of ‘Working: Do not disturb’ and the second – spending much of this time actively seeking distractions to take me away from the task at hand. Occasionally these distractions lead me to new discoveries and sometimes I’m able to link one of these discoveries to my profession, enabling me to justify the meandering.
In one kind, the teacher knew in advance that he would be away and will have prepared a lesson plan, complete with materials and maybe a few notes about the class itself; students to keep an eye on, students with special needs … The other kind happens when the teacher’s absence is unplanned and there hasn’t been time to make any such preparations. Some schools and Language Centres have ‘ready-to-go’ lessons available for these occasions; useful of course but not always ideal and hardly ever remarkable.
As with most good teaching practice, using activities to promote a student's confidence is a simple matter of common sense. Confident students make the best language learners. By creating a classroom in which your students have the confidence to learn, to speak, to make mistakes and ask questions – you are providing them with an environment in which to flourish.
Homework can be stressful – for the students who are often over-burdened, for the teachers who are already up to their necks in marking, and for the parents of young learners, constantly fighting (and losing) homework battles with their children. Nobody can agree on what’s right when it comes to homework. It is impossible to please everyone. Adam Simpson shares his four favourite arguments for and against giving homework in his blog post this month.
One of my first experiences as a teacher trainer was in 1990 when I did an in-house training workshop for my colleagues in an English academy in Madrid. The workshop was about using pictures in the classroom. I remember it because I’d been nervous beforehand and not really sure how my ideas would go down. But it was a success because then, as now, what most teachers wanted were some simple ideas that they could try out straight away. Pictures are a great resource for prompting speaking and writing and also for practising grammar and recycling vocabulary.
You can travel without a list of course but you will avoid a few problems if you spend a bit of time planning – not a whole week though. That would be silly. A few minutes should be enough. Pre-empting problems will bring peace of mind and when it comes to teaching, this is a major defence against burnout and work stress.