Usually most candidates come after six years of learning English as second language in middle school. The lack of individual attention during that period is responsible for their problems in using the language. Therefore a diagnostic test (both written & oral) is a pre-requisite to plan the contents of a course of improving language skills to fulfill their aims and objectives. I record their strengths and weaknesses under headings like Grammatical/ Organisational /and Pronunciation. I mark them as Individual features (with names of students) and recurring Common traits . I also collect copies of recent communication of the candidates like mails / sms ; office manuals of working people or the notebooks/ personal experiment journals of academic subjects in case of college students . Based on the syntax and vocabulary reflected in their expressions, I select suitable extracts from recent newspapers / magazines as my text to illustrate the content of the syllabus I am teaching. When relevant passages are not available, I write my own lessons using the data collected from them as raw material.
While training candidates in a required ability like providing information to clients , I list my observation notes about errors and familiarity with each topic identified in the class. Every session, I introduce the remedial teaching points graded on priority. For instance, ensuring that Indian students stop pronouncing 'were' like 'wear' must be done even before habituating them to refrain from adding 's’ to plural nouns such as ‘children’ . Then I either substitute part of the prescribed lesson with the words/structure to be practised or create new exercises alongside the essential vocabulary/ structure in the book.
Suppose we are practising the present simple to describe daily routine : After the sentence " Every recruit wears the uniform " is read out, I point out the difference in the pronunciation. When asked "Were you writing the sentence"? they are likely to reply with "No, we were listening to it". The pronunciation of "were" is reinforced with repetition.If a sentence with "wear" is not available in the text, I ask them to substitute a phrase from another sentence like "She puts on her uniform" with a single word, leading them to say"wears'' . A student who uses it correctly is made to answer before the one who needs correction.
When suitable sentences are not available, I replace some repetitive sentences from the textbook with my own. Related remedial points have to be interspersed with the content points of the course. They are asked to practice the corrections as home-work. Obviously, when remedial points are added during classwork, some portion of the lesson remains uncovered due to time constraints in a formal course. The left out portion has to be assigned for self-study which necessitates including regular self-study periods in the time-table. I plan leaving out of parts that are easy ( in this case, using simple present for other than third person singular !) Students who are good at the particular topic are asked to lead the group work during the self-study period. Thus groups are assigned exercises for practice of what is not done in the regular class by the teacher. In a non-formal course, I am free to create my exercises that cover the aims of the course along with their specific needs. But if there is a prescribed book, I select and adapt some exercises regularly.
When there are no serious errors for some topics, the self-study period can be used for a project on a different topic selected by students. This enables stronger students to take up unfamiliar extracts suggested under Further Reading like describing a complicated daily schedule while the weaker ones continue with listing a simple routine.
Precautions : In case of corporates that work with patents, the use of data collected from their official communication has to be limited to classwork so that it remains confidential. Although this is a limitation, it is useful because the material is relevant to their daily interaction with clients and seniors in English. For instance, when I trained batches of service engineers repairing a particular brand of vehicles, the exercises (created for them using the brand’s service manuals) had to be destroyed at the end of the course. Using the sentences everyday at work, they developed their language skills quickly and efficiently ! . Naturally, a review after the course leads to points for further revision of the course !!
I keep modifying the teaching material according to the nature of each batch. Organisers have to be warned about this . Otherwise they demand the entire list of teaching points in calendar form beforehand, which is not possible when one needs to keep developing relevant material based on the daily interaction in the class!