Well, the room filled up super-quickly for this one!
Sue is a co-founder of esolcourses.com which is an online platform with thousands of resources for teachers and students; Kath is a materials writer who started because she couldn’t afford to buy lots of different books to use with her students.
As English language teachers it can happen that you have to start teaching on a new course and there aren’t any particular materials for it. Depending on teaching experience, it can be a good or a bad thing. You may be thrown in at the deep end! This workshop will look at good practice for creating materials to equip us to deal with such situations.
- considering and discussing what akes a good learning activity
- looking at free materials that can be sourced from the web and adapted for use in class (Sue is a copyright expert if you have any questions!)
- sharing ideas for creating simple activities that are pedagogically sound
- look at some ways in which authentic materials can be exploited (fair and legal ways…)
What do we look for in ELT materials?
The audience came up with:
- relevant to the course aims/class aims
- adaptable but with a basic core
- does what it says on the tin
- work in the given context
Sue and Kath added:
- engaging and motivating: got to be interesting!
- provide sufficient challenge: not too easy, not too difficult
- age appropriate: we don’t want worksheets with teddybears for adults
- have a target audience: can be very narrow – your learners – if wider, need to think about if they will work outside your classroom
- have a clear purpose: you might have interesting video/text but need to be clear about what students are going to learn from it
- underpinned by good pedagogy
- foster language learning: you can find an interesting article but need to think about what opportunities there will be for learners to use what’s in it
In what three ways you might use a short reading text?
Texts can be a lot of things and you can get a lot of value out of very little:
The audience came up with the following as examples:
- running dictation
Then we moved on to a task looking at some short texts and discussing how to exploit them. Ideas were very varied due to the diversity of contexts represented in the room!
Are computers harming academic performance? (a short essay about a study on whether people learn better if they take notes by hand or on computer; came from Voice of America – most content is in the public domain so can be used freely BUT there is some syndicated content e.g. Reuters articles that you can’t use – in this case it will be tagged as such so easy to avoid)
A Roald Dahl extract from the Learning English portion of Voice of America, already graded. NB If you want to check the level of a text, paste it into Vocab Kitchen it will tell you what level the words are through colour coding.
A Mountain to Climb from Internationalist Easier English Wiki – contains News Articles written for English learners, also includes lesson plans. Creative commons licensed, you need to accredit the author, you shouldn’t use it make money on it and you have to be willing to share it under the same license i.e. not make money on it.
The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is from the Project Gutenberg site which contains lots of classic texts that are over 100 years old. You can take anything from there and use it. The language may be dated and above level but you can use Vocab kitchen to catch those and grade them.
…to Introduce Topics
There is a site called Pixabay with public domain images both clip art and photographs. You can use a tool called Picmonkey to make collages. You can do it or you can get learners to do it. You can also find images on ELTpics (where teachers can upload their photos and you can use pictures under creative commons license)
…as writing prompts
A postcard with image prompt and space for a message relating to the picture. Customisable.
…to practise grammar
A picture of a house in the snow: e.g. question forms. Kath started with 5 answers e.g. Bob and Charlie, Winter, Meeting friends etc. = present simple. The students had to produce the questions to go with the answers. With another group, 5 different answers e.g. last summer etc. = past simple.
Devising Listening Materials
- ELLO – You have the audio, the transcript and in some cases some exercises or quizzes and an indication of what type of English is being used
- Librivox – free domain audiobooks
- LearnEnglish Teens – everything on it is very regulated and non-dodgy. Nothing will be upsetting!
- Find something your students might be interested in (not necessarily what you are interested in!)
- Look at the transcript and make sure it’s appropriate
- Listen all the way through
- Analyse the language in the transcript (functional language? repetition of grammatical structure? particular vocabulary? etc.)
Learner Generated Materials
When students write things, their work can become templates for future activities with their permission. You can use hot potatoes which is a free software for making such activities.
Finally, the audience suggested Eclipse Crossword, Unsplash and Real English. There was also a handout that I got a picture of, if not the real thing: