Creating ESL Materials: ✅ Motivating to Create, Motivating to Use
When I think of materials in terms of English Second Language (ESL) teaching, I think of a broad range of items, from worksheets to pictures, flashcards to figurines, exercises, tests, and so on. To put 'materials' more in perspective, these are materials needed to deliver an ESL course.
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I have created course material and training material since 1995, firstly for training artisans in development projects in South Africa, and later from 2001 to 2006 in Wales, training Voluntary Sector groups. For one employer, I created a 'Behavioural Based Safety' course for North Sea Safety Standby Vessels (Offshore operations), which included four booklets, tests, e-learning, and one-to-one sessions to check to understand.Creating materials for courses inspires me! Not from the point of view of creating something for myself, but for creating something successful in training out, or teaching, the subject.
Before creating any materials for a course, we first need to understand the students and their needs. This is directly relevant to me at this time since colleagues have asked me in Hungary to teach them English, and I want to put together a relevant, motivating, and ultimately successful course!The starting point is to gauge the level of the prospective students. In my current case, they are lawyers, and I already know that they have an intermediate level of English. If I didn't already know this, I might interview them informally to find out or engage in conversation or exchange of email to assess their level.The next step is the 'Training Needs Analysis (TNA), which determines what the students learning needs are. This must not be a clinical analysis, only academically based, but must be based on what the student wants, what motivates them, what is of interest, what they will use regularly, and what is relevant. This is something that has come over strongly in this TEFL course - that the teaching is not clinical grammar, but rather an English language, taught in relevant subjects/ sections /pieces. Out of the TNA, both standard and specific learning needs can be worked out for planning the course materials.
Again, from the TNA, and considering the time available from the students (for the lessons), I would start to plan a skeleton of a course, outlining the duration (weeks), number of classes per week, and time per lesson. Into the available framework, I would match the TNA from the students. Subjects would be slotted into the tasks based on the amount of time needed for the issue.
I see this planning as part of 'creating material' - we are creating our course plan. At the end of this exercise, we can add relevant material to the course plan in the educational material.
The possibilities for material are almost limitless these days, given even a tiny budget. For example, to create a small A5 booklet of 8 pages needs two double-sided A4 photocopies! Any size of the brochure containing any material can be made for the students. For example, a leaflet with essential vocabulary for the lesson, with pictures demonstrating the words, a gap-fill exercise and another 'tester,' and some reading to revise the address. The availability of material to go within our material (what we can find to put in our handouts, booklets, overheads, power points, videos, etc.) is also almost limitless. These include pictures and photographs, the text of any size and shape, simple videos (explanatory videos, non-authentic material), authentic video material, original and non-authentic texts (News, stories, blogs, etc.), all types and sorts of puzzles and games, class groups on social network sites to encourage interaction (also course material!), live and recorded voices (the News, documentaries, etc.), and much more!
Having pointed out that there is a vast range of material (resources) available to use and great opportunities to incorporate this into our course material, I have to point out that this must all be done as relevant to the TNA and course outline been worked out. The created material must not be 'over the top' and must not overshadow the learning. It is there as an aid and should be made to be the best aid possible, but not a distraction!
Of course, all this course material must be fitted into Lesson Plans, with a structured plan per lesson, based on the Engage, Study, Activate methodology taught in this course. The plans need to be tested to check that the timing will be enough and not too much for the activities, and the equipment required to present the materials also needs to be tested (projectors, laptop, etc.).
We should have a course with topics relevant to the students they will want to learn and engage with good quality material pertinent to the issues. We will have a plan to deliver the course material in terms of the length of the course. Overall, the number and size of lessons, what is offered in each class, and how.
The delivery (teaching/receiving) of the materials is equally important as the material itself. No matter how good the material or how well the course has been planned, a poor delivery will not have good learning outcomes.In creating the materials, the effort also needs to be put into guiding the teacher in delivery, e.g., not simply saying 'Talk about tables' in the lesson plan, but have for the teacher such as 'Talk about tables....kitchen, dining room, coffee tables, round ones, square ones, ones with sharp corners...etc.'. This means significant effort in the lesson planning, but this will maximize the use of the material.
Overall, creating materials should motivate the teacher, and using well-created material should be encouraging for both teacher and student.
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