The Good and Bad of Course Materials
2018-12-24 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences Teaching Ideas
There are many interactive tools that can be used during teaching to enhance a lesson and keep students engaged. There are also a few tools that are a teacher’s lifeline during a lesson. Course materials that range from props and pictures of vocabulary words to simple worksheets and lesson plans are integral to teaching a good lesson. They can provide basic aid to a teacher or help keep the students’ attention. But, when overused or used during the wrong times, course materials can become problematic and disadvantageous. Different things that a teacher brings to a lesson can make or break an ESL lesson.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Emma H.
Important Course Materials
There are some course materials that are all but necessary for an ESL teacher. A detailed lesson plan can be the absolute key to success during any and all classes. It is a teacher’s guideline for what is happening during that scheduled lesson, with specific activities and timelines. When you can not quite remember what to do next, or want to know if you are teaching at a good pace, a lesson plan is there to help. It can also work as an aid if a lesson is not running so smoothly. With key points to repeat or backup worksheets or games, it can be a teacher’s security blanket. Your lesson plan is one of the most important parts of a good class and a good teacher.
The Use of Props
To really create a good lesson, a teacher needs to be informative and authoritative, while still adding a flair of fun. Bringing a few props to a classroom can brighten up even the dullest of lectures. From something simple, like fun pictures of lions and puppies to help explain a mammals vocabulary lesson. First graders might know what a tiger is, and even how to spell it, but what really excites them is seeing a cool picture of a ferocious cat. Or even something more complex, like bringing a map of the city you’re teaching in to make a cardinal directions lesson a little more personal and exciting. With a lesson that could easily become confusing or boring, by bringing materials that they are familiar with, students are more able to understand and interact with new material.
The Downside of Using Course Materials
While course materials usually seem like a great way to pump up a lesson, they can also turn into a negative aspect of teaching. This I know from personal experience. I was recently teaching a fairly simple vocabulary lesson on natural disasters to a third-grade ESL class (ages eight to nine). While I was lesson planning, I thought of a great way to help explain this hard-to-understand topic: course materials. I began collecting pictures, videos, diagrams, models, even plush toys, of tornadoes and typhoons. However, what I thought would be a fun way to introduce a new set of terms, quickly overwhelmed the students. I had way too many props that were fairly misleading and confusing. My class was not sure which pictures matched what terms and became confused by how the models and diagrams worked. I had overdone it - a handful of pictures or a video or two would have been a lot more effective, but my props left students confused and distracted.
Keep It Simple & Don’t Overdo It
Most of the time, course materials from outside sources can be excellent aids while teaching an ESL lesson to students. Lesson plans are a useful map for where the lesson is going and a backup if it turns south. Props, like pictures and videos, can be awesome ways to help explain new topics, where explaining in English does not work. Fun, realistic props can create a personal lesson where students feel engaged. But, when overdone or misused, materials can be distracting, unhelpful, and overwhelming. When used in the right balance, course materials can be great assets to ESL lessons.
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