What Should One Think About When Creating Teaching Material?
All people are susceptible to boredom and confusion. Either of these or their combination can lead to frustration. Once frustrated, a learner will find it exponentially more difficult to grasp or retain new information. The student’s mind will be elsewhere, unmotivated and uninterested. Therefore, an instructor should make it a priority that each and every student can not only understand the created material but be interested in it as well.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Patrick O.
Materials for learners with different interests
So how does one create engaging and educational material for groups of vastly different people? I believe that the first step is always the same: getting to know the students. On a very fundamental and human level, a teacher should place great importance on knowing every face and name, as well as having a basic understanding of the culture(s) of those being taught. Then the instructor should have the students express interests, desires for learning English (if applicable), English comprehension, and generally just communicate with the class. The initial stage should be used to learn as much about the students as possible. This information should be physically recorded and used as a reference when designing future material outside of the classroom. Through introductory activities, surveys, and observation, a foundation for creating material suited to the classroom should begin to materialize.
Once one begins to understand their students’ interests and English levels, one can combine this personal information with school/syllabus requirements, games, presentations, etc, to create lessons. Taking everything one knows into account before moving forward is key.
Teaching materials for younger learners
If teaching children, a sequence of fast-paced burst activities might be useful. Consider flashcards with pictures, shortboard games, creating scenarios with fictional characters represented by toys, and the like. The games and material should use what is known about the students. For example, one student likes horses and another robot. Pictures of these can find their way into the material, even if the words/grammar being taught has nothing to do with animals or cyborgs. It is important to introduce elements that a teacher knows will pique a student’s curiosity, even if only for a brief moment. This, especially true with children, acts like the fire that keeps a hot air balloon in flight. Too much stimulation and the class will run away with itself, too little and the lesson will crash into boredom, confusion, and frustration. Children have short attention spans, and thus a balance of fun and education must be met. This cannot be done without an understanding of the students.
Teaching materials depending on the topic
Young children will, of course, not be the only people taught, and therefore more consideration needs to be put into creating teaching materials. The older a student is the easier it is to learn what kind of interests they have, yet almost paradoxically it can be harder to steal their attention away swiftly, like with a child. Their attention must first be captured, and then nurtured. Long-running material is one possibility here. A story that is in part created from input given from each student, and that continues to run. Every time the class meets, another piece of the story would unfold, incorporating and reinforcing English that had been taught previously, while maintaining the students’ collective attention. These stories could be altered to fit the class and even the mood of the class on a given day.
Weather and temperature, day of the week, time of day, etc, should be considered when creating material. It is important to be able to pivot from the original lesson plan while still being productive and interesting. For example, if it’s a dreary day and the students aren’t feeling up for the roleplay exercises planned, having a backup lesson or two could be useful.
Where to find useful materials?
There are more teaching resources online and in books than any person could ever hope to read and incorporate into their lessons. This is, of course, a very good thing. This excess of games, activities, drills, tests, presentations, and projects, all waiting to be implemented in the course material. But the information that cannot be found online or in texts, the core of this essay and the heart of my approach to teaching, is what exists in the individual. Understand the students. What they can and can’t do. Where they have problems. What they like. What bores them. How they’re feeling on a given day. Take all of this, record it, remember it, and utilize it in every lesson in some way or another. That, I believe, is what one should be thinking about when creating teaching material.
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