When was the last time you created a lesson that flopped or fell short of your expectations? For me, that would be… well…just last Monday, and I know exactly why.
Writing effective materials for your classroom, your department, or for the world at large can be rewarding and fun for you and the students who benefit from them, but when a lesson ends in frustration, it’s just not fun! To avoid some of the most common pitfalls, be sure to follow these simple but important tips for success.
1. Know your students.
Create materials with a specific audience in mind. Who are your students? What are their needs? What is their English language proficiency level? What’s their first language? How old are they? How do they learn best? What are their strengths? What limitations do they have? What are their interests? How familiar are they with technology?
2. Know your teachers.
Who’s going to be teaching your materials? What’s their comfort level in English? What are their strengths? What are their limitations? What support and guidance will they need? How much background information will you need to provide? How tech savvy are they?
3. Put yourself in your students’ shoes.
Imagine yourself as a student in the classroom where your materials will be taught. For each lesson, be sure to provide the appropriate vocabulary, foundation skills, and cultural information they need to be successful. Make sure they know why they’re learning the material. Will it help them in daily life, in their current job, in school? How? Be sure to include an assessment so you know what they’ve learned. This helps build student confidence and will give you some valuable feedback for improvement.
4. Make it interactive.
Get the students involved. Get them out of their seats. Make them communicate with one another. Create materials that incorporate different formats and accommodate a variety of learner styles. Mix it up with pair work, group work, whole-class mingles, role plays, and games as well as short teacher-fronted lessons. Incorporate appropriate technology when you can.
5. Provide lots of opportunity for practice.
Repetition in new and creative situations is your friend. The more students practice, the more confident they become, and the better they retain the material.
6. Create materials that practically teach themselves.
Designing materials takes time, effort, and creativity. Doing the work on the front end—before you enter the classroom, frees you up to provide feedback, clarification, and encouragement to students once you enter the classroom. A well-designed lesson will be easy for students to understand, so they can jump right in and start learning.
7. Make it focused and fun!
Students will develop a love for the language, and they’ll look forward to attending your class. Students who are engaged with the material learn more, which causes them to work harder as they build fluency in the language, which allows them to reach higher levels of instruction. You get the picture!
Take these 7 tips into consideration the next time you sit down to create classroom materials, and you just might avoid what happened to me last Monday. It just wasn’t that much fun!