The Art of Teaching English: ESL Resources to Reinforce Students´ Learning

Written by on 10/03/2015 in Curated content

Tips on Creating ESL Resources to Reinforce Students’ Learning Part 1

This post covers three aspects of creating your own ESL resources: benefits, sources of inspiration and process.
There are numerous websites and print based materials designed for ESL students; however, I am convinced that the ability to develop your own resources for your ESL classes is essential for every ESL teacher.
Why create your own resources?
Custom resources have a number of advantages for ESL learners. Well-designed and thought through worksheets and activities:
  • ensure more structured lessons
  • assist with a more focused delivery
  • improve students’ memory retention
  • reinforce learning
  • contribute to learners’ assessment/portfolios
  • provide variety
  • encourage higher order thinking
For teachers who create them, custom resources:
  • showcase their skills
  • help achieve teaching goals
  • develop their knowledge of resources
  • contribute to their teaching portfolio
  • help develop additional skills such as instructional design, word processing or ICT specific knowledge.
Sources of Inspiration
  • newspaper/magazine articles
  • online news
  • junk mail/other advertising material
  • work/school related texts
  • official documents (contracts, letters from a local council, etc.)
  • formal letters
  • bills
  • recipes
  • emails
  • podcasts
  • manuals
  • movies
  • real estate brochures
  • blog posts
  • brochures
  • infographics
  • street signs
  • job advertisements
  • Pinterest (lots and lots of amazing photos)
  • websites relevant to students’ needs (e.g. Yellow/White Pages, Library, Centrelink, Medicare, online shopping, job seeking, etc.)
  • youtube/vimeo/videojug videos
  • students’ own writing
What process is involved in designing ESL resources?
  1. Check the Teacher’s Book/Module/Unit
  2. Examine the unit/module material
  3. Choose the focus for your activity (e.g. vocabulary, grammar, spelling, settlement information, skill, etc.)
  4. Decide on the type of your activity
  5. Develop your activity
  6. Trial your activity with your students
  7. Adjust your activity accordingly
  8. Recycle

Tips on Creating ESL Resources to Reinforce Students’ Learning Part 2

Custom Designed ESL Resources  2
This post covers the pedagogical aspects of creating your own ESL resources.
Things to Consider:
  • Audience (Who are your students? Young people? Children? Adults? Migrants? Job seekers? Etc.
  • Purpose (What do you need/would like to achieve with the activity? Are you targeting a particular skill/grammar point, vocabulary use? Is the activity for a quiet/transition time? Explain the purpose of the activity to your students clearly.)
  • Relevance (Is the activity relevant to your students? Is it relevant to your curriculum?)
  • Variety (How can you present the target material differently from your mainstream course book?)
  • Level (What level of English does the activity target? Are you using appropriate language or level of difficulty?)
  • Cultural appropriateness (Is the activity culturally appropriate for your students?)
  • Inclusivity (Will the activity work for all students in your class?)
  • Multi-purpose use (How else can you use the activity?)
  • Open ended nature (How can you link the activity with other activities?)
  • Number of students (Is it for a group of students, pairs or individual work?)
  • Steps involved in completing the activity (Do you clearly understand what students need to do to complete the activity? Check unfamiliar vocabulary first? Review grammar pattern/vocabulary? Make a connection with the previous material? Too many steps will take longer than expected to complete or make the teaching objective unachievable)
  • Level of support required to complete your worksheet (Can your students do the activity with minimal/no supervision? Or, it’s a teacher guided activity?)
  • Time required to complete the activity (Is it just a warmer where 10-15 minutes will be enough or maybe you would like to use your activity for focusing on something more substantial?)
  • Effectiveness (The worksheet is the most useful when it reinforces and builds on what the learners already know. Avoid vague activities – for example, giving students a task to ‘Write down a few ideas about…’ or ‘research your topic’ without giving any guidance or structure.). It is a crucial point for all language learners.

Tips on Creating ESL Resources to Reinforce Students’ Learning Part 3

creating your own resources part 3
Design Considerations:
  • Headings (Headings are a must on every piece of text or worksheet and should guide learners as to the content/topic/unit of the material. Be consistent with formatting so that your students can clearly distinguish between headings and subheadings and can use them as guides to tasks/reading and understanding the material.)
  • Text (Do not block text – as it is harder to read when block text is used throughout the worksheet. For emphasis use bold print, not italics.)
  • Text alignment (Do not fully justify text – it is best to left align text instead of centering. When text is centered, the spacing between words becomes uneven. As a result, the eye stops tracking and needs to readjust to the spacing.)
  • White space (Don’t make your worksheet too dense – please leave some white space. It’s much easier to follow the activity with lots of white space.)
  • Typeface (Make sure the text is easy to read – use simple fonts (e.g. Times Roman, Arial, Century Schoolbook, Trebuchet MS, etc. Use a bigger font size for low level learners or students with additional needs.)
  • Visuals (Use graphics/images/clipart/photos where appropriate.)
  • Footers and headers (If your learners are studying for a qualification, it is necessary to include the relevant unit/module of work and benchmarking criteria in the header/footer as the activity can be used for your students’ portfolios.)
  • Level of customisation (If you adapt/customise worksheets/materials/texts from other sources, you must acknowledge that source. It is also worth checking if permission is required to use the material (images, text, etc.).)
  • Dual Coding Theory (Read more here: )

Tips on Creating ESL Resources to Reinforce Students’ Learning Part 4

Custom Designed ESL Resources  part 4
This part is includes:
  • Word processing features every ESL teacher needs to know how to use
  • examples of activities
  • other considerations
Word Processing Software features to know and use effectively:
  • Fonts
  • Shapes
  • Page orientation
  • Shape Fill
  • Text Colour
  • Table
  • Headers/footers
  • Text alignment
  • Spacing
  • Inserting pictures/drawing tools
  • Text box
  • Page Numbers
  • Bullets and numbering
  • Page layout
Other important considerations:
  • consistency (With the format, language and layout)
  • instructions (Give clear and easy to follow instruction written in everyday language)
  • language (Use everyday words)
  • examples (Provide examples of how to do the activity)
  • clarity with the objective (Why do you want your students to do the activity? What are you trying to achieve?)
  • logic (Consider the logical sequence of your activity within your other lesson activities)
  • feedback (Where possible, turn your feedback into something students can learn from instead of just giving the correct answers, i.e. discussing other students’ answers; was it easy or difficult, why? Etc.)
The variety of activities that can be designed for an ESL class with the minimum investment of time are limitless. Here are some ideas:
  1. Name 5
  2. Word/idea hunt
  3. Gap fill
  4. Finish the sentence/story
  5. Matching
  6. Grouping
  7. Spot the odd one
  8. Editing
  9. Making sentences
  10. What was the question?
  11. Sequencing
  12. WebQuests
  13. Word search
  14. Anagrams
  15. Crosswords
  16. Quizzes
  17. Spot the differences
  18. What happens next?
  19. Reconstructing text/sentences
  20. Bingo games
  21. True/False or multiple choice

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