Published teaching materials whether in book form or on websites are a great help to English teachers but they can also result in dull, irrelevant lessons. Always ask yourself if published materials are fit for your particular teaching purpose.
- They can age badly in terms of content and style
- They can include low-use/low-priority vocabulary/grammar/pronuncation/skills
- Activities/exercises can be unclear
- Activities/exercises are often uninspiring
- They can be unsuitable for short-course 1-1 lessons
- Over-reliance on particular resources
- Using resources that are designed for self access rather than with a teacher (e.g. many grammar/vocabulary exercise books)
- Using resources for developing one skill when trying to teach another
What you can do:
- Understand what the book/resources were written for
- Read through the activity in advance of the lesson so that you appreciate its content and how long it takes to complete
- Think through your role in some of the exercises and how you could build in some pair work
- Ask yourself if it would interest you if you were the learner
- Consider if you need to edit or shorten the activity e.g. reading a text
- Think about which elements are most useful for your student to learn
- Ask yourself how you could improve the activity by adapting it or adding extra content
- Consider how you can link it to previous or future lessons
- Rely on a variety of resources
- Select activities that are related to the rest of the student’s stay
– Some reading texts can be really useful pre-reading for discussion lessons. However reading them in lesson time can mean spending a lot of time clarifying meaning and less on speaking. Why not give the reading as ‘homework’ the day before. Your student can then come to their lesson much more prepared because they will have checked some of the vocabulary and had time to think over the content and develop their own opinions or thoughts. It also means the text is read silently (as is more natural than reading aloud). You could also ask your student to do some Internet research on the subject matter and bring that research to the lesson. This way, your student is much more fully involved and motivated.
– Many vocabulary exercises involve ‘learning’ more words than you could reasonably expect your student to take in or need (at their level). Apart from selecting what is most useful, you can discuss with your student what vocabulary items have the highest value. This can develop into a greater understanding of register and the difference between writing and speaking English.
– Find some interesting images from the Internet that can be used to stimulate ideas at the start of the lesson. This is a great way to whet your student’s appetite for what’s coming and to warm up their ‘speaking muscles’.
– Relate the activity to your setting. Perhaps you can see ways to recycle the content to refer to where you live, your family situation and what you have done or plan to do. Making connections is a great way to encourage retention of new language/skills.