There are many things to consider when making our own materials for TESOL classes. The physical appearance of our material is important, as are our instructions. What’s more, we should also think about the importance of context, as well as incorporating learner training into our worksheets. Nevertheless, we can often boil the process of making a great worksheet down to the following two-stage process. Using these guiding questions, you will be able to create a worksheet that does more than simply fill time in class or merely consolidate whatever language point you’ve covered.
Start with a clearly stated objective
Ask yourself the question; ‘Do you know what the purpose of your material is?’ If you can accurately and concisely describe the objective that you would like your worksheet to help learners accomplish, you’ve already won half of the battle. This is your logical end point, so knowing this will help your material reach that goal.
Get certified! Online courses recognized by TESL Canada
For instance, you may want to create a reading worksheet that will help your learners to do one or more of the following:
- Employ various strategies to establish background knowledge
- Distinguish between fact and opinion
- Employ strategies to deal with unfamiliar key vocabulary
- Voice an opinion orally or in written form about a text
Having one or more valid objectives in mind will immediately enable you to focus on how each task on your worksheet is helping to achieve this end goal.
If any task isn’t doing this, consider replacing it or removing it altogether. A good final step is to include the objective on your worksheet, making it clear enough for the learner to be able to understand the purpose of the tasks they’ll complete.
Go through the process of learning yourself
One of the best things you can do to find out if the material is actually teaching the learner anything is to go through the experience for yourself. Once you’ve planned out your worksheet, or have it ready in draft form, work through it stage by stage and actively explain to yourself what you are being required to do.
As you proceed, write down what it is you are expected to do at each stage, what prior knowledge is necessary to complete each task and how one activity leads on to one another. Describe how and why each aspect is important to the overall explanation of the language point.
For example, when preparing a worksheet on the present perfect tense, you may find yourself asking questions such as these:
- Do I need to have prior knowledge of the third form of the verb (eaten, gone, etc.) to do this?
- Am I focusing on the form or a specific function of the verb tense here?
- Do my learners have equivalents to ‘for’ and ‘since’ in their mother tongue?
It’s surprising how often we can make too many assumptions about prior knowledge, or make huge leaps between individual tasks in terms of cognitive demand.
Remember: your aim is to produce a sequence of questions and experiences that will aid learners to incrementally approach the main objective using the same chain of reasoning that you went through when designing the material. Such issues can easily be avoided if you work through your material and question the learning processes of your worksheet.
Creating your own worksheets can be hard work, yet also very rewarding both for you and your learners. While there are many guidelines to consider if you want to end up with truly high quality teaching materials, following this two-point plan will see you right in most situations.